CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's a tough act to follow.
Even Democrats acknowledge there's almost no way for them to match the enthusiasm and energy that accompanied their party's national convention four years ago. The reason why is clear: Unlike 2008, when the theme was all about "change," Team Obama's challenge in Charlotte is to convince a wary and anxious American electorate to stick with the status quo.
At this point in 2008, 80 percent of Americans thought things in the country were "off track." Today, more than two-thirds (67 percent) still feel pessimistic about the direction of the country. Obama's challenge is to acknowledge the fact that the economy is still struggling, while providing a positive path to prosperity. Can he do this without looking defensive? If he paints too rosy of a scenario of his first term, he risks looking woefully out of touch.
The Obama campaign and its allies have made this race a referendum on Romney instead of a referendum on the president's first term. This week, the president has to make the case for what he will do to move the country forward, not just what he believes Romney will do to push us backward.
There is a lot of chatter about whether the Obama camp can fill the 75,000 seat Bank of America stadium on Thursday night. But, more broadly, there's the question of whether the convention will be able to generate the kind of interest from its base that comes close to what it had in 2008.
Just look at these headlines: "Unions shrug at Democratic convention," Politico reports. "Labor unions and Democrats form a pretty traditional political alliance that's usually on display in full force at the national conventions. … This year? Not so much. Some union officials are sitting out the political fete entirely after the Democrats chose a labor-unfriendly location in the right-to-work state of North Carolina. Others are sending skeleton staffs to support their union delegates, but say they're focusing resources elsewhere." http://bit.ly/T9ViOk
And from the Los Angeles Times: "The national party conventions are usually accompanied by a cacophony of lavish parties, thrown by industries and interest groups jostling to get the attention of the political class. But as the Democratic establishment descends upon Charlotte, N.C., this weekend for the Democratic National Convention, lobbyists and event organizers said they expect next week's convention-related events to be less splashy than usual. http://lat.ms/ObPTkl
Gauging enthusiasm is tough (many of us remarked at how the Tampa Bay Times Forum lacked that real "buzz" during the GOP convention). But, as important as the energy in the stadium, is the ability for the nominee to fire up his base for the next two months ahead.
ABC'S RICK KLEIN: It was Ronald Reagan's question, but it's Barack Obama's difficult answer. The answer is a work in progress, but comparisons to 2008 are everywhere, and deeper even than the basic are-you-better-off formulation. A convention is a reminder of the promise of Obama in '08, or four years before that. Are Democrats as excited about Obama as they were four years ago? Eight years ago? It's not a difficult question.
"THIS WEEK" REWIND: SENIOR OBAMA ADVISER: ROMNEY CAMPAIGN BUILT ON 'TRIPOD OF LIES.' Obama adviser David Plouffe told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the Romney campaign is built on a "tripod of lies." "A welfare attack that is just absolutely untrue. The suggestion we're raiding Medicare - absolutely untrue. And then this whole 'we can't build it' nonsense." "I don't think we've ever seen a presidential campaign ever that's built on a foundation of absolute lies. And I think ultimately they're going to pay a price for that" Plouffe told George. George also asked Plouffe what he thought about Clint Eastwood's now infamous appearance at the RNC. "Listen, I think the president, myself, we all, I think, everyone in America thinks he's been an amazing actor and director and an American treasure" Plouffe said. "I do think the Romney campaign would probably not, three days after their convention, still having questions raised about Clint Eastwood. So you'll have to ask them how that all went down." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/NFDObC
NEW N.C. POLL GIVES ROMNEY SMALL LEAD IN THE RACE. The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill reports: "Republican Mitt Romney appears to have gotten his bounce from his party's national convention - at least in the state hosting the Democratic convention, according to a poll released Sunday. The new Elon University/Charlotte Observer Poll shows the GOP presidential candidate leading President Barack Obama 47 percent to 43 percent in North Carolina. The poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, surveyed likely voters from Aug. 25-30, during the GOP convention in Tampa." http://bit.ly/TQ22gk
NOTE IT! ABC'S AMY WALTER: There are plenty of signs that Obama's commitment to North Carolina is no longer as aggressive as it once was: They are not spending as much on TV here as they are in place like Iowa and Ohio. Moreover, North Carlina is a sign of what 2008 was - an ever expanding map. Today it is reality of what 2012 will be - a slog to defend the territory from 2008.
