By Jim Malone
First lady Michelle Obama was center-stage Tuesday as Democrats opened their national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Democratic speakers focused their appeals on two important voting groups that continue to back President Barack Obama-women and Hispanic-Americans.
First lady Michelle Obama rallied fellow Democrats with a personal and, at times, emotional speech, talking from the heart about her husband, her family and the values they have tried to promote over the past four years in the White House.
“I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as “us” and “them” – he doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or none of the above. He knows that we all love our country…and he’s always ready to listen to good ideas. He’s always looking for the very best in everyone he meets,” said Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama then brought the delegates to their feet with an impassioned plea to help re-elect her husband in November, an appeal that seemed to target women voters.
“If we want to give all our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise…if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility – that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it…then we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our president, President Barack Obama,” she said.
In addition to reaching out to women voters, the Democrats opened their convention with numerous overtures to Hispanic-Americans, a growing voting bloc in the United States.
Public opinion polls show the president currently enjoys a huge advantage over Republican Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters, something Republicans tried to address at their convention last week in Tampa, Florida.
Democrats sought to highlight their support among Hispanics by having the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro, give the keynote address, the main thematic speech of the convention.
Castro is seen by some as a rising star in the Democratic Party, and he spoke of his own family’s journey from Mexico to highlight the contributions of immigrants who are drawn to the American Dream.
“My family’s story isn’t special. What’s special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation. No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward,” said Castro.
With polls showing the race a dead heat at the moment, President Obama is counting on a big turnout of Hispanic voters in November. But pollster John Zogby says the Obama campaign has work to do to make sure those voters get out to the polls.
“Hispanics who are undecided are probably not going to vote, or at least many of them will not vote. That’s a huge problem and he [Obama] has some work to do among Hispanics,” said Zogby.
Much of the evening was devoted to defending President Obama’s economic record, combined with a critique of the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan.
But there were occasional mentions of the Obama record on foreign policy, including praise from former president Jimmy Carter, who addressed the convention through a video message.
“Overseas, President Obama has restored the reputation of the United States within the world community. Dialogue and collaboration are once again possible with a return of a spirit of trust and goodwill to our foreign policy,” said Carter.
On Wednesday, the delegates will hear from former president Bill Clinton, who retains rock star status within the party. The convention builds to a dramatic climax on Thursday when President Obama gives his nomination acceptance speech before a national television audience.