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Thursday, August 28, 2008

 9:08 AM 

Delegate Diary: History has been made

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Stan Davis
Before I get started, I want to take a moment to say a couple of things that I do not want to forget. I want to salute Dem Party Executive Director Jessica Erickson and her team for taking great care of us and making sure that we were in the right place and knew what to do when we got there. Things have been well organized, despite the fact that the size of this event lends itself to mass chaos. Nice job Jess and crew.

On Wednesday morning, the big question was what would happen in the afternoon. When would we vote? How would we vote? Would there be a roll call vote? Would that be a bad thing for Obama? Was Bill Clinton going to come through? We didn't know the answers to the process questions because the DNC had not told anyone yet. We didn't know what the political outcome would be because we just didn't. We would have to wait and see like everyone else.

One thing that I can say is that the things that the public has been reading at home about anxious Obama supporters and tension between Clinton and Obama delegates were pure fiction. I have seen no examples of that since I have been here. The anxiety that I have heard about has been from delegates when they make the mistake of watching the TV coverage and realize that the event being depicted usually bears no resemblance to what they are experiencing in real life.

At about 1:45 on Wednesday afternoon, I was having lunch with several people including fellow delegate and DWD Secretary Roberta Gassman. We had all agreed to walk down to the Cheesecake Factory for a little dessert when we got an urgent text from Doyle aide Jordan Primakow saying that the DNC needed all delegates to the Pepsi Center by 3:15. It was a tough call to make. Get our cheesecake or start making our way to Pepsi? We had no idea why we were being called there, because we had already voted that morning in the hotel. We obviously decided that the cheesecake would have to wait, and Roberta and I started heading for the shuttle which was a couple of blocks away.

With Roberta in her heels and me still recovering from knee surgery, we started a slow-speed pursuit of the shuttle that was sitting at its stop about a block away. There were a couple of times that we both started something that vaguely resembled a trot, but settled on waving our hands in the air to attract the attention of the DNC volunteer that was standing outside of the bus. We didn't want to miss the shuttle because the ride can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the traffic at the time, and the shuttles only come about every 30 minutes.

During the ride to Pepsi, we speculated on why we had been summoned. We also checked the web on our Blackberries for any news that might help us figure things out. Had something gone wrong with the vote? Had people who had pledged for Barack switched sides? After a few minutes, we actually got it right. What made the most sense was that we were being called there for a voice vote to nominate Sen. Obama. It was actually a pretty quick trip and we headed in to meet the few members of our delegation who had beaten Roberta and me to the scene. After we had sat there in the still largely empty arena, we started making fun of ourselves for rushing over there like we had seen our own personal Batman spotlights.

The voting was to be closed at 4 p.m. and the roll call would begin. Word started to get around that the plan might be to start the roll call and at some point move that the full convention be asked to nominate Sen. Obama by acclamation. I watched as Jess Erickson and Joe Weinike and their staff tallied the votes and prepared to give the DNC Wisconsin's official final numbers. If I remember correctly, Sen. Obama received 67 of Wisconsin 92 delegates. Some Clinton delegates from Wisconsin decided to vote for Obama following the speech of Sen. Hillary Clinton, so the margin was larger than the result of the primary vote in February.

After some speeches, the third session of the Democratic National Convention was called to order. Shortly thereafter, the roll call of the states started with Alabama. At that point, it was a mystery as to how states would vote. It became evident early on that many delegates from other states had moved toward party unity because states which had been won by Sen. Clinton during the primary actually ending up with more votes being cast for Obama. Several state delegations made strong statements by voting unanimously for Obama. The roll call vote that the media and others thought would be a disaster for Obama was becoming a real time testament to the degree to which the Democratic Party had come back together to support its nominee.

When it was California's time to vote, it passed. A few minutes later, Illinois passed as well. About 20 minutes later, another state passed and yielded its position to New York. We were trying to figure out what was going to happen next when Sen. Clinton was shown on the big screen in the arena making her way to New York's podium with Gov. David Patterson. As she reached the microphone, she made what had to be a very difficult statement for her given how tough the primary was. She called on Democrats to rally behind Obama, made it clear that he is our candidate, and then moved to suspend the rules of the convention and called for a vote to nominate Obama by acclamation.

Speaker Pelosi took the podium and received about 5500 loud seconds to the motion and the motion passed. In classic Robert's Rule of Order form, Pelosi called for the nays, pounded the gavel, and declared that the ayes had prevailed almost simultaneously. For the record, I was listening for any nays being yelled out and did not hear any. Had there been any, I'm sure we would have heard about it in the media by now.

Well, it had been done. History had been made. Senator Barack Obama had been nominated to be the Democratic Party's candidate for President of the United States. As I just heard congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis of Georgia say in an interview, a down payment had been made on the dream that had been set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. almost exactly 45 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Our Governor had been standing by preparing to announce Wisconsin's vote total and probably make some of those comments like, "from Wisconsin, the real home of the happiest cows in America ..." Instead, we were all able to exhale, shake hands, and congratulate each other on what had been a long but ultimately successful journey.

After more speeches, the time for Bill Clinton to address the convention was approaching. We knew that he could seal the deal as far as party unity was concerned if he picked up where Sen. Clinton had left off. I was personally nervous because people seated near him during Hillary's speech had told me that he was getting very emotional while she was speaking, and he had not turned over a copy of his speech to the Obama team to review.

Well, the pre-South Carolina primary Bill Clinton was back. He gave an incredible speech that did everything anyone could have asked. If Hillary hit a home run, Bill hit one of those Barry Bonds shots that went way out of the park and into the waters of McCovey Cove. He showed his usual great timing and ability to play off of the reactions of the crowd. The energy in the arena was building until there was a permanent buzz. Everyone was standing, cheering and clapping as he finished. I found myself wanting him to keep going. It was a great speech.

The next featured speaker was someone who looked just like Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. He spoke with a passion and intensity that caused many in the crowd to remark that he would probably be president right now if he had been so passionate four years ago. Mary Lang Sallinger was sitting next to me and made a great observation about Kerry's performance. Mary said, "Barack just brings out the best in people." Mary's statement sums up much of what his campaign has been about and why it has been so successful. Having gotten to know Mary, her dedication to Obama, and her ability to get others involved, I can say that Mary brings out the best in people as well. I don't call her "Force of Nature" for nothing.

After Kerry, Joe Biden's son Beau came out to introduce his father. He started to tell the tale of Biden and his family, what he has been through and how their family has supported each other through tough times. We will probably be hearing more from Beau in the future if Obama/Biden wins because I think it is very likely that Beau, now attorney general of Delaware, will be appointed to replace Joe in the U.S. Senate.

Joe Biden gave a very good speech and introduced himself to America as an everyman who was not a creature of Washington despite serving for over 30 years in the Senate. He also gave a preview of his role as attack dog as he listed the many times where John McCain has been wrong on important issues but Obama has been right. Expect to see Biden blasting away at his "good friend of almost 22 years" for the next 70 days or so. Biden's time on stage ended with him being joined by a family which seemed to number about 85 people. It was a family values snapshot that you love to have in politics. Showing that the apple has not fallen far from the tree, they had to literally drag Biden's little grandson off of the stage. He was still trying to get back to the podium as the lights went down.

The energy and excitement as we left the arena and walked back toward downtown Denver was palpable. I won't spend much time on the Wisconsin party that took place because I didn't stay long. I was out of gas and managed to get to bed by 1:15 a.m. That's early in convention time. I am writing this at 7:42 a.m. Mountain Time and will be heading down soon to get my credentials for the day and attend the last delegation breakfast of the convention.

One last thing. Wednesday's celebrity sightings included will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, actor Blair Underwood, and TV Judge Greg Mathis.

-- -- Davis is a government relations partner at Axley Brynelson LLP.

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