CONVENTION WATCH: Obama basks in Clinton’s embrace

Comments:  | Leave A Comment

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.

AFTER BILL

The crowd is thinning at the Democratic National Convention, even as the roll call of the states to nominate Barack Obama goes on. Obama has left, headed back to his hotel. And several spots in the arena are now empty as states cast their votes to nominate the president as their party’s presidential nominee. Though Obama has officially been nominated by the numbers, the roll call is expected to go on well into the night.

— Sally Buzbee

AN ABSENT CLINTON

On Bill Clinton’s night to shine at the Democratic National Convention, his wife couldn’t have been farther from the action.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who fought Barack Obama to the finish for the Democratic nomination in 2008, is in East Timor as part of an 11-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

Barack Obama’s secretary of state had this to say at a news conference there:

“My husband read parts of his speech to me over the last few days. I received the as-prepared version,” she said, holding up a copy of what presumably was the speech, “which I am anxious, when I can, to compare with the as-delivered version. So it is a great honor for him to be nominating the president and I am delighted to be here in Timor Leste on behalf of the United States.”

This is the first DNC that Hillary Clinton has missed since 1968. As part of federal law, she is legally barred from partisan political activities because of her current job.

The Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, was in thet convention hall, though, watching her father from the seats.

— Matthew Lee

BASKING IN CLINTON’S GLOW

Barack Obama popped onstage for an unscripted appearance alongside Bill Clinton, briefly sharing the adoration being showered on the former president by Democratic delegates.

After Clinton finished a rousing speech that formally put Obama’s name up for nomination, Obama walked over to give him a hug. The former president and the president shook hands, waved to the crowd, than grabbed the hands of Democrats to the side of the stage as they took their exit together — with Obama’s arm on Clinton’s back.

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

DEBT TALK

Bill Clinton is one of the few Democrats to talk about the nation’s debt problem so far during the party’s national convention. At their convention, Republicans hammered away relentlessly about the damage the nation’s deficits and debt burden do. The GOP’s vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, has been pointing out that the nation’s debt has now reached $16 trillion.

But so far, the topic has been almost invisible at the Democrats gathering. Clinton, though, took it on. “We have to deal with it, or it will deal with us,” he told his audience.

Obama’s team hopes Clinton’s credibility on the economy — it soared during his years in office — and his record for balancing the nation’s budget could help the current president win over independent voters focused on such pocketbook issues.

— Sally Buzbee

TEAM OF RIVALS

Talk about a team of rivals. Former President Bill Clinton credited President Barack Obama with hiring Republicans, adding, “Heck — he even appointed Hillary.”

Clinton told Democratic convention delegates Wednesday night that he was proud of his wife, Obama’s secretary of state, and proud of what the Obama administration’s national security team has achieved.

Bill Clinton said the work of Obama and Hillary Clinton together — two former rivals for the Democratic nomination in 2008 — sends a signal to the world that “Democracy doesn’t have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/donnacassataAP

CLINTON PRESENTS HIS CASE

Bill Clinton says no president could have fully repaired within four years the damaged economy that Barack Obama inherited.

“But he has laid the foundations for a new, modern successful economy, a shared prosperity,” Clinton told the Democratic convention Wednesday night. “And if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.

“Whether the American people believe what I’ve said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart I believe it,” Clinton said.

The former president, greeted by cheering Democrats like a rock star, acknowledged that too many Americans aren’t yet feeling the effects of recovery.

“Are we where we want to be today? No. Is the President satisfied? Of course not,” Clinton said. “But are we better off than we were when he took office?”

Delegates answered in the affirmative with a raucous standing ovation.

“When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. … We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better today? The answer is YES.”

— Connie Cass —Twitter http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

THINNER AND TRIMMER

Bill Clinton is thinner and trimmer and his voice is much raspier than the last time he was in the nation’s political spotlight. But his speech, with its folksy language, its sly quips and expansive arm movements, is a throwback to his years as president.         Even the music is a throwback: Fleetwood Mac.

