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World Set to Watch Clinton; Warner Speech is Key; Interview With Charles Barkley

Aired August 26, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, countdown to a potentially game-changing night at the Democratic National Convention. An impressive roster of speakers will rally around Barack Obama. The most anticipated, Senator Hillary Clinton. What she says tonight could help decide Barack Obama's political fate.
No surrender. John McCain wants Democrats to know he won't surrender the spotlight to Obama this week. Instead, he's stepping up his attacks.

And he's called "Sir Charles." NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley rarely bites his tongue. He has a lot to say about this convention. I'll speak with him live. That's coming up.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Democratic National Convention.


If you're a passenger stuck in an airport or watching us on an airport network, or someone else worried about what's going on, stay tuned. In just a few moments we're going to have the latest on all those flight delays at airports across the United States caused by an FAA computer glitch. Stand by for all the latest developments on that story.

But first, tonight will be one of the biggest of the entire Democratic convention, and among the biggest nights of Hillary Clinton's political life. Day two of this gathering kicks off in only moments. And tonight, Senator Clinton will stand at the podium behind me and speak as the world watches.

It's not the speech she had hoped to give, but it will be the speech many Democrats feel she must give. And it could determine whether her supporters open their arms to Barack Obama or turn their backs.

I'm watching all of it from here on the convention floor. And I'm also joined by the best political team on television. Suzanne Malveaux, Candy Crowley, Ed Henry, they're all watching the decorum and the drama.

But let's start with CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's on the floor.

Jessica, this is going to be a dramatic and an important night.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it will be, Wolf. Expectations for Senator Clinton frankly could not be higher. And folks close to her say she will deliver.

They say that the speech will do two things. One, it will call on Clinton supporters to unify and fall behind Barack Obama. And two, it will go after John McCain.


YELLIN (voice-over): In just a few hours, Senator Clinton will stand behind this podium and make the case....

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We are united, and we are together, and we are determined.

YELLIN: But many of Clinton's supporters aren't there yet.

CROWD: Let the delegates vote! Let the delegates vote!

YELLIN: At least 1,600 delegates came to the convention to vote for Hillary Clinton. And they haven't come around. Tonight she'll call on them to rally behind Barack Obama.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: She's going to talk about what John McCain will mean for this country and how we can't allow him to be president. So, you know, she's going to give I believe one of the speeches of her lives (sic) tonight.

YELLIN: Those involved in the process say the speech will leave no doubt that Clinton wants Obama to win, and, they say, it will please the Obama campaign. Still, the Clinton camp says, Senator Clinton cannot deliver every voter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think absolutely we will come out of this convention as a unified party. That's not to say that every single person that supported Hillary Clinton is going to be 100 percent on board. I think, you know, the vast majority will, and there's still some work that needs to be done. I don't think anyone pretends there isn't.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, I had a fascinating conversation just a short time ago with Pennsylvania's governor, Ed Rendell, who was one of Hillary Clinton's most ardent supporters in this campaign. He said two things. One, he says tonight she will hit it out of the park. And two -- this is interesting -- he said he believes come Election Day, 95 percent of Senator Clinton's supporters will cast a tepid vote for Barack Obama. He said a tepid vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're waiting to hear and to see what she says and how she does it.

Jessica, stand by. You're on the floor.

As Hillary Clinton serves food for thought for Obama, some Democrats are hungry for more red meat against John McCain, and many of them want someone to go on the attack. They are hoping tonight's keynote speaker will whet their appetite.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is standing by. She's also here at the convention.

What do we expect to hear from the former Virginia governor, Mark Warner? He's the keynoter tonight. He's also running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia right now -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's going to be a lot of buzz here around the Virginia section, the delegation here. Obviously there are some folks who are looking for that red meat.

They may be a little disappointed here. Some hints of his speech, a call for bipartisanship. The big question, is he going to deliver? We all remember the last keynote speaker the last time around was none other than Barack Obama.



MALVEAUX (voice-over): It can serve as a career catapult for those who get the nod. Keynote speaker...

GOV. WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON (D), ARKANSAS: ... to nominate my friend Michael Dukakis for president of the United States.

MALVEAUX: ... Bill Clinton, 1998. And it can make for some very memorable moments. The late Ann Richards.

