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Obama Picks Joe Biden as Running Mate; Tropical Storm Fay Rages On; Democratic Convention Preview

Aired August 23, 2008 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It's official. Obama/Biden '08.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have a brilliant, relatively young man, who's the nominee of the Democratic Party, who's leading John McCain on every area except the one where experience just intuitively suggests people think if you're experienced, you must know more.


HOLMES: Joe Biden's experience, Barack Obama's promise to bring real change to Washington. Is this the ticket to win the White House?


HOLMES: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday, August 23rd. You are now in the NEWSROOM. Hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

Breaking news this morning. While you were sleeping, Barack Obama picked Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate. CNN and the best political team on television was the first to bring you that news well ahead of that 3:00 a.m. text message.

HOLMES: And we might be the first to show you him leaving his home today. That is Senator Joe Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, where people have been staked out. You can tell, it looks like some bystanders there. Just everybody's taking a peek at this spectacle, now that he has become the vice presidential pick of Barack Obama. They will make a campaign appearance together today in Springfield, Illinois, coming your way at 3:00 this afternoon. We will have that for you live.

NGUYEN: So, the Obama pick coming in a text message just after 3:00 a.m. Eastern. The text -- and I want to quote here -- "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Spread the word."

Well, we do have the best political team on television all over this story, and we are covering it from every angle. So, who better to talk to than our own Wolf Blitzer? He's in Denver this morning. So Wolf, did you get your text message around 3:00 this morning? Although we did break the news well ahead of that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I had my BlackBerry on the silent mode so I could get some sleep. We obviously already knew what was going on. But Betty and T.J., I'm sure a lot of people got their mobile phones or their Blackberry started buzzing or vibrating or ringing, and maybe there were some unhappy folks out there at 3:00 in the morning, midnight out on the West Coast. We'll see what the fallout is from that.

Bill Schneider is here with us, our senior political analyst. Let's walk through the process, why Senator Obama decided to reach out to Joe Biden, 65-years-old. He's a Washington insider, been a chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, currently is, former chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Why do you think he decided to go with Biden for the ticket?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look at the news for the past month. You had the crisis in Georgia, you have the Russia re-emerging now as a threat. International affairs has suddenly become bigger on the national agenda for this election, and no small matter, Obama was slipping a bit in the polls. It's now become a very tight race.

I think he realized, he has to have someone with gravitas and experience in world affairs on the ticket to reassure voters that this White House, an Obama White House, will be perfectly capable of handling a crisis.

BLITZER: And it wasn't necessarily the importance of Delaware, which is a tiny state, obviously, but he can reach out to Pennsylvania, for example. He's from Scranton, Pennsylvania, originally, and he's got some roots there that, obviously, would help the ticket, presumably in a key battleground state like Pennsylvania.

SCHNEIDER: Pennsylvania is a battleground state, and Governor Rendell, who is a Clinton supporter, very strong Clinton supporter, delivered Pennsylvania, helped deliver it for Hillary Clinton. He referred to Joe Biden as the third senator from Pennsylvania. Joe Biden does have roots in Pennsylvania. He has a lot of -- has blue collar roots.

This is a crucial state in the election. He's also Catholic, and Obama did not do well with Catholic voters. In state after state, Catholic voters, particularly white Catholic voters, as well as Hispanic Catholics, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. So that's where Obama could use help also.

BLITZER: As we look at this process going forward, one of the top Democrats said to me only yesterday, and it was very similar to what another Democrat said the day before, in why Biden might get this selection. They said, he can take a punch, but he can give a punch as well.

SCHNEIDER: He certainly can.

BLITZER: He's not a shy guy. He's had some colorful language over the years.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, he has. He's said some things he wished he didn't say, but in the end, he has been around. He's a pro. Joe Biden is a real pro. And he knows McCain's vulnerabilities. He's been in the senate longer than John McCain. He's known John McCain for over 20 years. The whole period with McCain's being in the Senate.

So, he knows how McCain thinks, he knows what McCain is saying, what he believes, and I think he realizes that -- I mean, Obama realizes that if anybody has to match McCain on international affairs, Joe Biden can do it.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that McCain and Obama -- excuse me, McCain and Biden have always, for years, 20 years -- a very good relationship, based on everything I know on the Senate. But the McCain campaign, as soon as the Biden word was disclosed -- we broke it, our John King right here on CNN late last night -- as soon as that came out, they wasted no time in hitting really hard.

