It's Obama time!

Hillary Clinton released her delegates, and the party is coming together behind its new leader. Reasons to celebrate and reasons to worry in Denver.

Published August 26, 2008 2:17AM (EDT)

I didn't intend to be silent since Friday; I've been bowled over by logistics here in Denver. I arrived Friday night in time to head out to dinner with part of our Salon crew (everybody else arrived Saturday). CNN was nice enough to wait to confirm the Joe Biden V.P. choice until we were heading back to our Denver Salon H.Q., where we could watch television and update the site. We all waited for our text messages from the Obama campaign, but they came after we'd fallen asleep. I've been trying ever since then to get on top of the story, to figure out what will make this a successful convention, and what pitfalls Barack Obama has to avoid.

I was happy enough with the Biden pick. Though I'm not crazy about his positions on bankruptcy and credit issues or hard-line drug laws, I love the fact that he doesn't have many houses or a lot of money, he has a working-class background, and he's a fighter. He got off the best line of the primaries, in my opinion, against Rudy Giuliani, before Giuliani was toast, when he said every Rudy statement was "noun, verb, 9/11." I so enjoyed seeing him slap John McCain in Springfield, Ill., Saturday. I love the story of his family, all three generations.

Yes, I'd have preferred Hillary Clinton, but that decision is history. I think the Obama folks made a rare campaign error dragging out the process long enough that even fairly level-headed cable news talking heads like MSNBC political director Chuck Todd started acting like, well, hey, maybe it's a possibility again that Obama would pick Clinton. It was a setback for some Clinton supporters, but Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell predicts they'll get over it. Here's a short video interview I did with Rendell when he dropped into Salon's Denver party. (Rendell spoke before Clinton made the decision to release her delegates on Wednesday, and now it's not clear how the roll-call vote he discusses will work.) Text continues below the video:

The big question was why Obama waited so long to pick someone as predictable as Biden, who could have been helping him hammer McCain on his homes all week. But that's a small quibble; I was happy with the news. I think it came in time to make this a celebration for the Democrats -- although it will still take some work. I played Pollyanna on MSNBC in the wee hours of Saturday morning, when I got a call to talk to David Shuster about Biden just as I was going to bed. It was fun, MSNBC After Dark: Keith Olbermann and Chuck Todd and Craig Crawford had just phoned in, too, and I imagined all of us in our jammies, trying to sound intelligent.

So I presented my wishful-thinking fantasy for the week: Maybe the Biden pick can carry Democrats back to the end of 2007, when so many voters were celebrating their amazing roster of 2008 candidates. I remember a conversation with a close friend who admired Obama, Clinton, John Edwards and Biden, in that order, and who concluded giddily: I feel like I can't go wrong, whoever I pick! I agreed. Just three months later, she and I were bitterly debating the Clinton/Obama mess. I believe elevating Joe Biden from that crew of great historic candidates (sadly, I'd now remove Edwards), while giving the Clintons their due on Tuesday and Wednesday night, can restore some of the magic of those early months, when Democrats felt like the party couldn't go wrong this year, no matter who won.

I believe that's what the Obama campaign's trying to do with the convention, and I hope it works. Of course, I'm not Pollyanna temperamentally, so I see ways it could go wrong between now and November -- and what happens in Denver this week could be decisive. At our very fun party Satyrday night (you can read great posts from Jeralyn Merritt, Jane Hamsher and Michael Calderone), the consensus was moderately satisfied with Biden (except for smart criminal defense lawyer/blogger Merritt, who is understandably unhappy with his drug-law extremism) but moderately worried about Obama's general drift, as symbolized by the drawn-out veep process and his slowness in hitting back hard against McCain. As ever, people were split on the role of the Clintons, with pro-Clinton folks worried that Hillary will be blamed no matter what she does for Obama, this week or this season, and others believing she'll deserve that blame, especially if Obama loses. I think her decision Sunday night to release her delegates in advance of the roll call Wednesday night is bold and magnanimous, and will probably make for a less tense convention.

It will certainly put the spotlight more squarely on Barack Obama, which is where it belongs. Of course that's mostly a good thing, but it's not without its own risks. I'm optimistic about this week, but I've got my idiosyncratic concerns: I'm a little put off by the Faith Caucus events, even as a person of faith: Cameron Strang, the young Republican evangelical preacher tapped to give the Democrats' opening prayer backed out last week, worried he was being used. I can't imagine why the Democrats even asked him, or why they asked the antiabortion registered Republican who's scheduled to give the closing prayer, Joel Hunter (maybe he'll drop out too). Reaching out to Democrats of faith: terrific; outreach to Republicans who'll never vote for Obama, like Saddleback's Rick Warren and Strang and Hunter: Why? Meanwhile, Sunday night there's an AT&T reception for Blue Dog Democrats (!); watch for Glenn Greenwald's coverage later.

The convention officially opens Monday night with Michelle Obama and a tribute to Ted Kennedy (and maybe a surprise visit). We'll bring you live coverage, and feel free to contribute your own coverage on Open Salon. More tomorrow.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections