UPDATE 12:35 a.m.: Tonight’s speeches by Caroline Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama were the highlight for convention attendees for Day One of the Convention.
While DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did have speaking roles, they were vastly overshadowed by the presence of the evening's “big 3.”
Before the featured speakers took the dais, there was a lot of jockeying in the hallways by people like New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Virginia’s former governor and current candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Warner to get on CNN, FOX and MSNBC. Even Al Jazerra is here.
When the Kennedys came on, however, everyone including the big egos disappeared into their seats.
Nashville’s U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, an early Obama supporter, said “It was a great beginning. People were crying when they saw Ted Kennedy, they were excited to see Michelle Obama, and the kids were just adorable. It’ll shock the world that Democrats are looking unified and organized.”
Kingsport attorney D. Bruce Shine, who is currently one of three finalists for a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court, was also impressed.
Shine, a Clinton delegate, said, “I thought what was particularly impressive was to see all the Michelle signs, all the Barack signs, and all the Kennedy signs, knowing that about half the people came here for Hillary. It was impressive to see the unity.”
Shine added that this is his ninth Democratic convention, the first was when he was only 13-years old and served as a page for the late Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. If appointed to the state Supreme Court, that would also mean that this would be his last.
Other delegates are still in route to the hotel while a more than a few are likely having a later evening in downtown Denver.
UPDATE 3:08 p.m.: We are just about an hour shy of the Democratic Convention’s official opening and I am standing inside the Pepsi Center (where the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche play) as last minute adjustments and preparations are being made. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched someone cleaning the platform a minute ago. Yes that’s nerdy political humor but that’s why I’m here.
Before I update you on the Pepsi Center happenings, lets back track to the unexpected Biden sighting of a few hours ago.
Having just left the spot to get the appropriate media credentials, I was walking down the 16th Street Mall trying to get a lay of the land and was headed to the Pepsi Center to give as much time possible to get through the substantial security checkpoints. On the way here, I spotted Speaker Naifeh who invited me to join him for lunch.
As Naifeh and I sat down we began to talk about the convention and what he is looking forward to seeing over the course of the next few days. A veteran of a number of conventions, he said that he was looking forward to the speeches of Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton.
When I asked what he would be looking for in their speeches, Naifeh said that he hoped and believed that they would both inspire and then unite the party. At that point I asked him what he thought about Obama’s pick of Sen. Joe Biden for the vp slot. Naifeh said that he was “extremely pleased” with the choice and added that he was very good friends with Delaware’s Speaker of the House, Rep. Terry Spence.
About that time, Naifeh looked up and asked if I knew why a crowd was gathering across the street. I didn’t so I left the table and walked over to “Boney’s Smokehouse”, which is more of a kiosk and will likely make a few of you chuckle at the name.
About the same time I got across the street, the Secret Service shut all foot traffic down and a motorcade pulled in fast. Out popped Biden, his wife, and his brother. To say it was a surprise is an understatement because most didn’t think Biden would arrive till later in the week.
While most were scrambling to get close for either a picture or a word with him, nobody was in a better spot than Naifeh. You have probably seen the pictures of dignitaries lined up as a welcoming line for Air Force One, that’s basically where Naifeh was and he was the first person to greet Biden getting out of the car.
When asked about their exchange, Naifeh said that they spoke about their mutual friend Spence and congratulating him on the pick. While it really wasn’t a conversation of substance according to Naifeh, it was a good exchange.
My thought was this: if simply talking about someone at lunch with Naifeh in Denver makes can them automatically appear, I will try again tomorrow and see whom else we can conjure up.
As for the Pepsi Center, security is what you expect, exceptionally tight. There is a rumor going around that law enforcement officials arrested a vanload of men in Aurora, I’m guessing 20 miles from downtown, who were “heavily armed.” Having gone through the security here, they or anyone else would be pressed to make it into the perimeter surrounding the arena.
There are protestors here ranging from anarchists to religious activists. Interestingly a group of anti-abortion activists were praying and handing out leaflets just across the street from a booth set up by the Trojan condom company. The irony was not lost on anyone.
