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THIS WEEK IN POLITICS
Examining the Week's Political News
Aired August 23, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN HOST: Yes, the Democrats are about to hit Denver, and it is time for party to party!
We will relive all of the unforgettable moments, the speeches, the nominations, and of course, that great music. It is a dance party that you do not want to miss.
Welcome to this week in politics, I'm Tom Foreman. In Denver the Pepsi Center has been rebuilt. Miles of cable rolled out and hundreds of lights installed and signs, balloons and confetti and everything ready for the party that begins Monday, and then the final item on Barack Obama's to-do list was checked off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL: Let me introduce to you the next president, the next vice president of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: President, vice president, well, it didn't go off without a hitch, but that itself raises some questions, can the Democrats pull off a four-day passion play that will bring the undecided voters to the box office? Is Joe Biden the right co-star for this?
I am joined from Denver by two tough critics of the political theater right now, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and Bill Schneider and before we get too much into, this kids, let's take a look at what the team, themselves, had to say as they rolled out in their first joint appearance in the same place Barack Obama began his presidential run more than 19 months ago on the steps of the state capital in Springfield, Illinois, and they came out swinging.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be, a statesman with sound judgment who does not have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong. Joe Biden won't just make a good vice president, he will make a great vice president. After decades, after decades of steady work across the aisle, I know he'll be able to help me to turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington. So we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people. And instead of secret energy task forces attacking -- stacked with big oil and a vice president that twists the facts and shuts the American people out, I know that Joe Biden will give us some real straight talk. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I say with every fiber of my being I believe we cannot as a nation stand four more years of this. We cannot afford to keep giving tax cuts after tax cuts to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans while the middle-class America and middle-class families are falling behind and their wages are actually shrinking. We can't afford four more years of a government that does nothing while they watch the housing market collapse at kitchen tables like mine where you sit there at night before you put the kids - after you put the kids to bed and you talk. You talk about what you need. You talk about how much you're worried about being able to pay the bills.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's not a worry John Mccain has to worry about. It's a pretty hard experience. He'll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Gloria, let me start off with you. By picking Biden, Obama gets experience. He gets foreign policy credentials. But most of all, the read seems to be he gets an attack dog. Fair enough?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, yes, absolutely. He gets an attack dog. And you heard it in that line today, but he also gets something else, Tom. He gets somebody who can talk to those blue collar voters. You know, John Mccain has done a pretty good job of portraying Barack Obama as an elitist. Well, Joe Biden is the anti--elitist. You heard him talk in that speech about being born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It's like he doesn't -- isn't the senator from the state of Delaware. He was talking about Scranton, Pennsylvania. He's Catholic. He appeals to those lower and middle income blue collar voters that Barack Obama had so much trouble with during the primaries.
FOREMAN: And yes, I think they mentioned Scranton more than they do on "The Office."
But Bill, let me ask you about this. For all of the talent that Joe Biden brings to this and all of the credentials he brings as a white collar - or blue collar background, all of that, doesn't he also bring a potential weakness in the sense that Obama has been all about changing. I'm not going to be about old Washington. And yet, Joe Biden's been there a long time. Seems like some Obama supporters are immediately going to say, wait a minute, this guy is about the very problem you said you were going to change.
BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The answer to that question is yes. He does bring that weakness. And we've heard some criticism from Obama's supporters. Hey, this is supposed to be change? This guy has been in the Senate for 35 years. So you're hearing that, but the point is I think he took that risk in order to beef up his credibility, his experience of the sense that he has someone of stature in the White House. Because after all, you know, isn't that what George Bush did when he put Dick Cheney on the ticket, tried to beef up his experience?
FOREMAN: Absolutely. You know, "TIME" magazine suggested, Bill, that this was a risk that Obama had to take because his numbers have not been doing so good in recent weeks. Do you think it's a risk he had to take or just chose to take?
SCHNEIDER: Well, he chose to take it because there was a lot of pressure on him. I'm not sure he had to. There was pressure. His numbers have been dropping a bit. The race is now in deadlock. The foreign policy has moved to the top of the agenda with the reemergence of the Russian threat to replace the Soviet threat. He needed someone who had strong credentials, military experience, commander-in-chief. So he needed to do this in order to get people to take another look at this ticket.
FOREMAN: I want to look at some of the...
BORGER: You know, Tom...
FOREMAN: ...credentials that Joe Biden brings. Then we'll get right to you in a moment there, Gloria. But take a look at this. Joe Biden was born in 1942. He's Roman Catholic. He was elected to U.S. Senate in 1973, surprised a lot of people back then, former chairman of the Senate Judiciary, current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Those are really strong chops here in Washington, Gloria, but how much will that really rub off on Obama? How much will that really help quiet the concerns that he's not experienced enough?
BORGER: Well, if the question about Obama is how safe is he? Then I think Joe Biden as your chief character witness, which is what vice presidents are, saying I know this guy, this guy is safe, I've been around Washington, I understand foreign policy, I've been around the bureaucracy in Washington, I know how to get things done. And by the way, don't forget Joe Biden is Barack Obama's chairman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So he kind of took him under his wing on that foreign relations committee.
So I think that in a way I disagree with "TIME" magazine's assessment that it was a risk. I think, in fact, Joe Biden was the safe choice. The risk would have been to go with somebody like Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, who had even less experience on the national stage than Barack Obama.
FOREMAN: There is however, a flipside to this sword, as you both know. The Mccain folks have wasted absolutely no time in getting out an ad about the relationship between Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Listen to what they're saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: What does Barack Obama's running mate say about Barack Obama? GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS: You 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 that I stand by the statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Bill, that's not something that Joe Biden wishes he had said right now. How do they fix it?
SCHNEIDER: That's right. Well, you know, George H.W. Bush once said Reagan practiced voodoo economics. And that came back to haunt him. Of course, these days, it's a little more damaging because these things get played and replayed and replayed on Youtube for weeks and weeks and weeks.
But it didn't seem to hurt Ronald Reagan when he ran for president. You know, in the end, people vote for the top of to ticket. The vice president is important. Once elected, he plays an important role in the White House and he gains national stature. And he often runs for president himself afterwards. So he is important, but people end - it's not so much in this election. In this election, people end up voting for the top of the ticket.
FOREMAN: But Gloria, they are going to play those sound bites over and over again.
BORGER: Oh, they are. Oh, they are. And I spoke with somebody who's very close to Joe Biden and who helped him craft his speech today. And they felt like they started to answer that charge with Joe Biden saying I know Barack Obama well. I've come to know him throughout the entire campaign. And so their sense is the better he got to know Barack Obama, the more sense he got, that in fact, he was qualified to be president of the United States. And you'll hear more and more about that from Joe Biden, because they are ready for it. Trust me. They know.
FOREMAN: And I don't think a politician could be a politician here if they couldn't shift around on positions a good bit.
Listen, we talked at the beginning about how this was an attack dog issue here. One of the attack issues that has come up, which really has been a measure of how quickly this race has grown quite dirty, I suppose, has been this issue of houses. Listen to what Barack Obama said about John Mccain not being able to tell a reporter immediately how many houses he owned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you think that being rich means you got to make $5 million, and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think that the economy was fundamentally strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: And of course, the Mccain people shot right back with yet another ad attacking Obama about his house. Listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama knows a lot about housing problems. One of his biggest fundraisers helped him to buy his million dollar mansion purchasing part of the property he couldn't afford. From Obama, Rezko got political favors, including $14 million from taxpayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Bill, I can't help but wonder that all the housing issues aside, that many voters are looking at this now saying, wait a minute, one of you called yourselves a maverick, one of you said you were the agent of change. Both of you said it won't be politics as usual. But in the past couple of weeks, it started looking an awful lot like politics as usual on both sides.
SCHNEIDER: It certainly does. And when you hear changes -- charges like that being lobbed back and forth, a lot of voters listen and they say it's the usual bickering. It's the usual political potshots. We've heard it all before. They're going to continue to try to score points off ach other. That's why so many people hate politics. They think politics is the enemy of problem solving. And they wish the politicians would just stop it.
FOREMAN: Gloria, very quickly here, if that turns off moderate voters, if that makes moderate voters say enough already, you're both the same old game, we don't like it, does that hurt one of them more than the other?
BORGER: Well, I think in a way, it would hurt John Mccain more, because he's really got to go after those Independent voters in battleground states to win.
But you know, there's a lot at stake in this election. And we've seen large turnouts in the primaries, particularly on the Democratic side, but also on the Republican side because the stakes are high. And people are really feeling it in their pocketbooks. So I'm not sure this would really diminish turnout this time, but we've got to expect this particularly with the technology that allows them to produce an ad or two a day and just put it up on the web.