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield (@LizHartfield)
IT'S OBAMA VS. OBAMA AS DNC BEGINS. ABC's Rick Klein notes: President Obama has met his own worst enemy, and his name is Barack Obama. As the Democratic National Convention gets underway this week in North Carolina - a state that epitomized the Obama wave of 2008 but has slipped steadily from the Democrats' grasp since then - memories of the hope and expectations the president embodied four years ago loom over the gathering. It's a sentiment more threatening to the president's reelection chances than the caricature of an ineffective president perpetuated by some on the right. That's one reason that version of the president was barely introduced when the GOP's own convention, a gathering that seldom lacks red meat, was held last week. http://abcn.ws/PZEeWB
JW MARRIOTT THANKS ROMNEY FOR BRINGING ATTENTION TO MORMONISM. The head of the prominent Marriott hotel chain and fellow Mormon J.W. Marriott thanked Mitt Romney today during a Mormon church service for bringing "positive attention" to the religion, which is often considered to be shrouded in mystery, reports ABC's Emily Friedman. "There has never been as much positive attention to the church, thanks to the wonderful campaign of Mitt Romney and his family," Marriott said during a service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wolfeboro, N.H., the lakeside town where the Romney family has a home. http://abcn.ws/Ra0xqU
OBAMA SAYS HE'S STILL A HUGE EASTWOOD FAN. President Barack Obama says the ribbing Clint Eastwood gave him at the Republican National Convention last week doesn't mean he won't watch his movies, reports ABC's Matt Larotonda. "I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan," the president said in an interview excerpt released today. "He is a great actor, and an even better director," he continued. "I think the last few movies that he's made have been terrific." http://abcn.ws/OFiW0L
BIDEN RIPS INTO PAUL RYAN IN WISCONSIN. Vice President Joe Biden launched a new attack on Rep. Paul Ryan in his home state of Wisconsin yesterday, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. He criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for not admitting in his convention speech that he was a member of the bipartisan deficit commission he railed against Wednesday evening. "What he didn't tell you is he sat on that commission," Biden said at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. "He sat on that commission, and were he and his house Republican friends that he leads, had they voted with the commission, it would have been voted on, but he voted no. He would not let it go to the floor. He walked away." http://abcn.ws/UlNiYK
NOTED: CANDIDATE'S WIVES HELP WOO VOTERS. ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: candidates' wives face the spotlight in almost every election, but at this point in the 2012 presidential campaign, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama have taken center stage in a way few politicians' wives ever have. A match up of quotes from candidates and their wives' that ABC made in July illustrates how the women show a more empathetic side to Romney and Obama. http://abcn.ws/NLlo3v
PRE-DNC PROTEST HAS UNEVENTFUL KICK OFF IN CHARLOTTE. The AP's Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss report: "The kickoff protest ahead of the Democratic National Convention had the benefit of sunny skies, pent-up demand from demonstrators who were rained out in Florida and the perfect setting to decry the practices of big business. But while Sunday's March on Wall Street South was spirited, it drew only a fraction of the turnout organizers were expecting and was as free of mayhem as protests a week earlier outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The march had been planned as the centerpiece of the week's protests." http://abcn.ws/Q0qg6K
CONVENTION IS OBAMA CAMP'S NOT-SO-SECRET WEAPON IN N.C. The Charlotte Observer's Tim Funk and Jim Morrill report: "National political conventions used to be about just two things: Nominate a presidential ticket, then sell it to the American electorate with a big TV show. This year, there's a third goal: Win North Carolina's 15 electoral votes - and perhaps a second term in the White House - by using the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as a campaign organizing tool. So, for more than a year, those planning the Democrats' 2012 gathering have been reaching out and energizing supporters in this crucial battleground state that President Barack Obama won four years ago by a mere 14,177 votes." http://bit.ly/O6vuSm
STILL A PARTY IN CHARLOTTE BUT A LESS LAVISH ONE. The LA Times Matea Gold reports: "as the Democratic establishment descends upon Charlotte, N.C., this weekend for the Democratic National Convention, lobbyists and event organizers said they expect next week's convention-related events to be less splashy than usual. That's in part because the Democratic National Committee banned corporations, lobbyists and political action committees from giving directly to the host committee (though they still sought in-kind corporate contributions and donations from corporate foundations), a move that chilled participation. http://lat.ms/ObPTkl
DEMOCRATS CHASE CASH WITH FLASH IN CHARLOTTE. Politico's Ken Vogel and Anna Palmer report: "Democrats have grumbled that President Barack Obama hasn't done enough to help them raise cash, and so some of the party's biggest names are taking matters into their own hands at this week's Democratic National Convention. Unlimited-money Democratic outside groups striving to keep within in shouting distance of big GOP outfits like the Karl Rove-conceived Crossroads groups are banking on help from a A-list liberal pols and celebrities like Jessica Alba and culinary legend Alice Waters." http://politi.co/Tcw8wS
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
MASSACHUSETTS GOP HIGHLIGHTS WARREN'S PAST LEGAL WORK WITH TRAVELER'S INSURANCE. Ahead of her speech at the DNC on Wednesday, the Massachusetts Republican party has launched a new line of attacks on Elizabeth Warren, highlighting a case where she represented Traveler's Insurance, defending them against future lawsuits from asbestos victims. The group is highlighting a series of local reports about Warren's work on the case, and calling on her to apologize to the victims of asbestos. "Professor Warren owes these laborers an apology for putting her own financial gain ahead of their safety and well-being" said Nate Little, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican party.
@ZekeJMiller: Together, the two campaigns are responsible for sending more than a hundred people to the hospital… http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/supporters-faint-collapse-for-romney-and-obama … via @buzzfeed
@ktumulty: Anyone know where to find an ATM in Charlotte? (no, that is not a serious question)