Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 08:21 UK

Democratic convention a success, for now

By Matthew Price
BBC News, Denver

Barack Obama, 28 August, 2008
The convention ran like clockwork

Looking back at it all from block 133 of Mile High Stadium as the fireworks went off and Barack Obama and Joe Biden hugged one another, it seemed perfectly clear.

The Democrats had got through it - with some style.

The thing about conventions though is that they are intoxicating when you are in them.

So how to properly judge this week?

When it started, there was talk of disunity, of a possible final Clinton surprise that would harm Obama, of a Biden foot-in-the-mouth moment.

Some wondered whether perhaps Barack Obama might fail to deliver the details on how he would bring about the change he speaks of.

Clinton 'concerns'

There were also concerns during the week. For a time the convention seemed to be about a candidate called Clinton - rather than a nominee named Obama.

Would the Clintons dominate when it should surely be all about Obama?

Well, in the end, no. They did not.

There was a clear evolution through the week. It was not just Michelle Obama who grabbed the headlines on day one. Senator Ted Kennedy - ill with cancer - also did, reminding Democrats who they were, what sort of a party they could be, and should be.

On day two, the public Clinton healing process began.

On the surface, it was all about helping Obama.

Hillary, the defeated, made the speech she had to, telling her supporters to rally behind him.

Obama's campaign is a machine, and it is firing on all cylinders at the moment

On Wednesday she called a halt to the roll call of votes, and symbolically ended her run for the White House.

That evening Bill rallied the faithful behind Obama.

The problem is the Clintons were dominating the proceedings. You almost heard their names more than you heard that of the Democrat who was actually going to run for the White House.

That feeling vanished in an instant in Mile High Stadium. There Obama claimed the convention, and was anointed, amid a sea of "Change" signs.

The nomination was finally undeniably his.

So what conclusions can we draw?

The most obvious one is that Obama's campaign is a machine, and it is firing on all cylinders at the moment.


The convention would have been planned to a tee by Barack Obama's chief strategist David Axlerod. Nothing would have been left to chance and it showed.

It also meant that the Democrats dominated the news agenda this week. The Republicans didn't get a look in.

That in itself makes this week a success. The key purpose (in the modern era) of the convention is to publicise the nominee and the party.

The final evening, too, ran like clockwork.

A man waves the US flag at the Demcoratic Convention, 28 August, 2008
Conventions are always intoxicating when you are there

It was as if the campaign had a checklist. Which it, of course, did.

As the sun beat down on the arms and faces of tens of thousands of Obama supporters, they went through it one by one, ticking it off.

Worried Senator Obama wouldn't be an effective Commander in Chief? A host of US generals marched on stage in support.

Worried he would forget the ordinary Americans suffering the economic downturn? Roy Gross, a union member from Michigan, spoke on stage and pledged his support.

Worried some Democrats would vote Republican? Well up stepped the Republican switching the other way.

There are of course some things Mr Axlerod and his team can't control.

For now Clinton supporters are pledging unity - but will it last?

Mr Obama himself alluded to another potential problem in his speech when he said he wasn't "the likeliest candidate for this office."

That's a recognition that there are many in this country who will simply never be swayed. How many we will find out on 4 November.

Then, too, we will probably get the best answer to the question: "Was this convention a success?"

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