The real action in Charlotte gets started Tuesday. So far, Romney's poll bounce from the Republican convention appears minimal, a point or so at best. We'll keep an eye on the numbers and other developments today and be in full swing tomorrow.
Greetings from Charlotte. Democrats are revved up for their big convention in this great southern city known for many things, but especially for NASCAR racing. Racing motifs dot the entire city.
The convention formally gavels to order Tuesday afternoon and ends Thursday night with President Obama's acceptance speech at the Bank of America stadium where the NFL Panthers play.
Something we'll monitor all week is the careful line the top speakers and others walk between acknowledging how millions of families are suffering in the weak economy and how confident or overconfident Democrats and the president are about what might be accomplished in a second Obama term.
Pledges and promises that sound over the top could hurt Obama's chances in the fall.
Obama team has settled on a single response to the now constant presidential election year question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Romney and Ryan like asking it at nearly every rally. Democratic message crafters have settled on the answer being, "Osama bin Ladin is dead and General Motors is alive."
It's a clever response. It won't convince everyone, but it's a line we'll hear all week in Charlotte nonetheless.
Obama won North Carolina in 2008 with an extremely narrow 14,000 vote margin over McCain. The last Democrat ic presidential nominee to carry the state before Obama was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
It will be tough for Obama to even narrowly carry the state again. The state economy is struggling. Unemployment is above 9% and probably truly a bit higher than that. Democratic turnout , especially among African Americans, is uncertain.
The magic Obama found here four years ago may have been a one time deal. He does benefit, however, from a very well organized grass roots volunteer effort to turn out the vote. They developed a masterful voter mobilization game plan in 2008, so NC Democratic party already knows where to hunt best for likely voters.
That's something the state Democratic party had little grasp of in earlier presidential election cycles. Nonetheless, Obama will have to devote resources and top talent to carry NC again, even if by a tiny margin.
The bar is set low tonight for First Lady Michelle Obama's big convention speech. Unlike Ann Romney in Tampa, Mrs. Obama doesn't need to "introduce" her spouse to the country or "humanize" him to the middle class.
She doesn't need to go into attack mode, nor does she need to defend tough and complex economic decisions or foreign policy stuff.
Mrs. Obama, who always seems to score high favorability ratings, can rather keep it simple and bright, talking about adopted issues and causes, such as women's rights, health & fitness and finding quality time for family.
Obama's handlers are lowering expectations, saying they don't expect the president to get a bounce in polls after this week's convention in Charlotte. That's bad news for Obama if it happens, because it means the one-two punch of Bill Clinton and Obama didn't move the needle.
It's better to be ahead than behind, but a narrow lead in the polls isn’t enough to cure the insomnia that has afflicted the highest levels of the Obama campaign. With the gavel about to convene the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the Obama campaign is haunted by its failure to reach, and maintain, the vaunted 50% threshold of support in the national polls that can help an incumbent sleep at night.
Sleepless in Chicago is becoming the norm. Team Obama is particularly concerned about its inability to crack the 50% threshold in the six states that we expect will decide this election. While Obama is slightly ahead in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia, he only averages 47% support in those half-dozen battleground states. It means there is still room for either campaign to bust out.
Obviously for the Obama campaign this week is all about moving the needle forward in those states and a half-dozen other still-contested states. Campaign operatives will be looking for big money during closed-door meetings with deep-pocketed Democrats, hoping to help finance the campaign’s outreach down the stretch in the battleground states.
The Democrats hope the storied (if not mythical) post-convention bounce in the polls is kinder to them than it was the Republicans. Mitt Romney has little to show in the polls at this point despite the roll out of Paul Ryan as his running mate and the nearly week-long GOP bash last week in Tampa. There is no guarantee President Obama will have anything to show for this week, either. A bounce-free convention may simply be the nature of a still-up-for-grabs very, very close race for the White House.
It’s Day One at the Democratic National Convention and the Chicago political mafia is already rolling out the smart bombs. Headlining tonight’s line-up is first lady Michelle Obama -- her husband’s most effective not-so-secret-weapon.
Michelle Obama has the Hillary Rodham Clinton quality to her: She can light up a room and make you feel really good about yourself, but you really don’t want to mess with her. Under the warm exterior of Michelle Obama is a ferocious ally to her husband. She’s smart and she’s seasoned. It’s those qualities that make Michelle Obama such an effective campaigner.
On issues ranging from assisting military families to equal pay for women, Michelle Obama has a reputation for cutting through red tape and weeding out the irrelevant bureaucratic babble. Michelle Obama may never utter the phrase “gender gap,” yet she, just by virtue of who she is -- mom, wife, career woman and first lady of the United States of America – will probably do as much to help her husband win the majority of the female vote as will bombastic Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s insulting definition of “legitimate rape.”
But beyond tonight’s speech and some joint campaign events, don’t expect Team Obama to use the first lady as overtly as the Romney campaign has used Ann Romney. President Obama doesn’t need his wife to tell his life story, or to convince people he’s not a stuffed shirt the way Ann Romney is doing on behalf of her husband. The president simply needs Michelle to be Michelle, and then she’ll work her magic her own way.
