Democratic convention

Democratic convention

Michelle Obama tours the Democratic convention

Michelle Obama said her husband would make an "extraordinary president"

This is the week the Democratic Party in the United States showcases its candidate for the Presidency, Barack Obama, and rallies its members behind him.

The BBC World Service's Ben Sutherland compiled this report as the Democratic National Convention began in the city of Denver.

End of Section

0300GMT: Having waved goodbye to his family - and the convention - Barack Obama disappears from the screen. It's goodnight from him - and from us, too.

0255GMT: Live from Kansas City, Barack Obama appears on a television screen behind his wife's head. "Now you know why I asked her out so many times, even though she said no," he says, referring to Michelle. "You want a persistent president." He addresses his family more than the delegates, but his words are interrupted by his daughter Sasha, rather keen to talk over him and steal the televisual limelight.

0251GMT: "The Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago," says Michelle Obama as she closes. "Let us stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America. Thankyou, God bless you and God bless America." She is joined on stage by her two daughters.

0246GMT: A huge cheer from the convention floor as Michelle Obama praises "people like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling."

0236GMT: Michelle Obama opens with a joke: "as you might imagine, running for President was nothing for Barack compared to that first game of basketball with Craig," she says. But as Matt Frei predicted, the substance of her speech centres on filling in the gaps of the Obama biography. She recalls her father's struggle with multiple sclerosis, and recalls her parents' efforts to send her and Craig to college. "I know through their lives and mine that the American Dream endures," she adds.

0230GMT: Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson is now on stage - and seizing his opportunity to embarass her chronically. "It's funny to think that this is the same person who would wake me up early - and I mean early - before Christmas... this is the person who somehow, despite only being allowed one hour of TV a day, managed to memorise every single episode of the Brady Bunch," he recalls. But he also emphasises that her youth was about "working hard, studying hard... always being reminded that in this country, of all countries, those things were possible." He says she also encouraged him to become a coach - with the result that today he is the coach of the Oregon state basketball team, leading to a shout of "go Beavers."

0229GMT: From the convention floor, Katty Kay offers her analysis of the Michelle Obama video. "This is an American story - that Michelle Obama lived the American dream... that they're the quintessential American family. They want Americans to think that this is a family that is like them."

0225GMT: The Michelle Obama package begins with a video, narrated by her parents. "I thought, who names their kid Barack Obama? This kid is weird," her mother recalls of the first time she was introduced to her future son-in-law.

0218GMT: The US Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, is on stage. The significance of this is that she is the last speaker before the "Michelle Obama package" - as it is listed in the official schedule - begins, with an introduction by her brother Craig.

0210GMT: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, once a loyal Clinton supporter, discusses how the rift in the Democratic party can be healed - and says she believes Hillary Clinton, whose husband she served, will have a large part in doing it. "We need to win," she says bluntly. "I personally am prepared to do everything I can to make sure Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the next team."

0200GMT: Washington correspondent Matt Frei describes Senator Kennedy's speech as the moment the night reached an "emotional crescendo." Meanwhile he says Michelle Obama's speech - scheduled for around 0230GMT - is about "filling in the blanks of Obama's biography.

0130GMT: Senator Kennedy himself comes onto the stage, to chants of "Teddy, Teddy" from the crowd. It had been uncertain ahead of the convention if he would speak. "Nothing - nothing - is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight," he says. "I pledge to you that I will be there, next January, on the floor of the United States senate," he adds - a reference to when the new President will officially be sworn in. He ends by referencing Martin Luther King's most famous speech, saying, "the work begins anew; the hope rises again; and the dream lives on."

0119GMT: Caroline Kennedy introduces a video tribute to her "uncle Teddy" - senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who has brain cancer. "He's been a Senator for all those who believe in a dream that's never died," his niece says. "He put the American dream within reach for so many families... he helped end Apartheid in South Africa, and bring peace to Northern Ireland." She also says he "took a strong, early and courageous stand against the war in Iraq" - something that receives a large cheer from the audience.

