Memories of the Kerry Administration

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Image from bestofpicture.com.

And so it begins.

The Republican National Convention begins today. In recent decades, political conventions have been less about smoke-filled rooms and more about celebrating the already chosen nominees. (Even the vice presidential nominees are revealed before the convention these days.)

But this GOP pep rally may be a little different. Besides less star power — of both the political and celebrity brand — there’s the candidate himself, who probably doesn’t need outside star power because he’s a political and celebrity brand himself. And though conventions have become as rote as a Swiss train schedule, this one may actually make news because of the unpredictability of the man at the top of the ticket.

It wasn’t that way 12 years ago, when I attended both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

I’m thankful to former CNN.com head Mitch Gelman for bringing me along. He wanted to try out this new format — the “blog” — and thought one of the people who could do it was his Entertainment section editor. So I got to enjoy the color and write about it.

And they were colorful, if not always entertaining.

Both conventions ran like clockwork, which made finding stories — or tidbits — a challenge sometimes. Looking at those blog entries now, I’m struck by how well some of them hold up — and how I had the presence of mind to write about minutiae like the songs played to fill space and the time the Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston’s Fleet Center ran out of its pastries (scroll down).

But there are two things I remember about attending. One is how the enthusiasm of the delegates could make you believe that either candidate was going to triumph. After the success of the Democratic Convention, it felt like John Kerry could practically start assembling his cabinet. Soon, of course, he’d be taken down a few pegs by the windsurfing ad and the Swift Boat movement.

Likewise, the GOP convention was all about the power of the president. You’d think George W. Bush had no competition at all.

(Getting back to the campaign must be a real grind for candidates after spending a celebratory few days wallowing in the praise of their peers.)

The other memory was getting to interview Barack Obama, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, who became nationally known thanks to his keynote address at the ’04 Dem convention. I may have been the first person at CNN to talk to the future president; I know I was the first person on the digital side. But I’ll save that story for another time.

Tonight another show begins.

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