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And the 2008 gold medal for event marketing goes to ... well, it's not clear yet. The Chinese obviously gave it their all, but there were just too many dodgy seams showing -- all that clumsy dissembling about the smog and the baby-faced gymnasts, for starters.
So now the world turns to the Democrats, and then the Republicans, to see who can pull off the more convincing media miracle. For those of you scoring at home, here are some key factors that will play into the judging of the competition:
THE BLOG EFFECT
Some 500 bloggers have been credentialed for this week's Democratic convention in Denver and 200 for the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September. Advantage: Republicans, because Denver stands to get out of control thanks to a blogger feeding frenzy as convention "news" gets jacked up from the slightest bits of manufactured controversy.
THE YOUTUBE EFFECT
At both conventions, Google will have YouTube kiosks for video uploading. Uh-oh. Images from past conventions have been mainstream-media-distributed, carefully choreographed golden moments -- such as Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic keynote. But the most viral moments in Denver and St. Paul might well happen off-stage -- in a surreptitiously captured bit of banter between, say, two way-too-blunt party operatives.
OH, THE HUMANITY!
When it comes to their convention performances, Obama and McCain aren't actually competing against each other; they've signed up for totally different competitive events, each with their own degrees of difficulty. Obama has to show the common touch -- that he's not an elitist, as the Republicans (rather hilariously) insist -- and McCain has to prove that he's not Grandpa Simpson. Barring some disastrous old-feeb stumble or other televised (or YouTubed) senior moment, I'd say advantage here goes to McCain, because Obama has the tougher task: Appearing both presidential and folksy at the same time (McCain appears presidential automatically by virtue of his age).
THE INVADING-ARMY EFFECT
As Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio has reported, the Republican shindig is being held in a convention center that's near the Dorothy Day Center, a huge homeless shelter. Meanwhile, "Denver is opening up shelters away from the convention site ... shelters [that are] usually only open in the winter." Bad for the Republicans, you'd think, only it turns out that they have a whole "American Neighbor" volunteer program that has had convention staffers serving lunches and otherwise helping out at Dorothy Day. The spin is likely to be that the Dems, descending on an elitist city, are standing by as the city warehouses its less fortunate -- while the Republicans, visiting a more salt-of-the-earth, Midwestern city, show their compassionate-conservative bona fides. Advantage: Republicans.
THE CELEBRITY EFFECT
The Dems are hugely at risk on this front, given how lousy with stars Denver is going to be. Among the glittery grandees expected to attend the convention and/or parties in town during the big show: Ben Affleck, Bono, Quentin Tarantino, Anne Hathaway, Oprah, Susan Sarandon and Kanye West. They're all going to be branding the Democratic Party as the party of glamour-puss celebs, playing right into the message of McCain's "biggest celebrity in the world" commercial. Here's hoping, for the Democrats' sake, that Paris Hilton crashes St. Paul.