Is an Obama convention bounce even possible this year?

Perhaps a better question might be, are post convention bounces in the polls a realistic expectation for anyone in the modern era? Personally, I thought the RNC came off pretty darned well, with a great introduction of Mitt Romney – the real, living, breathing human being – offered to any of the voting public who may have somehow not heard of him yet. And still, most of the pollsters seem to feel the GOP ticket’s numbers are looking fairly flat after the big party. The number of theoretical undecided voters in the final three months of the election cycle seems to be plummeting by all accounts. Unlike decades past, campaigns are thrust in everyone’s face very early in the year, draining the former pools of people who simply didn’t pay any attention until October or so.

But the Democrats have their own party coming up this week. There is little to crow about in terms of the President’s record over the past four years. High profile Democrats have been running as far away from this convention as they can, so the bench of speakers looks slim and it does nothing to bolster the confidence of the viewer. So if there’s no obvious path upward, could the convention represent a possible pitfall?

Mark McKinnon sees the upcoming festivities in Charlotte as a trap of the Democrats’ own construction.

They’re caught in a trap. And it’s a trap they built. (Yes, they did build it. Nobody else made it happen.) As the 2012 Democratic National Convention nears, I do not envy Team Obama. They have to escape from the narrative trap they’ve built.

The political parties espouse two obviously different philosophies, neither right nor wrong. Republicans believe in individual achievement for the good of the whole. Democrats believe in collective achievement for the good of the individual. But right now, individuals are collectively hurting. And the Democrats are in power. That’s a mighty big challenge to overcome.

And following a very successful Republican National Convention, there are even more.

McKinnon lays out a list of the seven biggest landmines awaiting the Democrats when the curtain rises on their celebration. One of them is the danger of projecting a perception that they’re looking backward rather than forward. With two of their biggest speakers being Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, how is this a vision for the future? And is that really the best they could find?

And what about the “war of ideas” we’ve been hearing so much about. Democrats are charging that Romney and Ryan didn’t provide “enough specifics” during their convention. But what can / should Obama offer? At least Team R&R are offering a new approach for cutting costs and reforming entitlements, but they need to be elected to enact them. Barack Obama is already in office and has been for nearly four years. If he has some brilliant new plan to fix things, why isn’t he already doing it? It’s a tough message to sell.

And then there’s the clock or, as McKinnon puts it, the “uninvited elephant in the room.” No, we’re not talking about the time of day, but rather the debt clock. The national debt is, at this point, very likely to tick over the $16T mark during the convention. Granted, there is no real difference between being 15.99999999 and 16.0000001 trillion in the hole, but it’s an unpleasant bit of optics which I’m sure the President isn’t looking forward to.

This could certainly be a minefield that the Democrats are walking into. And it’s a big change in the political landscape when your convention ceases being an opportunity for a big surge in support and becomes nothing more than the hope to avoid an election disaster.