As Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for president Thursday in Denver, one must question if the nominee in waiting has done everything in his power to unify a party that was deeply divided by a protracted primary season duel with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

His decision to select Sen. Joe Biden over Hillary Clinton and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for that matter could have an interesting ripple effect among local Democrats in both West Virginia and Virginia.

It’s no secret that voters in the Mountain State who are registered Democrats voted overwhelmingly in support of Clinton last May. It was a landslide victory for the former First Lady over Obama in the West Virginia primary. Although most of West Virginia’s congressional delegation endorsed Obama well in advance of the May primary, voters were not swayed in the Mountain State, and stuck with Clinton.

Obama’s decision to select Biden over Clinton probably came as a bit of a surprise to many West Virginia voters. After all, it is estimated that more than 18 million people voted for Clinton during the primary. So certainly an Obama-Clinton ticket sounded like a good idea to a lot of people. Many argued that such a pairing would probably be necessary to unite the divided party.

As a hopeless news junkie, I’ll probably watch Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday. I watched Michelle Obama on Monday night, and agreed with most experts that the Democrats did little if anything — on their first night anyhow — to tackle John McCain or the current Bush administration head on. That was somewhat puzzling given all of the concerns about the economy, the war and other domestic problems we are currently dealing with.

Hillary Clinton addressed the convention last night. At the time of this writing, I hadn’t seen her speech. It will be interesting to see if many in the Mountain State who voted for Clinton during the May primary will change their minds now, and throw their support behind Obama.

Republican John McCain has gone as far as to suggest that Obama snubbed Clinton as his running mate because of her criticism of him during the long battle for the Democratic nomination. He even released an advertisement earlier this week, according to the Associated Press, challenging Obama’s motives for passing over Clinton and choosing Biden instead.

Locally, there was a lot of excitement over the possibility of Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine being considered for the number two spot on the ticket. It also will be interesting to see how Democrats in Virginia will react to Obama picking Biden over Kaine.

Obama clearly considers Virginia to be a battleground state. Will his decision to select Biden over Kaine have an impact on Obama’s chances in Virginia?

The Commonwealth, after all, hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964. So capturing Virginia is certainly a long-shot battle that is probably going to be a little bit more difficult now without Tim Kaine as the number two man on the Democratic ticket.

While it is true that Kaine couldn’t bring foreign policy experience to the table, he could have helped in securing a potential victory in Virginia.

Virginia has 13 electoral college votes, and those 13 votes are considered important to both political parties. That is why most political pundits are calling Virginia a battleground state this fall. However, Biden’s experience as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should help to offset what many argue as a significant weakness for Obama.

Most national polls at the moment are suggesting an extremely tight race between Obama and McCain. However, a bump in the polls is sure to follow for Obama following the Democratic National Convention. After all, this is the big week for Democrats to showcase and sell their candidate. John McCain will undoubtedly enjoy a similar increase in the polls when the Republican National Convention concludes in Minneapolis on Sept. 4.

But for now all eyes are on the Democrats as their convention continues today with Biden’s acceptance speech as the vice presidential pick.

However, when all is done and said, it will be interesting to see if feelings have changed in West Virginia and Virginia. What about all of those people who waited outside in the pouring rain to see former President Bill Clinton at Concord last May? Have they changed their mind? Will they be voting for Obama now without Hillary Clinton as his running mate? And what about Virginia? Is it still in play without Tim Kaine on the ticket?

A lot of interesting — and local — questions remain to be answered for the Democrats.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s city editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com

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