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Democrats Begin National Convention; Kennedy Surprise?

Aired August 25, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening right now: History calls Barack Obama. Democrats kick off their national convention, eagerly rallying around Barack Obama and against John McCain. But high political drama could crash the party.
Democrats are in the Mile High City to erase any miles of disagreement. But, as they pursue unity, some Hillary Clinton supporters are saying, what unity?

And from his sick bed to the celebration. Senator Ted Kennedy, recovering from brain cancer, is here in Denver, and he could make a dramatic surprise -- all that, plus the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.



HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The 45th quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.


BLITZER: You just witnessed something never seen in U.S. history, a major party convention called to order all for the purpose of electing an African-American president of the United States.

Democrats are descending on Denver by the thousands for Barack Obama. They're expressing excitement, anticipation, and, for some, though, there's still anger.

I'm in the middle of it all right here on the convention floor, and I'm joined by the best political team on television. We're standing by to bring you every angle.

Let's go to the podium right now.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is up there. She's right in the thick of things as well. Tell our viewers, Candy, who is speaking tonight and what's the purpose, what the symbolism of all of this is.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight is a night that begins to set the stage for what this entire convention is about. And that is introducing or if you like reintroducing Barack Obama to the audience that's not here, because they will vote for Barack Obama, but to the larger audience, the television audience.

We will hear and the highlight of the evening Michelle Obama. She will talk about who is Barack Obama. Obviously, this will be very -- this will lean toward how he is as a husband, some little vignettes about him, that kind of thing.

The whole idea here is to reach out to middle-class voters, to working-class voters who are having some trouble coming to the Obama campaign. The idea is, we are you. Here is our story. We have struggled. We have had money problems. We have two daughters. I'm trying to raise them while having a career, so that people can begin to identify with this ticket

The emotional highlight, though, I have to tell you tonight, Wolf, will be a video for Ted Kennedy. We are expecting him to show up in the hall. Whether he speaks apparently will be depending on how he feels -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much.

A lot of people will be closely listening to Michelle Obama's speech.

Let's talk about that with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's out on the floor and she's been following this part of the story.

Where on the floor are you, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm actually with the Illinois delegation, home state of Barack Obama. So, obviously, we are front and center, people anxiously awaiting Michelle Obama's speech.

There's a private box for the family members, her mother, Marian, her brother, Craig, as well as their young daughters, Sasha and Malia. We saw them practicing earlier today. One of the key things that she is going to try to do is not only define her husband, but also define herself.

She has come under criticism, as well as her husband, by some Republicans, who say that they are not patriotic. Both of them come out very hard fighting against that notion. And Michelle Obama's told me on numerous occasions she believes that the more people get to know about their family, the more they realize that they're just like every other American.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX (voice-over): Michelle Obama stands an impressive 5'11'' tall, the 43-year-old woman called the rock behind Barack, here earlier, preparing to deliver arguably the speech of her life, with her two daughters, Sasha and Malia, checking out the podium and mikes.

Tonight, Michelle Obama's job will be to humanize her husband, to paint a picture of not the candidate, but the man, the doting father, the guy who plays Scrabble and who she teases wears the same set of pants and shoes since they married 15 years ago.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Trust me, if you look up close, those pants have a hole in the back. And the shoes, I was looking at his shoes the other day. I was like, you need new shoes.

MALVEAUX: The message to America's voters: We're just like you.

Michelle, who has been a lightning rod for criticism from the right, will also highlight her own life experiences, as the girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, to loving, hardworking parents who had little financial means.

Michelle and her brother, Craig, would excel in sports and academics, both skipping the second grade. Michelle would go on to Princeton and Harvard Law, but ultimately turned to community service, like her husband, Barack Obama. The woman who could become America's next first lady is teasingly called the taskmaster by her friends, her task tonight, to sell themselves as an attractive first couple.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, expect to hear a lot about values, working hard, that type of thing. They are obviously trying to counter what some Republicans have been painting, a caricature of people who are elitist, arrogant, and out of touch. They are going to talk about specifically their family, how they have worked hard, come from humble beginnings, talking directly to the American voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thank you.

Senator Obama isn't the only Democrat to be praised here. Senator Ted Kennedy will also receive a lot of that tonight. He's recovering, as you know, from brain cancer, but he could make a dramatic surprise here.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin. She's joining with us this.

It could be rather emotional when he shows up later tonight, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, absolutely. There's enormous anticipation for Senator Kennedy's likely appearance here tonight.

He's been seen very rarely in public since that diagnosis, and his appearance would not be the first time a Kennedy created the emotional highlight of a Democratic Convention.


YELLIN (voice-over): Twenty-two minutes of uninterrupted applause when Bobby Kennedy honored his fallen brother at the 1964 convention. In 1980, a history-making speech when Senator Ted Kennedy conceded to Jimmy Carter after a fraught convention.

Now battling cancer, Ted Kennedy came to Denver for Barack Obama. Many believe his endorsement of Obama won Democrats over to the newcomer's campaign and could do so again this week.

STEVE GROSSMAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: I think it's huge. I think when he endorsed Barack Obama, it gave him the imprimatur of the greatest family in the Democratic Party's last 100 years. And I think sent Barack Obama on his way to the nomination. Tonight he comes, I believe, to say to these delegates who are still not all together; you've got to come together.

YELLIN: Kennedy got a hero's welcome when he rose from his sickbed to cast a tie-breaking vote on Medicare. Expect that and more, when he appears before a crowd of adoring Democrats tonight.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, Senator Kennedy, according to those closest to him, had a very rough time with the travel here to Denver. We understand a short speech has been written for him, but there are no plans for him to talk. Those closest to him say that, if he has the energy, he will try to talk, because he is telling people, he believes this will be his last convention -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we all hope he will. We will be watching that tonight. That could be a rather, rather emotional moment for a lot of people. All right, Jessica, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if there was ever a chance for a resounding victory, the Democrats have it. Look anywhere. Americans are fed up with the wars, the illegal immigration, lack of affordable health care, rising inflation, unemployment, yadda, yadda, yadda. They can't stand President Bush.

The Republican nominee is a Bush clone, 26 years in the Senate. John McCain has voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time. But the polls all suggest this is going to be a close race. Why? Is it that Obama is a comparative unknown? You wouldn't think so, after that long primary battle that he fought with Hillary Clinton. Is it because he's black? Maybe.

Whatever the reasons, the Democrats are a long way from winning the White House in an election that ought to be a slam dunk. All eyes will be on the Democratic Convention for the next few days to see if the party can right itself and head into the campaign stretch that matters most with some momentum. There's the Clinton factor, of course. But you would think that even her most ardent supporters would opt for one of their own. And, in the end, maybe they will, but we don't know that yet. It's worth noting that no Democrat's ever come out of a fractured convention to win the presidency, so the pressure is definitely on.

After the conventions, opinions begin to solidify and choices made are hard to undo the closer we get to November.

Here's the question: What will constitute a successful convention for the Democrats? Go to You can post a comment on my blog. I mean, besides the fact that you're there, Wolf.


BLITZER: That's not necessarily a successful convention, I can assure you. All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida have something in common with New York and California. Hillary Clinton won all of them and more during the primaries. John King is standing by at the magic board to show us what may happen to them right now.

And you will want to hear what Barack Obama said today about Bill Clinton. Is a feud brewing or will peace be at hand?

Plus, an unbelievable find in Iraq. Police stop a young female suicide bomber with cameras rolling.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The platform committee about to present the Democratic Party platform to these delegates. We're watching some of the process that is going on here in Denver at the convention. Remember, tonight, we're standing by to hear from Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, also Ted Kennedy, a lot coming up as we continue our coverage of the Democratic National Convention.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the Democratic National Convention.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama basically split the states during their long primary fight, but she won many of the populist states, ones that would be vitally important come November.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here with us on the floor of the convention, with the magic map, the magic wall, if you will.

You have got a closer look at this very intriguing part of the story. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a key subplot here, Wolf. Can they make peace in the party? Can the Obama camp come to peace with the Clinton camp?

Let me show you why it matters. First, let's start by looking at some of the places Senator Clinton did so well in the Democratic primary. She is the light blue color here. And I'm going to trace this area up in here around Pennsylvania and through the industrial Midwest, also going to trace out here in the Mountain West. And I trace Florida down here.

Why does that matter? Remember these states. This is where Clinton did very well in the Democratic primaries. Now we're going to go back. This is the 2004 presidential election. Almost all of these states, all this red, that's all George Bush. Only Michigan and Pennsylvania were carried by the Democrats. So, Senator Clinton is strongest in the Democratic primaries in these states that were critical to George Bush's general election strategy.

Now let's take a closer look by coming out and look at it this way. If you are a Democrat, and you want to win in the state of Ohio, for example, and take it away, John Kerry just missed, 59-41 percent. This is where a Democrat has to win. This is where Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter won when they were elected president. As you could see, John Kerry could not do so well down here.

Remember this spot. We are going to flash from this. This is the 2004 general election. These are the 2004 Democratic primaries. And that is Hillary Clinton running very well in small-town rural southeast Ohio. Let's look at another key battleground state, the state of Pennsylvania.

We are going to start again by going back in time. John Kerry narrowly carried this state, 51 percent to 48 percent. Where did John Kerry win his votes? You see right here in the Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, down into Philadelphia, then out here, Pittsburgh, steel country, out in western Pennsylvania.

Remember this. This blue here in the west, here in the east of Pennsylvania, that is how John Kerry carried the state. Let's fast- forward now to the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. Look at this. Right in those areas that were critical to John Kerry, who won all the votes in the primaries? Hillary Clinton did.

So, in the key battleground states, Wolf, of Pennsylvania and Ohio, out here in the Mountain West, whether it's New Mexico or Nevada, or down in the state of Florida, or Michigan, I could name them on and on, when you go through the key electoral battlegrounds, you look at where Hillary Clinton did best in the primaries, she did better than Barack Obama in many of the swing areas critical to a Democratic victory in November, which is why her role in this convention is so critical to Democratic unity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He really needs, John, to get both of these Clintons on board, for them to send the message to their supporters, it's finally over and you have got to move on. KING: He certainly needs them here in this hall. And, more importantly, he needs to convince their voters out in southeast Ohio, out in working-class blue-collar Pennsylvania. He needs to convince their voters that he gets it on the issues.

And that's why tonight is so important. When you go into the places, or talk to pollsters or campaign operatives in these places, they say the voters who voted for Hillary aren't sure if Barack Obama represents their values, understands their kitchen table concerns. That is why this convention tonight starting with Michelle Obama is so important to Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John is not going to anywhere. He's going to be here with us all night throughout this convention, next week in St. Paul for the Republican Convention as well.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the topic of Georgia, a new chapter today in the showdown between the United States and Russia over the Republic of Georgia. First, Russia's parliament unanimously asked Russian leaders to recognize the independence of Georgia's two breakaway provinces. But just a little bit ago, we learned that President Bush has asked the Russians to hold on.

CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano live outside the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Tell us more, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, this move by the Russian parliament is clearly a thumb in the eye of the U.S. as well, of course, as a thumb in the eye of the pro-U.S. government of Georgia.

Now, a look at the map helps explain these tensions more fully. Take a look at this. The vote today was to recognize these two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Those are pro -- essentially pro-Russian regions. And the vote today by the Russian parliament was to recognize those two regions as independent states.

Well, President Bush, from his ranch here in Crawford, very quickly weighed in, saying he was deeply concerned about that move by the Russian parliament.

In a written statement, he said -- quote -- "I call on Russia's leadership to meet its commitments and not recognize these separatist regions. Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command the Crawford weighed in, saying he was deeply concerned about that move by the Russian parliament, in a written statement he said, I call on Russia's leadership to meet its commitment and not recognize these separatist regions. Georgia's territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation's, including Russia's."

Now, so far, no word on whether Russia's president will go along with the parliament. The White House is stepping up its efforts to show solidarity with the government of Georgia. Next week, Vice President Cheney next week is going to be visiting the region. It was a previously scheduled visit. He's also adding the pro-U.S. country of the Ukraine, Vice President Cheney going there again to show and underscore that the United States will continue to stand by its allies in the region, that trip, again, taking place next week -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Elaine Quijano live in Crawford, Texas, tonight.

Hillary Clinton urges her supporters to support Obama. Will they? We will look at the possibility of angry Clinton supporters overshadowing the celebration for Obama.

Also, Obama's running mate is Catholic. How might that impact the race?

And a wife will heap praise on her husband tonight. What does Michelle Obama really need to do to help Senator Obama?


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: It's one of the biggest questions hanging over the Democratic Convention. What do Bill and Hillary Clinton have to do to get their supporters firmly behind Obama?

Michelle Obama is speaking out about the historic nature of her husband's nomination in an emotional one-on-one interview.

And will Joe Biden help Barack Obama win over Catholic voters?

All of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

The Democratic National Convention now has officially started, and a roster of speakers will all heap praise on Barack Obama. It's partly designed to quash any lingering bitterness between Obama supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters. But some are not yet ready to make amends with the man who beat Clinton to this convention.

CNN's Dana Bash is watching what's going on. Dana, some of these most ardent Hillary Clinton supporters, they are not buying this talk of party unity.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're really not. And it's important to remember, Wolf, that on the floor of the convention, there will be about 40 percent of the delegates, 40 percent, who supported Hillary Clinton. And just like you said, many of them are simply not ready to let go. But it is in the interests of both Obama and Clinton to show unity here in Denver.

And, as for Hillary Clinton, you could say her message today became she's now in it for him to win it.


BASH (voice-over): Hillary Clinton's first convention audience was her home state political army. She pleaded with them to be good party soldiers.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And now I ask each and every one of you to work as hard for Barack and Joe Biden as you worked for me.

BASH: But that's a nonstarter for some Clinton delegates.

(on camera): Who are you here to vote for?

MARK FRIEDLAND, CLINTON DELEGATE: I'm here to vote for Hillary Clinton.

BASH: Mark Friedland is a Democratic delegate from North Carolina who says the bitter primary battle isn't over for him, and blames Barack Obama for not reaching out to Clinton supporters.

FRIEDLAND: If he had welcomed us, even two, three months ago, had welcomed the Clinton delegates, had welcomed Hillary Clinton, had involved us all in the process of running this convention, there wouldn't be any question about tension and disunity.

BASH: Democratic strategists are concerned that disunity is the biggest threat to Obama making Denver a success. Some Clinton confidants are downright furious that Obama didn't reach out to either Hillary or Bill Clinton before picking a running mate, calling it a missed opportunity.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I'm not impressed -- neither impressed nor pleased with the way this was handled.

BASH: But Obama supporters point to high-profile speaking slots for both Clintons as proof they're trying to achieve what they need, unity.


BASH: And, right now, both campaigns are working very hard to put the word out to everybody from rank-and-file supporters of both to some pretty-high profile confidants to stop the talk of problems, of hostility, and the problems that will potentially make it hard for unity to happen here.

They even put out kind of a kumbaya statement to that effect, today, Wolf. But as we speak, there are protests going on just outside the hall of people who still support Hillary Clinton, saying things like, we will not fall in line. A nightmare scenario, Wolf, is for something like to that to happen on the convention floor this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That would be a nightmare -- Dana, thank you -- a nightmare for a lot of Democrats.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton delegates united, that's what Democratic Party leaders really hope will happen here in Denver this week at this historic national convention. But not all the Clinton delegates, as you just heard, are on board.

Jessica Yellin is with one of those Clinton delegates. Tell us what he's saying, Jessica.

YELLIN: Wolf, I'm with Steven Ferguson, who is 19 years old. This is his first convention. He's from California.

And, Steven, you say you want the Democratic ticket to win in November, so why are you going to vote for Hillary this week?


I am in full support of Barack Obama this fall, but you know what? I was sent here by my congressional district to elect Senator Clinton and to vote for her. And that's my job. I believe a delegate's job is to represent where they come from. And they support Senator Clinton.

YELLIN: You also told me you think she's the strongest candidate to win.

FERGUSON: Absolutely.

I believe that. And, unfortunately, the primary is carried out, and America didn't see it that way. But you know what? At this point, I'm voting for her for nomination. And I will see Barack Obama in the fall.

YELLIN: OK. Thank you, Steven.

Wolf, one of the phrases he used was, he said he doesn't want to have his voice stifled, and that this is a democracy, and he wants to see Hillary Clinton's name make history here. That is the sentiment we see from a lot of people, not all of them ardent Hillary supporters, some of them just people who say they want to see this just for the record books -- a lot of division within this room.


BLITZER: Obviously, but let's see if they can get their act together.

Thanks, Jessica. she's on the floor.

Let's talk a little bit about -- more about this storyline that's emerging, the whole issue of Democratic unity.

Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty, David Brody, the senior editor -- senior national correspondent, should I say, for the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville. They're all part of the best political team on television.

And I will start with you, James. Can they do it?

CARVILLE: Yes, but everybody has to fulfill a role here.

I think that Senator Clinton, President Clinton are going to be extremely supportive in their remarks. I think it will start with Senator Clinton's film. And I think Senator Obama has a big role to play.

And he has to put the focus on the Bush administration and how John McCain represents a continuation of that. Believe me, if he does that effectively, all of these pro-Hillary delegates are going to be so much for Senator Obama, you can't imagine it. So, this is -- I think we're going to leave here fine. Look, I've never denied that this was a long, grueling process. And any time you have that, people have feelings. Politics is about conflict and then reconciliation. We're now in the reconciliation phase.

BLITZER: All right, Jack -- Jack Cafferty, you mentioned this in The Cafferty File earlier, this new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, which actually shows that among Clinton supporters, 27 percent of them say now they will actually vote for John McCain. That's up from 16 percent back in June.

What is going on -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know exactly what's going on. My guess is we'll find out more over the next two or three days.

Have you ever had somebody look you in the eye and tell you the check's in the mail and you knew when they were telling you that the check wasn't in the mail?

Hillary Clinton's been telling the Democratic Party the check's in the mail for three months and I don't think a lot of people think the check is in the mail. I don't think she's been that believable or that sincere or that genuine. And you certainly can say that about her husband, who's acted like a pouty kid who's being forced to tell his grandmother he loves her at the Thanksgiving dinner table. He'll say it, but he doesn't really believe it.

BLITZER: And I think a lot of people would agree with Jack, Gloria, that they don't really -- you know, she's uttering the words. He may be uttering the words, but they're not feeling it yet.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, on a personal level -- and I think James might agree with me on this -- on a personal level, I don't Bill -- that Bill and Hillary Clinton are ever going to best friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. This was a very, very tough fight.

But I think the point is that coming out of this convention, Bill and Hillary Clinton will do whatever they have to do. And one of the reasons is, is that it's in their own self-interest to do so. They don't want to be seen as people who are splitting up this party. Even if Hillary Clinton has presidential ambitions somewhere going down along the line, she has got to do the right thing and I believe she'll do it.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: But, Wolf, I think we're beyond the words at this point. I think right now it's all about the visuals.

And can you imagine Hillary Clinton coming out Tuesday night and leading a "Yes we can!" chant or putting on an Obama jersey and saying I'm on the team?

In other words, imagine Thursday night at INVESCO Field -- and I understand that's Obama's night, but it's Obama, Michelle, Jill and Joe -- and all of a sudden Bill and Hillary come out. Could you imagine that as a visual? The point is, is that the visuals are very important...


BRODY: No, I couldn't imagine it either. But the point is the visuals are very important.

BLITZER: All right, James, you're making all sorts of contortions.

CARVILLE: Yes, I know. I think it's absurd. I don't know how to say this, but I'll bring a little history here. Do you think that Jack Kennedy really liked Lyndon Johnson?


CARVILLE: Of course not.



Do you think...

BORGER: So you're agreeing with the first part of what I said?

CARVILLE: Do you think that Ronald Reagan really liked George H.W. Bush?


CARVILLE: Of course not. Now, this is politics. And, you know, I don't know if -- they're going to come out, they're going to get behind the ticket.


CARVILLE: There's only so much the Clintons can do. They're going to do everything that they're supposed to do. Obama has to play a role in this, too.

BORGER: I agree.

CARVILLE: It is not just...

BORGER: I agree.

CARVILLE: ...just all this is what...


BLITZER: What does Obama need to do?

CARVILLE: ...the first thing about politics popping off. Obama's got to run a hard campaign. He's got to remind people about Bush, how McCain is the same. He's got to show some respect and graciousness toward the Clintons. The Clintons will do the same for him. If he does that, he's going to pick up these people.

But it's not -- this idea that somehow or another it's just the Clintons and they don't really like Obama, that's...

BORGER: No, no, but I...

CARVILLE: ...that's historically...

BORGER: Look, I agree with you.

CARVILLE: That's historically ludicrous.

BORGER: I agree with you on that. It is up to the winner to be magnanimous in politics, right James?

CARVILLE: Right. That's right.

BORGER: James, if you win, it's up to you to reach out. And the feeling on the part of Clinton folks...

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: that he hasn't done it.

BLITZER: But let me just go back to Jack for a moment before we take a break.

Is Barack Obama doing enough to make sure the Clinton supporters will be on board?

CAFFERTY: He won. He's going to be the nominee. I mean what is he supposed to do? He didn't want her on the ticket as vice president. And it would have taken probably a small army to vet the Clintons' paperwork if he had decided they did want to look at her. So what's he supposed to do?

They're going to -- you know, they're going to recognize Michigan and Florida. They're going to put her name in nomination. She was allowed her own production team to produce the video. Her daughter's going to introduce her. I mean I -- you know, I'm hoping to see a little bit of Barack Obama during these four days.



BLITZER: Hold on, guys. Hold on. We're going to take a break. We'll continue this.

Also, Michelle Obama -- you're going to be hearing her. And she's speaking candidly and emotionally about her husband's historic nomination in a one-on-one interview. Stand by for that.

And CNN's Jeanne Moos with an unconventional look at this convention.


BLITZER: The best political team on television standing by. We'll assess Michelle Obama and what she needs to do tonight to help her husband.

Our coverage of the convention continues right after this.


BLITZER: Michelle Obama is known as the rock in her family. She's married, of course, to Barack Obama for 16 years. She knows him better than anyone.

Michelle Robinson Obama takes centers stage tonight here at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

And our CNN political contributor, Roland Martin, sat down with her and got this interview. Listen to this.


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: It is humbling to be involved with being a part of that next step in history. And I think about how many people fought and died and struggled and sacrificed. That's another reason why I stopped the pity party about me and this race and what it would do to us, because basically the sacrifice that we're making is nothing compared to all those who made it possible for us to even be sitting here breathing in and out.

And I have met so many people on these rope lines who break down in tears -- people who saw this history. And they have fallen to their knees just thankful that they're alive to see the day.

It's powerful. It is powerful. So we just have to work hard to finish it out. It could be really powerful if folks get out and vote and get registered, because that's also a part of this history, as well, that we can celebrate in a week, but we can really celebrate in November. But that means that we have to turn this enthusiasm and this possibility into action. And that won't happen if people aren't registered and if they're not getting out to vote.

And if folks do that in ways that we're seeing, if this enthusiasm -- if this enthusiasm really turns into real action, then not only will Barack Obama be the next president of the United States, but we can change the fundamental direction of this world. It's a real possibility, but Barack can't do it alone.


BLITZER: And Roland Martin is joining us now live -- Roland, can this woman help close the deal for her husband tonight?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I think what her goal tonight is, is to lay out that story. I mean I remember seeing her speak at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta. We actually carried some of that speech on CNN.

And she talked about growing up in a Chicago neighborhood -- the South Side of Chicago, going to Chicago public schools. And so it is a compelling story.

But I think the problem that I have seen throughout this campaign is that the Obama folks have been sort of indifferent as to consistently telling that story.

When we think about John McCain, we hear that strong POW story. We understand that.

They have to be able to make the case that, look, my values are your values. I know your experience because I experienced the same things. I think she's going to bring that home tonight. And really what needs to happen is Obama -- Senator Obama needs to start giving, frankly, more of a speech than Michelle Obama gives.

BLITZER: A fair point.

Jack Cafferty, she really needs to do a major job not only in reintroducing herself, but she needs to reintroduce her husband, because millions of people will be watching this speech tonight. I think it's the most important one she's ever given.

CAFFERTY: Well, there's probably no question about that. I think that there is more curiosity -- and this is just my own opinion. But I think there's more curiosity about Michelle Obama than there is about her husband.

We have seen Barack Obama for 17, 18, 19 months on the primary campaign trail. Michelle Obama has not been in the spotlight nearly as much. I think she's a fascinating and compelling figure. And I'm looking forward to her standing there and kind of watching how she handles the spotlight she's going to be in tonight.

It's a big bright light and it's wilted good people in the past. My guess is she'll be fine.

But I mean it's a remarkable couple. I think Roland's point and her point, too, the significance of what the Obamas have accomplished and what they may be on the brink of accomplishing is probably not talked about enough.

If this somehow happens, we've jumped some awfully big hurdles that have been in our way for an awfully long time.

BLITZER: That's a good point, Jack -- Gloria, you know, this is a woman who comes from very, very modest, humble origins, who went to Princeton, graduated from Harvard Law School and is very accomplished in her own right.

BORGER: Right. I think she's that to tell her story. She's going to tell Barack Obama's story.

But I think her role tonight -- who knows you the best in the world, Wolf? Your wife, right? My husband. She's the one who's going to be able to tell people about the real Barack Obama, because her job tonight is to make her feel comfortable with Obama.

Lots of voters don't feel comfortable with him yet. They don't feel like they know enough about him. She's also got to be patriotic, because she did have some problems with that. But most of all, open the door, lift the veil, whatever cliche you want to use.

BLITZER: We know that no one knows James Carville better than Mary Matalin, his wife.


BLITZER: And we would like her to introduce you from time to time, James.

CARVILLE: I actually think this is a speech that's going to matter. Normally, the candidate's wife gets up and says nice things about her husband. And I -- you know, she's a very strong woman. I like to say I was raised by a strong woman and I supported a strong woman for president -- who, by the way, has raised a strong daughter who will introduce her. And I married one. And I hope my children are strong women.

Michelle Obama is a very strong woman. I think tonight, oddly enough, it's going to be more important about how people's view of Michelle comes across...

BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: ...than actually what she says about Barack Obama. I think she's in -- I think this woman is going to shine tonight. I think she's got a hell of a story.

BRODY: Yes. And I think part of that view is the likeability factor. I mean the reality is, in person, very likeable.

How will that translate in the heartland tonight?

In other words, she's not playing to California and New York. How will it play in Peoria?

That's extremely important, her likeability, and making sure that -- this is her all-American moment, so to speak. I mean the American flags are there.

The patriotism that you talked about, extremely important, because let's face it, what do people know about Michelle and Barack Obama?

All of these e-mails that have been out there, you know, the Pledge of Allegiance and the American flag lapel pin...

BLITZER: All right...

BRODY: So this is very important because this is not a reintroduction, this is an indication tonight.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks.

Stand by, because our coverage is continuing. We're only getting started here at the Democratic National Convention.

Thousands of Democrats are here in Denver for Barack Obama, but Obama basically is not here in Denver. He's still out on the campaign trail. He's campaigning in several states before he arrives in Denver.

Today in Illinois, he addressed questions over whether or not Bill Clinton should be able to give whatever speech he wants when he speaks at the convention Wednesday night.

Here's what Senator Obama had to say, in his own words.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wednesday night, most of the focus is going to be on foreign policy. But Bill Clinton knows a little bit about trying to yank an economy out of the doldrums and helping middle class families. And it wouldn't make much sense for me to want to edit his remarks to prevent him from making a strong case about why we need fundamental economic change in this country.


BLITZER: All right, let's check back with Jack once again. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, what will constitute, at the end of the week, a successful convention for the Democrats?

Jan in New York writes this: "One where the Clintons ride off into the sunset, never to appear again on the Democratic stage. One where Hillary and her idiotic supporters admit she ran a very bad campaign and they finally take responsibility for their own actions and performance. I doubt I'll see that in my lifetime." Susan in New York: "They need a clear message that even those who are traditionally against Democrats can understand -- a message that states how to fix the economy, how to chart our country's future free of special interest groups and Middle Eastern insanity because of our thirst for oil."

Gordon in Boston: "A successful convention will be if the voting public doesn't notice that in a year so favorable to the Democratic Party, they could have nominated a ham sandwich -- and they did."

Melissa in Pennsylvania: "I think a successful convention is one that leaves supporters of Hillary Clinton at ease. We need to know that we can put our trust in Obama, as we have in her. The race is closer now than anyone thought it would be. In order to beat McCain, she needs us -- he needs us. In order to get our trust, we need to see more of what he's all about."

Gerald writes: "A successful convention would be to see the Clintons take a back seat and quit acting like spoiled royalty. I supported Bill Clinton. He was one of the truly great presidents in my life. I respect Senator Clinton, but the people spoke and she has to take it like a lady."

John writes: "Hearing the words Bush recession and Bush lied us into war repeated every day of the convention. Good speeches by Bill, Hillary and Al Gore will also help."

And Greg in Pennsylvania writes: "If the power went out in Denver for a week, that would be fantastic."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It would be awful if the power went out here in Denver, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Just one man's opinion.

BLITZER: I can personally I can make that a point, in my opinion.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

The security here in Denver, by the way, among the tightest ever for a national party convention. I've been to a lot of them -- many of them over the years. And I'll tell you, security is very tight right now.

Joe Johns is looking into this part of the story.

What are you seeing, what are you finding -- Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, lots of police outside, Wolf. On the very first protest on the very first day of this convention, they were basically everywhere. We went out to a protest that was billed as a rally and march against the U.S. government's detainment of political prisoners -- a bunch of groups and causes, though the demonstrators have complained that the crowd would have been much larger if authorities hadn't spent so much time hyping the security in Denver.

One of the protesters we found who was definitely not afraid of the police is the controversial former Georgia congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, who is now running for Green Party for president.

In 1996, she spoke at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. But not anymore. She's running against Barack Obama and against the Democrats.


CYNTHIA MCKINNEY, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has demonstrated what its values are. Its values are war and occupation -- funding a war and occupation.


JOHNS: Of course, McKinney is well-known on Capitol Hill for her skirmishes with the Bush administration, with the Anti-Defamation League, even with the U.S. Capitol Police. She had a skirmish there because a police officer did not recognize her and wouldn't let her into the buildings while she was on Capitol Hill.

But for the record, the demonstration was peaceful. There were absolutely no problems and everybody went away pretty happy -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Joe. Thanks very much. Joe Johns with this part of the story. He's going to be watching it all week, as well as in St. Paul next week at the Republican Convention.

Later tonight, the Democrats will have a very emotional tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy. He's recovering from brain cancer. We have some details about what's going on.

But first, CNN's Jeanne Moos with an unconventional look at this convention.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No Coke sold at this convention. It's Pepsi that's on everybody's lips and clothes.

(voice-over): Pepsi paid a reported 68 million bucks to hang its name here for 20 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Pepsi Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a look inside the Pepsi Center. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Pepsi Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Live pictures from inside the Pepsi Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be inside the Pepsi Center.


MOOS: And doesn't that Pepsi logo remind you of Senator Obama?


MOOS: With an unconventional moment, I'm Jeanne Moos.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

BLITZER: You're looking at the live pictures. We're inside the Democratic National Convention. We're on the floor. The delegates -- thousands of them -- are inside. This is going to be an historic night. The major speaker tonight will be Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama. She'll be speaking later tonight in prime time, introducing herself, and, more importantly, introducing her husband to the nation. Millions of people will be watching across the country. It will be a very important speech -- probably the most important speech she has ever given in her life.

