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What Obama Needs To Say Tonight; Democratic National Convention; President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Speaks Tonight; Mitt Romney Emerges

Aired September 6, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM. And we're live from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Weather kept this big closing night indoors instead of the planned mass stadium rally, but the energy is already building for the climax of this convention, President Obama's acceptance speech.

Bill Clinton certainly set the stage last night with a powerful rousing address. And now, it's up to President Obama to deliver. And what he says here just a few hours from now could have a huge impact on whether he gets another four years in the White House. So, we're just moments away from the day's opening gavel. You'll see it all here unfolding live.

President Obama says he'll share his vision for the future tonight, and his aides say he'll offer some concrete proposals at the same time. But what does he need to say in this crucial appearance? Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley are both here. The challenge for him -- we know he's a great order. There will be poetry and pros and all of that, but the country wants some substance as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think that President Obama needs to convince the country that he can fix the economy, period. There's a lot of disaffected, disappointed Democrats out there who are watching this convention, who watched Mitt Romney's convention, and they want somebody who can improve their lives.

And I think the case has been made about the past four years by Bill Clinton. And it's up to the president to specifically say what his vision is for the future should he get re-elected. He wants this to be a choice election, not a referendum. He has to tell them what the choice is.

BLITZER: All right. This is a moment I've been waiting for. Let's get a little musical interlude right now. They've just introduced James Taylor. Let's listen in to the great star. Here he is on the stage.


JAMES TAYLOR, SINGER: I know it's an empty chair. It makes you nervous, doesn't it? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TAYLOR: That's all right. I'm going to sit on it. I'm not going to talk to it.




TAYLOR: Thank you fellow Democrats.


TAYLOR: You know, I've been watching the coverage. And I've got to say there's something -- I don't get it. I mean, I'm an old White guy. And I love Barack Obama.


TAYLOR: They must have got that one wrong.



BLITZER (voice-over): James Taylor here at the Democratic National Convention. The gavel is getting ready to come down. More entertainment, more speeches, Mary J. Blige in the next hour, and we'll be back.


BLITZER: As we await the gavel to come down and formally open up this third, the final day of the Democratic National Convention, let's go to the CNN's skybox. John King is standing by. John, the favorability numbers as far as the president is concerned in all of these recent polls are telling us what as far as November 6th is concerned?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's been a key question and a key strength of President Obama, Wolf, throughout his presidency. Either when people are disappointed in the economy, you know what, his job approval numbers are down, people's favorable opinion of the president has been up. People like him. And that can matter in a close election.

So, as he prepares to speak to the country tonight unfiltered, let's take a look at where his unfavorable/favorable ratings are now. And remember, this changed a bit, and I'll show you just how because of the Republican convention. We go back to beginning of little big ago in August, 52-47, 51-48. So, roughly unchanged. The president, they went down a little bit, but that's within the margin of error.

So, essentially, this is statistic. The president's ratings have not changed all that much. So, he's more favorable than unfavorable at the view of the American people but a bare majority. So, the president would like to boost that up. It would help him in a close election. Why does that matter? This has always been an advantage over Governor Mitt Romney, but if we look down and take -- look at what the impact of the Tampa convention was, look at this, you do see a bit of a change.

Governor Romney had just a four-point spread between favorable and unfavorable, Wolf, going into the Republican Convention. Ten points now, Governor Romney actually viewed more favorably than President Obama out of the Republican convention. And you have to go back a long time in the polling to find anything like that.

So, one of the president's many challenges tonight. Obviously, the most significant challenge is layout an economic agenda for the second term, justify the big decisions in the first term, but the president would hope that if this is a close election in likability, favorability matters, the president would like to improve some on this.

This number's down a bit from where he would like it. That's one of the big goals tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. John, standby. We're going to get back to you.

Not only the president of the United States but the vice president of the United States has a lot riding on his speech tonight. He'll be speaking in the 9:00 p.m. eastern hour. The president in the 10:00 p.m. eastern hour. We'll assess what these two leaders are expected to say when our coverage continues.


BLITZER: The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, about to pound the gavel to start this, the third night. Let's listen in.


ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: -- national convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.


VILLARAIGOSA: I've banged that gavel a few times in my life. Please stand for the invocation by Rev. Gabriel Salguero.

REV. GABRIEL SALGUERO, LAMB'S CHURCH, NEW YORK: Let us pray. Almighty God, we have come to this place mindful of our absolute need of you. We confess that America has always needed your guidance, your strength, and your protection. Lord, we acknowledge that we need your direction so as not to stray too far from the shores of your purposes.

And as we walk into the autumn of elections, we pray that you would continue to guide this great nation. Help us all, Republicans, independents, and Democrats. Never to tire in the work of justice and mercy. Help us always to be mindful of the most vulnerable among us, the child, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. Give us the courage to face the giants that threaten our life together, and help us to forge the future of our Democracy from the better angels of our nature.

Lord, we know we still have work to do, but may our work reflect your character. May it be (INAUDIBLE) out of love, compassion, justice, and civility. May we never be satisfied until every son and daughter of God has an opportunity to flourish and strive. So, Lord, we confess that we can only march on by your immeasurable grace.

From New Mexico to North Carolina, from our farms to our towering cities, from our soldiers to our stay-at-home parents, we pledge to move forward in faith, a faith that believes that the whirlwinds of division and the storms of despair are not greater than the sunlight of love, hope and freedom. God, help us to do our work together, the affluent, and the economically challenged, women and men, the elderly, (INAUDIBLE).

We recognize that we are our sisters and our brothers keepers and that together we can do more. So, give us the solidarity and ingenuity to respond to some of today's relentless challenges. God, we are marching on. We are moving forward, and we desperately need you.

So, help us not to relent until our nation sees the day when justice rolls down like a mighty stream and righteousness like a mighty river. In this we pray, in the name of the ones the ancients called wonderful, counselor, mighty God, prince of peace, Amen.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the presentation of colors by American Legion post 400 of Charlotte, North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Color guard, hold. Raise it, hold.

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Grammy award-winner, Marc Anthony, to sing the national anthem.




BLITZER: What a beautiful, beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Marc Anthony. Fabulous, fabulous. This crowd is excited. This is day three, the final day of the Democratic National Convention as we await the start of the formal presentation. Let's take a quick break. Our coverage continues right after this.


BLITZER: We're back here at the Democratic National Convention, the third day of this convention is now formally underway. The gavel is down. The speeches have started. The musical presentations have started. Everyone gearing up for the big speeches later in the evening including the vice president, Joe Biden, the President Barack Obama. Let's talk a little bit about Joe Biden. Candy Crowley is here.

It's interesting, Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent is hearing that he's going to talk a little bit about some of the experience he's had with the president, what he's learned about the president over these past four years, he'll share some anecdotes and focus a little bit on the big decisions that the president has made. He's trying to tee-off the president, obviously in a very strong way. This is an important speech for Joe Biden personally as well.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is and it sounds a little bit like Michelle Obama's speech when she tried to link policy and the person. So this is also a guy Joe Biden, the vice president who's been in on some of these decisions. He had a famous phrase which I guess we can't repeat on television to describe when health care passed. What's interesting about this the prism of Joe Biden is this is a man who has not ruled out a 2016 run. So a lot will be looked at in this speech.

This has been a man who's been quite loyal to President Obama, done him a lot of good. He has gone off the reservation as we say a couple of times. But he has done what they have asked of him. And, you know, the question is what happens next over the next four years. We saw that powerful speech from Bill Clinton and then of course if you talked to folks out here after Bill Clinton last night, who do they all want to ask about? Hillary Clinton. So it sets up a really interesting dynamic of a sitting vice president who's been very loyal to this president and of course Hillary Clinton who has said she doesn't want to run. But certainly Joe Biden has said that he's left that door open.

BLITZER: He says he feels great and he's not ruling it out by any means. Jessica is also saying that Biden will ding, ding Romney but in a relatively gentle way drawing more contrast, not the sort of blistering red meat stump speech kind of address. I think that would probably be more appropriate for a convention --

CROWLEY: For this venue, yes.


CROWLEY: Yes. We certainly can expect him to be -- but this is a man who they brought on the ticket because of number one, his foreign policy experience, which is interesting. But number two, and probably even more important than the first was that this ticket when it was brand new four years ago saw Joe Biden as a person who could reach out to those working white-class voters. And that remains a lot of his appeal.

BLITZER: I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to that vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan versus Joe Biden. (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Yes, yes, yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: That will be good as well. Candy, thanks very much.

We're only hours away from President Obama's high stakes convention speech here in Charlotte. Will his challenger be watching? What Mitt Romney is now saying about that coming up.


BLITZER: We're back at the Democratic National Convention. The excitement is really heating up now. But remember, Mitt Romney, he certainly is part of this whole presidential process as well. He's focusing in as we speak on the presidential debates. There will be three of them in October. He's wrapped up his presentations at least for now. He met briefly with reporters today. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us now live from New Hampshire. So what's Mitt Romney doing tonight? Does he plan on watching President Obama's speech, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so, Wolf. At least that's the indication he gave to reporters earlier today. You know unlike President Obama who during the Republican Convention was out there holding big rallies, Mitt Romney has essentially stayed behind closed doors doing this debate prep opting instead for these smaller events over in New Hampshire where he's carried with him a small pool of reporters. He did not travel with the full Press Corps with him and it was at one of these events when he was asked whether he was going to watch President Obama's convention speech tonight and here's what he had to say.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, thank you. Haven't watched so far.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to watch tonight?

ROMNEY: Don't plan on it.



ROMNEY: I'll tell you one thing though, if I heard the question asked if I'm going to watch tonight, if I heard the president was going to report on his promises, I would love to watch tonight. You asked the question am I going to watch tonight, if I heard or if from the excerpts that are put out I hear the president's going to report on the promises he made and how he has performed on those promises, I'd love to watch it. But if it's another series of new promises that he's not going to keep, I have no interest in seeing him. Because I saw the promises last time. Those are promises he did not keep. And the American people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises.


ACOSTA: It's also worth noting that the Romney campaign did not come out with a challenge to what President Clinton said last night during his convention speech. Instead, the Romney campaign is using Bill Clinton in a new campaign ad to go after President Obama. And I talked to a Romney adviser earlier today about this, Wolf, and they are basically moving on past Bill Clinton turning the page and saying only President Obama can defend the Obama economy. And in the words of this adviser, he can't do that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta traveling with Mitt Romney. Thanks very much. Barney Frank, the retiring member of Congress from Massachusetts, is speaking right now delivering a blistering attack against the Republicans and Mitt Romney. Remember, he's from Massachusetts, Romney's home state. Listen to this.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I realize here is the problem. And this is a hard one for me because of my addiction. So please listen carefully. It turns out our governor was Mitt Romney. What we should have had as governor was myth Romney. Myth Romney is a wonderful private sector executive who when he moves into the public sector can transform it. I wish myth Romney had been governor of the state I lived in. If it had been myth Romney, I'd probably be riding the commuter train from New Bedford to Boston right now. But we had Mitt Romney and so we had to wait for the great Deval Patrick (ph) to get that started. Now maybe as a Democrat I should be grateful that we got Mitt and not myth because if myth Romney had ever governor and done all the things we're told he can do he would have been reelected overwhelmingly.

Now, that might not have been good for the Democrats, but not following the Mitch McConnell view that your party's advantage is less -- is more important than the economic well-being of your constituents, I would have taken that. But we didn't have myth Romney. We had Mitt Romney. And he did the Democrats a favor, not the state. After four consecutive Republican elections, when Mitt Romney ran for reelection, which his term was up, he was afraid to run for reelection. He not only let his lieutenant governor take the fall and the Republicans haven't won a major election in statewide office since. It's a state office.


FRANK: Well, if we didn't get that job experience and we can't look to the past to be reassured, let's look to the future. What will any Romney and you know there are a lot of Romneys. There's the Romney who was going to be better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy. Now there's the Romney who checks with Rick Santorum on that issue. There was the Romney who was for climate change and now there's a Romney who believes that it's a myth, to coin the phrase. But what -- let's look at what we have from the Mitt Romney who's running for president. He has now basically committed himself to repeat every failed and mistaken policy that the Republican Party implored to bring our country into the greatest recession in years in which they have followed to try to retard its recovery. And there's a reason for it.

For all of the talk about how Mitt Romney understands the private sector, and that clearly is a little bit iffy, he has no understanding whatsoever of the public sector. Of course we want a private sector that is prosperous, that creates jobs. This hall is full of people I know who have been successful in the private sector and do that and are entrepreneurs and business people. But sensible people also know in a civilized society you need a public sector to do those things that the private sector isn't meant to do, to deal with the quality of life. There are things that a civilized society needs that we can only do if we do them together. And we do them together that's called government.


FRANK: So that's why Mitt -- that's why Mitt Romney opposed, opposed the successful effort to keep the automobile industry going. Because he failed to see the importance of a private sector -- public sector cooperation. That's why he belittled President Obama's concern for fired and laid off public employees and the services they provide when he said oh he just wants more teachers and firefighters and cops because we have had millions of private sector jobs created. But our unemployment has been higher than it should be in part because hundreds and hundreds of thousands of hard working public employees have been let go by Republican policy. And finally, finally there is a sector in which I worked hardest, the financial sector.

The single biggest cause of our economic collapse was the failure of the Republican right wing, unfortunately some Democrats joined in to allow the public sector appropriately to regulate the private sector. I want a strong financial community. But I don't want subprime loans being given to people who can't pay them back. I don't want derivatives being engaging by companies that can't back up when they get in trouble like AIG. I want an independent consumer engine that will protect the individual saver and borrower from abuse. I don't want municipalities to be advised by unscrupulous people who get them into trouble and they lose money. We began in 2009 to put in place a set of rules to prevent the kind of abuse that led to the economic disaster. Myth Romney, and for all I know, Mitt Romney, opposes all of that. He has called for the repeal --

BLITZER: All right, Barney Frank, Barney Frank speaking here at the Democratic Convention. He's going full speed ahead against Mitt Romney, someone from Massachusetts. We're watching what's going on. John Lewis (ph), the congressman from Georgia, getting ready to speak. We're going to be hearing from the performing artist Mary J. Blige (ph), much more of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our -- let's go to our "Strategy Session", our CNN contributors are here, Roland Martin and Alex Castellanos. Alex, you caused a little bit of a stir last night when you suggested that that powerful speech that Bill Clinton delivered may have been deal done. ALEX CASTELLANOUS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well I'll tell you it was such a powerful speech, it was like watching a major league pitcher just throw these effortless strikes from center field. It was quite a speech. But two things. Democratic Party under Bill Clinton became a party of fiscal responsibility, not the party of George McGovern that spent too much. Barack Obama is seen as a George McGovern like figure. He spends too much. That's what concerns a lot of Independents. Bill Clinton came back to do the laying on of hands last night and said no, he's not. He's more of a centrist like I am. Now that may or may not be true, but the laying on of hands helps. But the other thing that Clinton did that was hugely helpful he didn't just endorse Obama. He gave him a campaign. He gave him a narrative, a story. Before last night we didn't know why we should keep Barack Obama. Bill Clinton said the sun is going to come up tomorrow, the economy is getting better. It would be a risk to change.


BLITZER: He did a powerful job for the president --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course, but here's the deal though. You can't paint a picture unless you are provided the tools, provided the paint. If he had nothing to talk about, he couldn't stand there and make it up. The other deal is I love Alex talks about you know the spending and the debt. You know really the biggest contributor to the deficit has been the extension of those Bush tax cuts which I know you love so much --

CASTELLANOS: In which the president extended --

MARTIN: They do contribute -- I know that -- my point is that has contributed to the deficit, so when we talk about spending and debt, it also plays a part in it.

BLITZER: What's the biggest difference, so far we're at day three at this Democratic Convention between what is going on here in Charlotte and what happened last week in Tampa?

CASTELLANOS: Oh the biggest difference is a good question, Wolf. You know last week was Ann Romney's convention. We got to know Mitt Romney the man through her eyes. This week, so far it is certainly Bill Clinton's convention and we're getting to know kind of where Mitt -- where Barack Obama would take the country. But I'll tell you what's different here is the energy level.

MARTIN: Right.

CASTELLANOS: They are -- Republicans have a lot of intensity because of Barack Obama. Democratic intensity was a little flat. They seem to be repairing that and by the way they're being -- everybody is being very nice to me --

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) at least inside this Time Warner Cable Arena.

MARTIN: First of all, one of the reasons they're being nice to Alex is he is standing by me, so I protect him a little bit, but here's the deal --

CASTELLANOS: Nobody has tied me to the roof of their car thanks to Roland.

MARTIN: First of all, this isn't Bill Clinton's convention. Remember, Michelle Obama was strong on Tuesday.

BLITZER: She gave a powerful speech.

MARTIN: Just like '08. Bill Clinton was strong on Wednesday in '08 --

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) Tuesday and Wednesday --

MARTIN: Wednesday in '08 --

BLITZER: The question is will it be three for three?

MARTIN: Oh absolutely. First of all I'm telling you right now --



MARTIN: -- Vice President Joe Biden is not going to be a quiet figure on that stage, but also the president has the pressure. We know he's competitive and he certainly does not want to be second or third in their pecking order. He wants to take it up. But to your point, the energy is different because what -- the point is with a convention you do get the narrative (ph) and to do that point with the first day, the second day, I heard from Democrats externally who are saying OK, you know what, I've been one of those folks laying back, now it is time for game on.

CASTELLANOS: I wonder -- I think Barack Obama has a very tough job tonight because I think Bill Clinton gave a lot of his speech last night. And so that's a little bit anti-climactic I think for the president. He's going to have to say something new, but he's going to have to say something that a new Democrat would say. Here is what we're going to do about the debt and the deficit. Maybe I will go back to Simpson-Bowles, but unless he does something like that, I think it will fall a little flat --

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) hold my breath waiting for him to say I am going back to Simpson-Bowles --


CASTELLANOS: He's going to have to do something --


CASTELLANOS: -- along those lines -- MARTIN: He shouldn't only deal with that particular issue and I would also hope President Obama just like Bill Clinton deals with voter suppression, which we know is real in Ohio and so many other states, especially with these recent federal court decisions, and the other piece is the president I think should be on the offensive, be aggressive, and make a claim in terms of this is how I'm going to fight for you and when the opposition chooses to hold up, I am going to enlist you in this battle and tell them don't you stop America from growing because you don't like this part (INAUDIBLE).

CASTELLANOS: I would bet you, Wolf that right now somewhere in a little room in this place, they're rewriting some of Barack Obama's speech tonight because I think Bill Clinton gave a lot of it last night. I would be curious to ask.

MARTIN: President Clinton talked about what took place from the moment he came in. To present day is the president's responsibility to say this is what I'm going to do today moving forward.

BLITZER: Is it a problem that they had to move indoors for this third night? Remember on the third night in Denver last time they had the Mile High (ph) Stadium, the Bank of America Stadium was ready but they were afraid of bad weather.

CASTELLANOS: You know what, I think it's actually a plus for him. One is it's actually stormy out there and wet and you hear a little rumble, so one is thank heavens they did. But two, I think this is not an election about grandeur and big promises this time for Barack Obama. He's got to get up on that stage and talk about really getting some things done. I think it is actually a plus for him to be in here.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we've got to leave it right there, but we'll continue --


BLITZER: -- our coverage. Of course we're not going away.


BLITZER: Stand by. We've got live coverage of the Democratic National Convention. A civil rights icon is about to take the stage. Stand by.