From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
DENVER -- For Democratic partisans and those who love feel-good convention moments, it's hard to see how the Republicans could duplicate last night, particularly with first-night speakers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (then again, they won't try -- instead they'll keep their eye on the Obama ball). While Michelle Obama's speech was the marquee event, and while the Obama girls helped steal the show at the end, there's no doubt there will be at least one address beyond Thursday night that won't be forgotten when the dust settles on this convention. Modern conventions have become more about the speeches than the mechanics of nominating. And given Ted Kennedy's health, his speech will go down as one of the most memorable ever for reasons nobody wants to put in writing. Kennedy's had his share of uncomfortable conventions, but this was not one of them. Yet considering Teddy's history with presidential politics, one wonders what was going on inside the head of tonight's featured speaker, Hillary Clinton, as she was watching Kennedy's reception and the honoring of his legacy. Of the two Clintons, Hillary has always been more adept at believing there's always another chapter to be written.
*** Up-Hil night: The Washington Post's Cocco may have nailed tonight better than anyone today: Hillary can't win. She may not be able to find her Goldilocks moment and strike a "just right" balance tonight of both advancing her own political future and proving that she really does want Obama to win and that she really does believe Obama can be president. Everything in Clinton's speech will be parsed, and not just the words, but her body language. The good news for her, the expectations are very low in this sense. No one expects her to be able to pull this off convincingly. Of course, this isn't the only Clinton night and one wonders given all the Bill drama that's bubbled up over the last 24 hours (particularly over the content of his speech), why Obama chose to give the Clintons two convention nights. Shouldn't Obama have gotten all of this Clinton stuff out of the way tonight? By the way, there is another speech on the docket tonight that is technically labeled the "keynote." Mark Warner, a candidate for US Senate in the swing state of Virginia, has the unenviable task of speaking not just on Hillary night but also having to follow Barack Obama in a sense since Obama was the LAST keynote speaker. In an interview on MSNBC, Warner seemed to hint that his speech would be more in line with Obama's (at least in tone) than, say, an Ann Richards from 1988.
*** McCain survives night one: As we've noted before, Obama has three goals at this convention: 1) making contrasts with McCain, 2) filling in his biography, and 3) uniting the party. Last night, the convention attempted to begin dealing with all three issues. Early in the evening, viewers were treated to a taste of some anti-McCain speeches; of course, only C-SPAN viewers may have received the full impact of those diatribes. As for the other two goals, between Kennedy and Michelle, the campaign can claim it made progress on unity (don't the Clinton-Obama rifts seem petty after seeing Teddy?) and on biography (Michelle O. was as pitch perfect as she can be in presenting her story, but if there's one critique of her speech is that it was more about her than Barack, but maybe that was the point.) As for the attempts to contrast with McCain, the GOP campaign and other strategists we've communicated with believe McCain went a lot more unscathed than, say, Obama will be after Night One of the Republican convention. Then again, with Michelle as the marquee speaker, the Dems were never going to go guns blazing the first night. Expect that tonight (which is focused on the economy) and tomorrow (foreign affairs).
*** Stoking the flames: The McCain camp has done an excellent job stoking the Clinton-Obama feud narrative. This morning, the camp is releasing another ad that is supposedly airing in "key states" (translation: maybe it gets a rotation on the noon news today in Denver). Regardless, the aggressiveness the McCain camp is showing against Obama during his convention week is notable. And speaking of the McCain camp, remember when one-time Bush media guru and McCain champion Mark McKinnon decided to step away from the '08 campaign once it became clear Obama would be the Dem nominee? Well, he's back -- sort of. Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, McKinnon's helping Cindy McCain with her convention week prep, including a family video. When pressed, the campaign acknowledged that while McKinnon is largely on the strategic sidelines, he does provide occasional advice on the campaign ad efforts.
*** Today's convention schedule: Tuesday's convention theme is Renewing America's Promise, and it has a focus on the economy and energy. Hillary Clinton gives the primetime speech, and former Virginia Gov. (and current Senate candidate) Mark Warner delivers the keynote address. Check out some of the additional speakers, a slew of folks who aren't afraid of showing off their sharp tongues (yes, Rahm and Eddie, we mean you): Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, former Energy and Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
*** The RNC's response: Mitt Romney and Reps. Eric Cantor, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Marsha Blackburn hold a press conference at the RNC's Denver headquarters at 3:15 pm ET to counter Obama on the economy.
*** Also in Denver: Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama attend an Emily's List gala at 4:300 pm ET… Pelosi and Reps. Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, and Rahm Emanuel talk energy independence at Union Station at 1:00 pm ET… Bill Richardson discusses the Hispanic vote at the Colorado Convention Center at 4:30 pm ET
*** On the trail: McCain begins his day in Phoenix, where he addresses the American Legion and raises money. After that, he heads to a fundraiser in San Diego with the actor Jon Voight. Obama, meanwhile, campaigns in Kansas City, MO.
Countdown to GOP convention: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 70 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 147 days
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