Tampa, Fla., was like the Republican National Convention delegation -- older, more experienced, less excitable. Tampa has hosted the Super Bowl; the city had lots of space and nothing to prove. There was a been there/done that feel to the entire affair. Tampa Bay is used to welcoming visitors and has plenty of nice hotels to host them.
You say a hurricane is coming? No worries. They laid out some sandbags, closed up for a night and started up a day later. No need to rush a convention. People don't come to Florida to be in a hurry.
Charlotte, N.C., is a younger, more eager town, and it drew a younger, more jazzed set of delegates. The chance to host the Democratic National Convention delegation put the city in the big time. Volunteers dotted the convention center, greeting passers-by. They went out of their way to make visitors feel welcome.
Like a young family, the city didn't have a lot of room (as in hotel rooms), and that made for lots of griping.
The Obama campaign's decision to open up President Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech to non-delegate volunteers by staging the event at the larger Bank of America Stadium turned out to be impetuous. After the convention czars canceled the venue on account of possible thunderstorms, Republicans were thankful that they then could claim Obama could not draw enough volunteers to fill the stadium's 70,000 seats.
The decision angered the locals. As the Charlotte Observer's Taylor Batten later griped, the Democratic National Convention Committee has a pattern: "Make big plans (and) then scale them back."
In Tampa, Mitt Romney told the country that instead of going with the thrill of hope and change, voters should ask themselves whether they're better off than they were four years ago. He issued a simple proposition: Go with the candidate who can make the economy work for your family.
Obama was a changed man. When he spoke at his first two conventions, he arrived buoyed by promise and impatience -- a young man in a hurry to change the world. In Charlotte, Obama no longer played a young man's game. He carried the baggage of governance.
Thus, the president told his people that change takes time and that it isn't easy.
Ann Romney was the yin to her husband's yang. She was solid and warm. Most of all, she seemed happy as she delivered a speech that lit up the convention audience.
After Tampa, Romney predicted that the Democrats' convention wasn't "going to be as happy" as the Republicans' was. That certainly applied in the wife department.
Michelle Obama was the yin to her husband's yin; they're both strong and fierce and smart and caring. She delivered a speech that fired up Charlotte delegates. At 63 and 48, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama represent the best of two very different generations.
Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, was strong and fierce and smart and tough. In 2012, he was there to do what Obama did in Boston in 2004 -- to call out the wrongheadedness of the administration. As Obama was for the Dems then, Ryan was the GOP breakout star now.
Ryan's Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, was not a rising star -- nor did Team Obama want him to be. The campaign didn't even give him a good speaking slot. Biden was happy anyway; he just kept talking and talking his way into prime time.
John McCain also did not rate prime time in Tampa, even though four years ago, he was the GOP nominee. This year, he spoke Wednesday at 7 p.m., when most of the delegates weren't listening.
John Kerry, the Democrats' past nominee, enjoyed the floor's full attention Thursday night. He delivered perhaps his best speech in years, and he deftly jabbed Romney for not mentioning Afghanistan in his acceptance speech. "No nominee for president should ever fail in the midst of a war to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech."
Romney should have mentioned Afghanistan in Tampa.
Kerry is the candidate who gave Obama his big break. Who will be the next rising star?
The GOP's future could be seen in Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose grandfather stood behind a bar "so that one day" Rubio "could stand behind a podium." The Democrats' future could be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, whose grandmother wielded a mop so that he "could hold this microphone." Castro's daughter, Carina, stole the show as she tossed her hair when she saw her face on the Jumbotron screen. 2052?