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Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

Filler: Michelle Obama carries the night, Democrats more exuberant than RNC

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 4, 2012) (Credit: AP)

11:07 p.m. - Michelle Obama finishes up back on family, and says she is no longer worried that the White House won't be good for the family. Implies that she believes her husband being president is so important to the nation that it's the only reasonable path for her family.

The first lady ends with a maddened crowd calling her name, and she has clearly been a hit. Other than that, Duval Patrick did well, as did Castro. Everyone else was fairly flat, but there were no epic fails. Oh except for KUMAR. He rocked.

The place was packed, the mood good, and as befits Democrats, every thing was more exuberant than the conservatives in Tampa. Of course, that's what conservative implies.


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I give the democrats a B+ tonight, and I'm interested to see what tomorrow night will bring. We'll get it going once again, at 7:00 p.m.

11:00 p.m. -Chants of four more years have shut drown out the speech completely.

She starts again, talking about how much she loves her husband. And why.

It's quite a list. Even says he never lets himself get distracted, "by the chatter and the noise."

Again, I don't sense that's true. Of anyone. If he was never distracted by the chatter and the noise, we'd have single payer health care and Guantanamo would be closed.

10:57 p.m. - And again, she's back on the personal, and it is her strength. Shouts of "I love you, Michelle" and I think this guy meant it.

10:55 p.m. - She gets big laughs and applause talking about student loans and financial aid. Calls she and Barack in the early years "So young, so in love, and so in debt."

10:52 p.m. - Now she's back on the presidency, a topic on which is harder to be compelling than the family stuff.

She's giving a litany of success, but it's likely going to make people wonder why the country doesn't feel more successful. And selling the idea that Obama is impervious to politics and polls, that's simply untrue.

10:49 p.m. - She tells a very heartwarming story of a beloved, hardworking and sick father.

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of fathers tonight.

"For my dad, that's what it meant to be a man." Great line, and she makes a great point.

This is a well-written speech, and the audience is responding to it beyond the visceral. I hear people near me saying, "That's so true," or "What a good point," and there's a lot of head nodding.

The First Lady is touching something here.

10:45 p.m. - She is concentrating on the personal, the family, the children in the White House. It's problems most of us really can't imagine.

Talking about regrets in leaving Chicago and simple life.

But there is a universal aspect to her talk, exhausted parents, romance lost to responsibility, and early it he relationship.

10:41 p.m. - I know it was a huge deal that we got a black president, but was it just as big a deal that we got a black Jackie Kennedy? Interesting question, I think.

Michelle looks great, composed, super dress,and she's confident in this role.

The crowd is entirely silent, in between rounds of applause.

10:39 p.m. - A military mom named Elaine Brye has dome on to tout her family, five kids in the service. Interesting, but odd to do 3 minutes before the star of the evening comes on.

She wrote Michelle a Christmas card and now she's introducing her, I think. Why didn't I write Michelle a letter ????

I could have gotten a better seat. Hard-wired Internet, maybe some kind of snack.

And here's Michelle. Immediately the crowd is on its feet as the band plays "Signed, sealed, delivered."

10:34 p.m. - Okay, that video was annoyingly long.

10:33 p.m. - It is a touching video, about she and brother craig's childhood.

Neither of their parents went to college, so both siblings are wildly successful, considering.

And the dad had multiple sclerosis. I never knew that.

The crowd is trying to pay attention, but they really want Michelle herself, not the video.

There was very rarely excitement like this at the RNC. Every single seat seems to be full, every eye intent in the stage, waiting for the lights to come up.

10:28 p.m. - And Castro is off, to a standing ovation, the first real one of the night.

Time for a video about Michelle Obama and the crowd erupts at the sound of her recorded voice.

10:26 p.m. - The thing is, the Castro story doesn't invalidate the stories of the immigrants of limited means in childhood who spoke at the RNC at Tampa. Those are people who have has similar experiences and have drawn different conclusions.

Crowd absolutely loves the cute children of Castro.

10:24 p.m. - "Four more years" chantsa are shaking the arena.

10:19 p.m. - Castro hammering Romney for telling students they should just start a business, and borrow money from their parents.

That was a brutal gaffe Romney made, several months back. He really does have a problem with the conception of poverty and lower-middle class situations, and the Dems will exploit it. Particularly when they can call on people like the Castro twins to speak.

