The CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing is being published from the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla., this week. For more information on signing up to receive this free email, click here.
THE PODIUM: One of the opening rituals for every modern national political convention, an intense Secret Service sweep into every corner and crevice of the arena, has started after a morning flurry of lighting adjustments, sound checks and wire-laying in the Time Warner Cable Arena. (The proceedings don’t start until Tuesday afternoon, and organizers plan to unveil the final logistical tweaks in the morning. The headline will be whether they’ve decided, once and for all, to risk the 40 percent chance of storms now forecast for Thursday and have Obama follow through with plans to give his speech at the Carolina Panthers stadium.)
THE TICKET: “They are exhausted of ideas,” Obama said of the Republicans this afternoon at the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. He’s flying now to Toledo, where he’ll speak at a lunchtime Labor Day rally before heading to Louisiana to view Isaac cleanup efforts. (Romney swung through on the day after his convention speech).
Biden made the day’s top political news, injecting a rare but intense dose of foreign policy friction into a campaign speech originally arranged as an economic appeal to the white, working-class voters of swing-state Pennsylvania. “He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home. He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home,” the vice president said of the GOP nominee. “He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran,” Biden told a packed high school gymnasium of 1,400 in York, although he offered nothing more to support that assertion. (Obama opposes military action in Syria. Romney says he’d consider it if the civil strife there puts the country’s chemical weapons in the wrong hands. Both have said all options should be on the table in dealing with nuclear-ambitious Iran.)
THE OTHER TICKET: Romney is at his lakeside vacation home in New Hampshire for some down time. Ryan is also off camera, but the campaign put his name on its reaction to Sunday show comments by the other campaign. Conceding “that Americans aren’t better off today than they were four years ago is more proof that President Obama’s policies aren’t working,” the running mate’s statement said.
THE SAME, AND DIFFERENT: This year’s Democratic version of the convention city-within-a-city lumbered toward viability this afternoon, even though the opening gavel won’t come down for another 48 hours. And so — other than some predictable partisan spinning on the TV talk shows about the nation’s hard-to-come-by economic recovery, and the state of the Obama campaign — this has been a day in which the nature of the president’s party is being revealed only in passing.
And the contrast between this year’s Democratic Party and this year’s Republican Party (as it was offered up last week in Tampa) looks to be as stark as ever — at least in the faces of the people trolling the sports arenas, press centers, hotel lobbies, convention meeting rooms, think tank gatherings and party venues of the two cities. The stereotypical affects of the two sides are on obvious display. The visuals last week underscored how the GOP base is the province of overwhelmingly white and middle-aged costumed tea partyers and well-groomed 1 percenters. The visuals of the last day suggest the Democratic base is just as different, and more diverse, as the public imagines — with more young people, African-Americans, Latinos, gays and lesbians, union workers and the disabled in one corner of the convention center than were spotted all last week in Florida. To a public that laments the heightened partisanship and deep distrust that have paralyzed Washington, these glimpses offer a decent explanation about why. What they do not explain is how either party is going to successfully (and lastingly) bend its reputation in order to capture the hearts and minds of the undecideds (10 percent) and the so-called persuadables (maybe 25 percent) who will determine who wins the presidency and control of Congress.
Today, it was the job of the top Obama surrogates to make the first Charlotte move on that front, and their message was the somewhat surprising refusal to assert that the country is better off now than it was four years ago. “We’ve clearly improved … from the depths of the recession,” was the most that David Plouffe, one of Obama’s top White House aides, would say when pressed on that fundamental question. But, he said, “the Romney path would be the wrong path for the middle class, the wrong path for this country.” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (a principal Obama surrogate in Charlotte this week) and top campaign aide David Axelrod said much the same thing. “Are we where we need to be? No. But the problem with what Governor Romney said is [that] for three days they never offered anybody a plausible alternative.”
SMALL, LOUD, HOT: Surging rain, hail and tree-limb-snapping winds greeted the media horde and other early arrivals yesterday afternoon, but today has been sunny and sweltering in downtown Charlotte — a fine day for a protest, in other words. But the opening rally and parade through the central business district drew only an estimated 600 or so, or about one-eighth the size of the crowd that had been promised by organizers of the March on Wall Street South, which was expected to be the biggest protest of the week.
That said, those who did show up made the most of their moment — doing their best for the cameras with an array of chants, vigorous drum-banging and sustained banner-waving to protest corporate greed and convey their disappointment in a president so many of them had voted for. Their mood was undeniably more energetic and sustained than the slimmed-down-ranks of protesters who braved Isaac and showed up in Tampa — only to see their spirits (and their placards) soaked by the storm’s outer bands. Today’s march (escorted by more than 100 police officers) went past the corporate headquarters of Bank of America and a major regional office for Wells Fargo — two of the bigger mortgage-bank beneficiaries of the 2008 financial bailouts. One banner, drawn to emulate the Bank of America logo, said, “Bankrupting America.” But not all the protesters were most interested in castigating the president’s role in propping up Wall Street. Others — and they came from some 90 different groups — were advocating for union rights, amnesty for illegal immigrants, more federal spending on education, ending the war in Afghanistan and promoting civil liberties. (“Obama Murders Children with Drones,” one banner said.) No arrests were reported.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina (61), one of the dozen or more Republicans who will consider a 2012 presidential run if Romney doesn’t win.
— David Hawkings, editor
More congressional campaign coverage is on Roll Call’s At the Races politics blog.
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