GOV. ANN RICHARDS (D), TEXAS: Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

MALVEAUX: And don't forget who spoke in 2004.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I say to you tonight, we have more work to do.

MALVEAUX: And this year, former Virginia governor Mark Warner. He was on Obama's short list of candidates for VP. His home state, Virginia, is critical to Obama's strategy to win over former Republican strongholds.

He's billed his speech as bipartisan. Warner is making a bid for the U.S. Senate and needs to appeal to Independents and moderate Republicans. It's already frustrated some party activists who are calling for red meat.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's running in a very red state of Virginia. He was a very bipartisan guy when he was governor. And it may be that to put him in a spot where the expectation is that he becomes very partisan may be unfair to Mark Warner.

MALVEAUX: But keynote or not, his speech may only be a footnote this year since all eyes will be on Hillary Clinton. And while she may not have the keynote title, she'll certainly be the speaker of note.


MALVEAUX: And Wolf, there's some people who don't think that that's actually a bad thing, that perhaps Warner will be overshadowed by Hillary Clinton. But the call for unity tonight is going to be so important for the party, they say perhaps it's not a bad idea if his speech takes a back seat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A quick question, Suzanne. If they wanted someone to fire up the base, the Democrats here in this stadium, as well as across the country, why did they pick Mark Warner, who they know is running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia, is trying to appeal to some moderate Republicans, and he doesn't want to go after John McCain big time?

MALVEAUX: You're absolutely right. He doesn't want to do that at all, but essentially they need Virginia. They think that this is really an opportunity here.

There was a lot of talk over the possibility of having Tim Kaine, the current governor of Virginia, on the VP list. We know that Mark Warner was also on the short list as well. That did not happen.

But Virginia is so critical to a possible win, it could be a win for the Democrats in some four decades. So, this really is a nod to Virginia. It's an appeal to Virginia. It's, let's work hard here, the Democrats need this particular state. Perhaps it could have a whole domino effect when it comes to those southern conservative states, and that's what Barack Obama needs for a win -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. And next week, Rudy Giuliani will be giving the keynote speech at the Republican convention in St. Paul. You know he's going to fire up those Republicans.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Michelle Obama's speech last night was meant to convince Americans that her family is just like the rest of us. The wife of the presumptive Democratic nominee talked about things like family and hard work, things that should resonate with millions of people across this country.

The idea? To calm the fears that some still have about Barack Obama that he is somehow different or unknown, or with somewhat of an exotic background.

Michelle Obama described herself as a daughter, wife and mother, coming from a blue-collar background. Her dad was a city worker in Chicago.

She talked about the anxiety that her husband felt when he drove the oldest daughter home from the hospital as a newborn and what she thinks about every night when she tucks the two girls into bed. Mrs. Obama said her husband is an ordinary man, joking about his love of basketball. She talked about his being raised by a single mother and grandparents who "scrimped and saved" so that they could give him opportunities they never had.

She also tried to put to rest questions about her own patriotism, declaring, "I love this country." At the end of the speech, viewers were treated to an unscripted moment between her two young daughters and her husband, via a live video hookup from Missouri.

The girls evaluated their mother's speech, told their daddy that they loved him. It was a moment that could go a long way in cementing the image of the Obamas as an American family just like any other.

Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll suggests that Michelle's speech could make a difference with more than half of Americans, saying that a candidate's spouse is an important factor in who they ultimately vote for.

Here's the question then: How much do you feel you have in common with Michelle and Barack Obama?

Go to, you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: She gave a terrific speech last night. No doubt about that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Looked good, too.

BLITZER: Thank you.

It's no telling what Charles Barkley will say about this presidential contest. You're about to hear from the outspoken NBA Hall-of-Famer. He's standing by live to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mission accomplished? Many are wondering if Michelle Obama did what she hoped to do last night. I'll speak about that and more with the commentator Glenn Beck of CNN's Headline News.

And on the eve of his big speech, is Bill Clinton doing the right thing as far as Barack Obama is concerned?

Day two of the Democratic convention is only moments away.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight Hillary Clinton will praise Barack Obama, but is her husband also critical of what's going on? About a half a mile from the Democratic National Convention, here where I am in Denver, the former president opened a panel discussion about democracy and other issues around the world. In the audience were other former world leaders.

