Barack Obama is the incumbent president and, facing no internal challenges or opposition, the convention serves only to rubber stamp his nomination for a second term. The DNC organizers have had an uphill battle to whip up enthusiasm for the event among the party faithful, and many Democrats, facing tough electoral challengers, have sent their regrets.
The second most popular Democrat, Hillary Clinton, will be half a world away in Russia and the Far East, missing a Democratic convention for the first time in her adult life. She argues, rightly, that as secretary of State she should refrain from partisan politics.
There was a brief groundswell, promoted heavily by mischievous Republicans, that she and Vice President Joe Biden should swap jobs. The idea was quickly shot down, the whole point of it being, from the GOP's standpoint, to prove that Obama had made a mistake four years ago.
The switch would, however, have added some excitement to a convention that is badly lacking it. But that's the last thing convention planners of either party want -- uncontrolled, unscripted excitement.
The Democratic speakers will feature the usual parade of party dignitaries, governors and mayors, one of whom, Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, will give the keynote address. Former President Jimmy Carter will address the convention by video.
The Democrats caught a couple of bad breaks, P.R.-wise. After the Democrats had settled on Charlotte, the state passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Gay activists want to use the convention as a platform to agitate for repeal of that amendment -- not what the party needs in a state whose 15 electoral votes Obama would like to get, as he did in 2008.
Four years ago, Obama was a novelty, something genuinely new in American politics. His exotic background, winning manner and considerable speaking skills outweighed in the voters' minds his relatively short career in public office, which amounted to close to four years in the U.S. Senate and seven years in the Illinois senate.
The Democrats will tout Obama's considerable foreign policy successes. The economy is another matter. While it is improving, the question is: will it improve enough by Election Day to benefit the incumbent.
Meanwhile, the new novelty is Mitt Romney, a stiff, somewhat awkward candidate with a good record as governor of Massachusetts that he is at pains to hide, and a medical plan much like Obama's that he never mentions.
The convention may be dull. The fall campaign most assuredly will not.
Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.