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The Obama Ticket Giveaway: What's the Word That Usually Goes With "Cluster"?

Federico Peña, Leah Daughtry and Bill Ritter talk tickets at Invesco Field.
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Despite the term typically used to describe them, the bowels of Invesco Field at Mile High looked pretty spic-and-span at around 2:30 p.m. on August 6, and that made sense. After all, a press conference was scheduled then to announce the procedure by which tickets would be given away for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the stadium, and party operatives acting on behalf of the event's three speakers -- Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Leah Daughtry, Obama campaign co-chair (and former Denver mayor) Federico Peña and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter -- were clearly hoping to give off an effective and efficient vibe. And for the most part, they did.

At least until the questions about the details started coming...

Daughtry, arriving with her cohorts a few minutes late, began the proceedings with the enthusiasm and exuberance of a woman who knows how to rev up her personality for the cameras, of which there were plenty scattered throughout Invesco's press room, where the gathering took place. After noting that the DNCC had pledged all along to make the Dems' bash "a different kind of convention," she said, "It doesn't get any bigger or any better" than the planned acceptance spectacle -- "and you don't have to be a delegate or a party insider to witness this historic moment firsthand." Indeed, more than half the seats in the facility would be designated for Colorado residents, with nearly two-thirds of them earmarked for folks in Mountain West states, which Daughtry called "areas of growth for our party... We have a compelling story as a party to tell to this region." She further emphasized the concept of openness by saying that "Democrats, independents and Republicans who want to be part of a growing movement for change in this country" were invited to apply for tickets.

The chipperness continued when Ritter, who rocked on his heels with a grin on his face while Daughtry spoke, stepped to the podium. His message was a simple one, he said -- to thank the DNCC for the way the celebration had been conceived. "We didn't want to make it just about Denver," he pointed out, "but also about the state of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain west." Then, after sliding into boilerplate rhetoric about the number of Democratic governors who'd been elected to succeed Republican predecessors in the West -- comments he accented with the admission, "You've heard me say this before" -- he talked about how pleased he was that so many Coloradans would be occupying Invesco's "77,000 seats." (Remember that figure.) He'd been to quite a few events at the stadium that he considered to have been historic, he allowed, but most of them were sports contests. This, however, was something else entirely -- a statement that "the people in the West matter." To him, the fact that Obama would be making history "at the fifty-yard line" on August 28 constitutes a prospect "as exciting as anything in my lifetime for the state of Colorado."

Then came Peña, whose energy level was positively off the charts. He said the speech would be "a global event. We are making history in this city, in this state, in this country on that night." This is not Barack Obama's convention, he insisted: "This is America's convention" -- which is why Republicans and independents would be welcomed, not excluded. He acknowledged that "this is a battleground state" -- and for that reason, "we're going to start that night at getting people engaged in this campaign." But folks hoping to attend shouldn't wait until then, he emphasized, in full pitchman mode. "Start making your calls immediately," he urged. "Go online immediately." (The phone line -- 888-468-7404 -- and the website for Colorado residents -- co.barackobama.com/invesco -- were up and running, he stressed.) "It's first come, first served" -- so "begin to make your travel plans, your hotel or housing plans" pronto, because those 75,000 seats -- yep, 2,000 fewer than the number Ritter mentioned -- wouldn't last long.

With that, Daughtry opened up the floor to questions -- and she was clearly the designated spokesperson. (Ritter and Peña stood on either side of her, seeming pleased for the most part not to have that responsibility.) Immediately, the gathered reporters turned to nuts and bolts issues:

Would people be able to reserve a certain number of tickets for family members? No, she said, each person would have to register individually. (Note: My wife went online immediately after the meeting ended and was able to register for two people, so my daughters, who also want to attend, didn't have to do so individually.) Was there any limit per family? No to that, too, although Daughtry conceded that if "10,000 Mulhaneys" signed up at the same time, some eyebrows might be raised. How were allotments made for other states, territories and so on? She referred to a "formula of geography" that took into account elements like distance, plus other factors, like whether a state had just elected one of those Democratic governors Ritter crowed about. Would security and traffic mean people would have to head to the stadium days early? No way, she claimed, expressing her confidence that the in-and-out process could be handled as quickly and easily as at the average home Broncos game.

From there, the queries got tougher. How would the Dems insure that each person who signed up for a ticket be able to use it? Daughtry said representatives would call individuals selected to make sure they'd be there on the 28th; they didn't want to assist folks who only wanted a souvenir ticket, nor did they want to see scalping take place -- which is why any ticket that shows up on eBay or the like will be "deactivated." Oh yeah: Under goading from the journalists, and the admission that we were getting into a realm of specificity beyond which she wanted to travel, Daughtry said tickets would have "bar codes and activation codes," and another procedure would take place to check their authenticity before a person gained entry.

But would any of this guarantee that the person who handed over the ticket at Invesco was the gal or guy whose application had been accepted? Daughtry paused slightly before saying there'd have to be "a little bit of trust here" -- and then, around a minute or so later, she abruptly ended the press conference and left the platform, her sidekicks striding away beside her.

The reporters immediately began buzzing, with one asking, "Why cut it off like that?" Indeed, the premature conclusion suggested that, beyond the happy headlines, there are a hell of a lot of things still to be worked out in the two and a half weeks before the convention begins -- and no one's certain how those involved will be able to pull it off.

A little bit of trust? Sounds like what's needed is a stadium full. -- Michael Roberts

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