SCHNEIDER: And it's politics. That's what it's all about. That's part of being a professional, you know when to go after the other guy. It doesn't mean you have a difficult or a hatred, a personal hatred to the guy, but you know them, you know what their vulnerabilities are.

This is a signal that the McCain campaign is going to come out swinging. And I think Democrats expect Biden to come out swinging, which is why it's going to be a very popular decision here at the convention. Some Democrats have been a little bit worried that Obama hasn't been strong enough or tough enough in hitting back at McCain. With Biden on the ticket, I think that's reassuring to them.

BLITZER: The criteria that Senator Obama had set forward in several interviews going forward, before he made his decision, said first and foremost, he needs someone who's qualified to be president of the United States if something were to happen to him. I think most people could agree that Joe Biden is qualified.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. He's run for president twice, 20 years apart, 1988, 2008. He was vetted in both those contests. Didn't quite make it in 1988, but I think his qualifications have been established.

BLITZER: And then he said he needs someone who's not going to be a yes person, someone who can give him good advice and make him a better president.

SCHNEIDER: He'll get plenty of advice from Joe Biden. Joe Biden is not shy. He has a lot to say, and he says it. So, that's not a problem.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Bill. We've got a lot more to talk about, a lot more to assess as we go forward here at the Democratic Convention. Folks from around the country, thousands are just getting into Denver right now, and this will be the center of action over the next several days.

But today, T.J., in Springfield, Illinois, that ticket will be formally unveiled at the Old State Capitol Building there, and we'll, of course, have live coverage of that. Much more from here, as well. In the meantime, back to you guys in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: And Wolf, when we look at the picture being Biden, and we look back at history and how he did in the primaries, and he didn't fair so well after the Iowa caucus, how much is Biden really going to deliver, aside from the experience issue, when it comes to votes?

BLITZER: I think he can be a very effective, very effective politician, Betty. He's got -- you know in all of those debates -- I moderated four Democratic presidential debates during the primaries -- Biden was there for several of them, until he dropped out, actually, the first two. And he did really, really well.

He's a very smart guy with a wealth of experience. One thing you'll learn in the U.S. Senate, you learn how to talk, and he's a great, great talker, as all of us know.

Over the past month, while he was being vetted to be Barack Obama's running mate, one of the reasons I thought -- a lot of us thought he really wanted to be on the ticket, even though earlier he professed he had absolutely no interest in being the vice president, he had publicly said he'd rather be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee than be vice president of the United States -- but that belied the fact that when he was so silent.

This is a guy who loves to be on television, who loves to do interviews, especially on foreign policy issues -- when this crisis in Georgia, the Republic of Georgia and Russia erupted only the past couple weeks and he declined all television interviews, including while he was in Georgia and Tbilisi himself, I knew then he really wanted to be vice president of the United States.

And I suspected he had a pretty good shot of being on Barack Obama's ticket. So, it's a fascinating development that we're going to learn a lot more about in the coming hours, days and weeks.

NGUYEN: Yes, I think we all kind of had a hunch that they were really looking at him seriously when he did make that trip to Georgia, just returning this week. All right, we'll be talking with you very shortly. Thank you, Wolf.

HOLMES: Well, it didn't take long at all for John McCain's campaign to react to word that Joe Biden would be Barack Obama's running mate. McCain's spokesman put out a statement. And it said, "There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama's lack of experience than Joe Biden. Biden has denounced Barack Obama's poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing -- that Barack Obama is not ready to be president."

Well, something quite similar to that is about to hit the airwaves. Yes, we already have a new TV ad that the McCain campaign brought to us this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does Barack Obama's running mate say about Barack Obama?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You were asked is he ready? You said "I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

BIDEN: I think I stand by the statement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what does he say about John McCain?

BIDEN: I would be honored to run with or against John McCain because I think the country would be better off.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.


NGUYEN: There is reaction to the Biden decision this morning from Barack Obama's former rival, that being Senator Hillary Clinton. She issued a statement praising the selection of Biden. Clinton says, "In naming my colleague and friend, Senator Joe Biden, to be the vice presidential nominee, Senator Obama has continued in the best traditions for the vice presidency by selecting an exceptionally strong, experienced leader and devoted public servant." She went on to say "Senator Biden will be a purposeful and dynamic vice president who will help Senator Obama both win the presidency and govern this great country."

