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« Biden Accepts Veep Nod | Blog Home Page | CO: Udall, Obama +3 »

Strategy Memo: History Repeating?

DENVER, Colorado -- Good Thursday morning. As Denver prepares to rid itself of the scourge that is a major party convention, we wonder, will this city ever get more cabs? Here's what Washington and Denver are watching this morning:

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech in Washington on August 28, 1963. Forty-five years to the day later, the first African American candidate will accept his party's nomination for President of the United States. With a vice president already in tow, a night after Delaware Senator Joe Biden accepted his own nomination, Obama will speak in prime time to an audience of millions. In person, as many as 80,000 people are expected to attend.

-- The speech could be the apex of Obama's campaign; last time we checked, the Illinois senator has proven pretty adept at given convention addresses. And with thirty million or more tuned in, tonight is an opportunity Obama won't get again, to make his case, unfiltered and on his terms, to voters. Poll results show a big majority of Americans like Obama -- both he and opponent John McCain have approval ratings in the low- to mid-60s. Tonight gives Obama a chance to convert at least a few of those who like him into those ready to support him.

-- But tonight isn't without risks. Democratic Party officials are worried that the speech comes with big political risks, and that in an uncontrolled environment, the risks the Obama campaign is taking are just too great. Politico's Charlie Mahtesian and the New York Times' Rutenberg and Zeleny write on Democrats' efforts to both tone down the event while retaining the intended impact of wooing not only those watching on television but also those Colorado residents who actually attend.

-- Republicans are already salavating over the chance to renew the portrayal of Obama as a larger-than-life celebrity unable to connect with the average American. Obama will speak on a stage that has evoked images of a Greek temple to some (Organizers say the columns are meant to invoke federal buildings in Washington), and the McCain campaign sent out a tongue-in-cheek memo offering suggestions for proper toga attire at the event, taking place in what they call the Barackopolis (The -opolis suffix actually means "city," but "naos," the word for temple, doesn't sound as good).

-- It's a major opportunity, and it's a major minefield, that Obama faces tonight. The upside is clear: 80,000 major fans cheering him on would give anyone predisposed toward Obama a chill and a positive impression of Obama. But for those who remain undecided, McCain's efforts to portray Obama as a celebrity have been effective, making the speech at Invesco Field more an area of concern for Democrats as they try to reduce Obama's star power.

-- Meanwhile, John McCain has selected his running mate, though by the time you read this in the morning that person will probably still be blissfully unaware of the job offer to come. The soon-to-be GOP nominee virtually settled on a candidate earlier this week and top aides were consulted yesterday, Politico's Mike Allen reported yesterday. McCain will notify the nominee sometime today, with a major rally set for Ohio planned tomorrow, followed by stops in Pennsylvania and Missouri. Even as Obama makes his speech tonight, reporters already are keeping half an eye on St. Paul and McCain's pick, a choice that could leak as early as today.

-- That pick is not likely to be someone pro-choice, it appears. McCain's suggestion that he was open to such a candidate, first thought to refer to former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and inviting speculation over eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Colin Powell, looks like it was actually aimed at gauging support for Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who is one of McCain's closest backers. Lieberman was under consideration as late as this week, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported yesterday, and after a phone call from Karl Rove asking him to withdraw his name from consideration, Lieberman said no, indicating he has some interest. McCain may want to pick Lieberman, but choosing a pro-choice running mate would cause a revolt among delegates in St. Paul.

-- Bad Omen Of The Day: Hurricane Gustav could hit the coast of Louisiana on Monday, the opening day of the Republican National Convention, as a dangerous Category 3 storm, weather experts said yesterday. As President Bush speaks to the country on Labor Day, a third major storm in three years could hit New Orleans, inviting unflattering comparisons to the lackluster federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a rising star who would have played a prominent role at the convention, has already begged off in order to prepare his state for the storm. And if that's not enough to make Republicans go batty, Bush's Justice Department is looking to reduce lobbyist Jack Abramoff's sentence, the Washington Post reports.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama will officially accept the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in a primetime address to delegates and guests at Invesco Field in Denver. McCain, meanwhile, is preparing to step all over that announcement with his decision to name a vice presidential contender tomorrow. He lands in Vandalia, Ohio this evening in preparation for tomorrow's rally. The big question: Will word of McCain's choice leak before newspaper deadlines tonight?