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THE SITUATION ROOM

The Democratic National Convention Begins

Aired August 25, 2008 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, they will hear from Michelle Obama, who will sort of begin to try to frame this convention, which really is to introduce Barack Obama and where he wants to take the to the folks at large who are watching this on television. So there will be that.
She also, obviously, knows Barack Obama personally. The whole object of this convention is to frame the Democrats and the Democratic ticket as people who will do for the middle class what needs to be done, that they are middle class. So they're trying to paint a portrait of this ticket.

We will also see tonight, I think probably the emotional highlight, there will be a video of Senator Kennedy a video tribute. We are told that he will be appearing here tonight, although not speaking, at least when we last checked. But he is in town. So that will be the emotional highlight.

BLITZER: All right...

CROWLEY: But the substantive highlight, of course, Michelle Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Howard Dean. He's about to call this convention to order.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The 45th Quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.

Welcome, delegates, alternates, standing committee members, special guests and other friends, members of the news media, guests from around the world and our fellow Americans,

During our National Convention, we will demonstrate to all Americans why we need Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

DEAN: Looking out from this podium tonight, I see a diverse assembly of Democrats as a testament to the strength and unity of our party and the fruition of our 50 state strategy. While the Democratic Party is the oldest continuing party in the world, I can also see that we are the most vibrant and inclusive and energized party and we are ready to compete in all 50 states.

(APPLAUSE) DEAN: America realizes that we cannot have four more years of the same ineffective approach to governing. It is the Democratic Party that can effect the change that America needs.

The chair reminds all delegates that the presidential nominating petitions must be submitted to the office of the secretary no later than 6:00 p.m. On Tuesday. Vice presidential nominating petitions must be submitted to the office of the secretary no later than 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Petitions should be delivered to the secretary's office, which is in the officials lounge, located on the floor level concourse behind the Alaska delegation.

Delegates, alternates and guests, please extend a warm welcome to the convention band, under the direction of Ray Chu.

(APPLAUSE)

DEAN: I also want to thank the hardworking men and women -- union members all -- who worked so hard to get this hall ready for this convention.

(APPLAUSE)

DEAN: And I am now pleased to introduce...

BLITZER: As he enters this, Gloria Borger is here standing by -- all right, Gloria, this is a historic moment right now. It's formally been called to order, this convention. It's going to be an exciting few days.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is going to be an exciting few days, because the Democrats are united in their thought that they need to beat the Republicans this time. They haven't had a victory in quite a while. It's been two terms of a Republican administration. And as Obama would say, they're fired up.

BLITZER: All right, let's listen to the invocation right now.

POLLY BACA, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATOR: We pray that God will guide us in our decision making as we renew our commitment to protect those in the dawn of life, our children; those in the twilight of life, our elders; and those in the shadows of life that scripture calls upon us to serve -- the poor, the sick, the physically challenged, the stranger, the immigrant.

We gather here to Denver and in Denver to nominate Senator Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States, cognizant of the tremendous responsibility we inherit. We ask God to give us wisdom and the strength to do God's will as we launch this campaign of global significance. It is with confidence and faith in the divine that we engage in this effort to meet the challenges our country faces.

God has blessed our party with delegates reflect the diversity of our great nation in age, gender, race, ethnic heritage, geographic location, economic status and educational background. We pray for God's guidance in honoring and respecting this diversity, as we come together to deliberate upon the issues important to our communities.

We remember the words of Jesus Christ, who called upon us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the least among us. In this spirit, we pray for God's help in recommitting ourselves to the principles of social justice and equal opportunity in our country and in our world.

May God bless us as we assume our sacred responsibility to represent those at home on our farms, in our cities, in our barrios and on our Native American reservations. We pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the presentation of colors by the Navajo Code Talkers Association of the Navajo Nation.

(PRESENTATION)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Angela Morgan to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

(PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Colorado Children's Chorale to sing our national anthem.

(NATIONAL ANTHEM)

BLITZER: All right. "The Star-Spangled Banner." This convention is now formally underway.

Gloria Borger, the Colorado Children's Choir did a beautiful job. The Navajo code talkers -- a lot of history. A lot of people remember the film from World War II where they played such an incredible role in communicating so the enemy -- the Nazis -- couldn't understand what they were saying. And as a result, the U.S. had a significant advantage.

BORGER: Yes. They were Marines who spoke Navajo, Wolf. And the Japanese code breakers were never able to decipher it.

BLITZER: All right. This convention has now started.

We're going to be watching every single step of the way. Jack Cafferty is joining us, once again. He's got "The Cafferty File."

I've got to tell you, Jack, we're right in the middle of things here on the floor. It's pretty exciting.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed, it is. And we have this week with the Democrats and the Republicans -- I assume you'll go right from Colorado to Minnesota, right?

BLITZER: Friday morning very early we're flying from Denver to St. Paul. We'll do exactly the same thing next week at the Republican Convention. CAFFERTY: Well, something for you to think about while you're away. There are people in Washington who are stealing things out of your office. Something to chew on at dinner tonight.

BLITZER: I'm not surprised.

CAFFERTY: Ronald Reagan had...

BLITZER: But they can take whatever they want.

CAFFERTY: Ronald Reagan had some success with this a few years back, and things weren't nearly as crummy then as there are now. He asked at the time, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Now, this time it's been eight years. Think about it. Unemployment rising, 5.7 percent. We've lost 463,000 jobs since the first of the year. And inflation is on its way up, too, accelerating at a faster rate than it has in 17 years. Gas prices up 34 percent in the last year. Oil was 26 bucks a barrel when George W. Bush was inaugurated. It touched $147 a few weeks ago. One million homes plus are now in foreclosure.

Did I mention we're fighting a couple of wars?

Some national comparisons between today and where things were eight years ago. Americans' wages have actually gone down since the last recession ended. We're spending now 14.1 percent of our disposable income on debt. That's higher than it was in 2001. And Americans are pretty glum about the future, too. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index was at 85 percent in 2001. It's less than 52 percent now.

One more. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds 75 percent of those surveyed think our economy is in bad shape. And that compares to just 43 percent who felt that way one year ago.

So as the conventions get underway and the campaign for the White House heats up, voters, indeed, have a lot to think about.

Here's the question: With the election 71 days away, are you better off now than you were eight years ago?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thank you.

Barack Obama -- he's not yet here in Denver. He's still out on the campaign trail doing what he needs to do -- campaign, battling for some critical states that went Republican in some the last presidential election.

And John McCain is appealing to Latino voters with Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. Stay with us. You'll see what's going on on that front.

And Vice President Dick Cheney -- he's heading to an international hot spot. His trip to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

We're here at the Democratic Convention watching this story and all the news. And we'll have much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. The Democratic Convention now underway here in Denver. The soon-to-be nominee, he's still campaigning right now. He's targeting states that went Republican in the last election.

CNN's Jim Acosta is out there on the campaign trail with Barack Obama -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama has set an ambitious campaign schedule this week. He's making stops in three battleground states that weren't too friendly to the Democratic presidential candidate the last time around.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama is doing more than taking the scenic route to Denver.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are we going to do the same things that got us into this mess in the first place or are we going to try something different?

And I think it is time for us to try something new. That's what I believe.

ACOSTA: This Democratic contender is out to flip some electoral real estate from red to blue. This week, he's targeting three battlegrounds captured by the Republicans in 2004 -- Iowa, Missouri and Montana.

First came Iowa, where the senator spent less time defining John McCain and more time defining himself -- a preview of the biography portion of this week's convention.

OBAMA: It was only six years ago when Michelle and I were still living in a small, overcrowded condo. We're still in debt for our student loans. We went to school on scholarships.

ACOSTA: And while his campaign issued a joint statement with Hillary Clinton insisting that Democrats are united, Obama hasn't yet touched the subject at his events. Instead of focusing on his onetime archrival, the senator is emphasizing his and his running mate's life stories -- even delving into Joe Biden's sometimes tragic past.

OBAMA: He raised two kids, two sons and a daughter, despite having gone through the tragedy of losing his first wife and his infant daughter in a car accident. Joe Biden understands what you're going through because he's gone through it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Barack Obama will be making an appearance at the convention tonight, but it will be through a video message. Then it's on to Missouri then Montana -- a state that hasn't gone Democratic since 1992, when Bill Clinton won there by just 10,000 votes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Jim Acosta in Davenport, Iowa. That's the state where it all started for Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain is playing the Hillary Clinton card against Senator Obama, using her words in an effort to try to divide Democrats.

