August 28th, 2008
08:51 PM ET
6 years ago

Gergen: Some thoughts as we wait for Obama

The scene at Invesco Field in Denver.
The scene at Invesco Field in Denver.

As we await the acceptance address tonight, a few quick thoughts:

– This is indeed an historic occasion as an African American becomes the nominee of a major political party, and there is good reason for all Americans - not just Democrats - to celebrate the racial progress we have seen. But I also believe that Martin Luther King Jr. would be the first to tell us that we have still not reached the day when we look beyond the color of one's skin and instead look to the content of their character. To me, one of the biggest questions of this campaign is how many votes Obama may lose because he is black. (to be fair, he will also win some votes because he is black). From my perspective, it is impossible to measure right now. One top GOP strategist told me privately that he thinks it will cost Obama 4-6 points nationally. That sounds very high to me. But I am very curious what you think.

Watch: Gore says Obama is a chance for a new beginning

– So far, my sense is that this convention has been very helpful to Obama and the Democrats. The party finally seemed to come together last night, and much of the credit belongs to both Clintons. At a moment of personal pain, they put a smile on their faces and came out four-square for Obama. To be sure, there have been a lot of hours spent early each night without much of significance occurring (why not shorten these conventions to two nights?), but the closing hour to an hour and a half each night has been highly successful - a series of first class speeches by Michelle Obama and the two Clintons. Too early yet to measure the political impact, but Gallup tracking is reporting tonight that so far– half-way through last night - Obama has enjoyed a 6 point bounce. We'll see. Curious again about your view.

Watch: Lewis: 'We stil have a dream'

– In the meantime, we are also awaiting the Republicans. There are several signs tonight that John McCain may be choosing Tim Pawlenty as his running mate. We will all have a lot to say about that if it occurs - strikes me as a "safe" choice (popular 2nd term governor of Minnesota, social conservative, blue collar roots) but if the Republicans believe that a key requirement for going to the White House is whether you are "ready" to be commander in chief, the question arises: Pawlenty? What do you think. (Please know that other names are floating wildly and that there is some talk that John McCain may wish to postpone the convention if the storm grows in the Gulf).

Here comes Al Gore, so will leave things here. But again, would welcome your thoughts.

soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Dayahka

    Yes, this is historic: the first bi-racial person as a major party presidential candidate; had Obama been mono-racial, I'm not certain he'd have made it because America is deeply racist. However, the racial significance of the occasion aside, I see no possibility of real change from either major candidate; a minor candidate might have good ideas but they have even less of a chance of being acceptable to the elitist power structure that controls the country, an elitism grounded in militarism and corporate fraud. It will take more than a new leader to redirect the the American system into a civilized, humane, and ethical direction; it may take a major catastrophe, like a collapse of the financial system or running out of oil, to do that.

    August 28, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  2. iridiam

    i really want that obama should win because he would make for a good president

    August 28, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  3. CanadianMoose

    IF IT WERE NOT FOR THE CLINTONS.................
    THIS CLIMAX or near orgasm WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED.

    YET THE CLINTONS WERE SHUT OFF EFFECTIVELY BY THE MEDIA AND THE OBAMA CAMP.

    THEY ACTED GRACIOUSLY AND HUMBLY.

    IF OBAMA LOSES, PLEASE DO NOT BLAME THE CLINTONS.

    It will be up to the people to filter thru all this dust and lies and acting before they cast their votes because the voting booth is not a Hollywood studio.

    August 28, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  4. G. Rodriguez

    What this convention has done is allow a contrast of personalities between the parties. You have Dick Cheney as opposed to Joe Biden. Not much of a contest there. Who would you want to have dinner with or share a family outing with? Then there is Obama versus Bush/McCain. Inspiration, exuberance, vision versus Republican status quo, very limited vision, and attack out of fear mentality. Who would you rather spend a day talking too? Who is going to compete for tickets to a McCain event except special interests? What I see is people who really do care about us versus power hungry elitists who have bankrupted our country militarily, financially, and spiritually. The Republican Party has always been for the privileged, NEVER FOR THE MAJORITY. Remeber New orleans and Katrina. Bush looking out of the window of Air Force One, 50,000 feet above the people he was supposed to respresent and to help. If you can't see that then you have bought the slime-slinging from vacant hearts who wallow in self-interest. Narcissism is the anthem of Republicans. No more taxes, but tax breaks for the wealthy and privileged.

    August 28, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  5. Alan Sorem

    Obama's victory in the general election depends on the turnout of enthusiastic voters under 50...I live in the near South (Kentucky) and I hear from some older "always voted Democratic" folks that they'll sit home this year. On the other hand, changes in the "new West" that is tending Democratic may make up for the South. It will be interesting, and I say God bless Lyndon Johnson! (See Caro op-ed in NY times today.)

    August 28, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  6. John from LA

    Dems should be ashamed-How much $$$ was spent on this ridiculous night-Reminds me of a Rep. bash-oh well-can't wait until the GE starts and BO opens his mouth-um um um-if he gets into 1600 Penn. Ave-it'll be just like W-can't let him wander from the script.

    Bots attack!!!...

    August 28, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  7. Tiger

    There are many that will be disappointed if it doesn't cost him 10 points or more.
    There are many that suggest that you no longer have creditabilty since you sold out to the liberals.

    August 28, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  8. Denise

    He is no match for Biden!

    August 28, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  9. Scott L

    Wow, Obama plays the race card YET again "I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington." – Barack Obama Acceptance Speech

    August 28, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  10. Charles

    I think Gergen is being dishonest with the following comment (or at least is being PC):

    "to be fair, he will also win some votes because he is black."

    Clearly a large number of people will vote vote for Obama mainly because of his race. I suspect the points Obama will lose because of his race will be much more outweighed by those who will vote for him because of his race.

    August 28, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  11. Mike

    Interesting, isn't it, that if you disagree w/Obama, you're automatically a racist? And if you disagree w/Hillary, you're automatically a sexist?

    I really don't think the 150-day-wonder is ready yet, but it would be fascinating to see, if he *did* win, how many people would just curl up and die without their favorite crutch.

    No, wait; *then* they would pull the same thing they did w/Colin Powell, and claim that he wasn't really black. Silly me.

    August 28, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  12. BK

    David,
    Check the exerts from Obama's speech and see if he hasn't flip flopped and adopted McCains energy plans.

    August 28, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  13. DBH

    I seems the liberal media is always talking about the color of Obama's skin and I sure that there are racist out there that will not ovte for him just becuase of that and I feel sorry for them. Smart well read Americans who do their research know who Obama is, a far radical left wing socialist who can give a great speech. That is the number one reason Obama will struggle to win this election.

    August 28, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  14. Babs

    Pamela: Just a side note about your "pork" comment. I learned yesterday that Senator McCain has never in his career taken advantage of earmarks to give money to special interests. Zero earmarks for all those years – does that address your concerns about his feelings on "pork"?

    August 28, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. john wyatt

    I have always enjoyed your political acumen and appreciated that you earned you chops in the most ethereal culture on the planet.
    Your sanguine cautionary note this evening however underscores the fact that pagentry is not a substitute for substance.
    In the end the test will be whether we have made the journey to look beyond the obvious and reach into our hearts for hope and change.
    I am deeply saddened by the state of my country and the wanton wreckedge of the last 8 years. I want to feel proud that we reverse the abuse of condeming prisoners without trials, of snooping through our neighbors private conversations, of using the justice department as a tool instead of a beacon. I want us to stand for something better than fear and anger.
    There has to be more.

    August 28, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. Ari Cole

    Dear Profesor Gergen and Readers,

    I agree with my former Harvard professor that Obama will lose some votes because of race, and yet will gain some from "White Guilt" factors, maybe.

    Anyway, it is great to see more diversity in the Primary Battles, and I am quite sure Team Clinton has more brillant chapters to share with America. Hopefully with Hillary taking the lead of the two.

    As for Team McCain, my bet is on Ridge- 55%, Pawlently 35%, Rice and others- 10%. I'd LOVE a McCain-Rice Ticket, but....

    ShALOHA from Honolulu,

    Ari Cole
    Harvard Kennedy School Alumnus '08

    August 28, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  17. lsigalov

    HOW DARE CNN NOT SHOW THOSE REGULAR PEOPLE SPEAKING OUT FOR OBAMA??? THEY WERE INCREDIBLE. SHAME ON THIS COVERAGE , CNN NEEDS TO SHUT UP ALREADY AND LET THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SEE AND HEAR FROM THE INTENDED SPEAKERS! NOT FAIR!!!

    August 28, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  18. G. Rodriguez

    LOL proves my previous point. Very shallow negative comments from an obvious Republican. Bet you are a Rush and Lars Larson fan!

    August 28, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  19. PRAISE

    I think that this is the time and this is the moment that the whole world is reaching for change. We as a nation need to move out of our comfort zone. We as a nation need to work together in unity to move across the color line and just see each other as people. We need to understand diversity and embrace the difference in each other. The United States use to be the leader and now we have fallen behind. Obama represents postive change. But keep in mind we all have to do our part as well.

    August 28, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  20. Roger

    I trust John McCain to do more positive CHANGE than BHO! We don't need nor can afford another 'on-the-job' trainee for President. (look what happend with GWB, the last trainee). Race has nothing to do with it, it is who is more qualified!!!!

    August 28, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  21. Sherry, Atlanta

    BARACK OBAMA IS THE LAST CHANCE. . .12/21/2012!

    HOPE--–HOPE---–HOPE

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08-'12

    August 28, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  22. michael, Gladstone, MO

    Bob-

    SO I guess your state has legalized medical marijuana, 'cuz buddy you seem off the deep end. Woof.

    August 28, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  23. Jan lL.

    Unfortunately Mr. Garrison, it will matter. Sir on the blogs people are being accused of not voting for BO because of race, while that is true for some, there are those who simply believe that he is lacking in experience and in these times, that is what they want. For example the VP pick, the safe thing for all of his supporters, and to the satisfaction of Hillary supporters would have been to pick H for a landslide victory. He turned a pony ride into a thoroughbred horse race that might come down to the wire. This would come under an experience colum. Pride goeth, before a fall.

    August 28, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
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