CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The first night of the Democratic National Convention was characterized by relentless attacks from a slew of prominent Democrats aimed at Republican nominee Mitt Romney. It came ahead of a speech from First Lady Michelle Obama, who capped the night with a more upbeat and personal appeal.
“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like or who we love,” Michelle Obama said.
Convention keynoter and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro struck a similar tone before lacing into Romney. Castro, considered by many to be a rising star in the Democratic Party, told his family’s story—a grandmother who came to the United States from Mexico in search of a better future.
“My family’s story isn’t special,” said Castro. “What’s special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation.”
Castro went on to slam Romney as a candidate who “just doesn’t get it.” Making several references to the “Romney-Ryan budget,” Castro told the convention crowd that the GOP ticket’s fiscal policies will cut public education and Medicare.
“It doesn’t just pummel the middle class—it dismantles it,” Castro said.
Attacks over Romney’s tax returns were also front and center on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), who last month suggested that Romney hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years, told convention delegates, “We can only imagine what secrets would be revealed if he released a dozen years of tax returns, like his father did.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland picked up the economic attack, in a speech Republicans quickly labeled class warfare. In Tuesday’s most fiery speech, Strickland hit Romney’s overseas investments, telling the crowd “Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport.”
The Romney campaign pushed back against Tuesday’s messaging by recalling Obama’s 2004 convention keynote and accusing the Obama campaign of promoting “divisive politics.”
“It was just eight years ago Barack Obama’s keynote address promised a politics of hope and a rejection of those ‘who are preparing to divide us.’” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. “But that Barack Obama is nowhere to be found now that Americans aren’t better off, with stagnant unemployment, lower incomes, and a poverty rate on track to hit its highest rate since the 1960s.”
The persistent Romney attacks kicked off a convention in which Democrats are searching for a way to knock Romney, while still offering their own vision for the next four years. Earlier in the day, Obama pollster Joel Benenson said the race for the White House “is already locked in” for the most part, noting that true undecided voters likely number in just “the high single digits.” That attitude fit with a night that was largely aimed at energizing the party’s base.
Dave Nyczepir contributed.