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The same, but different: at the RNC and the DNC

Over the last two weeks, I photographed both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. How do they compare?

John Brecher / NBC News

The crowds at the RNC, left, and the DNC, wait between speeches.

They're similar: there's cheering and pageantry, waving of signs, wearing of buttons, standing in lines, sweating in suits.

And, of course, they differ. Say "health care reform" to each crowd and observe angry disgust or relieved enthusiasm. The first arena cheers at Mitt Romney's speech when he says: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

And the next arena cheers for this line from Obama's speech: "…climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They're a threat to our children's future."

Concern for their children gets a rise from each audience. But it's what each group sees as a threat that determines which arena they stand in.

John Brecher / NBC News

At left, Mitt Romney accepts Republican Party's nomination to run for president. At right, President Obama delivers his acceptance speech at the DNC.

It's a bit like a huge sporting event in which the two teams play not at once, but in subsequent weeks. As pitched as their fervor gets, would fans really want the other team to stop playing?

Of course, it's not a game. Or rather, it is a game and also something far weightier: an huge nation taking shape, a great block of ideas and potential actions whittled into a form that a majority of its voters can support, or at least tolerate. 

John Brecher / NBC News

The vehicle at left drove around Tampa and Charlotte during both the RNC and DNC, while the street preachers at right worked at the center of Charlotte during the DNC.

For me, the best experience is to learn what motivates regular people who make the journey at their own expense. I'm especially curious about groups swimming differently in the stream, like the first national meeting of Mormon Democrats or Republicans for Ron Paul. Why do some women vote for Romney, or some senior citizens for Obama, when more members of those groups vote the other way? At both conventions, the attendees have one thing in common: they believe they're right.

John Brecher / NBC News

At left, Elliott Bell and John Michael Simpson sell Obama heads, t-shirts and buttons outside the DNC. At right, Nila Geiger attends a Tea Party event during the RNC.

See more visual coverage from the DNC in PhotoBlog and in this slideshow.

Or if you prefer, see the RNC in PhotoBlog and in this slideshow.

From tramping through cornfields to munching ice cream cones to holding babies – the time-honored traditions of the campaign trail leave President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney looking surprisingly alike.



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