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John McCain Prepares to Accept Republican Presidential Nomination

Aired September 4, 2008 - 18:00   ET


CAFFERTY: Pat says, "I think the important message from Iowa is this: Iowa has always been a leader in the nation in ACT scores, as has Minnesota, which once again proves, the better educated you are, the more likely you are to vote for Barack Obama."
And Jeff in Oregon says: "Say, Jack, this 53-year-old fat, bald white guy is going to vote for Obama."

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jack, thanks very much.

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

Happening now: a night of accomplishment and attacks. John McCain prepares to accept the presidential nomination of his party and to launch what could be his fiercest criticism of Barack Obama. We're standing by for live coverage.

The Obama campaign is not letting the attacks go unanswered. Wait until you hear how it's fighting back.

And McCain's running mate is talking about her qualifications. She's not talking about her position on some critical social issues. Why? The best political team on television standing by to weigh in.

All that, plus Rudy Giuliani, he's here live.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Saint Paul at the Republican National Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Moments from now, get ready to see a brand-new look at a renewed ferocity tonight here at the Republican Convention. John McCain takes the stage, a stage that will be transformed to bring him closer to his supporters in the crowd. What won't change is McCain's insistence that Obama does not have what it takes to become president of the United States.

As he accepts his party's nomination to be commander in chief, McCain will play up his experience on positions and issues, while attempting to cut down Obama's.

I'm here along with the best political team on television. Let's go to Dana Bash first, though. She's down on the floor.

Dana, this could be a critically important, defining speech for Senator McCain. And millions and millions of people will be watching and listening.


And, Wolf, John McCain's aides are the first to admit that oratory is not exactly his best value, if you will, and best quality. So, they have created an environment that they think is most like his comfort zone. And that is a town hall setting.

If you look behind me, there is now a catwalk that goes into the middle of the hall surrounded by delegates from some of the key battleground states. That's how John McCain is going to address the people here and the people back home tonight to answer the question that obviously is the most important one at all, and that is why he should be president.


BASH (voice-over): Can a 72-year-old candidate convince the American public he's the real agent of change? John McCain will use his acceptance speech to try.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I have got to do is show people the differences in how we're going to change Washington and America and the differences in our positions, and portray them in a substantive and hopefully a fairly eloquent fashion.

BASH: McCain aides say he'll tell tonight's large audience what he says in smaller settings on the trail.

MCCAIN: I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you, for the country that has been the love of my life.

BASH: That from fighting earmarks to bipartisan work on campaign finance reform, he used his position inside Washington to challenge it, and Barack Obama hasn't.

MCCAIN: He hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters, to bring real change to Washington.

BASH: He'll insist the Iraq surge is working, and argue he challenged President Bush to shift strategy, and risked his own candidacy fighting for it.

MCCAIN: I said I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war.

BASH: Aides promise he'll lay out his vision on issues critical to voters this year, especially energy and the economy. And in vintage McCain style, CNN is told he'll accept his party's nomination by taking it to task for losing its way.

MCCAIN: We Republicans let spending get completely out of control. We betrayed our base when we started in all this pork barrel spending.


BASH: Now, an adviser to McCain who was intimately involved in writing this speech says that we should look for contrasts between himself and Barack Obama on everything from policy to approach to governing, but not to look, Wolf, for the kind of biting hits we heard from Barack Obama in acceptance speech last week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana is going to be with us all night here at the convention, a crucial night.

Dana, thanks very much.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, former Republican presidential candidate, is here, with Gloria and John as well.

Thanks very much, Mr. Mayor, for coming in.


BLITZER: So, why should the American people trust the Republicans, who have been in charge of the executive branch of the government for the last eight years, the White House, and all of the agencies, and in charge of the legislative branch of the government for the last 12 of the past 14 years?

GIULIANI: Wolf, it's not about political party. It's about who the president is. It's never been about political party.

It's about the candidate for president. Ultimately, look, Republicans can argue against Democrats, Democrats against Republicans. This is the most unfavorable, unpopular Congress, under Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, ever. So, it's not about that. It's about do you want as your commander in chief John McCain, who's John McCain before he's a Republican, or Barack Obama?

BLITZER: But, if you look at the polls and you ask generic questions, do you support the Democrats or the Republicans, the Democrats do a whole lot better than the Republicans do right now.

GIULIANI: Well, that's exactly why John McCain is doing much better than the generic ballot, because people, when they focus on president -- and I think that will get even more intense as you get to the election -- these two men have very, very strong personalities.

It is going to be a reaction to those personalities. After all, ultimately, the person who makes a decision about how to defend America is not the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It's John McCain or Barack Obama.


BLITZER: But you hear Barack Obama say -- and Robert Gibbs, his spokesman, just said it here only a few moments ago in THE SITUATION ROOM -- that, if you take a look at the votes over the last eight years, John McCain has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time.


GIULIANI: Well, so has just about all the Congress. Most of those votes are pro forma votes. There's no member of either party who has crossed the aisles more often to create legislation than John McCain.

