August 27th, 2008 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics

DENVER NOTEBOOK: The Inside Scoop on Merkley's Speech

Jeff Merkley

The scripting of events in Denver makes the Beijing Olympics look like a meeting of the notoriously fractious Multnomah County Democratic Party. (Just ask the Oregon delegates who got chastised last night by "floor whips" for holding up anti-John McCain signs about three minutes before they were supposed to.)

Shortly before 5 pm Mountain Time tonight, House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Merkley will appear on the big stage as part of a series of Democratic Senate challengers including Tom Allen of Maine and Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire. Every word he'll say has been scrutinized and pre-approved.

Merkley gets only 90 seconds to speak (he will talk about the economy), but like every other speaker at the Denver convention, he still had to submit his remarks to Obama's campaign staff.

Merkley spokesman Matt Canter says the Obamites changed only two words: Instead of referring to the failed policies of "George Bush and Dick Cheney," Merkley was told he needs to replace "Dick Cheney" with "John McCain."

This morning, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee capo Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York introduced Merkley and a string of his other hand-picked candidates.

In a field that included two former governors (Shaheen and Mark Warner of Virginia) and the telegenic Udall cousins—Mark, of Colorado, and Tom, of New Mexico, who are both congressmen (and distant cousins of Merkley's opponent, Sen. Gordon Smith)—Merkley was something of a newbie.

In his brief speech, he seemed a little nervous but also pleasantly folksy. He was the only candidate to acknowledge his wife, Mary Sorteberg, who was in the audience. He also talked a lot about his children, including a story about his kids playing "horse" and his son, then 9, telling his daughter, then 7, "you only get so many mess-ups and then it's somebody else's turn." That, Merkley said, is the message for Smith and other Republicans.

Schumer, who in his introduction praised Merkley's "acumen and incredible record in the Oregon Legislature," distinguished himself by pronouncing Oregon correctly. Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who gave a rip-snorting wake-up speech to the Oregon delegation at breakfast this morning (chow sponsored by Hewlett Packard), wasn't quite as adept, earning winces from an otherwise fired up crew by saying "Ory-gon."
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