DENVER-Two hours before Sen. Hillary Clinton took the podium at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver Tuesday night, the swollen line to enter the arena's outside perimeter was over an hour long. After inching through a succession of metal detectors and police officers searching every bag and pocket, sweaty convention-goers squeezed through the arena doors.
The atmosphere inside the hall reached a fever pitch by 7 p.m. when convention staffers told massive crowds snaking through the corridors that the arena was full. Some spilled outdoors to stand in front of widescreen televisions broadcasting the goings-on from inside. Others huddled in arena passageways, peering inside.
This was Clinton's night, and for a moment the Democratic National Convention wasn't about Barack Obama. Decked out in a bright orange pantsuit, Clinton delivered a rousing homage to feminism and her own candidacy. Even her praise for Obama was rooted in a tribute to the causes she's championed.
A video montage introducing Clinton featured her mother and daughter, making little mention of her famous husband. Though former President Bill Clinton looked on with a misty-eyed smile, his wife didn't mention him in her highly anticipated speech.
It was a stark contrast to Monday night's proceedings, when a decidedly conversational Michelle Obama took the stage in a soft green dress to make a prime-time speech. Her video montage and convention address were filled with references to her family, and expressed ardent devotion to her husband, speaking of "the man I fell in love with." It was a smooth counterpoint to the rockier Clintons, no doubt intended to prod voters to picture the Obamas as a first family.
Voters will hear from the Clintons one more time Wednesday night when the former president takes the stage. But the night will belong to Joe Biden, as he begins the hard work of convincing Americans who have known him for three decades as an outspoken, liberal senator to think of him as second-in-command.
But one gets the sense that this whole week is merely an appetizer before the main course Thursday night at Invesco Field, where Obama will deliver his acceptance speech before some 75,000 people. The senator arrived in town Wednesday afternoon, and droves of police officers in groups of 8-10 are already patrolling the streets, clad in helmets and shields.
Thursday night, droves of Obama supporters will be clad in scads of buttons, T-shirts, hats, jewelry, and other accoutrements available on every Mile-High City street corner, including a white shirt with bright blue letters that reads: "The only truth that stands is Obama."
Other reports from the Democratic National Convention:
Opening ceremonies: The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver, as the party takes steps to reach out to religious voters
Divided we stand: Confrontations over the abortion issue mark the first two days of the Democratic National Convention