The Democratic National Convention held plenty of surprises this year - President Barack Obama joining Bill Clinton on stage after his speech, Rev. Jesse Jackson showing up at an Ohio breakfast and a major venue change for the president due to inclement weather - but what wasn't surprising was the delegates' general enjoyment of their week in Charlotte, N.C.
Conventions are known as rare moments when political parties can eschew insider trading and squabbles and present a united front to the media and their opponents. And other than a gaffe involving Jerusalem, God and the Democratic Party platform, this was carried out successfully last week in Charlotte.
Below, RTTNews caught up with three delegates after the convention to get their final thoughts on the president's speech, the atmosphere and the road to November.
RTTNews: How did the convention, its speakers and the events you attended help to promote your state's specific issue base?
Jim Dabakis, Utah State Democratic Party Chair: "We were thrilled with the reaction of the press and of LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/Mormon] people all across the country, really, at the creation of the [first] national [LDS] Dems [caucus]. It gave us goosebumps and we feel like this taking Mormons for granted as Republicans. Those days are beginning to end."
"You know, there are as many Mormon Americans as there are Jewish Americans, which is a significant amount. And to just give up like they are unapproachable, it's just the wrong strategy. And I talked to a number of DNC people and Obama administration people who were very supportive of what we're doing."
Natalie Tennant, West Virginia Secretary of State: "The issue in our state centers around the coal industry. But I think if people would break it down and see how it really does effect - when we talk about 250-270,000 West Virginians without health care - the benefits that they're going to have from [affordable care]."
RTTNews: Do you think President Barack Obama convinced people in your state he should be re-elected?
Dabakis: "We really didn't create LDS Dems for this fall's election. This is a Mormon moment. There is the same kind of spirit, actually, among a lot of LDS people about Mitt Romney as there was among the African-American community about President Obama. So I don't know if this will change the meter on the Utah vote in the presidential race."
"[Eventually, Utah is going to become a swing state] - not in this election. What we're saying to Utah is, look, vote for whoever you're going to vote for for president. But then...if you're going to vote for Mitt Romney, make sure you press the button with his name on it and don't just hit a party button at the beginning. So we're hoping that Utahans will go person-to-person so they will recognize just how great our Democratic candidates are on down the line."
Angela Williams, Colorado State Representative for northern Denver area (House District 7): "Absolutely. Colorado, as we both know, is a swing state, it's a driving state. But we also have needs just like any other states...in regards to jobs and entrepreneurship and education. And I absolutely believe he convinced Coloradans he is the president that needs to be elected for Colorado."
Tennant: "Yes, [Obama was] acknowledging one, the accomplishments, but two, that it's not over either, that there is still more work to be done. We all had disappointments because none of us are perfect. But there is more work to be done and we're on the right track."
"He was 17 points behind Romney but then this recent poll shows he's 14 points behind. So there is some movement. I think a convention like that is an opportunity to evaluate."
RTTNews: From what you saw on television and in Charlotte, what was your impression of the differences between the Republican convention in Tampa and the Democratic convention last week?
Dabakis: "You know, the feeling at our convention, I think, as you look out into the hall, was you got the sense that you were looking at America. When you look at the Republican hall, you got the sense that you were looking at a slice of America. And I think ultimately to be successful, political parties have to represent the country."
Williams: "First of all, the energy that was on the floor of Charlotte - it quadrupled the energy you felt on the floor, watching it from TV in regards to Florida. The crowds were fired up. They had great people speaking on behalf of the president. The energy-level was night and day."
"The other big difference was when you looked at the floor of Charlotte versus that one in Florida, the one in Charlotte really reflected what America looks like. And I mean in regards to diversity...the disabled, white, black, green and blue people, young and old...and veterans. I didn't see that at the Republican convention. I didn't see it and I didn't feel it and I thought that was a huge difference. The Democratic National Convention reflects America - the true picture of America."
Tennant: "I just got tired of the bashing of Democrats coming from the Republican convention. There'd be a few times I'd be thinking, 'Am I that bad?' And I just think that there was more substance and ideas specifically from the Democrats. Like when you talk about specifically how many jobs - not just saving the auto industry, but [former Michigan Gov. Jennifer] Granholm goes and tells you how many thousands of jobs in each state were saved. Strengthening women, strengthening their health care and strengthening equal pay for work - that's true substance you can point to."
RTTNews: What were your impressions of President Barack Obama's closing convention speech on Thursday, September 6? Did he meet your expectations for issues raised?
Dabakis: "I thought that he gave a great speech. I thought it was very much targeted towards the swing voters in the swing states, which is exactly where he ought to be."
"He fulfilled my expectations completely. I am completely enchanted with the president. You know, there is a criticism of him - he seems truly not all that political. He just seems to call them the way he sees them...It's refreshing."
William: "I believe the president's speech is one that will go in the history books. I believe the president was open, he was honest. He talked about the values that Americans are looking for. I believe that he understands what the needs are in regard to jobs, ensuring that we continue to take care of our veterans when they come home. As a small business owner, I clearly understand where he is going in regards to helping small businesses and getting the economy back on its feet."
"And what he has asked for is, 'I'm going to tell you the truth.' He's not painting rosy pictures about 'I'm going to do this and this based upon the facts.' He's saying, 'Here are the facts, and I'm going to need more time and I'm going to need your support.'"
Tennant: "I have a great feeling after it was all over with. The enthusiasm was just wonderful. And for the women's caucus to be my first caucus - the enthusiasm was not just there, it was the whole convention. And I think I was probably like a lot of other folks who thought [Obama's] got to hit a home run, he's got to do a good job, this convention has got to be very successful and I think it did all of those points."
"People were so pleased walking out and the one word that I used to describe the convention was 'substance.' There was just so much offered and so eloquently stated and so enthusiastically stated. I just thought it was great."
by RTT Staff Writer
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