By Gary Strauss and Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
CHARLOTTE - Thousands of Democrats are streaming here ahead of Tuesday's opening of the Democratic National Convention, an event that promises both a showcase for President Obama's re-election bid and a counterpoint to the harsh treatment his administration's policies received at last week's Republican convention.
Obama courted votes in Ohio today, a key swing state, before a planned tour of Louisiana's St. John the Baptist Parish near New Orleans, hard-hit by flood damage from Hurricane Isaac. Republican nominee Mitt Romney assessed the area Friday.
Obama told Toledo autoworkers that the auto industry had bounced back because of his administration's bailout. "I bet on you. I'll make that bet any day of the week and because of that bet, three years later, that bet is paying off for America," he said.
About 230 miles east of here, Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, lambasted Obama for failing to revive the economy and reduce unemployment. "Simply put, the Jimmy Carter days look like the good old days compared to where we are now,'' Ryan said at East Carolina University in Greenville.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, among leading Democrats to speak at the convention, told a USA TODAY Newsmakers session Monday that the party needs to emphasize its successes, saying without Obama, the economy would have been in far worse shape. "We are creating jobs, not losing jobs,'' O'Malley said. "None of us would disagree that we have not yet recovered from the Bush recession. Clearly, we are headed in the right direction."
While Republicans continue to hammer Obama on the economy, Romney appears to have gotten no bounce from the GOP convention. Gallup's latest tracking poll found them virtually dead even, with Obama holding a 47% to 46% advantage.
About 300 union activists and supporters rallied at Charlotte's annual Labor Day parade Monday, voicing support for President Barack Obama's re-election bid while lamenting adversarial attitudes toward organized labor. An
An afternoon thunderstorm scattered crowds gathered for the state of the CarolinaFest music festival. A threat of mass protests did not materialize . Small groups of protesters held events on the outskirts of the city, but there was little commotion downtown.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Rob Tufano said there had been no arrests as of late Monday. That followed a peaceful march of protesters on Sunday that featured just two arrests - one woman arrested for wearing a mask and carrying a knife, which is prohibited in downtown Charlotte during the convention week, and a man arrested for public intoxication and assault on a public official.
"Very uneventful," Tufano said.
About 50 Republican staffers have gathered near the convention site. They'll hold daily briefings and feature prime-time speakers such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
The Democrats open Tuesday's convention with remarks from first lady Michelle Obama and a keynote address by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Yet while the convention is supposed to be about shining a sunny spotlight on the party, the California delegation appeared to be blurring the view Monday.
An unidentified member of the California delegation was sent home Monday after a drunken incident at Charlotte's Blake Hotel. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that one delegate was hospitalized after hotel workers reported him unconscious. Another became unruly with hotel staff and emergency responders. Police were called. He was not arrested, but asked to leave the hotel and convention. Neither delegate was identified.
"Often times at conventions, people who have not seen each other for a long time gather and sometimes people have too much to drink," said Tenoch Flores, a state party spokesman. "That appears to have been the case here."
Separately, California state party chair John Burton raised eyebrows Monday when he compared Republicans to World War II Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and called GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan a liar.
"They lie and they don't care if people think they lie ...Joseph Goebbels - it's the big lie if you keep repeating it,'' Burton said at a delegation breakfast.
California Gov. Jerry Brown compared Republican opponent Meg Whitman to Goebbels during their 2010 race.
The Romney campaign pounced on Burton's remark, calling on President Obama, Democratic National Committee Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa and Brown to repudiate it. Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt criticized the statement and said it does not reflect the views of the campaign.
Attending the convention are are 5,556 delegates and 407 alternates, according to DNC secretary Alice Germond. Of the delegates, 50% are women and 27% are African American. The oldest: Mississippian Elzena Johnson, born in 1914. Youngest: Iowan Samuel Gray, 17.
Democrats were keeping an eye on the weather, still impacted by the remnants of Isaac. Obama is scheduled to speak here Thursday at the outdoor Bank of America stadium "rain or shine,'' said Steve Kerrigan, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee.
Vice President Biden also will speak Thursday night, along with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry on Obama's national security credentials. The stadium seats nearly 74,000.
College students from across North Carolina and members of mostly black churches in South Carolina are expected to arrive for the stadium speech by the busload. "We're confident that the stadium will be filled,'' Kerrigan said.
It's unclear if the weather will cooperate. The National Weather Service forecasts scattered thunderstorms and a 40% to 50% chance of rain through Thursday.
Contributing: Alan Gomez and Susan Davis and the Associated Press