Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democratic past and future come together in Denver - Ottawa Daily Times


Kane Farabaugh
Special to The Times

DENVER - Overwhelming. That's the best way to describe my initial impression of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Overwhelming because of the number of people packed into the Pepsi Center. Overwhelming because of the number of events, news stories and protests going on around the city.

I've had a few conversations with colleagues at Voice of America who agree it is easy to lose focus covering a political convention because of everything that is packed into a four-day period. It's understood we won't be able to cover it all. But there are key stories to follow, key people to interview and key events that lead up to Sen. Barack Obama's nomination for president by the Democratic Party.

One such event was Monday night's main speaker, Michelle Obama. She already is a popular figure on the campaign trail. Her handshake or autograph is just as sought after as her husband's. She has an appeal that Democrats hope will win over undecided female voters and Hillary Clinton supporters. Both groups are key to Obama's election success in November.

But if Michelle Obama was the main event that packed the Pepsi Center, the appearance of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy was one of the most electrifying moments on the convention floor so far.

The crowd cheers Senator Edward Kennedy as he arrives on the Convention floor

The news came down earlier in the day Kennedy would speak during prime time. My particular assignment this night was to accompany VOA's White House correspondent Paula Wolfson on the floor of the convention, to help film the people and sights she would encounter while finding interviews for the live VOA program she was reporting for. A specific destination for us was to be with the Massachusetts delegation when Kennedy arrived at the podium.

But this convention can be somewhat unconventional at times. On the way there we quite literally ran into New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate Bill Richardson, who gave us a few key comments about what Obama needs to do to win in November.

Our endeavor to strategically position ourselves in the Massachusetts section also was sidetracked by the surprise appearance of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, now Barack Obama's running mate. He was right behind us, seated with his family in the skybox of DNC Chairman and former Presidential candidate Howard Dean.

By the time we finally settled in with the Massachusetts delegation, Kennedy, ailing from brain cancer, took the stage amid a chorus of cheers from the audience in a sea of signs bearing his historic family name.

It brought tears to the eyes of Massachusetts delegate Kim Whittaker.

"I think Sen. Kennedy has done so much for the people of Massachusetts, for the people of the country. He's been such a champion for health care, you know, to help people who haven't had the voice in Washington."

Kennedy's appearance at the convention helped continue the momentum Obama gained over the weekend in Springfield when he introduced Joe Biden as his pick for vice president. Kennedy endorsed Obama before the Massachusetts primary earlier this year, but it didn't help him win the state. Hillary Clinton carried that primary election, and she still carries a large number of delegates into this week's convention.

It remains a source of some concern about how her committed delegates will cast their roll call vote later this week. Clinton's name will be placed in nomination Wednesday night, and fears about a boisterous floor demonstration are growing. A sign that while Kennedy represents the past and Michelle Obama represents the future, there still are obstacles in the way of party unity that makes getting through the present the top priority for the Democratic Party well before the Tuesday, Nov. 4, election.

CNN = Politics. Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer on the floor

But for a journalist covering this event, holding a precious floor pass that gives unfettered access to the venue, a boisterous demonstration is the kind of scenario, overwhelming or not, that makes for a memorable moment on this historic path to the presidency.

No comments: