Politics 2012: It's the Democrats' turn for the spotlight

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |  Sept. 3, 2012 at 5:00 AM
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The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week likely will be a less glittery affair than 2008 when Barack Obama accepted the party's nomination.

Fewer parties. Fewer congressional attendees -- particularly those in tight elections. Fewer celebrities.

The level of history is less because Barack Obama is seeking re-election, not becoming the first black in the presidency. Economic times are still tight. The convention is in a right-to-work state that recently nixed same-sex marriage.

"A re-election campaign is always a little bit different from the first one," Democratic strategist Steve McMahon told The Hill.

One senator not attending is Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who said critics would complain if she attends because the economy is so bad. Still, there are those who would criticize her for not attending and not showing loyalty.

Obama and other speakers will discuss the Democrats' commitment to healthcare, and investments in industries that will grow the economy and put people back to work, said Jan Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman said.

"Of course, there will be some time during the convention to lay out the choice that people are facing," she said during a recent media briefing. "But for him, he's consistently been talking about the same themes for quite some time, and I expect you'll hear from him the same themes next week and hear from our supporters the same theme."

The convention also provides a chance to reach people "you may not reach on a daily basis either because they don't happen to live in a swing state, or maybe they're not watching the evening news," Psaki said. "So in that way it's a huge opportunity."

The Democratic convention feature speakers both familiar and rising in a race the party is framing as a choice between two economic visions for the country while reinforcing the view Obama has made and will make tough decisions. It also will provide an examination of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's record when he was governor of Massachusetts, The Washington Post said.

The speakers' slate can attest to Obama's decisions on healthcare, the auto bailout and foreign policy while picking apart Romney's gubernatorial record and his work in the private sector as the leader of Bain Capital.

Democrats also reinforced campaign themes by including women on the list of speakers, including former assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, who's seeking a congressional seat; Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke, who raised an uproar over the availability of birth control coverage by insurance companies; Lilly Ledbetter, for whom an equal-pay bill is named; and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The women join a line-up that includes keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, former President Bill Clinton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff. California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren also are scheduled to speak.

"This convention will define the election as a choice between two very different paths for our nation: an economy built to last for middle-class Americans or a return to the failed policies of budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthy, outsourcing and risky financial deals," a campaign official told the Post. "Every speaker was carefully chosen for how they can personally define that choice."

Castro, considered a rising star, will deliver the keynote address Tuesday.

First lady Michelle Obama also will speak Tuesday and Clinton will place Obama's name into nomination in a prime-time speech Wednesday.

Obama is scheduled to speak Thursday, the final night of the convention, in the 75,000-seat Bank of America Stadium.

Republicans, too, will be in Charlotte, working to counter any momentum Democrats may gain, The Hill reported. Party operatives haven't released much about their plans.

The Democratic convention, just as last week's Republican event in Florida, is being praised by its organizers as a financial boon to the host city, HLN reported recently. Committees for the two party conventions said they expect Charlotte and Tampa each to pick up $150 million to $200 million.

The economic boost for host cities is expected to benefit hotels, restaurants, recreational areas and metro-area businesses. However, HLN said some analysts wondered whether the financial benefits include government spending on security and transportation, and if so, whether that is money that could be better spent elsewhere or left with taxpayers.

The projected economic largesse is expected to extend to cities besides Charlotte that are providing accommodations and entertainment to state delegations, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District has changed more than 300 bus routes to battle the expected traffic snarl the Democratic convention likely will cause in uptown, WSTC-TV, Charlotte, reported.

Besides the 325 bus route changes, students in the uptown area of Charlotte, where an evening activity is planned, are being given shuttle service. Also, many school buses will have police escorts.

School routes will return to normal on Sept. 10.

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