from the print Sunday Sun-Times....
DENVER -- Barack Obama's Democratic convention stage was unveiled Friday at the Pepsi Center here, and like the presidential candidate, it is hip --dressed with giant plasma HDTVs -- and larger than life -- about 8,000 square feet of projection space.
The bold design could be a metaphor for the Obama campaign -- the stunning rise of the 47-year-old charismatic, iPoded junior senator from Illinois who defeated Hillary Clinton and others, assisted by cool applications of social networking tools, wealthy donors and a relentless message of change and hope. Need I remind everyone that just four years ago, Obama was the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention in Boston, not yet even elected to his Senate seat. Now he will be the nominee.
But since Obama clinched the nomination -- it's official Thursday after the roll call -- his campaign has become more conventional. Fired up and ready to go has been muted.
Obama has had a change of heart on offshore oil drilling, opted out of public financing, angered his activist base by backing a foreign intelligence surveillance law, and demonstrated he indeed has the stomach to approve negative ads.
"He made a set of compromises all in a row that freaked people out on the progressive side of the party," said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign For America's Future.
Obama's team also allowed to fester resentment remaining from die-hard Clinton supporters. And just as the convention is about to start, there are stories about whether Clinton herself is showing the proper amount of enthusiasm for Obama. The Obama team is trying -- a few days ago, the Illinois Clinton delegates were invited to his national headquarters in Chicago for special briefings.
Obama had a mostly successful trip to Europe and the Middle East, creating relationships with world leaders should he become president. But the decision to hold a giant rally in Berlin only provided much-needed inspiration to rival John McCain, who mocked him as a celebrity, invoking the names of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Obama's luck held up, though -- the Arizona Republican stumbled badly a few days ago when he said he could not remember how many homes he and his wife owned.
One of Obama's advisers was unperturbed when we chatted recently about Clinton's supporters at the convention because the team is convinced that by the end of this week, Democrats will leave Denver unified and energized. Giving Clinton a speaking slot Tuesday and Bill Clinton a place on the stage Wednesday is a cheap price to pay to jazz up the troops.
That energy is crucial to the Obama plan, especially as Obama seems in a dead heat with McCain. The Obama team talks about the "enthusiasm gap" they can tap and McCain can't touch -- that is, the people who tell pollsters they will vote for Obama can be counted on to actually vote in the general election.
The convention will be another chance for Obama to tell his story. Storytelling is a central element to the success of the Obama campaign, and on Monday night, a string of people, highlighted by wife Michelle, all will focus on Obama's biography. That comes as Obama has been sharpening his economic message.
What he needs, suggested Borosage, "is a narrative about his life that ties his life to his positions."
While Denver waits for Obama, bedecked and bunted -- the Republicans meet the next week in Minneapolis-St. Paul -- the Obama family dined out in Chicago on Friday night. Hours later, news leaked out that Obama tapped Delaware Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate.