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Risky and Audacious

I get the symbolism behind the set for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night. It is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I have a Dream Speech" in Washington. Clearly, the backdrop is a made-for-TV strategy as much as for the 70,000 attendees at Invesco Field, but I wonder if it is a wise one.

While the columns in the neoclassical set look more lke the Capitol, they are certainly meant also to evoke the Lincoln Memorial backdrop for that historic King speech, which has lived on in grainy black-and-white TV footage as well as in the hearts of all who believe in its message.

Perhaps tonight’s TV coverage will evoke that image as viewers ponder the nomination of an African American for the nation’s highest office, which obviously is the fulfillment of some part of King’s dream. But most people agree that one of the cerebral Barack Obama’s challenges in the speech is to connect with the lunchpail crowd. And, unfortunately, the set also suggests an ancient Greek or Roman temple, where realms of clearer thought transcend the cloudy musings of the masses.

Certainly, Republicans were seizing on that idea.

Having the cerebral Al Gore speak before Obama doesn’t help, either. Gore has risen above the rough and tumble of Florida chads to collect a Nobel and share an Oscar. If there ever were a politician who would look at home in a toga, it’s Al Gore. But this election is not for "Archon of the United States."

I also noted that they had Olympic gymnas Shawn Johnson lead the Pledge of Allegiance, reinforcing that Greek intimation.

But maybe there is a strategy to connect with the regular guys and gals by suggesting that mecca for middle Americans looking for a good time, Las Vegas. The set also suggests the faux colisseum architecture of Caesar’s palace, where there are plenty of togas with blue collars on them.

Former Clinton aide Paul Begala concedes a stadium address before a throng is a risky and audacious move, particularly for a speech that needs to be a more intimate conversation directed to the average American.