By Gilbert Garcia
The most euphoric moment of the 2008 DNC (at least until Barack Obama's surprise cameo following Joe Biden's acceptance speech) came when Hillary Clinton hit the convention floor to join the New York delegation and make an announcement.
Clinton took the mic and moved that the roll-call vote be suspended so that Obama could be nominated for president by acclamation. The Pepsi Center exploded, the angels wept, and the tireless band kicked into "Love Train."
Clinton's coup came at the end of a complicated tango which found Illinois yielding their alphabetical place in the roll call, presumably so they could be the state to send favorite-son Obama over the top. New Mexico subsequently yielded to Illinois, and then Illinois yielded to New York, a clear conciliatory gesture from the Obama camp to the Clinton team, which enabled Hillary to make the ultimate show of party unity.
The funny thing about the roll-call vote was that busloads of delegates were still arriving at the Pepsi Center when the states started to be called. A Kentucky woman with a big hat covered in red, white, and blue beads fretted to me that she hadn't been able to cast her vote (for Obama) that morning with her delegation, and hoped to make it to the convention in time to make her vote known. It was a quaint sentiment, because the roll call is merely an early-afternoon formality at conventions these days, a reminder of days when delegates nearly came to blows over every last comma in the party platform, and real business happened at these gatherings.
A couple of hours before electrifying the convention, Hillary threw a "thank you" rally for all of her delegates, noting that at last count she had about 1,920 and joking, "If I'd known I had that many, I might have not quit."
"This has been a joy," she said to her loyalists, many of them red-eyed as the tears flowed openly. "No, we didn't make it, but boy did we have fun trying."
Clinton told her delegates that she was releasing them, which drew some boos. She went on to explain that they were free to vote for her if they chose, but they could also switch to Obama (as she said she'd already done Wednesday morning). With regard to the Republican opposition, she said, "When they meet at their convention, they should all just apologize for what they've done to the country."
Outside the Convention Center, a group of twentysomething men supporting John McCain wore t-shirts featuring Obama's likeness, with the sarcastic slogan, "Not Ready 08: A Mile High, An Inch Deep." They debated Democrats in front of TV cameras while one of the McCain backers announced, to no one in particular, "Hope is not an actual policy position."
Political analyst Howard Fineman signed copies of his new book in the Convention Center lobby and chatted briefly about the election, saying, "It's either going to be really close or, in the end, the bottom will drop out for McCain," a la Jimmy Carter in 1980. A source close to the Obama campaign told me they're not concerned about the polls or any of the perceived voter trends that the media obsesses about. He says they're a discliplined machine with an unwavering focus on their plan: registering new voters, ensuring a big turnout, and hitting the swing states hard (they're expected to pour huge -- probably unprecedented -- sums in Florida alone).
They'll surely be helped by Bill Clinton's surprisingly gracious nod to Obama in Wednesday night's speech. When Clinton uttered the sentence, "Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States," you could almost feel a collective exhale of relief in the arena.
Moments before Clinton's speech, I passed Spike Lee (wearing a white "Yes We Can" cap) in the nightly crush of humanity on the convention floor. Other CurBlog celebrity sightings at the Pepsi Center include Dan Rather, Jayne Seymour (with entourage/security), Paul Begala, Lanny Davis, professional friend-of-Oprah, Gayle King, and attorney Gloria Allred (does she count as a celebrity?). Also, for what it's worth, CNN's Anderson Cooper spent his commercial-break time amiably laughing and bantering with co-workers while Wolf Blitzer stared straight ahead with a fixed, sullen expression. Maybe we can call him Lone Wolf Blitzer from now on.
Finally, Obama brings the DNC to a wild finish tonight at Invesco Field (which he called “Mile High Stadium” last night, a possible homage to locals who hate the stadium’s corporate tie-in). The logistics will be a nightmare. I-25 will be closed for four hours, security will be painfully slow, and getting the delegates to the stadium will be a big undertaking. I heard one middle-aged African-American man, an enthusiastic Obama delegate, talk about staying at the hotel to watch the speech on TV, rather than braving the madness. Obama is also taking a political risk by sacrificing the relative intimacy of the Pepsi Center for a big-scale, rock-show type of event that might not play as well in living rooms across America. In a few hours, we'll know if the gamble paid off.