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US Election Beat: Convention diary
Al Jazeera's daily analysis of the all news from the US presidential election.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2008 16:24 GMT

Welcome to a special convention edition of US Election Beat, Al Jazeera's daily analysis of what's happening in the US presidential elections as voters prepare to elect the 44th president of the United States.

With news, views and a healthy degree of scepticism, we'll be bringing you the latest from Al Jazeera's teams at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Camille Elhassani, Denver, Friday August 29

VP frenzy kicks off again… this time it's John McCain… and he didn’t pick from the short list, he chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. 

She's a popular figure from a reliable Republican state with few electoral votes way out in the wilderness. 

But she's young, anti-abortion, and as a woman shows that the republican Party isn’t just for old white dudes.

So does she cancel out Obama?  they’re both "inexperienced” on the national/international stage.  They’re both young.  Neither looks like the traditional candidate.

Or is it a desperate pick?  While polls show McCain and Obama are statistically tied, McCain’s campaign never had much momentum. 

Getting Hillary Clinton’s disenfranchised supporters on his side may give him a push. It might be a hail mary pick (that’s an American football term for desperate long throw into the end zone). 

Next week's Republican Convention will have a hard time achieving the media frenzy that surrounded the DNC, and John McCain has already lowered expectations of his acceptance speech. 

There’s no swirling question about party unity or popular elder statesman to pay homage to. 

So in order to energise voters, Republicans need to find a way to make the message about the future not the past. 

McCain has to deal with the Bush/Cheney albatross, his age (Happy 72nd Birthday, by the way), and looking out of touch.  August was a good month for McCain, his poll numbers went up and his campaign got organized, but he’s either got to make fireworks or hope everybody gets amnesia next week.

As Tropical Storm Gustav takes aim at the US Gulf coast, Republicans are trying to figure out how to hold their Convention and not look out of touch or insensitive. 

It’s exactly three years ago that Hurricane Katrina hit and they are very aware how bad they looked after the botched response. 


Al Jazeera will bring you live coverage from the Republican National Convention next week.  See you in St Paul!

Reflection on the DNC

Thursday’s festivities at Invesco Mile High were more like a big party than a political Convention. 

The campaign had set out phone banks in the hallway and asked supporters to text like crazy to their undecided friends.  Were they trying to set a World Record for most texts sent in one day

The 2008 Democratic National Convention has to be one of the most successful the party has ever put on. 

At the beginning of the week, the pontificating press said the convention would collapse in disunity. 

Now we’re all waiting for new poll numbers on how much bounce Obama will get.

Obama and Biden start a tour of battleground states with stops in Pennsylvania today. 

Now that they're out on the trail, I hope reporters will be able and willing to question the dynamic duo on the issues.

Riz Khan, Denver, Thursday August 28

Journalists love "buzz" words. So do politicians it seems.

For the Democrats gathered at the party convention in Denver, Colorado – the "Mile High City" - the buzz words were designated to change from day-to-day.

So Monday began with "unity" – hoping that if the word was said enough, the bitter taste left in the mouth of a divided party might finally dissolve.

In theory, it was all about "One Nation" - but the gathering of around 45,000 people – including 4,000-plus delegates was murmuring about the divisions created during the primary campaigning.

The Democratic National Convention 2008 was widely touted as a final opportunity for supporters of Senators Obama and Clinton to "unite" and find some common ground in order to show an effective voting bloc against the Republican hopeful, Senator John McCain.

Tuesday saw journalists repeatedly spouting the word "renewing" as the theme of Day Two was "Renewing America's Promise" – although Hillary Clinton broke ranks somewhat in her keynote speech of the evening by talking about "unity" in the first couple of minutes. Oops!

Actually, it was probably a good thing for her to hammer home the “unity” thing, considering that a reported fifth – yes, 20 per cent - of her supporters are considering voting for John McCain.

With the New York Senator having culled 18 million votes in the primary campaigning, that's a lot of erstwhile Democrats saying "yes" to the Republicans.

The Republicans had also launched a cutting television advert featuring a sound-bite from a Clinton speech effectively dismissing Obama’s track record on foreign policy.

It had come back to bite her in the political bottom! 