— Sally Buzbee

CLINTON THE ORATOR

Hate him, love him, say what you will about the complicated human being that is Bill Clinton. His energy seems boundless, and his oratorical skills can steal the show nearly a generation after he first sought the highest office in the land.

Far slimmer than during his days as a burger-eating chief executive, the ex-president and vegan dieter held the Democratic National Convention in his sway, gesturing, shouting, veering from his prepared text and using everything from his clenched fist to his toothy grin to bring his star power to bear on Barack Obama’s behalf.

“Why do I believe it?” he said, channeling Elvis once again for a new audience. “I’m fixin’ to tell you why.”

He can be compelling, and he can be infuriating. He can be maddeningly specific and jaw-droppingly epic. Yet the pivotal question for the Democrats is always this one: Can that charisma translate into more support for Barack Obama? Because for all of his mastery of oratorical cadence and the bully pulpit, it is in the privacy of the voting booth where the audience-loving Bill Clinton still needs — and wants — to make a difference.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

‘BLOOD SPORT’?

“Democracy does not have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.” — former President Bill Clinton, nominating incumbent Barack Obama for a second term as he tried to emphasize the theme of collaboration in a political speech casting Democrats as less confrontational than their GOP foes.

STARSTRUCK

Campaign volunteers are pretty diligent in their work. Except when a former president shows up.

Several who were patrolling the aisles in the stands put down their walkie talkies, and picked up their phones — to snap photos — as former President Bill Clinton took the stage to huge applause from his Democratic audience.

— Sally Buzbee

CLINTON NOSTALGIA

The convention audience erupted with applause as former President Bill Clinton walked on stage. His soundtrack was his 1992 campaign anthem, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” Delegates waved white signs that said, “Middle Class First.”

— Ken Thomas — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

OBAMA’S NOMINATED

Just now: Bill Clinton has formally nominated Barack Obama for president. Among the former president’s various and sundry rationales: Clinton wants a man for president who was smart enough to marry Michelle Obama — and who, Clinton says, has “a far better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'”

QUICKQUOTE: BILL CLINTON

I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.” — Bill Clinton

FLUKE’S PATH

Sandra Fluke followed an unusual path to women’s rights activist.

Republicans denied the Georgetown Law student a chance to testify on contraception earlier this year. She spoke out and earned the wrath of talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who called her a “slut.” Women came to her defense. Limbaugh apologized.

On Wednesday night, Fluke got a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic convention, in which she highlighted Obama’s response and endorsed his candidacy.

She said the choice is “an America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters — not his delegates or donors — and stands with all women. And strangers come together, reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here — and give me a microphone — to amplify our voice. That’s the difference.”

“We talk often about choice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to choose,” Fluke said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/donnacassataAP

BAIN CRITICS

Workers who saw their jobs disappear after Bain Capital took over argued Wednesday that the nation cannot afford Mitt Romney economics.

Randy Johnson told the Democratic convention that in July 1994, Romney and his partners at Bain fired him and more than 350 of his co-workers. Johnson said security guards walked the former employees out of the plant. Some individuals were hired back — at lower wages and fewer benefits. Seven months later, the plant was closed. Johnson remembered employees his age crying because they had no other job to fall back on.

“Mitt Romney will stick it to working people. Barack Obama is sticking up for working people,” Johnson said.

Cindy Hewitt and David Foster also recalled how jobs were lost and companies disappeared.

“So, when Mitt Romney talks about his business experience, remember: It’s not experience creating good-paying jobs. It is experience cutting jobs. It is experience shutting plants. It is experience making millions by making life tougher for hard-working Americans,” Hewitt said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP

OBAMA IN THE HOUSE

President Barack Obama is on site and ready to make his first big splash of the Democratic convention with a surprise appearance onstage.

A campaign official confirms that Obama will join Bill Clinton onstage after the former president’s speech Wednesday night.

— Ben Feller — Twitter ?http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC

QUICKQUOTE: WARREN

“Now, for many years, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered.” — Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaking at her party’s convention.

