Charlotte will host Democrats in 2012

The Democratic National Committee announced the selection of Charlotte on Tuesday, rejecting bids by a trio of Midwestern cities hit hard by the recession — Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — in favor of the more economically stable North Carolin

Chuck Burton

Palmetto State Democrats learned Tuesday that they won't have to travel far for their 2012 National Convention, just across the state line to Charlotte.

"It's very exciting to South Carolinians and South Carolina Democrats in particular," State Democratic Chairwoman Carol Fowler said. "We're thrilled that the convention will be in one of our suburbs."

Charlotte beat out St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Cleveland, as Obama's political advisers hope the choice will ensure that North Carolina remains in their column when November 2012 rolls around.

Obama bested Republican John McCain by a percentage of 50-49 votes cast in North Carolina in 2008, a margin of just over 14,000 more votes out of 4.3 million cast.

McCain beat Obama in South Carolina by 54-45.

While no South Carolina Democrats predicted the proximity of the convention -- set for the week of Sept. 3, 2012 -- will swing South Carolina into Obama's column this time around, they said it surely will help rally their ranks.

"It's absolutely grand," said Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman George Tempel, who hopes to attend the convention as a delegate. "I think its proximity will fire us up and make us more eager to move away from the one-party system South Carolina has."

In an e-mail to Democratic supporters, first lady Michelle Obama referred to the 2012 gathering as "the People's Convention" and praised Charlotte as "a city marked by its Southern charm, warm hospitality, and an 'up by the bootstraps' mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest- growing in the South."

She called the city "vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity ... (and) home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue."

S.C. New Democrat President Phil Noble said the Charlotte convention "is the best news for South Carolina Democrats since ... Andy Jackson was elected president in 1828. With tens of thousands of Democrats, and the global media converging just a stone's throw away from President Jackson's birthplace, South Carolina Democrats will have their voices heard on the national and international stage." Jackson was born in the Waxhaws area of the Carolinas, near the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

Noble said the convention will help the party build a root-and-branch reform movement that could make South Carolina a competitive two-party state again.

Jack Bass, an author and active Democrat, said the convention will lead to wider media coverage in the state, and that's likely to stimulate Democratic interest and voter turnout. "The enhanced coverage will also arouse interest among independent voters," he said, adding it also will stir up the state's Republicans.

State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, who has gone to many national conventions, was less enthusiastic.

"I talked to three senators and one House member, and I don't think nobody cares," Ford said. "They're not enthused, either way."

And Republicans were even more unaffected. State GOP Executive Director Joel Sawyer said, "We're happy to take their money, and frankly not too worried about them taking our votes in return."

The Charlotte convention will mark the first time a major political party has held its convention in North Carolina, and it's the first major convention in the Carolinas since the Democrats convened in Charleston in 1860, a convention that splintered the party and ultimately led to Republican Abraham Lincoln's victory.

The Republican convention is scheduled to be held in Tampa, Fla., the week before.