This was one of the big difficulties he had in getting nominated. You know that, being in Washington. He has gone over to the other side to help create legislation on climate change, on campaign finance reform, on ethics reform, to such an extent that Republicans have gotten annoyed at him. Barack Obama has no history like that. He has never, ever really reached out to Republicans to accomplish anything.


BLITZER: Well, on that, he has. He's worked with Senator McCain on comprehensive immigration reform.

GIULIANI: Which Senator McCain said he walked out on.


GIULIANI: Which Senator McCain said he walked out on back then, two years ago.

BLITZER: He worked with Senator Lugar on nuclear proliferation and he worked with Senator Coburn on ethics reform. So, there has been some effort to work...

GIULIANI: Nothing like the landmark legislation that John McCain has been able to accomplish.

BLITZER: You mean McCain/Feingold?

GIULIANI: McCain/Feingold, in favor of climate change 10 years ago, before Barack Obama was even in the Senate. John McCain has a whole history of reaching out to the other side.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, go ahead.


Last night, you spoke before Sarah Palin, a woman who -- with whom you have very little in common on the social issues, right? She's pro-life.


BORGER: Well, she's pro-life.

GIULIANI: Well, those are two issues out of 100.

BORGER: OK. But...

GIULIANI: On 95 others, we have a lot in common.

BORGER: But let's just say she's a heroine to the right wing of this party, and you're not their hero. OK? Can we say that?

GIULIANI: That's fine.


GIULIANI: But we agree on 95 percent of the issues.

BORGER: OK. But my question is, has the big tent of the Republican Party, which you always talk about, has that gotten a little narrower?

GIULIANI: I think it got a lot bigger when Joe Lieberman addressed the convention yesterday. I didn't see a prominent Republican addressing the Democratic Convention.

BORGER: But what about with Sarah Palin and the choice of Sarah Palin and those differences on the cultural, social issues?


GIULIANI: Sarah Palin gave a speech last night that appeals to a broad base in the Republican Party.

We have differences of opinion on some of the social issues. But we're big enough to overcome those.


GIULIANI: We're a party that has room for lots -- you're going to see Tom Ridge tonight. Tom Ridge has the same views on these social issues as I do. You saw Lieberman the other night. He has the same views on the social issues that I have.

So, we're a big party, at least those of us who support John McCain.

BLITZER: But you support gay rights. She doesn't. You support abortion rights.


GIULIANI: ... not gay marriage.

BLITZER: But you support that gay partners should be able to visit each other in the hospital.

GIULIANI: Of course. BLITZER: But she doesn't go that far.

GIULIANI: Well, OK. We disagree on some things.


GIULIANI: But you have to understand...

BORGER: She disagrees with John McCain on certain things.

GIULIANI: Well, what is important to me? The most important things to me are national security and the economy. Those are overriding issues. I think that's true of most of the American people.

BLITZER: What about gun control?

GIULIANI: On gun control, I can find many areas in which we agree.

I agree with the decision of the Supreme Court that owning guns is a personal right. I think that that's an issue that is now in some ways behind us because of that decision. But the major issues, as least as I see it -- And I think most of the American people are -- the economy, national security. On those issues, this is a much more united convention than we have ever had.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me play contrarian for a minute.

You lit this crowd up pretty good, warmed them up great last night with your criticism of Barack Obama, your critique that he's simply not up to and not ready for the job. But you ran a Democratic city. And I assume you would agree with the statement that not all good ideas lie in the Republican Party.

GIULIANI: Absolutely.

KING: Tell me a good idea Barack Obama has. On what issue would you say, you know, on this one, he's right?


GIULIANI: Well, we're working on it. He hasn't really spoken out on a lot of issues. I can't think of one that really reaches over to our side of it.

I thought, for example, when he gave his speech at the Democratic Convention four years ago about blue states and red states, I liked that speech very, very much. I thought it was a very unifying kind of speech. I look at his record in the Senate, though, and I see the most liberal member of the United States Senate in 2007.

So, in many ways, the problem for Barack Obama is, he talks the talk, but then he doesn't walk the walk. It totally -- what he says, it's totally contradictory to what he does. BLITZER: There was one line in your speech. You said something along the lines that Barack Obama has never run a city, never run a state, never run a business, right?

GIULIANI: I think that's right, isn't it?

BLITZER: But John McCain has never done any of that either.

GIULIANI: You forget the last thing, never run a military unit. John McCain has had responsibility in the military. He's had executive responsibility in the military.

And, as a senator, he's been a leader, which Barack Obama admittedly has not been. Barack Obama has been there for just a few years. And he spent most of his time really campaigning for other Democrats and then the last 18 months running for himself.

BLITZER: John has one more question. Go ahead.

KING: How do you deal with the generational contrast between these two guys, which is striking? They're both very compelling men with compelling stories.

At a time when the country so much wants change, you have a 47- year-old guy who is vibrant and full of energy running against a man who is full of energy, but would be the oldest man ever elected to the office. Do you think that hurts John McCain?


GIULIANI: I think you see balance on the ticket. It may be one of the many reasons for picking Sarah Palin.

