Thoughts on the West

Politico and the Denver Post hosted their final convention conversation in Denver today, with Governors Brian Schweitzer (Montana) and Janet Napolitano (Arizona), and Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. The discussion centered around how Democrats can win the American west – states like New Mexico, Colorado, Montana and Nevada, which have all shifted toward the left in recent years.

According to the panel, the reason why Democrats have done so well in those states recently comes down to the new kind of Democratic politician emerging from the west. Politicians like Brian Schweitzer, who got the delegates on their feet and going wild at the convention Tuesday night, but who also carries a laid-back and joking attitude into everything he goes into – for instance, he was wearing jeans while everyone else was in slacks. Or politicians like Ken Salazar, who speak candidly with the American people and admit it when they are wrong, which Salazar did when talking about his confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Although the panel may have been a little too optimistic in their analysis of Obama’s chances out west (some suggested he had a chance in Arizon, home state of John McCain), I think Obama has a chance to do more in the west that any Democrat has done for decades.

Also: Brian Schweitzer will be the Democratic nominee for President. I’m not going to speculate on when, but he will. If you think Schweitzer can work a 20,000-seat hall of delegates, you should see him speak in a tent with a few dozen people – he’s making eye contact with the crowd, and he’s working the room afterwards. That’s the kind of strategy that wins in Iowa, and I think that one day we’ll see Brian Schweitzer accepting the Democratic nomination at a DNC in the future…


The View from the Nosebleeds

Tonight was my first night inside the Pepsi Center during speeches, and the last night of DNC ceremonies in the arena – but boy was it a good one. I’m sorry to be writing so late – as you can probably imagine, it’s been a little hectic getting back to a quiet place to post. Some thoughts from Wednesday night’s proceedings:

          Obviously, the biggest moment of the night was Barack Obama’s surprise appearance with Joe Biden at the end of the night. I had just started to move from my seats when I heard Biden’s wife tell him “Joe, we have a special surprise for you!” and heard what can only be described as an eruption from the already-energized crowd. There can be no exaggeration, there can be no overstatement: Barack Obama brought the house down at the end of the evening. The reaction from the delegates was massive, giving just a small preview of tomorrow night’s proceedings – for which Savidge for America will grovel endlessly to attend… Show your support in the comments section? Just kidding. Kinda.

          Before the nominee showed up, though, there had already been a lot going on in the convention’s final night before moving across the river to INVESCO Mile-High Stadium. Joe Biden’s speech will doubtlessly be overlooked due to the surprise appearance after it, but he did the job of the Vice-President well. Before the speech, his son, Beau, introduced him after a video about the Biden family history. Biden spent the first part of his speech talking about his roots, but from there, he was into the VP mode: going after John McCain, talking up Barack Obama. Biden’s speech wasn’t good in the style of Deval Patrick or Brian Schweitzer the night before, or Bill Clinton an hour before (more on him later) – it was good in that it accomplished what it was supposed to do.

          The Biden family delivered the funniest moment of the night while describing the “get back up” mentality he grew up with. He told the story of getting beaten up by bullies in Scranton, and that his mother told him to “go bloody their nose” – the camera cut to a shot of Mama Biden, who we could see telling the person next to her, “it’s true.”

          Bill Clinton’s speech seems to have solidified his reunification with many Democrats. The ovation that came from his entrance forced him to plead with the crowd, “Sit down!” Let’s not forget, 1992-2000 (and especially 1992-1994) was a great time to be a Democrat, and many Obama supporters were hurt by Clinton in the primaries because of what they saw as a betrayal by one of their favorite presidents. But with this speech, I think Clinton has healed wounds with Obama supporters opened during the primaries. Of course, there will be questions about how genuine Clinton’s words were – especially quotes like “Barack Obama is the man for this job,” and “Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States,” which stand in contrast to comments Clinton made just a few weeks ago.

          I think Evan Bayh delivered a good speech, considering he wasn’t expected to give a terribly exciting one. Sure, he didn’t bring the house down or whip the delegates into a frenzy like Brian Schweitzer of Montana did last night, but Bayh did deliver a good speech and compared to the Reid and Rockefeller speeches (which almost literally put me to sleep – it’s been a long day)

          Melissa Ethridge performed a medley of songs during her time on the Pepsi Center stage. She started with “God Bless America,” then Dylan’s “The Times they are A’Changing,” followed by “Give Peace a Chance,” and then wrapping up with Bruce Springteen’s “Born in the USA.” I’ve never really gotten into Ethridge, but I think she did a good job tonight, although it would have been nice to hear a verse from the Boss’ classic – she only repeated the chorus “I was… boooooorn in the USA”

          This entry is titled “View from the Nosebleeds” because I’m pretty sure our seats were in Coors Field. Savidge for America could only find seats a few rows from the top in the uppermost section of the Pepsi Center – I guess Youth Radio hasn’t quite earned a sky box yet. Maybe next time?

          After the end of the Biden speech, Savidge for America made his way down to the Convention floor, where he pillaged the seats for campaign signs like a Viking – look out family, you’ve got some souvenirs coming.

          I also got to see the CNN team (including Anderson Cooper, with whom one of our producers is nothing short of obsessed), Katie Couric, NBC’s David Gregory, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and CNN’s Paul Begala (I also met Jimmy Carville this morning, meaning I shook hands with the “left” side of Crossfire within 12 hours). Begala was with his wife and son, walking through the Pepsi Center, but he took time to walk and talk with me – when I told him I was going to be studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go badgers), he said I should do politics instead, “don’t just report history, make it.” Pure class.