FOREMAN: It'll get dirtier and dirtier. Thanks, Gloria, thanks, Bill.
There's a lot more coming up on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS. A Democratic divide still that could split the party. And the delicate politics of choosing the Republican vice presidential candidate. And a look at what is squirreled away in the nation's political attic. Not exactly skeletons, but pretty close. Plus, we'll hear more from Senator Barack Obama and his new running mate, Senator Joe Biden, all ahead on THIS WEEK IN POLITICS.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOREMAN: At the devil's party, nothing's a sin, as the old song goings. Yes, it looks like a good time to you, but let's look at our devil's dictionary. Political convention is our definition this week. Bitter rivals pretending to be best friends to convince those who aren't there.
At this year's Democratic Convention, the rivals are really two wings of the party, the old guard which largely supported Hillary Clinton, and a new coalition that has brought Barack Obama to the nomination. So can they get along or at least fake it long enough to defeat John Mccain?
Let's put that question to in the town of Davie, in the all important state of Florida. Democratic superdelegate Mitch Ceasar. And with me in Washington, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, who lives by the words of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, "if you haven't got anything good to say about anyone, come and sit by me." Let me start with you, Donna. There really are two different types of Democrats at this convention right now.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, I think we have one Democrat. That is a Democrat who wants to win. Look, there's no question that the old guard got out there and decided to endorse -- which at the time, the establishment candidate. But the new coalition is made up of many parts of the old guard. And I think next week, we'll have an exciting moment in history as both the new guard and the old guard come together to complete the journey that the Democratic party started some 40 years ago.
FOREMAN: Well, now that sounds a little bit like wishful thinking in the sense that you're saying you hope they all come together, but even you're talking about them as the new guard, the old guard.
Mitch, what is the difference between these two groups?
MITCH CEASAR, FLORIDA SUPERDELEGATE: About 25 years, according to the polls. It really is true, though. I think this is not your grandfather's electoral map anymore. This is now the realignment new math. And because of that, I think the old guard and new guard recognize that the candidates and the times have changed. The country is frankly changed. And I think that works to Democrats' benefit.
FOREMAN: Donna, how do you reconcile some of the differences? Old line Democrats stand for many of the traditional democratic values they that have for many years, but many of these younger people, particularly the new ones who have been brought on by the magnetism of Obama's campaign, they don't necessarily know the history of the Democratic party, the traditions of the Democratic party. How do you bring them into that and make them true Democrats, instead of just Obamites?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, we share many of the same values. I mean, Mitch and I are both superdelegates. And we'll be sitting with superdelegates as young as 17. So you can imagine what kind of convention this will be as we talk about the issues that we all care about, increasing jobs in this country, bringing an end to the war in Iraq. We share the same values. We may have been born at different times, but we are coming together at a time when America is ready for change.
FOREMAN: How, Donna, do you handle the natural suspicion that many young voters have shown in this election toward politics as usual though? Those who will say, yes, we may share goals, but the way you've done it in the past doesn't work for us now?
BRAZILE: Well, many of these young voters would like to see Washington, D.C. change. They're tired of the inside of the beltway bickering. They want a seat at the table. They would like to see government more effectively represent everyday people, not just the special interests. And I think this is an important criteria for the next president to be able to have a coalition that will help him govern America in a new direction.
FOREMAN: So, Mitch, how do you make it happen then? Because to change the way things happen in Washington, you effectively have to say to the old guard, you're not going to have business as usual if you want to win this election, because we need the support of young voters who don't like business as usual?
CEASAR: I really don't think it's going to be that difficult. The gap is not very large. You know, there's a tremendous hunger, not only in the Democratic party, but across the country to move on from eight years of Bush. And frankly, he and Mccain are our greatest rallying points almost as much as Senator Obama.
People are afraid of a third Bush term. And I think because of that alone, not only the inspirational message of our Democratic nominee, we're going to be out there with much less unifying to do than the media would like.
FOREMAN: Well, let me ask you about that, because one of our latest polls here NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll from mid-August here shows that among Hillary Clinton supporters, the choice for president, 52 percent like Obama. 21 percent say they'll go for Mccain. And 27 percent remain undecided. Donna, this late in the game and with all of this talk of unity, that has to concern you?
BRAZILE: Oh, it doesn't concern me. I mean, they want to hear from Senator Clinton. And they will hear Senator Clinton next week talk about Senator Obama, and talk about the fact that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton share many of the same goals.
