CHARLOTTE, NC – The Democratic National Convention kicked off this morning with a press conference previewing the week and repeatedly stressing two key messages: that the convention is the most open and accessible in history, and that a key Obama campaign theme will be “rebuilding America from the middle class out.”
The 50-minute presser featured DNCC Chair Steve Kerrigan, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Convention Chair Los Angeles Mayor Antionio Villaraigosa, DNC Secretary Alice Germond, and Obama for America Press Secretary Ben LaBolt.
The main news from the session was that the draft platform will be distributed to all delegates when they arrive in the hall tomorrow, and that Georgia Rep. John Lewis has been selected as Sergeant-at-arms for the proceedings.
“It’s been incredible to see the ground energy for this convention and this President,” said Foxx, who expressed pride that Charlotte was hosting its first major political convention in 150 years, and while he predicted a close race, he expressed optimism about Obama carrying the state again in 2012. ”The people of North Carolina understand that this President has had their back.”
Just as the convention four years ago in Denver helped the campaign focus the energy of its 25,000 local volunteers, Villaraigosa said that Charlotte would do the same for North Carolina. ”This is the start of a new way to engage in the political process,” he said, promising a “working convention,” that would engage and energize volunteers and participants as well as laying out a vision and articulating a path forward.
And the people doing that work on the delegate side represent a true cross-section of America, said Germond, noting that among the 5,556 delegates and 407 alternates — 50% of them women– there were increases in African-American, Latino, and youth representation, with a record 644 young delegates, including 285 students. “In many cases, this is their very first convention,” she said. “We will learn from them.”
In the Q&A, LaBolt responded to a question about the significance of today’s Gallup results which found Romney’s convention speech last week produced only a marginal bump. ”Most Americans who tuned in were looking for answers,” he said, “but the Romney convention speech didn’t address their questions.” He promised that President Obama’s speech — which he said is still being fine-tuned — would “lay out the pillars for rebuilding the economy from the middle class out.”