CHARLOTTE (CBS) — It was Illinois night at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, as familiar faces from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Gov. Pat Quinn to First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage to speak to the crowd, as Illinois’ delegates sat front row.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports Michelle Obama had the crowd electrified as she delivered the night’s keynote speech.
Michelle Obama is very popular, a huge asset to the president. Tuesday night, as she spoke about her family, and Emanuel talked about the early days of the Obama administration, there emerged a complete portrait of President Barack Obama growing in office.
“After so many struggles, and triumphs, and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined; I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, recalled their first day on the job after Obama became president.
“On that first day, I said, ‘Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?’ He looked at me in the eye – with that look he usually reserved just for his chief of staff – ‘Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them,’” Emanuel said.
Virtually every minute of every day early on in his presidency, Obama was with either his chief of staff, or his wife. They watched, as he tackled unimaginable challenges – like an auto industry on the verge of collapse.
“When Mitt Romney was willing to turn his back on Dayton, Akron and Toledo, the President said, ‘I’ve got your back,’” Emanuel said in his speech on Tuesday.
But it was Iraq war veteran and Illinois congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth who brought down the house, when she said crewmates had her back when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq.
“Even though they were wounded themselves, and insurgents were nearby, they simply refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today. And, ultimately, that is what this election is about,” Duckworth said.
Afterward, Duckworth said her speech was “electric, it was energizing, and it was great that we had a moment tonight to talk about veterans, and supporting our military men and women.”
Duckworth, and Emanuel, and Quinn – who also spoke at the convention on Tuesday – didn’t have to look very far for encouragement, as the Illinois delegation sat in the front row, directly in front of the podium.
“It was exhilarating, it was fun to see all the people from Illinois, and smiling faces,” Quinn said. “Talking about President Obama’s pretty easy.”
Emanuel, who decided to cut short his visit to the DNC – although insisted the decision had nothing to do with a looming teachers’ strike in Chicago – said contract negotiations with Chicago Public School teachers were making “good progress.”
He would not, however, predict whether a strike would be avoided.
“It takes two parties. I believe that when you look at the kids I saw today [on the first day of school for most public schools] … you can’t walk away from those kids, they’re great kids,” Emanuel said.
He also insisted his visit to the DNC was not a distraction from the contract talks with teachers.
“No, I mean, first of all, as former chief of staff, and as mayor, this is not the first time I multi-tasked,” Emanuel said.
The mayor later joined his wife and daughters to watch the First Lady’s speech with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. The mayor will obviously keep a close eye on the continuing teachers’ talks, before his planned return to Chicago late Wednesday night.