The Note: Camelot in the Mountains


Michelle will be the evening's star, and Hillary and Bill will always be good for the drama -- but only Ted is the inspiration.

This is one of those rare cases where Sen. Barack Obama won't mind seeing his message overshadowed -- even though it's opening night of his convention, and even though the marquee player is supposed to be his wife. (Every Kennedy moment is a Clinton moment that isn't.)

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., will provide an emotional lift, an all-time convention highlight, a room full of tears, an ovation delegates will never want to end -- plus a cementing of the ties between the Kennedy legacy and Obama.

Kennedy is in planning on being on stage Monday night -- and right there you'll have your event for the evening, maybe for the week.

Says Kennedy spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter: "Senator Kennedy is in Denver and plans to attend tonight's tribute to him. He's truly humbled by the outpouring of support, and wouldn't miss it for anything in the world. Right now, Senator Kennedy plans to attend, not speak."

"Expect a thunderous reception when he takes the stage at the conclusion of the video," per ABC News. "It's likely to be the emotional high point of the evening -- if not of the entire convention."

"The senator has recently told people that he has a speech written for the convention and that he badly wants to come, pending a final medical consultation," Susan Milligan reports in The Boston Globe. "Buzz has built among Massachusetts politicos that Kennedy would come, and yesterday a Bay State Democrat close to the family confirmed that Kennedy has decided to travel to Denver, probably for an opening-night address."

Said Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.: "If he's up to it in the 11th hour and can get the green light from doctors, he might be able to pull it off."

You think that's dramatic? Check back in with the Storyline That Will Not Go Away -- the one not even delegate talking points can subsume.

The peace offerings are nice and genuine; in truth, convention disruptions may hurt Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton even more than they hurt Obama, and the Clinton folks have begun to realize that.

There's the symbolic "release" of her convention delegates, full representation for Florida and Michigan -- and amid the final negotiations, perhaps even a shelving of the roll-call vote Obama never wanted, ABC's George Stephanopoulos reports.

"She's the question of the convention," Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Monday. Clinton folks "don't want to get blamed for a bad convention."

Too late for that?

Welcome to Denver: "Mistrust and resentments continued to boil among top associates of presumptive nominee Barack Obama and his defeated rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton," John F. Harris and Mike Allen report for Politico.

It's pettier than you think: "One flashpoint is the assigned speech topic for former president Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday night, when the convention theme is 'Securing America's Future,' they write. "The former president is disappointed, associates said, because he is eager to speak about the economy and more broadly about Democratic ideas -- emphasizing the contrast between the Bush years and his own record in the 1990s."

"Top Clinton advisors privately complain that Obama never even seriously discussed the vice presidency with Senator Clinton," Jonathan Karl reported on ABC's "World News" Sunday.

Joint statement from Clinton and Obama, from the overnight hours: "The fact is that our teams are working closely to ensure a successful convention, and will continue to do so." "Anyone saying anything else doesn't know what they're talking about -- period."

"She and her campaign have been wonderful partners in working on this convention with us," Obama senior adviser Anita Dunn told reporters Monday morning.

Her next chance to make nice: "Mrs. Clinton this morning will address a breakfast meeting of the New York delegation," Russell Berman reports in the New York Sun. "Mrs. Clinton appeared to be working behind the scenes to shore up support for Mr. Obama in the hopes of a public display of party unity at the convention."

The calls Obamaland was anxious to let reporters know about: Obama "had phone conversations with both Bill and Hillary Clinton this week," ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. "The presumptive Democratic nominee spoke at length with former President Clinton on Thursday afternoon. . . . During the time of their phone conversation, Obama had already made his mind up for his VP pick, but did not inform Clinton of his choice on the call."

And: "On Friday morning, Obama called his former opponent, Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y. Presumably, Clinton, who was on the long list of potential vice presidential picks, was informed then that Obama did not intend to choose her. But the Obama campaign refuses to characterize Clinton and Obama's phone conversation as a 'courtesy call' to tell her she was not the choice for VP."

But those who didn't get the memo are making themselves known in Denver: "Nearly 2,000 Clinton delegates flooded into Denver Sunday, some of them wearing 'Women for Hillary' buttons," Amy Chozick writes in The Wall Street Journal. "There's a lot of pain that needs to be addressed," said Laura Boyd, a Clinton delegate from Oklahoma.

Per the Washington Times' S.A. Miller: "You can actually feel this party splitting," Diane Mantouvalos, co-founder of Just Say No Deal coalition, an Internet-based collection of more than 250 groups vehemently opposed to the impending presidential nomination of Mr. Obama at the party convention in Denver. "There is a lot of anger out there."

