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Inside Politics

A solid start for Democrats

Crowd gives rock star receptions to Bill, Hillary Clinton

By Carlos Watson

Watch Carlos Watson on CNN during the DNC. He is scheduled to appear Monday through Thursday during the 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET programs.
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CNN's Carlos Watson reviews the DNC's Day 1 and sets up Day 2.
Carlos Watson
The Inside Edge

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry's campaign team can be pretty happy with the first day of the Democratic convention, which arguably marks the start of the presidential election's final stretch.

Monday featured no fistfights (a la the Republican National Convention in 1952) or major intraparty divisions (a la the Democratic gatherings in 1948, 1968 and 1988).

Coming in, Democrats needed first of all to kick things off by demonstrating to swing voters that their party is optimistic, upbeat and centrist. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the Democratic convention)

Second, they needed to make the argument that Kerry will be not only competent but also tough on national security.

Last but not least, the speakers had to convince viewers that the convention is worth watching.

In the past 40 years, the percentage of people who watch conventions has been almost 50 percent.

Generally, the opening night's key speakers delivered strong performances in pursuit of those three goals.

Former Vice President Al Gore played the bad cop, but he did it with a bit of humor sure to pop up on local newscasts and perhaps even some of the late-night talk shows.

And Hillary and Bill Clinton received rock-star receptions.

Bill Clinton helped frame an upbeat, optimistic, New Democratic image for the Kerry-Edwards ticket and the Democratic Party in general.

Former President Jimmy Carter was a bit more negative than some expected, and, as I said earlier, Gore challenged the administration with at least a bit of humor.

Gore argued that the Kerry-Edwards ticket could be better on national security than the current administration.

However, undecided voters will undoubtedly need more convincing.

The only goal the Democrats did not achieve Monday night is to make the convention exciting.

Yes, both Clintons' speeches were entertaining, and the comments by the mother of a victim of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was moving. But for those who aren't political junkies, the event did not sizzle with dynamism.

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