The Note: Rocky Roads

DENVER --

So now that we've seen what a real-life 3 am moment looks like (what do you think Hillary Clinton did when she got that text message?) . . .

. . . now that Sen. Barack Obama claimed the first Obama-Biden slip for himself (but just barely) . . .

. . . now that Sen. Joe Biden has proven that this attack dog remembers how to bite (and brings along clips that bite back) . . .

. . . what confronts the newly minted Obama-Biden ticket hasn't really changed that much.

Democrats are arriving in a gorgeous and welcoming (except for the police-state atmosphere) Denver with Obama's challenges fairly well defined, if not particularly easier to navigate.

Among the many measuring tools: Obama will be sized up against himself (with four days of themes to be shoe-horned into a unique resume). He'll be compared to (and contrasted with) with his new running mate. He'll be contrasting himself with Sen. John McCain (defined, for Democrats' purposes this week, as Bush the Third.) And always, always, there are the Clintons.

It's Obama 49, McCain 43 among registered voters in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, and just four points -- 49-45 -- among likelies. (By now, Obamaland knows the drill.)

"Nearly half of registered voters, 47 percent, continue to think Obama lacks the experience it takes to serve effectively as president, a lot to lose on this basic qualification," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes. "McCain leads him by 2-1 margins as more knowledgeable on world affairs and as better suited to be commander-in-chief, and has moved ahead in trust to handle international relations."

And the factoid that may matter most in the Mile High City: 30 percent of former Clinton supporters aren't on board yet for Obama. On the other side: "McCain faces his own challenges: Fifty-seven percent think he'd lead in the same direction as the heavily unpopular George W. Bush," Langer writes.

What will Denver mean when we've been locked in the same race all summer? "The results show little movement from the last Post-ABC survey, conducted in mid-July, before Obama embarked on a highly publicized trip overseas and prior to a series of fierce exchanges between the campaigns," Dan Balz and John Cohen write in The Washington Post.

Obama's "two overriding priorities," per National Journal's Ron Brownstein: "One is to resolve doubts about his qualifications and agenda that McCain has seeded this summer with ads portraying the Democrat as a vapid celebrity and a soft-on-defense, tax-and-spend liberal. Even more important, many argue, Obama must reframe the fundamental choice in the election from whether he is ready to be president to whether the country wants to continue in the direction set by Bush, particularly on economic policy."

The choice of Biden may heighten the import of national security in this race -- but listen carefully and you'll hear pocketbooks picking up the pace. "My main goal at this convention and through my speech is to convey a sense of urgency that so many families are feeling across the country," Obama, D-Ill., tells The Denver Post's Karen Crummy. "And to present a clear choice between continuing the same economic policies that have caused record foreclosures, rising unemployment, rising inflation, flat and declining incomes and wages, and a new approach to economic policies that I believe will create prosperity, growth and fairness."

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