The Note: The Mountaintop

DENVER --

Even if it's disappointed those who were looking for chaos rather than comity, they've had their roles: The defeated rival, coming to terms with a real kind of inevitability; the former leader, bestowing his blessings at long, long last; an evening capped by the grizzled veteran, basking in his moment -- and lighting the path for the chosen one.

In case Sen. Barack Obama needed to see how it was done on Thursday, a couple of old pros made it work for him Wednesday. By the time Obama heard the roar of the crowd for himself, a convention that looked dangerously close to veering off track was tantalizingly close to fulfilling its goals.

Sen. Joe Biden made the case for Obama -- and against Sen. John McCain -- more eloquently, coherently, and tactically than maybe even that guy at the top of the ticket.

Former President Bill Clinton completed the sentiments his wife started (but didn't finish) articulating the night before -- and for a night, and perhaps now for a campaign, we witnessed grace and generosity.

And the masterstroke: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made the final, minutely choreographed gesture herself. "Clinton did the honors for the man who had denied her dream of becoming the first woman ever nominated to lead a major party," Dan Balz and Anne Kornblut write in The Washington Post.

(Suddenly, with McCain poised to pick a running mate, does it seem that the drama is drifting in the general vicinity of St. Paul?)

At last, a message: "This week's events served as a national debut of sorts for the Obama campaign attack machine, even if that machinery is operated mostly by supporters and aides rather than the candidate himself," Peter Wallsten and Doyle McManus write in the Los Angeles Times. "It was clear that the campaign has settled on its favorite theme: portraying McCain as out of touch economically and an identical twin to President Bush."

Now Obama just has to give at least the second-best speech of his life Thursday night at Invesco Field at Mile High -- while not letting the setting become the story. (He's presumptive no more, but that doesn't take care of presumptuous.)

"His campaign has gambled on the historic moment by creating a stage that will magnify his performance," Eli Saslow writes in The Washington Post.

"Succeed here, in front of the largest Democratic National Convention crowd in nearly 50 years, and Obama's speech will be remembered as one of the most powerful moments in modern politics, a perfect launch into the final stage of the general election," he writes. "Fail, and Obama risks fueling Republicans' criticism that he is an aloof celebrity, fond of speaking to big crowds but incapable of forming genuine connections."

(But inside Obamaland, they'll be feeling their universe expand with every text message sent out of Invesco . . . )

As the campaign tweaks the camera angles -- and prays the Rocky Mountain forecast stays clear -- it's not just Greek columns as backdrop: "He'll be surrounded by an array of little-known supporters, people he has met along the trail and who have become a cast of folksy characters in his campaign speeches," Christi Parsons and John McCormick write in the Chicago Tribune.

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