09/06/2012 07:05 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2012

Jim Messina Tells 2012 Democratic Convention The Election Is Not About President Obama

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Obama's campaign manager pressed convention goers Thursday to hand over any personal information they haven't already -- as well as money -- and told them the campaign this fall did not, in the end, center around the incumbent president who was set to address them later in the night.

"This election isn't about Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. It's about you," Jim Messina said, in a variation of a line from the president's own speeches.

When Obama has said the election is not about him, however, it has come across as self-deprecating. When Messina said it, there was a touch of dissonance to it, given that the point of holding the convention is to excite the Democratic base about their nominee for a second term.

But the emphasis on building a grassroots machine powered by local activists and volunteers has been Messina's obsession since he took over as campaign manager in January 2011.

Messina called the 2012 campaign, in his remarks, "the greatest grassroots organization in the history of American campaigns."

"Every morning, the first thing I read are the numbers from the day before. Not poll numbers or money. The numbers that mean something: door-knocks, conversations, registered voters," Messina said.

He boasted that North Carolina has registered more new voters than any other state. But part of the reason for that statistic might be that there are more than 100,000 fewer registered Democrats now than there were in 2008, and so the Obama campaign is making up for lost ground.

North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008, looks to be slipping away from the president in polls. And the Obama campaign lost an opportunity to register many more new voters when convention organizers moved the last night of the convention out of the over-65,000-seat Bank of America Stadium and down the street, due to weather concerns. Messina said he was "disappointed" by the move, but noted that there were multiple "watch parties" around the city for those who had had had tickets to Bank of America, and the convention screen showed video of four of those events.

Messina urged attendees to register to vote on the campaign's website, to go to a separate site to commit to vote for Obama, and to donate to the campaign via text message.

"The other guys write $10 million checks and make $10,000 bets," Messina said. "But we've made this campaign bet on you."



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