NYT's Tale of Two Political Conventions: Optimism for Dems in NC, But 'Woeful Disconnect' Possible for G.O.P. in Tampa

Barack Obama has chosen Charlotte, N.C., as the host city for the 2012 Democratic convention that will officially launch his re-election campaign. (The Republicans picked Tampa, Fla., in May of last year.) New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny on Wednesday evaluated Obama's choice in terms favorable to the Democrats: "Can North Carolina Deliver Again? - Democrats Pick Charlotte for Convention." Obama won North Carolina in 2008.

President Obama signaled Tuesday that he would try to follow the same path to re-election that he charted in his first campaign, selecting Charlotte, N.C., to host the 2012 Democratic convention in a decision that instantly confirmed the state as a new presidential battleground.

In choosing Charlotte, Mr. Obama rejected bids from Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis. The selection was the White House's first major strategic decision of the presidential race, and displayed the desire of Democrats to retain some of the states they carried in 2008 for the first time in a generation.

"We're looking at an expanding map rather than shrinking back to husband our resources and play defense," said Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "We were very excited about winning North Carolina in 2008. Putting our convention there is a very serious sign that we intend to compete there again."


The selection of North Carolina also underscored the hope of Mr. Obama and his advisers that they have a better chance of organizing supporters - and finding new voters - in a conservative-leaning but demographically evolving Southern state than in a traditional battleground like Missouri.
The advisers believe the advantages of North Carolina include a population that is 22 percent black, an influx of new residents because of research and banking jobs, and laws that allow last-minute voter registration.

While Zeleny emphasized Obama's choice of state as a show of strength, Miami-based reporter Damien Cave found plenty to mock in the Republican Party's choice of Tampa as the site of its 2012 convention. His May 13, 2010 story on the G.O.P. announcement was full of partisan cheap shots.

Tampa as a Republican comfort zone also brings risk: if the party plays too much to its base, will it look out of touch? This, after all, is a city settled largely by Cuban immigrants in the 1880s, who came here to roll cigars. Now it is more diverse than the party it is hosting. As of the 2000 census, Tampa was at least 19 percent Hispanic and 26 percent black. And economically, the gap between rich and poor is particularly pronounced.

On one side, there is Derek Jeter, building what will most likely be the area's largest home - a 30,000 square foot, nine-bathroom behemoth roughly the size of a Best Buy. On the other, there are the homeless people recently pushed out of a proposed tent city to be run by Catholic Charities.

The wrong mix of poverty juxtaposed with Republicans partying - perhaps against a backdrop of oil-stained beaches - could give Democrats just what they need to portray their opponents as woefully disconnected from the middle class.
"I just don't think it's a lock that everything is going to go wonderfully," [author Carl] Hiaasen said. "This is not necessarily Tea Party country."

"A backdrop of oil-stained beaches"? Cave presumably is talking about the BP oil spill from the month before, which was treated by the media as an environmental apocalypse. But as the Times itself noted on Wednesday, the Gulf Coast is recovering from the BP oil spill faster than most people (including Times reporters) expected.

- Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.