The Note: Contact Sports


The narrative is (or isn't) coming together, the family was glowing on stage, the schedule is holding tight, Teddy and Michelle hit them out of the park . . . and still there are the Clintons.

For all those 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling, a frosty divide still needs chipping away at, even as Obama is set to lose the "presumptive" from his title.

It comes to this for the rivalry for the ages: Neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has any possible sane, rational reason for wanting tensions to continue.

They need each other, and they know it. If Clinton supporters don't come to Obama's side in greater (near-unanimous) numbers, he loses the presidency. If Clinton is seen as doing anything less than everything for the Obama-Biden ticket, she loses stature in the Democratic Party.

And yet. . . . the relationship is complicated as ever. As Sen. Clinton prepares for her speech on Night Two of the Democratic National Convention (with Chelsea Clinton narrating an introductory tribute video, on a night where the theme is "Renewing America's Promise"), those "Hillary" signs and pins dotting Denver carry a message -- and Clinton and Obama carry (mixed) messages of their own.

Did we need this reminder, this week of all weeks? "Remember: 18 million people voted for me -- 18 million people, give or take, voted for Barack," Clinton, D-N.Y., told reporters Monday, per ABC's Eloise Harper. (Give or take?)

Then there's the Clintons' most recognizable surrogate/adviser, going on television Monday night to basically declare one-fourth of Obama's convention a messaging disaster.

"Well, if this party has a message it has done a hell of a job of hiding it tonight I promise you that," James Carville said on CNN Monday night, per ABC's Jake Tapper. "I look at this and I am about to jump out of my chair."

"The non primetime part was not particularly impressive," Carville added Tuesday morning, on ABC's "Good Morning America. "The other stuff was completely void of any message" -- adding that the Democrats' streak of not bashing President Bush at Democratic National Conventions now stands at five nights.

(A night that was strong in the details was less so on the grand themes. This is an extremely damaging storyline that the Obama campaign needs to address immediately, now, pronto. If Democrats don't start talking about McCain/Bush very quickly, they will all be talking about John Kerry shortly -- and not in a good way.)

(Obama adviser Anita Dunn swings back in the campaign's morning conference call: "Everyone else to have felt it was a very, very successful first night of the convention, so [Carville] seems to be out there in the minority." And stay tuned: "Clearly tonight as we move toward the economy you will see some very sharp contrast because there is a real difference between him and John McCain," Dunn added.)

Look for Clinton's speech to take on Sen. John McCain in a way no one did Monday. "What you didn't get last night you're going to get tonight from Hillary Clinton," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

The latest plan for the floor vote splits the baby: Clinton will have her named placed into nomination Wednesday, and the roll call will be halted midway through -- allowing Obama's nomination by acclimation.

"The deal would allow some states to cast votes for both Obama and Clinton before ending the roll call in acclamation for the Illinois senator," the AP's Nedra Pickler reports. "Clinton herself may cut off the vote and recommend unanimous nomination of Obama, according to Democratic officials involved in the negotiations."

She may get it, even if He does not: "An official familiar with conversations between the Obama and Clinton camps said Hillary Clinton fully realizes it would hurt her politically to be seen as anything other than 100 percent behind Obama. Bill Clinton 'is not as far along' in reconciling himself to his wife's loss, said the source," Pickler writes.

"Bill Clinton is not over it," writes Politico's John F. Harris. "His resentments from the bitter campaign battles of last winter and spring are many and diverse, and people who have spent time with him recently said they fester just below the surface."

Harris continues: "For the next two days, a convention that belongs to Obama will be dominated by the same two people who dominated the Democratic Party for the last generation and who have come to Denver in much different roles than they wanted. . . . But Obama, too, is part of the Denver psychodrama. Some Democrats with high-level ties to both the Clinton and Obama camps said they were surprised that Obama has not done more to make the Clintons more enthusiastic about his candidacy."

Very many Theys aren't looking for direction from anyone -- Bill and Hillary included: "Some Clinton delegates said they were not interested in a compromise, raising the prospect of floor demonstrations that would underscore the split between Obama and Clinton Democrats," per the AP's Scott Lindlaw. "I don't care what she says," said Mary Boergers, a Maryland delegate who wants to cast a vote for Clinton.

"It may take a while. We're not the fall-in-line party," Clinton told the New York delegation Monday.

