Now that the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa is history, the political junkies and undecided voters among us get to take the weekend off, before we immerse ourselves in still more hoopla and impassioned rhetoric at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4-6.
In contrast to the Republicans, who were forced to trim their original four-day slate of events because of Hurricane Isaac, the Democrats opted from the start to go with a compressed three-day schedule. But as the Republicans did, they're still bringing out the big guns. Tuesday night will feature a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama, while Wednesday night's headliner will be former President Bill Clinton. Thursday will feature a campaign call-to-arms by Vice President Joe Biden, and climax with an address by President Obama.
Here are five easy, informative ways to not only immerse yourself in the event, but also to climb to the virtual podium and share your views with millions of others - all without leaving your living room.
- Broadcast and cable TV. As they did with the GOP convention, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS will air compressed live one-hour coverage of Tuesday through Thursday starting at 10 p.m. Additionally, ABC daily newscasts such as Good Morning America and World News Tonight will broadcast from Charlotte, as will CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News and the NBC Evening News. NBC's Today will opt for a split broadcast, alternating between Savannah Guthrie in Charlotte and Matt Lauer back in New York. On cable, Fox News will offer one hour of America's Election Headquarters with Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two hours on Thursday. CNN will offer evening coverage starting Monday at 6 p.m., while MSNBC will telecast Hardball with Chris Matthews from Charlotte from outside the convention hall, with full coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Comedy Central and Current TV will provide more offbeat coverage, and MTV will take a break from reality shows and rock music to cover President Obama's address on Thursday. For the most complete, spin-free coverage, though, try C-SPAN-1.
- Webcasts. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and C-SPAN are live-streaming the convention, virtually in its entirety, on their websites. For a totally unfiltered, you-are-there glimpse, PBS, with the help of UStream, is offering both a streaming webcast of the proceedings and live webcams of the convention floor and surrounding areas.
- Social networks. If you're on Facebook, the Democrats' official convention page offers a steady stream of updates, photos and video. (Unlike the GOP, the Democrats aren't coaxing you to install a Facebook app that will mine your personal contacts.) You can also follow selected events on the convention's YouTube channel and official Twitter account. You also can check out Twitter's election index, which compares how much traffic is being garnered by each candidate.
- Mobile apps. The Democrats have spent a lot of time developing elaborate multimedia apps for the iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices. Here's a video explaining them.
- Satellite Radio. SiriusXM offers a wealth of convention coverage on its various channels, ranging from complete coverage of convention speeches to a dizzying array of commentary programs. Here's a rundown.
And don't forget about the AARP website . Election 2012 will post updates on the proceedings, so check in here often. And for a lively exchange about what's going on in Charlotte, weigh in on the Democratic and GOP Conventional Wisdom thread on the AARP Discussion Board. Just remember the community code: Be nice!
-Patrick J. Kiger