Denver in 103

Tim Russert came to town yesterday, to collect the fourteenth annual Damon Runyon Award handed out by the Denver Press Club -- and to give us just a taste of what Denver can expect in August, when the whole world will be watching.

Lately, we've heard the word "Denver" a lot on all the political yapfests, including Russert's Meet the Press (in fact, we'd heard it earlier that morning, when Russert -- wearing the same suit and tie he sported at the Marriott -- was chatting it up with Mary Matalin and James Carville, other recent visitors to Denver). Because even if the Democrats have a candidate when the Democratic National Convention convenes in Denver on August 25, the gathering is sure to feature a first: the first major-party female candidate for president, or the first African-American candidate for president.

And there's no guarantee that the Dems will have a candidate by then, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama keep battling it out. "The level of intensity is wonderful for our democracy," said Russert, addressing a record-breaking crowd of 750 (and the size of that crowd, as well as the big names sprnkled through it, said something more about the level of intensity). "There are important times."

And they're going to get more important, right here. Although Russert likened his role to that of a "referee" -- which means he's not about to reveal which candidate he supports, if he supports one at all -- he didn't disguise that he'd love a floor fight. "I hope it goes to 103 ballots," he said at the end of his speech, referencing another record: the all-time high number of ballots, at the 1924 convention in New York City.

But this time, all 103 would be right here in Denver. -- Patricia Calhoun