Once in the Pepsi Center I ran into former Saturday Night Live personality and current U.S. Senate candidate from Minnesota, Al Franken. He along with every other political personality were making multiple stops on “radio row” where talk radio stations from all over the country have temporarily set up shop.
Not being allowed regular access to the floor of the convention, I did get to stick my head in and see where the Tennessee delegation was seated. An old political axiom is that that your state is important to your party as where you are seated at the convention. I don’t know if that’s true or not but Delaware is on the front row and Tennessee is seated near the rear with Idaho and Texas.
There will be another update later. Stay tuned, because there may be more surprises in store tonight.
Word has spread lately that Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer will speak to delegates tonight. Known as the “last lion” of the Senate, this very well could be his swan song on the national stage. Regardless of your opinion of Kennedy, it will be very interesting to see what he has to say.
UPDATE 12:14 p.m. MST - State Rep. Jimmy Naifeh got a few minutes with Barack Obama's newly named running mate almost by accident at lunchtime today on a downtown Denver street.
While eating lunch at Willie G's along Denver's 16th Street Mall, Tennessee's Speaker of the House noticed a commotion across the street. Apparently, Sen. Joe Biden, out walking with his wife and a few Secret Service agents, had stopped at a sidewalk BBQ to grab some lunch and shake some hands.
Naifeh was able to reach Biden before agents kept a gathering crowd from getting too close, and Naifeh chatted privately for two or three minutes.
Check back later today to get Naifeh's thoughts on the Democratic National Convention and perhaps some insight on what he and Biden chatted about.
AS ORIGINALLY POSTED:
For those of you can remember the seemingly ancient days of when former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson was still running for president, you will recall that NashvillePost.com sent me to South Carolina to cover his “line in the sand” primary.
That state was a must-win for the man and he lost. What we at NashvillePost.com discovered, though, is that you liked our first-person account of the final days of the Fred campaign.
In that vein, we pick up where we left off. I will be covering the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week and then will head to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul next week and to give you a taste of what is happening on the ground.
For those who read NashvillePost.com regularly, you will see that in these dispatches from the road that the tone will be a bit less formal than our normal fare. Hopefully, they will give you a perspective not available from other media outlets.
As I write this, I am sitting in the lobby of a Hampton Inn in downtown Denver waiting for the office that hands out media credentials to open up. There are probably 30 or so other news types waiting as well to get the little pieces of paper that we will need to get most everywhere throughout the week.
While the gavel has not dropped to convene the convention yet – that will happen at 4 p.m. Nashville time – Democrats from Tennessee have already met for breakfast and are in the process of getting their credentials.
Some of the Nashville attendees already here are State Democratic Party Chair Gray Sasser, State Senator Thelma Harper, State Rep Brenda Gilmore, Metro Council members Erica Gilmore and Jerry Maynard, Brant Phillips and Jeff Yarbro of Bass, Berry & Sims, AT&T Tennessee’s Gregg Morton, and others.
Other prominent Democrats include Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, State Senator Jim Kyle, and State Reps Lois DeBerry and Randy Rinks.
Throughout the week, we will be getting their perspectives and that of other Tennesseans as to this Denver convention.
Check back throughout the day everyday as we will try to post updates every few hours.
On an unrelated note, I thought I’d share what happened last night as Democratic revelers began pouring into town. The City of New Orleans hosted a reception at a theatre called the Fillmore in downtown Denver. As you would expect, when New Orleans throws a party, people come in droves.
Standing outside of the theater for a bit, it was interesting to see that when “media stars” like Anderson Cooper or James Carville showed up and got out of a cab, flash bulbs went off and people swamped them like they were Nicole Kidman walking into the Target on White Bridge Road.
It all came to a brief halt, however, when a bicycle taxi pulled up to the party and his tire unexpectedly popped. It wasn’t a normal flat tire sound either, enough of a bang that about 200 people ducked and then looked around for a second before going back to their festivities.
While Democrats here are hoping for a bang, let’s hope that is the only one that causes them to duck.