The Hiller Instinct: Convention Central
Inside the all but empty Fleet Center, Democratic leaders were dreaming of next summer's convention here. They brought skaters to make sure no one forgets it's just 234 days away, and a video to show how they hope to transform the Fleet into ground zero in their war against George Bush. But all the pretty pictures can't hide their problems.
The Democratic candidates have been debating for months, and campaigning for a year. But while there are some sparks around Howard Dean, none of the Democrats has caught fire. While the latest poll virtually gives Dean a win in the New Hampshire primary and promises humiliation for John Kerry, Dean and Dick Gephardt are too close to call in Iowa and both trail undecided.
In fact, the leader in the party's national polls is ask-me-later:
Gov. Bill Richardson, Convention Chair
"You're gonna see those undecideds start making decisions with the early caucuses, early primaries. We'll probably have a nominee in early march."
Meanwhile Republicans are celebrating the president's Thanksgiving surge, thanks to a holiday stop in Iraq (complete with a just-for-show turkey), a new Medicare bill and an improving economy.
Before Thanksgiving, Bush's approval rating was 56 percent. After, it jumped 6 points. Before Thanksgiving, 44 percent approved of how he's handling Iraq...after, 49 percent.
So isn't Bush a sure thing if he can keep the economy strong and make Iraq safe:
Terry Mcauliffe, Chair Democratic Natl. Committee
"Well, first of all, you've given me a lot of ifs. I've lived with George Bush and his stories now for the last three years...one statement after another."
And how will the Boston convention play in Peoria? Is the home of Ted Kennedy and the gay marriage court ruling too liberal for mainstream America?
Mayor Thomas Menino, (D) Boston
"I think America will watch. I think the message we'll have for that week will be a message that all America wants."
Unfortunately for the Democrats, a Republican -- President Bush - -will determine how many Americans watch their convention.
If the race is close next summer, they'll tune in. But if it's not, they'll tune out...and Boston's big party won't be must-see TV.