A new call and response, "Mitt Romeny says no," that Castro breaks up with a Romneycare bait and switch. Very nicely done.

10:15 p.m. - "Forward, not back" is the theme tonight, and Castro is doing a good job selling it.

Can't say "Texas" without engendering a speech stopping cheer from its delegation.

Now he's making the argument that the only difference between the kids he knew in high school and the ones he knew at Stanford is opportunity, not talent or drive.

That's not really true, but it sounds good.

10:11 p.m. - These guys are fascinating, here comes Julian.

Julian Castro, 37, is the first Hispanic keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. He is serving his second term as the mayor of San Antonio.

He attended Stanford University and Harvard Law, as did his identical twin brother, Texas Legislature member Joaquin Castro. He has stated, and it’s kind of unusual, that both he and his brother benefited from affirmative action, having SAT scores lower than the average admittees of Stanford. He has said they did well with the opportunity, and he believes affirmative action has tremendous value to advance students like he and

Castro has a big smile, and seemingly, a lot of confidence. He's launching into the traditional family of modest means story now, but for him it is clearly very apt.

Convention crowds love moms, grandmoms, small children. Better the families than the politicians themselves.

10:07 p.m. - Joaquin Castro is on now to introduce his brother.

Joaquin Castro, 37, is a member of the Texas Legislature and the identical twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, set to give the keynote address to.

Joaquin is running for Congress, and attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School. He and his brother are both considered rising stars in the party, and the best chances for gaining power for Democrats in ever-more Hispanic but largely Republican Texas.

10:05 p.m. - But now the chatter is back, and the attentiveness to O'Malley is over.

He should have finished with the call and response.

10:00 p.m. - O'Malley is getting literally no attention from the audience as he tells an interminable story about a long ago military battle that took place in Maryland.

But now he's got them going with a call and response on the slogan "Forward, not back."

9:58 p.m. - The crowd wants Michelle. Everyone is getting wound up in anticipation.

But first, Martin O'Malley.

Martin O’Malley, 49, has served as governor of Maryland since 2007. He was previously the mayor of Baltimore.

He has famously referred to illegal immigrants as “new Americans” (I like the phrase, myself) and endured a bruising battle with the Catholic Church over his support of gay marriage.

9:57 p.m. -The Massachusetts Governor is talking about how badly Romney trashed the state, fairly or unfairly.

Says the state was lagging in job creation and infrastructure by the time Romney left. He says that  Romney cared more about having the job than doing it.

He says Democrats must grow a backbone and stand for what they believe in, to much approval.

Bin Laden shout out number two. Patrick is getting fired up with a recitation of Obama's successes and virtues.

He says Obama has done what he's done with nothing but obstruction by Republicans, which is true. But how is he going to get past that obstruction over the next four years?

Can Obama actually LEAD this nation?

9:46 p.m.  - And now, Duval Patrick, and the crowd is ready to love him, with a warm welcome.

Deval Patrick, 56, is the governor of Massachusetts. Raised poor on the South Side of Chicago, he garnered a scholarship to Harvard, and eventually attended Harvard Law School.

He worked in the Clinton administration, and while governor, has made implementation and maintenance of predecessor Mitt Romney’s health care plan a main priority. He is the state’s first black governor, and is the second black governor elected in the nation’s history.

9:45 p.m. - Ledbetter is an impassioned advocate for women's rights, and she did get taken for a ride by her employer and the court system. She really scores with the crowd implying the 23 cents out a dollar less than men women are paid wouldn't mean much to a man with Swiss bank accounts.

9:40 p.m. - Lilly Ledbetter now on. I always say you never want a law named after yourself or a loved one. It's never good news.

Ledbetter, 74, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit against Goodyear Tire Company that led to the the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

She sued Goodyear after she retired in 1998, claiming she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts. Se lost her suit because she did not meet statute of limitation requirements in filing it. Congress then loosened those requirements via the law that bears her name. She is now an advocate for women’s rights.

9:38 p.m. - Like many  relatives called on for such speeches, they're a bit wooden, but earnest.

People are sort of taking the opportunity to stretch, get a bite or hit the restrooms.

And the eventually give way to another video, which the crowd is not enjoying as much as they did earlier in the night.

9:33 p.m. - Barack Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng and Michelle's brother, Craig Robinson, now up.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, 42, is the half-sister of President Barack Obama. They are both the children of Ann Dunham, but have different fathers, and spent several years growing upo together.

