Charlotte, N.C. — President Obama’s re-election slogan is “Forward,” but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and two congressional leaders from Connecticut will take the stage at the Democratic National Convention this week to look back — to the GOP’s record and its convention in Tampa.
“You have to beat back the B.S.,” said Malloy, who will address the convention Wednesday, the same night as U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, and a night after U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District.
Larson, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, will be part of a presentation on Medicare, a pivotal issue as Democrats try to win back the votes of older Americans, a constituency that favored Republicans in 2008 and 2010.
DeLauro will talk about pay equity, joining her close ally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, and others in a series of speeches on women’s issues, an effort to stoke a gender gap that favors Democrats.
Larson said the goal is to hold congressional Republicans accountable for positions they tried to soften in Tampa, such as Paul Ryan distancing himself and the party from previous calls for a radical overhaul of Medicare.
“My remarks will be centered on bringing that reality home,” Larson said.
The trio of Connecticut politicians will be among the dozens of speakers at Time Warner Cable Arena, where 6,000 delegates will gather Tuesday and Wednesday nights, before Obama accepts the nomination Thursday at an open-air, 73,000-seat NFL venue, the Bank of America Stadium.
Monday is the convention’s soft opening: Malloy and most delegates arrive during the day, though Democratic State Chairman Nancy DiNardo and her staff arrived at 3 a.m. Saturday after an 18-hour ride in an RV converted into a mobile office. A wrong turn added hours to the road trip.
A Labor Day parade through Charlotte later Monday will celebrate the Carolinas and Virginia. Four years ago, Obama carried North Carolina and Virginia, important states to his re-election. Both states voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
The modern political convention is part infomercial, part revival meeting. The party is selling a message to potential converts, while trying to excite the base.
“It gets everyone charged up,” DiNardo said.
The convention also is an exercise in drawing contrasts with the Republicans. By party rules, the convention delegates are a diverse group, evenly divided among men and women. The party will showcase women and minorities, including gays.
The 88 Connecticut delegates include Sen. Richard Blumenthal and all five U.S. House members, plus former Sen. Chris Dodd, who automatically is a delegate as a former Democratic national chairman. Mayors Pedro Segarra of Hartford and Bill Finch of Bridgeport also are in the delegation.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is a member of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, but he is persona non grata among Connecticut delegates since his election as an independent after losing the Democratic primary in 2006.
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic nominee for Lieberman’s seat, will be in Charlotte for the Tuesday night session, then return home to campaign. His GOP opponent, Linda McMahon, skipped the Republican convention.
“I’m not going to spend more than a day there, but it’s important for me to be there with that Connecticut delegation, to thank them for their work in the primary and rally them for the election ahead,” Murphy said.
By moving to an outdoor stadium on the last night, Democrats are following the same schedule as four years ago in Denver, when Obama became the first African American to accept a major-party’s presidential nomination.
But Obama was unburdened in 2008 by a growing deficit, which had been briefly tamed by Bill Clinton during the 1990s, and a recession that still belonged to Bush, the Republican leaving office as an unpopular two-term president.
Now, the debt and the economy are Obama’s, even if both were inherited to a degree. Instead of being a transformative figure, he is a scuffed-up incumbent who hasn’t fixed the economy fast enough.
Malloy can relate.
“It’s an interesting situation for people who take over in the middle of a mess,” Malloy said. “People tend to forget that when the president was elected, our economy was hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month.”
Malloy still talks about the $3.6 billion estimated deficit he inherited upon succeeding a Republican governor in January 2011, two years after Obama succeeded Bush.
Obama is finding it difficult to point back to Bush, but Malloy said the Democratic president can and should lay some blame on the Republican majority that took over the House two years ago.
“The Republicans refused to pass a jobs bill,” Malloy said. “Something that we were able to do on a bipartisan basis in Connecticut, Republicans in the Congress of the United States would not allow.”
“Hope and Change,” the uplifting slogan of ’08, was a punch line at the Republican National Convention, where Mitt Romney mocked Obama for grandiose promises, like trying to “heal the planet.”
No matter how soaring the rhetoric employed by the president is on Thursday, a major element of the Democratic convention will be a concerted effort to put the Republicans on defense — focusing on a GOP platform that opposes abortion in all circumstances, and a vice presidential nominee who has called for turning Medicare into a voucher system.
“It’s going to be about the principles. It’s going to be about Romney. It will be about Obama,” DeLauro said. “And the choice will be laid out.”
Malloy’s convention speech will be brief, hours earlier than the 10 p.m. prime-time window the Republicans afforded New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the sometimes sparring partner of the Connecticut governor. He will be one of eight governors — three from New England — to address the convention.
But Malloy will have a broader role as an Obama campaign surrogate, taking part in panel discussions throughout the week and acting as a guest speaker before other states’ delegations, including New Jersey’s.
The selection of North Carolina for the convention was relatively controversial in some quarters. It is a right-to-work state, one of about two dozen that bar union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay representation fees.
Connecticut’s delegation includes a number of labor leaders, including President John Olsen, Secretary-Treasurer Lori Pelletier and Vice President Leo Canty of the state AFL-CIO.
With a referendum in May, North Carolina also became one of 31 states to pass a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, one of the few openly gay statewide officials in the nation, said Obama’s subsequent support of gay marriage eased some of the anger by gay activists over the convention being in a state hostile to same-sex unions.
“What are we doing in North Carolina?” DeLauro said last week, shaking her head. But the congresswoman, who is married to a pollster, smiled and quickly added, “I mean, I know why we’re in North Carolina.”
It is a swing state.
Malloy was keeping an open mind on the selection of Charlotte: “If we win North Carolina, it was a brilliant move.”