Clintons have delicate assignment

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Associated Press

BOSTON -- It's John Kerry's convention, but Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton are stealing his opening-night thunder.

Forceful, charismatic and controversial, the Clintons are the most sought-after stars in the Democratic Party, reminders of White House glory days and an administration willing to wage fierce fights with Republicans.

Today the Clintons will give prime-time speeches to rouse Democrats and lure undecided voters for the tough race against President Bush.

"Nobody makes the case for the Democratic agenda better than Bill and Hillary Clinton," said Democratic strategist Bruce Reed, who was domestic affairs adviser in the Clinton White House. "They've brought the house down at past conventions and in Boston they'll no doubt do the same."

By contrast, The Economist magazine described Kerry as "the political equivalent of Valium."

"Nobody doubts that he's intelligent, but where's the energy and the passion?" said Margaret Thompson, a political scientist and historian at Syracuse University. "He's got to somehow connect" and avoid being "so kind of dry and arid."

The Clintons have a delicate assignment today: Be good but don't steal the show. Deliver inspiring speeches but don't be hard-edged. Motivate voters but don't make it too memorable.

"They're not going to overshadow Kerry," said Harold Ickes, a leading Democratic fund-raiser and Clinton's former deputy chief of staff. "Kerry is the nominee of the party. He's running for president. People are focused on who's running for president. That is the beginning and the end of it."

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