Democrats unveiled a primetime program Tuesday designed to emphasize Barack Obama as a middle class champion and paint Republican Sen. John McCain as out of touch on the economy.
But all of that was overshadowed by the same woman who has dogged Obama since this race began: New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Clinton -- whose name has become shorthand for party disunity at this convention -- delivered a rousing speech Tuesday thanking her supporters and urging them to back Obama in November.
The spotlight turns tonight to her husband, ex-president Bill Clinton, to see if he will shed his bitterness over his wife's defeat and give Obama his full-throated backing.
Bill Clinton's speech will end the Clinton show at the Democrats' convention and turn it over to Obama and his vice presidential pick, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. Biden will speak after Clinton tonight and Obama will command the party's undivided attention with an extravaganza at the Invesco Field on Thursday.
Watch Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos at the Democratic Convention TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET on ABC
But before Obama gets to make his grand entrance, Hillary Clinton got to make a grand exit.
Walking out onto the stage, the crowd cheered so loud and so long she that Clinton delayed beginning her speech to not be drowned out.
In an aggressive and strongly delivered speech, Clinton said, "My friends it is time to take back the country we love and whether you voted for me or whether you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose."
"I haven't spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women's rights at home and around the world to see another Republican in the White House squander the promise of our country and the hopes of our people," she said.
"And you haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership," she said, "No way. No how. No McCain."
On their feet, delegates cheered wildly during Clinton's rousing speech and a sea of signs reading "Hillary" on one side and "Unity" on the other, and other signs that read "Obama" and "Unity" flooded the convention hall.
In an appeal to her most ardent supporters, Clinton said, "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?" she said.
The woman who downed beers and bowled during the Democratic primaries and won the support of working class voters over Obama, touted her former rival Tuesday as a champion of the middle class.
"Barack Obama began his career fighting for workers displaced by the global economy. He built his campaign on a fundamental belief that change in this country must start from the ground up, not the top down," she said.
She also slammed McCain linking him to President Bush, who has suffered record low public approval ratings.
"Now, John McCain is my colleague and my friend. He has served our country with honor and courage. But we don't need four more years of the last eight years," she said.
"In 2008, he still thinks it's okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work," she said, "With an agenda like that, it makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities. Because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart."
Clinton spoke on the 88th anniversary of women getting the vote, and in a nod to the 52 percent of women voters who voted for her during the primaries, argued women should "keep going."
"Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going," she said.
Perhaps hinting about her future in Democratic politics, Clinton said, "We are Americans. We're not big on quitting. But remember, before we can keep going, we have to get going by electing Barack Obama president."
Listening intently and leaning forward in a sky box was first lady Michelle Obama, and beside her, a beaming vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Several sky boxes away was former President Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday night, but not during the convention's primetime schedule.
The former president stood smiling and applauding throughout his wife's speech, remarking to others around him and nodding in approval. Making a rare public appearance, 28-year-old Chelsea Clinton appeared onstage to introduce her mother, calling her, "my hero."
Obama watched his former rival from Billings, Montana at a convention watching party at the home of Democratic field organizer Eran and Carlee Thompson.
The Clinton camp has developed a system to keep tabs on their remaining delegates at the convention by appointing 40 "whips" from key states to serve as point people.
Coached on how to keep protests to a minimum tonight, they were told to spread the word to anyone in their states who might cause trouble by yelling out or making a scene that they should "not embarrass" Clinton with their actions.
Some frantic Clinton delegates unsuccessfully scrambled to compile as many delegate signatures as they could muster in support of a full roll call vote as the deadline approached.
Led by delegates from Texas and Tennessee, the small team said it had turned in 18 full pages of signatures from a variety of states but ultimately fell short.
A young Texas delegate who handed his box full of petitions to a party secretary on the floor seemed resigned to not having enough.
"But we just started doing it two hours ago," he said.
For the Obama campaign, there were no surprises in the script itself.
While Clinton was making final tweaks up to the last minute, she shared drafts of it with Obama's campaign. The Democratic nominee knew what his one-time primary rival will say, senior Obama campaign officials said.
Stakes were high for Sen. Clinton to project that she is fully behind Obama, as the party attempts to heal from the bitter primary battle and focus on election day in November and what remains a close race with John McCain.
Nothing was left to chance tonight, including what color of suite she wore.
Two young men walked out onto the podium at the Democratic National Convention carrying four women's suit jackets -- red, orange, light blue and teal -- to see which one looked best against the plasma screen.
She settled on the orange.
Earlier in the day, Terry McAuliffe, one of Clinton's staunchest supporters and chair of her failed presidential campaign, seemed confident unity was near.
"Her speech, Bill Clinton's speech tomorrow - boom - we're there," McAuliffe told Rick Klein and Sam Donaldson Tuesday during their live coverage on ABC News Now.
Last week the once rival Democratic camps agreed to place Clinton's name into nomination in order to mollify her supporters, still bitter after a divisive five-month long primary battle.
But as the convention got underway, party leaders aborted that plan in an attempt to avoid any televised public displays of disunity during the roll call.
The first 30 minutes of Wednesday's convention program will be devoted to nominating and seconding speeches for Obama and Clinton. After a roll call begins, the Obama and Clinton camps have agreed that the roll call will halt at some point and the convention will move to nominate Obama by acclamation.
While the last throws of the Obama-Clinton drama played out, several speakers attempted to guide the narrative back to Obama versus McCain on the economy.
In his keynote address tonight, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner linked McCain to President George Bush.
"The fact that this president never tapped into our greatest resources -- the character and resolve of the American people. He never asked us to step up," Warner said, arguing McCain "promises more of the same."
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius reminded voters watching at home that McCain couldn't answer a reporters' question last week on how many homes he owns.
"Now I'm sure you all remember that girl from Kansas who said there's no place like home. Well in John McCain's version there's no place like home, or a home, or a home, or a home."
Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide and close Obama friend, I'm from Chicago, the home state of the next president of the United States."
"There is only one candidate from the middle class, that understands the middle class, and that can deliver the change the middle class needs: Barack Obama," Emanuel said.
"John McCain is right. He doesn't understand the economy as well as he should," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
"Obama wants to export our products, not our jobs," offered Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Former top Clinton supporter Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell slammed McCain on energy, though he left out of his remarks that Obama voted for President Bush's 2005 energy bill and McCain voted against it.
"The only thing green in John McCain's energy plan is the billions of dollars he's promising in tax cuts for oil companies. And the only thing he'll recycle is the same failed Bush approach to energy policy," Rendell said.
The economy was the topic of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey's speech, but his words on abortion gained attention.
"Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I'm speaking here tonight is testament to Barack's ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him," Casey said.
His invitation to speak at the convention came 16 years after his late father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, was denied a convention speaking role because of his anti-abortion views and was perceived as an olive branch to those voters.
Lawmakers also remembered Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a prominent Clinton supporter and longtime lawmaker, who died last week of a brain aneurysm.
"We will make certain youngsters of today will understand who Stephanie Tubbs Jones was," New York Congressman Charles Rangel, "We will change the course of this great nation of ours so that racism and sexism will not be on the agenda."
With four in 10 voters saying in the last ABC News/Washington Post poll that the economy will be their number one concern in November, the Obama campaign is trying to hammer McCain on this issue.
Meanwhile, Clinton strived to put the disunity narrative to rest in her speech.
But after a bitter primary battle with tensions between Obama and Clinton camps lingering through to the party's convention, it isn't clear how much impact her speech will have.
Senior Obama campaign officials sought to tamp down expectations, telling ABC News they can never guarantee what the reaction of everyone will be, but that Clinton's support is 100 percent.
She specifically praised the candidate's wife and potential first lady Michelle Obama -- who also praised Clinton by name during her speech to the convention last night.
The former first lady said with Obama in the White House will be "a terrific partner in Michelle Obama. Anyone who saw Michelle's speech last night knows she will be a great First Lady for America. Americans are also fortunate that Joe Biden will be at Barack Obama's side . . . They will be a great team for our country."
Analysts agree it's now in both Obama and Clinton's best interests to project a unified party as Democrats fight McCain for the Oval Office.
"I don't think she has a future as a presidential candidate if Barack Obama loses," Stephanopoulos told ABC News' Charlie Gibson. "If he loses, there's going to be so much anger in this party, I think both of them will have a hard time running again."
ABC News' David Chalian, Jonathan Greenberger, Steven Portnoy, Kate Snow, Rick Klein, and Karen Travers contributed to this report.