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What to look for Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Here is what to look for at Tuesday's Democratic National Convention:

The bad old days: Remember how bad the economy was in 1992? Maybe not; most Americans think things were pretty good back in the Bush era -- only about one in ten thought so at the time. Watch for the Democrats to ratchet up their reminders tonight of what George W Bush's father -- President George Bush -- did to the economy. Can they do that without sounding too negative? A few of Monday's night's prime-timers took the high road, but this kind of thing is red meat to the backbenchers who will dominate the afternoon sessions for the next few days.

Campaign finance reform: What's this issue doing on the Dems' agenda for Tuesday -- even in an afternoon session? You would think that the Gore campaign with an Achilles heel as big as a Buddhist temple would avoid the whole subject. But this convention is about substance, and it's tough to ignore the issue completely (although it certainly didn't make prime time). How will the Dems, in the person of Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, handle the delicate matter of tooting their horn on the issue without bringing up painful memories of the Lincoln Bedroom and the Hsi Lai Temple? It's a dilemma that merits some watching.

Kennedy: It's a Two-Fer Tuesday for Kennedy fans -- an appearance by JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and a speech by her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Can the legendary Kennedy charisma rub off on Al Bore? More important, is the Kennedy magic still there? A large chunk of the public has no memory of President Kennedy at all and no opinion one way or the other on his brother the senator. It will be interesting to see whether the Kennedys can boost the at-home audience or whether the Clinton tag-team on Monday night will beat them in the ratings.

Ideology: But it is more than just a Kennedy thing Tuesday. Kennedy follows the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who in turn takes the stage after the heads of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the Human Rights Campaign spend some time rallying the troops on gay rights and abortion. The GOP hit the mute button when it came to conservative causes; by comparison, the Dems are reveling in their ideology.

How will the public react to a whole night of unabashedly liberal speakers? Just as important, will those speakers moderate their remarks or let it all hang out? There's a fine line between keeping hope alive and killing any chance Gore has of winning independents and swing voters. Can Tuesday's liberal line-up find that balance?

Bradley: Democratic conventions have a problem with also-rans making podium appearances that sound an awful lot like acceptance speeches -- long on rhetoric and grudgingly short on endorsements of the actual nominee. Remember Ted Kennedy in 1980, or Jesse Jackson in 1988? Well, both of them will be speaking before Bill Bradley hits the podium. Will he be tempted to stray off message and give the acceptance speech of his dreams? Can he bury the hatchet long enough to say nice things about Gore?

Also, don't forget the second function Kennedy and Jackson performed -- revving up the party faithful in a "revival speech" (the classic example of which is Mario Cuomo's keynote address in 1984.) Can Bradley, Kennedy or Jackson muster the necessary amount of enthusiasm for Gore this year? Can Bradley, who made Gore look passionate during the primary season, whip up any enthusiasm at all? And how will these three liberal icons justify going to bat for Clintonism?


Tuesday, August 15, 2000

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