CONVENTION WATCH: An appraisal, Mitt who?

Associated Press
President Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
.

View gallery

President Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. …

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

___

AN APPRAISAL

He calibrated. Then he attacked. Then he did it all over again.

Carefully, deliberately, President Obama reached out to independent voters in his speech Thursday night by calibrating how he talked about government, personal responsibility and the economy. Yet he also provided the type of meaty, base-pleasing comments that he hopes will get loyal Democrats fired up to work for his re-election the next two months.

For the most part, Obama sought to present himself as empathetic and in charge. He never hesitated to claim credit for saving the auto industry, pulling troops from Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden. Pointing to those successes, he insisted that government can do much that good and is important — but, mindful of the socialism charges leveled against him, he also made a point of saying it doesn't have all the answers.

He was perhaps most interesting when he acknowledged that the country still has a long way to go to recover from the devastating economic crisis of four years ago. With unemployment still at 8.3 percent, his campaign must know that sounding too upbeat on the economy could be disastrous.

And yet the president ended his speech insisting that America can soar once again. In a direct outreach to the voters who propelled him to office four years ago, he ended by imploring that if they still believe in America's possibilities, then they must vote for him.

Hours from now, the government will release the country's latest unemployment numbers. And so the argument Obama made here will mix with that as the race enters its next phase: an intense, two-month push to Election Day.

— Sally Buzbee

___

MITT WHO?

Once.

That's how many times Mitt Romney was mentioned by name by President Barack Obama in his lengthy speech Thursday night accepting the Democratic nomination to run for re-election.

Oh, there was no mistaking who Obama was talking about when he spoke about those who want to cut taxes for the wealthy and roll back federal regulations. Nor was there any doubt about the identity of "my opponent," who, Obama said, would let oil companies write the nation's energy plan and endanger the environment.

The president gave some clues, talking about "our friends at the Republican convention."

The one time Obama mentioned his opponent by name, according to the text distributed by the convention, was this: "But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy — well, you do the math."

— Terence Hunt — Twitter http://twitter.com/terence942

___

AFTER THE SPEECH

Obama's speech is over, and the arena is alive with American flags, Bruce Springsteen music and signs as he waves to the crowd. The end of this convention marks the beginning of the end of the campaign for the incumbent president — the moment when the race becomes a sprint. First lady Michelle Obama and their daughters are with him on the stage as Springsteen sings, "We take care of our own" and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, join them amid a deluge of confetti — which replaced the balloons planned when the speech was going to be outdoors.

___

NOW EXPERIENCE MATTERS

In his speech, President Barack Obama is telling the audience that "in a world of new threats and new challenges," they should choose "leadership that has been tested and proven."

He didn't feel that way four years ago.

His campaign in 2008 was built on the ideas of hope and change. And during that time, he hit back against the idea that national security experience was critical for a new president. At the same time, opponent John McCain's camp was criticizing him for having very little experience governing.

Nor was the issue a small one four years ago. Polls indicated back then that many voters perceived Obama's biggest weakness then as his lack of foreign policy and national security experience, especially at a time when America was embroiled in wars.

Since then, of course, Obama has gained much experience during four years as president. Now, he says, experience is important.

— Sally Buzbee

___

SHIRT TALES

It's only a slight exaggeration to say there are almost as many T-shirt designs promoting President Barack Obama as there are delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

There are the one that had to be printed quickly, like the one of the picture sent out by the president on Twitter as a response to actor Clint Eastwood's monologue at the Republican convention. Obama is sitting in his leather chair, with "This seat is taken" written across the top.

Several T-shirt peddlers combined pictures of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama. One said "Keep dreaming," while another read "The audacity of a dream."

There are serious shirts, like the one detailing 11 accomplishments of the president's first term including bailing out the auto industry, repealing the ban on gay soldiers in the military and passing major changes to health case.

Then there are the funny ones. First Lady Michelle Obama is shown on one in a sleeveless dress and the slogan "I believe in the right to bare arms." Another shows a smiling Obama leaning out a White House window and a forlorn Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney standing outside the fence with "No Ad-Mitt-Ance" written across the bottom.

— Jeffrey Collins — Twitter http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

___

'THIS DEMOCRACY IS OURS'

Pushing back against Republican criticism of him as a big-government liberal, President Barack Obama said he realizes government can't solve all of the nation's problems.

Churches and charities can often make more of a difference than just a poverty program, he said, and people who refuse to help themselves shouldn't get handouts.

"But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems - any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles," Obama told the cheering crowd of delegates.

"Because we understand that this democracy is ours," he said.

