Chicago’s starring role at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was the opposite of its role at the GOP convention in Tampa. At the latter, the city was a symbol of everything corrupt and thuggish about urban politics. Vote out Obama and cleanse the country of the pigs and brutes who run the Windy City wards.

As my colleague Whet Moser has noted, the opening night of the DNC not only featured a rock-star turn by Michelle Obama, but also key speeches by Rahm Emanuel and Tammy Duckworth. And, through the DNC lens, Chicago was once again was the shining city on the lake that the world adored on Election Night 2008. 

Michelle’s speech was pronounced as perfection by her supporters and most of the media, and as the opposite by Romney supporters, Fox News, and talk radio.

Rahm faced the ugly prospect of partying/networking in Charlotte while young people were wounded and killed back home—two teens were slain on the South Side within a couple of hours of Rahm’s speech.

The picture was further muddied by ABC News reporting that 50 Chicago cops—albeit off-duty officers—were dispatched to Charlotte to “work perimeter security.” This while Chicago’s homicide rate is up by 31 percent this year compared to last.

Meanwhile the clock counts down to September 10 when a Chicago teachers strike could start. So the mayor, whose three children will be unaffected because they attend the private University of Chicago Lab School, ended up cutting his trip short—he’ll return on a private chartered plane late tonight instead of staying until Friday morning. His flacks offered the lame excuse that the president’s people had asked Emanuel to host a Obama speech watch party Thursday night for staffers at election headquarters in the Prudential Building.

The Associated Press fact-checked Emanuel for attributing saving the auto industry singlehandedly to his then-boss Barack Obama, when the auto bailout program was launched by George Bush [the plan was “…extended and expanded by Obama.”]

For all that, Rahm’s speech was fine, but paled in both volume and enthusiasm to that delivered by his fellow mayor, Newark’s Cory Booker, who is looking to run for Governor of New Jersey.

Tammy Duckworth could not be luckier in her opponent, freshman GOP Representative Joe Walsh. She is a certifiable hero and gets about in a wheelchair or, as she approached the podium last night, on her titanium legs, balancing herself with a cane. Walsh added to her stature yesterday by blasting her for traveling to Charlotte—“rubbing elbows with big-name party insiders.” (Duckworth not only lost both legs co-piloting a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004, she also has severely limited use of her right arm.) Walsh did her the favor of noting that her leaving the district to go to the convention shows that “the only debate Ms. Duckworth is actually interested in having is which outfit she’ll be wearing for her big speech.” (Is it possible that Walsh is working as a double agent for Duckworth—his hoped-for payoff a regular gig on Fox News?)

Earlier in the evening, Governor Pat Quinn spoke, in the 5:00 hour. Representative Luis Gutierrez speaks at roughly the same time today(EST)—the only Illinoisan on tonight’s roster of 26 celebs, ranging from Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi to Barney Frank to Sandra Fluke to Bill Clinton. Dick Durbin will speak tomorrow.

All this won’t matter much come Friday morning, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases August unemployment numbers. Obama and his convention impresarios will look like geniuses if the numbers look good—and like incompetents if they don’t. And the Romney campaign will be ready to make good numbers look bad (and bad numbers look catastrophic).