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McCain Chooses Sarah Palin as V.P.
Aired August 29, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We also have with us the executive director of the National Governor Association, Nick Ayers.
And, Nick, we had Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson on not too long ago. She was coming to us from Dallas. We asked her about the pick of Governor Sarah Palin. She seemed to appreciate it. Seemed to think it was a good idea. But she also said, I don't know much about her. And there does seem to be, you know, we're starting to fill in the background story here. There does seem to be a little bit of a lack of recognition of her nationwide. What can you tell us about the governor in your association with her?
NICK AYERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION: Well, a U.S. senator may not know much about her, but I can tell you that her 21 Republican governor colleagues know a lot about Sarah Palin and they're fired up this morning. I don't think they're surprised at all by this pick.
You know, Governor Palin is someone that they have already thought so much of and have so much trust in. They asked her to keynote an energy conference in Texas back in April that we put together. So I don't think her Republican governor colleagues are surprised by this at all. She's humble. She's always on point. She's a person of faith. And I think the more people get to know about her, the more excited people will be.
ROBERTS: All right. Well what can you -- how do you answer these questions about her experience? She was the mayor of a town of fewer than 10,000 people. She's been the governor of Alaska for less than two years. And yet Senator McCain has got her on a ticket now where she will be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
What can you do to assure voters out there, Republicans and Independent-minded voters who might be taking a look at this ticket, to say, God forbid should something happen to Senator McCain, if he becomes president, she is absolutely ready, 100 percent prepared, to step into the shoes of the presidency.
AYERS: Well, John, let's be clear, Governor Palin already has two more years executive experience than Barack Obama or Joe Biden, who have spent their careers in Washington, have. She's had to balance a budget. She's had to be commander in chief of a national guard. So experience won't be an issue. If the Democrats try to make it one, that's a fight worth fighting and we'll win it.
She has been a chief executive for two years and has the complete confidence of all of her colleagues around the country who feel -- will have a lot of confidence in her as vice president.
ROBERTS: How do you see her role, Nick, as the running mate? It's a pretty clear role for Senator Joe Biden that Barack Obama doesn't exactly have the full DNA to go out there on the attack day after day after day. Joe Biden effectively fills that role.
What do you think her role will be? How do you see it, together with John McCain topping the ticket? Will she be the sort of attack dog that a vice-presidential running mate has traditionally been? Or will she be something else?
AYERS: No, she won't be the attack dog, John, because this election shouldn't be about attacks. That's certainly what they hired Joe Biden for.
Sarah Palin brings executive experience to the ticket. She's from one of the largest energy-producing states in the country. She knows a lot about energy. Her role in this election will be reaching out to women who are probably upset that Hillary Clinton, who got 18 million votes, didn't find her way on the ticket.
You know, we've got a perfect pick in Sarah Palin, someone who can reach out to those Clinton supporters but also fire up the Republican base. It's a perfect pick. And I think Republicans, Democrats, and independents will be able to unite behind this ticket.
ROBERTS: Nick Ayers, the executive director of the National Governors' Association. Nick, thanks.
AYERS: Republican Governors' Association.
ROBERTS: Appreciate it. All right.
AYERS: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: Sorry, Republican Governors' Association. All right.
You're watching continuing coverage of the breaking news here of Senator John McCain's announcement of his vice-presidential running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of New -- of Alaska.
We want to welcome in our international viewers who are watching on CNN-I today. And let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, as well as CNN reporter Hilary Rosen.
You've been watching this all day, John. You were working your sources, helping to break this story. What do you make of the pick? And what do you think the McCain campaign is up to?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a bold pick, but some and even many Republicans are characterizing it as a risky pick for John McCain. And here's what Republicans are telling us today, John.
You're coming out of an election. You saw the historic moment here last night in Denver. Barack Obama has a new grassroots organization. He's bringing new voters in to the polls. How many months have we been talking about the enthusiasm gap between the Democrats and the Republicans? The Democratic base is fired up. It believes it has the energy and the momentum in this election. And we've been saying, well, social conservatives, the Karl Rove/George W. Bush Republican base, they don't like, they don't trust John McCain.
Already -- already we are seeing evidence that they very much like his vice-presidential pick. And the McCain campaign thinks, again, the fundamentals overwhelmingly favor the Democrats. If they are to win, they have to somehow find a way to fire up their base, which has been suspicious of John McCain for much of his career. Fire up their base and generate high turnout among Republicans and try to find a way to reach into the middle, to independents, suburban women and if they can, Hillary Clinton voters.
Many of those Hillary Clinton voters -- not, probably, a majority -- but a slice of the Hillary Clinton voters are the so-called Reagan Democrats who have voted Republican before. So what they're hoping to do here, and they acknowledge that she's a new-comer. We'll see if she can withstand 67 days on the national stage and how she holds up to that pressure in that spotlight.
But they think, if she is up to the test and they're happy with this first performance, that they have a chance in an election where, when they look at the fundamentals, they think the odds are very long. So if they can fire up their base and reach out a little bit more, she can surprise people. Maybe they can change the dynamic of a race that is not heading in their direction.
ROBERTS: John, we have seen over the past few weeks there Rush Limbaugh taking an active role in trying to convince John McCain not to choose somebody like Joe Lieberman or Governor Ridge, former Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania. We have heard reports that Karl Rove actually telephoned Joe Lieberman, urging him to withdraw.
Does this satisfy all of the concerns that were pointed toward Senator McCain in terms of his vice-presidential pick? Or might some people be looking at this to say, this does raise some questions that we're going to have to deal with over the next eight weeks?
KING: Well, the social conservative wing of the party is overwhelmingly happy, by all accounts. Will there be one or two voices out there that say I don't think this or I don't like that? Of course there will be, as there are on the Democratic side.
But the Democratic side, pretty small, overwhelmingly positive reception of Joe Biden. We'll see how this one plays out.
The big question for Sarah Palin will be what we heard from Senator Hutchinson when we had her on this morning, Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas: "I don't really know her."
So many Republicans are going to ask the same question. Now they will get their marching orders, and they will ask them more privately than publicly. But Senator Hutchinson was on right after this news broke. But of course, many Republicans are going to say the same question Democrats say: Is she really up to being commander in chief? And Sarah Palin is going to have to answer that question over the next 67 days.
But again, I go back to the fundamentals of this race. The Republican presidential approval rating is in the 20s. Barack Obama has momentum coming out of this convention. He has registered new voters around the country in record numbers. The Republicans, looking at that dynamic, say the Democrats are most likely going to win this November in election. What can we do to try to change the dynamic in the election?
This is a risk, but they think it is a risk worth taking and can potentially change the electoral map by making the Republicans again more solid out here in the west and, they hope, energize their base and perhaps at least get them a new fresh look from some other voters.
ROBERTS: Hilary Rosen, how is the Obama campaign looking at this? Are they saying, you know, "We thought that he was going to pick either Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. They were known quantities. This is a real out-of-the-box pick. This could change the dynamic"?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the Republican Party might still be captive to the social conservatives and couldn't pick a VP nominee that was outside of that box. But most of the country has moved past the issues of only abortion and gay rights and sort of want a president that's thinking about bigger picture.
I think John McCain probably shook up the race a lot today; only I think the way he shook it up is he almost made Joe Biden and Barack Obama a safer pick, you know, a more known pick. And that's not what he intended to do, but I think it is what they ended up doing today.
The -- look at the speeches. She directly invited a comparison with Hillary Clinton. I think that's a mistake. The reason women liked Hillary Clinton was because they sort of got the first qualified woman ever to be a presidential candidate. I don't think you can just, you know, change skirts and put it on another woman and have it be an acceptable thing. So -- I should say pant suit.
But the -- so I think in some respects, it's almost dismissive of women to suggest that it's just about gender. And she's going to have to answer that, and she's invited that comparison herself.
ROBERTS: Still, all right, you can't get around the fact that there are a substantial number of disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. Our CNN polling that was out earlier this week suggested that 27 percent of them will vote for John McCain rather than vote for Barack Obama. That's an increase of 11 points in just a couple of months.
Does this now -- if those people were thinking about voting for John McCain, if they get a woman in addition to Senator McCain, does that lock up that segment of the vote?
ROSEN: I don't think so. I think keeps them in play for a while. But those are traditionally the people who decide the last in an election in the last two weeks. So clearly, that's going to be the target for the next couple of weeks.
But I don't think he's given very much energy to that today. You know, I heard two things. She's a mom, and she's for oil and gas. And my guess is over the next several weeks, they're going to try and avoid this foreign policy debate, which they clearly cannot win with her. They're going to try and avoid the risk issues. And they're going to try to hammer on those two issues: she can do energy and she's a mom like you. I'm just not sure that's going to be enough.
ROBERTS: John, she has a very interesting story. She's an avid outdoors person. She hunts. She fishes. She loves to drive snowmobiles, as well. Does that have any resonance with people in the Republican Party? I mean, you're in Alaska or you're in a place like Colorado, the outdoors life is the life to lead. What kind of resonance might that have? Does it show that she's a strong woman?
KING: Again, if you look at the electoral map, it has potential. And I want to stay in the area of potential. She has to prove herself on this stage. She's an unknown. some of our criticism may not be fair to her. Maybe in two weeks we will go back and say, "Wow, she is a lot more polished and a lot more prepared as a candidate than we thought she was."
But because we don't know her, the country is going to ask these questions, and we in the media are going to ask these questions. But again, remember who spoke at this convention here. They had the governor of Montana. He stole the show, and the Democrats think they can compete in a state like Montana. Been a long time. Bill Clinton won it in 1992. They are close now; they are close now. And the Democrats won it in '92 with the help of Ross Perot. It's close right now.
Some of the -- South Dakota is relatively close right now. Everyone expects it will go back Republican, but Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, even her state of Alaska, some Democrats say, was in play.
ROBERTS: John, here's that interesting picture that you and I were looking at just a little while ago.
KING: A visit to Kuwait to see the troops just a few months back. And you know, she's a lifelong member of the NRA. Her husband's a commercial fisherman. You see her there. That's an M-4, I believe, in Kuwait, testing that out. That's a picture the McCain campaign will be happy to spread in the mountain west and in other places where guns have traditionally helped Republicans.
She fits the profile of what you would say is a classic Republican from an Electoral College perspective, from a fundraising and motivating their base perspective. She's going to have to prove herself. We're going to say that over and over again.
But I go back to this point. If you're John McCain looking at what Barack Obama has done to this race from an energizing the Democratic base, bringing in new people, and potentially changing the electoral map, because he is in play in so many states that George W. Bush won last time, they clearly looked at the map, realized a traditional Republican was not going to be enough, in their view.
And they went outside the box for a pick that is -- everybody can agree on that. This is an outside-the-box, bold pick. Is it a bad pick? Is it a risky pick? Is it a major success pick? That's what we're going to learn over the next six to seven days.
ROBERTS: What do you think, Hilary? Does this at all blunt any potential momentum that Senator Obama gets out of his convention and that speech he gave in that huge venue here at INVESCO Field behind us?
Or are the two completely separate issues? The Democrats will look at what happened here at the Democratic convention, won't pay attention to this? And Republicans will pay attention to this and not pay attention to what happened here in INVESCO Field?
ROSEN: Well, this was bound to happen. I think John made the point earlier that it takes a big press day away from Barack Obama that he had.
But you know, conventions are sort of like football games in two halves. You know, one team plays offense the first week, and then the next team gets to play offense the second week.
And so, you know, I think this is going to dominate next week, and you're going to see Democrats doing over the next week exactly what Republicans were trying to do this week, which is undermine the message. I think John McCain's given Democrats a lot of ammunition today.
ROBERTS: Let's go to Ed Henry. He's live in Dayton, Ohio, for us.
And Ed, you were there inside the hall as the announcement was made. Tell us a little bit about the dynamic in the room. How accepting, how enthusiastic were people about this -- this pick of Governor Palin for the running mate?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was extremely electric in here when Senator John McCain first walked in with his wife without his running mate. And then, as he sort of teased it out a little bit, about the search he had conducted and then start hinting that it was a woman before he actually came out with the name, there was some real hollering here, real excitement here. You could see a lot of energy.
But I just spoke to one voter, a Republican voter who told me he's still questioning the experience question. He did not hear enough from Sarah Palin herself and John McCain in answering that.
I think another thing to highlight is the fact that I can't remember the last time at a Republican rally I heard a candidate talk and tout union membership. John McCain today touting that Sarah Palin was a union member, her husband a union member, as well as a commercial fisherman. And his point was, as he put it, that she understands the cost of groceries and gasoline. Interesting, because I think that gives a little window on perhaps why Mitt Romney was not picked. He obviously is very wealthy: estimated worth in the neighborhood of $250 million. We had that controversy about how many homes John McCain has. Obviously, they realized the economy is a major issue and connecting, with working- class voters is important.
And finally, I would highlight what you mentioned about Hillary Clinton. It was quite interesting that she -- Sarah Palin was very, very direct in her pitch to Hillary Clinton supporters. Take a listen.
OK. We don't have the sound. But the bottom line is that in the crowd here, it was interesting because, when Sarah Palin mentioned the history and saying it was only the second time since Geraldine Ferraro, there was a lot of cheering for Geraldine Ferraro.
But then she mentioned Hillary Clinton had just been saying at the Democratic convention there have been 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. Well, there was sort of a mixed reaction at first, because, actually, a lot of people in the crowd obviously are not Hillary Clinton fans.
We do have that sound. Now take a listen to how she put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievement of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign.
It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But Sarah Palin obviously opposes abortion rights. So it's not clear that, just because they make the pitch the Republican ticket will be able to pull in a lot of disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. But that's going to be something to watch.
And the bottom line, of course, is that we saw today now that history will be made on November 4, that no matter who wins, at the end of all of this -- this election, one side is going to win and have a non-white male on their ticket. It's either going to be a woman for the first time as vice president or, for the first time, an African- American president -- John.
ROBERTS: All right. Certainly, history will be made on November the 4th. Ed Henry, live for us in Dayton, Ohio. Ed, thanks so much.
Just little bit more to refresh your memory -- memory on who Sarah Palin is. She is a first-term governor of the state of Alaska, elected in 2006. She was the former mayor of the town of Wasilla. She enjoys hunting, fishing and snowmobiling, and her favorite meal is moose stew.
Our coverage continues on CNN and CNN International after a quick break. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
ROBERTS: The scene not too long ago in Dayton, Ohio, as Senator John McCain introduced Governor Sarah Palin -- there she is -- on the national stage, as his vice-presidential running mate. The two of them will go to convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. On Monday it begins. And she gives her speech, her acceptance speech, on Wednesday evening.
You're watching continue coverage of the vice-presidential -- vice-presidential announcement, breaking news here on CNN. And a welcome to our viewers around the world who are watching on CNN-I.
We've been getting all kinds of reaction from both Republicans and Democrats on the pick of Governor Palin as the running mate. Certainly, some Democrats have been less than kind, saying it appears to be a move of desperation. But John King, you just got an e-mail from the senior leadership of the Obama campaign taking a slightly different tone.
KING: This is, I think, John, what we will call the classic good cop-bad cop, or bad cop-good cop, in order, this time.
Remember, the first statement from the Obama campaign was, "This takes experience off the table. How can John McCain criticize Barack Obama for not having the experience to be commander in chief when he picks a first-term 44-year-old governor from the distant state of Alaska?"
A much harsher statement from Barack Obama aides, but a very gracious statement now from Barack Obama and Joe Biden, his running mate. They say this: "We send our congratulations to Governor Sarah Palin and her family on the designation as the Republican nominee for vice president. It is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics. While we obviously have differences over how best to lead this country forward, Governor Palin is an admirable person and will add a compelling new voice to this campaign." Again, that from Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joe Biden, they taking the high road here, being quite gracious.
And remember John McCain ran a gracious ad last night on television, saying that, while they would be back at it today, and they're back at it today, he congratulated Barack Obama last night on his historic achievement, getting the Democratic nomination, the first African-American to do that.
So a very gracious statement here from the candidates themselves, but this puppy's been lighting up all day with pretty slashing statements from other Democrats about this choice. ROBERTS: You alluded to a John McCain statement on Thursday night. There was that caveat of "Tomorrow is another day, and we'll be back it." Was there a caveat in this one?
KING: There is not.
KING: But yes, that's assumed, yes. One of those things in politics, we just know it's coming.
Look, his campaign is already sending out material on her record, on her positions. One of the things they've sent out, and this is a -- I remember when this was covered in the media. Not that long ago, she had some significant praise for parts of Barack Obama's energy plan.
Now, the Democrats are saying that, and I think the Republicans will say, yes, that's one of the reasons John McCain picked her. You just heard it. They say they want to reach across the aisle. They want to get everybody in the room, and they think that's what's broken about politics, the polarization.
But that will be another thing thrown into the mix as we analyze the history and the record and the political statements and positions of Governor Palin.
ROBERTS: Again, there is a bit of a discrepancy between Senator John McCain's energy plan and what Governor Palin would like to see. She advocates drilling in the wildlife refuge; he says it's a pristine area, should remain off limits. Interesting to see the back and forth there between the two campaigns.
KING: We have another -- yet another element in what was already a very competitive, very dramatic and compelling campaign. So it's been that kind of year.
ROBERTS: Senator McCain and his running mate are going to hit the campaign trail in advance of next week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. That's where our Gloria Borger, senior political analyst, is.
What kind of impact is this announcement having today, Gloria, in the Twin Cities?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: well, you know, obviously, there's a lot of buzz about it. And it's interesting, John, because the one thing that I noticed about her today was she really didn't go on the attack.
So not only is this a game changer, but they may decide that their vice-presidential candidate, instead of being the -- you know, the attack dog, which generally can be a tough role for a woman, but instead of being the attack dog, maybe she's, you know, maybe she's just going to go after what they need her to go after, which is women, gun owners, westerners, you know. And I think she can be -- she can be quite helpful there.
Another thing that's interesting to me, John, is I just got off the phone with a Democratic pollster. And he pointed out to me that he called this the 20-year itch. He said, "Look, in 1968, don't forget, the Republicans had Spiro Agnew. In '88 it was Quayle, and 2008 it's Palin." And Agnew and Quayle, of course, won.
If you look at the Democrats who went with experience in '68, that was Ed Muskie. They went with experience in '88. That was Bentsen. They lost. And they're going to experience this time with Joe Biden. So he said, you know, we need to take a step back. We need to, you know, wait and just see how this plays out.
ROBERTS: All right. Gloria Borger for us in St. Paul, Minnesota. And Gloria, we'll be seeing you there very soon.
On the phone with us now is Glenn Beck, who back in June interviewed Governor Palin on his program.
Glenn, before we get to you, let me play just a little bit of sound from that day when you asked her about the potential to become the running mate. She didn't seem to be interested. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, HOST, HEADLINE NEWS' "GLENN BECK": Would you go to that den of vipers in Washington if you were asked?
PALIN: You know, if I had to make such a decision today, it would be no. There's a lot that Alaska could be, should be doing to contribute more to the U.S. And I think that I can help do that as governor of the state staying here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So she is still a couple of months -- at least a couple of months away from that den of vipers, even if they win, Glenn. But what were your impressions of her? You got a chance to..
BECK: I like her a lot. John, I think she's -- she's -- I have not -- I am not a Republican. I'm a conservative. I have been disgusted by everybody that has been brought before the American people on the Republican side.
I think, you know, I think Gloria was right here about the experience. She may not have experience, but the only kind of experience that Americans -- I should conservatives want right now is reform of their own party. They have played into the party politics. They're beholden, both sides are, to special interests. They are not listening to the people.
Her experience, first of all, is executive experience of running the state. But the first thing she did when she got into office was sell the jet that the former governor, a Republican, had purchased. And she said, "We don't need it. Somebody go outside and take a picture of it and put it on eBay." She sold it at a profit. She -- she's the one who took the Bridge to Nowhere, which was money brought home by a Republican, and she called up the federal government and said, "You know what? Alaska doesn't need your money. If we want to build a bridge, we'll build a bridge. We don't need all that money."
She's reforming the Republican Party the way the Republican Party, the mainstream Republican Party wants it reformed.
ROBERTS: So Glenn, you mentioned that she is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative here. Now some of the outrage here, if we are to look at the announcement, where they mentioned Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton as paradigm-breakers for the Democratic Party. If part of this pick is designed to appeal to those Hillary Clinton voters who feel disaffected by the fact, A, that she did not win the nomination, B, that she was not chosen as the vice-presidential running mate, those people may be slightly to the right of center in the Democratic Party in terms of issues like national security, but they would hardly be described as conservatives. How does this ticket appeal to those voters?
BECK: Because she's -- because she's a conservative. Now, listen, we're very early on the curve on here. So I'm speaking here with just what I know at this point.
But when you look at her on the surface, she is somebody who does defend traditional marriage. She opposes same-sex marriage. However, she is the first administration in Alaska's history to provide benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees. So she's not -- she's common sense. What -- too many conservatives have allowed the Republican Party to be shaped by people who are not common sense.
It's exactly the same thing that happened with the NRA. Before Charlton Heston got involved with the NRA, the NRA was about to implode on itself, because there were people who said, "No compromise ever. If I want a tank, I can have a tank."
Finally, the common-sense people said, "There's no reason for a tank. We can compromise on some things. You don't need every single possible weapon at your disposal. We understand what the Second Amendment is for. It's not about hunting; it is about protection. But there are some common-sense things that we can unite on."
The NRA transformed and went from imploding to becoming a real force.
The same thing with the Republicans. They're about to implode, because they have -- they have lost their way. Real conservatives have common-sense values, and they'll look at things and say, "OK, I believe in traditional marriage. But why would I stop somebody from getting, you know, benefits, they've lived together for 20 years? Would I stop somebody from their life partner going to visit them in the hospital? That's ridiculous."
ROBERTS: Glenn, you've made no secret of your distaste for Senator John McCain. The fact that he has now chosen Governor Palin as his running mate, does that square things with conservatives that he still has a problem with?
BECK: I will tell you this. It has made me -- I just said to somebody last night, and I'm a quasi-fan of Romney. And I said just last night, even if he puts Mitt Romney on there, I cannot put my hands on that lever and pull it down.
Sarah Palin, because I believe she's exactly the kind of reformer that the Republicans need, where Mitt Romney or anyone else that was running before was not, she may -- I will today tell you, I may pull the lever for John McCain. I have to know more about Sarah Palin, but what I do know, if she is who I think she is, I'll pull the lever for John McCain.
ROBERTS: Well, may have the desired effect on a number of different fronts.
Glenn Beck with us this afternoon. Glenn, thanks so much.
We've got continuing coverage on CNN and CNN international of the vice-presidential pick on the Republican side. Up next Amy Holmes, David Gergen, Alex Castellanos and more. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States --
MCCAIN: -- Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Senator John McCain just about an hour ago introducing his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, 44-year-old, first- term governor, elected in 2006. Former local mayor there and person whose political star is meteorically rising. We'll see where it goes from here.
Welcome back to our continuing coverage on CNN. I want to welcome our viewers from around the world, as well, who are watching on CNN-I.
Let's bring in our CNN contributor and independent conservative, Amy Holmes, and our senior political analyst, David Gergen, in New York.
Amy, let me start with you. I don't know if you heard Glenn Beck just a moment ago, but the pick of Sarah Palin for him may satisfy his misgivings of John McCain to the point, at least on the conservative front, that he may pull the lever for him in November. And up until now, he said there was no way he would. John McCain has got continuing problems with conservatives.
Does this square things with them? And does this make John McCain more palletable?
AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Boy, I did hear Glenn Beck's statement to you, and I thought it was astonishing, given what we know about Glenn Beck's feelings about John McCain. But I think it points up to one of the strengths about choosing Governor Palin -- is that it does help him with those social conservatives who, while John McCain does have a pro-life voting record, he hadn't really made the total sale with those folks. But Sarah Palin, while she didn't even addressed abortion directly in the speech when she was introduced by John McCain as a devoted wife and mother of five -- the crowd went crazy, crazy with applause.
But there's something else in the discussion about her choice that I'd like to bring up. And we've been talking about George Bush and his low approval rating. Congressional approval ratings are even lower. So to put Palin on the ticket as a reformer, an outsider, really helps John McCain to run against a do-nothing Congress. I would reflect the viewers back to Harry Truman, back in 1948, his whistle stop campaign, running against Congress. It worked for him. And I think John McCain is hoping it'll work for him now.
ROBERTS: David Gergen, part of the appeal of this ticket, at least according to the McCain campaign in the way that they presented it, is to disaffected Hillary Clinton voters, a little more than 25 percent of Hillary Clinton voters say they might vote for John McCain. Can you appeal to both conservatives and disaffected Hillary voters? Is that possible?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know about you, but from my perspective this is the first election I can remember that's pleasing people on both sides. You know, as we've just heard from Glenn Beck and from Amy, the conservatives are going to rally to Governor Palin. They think she brings the Republican Party back to its roots, that she is a strong social conservative. It will honor John McCain's commitments at Saddle Back with Rick Warren he said he was going to run a pro-life administration. This ensures that the Republican Party will live up to those social conservative principles that some many they believe in on the right.
And at the same time, among Democrats, there is very quiet pleasure and excitement about this because the chief argument against Barack Obama, as you well know, the most compelling argument, was he didn't have the experience to be the commander in chief. And now, you know, the person who is going to be the heartbeat away on the other side has even less experience? And you won't have to ask, how often has she been abroad? How many countries has she visited? And all the rest of that we'll get to know. So from their point of view, they're really pleased on that issue.
And secondly, very importantly, they were worried about a Mitt Romney who would bring economic credentials that are badly needed on the Republican side, and would also be helpful in a place like Michigan. Sarah Palin will probably help in the Western states, it's much less clear that she helps you in the Midwest. And a lot of the big, big battleground states there -- Michigan, Ohio, and the like.
So both sides, I think, are excited about this. That is unique. What we don't know in the wild card here is the people in the middle, people who are undecided.
I think the Democrats believe that a lot of those Clinton supporters started to come back in the convention, that those numbers are going to start going down now, the Democrats are going to start coming home. There will be some who will still want McCain, but whether they'll want McCain when he picks a pro-life, gun-toting woman is another question. It's not at all clear to me that you appeal to them. Meg Whitman, for example, had he chosen her, she was from eBay and was being mentioned widely in the last few days, or even Kay Bailey Hutchison, would have been very appealing. But they're both pro-choice. And that I think -- this was the only woman in the group, I think, who was pro-life.
ROBERTS: Amy Holmes, let me come back to something that David Gergen said just a moment ago, this issue of experience and whether or not she has enough experience or is seen to have enough experience by many people to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
When it really comes down to it, in the voting booth, are people going to vote based on her lack of experience, or will they vote based on the policies and experience of John McCain?
HOLMES: They're going to be voting at the end of the day for the person at the top of the ticket, whether that's John McCain or Barack Obama. And the McCain campaign, they pushed back and they say that Governor Palin actually has more experience than Barack Obama, more executive experience. She is a governor of a state. And among governors, she's the most popular. This is a woman who was also mayor of a small town.
But, we look at Barack Obama, who talks about being a community organizer. She was actually elected to organize her community. So on the experience front, I think that that can cut both ways.
Another thing, John, in watching this today in Dayton that I was really struck by was how John McCain was beaming. And for John McCain that really means something. And you could see from her side that she had such sincere admiration for John McCain as a war hero. As I was watching her give her presentation, I thought, wow, this is what real authenticity looks like.
ROBERTS: David Gergen, can you give us a little bit of an opinion in perspective on the point that Amy Holmes just made? That two years of executive experience running a state beats four years experience in the Senate. What do you say?
GERGEN: I don't think either one of them has a long record of experience on international affairs. Barack at least has played at the national level and has been international. Yes, Governor Palin has this executive experience, which is helpful, and it's important, you know, to bring that to the White House. But the McCain argument has been don't elect Barack Obama because it's too big a risk. He's never had this kind of international exposure.
Well having made that argument, the Democrats are going to say, if you believe that so strongly, why would you put somebody on your ticket (AUDIO GAP) who has no experience either? How sincere is this argument? If it's really a matter of conviction, why didn't you look for someone with more national security experience? That's the issue. Neither one has a lot of national security experience, neither Barack Obama nor Governor Palin.
ROBERTS: David Gergen and Amy Holmes in New York for us. Thanks very much.
David Brody is the senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He joins us on the telephone.
And David, you and I were speaking earlier this morning on "AMERICAN MORNING" about the outreach that the Democrats engaged in during their convention this week to religious voters, to Evangelicals, born-again Christians. Senator John McCain has had some problems with Christian conservatives, does the choice of Governor Palin help him with those people?
DAVID BRODY, SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Well, John, I think it not only helped them, I think it really pushes this to a whole other level, John. This is a day that will go down as a turning point, most likely, within evangelical circles. And here is why. I have been on the phone today with evangelical leaders, people like Tony Perkins, from Family Research Council, Richard Lamm, of the Baptist Convention, Matt Barber from the Liberty Council.
These are stalwarts within the evangelical community all telling me that they are overjoyed at this pick by John McCain. You don't get that overjoyed word all that often when it comes to Evangelical leaders and John McCain. But this is the trick. Let me give you an anecdote here, John.
I was told at the Council for National Policy, this is the CNP group where many conservatives and conservative Evangelicals gather, they had a meeting today. They heard about the Sarah Palin pick, they all gathered around the television down there and watched it and they were -- they gave her a standing ovation. These are Evangelical leaders hugging each other and saying this is what we wanted all along. They are now (INAUDIBLE) on board for John McCain.
I think we've seen a dramatic shift today because of that. Because of this. Also, John, let me make another point. And this is really important. She is pro-life and that is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason they really like Sarah Palin.
But, here's the point for the Independent issue. She is part of a group called Feminists for Life. That should not be lost on the audience. Because this is a group that if you want to call -- puts women first. And this is going to resonate with Independents. There are going to be Independent moderate women who are going to get a look at this group called Feminists for Life, will start to see, you know what? They're (AUDIO GAP) more about women to relate (AUDIO GAP) and they'll wrap it all into that.
So, that is not to be lost here. And that will play into the Independent argument. Watch for that coming up -- John.
ROBERTS: You know, David, the newest addition of five children to the Palin family, Trig, was born a little more than four months ago. Trig was born with downs syndrome. Governor Palin knew that she was going to have a baby with downs syndrome and decided to go ahead carry out the pregnancy and give birth.
How much does that play into her story? And how much does that buttress her appeal with Christian conservatives?
BRODY: Immensely, John. The value of human life is how it plays. So, that is huge.
Also what is huge is her Christian faith. For many of these Evangelical leaders, what I am understanding is she is involved in many Christian organizations, like Fellowship of Christian Athletes. With a Team Pack, which is a group committed -- a group of teenagers, Christian teenagers that help to do good things around the country. So, this really resonates with the group.
Also, let's remember, John, that this is a very strong woman we're talking of. A woman of five -- you know, she has so many -- Governor of Alaska, obviously, so many credentials, that that may very well may appeal to Independent moderate women who are interested in a strong women in a role like that as vice presidential candidate.
And also, what I think what we saw today, John, is you noticed her language -- her body language. Very smart, loads of personality. Obviously attractive. But you know, she didn't seem nervous at all. And I thought that was interesting. There seems to be, John, in a (INAUDIBLE) mentality in her. From the reporting that I am doing today, my understanding is that she is going to go on the attack quite a bit. And that Senator Joe Biden/Sarah Palin face off on October 2, in St. Louis, that vice presidential debate will be very interesting to watch.
A lot of people will have obviously Senator Joe Biden, you know, with the advantage of that. But you have to be careful here because Sarah Palin could be very, very underestimated here.
One other quick point. It seems the parameters may have changed a little. What the McCain camp seemed to do today is put Senator McCain against Joe Biden when it comes to foreign policy experience and Barack Obama for Sarah Palin, in terms of the history component of it. They seem to change the parameters here a little bit. And very interesting as we go forward.
ROBERTS: An active fight underway for Evangelicals in this 2008 election year. David Brody, the Christian Broadcasting Network.
David, thanks so much for that.
We're going to take a quick break. Our coverage continues on CNN. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Bush called Governor Palin just before his meeting with President Kikwete of Tanzania. He said that the McCain/Palin ticket is very strong. He wished her good luck, told her she will be a fantastic vice presidential candidate and that he is looking forward to a great victory in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino just a little while ago saying that President Bush appears to be pleased with the pick of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, as John McCain's vice presidential running mate. President Bush, of course, will be addressing the Republican National Convention on Monday night along with the Vice President Dick Cheney.
John King and Hilary Rosen, a CNN contributor, are with us this afternoon to talk more about this.
And John, you've got some interesting polling data that illuminates why perhaps John McCain went in this direction.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of this debate, you said the Democrats saying she's not ready, you know, who is she?
So, I e-mailed around to some Republicans who are closely involved to the McCain campaign strategy and said why, explain this to me. And this is what I got back from a key strategist who helps out with the campaign.
55 percent of undecided voters in their polling and most of the national polls, are women. So No. 1, they're hoping to make a play for the largest pool of undecided voters. No. 2, they say that even though most of the polls show a competitive race right, that if you run it through turnout models and if see what happened here in Denver, they believe the enthusiasm gap, the higher intensity level and desire to vote among Democrats, is even bigger than we're seeing in the public polls.
When they see it in the polls and then run it through turnout models that they have, taking into account the new voters for example, Obama has registered, they see a huge problem. And this one says we need our base back at full speed and full strength right here in this (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTS: You talked about this issue of intensity and you mentioned it there, explain for people at home who might not be completely familiar with it, why it's so important in the general election. KING: It is so important in the general election because if a small percentage of social conservatives stay home in Ohio, and Barack Obama turns out a higher percentage of African-Americans in Cleveland, guess what? The Republicans can't win the presidential election.
And I can take that model through Pennsylvania, we could go down to Florida, we could go to the state of Georgia, where Barack Obama thinks he can put the state of Georgia in play by getting a higher African-American turnout in Atlanta. Perhaps the Independent candidate Bob Barr, picks up a 2 or 3 percentage points. Christian conservatives either stay home or go to Bob Barr, again a former Republican congressman who will be on the ballot as the Libertarian candidate.
So, the calculation here is this -- John McCain has always said, I have the voting record, I don't know why the base doesn't like me. Well, they don't trust him. They don't. Many factions, it's not fair to say all of them. This is a play to the base, a play out here to the NRA voter, a more conservative voter, the sportsman voter, which is always part of the Republican base.
And then they're hoping the added benefit is that she can reach into the pool of undecided women. That's more of a gambit. Hillary I know, would dispute whether that would work. And some Democrats are already saying it's never going to work. I've seen statements from Barbara Boxer, a senator from California, saying, Hillary Clinton voters are not going to vote for her. But, that is part of their gimmick.
The fundamental thing is this, John,. This is a Democratic year. They know that in the McCain campaign. And they believe coming out of this convention, Barack Obama and the Democrats did a pretty good job. And they have added to that -- the fundamental wind -- the political wind in the country. And that if John McCain is going to win, he has to shake up the race and do something bold.
And even some Republicans are saying risky bold. But they figure that's their chance.
ROBERTS: This is a Democratic year. And many people are concerned that it isn't more Democratic when you look at the state of the economy, the price of gasoline, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama should be more than just about dead even within the margin of error when it comes to comparisons with John McCain .
So, will this pick, Hilary Rosen, make the numbers even more even?
HILARY ROSEN, "HUFFINGTON POST": I'm not sure this pick will affect those issues necessarily. You know, there are sort of two pools of women. There are the Hillary Clinton voters who are Democrats and some Independents. But a majority of the undecideds going into this election are not necessarily Hillary Clinton voters, but they are women. And Hillary might have gotten them in the general and you know, many think she would have. The real issue I think though, is what issues are going to appeal to those women. Because as I said before, I don't think it's sort of a gender stereotype appeal. They're still going to be focused on the economy. They're still going to be focused on health care. They're still focused on education. And you know, John McCain is just not going to have a very good record I think, on these issues. That's where the Democrats are favored. Is on those you know, bread and butter issues that the Democrats have been talking about here all week.
ROBERTS: However, among those women, family values is a very important issue. That's why we see Barack Obama talking about family responsibility, reaching out to men to say, you know, live up to your commitments. Even though you may be separated from your wife or girlfriend, or whatever. If you've got children, live up to the commitments. It would seem that Governor Palin represents those family values.
So, is there another battle brewing there?
ROSEN: It takes this whole race to another level of political politics -- of election politics. You know, it's not the traditional, are you for abortion or against abortion, for gay people or against gay people? It's about, what do you care about, what do you project. You know, how do you live your life? What kinds of moral choices do you make?
And I think Barack Obama got that last night. You know, John McCain, I think has been struggling with that a bit in this campaign as we saw in John King's documentary. Governor Palin adds to that debate and I think brings it beyond where traditional social conservatives have had it.
KING: Beyond their traditional base, they think the one pool of voters they need to do a better job with are white suburban women over 30. Sometimes we call them soccer moms. We've watched them swing back and forth in different elections.
They are a swing vote in presidential elections. All other things being equal, meaning the rest of the Republican base comes out to play. The traditional Democratic base comes out to play. We've been called them the soccer moms, they've been called other things in the past. That is an area the McCain campaign says it must do better with. And clearly, this is an attempt to get it.
ROBERTS: Yes. Well, how does Governor Palin fit into that, if you will?
ROSEN: They're more worried about money than they are about values. Because they see -- you can look at all these candidates and see values. They're worried about money and still maybe national security. That will be tested next week.
ROBERTS: They're worried about money and all that. But at the end, when everything else is gone, what's left? Family. ROSEN: But, it's how you take care of your family. It's the -- you know, family values have evolved. And I think even the Evangelical side has come to this. You know, poverty's become a more important issue. How you deal with things like climate change and how that effects your community.
So, family values I think for these women, is as much about the issues of, you know, is mom going to move in with us this week because we have no other way to pay to take care of her? How to we pay our mortgage?
ROSEN: Exactly. You know, those sorts of issues. That's why I think this is a very broad debate now on the economy and values.
KING: And again, there is very little evidence over time that the No. 2s matter on either side. But we need to make that point clear.
But then we have two very interesting vice presidential candidates now. Joe Biden is the happiest man on Earth. You've seen the energy. An now you have another new -- they will get a lot more attention than most vice presidential candidates traditionally do.
ROBERTS: We'll got to take a quick break. Hilary Rosen, John King. Thanks very much.
We are going to go out on the road with the Obama/Biden campaign. Our Jim Acosta is out there. We'll talk to him when our coverage continues on CNN. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: And there's the scene last night at INVESCO field at Mile High here in Denver, as Barack Obama comes out on the stage to accept the Democratic nomination, making history as the first African- American nominee for president of a major American political party.
And by any measure, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, last night's event here before 86,000 people was really something quite extraordinary.
But John McCain making history himself. Picking for the first time, a female running mate on the Republican side.
Our Jim Acosta is in suburban Pittsburgh for us today. He's there with the Obama/Biden campaign. They've got an appearance later on today. And Jim, what's being said on the trail there with the Democratic nominee and his running mate?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as this came as a surprise to a lot of Americans, Republicans and Democrats. You know, we're still waiting for a lot of response from the Obama campaign and from other supporters within the Democratic party. The Obama campaign has issued a response to John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin. And I'll read it to you. This is from Bill Burden, a spokesman with the Obama Campaign.
It says, quote, "Experience is being taken off the table considering you're putting someone within a heart beat of the presidency with this thinnest foreign policy experience in history. Also, it's interesting that he would pick someone under investigation in her own state." And so that coming from the Obama Campaign, courtesy of Bill Burton, a spokesman with Senator Obama.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden are expected to be here in Beaver, Pennsylvania, later on this evening. This was expected to be sort of an unveiling of these two running mates out on the campaign trail after that big event that made a big splash in Springfield, Illinois. They're expected to campaign out here in western Pennsylvania, and also in Ohio. Two states that are going to be critical with those blue collar voters.
And then all of a sudden this Sarah Palin announcement came out. Obviously we all knew that John McCain was going to select his running mate. But Sarah Palin was certainly not the most talked about running mate. And so we're starting to get some responses trickling in.
Barbara Boxer, California senator. A Democratic, prominent Democratic supporter of Barack Obama. She has issued a very tough statement directed at John McCain, saying, quote, "The vice president is a heart beat away from becoming president. So to choose someone with not one hour's worth of experience on national issues a dangerous choice". Those words from Barbara Boxer.
So, the Democrats going right after Sarah Palin and I know John McCain. Noting that Sarah Palin has only been governor of Alaska, since 2006. And John, as you know with Tim Kaine being in the running as a possible VP pick for Barack Obama, a lot of Republicans were talking about how Tim Kaine had just two years of experience in the governor's mansion in Richmond. Expect many of those same lines much attack coming from Democrats aimed at John McCain and Sarah Palin.
ROBERTS: Our Jim Acosta for us in suburban Pittsburgh, for us today. With the reaction from the Obama campaign.
Jim, thanks very much.
We should point out though, that while we've heard tough words from spokespeople for the Obama campaign and surrogates such as Barbara Boxer, of California, a much different tone coming the candidate and his running mate.
A statement from Senator Obama and Senator Biden says, quote, "We send our congratulations to Governor Palin and her family on her designation as the Republican nominee for vice president. Yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics."
So, a little good cop, bad cop going on there on the Democratic side. That's going to wrap it up for our coverage here from Denver, at INVESCO Field. Don Lemon and Betty Nguyen continue our coverage in the CNN NEWSROOM after a quick break.