Our Ed Henry is in Scottsdale, Arizona covering the McCain campaign right now -- Ed, what is the McCain strategy as it's unfolding?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, normally the other candidate likes to keep a low profile during the convention, but this time here in Scottsdale, John McCain is very much trying to stay relevant with what's happening there in Denver.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): John McCain is trying to drive a deeper wedge between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She won millions of votes but isn't on his ticket. Why? For speaking the truth on his plans.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You never hear the specifics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Clinton says she's miffed by the barrage of ads.

CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton and I do not approve that message.

(APPLAUSE)

HENRY: But Republicans keep churning them out, like this one, featuring a disillusioned Clinton delegate who says she's voting Republican for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I respect his maverick and independent streak. Now he's the one with the experience and judgment. A lot of Democrats will vote McCain. It's OK. Really. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: While his ads go for the jugular, McCain is trying to project a positive image, with easy photo-ops during the Democratic Convention. After promising a press conference Monday, McCain aides instead rolled out a celebrity endorsement.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the songs I know you're very familiar with, "Gasolina." Well, it means -- there he is, Daddy Yankee.

(APPLAUSE)

HENRY: Raves at this mostly Latino high school in Phoenix, even though Daddy Yankee may not be your typical McCain voter.

MCCAIN: I just want to say thank you, Daddy Yankee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now tonight, John McCain will also be appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" this evening -- another chance, a low risk environment, if you will, for John McCain to stay relevant during the Democratic Convention. And if he can reach out to some Hillary Clinton voters along the way, so be it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's the strategy as it's unfolding.

Ed, thanks very much.

The highlight of tonight's lineup -- Michelle Obama's prime time speech, sharing a different side of her husband with voters before her largest audience yet.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is joining us with a little preview.

What can we expect to hear from Michelle Obama tonight?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're actually down on the convention floor with the Illinois delegation. They get a front row seat, essentially, to this very important speech -- arguably the most important speech of her life. Friends and families are going to be in a small private box. Her mother Marian; as well as their daughters Sasha and Malia; her brother, Craig Robinson.

But what we've told and what we saw earlier was Michelle Obama practicing with her daughters with a microphone, with a teleprompter. And essentially she is going to make the case that she is not painting the picture of the candidate, but of the man -- the doting father, the loving husband that she knows, the guy who plays Scrabble and the guy that she, frankly, likes to tease about the fact that he has some of the same pants and shoes that he did when they first got married some 15 years ago.

The bottom line here -- the message here, Wolf, is we are just like you. That is the picture that she's going to paint. She's going to talk about family values, talk about how it was difficult for both of them growing up in their childhood -- their dreams, their values. And they are certainly hoping to make that case.

A lot of criticism -- some criticism against Michelle Obama. She's going to counter that with a picture of Americana -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Illinois -- the delegation where you are, that's right front and center.

It's the best real estate in the house, is that right?

MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely. This is -- this is where it's at here. You can see all the excitement. The people have already gathered here, front row and center. As you know, it's his hometown state. So they get a front row seat. This is first class seating here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. That's the state.

All right, Suzanne, thank you.

Our live coverage from the convention floor will continue in just a moment.

But first, after days of devastating rain in Florida, another storm forming right now in the Caribbean. We'll give you a little update.

And one delegate who fought in court to come to the convention didn't make it. The latest on Detroit's troubled mayor. That's coming up as well.

We're watching the Democratic National Convention. We're here on the floor with you.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll go back to Wolf and the convention in just a moment.

First, other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

More upheaval in Pakistan, the world's only Islamic nuclear power. A week after Pervez Musharraf resigned as president, the ruling coalition that forced him out has broken up. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pulled his party out of a coalition with the party of the late Benazir Bhutto. Her widower is running for president in next month's election. Sharif says his party will now support a rival candidate.

Vice President Dick Cheney plans to visit Georgia and two other former Soviet republics next week. A White House spokesman says he'll reiterate U.S. commitment to its ally in talks with Georgian leaders. Georgia was battered this month by Russian troops in a brief war over two breakaway provinces.

Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Fay engulfing hundreds of homes in Florida, from Melbourne to Debary to Jacksonville. What's left of the storm is now drenching the Southeast with heavy rain, bringing the threat of flooding and tornadoes.

