Elephant in the Democratic hall

If you're looking for themes for the Democratic National Convention next week from Denver, here are three.

1. The four-night event, Monday through Thursday, will be divided evenly in numerical terms with two nights devoted to adoration of Barack Obama and two nights devoted to adoration of the ever-looming Clintons.

Being the actual nominee, Obama will get the anchor nights, the first and fourth.

On Monday, his wife, Michelle, will give the primary speech. Obama's biography will be showcased.

On closing night three days later, attention will move to the nearby professional football stadium in Denver.

That's where Obama will deliver his acceptance speech.

Those savvy Republicans have tried already to pre-empt this drama, seeking to define Obama as the mere "rock star" that such a stadium event makes him appear.

In between: Hillary Clinton will give the showcased speech Tuesday evening. So as not to distract from her big night, Democrats have chosen former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, the front-running candidate for the U.S. Senate in that state, to deliver the supposedly keynote address that evening.

Warner is a fine centrist Democrat, an electable Southern Democrat, and thus formidable. But he is, shall we say, not the kind of public speaker to drain Hillary's spotlight.

On Wednesday night, Bill Clinton will speak, no doubt rendering anti-climactic the formal nomination that evening of Obama and the perfunctory speech by Obama's running mate.

Hillary will get her name placed in nomination that night, complete with laudatory speeches, after which she'll do the noble thing by moving for nomination of Obama by acclamation.

2. A likely story line will be the bitterness among many of Hillary's women supporters about her loss and how they believe she was mistreated.

Some of the more extreme maintain Web sites require little elaboration beyond their names. One is PUMA, for "party unity my ass." Another is "Justsaynodeal." Then there is "Nobama."

These are women who believe that Hillary lost because she got mistreated as a woman -- that all those questions about her pantsuits and why she became misty-eyed and that she cackled and whether she was too cold and tough grew out of her gender, and that a man wouldn't have faced such nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, Hillary supporters appear to have persuaded the Democrats to put in their platform a plank that Hillary was mistreated by some in the media on account of her gender and that her candidacy exposed media bias against women that must be addressed and overcome.

Most of the complaints have to do with columnist Maureen Dowd, who attacks all politicians on a personal gender basis, and talk show blabbermouth Chris Matthews, who has a faster mouth than brain, which suits cable talk perfectly.

3. There will be an elephant in the room, or the convention hall, and it won't be a Republican. It will be a thought, a dread, a fear, that the Democrats are nominating the wrong candidate.

Obama finished the primary season anemically, almost backing into the nomination. He won his delegate majority largely from caucuses, some sparsely attended. Since securing the nomination, he has stagnated in polls and sustained insufficiently answered attacks from Republicans.

It may turn out that, once again, Democrats became carried away in their primaries with a person whose vulnerabilities got brought into vivid focus by the wholly new and different general election dynamic.

Could this be Michael Dukakis and John Kerry all over again? Should we be nominating Hillary? A few Democrats will say it. More will be thinking it.

John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.