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Charlotte Hosts Democratic National Convention


On this Labor Day, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

This is the week Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their national convention begins tomorrow. The meeting comes soon after Republicans finished their convention in Tampa, where they sought to personalize Mitt Romney. Democrats and President Obama face a different challenge, as we're about to hear.

Joining us now, as she does most Mondays, is Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.


INSKEEP: We just said what the Republicans sought to do with their convention. What did they accomplish?

ROBERTS: Well, I think they accomplished having the voters take another look at them. We know from the polling how disillusioned voters are with the economy and with President Obama's handling of the economy. But they have not been favorable towards Governor Romney. This was an opportunity to see the Republican candidates in a good light. There's some evidence of a tiny bounce from that convention. But with the Democratic convention coming right on top of it, it was never going to be much of a bounce.

INSKEEP: Politicians always make disputed claims, irrelevant claims, out of context claims, Cokie. But Republicans were hammered last week for going even beyond that, particularly Paul Ryan. Does that sort of thing damage the brand at all?

ROBERTS: Well, the Democrats certainly hope so, which is why they've gone all out on the attack against those speeches; an exegesis really, of line by line of the speeches. But, you know, I think conventions are more about general affect, not specifics. And after the Democrats' portrayal of the Republicans, I think the main thing they needed to do was just not be scary. And I think they really did achieve that.

INSKEEP: And Republicans were also, of course, raising questions about President Obama. And here's the question raised by Paul Ryan in his speech last week.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: So, here's the question. Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?


INSKEEP: Is that a question Democrats will have to answer this week, Cokie?

ROBERTS: I think so. I think that is the question. So far they've just been saying that the next four years would be much worse with that other guy. And this weekend, the president's operatives spent it saying this is a choice, not a referendum. But I think the president, this week, has to give people a positive message. He can't just say George Bush did this to me and Romney has not revealed his taxes, which is what the Democratic theme remained over the weekend.

The president has to come out with something to give a sense of hope and change for the next four years, because many of them are disillusioned with the last four years.

INSKEEP: Of course, the president is speaking this week - will be speaking this week, to the widest possible audience. But political pros will think of the electorate in terms of demographics, in terms of different kinds of groups, people in different states; different ages, different races. Are there any particular groups the president won four years ago that he's in trouble with now?

ROBERTS: It's very interesting. If you do a comparison of the 2008 exit polls and the average of the 2012 polling by ABC and the Washington Post, you see certain groups that the president has really - where his support has really fallen off, but has not gone to Romney. So, for instance, among white voters - a huge bloc of the electorate, obviously - Obama's support has dropped from 43 percent to 39 percent but Romney has not improved on McCain's support.

The same thing is true among Catholics. The same thing is true among married people, as also true of among unmarried people where Obama support has dropped from 65 percent to 58 percent; still healthy but a big drop. Romney has not improved on McCain, same thing with moderates, same thing with those with less than a high school education, same thing with people in the Midwest.

I mean, you go through voter group after voter group and the president has lost a significant portion of them, but Romney has not picked up from McCain. So the president's job this week is to get those people back.

INSKEEP: So, with that in mind, how significant is the choice of venue here? North Carolina is the choice for the convention.

ROBERTS: The Obama campaign operatives claim that they won Colorado four years ago because they used the convention to establish an enormous grassroots get out the vote operation in Colorado, and that that made the difference. They're going to do that, they say, in North Carolina. And that it's also going to work for Virginia, right across the line.

That they used social media, that they used everybody's contacts who come into that stadium Thursday night, 75,000-seat stadium, to get out the vote. And early voting starts September 27th, they're ready.

INSKEEP: OK, thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.