Democrats are hoping that the gathering of high-profile politicians and thousands of delegates in Charlotte, N.C., for the national convention this week will get supporters fired up for the upcoming election.
This year, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will become the first Latino keynote speaker to address the convention, according to the convention’s website. Former President Bill Clinton, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and actress Eva Longoria, Obama campaign co-chair, will also speak.
Penn State College Democrats President Drew McGehrin said even though Obama won’t carry Texas, Castro may be able to invigorate a key section of the electorate.
Michael Mahon, president of the Penn State Political Science Association, said it will be interesting to see what the atmosphere of the convention is like without the Democratic officeholders who have said they won’t attend.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz is one of 11 Democratic incumbents or challengers who won’t be attending. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill will also skip the convention.
Mahon (junior-political science and economics) said for both Democrats and Republicans, the convention is a chance to shine the media spotlight on their ideas and how they contrast to the other party.
“Even though it is determined basically already who the candidates are going to be, like with the GOP, it provides a great stump to push for the party’s vision for America during this election cycle,” he said.
The convention could raise awareness of a presidential election that some say Americans aren’t as excited about as they were in 2008, McGehrin (senior-religious studies and history) said. At the time, then-Senator Barack Obama was competing against former first lady Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Voters should still pay attention to this year’s convention, though, McGehrin said. It is a time for Democrats to lay out their platform and share their beliefs and plans.
“It’s their time to say what they need to say to us voters. If there’s any time to watch them or hear what they have to say, it’s now, at the convention,” McGehrin said.
A committee of party officials adopts a platform of the party’s priorities at each convention. Centre County Democrats Chair Greg Stewart said he expects the platform to reaffirm the rights of women to make their own medical decisions.
The 2012 Republican platform includes a section dedicated to the sanctity and dignity of human life, which re-affirms the party’s anti-abortion stance.
Marriage equality is also up for approval in the Democratic Party’s platform as it convenes in North Carolina, where voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in May.
Stewart said the convention is a chance to stress again where Obama wants to take the country and to review what he’s already accomplished, including economic growth and progress toward equal opportunities for all. He said the economy has made “significant progress” since fall of 2008.
People tend to think the economy comes out of recessions over night, but that’s not the case, Stewart said.
“It takes a lot longer than people think. We’ve had positive job growth since Obama took office,” he said. “You’re digging out of a pretty deep hole Republican policies put us into.”
Stewart said Obama will likely focus on different strategies for continuing job growth, including investments in research and education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.