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Democrats aim to energize core

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Democrats aim to energize core

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Democrats are set to showcase their own diversity on the opening evening of their convention Monday in Charlotte, a week after Republicans put their rising women and Latino stars on display in Tampa.
First lady Michelle Obama will lead a gathering of voices meant to energize some of President Barack Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s core voters and stymie Republican efforts to make inroads with those communities.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will deliver the keynote address as a prime-time counterpoint to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s speech to the Republican National Convention last week. And other slots will go to speakers meant to motivate young voters, women, and African-Americans to turn out to the polls in November.
The Obama campaign downplays the idea of an enthusiasm gap between its supporters and those of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. They also dismiss the notion of waning excitement from their own key constituencies now vs. four years ago. “No, hell no,” a top Obama campaign official said of the notion in previewing the night’s speeches. Polls, though, suggest that one of the enduring challenges for the president will be in making sure core Democratic groups turn out to the polls this fall.
Obama leads Romney by 10 points among women and by 35 points among Latinos, according to last August’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the challenge for Democrats involves making sure those voters turn out to the polls.
That challenge is particularly evident in North Carolina, the home to this week’s convention and where Obama won by only 14,000 votes in 2008; a victory due in large part to high turnout from young voters and African Americans.
The president has staked much of his re-election effort on making the 2012 race into a “choice,” rather than a referendum on his first term.  He often admonishes audiences: “Don’t boo – vote!”
But as Republicans push a time-tested attack on incumbents (“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”) this week, tonight’s speakers will try to reverse any sense of disillusionment or disappointment.
To that end, the GOP trotted out a series of high-profile figures, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and would-be first lady Ann Romney, to make the case against Obama, with an eye toward women and Latinos.
Many of Democrats’ speakers tonight are arranged to make the counterpoint to Republicans’ messaging last week.
Michelle Obama, who enjoys stellar personal favorability ratings and has become a valuable campaign surrogate for her husband, will cap tonight’s speakers. The first lady’s remarks present a strong opportunity to speak directly to women and African-Americans.
“I am going to be at home and I’m going to be watching it with our girls and I am going to try not to let them see their daddy cry,” President Obama said Tuesday in Virginia of his plans for tonight’s speech. “Because when Michelle starts talking, I, I start getting all misty.”
Michelle Obama, like Vice President Joe Biden later this week, will serve more as a “character witness” to the president than anything else.
Some of the Democrats’ other speakers this week will more directly challenge Romney on issues of importance to specific voting blocs.