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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: REBIRTH OF PARTY

28 August: 0230 local time (0830 GMT)

"Barack Obama will win because he is on the right side of history." Thus spoke William Jefferson Clinton in his address to his party and to the nation.

And as President Clinton is rarely wrong when it comes to political instinct, a thousand cheers of confidence rose from the audience in the Pepsi Center in Denver on Wednesday night.

This could be considered the crescendo of a week where a renewed and reinvigorated Democratic Party paraded out its best and brightest display of political capital, and where the Party faithful liked what they saw.

John Kerry gave one of his finest speeches to an attentive audience ("Never has an administration squandered so recklessly..."), Bill Clinton once again dazzled the crowd with his breadth of knowledge and sweeping synthesis of the ailing world that has been created by eight years of reckless Republican leadership and what it would take to heal it, and Joe Biden demonstrated how Barack Obama "and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story".

By the end of his speech, and just in case there had been any doubt in the room, it became evident that Obama had made the right choice. He spoke convincingly of Obama's strengths and they dovetailed with Biden's own. The stars all seem to be in the right alignment.

Like all births - rebirths in this case - there has been some pain involved. The Democratic Party has passed through long and arduous months of primary campaigning, soul- and identity-searching and reinvention, to emerge on this stage tonight stronger and truer to its ideals than ever before.

Everyone looked good. The prominent party leaders who showed support tonight, coupled with Michelle Obama's and Hillary Clinton's promise to stand by their man (from Monday and Tuesday) bring great promise to the campaign about to open against John McCain.

But there is one last piece missing in this set: Obama himself. He made a brief appearance at the end of the evening (very clever, since tomorrow night he will not be in the Convention hall, but rather in Invesco Stadium), glowing with pride to be among such peers. When he gives his acceptance speech, he must prove he is the leader of such greats as Biden, Clinton, Pelosi, Kennedy and Kerry - worthy of the support and confidence they are entrusting to him.

A mighty task for such a young man. But he seems perfectly confident in front of such an order. On Thursday night he will begin a new dialogue with the country, but he is setting out on this journey well-equipped. His party is fired up and ready to go!

MAX DEVESON: LET BYGONES BE BYGONES

27 August: 2030 local time (0230 GMT)

Maybe it was a media-created narrative. Maybe the divisions within the Democratic Party between the Clintonistas and the Obama-ites never ran particularly deep.

But if there was a rift, then today the Clintons did their best to close it, and persuade their supporters to work for an Obama victory.

I spoke to one such supporter - Kira Brennan, a Clinton delegate from Wisconsin, who had fought hard for Hillary in the Iowa caucuses.

Buzzing in the aftermath of Bill's big speech, and Hillary's dramatic motion to nominate Barack Obama by acclamation during today's roll-call vote, she was full of admiration for the Clintons - but also encouraged by their actions to campaign hard for her party's nominee.

And although she herself will not be able to work for the Obama campaign (she'll be working to win a majority for the Democrats in the Wisconsin state legislature), she knows of several former Clinton campaign workers who will now be signing up to help get Mr Obama elected.

"Bill did exactly what he needed to do," she said.

Her favourite section of Mr Clinton's speech was the part where he apologised for the comments he made during the primaries about Mr Obama's unreadiness for the presidency.

Mr Clinton compared his criticism of Mr Obama's lack of experience to the barbs he himself had faced when he won the White House in 1992.

"Using self-deprecating humour like that was a really effective way to make amends for his criticism of Obama," Ms Brennan told me.

Mr Clinton's endorsement and Hillary's coup de theatre during the floor vote have convinced at least one former Clinton supporter to get behind Barack Obama.

In the coming weeks, we will find out whether this convention has done enough to convince others to let bygones be bygones and help put Mr Obama in the White House.

MAX DEVESON: LOOKING FOR LAUGHS

27 August: 1900 local time (0100 GMT)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - every liberal Democrat's favourite comedy show - is being produced form Denver every day during the convention.

So I decided to join the audience today to take the temperature of the Democratic rank-and-file - and to laugh at the jokes.

The jokes that went down best seemed to be those directed at me and my colleagues in the media.

There appeared to be a genuine anger that journalists were desperate to find any evidence of disunity among Democrats and blow it out of all proportion.

Special guest Howard Dean, being interviewed via satellite from the convention centre, even tried a joke of his own, holding up a badge which said "Ask me how many houses I own" - a reference to John McCain's homes gaffe.

Unfortunately for Mr Dean, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, his timing wasn't so hot - he'd unwittingly used his best gag during the run-through.

But that didn't stop him using the joke again when the cameras were rolling for real.

This was a fairly easy, partisan crowd, though, and it generously gave him a laugh both times.

Back in the convention centre, Hillary Clinton was busy making a powerful show of unity during the roll call vote - the Daily Show audience didn't seem to need much unifying, however.

JENNIFER COPESTAKE: POLICE PRESENCE

27 August: 1700 local time (2300 GMT)

The size of the police presence here in Denver is incredible. It's not just the secret service populating the perimeter of the convention centre but the plethora of police that are in the streets too.

Police on horses (which I've heard were brought in from Cheyenne, Wyoming) bicycles, motorcycles and my favourite... the segway!

I met these friendly officers outside a shopping centre on 16th Street and they talked me through their elaborate outfits.

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The weapons and uniforms of Denver police

MAX DEVESON: THE ART OF SIGN-WAVING

27 August: 1500 local time (2100 GMT)

TV viewers tuning into the Democratic convention may be forgiven for thinking that they have accidentally switched on a video recording of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

Everywhere you look in the convention centre, audience members are holding up identical signs. And everyone seems to be waving their signs at exactly the same time.

A couple of North Carolina delegates let me in on the secret of how it's done.

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Synchronised flag waving at the Democrat convention

"Each state delegation has its own whip, who hands out the signs and gets a phone call when it's time to hold it up - we follow the whip's lead," Kathy Knight and Emma Johnson tell me.

"But we don't think of it as stage management - it's more like positive image co-ordination. It shows that we're unified - and it looks cool."

Some viewers might find the sight of such unflinching conformity a little, well, scary.

But Nevada delegate Xiomara Rodriguez is reassuring. "Holding up signs and cheering is all part of the fun of the convention."

CONNIE BORDE: DEMOCRATS WORK

27 August: 1430 local time (2030 GMT)

A short few words in a busy day: the Pepsi Center opens its doors early today and delegates are requested to be in their seats on time. Tension is in the air.

In a quick aside from politics this morning, delegates volunteered to spend some time in a community project. We chose tree-planting! What fun to see the sun and the sky again. Two delicious hours were spent with the Aurora city council. We wore t-shirts that said "Democrats work".

To our amazement, we found ourselves planting a tree next to President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. President Carter said: "Of course Democrats work. That's what the Democratic Party is about: working and giving back to the community."

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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