By LIZ SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats plan to hold their 2012 nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C., selecting to fete President Barack Obama in a newly competitive presidential battleground in the conservative-leaning South.
The selection signaled that Obama plans to aggressively compete in traditionally Republican states that he won during his first presidential campaign by cobbling together a diverse cross-section of voters. And the apparent theme - The People's Convention - indicated that the president will try to rekindle the grass-roots flavor of his ground-breaking 2008 bid.
In choosing Charlotte for the party's 46th convention, the Democratic National Committee rejected bids by a trio of Midwestern cities hit hard by the recession: Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.
First Lady Michelle Obama disclosed the selection to campaign supporters in an e-mail Tuesday, another step in the president's recent efforts to ramp up his re-election preparations.
"Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an 'up by the bootstraps' mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South," she said. "Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue."
She signaled that the gathering would be "a grassroots convention for the people" and promised to finance the convention differently than has been done in the past but provided no specifics on either point.
"This will be a different convention, for a different time," she said.
A personally popular incumbent, Obama is virtually assured of being nominated again; he faces no serious primary challenger.
In an e-mail to backers, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine answered speculation that Obama would choose a different running mate for 2012, saying the party was looking forward to nominating both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term.
Democrats will hold their convention the week of Sept. 3, 2012. A week earlier, Republicans will nominate their candidate in Tampa, Fla., another important presidential state, after a primary fight to sort out a potentially crowded GOP field.
North Carolina officials estimate the convention will attract an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 delegates, media members and political leaders.
"The economic and reputational significance of being chosen for this honor cannot be overstated," said Duke Energy Corp. CEO Jim Rogers, a co-chairman of the Charlotte In 2012 organizing committee.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement that the event will boost North Carolina's economy while showcasing the state.
"Today's decision is fantastic news for North Carolina regardless of your political party," she said.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak expressed disappointment that his city was bypassed, but added that the decision was based primarily on politics. Rybak said he thinks the party chose a southern state as part of its strategy to get Obama re-elected.
"This was, frankly, a political decision about where to renominate the president. I want to get him re-elected too, so I'll defer to their judgment on it," said Rybak.
Rybak said Minneapolis will bid for other political conventions in the future, and will host the Senior Games in 2015 along with St. Paul and Bloomington. The Senior Games, an Olympic-style competition, attract as many as 35,000 athletes who are 50 and older.
MPR reporter Dan Olson contributed to this report, along with Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C.