Return to Transcripts main page


Obama Prepares to Address Democratic National Convention

Aired August 28, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And the symbolism is not lost on Democrats, as they have transformed this football field into their field of dreams of winning the White House.
We're here with the best political team on television. We're watching all of this unfold. Gloria Borger. John King is here.

We're standing by to speak with the governor of Montana, Governor Brian Schweitzer. He's here as well. And he delivered a rousing speech the other night.

All right, let's talk a little bit about tonight. We're only a few moments away from the -- the opening of this day four. They have got some preliminary activities going on right now.

But, as we look ahead, the challenges before Barack Obama.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Barack Obama has to talk directly to the American people, not only to tell them who he is, but to tell them what he intends to do for them.

We all get the message, Wolf, that this is about change. But he has to let them know, A, that he's not a risk and, B, how he's going to take the country, where he's going to take the country, and what his plans are to help them get out of their economic mess that lots of folks are in right now.

BLITZER: And he's got to effectively, John, make the contrast between himself and John McCain.


Now it is Barack Obama's turn to frame this as McCain is more of the same. That is the Democratic refrain here, that if you elect John McCain, you will get four more years of a presidency that most Americans are waiting for to be over.

So John McCain will tell his part next week. But Barack Obama's job, if you will, the Democrats are trying to build a wall that convinces the American people behind it that John McCain is more of the same, and Barack Obama is the guy who can build it up a little bit higher.

If he makes the direct connection -- people want change, Wolf. You study the polls every day. There is no question the country wants change. The question, as Gloria put it, is, like, what do you mean? What specifically is your change? And the biggest question, are you safe? He's 47 years old, only four years on the national stage, still has some work to do, if you look at all the data and even talk to his own top advisers, in convincing people they can trust this guy as commander in chief.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Candy Crowley. She's down there on the field.

Candy, you have been getting some inside information on some of the specifics, some of the trends, some of the tone, what Barack Obama is going to say tonight.


He has had everybody from Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden stand up for him, if you will, make witness to who Barack Obama is. In the speech, he needs to say who he is, what he believes in, and how that will affect people's lives, what he will do for people's lives, because one of the other things that Republicans are trying to do is say, this is about Barack Obama. This is about a movement. It's not about you.

So the connection has to be, here's what I stand for. He's going to talk about the roads ahead. If you go down this road with more of the same, that being John McCain, here is the risk. Here is the hope if you go this way.

So, we will hear some specifics, not in terms of point A, point B, point C of his energy plan, but more about here's what would happen overall. So, you will have specifics. But this is a huge crowd here and not time to outline all of your plans, but to give kind of an overview that then will be detailed out in the final days of this campaign.

So, it's a pretty big hurdle for him at this point, simply because this is a pretty grand setting. And people expect big things from Barack Obama because he does give good speeches. But they also expect that he needs to be -- that he be specific, that people know, OK, you're great. You have judgment. Where would that judgment take us? What does that mean to our lives?

And that's what he's got to articulate tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Nancy Pelosi is about to bring this last night to order.


Good evening, Democrats.


PELOSI: The fourth session of the 45th quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.


PELOSI: Welcome, Obama supporters, to this very special closing convention session. We are thrilled to have this magnificent crowd with us tonight.

Americans, unite here in Denver and across America in our campaign to elect Barack Obama as the next president and Joe Biden as the vice president of the United States.


PELOSI: And tonight, we will hear from our Democratic Party presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

First, please, let's all stand for the invocation by Rabbi David Saperstein and then please remain standing for the presentation of colors.

RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN: Let me ask we bow our heads in reflection.

Eternal God, you ennoble our lives by empowering us to do your work here on Earth in creating a world of justice and peace for all. We pray for America that it may ever be an (INAUDIBLE) a light unto the nations, a beacon of freedom, human rights and economic opportunity.

The protector of this precious Earth, which you have entrusted to our care, may your name be invoked only to inspire and unify our nation, but never to divide it.

We ask your blessing on all the leaders of our nation, that they may lead wisely and with civility, work together for the common good. And we ask especially that you be with that mighty guardian of the contemporary American conscience, Edward Kennedy.

We ask that you send your blessing on Joseph Biden and now, on this historic day, upon Barack Obama, as candidate for the highest political office in our nation. Guide him, that he may ever be a champion for justice.

These things, we ask of you, eternal God, in the sunshine of renewed dreams, committed that the torch of hope shall pass from hand to hand, from heart to heart, until the radiance of peace and righteousness for all God's children shines to the ends of the Earth. Amen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the presentation of colors by the Disabled American Veterans.

Delegates and guests, please welcome 2008 Olympic gold medalist gymnast Shawn Johnson to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Delegates and guests, please welcome Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson to single the national anthem.



BLITZER: Jennifer Hudson doing a beautiful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." What a performance to kick off this fourth night of the Democratic National Convention.

And what a thrill to see Shawn Johnson. She won that gold medal, several medals, at the Olympics in Beijing, and she did a beautiful job with the Pledge of Allegiance.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're here on the field at Invesco Field, as we're watching what's going on.

Behind me, the delegations are gearing up. People are still streaming in. There will be about 80,000 or so when this night is through. The entire football field will be packed and with the delegations and the other guests. And people who have just managed to get a ticket will be coming in to hear Barack Obama accept the Democratic presidential nomination.

We have cameras all over the place, including our sky camera that's going to be showing you a very, very close-up seen of what is going on.

Campbell Brown is here with me. Campbell, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. Good to have you with us.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: What an exciting night.

BLITZER: And we have a very special guest, Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, who is here as well.

And you electrified this crowd the other night, Governor Schweitzer. I assume you have been getting a lot of positive feedback for what you had to say.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: Well, that's kind of a normal Tuesday night in Montana. It just so happened there were 20,000 people hear to listen to it.

BLITZER: Twenty thousand here and millions more at home, most of whom never heard of Governor Brian Schweitzer. In Montana, they all know who you are. But, all of a sudden, you have become a national figure, thanks to that one speech that you gave here at this convention. SCHWEITZER: Oh, I wouldn't be getting ahead of myself there. I'm going to go right back up to Montana. We only have 950,000 people up there. It's like a small town with a long Main Street.

BLITZER: How confident are you, if you are confident, that Barack Obama and Joe Biden can carry Montana, which, in presidential contests, even though you're a Democrat, in presidential contests, they almost always go Republican.

SCHWEITZER: Well, it's been since LBJ that Montana has had a Democratic candidate get to 50 percent. Bill Clinton got 38.5 percent, 41 percent. Gore got 32. And Kerry got 38.5 percent the day that I was elected. But this election is tied, has been tied for the last two months.

BROWN: And do you think it is going to be an issue? You know how Montana is, obviously. On a lot of the cultural issues, people have very different positions than Barack Obama does, especially on issues like guns. You talked about that last night, I remember.

How do you get beyond that? Because those issues are very important to the people of your state.

SCHWEITZER: Well, not many Montana voters are single-issue voters. They're concerned about who is going to lead America in a new direction.

BROWN: What do you think is the number one issue for...


SCHWEITZER: The economy and energy.

BROWN: Really?

SCHWEITZER: In Montana, we drive a lot of miles. And $4-a- gallon gasoline is a tax on every family in Montana. They know that a couple of oil guys went to the White House almost eight years and the price of gasoline was $1.75. At $4, that's like adding the cost of about one-third to their budget.

BLITZER: What does Senator Obama need to do tonight in order to win? It's one thing to win Democratic voters in Montana, but it's another thing to win the entire state, when Republicans, a lot of independents are thrown into the mix. In other words, if you gave him advice -- I don't know if he spoke with you -- what would you tell him he needs to do tonight?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I would bring those beautiful daughters out. I would start with that to demonstrate that he's a regular guy. And he has faced the regular challenges that a lot of families in Montana have.

I would ask him to describe his energy plan, so that we have hope for the future that we will no longer be beholden to these petrol dictators. I would like to have a plan on access to affordable health care. Families in Montana pay a lot of money in health care, a lot of money in energy. And they are falling behind. We need a leader that lifts them up.

BLITZER: Democrats do well in Washington State and Oregon and in California, but, in Montana, in South Dakota, in presidential contests elsewhere out there in the West, not so well. Is it just Montana or do you think he has a shot anyplace else out there?

