Lingering divisions from the primary fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have filled that role at the outset of this convention. Questions about unity grew even stronger last week when it was suggested that the Obama campaign never really even considered Clinton for his running mate, despite pretty clear signals that Clinton was pleased with the selection of Joe Biden.
How divided does the party remain? A CBS News/New York Times survey of delegates gives a hint, showing that 20 percent of the delegates coming to Denver plan on voting for Clinton on the first ballot of the roll call vote. That's not an insignificant number but far below the nearly half she won during the primaries. And it's less clear whether those votes would be a "last-stand" effort or one of loyalty to a candidate they supported for so long last winter and spring. Clinton reportedly will "release" her delegates this week, something that could decrease her numbers further.
Clinton herself has suggested that the party needs a "cathartic" moment to cleanse any remaining bad blood between the two camps. If the Obama can come out of Denver with even a little more enthusiasm from Clinton supporters, it will be a victory.
That is why we'll see and hear a lot from people who've known Obama throughout his life and why his wife, Michelle, will play such an important role tonight at the outset. Even more so than the candidate, Michelle Obama remains relatively unknown to most voters. Tonight's speech will launch her re-introduction to America and if there's one speech you won't want to miss today, it's this one.
Biden's real roll-out is going to be this week. He'll be greeted enthusiastically by the delegates here but still has some work to do to convince average Democratic voters – particularly those white, blue-collar and Catholic voters who favored Clinton in places like Ohio – that he was the smart choice. And it's worth remembering that Biden has had just less than a week to write and prepare for arguably the biggest speech of his life. That's pressure.
Another aspect of the convention sure to get Republicans to forget their reservations about McCain will be the prevalence of some of their favorite Democratic targets of the past – like Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Carter (Ted Kennedy may get somewhat of a pass on conservative talk radio). As much as Obama has tried to remake the image of the Democratic Party on national security and issues of faith, victory in blue states like Colorado weren't won in a day. Getting out of the convention with some new luster to the Democratic brand would be a great achievement going into November.