CONVENTION WATCH: Michelle's words, Julian Castro
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.
She spoke of quiet moments, of a relationship's early days — of a man who, seen through her eyes, is not a world leader but a husband and a partner.
Michelle Obama gave a remarkably personal account of her husband and their marriage in her speech to the Democratic convention. In a voice often soft, even girlish, the first lady talked about things like the quiet hours in the evening when the president sits hunched over a desk, worrying about people who are facing troubles. She talked about how he would check their baby daughters' breathing at times just to make sure they still were alive.
Now that they are older, she said, he patiently explains world issues to them at the dinner table and strategizes about middle-school friendships. She got a rueful, friendly laugh from the crowd when she described how, when they first dated, he had so little money that the rust on his car had eaten a hole through the passenger-side door.
Like Ann Romney's speech at the Republican convention last week, the first lady's remarks focused almost exclusively on deeply personal stories. They may well have been true, but they were also precisely calibrated — a nationally televised attempt to humanize a man who some voters have found aloof, even arrogant.
Obama has spoken of more inward things on several occasions in recent months, from his admission that he got a shellacking in the 2010 elections to his recent grading of his own handling of the economy as "incomplete." But he rarely speaks openly about personal vulnerabilities or provides much insight into his feelings.
On Tuesday night, his wife did it for him.
— Sally Buzbee
MICHELLE TALKS BACK
Michelle Obama had a sly rebuke for Republicans who've been making hay of her husband's "you didn't build that" remark.
Mitt Romney and his supporters say President Barack Obama's comment shows he values government over entrepreneurs struggling to build their own businesses. The president says he was talking about the importance of teachers, roads and other government works that businesses rely on.
Mrs. Obama, in her speech to the Democratic convention, gently revisited the issue as she talked about lessons she and her husband learned from their families.
"We learned about gratitude and humility — that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean — and we were taught to value everyone's contribution and treat everyone with respect," the first lady said.
She also responded indirectly to her rival Ann Romney's criticism of Democrats who've attacked Mitt Romney's success in business.
"Our families weren't asking for much," Mrs. Romney said. "They didn't begrudge anyone else's success or care that others had much more than they did — in fact, they admired it."
— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass
Julian Castro paid tribute to his late grandmother Victoria and his mother Rosie with a memorable line.
"My mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone," the keynote speaker told the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.
The San Antonio mayor recalled his "unlikely journey" from the son of a Latino activist to the convention stage. He said Victoria cleaned other people's houses so she could rent her own. His mother was the first in the family to graduate from college. That legacy of hard work propelled him to a prime-time speaking slot at the convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Castro said he was proud of his mom, and he thanked her.
— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP
SHOW OF FORCE
She never mentioned Mitt Romney's name, but Michelle Obama worked in some not-too-subtle digs against the GOP nominee in her prime-time speech Tuesday.
The Obama campaign has worked hard to portray Romney as a rich Wall Street operator who has been able to amass his wealth in part by taking advantage of tax loopholes not available to the average Joe.
Mrs. Obama reinforced the message when she talked about the values that she and her husband, the president, learned when they were growing up.
"We learned about dignity and decency — that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself," she said. "We learned about honesty and integrity — that the truth matters, that you don't take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules, and success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square."
— Stephen Ohlemacher — Twitter http://twitter.com/stephenatap
QUICKQUOTE: MICHELLE OBAMA
"Today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are — no, it reveals who you are." — First lady Michelle Obama, on her husband.
'GROW A BACKBONE'
The man who succeeded Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts delivered a fiery message to Democrats — show some backbone.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who took the helm in Massachusetts in 2007, energized the delegates Tuesday night with a harsh attack on Romney's record in the statehouse. He dismissed Republican policies and implored Democrats to help President Barack Obama secure another term.
"If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, my message is this: It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe!" Patrick said to a roar from the crowd.
"Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We're Americans. We shape our own future. Let's start by standing up for President Barack Obama."
— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP
HOW TO PAY?
One thing is noticeably missing from Democrats' speeches at their convention so far: discussion of how to pay for the programs they are urging.
Many speakers have called for more investment in higher education, more money spent on infrastructure, more for early childhood education. But few of the Democratic speakers have focused on the country's budget deficit or how they would rein it in. That of course was a big focus of the Republican convention last week, even though the Republicans were short on specifics.
One of the rare speakers who did address the question was San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. He spoke of the longtime Democratic position that wealthy people in America should pay a greater share of the nation's taxes. Republicans want to keep taxes lower across the board. The fight over whether to retain President Bush's tax cuts is one of the main differences between this year's candidates.
— Sally Buzbee
QUICKQUOTE: MIDDLE CLASS
"The Romney-Ryan budget doesn't just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training. It doesn't just pummel the middle class_it dismantles it. It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class." — San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Tuesday night's keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Mitt Romney's past use of a Swiss bank account is getting a lot of notice at the Democratic convention.
First, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland criticized the Republican nominee for what he called a lack of economic patriotism, citing his overseas accounts. Romney has investments in Cayman Island-based funds and previously held a Swiss account.
Shortly after Strickland's talk, Lilly Ledbetter, a women's activist, talked about inequality in pay between men and women doing similar jobs. Women earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make, she told the crowd. "Maybe 23 cents doesn't sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account," she told the crowd to roars. But, she said, it means a lot to average women.
Democrats have long sought to gain advantage by highlighting Romney's wealth and his refusal to release more of his tax returns. Romney has said that he has been forthcoming about how he earned his money. Republicans went out of their way last week at their convention to highlight his charitable and humanitarian acts, including giving 10 percent each year to his church.
— Sally Buzbee
Basketball recruiting comes in many forms — phone calls, letters, text messages, emails — but not usually from the podium of the Democratic National Convention.
Oregon State men's basketball coach Craig Robinson, the brother of first lady Michelle Obama, used a convention speech along with President Barack Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-ng, to put in a plug for the Beavers, who finished 21-15 last year.
Said Robinson: "Any seven-footers out there, gimme a call!"
— Ken Thomas — Twitter http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
THAT 4 A.M. CALL
What a difference four years can make. During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race, Hillary Clinton tried to raise doubts about Barack Obama's readiness to be president by wondering how he would handle an emergency call in the middle of the night. Could he handle that 4 a.m. call signaling a global crisis?
This time around, Obama is the incumbent president, a veteran of four years of crises in the Iraq and Afghan wars, drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen, and the decision to launch a Navy SEALs attack on terror leader Osama bin Laden.
So it was unsurprising — but certainly an interesting echo — when Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, suggested that this time around, voters should worry about Republican Mitt Romney's lack of experience on foreign affairs.
"Now, one thing I know with absolute certainty .... is that in the next four years, an unforeseen crisis, challenge or conflict is going to seize the country," said Emanuel, now Chicago's mayor. "Whose leadership, whose judgment, whose values do you want in the White House when that crisis lands like a thud on the Oval Office desk?"
Times have changed, indeed.
— Sally Buzbee
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
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
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