Two big stories we're following for you this morning. Of course, Barack Obama picks Joe Biden to be his running mate. We'll covering all of the angles of this story all day long here on CNN. Lots of online reaction, too. We're going to tell you all about that.

HOLMES: But Tropical Storm Fay is also what we're seeing an eye on. The storm will not go away, actually making history with all the landfalls it's made. We'll take you live to one of the hardest hit areas.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Denver. We're getting ready to cover the Democratic Convention here in Denver, but first, the focus of attention on Joe Biden right now. The Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has selected Joe Biden to be his running mate.

You're looking at live pictures at Wilmington, Delaware, right now. That's the driveway of Joe Biden's home, and that's where Joe Biden will be leaving shortly with his family. They'll be getting on a plane to fly to Springfield, Illinois, where the ticket will be formally unveiled. That's where Barack Obama unveiled his race, his presidential ambitions about 19 months or so ago when he decided he wanted to be president of the United States. We'll watch this picture and bring it to you live. As soon as he leaves, you'll see it right here on CNN.

Jessica Yellin is already in Springfield, Illinois, getting ready for the speeches later this afternoon around 3:00 p.m. Eastern, Jessica. The McCain campaign wasted no time in blasting this decision by Obama to go after Joe Biden. And they used Joe Biden's own words against Barack Obama, as ammunition in trying to underscore what they say is Barack Obama's unreadiness, if you will, to be president of the United States. Now you're getting word on how the Obama camp is reacting, is that right?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just got off the phone with a top Obama adviser who's given me insight into how we can expect to see him hit back on this. There are two points. One is in this McCain ad, they use a clip of Biden saying that he would be honored or flattered or pleased to serve with John McCain or to run against him. Well, they're saying -- and they point out -- that was from 2005, and they say that was a very different John McCain than the one you're seeing this year.

This has been a consistent theme from the Obama campaign, that McCain has changed. That he sort of sold out and is now not the Independent he once was, but is touting the Bush line. Again, this is from the Obama view. So, they can make the argument, it's a different man and Biden no longer shares that sentiment and affection for the current John McCain he's seeing on the trail.

And they also say that from the moment Biden has gotten out of the race, he has immediately embraced Barack Obama, and they're not worried, they say, this adviser says, about his past criticism of Obama. Other former rivals have criticized the person that they ultimately serve on the ticket with.

Now, I'll tell you something else, Wolf. One of the concerns Democrats have expressed this morning is that Biden -- the problem with Biden to the extent he has one for them, is that he does not reinforce the change message because he's so much a part of Washington. He served there for so long.

What this top adviser says is that Biden, in their view, is not of D.C. He served in D.C., but he's not of it. He didn't go there to get rich. He didn't serve quickly and then become a lobbyist. He takes the train home every night to Delaware. He is a family man, and with some pride, this adviser said, he competes with Russ Feingold to be one of the two poorest senators in the U.S. Senate.

So, they will hit this theme hard. Again, he is a D.C. senator, but not of D.C. In other words, he hasn't been corrupted by the system in their view.

BLITZER: He actually hasn't moved to Washington, D.C. He actually lives in Wilmington, Delaware, and takes that Amtrak 80- minute drive -- Amtrak ride from Wilmington to Washington's Union Station and then back at the end of the day every single night. Jessica, stand by. We're going to be talking with you shortly in Springfield and go there once all of the festivities start.

Right now, we're waiting to see Senator Biden leave his home in Wilmington, get on that plane and fly to Springfield for the unveiling, for the Obama/Biden ticket in Springfield.

John King is with us here in Denver watching all of this unfold. There were pros and there were couldn't cons why Obama would select Joe Biden and there were others who were vetted very seriously, including Evan Bayh, the senator from Indiana, Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia, Kathleen Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, Chet Edwards, a relatively unknown congressman from Texas. No vetting, though, of Hillary Clinton, at least according to the reports, and that's irritating some of her supporters.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it could be an issue on the floor here. There could be some resentment that he didn't vet her -- which means ask for all the records, financial records, have a tough conversation with her about the pros and cons. Some of her supporters, no doubt, will resent that. I think they also might resent the fact that he never picked up the phone.