SCHWEITZER: Well, North Dakota, he's been pretty close. Montana, he has a shot. Colorado, of course, New Mexico and Nevada I think are all in play this time.

BLITZER: As we look, Campbell, at this governor, a lot of people say he's a new breed of Democrat. And Democrats all over the country, I assume, Governor, they're trying to learn some lessons from your success in Montana.

SCHWEITZER: Well, I don't know what kind of a new breed. I'm half-Irish and half-German. If that's a new breed, I don't know. I think it's a lot of America.

BROWN: I have got to ask you. I did read that a lot of your speech that you're getting so much attention for, you riffed on. You were going way off the Teleprompter. Is that true?

SCHWEITZER: That is the first speech in my entire political career that was even written in any way before I got started.

BROWN: Really?

SCHWEITZER: I deliver my state of the states off the cuff. I just speak from the heart. I'm kind of a storyteller. And I try to touch people's hearts.

BLITZER: Will you being going out campaigning? In Montana, I know you will. But elsewhere around the country, can we expect to see Governor Brian Schweitzer in Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida, some of these other battleground states?



SCHWEITZER: I'm running for reelection. I got to go back to Montana and shake the hands of everybody in Montana that is going to vote in this election. If I don't come around, they are going to forget about me.

BLITZER: You have got a full-time job yourself.



BLITZER: In addition to running for reelection, you have got to make sure that you get the job of the people of Montana. One final question, as we go forward, on the whole issue of the war in Iraq, how is that playing right now in Montana? Because the polls show, nationally, that when it comes to handling national security, the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, McCain does better than Obama.

SCHWEITZER: Well, the biggest issue on the war in Iraq is not how to win the war, but why did we go into the war?

And most of the people in Montana are kind of confused about that issue. We have had several excuses from the Bush administration. And on that very seminal point, it was Barack Obama who said, we shouldn't go in.

He has a plan to get us out. John McCain has a plan for us to stay.

BLITZER: So, that's it; it's as simple as that? Are you predicting success for him?

SCHWEITZER: I think it's going to be close, but I will promise you this. You won't know who won in Montana until after midnight.

BLITZER: Hey, Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

SCHWEITZER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much, Governor Schweitzer, who is obviously a key player in all of this, Campbell.

And, as we're going to go forward, let me just show our viewers -- and maybe, Governor Schweitzer, if you have a second, you can give us a little sense of what you think of this whole arena, this huge stadium that is going to be packed tonight. The Republicans are going to say, you know what, this could backfire politically on this presidential candidate.

SCHWEITZER: Well, this is the dangedest thing I have ever seen, that the Republicans are saying, well, this guy, come on, he's an elitist.

Elitist? He had a single mom. He was, in part, raised in part by his grandparents. He pulled himself up by his bootstrap, worked his way through college. And now he's successful. Yes, he's a good speaker. Yes, he's well-spoken. Yes, he has great ideas. And, somehow, that's a liability to the Republican Party. I don't get it.

BLITZER: Thanks, Governor, very much.



BLITZER: All right, and we have got a long night ahead of us, an exciting night and an historic night. There is going to be the important speeches. Later, Al Gore will be speaking. Barack Obama will be accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. There will be entertainment as well. Sheryl Crow is here. Stevie Wonder is here. And we may get another surprise entertainer. Stand by for that.

Much more of our coverage from here at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're here at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. It's not a football game we're getting ready to cover. It's the acceptance speech by Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Campbell Brown is here with me. Campbell, let's go down to Suzanne Malveaux right now. He's got some information on some of the mood among some of these delegates who have been streaming in. And there's a lot more yet to come -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're down here on the floor.

And there is a lot of pride, a lot of enthusiasm for Barack Obama, especially from his home state of Hawaii.

Joining me, Melody Duha (ph).

And just give me a sense of what this moment means to you.

MELODY DUHA: Oh, it means so much.

It's amazing, because Hawaii is so full of firsts. And just having the whole community here, and having Barack Obama, having been born and raised in Hawaii, is just fantastic. It's fabulous.

