The Essential Convention
Clinton Tries Not to Outshine Party's New Star
By Mark Stencel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 26, 2004; 8:45 AM
The Essential Convention is a daily digest of The Washington Post's coverage from Boston and will be published each morning of the Democratic National Convention.
BOSTON, July 26--Former president Bill Clinton delivers his opening-night address Monday to the Democratic National Convention, but otherwise plans to make himself scarce to keep the spotlight on Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.
Staff writer Hanna Rosin reported in Monday's Washington Post that Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), are lying low, having "agreed to exile themselves to a hotel in Cambridge." Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the Clintons are "absolutely welcome" in Boston. "But privately, Democrats close to Kerry say they've reached an understanding: Clinton knows he's a larger-than-life figure, and he knows this is John Kerry's moment, so he has agreed to stay out of the way," Rosen reported.
Clinton is the headline speaker tonight in a lineup that also includes former president Jimmy Carter and former vice president Al Gore. Kerry does not have the closest relationship with Gore, who endorsed Kerry's Democratic rival, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, during the primaries. In the second part of a profile of Kerry, staff writer Dale Russakoff reexamined Kerry's plans to challenge Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago. "His plan was to run as an outsider, portraying Gore as a captive of interest groups," Russakoff wrote. Kerry planned to make education reform his main issue but eventually decided to sit out the race.
Clinton and Gore still have vital roles to play Monday night. "Clinton will help remind voters of the economic prosperity of the 1990s," according to political correspondent Dan Balz. And Gore, "by his very presence, will reinforce for party activists the bitter memories of a 2000 election defeat that have helped to motivate Democrats throughout the campaign."
Kerry does not officially arrive in Boston until later in the week, but his campaign plane detoured here Sunday so the nominee could throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park -- the most coveted ticket in town, Balz reported. "Kerry was greeted with cheers and boos when he was introduced to the crowd, and that chorus accompanied him as he went onto the field and as he departed."
Staff writer Jim VandeHei reported that the Massachusetts senator came here after a day campaigning in Ohio, where he is "spending more time, money and energy strategizing on ways to win . . . than in virtually any other state, aides say."
Missing in Action
Congressional correspondent Charles Babington noted that some top Democrats will be conspicuously absent when Kerry claims the party's nomination on Thursday night. "The top Democratic candidates from seven of the eight most competitive Senate races will be back home, as will dozens of House candidates," Babington reported. "Publicly, these candidates say they need to spend every possible minute campaigning at home. Privately, some acknowledge they do not want to hand their Republican opponents a ready-made campaign ad linking them to the Democratic Party's more liberal figures, such as Massachusetts Sens. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy, who will loom large here."
The convention formally begins at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, when party Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe gavels the delegates to order. Staff writer Thomas B. Edsall wrote that McAuliffe is "the first Democratic chairman in decades to put the party on secure financial footing -- with an unheard-of $70 million in the bank." Nevertheless, the chairman has not always been a popular figure among Democrats, having survived "demands that [he] resign after the party lost House and Senate seats in the 2002 election."
The Local Delegation
Metro staff writer Michael D. Shear wrote about Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, who backed Kerry's candidacy early. "If Kerry wins, some believe he might offer Warner a Cabinet position or perhaps an ambassadorship," Shear reported. Shear also profiles the Virginia, Maryland and District delegations -- and noted the District delegates' plans to try to make some news Monday by "staging a new Boston Tea Party aimed at highlighting the 'taxation without representation' they say still exists in the nation's capital."
• Staff writer Vanessa Williams examined what's in the vice presidency for Kerry's ambitious running mate, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.).
• Media reporter Howard Kurtz visited some of the online commentators on the convention's "Blogger Boulevard."
• Staff writer Jose Antonio Vargas reviewed the party's plans to party, finding that the Democratic gatherings here will be "smaller in scale" than at their last convention in Los Angeles, but "they'll be equally star-studded." Among the highlights: "Bono, of the rock group U2, serenades Ted Kennedy at Symphony Hall on Tuesday night; tonight at the Avalon nightclub, the ubiquitous get-out-the-young-vote organization Rock the Vote -- sponsoring nearly a dozen events, including the nomination concert at the Roxy nightclub Thursday night -- hosts the 'Jumpoff' party, with special guests including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton, actress Natalie Portman, talk show host (and political dabbler) Jerry Springer, and Jon Stewart all scheduled to show up."
• Staff writer Jonathan Finer reported that this week's convention gives Boston a chance to shed its "provincial reputation." Finer also wrote about protests near the convention site and the contract agreement between Boston firefighters and the city, which ended a protracted labor dispute that threatened to disrupt the convention.
• An analysis by staff writer David Von Drehle found that the Democrats converging here are united and have "submerged their customary intramural squabbles." Monday's paper also summarized the Democratic Party platform.
• "For all the yawning over the scripted, infomercial nature of the modern nominating convention," a Post editorial called this week's gathering here "an important opportunity for John F. Kerry . . . to explain to the American people why they should elect him president, to address their concerns and uncertainties about his candidacy, and to explain -- more crisply than he has so far -- where a Kerry presidency would take the country." Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby advised Kerry to focus on health care.
• The Post picked up an Associated Press report about John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who on Sunday urged delegates from her home state, Pennsylvania, to restore a more civil tone to politics -- before telling a pesky, conservative Pittsburgh editorial writer to "shove it."
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