By Wednesday the echo of "renewing" had faded to the new chant of "securing" as delegates insisted on "Securing America’s Future" – ironically appropriate considering the level of security at the DNC site in Denver.

'Fuzz or fizz'

It may be named the "Pepsi Center" – but for this week, there was far more "fuzz" than "fizz" around.

Interestingly, the issue of access to the venue became so problematic due to massive shortages of "Arena" passes that journalists in particular had to devise a complex game of "Pass the Pass" – trading "Perimeter" passes for "Arena" passes to get in and out of the hall in time for their live broadcasts.

It wasn't unusual to hear raised voices as people insisted that it was their turn for an Arena pass.

Not much "unity" there.

The pass issue became redundant by Thursday as the venue for the DNC changed to the Invesco Field – a stadium nearby, with the hugely anticipated speech by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

Very appropriate considering the buzz word was now "change."

As a journalist, it was interesting to note that the theme was "Change You Can Believe In" – ending in a preposition – as opposed to "Change In Which You Can Believe" – but we’ve got bigger things to worry about.

In the effort to "renew" their passes, hardly anyone ended up with the right credentials for access to the venue.

Far more security, even less "unity.'

It is easy to see why journalists become a little sceptical with politics and politicians.

Hearing that the DNC 2008 event cost tens of millions to stage, turned the City of Colorado upside down with road blocks and diversions, and filled the streets with every kind of security under the sun (the Denver Police alone were predicting making $1.2 million in overtime), it’s natural to question what it’s really all about.

A "big, expensive, private party" according to one disgruntled journalist mumbling and cursing as he waited an hour-and-a-half to get through security.

Obviously, having some wonderful buzz words was not enough for him.

But as the journalists and others finally "buzz" off – heading to Minneapolis/St. Paul to do the same again with Republicans, the residents of the Mile High City can finally surface from their underground bunkers in "unity!"

Sarah Brown, Denver, Thursday August 28

"Enough!"

That was the message Barack Obama, now formally the Democratic presidential candidate, hit home to an adoring crowd of up to 80,000 people during his speech at the Invesco centre in Denver.

This was a galvanized, more politically muscular Obama, one who challenged McCain to a debate on foreign policy and whipped up the crowd with his denunciations of the Bush administration and his call for "a president who can concentrate on the challenges of the future, not of the past".

But there was much political theatre, too - the stuff of Hollywood, or as one attendee observed "the greatest rock star entrance ever", as Obama took the stage and fireworks and confetti as he left it.

It was perhaps an unsurmountable challenge that Obama faced – wowing the crowd despite a four-day build up in which supporter after supporter stepped up to the podium and swore that Obama would fix all that the Bush administration had broken.

It meant much of what Obama said was merely reiterating earlier remarks – and the McCain camp was swift to respond with an email taking Obama to task for various "misleading claims".

But when his punches hit, they hit home, as he castigated the Republicans for squeezing the Middle class, decried their policies on education, healthcare and the economy and vowed to restore America's standing in the world and its "moral authority" to roars of approval from the crowd.

The message from the McCain camp, he said, jabbing the air with his finger to prove his point, was "you're on your own".

Finally, after a brief quote from the scripture and a "God bless", a visibly relieved looking Obama - who has now officially made history as the first African-American candidate for a major US political party - stood with his wife and daughters as fireworks lit up the Denver sky.

His supporters had no doubt he had, as one attendee declared, "nailed it". It will be interesting to see if the rest of the world shares this view.

Camille Elhassani, Denver, Thursday August 28

The day after the party came together...as the sun comes up over Denver, light hits litter on the pavement outside the Pepsi Center. 

It’s leftover from a night of revelry after the Democrats nominated Barack Obama to lead the United States of America. 

Humourist Will Rogers once said, "I am not a member of any organised political party, I'm a Democrat." 

Well, the last three days have proved Rogers wrong.  The Democrats have shown they are organised, unified, and electrified. 

Last night, they started with a dramatic roll call vote showing they're united around senator Obama.  The night ended with the candidate himself popping up in the familiar "surprise" visit. 

Hillary told the Democrats they should vote for Obama, Bill told them he can lead. 

