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.
DOSE OF MIDWEST HUMOR
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is channeling Midwestern populism and heaping on some humor as he lays out the Democrats' "case against Romney."
"If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves," Strickland says in one of a series of sharp quips aimed at the Republican nominee for president.
Strickland argues that Americans shouldn't trust the former Massachusetts governor — a multimillionaire private equity firm founder — because Romney has held some of his investments in overseas accounts and refuses to release all of his tax returns.
"Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps," Strickland says.
He says any person who aspires to be president "should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America."
Polls indicate that many voters feel Romney does not understand their day-to-day financial problems.
— Sally Buzbee
KAL PENN CUTS UP
Kal Penn, he of "Harold and Kumar" and "House" renown, brought down the latter at the Democratic convention on Tuesday night with a good-humored speech filled with far too many quips for us to transcribe in real time.
He juxtaposed gay marriage and the death of Osama bin Laden in the same sentence. He joked about what the Twitter hashtag on his speech would be (his recommendation: "sexyface"). He recounted a variety of experiences that he said showed him that change under Barack Obama had indeed been change he could believe in.
And Penn, who has volunteered or worked for Obama since 2007, asked for continuing voter engagement — particularly from the nation's young people, particularly online.
Which manifested itself this way: "I ask all of you young people to join me. You don't even have to put pants on."
Now is that a campaign slogan for the 21st century or what?
— Ted Anthony — http://twitter.com/anthonyted
Look who's tweeting from the floor of the Democratic convention: Sean Spicer, the communications director of the Republican National Committee.
A week after Obama adviser Robert Gibbs showed up at Republicans' get-together in Tampa, Fla., Spicer is venturing into the center of the opposition in Charlotte, N.C.
So far, Spicer has noted his thoughts on the size of the convention floor — "much smaller than our convention in Tampa" — and posed good naturedly with Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
He jokes that Crider believes "(at)mittromney is the man 2 lead country and get people back to work."
Not so, Crider shot back: "Showing him ... how (at)BarackObama is going to win."
— Henry C. Jackson — Twitter http://twitter.com/hjacksonap
QUICKQUOTE: TED STRICKLAND
"If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves." — Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, on Romney.
Amid the nods to America's red, white and blue, attention at the Democratic National Convention has been paid to gray — as in the noticeable change in 51-year-old President Barack Obama's hair since taking office.
Obama has chalked it up to genetics over stress. But Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told delegates Tuesday that it's a testament to his toughness.
"President Obama has earned every gray hair on his head, fighting for the middle class and every American," Rybak said.
— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad
BIDEN AND LABOR
President Barack Obama is staying home for Michelle Obama's convention speech. Vice President Joe Biden is not.
Biden arrived at the Democratic convention hall Tuesday night and made small talk with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the luxury boxes. Other leaders of organized labor were there as well, posing for pictures with Biden before Mrs. Obama addressed the delegates in the hall and millions watching on television. The president said he would watch Mrs. Obama from the White House.
Labor leaders were frustrated with the choice of Charlotte, N.C., as the convention's host city. There is not a single unionized hotel in the city and North Carolina has the lowest percentage of unionized workers. Some labor groups stayed away and threatened to stay on the sidelines.
Biden, who is the administration's ambassador to labor groups, was dispatched to calm those frustrations as the convention got under way. He spent Monday in Detroit rallying workers on Labor Day and planned to continue a pro-union message in his campaign speeches.
Biden and Obama are set to accept the Democrats' nomination on Thursday.
— Philip Elliott — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott
Jill Biden is on the floor of the Democrats' convention.
Vice President Job Biden's wife is meeting with delegates in the aisles as the convention gets under way. Supporters are tripping over themselves to shake hands with Mrs. Biden, a professor who has made community colleges her issue. She and her husband arrived at the Charlotte, N.C., convention hall Tuesday ahead of Michelle Obama's speech.
The vice president and President Barack Obama are set to speak on Thursday.
Philip Elliott — Twitter http://twitter.com/philip_elliott
CARTER ON OBAMA
Former President Jimmy Carter delivered a 4-minute video address to the Democratic convention, saying Obama offered a "clear choice" for voters. As Carter's image beamed into the arena, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign issued a news release declaring, "Welcome Back, Carter!"
Republicans have tried to tie Obama to Carter, comparing the current unemployment rate of 8.3 percent to the economic "malaise" of the late 1970s. A Romney spokesman said by choosing Carter to appear on the opening night of the convention, Obama "chose a fitting surrogate."
In the video address, Carter credited Obama with helping middle-class families, saying he "always put the interests of middle-class Americans above those who often, with the larger wallets, have an ever louder voice."
— Ken Thomas: http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
CHAIRMAN NOT AMUSED
A gauzy video tribute to former Sen. Ted Kennedy included some vintage footage of the Massachusetts Democrat debating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during their 1994 Senate race.