She received a Ph.D. degree in international comparative education from the University of Hawaii, and has worked as a teacher and professor.

Craig Robinson, 50, is the men’s head basketball coach at the Oregon State University and the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama.

He famously had to play basketball with President Barack Obama, to judge his character, before Robinson would let her get serious about dating him. Robinson previously coached at Brown University, and has not really been involved in his brother-in-laws political career much thus far.

9:31 p.m. - Emanuel will be a hard act to follow, but Kal Penn is a good choice to try.

KUMAR!!!!

Pretends to accept nomination for VP, great laughs. And an invisible man in the chair reference, for Clint Eastwood.

Penn is giving a fun, funny speech, and it's actually a nice break from the policy talk.

And a spotlight is suddenly shining in my eye and blinding me. That's the kind of stuff that keeps happening when you're trying to live blog a convention.

KUMAR wants us to use #sexyface on twitter to describe his speech, and I say why not.

9:28 p.m. - Kal Penn, 35, is on stage.

He is best know for his role as “Kumar Patel” in the “Harold and Kumar” movies. He has twice worked in the White House Office of Public Engagement, both times leaving for acting roles.

He starts off with a few jokes, including a jab at Clint Eastwood's invisible chair routine from the Republican National Convention.

9:24 p.m. - Emanuel is arguing that Obama has delivered on his promises, and provided both hope and change.

He says Obama was the lone voice ibis inner circle saying go all in to save the auto industry.

There's no way to tell how that went down, but it did go very well for the car companies, and the unions. It did not go well at all for anyone General Motors owed money. Many books will be written in the future trying to sort out what actually happened, who got healthy, who got hurt and whether it was fair.

9:20 p.m. - Emanuel is the first really big name of the night, the first star. Flashes are popping, people are using their iPhones to shoot videos.

He's also the first one who worked closely with Obama on a granular level.

Emanuel is not a inspiring speaker, but his words are pretty good he talks about Obama reading 10 letters for citizens every day, and how he uses them to govern.

9:16 p.m. - And now a huge round of applause as Rahm Emanuel comes on.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 52, was formerly the White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama and, before that, a congressman representing Illinois.

Emanuel, an observant Jew, is known for his fiery temper and foul language. He has two equally successful brothers: his older brother, Ezekiel is a doctor, and bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health. His younger sibling, Ari, is a Hollywood talent agent on whom the Entourage character “Ari” is based. Emanuel also trains for and competes in triathlons.

9:14 p.m. - Sebelius gaffes, says insurance have to send money back to the insured if they don't spend at least 50 percent on services. It's actually 80 percent.

9:10 p.m. - Sebelius is here to sell Obamacare to a crowd that's already bought in. But there's no better way to get accolades for the church than to preach to the choir.

9:08 p.m. - Strickland gets the biggest cheers of the evening for his fiery condemnation of Romney, and support of Obama. 

And now Kathleen Sebelius approaches the podium.

Kathleen Sebelius, 64, is U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. She was the first female governor of Kansas, serving from 2003 to 2009.

Staunchly pro-choice and reliably liberal, she is best known as the person who is trying to implement the tremendously balky Obamacare package, and has frequently been demonized by the Republicans for it.

9:07 p.m. - Strickland actually has the crowd going a bit, hammering Romney for a lack of concern for American workers and touting Obama's support for the middle class and the car industry.

Says If Mitt were Santa, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves, to great effect.

Says If Mitt's heart were in the US, his money would be too.

And on to the tax returns, which are never ever going to stop being an issue.

9:03 p.m. - As the chant of "Four more years" erupts, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland comes on.

Ted Strickland, 71, was governor of Ohio, and before that a member of Congress. He was defeated by current Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2010.

9:01 p.m. - Next up the Lihn family, featured in that video, talking about how Obamacare and the lifting of lifetime caps changed their lives. Their daughter had a heart defect.

Crowd erupts when other talks about the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. Their other baby is crying, the younger child. It's very cute and they have the crowd in the palm of their hand.

8:53 p.m. - And Chafee gives way to another video, "Our people."

8:50 p.m. - Chafee refers to himself as an "independent," but his presence here suggests "moderate Democrat" is a fair assessment of his current politics. He's preaching that we all must be conservative and liberal in the way we approach different issues.

I agree with him, and he's making a good argument for liberal on social issues, and conservative on fiscal ones. It's an easy case to make of course, since it's right.

