Democratic Convention Preceded By Protests

Melissa Block talks to Audie Cornish, who is in Charlotte, N.C., for the Democratic National Convention. They cover Tuesday's speakers, an anti-Wall Street protest and the convention's much-anticipated response to the GOP's messages "We Built It" and "We Make it Possible."

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

The Democratic National Convention kicks off tomorrow in Charlotte, North Carolina, a state President Obama narrowly won four years ago. This week, Democrats will have a chance to respond to Republican attacks made last week at their convention in Tampa. While the official speeches don't begin until tomorrow, delegates have begun arriving in Charlotte; nearly 6,000 of them including alternates.

My co-host Audie Cornish is there and she joins me now. Audie, what's going on the day before the convention officially kicks off?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, the delegates and the city of Charlotte, really, are actually enjoying what they're calling Carolinafest. It's a big outdoor concert and a Labor Day fair put on by the Democratic Convention Host Committee. You can hear someone nearby me with a tambourine. There is funnel cake. There's people on stilts. It's a very sort of traditional Labor Day kind of parade events.

BLOCK: The festivities but also a bunch of protests being planned this week, right?

CORNISH: Yes, definitely. The largest of those protests was actually yesterday. That was called the March on Wall Street South. And essentially, 70 different groups focused on economic justice, on the foreclosure crisis, gathered similar in Occupy Wall Street vein. Police estimates there were 800 to 900 people at that rally.

And I talked to one voter who was protesting the Obama administration's handling of foreclosures. And the reason why I want to point him out - his name is Pat Driscoll, he's a steelworker from Detroit - is because he actually voted for President Obama in 2008. And he said right now, the president has lost his vote.

PAT DRISCOLL: I would have hoped that he would have tried to fulfill more of his promises and not hid behind the fact that there was a Republican majority, because people would have supported him had he fought.

CORNISH: This is the exact kind of voter that is a concern for the Obama administration. He was in a battleground state and he's very dissatisfied with the president's performance.

BLOCK: You know, Audie, you covered the Democratic National Convention four years ago in Denver. Does it feel like a different vibe this time around in Charlotte?

CORNISH: There has been a lot of discussion about a lack of enthusiasm on the Democratic side. I mean, totally and in a superficial way, I can say there's definitely a difference in merchandise. I'm hardly seeing any of those Shepard Fairey, you know, that artist's, his iconography and those prints of President Obama's face with the words change or hope underneath it. You see a couple of buttons here and there that say Obama 2012. But it's not the way it was where every three feet, you walk past someone in an Obama t-shirt.

I talked to one voter about this. His name was Matt Hoyle. He's a business analyst here in Charlotte.

MATT HOYLE: I love my president. And I want to see him stay where he is. But I feel like that momentum of change and everything has kind of toned down a little bit during this election. I'm still excited. I still want North Carolina to pull through as a blue state. But, you know, it is a different election than 2008.

CORNISH: What you hear from delegates, what you hear from Democratic voters, like Matt Hoyle, is exactly what the White House has been saying, which is that they think the president has done a lot. But that where he's failed is that he hasn't communicated what he has accomplished. And then that the Republican Party has had the chance to define health care or the stimulus. And they really hope that they're going to hear a message this week that will inspire voters to come back to Obama.

BLOCK: And when you think about that message that will be conveyed over the next few weeks, Audie, how would you describe it?

CORNISH: Well, I think we should expect to see speakers this week who are going to emphasize economic investments or programs that they consider successful. I don't think it's an accident that several speakers are mayors, right, who are executives. They don't have to deal with contentious legislatures or anything like that.

And when it comes to that whole We Built This slogan that people heard at the Republican National Convention, what you're seeing with Democrats - they're replying with We Make It Possible. So that's the slogan we're seeing on signs, paper fans in the give-away bag, in just about every street corner.

BLOCK: That's my co-host Audie Cornish in Charlotte, covering the Democratic National Convention. Audie, thanks so much. We're looking for your stories this week.

CORNISH: Thank you.

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