Republicans didn't find it very funny.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took to Twitter just minutes after the video ended to rip Democrats for including the clip, which includes a couple of classic Kennedy lines from the race with Romney, including, "I am pro-choice. Mitt Romney is multiple choice."
"Classless Dems use tribute video of deceased Ted Kennedy to attack Mitt Romney," Priebus tweeted.
— Henry C. Jackson — Twitter http://twitter.com/hjacksonap
REID: FACT CHECK
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid again challenged Mitt Romney on taxes Tuesday, saying: "When you look at the one tax return he has released, it's obvious why there's been only one." Reid went on to say, "We can only imagine what new secrets would be revealed if he showed the American people a dozen years of tax returns like his father did."
But Reid did not repeat earlier accusations that over the past 10 years, that there had been some years in which Romney had no tax liability — a claim Romney has said is false.
"Mitt Romney says we should take his word that he paid his fair share," Reid said. "His word? His word? Trust comes from transparency, and Mitt Romney comes up short on both."
— Tom Raum — http://twitter.com/tomraum
Just as the Republicans brought out the words and images of their deceased icon, Ronald Reagan, at their convention last week, the Democrats on Tuesday unspooled video of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., but with an extra little twist: They showed the liberal standard-bearer debating Mitt Romney in 1994.
The montage of footage depicted Kennedy on the attack, thundering against Romney on the issues and calling him someone who changes his mind far too often. Then the video zoomed forward 14 years, showing Kennedy in the final presidential political season of his life endorsing Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
It was yet another example of an event unique to the era of video mashup — an orchestrated political appearance and endorsement by an icon who has passed on. And by couching the politics — Kennedy explicitly opposing Romney and supporting Obama — in a music-backed tribute video, they adeptly juxtaposed partisanship and high nostalgia.
Kennedy died in 2009, eight months after Barack Obama took office. He was introduced by his great-nephew, Joe Kennedy III, a candidate for the U.S. House from Massachusetts.
— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthontyed
"He has done it all in the face of bitter, unyielding, in fact unprecedented partisan opposition." — former President Jimmy Carter, enumerating at the Democratic National Convention (on video, not in person) what he calls Barack Obama's victories in the past four years.
8 WOMEN OUT FRONT
The women's vote is crucial to Barack Obama's hopes in 2012. So the party created an image designed to appeal to female voters early in its convention Tuesday night: eight women running for re-election or election to Congress standing shoulder to shoulder across the stage.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led them, and each said a few words about topics including equal pay for equal work, women's health, violence against women, women in uniform, and "the power of moms in the economy."
— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass
The first lady takes the stage tonight as the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. Michelle Obama earns higher favorability ratings than her husband, his Republican rival, the other contender for first lady or either candidate for the vice presidency, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.
In the poll, conducted before the Republican convention began, 64 percent of Americans said they had a favorable view of Mrs. Obama. President Obama came in at 53 percent favorable, Mitt Romney landed at 44 percent and his wife Ann Romney stood at 40 percent. Joe Biden earned a 42 percent favorability rating; Paul Ryan, 38 percent.
Views of Mrs. Obama tilt favorably among independents and women, two focal points in her husband's campaign for re-election. She garners favorable reviews from 56 percent of independents and is viewed unfavorably by just 18 percent in this group.
Among women, her ratings soar to 72 percent favorable, compared with 55 percent among men. The gender gap is particularly pronounced among Republicans (26 percent of GOP men have a favorable view of the first lady, 52 percent of Republican women do) and married people (75 percent of married women view the first lady favorably compared with 50 percent of married men).
— Jennifer Agiesta — http://twitter.com/jennagiesta
PROTESTING IN THE RAIN
Protesting often means unexpected turns of events. This time, in the middle of an Occupy Wall Street march through Charlotte's business district on Tuesday, it was the weather — a torrent of rain that came from the sky without much warning.
Most in the group of about 50 headed underneath the covered alcove of a building directly across the street from the towering corporate headquarters of Bank of America, the city's highest skyscraper.
A hardy handful dashed out into the storm, dancing barefoot and whooping it up under a bronze statue of a bearded prospector that recalled the 19th-century North Carolina gold rush.
The cadre of heavily armed police officers assigned to monitor and escort the protesters stoically stood in the rain nearby, getting drenched and watching the spectacle.
After about five minutes, the rain quit as quickly as it had come. One dripping dancer turned to his sheltering cohorts.
"You can come out now," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "You won't melt!"
— Michael Biesecker — Twitter http://twitter.com/mbieseck
PAGING BETTY WHITE
With all respect to Clint Eastwood, some Democrats want Betty White to make their day.
