The crowd enveloping Barack Obama when he accepts the Democratic nomination for president at Invesco Field at Mile High will be asked to get to work for the privilege of witnessing the historic event live.
In a half-hour interview Wednesday with The Denver Post, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, said he wants to use the ticketing process as a massive recruitment tool meant to bring in supporters from all 50 states and energize them to carry the campaign into the final 60 days of the general election.
"We're going to ask those 80,000 people in that stadium to march out of there and go with very specific instructions and goals to register millions of new voters," Hildebrand said.
The campaign announced July 7 hat it would hold the final night of the Aug. 25-28 convention at Invesco Field and open Obama's acceptance speech to thousands of spectators. Official details of the so-called "community credential" process are expected early next week, the campaign said.
By seating the 6,000 delegates down on the field normally defended by the Denver Broncos, and by keeping the number of journalists, technicians and VIPs at the same level as those attending the Pepsi Center events earlier in the week, the campaign could bring in more than 60,000 members of the public, Hildebrand said.
As a battleground state hosting the convention, Colorado will have access to the largest percentage of public tickets, but Hildebrand wants to draw significant support from neighboring states, such as the other Intermountain West battleground states of New Mexico and Nevada.
Also, Kansas, though not a battleground state, remains important to the campaign, as Obama's grandparents lived there and he visited the state often as a child.
The campaign also holds a "special fondness" for Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat in the Republican stronghold who came out early for Obama and who is a convention co-chairwoman. Sebelius is rumored to be under consideration as a vice- presidential running mate.
The Democratic National Convention Committee will work with the campaign and with state party officials to distribute the community credentials. Formulas for the states and longtime supporters and a small percentage of overflow, or standby, credentials are being worked out.
Hildebrand said that to ensure that the campaign fills the stadium, the application process becomes in and of itself a recruiting tool.
"Every single person is going to be a level of seriousness," Hildebrand said. "You know, 'Tell us how you're going to get there from Maine. Tell us how you're going to get there from Florida. Give us a sense of whether or not you're really serious about this. If you're not, we're going to provide someone else with this.' "
Those who want a seat will begin the process at their local Democratic Party office. While demonstrating their ability to attend, they also will be encouraged to sign on to the campaign as volunteers.
"They fill out a form; there's a conversation," Hildebrand said. "We ask them and encourage them to register voters and to get out the vote and those activities that are important to us. It's not a requirement, but it's going to be an encouragement."
Another use of the Aug. 28 speech meant to leverage public support is to use a technique popular with the campaign to hand out names and phone numbers during its events and ask participants to use their cellphones to make get-out-the-vote calls.
Though it is often said that the U.S. Secret Service jams calls during nominee speeches, Hildebrand said he didn't expect any problems, as the agency hasn't prevented the use of the mass-phone-bank approach in prior settings.
Using the event to go beyond the initial campaign photo opportunity makes sense but depends on its execution, said University of Colorado political-science chairman Ken Bickers.
"If they're calling from the stadium and it's late August, it might cause people to turn on their TV," Bickers said. "If on the other hand the marching orders are to get into your community and contact the people on your block — that does work."
Meanwhile, the majority of the Denver metro area's 42,000 hotel rooms are booked.
Richard Scharf, president of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a two-page list of hotels with vacancies may contain "hundreds up to a couple thousand" vacancies.
Hildebrand conceded that finding hotel rooms would be "up to each individual to figure out whether they can actually find something in the Denver area or will they be in Boulder or in Colorado Springs — or Kansas City. People may just have to be staying part of the way and driving home afterward or something."
Because Invesco sits alongside Interstate 25, many fear that the Secret Service will close the major thoroughfare that night.
Though Hildebrand acknowledges there are security plans that cannot be controlled, he stressed: "The last thing that we want to do is have this event create an interruption in people's daily lives. We want this to be nothing but a positive for Colorado, for Denver. We're running for president. We want the voters of Colorado to be pleased with Barack Obama, not upset because of an interstate closed down."
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