Paul Begala, our political contributor last night said on "LARRY KING LIVE," an interesting point. Barack Obama never even picked up the phone to call either Hillary or Bill Clinton, people who have been through two presidential elections. Bill Clinton made what was widely regarded as a successful vice presidential pick in Al Gore.

Why not reach out by at least picking up the phone and say, what's your advice? What was the most important thing in the process? Did you do anything wrong? So in the Clinton forces, there is without a doubt, still some lingering resentment, and the fact that she was not even considered will feed that resentment.

However, in picking Senator Biden, you saw the very positive statement from Senator Clinton. They're not picking somebody that the Clinton forces can say, wait a minute. Here's a guy who clearly meets the test. Hillary Clinton is a friend and is a fan. So by picking somebody with the long record and the experience and the leadership of Joe Biden -- there's a lot of criticism from the Republicans, you were just talking about it, but within the Democratic family, you will hear very little criticism of this choice.

BLITZER: And we will see how this choice impacts John McCain's choice, who he winds up selecting next Friday, and we're told that's going to happen in Dayton, Ohio, another battleground state.

KING: Absolutely. And if you look -- look, I mean, the thing we need to say over and over today, rare is the moment in history when we know the number two on the ticket actually influence the election in November. But, they are parts of key moments. The drama of today is a key moment. The vice presidential debate is always an interesting and potentially a key moment. And you know how upset Democrats were back in 2000 and 2004. They thought both Joe Lieberman and John Edwards were not aggressive enough, not combative enough, and that Dick Cheney won those debates. In picking Joe Biden, Barack Obama been is picking somebody who was widely scored as the winner of many, or a strong performer in all of the Democratic debates. If you're John McCain, you know you have a happy warrior that you're going up against in the vice presidential debate. You'd better pick a good debater.

BLITZER: I thought he did very well in the debates. Chris Dodd, I thought, also did well in the debates. They didn't do so well in getting actual votes, but they did very well in the debates. John, stand by for that.

We're going to have extensive coverage today. Politics, it's an important day in the race for the White House. Senator Obama and Senator Biden will be appearing jointly in Springfield, Illinois, later today. We're standing by to see Senator Biden leave his home in Wilmington, Delaware. You'll see it live and a lot more right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: It is Obama/Biden '08. Or as Betty calls it, O'Biden is the new ticket. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware has been tapped to be the running mate for Senator Barack Obama. We are keeping an eye on his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Our reporters have been staked out there. The crowd continues to grow. A lot of bystanders coming by, a lot of passers-by, but also a lot of media trying to get the shot of the senator on this first day as officially the pick of Barack Obama. Expected him to be shuffled to the airport where he'll fly to Springfield, Illinois, for a rally with Senator Barack Obama.

That rally will happen at the same place where a year and a half ago, can you believe it, it was a year and a half ago that Senator Barack Obama announced that he is in fact going to run for president. But a big rally there, Obama and Biden. Expect it at 3:00 Eastern. You can see it right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: It's been a long campaign season, hasn't it?

HOLMES: Already, and it's not done.

NGUYEN: Not yet. A lot of CNN viewers, though, are weighing in on Barack Obama's choice for a running mate.

HOLMES: Our Josh Levs has some of the i-Reports that are coming in to us. Good morning to you again.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm with Betty on that, it feels like at least five years since that speech with all the ups and downs we've seen. Unbelievable, incredible. So yeah, you all are weighing in like crazy this morning. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this. We're inviting you on to send us your stories, your videos, what you think about the choice of O'Biden, of Joe Biden to be the number two with Barack Obama.

We're going to start off with a video i-Report we've gotten. Troy Davenport in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROY DAVENPORT, IREPORTER: I've been patiently waiting all night, and it's currently 5:37 in the a.m., and I think Biden is a fantastic choice.


LEVS: And he goes on to say that he praises his foreign policy experience. He thinks that's important. And a lot of people agree, including Priscilla Gwill. Let's go to her quote right here. She wrote us, "I'm thrilled Obama picked Joe Biden. I have always admired Joe, and think Obama couldn't have picked a better person to help him get elected and with the experience to help change the direction this country is going. To me this is the dream ticket."

But not everyone agrees. Last one here, Margaret Odgers writes us this. "This should be a no-brainer election. But Obama appears poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory -- for not selecting Hillary Clinton. No wonder Obama revealed his choice in the dead of the night and buried this over the weekend."