One thing the former president said raising a little bit of the eyebrows, shall we say. Listen to this.


W. CLINTON: Suppose, for example, you're a voter and you have candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that person can deliver on anything. Candidate Y disagrees with you on half the issues, but you believe that on the other half, the candidate will be able to deliver.

For whom will you vote?

This is the kind of question that I predict -- and this has nothing to do with what's going on now -- but I'm just saying, if you look at 5, 10, 15 years from now, you may actually see this delivery issue become a serious issue in Democratic debates.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton was talking about democracies globally, not domestic politics. But with tensions between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters, many people are closely following every single word he utters.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here at the convention.

I guess these were fairly interesting comments that are open to different interpretations, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that's exactly the problem here. Given the timing, it's on the night of his wife's speech, it's on the eve of his own speech. Given the tensions that have gone on between these two campaigns, he says something like that, and immediately, if you are inclined to believe that the Clintons really don't believe that Barack Obama can win, you believe that Bill Clinton is alluding to that.

But he has what we used to call plausible deniability, because he says, wait a minute, I was asked a question about emerging democracies and about what the problems are looking ahead. It does not help in this particular instance that one of his wife's major themes in her primary campaign was, I can deliver, I've got the experience to deliver and he doesn't.

Now, that's precisely what Bill Clinton is talking about. Nonetheless, Wolf, this is something, certainly, that he said -- and you heard him say in that, I'm not talking about what's going on right now, but really, depending on which side you are on, you are going to read this differently -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I guess there's going to be a lot of buzz about that.

Candy, thanks.

Let's talk a little bit more about Bill Clinton, this convention, the overall contest. Joining us, a man who minces absolutely no words, the NBA Hall-of-Famer, the sports analyst for our sister network, TNT, Charles Barkley. He's here on the floor of the convention.

I've got to ask you first, Charles, what are you doing here? Are you a delegate, just an observer? What's going on?

CHARLES BARKLEY, SPORTS ANALYST, TNT: I'm a superdelegate. No, I'm just kidding.

No, I just wanted to be here. This is -- I'm so excited for Barack and the Democratic Party. I just wanted to be here. This is one of the greatest things to happen in my lifetime, that we actually got a black man who has got an opportunity to be the president of the United States.

BLITZER: So, you're going to do everything you can to try to help him get elected.

BARKLEY: I'm going to do everything I can. But this is a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wanted to be here.

BLITZER: Did he make a mistake by not selecting Hillary Clinton as his running mate?

BARKLEY: No, because that -- that speech you just showed...

BLITZER: From Bill Clinton.

BARKLEY: It was why -- you know, I got great respect for Ms. Clinton.

BLITZER: Ms. Clinton or Mr. Clinton?

BARKLEY: Both of them. I think Bill Clinton is the greatest president I ever had in my lifetime. But because of their personalities and Mr. Clinton's personality, it would have been overbearing.

I mean, he is, like I said, the greatest president in my lifetime. But because of his personality, it would have been a conflict all the time. He would have been the most important person instead of Barack or Mrs. Clinton. So, that's why I think he did a great job of not selecting Mrs. Clinton.

BLITZER: Now, you're a longtime political news junkie, as we all know. You want to be governor still of Alabama one of these days. And at one point you were thinking of running as a Republican or a Democrat. But now you're a Democrat, right?

BARKLEY: Well, I said I was rich like a Republican. You know, the Republican Party, it probably would benefits me if there was a Republican actually in there. But I am so disturbed at the gap between the rich and the poor in America. It bothers me a great deal.

BLITZER: You know, if John McCain's elected president and his tax plan goes into effect, you're going to be spending a lot more money in taxes. I'll give you some numbers and we'll put them up on the screen. BARKLEY: OK.

BLITZER: This is from the Tax Policy Center.

If you make $2.9 million a year -- I don't know if you do or you don't...

BARKLEY: I make a lot more than that.

BLITZER: All right, you make a lot more. But let's say you make $3 million or $2.9 million a year. Under the McCain tax plan your tax bill would go down $269,364. If Obama has his way, you would spend another $701,885 in taxes. Seven hundred thousands -- above and beyond. You pay a lot of taxes right now if you're making millions of dollars a year, as you are.

