From a Republican perspective, this was a strong first night. Speaker after speaker gave testimony to the courage, patriotism and independence of John McCain - messages that will resonate with a good many voters across the land. In addition, they drew some stark contrasts between Barack Obama and McCain, the kind of contrasts that are legitimate at a political convention - even when you disagree with them.
But there were also some dispiriting aspects to the evening. It revealed once again just how deeply divided this country is and how much free-floating anger and hatred there is toward those seen on the other side. There is a whole lot of demonization going on that suggests just how difficult it will be for the next president to unite the country. Repubicans probably think that Democrats were worse than they were - and vice versa; personally, I cringed a little less at some of the Democratic rhetoric (though there was some that went over the line).
I also found it interesting how much the Repubicans are eager to fire up their supporters by reigniting the "culture wars". Abortion has very much injected into the campaign and once again the Republicans are finding it easy to beat up on the press - the "big shots" in the media, as they call them. Will it work? You tell me.
Will look forward to your thoughts.
As Republicans gather tonight for their convention, they face three looming challenges, in my judgment. Would welcome your thoughts:
(1) Regain the momentum in this presidential campaign: Two weeks ago, Republicans had successfully set up this election as a referendum on Barack Obama and his readiness to be president. And John McCain was surging upward; he had the "Big Mo," as George H.W. Bush used to say. But in the wake of a successful Democratic convention and controversies swirling around McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, the conversation has shifted dramaticallly. Now, as this convention starts, a growing number of voters are asking: is the McCain-Palin ticket up to this? In short, it is becoming a referendum now about the GOP ticket, not the Democratic ticket. And as those questions arise, the Democrats are rising: recent polls show them, on average, with about a 6 point lead - up from a virtual tie two weeks ago. So the Republicans have to reverse that tide here.
John McCain's selection of a running mate represents the first one I can remember that has brought smiles to activists on both sides of the aisle.
Among conservatives, one hears nothing but praise for Governor Sarah Palin - she is strongly pro-life, a long-time member of the NRA, a fiscal hawk, and an interesting combination of charm and toughness. She helps to bring the party back to its conservative roots. With the commitments that McCain made at Saddleback that he would run a pro-life administration, social conservatives - especially evangelicals - can now rally to the McCain-Palin ticket with genuine enthusiasm. McCain seemingly is helping to close the enthusiasm gap on his side.
Yet among Democrats, there is lots of positive acclaim as well. From their perspective, the one argument that McCain has used so effectively against them is that we live in a highly dangerous world - he repeatedly calls terrorism "the transcendent issue of our times" - and Barack Obama has so little national security experience that he represents too much of a risk. Now, say the Dems, here we have a 72-year-old candidate - the oldest to ever seek the office for the first time - and he has asked someone to be a heartbeat away from the presidency who has no national security experience at all - none, nada. Democrats think McCain has completely undercut his strongest argument. They are also relieved that he didn't choose Mitt Romney, who brings a lot of economic understanding and would have been helpful in a big battleground state like Michigan.
So, smiles on both sides. What is uncertain is how uncommitted voters will respond - especially women who might have voted for Hillary Clinton. Clearly, the GOP is betting that Sarah Palin can bring them back. Are they right? Meanwhile, Democrats have told me that a lot of Clinton women will be shooed away by Palin's conservatism - and some will even be insulted. Are they right?
Would love your thoughts.
Read other reaction from Paul Begala and Ed Rollins
Watch Obama says the country is better than what it has gotten the past four years.
I imagine that lots of you out there remain fierce critics of Barack Obama. Next week Republicans will legitimately debate and challenge many of his ideas, especially about his call for a more activist government. It will be fascinating now when John McCain and Obama meet in debates.
But for this moment and for this purpose, I saw Obama's speech tonight as a political masterpiece. As I had a chance to say on CNN a few moments ago, it was in many ways less a speech than a symphony. I also sensed that we saw tonight an Obama who is growing into a new, more mature leader - stronger, tougher, harder-hitting than he had appeared only a few weeks ago.
Watch: 'Our work won't be easy,' Obama says
Whether Obama will win this Novemember or not is still very unclear, but if he does, I imagine we may look back and say this was a major turning point.
Many of you, I know, will disagree. From all of you, I would welcome your thoughts - you, after all, are the voters who will actually decide the fate of the country.
An advance copy of the Obama speech has just been distributed. Because of the embargo, I won't go into content for the moment - but know that it is long and is much meatier than most acceptance addresses. Word count estimate: about 4500 words. Will look forward to hearing listener comments as we go.
Before it gets lost in the excitement at Mile High Stadium, it is worth going back and reading Al Gore's speech tonight. While his delivery was way too rushed, the substance of his speech was something that the country needs to think and talk about a lot more: a possible catastrophe building up around us.
Watch Gore's entire speech
Gore has been trying to tell the U.S. and the world for some time now about the dangers of global warming, and to his credit, he has been honored with both an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize for his efforts. But neither of the candidates - nor have the parties - spent enough time talking about what is ahead and what we must do. Every expert I know thinks it will require sacrifice on our part - higher prices for using fossil fuels. When will the candidates level with us on what is required?
Some of you, I am sure, disagree with Al Gore and perhaps you don't even like him, but I must say that from my perspective, we need to pay attention to what he is saying.
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.
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.
Watch: Bill Clinton says Obama is ready to lead
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.
Watch: Bill Clinton: I support Obama
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.