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Democrats Ready to Rally Support Behind Obama 


The Democratic Party is seeking to rally support behind Barack Obama during its nominating convention, which opens Monday in Denver, Colorado. His wife Michelle, in an opening night speech, is expected to spotlight Senator Obama's unusual life story. She is the first of many speakers scheduled to build up Obama ahead of his formal nomination Thursday as the party's candidate for president. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from the convention site in Denver.

Michelle Obama takes the stage during prime television time Monday night to tell millions of Americans why she believes her husband would be, as she says, an "extraordinary president." Friends of Michelle Obama, 44, an attorney, say she has always kept Barack Obama's feet firmly on the ground, and that the two are best friends and equal partners.

In recent weeks, Michelle Obama, has appeared to soften her image somewhat, after coming under attack from some Republicans for a remark she made during the primary race saying her husband's campaign made her proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.

Monday's convention events will feature Barack Obama's life story - the story of the son of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother from Kansas - who was born in multicultural Hawaii, and spent part of his youth in Indonesia, graduated from top universities and went to work as a community organizer helping the poor in Chicago. But as the Democratic candidate told supporters at a barbecue in Wisconsin before the convention, he will also seek to reassure American voters that he is like them.

"And I think what you will conclude is, 'Gee, he is sort of like us. He comes from a middle class background. He went to school on scholarships,'" Obama said.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian and author, says that the partnership between a potential first lady and her husband can be very important to voters. And she told NBC's Today Show Monday that Barack Obama's acceptance speech at an outdoor rally on Thurday will be crucial to shaping his image in the minds of the American people.

"He is still not that well known in parts of the country," she explained. "And because he has been caricatured by the other [Republican] side, his speech is probably more important than most acceptance speeches are."

Also speaking to the Todayshow, political analyst Rachel Maddow said, with recent polls showing a virtual tie between Obama and his Republican rival John McCain, Obama needs to re-sell himself to American voters this week.

"What Obama is hoping for out of this week is a redefinition of himself and his campaign that is lasting and that is appealing to the American people," she explained.

Other prominent speakers Monday night will include the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. There will also be a video tribute to veteran Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from brain cancer. Ted Kennedy and his family will be in a special section at the convention center, but it is not yet clear whether he will be able to speak.

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