The following is from the Aug. 24, 2008, edition of The Canadian Press. SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson of SMU's Dedman College provided expertise for this story.

With McCain nipping at his heels, Obama hopes to unite Democrats in Denver

DENVER The Democrats gather in Denver this week for the party's national convention, a four-day affair that essentially serves as Barack Obama's coronation as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Unlike Canadian political conventions where delegates choose their leader amid tense machinations often resulting in unexpected winners, U.S. political conventions are all about rhetoric, about the celebration of the candidate who's already got the nomination in the bag and about showing Americans that the party is united and ready to make a play for the White House.

And therein lies the rub for Obama and his campaign team this week. If it's not worrisome enough to Democrats that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has narrowed the gap to almost a dead heat in public opinion polls, there's the aftermath of Obama's bloody-knuckled, neck-and-neck battle against Hillary Clinton for the nomination. . .

Amid such tensions, the party's decision to make Clinton the "headline prime-time speaker" on Tuesday night at the convention is seen as questionable by some observers. Michelle Obama speaks on Monday, the convention's opening night, and Bill Clinton takes to the stage on Wednesday night.

Giving Hillary Clinton such prime face time at the convention was aimed at mending divisions, but it could have the opposite effect if Clinton supporters are provided with a televised forum to vocalize their discontent, Cal Jillson, an author and politics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Sunday.

"I suspect Hillary Clinton will be the good soldier and praise Obama and rally her supporters to Obama, but the fact that he doesn't speak until the fourth night of the convention and that her supporters have significant roles on the first three nights could be risky," he said.

"Clinton and her supporters will be whooping it up on the convention floor for the first three nights while the Obama backers look askance at them out of the corner of their eye, waiting for him to take to the stage on the fourth and final night."

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