Four things to watch during the Democratic Convention

As the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Charlotte, NC, both Democrats and Republicans are comparing their opponents to failed politicians of the past.

As the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Charlotte, NC, both Democrats and Republicans are comparing their opponents to failed politicians of the past.

GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan echoed Ronald Reagan's attack line on Jimmy Carter in 1980 when he told a North Carolina crowd this weekend that “[President Barack Obama] can't tell you that you're better off…simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are now.” Reagan took the 1980 race for the White House from Carter in part by asking the public, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Maryland Governor and top Obama surrogate Martin O'Malley blundered that question on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday morning when he initially answered “no” but blamed Republicans. Top Obama campaign aides like David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter responded more adamantly that day when asked the same question, while Vice President Joe Biden said again at a campaign rally that “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”

Meanwhile, Obama argued that the agenda at the GOP convention in Tampa was “better suited for the last century,” while Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa contended that the Republicans have “a platform from another century, maybe even two.”

The Democrats will show off a diverse lineup tonight when national TV coverage of their convention begins. O'Malley, first lady Michelle Obama, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro are scheduled to speak during the 10 pm hour.

What to watch for on opening day of the Democratic National Convention:

Rapid response
When Ryan blamed Obama's policies last week for a Wisconsin plant that actually closed in 2008, top Democratic strategists responded in seconds on Twitter. Keep an eye on the Twitter handles of Eric Fehrnstrom and Sean Spicer, among others, for counterpunches during the Democratic convention.

Michelle Obama's keynote
Like Republican counterpart Ann Romney's speech to the GOP faithful last week, Michelle Obama is expected to present a human side of her husband to viewers. However, look for the first lady to emphasize her working- and middle-class roots, where Democrats feel she can effectively contrast Mrs. Romney.

Mother Nature
Thousands of empty seats during Obama's acceptance speech would be a terrible visual for his reelection campaign. Expect the Democrats to quickly decide whether to move it indoors if storms are forecasted on Thursday night.

2016 positioning
Look for the top contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination to try to gain an edge over the rest of the pack. (On the GOP side, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio helped himself last week, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not.) O'Malley, who will want to redeem himself after going off message this weekend, is first at bat.

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