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Politicians assess the Democratic convention

July 28, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

The Democrats are pulling out all the stops at their Boston convention this week, hoping to get people excited about John Kerry, who suffers from a "charisma deficit," according to The Washington Post.

And what better way to galvanize the party faithful than to bring out past occupants of the Oval Office who also happen to be Democrats - which is exactly what the convention did Monday night, as former Presidents Carter and Clinton each took a turn at the podium.

The strategy worked, predictably, on some local Democrats.

"I agree with most of what was said," declared Hagerstown City Councilman N. Linn Hendershot, who also serves on the Washington County Democratic Central Committee. Hendershot said a line that especially struck him was that "we need to lead and not mislead," which came from Carter's speech and referred to intelligence used to initiate war in Iraq.

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But Hendershot saw a deeper meaning: "Sometimes I think we have a tendency to mislead" in politics, he said. "I think he said that not just for the Republicans, but for the Democrats, too."

Although Central Committee Chairman Rick Hemphill "thought Clinton did an excellent job, Carter did, too," watching on television in his own home wasn't quite the same as seeing them in person. "I was at the '92 and '96 conventions," Hemphill said. "It's different watching it on television. When you're there you get the power and the charisma."

Nevertheless, Hemphill stressed his impression that the speakers "made some good points that were essentially positive. The message was, 'we can do it, let us do it, we can make it better.'"

Del. John Donoghue, Washington County's lone Democrat in the Maryland General Assembly, said the conventions fire up the parties and get the campaigns running. And "like anybody else, I've got my TV on" during the proceedings. "It's a lot of glitz and a lot of partying, and I think the vast majority of Americans may watch a little. But as far as swaying people, I don't think they make up their minds by watching the convention."

Some leading Republicans took a cue from President Bush and allowed the Democrats to have their moment. Del. Robert McKee worked a Little League tournament game Monday and state Sen. Donald Munson attended a Maryland Municipal League dinner. Neither watched any of the convention's opening night speeches.

Hendershot wouldn't have watched so long had his favorite baseball team been faring a little better Monday night.

"The Orioles were getting clobbered 10 to nothing at the time," he said.

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