You can weigh in at Also, later this hour, I'm going to be sharing some of your e-mails about how Obama handled this announcement, how you feel about that. So, guys, we'll see you in about 30 minutes with that.

NGUYEN: All right, thank you, Josh.

You know, our other big story this morning, Tropical Storm Fay, hitting the coast again for a record fourth time. And we got word just last hour that two more deaths are being blamed on this storm. Our Susan Candiotti is in Panama City Beach. So, Susan, if I'm doing the math correct that brings the death toll to eight.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, Betty. And we -- if you break it down, one was from a man who was setting up a generator just as the storm was beginning and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. We had five caused by traffic accidents, and two more deaths due to drowning.

So, when you think of a tropical storm cannot be as dangerous as a hurricane, obviously, that is not always the case. People have to take charge of those warnings and pay attention to them, because, as we have seen, these storms can, in fact, be very dangerous.

Here on Panama City Beach, not too bad at the moment. We've been experiencing squalls all morning. A light, misty rain right now. But they could get up to 10 to 12 inches of rain here. Not getting very much of it now. Scattered throughout the state, 173,000 people have lost power.

We'll be getting an update as to how much power to those customers has been restored. Probably within the hour we will find out. That took place in 34 counties. Winds not so bad at this time. However, we can tell you that more than 100 people, more than 100 people were evacuated on Friday from a nursing home facilities and other facilities in the Jacksonville area. These are elderly folks, for the most part, who were let out from that home into boats and had to be moved to safer, higher ground at other facilities. As far as we know, everyone is OK in that regard.

Joining us now is Dan Rowe who is with the Panama City Beach Visitors and Conventions Bureau. Not so bad, could have been worse here, is that correct?

DAN ROWE, PANAMA CITY BEACH VISITORS AND CONVENTIONS BUREAU: Oh, absolutely. I think so far, we have really avoided any major damage to Panama City Beach. Just a little wind and a little rain.

CANDIOTTI: But in terms of tourism, obviously, this is not a great thing.

ROWE: It's not a great thing. You know, this weekend we had some things disrupted, but we think that as soon as the sun comes back out, Labor Day's going to be a huge weekend for us.

CANDIOTTI: No doubt, no doubt. But for now, of course, this weekend is turning out to be a washout. The rain's not over yet, as it makes its way through the panhandle. We want Tropical Storm Fay to go away. Back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: No doubt. The fourth time it hitting Florida, sixth time total. So, it's definitely a storm to be reckoned with. Thank you for that, Susan.

We want to go now to Reynolds Wolf, who's been watching this storm. And Reynolds, you say there may even be a seventh landfall?


NGUYEN: We do want to welcome everyone back to the CNN NEWSROOM. It's a big news day, especially on the political front. Hello everybody, welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: The suspense, it's over. Barack Obama has named Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate. The senators will hold their first campaign rally together this afternoon in Springfield, Illinois. Biden, who is 65, is seen as a seasoned congressional veteran who is well versed in foreign policy.

HOLMES: And the other thing, the other big story we're watching today, in Florida, getting hit and hit hard and hit repeatedly by Tropical Storm Fay. At least eight people now in Florida have died from this storm. And of course, that storm has been hitting that state for almost a week now. We are going to go back to that story. Senator Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket, which is now set.

NGUYEN: Yes, it is. Barack Obama picks Joe Biden to be his running mate. The text message went out just a few hours ago, around 3:00 a.m. Eastern, and our Wolf Blitzer rejoins us live from Denver. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Denver. We're getting ready for the Democratic National Convention. We're also following the breaking news today. Joe Biden will be the running mate of Senator Barack Obama. Joe Biden, the longtime senator from the state of Delaware, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's getting ready to leave his home in Wilmington, Delaware, shortly, to fly to Springfield, Illinois, where he and Barack Obama will be appearing jointly later this afternoon, around 3:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have extensive, live coverage.

Joe Johns is here with us in Denver. You've been covering Congress for a long time. That means you, like everyone else who covers Congress, has got to know Joe Biden rather well, because he's very available.


BLITZER: To reporters, except for the last month.

