When Barack Obama announced last month that he would deliver his nomination address in an outdoor stadium in front of 75,000 people, it thrilled the Democratic Party faithful and astounded the media. Since then concerns have been raised that tonight's address will look "more like a rock concert than a serious address by a would-be commander in chief."
On Thursday afternoon, workers were still making changes to Invesco Field, home to the Denver Broncos, so it would feel more intimate, less like the boisterous rallies that served Mr. Obama so well early in the primaries, but also created the celebrity image that dogs him.
They were still testing camera angles to the very end, so Mr. Obama would appear among the giant crowd, not above it. They took steps to reduce the echo effect, familiar to football fans, of speaking in such a cavernous space. Planners scrapped their idea to turn the audience of 75,000 into a giant phone bank, in response to fears that the cellphone system would crash (people will instead be asked to text-message friends and neighbors to support the campaign, program aides said would be effective nonetheless.)
And workers put the finishing touches on the backdrop: faux columns intended to suggest a federal building in Washington and create an air of stateliness. The McCain campaign named it the Temple of Obama, a label repeated by some commentators.
The idea to deliver the acceptance speech at a football stadium was never sold on me. Theoretically it could be a potent symbol of the nominee's popularity and the enormous growth in the party. On the other hand, it's an extremely theatrical event and the elaborate midfield staging—faux Greek columns, raised platform, courtside seating—only adds to the evangelical and messianic imagery. Take your pick, we're somewhere in the middle.
The LA Times goes further and reports some "Democratic strategists here have confided privately that they are worried about the TV pictures of Obama's speech tonight, particularly after watching how the Republicans so effectively turned Obama's recent appearance in Germany against him."
Obama's poll numbers have generally suffered since the Berlin trip. There are some indications, such as new data from Gallup, that Obama is making up some ground. Personally, we're looking forward to an excellent speech and a great reception tonight in Denver. Let's just hope this won't become something the McCain and the Republicans will effectively use against our new nominee.