DENVER, Colorado (CNN) - Think of the convention as a family budget: Over four days, you have to make tough decisions about how to allocate your resources - in this case balancing the competing needs of unifying the party, more thoroughly introducing Barack Obama, and making the case against Republican John McCain.
So far, there is a mix of "spending" on all three of those goals, but the amount of resources dedicated to unity is telling.
The Obama forces contend, probably with good reason, that those in the convention hall will leave Denver united. But with polls still showing a high percentage of Clinton voters either backing McCain or declaring themselves undecided, the Denver investment in unity is aimed at winning back those watching at home who wanted a different outcome here.
Top Obama aide David Plouffe says there are many reasons to be hopeful despite polls showing essentially a dead heat.
"We have more room to grow," is Plouffe's take. By that, he means McCain has the support of most Republicans already locked up, and that in camp Obama's view, most of the "available" voters out there are either Democrats still not at peace with Obama as their leader and, again in the Obama camp's view, independents who side with Democrats on most of the big issues.
There is ample polling data to back Plouffe's take.
But those same polls show lingering doubt about Obama's values and experience to serve as commander-in-chief.
Given those challenges, Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's unsuccessful campaign in 1996, looks at the Democratic convention at the halfway mark and says: "They are spending a LOT of capital on unity."
(CNN) - That’s probably not the best way to put it, but in elections they have lost, Democrats often look back and view August as a wasted or just plain horrible month.
In 2004, for example, John Kerry led most national polls heading into August; his biggest lead was in the five-point range. But by early September, some surveys had President Bush up by as many as 10 points.
The Democratic collapse of 20 years ago is the stuff of legend. Michael Dukakis was up 17 points in some national polling after his July convention, but that lead started to fade in August and in the end Dukakis won just 10 states.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As President Bush travels overseas this week, it is a reminder of an early trademark moment of his presidency, his 2001 embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy," Bush said after their initial summit in Slovenia. "We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue."
Seven years later, Putin is viewed more critically across the West, for veering off the path of democratic reform, among other things. Bush, though, maintains it is a critical relationship. Crucial, but thorny: Bush has differences with Russia over plans for a U.S. missile defense program, and over putting former Soviet bloc countries Ukraine and Georgia on the path to membership in the NATO alliance.
And if there are tensions with Bush, Putin and his successor can almost certainly look forward to even tougher relations with the next U.S. president.
Bush's close ties to Putin have been criticized by all of the leading candidates. Republican John McCain, for example, regularly mocks Mr. Bush's claims of looking into Mr. Putin's eyes and getting a sense of his soul. McCain tells audiences when he looks into Mr. Putin's eyes he "sees three letters: KGB."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Campaigns bring contrasts – and flashbacks.
For the second time in as many weeks, Chelsea Clinton confronted the downside of her father’s legacy on the campaign trail: A student at North Carolina State University asked her about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, taking issue with her assertion in the first encounter that such a question was out of bounds.
The exchange played out like this:
Student: “(You were asked) whether your father's relationship in the White House had any affect or did it detriment your mother at all, and you responded saying that it was none of that persons business and i would like you to say whether or not its our business and uh,
Clinton: “It's none of your business."
Student: "Right but I, because fortunately or unfortunately he is the president, or was president at the time so as American people, I feel that it is our business."
Clinton: “Well sir, I respectfully disagree. I think it is something that is personal to my family. I’m sure there are things that are personal to your family that you dont think are anyone else’s business either... but also on a larger point, I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.”
Off to class went the student, and off to the blogs and shows like The Situation Room went the debate, yet again, not only over the appropriateness of such questions but over the campaign role of a young woman who once was carefully shielded from the harsh political spotlight by two protective parents.
It is not my place as to whether Ms. Clinton’s answer is the right one – she has every right to draw the line where she sees fit, and voters have every right to agree or disagree with her decision.
But watching such moments, and her high profile role in this campaign, brings back two vivid memories of the 1992 campaign.
(CNN) - Another day, another idea to end the remarkable race for the Democratic presidential nomination - this one from former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
In an essay in the Boston Globe, Cuomo warns of a potential disaster for Democrats if the race goes on and either Clinton or Obama supporters become embittered by the eventual outcome.
“Who can solve the problem?” he asks. “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by putting aside personal irritations, and to some extent personal aspirations, and agreeing to end the hostilities and form a ticket that gives us both of them, a candidate for President and a candidate for Vice President who is clearly good enough to serve as President, should the occasion arise.”
Funny: he doesn’t suggest which candidate should be the nominee, and which the vice presidential nominee.
And already, he is suggesting there are better odds for an alternative he raised in the essay: continue the nomination fight – but have both candidates commit now that if he or she wins, the other would be the vice presidential choice.
'Thanks, but no thanks' is the reaction of the Clinton and Obama camps. They say it is premature to begin thinking about the No. 2. spot on the ticket. But Cuomo tells us today in The Situation Room that he believes such an arrangement is the best hope for a Democratic Party he believes is losing votes to Republican John McCain “every day.”
It’s an interesting idea - and though it is unlikely to be embraced by camps Clinton and Obama, it is the latest reflection of the worry among some party elder statesmen that the protracted nomination battle is creating wounds that won't heal in time for the November election.
Of course, there are others who dispute that the damage is lasting - they see record Democratic turnout and fund-raising as a sign the protracted race is helping, not hurting. Count former President Bill Clinton among this group, though also be very well aware of his bias. His weekend suggestion - those pushing for a fast resolution to the race should just “chill out” - was the latest proof his wife the candidate is in no mood to listen to those who say she should call it quits for the good of the party.
Still three weeks to Pennsylvania. Plenty of time to chill, or debate the pros and cons of the protracted Democratic battle.
Related video: Watch John King's interview with Mario Cuomo
–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King