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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 2: Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Editor's Note: Follow all the action at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with CNN correspondents, anchors, analysts and guests on this daily Weblog. All times are Eastern Daylight.

Taking the stage


Posted: 12:50 a.m. ET
From Bryan Long,

Sen. John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, toured the FleetCenter moments ago. The couple arrived long after the delegates had gone off to their parties and a flurry of rumors spread through the media inside the building. Soon enough, ABC's Ted Koppel wandered to the floor and was quickly followed by Edward's pool reporters.

Although the Edwards were here just to adjust the height of the movable podium, Kerry's running mate did tease the dozens of reporters gathered at the foot of the stage.

"Do you want me to go ahead and give the speech now?" he asked.

He also said his voice is fine. And he confirmed that his Wednesday night speech is done.

'We're headlights'

Posted: 11:17 p.m. ET
From Wayne Drash, CNN news editor

Congressman Artur Davis, who represents a district in Birmingham, Alabama, said, "I think the convention is off to a wonderful start."

Davis went to Harvard Law School with Barack Obama. He called his former classmate's keynote address a "fantastic speech" that emphasized unity across the country.

"We are one nation," he said.

Willie Hampton, a delegate from Detroit, Michigan, praised Obama's speech as dynamic, saying it "hit all the points about one America."

He said he was excited about the tone set so far at the convention. "It just shows we're united," he said. "We're not taillights. We're headlights."

Readers write ...

Posted: 10:33 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

People are talking about tonight's speakers:

David of Perryton, Texas, on Ted Kennedy: "I can't believe I just heard a Kennedy needle Bush about being from a family dynasty."

Susan of San Ramon, California, on Howard Dean: "After tonight's dismal speech, we Demos can all be grateful that he's not our candidate for President."

And Andy of Branson, Missouri, on Barack Obama: "In listening to Barack Obama tonight I think I may have been listening to the first black president of the United States."

Meanwhile, Kathryn, somewhere in cyberland, didn't approve of a CNN guest: "Bono is not an American. Why his interest and how does he get a seat at the convention and I don't?!!!"

And the answer is: When you're Bono, you pretty much get anything you want.

Call it a missed opportunity

Posted: 9:29 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long,

Howard Dean just gave a speech that CNN political analyst Bill Schneider considers his worst ever. Worse than the infamous Iowa speech with the scream.

"It was a terrible speech," Schneider said. "Dean's speech got worse as it went along. The best part about it was before he opened his mouth."

Ouch. But Schneider's point is the audience loved Dean. They were looking for moments to cheer.

At one point, the crowd roared when Dean mentioned Iowa and then Texas.

Personally, I think Dean would have brought down the house if he had ended his speech saying, "John Kerry is going to win Ohio. John Kerry is going to win Pennsylvania. John Kerry is going to win Florida. Yeeaahhh!"

The Democratic jukebox

Posted: 9:21 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Virtually everything at the Democratic convention is scored to music. There have been a couple full songs, such as the violin version of "Amazing Grace" and Patti LaBelle's soul-reviving version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," but more often the music is used to segue between speakers.

Sometimes it's a band performance; other times it's the actual recording by the original artist, as they used to say on those K-Tel commercials.

Tonight's musical choices have been sometimes clever, sometimes too clever by half. After Ted Kennedy spoke, the P.A. blared Orleans' '70s hit "Still the One." That was followed a couple minutes later by what's become a celebratory chestnut, James Brown's "Living in America."

The band broke into Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City" for Richard Gephardt (never mind he's from St. Louis; I guess "St. Louis Blues" didn't fit) and then a familiar soul riff for Tom Daschle. It sounded something like "Mr. Big Stuff," but something about the syncopation tells me it's the mildly obscure 1970 hit by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, "Express Yourself."

Then came Howard Dean, who came out to ... the Beatles' "Revolution." Perhaps the old Nike ad has taken the edge over what used to be a fairly bold song. Not that it didn't fit.

Dean left to Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." It's hard to hear that song without thinking of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fishing for Democrats

Posted: 8:29 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long,

Standing in the hallway outside the CNN suite is like fishing. Usually, if you stand there long enough you can land a big "catch."

Moments ago, I literally bumped into NBC's Tim Russert, who appeared to be standing in the hall on a similar expedition. I'm not sure who he's looking for.

