Its early yet at the Democratic National Convention, but healthcare should play a considerable role at the convention this week, starting with a healthcare roundtable discussion at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which took place Monday morning, the conventions opening day. On Tuesday, Families USA will host a news conference in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureaus latest figures on the nations uninsured.
It will be interesting to hear from healthcare executives and policy experts this week on what they think a Barack Obama administration can do for healthcare reform that a John McCain presidency cannot accomplish (in the same way, Im eager to read what my colleagues Matt DoBias and Gregg Blesch learn next week at the Republican National Committees convention in the Twin Cities).
This year, the Democratic National Committee might be surprised to learn it has a few things in common with Chicago Cubs fans. To begin, it has been exactly 100 years since the Cubs won the World Series in 1908, the same year the DNC last hosted its national party convention in Denver. And, in a few months, each group hopes to score a major win.
For the Democrats, the road to Election Day begins officially this week, when the Illinois senator will accept his partys nomination for the nations 44th president at Invesco Stadium on Thursday. Until then, delegates are convening, interest groupsincluding diverse healthcare organizationsare rallying, and those in the media are scrambling to report compelling stories in between the bookends of significant political news this week. Those are Obamas selection of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) as his running mate this past Saturday, and Republican presumptive nominee Sen. John McCains choice for vice president, which will likely be announced this Friday, the same day the Arizona senator turns 72.
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that the media kick-off party for the Democratic National Convention on Saturday was held at Elitch Gardens, an amusement park in downtown Denver. Given the free-for-all attitude this week, a carnival or circus seem to be the only appropriate party venues for journalists at a modern presidential convention. And while the evening had all the makings of a first-rate partyincluding run of the park, free dinner and drinks, and an endless supply of funnel cakes and cotton candythis was clearly still a media event. Except for attorneys who, other than reporters, would use their BlackBerrys while waiting in line for free beer (served, by the way, in plastic cups made from corn we were told to discard in the compost, not recycling bins. I wonder if the Republicans will have the same green approach in the Twin Cities next week?)
On the VP front, the general consensusafter two days of constant media analysis of the so-called scrappy senator from Scrantonis that Biden was selected because he is seen as presidential and has considerable foreign policy experience, not because Obama needs to pick up the three electoral votes in Delaware, already a blue state.
During his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bidens position on healthcare did not attain the high profile of some other candidates such as Hillary Clinton, Obama or John Edwards. He advocated expanding eligibility for several existing federal healthcare programs and introducing some broader reforms to move toward universal coverage.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are hoping that Biden will help Obama reach out and relate to the partys more traditional base, and pick up votes from white Roman Catholics, which he needs.
One thing is certain for the Democrats, though: This election is clearly theirs to lose. At a conference of community behavioral healthcare providers in Boston last May, Democratic political consultant and pundit James Carville noted, Just give us the chancewell do it! Previous Democratic presidential hopefuls have enjoyed a considerable boost after their party convention ended, and it could be the same for Obama when this week ends.
Otherwise, the DNC and its party will have to live with the knowledge that they had everything needed to win, only to blow it in the end. This fall, well have a chance to see if thats another thing that the DNC and Cubs fans share in common.