8:45 p.m. - Now on, Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, 59, is a former Republican turned Democrat, and, in fact, served in the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

He is the Republican answer to Alabama’s Artur Davis, who served in the House as a Democrat and endorsed President Barack Obama before becoming a Republican and lighting up the Republivan National Convention with a fiery speech last week.

8:44 p.m. - And now a chant of "USA USA" as loud as any at the RNC, as Duckworth tells the story of her wounding and survival.

8:41 p.m. - Duckworth is deeply inspiring and the crowd is rapt. She has a cheerful countenance, and a crazily difficult story of poverty, food  stamps and unemployed parents persevering.

She was an assault helicopter pilot and an officer, mobilized with the National Guard, flying combat missions in Iraq.

She makes the first bin Laden mention of the night, to big applause.

8:37 p.m. - Double amputee and veteran Tammy Duckworth enters, to riotous applause.

Duckworth, 44, is the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. An Iraq War veteran (helicopter pilot), she lost both of her legs and partial use of her right arm to a war wound. She is currently seeking a House seat representing Illinois. She also sought a seat in 2006, barely losing the election.

8:33 p.m. - Keenan get she crowd chanting "Four more years," then a video called "Progress for People" that seems to be about providing meaningful government services.

8:29 p.m. - Keenan is really passionate in her advocacy. She's not a world burner but she's quite emphatic.

On a separate note, this arena is almost full with 90 minutes to go before the main speakers. It is far more abuzz than the RNC was at this time of night, but that doesn't say too much about the election, because the Dems are always more out front with their excitement.

8:23 p.m. - And to continue the theme of reproductive rights, Nancy Keenan.

Nancy Keenan, 60, is president of the reproductive/abortion rights organization National Abortion Rights Action League - Pro-Choice America (NARAL).  She lost a 2000 election bid for the House of Representatives representing Montana. She has announced she will step down from her current position at the end of the year.

She has lobbied for continued legal abortion but has also stressed the importance of doing everything possible to prevent unintended pregnancies, and thus the need for abortion.

8:22 p.m. - The video is followed by a young lady named Ciana explaining she still believes in small government but, left the Republican Party because of the birth control issue, and it's intermingling with Obamacare.

8:21 p.m. - And now a video entitled "Stronger together: Choice."

It's about supporting abortion. Interesting that the Dems are going to be so loud about an issue that barely came up with Republicans in Tampa.

8:18 p.m. - Quiet, geeky, almost engagingly so, Polis says he's Jewish, gay and a parent.

And he's touting Obama's support for same-sex marriage, to pretty good cheers.

But when he gets into the history of the executive branch of government, oy vey.

8:15 p.m. - Now speaking, Jared Polis.

Jared Polis, 37, is a member of the House of Representatives serving Colorado. He is one of the only openly gay members of Congress, and the first openly gay member of Congress to be a parent. He and his partner have one son.

8:11 p.m. - Rybak is touting the Obama economy, and his action on the auto industry, and the crowd is starting to pay attention again. A little.

This group wants Michelle Obama, and the it's going to be restless until she appears, I think.

8:08 p.m. - Now on, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

R.T. Rybak, 56, has served as the Mayor of Minneapolis, Minn., since 2001. He ran for governor in 2010, but failed to secure his party’s nomination for the race.

Before becoming mayor, he worked as a journalist, political strategist, and city planner.

8:05 p.m. - Wexler seems to be on stage to vouch for Obama's commitment to Israel. This is not a big issue to this crowd, at least not tonight, and attention seems to be wandering.

Around me, people are talking about the comparative merits of the view from our section, and generally chatting away.

8:03 p.m. - Now on stage, Rep. Robert Wexler.

Robert Wexler, served Florida as a member of the House of Representatives from 1997 until 2010. He is most famous for, along with Dennis Kucinich, supporting the impeachment of President George W. Bush and members of the Bush administration.

He is now the president of the Washington-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

7:57 p.m. - Musician Ledisi on stage, I've never heard of her, but she's quite good. Alvin, my much cooler co-worker has heard of her.

7:54 p.m. - And the applause is just tumultuous, as the video ends with a rundown of Obama's accomplishments, and Kennedy's embrace of the term "liberal."

7:51 p.m. - And the video features Romney/Kennedy debates for Senate seat, and all the flip flops Romney went through in that campaign, to rousing applause.