Less than a minute later, Ben Affleck walked down the hall. I shook his hand and said "Hey, Ben." He was in a rush but turned and said "Hi" as if we were long-lost friends. I think he reacts that way to everyone -- just in case.

While most "names" walk the halls with handlers, Affleck was different. He had a posse. It was a group of nearly two dozen young women who seemed very happy.

Affleck disappeared into a part of the hallway that was recently sealed off by the Secret Service. Although the guards won't confirm anything, the rumor is that the Kerry family will be sitting in one of the suites tonight.

Caro, Coldplay, Kennedy

Posted: 8:10 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Strange pop cultural juxtaposition department: Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson biographer Robert Caro -- a renowned author, but almost certainly a face (and name) unknown to most Americans -- introducing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), followed by the piano riff from the Coldplay song "Clocks."

Just had to mention it.

Readers write ...

Posted 8:02 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

More comments from the world:

Chris from Hinton, West Virginia, believes the Democrats are already worried about 2004: " The Democrats are getting scared and now they're already looking at a new wunderkind. How much you wanna bet [keynote speaker Barack] Obama runs in 2008! But then again, I can hear the ads from the Republicans now about how much the name Obama sounds too much like Osama." (More on Obama)

John from Marietta, Georgia, says that a Paul Begala comment has a double meaning: "Regarding Paul Begala's comment about Bill and Hilly, 'the couple who transformed the party,' yes, they certainly did. They transformed it from the majority party in Congress in 1994 to a loss in the House alone of 54 members! ... Now we have a Congress and White House that is Republican."

Manuel of Hinsdale, Illinois, approves of the convention's upbeat attitude: "The Democrats seem to be running a positive convention and avoiding unnecessary hostility towards the incumbent. ... I applaud this style. I deplore the frequency with which some Democrats have seemed ashamed of their principles and beliefs during the last few decades."

And Juanita of Jackson, Mississippi, can't get enough of the convention: "I watched all of the Democratic convention. I then stayed up and watched it all again. Enjoyed it just as much the second time."

Guess we know who she's voting for.

'Mysterious Ways'

Posted: 7:36 p.m. ET
From Kelly Wallace, CNN National Correspondent

U2 singer Bono arrived in the FleetCenter surrounded by reporters and delegates. He went straight to CNN's floor studio for an interview with "Anderson Cooper 360." When he got here, the Rev. Al Sharpton was finishing an interview with Cooper.

The two men struck up a conversation, but unfortunately, I couldn't hear what they were saying.

Keeping score

Posted: 6:04 p.m. ET
From Phil Hirschkorn and Sean Loughlin, CNN

Republicans say Democrats aren't living up to their promise of a positive convention. And they've got charts to buttress their point. Really.

Tuesday, the Republican National Committee --- which is maintaining a presence at the Democratic gathering -- released a breakdown analyzing the previous night's speakers.

"There was a better than two-to-one ratio in time allocation in attacks against the president versus laudatory comments about Senator Kerry's agenda," said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RNC.

Does this mean we can expect charts from Democrats when Republicans meet in New York City in late August?

Grand Central and 'A Night at the Opera'

Posted: 5:50 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

This is our life:

I'm sitting in a room on the fifth floor of the FleetCenter. The room has been remodeled by CNN into a skybox talk-show studio and newsroom. The studio is what you can see on TV, just below the CNN logo, with cameras and carpet and lights. The working area behind it is obviously jerry-rigged for the length of the convention and nothing more: temporary walls, wires and cables running from floor to ceiling, a white vinyl shower-curtain material stapled to tables littered with computers, phones, tape recorders, bottles of water and yesterday's McDonald's trash.

Your bloggers sit elbow-to-elbow with bookers and producers from CNN Headline News, CNN International, and various CNN shows, and the room has an odd humidity, as if the air conditioning has been shut off for just a little too long.

Until about 7 p.m., the atmosphere is -- if not quiet -- fairly calm. Then the place -- the entire fifth floor -- turns into a combination of the stateroom scene from the Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera" and Grand Central Terminal at rush hour.