JOHNS: He certainly is. And you know, the interesting thing is he's a lot like John McCain in that way. He's an approachable guy, you can sit down and talk to, talk to in the hallways, and he will really tell you what he thinks. I've sort of been running the traps on the phones with Democrats packing their bags, getting ready to come here to Denver and a lot of them are sort of surprised about the Biden choice.

But when you talk about it, when you think it through, what Obama, they say, really needs, is somebody who can get angry for him, because if he gets angry, he changes his narrative. Joe Biden is one of those, for lack of a better word, testosterone Democrats, who can get angry, who can say the things Barack Obama can't say, and that could be very useful to him going down the road, if he's not muzzled by the campaign because sometimes he goes off the reservation. I know he has with me. He's said things about Obama. You know, one time he talked about Obama being a very attractive and clean, articulate --

BLITZER: Articulate.

JOHNS: And you look at that, and you say, oh, my gosh, what in the world did he mean by it? But down the road, you understand what he meant, you just wonder, why did he go there? That can be interpreted, eventually, as a truth teller, honesty.

BLITZER: Listen to this exchange I had with Senator Biden not that long ago. Remember, I'll set the scene for you and our viewers. The president of the United States, George W. Bush, gave a major address at the parliament in Jerusalem, and he used the suggestion that maybe some Democrats were engaged in that pre World War II appeasement mentality, and Joe Biden minced no words. Listen.


BIDEN: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.


BLITZER: He actually used another word involving the first part of that word would be bull, and then the second part of the word starts with an "S," as you can imagine.

JOHNS: Right.

BLITZER: He doesn't mince words.

JOHNS: Yes. A lot of ways, when you look at Joe Biden, the words bull in a china shop come to mind because of the kind of things he'll say to you when he's talking on or off the record.

It's amazing, though, that you come away with the refreshing feeling that the guy's being very honest with you, sort of the guy you can sit in a bar and drink with, and that's the kind of thing that appeals to people in those parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and perhaps even West Virginia, that Barack Obama wouldn't necessarily reach.

So, there's a lot of potential there, although it could be a lot of fun covering this campaign if he starts shooting his mouth off.

BLITZER: He can get passionate. He can get excited. And he can go for the jugular, which is something he does rather well, as opposed to Barack Obama, who is much more academic, and I don't think he really likes to get involved in that kind of -- correct me if you think I'm wrong.

JOHNS: You're absolutely right. Well, the other problem is, I mean, the Barack Obama narrative is nice guy, smart, trying to change the way politics is. He can't go there, because if he does, he changes his narrative and he could turn off a great segment of the public.

BLITZER: Not his nature, but Joe Biden, on the other hand, that's part of his nature.

JOHNS: That's what he does.

BLITZER: Why he's Joe Biden. All right, Joe, thanks very much. A lot more of our coverage coming up. This is an important political day. We're watching it. Another milestone on the race to the White House. T.J., in the meantime, let's go back to you.

HOLMES: We'll check in with you again shortly.

We do want to get some more reaction this morning to the pick of Senator Joe Biden. We want to get that reaction from Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is certainly a good friend to Senator Barack Obama. He's on the line with us now. Reverend Jackson, good to talk to you, good to talk to you again as always. Tell me, what do you think? Senator Joe Biden is the one. Is it the right one?

VOICE OF REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Barack Obama hit Olympic gold when he got Joe Biden. I campaigned against him in the '84 primaries. He's always very prepared. He is a gutsy debater and fighter. He has expertise in banking and finance given the economic crisis in the judiciary, as well as in foreign affairs, which he is most noted for. And beyond all that, he also has integrity. He can be trusted. And I'm sure all these are factors in Barack making this judgment.

HOLMES: Does it sit right with you as well, because many have talked about how he can make a bad gaffe every now and then on the campaign trail, and certainly, some questioned, you know, some of the things he says. Speaking of Barack Obama, calling him articulate, calling him a good-looking guy. Some view those as racist statements, and also the statement he made about Indians in Delaware, talking about the growth there. You can't go into a 7-Eleven or go into a Dunkin' Donuts without an Indian accent. Some of those things he's said before. Has he reconciled those issues with you?

JACKSON: I think some of these gaffes are exaggerated. When he said Barack is an intelligent, smart, photogenic, he is correct. So why make that something it is not? Because Barack is all of that but he's also substance. He is also strength of character. He's also charismatic. Those are reasons why he won. I think that that kind of exaggerated language does not serve us well.