And there is yet another storm Florida residents will have to keep a wary eye on. Tropical storm Gustav formed in the Caribbean this afternoon. Hurricane warnings are up for the Dominican Republic and for Haiti.

And the Obama campaign no doubt relieved Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will not be attending the party's convention. Lawyers for the Democratic superdelegate confirmed he will not try to have his travel restrictions lifted. Kilpatrick can't leave the Detroit area as a condition of his bond. He is awaiting trial on assault and perjury charges. A Michigan spokesman for Barack Obama has said the party doesn't want any distractions in Denver.

Back to Denver now and Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much, Carol.

The Material Girl is getting political. That would be Madonna. She's attacking John McCain. Stand by for that.

And bloggers getting unprecedented access to this convention here in Denver. We've got the situation online.

Stay with us.

You're watching the Democratic National Convention in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

She's called the rock of her family. Tonight Michelle Obama hopes to rock the Democratic National Convention. We'll hear from her.

Will there be party unity as Democrats unite to nominate the party nation's first African-American candidate and will Hillary Clinton backers come on board?

Got religion; the Democrats put faith front and center at their national convention here in Denver, an interfaith rally at the DNC.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

BLITZER: Let's go to the podium right now. Candy Crowley is getting new information, potentially important information on how the Democrats can stay united and it involves credentials.

What do we know, Candy?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. What we know is that in the next ten minutes, one of the most contentious issues during the primary season will be laid to rest. They are going to seat the Michigan and the Florida delegations.

You'll remember, Wolf, we talked about this for months. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, fighting over whether these two states, who held their primaries outside the approved Democratic National Committee calendar, would be seated or not be seated. It has been a very long, involved process.

In the end, we all knew that whoever the nominee was, they would seat the entire delegation, because those are two very big, very important states that neither party wants to tick off.

So we knew that they would in fact seat the entire delegation. But boy, as you know, we did spend a lot of time, because the problem was that Hillary Clinton won both contests. Barack Obama, not on the ballot in Michigan. Neither one of them campaigned in Florida. But Hillary Clinton knew that it was a cache of delegates that she could use to ramp up her total. That will not happen, of course. Barack Obama is coming out of here the winner. But today the Michigan and the Florida delegations will be fully seated.

BLITZER: All right. Candy, that will remove one aspect of a potential debate here. Thanks very much. Candy's up on the podium.

Let's go down to the floor. Jessica Yellin's there with a Clinton delegate from California.

What do we know about this delegate, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steven Ferguson is a 19-year-old delegate at his first convention. He tells me he plans to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton.

You say that you feel half the Democratic Party in pain and doesn't want their voice stifled. Why are you voting for Clinton?

STEVEN FERGUSON, CLINTON DELEGATE: You know, I'm a district level delegate. I was elected by the people of my hometown to vote for Hillary Clinton.

YELLIN: I'm sorry, I'm afraid our microphone is not working. We'll get back to you. And back to Steven, Wolf. Sorry.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jessica, very much.

We want to speak to this is delegates, especially those Clinton delegates who are not very happy.

The speaker lineup for tonight, by the way, here at the convention includes some of the party's most prominent and liberal members, including the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Senator Ted Kennedy, and former President Jimmy Carter.

Let's talk about that and more with our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, James Carville, along with our CNN contributor, Bill Bennett, the host of the conservative radio talk show host "Morning in America" and fellow at the Claremont Institute.

James, highlighting all these liberals tonight, is that the way these Democrats can reach out to moderates, to independents, and say, you know, it's time for a change?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's going to be a very, very emotional moment if Senator Kennedy comes in this hall. I think regardless of anybody's political ideology, he's probably the most accomplished senator in the United States senate since World War II. And I don't think that's what the public is going to gleam from this at all.

BLITZER: It will be an emotional moment.

CARVILLE: It will be a very, very emotional moment. By the way, speaker Pelosi is the speaker of the house of the United States, the highest ranking woman to ever serve in the United States government in the country. I think it will be great.

BLITZER: Do you think that is the way the Democrats should be kicking off their convention, this first night, Bill?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's their party and they can be emotional or cry if they want to, or be liberal if they want to. It is going to be emotional. Ted Kennedy is their lion. But it's liberal. There's no doubt about it. The Clintons have been dethroned, they're out, they're gone or so we think. I guess that's yet to be decided. We're all watching that with interest. But this is a more liberal party. It is a more liberal platform than we had with Bill and Hillary Clinton. This is different. This is not your big brother's Democratic Party; it's your father's Democrat Party, back to the left.

