Sen. Barack Obama spent the first night of the Democratic National Convention at the home of some of his supporters. Sitting on a couch in the living room of the Girardeau family in Kansas City, Mo., he watched his wife Michelle address the convention delegates. Obama then appeared before the arena crowd in Denver briefly via satellite.
Kansas City was the latest stop in Obama's convention week tour of battleground states. He also had a news conference Monday on the tarmac at the Quad City Airport near Davenport, Iowa, where he made a pitch to independent voters at a town hall meeting at the local fairgrounds.
He has had a lighter-than-usual schedule this week, allowing him time to rest and prepare for the convention. He told reporters outside Davenport that he had been retooling his own speech, set for Thursday night at the Denver Broncos football stadium before 75,000 people.
When asked what he thinks he has to accomplish at the convention, he said he has two main goals: focusing on the choice voters have — "I want to make the choice between myself and John McCain as clear as possible. I don't want people to be confused," he said — and conveying who he is.
"During the course of a 19-month campaign, I think that ... you're on the television screen, you're in big auditoriums, but sometimes who you are may get lost," he said.
But there is another goal for this Democratic nominee. He must unite the party and erase battle lines carved out during his long primary slugfest with Sen. Hillary Clinton, who will speak Tuesday at the convention. She has urged her supporters to back Obama, but many are reluctant, and some have been openly bitter. Former President Clinton — a tough critic of Obama during the primaries — will speak Wednesday.
Obama declined to preview his speech, but he did offer some clues, suggesting that he might not lean on the soaring rhetoric he sounded as keynote speaker at the Democratic convention in 2004 — the kind of speech that has been his trademark since the earliest caucuses and primaries in January. Obama said a different kind of speech is required this year.
"I think people know I can give the kind of speech that I gave four years ago; that's not the question on voters' minds," he said. "I think they're much more interested in what am I going to do to help them in their lives. And so in that sense, I think this is going to be a more workman-like speech. I'm not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric; I'm much more concerned with communicating how I intend to help middle-class families live their lives."