Barack Obama is getting the convention he wants, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. The convention he is building reflects him and his priorities: it’s thoughtful, not just red-meat; and he’s in surprising control of the message, given the forces he’s dealing with. Indeed, the convention-building and the message may be far more sophisticated and effective than we instant commentators were prepared to discern. Witness the opening night grousing on-air about the convention’s supposed thematic absence, and aversion to instant butchery of the opposition.
Task Number One for Obama:
Defining himself as a person, not just a politician: telling his story and that of Michelle Obama and their family. An American story, meant to definitively undermine the oppo-narrative of the Clinton campaign, and now the Republican oppo-narrative – that he is some kind of vaguely alien, exotic candidate. (For some undecided voters, that also means uncomfortably black). Michelle Obama – as well as the team that produced her bio-pic – delivered with perfect pitch on Night One.
This was the real opening business of the convention, the essential themes to get right. As well as to establish an umbilical connection between Obama and the greatest of Democratic traditions and immutable principles… a generational passing of the torch that Caroline and Ted Kennedy declared unmistakably – and emotionally – had now moved past the Clintons.
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
What if, throughout her campaign for the party’s nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton had made speeches like the one she gave last night at the Democratic National Convention? It’s possible that she’d be the candidate accepting the party’s nomination tomorrow at Invesco Field. What type of presidency would she have led, had she become the first woman president of the United States? We’ll have to leave that question unanswered, at least for now.
The expectations that were placed on Sen. Clinton to mend the great divide that emerged from the Democratic primaries were both unprecedented and unrealistic. Yet, she delivered beyond our imagination last night. She repeatedly endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. She covered all of the points the party could have wished for. She asked the delegates –and all Democrats watching at home– to re-assess the values and motivations that brought them to Denver and will now determine their chances for putting a Democrat in the White House.
In the same way she rose gracefully from the Lewinsky affair and from a defeated campaign to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, Sen. Clinton emerged last night as a polished diamond. She surfaced as an unalloyed leader out of the adversities and the unaddressed sexism endured during her campaign and, for that matter, during her entire political career. Her journey is emblematic of the way American women overcome the challenges posed by a society where full-equality is yet to be attained.
Sen. Clinton raised the bar to the “what if, and every decision the Obama campaign makes from now on will be measured against it. Regardless of whether she united the party last night, Sen. Obama will have to show voters how their lives will be better if they vote, in unity, for him. How he chooses to translate the rhetoric of change into the policy of change will be essential as he aims at locking the support of independents and die-hard Clinton supporters, especially the women in the 25 percent who now plan to support Sen. John McCain.
The ball is in Sen. Obama’s court.
Let the roll call begin. Over the next couple of hours, the delegates from 50 states and the U.S. territories will be casting their votes for the 2008 democratic presidential nominee. This will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Today Hillary Clinton told her delegates they are free to vote for Barack Obama. There were some cries of "No!" and boos from her supporters. She said, "I am not telling you what to do." But she added, "I signed my ballot this morning for Senator Obama."
Here's a breakdown of how the roll call will work:
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From Billings, Montana, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama watches Sen. Hillary Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention, Tuesday.
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This is the best episode of "Lost" I’ve ever seen.
Political Director, The Huffington Post
Editor's note: CNN contributor Hilary Rosen is the political director and Washington editor at large of HuffingtonPost.com, which describes itself as an Internet newspaper and focuses on politics from a liberal point of view. A longtime Democratic adviser, Rosen is a former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. This column by Rosen, a former Clinton supporter, is one of a series of commentary pieces on CNN.com from Democrats and Republicans attending party conventions.
Is there a score higher than an A+? I have heard about a hundred speeches by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Tuesday night's speech in Denver was a clarion call filled with power and grace.
Hillary's job at the Democratic National Convention was a big one. She had to make a strong and compelling case to any of her recalcitrant supporters for the election of Sen. Barack Obama.
She had to express her deep appreciation for all those who supported her in this campaign but not too much appreciation so that people would think she was trying to keep them to herself.
And finally she had to describe the stakes in this election and the choices we face, particularly for American families. But she had do it in a way that was not threatening to Obama but rather would be seen as amplifying his message.
And she had to do it all in 23 minutes (including applause). For weeks, people will make comments about what she should have or shouldn't have said.
But Tuesday night she was strong and compassionate, comforting and combative, deeply intelligent and extremely charming. She did everything she needed to achieve for a united party and a dignified conclusion to her campaign for her supporters. I think she gave the speech of her life.
Clinton's journey broke barriers on several levels. Yet it also gave us some real insights about the road ahead. We cannot try to replicate how men got ahead in politics, but must be open and heartfelt about the special qualities that we as women bring to public office.
Yes, it is true, she not so silently admitted, that in the beginning she was trying to avoid running as a "woman." She thought she needed to prove she was commander-in-chief material. But instead in the last and more successful months of her campaign, her message evolved.
Gustav has me worried. The storm may only be a topical depression as I type this, but the latest forecast has Gustav heading into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend as a Category 3 hurricane. Friday is the third anniversary of Katrina. Shell Oil is already evacuating some Gulf staff. I am a firm believer in “better safe than sorry," and I am not an alarmist…but I am a little worried. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Gustav and will stay tuned to the CNN Weather Center.
One million people’s personal security now compromised for a mere $64. A computer loaded with account numbers, passwords, cell numbers and signatures of customers at Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and American Express was sold for that tiny sum, causing an enormous amount of concern. Wow. Seems a bit irresponsible, no?
