Democratic convention kicks off with sweeping promises, expectations

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stressing that the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be the most inclusive and open convention in history, convention leaders presented their expectations and messages Monday morning for the week’s Democratic activities in the Queen City.

“This convention is the most open and accessible convention in history,” said Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, at the Convention Center press conference.

The Uptown Charlotte convention open-to-the-public kick-off Carolina Fest, Kerrigan explained, is an expression of that accessibility, much like the thousands of additional people able to see President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Bank of America Stadium Thursday night.

After making appearances in Tampa during the Republican National Convention last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic convention’s chairman, explained that it is now “our turn.”

“We are going to show the country that we are the party of openness and opportunity, the party of ingenuity and innovation,” Villaraigosa said, adding that the convention will be the most diverse political convention “in every respect.” DNC Secretary Alice Germond, the wife of longtime White House correspondent Jack Germond, then went on to tout the fact that 50 percent of the delegates are women.

“We believe that a party’s convention ought to present a vision for the country. So we will be crystallizing that is at stake in this election — the choice between a candidate who wants to build this economy from the middle out versus one who wants to build the economy from the top-down,” Villaraigosa said, claiming that Romney’s is a plan that will take America “back.”

Villaraigosa added that the last four years under Obama, which he argued were a success, will also be a central point during the convention as Democrats “articulate a path forward.”

As a foil to the DNC’s objectives, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt claimed that Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan “failed” to present a vision for economic growth and sustainable jobs for the middle class at last week’s RNC.

According to LaBolt, President Obama and the Democrats who have convened in Charlotte will “have a conversation this week about where we were in 2008, where we’ve come, and how we’ve built the economy from the middle class out.”

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx spoke about the importance of Obama “fighting for the South,” specifically North Carolina and neighboring battleground state Virginia, because of their importance to the president’s electoral college hopes. In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic presidential  candidate to win North Carolina since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and the first one to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

“This state is a progressive state that continues to look forward,” Foxx said, explaining that the city and state are a good backdrop for Obama to accept the Democratic nomination.

A new High Point University/FOX8 poll, taken a short time before Romney’s nomination acceptance speech shows Romney with a slight lead over Obama in North Carolina, with 46 percent to Obama’s 43 percent. Prior to the GOP convention, the High Point University poll had the candidates in a dead heat, with each garnering 43 percent of the vote.

The press conference participants denied that Democrats are suffering from an enthusiasm gap, claiming that lines to get convention passes have been long and people are eager to help in the Obama reelection effort. Villaraigosa pointed to his own kids, who have come to the city to volunteer for Obama, as another example of grassroots enthusiasm.

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