Our little room fills with analysts, anchors, guests; outside, you can catch glimpses of all sorts of people shoving past one another, straining to get to their next interview: former California governor and current Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart, Jesse Jackson, Molly Ivins, countless handlers, spinners, hangers-on and whowuzthats.

Beyond the studio, beyond the fifth floor, the convention exists in a weirdly echoed din, as if coming from a couple streets away. Which, in a way, it is.

It's all exciting as hell, and yet we assume it's normal. As the Headlines producer at my elbow says, "It's a myopic existence." And she's not just referring to the poor lighting.

Kerry may appear by satellite tonight

Posted: 4:55 p.m. ET
From Kelly Wallace, CNN national correspondent

I just talked with a Kerry aide who was all smiles about last night's event, especially how it all was on time. I asked if we might see John Kerry via satellite in the hall tonight and this aide smiled and said we like to keep some surprises if we can.

So it sounds like we could hear from or see Kerry, especially since his wife Teresa speaks tonight.

As I arrived at the FleetCenter, I saw Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, talking with Jamie Rubin, one of Kerry's top foreign policy advisors. Do you think they were talking about the 9/11 Commission Report?

Earlier today Kerry called for the commission to be extended 18 months so it can track implementation of its recommendations. The panel is slated to end August 28. (Full story)

I am told by a Kerry aide that Kerry will talk about this in his speech Thursday night and on his bus tour with John Edwards this weekend.

And they're off

Posted: 4:31 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long,

The convention kicked off on schedule again today with a welcome message from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. But Richardson, the convention chairman, addressed a small crowd and a room full of empty chairs. If yesterday is any indication, the crowd will arrive around 7 p.m. ET. This place will be packed by 8 p.m., leaving plenty of time before Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech. You can watch the crowd pile in by logging onto's Webcam.

All in a day's work

Posted: 2:51 p.m. ET
From Sean Loughlin, producer

Mike Flathers, 32, is selling Kerry-Edwards souvenirs at the Democratic National Convention. But don't think the abundance of buttons, key chains, mugs, T-shirts and caps at his stand inside the FleetCenter is a reflection of Flathers' own politics.

For him, it's just a job, and he's trying to have some fun with it. Reporters come up to him and ask who he's going to vote for. His tongue-in-check response: "I kind of like Perot, but I haven't heard much about him lately."

He's struck by the intensity of the Democratic delegates. He compared their fervor to fans at a concert by an artist who's apparently not a favorite for Flathers.

"Some people are like, 'This is a Celine Dion concert. Oh my God. This is awesome.' I'm like, 'As long as you're having a good time.' "

The power of winning

Posted: 1:44 p.m. ET
From Joe Johns, CNN Congressional Correspondent

Howard Dean speaks tonight. His arrival yesterday was interesting.

He was received warmly with lots of hugs. Clearly he got a lot of love. Here is a guy who looked like he was going all the way and there are people here for whom Dean was a first choice. But he handled it pretty graciously. The big question is what he will say when he gets to speak.

Another interesting face in the audience last night was former presidential candidate Walter Mondale. He came in and took his seat right down front. No speaking role. Everybody wanted to shake his hand but the closest he got to the stage was a front row seat with the Minnesota delegation, his home state.

It's funny how the guys who didn't win get treated.

A different convention

Posted: 1:33 p.m. ET
From John King, CNN Senior White House Correspondent

The first day of the convention proved to be different, in some respects from previous conventions. It is not uncommon for there to be placards placed on the chairs when party luminaries come to speak. But the placards didn't show up in Boston until the end of the night. There were none for Gore. The Kerry-Edwards signs were distributed just before the prime-time session began at 8 p.m. The New York delegation did bring some Hillary placards.

The mood is very reminiscent of 1992, when Democrats decided to focus on winning more than their own differences. No Rules fights, no platform fights, no major credentials fights - these were once staples of Democratic conventions even when the nominee was clear.

But because the contest was decided so early and Kerry has such an overwhelming delegate edge no one has the ability to challenge the Kerry positions. On the floor, some delegates of former candidates Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean have grumbled a bit about this. They wish, for example, that the party would have an anti-Iraq plank that was, from their perspective, tougher and drew sharper differences with Bush. So they wear stickers and pink "peace delegate" scarves, but grudgingly accept that there is little sentiment here for prodding to move anything beyond where the Kerry people want it.

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