Are You Getting It All?

Full Coverage of the 2008 Democratic Convention at our Convention Blog.

Politico-Denver Post Conversations

Politico, Yahoo! News, and the Denver Post are holding a series of conversations every morning of the convention at the Denver Athletic Club downtown. Today, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, former Senator Tom Daschle, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss spoke with Politico’s John Harris and the Denver Post’s Susan Greene. The discussion was on, “Obama and the Impossible Job; what are the personal qualities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents – and does this nominee have them?” Here are some thoughts and moments from the discussion:

– According to Michael Beschloss, the “personal quallities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents” is that they are abl to stand by their beliefs even if it means killing their political career, and the ability to get stuff through Congress. I agree – although I only think Obama  posesses one of those traits. Sure, he has the ability to stand up for what he believes in (when asked for examples, Daschle mentioned his early stance against the Iraq war and opposition to the gas tax holiday), but as a Senator who only has five years in Washington, it would be tough for him to pass legislation, even with a Democratic Congress. Beschloss scored the laugh of the day when he said that although Obama lacks that ability, Congressional experience is “something you can hire,” as he motioned toward Senator Daschle.

– Daschle only attended part of the conversation, but did offer some thoughts. On Obama’s potential, Daschle said he “represents a real opportunity” to bring people into the process the way Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy did decades ago. DIscussing Bill Clinton’s speech tonight (for which Savidge for America will be in the Pepsi Center), when asked if Clinton could “blow it” tonight, he answered with a precise “No.” After a pause and a laugh, he went on to say that, “When the Clintons rise to occasion, they do it in spades.” Daschle also predicted that Joe Biden would “knock everyone’s socks off tonight.”

– One of the morning’s most interesting ideas came from Rahm Emanuel, who talked about how presidents should choose their Vice-Presidents. Imagine you are in the Oval Office, sitting at the president’s desk, Emanuel says. When you look up, who are the three people you would want to see there advising you? Write down those three names, and from there pick your running mate.

– Later, Politico’s moderators asked if this would be a “post-racial” election, in which the ethnicity of a candidate wouldn’t matter. While Beschloss worked around the question, saying that Barack Obama wouldn’t loose votes for his race, Emanuel shared my opinion: in a nation with a history like ours (and a present like ours), post-racial politics are impossible. Sure, it’s possible to have a candidate for whom race won’t cost them votes, but it is unrealistic to think that one day, their race will not enter the conversation.

I really enjoyed today’s Politico discussion, and they’re having another one tomorrow with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (who gave a great speech last night that really got the delegates amped up), and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. They’re free to attend, and are held at the Denver Athletic Club across the street from the Colorado Convention Center – if you’re here, I reccomend you check it out.

Savidge for America on NPR

My profile of 18-year-old Arkansas delegate Taylor Riddle aired today on National Public Radio’s All things Considered – check it out here.

Many thanks to Taylor and our producer, Rebecca Martin, without whom this story would have sounded like… let’s be honest, it would’ve been crap without her!

DNC Liveblog – Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has just left the stage of the Democratic Convention, after delivering a big speech meant to reunity her and Barack Obama’s supporters as Democrats. I noticed that Clinton really went for two points: that the next president must inspire the people, and the common refrain from the night, that John McCain is four more years of President Bush. Clinton spoke about the need for a leader to ignite the American potential for action and ingenuity, and how she believes Barack Obama is the right person to do that. “Elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden for a future worthy of our great nation,” she said as her final line.

Clinton also used the idea of Bush/McCain a lot, looking to unite the party against the Republican campaign. “We don’t need four more years of the last eight years,” Clinton said (she also scored laughs and applause when she said that it’s becoming hard to tell Bush and McCain apart). Using that talking point too much might not be the best strategy for getting out the vote in the party. But, that said, Clinton did a very good job connecting the President to John McCain, which will be necessary in the campaign (with a good balance between those attacks and Obama support). I think Clinton will have won over quite a few of her people tonight, and perhaps even some undecided voters tonight by her connection of McCain with Bush. It was obvious that Hillary Clinton was going to give a rousing endorsement of Barack Obama – the thing making some Democrats nervous is what Bill Clinton says tomorrow night.

DNC Liveblog – Deval Patrick

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick just finished his address to the delegates at the Democratic Convention, and I think he’ll be someone to look for in coming elections. Patrick used the idea of community a lot in his speech – ending the cynicism, and coming together as Americans for a common cause. It reminded me a lot of Barack Obama’s 2004 convention speech, where Obama talked about going beyond divisions to create one America – as he said, there is not a black America and a white America, there is a United States of America. Patrick used some of the same elements in his speech. He told the story of his childhood on the south side of Chicago, where although his neighborhood was crumbling the bond between its residents was strong. Patrick talks about how if he messed up as a kid on one end of the block, his neighbor would straighten him out, then call his parents, “so you could get it twice.” Later, Patrick called on the nation to, “Join hands as Americans to elect Barack Obama President of the United States.” This idea of building a strong national community, starting with the city block, is one that could play well in urban cities and rural towns. We might see Deval Patrick run for office a bit higher than Massachusetts Governor sometime soon…