I think the Republican ticket has it in the right order. We have the much more experienced candidate first. We have the younger, new- generation candidate second. They have a candidate with no experience first. And they have the older-generation candidate second.

I think we have it in the right order for the person who's going to walk in there and be commander in chief on day one.

BORGER: Well, is she ready to step in as commander in chief, though, if, God forbid, something should happen to John McCain?

GIULIANI: From everything that I have seen -- and, of course, we're getting to know her -- I think she has more than exceeded expectations.

I thought that she handled herself very well the first time. I thought she handled herself very well last night. She's been put under unrelenting attack from the moment she has been nominated. And she -- seems to me this is a very tough woman.

BLITZER: All right, we have got to leave it right there.

GIULIANI: Thank you. BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, always a pleasure to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

GIULIANI: Good to see you.

BLITZER: You heading back to New York?

GIULIANI: Not right away.


GIULIANI: I'm going to be here for the speeches.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

Hundreds of protesters, hundreds of police officers all gathered outside this convention hall. These are live pictures that are coming in. Police are afraid it could turn dangerous. And they're ordering them to disperse. We are going to check in with our own Joe Johns. He's outside. He's watching what's going on.

And Sarah Palin rocked the house here last night. But, today, the focus is also on what she didn't say. Why did she ignore some of those social issues facing the country? We will look into that.

And Barack Obama has served as a punching bag for speaker after speaker at this Republican Convention. But now he and his running mate, Joe Biden, on this day, they are hitting back. You're looking at live pictures of Barack Obama in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, right now.

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


BLITZER: We're here at the Republican Convention in Saint Paul.

Outside, Barack Obama in Pennsylvania and Michelle Obama in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they're getting ready to speak to supporters. We will check in with them right after this.


BLITZER: We're inside the convention right now, but, outside, there are protesters.

Let's check in with Joe Johns. He's watching what potentially could be a tense situation.

We see a bridge. We see protesters. Joe, you're right out there. What's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I'm right up on the bridge.

This was a crowd that started off protesting over at the Capitol Building and then started marching when they were told by authorities that their parade permit was about to expire. Now we're sort of at a standoff. This is a bridge in this town, if you know it, John Ireland Boulevard at Rice Street.

On one side, a pretty large contingent of protesters holding their signs, protesting against the Iraq war and other issues, on the other side, sort of a police convention. Just a couple of minutes ago, right when you were coming to me, there were horses standing in front of this crowd. But then the police suited up in riot gear and helmets and tear gas masks and so on just replaced them.

There was sort of an odd kind of ironic cheer when they were replaced. Still peaceful. I have not seen anyone arrested with my own eyes. But this is a pretty large group. But we did know that there would be at least one, perhaps two unpermitted marches, trying to get over toward the Xcel Center here on the last night, when John McCain gives his big speech. So, we will keep watching it and get back to you if anything else happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Joe Johns is watching the situation with the protesters outside.

Inside this convention hall, they're getting ready later tonight to hear from Senator McCain. Last night, they heard from the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

One thing she didn't say a word about last night is the ongoing state investigation into her conduct as the governor of Alaska. It's a serious matter. She's hired an attorney. But politics are also involved.

Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us.

So, what exactly are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a former state official in Alaska is saying flat-out that Sarah Palin flat and her inner circle put the squeeze on him over a very difficult family matter. It's a story that the campaign has had to battle right out of the gate.



TODD (voice-over): While her public profile shoots through the stratosphere, Sarah Palin faces persistent questions about her handling of a painful family matter that's also made its way into the media glare. Palin is under investigation for her firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner.

Walter Monegan says it was over his handling of a state trooper named Mike Wooten, who was involved in a bitter divorce from Palin's sister.

Monegan spoke with CNN's Special Investigations Unit. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WALTER MONEGAN, FORMER ALASKA PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER: I believe I was fired because I did not fire Mike Wooten. The governor, I think, did allow her personal feelings to get involved in her professional responsibilities, and she ventured where she should not have ventured into.


TODD: Sarah Palin firmly denies the allegation, saying she fired Monegan over budgetary issues. Monegan does say he was never told directly to fire the trooper, but he says the pressure came in other ways.

Monegan showed e-mails to "The Washington Post" he says were from Palin which seem to ridicule a probe by the state troopers of Wooten's conduct.

One e-mail reads: "It was a joke, the whole year-long investigation of him. This is the same trooper who's out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, that he would never work for that 'expletive' Palin."

CNN could not independently confirm the authenticity of the e- mails. Contacted by CNN, McCain campaign officials say Palin was only telling Monegan about potential threats to her family, and say there's no evidence that Palin ever ordered the trooper to be fired.

But Palin's office admits there were several calls from her aides and supporters to state police about Monegan's handling of Mike Wooten, including this one from aide Frank Bailey.


FRANK BAILEY, AIDE TO SARAH PALIN: Walt has been very reluctant to take some action. But there are some very clear facts out there that -- these things actually happened, that he Tasered his 11-year- old kid. He drove drunk in a patrol car. He shot a cow moose out of season. The Palins can't figure out why nothing is going on.



TODD: Now, Palin herself released that audiotape, said she didn't know Bailey and others were calling police, and she suspended Frank Bailey. The Palins also allege that Mike Wooten threatened to kill his ex-father-in-law, Palin's father. Wooten denied making that threat, and his union says the majority of the claims against him were unfounded. But he was reprimanded and briefly suspended as a trooper -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I understand, Brian, there is a late development in the case tonight? TODD: Yes. The head of Alaska's police union says that Palin's aides improperly obtained Mike Wooten's personnel files and cited information from those records to raise complaints about Wooten. Palin's attorney had no immediate response to that union complaint. So, just tonight, Wolf, on the eve of this great night for John McCain, a lot of questions surrounding Sarah Palin tonight.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that update.

Barack Obama, he is raising huge sums of money today on the heels of Sarah Palin's big speech last night. He's speaking live now in Pennsylvania. We're monitoring that speech. We will also keep an eye on the standoff, the protesters here in Saint Paul, just outside the Convention Center. These are live pictures you're seeing right now. They're on a bridge.

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


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

Happening now: the Republican National Convention approaching its climax, John McCain now only a few hours away from the speech of a lifetime, accepting his party's nomination for president of the United States.

Plus, his running mate, Sarah Palin, raising eyebrows with what she didn't say in her speech last night and why she avoided some hot- button social issues -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Senator McCain's running mate suggests she's a pit bull with lipstick, but she certainly bit into her critics, especially Democrats, in her big speech.

Democrats are biting back right now, one of them, the Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius, even saying -- and I'm quoting now -- "She mastered the words written by the Bush speechwriters."

Let's go to our Suzanne Malveaux. She's watching what's going on.

Suzanne, lots of pushback to what's being said here in Saint Paul.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Obama calling Palin, as well as the RNC's attacks on his record, vitriol, saying it's more of the same slash-and-burn politics. But Barack Obama is defending his record, but at the same time trying to minimize her criticism.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. At least that's the line.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't keep playing the same political games we always play, where we attack each other and we call each other names and we accuse somebody of being a liberal or right wing or this or that or the other, and then we never get anything done.

MALVEAUX: After a night of zingers from the Republican's vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and his team tried not to appear bruised.

OBAMA: I have been called worse on the basketball court.

MALVEAUX: Their strategy: focus not on what Palin said, but what she didn't say.

OBAMA: You haven't heard a word about how we're going to deal with any aspect of the economy that is affecting you and your pocketbook day to day.

MALVEAUX: In the heart of Bush country where Obama is fighting for blue-collar voters, he largely stuck to the script. Following a tour of a Pennsylvania power plant, he talked with factory workers about his economic and energy policies. When asked to compare his experience to Palin's, he didn't take the bait.

OBAMA: I will let Governor Palin talk about her experience. I will talk about mine.

MALVEAUX: But Obama did take exception to Palin's ridicule of his work as a community organizer in Chicago.

OBAMA: Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? Do they think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day that work in -- with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?

MALVEAUX: But Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, who will face off with Palin in upcoming debates, was less forgiving. He called e-mails and Internet ads distorting Obama's record garbage and malarkey. Obama aides acknowledge, that taking on Palin is a delicate balancing act, because some may charge sexism.

OBAMA: I assume that she wants to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated, which means that their records are under scrutiny. I have been through this for 19 months. She's been through it, what, four days so far?


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, Obama says the reason why he's not going after Palin harder is he says that John McCain is the one who is running for president. Obama is not running against Palin. He's running against John McCain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania -- Pennsylvania a critical battleground state.

Suzanne, thank you.

The Obama campaign says it has raised $8 million since Governor Palin's big speech last night, and that it expects to raise millions more by the time John McCain gives his address tonight.

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

Those are pretty impressive numbers we're hearing.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And it's certainly something they want to do in terms of pushback, because remember that picture last night, Governor Palin here and all these adoring crowds, albeit, all Republicans.

But what you have to do is push against the notion that she was this large hit and that everyone thought she was wonderful.

So, what we are hearing today from -- from Obama aides is, listen, for every person that liked her, she also turned off people. They say that the idea that Hillary Clinton voters would come to her, if they ever even thought about it, they believe it exploded last night because they thought her tone was condescending. And then they put out these numbers, which they think show that, listen, she is a good fundraiser for us as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

It was a big night and millions and millions of people saw the speech from Governor Palin last night. We'll tell you how it would compared to Barack Obama's big night and Joe Biden's big night. That's coming up.

And John McCain gets ready to sell himself as commander-in-chief. But the big name speakers will star much sooner. Cindy McCain getting ready to speak tonight, Tom Ridge. We're only moments away from this, the final day of the Republican National Convention. The gavel is about to come down here in St. Paul.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Carol Costello -- Carol, that was a huge, huge audience for Governor Palin last night on television.

Tell our viewers how many people saw the speech compared to some of the other big speeches of these conventions.

COSTELLO: I know. I was really curious about this, Wolf. So I called Nielsen. And the ratings people told me that Sarah Palin, in the hour between 10:00 p.m. to 11:15 -- she spoke within that amount of time -- 37.2 million people were watching her speak.

And if you compare that to Barack Obama on his big night, he had 38.4 million. And Joe Biden, if you compare that, he had 21.5 million. So people were very, very interested in hearing what Sarah Palin had to say. The buzz worked for her.

BLITZER: Yes. She's an intriguing woman, indeed.

Thanks, Carol.

John King is here. Gloria Borger is here. Tara Wall is here.

I guess people will be wondering, will John McCain get more viewers tonight on all the TV channels than Sarah Palin got last night?

KING: That's an interesting question, because those numbers tell you without a doubt that a huge number of Democrats were very interested in seeing who she was and what she had to say.

Will an equal number of Democrats tune in tonight or will they say I already know John McCain, I've already made a decision against him, I'm going to go do something else or I'm going to go to bed?

It's a great question. Interesting to watch. Without a doubt, it proves there's a lot of interest in her, which is one of the reasons McCain picked her -- to change the race, to change the dynamics of the race. And it also tells you people care about this election period.

BORGER: I bet a lot of the viewers were women. And I bet there is a lot more interest in her because of her whole personal story that was unfurling every day from the moment she got picked about her 17- year-old daughter being five months pregnant, etc. etc. So that, of course, charged all those ratings, too.

TARA WALL, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, FORMER RNC PRESS SECRETARY FOR OUTREACH: And from what I understand, it is double the third night speaker from the convention in 2004. That number has doubled. So a lot of interest. And I think, quite frankly, she's probably, it appears, the Obama anti-venom, it looks like. I mean if you see the way they're reacting, they almost don't know what to do with her because she is so compelling to the average, everyday American and she does have a story to tell. It is going to be hard for them to attack her.

She did go -- she went over well with Democrats. You even had some Democrats coming out in her defense because of some of these sexism charges that have been leveled against her. You know, the legitimacy -- it is legitimate, some would say, to ask about her experience. But it's kind of -- it goes over the line when you start asking her about her family and whether she can juggle those things...

BORGER: Right.

WALL: ...because they aren't the questions that you're going to ask a man.

BLITZER: Well, experience, of course, it's legitimate to ask her.

WALL: Absolutely. BLITZER: You want to know, who is this woman who might be vice president, might be president, one day, of the United States someday?

WALL: That's right.

BLITZER: So there's no doubt about that.

You know, as we look at what she didn't say in her speech last night, she really didn't have to reach out to the Evangelical base or the Christian conservatives, because they love her already. So she can focus on, perhaps, some of those disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters in some of these key battleground states.

KING: I think as you watch them go forward, you will hear her talk more about the social issues. Education is a social issue, not just abortion or gay rights and gun control. Education is a social issue -- who has control of education. You'll hear more about that when they go out on the road.

They're going to Colorado Springs in the coming days. That's the home of Focus on the Family. It's a big Evangelical community and the base of the Republican Party there. It will be interesting to see what she says there.

But last night was an introduction. Whether you're on the left of the political spectrum or on the right of the political spectrum, when you're introducing yourself, you don't go into the hot button -- the most divisive issues. You try to say this is who I am so that you build that credibility bar or you fail at that test -- and most people think she succeeded at it last night. But first you try to say this is who I am, listen to me when I keep going. You want to hear the rest of my story, stay tuned.


WALL: She also uses those buzzwords, though, that are code in the Evangelical community, when she says things like integrity, goodwill, a service heart. Those are little code words for the Evangelical community that they understand so that she can tell them we're on the same page, I'm speaking your language, without overtly going into things like abortion and pro-life issues.

BORGER: She doesn't need to.

WALL: Right.

BORGER: Yes, she doesn't need to. But, you know, some of that -- I was looking through some polls that have come out just in the last day or so. And it looks like, with those Independent voters that John McCain will be reaching out to tonight, that he has lost a bit of ground with Independent women and men -- and with Democrats, undecided Democrats. So it seems that her appeal will be to get this base together, which is something that he really needed to do.

BLITZER: Which is very important.

But how worried...

BORGER: And in...

BLITZER: How worried should the Obama people be that she will find an audience there among some of that moderate middle?

BORGER: Well, it -- well, as John was talking about last night, she can go into rural America and -- where Obama has problems and she can talk about the issues like guns, like family, like education. And she has a great deal of appeal. But just so far, on the early polls coming in, the Hillary Clinton voters -- let's just say that they're not flocking to her.


BLITZER: All the attacks that we heard on Barack Obama last night ridiculing his decision to become a community organizer when he finished college, to go into South Chicago and help unemployed steelworkers and others look -- to find jobs and everything, is that going to backfire on Republicans?

WALL: Well, you know, I think there are two -- there are two tacks here. There was one where some said Giuliani went over the line with his remarks because it was more of a condescending attitude. Hers, she was saying, well, I, too, was a community organizer as a mayor, but I had some -- I had more responsibilities.

And, you know, some would argue, if you're a community organizer, that's great. It's -- those are the grassroots folks. But that doesn't mean you can just walk in the office and be president.

So I think there are two sides to that coin there.

On the -- I do want to get back to the Independent voters for a second, because another poll I looked at today, also -- the Gallup Poll showed that both candidates, in fact, have actually gained some undecideds. And the undecided gap has closed. It was 30 percent before the convention, now just about 21 percent. Most of them are older folks and they -- the reason they're still undecided is because they still aren't clear on where these candidates -- both candidates stand on the issues. And they're going to have to define that. And she's a big part of that.

KING: But the Republican base is smaller now than it was in 2000 and 2004.

BORGER: Right.

KING: Both parties are shrinking a little bit. More and more people are becoming Independent. But the Republican Party has suffered bigger losses, which raises the bar for John McCain. He has to not only -- his campaign is (INAUDIBLE). He needs to win a majority, probably 55 percent or so of the Independents, and get somewhere in the area of 13 to 15 percent of Democrats. He's not there in the polls right now. So what you see last night, politics is a simple business, actually. Barack Obama has more support. Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani tried to hit at -- knock some of those voters off Barack Obama. Now John McCain has to go in and close the sale and bring them his way.

BORGER: And he can't...


WALL: ...energizing his own base. And that's the key.

BORGER: Well, that's what she does.

WALL: ...he can't win -- right. That's what she does. He can't with the base low, but he can't win without them. So he had to have -- had to get them energized.

BORGER: And this could all come down, in the end...

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: those new voters turnout -- who's going to get their voters to the polls if it's a close election in November.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, guys.

We just got some excerpts from Senator McCain's speech tonight. They just released some excerpts. We'll share them with you.

We'll take a quick break.

We're only moments away from the start of this, the final night of the Republican National Convention.

Our coverage from St. Paul continues right after this.



BLITZER: Al Williams, a little bit of musical entertainment for this Republican National Convention, as we get ready for the gavel to come down. There he is. Al Williams, he plays the sax and the flute, raised in Philadelphia. And if you like music, you know, he's pretty good.

Listen to this for a moment.

Just listen.


BLITZER: I love that tenor sax. Al Williams does a beautiful job. I say that, Campbell Brown, as someone who used to play the baritone sax.

That was beautifully done.


And the keyboard?

BLITZER: And the keyboard.

BROWN: And the sax?

BLITZER: In high school.

BROWN: Who knew?

BLITZER: Who knew?

Campbell Brown is here with us, John King.

Did you know that I played the baritone sax?

KING: I knew about the keyboards. The sax is...

BLITZER: The sax. Wait until Anderson finds out.

KING: That's where you get all that energy.

BLITZER: Wait until he finds out about that.

KING: I'm sure he's rushing over here right now.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger is here.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Bill Bennett, who loves...

WALL: Smooth sounds from the Republican Convention.



BLITZER: Here's a fact that a lot of our viewers don't know. Bill Bennett is an old time rock and roller.


BLITZER: He knows more about rock and roll than almost anyone I know.

BENNETT: So your nickname here is The Iron Man, but you were Iron Lips back then, is that right?

BLITZER: I don't know about that.

BORGER: Iron Lips.


BLITZER: The honest truth, I was not very good on the keyboards, not very good on the sax. But I like...


KING: Keep your day job.

BLITZER: All right, let's get back to our little day job, as you say.

Let's talk about John McCain. He's going to be delivering his acceptance speech later tonight. They've released an excerpt or two.

Let me read one line and then we'll discuss what he's suggesting.

Listen to this.

Bill Bennett, I especially want you to listen to this.

"I'm very pleased to have introduced our next vice president to the country. But I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old big spending, do-nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd -- change is coming." We've heard that word change, Bill Bennett, before. But I suspect we're going to hear a lot more of it tonight from John McCain.

BENNETT: Yes. I think we will. I think there will be some history, though. They've covered the history pretty well. But, you know, John McCain steps up. And his biography now is as well-known as anybody's.

What we need to do is hint at -- at least hint tonight at what the plan is -- you know, the economic plan, connecting the economy to the oil issue, how energy connects with that, how drilling connects with that.

I don't know how much he'll lay out. I really don't. I haven't seen the speech -- but a plan for laying that out to the American people.

BLITZER: Because with the exception of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina yesterday...

BENNETT: That's right.

BLITZER: ...two powerhouse speakers in the business community, there wasn't any discussion -- any serious discussion, really, of the substantive economic bread and butter issues, was there?

BENNETT: Well, sometimes conventions don't do that. Often you just hit your big theme. And he doesn't have to lay it out real specifically, as long as he promises to play it out very soon.

But, look, the Democrats are saying, what's the plan, what's the plan? He's got one. It has to be laid out. But tonight I think he still hits the big theme, reminds people who he is.

BROWN: But, Bill, don't you think it's interesting -- or everybody -- that the message up until now was experience. Now they have changed the message...

WALL: Rebranding.

BROWN: It's now...


WALL: It's called rebranding.

BROWN: It's reform. It's change. They've adopted the message of the Democrats.

BENNETT: Well, I certainly think with John McCain, you don't have to talk about experience. You know, that's...


BENNETT: It's his night. It's his night.


BENNETT: And we'll talk about it again because we're happy to have that debate. We have our experience -- our most experience at the top of the ticket. They have theirs at the bottom of their ticket. We're happy to revisit that.

But this is a different theme tonight.

BORGER: It is clearly, though, a rebranding. I mean John McCain has already made the point about experience. That worked very well with older voters, for example. But he's got to reach out to Independent voters and the maverick, the reformer taking on his own party, the Republican Party, which, by the way, has run the White House for the last eight years. That's going to be very, very important for him tonight.

And he also has to show himself to be contemporary -- a contemporary figure with a vision for the future, because there are lots of people who are concerned that he's old.

KING: And he will talk a lot of experience tonight, not in the way we've heard it so far in this campaign. It will be a part of it -- he has the experience to be commander-in-chief. In his view, the other guy doesn't.

But the most important experience argument from John McCain is going to come on the Barack Obama talks about changing Washington, talk about reaching across the aisle...

BORGER: Right. KING: I have done it my entire career. I have the experience to go and do it. You will hear a lot of that from John McCain tonight.

WALL: But, also, John, on those issues where he has reached across the aisle, it's defying all the people in this room.

KING: And that's what they...

WALL:'s been on immigration reform.

BORGER: Right.

WALL: ...on campaign finance reform.

KING: This is another stunning night in a stunning wam pain. We were in Denver David last week on Thursday night watching -- you know, David had slayed Goliath. Barack Obama beat the Clintons plural to take control of the Democratic Party.

John McCain is going to walk into this hall tonight, and a month ago, we weren't sure what the reception would be -- the conservatives who didn't like him on immigration, the social conservatives who say, yes, he votes the right way, but do we really trust him?

There is energy in this hall now and enthusiasm. They still have a long way to go to win this election, but this is a very different convention than you might have envisioned in terms of the mood and the tone a month ago.

BLITZER: All right, guys, let me just tell our viewers what we're anticipating in the next few minutes. This convention will be gaveled. Mike Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, he will bring this convention to order.

There will be the color guards will come in. The Pledge of Allegiance -- and the Pledge of Allegiance today is going to be something unusual -- a bunch of U.S. Olympians are being brought in. We'll see them up on the stage. And these Olympic athletes will lead all of us in the Pledge of Allegiance. It will be followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem, the invocation.

And then they'll get down to business.

Here's just some of tonight's agenda. And you saw what was going on in the 6:00 p.m. Hour. Later tonight, the big speeches will be Cindy McCain, the wife of John McCain. And, of course, during the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour, John McCain will deliver his speech.

And what they've done -- and Campbell, take a look. I want to show our viewers how they built that platform to go out -- to go straight out into the crowd. It's already really low to begin with compared to other conventions.

BROWN: Right.

BLITZER: Usually they're much higher. It's low to the ground and they've built out that platform. So he's going have to his podium taken all the way out in front. That's where the -- that's where you can see all the way in the front over there. And he'll try to be closer to some of the people who have gathered here. I guess they sense that's a better venue for him.

BROWN: Well, he's been very successful and very effective -- or most effective out on the trail, John, as you know, in those town hall type settings, where he can be a little looser and connect a little more intimately with people, as opposed to standing behind a podium, where he comes off as a little bit stiff. And I think they want to try to recreate that.

KING: And for all the contrasts on the issues -- and there will be many, although we're told Senator McCain will be relatively polite about it -- that is a contrast in its own right. Remember, again, last Thursday in Denver, 85,000 people in a stadium, sort of this -- the columns up there, making it look like this grand presentation.

McCain wants to have what he considers a more intimate conversation. And it is a big stylistic difference between, again, there are so many contrasts between these guys. They are very different in how they communicate -- both effective in their own ways, but very different.

BENNETT: I just wanted to -- I'd like to pick up on what John said earlier, because there is one similarity that's important. A month ago, two months ago, as John was talking about, there was a big enthusiasm gap. The Democrats had much more enthusiasm. That gap was closed this week, a lot of it last night.

The other thing is a lot of people, just judging from my radio show and talking to people here, said before, all right, we'll vote for McCain because we don't like Obama and we're not going to go to the Democrats. Now there is enthusiasm about John McCain. You know, this choice of Palin has energized the base and made the base think John McCain is a more conservative guy than they thought.

BLITZER: But, you know, it seems to have energized a lot of Democrats...

KING: Yes, it has.

BLITZER: well, based on the money...

KING: Yes, it has.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...that is flowing into Barack Obama's campaign.

BENNETT: Right. Right. But I think we have a race now. I remember about exactly a week ago, a commentator on CNN, the guy who does the op-ed for CNN said it's over, game's over. You know, they nominated somebody to be vice president, they're going to nominate somebody to be vice president, he doesn't stand a chance.

This game is not over. It's certainly not.

BORGER: Well, that's one of the reasons he picked Sarah Palin, by the way.

BENNETT: You bet. You bet.

BORGER: Because he knew that if he had gone with a very conventional choice...


BORGER: ...that the game might have been over. So this was -- this was John McCain's way of shaking this up and saying I've got to go for it.


BENNETT: A lot of people counted John McCain dead prematurely. Really, it's too...

BLITZER: Who said game over?

I just don't remember.

BENNETT: Jack Cafferty.

BLITZER: Did he same game over?

BENNETT: Yes. Yes, he said game over.

BLITZER: I'll look at the transcripts and...



KING: ...still a big...


KING: ...for the Republicans.

BENNETT: I would have liked...


KING: It's still a very big challenge for the Republicans.

BENNETT: Absolutely.

KING: And we should frame everything tonight in that context. Sarah Palin energized this hall. She's brought excitement to the party, looking at the future.

But in terms of the future that's nine weeks ago called election day... BENNETT: Absolutely.

KING: ...the guy out there tonight, if he's going to win, has a lot of work to do.

BLITZER: And John's going to spend a lot of time here at this magic map of the Electoral College showing us what's going on, because as important as the national vote is, the popular vote, it's in those battleground states that will determine the Electoral College. And we're going to be watching that very, very closely.

I guess the big question tonight is can John McCain do what he is not necessarily known to do well, be a great orator and inspire not only the 20,000 people here, but the people watching at home?

Because his strength is those town hall meetings where he's got a microphone and he's just walking around answering questions...


BLITZER: ...speaking off the cuff, ad-libbing. Reading a speech -- that's not his strength.

BENNETT: Yes. I don't expect him to be a great orator tonight. I would be surprised, frankly. I imagine it will be a great speech. Salter and he work very well together, Mark Salter.

KING: You're talking about Mark Salter.

BENNETT: Mark Salter, right.

BLITZER: His top aide over there.

BENNETT: But I remember when I was drug czar, a guy gave me advice. He said don't just do something, stand there. And with John McCain, you know, remember what the founder said, what we want in a president is character, virtue, ability. That's what the founders thought the American people would look for. That's what's going to be reminded.


BENNETT: He won't become William Jennings Bryant.


BLITZER: All right, let me go quickly down to Candy Crowley.

She's up on the podium for us and will be throughout this important crucial night -- give us a thought, Candy.

What's going on?

CROWLEY: Well, obviously, the highlight of tonight is John McCain, which you've been talking about, and how he's going approach, first of all, the Democratic complaints. I think you can see the pattern that is set out here -- clinging to Bush. They're trying to tie him to Bush very strongly, because they believe that that, of course, will be the killer in November.

So John McCain is going to separate himself from that.

The other complaint, of course, has been that no issues have been discussed here. So you'll see McCain also address those in kind of the broad terms that Obama did during his convention speech.

And you know what, by tomorrow, the fall campaign is on and now they can get down to some serious business. There really is not much time left -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

You're right, because, Campbell, when you think about it, when this convention is over with later tonight, until November 4th, there's only 60 days left. And that's going to be a sprint to the finish line for both of these candidates and the vice presidential candidates and their entire teams.

BROWN: They leave from here. They go immediately on the road. They're going to be living and breathing battleground, battleground, battleground states. John, you'll be out there with them a lot. I guess many of us will from time to time.

KING: It's been a great discussion here this week and last week about do we speak the language of small town America?

Are we communicating, talking to those people and not at those people?

That will be a great challenge for both the candidates and for us over the -- I'm very excited. I'm going to be in all of these places. And I'll show you the yellow ones later. That's where I'll be most of all.


BLITZER: All right. I want to bring in Ed Henry.

Are you down on the floor right now -- Ed Henry?

Can you give us a little sense of the mood as we get ready to see the gavel come down?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I'm in Florida, a key swing state. And I ran into, a short time ago, Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, someone very popular with social conservatives.

He told me he's never had a good relationship with John McCain, but after seeing Sarah Palin, he will now work hard for this ticket. It gives you a sense conservatives are energized.

But the key tonight is going to be whether John McCain can move toward the middle a little bit.

How does he reach out to Independent voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash is down on the floor, as well -- Dana, where are you?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm in the State of New Hampshire. And you know very well why I decided to come here to New Hampshire. This is the place where John McCain built his campaign back up from basically dead last year.

And, you know, I think, when talking to McCain aides, they say he's going try to do here what we've seen him do, really, for the past five months -- something counterintuitive -- try to convince people that a 72-year-old who's been in Washington for a quarter century can be an agent of change because of experience and some of the things that he has done in Washington to fight it while he's there. That is going to be a challenge tonight -- McCain aides say his top challenge.

BLITZER: Mike Duncan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, is just walking in. He's going bring this session to order.

Let's watch.



DUNCAN: Thank you.


DUNCAN: Please. Delegates and alternates, I'm pleased to call to order the Fourth Session of the 39th Quadrennial Republican Convention.


DUNCAN: Would everyone please rise for the presentation of colors?

Ladies and gentlemen, the colors will be presented by the Fort Snelling Joint Service Color Guard.

Let's give them a warm welcome.