CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Barack Obama's Democratic convention kicks off Tuesday, with first lady Michelle Obama keynoting -- the first of a string of Democrats making the case for a second term.
Mrs. Obama arrived in Charlotte on Monday and checked out the podium at the Time Warner Cable Arena, where she will deliver her speech.
She taped an interview with Kal Penn -- the actor and former White House staffer -- to be part of an Obama convention livestream Thursday nigh -- after Obama delivers his acceptance speech. In skyboxes overlooking the arena, Mrs. Obama also did interviews with Entertainment Tonight, E! News and Inside Edition for broadcast on Tuesday.
She also sent out this tweet, referring to daughters Malia and Sasha: "Tomorrow starts a new school year for a lot of families, ours included."
Because school just started, the girls will not be in Charlotte Tuesday for their Mom's speech, but they will be here on Thursday.
President Obama Tuesday continues on his swing-state "Road to Charlotte" tour -- hitting Norfolk, Va., as the Romney-Ryan ticket is bringing out a new theme they think is particularly potent in trying to drive undecided voters to their side: Are you "better off" than you were four years ago.
Asked to react to the "better off" strategy, Obama campaign spokesman Jen Psaki said, is there "more we need to do? Absolutely," and the president, she said, is speaking about that every day.
Monday was the unofficial first day of the convention, marked by a downtown street fair, CarolinaFest and meetings of the various Democratic constituent groups -- giving downtown a festive feel -- before afternoon thunderstorms drenched visitors.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn are among the Tuesday speakers.
Major donors will experience a very different convention than rank-and-file delegates who will fill the arena on Tuesday and Wednesday night and the Bank of America stadium on Thursday. Besides getting credentials to the sessions they also have access to the best hotels and VIP finance lounges -- and finance staff who will provide concierge-type services for them.
While VIPs are discouraged from using limo services -- downtown will be crowded with lots of security -- there will be an Obama Victory Fund "Finance Fun Bus."
The best VIP perks go to those who donated at least $75,800 to the joint Obama campaign/Democratic National Committee fund-raising committee with more perks going to donors who have a track record of giving at least $122,400 from Feb., 2009 to June 1 or who raised $350,000 from Jan. 1, 2011 through June 1.
For those who raised between $500,000 to $1 million between Jan. 1, 2011 and June 1 for the committee the Chicago Sun-Times has learned the perk package includes:
■ A Monday "podium preview for a 'sneakpeek'" of the convention hall followed by a desert reception at the FrontCourt club, a "fine-dining" restaurant at the arena.
"Attendees will have the opportunity to stand behind the official podium of the Democratic National Convention," according to a perk book published for the Obama Victory Fund "finance guest."
■ On Tuesday all the major donors and fund-raisers are invited to an "inside track" briefing with major Obama team honchos.
■ Former President Bill Clinton keynotes Wednesday night and the VIPS are invited to an after party with Clinton running from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m.
■ On Thursday, Mrs. Obama plus Obama senior staff preside over a 10 a.m. breakfast briefing at the Westin Hotel, one of the most exclusive events.
After Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accept the nomination, Biden will headline the "Victory Lane" after party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.