The Democratic party's convention, which starts today in Charlotte, North Carolina, faces a small (or large) obstacle in that the recent Republican convention that wound up last Thursday, looms large.
Whatever plans organizers may have had to snipe at Mitt Romney's celebrated lack of caring for people, his remoteness or robot-like elitism, will likely be modified after the tearful testimonies at the Republican gathering of people whose dying children had been attended to, and befriended, by Romney over the years.
So much of the Republican love-in was positive for Romney, that in some ways Democratic nay-sayers are left with Clint Eastwood's controversial interview with an empty chair that he pretended was occupied by President Barack Obama.
Some view Eastwood's performance as a disaster, others as hilarious. Commentators and Democrats found it undignified and vaguely rude. Personally, I found it mindful of a Bob Newhart dialogue. Funny, accurate and devastating to Obama's image.
While Romney emerged from his convention as a hard-working, dedicated and decent man who has never failed at anything he's undertaken, Obama will have difficulty persuading even supporters that he works hard (few cabinet meetings in 2012, a record number of fundraisers, and plenty of golf).
Bill Clinton will formally nominate Obama, which has touches of irony, since Clinton's popularity outshines Obama's at the moment. Hillary Clinton won't be at the convention, even though she's been the administration's most successful star.
Apparently she's in New Zealand, which has some wondering if she's keeping her distance in case Obama loses in November, and she can move forward to be the candidate in 2016. Doubtful, but with the Clintons you never know.
Michelle Obama is due to speak, which the country will inevitably compare with Ann Romney's loving tribute to Romney. Michelle will likely branch into more substance like improving the diets of fat American kids.
Jimmy Carter is due to speak by video. He isn't attending, which is just as well since he rates high as one of the worst presidents in American history. Highlighting him at the convention would remind Americans that Ronald Reagan had to rescue America's reputation from his inept presidency.
Of a huge number of speakers lined up, most are unknown to Canadians (and Americans too, I'd bet). San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic convention and will be interesting to see if he'll galvanizing Hispanic voters.
From a distance, it would seem the Democrats are going to have to concentrate on Obama's charm and likeability, because he sure as hell has no record to run on -- another reason why Clint Eastwood's monologue was crushing and embarrassing to Obama-believers.
After next Thursday, the election campaign begins for real, when all the money raised by the two campaigns can start being spent.
Obama is counting on the sort of turn-out he got in 2008 -- but that ain't going to happen this time. Many independents and such who are disillusioned with Obama's four years are more likely not to vote than switch to Romney.
In 2008, North Carolina voted Democrats by a narrow 13,000 votes out of 4.5 million. Odds are that it will be closer this time, with the state possibly returning to the Republican fold. We'll know better as the week progresses.