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No more niceness: Obama, Romney try to rain on each other's parade

By Alex Mooney, CNN White House Producer
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Mon August 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Candidates in the past laid low while other party was having its convention
  • Both Obama and Romney will campaign during other party's big week
  • Obama campaign has several high-profile events while GOP gathers in Tampa
  • Romney and Ryan have events planned next week during Democratic convention

(CNN) -- When President Barack Obama's campaign announced plans for a full-court press while Republicans hold their convention in Tampa, Florida, this week, some veteran political watchers marked the end of an era.

After all, as much as there has ever been accepted "rules" of presidential politics, it was once a given that the opposing candidate ceded the convention week to his rival -- it was the polite thing to do.

Instead, the Obama campaign is doing anything but. Not only will surrogates for the president blanket Tampa and key battleground regions, but the campaign's three key figures will also be doing their best to steal some of Mitt Romney's orchestrated thunder this week.

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On Tuesday, the day Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are scheduled to address the convention in prime time, Obama will kick off a two-day, three-state tour of swing states that include stops at college towns in Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia. The Obama campaign strategy: contrast the expectedly older demographic that historically is represented among Republican convention attendees with images of the president rallying thousands of enthusiastic young people.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama will appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on Wednesday, the same day vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is set to make his big speech.

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The Obama campaign also planned to dispatch Vice President Joe Biden to Tampa itself on Monday but scrapped the trip on Friday because it said it was concerned that a vice presidential visit would stress law enforcement resources already stretched thin by Tropical Storm Isaac. On Saturday, the campaign canceled Biden's Tuesday events in Orlando and St. Augustine.

The Romney campaign says it has similar plans to "bracket" the Democratic convention next week in Charlotte, North Carolina, though the exact campaign schedules of Ryan and Romney have yet to be released. Still, many Democrats are expecting at least Ryan will show up near Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena as Democratic delegates get set to officially re-nominate Obama to the Democratic presidential ticket.

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To be sure, 2012 marks an emphatic end to the bygone courtesy of allowing the other campaign to have its convention moment. But the traditional nicety began unraveling at least two or three election cycles ago. It was then that party officials decided it was advantageous to hold conventions much later in the summer, when voters were off the beach, sending their kids back to school, and at last starting to tune into the presidential race en masse.

It may have been relatively harmless for a candidate to lay low for a week in July, but late August or early September? Forget about it.

For example, then-Democratic candidate Al Gore decided to take a vacation on picture-perfect Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, when Republicans convened in Philadelphia in late July of 2000. The George W. Bush campaign largely returned the favor two weeks later when Democrats convened in Los Angeles. Both campaigns reasoned most Americans still weren't tuning in to the day-day machinations of the race as the dog days of summer continued.

Four years later, Bush remained secluded on his ranch while Democrats nominated Sen. John Kerry in Boston in July. But with GOP's decision to hold their convention more than a month later in early September, coupled with a more fervent news cycle than ever before, the Kerry campaign decided it would not extend the same courtesy. The Democratic presidential nominee was dispatched to Tennessee and Ohio for speeches that week while his running mate, then-Sen. John Edwards, held court in North Carolina and West Virginia.

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Miffed that Republicans held their convention so late in 2004, Democrats followed suit four years later. That meant both conventions fell in successive weeks at the very end of the summer of 2008 and, by extension, both candidates remained on the trail while the rival party crowned its nominee.

Then-Republican candidate John McCain attended two events in his home state of Arizona while Democrats convened in Denver, Colorado. The next week, then-Democratic nominee Obama barnstormed at seven rallies across three states as McCain got set to accept his party's nomination in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What was once polite has fallen victim to expediency. As fall approaches and the now-fractured and partisan media climate demands a response to every barb from the other side, it would be nothing short of political malfeasance to allow a candidate to cede the klieg lights entirely.

By the numbers: Tampa, Florida

CNN's Brianna Keilar, Becky Brittain, and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report

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