— Connie Cass — Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

___

HEATING THINGS UP

President Barack Obama took on climate change skeptics in his acceptance speech, saying he will continue to work to reduce carbon pollution that is warming the planet.

"Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke," Obama told delegates. "They're a threat to our children's future. And in this election, you can do something about it."

___

FOREIGN POLICY

After several minutes of reasonably nonconfrontational language in his convention speech, Obama turned hard into foreign policy and went straight for the GOP jugular. To wit:

"So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don't call Russia our number one enemy - and not al Qaeda - unless you're still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was "tragic" to end the war in Iraq, and he won't tell us how he'll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will."

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

___

DELICATE BALANCE

In the first part of his speech, President Obama is hitting at the Republicans for saying that things are not going well in America. But in his words he's offering few specifics of what they would do to improve that. Obama's campaign has been sounding a theme in recent days that the country's situation has improved in the last four years but that there is still much work to do.

The president faces a delicate balance. He needs to provide optimism about the future and persuade people to stick with him as president, while being cautious not to minimize the fact that many people in the United States are still suffering economically. Unemployment remains at 8.3 percent in one of the slowest recoveries from a recession in U.S. history.

— Sally Buzbee

___

OBAMA'S CASE FOR RE-ELECTION

How Barack Obama sums up his argument for re-election:

"Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future.

"I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country - goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.

"That's what we can do in the next four years, and that is why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States."

___

THE DAUGHTERS

The Obamas' two daughters joined their mother in chairs on the convention hall floor as soon as she left the stage after introducing the president. Malia is wearing a royal blue dress and Sasha a black and white checked dress with a gold belt. As their father accepted the nomination, and the crowd leapt to its feet and applauded, the two girls looked at their mother, then jumped up also and applauded.

— Sally Buzbee

___

EXPIRED PRESCRIPTION?

Barack Obama says that all the Republicans are offering America is "the same prescription they've had for the last 30 years":

"Have a surplus? Try a tax cut."

"Deficit too high? Try another."

"Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!"

___

WEATHER, OUTSIDE

President Barack Obama took the stage in air-conditioned comfort for his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Democratic Convention.

He might have had to roll up his sleeves if he had gone with his original plan of speaking in Charlotte's outdoor football stadium, but he wouldn't have needed a rain jacket.

It was a humid 76 degrees outside as Obama took the stage at Time Warner Arena, after his motorcade came through a mostly cloudless Charlotte night.

Obama's campaign decided to move the speech to the indoor area on Wednesday because of the threat of thunderstorms. And one storm did roll through Charlotte shortly after 3 p.m., when people may have started lining up outside the football stadium.

Obama took the stage at about 10:25 p.m. and opened his speech without mentioning the weather or the move.

— Jeffrey Collins

___

QUICKQUOTE: OBAMA

"I know that campaigns can seem small, even silly sometimes. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me — so am I. But when all is said and done — when you pick up that ballot to vote — you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation." — President Barack Obama, accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for a second term.

___

THE NOMINEE, OFFICIALLY

Obama's now officially the Democratic nominee — he has accepted the nomination from his party.

___

A PART OF IT

Thousands of people whose plans to attend President Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium got derailed by the weather still got energized for the fall campaign with several watch parties inside the Charlotte Convention Center.

Obama campaign volunteers and his admirers who secured tickets to the stadium said they were disappointed with missing his speech in person but still wanted to be a part of history. So at least 4,000 were content with sitting in air-conditioned comfort inside convention center meeting rooms to cheer on Vice President Joe Biden and the president while watching big screen TVs.

"I'd like to have found all of us together at the stadium," said David Whitson, 54, of Charlotte, but "this is very electrifying." Whitson is a carpenter who spent the week setting up the stadium for the speech that never happened there. Now, he said, "we're taking it all down."

The watch parties were organized by the Obama campaign in North Carolina and suggested volunteers who secured stadium tickets to bring family and friends.

Jackie White, 54, of Charlotte said she waited in line for 10 hours to get tickets but wasn't too heartbroken about the venue change. She was still undecided entering Obama's Thursday night speech about whether she'd vote for him.

Still, White said, "I came here to want to be a part of this extraordinary moment."

— Gary D. Robertson — Twitter http://twitter.com/GaryDRobertson

___

GETTING READY

Ushers are handing out small flags to the crowd, as they watch a video waiting for Obama's speech to start. Mrs. Obama also left her chair on the convention floor ushered by aides backstage.

