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Friday, July 04, 2008

A short but sweet gathering

Barack Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee are toying with a convention scheduling change that has been broached before in theory but never seriously considered: cutting the party's conclave in Denver short by one day to give Obama an extra day of post-nomination bounce in the crowded August calendar.

For the last several decades -- when conventions became forums that merely rubber-stamp a presumptive nominee -- they have traditionally run from Monday through Thursday. Increasingly, both parties have struggled to offer something of interest during the first couple of convention nights, and the television networks have responded by dramatically reducing live coverage. The only truly significant event has been the nominee's acceptance speech, delivered during prime time on Thursday evening.

But Obama aides have floated the idea of ending the Denver convention on Wednesday, Aug. 27, instead of Thursday, Aug. 28.

The reason is the calendar. This year -- unlike in the past, when there was some separation between the two gatherings -- the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul is scheduled to begin four days later, on Monday, Sept. 1. The result, many Democrats believe, could be that Obama would not get the poll number bounce that nominees usually get immediately after being officially anointed.

Ending early, some Democrats argue, would give Obama an extra day to capitalize on the convention.

Adding to the Democrats' calculation is the growing speculation that McCain will announce his running mate in the brief intermission between the two conventions -- a good way to seize the spotlight from the just-nominated Democrat.

"I'd expect McCain to name his choice on the Friday after the Democratic convention," said Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's presidential bid in 1996. "It would be a good way to quash Obama's bounce."

The shortened-convention idea may have surfaced too late for this year. And Denver officials and the city's business community likely will voice strong displeasure. Still, it sounds like a plan whose time eventually will come.

Update: "I can guarantee you that's not happening," Denver Mayor

Denver officials shrugged off a report Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times' political blog that claimed aides with the Barack Obama campaign and officials at the Democratic National Committee "are toying with" cutting the Democratic National Convention short by one day.

"I can guarantee you that's not happening," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said, adding that, unless he hasn't been told about it, discussions Wednesday with officials from the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Obama campaign indicated both camps were planning for a full convention Aug. 25-28.

Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, told The Denver Post there were no plans to cut a day.

"Absolutely not. We think Thursday night in Denver will be very special," she said in an e-mail.

The L.A. Times blog said its Washington bureau chief had learned of the discussions, but it cited no sources by name. The item downplayed the idea's chances of seeing reality, stating: "The shortened-convention idea may have surfaced a bit late for it to happen."

Denver officials shrugged off a report Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times' political blog that claimed aides with the Barack Obama campaign and officials at the Democratic National Committee "are toying with" cutting the Democratic National Convention short by one day.

"I can guarantee you that's not happening," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said, adding that, unless he hasn't been told about it, discussions Wednesday with officials from the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Obama campaign indicated both camps were planning for a full convention Aug. 25-28.

Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, told The Denver Post there were no plans to cut a day.

"Absolutely not. We think Thursday night in Denver will be very special," she said in an e-mail.

The L.A. Times blog said its Washington bureau chief had learned of the discussions, but it cited no sources by name. The item downplayed the idea's chances of seeing reality, stating: "The shortened-convention idea may have surfaced a bit late for it to happen."

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