CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Convention Watch shows you the 2012 political conventions through the eyes of Associated Press journalists. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.
OBAMA IN THE HOUSE
President Barack Obama is on site and ready to make his first big splash of the Democratic convention with a surprise appearance onstage.
A campaign official confirms that Obama will join Bill Clinton onstage after the former president's speech Wednesday night.
— Ben Feller — Twitter ?http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC
"Now, for many years, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered." — Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaking at her party's convention.
For all the talk of how scripted and controlled political conventions have become these days, it's still surprising just how messy — and revealing — they can occasionally be.
Wednesday was a prime example.
First, the Democrats announced they would scrap plans to have President Barack Obama give the week's big Thursday night speech at Charlotte's open-air football stadium. They had insisted all week that rain would not deter him, but then apparently got cold (wet) feet at the prospect of busing in tens of thousands of volunteers to face rain and lightning. It all looked a little strange, as if a desire for good optics might have trumped common sense for a few days.
The afternoon brought another abrupt shift. Hammered by Republicans who had discovered the Democratic platform lacked language on either God or Jerusalem, Democrats opened their convention with an unexpected set of amendments to add both in. The move disconcerted even some party faithful who weren't aware of what the amendments said before being asked to vote. Convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa looked downright uncomfortable as he called for three voice votes, each inconclusive, before ruling the amendments had passed.
Why put on public display such a messy, rushed-through change? Politicians don't do that unless they need to — unless events are moving fast and they need damage control. Obama, in a tight fight, probably can't afford controversies on issues such as whether his support for Israel is strong enough, or his party has faith in God.
Messy and revealing, despite the best laid plans.
— Sally Buzbee
CLINTON'S FUNDRAISING PLEA
Minutes before former President Bill Clinton was set to deliver Wednesday's keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, he shot an email to President Barack Obama's supporters and urged them to donate at least $5 to the campaign.
"Don't take anything for granted," the former president said. "When you look at what the other side is spending — and where they want to take this country — none of us can afford to think that way."
The fundraising appeal was among dozens that Obama's campaign has sent recently, including those from campaign advisers warning they will likely be out-spent by GOP challenger Mitt Romney and independent "super" political committees working in his favor.
— Jack Gillum — Twitter http://twitter.com/jackgillum
"We talk often about choice. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to choose." — Sandra Fluke, attorney and women's rights activist, speaking at the Democratic National Convention.
THEY BUILT THAT?
Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is borrowing themes from last week's Republican National Convention to needle Paul Ryan, the budget panel's chairman and the GOP's vice presidential candidate.
"The Republicans had this gigantic clock in the arena showing the size of the national debt," Van Hollen says. "Paul told America, 'If you elect Republicans, we can fix that.' But if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would have pointed to that debt clock and said: 'We built that.'"
Van Hollen says the Republicans, under President George W. Bush, racked up trillions of dollars in debt by putting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts and a new entitlement program for seniors on the nation's credit card.
"Republicans didn't pay for any of it," Van Hollen says. "Paul Ryan voted for all of it."
The national debt was $5.7 trillion when President Bill Clinton left office in January 2001 and it grew to $10.6 trillion under Bush. It has surpassed $16 trillion under Obama, an increase that has fueled Republican claims that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.
— Richard Lardner — Twitter http://twitter.com/rplardner
BUSINESS SHOUT OUT
Republicans had their business executives last week praising Mitt Romney. Democrats countered with their own Wednesday night.
Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, said he was supporting President Barack Obama because he's "making an economy built to last."
"Business needs a president who has covered businesses' backs. A president who understands what the private sector needs to succeed. A president who takes the long view and makes the tough decisions," Sinegal said.
Austin Ligon, co-founder and former CEO of CarMax Inc., expressed his appreciation for the bailout of auto industry giants GM and Chrysler.
"That didn't just save the car companies — it helped prevent a domino effect that would have taken down everything in the auto industry, from the factories that manufactured auto parts to the dealers who sold the cars," Ligon said.
— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP
WHAT IT'S LIKE
The floor of the Democratic national convention is set up differently than the Republicans'. In Tampa, the delegates sat on one level, in chairs on the arena floor. In Charlotte, most delegates sit in the first tier of stands elevated above the floor, though a few states scored prime convention-floor spots.
The slight difference in arrangements does not, however, change the basic dynamics of any political convention: Some delegates sit and listen attentively to the speakers while others throng the aisles, chatting with friends and angling for a photo with the famous.
The concourses that surround the arena floor are a mix of politics and a baseball- or basketball-game vibe: Nachos! Footlong hot dogs! Schmoozing! Nancy Pelosi walks through in an electric-blue pantsuit and perfect hair, shaking hands with admirers. And of course there are the ubiquitous well-dressed, athletically fit Secret Service officers, wires in ears, standing by the exit doors.
— Sally Buzbee
OBAMA TO BE IN HALL
This just now from a person familiar with the plan: President Barack Obama is expected in the Democratic National Convention arena Wednesday evening to hear former President Bill Clinton speak.
