Below are our five picks of the speakers to watch. Some are obvious. Some are less so (we hope).
* President Obama (10 pm hour): Given that Obama launched his career as a national political figure eight years ago on the strength of his ability to give a big speech at a Democratic National Convention, there's a very high likelihood that his speech will be good. The question is not whether Obama will expertly deliver a well-written speech then but rather what direction rhetorically and content-wise he chooses to take it. Does he stay at 50,000 feet in terms of oratory, projecting a big vision with few specifics? Does he rebut Republican attacks against him? Does he even say Mitt Romney's name? How much health care and economic stimulus talk is in the speech? And, how does his speech fare when it is (inevitably) compared to his 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and his 2008 acceptance speech at the DNC?
* Vice President Biden (9 pm hour): We expect nothing less than a full-frontal assault on Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan from the vice president tonight. Remember that Biden has been in the political game for a very long time -- elected to the Senate at 29, two presidential bids under his belt -- and knows what is expected of the vice president. The question for Biden is how much -- if at all -- he goes off script (or, more accurately, off TelePrompTer). If the Obama people have anything to say about it, Biden will read his speech word for word from the Prompter. But, Biden bristles under overmanagement -- kind of like Bill Clinton -- and might try to break free a bit. Remember that while Biden gets lots of grief for some of his unscripted moments, it's in those unscripted riffs that he is sometimes at his best too.
* Charlie Crist (8 pm hour): Republicans had their party-switcher at last week’s convention in former congressman Artur Davis (Ala.). And tonight, Democrats have theirs: former Florida governor Charlie Crist. Crist was riding high as the Republican governor of a swing state just three years ago; then Marco Rubio came along. Long story short: Crist has now lined up with the Democrats and endorsed Obama last week. Many see this as Crist’s next big step toward another run for governor in 2014 -- under the Democratic banner this time. His reception tonight will say a lot about whether his new party would embrace that.
* Rep. Tammy Baldwin (6 pm hour): We noted in advance of Wednesday’s speeches that Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) might be the most high-profile gay person on stage this week. His speech got bumped to tonight, where he will share the stage with another gay member of Congress, Baldwin. While Frank was the first member of Congress to marry his partner, Baldwin is trying to become the first openly gay senator and is currently engaged in one of the top races in the country against former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson (R). Does she play up her sexual orientation while speaking to the party base, or does she go the safer route?
* Hollywood (7 pm and 8 pm): The GOP’s brief flirtation with putting Hollywood on its convention stage went poorly last week, with Clint Eastwood fumbling through an odd form of sketch comedy involving an empty chair. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from embracing their own Hollywood supporters. Tonight’s speakers will include Eva Longoria (an Obama campaign official), Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington – with the latter two appearing on-stage together. We’re guessing whatever they say will be heavily scripted and props will not be involved. (Note: Natalie Portman, who was reported set to appear, is not on the schedule.)