Some Democrats are leading an effort to bring in the actress to speak at this week's Democratic National Convention — essentially to serve as a counter to the role that Clint Eastwood played last week in helping to introduce Mitt Romney at the Republican convention.
A petition at the website change.org says that Eastwood "gave a bad name to older Americans everywhere with his absurd and awkward-to-watch introduction of Governor Romney."
"Governor Romney can have Clint Eastwood and his improvisational skills because President Obama has the one and only Betty White!" the petition said.
Supporters of the effort are encouraged to go to a Facebook page entitled "Bring Betty White to the DNC." More than 33,000 people have liked the page so far.
White told The Associated Press in May that she normally stays away from politics because she doesn't want to alienate fans, but this year she wants to see Obama re-elected. There's no indication yet that the efforts to recruit White will bear fruit.
— Kevin Freking — Twitter http://twitter.com/APkfreking
PRIDE ACROSS THE POND
Stephanie Stewart flies the red, white and blue — on both sides of the pond. A delegate for the Democrats Abroad contingent at the convention in Charlotte, N.C., the Londoner holds dual citizenship. She has family in Delaware but votes in New York, since that's the last place she lived stateside.
The convention caps a big year for her — first Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, then the London Olympics, now this.
"I got out my Union Jack and was waving it around" during the Summer Games, she said after staking out her seat in the arena Tuesday afternoon.
Stewart's group points to swing states and tight races such as the 2008 elections of Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken as places where Americans overseas can make a difference.
"There are over 160 countries where we know there are Democrats living," she says, "so we try to keep them voting."
— Joe Danborn
The Paul Ryan opposition is in full force at the Democratic National Convention.
Vice President Joe Biden arrived Tuesday. Rob Zerban, who hopes to beat Ryan in a race for Congress, is in Charlotte, too.
Wisconsin law permits Ryan, a seven-term Republican congressman, to run for vice president and re-election simultaneously.
Zerban, a Wisconsin delegate, is getting hugs and handshakes as he meets fellow Democrats. He's been invited to participate in panel discussions, but unlike Biden he won't appear on the convention main stage. Still, Zerban said it's a prime chance to connect with movers and shakers in the party.
"I feel like I'm in good company," Zerban tells The Associated Press. "I'm the other guy running against Paul Ryan, just like Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad
JOBS, JOBS AND JOBS
Campaign 2012 is all about jobs.
The next unemployment report from the Labor Department comes out Friday morning, but President Barack Obama typically gets a peek the night before.
So will the president be privy to that closely watched data when he addresses the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night?
White House and campaign aides say they don't know.
Here's what to expect either way: Economists believe the report will show job gains of around 135,000 or so, but they expect the unemployment rate to hang at 8.3 percent. Anything under 100,000 new jobs would raise concerns that hiring is slowing as the economy sputters. Or the president could get a post-speech bounce if the figure tops 175,000.
There will be two more jobs reports before the election: Oct. 5 and Nov. 2.
— Christopher S. Rugaber — Twitter http://twitter.com/ChrisRugaber
Vote for Barack Obama. You might get a beer.
The president of the United States stopped at a fire and rescue station in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday as his convention began in Charlotte, N.C. Obama presented White House-brewed beer to the battalion chief and four firefighters.
"I want you to test it out," he said. "It's a whole case. I am going to call you up and see if we have the right recipe."
Though the beer didn't have a label, the White House says it was a mix of bottles of honey ale, regular ale and dark ale. The Obama White House has been dabbling in homebrews of late, and it released a recipe over the weekend.
One of the firefighters at Norfolk Fire Rescue Station 14, presumably on duty, asked Obama: "Should we wait until tomorrow to drink it?"
"I don't want to get you into trouble with the chief," the president responded
AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller put it this way Saturday: "As a political symbol, beer is not just about beer. It is about the likable, accessible, regular guy who relates to life in the real world and enjoys popping a cold one. Sure, taste counts, but so do votes."
— Matthew Daly — Twitter http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC
MAKING THE GRADE
Grading metaphors were all the rage on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention, which also happens to be the first day of school for a lot of kids.
It all began after President Barack Obama gave himself an "incomplete" when an interviewer asked him to do a self-assessment of his performance on the economy.
Republicans were quick to pounce.
"If President Obama can't even give himself a passing grade, why would the American people give him another four years?" asked the Romney campaign's Amanda Henneberg.
Obama adviser Robert Gibbs, appearing on MSNBC, said an incomplete makes sense because the nation still has "a long way to go to get back to the type of economic security that middle class families expect in this country."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, appearing on Fox, gave Obama an "A for effort. I give him an A for making sure Americans are better off today than they were four years ago."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said "an incomplete and a desire to do more is far better than a failing grade."
She awarded Republicans a "failing grade" — and faulted them for "bad study habits" and "rotten ideas," too.
— Nancy Benac — Twitter http://twitter.com/nbenac