— Julie Pace — http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
NO KISS CAM
Michelle Obama is getting to be a regular on David Letterman's "Late Show."
The first lady delivered Letterman's Top 10 list on Wednesday's show, a night after her speech before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. It was a week after her last appearance on the CBS show, her fourth time this year.
She presented the "Top Ten Reasons to Watch the Democratic National Convention."
No. 6: "As a healthy alternative, we're using low-fat confetti."
No. 4: "There will be no Kiss Cam."
The show airs at 11:35 p.m. Eastern time.
NUNS ON THE BUS
Among all the Democratic speakers, Sister Simone Campbell, a leader of the "Nuns on the Bus," proved to be one of the harshest critics of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.
Campbell and other Roman Catholic nuns traveled this past summer on a 2,700-mile trip through nine states to warn about the impact of the Ryan plan on the nation's less fortunate.
"Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith," Campbell told the Democratic convention Wednesday night. "But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty."
Campbell, who drew loud cheers, said the Catholic faith affirms "that we are all responsible for one another."
She spoke out for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and urged delegates to join the Nuns on the Bus.
"I am my sister's keeper. I am my brother's keeper," she said.
— Donna Cassata — Twitter http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP
The doors are open again outside the Democratic National Convention hall, and people are streaming in ahead of former President Bill Clinton's speech.
Authorities are citing crowding concerns for their decision to briefly prevent some tightly packed crowds from entering.
Fire Marshal Rob Kinniburgh says the building was not closed but entrance was delayed because of safety concerns. He tells the AP that 1,000 people will be let in "and then we'll reassess."
Kinniburgh says the fire department has been consulting with the Secret Service and the Democratic National Committee.
— Michael Oreskes and Matthew Daly — Twitter http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC
Outside the hall at the Democratic National Convention, the doors have been sealed and lots of people are getting shut out.
All the doors were sealed just before 9 p.m. and several hundred people, from delegates to press, are stuck outside. Authorities say they'll start letting people in eventually and have asked the crowd to form three single-file lines — which seems unlikely.
"Let us in!" many shouted. It was good-natured. But they meant it.
— Michael Oreskes
GIFFORDS IN ATTENDANCE
Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who was shot in an attack in her district in early 2011, is planning to be on the scene at the Democratic National Convention.
Spokeswoman Hayley Zachary says Giffords is in Charlotte to attend the convention, though she has no formal role in Wednesday's schedule. "She is excited to be here," Zachary says.
Giffords moved back to Tucson last month, a year and a half after she moved to Houston to undergo intensive physical and speech therapy after she was wounded by a gunman at an event outside a grocery store in her district. Giffords was among 19 people who were shot in the attack. She and 12 others survived, while six people died.
— Kevin Freking — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKFreking
No such thing as a plain vanilla backdrop at the Democratic National Convention.
A series of massive video screens change based on the speaker. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium, the Golden Gate Bridge from her hometown of San Francisco formed part of the backdrop. When former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt greeted delegates, he was framed by a nighttime skyline of Charlotte. A tribute to female Senate Democrats featured the Capitol Dome behind them.
But when any members of Obama's Cabinet spoke, a soaring American flag was projected on the screens to avoid violating the Hatch Act, which bars electioneering by federal officials.
Not everyone got localized treatment from the curved, multiscreen backdrop behind the speakers. It changed to different scenes of Americana, providing a visual sampling of the sweep of localities and cultures in attendance at the Democratic National Convention.
— Kenneth Thomas, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKenThomas , http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC , http://twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
NOMINEES, IN A WORD
What one word best describes Barack Obama? How about Mitt Romney?
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, the most frequently cited for Obama are "good," ''trying," ''president," and "failure," while Romney's list includes "honest," ''businessman," ''rich," and "good."
On balance, more Americans cite positive words about the president than about his challenger. Some 43 percent cite a positive word about the president while 28 percent do so when asked about Romney, though the share of negative words are about the same for both — 43 percent use a negative term for the president, 42 percent for Romney.
There is some overlap between the two, however, with the top 10 lists for both candidates including "honest," ''good," ''president," and "liar."
The poll was conducted before either candidate's convention began.
— Jennifer Agiesta — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennagiesta
SMELLS LIKE ROACH SPRAY?
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer boasted about his middle-class bona fides by recalling that his father, Abe, ran an exterminating company for 32 years.
"That may explain why our family always associated the smell of roach spray with love," Schumer told Democratic convention delegates Wednesday.
In a New York minute, the Brooklyn-born Schumer also dismissed the notion of Mitt Romney winning in November. "Fuhggetaboutit," he said.
— Donna Cassata — Twitter: DonnaCassataAP
LAND OF THE VP
A case of Minnesota modesty or a 2016 clue?
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is sometimes mentioned as a potential presidential hopeful, addressed convention delegate breakfasts this week for the early nominating states of Iowa and South Carolina. She noted that Iowa is a make-or-break place for presidential wannabes while offering a candid assessment of her Minnesota's heritage.