How do you feel about that?

BARKLEY: Well, I think that if you're rich -- I thank God I've been very successful. I think if you're rich, you're always going to be rich. And I think it's up to people who are really successful.

And we pay more in taxes, I've really got no problem with that. When you're making that type of money, a couple hundred thousand dollars here or there is not going to change your life. Let's be realistic.

I've been very fortunate and blessed. I did a great job of saving my money. But I got no problem if I'm making that type of money paying more in taxes, to be honest with you.

BLITZER: Let's go back to where you started. You want to see, in our history, a black man now potentially about to be elected president.

BARKLEY: I can't believe he got this far, to be honest with you, because racism is the greatest counselor of my lifetime. I think anybody who is racist, whether they are white or black, I think they are so idiotic and so ignorant, it just makes me sad. But I am so happy that America has opened up their heart, because for Barack to get this far, let's be realistic, he had to get a lot of white votes.

BLITZER: In Iowa, there are not a lot of black people in Iowa. That's where it all started.


BLITZER: He did really well, and he's going to be accepting that Democratic presidential nomination, historically critically important, Thursday night at INVESCO Field.

All right. We've got to leave it right there, Charles.

Quick question. You used to play basketball here at this stadium?

BARKLEY: No, this is -- I'm so old, they didn't even have this one.

BLITZER: They didn't even have basketball.

BARKLEY: They had the old gym.

BLITZER: I remember that. That was not as nice as this one.

Hey, Charles, thanks for coming in.

BARKLEY: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: A pleasure.

BARKLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: There are some brand new poll numbers you're going to want to see. They show some key states can still go either way. Our own John King, he's here at the magic board to show us which states and why both McCain and Obama should be deeply concerned right now.

And the U.S. and Russia exchanging more alarming words, including talk of a new Cold War. This is an important story. We're going to update you on the very latest.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



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

Happening now, Barack Obama talks about issue #1, the economy, with airline maintenance workers whose jobs could be on the line.

And pay attention to the new hurricane in the Atlantic. It's heading for the Gulf of Mexico. It could turn into a very dangerous storm. We'll have an updated forecast. That's coming up.

And many Republicans want John McCain to put him on the ticket, so why is Mitt Romney -- what is Mitt Romney doing in Denver today, here at the convention? We'll ask him. He's standing by live.

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

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

BLITZER: John McCain isn't waiting for next week's Republican Convention to go on the offensive. He opened a new line of attack during today's appearance at the American Legion's national convention. He's also blasting Barack Obama with a new commercial today.

Take a look. You're going to recognize how it starts.


NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

Uncertainty. Dangerous aggression. Rogue nations. Radicalism.

H.CLINTON: I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House, and Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

NARRATOR: Hillary's right.

John McCain for president.


BLITZER: CNN's Ed Henry is joining us now from Phoenix with more on Senator McCain's convention week offensive.

A pretty powerful ad. What else is going on, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, Joe Biden is set to take center stage Wednesday, during national security night, at the Democratic Convention, but John McCain here in Phoenix today trying to preempt all of that by launching a new series of attacks on Barack Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the department of Arizona, Senator John McCain.


HENRY (voice-over): John McCain came right up to the edge of questioning Barack Obama's patriotism, charging, the Democrat is more confident in himself than in America's ability to provide moral leadership around the world.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent had the chance to express such confidence in America when he delivered a much-anticipated address in Berlin. He was the picture of confidence, but, in some ways, confidence itself and confidence in one's country are not the same.

HENRY: Addressing the American Legion, McCain claimed his opponent is naive about world affairs, citing the lesson Obama took from the end of the Cold War.

OBAMA: There is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

HENRY: McCain slammed that by mentioning his time as a prisoner of war.

MCCAIN: Now, I missed a few years of the Cold War as the guest of one of our adversaries. But, as I recall, the world was deeply divided during the Cold War between the side of freedom and the side of tyranny. The Cold War ended not because the world stood as one, but because the great democracies came together, bound together by sustained and decisive American leadership.

HENRY: McCain also again fired away at Obama's reaction to Russia's invasion of Georgia as too weak.