MESSY, MESSY

For all the talk of how scripted and controlled political conventions have become these days, it’s still surprising just how messy — and revealing — they can occasionally be.

Wednesday was a prime example.

First, the Democrats announced they would scrap plans to have President Barack Obama give the week’s big Thursday night speech at Charlotte’s open-air football stadium. They had insisted all week that rain would not deter him, but then apparently got cold (wet) feet at the prospect of busing in tens of thousands of volunteers to face rain and lightning. It all looked a little strange, as if a desire for good optics might have trumped common sense for a few days.

The afternoon brought another abrupt shift. Hammered by Republicans who had discovered the Democratic platform lacked language on either God or Jerusalem, Democrats opened their convention with an unexpected set of amendments to add both in. The move disconcerted even some party faithful who weren’t aware of what the amendments said before being asked to vote. Convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa looked downright uncomfortable as he called for three voice votes, each inconclusive, before ruling the amendments had passed.

Why put on public display such a messy, rushed-through change? Politicians don’t do that unless they need to — unless events are moving fast and they need damage control. Obama, in a tight fight, probably can’t afford controversies on issues such as whether his support for Israel is strong enough, or his party has faith in God.

Messy and revealing, despite the best laid plans.

— Sally Buzbee

CLINTON’S FUNDRAISING PLEA

Minutes before former President Bill Clinton was set to deliver Wednesday’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, he shot an email to President Barack Obama’s supporters and urged them to donate at least $5 to the campaign.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” the former president said. “When you look at what the other side is spending — and where they want to take this country — none of us can afford to think that way.”

The fundraising appeal was among dozens that Obama’s campaign has sent recently, including those from campaign advisers warning they will likely be out-spent by GOP challenger Mitt Romney and independent “super” political committees working in his favor.

— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum

QUICKQUOTE: FLUKE

“We talk often about choice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to choose.” — Sandra Fluke, attorney and women’s rights activist, speaking at the Democratic National Convention.

THEY BUILT THAT?

Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is borrowing themes from last week’s Republican National Convention to needle Paul Ryan, the budget panel’s chairman and the GOP’s vice presidential candidate.

“The Republicans had this gigantic clock in the arena showing the size of the national debt,” Van Hollen says. “Paul told America, ‘If you elect Republicans, we can fix that.’ But if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would have pointed to that debt clock and said: ‘We built that.'”

Van Hollen says the Republicans, under President George W. Bush, racked up trillions of dollars in debt by putting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts and a new entitlement program for seniors on the nation’s credit card.

“Republicans didn’t pay for any of it,” Van Hollen says. “Paul Ryan voted for all of it.”

The national debt was $5.7 trillion when President Bill Clinton left office in January 2001 and it grew to $10.6 trillion under Bush. It has surpassed $16 trillion under Obama, an increase that has fueled Republican claims that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.

— Richard Lardner — Twitter http://twitter.com/rplardner

BUSINESS SHOUT OUT

Republicans had their business executives last week praising Mitt Romney. Democrats countered with their own Wednesday night.

Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, said he was supporting President Barack Obama because he’s “making an economy built to last.”

“Business needs a president who has covered businesses’ backs. A president who understands what the private sector needs to succeed. A president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions,” Sinegal said.

Austin Ligon, co-founder and former CEO of CarMax Inc., expressed his appreciation for the bailout of auto industry giants GM and Chrysler.

“That didn’t just save the car companies — it helped prevent a domino effect that would have taken down everything in the auto industry, from the factories that manufactured auto parts to the dealers who sold the cars,” Ligon said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP

WHAT IT’S LIKE

The floor of the Democratic national convention is set up differently than the Republicans’. In Tampa, the delegates sat on one level, in chairs on the arena floor. In Charlotte, most delegates sit in the first tier of stands elevated above the floor, though a few states scored prime convention-floor spots.

