CHARLOTTE, NC-- Delegates arriving here for the Democratic National Convention, which starts Tuesday, insist they're just as enthusiastic as they were four years ago on that historic night in Denver when Barack Obama accepted the party's presidential nomination before 86,000 people.
Although they readily admit that things are different now that Obama has been president for three and a half years and is presiding over a prolonged economic downturn.
"Obviously, it's not 2008, this is 2012," said Joe Perez, a first-time delegate from Greeley who has been walking his neighborhood with campaign literature and making phone calls for months.
"The enthusiasm from my perspective, being on the ground, is there. But overall, the economy weighs heavily on people's minds. The enthusiasm is there, but it's trumped by the economic situation."
Another Obama delegate from Colorado, Blanca Uzeta O'Leary of Aspen, likens the change in mood to that of a long-term relationship.
"It's not like a first date enthusiasm anymore," she told FOX31 Denver Sunday. "It's more like a more mature enthusiasm. We're enthusiastic,but more driven and dedicated to make sure we win, because people are frightened about what we hear on the other side."
But this shorter, leaner, three-day convention is a good metaphor for the larger Obama campaign, or more modest, focused effort than the historic 2008 wave.
This week, organizers are fretting about filling Bank of America Stadium, the outdoor venue where Obama will accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night.
The stadium, home to the NFL's Carolina Panthers, holds 76,000 people (compare that to the 86,000-plus who filed Invesco Field at Mile High four years ago). So far this year, the largest crowd for an Obama campaign event has been around 15,000 people.
But four years later, even if the novelty of Obama has worn off, Democrats contend the country is actually better off than in 2008.
"While you really feel euphoria when you first start dating someone, the loyalty that you feel to a spouse that you've been married to for a few years is what carries you through," said Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who will provide over the convention as the DNC chairwoman.
"President Obama, if we're going to analogize this to a marriage, is going to benefit from the loyalty people feel from him having brought us from a tough economic situation, through difficult times."
This week, organizers say, will offer the American people a reminder of all that President Obama has accomplished -- a response, as it stands, to Mitt Romney's question from last week's RNC in Tampa, where he essentially asked Americans if they're better off now than four years ago.
"It's going to be about reminding people where we are today compared to where we were four years ago and then also talking about a very clear vision of moving forward," said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio Sunday.
"It's out job and the president's job this week to make sure that more Americans understand the clear differences between his sense of leadership, his vision for the country, and what Mitt Romney would offer."
Part of the effort to contrast their party with the GOP is an effort by Democrats to make this year's DNC more interactive and inclusive, with a community fair set for Monday and, overall, a group of delegates that's more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse than those who gathered last week in Tampa.
Perez, a first-time delegate, personifies that inclusiveness. And no delegate is more enthusiastic to be in Charlotte, helping to re-nominate Obama, eight years after he first exploded onto the national speech during another DNC.
I've always felt that I didn't belong in the system being, obviously, Latino," Perez said.
"And one of the things tha really excited me about Obama was when he gave his 2004 speech in Massachusetts," Perez said. "And he talked about America and how we're not gay Americans or African-Americans or Latino Americans, that we are all just Americans.
"And that's all I ever wanted to be."
AHEAD: State Reps. Dan Pabon of Denver and Rhonda Fields of Aurora arrived in Charlotte Sunday. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will speak Wednesday night, is set to arrive on Tuesday, along with Sen. Michael Bennet. U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette of Denver and Jared Polis of Boulder, who also have speaking roles at the DNC, have not yet arrived in Charlotte.AlertMe