Obama currently maintains at least an eight-point advantage among women voters over Romney. If that holds, Obama is going to have a strong advantage on election day. Romney needs to get that number down to three- to five-points, but that may be impossible. On election day in 2008, Obama had an insurmountable 56%-43% edge with female voters. With the first lady’s help don’t be surprised if he comes close to hitting that mark again.
Washington Post says Obama is at lowest point in terms of personal popularity of any Democratic candidate since the 1980s. That has to be scary for Democrats. In terms of Democratic presidential candidates, the 1980s were a lost decade -- Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis.
Also of concern to Democrats in the Post-ABC News poll: While the horse race is a tossup, Obama's lead among women is down a lot, to 6 points.
Democrats don't seem concerned that God isn't mentioned in the party platform, noting that faith is mentioned prominently. But it seems like Obama's party just handed Republicans fodder for a powerful ad: "The Democrat platform ignores God."
The film tribute to Ted Kennedy gave Democrats a few free shots at Mitt Romney, courtesy of film clips of Kennedy hitting Romney's "multiple choice" positions in a debate when Romney ran against Kennedy for the Senate.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland gets off a good line you might hear again later in the campaign: "Barack Obama saved the auto industry. Mitt Romney saved on his taxes."
Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, hits Romney's opposition to the auto bailout hard, too. This is clearly a concerted pushback on the "are you better off now than four years ago" question that caught the White House off guard for a day or two.
Emanuel's speech is the best of the young convention so far. He focused on Obama's leadership and didn't talk about himself at all. In other words, he focused on his party's candidate instead of auditioning for a future role, the way it seemed so many speakers seemed to do at the Republican convention last week.
Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick just relegated Emanuel to footnote status with his powerful oration: "It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe." Delegates on their feet repeatedly.
More from Gov. Patrick: "Let's tell everyone we meet, when the American dream is on the line, we want Barack Obama in charge." The base is fired up. Will it be enough to help Obama close the enthusiasm gap? And will it play to independents?
Theme of Dem keynote speech from Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio: "Mitt Romney says no."
The Democrats are clearly more disciplined at staying on message so far than the Republicans were last week. That may not translate into votes, in the grand scheme of things, but the base is clearly on fire.
Many Democrats in Charlotte convention arena are proudly referring to the health care law as "Obamacare." That's new. It's an effort to douse GOP critics of the landmark law who coined the term early on to much success. An effort to go on offense on what is a complex and controversial law still.
Huge outreach today by Democratic speakers to highlight women's rights and women's success. Democrats want to hold a healthy advantage with women voters on a series of issues. We'll see more of it tomorrow with Mass. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in prime time.
Michelle Obama gets right to "humanizing" her husband, remembering a suitor whose favorite possession was a coffee table plucked from a Dumpster and whose car was so rusty she could see the road through a hole. The talk about their families scraping by draws a clear distinction with Romney's upbringing.
Mrs. Obama: "Being president doesn't change who you are. It reveals who you are."
Without mentioning Romney by name, a large amount of the First Lady's well crafted speech is an only slightly indirect critique of Mitt Romney on personal challenge, leadership, decision making, consistency and character.
First Lady says that when they were first married, their combined student loan bill was bigger than their mortgage. They were, she recalled, "so young, so in love, and so in debt."
First Lady Michelle Obama only helps President Obama at this point, especially with well received prime time speech Tuesday aimed at both the base and independents and women and mothers and the military. Four years ago, she was somewhat of a liability if you recall. Now she's more of a diamond asset to his campaign.
A powerful speech by the First Lady and a strong opening night for the Democrats. Still to come, Bill Clinton tomorrow night and the president's acceptance speech Thursday. If the next two nights stay on message, expect to see a post-convention bounce in the polls for Obama. But something that happens Friday may have a lot to do with how long the bounce lasts. That's when new unemployment numbers come out.
The decision to move Obama's acceptance speech indoors prevents some touchy optics -- a major address in a stadium named for a financial institution.
In case you missed it, here's Michelle Obama's full speech from the convention last night.
At one time, Bill Clinton was the best orator in the Democratic Party. After years out of the limelight, it'll be interesting to see how he does tonight. I'm pretty sure he won't be using an empty chair.
The Obama campaign has plans already in the works to make it up to thousands of North Carolinians who hoped tomorrow night to see President Obama give a triumphant nomination acceptance speech in the home of the Carolina Panthers.
With the threat of rain and lightening, the Democrats made the call this morning: The outdoor speech raises safety concerns for the 65,000 spectators who would have filled the open-air Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Instead, Obama will give his address in the covered home of the Democratic National Convention, the Time Warner Cable Arena.
But for those who have tickets to the cancelled stadium event, known as community credential holders, all is not lost, according to a senior Democratic official.
"The President will speak to these community credential holders on a national conference call tomorrow afternoon," the party official tells Kiplinger. "The campaign and the (convention) will work together to ensure that people unable to attend tomorrow’s event will be invited to see the President between now and Election Day."
Kiplinger editors have long doubted either Obama or Romney would get much more than a mini and inconsequential convention bounce. Despite the very best of speakers and convention sizzle last week in Tampa and this week in Charlotte, remember there are only very few truly undecided voters to sway.