The Note: Contact Sports

DENVER --

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.

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