In last night's speech, it was obvious that Bill missed the spotlight, but he proved he's not rusty being in it. 

He gave an unqualified endorsement of Obama.  The Obama camp tried to manage his message, but in the end, Bill didn't need it.

So out with the old story (unity) and in with the new (win), that was Joe Biden’s task. 

And he's going old school VP, taking on the role as attack dog. He used his speech to go after McCai

John McCain, remember him?  Many of the papers say he’s made his VP choice. 

About 12 hours after Obama gives his acceptance speech, McCain will appear with the man or woman in battleground state Ohio. 

Then reportedly, they’ll continue to battlegrounds Pennsylvania and Missouri together trying to build momentum towards the Republican Convention which begins on Monday.  But will it be Lieberman?  Not if Karl Rove has anything to say about it.

Obama is putting the finishing touches on his big speech tonight.

Convention schedule:

The Obama campaign has released the schedule for tonight, and it’s like a festival of music, movies, and speeches. 

Campaign officials took great pains this morning to say that tonight is about the people. 

The officials said there will be tens of thousands of people at the event, many who don’t usually pay attention to politics, but are energised this year. 

They’re trying to make out like his campaign is a movement, instead of just plain politics.

 The Obama people have built a Greek temple on stage for his speech later tonight.  Everyone is laughing, and the Republicans will be able to use it as fodder for their celebrity charge.  They're already calling it "The Temple of Obama."

On the 45th anniversary of MLK’s "I have a Dream" speech, pundits of all stripes are saying what they think Obama absolutely positively has to say – everything from tough on Russia to how he’s going to change ordinary people’s lives. 

Whatever the text, he’s got to sell himself tonight. 

The last three days have put him in a great position to do that, nothing in Denver has gone wrong. 

Al Jazeera English ran into a bit of trouble in Golden, Colorado this week.  Some citizens thought we shouldn't be broadcasting from their town. 

But in the end, it's been refreshing to know that there are plenty of Americans and plenty in the US press corps who realise we're not terrorists and are behind what we're doing. 

Sarah Brown, Denver, Wednesday August 27

In a campaign that has consistently wrong-footed all the pundits, it seemed fitting there was one more twist on Wednesday night, as Barack Obama thrilled the Democratic delegates by stepping on to the stage in Denver to surprise his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden and greet the crowd.

It sparked an ecstactic response from the audience, with one 17-year-old delegate from Ohio squealing "this is awesome!" to Al Jazeera before jumping up and down with her 'Obama/Biden' sign so heavily a security man told her to calm down.

Biden in his speech, after formally accepting the vice-presidential nomination, moved swiftly to heap invective on the Bush administration and castigate Obama’s rival, John McCain, for offering "more of the same".

"Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama was right," he said to cheers from the audience.

"These times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader. A leader who can deliver ... the change everybody knows we need.

"Barack Obama will deliver that change."

However, the Clinton juggernaut had one final scene in the spotlight on Wednesday as Bill Clinton, the former US president, took the stage to pay tribute to his wife’s campaign and urge support for Obama.

Clinton clearly relished the roar of the crowd, and paid lavish tribute to his wife’s campaign, but in a compelling speech the former president made clear where his, and his wife's allegiances lay, as he praised the Illinois senator's "remarkable ability to inspire people" and that Obama "was the man for the job".

And now maybe, just maybe, the friction - real or imaginary - between the two sides has been eased. Certainly the Democrats, who are eyeing the latest neck and neck polling figures between the two presidential candidates nervously, will be hoping so.

Camille Elhassani, Denver, Wednesday August 27

Another successful night for the Democrats (where are the gaffes we can make jokes about???)

Last night, Hillary Clinton was on fire in an orange pantsuit.  And as predicted the media vultures are picking apart every word.

Clinton's speech was widely acclaimed [AFP]
By most accounts, Clinton did what Obama wanted, if on her own terms.

She extolled the virtues of the Democratic party and told her supporters in no uncertain terms to get behind Obama who believes in all the things the Democratic Party stands for.

She said, "Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose."

And while it was a fantastic speech and there were no fistfights on the floor, was Hillary Clinton effective at swaying her most ardent supporters?

It looked like a united party last night, but we'll find out on November 4.

Beyond Hillary, every speaker last night was on the McMessage – link McCain to Bush and attack his policies, especially on the economy.

Obama has been crafting his Thursday acceptance speech.

He wrote it in a hotel room last weekend.

But he's not trying to recreate the 2004 DNC keynote speech which launched him onto the national stage. 

Obama says he's going to address one of the concerns people have about him, that they don’t get him.

"I'm not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric… I want people to come away saying, 'Whether I'm voting for the guy or against the guy, I know what he stands for."

Wednesday convention highlights

Today's theme is Securing America's Future.

Let's all see how they tiptoe around the Iraq War… the audience will be chanting "Get Troops Out," and the politicians will be playing a game of dodgeball.

The Roll Call vote happens today.

The vote is the culmination of the primary season. Delegates from each state vote based on the poll returns in their state.

It's a procedure (isn't everything around here).

The Democrats announced how it will work this year just a couple of hours ago.  There's no acclimation, just ballots and speeches.  It seems they're not worried about possible disunity.

Bill Clinton speaks tonight.

He has reportedly had an acrimonious relationship with the Senator from Illinois, and the Obama campaign must be quite anxious over how tonight will go down with voters.

While everyone is buzzing about the second Clinton speech, Joe Biden gives the big speech of the night. His job is to hammer home that McCain isn’t an option.

Other noted speakers tonight: Senator John Kerry, Governor Bill Richardson, and a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.

Cindy McCain is in Georgia.  Not Georgia as in Savannah, but as in Tblisi.  She’s there to assess the humanitarian situation.  I hope nobody tries to shake her hand  (a couple of weeks ago, an overzealous fan shook her hand too hard and sprained her wrist).

The never-animated Michael Dukakis lamented his loss to George Bush in 1988 last night on CBS, "Look, I owe the American people an apology.  If I had beaten the old man you'd of never heard of the kid and you wouldn't be in this mess.  So it's all my fault..."

So this is the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic National Convention.  So why are Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney wandering around trying to get on television?

Yes, it's important to hear from both sides and not drink the Democrat's Kool-aid.

Sarah Brown, Denver, Wednesday August 27

 

When Clinton stepped on to the stage for her speech at the convention, she was the recipient of an ovation more befitting a successful candidate than one who had to concede.

In focus

In-depth coverage of the US election
The New York senator looked in her element, waving to the crowd who roared in appreciation, waving Hillary signs and vigorously chanting her name.

The impetus was for Clinton to emphasise unity, and that was exactly what she did, but not without thanking her supporters and mentioning that the Illinois senator would bring change as the Democrats under her husband Bill Clinton had done before.

This may not go down well with the Obama campaign, and indeed among the 'Hillary' chants there were some 'Obama's too, by supporters who clearly felt the limelight was being hogged.

And it is perhaps a small but telling point that Obama's name was mentioned only 10 times in a 30 minute speech.

Nonetheless, unity is what her party wanted and that was what they got.

Clinton got some well-aimed digs in at John McCain, sang the praises of the Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, and exhorted the crowd to put Obama in the White House.

"Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our president," she said to a standing ovation.

"We must all be on the same team."

Rosiland Jordan, Denver, Wednesday August 27

 

Young reporters are warned against spending too much time "inside the bubble" – stuck in newsrooms or on one beat for too long – and urged to get outside, ask people questions, and listen to their answers.

This not-so-young correspondent happens to live for meeting interesting people, and so, on this second day of the Democratic convention, it was off to the small city of Golden, 24km west of Denver.

The city sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains – just 21 square kilometres nestled in a valley along Clear Creek.

Small shops and offices line the streets, and people warmly say hello to each other.

When they see our crew, some tell us they're glad to have a chance to tell the world what they think about this political season.

The overwhelming message – people are hungry for a renewed sense of economic and psychological security - and they're very keen to see what both Barack Obama and John McCain have to offer them.

And I was pleasantly surprised to find a very warm welcome from the lady who poured her coffee, and from the older man who mugged for a photo with her.

Golden was founded at the height of the western gold rush in the 19th century and, like many boom towns, Golden had some rough times once the gold veins were tapped out.

