Mitt Romney failed to achieve a bounce from the Republican convention, according to a poll published Sunday, lifting Democrats' spirits as they arrived in Charlotte for their own gathering.
Although Obama's campaign team played down the chances of Obama securing a poll bounce from the Democratic convention, beginning Tuesday, it is privately hoping he can open up a significant lead after months in which the two have been tied in the polls. The White House election is on 6 November.
Television coverage of conventions usually guarantees a poll bump, but the Republican convention was disrupted by hurricane Isaac, and the convention itself was relatively subdued.
Polls put Romney ahead by two percentage points on Thursday and, after delivering a competent but uninspired speech on Thursday evening, one point on Friday.
By yesterday, a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll showed Obama with a narrow lead, 44% to 43%.
But Obama faces his own problems this week, with his own convention cut down from four days to three because of a cash shortage, unhappiness among the party's main financial backers – the unions – and widespread disillusionment with his presidency.
Furthermore, like the Republicans last week, he is facing problems with the weather.
Six things to watch for this week:
1. Obama's stadium appearance.
Thunderstorms are forecast for Charlotte this week, which shouldn't be a problem Tuesday and Wednesday when the convention is being held indoors.
But the weather could be a problem on Thursday, when Obama is scheduled to end with a rally at the 73,000-seat Bank of America stadium.
Bank of America itself is an unfortunate name to be associated with, given the unpopularity of bankers, but the Democrats have yet another problem.
The big question is whether Obama still has the drawing power that he had in 2008 to fill the stadium. Republicans question whether he is capable of it, suggesting the stadium smacks of delusions of grandeur, just like the Greek columns backdrop he used for his 2008 Denver convention speech, also in a stadium.
The Democratic organisers were unequivocal this weekend, insisting that it will be filled to capacity, and that, in the event of rain, they have a contingency plan.
"We're confident we'll be full," Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman, told the Hill magazine. "We have a great ground operation in North Carolina and we've registered more voters than any other state. Our goal is to leave North Carolina better than we came in."
2. Bill Clinton's keynote speech.
Other than Obama's speech formally accepting the party's presidential nomination, the main attraction among the speakers will be Bill Clinton's keynote address on Wednesday night.
The former president, still one of the best-loved figures in the Democratic party and one of the best orators in US politics, had harsh words for Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries and caucuses, and he has a tendency to say – at least sometimes – what he really thinks when questioned by journalists.
But the former president is also a party loyalist, meaning he will almost certainly praise Obama. He also has a personal interest in winning over the convention, preparing the ground for another possible run by wife Hillary Clinton in 2016.
He remains one of the best political orators in the world, and could help lift Democrats who feel Obama has not done enough.
3. Other speakers.
Apart from Clinton, speakers who will attract attention during the week include First Lady Michelle Obama, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, former presidential candidate John Kerry, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, and, via a video link, former president Jimmy Carter.
There will be a lot of media attention around Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who has switched sides to back Obama. There will be a lot of media interest too in Sandra Fluke, the student denounced as "a slut" by conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh when, in testimony to Congress, she spoke about the availability of contraception. She is to deliver a speech from the platform, a chance to highlight differences between the Democrats and Republicans in their approach to women's rights.
There is a slot too for Elizabeth Warren, fighting to win back from Republican Scott Brown the Massachusetts senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy. A victory for her could help the Democrats retain senate control.
4. Unions unhappy with North Carolina.
Tampa turned out to be a bad choice for the Republicans, given it was the middle of the hurricane season. Charlotte too is a gamble for the Democrats and, like Tampa, may turn out to be a mistake. The thinking was that North Carolina, though it went to Obama in 2008, was an extremely close race, and that holding the convention in Charlotte would help buttress Democratic chances in November.
Since the decision was made, polls show North Carolina has returned to the Republican fold and is no longer regarded as a toss-up state.
Furthermore, Charlotte could be a mistake – even though it seems to be a more pleasant place to visit than Tampa – because the decision has angered unions.
North Carolina is a 'right-to-work' state, one of those that introduced legislation that severely restricts union rights. The unions have scaled back their involvement in the convention, abandoning most of the rallies, parties, concerts and other events they fund, and only sending small delegations.
Richard Trumka, leader of one of the biggest union groups, the AFL-CIO, in a letter to other union officials, wrote: "We will not be making major monetary contributions to the convention or the host committee for events or activities around the convention." The money would be channelled instead to political grassroots activities elsewhere.
5. Disillusionment among party activists.
There is disillusionment too among the party grassroots, where a feeling persists that Obama should have done more during his first term, especially in the first year when the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House.
These activists are disappointed that he has not fulfilled campaign promises such as the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
The question this week is how many people are prepared to go out and work for Obama – knocking on doors, canvassing, and otherwise getting the vote out.
The Republicans are banking on more of their base being fired up than that of the Democrats. They might prove right, but it could also be that Democrats will be sufficiently motivated by the prospect of a Romney presidency to come out anyway.
Events in Charlotte may help demonstrate how widespread the disaffection is among the party grassroots.
6. Public disenchantment with Obama's presidency.
Beyond avowed Democrats, there is a wider disenchantment among voters.
The biggest issue among the electorate is the sluggish economy, with unemployment stuck at just over 8%.
No matter how good a week Obama has in Charlotte, the latest unemployment figures come out the morning after his convention speech, and economists are not expecting any major positive change.
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