CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Two blocs of voters - Hispanics and women - will be front and center when the Democrats formally open their national convention Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event will feature a rising Hispanic figure in the Democratic Party - San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro - as well as first lady Michelle Obama.
President Barack Obama leads his opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, among likely voters who are either Hispanic or female. But the latest polls show Mr. Romney receiving a modest gain in support - to 30% - among Hispanics following the Republican convention last week in Tampa, Florida.
Republicans featured several high-profile Hispanics, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.
Julian Castro ready for prime time
Democrats have their own rising star delivering the Tuesday evening keynote address - San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
And while Castro told VOA he believes the destiny of the Hispanic community is interwoven with the destiny of the United States, he said he hopes to reach a broader audience as he lays out the main themes for the week.
“Tonight I'll be speaking to all Americans with the message that I believe will resonate with all Americans: how America became the land of opportunity in the first place, how we need to keep it the land of opportunity and why President Obama is making the investments that are necessary to do that.”
Castro's life story features many similarities with that of the president's. He is the son of a single mother and a graduate of Harvard Law School. He also has had a meteoric rise in politics. He is the youngest mayor of a top 50 U.S. city and is listed as one of Time magazine's “40 under 40” rising American politicians this year.
First lady will take spotlight
Aside from Castro's keynote, first lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker Tuesday evening. And just as Republican nominee Mitt Romney's wife Ann reached out to female voters in her speech, the first lady is expected to do the same.
Elaine Brye is a military mom from Ohio, a must-win state for both candidates in this year's election. Mrs. Obama invited Brye to a state dinner last March after receiving a Christmas card from her thanking the Obamas for their support of the troops.
Now Brye is tasked with introducing the first lady, which she said is “just crazy.” If the Democrats hope to humanize the president and his family to voters in this convention, Brye - who said she is not politically active - certainly has the view they want to project.
“I'm just speaking as a mom to a mom, somebody who has a heart and somebody who just is a warm and caring person,and that has been demonstrated,” said Brye.
Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak Wednesday, and President Obama will take the stage in an outdoor stadium Thursday night.