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« Kennedy Highlights First Night | Blog Home Page | Top 10 Convention Moments »

Strategy Memo: Clinton's No-Win

DENVER, Colorado -- Good Tuesday morning. Day Two of the Democratic National Convention dawns cloudless in Denver, a night after House Democratic Caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin wowed delegates at a celebration of Chicago in Denver. Those Chicagoans know how to make a pizza. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The convention will come to order around 5 p.m. Eastern Time with speeches from former candidate Dennis Kucinich, Emanuel and Governors Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius, Deval Patrick and Brian Schweitzer. All but Schweitzer, who stayed neutral, were early Obama backers. The two major speeches of the evening come from keynoter Mark Warner, running for Senate in Virginia, and Hillary Clinton, who will close the convention this evening.

-- All eyes will be on Clinton, and expectations are high for the former First Lady's address to delegates. Clinton has three audiences tonight, starting with her own delegates she needs to convince to back Obama. Second, Clinton will need to target Democratic Party bigwigs, with whom she has fences to mend, especially if she really thinks Barack Obama will lose in November; if Clinton is right, a good relationship now could lead to a nomination in four years.

-- The third audience is the most important, and the most difficult to satiate. A hungry media, convinced that Clinton and Obama have an unsalvageable disaster of a relationship, love the storyline, and only a speech that kowtows to the new nominee will put that narrative to bed. Clinton, no shrinking violet, is going to acknowledge her supporters, many of whom are in the convention hall in Denver; that's just going to make the Clinton-as-spoiler story continue.

-- Will Clinton's speech be cathartic? Will it invite further criticism for the one-time candidate the media loves to hate? Perhaps most importantly for Clinton, can she walk the tightrope of praising Obama while leaving herself wiggle room to say she told them so if the younger senator loses in November? Clinton herself is holding events throughout the week in Denver, but it does send a bit of a mixed message when former campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe decides to head out of town before Obama's big speech, as the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk reported yesterday.

-- Meanwhile, there is life outside Denver, and if John McCain had his way, Bill Ayers would be a big part of it. Ayers, the 1960's radical who is now a part of Chicago's political establishment, is the feature of a new advertisement being run by the American Issues Project, a conservative outfit with just one donor who also helped fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Clinton brought up Obama's ties to Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, during the primary, but Republicans hope to make his name world-famous much in the way Willie Horton's was in 1988.

-- Obama is not happy about the advertisement, and in his response he demonstrated that which John Kerry and other recent Democratic candidates failed to: Obama signaled to backers and opponents that he will not take the hits without responding. Obama launched an ad hitting back in key swing states, while his campaign said it planned to ask the Justice Department to get the spot off the air, calling it an obvious effort to circumvent election law, the AP's Jim Kuhnhenn writes. If John Kerry or Al Gore had been as strong in their responses, some Democrats will say, President Bush might not be where he is today.

-- McCarthyism Of The Day: That would be Rep. Kevin McCarthy we're talking about. The California freshman, in St. Paul already as chair of the Republican Platform Committee, has the first draft of the GOP's guiding document, and to NRO's Stephen Spruiell, the differences from four years ago, when President Bush was mentioned 200 times, are clear. Even McCain's name is nowhere to be found. Spruiell says the newer document is heavy on principles and light on policy, a great way to start rebuilding an ideologically damaged party.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama, who watched the convention from a living room in Kansas City, holds an event echoing tonight's convention theme, "Renewing America's Promise," in the city early this afternoon. McCain will speak at the American Legion's national convention in Phoenix.