___

WAITING FOR BARACK

First lady Michelle Obama is sitting in a seat on the floor of the convention hall, between her mother and Jill Biden, as Vice President Biden gives his speech to the delegates. Mrs. Obama is wearing an off-the-shoulder purple and white dress. Seated behind her are her brother and the president's half-sister and other family members of the Obamas and the Bidens. They include Biden's son, Beau, Delaware's attorney general, who formally put his father's name in for nomination.

The president's daughters, Sasha and Malia, are expected to join their mother and father on stage after his speech — but they are not sitting with their mother at the moment. The first lady's group is just off the stage, on the convention hall floor, in front of the first group of delegates.

— Sally Buzbee

___

FREESTYLING BIDEN

Joe Biden is known for freestyling occasionally when he talks. And he did it a lot Thursday night, though in minor ways.

A text of his prepared remarks distributed in advance turned out to be more like a roadmap than a script for Biden, who reworked sentences on the fly, added a few of his own and generally talked rather than recited. Nothing major to speak of, but the "as delivered" version of his remarks will most certainly have a lot of words than the advance text didn't

Is that simply political authenticity, or is it a nailbiter for the Democratic message masters who worry that an off-the-cuff Biden can be — as they've seen in the past — an embarrassing Biden?

— Ted Anthony — http://twitter.com/anthonyted

___

VEEP CLUB

He may have been 1,000 miles away but former Vice President Walter Mondale had a front-row seat for Vice President Joe Biden's national convention speech.

Mondale joined more than 100 others in a University of Minnesota auditorium Thursday night to watch Biden accept his party's nomination for another term. It played on a big screen.

The event, to be capped by President Barack Obama's speech, was an organizing tool for the president's campaign in which students were encouraged to sign up to vote and volunteer.

Few in the mostly college-aged crowd were even born when Mondale ran for president in 1984 and won only his native Minnesota.

— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad

___

MUSHY STUFF

There's a lot of love in the air at the Democratic convention. At least between Joe and Jill Biden.

The vice president's wife was full of tender praise as she introduced her husband, telling the crowd she loved him from the start even though "I didn't agree to marry him until the fifth time he asked me."

When the vice president took the stage, things got a little mushy. He opened his remarks with a shout-out to "Jilly." If she hadn't said yes to that fifth marriage proposal, he said, he just didn't know what he would have done with himself.

The tender words didn't last long, though. Biden quickly launched into his prepared speech, a full-throated defense of President Barack Obama and a sharp critique of Republican rival Mitt Romney.

— Julie Pace — Twitter http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

___

LOOSER KERRY

Sen. John Kerry was way looser — and more full of quips — in his Democratic National Convention speech than he ever was when running for president himself.

Taking several sharp prods at Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic candidate quipped that for Romney, "an overseas trip is what you call it when you trip all over yourself overseas,"

Romney's trip to Europe was marked by several gaffes, including his questioning of whether Britain was ready for the London Olympics.

"It wasn't a goodwill mission," Kerry quipped. "It was a blooper reel."

Kerry famously took the podium and gave an exaggerated salute as he accepted the party's nomination in 2004. He lost to President George W. Bush, who won re-election.

— Sally Buzbee

___

CELEBRITY WATCH

President Barack Obama and Republican running mate Paul Ryan are just two regular guys — with plenty of famous friends.

Obama's celebrity buddies were taking the stage at his convention, while Ryan was mingling with high-dollar donors at a Beverly Hills, Calif., fundraiser Thursday night.

Actresses Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington each had speaking roles at the Democratic Party's convention in Charlotte. "Mad Men" actor Jon Hamm and his girlfriend, actress-writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, were also spotted in the crowd.

— Julie Pace — http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

___

QUICKQUOTE: BIDEN

"We're on a mission to move this nation forward — from doubt and downturn to promise and prosperity." — Vice President Joe Biden, accepting the nomination for a second term.

___

DEAD? NO MATTER

Even death doesn't keep political heroes away from party conventions.

Ronald Reagan, Edward M. Kennedy and Geraldine Ferraro — they've all made video appearances at either the Democratic or Republican conventions. Their images — captured in the years of their political glory — rekindle warm memories and stir political passions. The videos are part of the toolkit that both parties use to rouse their supporters and encourage voters to get to the polls.

It turns out that dead villains have a place at the convention, too. Terror leader Osama bin Laden, for instance. He's been mentioned numerous times at the Democratic convention to show that President Barack Obama is tough on terrorists and national security. His image even flashed briefly during a video about his killing.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, turning the tables on a Republican criticism of Obama, drew cheers Thursday by suggesting that the now-dead bin Laden be asked if he's better off now than he was four years ago.

— Terence Hunt — Twitter http://twitter.com/terence942

View Comments (34)