The slight difference in arrangements does not, however, change the basic dynamics of any political convention: Some delegates sit and listen attentively to the speakers while others throng the aisles, chatting with friends and angling for a photo with the famous.

The concourses that surround the arena floor are a mix of politics and a baseball- or basketball-game vibe: Nachos! Footlong hot dogs! Schmoozing! Nancy Pelosi walks through in an electric-blue pantsuit and perfect hair, shaking hands with admirers. And of course there are the ubiquitous well-dressed, athletically fit Secret Service officers, wires in ears, standing by the exit doors.

— Sally Buzbee

NO KISS CAM

Michelle Obama is getting to be a regular on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The first lady delivered Letterman’s Top 10 list on Wednesday’s show, a night after her speech before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. It was a week after her last appearance on the CBS show, her fourth time this year.

She presented the “Top Ten Reasons to Watch the Democratic National Convention.”

No. 6: “As a healthy alternative, we’re using low-fat confetti.”

No. 4: “There will be no Kiss Cam.”

NUNS ON THE BUS

Among all the Democratic speakers, Sister Simone Campbell, a leader of the “Nuns on the Bus,” proved to be one of the harshest critics of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

Campbell and other Roman Catholic nuns traveled this past summer on a 2,700-mile trip through nine states to warn about the impact of the Ryan plan on the nation’s less fortunate.

“Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith,” Campbell told the Democratic convention Wednesday night. “But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Campbell, who drew loud cheers, said the Catholic faith affirms “that we are all responsible for one another.”

She spoke out for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and urged delegates to join the Nuns on the Bus.

“I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper,” she said.

— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP

DOORS REOPEN

The doors are open again outside the Democratic National Convention hall, and people are streaming in ahead of former President Bill Clinton’s speech.

Authorities are citing crowding concerns for their decision to briefly prevent some tightly packed crowds from entering.

Fire Marshal Rob Kinniburgh says the building was not closed but entrance was delayed because of safety concerns. He tells the AP that 1,000 people will be let in “and then we’ll reassess.”

Kinniburgh says the fire department has been consulting with the Secret Service and the Democratic National Committee.

— Michael Oreskes and Matthew Daly — Twitter http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

LOCKED OUT

Outside the hall at the Democratic National Convention, the doors have been sealed and lots of people are getting shut out.

All the doors were sealed just before 9 p.m. and several hundred people, from delegates to press, are stuck outside. Authorities say they’ll start letting people in eventually and have asked the crowd to form three single-file lines — which seems unlikely.

“Let us in!” many shouted. It was good-natured. But they meant it.

— Michael Oreskes

GIFFORDS IN ATTENDANCE

Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who was shot in an attack in her district in early 2011, is planning to be on the scene at the Democratic National Convention.

Spokeswoman Hayley Zachary says Giffords is in Charlotte to attend the convention, though she has no formal role in Wednesday’s schedule. “She is excited to be here,” Zachary says.

Giffords moved back to Tucson last month, a year and a half after she moved to Houston to undergo intensive physical and speech therapy after she was wounded by a gunman at an event outside a grocery store in her district. Giffords was among 19 people who were shot in the attack. She and 12 others survived, while six people died.

— Kevin Freking — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKFreking

SHIFTING SCENERY

No such thing as a plain vanilla backdrop at the Democratic National Convention.

A series of massive video screens change based on the speaker. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium, the Golden Gate Bridge from her hometown of San Francisco formed part of the backdrop. When former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt greeted delegates, he was framed by a nighttime skyline of Charlotte. A tribute to female Senate Democrats featured the Capitol Dome behind them.

But when any members of Obama’s Cabinet spoke, a soaring American flag was projected on the screens to avoid violating the Hatch Act, which bars electioneering by federal officials.

Not everyone got localized treatment from the curved, multiscreen backdrop behind the speakers. It changed to different scenes of Americana, providing a visual sampling of the sweep of localities and cultures in attendance at the Democratic National Convention.

— Kenneth Thomas, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly — Twitter

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,248 other followers