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Democratic Convention diary

Convention diarists Max Deveson, Constance Borde and Jennifer Copestake


Democratic Party super-delegate Connie Borde joins the BBC's Max Deveson and Jennifer Copestake to report on the drama, tension and razzmatazz of this week's Democratic Convention.

CONNIE BORDE: HILLARY DAY

27 August: 0228 local time (0828 GMT)

"No way, no how, no McCain." These words delivered in her eloquent Tuesday-night speech in Denver are perhaps the most significant in Hillary Clinton's appeal to the public to unite behind Barack Obama and elect him President of the United States on 4 November.

The morning began with a Women's Caucus meeting: hundreds of Democratic Party women met in Convention Hall to praise the one who shattered the political glass ceiling
But for me, Hillary Clinton's declaration began earlier in the day. Tuesday, in fact, was unofficially Women's Day - and more precisely, Hillary day - at the Democratic National Convention.

The morning began with a Women's Caucus meeting: hundreds of Democratic Party women met in Convention Hall to praise the one who shattered the political glass ceiling and to declare their support for the roll call that would on Wednesday officially record this great moment in women's history.

Whether these women had supported Hillary or Barack in the primaries, this meeting was about something else, something deeper than politics. It was about a milestone, and it gave women the chance to express their admiration and - yes - love for the woman who made that milestone happen and who has fought on their behalf for decades.

Do you have any questions you would like to put to our convention diarists? If so, send them to us using the link below.

A few hours later, Emily's List, the largest, wealthiest and most dynamic source of support for women in politics met before a sold-out, standing-room-only group of supporters. This powerful organisation has helped countless women succeed in obtaining political office, and among them on the stage today were Barbara Mikulski the rough-and-tumble, much-loved senator from Maryland and Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House. And two others graced the stage with their presence: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

The room resounded with ovations as each one spoke, and from what they said, and the reaction of the audience, it was obvious to all that the empowerment of women could continue only with Barack Obama in the White House.

So when Senator Clinton walked onto the stage later that night, the parameters had already been drawn and the belief of a divide between the two primary sparring partners had been dispelled, mutually supported and shared by women themselves. Clinton and Obama concur on most issues, if not all. It is John McCain who does not share their ideas, and the task that lies ahead for us is to assure a Democratic victory in November.

JENNIFER COPESTAKE: SPIKE'S VIEW

27 August: 0525

I've just finished watching Hillary's speech (with Gabby Keys, a very upbeat delegate from Nevada) and we ran straight into director Spike Lee who was also feeling energized:

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Spike Lee: Clinton gave a great, great, great speech

MAX DEVESON: TIME FOR RED MEAT

26 August: 2030

There have been some grumbles from Clinton supporters like James Carville and Paul Begala that the Democrats wasted the first night of their convention.

They were unhappy that the big speeches from Michelle Obama and Edward Kennedy were full of soft-focus positive messages - and no-one was attacking John McCain or tying him to President George W Bush.

If last night was a time for candyfloss, then tonight has been a time for red meat.

As the audience waited for the big speech from Hillary Clinton, speaker after speaker tore into Mr McCain. His multiple homes were a favourite subject for jokes.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, paraphrasing another famous Kansas girl, said that if Mr McCain had come from her state, he would have said that "there's no place like home... and home... and home..."

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey managed to whip up the crowd by accusing Mr McCain of being "a Bush sidekick, not a maverick".

The keynote speaker of the night was ex-Virginia Governor Mark Warner, in the slot that first brought Barack Obama to national prominence four years ago.

Mr Warner's rhetoric was not quite as high-flown as Obama's in 2004, but his speech was well-received.

And, unlike the preceding speakers, he chose not to lay into the Republicans, instead making a plea for bipartisanship.

"If an idea works, it really doesn't matter if it has an "R" or "D" next to it," he said.

All of these speeches may have been forgotten by the time Hillary Clinton makes her way to the podium, but - Mr Warner aside - they give an indication of the way in which the party intends to fight the rest of the campaign.

That is, by painting Mr McCain as a privileged multi-millionaire who will carry on the policies of George W Bush.

MAX DEVESON: HARRY TRUMAN'S HEIR?

26 August: 1500

The Republicans have been comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Today, at a panel discussion on national security, the Democratic hopeful was compared to a very different historical figure: President Harry S Truman.

The panel - organised by The Truman National Security Project - featured a couple of former defence officials from the Clinton administration (former Defence Secretary William Perry and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig), both of whom have been acting as advisers to the Obama campaign.

So it seemed like a good place to learn about the future direction of US foreign policy if Mr Obama wins in November - after all, these men could be at the heart of the administration in a few months' time.

The key change will temperamental, they said. Unlike George W Bush and John McCain, they argued, Mr Obama will approach foreign policy questions dispassionately. He will listen more, and seek the advice of people who may disagree with him.