"We are the state that makes vice presidents that run for president," she told the Iowans before telling reporters she's happy in her current job.
Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, two vice presidents from Minnesota, fell short in their respective bids for the top job. More recently, Minnesota Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann ran for president but didn't make it past the Iowa cut.
— Brian Bakst — Twitter http://twitter.com/Stowydad
GET DOWN, OFFICERS
You drive 4½ hours from the Atlanta suburbs to provide security for the president's re-nomination, and you draw traffic detail outside the arena. Why not have a little fun, right?
A trio of officers from the Clayton County Sheriff's Office spent all day Thursday shaking their moneymakers and generally goofing off as they directed traffic at a busy intersection in downtown Charlotte.
They did "Thriller." They swiveled their hips like Elvis. They made guns out of their fingers and went all Yosemite Sam on passing patrol cars from other agencies.
And people ate it up. Cars honked, pedestrians stopped to take pictures and video. The crowd at the corner of Fifth and Tryon was bigger than any group of protesters since the weekend.
At one point, the officers held up cars while a group of girls did cartwheels through the crosswalk.
Traffic, we should note, seemed to move along just fine.
Check out some AP video here: http://youtu.be/7bqONAE_C-U
See more images from AP's Mike Stewart here: http://nbcnews.to/RMRg8T
— Bonny Ghosh and Mike Stewart — Twitter http://twitter.com/MikestewartAP
"We have to rebuild the middle class together. Our economy works best when it works for everyone, not just a select few. And our history shows us that shared prosperity is the only kind that lasts." — Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and a third-generation coal miner from Nemacolin, Pa.
Political rhetoric is as thick as the humidity in Charlotte this week. As a result, if you want to make your message heard, handing out product is a good way to get a busy convention-goer to stop.
Planned Parenthood is certainly no rookie when it comes to marketing. They know just handing out a pen or pencil won't cut it.
Their solution: Their street hawkers are turning heads as they stand on the street corners handing out ... "Romney/Ryan Condoms."
— Timothy Rogers — Twitter http://twitter.com/ap_tmrogers
GOD AND ISRAEL
So much for harmony on the floor.
When Democrats amended their convention platform to add a mention of God and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, they needed approval of two-thirds of the delegates present. Based on the roars, it was hard to tell.
Convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, called for a vote three times before ruling that the amendments had been approved.
In the first vote, a sizable number of the delegates in the half-empty arena yelled, "No!"
"Let me do that again," Villaraigosa said.
In the second vote, a large numbers of delegates yelled, "Aye!" But that was followed by roars opposing the decision.
Villaraigosa said, "I, umm ... let me do that again." When he tried it a third time, he announced that the amendments had been approved, despite contentions from some delegates that they shouldn't have passed.
The awkward moment came after Republicans criticized Democrats for approving a platform without God or the stance on Jerusalem.
— Ken Thomas www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
CALL IT A COMEBACK
Bill Clinton left office with positive approval ratings for his handling of the presidency and negative ones for his personal character. But the man once known as the Comeback Kid has brought his personal image back from the depths.
In a January 2001 Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, 65 percent of Americans said they approved of the way Clinton was handling "his job as president," while just 41 percent said that they approved "of Clinton as a person." Just 14 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of independents said they approved of Clinton personally.
Today, Gallup released a poll showing Clinton viewed favorably by 69 percent of Americans, including 43 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents. That's his highest favorability rating in polls back to 1993. And among those groups where President Barack Obama's ratings lag, such as men, whites and older voters, the former president shines.
Clinton also consistently polls near the top when Americans are asked who is the greatest president in U.S. history. In February 2011, 13 percent of Americans said they considered Clinton the greatest U.S. president, placing him third on the list, on par with Abraham Lincoln and a bit below Ronald Reagan.
— Jennifer Agiesta — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennagiesta
By now, Olympic champion Gabby Douglas must be getting used to the cheers.
Taking the stage at the Democratic National Convention, the gold medal-winning gymnast heard chants of "Gabby!" as she prepared to lead the Pledge of Allegiance on the second day of the convention.
The 16-year-old winner of the all-around title, wearing a black and white dress, posed for photos on the stage as cheers rippled throughout the arena hours before former President Bill Clinton's speech.
— Ken Thomas — www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas
RAIN OR SHINE — OR NOT
The Obama campaign said President Barack Obama's speech would go on at the Carolina Panthers' football stadium no matter what the weather, just like a football game. Wait, scratch that.
On Tuesday, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Obama's speech would happen at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday "rain or shine, similar to other events at the stadium. Of course, there are many sports teams that I hear do some business there."
When Democrats on Wednesday abruptly switched the location of Obama's speech because of a rainy forecast and safety concerns, the football comparison fell out of favor fast.
"This is not a Panthers game," Psaki said. "It's a national special security event."
When asked about the change of rhetoric in 24 hours, Psaki said "there's a difference between raindrops and severe thunderstorms."
— Ben Feller — Twitter http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC