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« NC: Dole +3 | Blog Home Page | Convention Flair 101 »

Strategy Memo: Denver Divide

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DENVER, Colorado -- Good Monday morning. We apologize for the delay in posting, but logistics on the ground at the Democratic National Convention leave something to be desired. Here's what Denver, and Washington, are watching today:

-- Democrats kick off their quadrennial gathering in Denver today at 3 p.m. local time, or 5 p.m. Eastern. Day one's theme: One Nation, highlighted by speeches from DNC chair Howard Dean, former President Jimmy Carter, former Republican Rep. Jim Leach and Michelle Obama, among others. A video tribute to ailing Senator Ted Kennedy could prove the highlight of the night, as rumors are running around Denver that the liberal lion could make an appearance himself.

-- But before national Democrats shed an emotional tear over one of their heroes, the party will have to deal with a renewed focus on the fracture between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The two rivals are insistent on putting to rest any stories of a feud -- Obama strategist David Axelrod and Clinton strategist Maggie Williams issued a joint statement strongly denying a rift yesterday -- but it's not a story that will go quietly into a good Monday night. From fundraising to help eliminate Clinton's debt to assigned speaking slots during this week's Mile High confab, schisms are becoming more evident, as Politico's Harris and Allen write today.

-- Republicans, meanwhile, are doing everything they can to help that divide grow. A new advertisement John McCain's campaign is running in key states highlights Debra Bartoshevich, a Clinton delegate whose ticket to Denver was taken away when she said publicly that she will back the Republican. Clinton "had the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain," Bartoshevich says in the spot. It's a similar note to that struck by RNC Victory chair Carly Fiorina, who has spent the last few months traveling the country to meet with former Clinton supporters.

-- The real reason the story won't die: The media won't let it. Clinton has done her part for Obama, traveling to rallies around the country (And doing a little fundraising for herself along the way), and it's certainly not a storyline the Obama team wants to perpetuate -- he's gone as far as giving Clinton a roll call vote to mollify upset supporters. But the media is spoiling for a fight, and with Clinton spending a significant amount of time in Denver, with events on at least three of the next four days, it's the fight that presents itself.

-- In convention news, full voting rights have been restored to both the Florida and Michigan delegations, a move expected once a nominee became obvious. The DNC restored both states' voting rights a few months after the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee granted them full seating but only half votes, CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand writes. It took a full year -- more, actually, considering the several years the RBC took to craft party rules regarding presidential nominations -- but Michiganders and Floridians have their space back.

-- Don't underestimate the power of Kennedy's expected speech tonight. Suffering from brain cancer, the Massachusetts Senator plans to be in Denver to see Obama accept the nomination Kennedy once sought, the Boston Globe reports today. As the first major Democratic power player to back Obama in what turned into a watershed moment for the campaign, and thanks to his perch in the upper echelons of party lore, Kennedy could speak any time he chose. The first day of the convention, when voters who might be turned off by Kennedy's liberal rhetoric, won't be what those voters remember. But it will be something loyal Democrats remember, akin to an address from Ronald Reagan for Republicans. There won't be many dry eyes in the house.

-- Balancing Act Of The Day: Joe Biden is such old news. The Delaware Senator, tapped as either a great choice (This author's opinion) or a cop out to political expediency (RCP's Tom Bevan's opinion), is preparing for his Wednesday speech to delegates even as John McCain promises he'll get a vice presidential rival soon. If McCain chooses former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Democrats may have even more trouble gaining ground in the West, a region that has long been a top target, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead writes. But will Christian conservatives be okay with Romney's Mormonism? As with Biden's penchant for misstatements versus his foreign policy and other experience, that's a balance McCain will have to find.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama holds a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, while his wife walks through the Denver convention site and offers her own speech to delegates. McCain has a press conference scheduled in Phoenix before holding fundraisers in California. He appears on Jay Leno's Tonight Show this evening.