You can argue they've had a while already -- though no amount of time might have changed this: "Clinton-watching has become the mesmerizing sideshow of the Democratic National Convention that will nominate Barack Obama," Susan Page writes for USA Today. "Their words, actions, even body language are being parsed for clues about how aggressively they'll help the rival who shattered their dreams of moving back into the White House."

"Sometimes dealing with the Clintons is like dealing with Brett Favre," says former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta.

But why is Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., looking for the Clinton to have their "Pee Wee Reese" moment? "In interviews with delegates and aides to the rival camps, it was clear Monday that tensions have only swelled since the heat of a primary competition fraught with racial, gender and generational differences," Peter Wallsten and Peter Nicholas write in the Los Angeles Times.

"The question is, are the Clintons ready?" said L. Douglas Wilder, D-Va., the nation's first elected black governor.

Maybe not so much: "As one political dynasty was celebrating its legacy and ceding the political stage on Monday night, the other dominant family of the Democratic Party was struggling to protect its legacy and accept its own exit from the spotlight," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times. "At one point she told aides the Obama campaign could end the bad blood with her husband by simply acknowledging his policy accomplishments and efforts at racial reconciliation in the 1990s -- in amends for what the Clintons saw as a lack of respect from Mr. Obama during the primaries."

Terry McAuliffe's advice for Obamaland: "You're nominated to be president. It's your campaign. At some point, quit talking about the Clintons and move on," the former Clinton campaign chairman tells New York One.

Just to keep it interesting: "Monday morning, as the state's delegation to the Democratic National Convention held their initial organizing breakfast, state Senate President Emil Jones said an African-American supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton was mistaken when she claimed he called her an 'Uncle Tom,' " Rick Pearson writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Still smarting? "Obama's decision to pass her over [for vice president] remains central to the ongoing story of their strained relationship," Anne Kornblut writes in The Washington Post. "It has also contributed to what associates say has been a difficult emotional period for the former first lady in the two months since ending her bid."

"One adviser described her as outright 'depressed' in July, while another said she was 'moving forward' and a third said she has simply been trying to get through November before making decisions about where next to take her life," Kornblut reports. "Clinton has begun thinking about how to harness the support she earned this year and is weighing how to be not only a leader of women but also a populist voice."

It all starts in Denver: "She has looked for opportunities to help Obama 'both because she wants a Democrat in the White House and because she does not want to be blamed if we don't have one,' one confidante said. 'She wants to go above and beyond to ensure that if it doesn't happen, nobody points the finger at her.' "

"Clinton, if sour, is pouting passively. At the New York delegation breakfast, she insisted said she wouldn't tell her delegates which way to vote, saying she wanted all her supporters to work hard for Obama -- just like she would," Geoff Earle and Maggie Haberman write for the New York Post.

It at least starts with Hillary, too: "These stalwarts are looking to Mrs. Clinton, of New York, for 'the catharsis' that she has said the convention could bring," Jackie Calmes writes in The New York Times.

"Still, there are plans for a march on Tuesday sponsored by 18 Million Voices, a pro-Clinton group named for her vote total in the nomination race," Calmes continues. "And Republicans here are ready to exploit the divide, with Carleton S. Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and one of Mr. McCain's economic advisers, seeking to meet with Clinton delegates."

"As frustrated Democrats converged on Denver yesterday, some began chanting 'caucus fraud,' while others shouted the word 'sweetie,' a reference to the time Obama called a female reporter by the same name," ABC's Jake Tapper writes. "One Clinton supporter who spoke to ABC News said Obama couldn't be trusted. Another said, 'He's shifty and untrustworthy.' It was assuredly not the kind of message Obama and his diligently image-conscious team were counting on at the Democratic National Convention."

"A coalition of anti-Obama Clinton supporters, clad in 'Clinton,' 'McCain,' and 'Nobama' buttons, marched down the 16th Street Mall at midday and held a protest and candlelight vigil in a Denver park," The Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness reports. "Even Clinton's most fervent supporters said they held little hope of an insurrection on the floor tomorrow, but there remains an obvious and unusual level of discomfort among delegates, who are the party's most active and committed members."

"It's the political equivalent of re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic," Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, perhaps the most outspoken anti-Obama "Hillraiser," tells Sridhar Pappu of the Washington Independent. "I think his ego is sooooo out of proportion -- so he could not admit he needed her so. I never thought he would do it."

