Minnesota's DNC delegates ready for fall campaignby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After hearing their party's standard bearer, President Barack Obama, ask for a second term last night, Minnesota's delegates at the Democratic National Convention left the arena motivated for a fall campaign fight.
"I think it's about whether we want to be the country that sees a house is on fire and runs in to pull the kids out, or whether we want to be the person who wants to tackle everyone to get out the door first," said Jessica Rohloff of Willmar. "I think it's a real clear choice."
The delegates also gave out a loud cheer when Obama praised the decision by Marvin Windows executives not to lay off any employees during the economic downturn.
His speech capped off a week where Democrats had to tout the president's record at a time when most Americans are unhappy with the country's direction. It will now be up to many of those who were in the arena to determine whether Obama serves another four years.
They sounded ready, chanting, "Fired up! Ready to go!"
On Thursday morning, before Obama's speech, Minnesota delegates posed for one final picture. Throughout the week, they heard speeches from members of Minnesota's congressional delegation and other national politicians. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota told the Minnesotans that political conventions are like revivals.
"You go to a revival and you feel the same way walking out of a tent," Daschle said. "You just feel you're charged up and ready to go."
A key test for Democrats is whether they can deliver that type of renewal for the Obama campaign. Trevor Oliver, a delegate from St. Paul, says they can.
"I think the first test was whether Democrats are just as excited and we've proven that we are. The discussion has been about this base and that base. I think we've proven over the past two days and we'll prove tonight that we're just as fired up as the opposition," he said.
Oliver and other delegates will play a crucial role in the next two months, delivering the message and energy from the convention back to their neighborhoods. Ananth Shankar, a first-time delegate from Maplewood, says some voters may not be engaged yet, but he said it's his goal to spread the word for Obama before Election Day.
"There is perhaps a little bit less enthusiasm, but I think that can be changed because is all it takes is for people like us to go out and spread the message," he said. "When they hear the message over the next few weeks, they'll get as enthusiastic as 2008."
While polling suggests Minnesota is likely to keep alive its 40 year streak of voting for Democrats for president, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin is urging volunteers to take nothing for granted. He says they will help Democrats keep Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat, and they could help the party win back a majority in the U.S. House. Voters will also decide who controls the state Legislature.
"I think it's incumbent on us as DFLers to take that energy from the convention and really mobilize people to a call of action to get them organized and get them to the polls on November 6," he said.
That work can be more difficult depending on the region of the state. Democrats are looking to boost turnout in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and other strongholds. Republicans have traditionally done better in the suburbs and rural Minnesota. But delegate Paul Schwarz of Appleton says he thinks Obama will do well in rural Minnesota as seniors look at his record.
"There are certain pockets where his message resonates," he said. "We have an older population that identifies more with the president's message. The older population gets that when you go through a tough time like a Great Depression or the Great Recession that it takes a lot longer than three or four years to get out of this mess. They get that"
Many Minnesota delegates left the Republican National Convention last week disgruntled over the treatment of their preferred candidate, Texas Congressman Ron Paul. These Democrats don't have that problem. They're solidly behind Barack Obama's run for a second term.
- Morning Edition, 09/07/2012, 8:41 a.m.