Republicans have ceded the national political spotlight, and Democrats will step into the glare starting Tuesday when the Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte, N.C.
More than 3,000 delegates are to attend the gathering to officially nominate Barack Obama to run for a second presidential term. Those numbers will include a local contingent: Doug Brooks, of Joplin, a member of the Democratic National Committee; and delegates Rayman Conrad, also of Joplin; Jim Hight, of Neosho, chairman of the Newton County Democratic Central Committee; and Jim Oberbeck, of Scammon, Kan., head of the Cherokee County Democratic Committee.
Speakers are to include former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker; former Govs. Charlie Crist, of Florida, Tim Kaine, of Virginia, and Jennifer Granholm, of Michigan; Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John Kennedy; U.S. Sen. John Kerry; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services and a former Kansas governor; Arne Duncan, secretary of education; and actress Eva Longoria, a co-chairwoman of the Obama campaign.
Another speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, is being billed as the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention.
Missouri state Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, a delegate to last week’s Republican convention, said a number of minority speakers were featured at the convention, but their appearances were not widely broadcast.
If the Democrats have lined up a surprise speaker to counter Clint Eastwood, he or she hadn’t been announced as of last week.
Primaries have made the conventions anticlimactic, even more so with the Democratic gathering to nominate an incumbent president and vice president.
Mitt Romney already had named Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, and the rules were set so that votes for Romney’s primary opponents were not publicly announced.
It wasn’t exactly drama, but Missouri delegates got some attention in the wake of the Todd Akin flap. Delegates from other states, they said, wanted to know about the conflict between Akin and party leadership after he refused to get out of the race in which he is challenging Democrat Claire McCaskill for a U.S. Senate seat.
Akin said during a St. Louis television interview that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. He has apologized several times and said he misspoke. He has said he will stay in the race because he was chosen by Missouri voters in the primary. John Putnam, a delegate from Carthage and an Akin supporter, said there was a significant amount of backing for Akin among delegates from other parts of the state.
The Republican Party has withdrawn funding in the race, along with a couple of outside groups that were spending money against McCaskill.
During the convention, Akin’s campaign issued several fundraising appeals, including one critical of Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. In a video, Priebus says the party “would not give a penny” to Akin even if he were tied with McCaskill.
Perry Akin, the candidate’s son and campaign manager, called Priebus’ comments “extremely disappointing.”
“He claims the mantle of freedom, liberty and the good of America, but this betrays his apparent personal vendetta against Todd Akin,” Perry Akin said. “He is putting party power and political games ahead of the good of the country.”
Party leaders have said Akin’s campaign is damaged to the point that he can’t beat McCaskill, and that he is putting his own ambitions before the party by staying in a race the Republicans need to win in their bid for a Senate majority.
Results of two recent polls in the state show McCaskill with a comfortable lead. But sampling by Public Policy Polling has her leading by one point, and while a poll commissioned by the Family Research Council gives Akin a three-point lead. Akin continues to receive backing from the council and from former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.