I think as critical as you balance this ticket, a kind of intergenerational ticket between Barack's charisma and his vision and the 36 yards that Biden has been in the Senate. What you see here is right now we are bogged down in Iraq and growing in Afghanistan and tentative about how to deal with Iran. In the meantime, Russia is in Georgia. There is no one in the Senate with more experience and capacity on that than Joe Biden, for example on the economic crisis. His Senate finance banking experience is a factor in turning our economy around.

And so, you look at the various options that Barack has. I think when he picked Joe Biden, he struck Olympic gold. There was virtue in Warner and virtue in Bayh, when you consider those options, but I think Joe Biden is the whole package, and people tell me about his gaffes, and people swing, hit home runs and strike out sometimes, but his batting average is a high, high, strong batting average.

HOLMES: And Reverend Jackson, you mentioned the balance of the ticket. Is there a danger at all here that Barack Obama -- as certainly has been talked about already this morning -- is admitting he is lacking in that foreign policy area, since he had to go with Joe Biden? And yes, it's a balanced ticket, but still, people are going to be voting for the guy on the top of the ticket, and if the guy at the top, Obama, is admitting now, this pick, some say, that he is lacking in this area, foreign policy.

JACKSON: Well, the good thing about Barack's foreign policy experience, you know, having grown up in Kansas and Indonesia and Hawaii and Chicago, he has a global view. Barack sees America east, west, and west, east. He has a sense of the world. That's why he understands diplomacy and the multi-cultural and dangerous world. He has a vision, that strength in vision. I think Joe Biden gives him depth in being the number two hitter on this ticket, and it is that combination, I find to be rather fascinating.

HOLMES: All right. Reverend Jesse Jackson, again, calling this a gold medal. Here we are Olympic time, calling this a gold medal as far as the pick of Senator Joe Biden. Reverend Jackson, we appreciate you taking the time with us on the phone. You take care. Talk to you again soon.

And we will have Wolf Blitzer is going to be back in just a moment talking to the mayor of Denver, who certainly has a busy job and going to have his city highlighted here over the next week with the Democratic National Convention in town. Be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage of this day. The Barack Obama/Joe Biden ticket formally unveiled. It was around 3:00 a.m. in the morning when Senator Obama formally e-mailed, text messaged his supporters that he had made his choice. But if you were watching CNN about three or four hours earlier, you already knew that he had made that decision.

You're looking at live pictures of Senator Biden's driveway in Wilmington, Delaware, right now. A crowd has gathered. A motorcade will take him and his family to an airport and then they'll fly to Springfield, Illinois, where Senator Biden will be introduced as the running mate, the vice presidential running mate of Senator Barack Obama. That's the ticket as it goes forward.

Let's bring in a special guest here in Denver as we get ready to watch the Democratic National Convention here in Denver. The mayor of Denver is joining us here live, Mayor John Hickenlooper. This is your second term --


BLITZER: -- as mayor of Denver. So I suspect the folks here in Denver must like you if they re-elected you.


BLITZER: Are you ready for what is about to happen over the next several days in your city?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, you never know exactly what you don't know, but we spend about a year planning. We've done training. Every police officer has had at least 30 hours, most of them 40 hours of additional training to what they normally get. And I think we plan for everything we can anticipate, everything we can think of. Secret Service has been great to work with, and I think we've got the logistics squared away.

BLITZER: What about the demonstrations? Because there's a lot of -- you know, you've got a special area where people who are going to be arrested, they're already calling it Gitmo, if you will. You've seen all these reports. HICKENLOOPER: Well, but that's the media, with all due respect, going a little bit -- taking a little bit of license with the truth. I mean, the warehouse where, if something really crazy went on, we had to have hundreds of people --

BLITZER: Along the lines of 1968 in Chicago.

HICKENLOOPER: Right. Something like that happened, we would need a place where we could process people quickly. So that's what that warehouse is for. That's not going to happen. We know that there's many, many, many fewer protestors coming, that they're not filing, 99 percent of them, they want to protest the war, environmental conditions.

They're not wild activists. They're college students wanting to make their voices heard, and we've made sure that the protest zone is close to where the delegates come in. There's nothing keeping the delegates from talking to hem or taking the manifestos and the pamphlets that we're putting on tables so the delegates can pick them up.

The protestors can go to the convention center or the hotels and go directly and talk to delegates. I mean, you know, I don't think James Madison intended that you could walk up to people, freedom of speech meant you could spit in their face and throw stuff at them.

BLITZER: Let's hope none of that happens. Quickly, you're a Democrat. You were neutral, because you're the mayor of the host city for the convention. What do you think about Joe Biden being on this ticket?

HICKENLOOPER: I've always been a big fan of Joe Biden. He's been out to Denver a number of different times for various occasions, and you know, what you see is what you get. He's a real person. He's got both feet on the ground. He's lived through some difficult times and come out on top. He's got great experience in international relations, and he's the kind of guy -- somebody was in the restaurant business for 20 years, Joe Biden, you want to sit at the bar and have a beer and just hear his ideas.

BLITZER: You obviously know him. One final thing. The last "Rocky Mountain News" poll had McCain at 44 percent, Obama 41 percent, undecided 8 percent in Colorado. This state is a real battleground right now. What does Obama need to do, you know this state, to win Colorado?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, he's really got to demonstrate who he is. And you know, I've had dinner with him once or twice and spent time. If he can communicate that he is outside the beltway, he is going to change things, he does have the ability to bring people together, he doesn't attack people. He tries to build consensus, and that's what people in Colorado want. They want -- once the election's over, they want people to put down the weapons and let's solve problems.

BLITZER: Mayor, thanks for the hospitality. We'll be talking to you over the next several days. Appreciate it. HICKENLOOPER: You bet.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue our coverage and we're going to be speaking with someone who worked for many, many years with Senator Biden, knows him quite well. Much more of our special coverage continuing right after this.


BLITZER: Let's get some more insight right now on Senator Joe Biden, who is now going to be the Democratic vice presidential running mate of Senator Barack Obama. Joining us in Washington is Norm Kurz. He worked with Senator Biden on Capitol Hill for many years. He's now in the private sector. But Norm, you know this man. What do you think about Barack Obama's decision to go with Senator Biden?

NORMAN KURZ, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think it's an inspired choice. He brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience that is going to help form a great team.

I think folks have talked about many different aspects of Joe Biden's background, but one of the things I haven't heard is that he's a very positive guy. He has a very optimistic view about America's future, and he's always talking about the squandered opportunities. He sees opportunities where others don't. And I think he's going to bring that to the table, and America's going to feel very optimistic about an Obama/Biden administration.

BLITZER: He's always had a good relationship with Senator McCain personally and on several foreign policy and domestic issues, as well. Is he going to be comfortable being a pit bull, if you will, and really going after Senator McCain and hammering him?

KURZ: Well, he's going to do it his own way. I think he's going to be very effective at it. One of the things he always talks about is he doesn't question other people's motives. He doesn't, in criticizing John McCain or others, he doesn't think that they're not patriots or that they don't have the best intentions at heart. What he's going to question is John McCain's judgment and his world view, and I think he's going to do that very, very effectively and in a knowledgeable way.

BLITZER: How's he going to react to this latest, this first, really, attack ad, going after Senator Biden, that the McCain campaign has already put out? We're going to be playing it later for our viewers. You know Biden about as well as anyone. How's he going to react?

KURZ: I don't think he's surprised. He's been around politics for a long time, and he understands that it's a hard-hitting business. But it's interesting to see that that's their first reaction, when in truth, John McCain knows better about Joe Biden.

Biden is a much more nuanced politician. He would be generous out of the block about his counterpart. I predict that when John McCain names his vice presidential choice, you'll see Joe Biden saying very generous things about that individual and say that he's looking forward to a spirited campaign.

And then he'll take him on the issues. It's not going to be about other things, and I think there's every reason to believe that Joe Biden will come out on top on that score.

BLITZER: Norm Kurz worked with Senator Biden for a long time in Congress for a long time, in the U.S. Senate. Thanks very much Norm, for coming in.

KURZ: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Al right, we're going to continue our coverage here in the CNN NEWSROOM, special coverage of the breaking news, the new ticket, the Democratic presidential ticket, the Obama/Biden ticket. We're waiting for Senator Biden to leave his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to fly to Springfield, Illinois, where Obama and Biden will be appearing together later this afternoon.

Stay with CNN for complete coverage. Stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.