Washington Prowler

Coaching the Convention

The speakers’ svengali -- but can he teach slobs good manners? Also: First daughters crack the whip. Hillary makes time. Designating a star.

By 7.27.04

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HATE RULES
So much for the perfectly planned Democratic convention. In less than four hours, we had Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduce Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as the governor from Ohio. And so much for the kinder gentler convention as every speaker that took the dais -- from L.A. councilman Antonio R. Villaraigosa to former San Francisco supervisor Roberta Achtenberg and China-friendly former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry -- slammed President Bush.

"That was our 'lightweight division,'" says a DNC staffer on the floor at the Fleet Center. "You get them out of the way early when no one is looking. It should be smooth sailing from here."

One would hope so, given that just about every major speechifier present in Boston spent some time with speech-coach Michael Sheehan and his associates, who are under contract with the DNC for the convention. Sheehan received his biggest bump when both President and Mrs. Clinton played up his role in their successful speech-making.

Sheehan is believed to be coaching Sen. John Edwards for his acceptance speech on Wednesday night.

But Sheehan has also been meeting with just about every other prime-time speaker. While Sheehan has been handing out the mundane advice -- speak through weak applause lines to keep the momentum up, and the like -- the DNC has been providing far more specific advice to the speakers, everything from arrival times to dress code.

"We assume most people know how to dress at this kind of thing," says the DNC source. "But we have some new, high profile supporters this year who don't appear to understand that jeans and a baseball cap don't cut it inside the Fleet Center. If they are representing the party, they have to look the part."

This was a reference to film fabulist Michael Moore, as well as some younger Democratic supporters.

Moore, by the way was a star attraction at late afternoon event with the Congressional Black Caucus. According to a House Democratic staffer who attended, the speech was standing room only. "Moore is really loving this stuff, but he or one of his handlers attempted to block reporters and cameras from the room," says the House staffer. In the end, some reporters were allowed in to hear Moore's latest set of attacks against the Bush Administration.

DESIGNATED STAR
The hottest figure in the city isn't Kerry or Edwards or a Kennedy, but Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate candidate, who will make the keynote address on Tuesday night. "Every party is claiming that they will have Obama," says a delegate from Texas. "He is the guy everyone wants to meet, because we hear he is the next big political star for our party."

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