September 5, 2012 5:24 PM
Wednesday night Democratic convention speakers are prime GOP targets
(CBS News) CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Democratic National Convention's featured speaker Wednesday night -- former President Bill Clinton -- knows a thing or two about right-wing criticism. But it's the rest of the Wednesday night line up that has come under the most fire from Republicans this year.
Wednesday night's program includes progressives who have become prime targets of Republicans, like Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke. The Democrats will also defend their record on free enterprise with several businessmen -- one of whom has ties to the Solyndra controversy. Ahead of their appearances at the Time Warner Cable Arena, conservatives are launching attacks against all three.
Pelosi and Warren
One of Congress' most recognizable liberals, San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi, will take the stage this evening around 7 p.m. ET. Pelosi is so disdained by conservatives that her name is regularly invoked when conservatives want to cast other Democrats as too liberal and wrong-headed. The conservative outside group Club for Growth this week launched an ad attacking Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly for voting for Pelosi to serve as speaker of the House.
While Pelosi has long been a favorite GOP target, conservatives have more recently zeroed in on Elizabeth Warren, the Senate candidate challenging Republican Sen. Scott Brown in the blue state of Massachusetts. Warren has been hailed as a champion of the left for helping President Obama establish the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, which was set up as part of the Wall Street regulatory haul.
The liberal grassroots group the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) supports Warren so strongly that it collected $1 million in donations from its members to back her campaign. PCCC members are gathering together to watch Warren's speech at around 10 p.m. ET.
A senior campaign official tells CBS News that Warren tonight will talk about "how for too long the system was rigged against the middle class." Republicans, aiming to defeat Warren in the competitive Massachusetts race, are interpreting that message as "Occupy" extremism.
The Republican National Committee Wednesday afternoon emailed reporters that Warren's appearance at the DNC "is a reminder of Obama's belief in the government over individuals and free enterprise." The RNC has in the past month used an out-of-context quote from Mr. Obama -- "you didn't build that" -- to cast the president as anti-business. They said today that Mr. Obama's views are a "watered down" version of Warren's beliefs.
Democrats' private sector allies
The Democrats this evening have several businessmen lined up to counter the "you didn't build that" narrative.
Jim Sinegal, the former CEO of Costco, will specifically take on that line of attack in his speech, according to the Obama campaign. Sinegal will support the president's message that a strong government can help drive the private sector. As a CEO, the campaign said, Sinegal will say he needed a well-educated workforce to keep his company running.
Other private sector speakers include Bill Butcher, the founder of the Virginia-based Port City Brewing Company, and Austin Ligon, the former CEO of CarMax. Ligon will talk about how the auto bailout helped not just car manufacturers, but businesses up and down the supply chain.
Tom Steyer, a partner at the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, is also speaking. His presence will serve as a counter to Romney, who founded the private equity firm Bain Capital. Tonight's lineup also features workers who were allegedly undercut due to the business practices of Bain Capital.
Republicans are drawing attention to one more private sector speaker -- venture capitalist Steve Westly of the Westly Group, who is speaking close to 6 p.m. ET. Westly, who has a history in California politics, has strong ties to the Obama campaign: He is a major donor and served as the California co-chair for Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign. He also has ties to the controversy over Solyndra, the failed solar company that received $535 million in stimulus loans.
The Republican National Committee emailed reporters today with a slew of information about how Westly's business ventures have benefited from Obama administration policies, calling his speaking slot the "latest perk" for a major Obama donor. The email was sent with the subject line, "Solyndra Stars On Stage At DNC."
Abortion rights supporters
Tonight's lineup also features some of the Democrats' most high-profile reproductive rights activists: Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and feminist activist Sandra Fluke, best known for supporting the Obama administration policy requiring full health insurance coverage for contraception.
The RNC said today, "The Democratic National Convention has signaled from the start an unapologetic, and at times, confrontational, liberalism, marked by details like the presence of reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke."
Meanwhile, the anti-abortion rights group the Susan B. Anthony List emailed supporters today with a fundraising plea based on the Democrats' support of Planned Parenthood.
"Did you see the platform released yesterday at the Democratic National Convention?" the email said. "It is their most radical platform yet: It calls for abortion on-demand, for any reason, up until the moment of birth... paid for by the taxpayers! ... That's why I need your immediate help for an emergency television ad buy targeting President Obama and his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention."