by Ted Manna and Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondents
November 14, 2007
2008 CONVENTION PREVIEW BRINGS QUESTIONS FOR DEAN
DENVER, Nov. 13, 2007 -- The Democratic National Convention Committee opened their arms to the media Tuesday during a media planning tour at Denver's Pepsi Center, but soon found their hands full with questions about the role of online media, the Florida delegate squabble and even the food.
Jason Rosenberg, formerly of Politics TV, is handling bloggers and new media for the convention, said the party is committed to provide new technology, but warned against relying on WiFi in the signal-rich enviroment of the convention. He promised online journalists improved access to the convention floor consistent with today's greater influence of the Internet-based media.
"We know your influence," he assured about 40 new media representatives and bloggers who attended a breakout session on the convention's plans to accommodate them.
Some bloggers alone are more influential in party and political circles than entire news organizations in the old print and broadcast media, he agreed.
Despite a promise to "break down the walls" and open the convention through technological wonders, there were already a few rough spots: the DNC's email server filtered out some of the credentialing requests, and organizers ran out of 500 name tags they had before they ran out of reporters who needed them. And there were the perennial complaints that DNCC staffers hadn't returned repeated media phone calls.
At a question-and-answer session after the fast-paced walk through the cavernous Pepsi Center - "It will be known as 'The Hall,'" deputy Travis Dredd predicted - convention CEO Leah Daughtry took questions. One of the first was about the food at the party's last convention in Boston, where the only on-site concession was Dunkin' Donuts, where the lines grew into the hundreds. Daughtry took the questioner to task in a light-hearted way, but it's our guess food and drink won't be available inside unless it comes from the junk-food kitchens of Frito-Lay, the people who own Pepsi, which bought naming rights to the hall.
Daughtry and other convention organizers responded to questions for 20 minutes before the breakout sessions and then ushered invitees to a splendid buffet at the hall's Lexus dining room, where turkey and roast beef sandwiches, veggie wraps, potato chips, pasta salad, grapes and Pepsi soft drinks were offered.
The day really belonged to the networks, radio and television, and old media organizations who spend millions on their quadrennial convention coverage. Frank Murray, a retired White House correspondent for Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, said news organizations like that daily newspaper treated with care by the two parties. But will bending over backwards to accommodate Clear Channel and Fox News neocons Sean Hannity and Larry Elder - as the DNC did in Boston - help it elect a Democratic president more than the legion of bloggers who support Democratic candidates, but may have a light footprint on the convention floor? Has the party finally got it? A technological watershed that has changed the media itself, and political coverage with it, forever.
At lunch, Daughtry introduced a much leaner former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who confidently predicted a party victory in 2008 and ticked off the issues that will bring the Democrats to the White House in 2008. When an American Reporter Correspondent noted the once-solid governor had lost weight, he quickly replied, "I have!"
Dean appeared to be about 30 pounds lighter than in 2004, and his familiar suit was a little emptier than normal.
In a 10-minute speech, Dean asserted party unity and offered a message of change and clear direction, noting many "clear distinctions" between the entire slate of Democratic presidential candidates on the Iraq War and other issues, but he later declined to answer questions about the exclusion of the Florida delegation by the DNC rules committee after the state's Republican governor and legislature moved up its primary to Jan. 29, breaking party rules against impinging on the first primary states' election days. Florida officials told AR in interviews in Orlando two weeks ago that they expect to be seated once a candidate emerges; how they will exercise their right to influence the selection of the nominee, though, is less certain.
Polls released Nov. 13 show a sharply diminished gap between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, possibly leading to a showdown come convention time.
With no clear frontrunner in the four early primaries that kick off the race for the Democratic nomination, there are fears that the party's decision not to seat delegates from Florida based on its Jan. 29 primary results could loom larger than ever, and even cast doubts on the credibility of the 30-state mega-primary on February 5. By not counting the fourth-largest state's 120 delegates, the surrounding legal morass will leave Democrats uncertain who is really leading.
If after the mega-primary Sen. Clinton is ahead with Florida's delegates counted, but running behind
Democratic Party officials won't talk on the record about the dispute, which Florida lawmakers U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings have taken to federal court. Nelson told The American Reporter two weeks ago that their suit aims to makes sure "Florida's votes are counted as Florida voters intend them to be counted."
Asked by The American Reporter about Florida, Dean hurried toward an elevator, saying,"I'm just not going to get into that stuff now. We don't have a press availability, and I'm sorry." Earlier, though, his comments to about 500 reporters and news production coordinators at a buffet lunch were more inclusive.
"We can reach out to all Americans," Dean said. "The next President of this country has two jobs. One, to heal this country by bringing people together, and two, restoring America's moral authority throughout the world."
In an American Reporter interview Tuesday with Ray Rivera, state director of Sen. Obama's Colorado campaign, Rivera focused on the candidate's sharp improvement in the Nov. 13 Zogby poll of Iowa voters and other early state primary polls.
"People are responding. People are saying, yeah, we like this guy. We think he can get the job done - and change politics." With every day that passes, Rivera said "We are gaining."
Rivera declined to criticize Sen. Hillary Clinton, but noted that, had she not loaned herself $10 million - an impossibility for Obama - the nation's first credible black presidential candidate would also be ahead of her in fiundraising.
"We are gaining every day," Rivera claimed. "Barack Obama is fairly new to running for President. He hasn't been running all his life. Every day that the voters get to know him a little better, in the places we are campaigning, he is becoming more popular. He is inspiring folks to get engaged in the political process."
Rivera noted that his candidate has raised the most money in Colorado, has the largest number of contributors and volu nteers of all the Democratic candidates, Republican or Democrat, "He has the best chance of winning," Rivera said.