I don’t want to be Debbie Downer today, so how about a CNN Hero to end on a high note? Anne Mahlum runs most days at 5 a.m. – that’s an inspiration in itself! But she took that love of running and turned it into so much more.
AC360° Editorial Producer
It only takes one person to get the CNN Grill hopping here at the Dem convention, and yesterday that person was TNT Analyst Charles Barkley. He was a guest on several CNN shows, even playing with John King's magic map at one point.
But Barkley spent the most of his time in the CNN Grill, holding court with the likes of former New Orleans Mayor and President of the National Urban League Marc Morial, as well as actress Charlize Theron and actor Stuart Townsend.
As the night progressed, so did the crowds in the Grill thanks to the Pepsi Center being so packed that it stopped allowing people in. During Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech, the entire Grill fell silent as they watched her talk. But as soon as she ended, it hopped back to life. And so did Barkley.
He made his rounds, sitting at a booth with famed gossip columnist Cindy Adams and frequent 360 guest Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and Hillary Clinton fundraiser. Then I saw Barkley sitting next to actress Ashley Judd.
Also spotted in the Grill: Army Wives' Sally Pressman and Brigid Brannagh. Sally was most impressed with the "decorate your own" cupcakes that were being served, and thankful we have the CNN Grill, since she was one of the unfortunate ones shut out of seeing Sen. Clinton in person.
After CNN's coverage wound down, Anderson came back over and ran into Theron and Townsend on the outdoor patio. While he was chatting away, Wolf Blitzer was inside having a converstation with.... You guessed it: Charles Barkley.
See ya from the Grill later today!
John P. Avlon
Author, Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics
It’s Barack Obama’s convention, but the Clintons’ continue to suck up the oxygen in the Mile High City.
On the convention floor, Hillary buttons on delegates seem almost as prevalent as Obama paraphernalia. On the streets of Denver, the Obamafest is occasionally disturbed by roving bands of alleged Hillary Clinton supporters. And then there's the white Hummer with Colorado plates hanging Hillary-McCain signs out the window and slogans written on its side, “Yes, We Can: Plagiarize and Lie” and “Obama’s a fake — No-bama.”
Last night’s primetime Hillary speech was a chance for the faithful to hear their leader deliver an old-fashioned pantsuit barn-burner. But today is their D-Day, when the PUMAs are demanding a roll-call vote to honor her effort.
PUMAs are members of Party United Means Action, a political action committee or PAC started by Hillary Clinton supporters. PUMAs come in two breeds: the loyal Hillary supporters (essentially sober, conservative Democrats who believe that she was the more experienced candidate in a time of war) and the unhinged Obama-haters. Both types could inflict damage on the party this year.
“The PUMAs can’t deny Obama the nomination,” says longtime Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh, “but they can cost him the election.”
The McCain campaign hopes so. And most analysts see the recent tightening up of the race as having more to do with rising doubts about Obama than any renewed appreciation of John McCain’s political profile in courage.
As the courting dance for crossover votes reaches new intensity, the nation gets the bizarre spectacle of Republicans showing newfound empathy for Hillary Clinton. “Debra,” a new McCain ad, features Debra Bartoshevich, a defecting Hillary delegate from Wisconsin. The 41-year-old emergency-room nurse switches a Hillary sign for McCain sign and gives permission for others to do the same: “”A lot of Democrats will vote McCain. It’s OK, really.”
John King | Bio
CNN Chief National Correspondent
Think of the convention as a family budget: over four days, you have to make tough decisions about how to allocate your resources – in this case balancing the competing needs of unifying the party, more thoroughly introducing Barack Obama, and making the case against Republican John McCain.
So far, there is a mix of "spending" on all three of those goals, but the amount of resources dedicated to unity is telling.
The Obama forces contend, probably with good reason, that those in the convention hall will leave Denver united. But with polls still showing a high percentage of Clinton voters either backing McCain or declaring themselves undecided, the Denver investment in unity is aimed at winning back those watching at home who wanted a different outcome here.
Top Obama aide David Plouffe says there are many reasons to be hopeful despite polls showing essentially a dead heat. "We have more room to grow," is Plouffe's take. By that, he means McCain has the support of most Republicans already locked up, and that in camp Obama's view most of the "available" voters out there are either Democrats still not at peace with Obama as their leader and, again in the Obama camp's view, Independents who side with Democrats on most of the big issues.
There is ample polling data to back Plouffe's take.
But those same polls show lingering doubt about Obama's values and experience to serve as commander in chief.
Given those challenges, Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's unsuccessful campaign in 1996, looks at the Democratic convention as the halfway mark and says: "they are spending a LOT of capital on unity."
Editor's note: After Hillary Clinton's speech CNN Suzanne Maveaux, interviwed Democratic delegate, Anne Price-Mills, a Hillary Clinton supporter, about her emotional reaction to Clinton's speech. What was your take on Price-Mills' reaction?
COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux is down on the floor with some very strong Hillary Clinton supporters. Apparently they had tears in their eyes during some parts of the speech. Suzanne, what are you hearing from them?
MALVEAUX: Joining us here obviously very strong Clinton supporters.
Tell me, why is this so important to you? What does this moment mean to you?
PRICE-MILLS: Hillary Clinton proved to me tonight that she would have made an excellent president. She was presidential tonight. She's the evidence that women have come so far and to let gender be a hindrance, to let a phenomenal, an intelligent, a powerful, a moving, a motivating person not move us into the next generation, not move us into the future that we deserve, not move us into the green economy that we deserve, not being able to address the concerns that we deserve, and now everybody just want us to suddenly shift.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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