To begin with, there is the procedural tussle over whether to put Hillary’s name in nomination and allow a roll call. Why shouldn’t her delegates get the cathartic experience she says they need? Because it would look like a house divided, which it is. The truest of the true believers won’t like it a bit when she most likely will be denied the full honors (a tabulated roll call) which previous, less successful candidates enjoyed. She won’t be getting her full moment in the sun. And many of her most devoted followers won’t like it.
But beyond that, are the Clinton speeches. Will they steal the show? Ted Kennedy did it in 1980 by reminding his faithful followers that their dreams, and his, weren’t dying. Will the Clintons undermine The One through winks and nods? Like Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar, a couple of Clinton speeches ostensibly designed to praise Obama may be fraught with zingers. Each time she mentions her 18 million voters (Read: “I got more votes than him”) and the dangerous world in which we live (Remember: the 3 a.m. ad) and reminds them that now is not the time for tomfoolery (Think: “And you are electing this lightweight?”), there will be plenty of fodder for the double entendre gurus to pick over. We could have had her may be on a few million aggrieved supporters’ minds. And the real Clinton message? “If Obama loses, the 2012 campaign restarts in three months.”
Finally, Obama still must provide an answer to the question on many voters’ mind: Why him? The bogey man of President Bush has dimmed — everyone knows he’s leaving. And the “change” message has become a tiresome cliché. But Obama has yet to explain what about his persona, experience and vision is superior to his opponents’. A convention about the putrid Bush administration or the wonderfulness of The One likely isn’t going to get him what he wants. The worst case scenario is that voters stare at the hoopla, turn to their spouses and friends and say “You know, there’s no there, there.”
So during his time in the Hawaiian sun, Obama would be wise to put the transition team on hold and start thinking about the Convention. It could be one heck of a party but, like the Magical Mystery European tour, he may wind up with a political hangover. Substance and restraint are not his strong suits and he will need a heavy dose of both.
Obama knows all too well that the two candidates’ conventions (along with the fall debates) will attract more viewers and may impact more voters than any other events before Election Day. And Paris Hilton and George Clooney can tell him: the worst thing for any media star is to fail to live up to expectations.