Miller reports: "The renegade Democrats plan to stage protests outside the convention hall, flood the Internet with live blogs from Denver and air a TV ad challenging the legitimacy of the party's nominating process."

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., didn't do anything to change the storyline: "Ladies and gentleman, the coverage of Barack Obama was embarrassing," he said at a forum with the Sunday show moderators. (Not that anyone is saying anything that can be perceived as anything less than fully supportive of Obama.)

"Running for the most important office in the world, Obama got basically a free pass," Rendell continued (warming GOP hearts).

Right on cue, Mark Penn defends Clintonism: "As Barack Obama formally accepts the Democratic nomination, having defeated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, people regularly ask whether is Clintonism dead," he writes in his Politico column. "No, not by a long shot. It remains the most cohesive and successful Democratic governing philosophy the country has had since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election 1932 and the advent of the New Deal."

Sen. John McCain has found a (former) Clinton delegate to put in an ad: Debra Bartoshevich of Wisconsin. "Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain," she says in the ad.

The numbers behind the tension: "Fewer than half of Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters in the presidential primaries say they definitely will vote for Barack Obama in November, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, evidence of a formidable challenge facing Democrats as their national convention opens here today," Susan Page writes for USA Today. "Thirty percent say they will vote for Republican John McCain, someone else or no one at all."

Among the delegates themselves, perhaps cause for a little more optimism: "More than half of the delegates that Mrs. Clinton won in the primaries now say they are enthusiastic supporters of Mr. Obama, and they also believe he will win the presidential election in November, the poll found," John M. Broder and Dalia Sussman report in The New York Times. "Three in 10 say they support Mr. Obama but have reservations about him or they support him only because he is the party's nominee. Five percent say they do not support him yet."

"Forty-two percent of delegates originally pledged to Hillary Clinton (20 percent of all pledged delegates) and 8 percent of superdelegates say they will vote for Clinton on the convention's presidential roll call," per CBS News.

Just in time: Politico's Roger Simon has an opus out on the nomination fight. Title: "Relentless."

Will this be enough? "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will tell her pledged delegates on Wednesday that they can vote for presumptive nominee Barack Obama at this week's roll call during the Democratic National Convention," Allison Sherry reports in the Denver Post. "The decision to release her delegates is symbolically important, and it frees delegates from 10 states who are legally obligated to vote for the candidate they are pledged to, even if that person is no longer running for president."

"Clinton's gesture has the potential to reduce the appearance of friction while reinforcing her status as one of the party's most formidable power brokers," Shailagh Murray and Anne Kornblut write in The Washington Post.

The message the Clintons want out: "Some Democrats have worried Hillary Clinton could be the skunk at Barack Obama's convention party, but Clinton insiders say she and her sulking husband are now determined to be team players," Ken Bazinet and Michael Saul report in the New York Daily News. "Both Clintons plan to press hard-core supporters all week to end their boycotts and brooding and embrace Obama's candidacy. They will urge their zealots to work for Obama and will make a point in their convention talks of demonstrating the past is over and they are firmly behind an Obama victory."

As for the broader themes: Get ready for fightin' words.

"Four years ago John Kerry's convention focused on Kerry with few attacks on President Bush -- Obama believes that was a mistake and his convention will push a much sharper message attacking John McCain and his policies," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Monday.

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney reports that Obama will "draw contrasts with Senator John McCain, particularly on the economy and his opposition to abortion rights" -- and will have Al Gore introduce Thursday night at Invesco Field. (Not being confirmed by convention folks.)

Yet: "There are some things that may be beyond the control of the Obama campaign. Most pressingly, Democrats said they were worried that the tensions between supporters of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama from the contest that just ended two months ago would spill into public view after her name is entered into nomination, particularly after Mr. Obama bypassed Mrs. Clinton in choosing Mr. Biden," Nagourney writes.

This is delicious: "Mr. Obama's campaign began sending out a one-page sheet of daily talking points to delegates, instructing them what to say and what to avoid in talking to reporters. (In one last week, according to a recipient, the central thrust was how to parry questions about Clinton-Obama strife and Mrs. Clinton's speech by saying, 'I can't wait to hear Hillary Clinton talk about the future and am excited that her candidacy is unifying our party!')" (!!)

More Nagourney: "The Obama campaign is leaving little to chance. It has created a rapid response team -- led by Craig Smith, a former top operative in the Clinton world -- to head out to the convention floor at the first sign of any trouble from Clinton supporters."

