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Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland speaks during the Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4, 2012. (JOSH HANER/NYT)
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland speaks during the Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4, 2012. (JOSH HANER/NYT)

‘If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer’: The best zingers and one-liners from the DNC Add to ...

The Democratic Party left little doubt that when it comes to national conventions it can stage a night of speeches that moves people in the hall and makes people watching at home sit up.

The party’s spirited opening night in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday saw a stream of rising stars delivering lines that energized the crowd, while First Lady Michelle Obama rekindled a bit of the magic from four years ago in a speech that weaved a behind-the-scenes portrait of her husband’s presidency with familiar – and yet still powerful – family histories of Michelle and Barack Obama.

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As the joke went on social media: Who would have thought former President Bill Clinton – set to speak Wednesday night – would have such big shoes to fill?

Ms. Obama’s speech may have stolen the show, but here are the speech lines and stories shared by some of the other speakers that got the biggest ovation and captivated audiences inside the hall:

“Mitt Romney: his money needs a passport”

“If Mitt was Santa Claus, he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves,” former Ohio governor Ted Strickland joked.

Call it a bit of Midwest humour or a cheap shot, but the crowd in Time Warner Cable Arena thundered.

It wasn’t the only line that had a bit of late-night TV talk show flavour.

“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps,” said Mr. Strickland.

“Grow a backbone”

A hall full of Democratic Party faithful is probably one of the few places where talking up ‘big government’ raises few eyebrows. But Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick delivered an impassioned defence of government helping people achieve the American Dream.

“That’s what Democrats believe. That’s what Americans believe. And if we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe,” said Mr. Patrick. The crowd roared.

No one wants to be told they need more spine, but Mr. Patrick’s speech hit a powerful note: the party faithful need to stand up for Mr. Obama and his achievements and not allow him to be run out of office.

“Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

The keynote address by relatively unknown 37-year-old San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro had moments that probably reminded the audience of another rising star and little-known politician at a Democratic Party convention eight years ago in Boston: Barack Obama.

When he finally connected with the audience, Mr. Castro delivered some of the night’s most memorable lines.

Reflecting on a story about Mitt Romney telling young people looking to start a business that they should borrow the start-up money from their parents, Mr. Castro quipped: “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

It may read slightly corny on paper, but delivered with Mr. Castro’s playfulness, the line was effective.

The audience in the hall and those watching from home were left with his message about Mr. Romney: “I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.”

“Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot”

Mr. Obama has spoken with pride about signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. But until last night, many Americans had never heard the Alabama woman who is the law’s namesake.

Lilly Ledbetter, 74, had the crowd standing and cheering at several points in a speech that recounted how she earned less than her male colleagues for the same work.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her case, arguing, as Ms. Ledbetter explained, that she should have filed a suit against pay discrimination within six months.

Ms. Ledbetter described the President’s signing of the bill as only a first step. Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men make, she explained.

“Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars. But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every pay cheque, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.”

Another shot at Mr. Romney – even if he has no plans of repealing the law – that he doesn’t get the issues of ordinary Americans, especially those of women.

‘Paying your fair share isn't class warfare -- it's patriotism’

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, 43, is a rising star and touted as a possible challenger to New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

On Tuesday night, he gave a rousing speech that had some viewers wondering on Twitter whether he could sustain the passion and high volume for the speech’s duration. Well, he did.

Mr. Booker defended Mr. Obama’s “balanced deficit reduction plan” which asks the wealthy to “pay their fair share.”

“And when your country is in a costly war, with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and our nation facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn't class warfare -- it's patriotism,” Mr. Booker said to applause.

Earlier in the day, the mayor sprained his ankle getting out of his SUV in Charlotte to attend a speaking engagement at a breakfast meeting of Florida Democrats.

"You can take out my ankles, you can take out my knees, but I'm still going to stand up for Barack Obama," Mr. Booker told the audience, according to AP. Coming from a politician who earlier this year ran into a burning building to save his neighbour’s daughter, standing on a sprained ankle is no big deal.

Mr. Booker redeemed himself Tuesday night after his remarks in May describing Mr. Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital record as “nauseating.” He later backtracked.

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