Strategically, Mr Danzig suggested that Mr Obama would - like Harry Truman - change the foreign policy climate by aiming for a more multilateral approach, and by asking local actors to take on more of the military burden in ongoing conflicts.

And, perhaps most importantly, Mr Obama would focus more on the political side of international conflicts, rather than reaching immediately for military options.

But when asked about specific actions an Obama administration might adopt in response to the situation in Georgia, the speakers revealed little of substance. Showing "more respect" to Russia in the hope that it would behave less provocatively seemed to be their chief tactic.

Mr Truman managed to win an election on the basis of his national security credentials. The speakers and audience at today's event clearly hope that in this respect Mr Obama will also be his heir.

CONNIE BORDE: THE MOST POPULAR FOLKS IN TOWN

26 August: 0940

Remember the days when "liberal" was a dirty word, referred to as the "L-word", and the worst slur a Republican could throw out at a Democrat was to call her or him one?

Well, it might be all in a name, but the new Liberals are Progressives, and this week in Denver, they're among the most popular folks in town. The last Democratic Congress took on a more lib... I mean, progressive agenda and fought for bills protecting working families, minimum wage, and medical care benefits (remember Ted Kennedy leaving his hospital to vote on a bill that would prevent a 10.6% cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients?)

The Progressive Caucus is the biggest one in the House of Representatives today, and their ideas are not only catching on, but winning big approval ratings with the public. Names like Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Barbara Lee, Denis Kucinich (who's run for president a couple of times) are no longer associated with way-out left-wing crazy ideas. Eight years of Bush/Republican politics have helped change attitudes.

Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, addressed the ADA here and warned that progs better get ready for a return to majority power, and know what they want when they get there. (ADA stands for American's for Democratic Action, a think tank and lobby group for liberal causes.)

Here are the four points he laid out for a progressive agenda: universal healthcare (cf Senator Kennedy's rousing speech on the Convention floor); employee free choice; reform of the tax code; and get out of Iraq. Who could disagree?

JENNIFER COPESTAKE: CLINTONS FOR MCCAIN

26 August: 0030

A few hours ago, as I was walking through the baking hot streets of Denver, I ran into a very noisy group of protesters. Who could they be? Anarchists? An anti-immigration pressure group?

When they got closer, I noticed the group was smaller than it had first appeared - its ranks swelled by a large police bicycle escort. And they weren't anarchists.

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Clinton supporters explain their opposition to Barack Obama

After meeting these people, I did wonder about how the Obama message is being disseminated around town and how keenly it will stick once the delegates are gone.

The same thoughts returned much later, when I picked up some food at the Lone Star Steakhouse. Sitting at an empty bar were two men, talking about the minimum wage and the value of hard work. A baseball game played on five TV screens over the bar and country music blared from a speaker somewhere. I could imagine the scene repeated across the US.

The men were talking about how as children they had spoken to their fathers - how everything was "Yes Sir!" - and how they never expected any handouts. They were not excited by Obama. Far from it, they were shouting their support to the empty room for the Republicans and John McCain.

JENNIFER COPESTAKE: MEETING CONNIE

Another meeting I had yesterday, after walking through a maze of blocked-off streets near the convention centre, was with our super-delegate diarist, Connie. She told me about the group she represents at the convention, Democrats Abroad, and the growing of numbers of registered Democrats outside the US.

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Connie Borde, super-delegate, on the importance of overseas voters

OUR DIARISTS

Connie Borde is a super-delegate representing Democrats Abroad. She has lived in France for some 40 years, and lectured for half of this period at the prestigious Sciences Po institute in Paris. She has authored or co-authored books on American cooking, American politics, and English grammar - and is currently translating Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. "I always supported Barack Obama," she says. "But I waited to give my super-delegate vote until February 2008 when Democrats Abroad France (my constituency) voted in his favour by 71%." She has a French husband, and six children.

Max Deveson, 30, is the BBC News website's Washington reporter. He joined the BBC in 2001 to work as a political analyst in Westminster, later moving to the online world news team. He has an obsessive interest in the US and its politics and was particularly excited to land an interview with Ted Kennedy on his first assignment in Washington this year. When not obsessing about US politics, Max enjoys attempting to play Iron and Wine songs on the guitar.

Jennifer Copestake, 25, is an online video producer for World News America. She's been with the programme since its first broadcast in October 2007. After the conventions she'll be video-blogging from a BBC election bus on a 38-day road trip across the country. Jennifer was born in Canada and has reported for the CBC, the Hill Times, the Observer and More 4 News. She's been in Washington since early summer, but will return one day to London, where she lives with her fiance and two cats.

The BBC News website will also publish a diary of the Republican Convention, featuring Louisiana delegate Mike Bayham.


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