Which of these sounds harder to do? "By sharpening his message over the next four days -- narrowing the gap between his high-flown rhetoric and voters' kitchen-table concerns -- and building his image beyond a celebrity stereotype, the Illinois senator hopes to make the election a choice between himself and GOP Sen. John McCain, not just a straight referendum on Obama," Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times. "He also hopes to patch, once and for all, his differences with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her followers."

"It's going to be part celebration and part anxiety," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

"I imagine if chants break out in the Pepsi Center of 'Clinton, Clinton' when she speaks, the instructions from the Obama folks will be to relax, join in, be part of a group catharsis and certainly not drown out the Clinton voices," writes the Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet (who reported on the delegate release plan a week ago).

Fueling the angst: That would be 47-47 in the first post-Biden poll, from CNN.

Monday night is supposed to belong to Michelle -- and she'll be in prime time to make sure that happens: "Her solo appearance tonight will be her first address to a broad audience of voters and it's a chance for her to help frame her husband's biography," Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman and Catherine Dodge write. "The prime-time speech will be a family affair. Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother, will narrate a video about the next potential first family, and Michelle will be introduced by her brother, Craig, head basketball coach at Oregon State University in Corvallis."

"Obama plans on focusing on her family, according to her spokesperson," ABC's Kate Snow reports. "She will share the story of their lives and their values. It is an important message for the Obama campaign, as they use the Democratic convention to answer any lingering questions as to who Barack Obama really is."

Per the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll: "Conservatives and Republicans will be eyeing Michelle Obama with some skepticism when she addresses the Democratic National Convention on Monday evening -- more than liberals and Democrats express about Cindy McCain. But both are reasonably popular, with substantial numbers of Americans waiting to learn more," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes.

"Fifty-one percent of registered voters express a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, while 30 percent view her unfavorably; the rest, 19 percent, haven't formed an opinion. For Cindy McCain, it's 47 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable, with more, a third, yet to make a judgment."

"The goal for Michelle Obama during this week's Democratic convention is not all that different from her husband's: She has to seize the moment and define herself rather than let the caricature sketched by her critics settle in the mind of voters," Dahleen Glanton writes in the Chicago Tribune.

"Opening night at the Pepsi Center, the main venue for most of the four-day gathering, aims to tell the Illinois senator's personal story to the millions of voters nationwide who will begin tuning in to the contest to replace the unpopular Republican President Bush," the AP's Darlene Superville reports. "The stage Monday night belongs to this potential first lady for a prime-time speech meant to serve a dual purpose: humanize him and show up her critics before her largest audience yet."

Per ABC's Jake Tapper, here's another cut on Obama's family tree, courtesy of a new Web video from the Texas GOP: "Ask yourself this: If Obama cares so much about your family why doesn't he doesn't take care of his own family first. Barack Obama lives in this house . . . " (image of Obama's house) " . . . wants to live in this one . . . " (image of White House) " . . . while his own brother lives in this one." (image of Obama's half brother George.)

New from the Obama campaign Monday: A new ad, titled "Don't Know Much" -- featuring some McCain gems, set to music (very folksy version, too). Tagline: "Do we really want four more years of the same old tune?"

The Sked:

Things get underway in Denver at 5 pm ET (3 pm MT).

Among those we'll see on the podium: DNC Chairman Howard Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Claire McCaskill, former President Jimmy Carter, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., former rep. Jim Leach (a Republican), Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and (maybe/probably) Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Teed up for prime time: Craig Robinson and Michelle Obama.

And Sen. Obama himself will address the convention live, from Kansas City.

Also Monday: Obama campaigns in Davenport, Iowa and Missouri.

Sen. Joe Biden arrives in Denver.

McCain holds a news conference in Phoenix, and appears on Leno Monday night.


Think he wanted it? "When the Obama campaign's vice-presidential vetters sought financial statements, political speeches and medical records, Sen. Biden's team turned the grueling task into an opportunity to sell their man," Monica Langley writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Think he really, really wanted it? "Team Biden also showed some sharp elbows against rivals for the No. 2 slot," Langley continues. "When news surfaced that the wife of another leading vice-presidential contender, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, made nearly $1 million a year on corporate boards, Biden backers quickly pointed out to friends and former colleagues in the Obama camp that Jill Biden made far less working as a teacher."

How it went down: "He insisted on the utmost secrecy; he paid the losers the courtesy of essentially telling them 'no' to their faces -- not an easy thing to do. And he swallowed his considerable pride and all but confessed his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs by selecting as his running mate the Senate's senior Democratic leader on that topic," Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes. "In short, Obama behaved like a grownup."