0117GMT: Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, is the next on stage. Her speech centres on comparisons between her father and Obama. "They share a commitment to timeless American ideals," she says. "Barack Obama is making people feel hopeful the way they did when my father was president. I've never had anyone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them - but I do now."

Police in Denver on bikes

High security, low emissions

0115GMT: Our colleagues at The World - a BBC World Service co-production with American public radio - are at the convention, and are sending pictures to the photo-sharing website Flickr. They include this image of low-emission police outside the convention. You can view the collection of pictures here.

0055GMT: Some more showbiz razzmatazz ahead of Michelle Obama's speech - and also the chance for the US networks, now well into prime time, to have a few words from their sponsors. Lenny Kravitz plugs the gap with his 15-year-old hit Are You Gonna Go My Way.

0050GMT: Ed O'Keefe, of the Washington Post, notes the difference between Jesse Jackson Jr's speech and his father's views. He says the older generation of the civil rights movement, as embodied by the elder Jackson, has found it difficult to support Obama - partially because they were so close to the Clintons, but also because they felt Obama had not done enough to merit the position for which they had "laid the groundwork."

0045GMT: Jesse Jackson Jr - whose father created a stir with some choice words about Obama last month - is in full cry. "America, we need you to be with Barack Obama," he says. Jackson represents the 2nd congressional district in Obama's home state Illinois, and sees it as a microcosm of the whole country. He stresses his first-hand experience of seeing Obama at work, and says the Senator brought the people of the state "a message of hope."

0036GMT: Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, addresses the convention. She recalls her mother, and the impact she had on both her own and her brother's life. In particular she stresses that her mother was always there for them - something she says is echoed in Barack. "I know he'll help you realise your dream, just as he helped me realise mine," she says.

0030GMT: Jimmy Carter, president between 1976 and 1980, is at the stage. Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan after only one term in office.

0010GMT:Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the most high-profile Democrats, takes to the stage.

Barack Obama doll

The doll is priced at $15

0000GMT: Our Latin American Washington correspondent Lourdes Heredia has found a stash of Barack Obama action figures on sale at the convention, priced $15 each. Would you pay $15 for a Presidential nominee? Have a look. Other tat being pedalled includes jewel-encrusted Obama sunglasses, stuffed Hillary Clintons and "Presidential roast" coffee.

2355GMT: Thoughts from Kenya, the home of Barack Obama's father. Pascale Odjijo, a 25-year-old law student from Nairobi university, tells us that "when Obama starts talking about foreign policy, I want him to tell the whole world - the US and Republicans included - that he is not coming with the opposite of what the Republicans have been doing; instead he is coming with a whole new approach. Let us negotiate, let us try the other way round."

Listen Listen to Pascale Odjijo (2 mins 16 secs)

2332GMT: John Legend takes to the stage at the convention, surrounded by a choir. We cannot bring you the music online, owing to rights restrictions. Sorry.

2325GMT: Blogger LN Rock of predicts the blogosphere will have a "significant" role in deciding the election in November. "It tells the story when you have 120 bloggers coming to the convention," he says. "Millions of people listen, watch and hear what the bloggers say. There is a disenchantment with the traditional media." He spares the BBC his criticism, saying we are "creative media." Cheers, LN.

Listen Listen to LN Rock (2 mins 34 secs)

2322GMT: Gerard Bernstein, one of Obama's economic advisors, says the candidate aims to cut taxes for middle and lower income families, and will pay for them with higher taxes on households earning over $250,000.

Listen Listen to Lisa Duffin and Gerard Bernstein (3 mins 04 secs)

2320GMT: BBC business reporter Linda Duffin says the latest polls ahead of the convention suggest that the economy is the single biggest issue for voters. "Home mortgage foreclosures; high fuel and food costs; growing unemployment; whoever the next incumbant of the White House is going to be, he's not going to have time to lie around on the furniture."

2306GMT: The music is building in the background as Joe Klein, the Time journalist who wrote Primary Colors, explains why he will be watching Hillary and Bill Clinton's body language - more than what they say - when they speak to the delegates. "A gut sense I have out there is that Bill Clinton has been acting like a big baby... but people do have a lot of respect for Hillary, which she earned through this campaign," he says.

Listen Listen to Joe Klein (2 mins 46 secs)

2305GMT: More from Lourdes Heredia (see 2240). "It is also interesting that a New York Times/CBS poll say that 60% of Hillary's delegates enthusiastically support Obama, 31% support him with reservations or because he's the nominee, and 5% don't support him at all," she says. "I found lots of the 31%."

2245GMT: Ahead of her keynote speech, quotes from Michelle Obama have been released to the media by her husband's campaign. "I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president," she says. "I come here as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them."

2240GMT: Lourdes Heredia, the Washington correspondent of BBC World Service's Latin American section, has been meeting with Hispanic delegates in Denver. "I was at a event with Hillary and they reacted as if they had seen the queen in person," she says. But while the delegates were clear they still want to vote for Clinton - even though at this stage it will count for nothing - the defeated candidate herself "tried to convince everyone to support Obama because she does not want 'another 4 years of the same things'."

2200GMT: The BBC's Katty Kay on the convention floor has been speaking to delegates, and says they do think there will be unity. But, she adds, look at the numbers - 3 in 10 Clinton supporters say they are not behind Obama. Hence the building of a crescendo with Clinton's speech tomorrow night - to then be followed by a shift towards Obama. "They're hoping it will demystify Barack Obama to the American public... and shift the focus to John McCain. They don't want this to be Barack Obama against Barack Obama. You're going to be hearing an awful lot about John McCain and George Bush over the next few days."

2130GMT: North America editor Justin Webb in Denver says that the Democrats had thought it was their year - the economy is the voters' central concern, and Obama scores better on that than McCain. He also has a better-funded campaign. "And yet the walk is a little steeper than the Democrats were expecting... they are not far enough up the mountain." As a result, this week is about showing what Obama can do, as well as doing down John McCain - and associating him with the current White House. Whereas Democrats in 2004 were told not to personally attack George W Bush, there is no such ban this year on attacking John McCain.

Listen Listen to Justin Webb's report (1 min 10 secs)

2115GMT: On the World Have Your Say blog, Angela in Washington says she is sceptical about the current round of opinion poll statistics. "Until November, everyone will be speculating," she says. "The polls can show McCain is in the lead or Obama is leading. You can manipulate anything with statistics."

What do you think? Have your say.

Howard Dean

Howard Dean, himself a candidate in 2004, opened with the traditional gaval

2103GMT: Party chair Howard Dean formally opens proceedings with a prayer, followed by a group of Navajo Indians carrying a flag. James Coomarasamy reports that the floor is currently around half full.

2055GMT: Moments away from the beginning of the convention, and the tensions are clear on the floor. Shirley Luther from Beaumont, Texas - festooned with Hillary Clinton stickers - stresses she intends to vote for her candidate "in the first vote and the second vote and any other vote." She adds she believes a quarter of the Clinton supporters will not back Obama, and that "if he isn't careful it could get worse."

Listen Listen to Shirley Luther (1 min 31 secs)

2020GMT:Matthew Continetti, associate editor of the Weekly Standard, observes that the "small merry band" of Republicans who are attending to observe the Democratic convention are enjoying themselves. "What they see here is a divided convention. They see many Hillary supporters who aren't ready to commit to Obama, they see an Obama who is going to play into the critique of himself as a celebrity candidate."

Listen Listen to Matthew Continetti (1 min 46 secs)

2015GMT: Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Organisation explains why Obama's lead in the polls has fallen over the summer - from a nine or 10 point lead down to two or three points. "His support levels have stalled, while McCain's supporters have grown in numbers," he says. He believes this is because McCain is seen as different to Bush by independents, and, in addition, "there's more Republican unity" - only 82% of Democrats say they will vote for Obama, whereas 90% of Republicans back McCain.

