They promised an announcement of near-epic proportions — an event touted to "bring as many people in to the (Democratic National) Convention experience as possible."
They brought out two Western governors, including one widely discussed as a possible running mate for Sen. Barack Obama, to unveil the effort. But in the the end, it was merely a call for more organized backyard barbecues and increased general enthusiasm for the Democratic Party.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter joined Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Thursday morning in Denver to announce a new DNCC program aimed at engaging Colorado Democrats in all 64 Colorado counties during the week-long soiree this August at the Pepsi Center.
Hoping to include more Democrats in the DNC experience, the two governors announced a statewide “Convention Captain” program to organize “watch parties” for people to observe Obama as he accepts the nomination and to foster general “enthusiasm” for the convention. Thecaptains, selected by county, will also organize a service project in their community to perform on Aug. 27, the same day Democratic delegates take to the streets in the Denver metro area with the same goal.
Despite pushing a “regional” approach to the convention during the press conference, Ritter and Sebelius said the Convention Captain program would only occur in Colorado.
“We set out early on to make this a regional convention, to really get at the Heartland of the United States,” said Sebelius, who is serving as the convention’s co-chair. “The West is a region where we think more votes can be found.”
Sebelius said there are 28 Democratic governors nationwide, and that 15 were elected in states that President Bush won four years ago, illustrating the potential for Democrats to pick up new voters.
Colorado, Montana and Kansas voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004 but have elected Democratic governors in recent years, and Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada are considered in play by strategists in both parties.
The press conference wasn’t a total dud, though.
In light of the Democratic Party’s struggle to adequately fundraise, Ritter was asked how bankrolls are panning out for the massive political event that will bring an estimated 100,000 people to Denver.
“We’re at about the same place as other cities at this time (in the process),” Ritter said, adding that now that Barack Obama is the party’s presumptive nominee, donations have been coming in faster.
Ritter also addressed growing concerns of convention protesters swarming Denver in order to leave their mark on the historic event and the Mile High City.
“We’re talking about it all the time,” Ritter said. “It’s natural that groups show up and they show up to protest. We know what we’re looking at. We want to give people their First Amendment rights, their right to protest, and we also want to protect the safety of (people in Denver.)”
Before leaving the press conference early in order to catch a flight, Sebelius addressed the possibility of being named as Obama’s running mate.
“It’s flattering and surreal,” Sebelius said. “(Obama) will make a great decision … and whatever decision he makes I am sure will be the right one and I will support it.”