Calling the Roll in Philly and Cleveland 

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Here it is, a blazing-hot late summer and the snows of yesteryear — or rather, the remnants of long-gone and well-lost presidential races — are being hauled out of cold storage by hopeful seekers after the Republican nomination for the 8th District congressional seat. 

Last week, appearing for former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, it was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, winner of the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and a dropout from the kiddie debate rounds this year. This week, state Senator Brian Kelsey was touting a visit on his behalf by Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator who won enough primaries in 2012 to complicate Mitt Romney's life but this year was running dead last among GOP candidates, or close to it, before he, too, had to take a powder.

As of our deadline, none of the other 8th District candidates with a theoretical chance to win — Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, broadcaster/businessman George Flinn, Register of Deeds Tom Leatherwood, or Jackson advertising man Brad Greer — had called up one of these worthies from the deep. Why not? The likes of Steve Forbes or Gary Bauer or George Pataki or Bobby Jindal or Carly Fiorina are surely still out there, ready to serve.

All of which is to say, fascination for presidential races and the people who wage them still comes first in our imagination. Herewith some final observations after the GOP and Democratic conventions:


Cleveland vs. Philadelphia: Cleveland is a rust-belt city which has had hard times, and it shows. Its main drag, Euclid Avenue, an equivalent to our Poplar Avenue, is more reminiscent of Summer. Or Lamar. But it was an easy place to get around. Philadelphia is an older, posher place with lots of American history to boast, but it was a jungle of barricades and man-made obstructions during convention week. The Rock and Roll Museum vs. the Philadelphia Museum of Art? No contest. So many Monets!

Elizabeth Warren vs. Bernie Sanders as spokesperson for the left: Bernie may have been the fallback candidate when Warren chose not to run, but his bullet points were aimed with unerring accuracy and verve at the right targets, while Dame Elizabeth came off as everybody's favorite law professor — smart, loveable, but a bit diffuse.

Most overrated orators: Cory Booker for the Democrats; Paul Ryan for the Republicans. Extremism in the pursuit of self-importance is no virtue.

Most underrated orators: The two Veep candidates, Mike Pence for the GOP and Tim Kaine for the Democrats, both exceeded expectations with clear, concise speeches loaded with zingers. 

Phrases heard often at one convention, rarely, if ever, at the other: "Second Amendment" was pretty much restricted to Cleveland, while expressions of tolerance for "who you love" were de rigueur at Philadelphia but absent from Cleveland, save in a surprising use of the term by Ivanka Trump.

Done-what-they-were-'sposed-to honors: To Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani at Cleveland, who, for better or for worse, did their party duty with theatrical "indictments" of Hillary in one case and "Viewing with Alarm" in the other. And to Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg at Philadelphia for reminding us what cool, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is guys look like.

Ain't-she-something-award: to Michelle Obama. Well, ain't she? And still worth cribbing from.

Most overheated rhetoric: All that fuss and bother about Melania Trump "plagiarizing" parts of her speech. Look, folks, 99 percent of what you heard at both conventions was devised by ghostwriters; any second-story stuff took place at the staff level. In all honesty, Melania's delivery outclassed most of the other speakers at her convention.

Darth Vader award: to Ted Cruz, who demonstrated all over again why he's the most disliked person in the U.S. Senate. He found a way to embarrass his followers and make Donald Trump look like a victim by using his prime-time perch to unload a stink bomb.

Too-good-to-be-true award: To Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a slain war hero whose shaming of Trump's indiscriminate Muslim-baiting was the stuff of movie climaxes.

'And-still-champ' awards: to Bill Clinton for a graceful speech honoring his lifetime mate (though calling her a "change maker" was overdoing it); and to President Barack Obama, whose modesty and overlooked accomplishments both shone in the course of his handoff to Hillary Clinton.

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