The 45th Democratic National Convention was held 8/25-28/2008 in a hockey stadium named Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. As with most national political conventions of recent decades, events were scheduled to provide for committees to meet privately in the mornings, to report in the afternoon with evenings set aside for speakers.
Recap of the 2008 primary season
U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois conducted a masterful campaign in the primaries and managed to win more delegates than the Democratic front-runner, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, though he received fewer popular votes in the Democratic primaries. It had been the longest primary season since 1984.
Location and Date
DNC Chairman Howard Dean announced on 1/11/2007 that Denver, Colorado, had been chosen as the site of the national convention for 2008. Denver had hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1908, a century earlier. The Pepsi Center (right) was chosen as the location of the sessions the first three days. The Center was constructed in 1997-1999 as the home of the hockey team named the Colorado Avalanche.
The convention was held 8/25-28/2008. It was the latest Democratic National Convention with the sole exception of 1864, which assembled on 8/29/1864. As had been the case beginning with 1936, the party not controlling the White House held its national convention first. The conventions of the challenging party had been held around 7/15 since 1960 (with some exceptions), but the Democrats chose 8/25 to avoid the Olympic games. The two major parties held their national conventions one week apart for the first time since 1956; in most elections years since then, the conventions had been scheduled one month apart.
Three main events faced the convention organizers. A group of protesters led by Re-create 68 organized marches to challenge the Democrats for not following through on their campaign promise in 2006 to end the war in Iraq. The protests were generally civil in nature and were kept at a distance from the convention site. Security was also a concern. On the day the convention opened, a group of people was taken into custody for a supposed plot to murder Obama during the convention. Last, the seating arrangements for the convention were not decided until near the time for the convention to open because Obama agreed to allow the full seating of delegations from Florida and Michigan, which had disobeyed party rules in choosing their delegates and had lost their delegates.
Media coverage of national nominating conventions was reduced in the years since 1990. In 2008, the three major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) all decided to broadcast only one hour of the convention each evening. PBS took the lead in convention coverage with its anchor Jim Lehrer. As usual, PBS showed select speeches live and then cut away during other speeches to interview former speakers, hear reports from the floor, or discuss the convention with reporters David Brooks and Mark Shields and presidential historians Michael Beschloss, Richard Norton Smith, and Peniel Joseph.
First Day - 8/25/2008
Howard Dean called the convention to order at 3:00 local time. The first items of business related to the credentials committee and the rules committee. The delegates discussed the proposed platform until the close of the afternoon session. The evening session began at 7:00 local time. Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the U.S. House, assumed the post as chair of the convention and addressed the delegates. Her speech set forth the accomplishments of the Democratic-controlled Congress. A brief video of former President Carter followed. U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. IL outlined Obama's legislative record. The band played "Sweet Caroline" as Caroline Kennedy, a key Obama advisor, went to the podium to introduce U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose presence was not expected due to his declining health. In his speech, Kennedy quoted his famous convention speech of 1980 and assured the delegates that "the dream lives on." Former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa gave his reasons for crossing party lines; his was one of only three speeches of the evening actually written by the speaker rather than by speechwriters. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill MO was one of the few Democrats who criticized the Republican candidate, saying that he was out of touch with Missouri voters. The last major speaker was Michelle Obama. After being introduced by her older brother, she outlined the story of her life. She showed that her life and Barack Obama's life were typical of many Americans, who face family, educational, and economic challenges every day. At the end of her speech, Barack Obama made a brief appearance to the convention on a large screen.
Democratic Primaries of 2008
44th Democratic National Convention (2004)
Popular Vote of 2008
Electoral Vote of 2008