MCCAIN: Confusion about such questions only invites more trouble, violence and aggression. To promote stability and peace, America must stand firmly on the side of freedom and justice.



HENRY: Now, the Obama camp called all of this a false attack -- the Obama camp noting that the senator, during his Berlin speech, also said he loved America because the nation sacrifices so much for freedom around the globe.

But that's not stopping McCain. He believes this race is a dead heat because of all these tough questions he's been raising about Obama. And his advisers are promising, just wait. The attacks are only going to be ramped up next week at the Republican Convention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Seventy days to go until November 4 and the election.

Ed Henry is on the scene.

The Republican Party is also going on the offensive online with a new Web site countering the Democratic Convention.

Abbi Tatton -- Abbi Tatton is watching this part of this story.

So, what's on this Web site, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are the Democratic speeches you're not going to be hearing at the convention this week.

A new Web site from the Republican Party,, has this video wall of archive footage from the primaries, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden all questioning Barack Obama's experience.

And, then, on another wall, you have got some of the same faces praising John McCain in snippets like this one.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, John McCain is a personal friend, a great friend, and I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off, and would be well matter no matter who. And I mean that.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Did I hear -- did I hear with?


TATTON: This is all an effort to counter all this video and blogs and material that is coming out of Denver this week online.

But, next week, the Democrats say they're going to be ready as well -- a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee saying that they're going to have an online and on-the-ground effort in Saint Paul -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Abbi, for that.

Glenn Beck of CNN's Headline News is keeping a close eye on all of this week's -- this week's political attacks, counterattacks. He's joining us now live.

Glenn, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Let's look ahead to the big speech tonight during the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour. That would be Hillary Clinton.

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: She's not going to deliver the speech she really wanted to deliver tonight, but she's going to have a major challenge ahead of her. What does she need to do?

BECK: I don't know what she needs to do, but I will tell you what I think she's going to do.

I think she is going to come out and kind of give the same -- same kind of tepid slap-down to John McCain that she has been. You know, she's been traveling around now recently and saying, you know: I have been appearing in some of John McCain's ads. And I'm Hillary Clinton, and I don't approve of that message.

To me, that speaks volumes. I don't think that Hillary Clinton...


BLITZER: Well, how should she be responding to those very strong McCain commercials which are using her own words?


BECK: Yes. If she really believed that Barack Obama was the right guy, she would -- she would knock him down and -- and -- and come back strongly on that.

But she's doing it more with humor. And she's -- she's -- she's doing very light smackdown on it, which, to me, says an awful lot. It -- it is -- it is not calling John McCain out. It's not smacking John McCain back down by talking about his record, et cetera, et cetera. I just don't think that Hillary Clinton actually wants a Barack Obama win.

I don't think she is...

BLITZER: Because of -- explain. Because she wants to run again in four years, is that what you're saying?

BECK: Yes. I think, if Barack Obama wins, you know, he could be elected again, and he would serve eight terms (sic). It's unlikely that the country would follow eight -- you know, eight years with another Democrat. It's happened before, but it's unlikely on either side -- either party.

And I think she's just looking at it. I also believe that she believes that she's the better candidate over Barack Obama. And I just -- I just don't see her all excited to win. And you know what? I think that Michelle Obama and Hillary are an awful lot alike. I think who stopped Hillary from being the vice presidential candidate was Barack Obama's wife, Michelle. I...

BLITZER: Why? Why? How -- explain. Explain.

BECK: You know, I just don't know. I think that the -- I think the two of them are very much alike. I think those are the power behind the men in both of their lives.

And I think that Michelle feels she knows who Hillary is, just as Hillary probably feels, I know who Michelle is.

They're both very, very powerful women and have their own agenda. And I -- I -- my gut tells me that it was Michelle that said, Barack, not on your life. You don't want to owe that woman or those two anything. You're not going to them now.

BLITZER: Well, they're very different women, in the sense that Hillary Clinton graduated from Yale Law School, and Michelle Obama graduated from Harvard Law School. So...


BECK: You are so right.

BLITZER: There's a huge difference.

BECK: And there's such a rivalry there. So...

BLITZER: That's right.


BLITZER: All right, Glenn...

BECK: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... thanks very much. BECK: See you later.

BLITZER: We will see you here tomorrow.

BECK: You bet.