More Hillary pushback, per Fineman: "I talked two months ago to one of her closest legal advisors, who told me that she didn't really WANT to be considered for the number two job--in no small measure because the process would have required Obama's lawyers to comb through her husband's foundation and its murky sources of income. In that sense, Obama did her a favor by not really demanding to consider her. She would have had to say 'no.' "

Wind him up: "Obama advisers said they expected Mr. Biden to be a stronger and wilier point man for attacking the Republican ticket than John Edwards proved to be as the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee in 2004, or Joseph I. Lieberman was as the running mate in 2000," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times. "A task for Mr. Biden, the advisers said, will be to doggedly portray the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, as a handmaiden for President Bush who would continue his policies."

The Denver Post editorial board was not impressed: "Barack Obama must think he brings enough excitement to his presidential ticket all by himself. His selection of Joe Biden as his running mate was hardly bold or inspiring for a campaign that, at its heart, is about change."

The softening continues: "During the years that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. was helping the credit card industry win passage of a law making it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection, his son had a consulting agreement that lasted five years with one of the largest companies pushing for the changes, aides to Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign acknowledged Sunday," Christopher Drew and Mike McIntire report in The New York Times.

"Sen. Barack Obama's choice of Sen. Biden as his running mate, cheered by Democrats because of Sen. Biden's foreign-policy expertise, is coming under fire from Republicans who are painting him as an old-style insider," Susan Schmidt and John R. Wilke write for The Wall Street Journal. "They cite his longstanding ties to trial lawyers and lobbyists and a taste for pork-barrel spending, which their likely presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, has opposed."

Also in the news:

A clue? "We're going to be back here at this location next Friday," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on a radio program, per Rachel E. Stassen-Berger of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Umm -- that would be the same Friday we're expecting a veepstakes announcement. Writes Stassen-Berger: "Asked afterward if that means he is not going to be in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday as Republican presidential candidate John McCain trots out his choice, Pawlenty demurred with his now-standard statement that he's not going to speculate on vice-presidential matters."

Protesters are having a bit of trouble deciding what they're protesting: "Democrats like to say that theirs is a 'big-tent' party, welcome to members of all stripes. The same description, it seems, applies to their protesters," Scott Helman writes in The Boston Globe. "As delegates began flooding into Denver yesterday for the start of today's Democratic National Convention, hundreds of antiwar demonstrators marched from the state capitol to the Pepsi Center, the convention headquarters. But just about all they shared was a march route and an opposition to the war in Iraq."

Not everyone's searching for something to do: "In time-honored fashion, members of Congress attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver will find a social calendar crammed with glitzy parties and lavish entertainment, all courtesy of those tireless friends of the powerful: Washington lobbyists," Cynthia Dizikes reports in the Los Angeles Times. "Lawmakers can sample single-malt Scotches, single-barrel bourbons or politically themed cocktails like the Blue State and the Maverick as guests of the Distilled Spirits Council. They can rub shoulders with celebrities like actor Ben Affleck and comedian Sarah Silverman, thanks to the nation's professional poker players."

"From a $5,000 'kick-off the convention' golf outing to VIP credentials being handed out for $1 million 'Presidential Sponsors,' corporate and special interest money is flowing into Denver this week right along with the politicians," Jim McElhatton reports in the Washington Times.

Others keeping busy: "There are a couple of dozen people in Denver trying to crash the party Not just any people, but Republican people, set up in a two story building about a mile and half from the Pepsi Center," ABC's John Berman and Ursula Fahy report. "We invited ourselves," says RNC communications director Danny Diaz.

Early draft of history, from Bloomberg's Al Hunt: "If [Obama] loses this election, however, one reason may be his inexplicable rejection of a series of debates or forums with his Republican adversary, John McCain. In this case, he bowed to conventional wisdom that he was ahead, so why take the risk? He may live to regret that decision."

The Kicker:

"I apologize, by the way, I usually say 'heck,' especially after church. That sort of slipped out." -- Barack Obama, after saying "sure as hell" in his stump.

"I was never vetted, never on a short list of vice president, although on a lot of short lists for other things." -- The diminutive Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Viewing Guide:

ABC NewsNOW's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention starts Monday. Watch "Politics Live" with David Chalian and Sam Donaldson at 1 pm ET (11 am MT), with guest Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Full evening coverage runs from 5 pm ET to 11 pm ET (3 pm MT to 9 pm MT), hosted by Sam Donaldson and Rick Klein. Guests include Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and from the Black Eyed Peas.

Watch the coverage online here.

And I'll be blogging all week here."

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