"The Democrats have a more complicated coalition than the Republicans do," says Democratic operative Simon Rosenberg. "Managing that diversity is harder than what the Republicans have to do. I don't know that there's a danger; I just think the convention is going to feel and look different than the Republican one." The key, says Democratic pollster Drew Lieberman, is to ensure that "all of these people fit under the umbrella of the middle class."
Make the comparison, carefully. The most notable thing about the race thus far has been how static it is. Very soon after clinching the nomination, Romney pulled into a dead heat with the president and the top line poll numbers have remained relatively unchanged. What has changed markedly over the last few months, however, has been voters' view of Romney personally. A USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday showed Obama outpacing Romney in terms of likability, 54 percent to 31 percent.
That's the fruit of months of Democrats defining Romney because he didn't. But that's political background noise for most voters. The convention will actually have their attention, so they can't be wholly negative. "They want to keep the contrast in the mix but…it's hard to get up on national TV for [three] days and just have a Mitt Romney bashing session," says Lieberman.
Says Wasserman Schultz, "The way I would measure a successful convention for us next week is clearly articulating the two paths and the two visions."
Speak to the future. The flip side of the contrast strategy is Obama's positive vision. He needs to explain to voters where he wants to take the country. "Democrats need to make it more clear about what will happen if they get elected over the next four years," says Rosenberg.
That's tough for the reasons I mentioned above—Obama is a known quantity, making voters hard to surprise or persuade. But one lesson that has become clear over the years: Don't bet against Obama in a high stakes speech.