Listen Listen to Andrew Kohut (2 mins 26 secs)

2010GMT: Hill Harper, star of the CSI:New York TV series, is one of the many celebrities on the convention floor. "We really have to engage the country: to make them realise how critical the choice we make on 4 November is," he tells the BBC. Meanwhile Joe Klein, author of the book Primary Colors, explains how important Michelle Obama - who will give the big speech of the day - is to the presidental candidate. "The wives always are important. The President lives in our homes for the next for years, and so people decide on character and family - and Michelle Obama was arguably the first important decision that Obama made."

Listen Listen to Hill Harper (22 secs)

Listen Listen to Joe Klein (2 mins 22 secs)

2005GMT: The BBC's Washington correspondent Matt Frei says that the Democrats' campaign has been "unprecidented" in terms of funds raised ahead of the convention, and that it promises to be a "very exciting week." Meanwhile Barack Obama himself, speaking ahead of the convention, says he is "still toying around with my speech a little bit."

1815GMT: James Coomarasamy surveys the different delegations. Some of the signs with the names of the states on them have green circles at the top, indicating that the delegates from that state have offset their carbon emissions in travelling to Denver: the one above Mr Obama's home state of Illinois is conspicuous by its absence. Meanwhile our correspondent explains the big questions: can the Democrats restore party unity after the bitter race to be nominee, and can Mr Obama, "the man with the exotic name and the exotic background," convince Americans that he is American enough to be their President?

Listen Listen to James Coomarasamy (2 mins 2 secs)

1800GMT: Three delegates to the convention are writing diaries for the BBC News website. They include super-delegate Connie Borde. "The greatest dilemma is... choice," she says. "You wish you could divide yourself up and do them all. The ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), the progressive policy group, meets at noon (Barney Frank! Jerry Nadler! Robert Kuttner!), just when the American European Institute hosts a duel of words among Richard Holbrooke, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and other luminaries. What to choose, where to go?"

1750GMT: Count Iblis on the World Have Your Say blog says that the convention is going to be far more important to Obama's hopes of winning the election than the choice on Saturday of Joe Biden as vice-president. "The mere fact that Biden has been chosen as Obama's running mate won't lead to more support, though," he says. "We'll have to await the convention and the subsequent debates."

Do you agree? Have your say.

1640GMT: Professor Zbigniew Lewicki of the American Studies Centre at Warsaw University assesses what influence an Obama Presidency might have on Moscow, given the current situation between Russia and its neighbour Georgia. "Putin and Medvedev are much more experienced and much more canny," he says. "I am a little apprehensive that the Russian tandem would be able to outsmart Barack Obama."

Listen Listen to Zbigniew Lewicki (2 mins 46 secs)

1635GMT: James Coomarasamy in the Pepsi Center sets the scene ahead of the convention. "There are shooting stars and shooting stripes in neon... Obama's daughters are playing around on stage."

Listen Listen to James Coomarasamy at the Pepsi Center (2 mins 12 secs)

1300GMT: A year ago, few would have predicted Barack Obama would be in the limelight right now. He was a young, first term Senator, far behind Hillary Clinton in the opinion polls. Now that he is just a step away from the Presidency, our North America Editor Justin Webb looks at what he has achieved - and what is still left to do.

Listen Listen to Justin Webb's profile of Barack Obama (3 mins 22 secs)

1200GMT: It is not just the candidate in the spotlight. Denver is swamped by party members, financial backers and thousands of journalists - including Newshour's Max Pearson, who sent us his thoughts ahead of the convention:

Listen Listen to Max Pearson's report (3 mins 28 secs)

1100GMT: Our World Have Your Say programme has been discussing the question of Obama's running-mate, and specifically his selection of veteran Joseph Biden. Do you think he made the correct choice?

Did Obama get it right? Have your say here.

Meanwhile you can still listen to our in-depth profile of Obama's rise from a little-known senator four years ago to Presidential candidate today.

Listen Listen to the rise of Barack Obama (22 mins 12 secs)