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Democrat leader: DNC in Charlotte is no accident

National party sees event as ‘phenomenal organizing tool’ in ‘a critical battleground’

By Jim Morrilland Celeste Smith
Staff Writers

More Information

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  • Bloggers, new media land tech nests for DNC
  • Giffords may make appearance at convention

    In what could be an emotional highlight of the Democratic convention, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from an assassination attempt, could appear on stage at Time Warner Cable Arena.

    It’s a prospect Democratic national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz signaled Tuesday when asked.

    “I expect that she will,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters. “In fact I’m going to see her in D.C. this afternoon. I’m sure we’ll probably talk about it. We’ve already talked about that. I think she’d very much like to go.”

    Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, is close to Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who resigned in January to concentrate on her recovery.

    Jim Morrill



On a day presidential politics echoed across North Carolina, the head of the national Democratic Party Tuesday touted her party’s national convention as “a phenomenal organizing tool.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz also denied reports that convention organizers have struggled to raise money.

The Democratic chair spoke to nearly 400 journalists at Time Warner Cable Arena during the convention’s final media walk-through, an event that included tours of convention venues and logistical briefings. As many as 15,000 members of the media are expected at the September event.

Wasserman Schultz called North Carolina “a critical battleground” and said picking Charlotte for the party’s national convention was no accident.

“We’re dedicated to expanding the (electoral) map,” she said. “Holding the convention here provides us with a phenomenal organizing tool.”

She touted events such as the planned Labor Day gala at Charlotte Motor Speedway as a way to engage voters. She contrasted that to the Republican convention in Tampa, which she called “an event open only to the party faithful and its wealthy donors.”

A GOP convention spokesman begged to differ.

“Clearly they’ve seen our efforts to take the convention to people across the country by leveraging technology,” convention spokesman James Davis said in an interview. “This is what you’d expect from Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”

Democratic convention organizers sought to use Tuesday’s walk-through as a way to address the media’s technical and logistical questions about the event.

“As a veteran of conventions, I can tell you, if your week goes smoothly our week goes smoothly,” Travis Dredd, the convention’s chief of staff, told media members.

Among the announcements:

• President Obama will deliver his acceptance speech from roughly midfield at Bank of America Stadium, where a T-shaped stage will jut from the sideline.

• Dedicated light-rail trains will shuttle the media between the Charlotte Convention Center and the arena.

• The Labor Day event at the speedway will be called Carolina Fest 2012.

Members of the media toured the speedway infield and media center before boarding tour buses for a spin around the track.

The multiple venues have some journalists wondering about logistics. While tour buses made it easier getting to the convention center, arena, stadium and speedway, one out-of-town journalist said, “If we have to do it on our own, it might be hard.”

Another said the multiple venues seem “like overkill.”

Speaking to local reporters, Wasserman Schultz denied reports that the Charlotte host committee has struggled to raise money. The committee must raise nearly $37 million for the convention under self-imposed limitations that ban corporate contributions and individual donations over $100,000.

However the host committee also is raising a reported $15 million for related events – money not subject to limitations.

“That’s not accurate,” Wasserman Schultz said of the news reports. “We’re not having a hard time raising the funds.”

While she was speaking to reporters, Rep. Paul Ryan, the U.S. House budget chairman and a Wisconsin Republican, was holding a roundtable discussion in Raleigh on behalf of the Mitt Romney campaign.

Also Tuesday, the conservative group Crossroads GPS launched a $7 million TV campaign criticizing Obama about the national debt. The group is spending $654,000 in North Carolina to run the ad for two weeks.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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