BLITZER: Guess who is up and guess who is down for Barack Obama and John McCain? We have some fresh poll numbers of where things stand in three states they desperately want to win.

And some Democrats want red meat against John McCain. They're hoping tonight's keynote speaker, the Virginia Senate candidate, the former Governor Mark warner, will serve it up. Should he? Will he?

And they're unconventional moments at this convention, delegates and others dancing to their own tune. Look at this.


BLITZER: Three fresh polls give a sense of where things stand between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Take a look at these snapshots. They're new numbers on the race in three states each of them desperately wants to win, battleground states. The Quinnipiac University poll shows that, in Florida, right now, McCain leads Obama by four points. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads McCain by seven points. And, in Ohio, Obama is up by one point.

Let's talk about what this all might mean with our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here on the floor of the convention with me over at the magic wall.

Give us your analysis, John. What does it mean?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the big headline is, we have a remarkably competitive Electoral College battleground in this election as we prepare for night two of the Democratic election (sic).

Let's go through the state you just mentioned, and let's do it starting with a 2004 perspective. You mentioned Ohio last, so let's pull it out. George W. Bush won the state of Ohio in 2004 51-49, though, a very close race. And here are some of the key areas in this state.

Here's a place right up here, right up here in the Cleveland suburbs and right down here in southeast Ohio. If Democrats are to win this state, they need to do much better down here and they need to do much better in the suburbs up here. And this is instructive for this reason. Let's look at the 2008 presidential primaries.

Barack Obama lost the suburb of Lake County, just north of Cleveland. He lost that suburb. And Hillary Clinton won down in here. So, if Obama is in a dead heat now, they would take that as a good sign, Wolf, because they believe he can grow down here, but that would be his challenge in the state of Ohio. Let's move over to Pennsylvania. We will clear that and shift back over, another key battleground state. We're looking at it county by county right here. John Kerry carried Pennsylvania, but just narrowly, 51-48. These are obviously the key areas for the Democrats. Right down in here, you see the blue. That's where John Kerry won. That's Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, and all the way down into Philadelphia.

Up here in Erie, Pennsylvania, up on the lake, and down here, blue-collar voters. Again, a quick fast-forward to what happened in the Democratic primaries in this state. Hillary Clinton won all of those areas. So, Barack Obama being ahead in Pennsylvania in that poll is, again, an encouraging sign to the Obama campaign, but that's a close margin. This state, the Republicans believe, is very much in play.

And let's go back down now to the state of Florida. I'm going to pull out the Florida primary there, but then go back to 2004. Here's what you want to look at as Florida goes forward. McCain is ahead right now. It's a critical battleground. John Kerry lost by three points, 51-48, in 2000 (sic).

I want you to look right here. Look at little blue there is up in here. This is the I-4 Corridor from Tampa across to the coast. George Bush won big here. George Bush also won down here in Miami- Dade County.

I want to show you, when Al Gore tied, lost by 500-and-something votes in 2000, look how much blue there is down here and here one more time for the contrast for you to 2000. See, all the -- come up to 2004, much more red up here. This is Barack Obama's challenge. He has to do better down here, a lot of Jewish voters down there, and much more up here in the critical I-4 Corridor, starting over here in Tampa/St. Pete and coming all the way across to the Atlantic Coast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's got a major challenge ahead of him. Both of these contenders do.

John is going to be with us throughout THE SITUATION ROOM, indeed throughout the night.

In our "Strategy Session": Hillary Clinton's mission tonight. We're all standing by for her big speech. Just a short while ago, she and her daughter, Chelsea, they took the tour -- the tour of the podium where she will speak tonight. Will Senator Clinton unite the party by attacking McCain?

Paul Begala and Leslie Sanchez, they are standing by live.

And an emotional day for Joe Biden, as he gets ready to receive his party's vice presidential nomination.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Let's get right to the "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Leslie Sanchez, our Republican strategist.

Mark Warner giving the keynote address, as far as I can recall, the keynoter is supposed to really rev up the crowd, get them excited.


BEGALA: Is he going to do that?

BEGALA: No. Yes and no. I don't mean to be mean.


BEGALA: He is the most successful governor probably in modern Virginia history. He's a beloved figure. He's highly likely to win a very difficult-to-win Senate seat in Virginia that John Warner -- no relation -- has held for decades.