CARVILLE: The Democrat Party, as you understand it, I think most people, probably the Democratic Party, but I would rather have one Teddy Kennedy than 100 Dick Cheneys on their Monday night and that's who they're going to have there Monday night.

BLITZER: Because he'll be the opening --

CARVILLE: I'm very proud to be a member of the Democratic Party, which is Ted Kennedy's party.

BENNETT: We'll have a great Monday night. Dick Cheney has done his part to keep this country safe. And we have John McCain, I need to remind James and the rest of the party, we're running John McCain for president of the United States.

BLITZER: Bill, there's some Democrats who have a fear that John McCain may tap a woman, especially a woman who supports abortion rights to be his running mate. And in an effort to wean away, to find some of those disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, "a," do you think that there are any women on John McCain's short list?

BENNETT: The only names I've heard lately, and this is second level hearsay, Wolf, not reliable, Sara Palin, I've heard that name --

BLITZER: She's the governor of Alaska.

BENNETT: And Kay Bailey Hutchinson, senator from Texas. All sorts of names are floating around out there. Lately we've heard the name of Fred Smith from FedEx, Federal Express. So who knows what's going to happen.

But I do think that with the choice of Biden, and I know Joe, he's a conventional politician, he's a good politician, he's a good liberal, this does make it possible for McCain to do something with a little more sizzle, a little more bite. He can reach out a little more. We'll see. I have no idea who it's going to be, though.

BLITZER: I know some Democrats were fearful it could be Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator from Texas. We checked, Bill, and you'll be interested to know she has not been vetted at all in this process. So it might be a little late to start vetting her right now.

BENNETT: OK.

BLITZER: Are you nervous about who the republican vice presidential nominee could be in terms of bolstering McCain's presidential ambitions, and weaning away some of these Democrats?

CARVILLE: Not if he's going to pick Colin Powell. I've racked my brain. Kay Bailey Hutchison is pro choice. I think we'll probably have a collective connection if they brought her in as a vice president but other than Colin Powell, my mind is very hard pressed to think of anybody to upset the Democrats. I think Senator McCain is going to try something different. I think he'll surprise us, but I don't think he'll scare us.

BLITZER: Do you understand, James, and I want Bill to weigh in on this as well, why Senator Obama picked Joe Biden who managed to get, when he was running for president, about 2,200 votes in the Iowa caucuses and then dropped out as opposed to Hillary Clinton who got 18 million votes?

CARVILLE: Well, That's a question that Senator Obama would be better suited to answer. But I think he's more comfortable with Senator Biden than he is with Senator Clinton. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think he just thought it was probably a better fit and as the presidential nominee, that is certainly his prerogative. You know, that's a good question, but it's a question that he's answered. He's exercised his prerogative. I agree, I mean, Secretary Bennett said the same thing, everybody that knows Senator Biden really likes him and everybody's really happy with him. I'm very enthusiastic about him being on the ticket.

BLITZER: Do you think he's a more formidable vice presidential candidate than Hillary Clinton would have been?

BENNETT: No, I think Hillary Clinton would have been much more formidable. They should have asked her. It would have been a much stronger ticket. You wouldn't be talking about these rifts. Joe Biden is very good, but not everybody likes him. Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, they were not I think treated well by Joe Biden.

I think he picked him, Wolf, because he doesn't have any foreign policy experience, he has sounded not too convincing on it on the stump. And I think they're worried about Pennsylvania, and they're hoping this senator from way southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, can shore him up in that county. But that's politics. I'll leave that to James.

BLITZER: Will the Democrats emerge, James, from this convention united?

CARVILLE: Yes.

BLITZER: Because you were a Hillary Clinton supporter and good friend.

CARVILLE: Tomorrow night, starting with the film introducing Senator Clinton, all of this is going to be put to rest. Senator Clinton is going to be very supportive, as is President Clinton. Because we know we're going to forecast George Bush. McCain said he agrees with Bush on every major policy. So we don't want the next four to look like the last eight. And that's going to unify this party, the prospect of having four more years of what we've seen the last eight.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. We'll continue this conversation Bill Bennett and James Carville. Guys, thanks very much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: It used to be Republican territory, courting faith- based voters but now religion is front and center at this convention in Denver as well. How are the Democrats hoping it might help them?

And a strong political statement from Madonna. What she showed at a concert that has John McCain's campaign crying foul.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, as we're watching the Democratic National Convention. It's now under way right here in Denver.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The doors are wide open at this year's Democratic National Convention to people of faith. Religion has helped republicans win the white house many times. Now Democrats want a share of that. Let's go to Mary Snow. She's looking at this part of the story. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we heard the opening prayer earlier this hour at the convention. Faith-based caucuses of also on the agenda. It's part of an effort by Democrats to widen the party's tent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Here's something you didn't see at the last Democratic convention. Acquire singing about the lord. A choir singing about the Lord, pastors and priests, an Imam and Rabbi leading an interfaith rally.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: What you're seeing from the Democrats is a real effort to make sure that religion is key in the Democratic Party.

SNOW: And that's a break from the past. In 2004, Democrats shied away from using faith as part of their pitch but when evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics helped get George Bush elected, Democrats took note.

ERIC SAPP, COMMON GOOD STRATEGIES: Democrats had a wakeup call and said what are we doing wrong.

SNOW: Eric Sapp is consulting the party on religious issues. He says Democrats are speaking more openly about values. Case in point, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a Catholic who opposes abortion, is addressing the convention. His father, the late Governor Bob Casey, was denied a speaking role at the 1992 convention because of his opposition to abortion rights. Democrats are appealing to faith-based groups not voting solely on abortion but also broader concepts, such as war, poverty and the environment.

BRODY: What they really want are the moderate evangelicals. And some of the more moderate Catholics that have a concern about the life issue but also see it much broader than that.

SNOW: The missing prayer in politics carries some risks.

SAPP: Most voters want to hear about where our values come from. There is always a danger, as you're engaging here, you're walking along a knife's edge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: In a recent poll underscores the work Democrats have cut out for them in making inroads with religious voters. The Pew Research Center finds preferences of white evangelical voters have not changed much since 2004 -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

We're not the only ones with cameras inside this convention hall. All around me, there are more than 50 bloggers with seats with their delegations, many of them posting videos online.

Let's go to our internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's watching all the action.

Abbi, what are you seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the state blogger core. This is 55 bloggers who have been given credentials to take their readers right inside what's happening, take them onto the convention floor.

This is video here from the blogger who is seated with the Democrats abroad delegation. He's called Yankee Mike. He is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident of Argentina. He will be posting updates armed with a laptop and a digital camera for his readers all around the world.

You can follow these on sites where people are uploading the video. Or on the individual blogs, that these bloggers who are down there, whether from Washington state, to South Carolina, and these are people not with the news organization, they've used their own funds to get here. Tim Kelly of South Carolina saying he cashed in all his frequent flier miles. It's not just the 55 bloggers there on the floor, there's plenty more media around you. And at the big tent where 300 credential bloggers there are following everything that's going on outside -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Madonna's latest concert tour, the John McCain campaign is calling it outrageous. So why the harsh words for the material girl? Get ready, we're going to show you.

Security is tight here in Denver. What it takes to keep the Democratic National Convention safe.

But first, Jeanne Moos has a "Moost Unusual" convention moment for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You won't see this scent for sale at the Democratic convention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fragrance for a woman who lost one thing she always wanted and instead just gets one lousy speech.

MOOS: A comedy group called Public Service Administration created catharsis, calling it a temper tantrum in a bottle. Just when the real Hillary is saying him, him, him.

CLINTON: Ready to elect Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smells like a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A woman who is pretty sure she should be president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she'll have to settle for this.

MOOS: With an unconventionally cathartic moment.

I'm Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention. Let's go to the floor of Colorado delegation. Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with a delegate.

What can you tell us, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. I am with Sara Hicks from Colorado and she's having a great time already from the kickoff of the convention. We were talking a little bit about a lot of the attention you were getting. First and foremost, tell us about the beautiful outfit, you made this from head to toe. Give us a little bit of a description.

SARA HICKS, COLORADO DELEGATE: Well, I love red, white and blue and I'm known for the red, white and blue. I have a wardrobe and this is the flag, why not? I love it. I love this country. This is what it's all about.

MALVEAUX: You said last year you had lights going off, batteries caused a problem with security.

HICKS: I couldn't get through security because I kept going off. So they finally said what do you have on? I said it's batteries. They said, can you take it off? I said not unless you want me to get indecent.

MALVEAUX: You and your husband both party officials. How did you get involved? There's a lot of passion, a lot of excitement you bring to the party.

HICKS: I got involved when I was 11 years old with my grandfather in the segregated south. I helped him walk precincts for JFK. My husband, once he married me, he had no choice. He had to do it.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much, Sara Hicks from California. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. We're going to be speaking to a lot of these delegates as the day and the night continues. In the meantime let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" --Jack?

CAFFERTY: Looking forward to that.

The question this hour: With the elections 71 days away, are you better off now than you were eight years ago?

Anthony writes from New Jersey: "Not even close. If you add the Bush years plus two happy additions called mouths to feed, we are struggling. If it was up to me, we'd get rid of that pathetic Electoral College that allowed him in and change the two term limits. Why do we have representatives and senators who decide what happens in this country until they're 90 years old and we can't reelect a great president with a surplus? Remember the good old days called the '90s?

Stacy in Virginia writes: "I can't complain about the past eight years. Personally my salary has steadily increased. I bought a reasonable house. I got married. My wife and I are expecting twins in October. The country, however s not better off than eight years ago. Eight years ago there was optimism, a healthy economy and healthy budge wept a surplus. There's fears and pessimism and economy in danger and record deficit spending."

Gary in North Carolina: "The more relevant question, whether Americans have gotten what they deserved twice voting into the presidency a man they would prefer to have a beer with. Al Gore and John Kerry were boring. George Bush was a down home kind of guy. Americans, at least the Democrats seem to be prepared to do the same thing again, vote for somebody they'd like to go clubbing with. Obama is cool but nobody knows what he thinks, just like Bush. That's scary."

David writes: "Yes, those prudent with finances didn't take risky ill-advised mortgages should be better off. Those who wracked up huge debt on credit cards and the like are reaping what they sow."

John in Atlanta: "Have you gotten a raise lately, paid for a gallon of gas, tried to get a job in Ohio, Indiana, had a foreclosure, nobody somebody who has, lost someone in the Iraq war or know someone going to Iraq again? Yes, you got jokes."

Chris in Valley, Alabama writes: "Jack, sure we are, if you make $5 million a year and own seven houses, or is it eight or nine? I'll tell you what, I'll have my staff get back to your staff with the exact numbers."

If you didn't see your e-mail go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours there -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thanks very much. You want to stick around for this next story.

Madonna versus John McCain. And now Barack Obama is weighing in as well. Stay with us. We're here on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, much more in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain's campaign is blasting the pop star Madonna for a segment in her newly-launched concert tour. Carol Costello joining with us details.

All right, Carol. What's the story all about?

COSTELLO: Madonna kicked off her sticky and sweet tour with a hard core jab at John McCain in front of 40,000 fans in Wales, many in cowboy hats and pink boas. She unleashed her political views on stage and John McCain's camp blanked.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Even at 50 she can titillate. During a performance of the song "Get Stupid," Madonna played politics, flashing images on screen that compared Adolph Hitler and Dictator Robert Mugabe to John McCain.

MCCAIN: I wanted to just come by and say hello.

COSTELLO: An infuriated McCain camp shot back, "The comparisons are outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive all at the same time." Not only that, in contrast, Madonna compared Barack Obama to Gandhi, John Lennon and Al Gore. That opened the door for an Obama jab. "It clearly shows that when it comes to supporting Barack Obama, his fellow worldwide celebrities refuse to consider any smear off limits."

Did you catch it? Fellow worldwide celebrities? It plays right into McCain's attempts to portray Obama as merely a celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politically it was brilliant for the Republicans to take this issue to seize on it and try to link Barack Obama to it, but the fact of the matter is, Barack Obama has no control over who supports him for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And the sticky and sweet tour will make its way to the United States soon. As for the Obama camp, they told us the comparisons are outrageous and offensive and no place in the political process. We hope that John McCain will offer a similar condemnation as his allies practice sleazy swift boat politics -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Tough words. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.