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A primer to the Democratic National Convention

Nuts & bolts

Who: 4,440 delegates and 617 alternates from the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Democrats Abroad. Florida has 211 delegates.

What: Democratic National Convention, where the Democratic Party will formally select its candidate for president. A roll call vote of states is held, and a majority of delegates from those states is required to place a candidate's name in nomination. The day of the vote has not been set, but typically it's on Wednesday.

When: Monday through Thursday this week. Convention will gavel open at 5 p.m. EDT and gavel down at 11 p.m. each night.

Where: Denver, Colo. Most events will be held at the Pepsi Center, home to the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the NBA's Denver Nuggets. Barack Obama accepts the nomination outdoors at Invesco Field at Mile High, which seats 76,000.


Monday: Theme is "One Nation." Headline speaker: Michelle Obama. Other speakers include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Obama's sister Maya Soetero-Ng; and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's brother. Also, a tribute to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Tuesday: Theme is "Renewing America's promise." Headline speaker: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other speakers include former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (keynote); Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts; Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona; Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania; Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio; Gov. David Paterson of New York; Sen. Bob Casey Jr., of Pennsylvania; Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Wednesday: Theme is "Securing America's future." Headline speaker: Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Obama's vice presidential nominee. Other speakers include: former President Bill Clinton; former Sen. Tom Daschle; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Sens. Evan Bayh, John Kerry and Jay Rockefeller; and U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton. Also, a tribute to U.S. servicemen and their families.

Thursday: Theme is "Change you can believe in." Obama accepts the Democratic nomination in a finale at Invesco Field. Former Vice President Al Gore also is scheduled to speak. It's the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

By the numbers

50,000 Approximate number of guests expected in Denver, including delegates, party members, enthusiasts and members of the media (15,000)

17,000 Approximate number of hotel rooms booked in Denver area this week

100 Number of years since Denver hosted its last Democratic National Convention

91 Age of oldest delegate to the convention: Sophie Masloff from Pennsylvania

17 Age of youngest delegate to the convention: David Gilbert Pederson from Minnesota (he's one of two delegates under the age of 18)

7 Number of weeks of "around the clock" construction needed to transform the Pepsi Center from a sports arena to a convention hall

5 people to watch

1. Mark Warner. Keynote speakers tend to be those viewed as the future leaders of the Democratic party (See Obama, Barack, 2004), and the former Virginia governor now running for U.S. Senate will surely be a leading Democratic presidential contender in 2012 if John McCain wins in November.

2. Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton knows how to be gracious when it's demanded. But her husband still seems to hold a grudge and will have the Obama loyalists nervously watching his every word. Watch Bill Clinton's speech and then try to guess who he'll vote for in the privacy of the voting booth.

3. Hillary lovers. Particularly older, white women whose enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for Obama may prove critical in November. Does he sweep them up into the fold in Denver, or leave them still wounded and ambivalent?

4. Michelle Obama. She has been a magnet for criticism and controversy, despite being a charismatic speaker and Jackie-esque mother and wife. Can she redefine herself for the masses?

5. Sen. Bob Casey. Democrats refused to let the Pennsylvania senator's dad speak at the 1992 national convention because he wasn't sufficiently pro-abortion rights. But now his son, another pro-life Democrat, is a featured speaker, reflecting the diminishing influence of abortion rights activists. Even the platform includes a nod toward pro-lifers.

5 stories to watch

1. The mood. The convention is all about showing harmony and unity, and this one comes after Obama barely beat Clinton in a hard-fought primary. Everybody will be watching the Clintons and their loyal followers to see if they're fully on board Team Obama or thinking more about another Clinton campaign in 2012.

2. The comfort factor. Obama is still largely unknown to many voters, so a big chunk of the show in Denver will try to flesh out his exotic biography to make uncertain voters more comfortable. He could effectively cast himself as the personification of the American Dream, or, with another giant stadium rally he could fuel the Messiah complex story line.

3. The nominating process. After Florida and Michigan bucked national party rules with officially illegal — and boycotted — primaries and the nominee was nearly decided by a bunch of party insiders, look for serious discussion about changing the way the Democratic nominee is picked.

4. Change. In an election like this, can Democrats successfully portray themselves as agents of positive change or will they look like the same tired party with a new standard bearer? Infighting and unruly protests wouldn't project the kind of change many voters are seeking.

5. Tone. Four years ago, John Kerry decided against any serious convention attacks on Bush-Cheney, who returned the favor by ripping the skin off Kerry at the GOP convention. Keep an eye on whether Obama and his surrogates stick to Obama's lofty tone or try to pick apart McCain's maverick image to cast him as a continuation of Bush.

Sources: Democratic National Convention Committee, Barack Obama campaign,,

A primer to the Democratic National Convention 08/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 24, 2008 10:29am]
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