FOREMAN: And she's been doing that already. And it hasn't taken.
BRAZILE: Oh, well, next week, she will talk directly to those voters. She will talk to them not just in the convention hall, but they will hear her across the country. I'm convinced at the end of the day, a vote for Senator Obama is a vote for the policies and the programs that Senator Clinton wanted to see implemented as president.
FOREMAN: Well, you know you say that. Mitch, you and I have talked about this before. That may be for some voters, though, some moderates that Obama needs now, the very problem. They're saying we specifically did not vote for the old way by not voting for Hillary Clinton. If he cozies up to it now, it's going to turn them off. Are you worried about that?
CEASAR: I'm really not. I mean, he has shown himself in the most difficult circumstances to be highly intelligent and yet open to different ideas. I just don't see that as a problem. I think the old and new guard, as you've said, needs something very important. And that is they need to replace it with a Democratic president.
So I think everybody's properly motivated. I think that you will see this may be perhaps the greatest unifying convention we've ever seen.
FOREMAN: Mitch, do you think that the Democratic party that comes out of this convention and out of this election will be different than the Democratic party that has existed in the country for the past 20 years?
CEASAR: That's without question. As someone who's been active a long time, but I'm not that old, I don't think, I can kind of be in the middle of both sides of that. I think you have new folks coming in just like you did in the '60s and in other decades. I think the folks who have been there before are welcoming in the fresh attitudes, the fresh perspectives, because that's the way you govern a country. Not just win an election, but govern a country successfully.
FOREMAN: Many thanks to you, Mitch, and to the perpetually young, Donna, thanks for being here.
BRAZILE: We're going undergoing a rebirth. And this is going to be an exciting year for Democrats.
FOREMAN: We'll have see how it turns out. Thanks for being here. Good luck at the convention.
Straight ahead, a critical take on the upcoming doings in Denver. But first, a look at just one of the last-minute details that's being dealt with as the mile high city gets ready for the big party. All part of our weekly political side show.
FOREMAN (voice-over): How do you make sure everything is neat and tidy when you're expecting lots of guests? In Denver, it may be as simple as a quick trim. Sly Salon offered free hair cuts to the homeless this week, so they'll look their best before the Democratic Convention starts. This could pose a problem, however. Is that good looking guy with his hand out a panhandler or a politician? And is there really any difference?
Breaking news, the Senate is under attack by spammers. That's right, those annoying breaking news spam e-mails disguised as being from CNN or MSNBC are creeping into the inboxes of your favorite senators. And of course, since they appear with headlines like "Martian soil fantastic for growing weed" or "Switzerland to be devoured by black hole", you see why those sharpies on the Hill are confused.
FOREMAN: And here we thought that fast track was the number one political brief. Not so. A group of daytime soap stars have adopted a new way to make a political statement or understatement in this case. Each pair of Obama '08 briefs comes with the senator's likeness on the front and a big '08 on the -- well, the rear. Keep your pants on. THIS WEEK IN POLITICS will be right back.
FOREMAN: Next week, with luck, Barack Obama will indeed party like a rock star. And all the Democrats will join him. But outside the convention hall, GOP critics are going to be, well, criticizing. But let's get a jumpstart on all those boos and cat calls. Joining us from Memphis is radio talk show host Ben Ferguson. Ben, let me start off with this question. What is the headline that you most wish would come out of the Democratic Convention?
BEN FERGUSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Barack Obama saying inflate your tires again. And you're going to get better gas mileage and save the environment. That's all I want him to say the whole week.
FERGUSON: That would be a gift. I mean, I'm telling you that what - I'm excited - I have never been so excited about a Democratic Convention in my entire life, because I cannot wait to see what comes out of this convention. You've got the old guard that is very upset with some of the things Barack Obama has been doing with the new guard. And you've got this we own this place compared to now it's ours going on with the Hillary and Barack supporters. I think this may be one of the most entertaining back and forths we've ever seen. Plus, you don't know what this guy's going to say. And the more you get him in front of a microphone, the better off the Republicans are going to be.
FOREMAN: Well just a moment ago, Mitch Ceasar and Donna Brazile, two Democratic superdelegates, stood here and they said the rifts will all be mended. This will be a unified party. Do you buy it?
FERGUSON: Right. Yes, yes, that's the reason why so many Hillary Clinton supporters are going to be there in full force, telling people exactly what they think, because they're all going to get along. I mean, I know they're for hope and change, but I don't think they're going to be able to change the way this convention's shaping up for them.
FOREMAN: Well, this has been a nasty convention in some ways. Already, it seems like in the past few days, this week, it really has ratcheted up. I want to turn and look at one of the commercials that's been played by the Obama campaign over this issue of John Mccain's houses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: When asked how many houses he owns, Mccain lost track. He couldn't remember. Well, it's seven. Seven houses. And here is one house America cannot afford to let John Mccain move into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Tough ad. And a tough response from the Mccain people. Brian Rogers over at the campaign told "The Washington Post," "Obama's house is a frickin' mansion."
FOREMAN: He doesn't tell people that.
FOREMAN: You have a mansion you bought in a shady deal with a convicted felon. Wow, Ben, this is getting really nasty, isn't it?
FERGUSON: Yes. Well, it's either that house or maybe they should put a picture up of Barack Obama's half brother. I mean, he's really filling the hope and change right now, that hut in the foreign country he's living in.
But I mean, the reality is yes, this thing is going to get ugly and it's going to get dirty. John Mccain was asked about his houses. Is that an oops in the campaign trail? Sure it is. But the reality is his wife is a very wealthy lady that has a lot of places where her family has homes. So for him to at least be honest and not lie about, I mean, it's pretty decent strategy. Others should try it sometimes.
FOREMAN: It seems like it's a mistake for any presidential candidate anywhere to start making too much noise about the wealth of the other people...
FOREMAN: ...because nobody runs for president...
FOREMAN: ....who doesn't have a good bit of money compared to normal folks.
FERGUSON: ...it's dumb. I mean, you look at the campaign staff of Barack Obama. They've made a lot of money off this campaign. You look at the people surrounding himself. They made a lot of money.
The worst thing you can do right now is for either of these men to try to claim that they're the common folk. You've got to stick at what you're good at. And Barack Obama is going to connect you to people. And the best thing John Mccain's good at right now is him saying I actually have what the other guy doesn't have, and that's experience, a voting record, understanding foreign policy, and understanding how to fight for the American dreams, and understanding that we need to drill in America. If he sticks to that, he's going to win over more voters than saying hey, I'm the common guy. And the other guy going no, no, no, I'm the common guy. Both of them will irritate American voters if they try to act like they're normal, because neither of them are. They're amazing people. That's why they're running for president in a sense. And they need to stick with what they're good at. That's Barack Obama not talking about anything but hope and change, and John Mccain saying I actually have been there and have real experience.
FOREMAN: We'll to see what he says when his convention comes around. I'm sure you'll be there. Ben Ferguson, good to have you here.
FERGUSON: Thanks for having me. Have a good week.
FOREMAN: In a moment, we'll talk the politics of picking the Republican vice president. But first, let's take a look at what the professional gamblers are thinking. Yes, here is the early line from Intrade, where the right answer means real money, people actually betting on these.
And as you can see, the green line here is Mitt Romney. This is Tim Pawlenty. The yellow one. They move up and down, up and down, mixing it up with everyone. But here, that's where they stand right now, the hot money is on Romney or Pawlenty grabbing that nomination. Of course, there's some candidates who aren't listed here, but we've got them in our weekly look at the best Internet, this week's viral videos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Yosemite Sam.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Funnyordie.com has scooped the mainstream media with their announcement of John Mccain's VP pick. They do share the same values...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A leading advocate for the right to bear arms.
FOREMAN: So barring a scandal, the Republican ticket is set.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Sam, can you explain this photo?
FOREMAN: The Plain White Tee's "Hey there Delilah" raced to number one on the charts last year. So Pete Wentz from makemeyourvp.com hoped that a remake would make him a natural number two for Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm qualified though I might be I still have the audacity to hope you will pick me for your running mate
FOREMAN: And speaking of musical endorsements, John Rich of the country duo Big and Rich has written a song for John Mccain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we got a real man with an American plan. We're going to put him in a big white hat.
FOREMAN: The Democrats should not feel left out. His other half, Big Kenny, is a strong supporter of Barack Obama. We'll be right back in a flash.
FOREMAN: And you thought that disco was dead. Yes, John Mccain needs to find somebody to dance with, a running mate who will bring in the conservatives and the Independents he needs to win the race.
