CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Judging from seat assignments at the Democratic National Convention, it'd be hard to guess which Washington-area delegation hails from one of the nation's bluest liberal strongholds.
While delegates from swing-state Virginia were just a stone's throw from center stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena, Democratic activists from the District and Maryland were asking for binoculars as they took in events from the arena's cheap seats.
"We couldn't be any further away; my back could literally touch the wall," lamented D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, pointing to the concrete slab that reminded delegates of their unenviable position in the arena. "But we're used to it. Every convention, we're pretty far away."
If anything, the layout here proves that seating is less about prominence in Democratic circles than Electoral College math.
Many of the delegations surrounding Virginia were from battleground states, including Colorado, New Hampshire and Florida. Despite their plethora of fundraisers and big-name liberal voices, the District and Maryland joined New York, New Jersey and other progressive bastions in the rafters.
"It's not cool," one Maryland delegate told The Washington Examiner. "They take advantage of us. We're the foot soldiers. We just want to be shown some love, ya know?"
But others weren't so bitter, choosing instead to soak in the atmosphere of the quadrennial Democratic gathering.
"I don't mind being all the way up here," said Jerome Foster, a retired military member and first-time delegate from Edgewood. "I like the view from above -- but yeah, I'm a glass half-full guy. We're still plenty excited here."
While Virginians were basking in the glow of the national spotlight -- just as their Republican counterparts did at the Tampa, Fla., convention -- they also face the challenge of re-electing Obama when they return home from the convention.
"This is extremely humbling, but it comes with a little bit of pressure," Jan Wilson, a lawyer from Loudoun County, said. "We're a swing district in a swing state. We're expected to get results."
One of the big questions hanging over the festivities here is whether Obama can match the excitement of 2008, when his historic convention helped propel a successful run to the White House. The president suffered a setback in that effort Wednesday when convention organizers, citing weather concerns, canceled plans to have him accept the Democratic nomination in an outdoor stadium.
Still, delegates said their enthusiasm for the president remains high.
"In 2008, we were making the change," Gaylene Kanoyton, a Hampton delegate, said. "2012 is personal. The line is clear. We have to protect the change. After the Republican convention, we know there is no gray area. I don't see a drop-off of support in this room."