So, in that sense, he's a great choice. But his brand in politics is bipartisanship, very important, especially when you're trying to govern. Less useful at the most partisan event you could have, which is a partisan political convention. And, so, I think perhaps he's miscast here.

I think that it's -- it's almost unfortunate to put him in this spot, where he's almost required to attack the other party. And now he's telling people he's just not going to do it.


BLITZER: ... that he's really going after moderate Republicans and independents. And I guess he doesn't want to be as forceful in attacking John McCain as you probably would have liked.

BEGALA: Well, exactly. If I were his political consultant, I would tell him, don't attack the Republicans. Don't hit McCain. You're running in a really tough state, right? And your brand is bipartisanship.

He was a great governor of Virginia because he got both parties together. But, if I was a political consultant for the Democratic Party, I would say, you make sure your keynote speaker is someone who can take a baseball bat and whack John McCain and George Bush over the head with it.

So, I think it's the casting here that is going to be the problem, as much as the script.

BLITZER: Next week, the Republicans cast Rudy Giuliani as their keynote speaker.

You know what...




BLITZER: You know what he's going to do.


SANCHEZ: We have two competing constituencies and different needs. I would argue that the Democrats are going to coalesce. You don't have a problem mobilizing Democrats around Barack Obama. You have a problem with independents.

On conservative side, or Republican side, conservatives need to be excited about the V.P. nominee. They need to be excited to get out there and want to fight and be concerned what about Democrats would do if they took over the White House. That's a very different message and a very different need.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, a woman you used to work for...

BEGALA: I worked for her husband.

BLITZER: For her husband, all right, so we will be technical right now.



SANCHEZ: That's a nice euphemism.


BLITZER: You worked in the White House. You worked for the campaign.


BLITZER: All right, your colleague from the '92 campaign, Hillary Clinton.


BLITZER: Let's talk about what is her biggest challenge tonight, to unite the Democrats, to make sure that -- to make sure that they go out here united behind Barack Obama, or to go after John McCain?

BEGALA: Well, see, I think that's the same thing. You know, nothing unites a divided entity more than an external threat, right?

And this is a family reunion. And, at every family reunion -- let's say it's a family wedding, right? And about half the people at the wedding aren't real happy with, you know, the way things are turning out. So, what do you do? Well, everybody has a few drinks. Everybody has a dance or two. But, if you're real lucky, the people having the reception next door pick a fight with you, and everybody joins together and goes and beats the hell out of them.

And that is what Hillary, I think, will want to do, is, make the base for Barack Obama, which she does very well, but also make the case that, if you believe in the things she believes in, then this is a no-brainer. It's easy to be for Barack. This is a case she has made to her friends. It's why I very proudly and gladly supported Barack. I still do. And I think that's the case she will want to make to her supporters.

BLITZER: It's not the -- it's -- I was going to say, Leslie, this is not the speech she really wanted to deliver tonight. She was hoping to not deliver any speech tonight, but to wait until Thursday night.

SANCHEZ: No, absolutely.

But look at 2004. A lot of people criticized her. She got in her first kind of battle internally within the party for looking like she did not support John Kerry to the fully extent she can. She cannot have that problem again. And she has also competing interests.

Yes, she wants to be the attack dog, or they want -- I would say the Obama campaign wants her to have the role. But, on the other hand, if she's the uniter, if she becomes the big luminary of the Democratic Party, she stands to gain a lot more in the long term than the short.

BEGALA: Let's run a count of how many times Hillary Clinton mentions the names Bush, McCain. Let's run a count of how many times Governor Warner mentions Bush and McCain, and I will bet you Hillary wins that contest.


SANCHEZ: But another interesting thing about tonight is look at who she is bookended by, a lot of the people who were the anti- Hillary. You have Mark Warner, who is pro-business, entrepreneurial, like you talked about, very bipartisan.

You have Janet Napolitano, who is very pro-business. These are Obama people, Bob Casey, who is pro-life, whose his father didn't speak in 1992, the Clinton fiasco that you had there.

BLITZER: It shows the Democrats are a big tent, right?

SANCHEZ: That's what they're showing, I think very much so. But they're not Hillary.

BLITZER: Ronald Reagan used to like the show the Republicans are a big tent, too.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: But they are Hillary-plus. They are Hillary, plus Barack.


BLITZER: It's a technical point. So, when you worked in the president in the White House, she was the first lady.

BEGALA: She was.

BLITZER: Technically, you don't -- you didn't help the first lady, working for the first lady?

BEGALA: I was not working for the first lady. I worked for the president of the United States of America.

BLITZER: But did you ever help her out...


BEGALA: I did anything she wanted.

BLITZER: All right.

BEGALA: I would have washed her car if she had asked.


BLITZER: All right.


BEGALA: But that is not working for her.


SANCHEZ: That's a good journalist there.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: John McCain has just been someplace where presidential candidates usually don't venture during a political convention. Before he got serious with the American Legion, McCain was also swapping some jokes with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."

And Cindy McCain is also doing something rather unusual for a candidate's wife. We will explain.

And you can't help but notice all the music here at the Democratic National Convention. I got to tell you, I love it. Jeanne Moos couldn't help but notice all the dancing Democrats. Watch this.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We expect Democratic delegates to dance, but when there are pundits let loose...


MOOS: ... it can only mean Earth, Wind and Fire has swept the convention center.


MOOS: CNN's Roland Martin wasn't just snapping.


MOOS: He was doing some fancy clapping, while political analysts Paul Begala and Donna Brazile were supplying their own moves to analyze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Together on this special day.

MOOS: So special that Roland combined finger jabs with BlackBerrying, grabbed a passerby...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we getting this on tape?

MOOS: ... and made a lot of points that weren't political.

With an unconventional moment, I'm Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker" today: Barack Obama and his new running mate, Senator Joe Biden, will soon share an emotional moment together. Both will attend the funeral for Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. That happens Saturday in Cleveland. Tubbs was the first black woman to represent Ohio in the Congress. She died last week after suffering an aneurysm.

Remember, for all the latest political news any time, you can always check out

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How much do you feel you have in common with Michelle and Barack Obama?

Denise writes: "A lot. My husband and I work hard for the things we have, try to provide a good life for our family. They are like most people, despite skin color, even though I am African-American."

Molly writes: "Anybody who was not moved by Mrs. Obama's speech last night has a heart of steel. They are a regular American family -- not perfect, but real. The reason people feel they are different or unknown is because they would be the first black first family. The Obamas are not any less known than the Clintons were when they first ran. They just look different. If America can manage to elect Barack Obama, the deep-rooted unconscious racism that plagues our country could begin to heal in profound ways."

Pugas in Arizona writes: "Nothing. I don't have the audacity to think I could be president."

"Colleen in North Carolina: "Hmm, grew up in the Midwest, 40-50 years old, two kids, one house, college educated, want a better life for kids, middle-working class, did not want to go to war in Iraq. Quite a bit, I guess."

R.C. writes: "I have nothing in common with the Obamas. I don't hang around with rabid racists like Jeremiah Wright and Father Phleger. And I don't socialize with homegrown terrorists like William Ayers."

Lorraine writes: "A lot. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and my father was in Vietnam and my mother took care of the home front. We went through many of the same things as a family."

Kerry writes, "We live in the same country."

Chris writes from California, "I have a lot more in common with the Obamas than Old Man River and the Ice Princess."

I wonder who he is talking about?

And Darlene in Pennsylvania: "I feel like Michelle is my sister, Barack is my brother. And I am white."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Hillary Clinton preparing to address the Democratic National Convention in only a few hours. All eyes will be on the former Obama rival, hoping her words can finally unite this party.

Also, the nominee-in-waiting making his case to voters he absolutely must win over in order to win the White House, working- class Democrats.

Plus, growing buzz about John McCain's vice presidential pick -- an announcement expected soon. One of the top contenders, the former rival Mitt Romney, he's standing by to join us live this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're live in Denver, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

BLITZER: It's day two of the Democratic National Convention. It's about to officially be called to order, the call to order only a few moments away, with some highly anticipated speeches tonight, including the keynote speech by the former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and what will certainly be one of the most closely watched speeches of this entire convention, that would be Hillary Clinton's speech tonight. The best political team on television is here in Denver with me.