Except anyone who attracts the conservatives tends to repel the Independents and vice versa. So joining me to discuss the ins and outs of this political magnetism are Chris Cillizza, political writer for "The Washington Post" and Republican strategist Kevin Madden who has agreed to refrain from talking up his old boss former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Look, Kevin, let me start with you. You don't talk about him, but tell me what kind of guy you think Mccain needs.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, he does need somebody that brings together the economic and social planks of the party. It's very important that John Mccain first establish some sort of unity among those members of the conservative base and then go out and reach out to that big middle, those Independents and conservative Democrats.
FOREMAN: But that's a difficult thing to do, isn't it, bringing the economic and the social planks. Look, sometimes those stand in opposition to each other. Homeowners are in trouble. They say we need help. Maybe you need taxes to do that. The economic side says that you can't do that.
MADDEN: Well, there are a lot of folks out there that John Mccain has been looking at that can do it, I think. You look at, for example, Mitt Romney. He's somebody who had -- who can, you know, satisfy a lot of those economic concerns.
X I thought you promised not to go talking...
MADDEN: I never promised that. I don't know who put that in the script.
But you also look at - look, Tim Pawlenty. You know, he's somebody who goes out there after Sam's Club Republicans. He's got an incredible life story about, you know, the son of a truck driver. Tim - I'm sorry, Rob Portman is somebody that's been bandied about out there, somebody who can go out there and talk about trade issues and talk about budget and spending issues with a lot of authority.
MADDEN: And those are issues that really resonate with a lot of them.
FOREMAN: Are those real contenders?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think with the exception of Portman probably. I think the problem for Mccain, you know, it's a unique problem to have that George Bush didn't have is he is not a beloved figure among social conservatives.
Fiscal conservatives sort of, they like him on the -- they like him on - they don't love him on the tax cut side. They like him on the reducing spending side. But he has trouble with that. Social conservatives do not see him as one of their own in a way that they did see George W. Bush. So he never had to worry about that flank in the party.
So I think Kevin's right. It's tough. It's very hard because Mccain is seen sort of not any one camp. He's not a fiscal conservative necessarily, not really a social conservative either.
FOREMAN: But you know, he's doing in the numbers pretty well by being that kind of candidate. So should he pick a vice president who's like that? Or should he use that vice president to solidify one of the camps?
MADDEN: Well, that is why I, you know, during this week where there was a lot of this discussion about a possible pro choice candidate, I saw that as big problem, because John Mccain has to this point, you know, you hear a lot of anecdotal evidence. They'll say John Mccain has a lot of problems with conservatives.
But the empirical evidence, the polls we're seeing, is that he's calcified that support among those conservatives. And I would worry that a, you know, a choice in the wrong direction on the life issue would create a schism among those conservatives.
FOREMAN: Let's look at one of these polls. This is a Pew Research Center, and they do such great stuff on religion and belief over there. Mccain and Bush both had about the same kind of support among evangelicals, white evangelicals. However, the difference has to do with how strongly it was felt. The support for Bush as you can see the numbers here was very strong. They felt very strongly about him. Much weaker on Mccain.
CILLIZZA: You know, that's the question that we're -- I don't think we're going to know the answer to until the election. But when presented with the choice between Barack Obama and John Mccain in a poll, most white evangelical voters are going to say I'm for John Mccain. The issue is does that mean that on November 4th, they come out and vote for John Mccain in the kind of numbers you're going to need to see John Mccain elected? There has been a base disparity, the energy between the two bases in the parties. We saw this in 2006. Democrats picked up a bunch of House seats, a bunch of Senate seats. That's because the base of the Democratic party is very excited.
And frankly, George Bush is as responsible for that as anything else. The base of the party does not like George Bush. They turned out against him to send him a message. Can Republicans match that kind of base energy in an election like this one? And can John Mccain be the guy who generates that kind of energy?
MADDEN: And that's the argument that we had in 2004. You know, the 2004 model for the Bush campaign which I also worked on was really get -- drive out your base and then go out and try and get that extra 1 percent more against the Democrats. And I think if you ran that model in 2008, John Mccain would probably lose by five points.
FOREMAN: He just doesn't have enough support among the base.
MADDEN: Right, right. And that has always been - he's always had this kind of historical problem with some of these evangelicals. But the thing about John Mccain which makes him a very enviable candidate for a lot of Republicans is that he's always pulled above the Republican brand. He has an ability better than any Republican to go and get those Independents and conservative Democrats. And that is the calculus for a John Mccain victory in 2008.
FOREMAN: So, Chris, we're back to the same question we started with. Does the running mate make any difference when you're running that kind of campaign?
