DNC 2012: Democrats Take Their Turn

The left hopes to set the president's record straight at its convention this week in Charlotte, N.C.

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In a switch from recent years, voters give President Obama the edge in foreign policy, something convention speaker and former candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will be sure to point out. The killing of Osama bin Laden will surely be mentioned more than it was in Tampa.

Charlotte in the Spotlight

The city of Charlotte will also play a starring role in the weeklong show. The city has been buzzing in the weeks before the mix of 35,000 delegates, media, politicians and celebrities begin to arrive. Visitors will be greeted by host Anthony Foxx, Charlotte's second African-American mayor, and an African-American police chief, Rodney Monroe, coordinating security with federal officials.

A convention is a magnet for demonstrations and marches -- including those by the Coalition to March on Wall Street South and by undocumented immigrants and their allies, who have traveled across the country by bus. In a recent conversation, Foxx said that the city could strike a balance: "Our job is to do the best we can to preserve and protect their right and balance it with the need to make sure not only that the demonstrators are safe but the entire community is."

With the big event being held in a museum district that is exhibiting special shows for the occasion, the convention weary can take a break and be challenged by "Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial," from the self-taught Alabama artist, at the Mint Museum Uptown; or Tavis Smiley's "America I Am: The African American Imprint," at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. The man that museum is named for is Charlotte's history-making first African-American mayor, still a presence as an architect and community leader who, along with Foxx, will be speaking at the convention.

Democratic-convention organizers point out ways that, in contrast to the GOP convention, the public can engage. A Labor Day Carolina Fest in the streets of uptown (what downtown is called in this upbeat New South city) is expected to draw crowds despite worries about traffic and security. Scheduled entertainment includes Janelle Monáe and James Taylor, who earlier this year joined the first lady at a Charlotte fundraiser. The public can also sign up to attend caucus and council meetings.

This past Friday, Time Warner Cable Arena was opened to the public for a first look. Schoolchildren were given priority to take in the patriotically themed light show with projections of the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty and Lincoln Memorial -- making the case, perhaps, that the president who presided over a Civil War about slavery might feel more at home with today's Democrats than with his own party. Not surprisingly, the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado are among those with the best views of the stage.

In Tampa, Republicans claimed the American dream. In Charlotte, Democrats will offer their version, an inclusive one that acknowledges that the federal government -- whose laws and courts struck down states' rights restrictions -- plays a part in America's progress.

Campaign volunteers had a chance to earn tickets to the president's stadium speech -- and an offer of community credentials for anyone interested in attending the last night of the convention was, if anything, too successful. Thousands showed up and waited in line for hours, with some disappointed when the supply ran out. Stephen Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said that they're hoping to reallocate tickets to take care of those who went away empty-handed.

The upside to the confusion is the enthusiasm, which Democrats hope will propel them to a November victory in North Carolina, a state Obama won by just over 14,000 votes in 2008. "This is a state that is passionate about the president, about his beliefs and his vision for the country, and I think we are going to continue to work very, very hard," Kerrigan said, not just in the days leading up to and during the convention, "but in the next 60 or so after that to make sure the state leans blue."