The Note: Image Nation

"Clinton's campaign never did quite become the flag-waving, patriotic operation that Penn envisioned in March 2007, nor did she ever go as overtly negative as he was preaching in March and April 2008. Would she be the nominee if she had? And can McCain win the presidency if he -- carefully -- pursues a similar path?" The Washington Post's Dan Balz wonders.

"McCain risks damaging his reputation as a politician who has eschewed the politics of negativity," he continues. "But what was considered out of bounds in a Democratic primary campaign may be less so in a general-election race, in which other voters come into play. McCain will have to make some difficult judgments about this in the final 82 days."

"It's fair to say that most people thought it would really rebound on her," a former Clinton aide tells the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas.

Meanwhile, things chug along in happy Democrat-land. The Democratic National Convention schedule continues to fill out -- and Clinton supporters are going to have to decide how they feel about someone else giving the "keynote."

Yes, it's just an honorific and nothing more -- and anyone named Clinton will capture plenty of limelight in Denver. (Pity the poor vice-presidential nominee who has to follow Bill on Wednesday -- not to mention the keynoter who has the honor of speaking post-Hillary.)

The keynote label is going to former governor Mark Warner, D-Va., like Obama before him a shoo-in for the Senate, the AP's Nedra Pickler reports. "The focus on Warner could help boost his prospects in Virginia, where he is trying to win an open Senate seat and Obama is also campaigning hard," Pickler writes.

(Does this check the Virginia box -- with apologies to Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va.? And the word on Warner went out in an e-mail to Obama's Virginia supporters -- maybe Obama campaign manager David Plouffe really is serious about breaking running-mate news via text messaging. . . . )

But with two nights belonging to Clintons -- whose convention is it, again?

Maureen Dowd has an answer: "Now they've made Barry's convention all about them -- their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can't win! He can't close the deal! We told you so!" Dowd writes in her New York Times column.

"Hillary's orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior," Dowd writes.

Maybe not so much. But though a roll-call vote including Clinton's name remains unlikely, the die-hards persist: "What we want, if we still can, is to save the Democratic party from itself," "PUMA" co-founder Will Bower told CQ's Andrew Satter.

(Where do you file this messaging? Former Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told Fox News Tuesday that he's heard Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is being considered for Obama's ticket: "I have heard some rumors to that effect. Look, John Kerry has been vetted. He ran for president. I think he would be a strong choice. He'd be a good choice, especially in the context of foreign policy.")

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