CILLIZZA: I continue to believe, based on almost all of the historical evidence, that while this is the biggest story this week, and has been the biggest story for weeks on end, that ultimately people are going to -- whoever John Mccain and Barack Obama decide on, it's going to be Barack Obama versus John Mccain. I think that's how people make these decisions. I will say I think it may matter a little bit more for John Mccain. He will be 72 years old on election day. He has acknowledged that his age is an issue when you're running against someone who's 25 years your junior. There are issues about your health, your ability, your capacity in office.
So I think it may matter slightly more, but I really think you're talking about around the edges of this debate. I don't think people go in and say, well, I'm going to vote for John Mccain because of who he picked for vice president.
FOREMAN: One thing I want to jump on very quickly here and run a little bit of a piece of an ad. The Obama people are running certain ads targeted in regions around the country. You don't see them nationally, but really going after Mccain. Take a look at this one. And I want a quick response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: John Mccain says he's opposed to nuclear waste going through Arizona, but he wants to dump it here in Nevada.
DONNA SCHLEMMER, LAS VEGAS: John Mccain is so quick to throw nuclear waste in our backyard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: And the subject, though, Kevin, how does John Mccain counter this? Put aside the veep for a moment. How does he counter the fact that on a regional level, he's getting smacked around, whereas nationally Obama can kind of stand up and say I'm running the clean campaign. MADDEN: Right. This goes to the old adage which is that politics is all local. You know, what he has to do is go out and offer a more comprehensive vision on the energy question. What you're talking about with that ad is them trying to get into the, you know, the small issues that are local. And instead, when John Mccain goes out there and says look, the policies I have are because I'm trying to build a comprehensive energy plan that's going to help all Americans, then he can help to counter that.
I think the Obama campaign, you've also seen them do it with the housing issue in places like Ohio where the mortgage crisis has hit Americans particularly hard.
FOREMAN: And with that, I think we're going to have to wrap it up here and see how he does with both that and his veep choice. Thanks for being here, both Chris and Kevin.
This programming note, coming up in September, CNN will air "The Next President: A World of Challenges." This is a special program on what the 44th commander-in-chief will face. Our distinguished panel are all former secretaries of state, including Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger This your chance to ask a question about foreign policy, global conflicts, and the United States role in a very changing world. Send your video questions to Ireport.com/world of challenges or e-mail a question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we come back, the story of a couple of professional pack rats, guys who will collect just about anything. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this is is a parade item from 1860. It happens to be a wooden prey ax that says fear not, old Abe is ours. And this is from the 1860 rail splitter campaign. You can imagine, you know, 100 guys marching with these with torchlight parade and sort of all of that excitement that made up a turn of the century campaign.
FOREMAN: This time next week, the party will be over. Invesco Field will be ready for the next Bronco's game. In the Pepsi Center, they'll be chilling down the ice again for the Colorado avalanche. And all of the signs and silly hats, buttons, and balloons will be swept up and thrown away.
Almost all. A few things will be carefully saved by a couple of guys in a basement room right here in Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY RUBENSTEIN, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION: This whole top row of corded units are made up of political buttons. I mean, you just can't have a campaign in America without political buttons. These are all from 1896, and that presidential election. It's also the first time that this kind of button was patented with the sort of pin-back button. It's your very public declaration of support. We often sort of think of these buttons as the beginning. These are George Washington inaugural buttons.
LARRY BIRD, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION: This is an actual clothing button. It's not a pinback made to be just tossed into a drawer after the inauguration.
RUBENSTEIN: And from these small objects is this whole array of other material produced by young generations of active young Americans.
BIRD: This is a handmade elephant swatter that's attributed to a Democratic Convention delegate about 1964.
A lot of times, it's really not even fair to ask the person - here's the Mondale lunchbox -- that has something that you would like, because they spent so much time on it. And it has such great personal meaning to them, which is one of the ironies of this game that we play.
RUBENSTEIN: This is a - your classic official Eisenhower hat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a climatic moment of the convention here.
RUBENSTEIN: When you think about conventions and the straw hat, this is what they're talking about. Now you get the sort of Styrofoam or the plastic version, but what they're making is trying to recreate the history of the past
BIRD: I think in some ways, the convention hat typifies what we think of as the contemporary convention hat. We approached her and said, boy, what a great hat. And it is. We talked to her for a while, explained why we wanted the hat. And she agreed that when the convention was over, she would send it to us. That's a great addition to the national collection.
