CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) assailed the Republican presidential nominee from his home state for his lack of foreign policy tonight, giving one of the most energetic and blistering critiques of Mitt Romney so far.
"Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now that he was four years ago," Kerry called out to a cheering crowd.
It was as if these words were on the tip of the collective crowd's tongue: Where was this guy in 2004?
Kerry's spirited speech embodied the kind of gusto Democrats yearned to see in his own presidential bid eight years ago. He delivered zinger after zinger, such as Romney "talks like he's only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV."
Kerry attacked Romney for a gaffe-ridden trip to Europe, calling it a "blooper reel." He chastised Romney for failing to "pay tribute" to troops in his own nomination acceptance speech last week, especially during wartime. He called the GOP ticket the "most inexperienced foreign policy twosome to run for president and vice president in decades."
The speaking opportunity also served as an audition for the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Previously, Kerry has not-so-secretly sought an appointment to Secretary of State — a position he would likely want if Obama wins a second term.
But shades of Kerry's 2004 bid played prominently in his speech. Eight years ago, Republicans attacked Kerry as a "flip-flopper" for switching positions on certain issues, particularly voting for funding for the war in Iraq. But tonight, Kerry used the podium to put that attack on another Bay State politician.
"It isn't fair to say Mitt Romney doesn't have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position," Kerry said. "Mr. Romney — here's a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!"
In another unexpectedly strong performance tonight, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) roused the crowd with her defense of the auto industry. The speech marked an enthusiastic comeback for Granholm, who hosts a talk show on Current TV.
Democrats hyped Granholm as a top candidate when she ran for governor in 2002. But the former two-term governor left office with abysmal approval ratings as the Wolverine State's economy plummeted.
In a speech filled with fist-pumping and leg-kicking, Granholm struck a populist tone in her depiction of a GOP nominee who does not understand middle-class plight.
"He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build and sell those cars?" Granholm asks. "Well, in Romney's world, the cars get the elevator; the workers get the shaft."