Earlier, there will be a very emotional moment here at the Democratic Convention when Ted Kennedy -- he will be here. We are not yet sure whether or not he will actually be speaking. As you know, he's suffering from brain cancer. We didn't even think he would come to Denver, but we have been told by his staff he is here. He would like to speak. A speech has been prepared. There will be a video tribute in his honor. And it will be a rather emotional moment -- perhaps several moments -- as all of these Democrats who have gathered here pay tribute to this lion of the U.S. Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy.

We'll also be hearing from a former -- a former president of the United States. Jimmy Carter will be here, as well. He's speaking earlier in the evening. We'll hear what he has to say. I suspect the words about President Bush will not be rather generous.

Candy Crowley is our reporter on the podium. That's where all the speakers will be speaking from. Candy will have a chance to grab some of them as they're walking on the stage, leaving the stage -- Candy, set the scene for us on this important day.

CROWLEY: Well, what's going to be really interesting to watch, Wolf, is the comparison between the Ted Kennedy tribute and Michelle Obama. I think she has a high hurdle here. Because, as you say, he's the leading liberal lion in the Senate. But he is sort of an era unto himself, the Kennedy era. And so there will be a lot of emotion in this hall, because, of course, he is so seriously ill. He had to do -- had to go some to get here because he is being treated for brain cancer, of course. And it can be terribly debilitating. So that is definitely going to be an emotional highlight.

As for what goes on up on this podium, we do get sort of the real cat bird's seat here watching what's going on. We will see Michelle Obama as she reaches out to not just this audience, but the audience out there in TV land, to try to explain the Obamas -- the Obamas that she knows and Barack Obama as she knows him.

This is always an interesting place. I have to tell you just one quick story. Four years ago, I was also up here on the podium. And I interviewed the keynote speaker afterwards with his wife. And it was Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

Had I known then what we now know, I'd have asked completely different questions. But you never know in these conventions who's going to be the standout, what's going to happen and who we'll be talking about afterwards, because, at that time, four years ago, of course, it was Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, a housekeeping question. My own personal curiosity as someone who was CNN's podium reporter back in the '96 conventions, the 2000 conventions. We had pretty good access in those days to grab some of the -- some of the speakers walking on and leaving.

What's it like nowadays?

CROWLEY: It's very hard. It was very hard in 2004. I'm sure we have camera here somewhere that can kind of show where I am in relationship to the podium. We are kept very far away at this point. And, in fact, the speakers come up from a stairwell and go through a curtain. So even on the other side, it is very hard to say hey, could you come on over here?

So it's one of those things where we're on the phone saying after he speaks, could you bring him over here -- or after she speaks, that kind of thing -- because it really -- they really have clamped down on this.

Because it used to be, as you know, kind of a free-for-all as you stood on the side waiting for someone to come off. And all the networks and all the television people and the print reporters were up there.

But now they have this kind of laid out in a way that it's very hard to get to them.

But it -- it is a great seat in the house and you do have a chance to kind of, you know, body language and say come on over here. But they -- it wasn't -- we are not as close as we used to be back in the good old days.

BLITZER: I liked the good old days better. You do have a great seat up there on the podium.

Candy, we'll be checking in with you often.

Jessica Yellin is in the State of Georgia right now, in the delegation from Georgia. Set the scene there -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Well, Wolf, there are enormous -- there's enormous excitement here. Folks know that Ted Kennedy, in particular, is expected to possibly show up and certainly have a tribute video played to him. The excitement, looking forward to the possibility of seeing Ted Kennedy, is something people are talking about.

As you know, he has been seen very rarely in public since he was diagnosed with cancer. Good evening made one appearance on Capitol Hill for a vote and was received with a hero's welcome.

Sources who are close to him tell us that they expect him to show up. There are no plans for him to speak, but a short speech has been written. And those who know him best say that if he possibly can muster the strength to deliver that speech, they believe he will, because he wants that moment. He wants to support Barack Obama tonight.

And they tell us that he is telling his friends that he believes this will be his last convention. So not only is that tragic for the Democratic Party, it's something that people here consider a part of history. And they are excited to see him in this room.

I can guarantee you he will get rousing, rousing applause -- a standing ovation -- that some are describing as the probable emotional highlight of this entire convention week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I think I speak for almost everyone. Let me repeat that. I think I speak for everyone when we say we're praying for Senator Kennedy and we'll be watching him tonight. This will be a very, very emotional moment for a lot of people.