It's specifically made for a certain period of time and then it's gone. Frankly, some of it will be thrown away if it wasn't, you know, collected and preserved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Cool stuff. It's time to kick this show into high gear. In just a minute, we will wrap up this week in a minute.
And next week's news is straight ahead, fast track from the Democratic Convention. But first, let's watch a bit more from this week's big announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When Joe was sworn in as a senator, there was no ceremony in the cabinet. Instead he was standing by his sons in the hospital room, where they were recovering. He was 30 years old.
You know, tragedy tests us. It tests our fortitude. And it tests our faith. And here's how Joe Biden responded. He never moved to Washington. Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys, first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife, Jill, who works as a teacher.
BIDEN: I was an Irish catholic kid from Scranton with a father who, like many of yours in tough economic times, fell on hard times. But my mom and dad raised me to believe the saying Barack said before, my dad repeated and repeated. He said, "Champ, it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how quickly you get up. It's how quick will you you get up.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's your story. That's America's story.
FOREMAN: All the fast tracks are leading to Denver this week. And ours is no different, because that's where we find CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser, standing by to give us everything we need to know for the next week in politics. The Democrats are going to move location from indoors to outdoors for the big speech. Little chance of rain in the extended forecast. How is this going to work out?
PAUL STEINHAUSER: This is something, Tom, we haven't seen in 48 years. John F. Kennedy was the last Democratic nominee to speak in front of a big outdoor crowd. That's what they're going to do this time.
The first three nights as right behind me here in the Pepsi Center. About 20,000 people. But when Obama on Thursday night does his big acceptance speech, it'll be about a mile away at Investco Field. 75,000 people. And as you mentioned, the only problem could be the weather, but it rarely rains here in late August, Tom.
FOREMAN: Outside every convention, where you are right now, there are always protesters. Who else will be there outside this one?
STEINHAUSER: Oh, the Republicans are coming to Denver, Tom. They're going to be setting up a war room. They did it four years ago in Boston when the Democrats had their convention there. They'll be here all this week. They're going to be talking about trying to get their message out. Tom, I guess you could say the Republicans are going to try to counter-program.
FOREMAN: And is John Mccain going to go golfing? Or will he be busy also during the Democratic convention?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, they say he's going to be on the campaign trail. You know, traditionally, the nominee for the other party lays low during the other party's convention. But we're hearing from the John Mccain campaign that he'll be out on the trail all this week coming up trying to get his message out. We also hear that Monday night, he's going to be going on Jay Leno. So he'll be trying to get his message out all week, Tom.
FOREMAN: Many thanks, Paul Steinhauser.
Here's where we normally go to late night laughs, but all of the comedians seem to be taking the week off. So instead, here's one of our favorite moments from this week's campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Mccain, in your first 120...
OBAMA: Senator Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator...
OBAMA: Mccain's the other guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely apologize.
OBAMA: I'm teasing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
OBAMA: Although let me tell you, if my name was Mccain, that would be easier to pronounce for a lot of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Finally, we're wrapping everything up with a new feature on our show. It's a public service to all of you who don't watch every twist and turn in politics. In other words, all you sane people out here. Here it is, our one minute in week in politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will let no one question my love of this country.
MCCAIN: Senator Obama got a little testy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make no mistake, this is a very close race.
OBAMA: I don't intend to lose this election.
MCCAIN: I am questioning his judgment.
LOU DOBBS: Obama and Mccain in a very close race.
OBAMA: John Mccain.
MCCAIN: Senator Obama.
OBAMA: John Mccain.
MCCAIN: Senator Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Separation of faith and politics. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worshiping together.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: White evangelicals.
OBAMA: For me as a Christian...
YELLIN: The role faith played.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have safely placed Senator Mccain in a cone of silence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The vice presidential search...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Lieberman would be an absolutely bold choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pawlenty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody like Mitt Romney...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Ridge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would separate and say...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama's running mate.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Potential vice presidential pick.
OBAMA: Please give a big round of applause to Bill Richardson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Delaware Senator Joe Biden.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden.
OBAMA: My friend, Senator Joe Biden.
BIDEN: I'm not the guy. See you.
OBAMA: I made the selection.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: My Biden sources are very busy tonight.
OBAMA: He will make a great vice president, Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: That's it for THIS WEEK IN POLITICS> I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching.