Rarely in the history of American political conventions has the losing side received so much time and attention as this week in Denver.
Barack Obama has been forced, by the clout Hillary Rodham Clinton showed in their primary battle and his need for her voters in his race against Republican John McCain, to allow the gathering of Democrats to look a lot like the Clinton Convention.
The first day, Monday, was dominated by daylong dealmaking between the Clinton and Obama camps over ground rules for the nominating roll call.
The second day’s highlight was Clinton’s address. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, designated the official convention keynote speaker, was just a footnote in television and newspaper reports. By contrast, among the most replayed shots of the night was of a still-fuming Bill Clinton, tightlipped and teary, watching his wife from a Pepsi Center skybox.
Then came Wednesday, day three of four, when the former president himself spoke. He garnered as much or more attention than what was supposed to be the evening’s marquee event, the speech from vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.
As the evening’s final speaker, Biden held the so-called prime-time slot. Yet, in Eastern and Central time zones, Biden wound up on TV after many folk’s bedtimes and it was Bill Clinton people saw, being cheered so roundly that he had to plead ‘’Please stop... Please sit’’ to be heard.
‘’I love this,’’ the former president said as delegates cheered and cheered for him through a speech that, characteristically, went on longer than it was meant to.
Another surprisingly Clinton-focused event was Wednesday’s roll call vote. It climaxed with Obama’s acclamation as the Democratic candidate for president — but only after Clinton amassed hundreds of still-diehard delegates and requested the process be shut down to make the night officially Obama’s.
Meanwhile, in interviews prominent Clintonites dumped on Team Obama’s convention strategy. James Carville carped that the party’s message is missing in action in Denver. Paul Begala ridiculed Warner’s plan to talk ‘’post-partisan.’’
It was easy to lose sight of what Bill and Hillary Clinton said from the podium. Their message — forcefully, graciously and unequivocally delivered by both, whatever their private feelings might be: Put the past in the past, get behind Obama and don’t let McCain win.