When I say firsts, there's -- he is going to be the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. In Hawaii, like, my father, he was the first Filipino American to be elected to a public office back in 1954. So, here, the tradition carries on. And it's just wonderful, because we have so -- Barack Obama, he has the aloha spirit. And we feel that spirit. We feel the love.

MALVEAUX: Tell me about the aloha spirit, because you and I were saying it's a little bit different growing up on an island, as opposed to the mainland, because of all the diversity, that, some people, they don't really get that, that he grew up, and there was a lot of diversity around him, and it helps him understand the way other people are.

DUHA: Yes, there is a lot of diversity. And there is a lot of love, because there's so many different races in Hawaii. And there's no dominant or -- there's no dominant race. Everybody just feels respect for everyone and love and aloha for everyone. You have got the Japanese, the Chinese, Samoan, Tongans, Hawaiians, Caucasians, and all of the rest. And we just all live together in one community. And that is what Barack Obama is bringing to the rest of the world.

MALVEAUX: OK, Melody, thank you so much.

Wolf, I had a chance to go to Hawaii twice in covering Barack Obama. A lot of people talking about that aloha spirit, a sense of growing up with all kinds of different cultures and reaching across racial divides, something that was a part of Barack Obama's own personal experience -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember that tough assignment you had, going to Honolulu and spending some time in Hawaii, Suzanne. It was a real rough assignment, but we're glad you did it. Someone had to go. And Suzanne went there.

All right, thanks very much. We will be checking back with Suzanne.

You know, Campbell, I want to show our viewers how they have transformed this stadium. The Denver Broncos normally play football here, and they will be playing football in only -- I think this coming weekend, they will be playing football here.

We have got some cameras that did a time lapse from the 50-yard line, how this stadium and this field went from a football -- watch this -- went from a football stadium to this Democratic presidential -- this Democratic Convention right now.

You can see it. It's really -- it's really pretty impressive to see how -- they worked all through the night. And they got this thing going. And you know what? By midnight tonight, they will be breaking it all down and making it a football field once again. It's amazing how they have did that. And look at that. Look at those pictures.

BROWN: In such a short amount of time.

The set getting a lot of attention as well, which we are going to see Obama deliver on the main podium tonight. You have got Republicans describing it as a temple, a Greek temple-looking thing. But the idea, I think, is, it's meant to evoke -- and I think you see that and get a sense of that when you're here -- Washington, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, that sense of -- that feel of Washington, the White House, the columns. And that's what they were sort of aiming for with this.

BLITZER: And they're going to break that down, as I said, later tonight after this is over with. And the Denver Broncos will be playing the Green Bay Packers come, I guess, on Sunday. It's going to...

BROWN: Do you think they will get a crowd like this?

Yes, this coming weekend, they will get a big crowd. They always do. They're both good teams.

But they are going to have a packed crowd here tonight at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.

We're watching all of this that is going on, Campbell. And, as we watch it, we're getting some new poll numbers as well in some of these key battleground states. Mark Halperin of "TIME" magazine is going to be here with us.

We will take a quick break. And we will speak with Mark Halperin about what's going on in these battleground states, because that's where this contest will be decided.

We're gearing up for this, the final night of the Democratic National Convention -- much more of our coverage coming up right after this.


BLITZER: And welcome back to INVESCO Field and Mile High Stadium here in Denver.

This the final night of the Democratic National Convention, the night we will hear from Barack Obama. He will accept the party's nomination and history will be made.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're here on the field. Campbell Brown is here, as well. And, Campbell, we're joined by Mark Halperin of "Time" magazine, our sister publication.

Mark, there are some new poll numbers. We've been doing jointly some polls. The national polls are significant. But much more important are the battleground state polls, because that will determine who the next president is.

I want to go through one by one some of these results and give us your assessment of what's going on in these states.

Where we are, first and foremost, right now, in Colorado. In this latest poll among registered voters, CNN/"Time"/Opinion Research Corporation poll, McCain 47, Obama 46, a 4 point sampling error. I guess that's a dead heat in this state.

MARK HALPERIN, THE PAGE, TIME.COM: It is a dead heat. It's one of the red states, so-called, that George Bush won four years ago that the Obama campaign is really focusing. They didn't pick this site for the convention. This was picked long ago. But they're trying to use the opportunity of having this convention here to sign up volunteers. They're doing that here tonight.

If they can win this state, it gives them a real advantage against John McCain because it has been a state Republicans have won.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Nevada right now. Obama 49 percent, McCain 44 percent. And remember, a sampling error of 4 points. So Nevada, it looks like it's pretty good potential pickings. HALPERIN: It is another red state that they'd very much like to pick up. Obama has got an advantage there. Remember, way back early in the year, in January, Barack Obama lost those caucuses to Hillary Clinton in Nevada, but spent a lot of time in the state, including in the rural areas, where Democrats have not done well, with Hispanic voters, where Obama is doing very well in all four of these polls -- the three Western states in particular. So that's another one where the Obama campaign feels very optimistic.

BROWN: Mark, why are they moving? Is it demographic shifts more than anything else? Or is it frustration with the Bush administration? Why are we seeing the shift?

HALPERIN: A little bit of a shift in demographics. More Hispanic populations, which have tended to lean Democratic. But, also, it's a Democratic year overall. These Western states have a lot of Independents turned off by George Bush, turned off by the war.

John McCain should be doing well out here. He is a Westerner. But Obama, again, has campaigned a lot in this state. And, overall, if these states don't come home to the Republicans, it's going to be a decisive area. This is one of the decisive areas -- the swing states out here in the near West.

BLITZER: And Arizona, his home state, is right next door to New Mexico. Let's take a look at the results we have in New Mexico -- 53 for Obama, 40 for McCain -- a 13 point spread in New Mexico.

HALPERIN: That is a troubling thing. As you said, a next door state to John McCain. And, again, one of the real swing groups in this election in many of the important states is Hispanics. That's a state with a large Hispanic population. It's the state that's been virtually tied in the last two elections.

And, in the end, again, that's a small state, but a critical one.

The battlefield is not as big as the Obama campaign likes to think -- or at least likes to say. All three of these states where Obama is competing, putting McCain on the defensive, that is a bigger lead than I think he actually has there. But he does have a lead, no question.

BROWN: Let's ask you about Pennsylvania, finally, which is 48 percent Obama, McCain 43 percent. And, boy, we talk about Pennsylvania a lot.

HALPERIN: It's one of the big four. It's a state that John McCain is putting resources into and competing. It's been a blue state. If McCain can win Pennsylvania or Michigan -- those are the two big targets -- he can break Obama's back in the Electoral College.

In the end, I think that Pennsylvania is going to be tough for John McCain. A lot of Bush fatigue there. But that poll has it close and he's certainly not giving up on it.

BROWN: I did see, though, in some of the polling in these battleground states, Mark, that when Ralph Nader was put into the mix, or Bob Barr was put into the mix -- but mostly Nader, who was getting 7 percent in some of the Western states or 8 percent in some of the Western states. But that changed the numbers.

Could Nader actually be a factor?

HALPERIN: Well, this morning there was a meeting with reporters and David Plouffe and David Axelrod, the two top strategists for the Obama campaign, they say they think that Nader vote, first of all, is basically a none of the above vote -- a protest vote for people who are alienated from both major parties.

They also argue -- and I think there's some validity to this -- that some of the Nader vote is coming not from Obama, the candidate of the left, but from John McCain -- people who see Nader as a populist, anti-free trade and in things that maybe appeal to people we traditionally think of as Republicans.

But Nader could be a factor. In the end, I don't think he will be. I think both major parties are going to be really focused on this race.

BLITZER: Mark Halperin, thanks very much. We're going to be doing a bunch of these polls between now and November 4th. Thanks very much for coming in.

HALPERIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mark Halperin of "Time" magazine. Let's go down to the field. Jessica Yellin is down there with a very special guest on this historic day -- Jessica?


I'm here with Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. Sir, this is an historic night. It has significance because it's the Martin Luther King anniversary. What's going through your mind right now?

REP. JOHN CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, all day I have been thinking about King's speech on that particular day. But not the part that people seem to be focused on. Not the dream part, but the part that talks about "the fierce urgency of now".

Those people who followed the speech that day will know that King was admonishing us that we were not making good use of our time as people seeking freedom and integration. He had just written us a letter from the Birmingham City Jail when he talked about the people of ill will in our society making much better use of time than the people of good will. And he told us that it was time for us, as a people of goodwill, to come together and start making better use of our time.

That started to happen this year. Young people, older people, black, white -- people of goodwill coming together to devote their time and energy to changing the direction of this country. I've been thinking about that all day. YELLIN: Now during the campaign season, when you talk about bringing people together, you had sharp words for President Bill Clinton. You found him to be divisive in some respects.

Do you think he made amends last night?

CLYBURN: I thought he gave a great speech last night. I thought his wife, the night before, gave a great speech. I give both of them credit for teeing this thing up for Barack Obama. Tonight, he has to close.

YELLIN: Thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

YELLIN: Thank you so much.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

YELLIN: Wolf, Mr. Clyburn here, a member of the South Carolina delegation, a very excited delegation, including the woman who coined that phrase "fired up, ready to go." She's right here tonight, as well.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much.

You know, Campbell, there's no doubt -- there's no doubt, for all Americans, but especially for African-Americans, to reach this day -- and coming on this, the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, you know, you can't make that kind of stuff up.

BROWN: I know. And there's so much ground to cover, so much talk about tonight -- the speech itself, the politics of it, the uniqueness of this even -- that we are maybe giving a little bit of short shrift to the history of this moment, the fact that it was 45 years ago today that he gave that speech.

And with that in mind, let's go to Candy Crowley, who is on the speaker's platform with thoughts about what we're going to hear tonight -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Well, we're going to hear, you know, in the program, there certainly will be a tribute to this day -- a very important day in American history. From Barack Obama, we are going to hear some of what you heard before, only, as James Clyburn just said, he has to -- he has to now close this deal. He's had a lot of people bearing witness of who he is and what he stands for. But on this night, he has to do that himself.

And it's not just who am I, it's what do I stand for and what am I going to do for you?

So it will require all three of those parts, which will be in the speech, as Barack Obama takes advantage of -- not this audience here, because, frankly, they're going to vote for him -- but that audience out there on the other side of this camera that will be watching -- millions of people.

This is his best chance until the debates to reach out and say here's who I am. Because there still are some doubts out there about him, some people who don't know enough about him.

So this is his chance to kind of close the deal, as Congressman Clyburn said. And everybody else has teed him up. Now he's got to take the swing.

So, the other thing I wanted to just mention, because the congressman brought it up -- that phrase, "the fierce urgency of now," has come up again and again. It is a favorite phrase of Barack Obama's. And it comes in that part of the speech when he says everybody says I'm too young, why don't I just wait, why don't I get a little seasoning. And I remind them of what Dr. Martin Luther King said -- I am running because of "the fierce urgency of now."

So there has been throughout this campaign strong ties to Martin Luther King and this day in particular, because that is a phrase that has been said over and over again by Obama.

BROWN: Yes. We've also heard people talk about the risks involved of delivering a speech in a place like this. I mean, you know, simply by virtue of the fact that there are so many variables when you're speaking to a crowd of this size, live, outside, on a night like this -- you know, the nerves involved, the things that you can't control and trying to create that intimacy that sometimes you can lose with a crowd this big.

And what has the campaign -- the people you've been talking to -- what do they -- how do they respond to that?

I mean, in their mind, clearly, it's worth the risk.

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. And, you know, before we went on the air, I think David Plouffe is Obama's campaign manager -- was up here kind of pushing back against Republicans, saying oh, this is just another example of Obama's celebrity. They've built this temple for the temple of Obama.

And Plouffe says they totally misunderstand that this has always been a campaign about getting people involved in their futures, that it is not about Barack Obama, that that's why he wanted people to come here and see the fruits of their labor and see what's ahead for them.

So they think that there can be some intimacy. This is not a particularly high platform here. I don't know if you can see it, but right behind me is where Obama will be speaking. It's lower and it will give a sense that he is talking with people, not that he is above on a great big platform and looking down.

They understand what the risks are here, both in terms of the speech, but even more than that, the sheer technology of pulling this off. I mean one thing goes wrong -- the teleprompter can go out, the lights. I mean this is a production. So you don't want people, you know, making fun of it in the end -- oh, he tried to pull this off and he couldn't.

So this -- there's lots of things, both substantive and technical, that make this a risk, but certainly one that they think is well worth it because of the audience looking on the other side of the camera -- Campbell.

BLITZER: And there will be a huge audience -- a huge audience indeed, Candy., stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

Here's what you can expect to see when we come back. There will be a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. . That will be coming up. We'll hearing from John Lewis, the veteran congressman.

Later tonight, Al Gore will be speaking.

The culmination will be Barack Obama himself, when he accepts the Democratic presidential nomination.

But we're going to give you all the flavor of what's happening on the field here, including some of the nonpolitical stuff -- the entertainment. getting ready to perform. That's coming up. Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder and more.

Much more of our coverage from INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention.

We're not in the Pepsi Center. This is INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium. Around 75,000 or 80,000 people are coming into the stadium. Many of them are already here. There's still a hot sun coming down on them. The rest are waiting in line, going through security. This place will be full -- jam-packed by the time this really gets going.

Campbell Brown is here, together with the best political team on television.

And, Gloria, you know, I don't know what the thinking was for the Obama campaign, why they wanted to move from the Pepsi Center to here. That place could hold about 20,000. This place 75,000 or 80,000.

Whatever the thinking was, it's lively and exciting inside this stadium tonight.

BORGER: Yes, it is very exciting. And I think they have to be careful here because Obama has to have a very personal conversation with voters about what he's going to do for them in the middle class. He's also got to take on John McCain. And so they have -- it's hard to have a personal conversation when you're in front of 80,000 people.

And so they -- they really do have to -- have to balance that. I think the McCain campaign has done a very good job of portraying Obama as this celebrity. But when you look at the polls, Wolf, and you ask the question, who cares about people like me, Obama beats McCain very, very handily. So don't forget that.

BROWN: And, Paul, you had said to me earlier today that we, as Democrats -- speaking for yourself, people like you and Donna -- were psyching yourselves out, were allowing Republicans and that sort of spin to get to you in terms of...


BROWN: ...maybe not you, but Democrats were allowing it to get to them in terms of beginning to worry about giving a speech in this environment, when the bottom line is why not give a speech to this many people if you're that popular?

BEGALA: Right. If you have a fast ball pitcher, don't be afraid to throw the fast ball. This guy is one of the great orators I have ever seen. I'm almost -- 25 years I've been a speechwriter. He is spectacular.

But the Republicans kind of get in your head, you know, and say, well, maybe he shouldn't be quite so good, maybe we shouldn't have quite so big an audience.

You know, I think some Democrats ought to maybe just chill, tune into the speech. It is, as Gloria points out, a very, very difficult thing to have an intimate conversation with a couple in Parma, Ohio while you're speaking to 70,000 people.

But what Barack has is a vocal range that I've never seen in any politician except Ronald Reagan, who was a radio star before he was a movie star.

BROWN: Donna, do you agree with that, that this was a home run, this was the right thing to do?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And, look, the weather is cooperating. This is very -- this is what we call good football weather. But it's, more importantly, good organizing weather. Tonight, 55 million Americans will be contacted by the Obama campaign to urge them to register to vote. So in addition to this being a, you know, nominating convention, the Obama campaign hope to use this event to go across the country and to urge more Americans to sign up to their campaign.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold off for a moment, because we're getting ready to see and hear this beautiful tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. . That's coming up. This, the 45th anniversary of his "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. .

We're going to show you that tribute and we're also going to bring in our other analysts. They're standing by at the CNN Election Center, including our own Jeff Toobin and Amy Holmes and Ed Rollins. We want them to weigh in on what's going on, as well.

We're live here at INVESCO Field in Mile High Stadium at the Democratic National Convention. Take a look that sky cam. What an image. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention.

This is day four, the final day of the Democratic selection of a presidential candidate. Barack Obama will accept the party's nomination tonight. And we've been reporting and we've been saying and stressing it's historic, because this is the first time a major political party will have an African-American who will lead the party into the race for the White House.

And let me bring in Jeff Toobin right now. Yesterday, you made a moving tribute to LBJ for helping to set the stage for the civil rights movement. He played a critical role as president of the United States.

But reflect a little bit, Jeff, on what this means tonight for the country.


1961, technically African-Americans had the vote, but, in fact, they really didn't. There was widespread disenfranchisement of black people, especially in the South. It was only 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, that African-Americans began to even have the right in practice to vote.

And here Barack Obama is accepting the nomination of his party as the frontrunner. I think it's worth mentioning that, you know, Barack Obama, isn't just some sort of tribute candidate here. He is leading in all the national polls -- not by much.

So I think most people expect him to win the presidency, which is just a wildly transformative event in American life and American history. And we'll see if it happens.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Rollins, let me bring you in.

You've been a long time Republican strategist.

I know, over the years, Republicans have made major efforts to attract African-American voters to presidential politics, usually without a whole lot of success. And I suspect this year, with Barack Obama leading the Democratic ticket, the success is even going to be even more marginal.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No question about it. I mean I would be very surprised normally if we -- you know, we get 8 to 10 percent, sometimes a little bit more. I would be very surprised if we got more than 5 percent this time. You know, my sense today is that Barack Obama has made a great case to African-Americans that he's -- this is a historic, emotional more -- even an intellectual.

And so my sense if we've got to go elsewhere to get our votes to be successful.

What do you think, Amy?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER SENATOR FRIST SPEECHWRITER: I agree with what's been said, that this is an enormous moment for all Americans. This is something, I think, that we can all take great pride in. My friend, Jenna Goldberg, over at "National Review," pointed out that the Democratic Party didn't allow black delegates into conventions until 1936, whereas the Republican Party has actually had a half a century earlier.

But, again, we can celebrate this together. I think that this is a great, proud moment for our country. And I also hope that in all of this, that we won't be accusing those who may not support Barack Obama for not supporting the progress and advancement of African-Americans. I don't think that that's what that means at all, that we can have a fair, honest and open debate about who should be commander-in-chief.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile, tell our viewers what we're about to see. We're going to see the congressman, John Lewis, set the stage for a video tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King on this, the 45th anniversary of his "I Have A Dream" speech.

Why did the Democrats decide on this, the final night of their convention, to go forward with this?

And we're only a couple of minutes away from that tribute.

BRAZILE: Well, Congressman Lewis, as you know, was one of the 10 speakers at that historic speech in 1963. He was the youngest speaker. In fact, there was some controversy about John Lewis speaking because no one knew what he would say. He was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Organizing Committee.

And Congressman Lewis, of course, was on the bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was beaten -- almost brutally beaten -- to get the right to vote in 1965.

I want to mention something. Jeff mentioned President Johnson. We could also mention John F. Kennedy, who actually drafted that legislation in June 11 of 1963.

BLITZER: Here is Congressman John Lewis.

He's -- I guess he's walking out on the stage right now.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: On this day, 45 years ago, a son of America, a citizen of the world, a peaceful warrior, Martin Luther King, Jr. , stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said "I have a dream today, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."

He recalled (INAUDIBLE) the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence.

They issued a call for justice. And they founded our democracy on a mandate for freedom, equity and human dignity.

I was there that day when Dr. King delivered his historic speech before an audience of more than 250,000. I am the last remaining speaker from the March on Washington. And I was there when Dr. King urged this nation to lay down the burden of segregation and racial discrimination and move toward the creation of a more perfect union.

On that day, his words and his example inspired an entire generation of the young and old, the rich and poor, people of all faiths, races, cultures and backgrounds, to believe -- told us to believe that we had the power, we had the ability, we had the capacity to make the dream a reality.

Tonight, we gather here in this magnificent stadium in Denver because we still have a dream. We still have a dream.


LEWIS: As a participant in the civil rights movement, I can tell you that the road to victory will not be easy. Some of us were beaten, arrested, taken to jail. And some of us were even killed trying to register to vote.

But with the nomination of Senator Barack Obama tonight, the man who will lead the Democratic Party in this march toward the White House, we are making a downpayment on the fulfillment of that dream.