The Obama campaign and convention officials held a briefing yesterday with NBC News to discuss the convention and what to expect. Some highlights:
-- The convention will try to drive home two points: 1) that this is a "serious moment" for the United States and 2) that there are two difference directions where Obama and McCain want to take the country
-- The Obama and Clinton camps are working out the mechanics of Wednesday's roll-call vote, which will begin at 5:00 pm ET. Said one Obama adviser: "We have a high degree of confidence of how the roll-call vote" will work.
-- The 76,000 people who will fill Invesco Field on Thursday night will be expected to do much more than listen to Obama's speech. They will be texting their friends to get them to watch and get involved; they will get their friends to sign up for the campaign's email alerts; and they will be working the phones.
-- After the convention, Obama and Biden will leave on a tour of Industrial Midwest states.
Regarding that first point, the New York Times writes: "Mr. Obama's aides said they had learned from what they described as the mistake of the 2004 Democratic convention - when aides to Senator John Kerry's campaign sought to forbid convention speakers from going after President Bush - and would use their time to draw contrasts with Senator John McCain, particularly on the economy and his opposition to abortion rights. 'The stakes of this election will be made very clear,' said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's chief strategist. 'We are going to define the choice.'"
"At the same time, acknowledging persistent unease with Mr. Obama among a significant segment of voters, his aides said they would use speeches and presentations during the next four days, including having Al Gore introduce Mr. Obama for his acceptance speech Thursday night, to offer a fuller biography and a more detailed plan of what he would do as president."
So how divided is the Democratic Party? Maybe not as much as you think, according to this New York Times/CBS poll. "More than half of the delegates that Mrs. Clinton won in the primaries now say they are enthusiastic supporters of Mr. Obama, and they also believe he will win the presidential election in November, the poll found. Three in 10 say they support Mr. Obama but have reservations about him or they support him only because he is the party's nominee. Five percent say they do not support him yet."
And/but the Washington Post reports, "[T]he most important events of the first days of the convention will center on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her supporters. The senator from New York won 18 million votes in her nomination battle with Obama, and the enthusiastic support of her followers is critical to Obama's hopes of winning in November. She will speak Tuesday night, but her message at events behind the scenes may be just as important."
"In an important shift, Democratic officials confirmed Sunday that Clinton will release her delegates to Obama at a reception on Wednesday. Clinton's gesture has the potential to reduce the appearance of friction while reinforcing her status as one of the party's most formidable power brokers." This story also had the news about Obama and Bill Clinton talking last week, on the same day Obama offered Biden the No.2 slot. But Obama apparently did NOT tell Clinton about his pick.
Speaking of Bill Clinton, Politico's Harris (one of best biographers of Bill out there) Allen report that the former president is upset about his speech topic. He wants to speak on the economy but the topic Wednesday night is national security. "The former president is disappointed, associates said, because he is eager to speak about the economy and more broadly about Democratic ideas - emphasizing the contrast between the Bush years and his own record in the 1990s. This is an especially sore point for Bill Clinton, people close to him say, because among many grievances he has about the campaign Obama waged against his wife is a belief that the candidate poor-mouthed the political and policy successes of his two terms."
"Some senior Democrats close to Obama, meanwhile, made clear in not-for-attribution comments that they were equally irked at the Clinton operation. Nearly three months after Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the nomination contest, these Obama partisans complained, her team continues to act like she and Bill Clinton hold leverage."
Bloomberg News on what Michelle Obama needs to do tonight. "After tapping veteran Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter as her chief of staff in June, Michelle Obama, 44, has softened her image by appearing on television programs such as 'The View.' Going into this week's convention, she is on the covers of Essence and Ebony magazines. 'Her first job on Monday night is to reintroduce herself to the country and to the world because she's never had a larger audience,' said Myra Gutin, a communications professor at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and author of a book about first ladies. 'The second task is to introduce her husband to the audience in a way in which she knows him and perhaps we don't.'"
The AP also previews Michelle Obama's speech today. "If part of her function has been to reveal the husband and dad side of the man addressing the masses, she also needs to show she's just a woman, just an American, just a patriot… In the primaries, she was dubbed 'the Closer' for her ability to persuade the undecided voters walking in to come on board before walking out. Now she's the opener, the first-night star called upon to testify about her husband's vision and values, and perhaps settle some doubts about herself."
Might Ted Kennedy show up? Despite his illness, "the senator has recently told people that he has a speech written for the convention and that he badly wants to come, pending a final medical consultation," the Boston Globe reports. "Buzz has built among Massachusetts politicos that Kennedy would come, and yesterday a Bay State Democrat close to the family confirmed that Kennedy has decided to travel to Denver, probably for an opening-night address."
And live at Red Rocks… Like a man with the pressure off, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine enthusiastically introduced the marquis act of the night -- and who this east coast reporter most wanted to see -- Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at Red Rocks in Colorado, a special place for Dave Matthews fans.
"Raise your hand if you know how many homes you own… You can't make this stuff up," an ebullient Kaine said, donning jeans and an airy, short-sleeve button down shirt, looking every bit the backyard dad. Kaine went on to sing the praises of Obama and passionately tick off the reasons he got involved with the Obama campaign.