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Obama’s next move: to the center

With his lead over McCain in the polls now gone, the Democratic nominee must woo independents.

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The challenge for Obama is to extend the positive feelings from his convention through next week’s Republican convention, and into the final two-month sprint to Nov. 4. McCain is reportedly set to announce his running mate on Friday morning at a rally in Ohio – an apparent effort to step on any convention bounce Obama gets and divert media attention back to the GOP’s message.

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But at least one story line from the Democrats’ week in the spotlight appears to have peaked: the Clinton-Obama soap opera. Predictions of massive street protests by unhappy Hillary Clinton supporters failed to materialize, with marchers numbering a little over 1,000, not the thousands some had predicted. And Bill and Hillary Clinton’s convention speeches were met enthusiastically by the party faithful. Senator Clinton herself, standing with the New York delegation, halted the roll-call vote Wednesday, allowing for Obama’s nomination by acclamation.

The media hyped the Clinton-Obama drama “way, way, way, way too much,” says Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “If you watched it on TV, it was being played out as a personal psychodrama involving the Clinton family and Obama family, and the truth is that’s not what it is.”

The test of Obama-Clinton unity will come in the weeks ahead. If both Clintons stump for Obama, as promised, that will put the feud stories to rest.

Undecided voters and those soft in their support of one or another candidate will also face pressure to come to a decision – especially in crucial swing states, such as Colorado. Paul Weskalnies, a student at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., isn’t even sure if he’s going to vote for either major-party candidate, since his favorite, the Libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, suspended his campaign.
Mr. Weskalnies thinks he’ll start researching his options in late September or early October. His biggest issues are the Iraq war (he favors the US staying there) and “big government.” Between the two major parties, he leans Republican, “but they’re still ‘governmentalists,’ ” he says.

Glenn Brand, a registered Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter from Wheat Ridge, Colo., plans to wait until after the debates to make a decision. Obama gives him pause “because of his inexperience,” says the hardware-store worker. But “he’s going to have a good vice president, so that’s in his favor, for sure.” He says he hasn’t followed McCain that closely. “I just know he’s a little older, but he should have experience there, too.”

Bob List, a retired engineer in Golden, Colo., calls himself an independent. He started out inclined toward McCain, but the more he has heard Obama speak, the more he is leaning toward him. “His charisma has a purpose,” says Mr. List.