There's a pretty big speech to deliver Tuesday -- and another Wednesday. "The Clintons' speeches hadn't yet been submitted to the Obama convention managers as of late yesterday, though Clinton aides said they're staying in touch with the campaign," Bloomberg's Kristin Jensen reports. "Obama said he told the former president 'you can say whatever you like.' "

Really, anything? "The Obama campaign is aware that Mark Penn is advising Bill Clinton on the speech," The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports. "Obama's campaign doesn't like Mark Penn." (Cannot imagine why.)

Now it's McCain who is setting the clock for 3 am. And he lets Clinton answer in a new TV ad: "I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

The RNC's independent expenditure arm is using the same clip, adding: "Barack Obama. He gives a great speech. But Americans must ask ourselves: should we elect the most inexperienced presidential candidate of our times? Or was she right?"

Can the Obama folks get this out of the way already? "Tuesday, Clinton will be the issue, but by Thursday, Obama's speech will be controlling the news coverage," Slate's John Dickerson writes. "Instead of today's talk about the votes he may have lost, the focus Thursday will be on the tens of thousands of new voters he brought into a football stadium."

On tap Tuesday: "Renewing America's Promise."

Your friendly neighborhood renewers (on top of Sen. Clinton): Speakers include Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass.; Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont.; Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kan.; Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa.; Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz.; Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.; Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; and keynoter (don't forget about him!) Virginia Senate candidate/former governor Mark Warner.

Night One in Denver was crisp and emotional -- with Sen. Ted Kennedy ignoring the stool and maintaining his powerful voice, and Michelle Obama charged with filling out the biography that will matter so much. (But did prime time really have to start with former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa? We know -- THE Jim Leach?)

Did it all add up to something that matters? "Opening night began the job of filling out Obama's profile for skeptical voters, but what it lacked was any effort to frame for the electorate the choices in November or the case against the Republican candidate," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post.

"Monday's opening events highlighted the degree to which Obama's advisers know they have work to do this week, from binding together a Democratic family still divided after a hard-fought nomination battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to providing reassurance that the man they will nominate shares the values of Middle America and has the toughness and judgment to lead the country," he continues.

Michelle was a hit: "Much of her 20-minute speech was simple and plain-spoken, delivered in a crisp tone," Mark Z. Barabak writes in the Los Angeles Times. "To those who would question her patriotism, as some have, Obama offered a long and passionate paean to America's possibility, ending with the affirmation: 'That is why I love this country.' "

"It was up to Michelle Obama to try to fend off criticism that her husband is elitist and out of touch," ABC's Jennifer Parker writes. "She touted her husband's values as a husband and father, and highlight her working class roots at a time when the campaign is seeking the support of blue collar voters that supported Clinton during the primaries."

"Last night's speech was, in part, an effort to counter those attacks -- and it succeeded brilliantly," Howard Wolfson writes at his Gotham Acme blog. "Michelle Obama successfully rooted herself as the daughter of a hard working middle class family. This will help reassure those blue collar holdouts that the Obamas understand their lives and struggles."

"The getting-to-know-you phase featured several branches of Obama's family tree on the podium, including his brother-in-law, his half sister and several longtime friends and associates from his adopted home state," the Chicago Tribune's Jim Tankersley writes. "But the advocate-in-chief was Michelle Obama, who reached for the transcendence of her husband's 2004 convention speech -- an address that galvanized Democrats and launched his national political career."

"Great speech. She nailed that point that she loves this country," Spike Lee tells the New York Daily News' Michael Saul. "I think that she's put that to rest tonight."

She hit this note just right, too: "Mrs. Obama also used her opening-night speech to try to begin a week of healing rifts in the Democratic Party," Jonathan Kaufman and Monica Langley write in The Wall Street Journal. "She inserted a tribute to Hillary Clinton, whom her husband defeated in a bitter primary fight. Mrs. Obama praised the vanquished candidate for having "put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters -- and sons -- can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher."

Obama's convention already has a moment for the ages: The tribute to Kennedy, D-Mass., was pitch-perfect, the right balance of emotional and motivational -- topped, of course, by the lion's own roar.

The words that will echo as long as Democratic conventions exist: "The dream lives on," Kennedy said.

