Now that Republicans have wrapped up the work of nominating the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan presidential ticket, Democrats take the stage Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., looking to tamp down the boost a rival party usually receives from its national convention and turn the focus back on re-electing President Barack Obama.
For Hawaii delegates heading to the Democratic National Convention, that means seeing through the "smoke and mirrors" of last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, said state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria.
"The Republican mantra is to head on back to where we were over the past several years," he said. "We’re not about to give the keys back to the people who drove the car over the cliff. … I think we’re confident that the vast majority of citizens in America understand this."
Galuteria, the Senate majority leader, is among 38 delegates from Hawaii headed to the DNC. The delegation also includes Gov. Neil Abercrombie, state party Chairman Dante Carpenter, former Gov. John Waihee, state Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Majority Floor Leader Cindy Evans.
But the only Hawaii Democrat scheduled to take the stage in Charlotte has not even been elected to the office she is seeking.
Former City Councilwoman and state legislator Tulsi Gabbard, the favorite to win Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District seat, has been tapped to speak as part of a segment titled "The Women of the House." The segment will be led by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, along with a half-dozen sitting congresswomen and at least one other congressional hopeful, Joyce Beatty of Ohio.
"I will have the opportunity to speak about our troops, our service members, our veterans, military families and the immeasurable sacrifices that they make," said Gabbard, a Hawaii Army National Guard captain. "I look forward to making Hawaii proud."
Gabbard is not a voting delegate, and as such will not vote on the nomination or the party platform.
Her segment is scheduled to air between 1 to 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday, opening night of the three-day convention.
Obama’s formal acceptance speech is set for Thursday, closing night.
Unlike four years ago, after a contentious primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton, there are no signs of internal discord, with the party firmly behind the ticket of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. All of Hawaii’s delegates are pledged to Obama.
By contrast, RNC leaders faced criticism from supporters of former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who staged a walkout on Day Two of their convention over a rules change that led to half of Paul’s supporters from Maine not being seated.
The GOP also dealt with fallout from an appearance by actor Clint Eastwood in which the Academy Award winner spoke to an empty chair representing Obama.
In between, speakers took turns both praising their ticket and taking shots at the current administration.
Democrats say they can give as good as they get, but they expect their convention to de-emphasize personalities and over-the-top rhetoric in favor of focusing on Obama’s record and his vision for the future.
"What we’re trying to do is protect the values of women, senior citizens and the middle class, if there’s any left," Carpenter said. "We’d like to see an expansion of the middle class, if at all possible. That’s our ultimate goal."
Galuteria said he expects the president to strike an inspirational tone.
"The fact of the matter is that President Obama has done so much for us that we’re going to have to ensure that we continually remind the American people of the things he’s done over the past four years," Galuteria said.
"Although the Republicans say that little was accomplished, he was given an economy that was decimated," then faced four years of the Republicans blocking progress in Congress, he said.
"So when they say that he hasn’t done anything over the past four years, well, you’re looking at people who were obstructionist from the very beginning."
Correction: State Rep. Cindy Evans is House majority floor leader. A previous version of this story identified her as House majority leader.