The Democratic convention opens tonight, not quite the coronation envisioned only a month ago as twitchy party grandees push Barack Obama to make his case forcefully to a still-skeptical electorate—using the spotlight to draw the strongest possible distinctions between himself and John McCain. "The stakes of this election will be made very clear," chief strategist David Axelrod promised the New York Times.
While the convention will also seek to heal the rift with Hillary Clinton supporters, the campaign also wants to avoid the mistakes of the 2004 convention, at which criticism of President Bush was muted. "I think in the case of McCain, they need to frame him," said John Kerry. "Viscerally, my feeling is they’ve got to come back at him hard. And they’ve got to do more to complete the task of definition."