"Kennedy's speech was much more than a moving acknowledgment of the tribute being paid to him -- it was much more than anyone could have expected," Peter Canellos writes in The Boston Globe. "It was, in fact, the party's real keynote address -- a call to arms that brought together past and present, and set the agenda for all the speeches to follow."

"Mr. Kennedy's appearance wiped away, at least for the evening, some of the tension that continued to plague the party in the wake of the primary fight between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. "It also represented an effort by the Obama campaign to claim the Kennedy mantle."

As for all those "regular people" -- anyone not get the message? "There was no missing the political point behind the made-for-TV show. Not after speaker after speaker filled in minor pieces of the portrait of a good old-fashioned, red-blooded American who shares your values, values, values," Michael Goodwin writes in his New York Daily News column. "That so many of those speakers were white underscored the depth of concern and the campaign's target."

Slightly marring a lovely evening in Denver: "Three men have been arrested on drug charges in Aurora, Denver and Glendale -- one of them carrying weapons that authorities said may have been intended for use against Barack Obama," Christopher N. Osher and Carlos Illescas report in The Denver Post.

Keeping Democrats worried: They want a Democratic president in battleground states, but are less enthusiastic about this Democrat. The new Quinnipiac University poll: "Florida: McCain leads 47 – 43 percent, compared to a 46 – 44 percent Obama lead July 31; Ohio: Obama has 44 percent to McCain's 43 percent, compared to a 46 – 44 percent Obama lead least time; Pennsylvania: Obama leads McCain 49 – 42 percent, unchanged from July 31."

On the political sked (outside the Pepsi Center):

Sen. Joe Biden and Michelle Obama attend an economic security event in Denver at 10:30 am MT -- and both are planning on being at Sen. Clinton's speech.

Sen. Barack Obama has a late morning event in Kansas City (not St. Louis).

Hillary Clinton pops around town, speaking to EMILY's List among other gatherings.

Bill Clinton adds a late event, a 9:45 am MT international affairs forum in Denver.

McCain addresses the American Legion in Phoenix.

Former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., is the star at the GOP's oppo headquarters on Tuesday, with a Christian Science Monitor lunch and everything else a veep's prospect could hope for.

Also in the news:

Obama is pushing back on the Bill Ayers connection, responding to a 527 group's ads. "With all our problems, why is John McCain talking about the '60s, trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers?" his new campaign ad asks.

But why build this up? "That they've made a strategic decision to air a commercial about William Ayers is perplexing," McCain strategist Steve Schmidt tells National Review's Rich Lowry. "He's deluding himself if he doesn't think his relationship with an unrepentant domestic terrorist who was part of this viscous, crack-pot group will give the American people pause. If he does, he's being very naïve."

McCain, on Leno, went POW on the houses question: "Could I just mention to you, Jay, that, at a moment of seriousness," McCain began his answer, "I spent five-and-a-half years in a prison cell. I didn't have a house. I didn't have a kitchen table. I didn't have a table. I didn't have a chair. And I didn't spend those five-and-a-half years because, not because I wanted to get a house when I got out."

And he only counted to four. "McCain is being conservative: ABC News's count is ten homes on eight properties," per ABC's Bret Hovell.

Intriguing timing for this trip: "Cindy McCain, the wife of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, is en route to the war torn country of Georgia Monday, where she is scheduled to meet with that country's president, Mikhail Saakashvili, and injured Georgia troops," per ABC's Ron Claiborne and Bret Hovell.

Checking in on the GOP platform: "The Republican Party will maintain its call for a constitutional ban on abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage if its platform-writing committee approves a staff-written draft during its formal meetings here on Tuesday and Wednesday," Ralph Z. Hallow reports in the Washington Times.

The Kicker:

"On an exhale from the belly body, downward dog . . . using the entire breath to get there." -- Yoga coach, to a room full of Democrats in need of healing, per The Washington Post's Dana Milbank.

"I don't want you to call me again." -- Former John Edwards aide, to the old boss, per The New York Daily News' Thomas M. DeFrank.

Viewing Guide:

ABC NewsNOW's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention resume's Tuesday. Watch a special hour-long "Politics Live" with David Chalian and Sam Donaldson at 1 pm ET (11 am MT).

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 Tuesday include former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., and Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich.

Follow the links to live coverage at ABC News' Politics site.

And I'm blogging all week here.

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