Democratic convention in Charlotte much more accessible to public than GOP's in Tampa
From our story on Barack Obama's challenges again winning North Carolina, host of the Democratic National Convention:
...In 1994, downtown Charlotte was so dead that locals had to create a fake, temporary entertainment district to entertain fans in town for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four. Today, "Uptown" Charlotte is bustling with people, bars and restaurants throughout the day and night — far more than Tampa.
To Democrats, though, that's not the main distinction between the Republican and Democratic conventions. While there is little historical evidence that a convention can tip the host state to that party's candidate, Democrats are counting on Charlotte to give Obama an extra edge here.
The campaign treats the convention not only as a showcase for Obama and his message, but also as an important organizing tool. When he delivered his acceptance speech before 75,000 people at Invesco Field in Denver four years ago, the campaign recruited 25,000 volunteers to help deliver Colorado.
Unlike the Tampa convention, where events so far have been private, invitation-only affairs, the Democrats are encouraging participation by as many members of the public as possible. Hundreds of local students attended a "Kids Convention," for instance, and 2,000 people showed up for a year-out party.
The GOP host committee's opening party, expected to be at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, will be private, while Democrats are kicking things off with a public Labor Day family fun festival at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Likewise, the public is invited to the final night of the convention to see Obama at the 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium.
It's all aimed at engaging and organizing as many Obama supporters as possible, not only in North Carolina but also in neighboring Virginia, another critical battleground.
To hear many tell it, Obama will need every push he can muster to carry this state again....