Even with the main campus of the Colorado School of Mines, one resident said the city didn't have the vibrancy associated with most college towns.

Another resident recalled life in the city in the mid-1980s – "an example of urban decay," he called it.

But he told us that a very hands-on city government made Golden's renewal a priority – and to this correspondent's eyes, it seems to have worked.

Groups of tourists flocked into the shops and on to restaurant patios – certainly the ample sunshine and a gentle breeze slipping down Washington Street helped make all that possible.

On the way back to Denver, I stopped in a shop to pick up a couple of magazines and overheard another customer on her cell phone.

She was telling the person on the line about all the security that has taken over the streets of Denver this week, and how bad the traffic was, and just how glad she was that she wouldn't have to go downtown until after the convention was done.

So even in the simplest of ways, life this week in Golden is a bit golden, and with no traffic jams in sight, this correspondent had to agree.

Rob Reynolds, Denver, Tuesday August 26

Some diehard Clinton supporters aren't getting with the unity programme. About 200 of them held a rally in a Denver park.

"I honour Hillary's opinion and wishes," one protestor said.

"However I have to honor hundreds of people who brought me here to Denver, and I'll be standing here for Hillary til the sun goes down and the moon comes up."

Behind the scenes here in Denver intense negotiations between Clinton and Obama camps are underway, aimed at preventing an embarrassing display of party in-fighting during the nomination vote on Wednesday.

One scenario would have the actual votes cast by state delegation in their hotels Wednesday morning - away from the TV cameras.

Then that night party leaders - perhaps including Clinton - would call on delegates to nominate Obama by acclamation.

Keynote speaker Mark Warner told Al Jazeera's Camille Elhassani he is confident the party will pull itself together:

"The Democrats have a history of family squabbling, but at the end of the day, we'll be united," Warner, a former Virginia governor and current candidate for the senate, said.

"We can continue with 4 more years of the bush policies or turn the page.  I think Americans are ready to turn the page."

Some Democrats worried that the warm and fuzzy, feel-good atmosphere on Monday, with its tribute to Teddy Kennedy and cute vignette with the Obama Kids ("Hi, Daddy!") squandered an opportunity to draw sharp contrasts with McCain.

On Tuesday Democratic speakers went negative.

"George Bush and Dick Cheney have sided with big business and big oil and left the rest of us to fend for ourselves," declared senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

"As much as John McCain would like us to believe he’s different, his economic plan offers not a single new idea, just more of the same."

Obama previewed Tuesday's sharper tone with an attack on McCain, linking him to the unpopular Bush administration and the failing economy

"John McCain just doesn’t get it," Obama told a rally in Kansas City. "He's out of touch."

Sarah Brown, Denver, Tuesday August 26

The Democratic convention may be about formally granting Obama the nomination, but Tuesday is most certainly all about the Clintons.

Hillary supporters gathered to make
their voices heard
Bill Clinton, the former US president, was in central Denver to give a brief speech at the International Affairs Forum one of many such policy forums at the convention and one attended by several former heads of state.

The former president, in an often rambling speech, ostensibly was present to lend gravitas to the proceedings, but he could not resist a reference to the 'hard fought' primary campaign that Hillary, his wife, had had with Obama.

Clearly, he misses the action, at one point jokingly thanking the audience "for giving me one more excuse to show up for my party’s convention."

And he may not be the only one.

Hillary Clinton herself will take the stage later on Tuesday evening for a speech analysts say will emphasise her support for Obama amid fears her followers will back John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival, or perhaps not vote at all.

However a quick stroll around the floor of the Pepsi Center where the convention is held will lead to encounters with several Hillary fans still proudly wearing Clinton buttons, badges and brandishing signs, to the palpable annoyance of some attending Obama supporters.

A group of pro-Hillary supporters have even organised a march through Denver in support of her candidacy and her “historic achievement” in the presidential race.

The question that remains on everyone's lips is: Can this obvious dissension be overcome in time for the November elections?

It seems that on Tuesday evening, the ball is in Hillary’s court?

Camille Elhassani, Denver, Tuesday August 26

The first night of the Convention was a success for the Democrats.  

They wanted to show how warm, fuzzy, and family friendly they can be, and it worked. 

Despite the media obsession, there was no disunity and no attack-dog politics on Monday. 

It was a night of both senior statesmen and youthful exuberance. 

Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator, delivered an amazing speech despite battling brain cancer. 

He acknowledged that the torch is being passed from his generation to generation O.

And he took a page from his 1980 Democratic convention speech, saying "The work begins anew. The hope rises again, and the dream lives on."

So is the story of this Convention that there’s disunity, or are the obsessive press rolling in the mud?  Political parties aren’t ever truly united. 

They compromise on a candidate. 

Some will grumble the nominee is too far-left, some say too far-right, too old, too young, too boring, too tainted.

But those who identify themselves as belonging to a particular party will usually bury their differences.

Convention agenda

The warm and fuzzy is over, tonight look for a concentrated attack on McCain and the Republicans.  The media will get their wish for high drama.

The theme of the day is called Renewing America's Promise. 

The speeches will focus on the Economy, Healthcare, and Education. 

It's also the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage. 

So there will be a lot of talk about how far women have come in politics.

Mark Warner, a former Virginia governor and senatorial candidate, will give the keynote speech tonight, an honor bestowed to Barack Obama in 2004. 

But really it's all about Hillary Clinton tonight. 

She speaks at primetime, and all the media hounds in the convention press area (myself included) will be looking for subtle hints as to whether or not she goes the distance to get her supporters behind Obama.

Rosiland Jordan, Denver, Monday August 25

The tourism gurus for the city of Denver like to brag that the city gets 300 sunny days a year. That's not bragging – that is a statement of fact; your correspondent is regretting she didn't pack more sunscreen! The combination of blue skies and fresh air is a welcome sight during this weekend of packed deadlines.

The city hugs the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains, part of the grand mountain chain that stretches the length of the Americas. The view of the skyline - looking west from the Pepsi Arena - is impressive. Plenty of people - journalists, delegates, staffers and security officers - are taking the time to pose for photos with the peaks behind them, making instant postcards.

The only locale hotter for picture taking: The floor of the convention hall, where the high-tech video walls and flashing lights make for a rather snazzy background. 

One thing that hasn't changed: The cardboard signs marking each state's delegation place on the floor.

Illinois – Barack Obama's home state – is front and centre, while Delaware replaced Montana just to the left of Illinois. That's because Joe Biden, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, hails from Delaware. Hmm – was a Montanan secretly in the running for the number-two slot and every journalist in the universe missed the hint?

Around the complex, Denver's environmental reputation is in full force. Recycling bins sit at every desk and at every food concession; so-called grey water is used to water the lush grass and flower beds. There's even a hybrid car on display at the VIP entrance – perhaps a hint to members of congress to do more to promote non-petroleum fuel sources?

One final note from this first official day of the convention – the security to get into the arena compound rivals that of airport security. Oh wait – those are federal airport security officials checking our laptops, purses and backpacks! They're doing their jobs quite efficiently – and yes, there are some delegates who missed the memo on emptying their pockets of change and keys before going through the check. One can only hope things will move more quickly as the week progresses.

Rob Reynolds, Denver, Monday August 25

It's quite a scene inside the Pepsi Centre, the erstwhile basketball arena where the Democrats have gathered.

At the centre is a massive a high-tech stage, brightly lit in glittering red, white and blue.

Huge high-definition television screens flank the stage, and off to one side, a light-jazzy band blares in order to keep delegates entertained.

The opening ceremonies were full of patriotic pomp, including the requisite singing of the national anthem by an adorable bunch of kiddies.

The star of Monday night's carefully scripted opening production will be Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama, left, has faced her
own controversy [AFP]
Her job: to represent Barack Obama as an ordinary husband, father and all round normal guy that Americans can relate to and feel comfortable with.

Michelle Obama has herself been a lightning-rod for controversy. Republicans attacked her as unpatriotic when she said her husband's political success made her proud to be an American for the first time in her adult life.

So another part of her task in this speech will be an attempt to soften her own image.

The candidate himself, meanwhile, was campaigning through the Midwest, stopping off for an informal front porch type gathering to pledge his commitment to improve the lives of middle class Americans. 

"Politics didn't bring me to working class people," he said. "Working class people brought me to politics."

Obama badly needs working class white voters' support if he is to defeat John McCain, his Republican opponent, in November.

The key to that may be Hillary Clinton, his one-time rival for the Democratic nomination.

Many of her supporters from key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan are disappointed she didn't win and that Obama didn't pick her to be his running mate.

A new poll shows 30 per cent of Clinton supporters plan to vote for McCain; just 47 per cent say they're firmly behind Obama; 23 per cent say they support him but may change their minds.

Clinton herself is urging her supporters to get behind Obama. She'll give a speech at the convention on Tuesday night.

A prominent former Clinton supporter told Al Jazeera she's confident the party will get itself together.

Sarah Brown, Denver, Monday August 25

The Democratic national convention has now officially begun! After opening remarks from Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont, and a rapturous rendition of the US national anthem by local school children, we face four days of speeches, schmoozing, wheeling and dealing, parties and occasionally even some politics.

The city of Denver has spared no expense in sprucing up the city for the shindig, and the streets here are practically gleaming when they are not choked with limousines, enormous blacked out SUVs and police.

Security is tight here, with checkpoints for people and vehicles, concrete blast blocks over roads and scores of riot police, some riding rather precariously on bikes, milling about the city.

Those attempting to enter the Pepsi Centre, where the convention is being held, face a lengthy walk in the sweltering Denver heat to reach the convention.

The theme of Monday's events is unity - something perceived to have been in short supply in recent months within the party after the often bitter primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

So far everyone Al Jazeera has spoken to on the issue has been keen to play down the rift and emphasise solidarity.

Clinton herself is due to speak on Tuesday but tonight the main speech is by Michelle Obama, wife of the presidential candidate.

It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to a woman seen by some as a rather unknown quantity in the campaign.

Camille Elhassani, Denver, Monday August 25

Let the pomp, circumstance, and security begin!

Rumours of a Clinton-Obama supporter showdown at the convention continue to overshadow the festivities. 

The two camps issued a short statement late last night in response to a Politico article about how fractured they are.

"The fact is that our teams are working closely to ensure a successful convention, and will continue to do so. Anyone saying anything else doesn't know what they're talking about - period."

Obama's team was up early attempting to play down the rumours on a conference call for reporters.

John McCain is trying to capitalise on the Clinton factor (finally!) by putting out an ad with a former Clinton supporter turned McCain fan. 

Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak on Wednesday night, and Obama's people have told him to stick to the day's theme of Keeping America Safe. 

But he wants to talk about the economy and his record while in office. 

No dice, said the Obama team.

They're also not happy that Mark Penn is advising Bill on the speech. 

Penn is the Hillary strategist who wanted to paint Obama as fundamentally un-American during the primaries.

But while the Democrats make nice on stage, will their supporters make nice on the floor of the convention? 

Tomorrow Clinton's supporters are holding an all day march and celebration near the convention centre.
 
Monday Convention Agenda

Bring your Kleenex, day one promises to be a tear jerker. Michelle Obama will be the keynote speaker tonight and will talk about her husband's life story.

The Obamas are crafting his biography to make him seem more approachable. 

Caroline Kennedy will introduce a film tribute to her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy who is suffering from a brain tumour. 

Kennedy is expected to make an appearance at the convention tonight, despite his health. 

Other speakers on the agenda are former president Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Funfact: Popstar Madonna doesn't like John McCain. She kicked off her new world tour with images of McCain, Hitler and Robert Mugabe behind her. Ouch.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
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Influential independence figure has been key in promoting Scottish nationalism, but will his efforts succeed?
Teenage phenom with quick hands and a passion for boxing has reminded many of the great Filipino fighter at a young age.
Families of Britons killed in 2013 siege at gas plant in Algeria frustrated by inquiry delay over 'sensitive' materials.
Rhinoceros beetles once drew 40,000 visitors each year to Tamura city, but nuclear disaster has decimated beetle mania.
In run-up to US midterm elections, backers of immigration law changes disappointed by postponement of executive action.
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