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Democrats kick off 'most open' convention in Charlotte

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Photo - First Lady Michelle Obama, right, appears on the stage with actor Kal Penn for filming a campaign video, as a Secret Service agent watches the floor at the Democratic National Convention inside Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
First Lady Michelle Obama, right, appears on the stage with actor Kal Penn for filming a campaign video, as a Secret Service agent watches the floor at the Democratic National Convention inside Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Democratic National Convention organizers have promised "the most open and accessible convention in history," but they appear to have carved out an exception when it comes to telling anyone the daily schedule.

Aside from releasing the names of about half a dozen keynote speakers -- including obvious names like President Obama and Vice President Biden -- DNC officials have refused to say who will speak and when this week.

The convention officially opens Tuesday, but party officials said they wouldn't release the names of the day's speakers until after 10 p.m.

Why the secrecy?

"We don't really know," a press aide told The Washington Examiner, directing inquiries to the website schedule, apparently last updated in February.

The mystery behind the daily DNC schedule stands in stark contrast to the Republican National Convention, which publicized most of its schedule of speakers well in advance. Even when Hurricane Isaac forced the cancellation of the first day of the RNC, organizers were on the phone with reporters the next day, with a complete and revised schedule.

The notable exception was Thursday, when the party included a slot for an unknown speaker to precede Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's acceptance speech. The mystery speaker, who turned out to be actor Clint Eastwood, created an incredible buzz that perhaps DNC officials hope to create here in Charlotte, said Democratic strategist Christopher Hahn.

"I guess the Democrats are going to have a convention with many mystery speakers," Hahn said. "I think the plan is to keep people waiting, keep people guessing and keep them interested in what is going to happen next."

The speaker who is creating the most anticipation so far, however, is former President Bill Clinton, who DNC officials have revealed will speak Wednesday.

Clinton has apparently not allowed the Obama camp to review his remarks, and some are wondering whether his speech will boost Obama's re-election bid or be more complimentary of Clinton himself.

"Clinton is always a double-edged sword," GOP strategist Alex Vogel told The Examiner. "The upside is obvious. He's an immensely talented human charisma machine. The problem for Obama is that a great Clinton speech simply reminds everyone what it's like to have a competent president in the White House."

Convention officials have disclosed that Tuesday's big speaker will be first lady Michelle Obama, who is hugely popular in the party in no small part because of her ability to articulate the party's vision.

She'll be preceded on the stage by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will deliver the convention's keynote address. The Harvard Law School alum is a rising star in the Democratic Party and is expected to help shore up the critical Latino vote.

Other speakers on the list include Charlie Crist, the former moderate Republican governor of Florida who switched parties when he lost the GOP Senate primary in 2010.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will speak just before Obama delivers his acceptance speech Thursday.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner