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.
- 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.
- 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.
It often seems presumptuous to sit in a television studio and offer a judgment about how a political convention is working out in America when it is you, the voters, who are the real deciders. So please forgive, but here are some thoughts.
Overall, I thought that the Democratic Party finally brought it together tonight. Much of the credit for their success goes to the Clintons - through the speech last night by Hillary and then tonight by Bill, they brought glue to the party and an energy to the convention that was crucial. Recognizing how sad they must be inside, I thought they were a class act this week. Together, they brought a healing to the party that allowed people to pull together.
Add to that the way that both Barack Obama and Joe Biden conducted themselves tonight, and they had the makings of a grand third night. Visiting the hall, Obama didn't talk so much about himself but rather, was gracious and thankful to the Clintons (as well, of course, as Michelle). Coming after Bill Clinton's rallying cry, it was impossible for Biden to top him - and he didn't - but he gave a very serviceable speech and his son Beau was absolutely moving.
The Republicans will have a full opportunity next week to make their case, and no doubt, they will have some grand moments, too. For now, this is the Democrats' turn, and they have used it well. Overall, my two cents is that tonight they may have started to reverse the momentum of this campaign. John McCain has been coming on strong, catching up with Obama in the polls - partly because a lot of Democrats haven't been sure in their allegiances. Now, Democrats may start coming home - and for the Obama-Biden team, that provides a big opportunity. Let's see if Obama can build on this momentum tomorrow night.
Now what do you, the read deciders, think? Would welcome your thoughts.
Bill Clinton delivered the best, most effective and most important speech since he left the White House. Not only did he offer up a rousing embrace of the Obama-Biden team, not only did he validate the qualifications and readiness of the Democratic ticket, but he was the first one at this convention to paint a bright, clear picture of the crucial choices voters face this November.
Next week, we will hear a strong - and perhaps equally compelling - rebuttal from the Republicans. Everyone will want to weigh the arguments carefully.
But for the moment, the Democrats have the public stage, and Bill Clinton has just become a crucial force on behalf of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Finally, let me recognize that I am only a single person speaking. The people who count the most are really you, the voters. Would welcome your thoughts.
There will no doubt be cynics who thought that she didn't believe what she was saying, just as some cynics thought Michelle Obama last night wasn't the person who appeared on stage. But just as Michelle struck me as authentic last night, Hillary Clinton struck me as authentic tonight. And I have to add, Hillary also struck me as a class act.
Over and over again, I have heard that the Clintons only care about themselves. What we saw tonight is that Hillary Clinton cares a great deal about her party and her country, too. As both Governor Rendell and Candy Crowley have said on the air tonight, she posed exactly the right question to her supporters: were you in this just for me or were you in this for the larger causes? Isn't that the right question for Democrats?
What do you think? Would welcome your thoughts.
A moment ago, I had an opportunity to offer some views on air about Mark Warner's keynote address - always a privilege to be here on CNN. While no barn burner - so it probably didn't play well in the hall - and offering almost no red meat, I thought it was actually very effective because it introduced some fresh thinking about the future, offering hope that we can work our way out of this economic mess. Politics has too often dismissed the importance of technology, science and education.
Just after, Alex Castellanos turned to the rest of us here on the NY panel to say that if this becomes a race about the past vs. the future, the Democrats might have a much better chance of winning. I think he is right on target. We so much need as a people to move beyond the arguments of the past in finding the best path to the future.
I have been a critic of the convention choreography for a lot of the past two nights. But I join others in saluting a party that helps us to face the future and tries to draw upon the talents of all Americans, not just a favored some.
That conversation on CNN with the basketball star Charles Barkley was one of the single best testimonials to Barack Obama that I have seen here at the convention. He showed that one can be low key and be even more effective sometimes than if you are bombastic. I Would welcome your views.
In the meantime, it has been revealing (again) to read the many comments that voters are registering on the CNN Web site. Some of them have been pretty sharp. Please know that we try to read them hear - even
when they hurt!
The second night off the convention is off to a much stronger start than last night. The Democrats are smart to showcase 8 women senators in a row from their party, keeping their appearances short and punchy, and helping to build toward the climactic speech by Hillary Clinton.
This is a fitting way for the party to celebrate the 88th anniversary of the amendment that finally enabled women to vote - and it was literally 88 years ago on this day that the amendment was certified. Republicans will need - and want - to celebrate this occasion, too (Carl Bernstein and I have been wondering privately on the set tonight whether this might point to a surprise choice by John McCain for vice president: Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas. We'll wait and see.)
In the meantime, one question tonight is whether the Democrats can somehow juggle the different emphases of the evening into a single message. After all, this is a night that was officially labeled a night about the economy (the number one issue of the campaign). At the same time, Democrats rightly want to celebrate women. And then, too, a central purpose of the night - especially with Hillary's speech - is to unify the party. How will the Democrats successfully blend these into a single message? Stay tuned.
The Democrats should be enormously grateful to Michelle Obama: after a very slow start to the convention, punctuated by a moving tribute to Teddy Kennedy and his own rousing speech, the first evening was in danger of becoming an entirely lost opportunity. But Michelle rescued it.
She was extraordinary, talking in ways that were both conversational - always welcome in people's living room - but also inspiring. She spoke in ways that reached out to people of all backgrounds. Democrats should be both proud and grateful.
It is impossible to know whether how many people will accept her message. To a significant degree, that is of course because she represents such a departure from the traditional order of things in America. She represents a new future - of women who are not only devoted mothers and wives but also highly educated, caring people ... and, yes, African-Americans, Hispanics, and people of many diferent backgrounds. One day the country will be there. Is it prepared to be there now? I'm frankly not sure. We are living through one of the most important chapters in the American story
A few minutes ago, James Carville said the Democrats have been hiding their message tonight - and I think he was on the mark.
But Craig Robinson, Michelle's brother, has helped to put things back on track. His basketball analogies about Barack Obama was some of the best validation we have heard about the candidate in this campaign. Now Michelle has opened up well with a basketball note... that connects with voters. The Democrats need to make this fellow more visible... now on to Michelle's message.
Teddy Kennedy has finally brought this convention to life - and sent the first powerful message to the country.
This is conventioneering at its best - a moving tribute by the daughter of John Kennedy, an excellent film, and a courageous, inspiring speech by Senator Kennedy.
Finally, the Democrats have started to frame the message they want out of the convention - that America faces a huge choice this fall. The Republicans will have their own version of that choice, of course, but now the Democrats have a chance to put it in their own terms, and that is what Kennedy accomplished.
Moreover, he started to change the story line of this convention - that it is all about Obama versus the Clintons. Teddy reminded viewers that Democrats represent a much bigger family. At the very least, it is a party not only of the Clintons and Obama but also a party of the Kennedys. In that sense, he can be a much-needed healing force for the Democrats, bringing them out more unified.
The Republicans will vigorously contest much of what Kennedy said, as they should ... but for now, a lot of Democrats can come out of tonight with a battle cry, "Let's Win This One for Teddy!"