As well as a tribute to the long and...I guess, extraordinary career of the "lion of the Senate."

7:48 p.m. - And now a tribute video to Ted Kennedy.

7:47 p.m. - It's the first DNC in 56 years without his uncle, Ted Kennedy, in attendance.

He is telling stories about Teddy and recounting the man's favorite causes, the ones where he succeeded and the ones where he failed.

And he's got a bit of a Kennedy self-sacrifice rhythm going with his speech.

7:45 p.m. - Next up, Joe Kennedy III.

Joe Kennedy III, 31, is the son of former Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy II, the grandson of former Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He is also the grandnephew of President John F. Kennedy.

He worked, until recently, as an attorney in the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office, in Massachusetts. He resigned this year to seek election to the House seat currently held by retiring Rep Barney Frank. He attended Stanford University and Harvard Law.

7:44 p.m. - Salazar has a great hat, a white Stetsony sort of thing.

He's very nitty gritty, talking about oil policy and fuel standards. It's got the crowd a bit restless, but it is important stuff. Just not sexy stuff. He's a 12-th generation Mexican-which is neatyou don't hear people say that much, but it's often true out west.

7:42 p.m. - And now Ken Salazar.

Ken Salazar, 57, is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. He previously served as a U.S. senator representing Colorado.

Salazar is generally not beloved by environmentalists, and is considered by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party to have overly close ties to the oil and gas industries and be too supportive of their demands, and not supportive enough of moves intended to reign in drilling and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

But Salazar has also caught heat from the right for toughening rules on oil leases for offshore drilling and slowing down drilling in Alaska.

7:38 p.m. - Carter looks great, and sounds strong, and the crowd is eating him up. I'm always amazed by how popular people become just by sticking around long enough. Carter is nationally beloved now, amazing when you consider his popularity 1980.

7:34 p.m. - Now on the screens, a video from former President Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter, 87, was the 39th President of the United States and before that served as governor of Georgia, his native state. Carter’s one-term administration (1977-1981) was besieged by difficult occurrences, including the 444-day Iranian hostage crisis, the energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 1980 U.S. boycott of the Summer Olympics.

He suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and left office a deeply unpopular ex-president. Today, though, he is revered by many for his work with Habitat For Humanity, his efforts to advance world peace and his general decency. Carter, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a naval officer for 10 years before entering politics, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

7:31 p.m. - The women with Pelosi (there are about 20 onstage) are addressing all kinds of issues, from the military to education, and beyond, all through the prism of the female mind and heart. 

And they're off with the theme, "Sisters are Doing it for Themselves."

7:24 p.m. - Pelosi and a cadre of female politicians are talking women's issues, to great effect.

And some issues perceived as women's that aren't really, like taking care of parents and health care in general, Medicare and aging.

7:18 p.m. - Nancy Pelosi is now on to speak, with a crowd of women.

7:16 p.m. - The crowd is watching a video on education policy now, and they're even excited by that.

7:14 p.m. - As Reid speaks, I'm noticing that the flavor of the conventions different than Tampa. Delegates do not mill on the floor, and are not standing or in the aisles. They are sitting politely in their seats, and even three hours before primetime, they are nearly here.

And they seem naturally more emotive that he Republican crowd was in Tampa. They are cheering and clapping, even for the less-than-fiery Reid.

Reid is slamming Mitt Romney, suggesting, as some of the early speakers did, that Romney is a shadow man who wants to hide from his record as the governor of Massachusetts.

But, he says, we do know who President Barack Obama is, because he does not hide.

7:10 p.m. - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has just begun to speak.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, 72, of Nevada, has served in the Senate since 1987. He is Mormon, and holds the highest federal elective office any member of The Church of Latter Days Saints has achieved. Reid has often dealt with controversy, based both on his conduct and his comments, and the shutdown of Yucca Mountain as a future nuclear waste repository by President Barack Obama, a $13 billion project in Nevada he (and many of his voters) opposed, is considered by many (me included) to have been an obvious move to help him defeat opponent Sharon Angle, which would make his the most expensive seat in Senate history, by a factor of at least 100.

7:07 p.m. - The Democrats have a lot of work ahead of them to convince the nation they deserve another four years. And the arena is cheering as Charlotte Mayor Anthony Fox hits the stage to signal the convention proper has begun.

The Democratic National Convention is kicking off with top speakers tonight to include First Lady Michelle Obama and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the first Hispanic keynoter at the DNC.

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