CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As Democrats gather here this week to officially nominate President Barack Obama for a second term, their national convention is expected to have a strikingly different tone than last week's Republican celebration.
In Tampa last week, GOP speakers and nominee Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, tried to use their nationally-broadcast platform to remind voters of the struggling economy and give them a reason to reverse course in hopes of turning things around.
By contrast, Democrats are expected to try to make the case that Republican policies were responsible for the financial crisis that sparked the Great Recession to begin with, and that Obama has things headed in the right direction and deserves a chance to see things through.
That case might already have been made more difficult when Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, told CBS' Bob Schieffer this weekend that Americans weren't better off than they were four years ago.
The convention is also expected to have less of a Florida feel than its Republican counterpart, in part because the GOP confab was held in Tampa and in part because there are fewer Democratic statewide elected officials than Republicans in Florida.
But Democrats will be keeping an eye on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose seat has turned into one of several the party hopes will allow it to hold onto its Senate majority. And former Gov. Charlie Crist, who bolted the Republican Party in 2010 and endorsed Obama in an op-ed piece in the Tampa Bay Times last week, is reportedly scheduled to address the convention.
State delegates are also expected to begin sizing up potential gubernatorial candidates for 2014, when Democrats hope Gov. Rick Scott's dismal approval ratings will give them a chance to win the Governor's Mansion for the first time since Lawton Chiles was elected in 1994.
Florida, however, will still be center stage. Republicans have conceded that a win for Romney in the electoral college becomes an almost impossible task if Obama carries Florida, and the president's path to 270 electoral votes is also far easier with the state than without it.
That helps explain why Florida Republicans were chosen to deliver some of the more pointed criticisms of Obama from the podium in Tampa, criticisms that Obama will have to trump this week.
"Hope and change has become divide and conquer," said U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was chosen to introduce Romney before his acceptance speech.
Perhaps ironically, the Obama campaign could try to focus more attention on the president's foreign policy, a weak point when he ran against U.S. Sen John McCain, a Vietnam veteran, in 2008.
In his weekly address, Obama gave hints of how he might try to thread the needle between highlighting foreign policy achievements -- the killing of Osama bin Laden, the end of the war in Iraq, the NATO operation that toppled Muammar Gaddhafi and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan -- while projecting a forward-looking message about the next four years.
"As we turn the page on a decade of war, it's time to do some nation-building here at home," Obama said. " ... It's time to build a nation that lives up to the ideals that so many Americans have fought for -- a nation where they can realize the dream they sacrificed to protect."
Still, the Obama campaign has signaled that it will not necessarily let up on its efforts to paint Romney as a political chameleon focused on helping the wealthy.
"The goal of our convention is to bring the choice in this election into sharp focus," deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said on a conference call last week.
But the campaign also hopes to make a potentially tricky case: That while even Democrats admit that the pace of the recovery is not as fast as it perhaps should be, Obama's policies have paid off in helping to save the automobile industry and extend health care to millions of Americans.
"The country's gone through a difficult period together, but we've made a difference," said David Axelrod, one of the campaign's chief strategists.
And Cutter noted that the 12 million jobs Romney promised to create in his speech to the convention matched the current Congressional Budget Office projections for job growth anyway.
"That wasn't exactly bold leadership," she said.
Copyright 2012 by The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.