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How Many Votes Does a $50M Party Buy?


Franco Harris has four Super Bowl rings and an MVP award from the big game. Yet he was far from the top of the glamour heap of celebrities attending the Democratic National Convention. Still, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers great was in awe of the spectacle that took over Denver at the tail end of last month.

“This is what we need right now,” he says, standing nonchalantly at the back of the Pennsylvania delegation at the Pepsi Center moments after Sen. Barack Obama was officially voted the Democratic presidential nominee. “We need this new feeling of excitement.”

That excitement he was referring to, of course, was the rock concert-like atmosphere surrounding the weeklong festivities. Notables in attendance included James Taylor, Al Gore, Charles Barkley, Sheryl Crowe, Sean Penn, among a plethora of others. Approximately $50 million was raised to throw this extravagant party that brought 50,000-plus political junkies to Denver (that cost not including the obnoxious open bar tabs from VIP late-night parties). It remains to be seen if the beaucoup bucks spent on gutting the Pepsi Center, transforming Invesco Field for Obama’s acceptance speech and taking over Denver will have any bearing on the election.

For the most part, the convention was speaker after speaker hammering Democratic talking points in its run for the White House to party supporters. “We don’t need four more years of the last eight years,” was echoed in one form or another from virtually every one of the dozens of speakers, followed by reasons Obama would make a great president and Sen. John McCain would not.

The Republican convention a week later had the same script heading into the party—save for them pumping McCain, not Obama. While Hurricane Gustav threw off the convention’s opening night, there were few surprises.

Let’s face it, modern conventions are little more than a cheerleading competition. No longer do delegates gather behind closed-doors, brokering deals to nominate a perspective candidate. Nope, conventions are predictable affairs—that costs millions in an attempt to sway voters.

They are crazy affairs that can inspire. But with politicians just reading variations of the same speech over and over again, you have to wonder if these mega conventions are worth the money, traffic headaches and logistical nightmares.

Dems preached to the choir for four days. But how many undecideds listened? Were they swayed?
State Sen. Brandon Shaffer, a Longmont Democrat, seems to think the DNC week will go a long way toward getting Obama and other Democrats elected come November, however. He caught Bill Clinton’s speech, mingled with delegates over coffee and at parties, and made his way into the Obama speech at Invesco that drew more than 80,000 people.

“We waited four hours (to get in) but it was worth it,” he says. “All of the speeches were just right on, messages of change. …If you look at (the GOP convention…how do they compete?”

Judging by the thousands of flag-waving Obama supporters at Invesco fired up as if the Broncos were in the playoffs, fireworks and the A-list celebrity roster, it would appear the Dems have the election in the bag.

Guess we’ll have to wait until Nov. 4 to see if the mega party in Denver outweighs issues such as healthcare, the war and the economy.

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