5 key differences between the Democratic and GOP conventions

Republicans just spent a week telling Americans that we're worse off than we were four years ago. Expect Democrats to deliver a polar-opposite message

Michelle Obama tours the stage on Sept. 3, a day before her speech to the Democratic National Convention: Don't expect the first lady to try to "humanize" her husband the way Ann Romney did w
(Image credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)

Republicans have cleaned up the confetti following their big party last week celebrating Mitt Romney's nomination in Tampa. And on Tuesday, Democrats are taking their turn in the spotlight as they gather in Charlotte for three days of cheerleading and speeches leading up to President Obama's big address on Thursday, when he'll officially accept the party's nomination to seek a second term. In many ways, the Democrats' event in North Carolina will be similar to the GOP's party in Florida. But there will still be plenty of differences. Here, five ways the two conventions will prove to be distinct:

1. Many Democrats still adore their candidate

"Real passion eludes Mitt Romney," says David Weigel at Slate. "But the Cult of Obama staggers on." Democratic delegates will "venerate" Obama with enthusiasm that their Republican counterparts just couldn't muster for Romney. The difference will be impossible to miss all week in Charlotte, from the throngs of black delegates perusing the "for-us-by-us" Obama merchandise to the "Keep the Dream" calendar optimistically showing the president and first lady dancing at an inaugural ball in January 2013. The calendar even has a page declaring that Obama was "heaven sent," says Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard. "To be clear this is not official campaign merchandise, but it pretty clearly speaks to the fact the Obama cult of personality is going strong."

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2. Democrats won't have to "humanize" their nominee

Republicans in Tampa faced "a much more complicated mission" than the Democrats do, says Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Daily News. The GOP had to focus its energies on "'humanizing' the stiff ex-venture capitalist Mitt Romney" and introducing his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, to America. That left them with "precious little time for talking actual policy — and precious little was put forth." Democrats will have more freedom to talk about policy because voters already know Obama. But beware: "That may not be a blessing, but a curse. With even less suspense in the air than in tepid Tampa, who on Earth would actually watch this thing?"

3. Democrats shortened their convention on purpose

The 2012 Democratic convention "is slimmer and trimmer than in years past," with just three days of official business, says Julie Percha at ABC News. The original plan was just like the Republicans' — to schedule the traditional four full days of speeches and pageantry (the GOP had to cancel the first day, but only because of the threat of Hurricane Isaac). Then the Democrats cut the first day, and replaced it with a free grassroots festival — CarolinaFest — that was held in the streets of downtown Charlotte. One drawback of the shorter convention: It raises "a potential red flag of fundraising woes," suggesting that the Democrats are worried about being unable to foot a big convention bill — which was clearly not a problem the GOP faced in Tampa.

4. Ethnic diversity will be on display, on stage and off

The GOP convention gave speaking slots to "a deep bench of talented women and minority leaders," says Sara Libby at Talking Points Memo, including Condoleezza Rice, Mia Love, and Artur Davis. Democrats are "insisting that their confab will not just pay lip service to diversity and inclusion, but would live and breathe it in every way." Blacks made up 2 percent of the GOP's delegates, but 27 percent of the Democratic Party's, so there will be lots of minorities on the convention floor as well as on stage.

5. Democrats will insist we're better off, not worse

Republicans spent three days last week telling Americans that Obama had left them worse off than they were four years ago, says Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times. The Obama convention will make the opposite argument, highlighting achievements that Democrats argue kept struggling families from sinking even deeper into trouble in an economic collapse that began under the Bush administration. Among the achievements you can expect to hear about: The auto bailout, Obama's deportation reprieve for young illegal immigrants, and ObamaCare. This is where it gets tricky for Democrats, says John Hinderaker at Power Line. If they admit "what everyone knows to be true" — that we're worse off — they're confirming that we need a new leader. If they insist we're doing better, they'll look "hopelessly out of touch."

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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