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THE SITUATION ROOM

Democratic National Convention Officially Begins

Aired September 4, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CORY BOOKER (D), MAYOR OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: It's not about left or right but about moving America and our economy forward.

Our platform and our president stands firm in the conviction that America must continue to out-build, out-innovate, and out-educate the world.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: You see, this platform is a clear choice between economic pathways, forward or back, inclusion or exclusion, grow together as a nation or be a country of savage disparities that favor the fortunate few over the greatest driving force of any economy, a large and robust middle class.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: We must choose forward. We must choose inclusion. We must choose growing together. We choose American might and American muscle, standing strong on the bedrock of the American ideal, a strong and empowered, an ever-expanding and ever-growing middle class.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: Our platform emphasizes that a vibrant, free, and fair market is essential to economic growth.

We also must pull from our highest ideals of justice and fairness to protect against those ills that destabilized our economy in recent years, like predatory lending, overleveraged financial institutions, and the unchecked avarice of the past that trumped fairness and common sense.

Our platform calls for significant cuts in federal spending. Our platform calls for a balanced deficit reduction plan, where everyone, everyone, from elected officials to the wealthy and the super wealthy, pay their fair share.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: And please listen to this, because when your country is in a costly war, with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and our nation is facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn't class warfare -- it's patriotism.

We all know that it's common sense that for an economy built to last, we must invest in what will fuel our economy for generations to come. This is our history -- from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, from the dredging of ports and to the building of our most historic bridges -- our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation's infrastructure.

And today our businesses, industries, entrepreneurs and economy realize a return on those investments. Let us not fall prey to rhetoric that seeks to gut investment and starve our nation of critical, commonsense building for our future. And investment must include the real engine of job growth in America: the American small business.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: That is why this platform committee is proud that our president has made a profound difference for people and businesses in Newark, in New Jersey and in our nation as a whole by cutting taxes for all working families and giving small businesses 18 different tax cuts.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: For our president, "home of the brave" are not just the last words of our national anthem, but also a call to action.

This is why the president's policies and our platform include incentives to train and hire our troops returning home, not only because it's our moral responsibility, but because it makes for a stronger, more secure American economy.

But investing in people doesn't stop with our troops. Our platform and our president make it clear that the most critical investment we can make in a 21st century, knowledge-based economy is education.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: And so our president has already doubled Pell Grants, raised education standards, invested in research and development at our universities and early childhood education in our neighborhoods.

This is because our platform and our president state it clearly. Our nation cannot continue to be the world's number one economy if we aren't committed to being the world's number one educator.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: It is plain that our platform and our president are not interested in petty political arguments.

Instead, this platform of big and practical ideas sets forth an emboldened pathway toward the historic hope which has driven generation after generation of Americans forward -- it is our most fundamental national aspiration that no matter who you are, no matter what your color, creed, how you choose to pray or who you choose to love, that if you are a citizen of the United States of America -- if you're an American -- first generation or 15th -- one who is willing to work hard, play by the rules and apply your God-given talents, that you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.

You should be able to afford health care for your family. You should be able to retire with dignity and respect.

And you should be able to give your children the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger, to go even farther and accomplish more than you could ever imagine.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: This is our platform. This is our platform. This is our platform. This is our American mission.

These are the dreams of our fathers and mothers. This is the demand from the next generation, who call to our conscience in a chorus of conviction, in classrooms from sea to shining sea, from north to south, when our children proudly proclaim those sacred words from our most profound pledge, that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all.

And so, God bless America. God bless America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: This November, with the reelection of President Barack Obama, this generation of Americans will expand upon the hope, the dream, the truth and the promise of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: And, so, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of every single member from every single state in these United States, we are pleased to move for the adoption of the 2012 Democratic national platform.

(APPLAUSE)

BOOKER: Thank you. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A rousing speech by a rising star in the Democratic Party, Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.

The crowd here is standing, many of them are crying. He really did a powerful, powerful job, certainly resuscitated himself with some of these Democrats. He had caused a bit of a stir earlier when he was complaining early on that all the Democratic attacks against Bain Capital in his word was nauseating at the time. He got himself into some trouble at that time, but he has more than made up for that at here this convention. Very, very strong words and delivered beautifully by Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

They're ratifying the Democratic platform now. They're going to through the motions.

Dana Bash is on the floor. Dana, the platform, normally, not even a lot of people read it, but in this particular case, people are reading it word for word as they read the Republican platform last week.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You just heard Cory Booker give some of the highlights the Democrats want to put forward about hard work, about not spending more money overseas when they should be spending money on infrastructure and investments in education and so forth here.

But there were some -- some noteworthy, if not controversial, parts of this platform. And I think most noteworthy for what was not in it than what was in it. One thing is that the word God is not in the platform. You heard Cory Booker talked about our God-given rights. That had been in the platform before with the concept of work, and that was taken out this time.

The other thing that is causing a lot of buzz and frankly raising a lot of eyebrows is what was omitted about Israel. Specifically, this particular platform does not say that Jerusalem is the capital, and last time around in 2008, it did.

That's already getting a reaction from the Romney campaign. Romney himself, and I can read you his statement, he said: "It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama's shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital."

We are trying to figure out why, in fact, the DNC did that. They simply said they were following the policy of the White House to let this whole Mideast process play out until it gets to final talks.

But they're also hitting back at the Republicans by saying, "This is just another attempt by the Romney campaign to turn our support for Israel which has always been bipartisan into a partisan wedge issue by playing politics. This is both cynical and counterproductive to Israel's security."

The other thing we should note is that what is omitted is not just Jerusalem. It is the state of the Israel is the U.S.' most important ally in the Middle East. That's also no longer in the Democratic platform.

BLITZER: I tell you, he delivered, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, a powerful speech. Later tonight, the keynote address, another mayor, the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, I assume he will be delivering a powerful speech as well.

You had a chance to speak with him. What did he say to you, Dana?

BASH: That's right. I actually bumped into him outside the convention hall. He was there with his identical twin brother, Joaquin, who is actually going to be introducing him at the podium behind me tonight. What he said is he wants to talk about his personal story. He is very young, he is 37, but he is the grandson of a woman who came from Mexico as an immigrant. He is the son of a single mom and he will talk about the I American dreams vis-a-vis immigrants, but also what he calls the intergenerational connection.

I want to read you a couple of excerpts we got from what he is going to talk about with regard to more political issues. He will say Texas, where he's from, "may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some things we can't do alone."

You know, Wolf, Republicans seized on President Obama saying we didn't build it. And this is I am told an oblique reference to that. The other thing he will talk about is that freedom isn't free, and Ryan and Romney understand neither is opportunity, we have to invest in it. Those are themes that he will talk about tonight.

BLITZER: Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, is standing by. We're going to talk to her. Dana, thanks very much. Don't go too far away.

All of this unfolding as we got new poll numbers.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is very, very interesting. We got these new poll numbers just a short time ago. It is really a new snapshot of the race for the White House.

If we need to tell you any more, it is a tight one.

Let's bring in CNN chief national correspondent John King and he has been crunching the numbers for us.

John, what do you have?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate and Wolf, first let me give you a quick overview of what our new numbers say.

Our new numbers tells us this is the 2008 map. Obama 53, McCain 46. Our new numbers tells us don't expect a big win at least at this moment. Let's take a closer look at the numbers. Straight up, the national numbers. Did Mitt Romney get bounce out of the Republican Convention? As Democrats begin theirs, look at this. Doesn't get any closer than that, 48 for the president, 48 for Governor Romney.

That's an exact tie, of course. You see the difference here. The president was up two points among likely voters just before the Republican Convention, Governor Romney now in a dead heat with the president. Where does it put the bounce? It means Governor Romney got a very, very modest, one-point bounce from his Republican Convention.

Some people might say that must be a big disappointment. If you look though President Obama back in 2008, only two points. George W. Bush in 2004, only two points. It has been pretty typical of modern conventions in the cable era and the Internet era to be a relatively small bounce. Romney gets a bit of a bounce, but we have a dead heat coming into the convention.

Let's move this away and look at some of the other big underlying dynamics. We will pull these out of another key battleground state of Ohio, and here is the interesting question and the defining question in this election. Who would better handle the economy?

Right now, Romney with a six-point edge. Not much of a difference, within margin of error of the poll. Essentially unchanged from heading into the Republican Party. Important Governor Romney is ahead on this question. He would like a bigger lead. Watch for the Democrats to try to take into that one.

One other key point. If you do this, here is something Governor Romney will be happy with coming out of the convention and Democrats will try to counter in the three days ahead. Who best is in touch with the middle class? Heading into the convention Romney was down 14 points to the president on this critical question, now he's down just six.

Wolf and Kate, Governor Romney probably would like a bigger bounce in the horse race, he will be happy with this number here. But now the president's challenge is to try to turn that economic argument. Romney leads on who would best handle the economy, he has closed the gap on who is best in touch with the middle class. Watch for the Democrats, and they see the same data we do. The theme of this convention over the next few days will be trying to change these economic numbers.

BOLDUAN: John King at the magic wall. One of my favorite positions to see him in. He always does so well.

Wolf, I find it so interesting. John's polls -- these new polls show as well as we have been tracking where they see -- their traditional strengths, it has been so close back and forth, back and forth. It just shows how tight this really race is.

BLITZER: Got it 48-48 nationally among likely voters. Doesn't get much closer than that. Stand by for a moment.

We're going to talk about some of those poll numbers and a lot more of the controversial changes shall we say to the Democratic platform. The Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, she is standing by to join us live.

Also, new clues about tonight's most anticipated speech. We're learning a little bit of what the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, will say, as this, our SITUATION ROOM, continuing live from Charlotte, North Carolina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are some changes in the Democratic platform this year, and they're causing a little bit of a concern.

BOLDUAN: They're actually some of them quite controversial, among them, a plank addressing the issue of Israel's capital. Wolf, you have been talking about this.

BLITZER: Yes.

Let's talk a little bit. Stephanie Cutter is here, the deputy campaign manager.

We did some checking. The 2008 Democratic Party platform had: "The words Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel, the parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths."

In the 2012 platform that just has been approved by this convention, it says, "The president's consistent support for Israel's right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel's security."

But the specific reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was deleted this time. We know the DNC put out a statement explaining that, but maybe you can help us. Why was that deleted?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Wolf, the president's position on Jerusalem is the position of bipartisan administrations going back many years, that this is a decision that needs to be made through negotiation between the two parties.

But, you know, no one should mistake anything in this platform but the president's undeniable commitment to the security of Israel.

BLITZER: Because there's a little line -- and people who pay attention to this kind of stuff are sensitive to -- deleted from the 2008 platform that Israel is America's strongest ally in the region.

You want to clarify that?

CUTTER: You read what that platform said. And additional language was added to make it clear the president and the country's commitment to Israel's security.

BLITZER: But the president still believes Israel is America's strongest ally in the region?

CUTTER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Just want to make sure. Go ahead.

CUTTER: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: I want to move on to play you a clip from one of our affiliates, KKTV in Colorado. They did an interview with President Obama. Take a listen at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Your party says you inherited a bad situation. You have had three-and-a-half years to fix it. What grade would you give yourself so far for doing that?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say incomplete. But what I would say is the steps that we have taken in saving the auto industry, in making sure that college is more affordable, in investing in clean energy and science and technology and research, those are all the that things we are going to need to grow over the long term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Well, Stephanie, when he talks about an incomplete, if you're in school, if you get an incomplete, you don't pass. It's the equivalent to failing. How does that grade help his reelection campaign?

CUTTER: Yes. I don't think it is the equivalent of failing. I am not that far from my college days, but I am pretty sure it is not the equivalent of failing.

I think what he is saying is that we have made a lot of progress since the moment he took his oath of office. Let's remember what life was like back then. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. In the six months before he was elected, we lost 3.5 million jobs.

And now take a look at where we are today -- 4.5 million private sector jobs are created. We have rescued the auto industry. GM is number one in the world. We passed health care reform. Never again will taxpayers have to bail out Wall Street.

What the president is saying is we have made progress, but I'm not done. As he has said before, returning to where we were before the recession is not good enough, because we have had decades of erosion of the middle class and we need to do better than that. And that's what you will hear from him on Thursday night, that we have a path forward.

We have a road map of how to build an economy meant to last and how to help the middle class reclaim the security they had lost over a series of years. We have made some significant progress. We're going to be hearing about some of that progress tonight. The auto industry, what would have happened if we listened to Mitt Romney and let the auto industry go bankrupt? What would have happened if we buckled to Republican pressure and insurance industry lobbies and didn't health care reform?

These are real and tangible things the president has done.

BLITZER: I know health care will be a major theme, the bailing out, the rescuing of the auto industry will be a major theme. Is the president also going to talk jobs and the economy in that address?

BOLDUAN: Issue number one. CUTTER: Wolf, these things are jobs and the economy. If we didn't bail out the auto industry, we would have lost a million jobs. And today we are creating hundreds of thousands because of the actions he took.

BLITZER: Because that will be the issue, jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy. That is issue number one.

CUTTER: Jobs and the economy, how we rebuild an economy that is meant to last, not one based on risky financial deals or outsourcing, but on things that help the middle class grow.

BLITZER: Quickly, a little preview of the first lady's speech today.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. You have read it, I am sure. You have maybe even heard it. What can you give us on the first lady's speech tonight?

CUTTER: She's a character witness to this president.

You know, she is who we come home to every night. She has been a witness to some of the very tough decisions he's made over the past four years. She's going to speak to the values that drive him, that he puts the middle class first because that's where he comes from. He understands the challenges of the middle class.

He understands when you don't have health care security. He understands when women don't get paid the same as men for the same work or when you struggle to be able to pay for your college tuition. He understands these things which is why he has taken action on them. And these are building blocks. These are things that we need to do if we want to build an economy that's meant to last, if we want long-term growth and a strong middle class.

Make no mistake about it. This is all about jobs and the economy and this is all about the things we need to do to put the middle class back at the core of this country again.

BLITZER: Stephanie, thanks very much. Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager.

CUTTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: The president earlier in the day said he hopes he doesn't get misty-eyed watching with his two daughters at the White House.

I don't think there's anything wrong if he get misty. Let him get misty-eyed. It's his wife.

CUTTER: I bet he will.

BOLDUAN: Wolf gets misty-eyed all the time.

BLITZER: It's his wife. It's an emotional... (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I might. Who knows? We all get misty-eyed.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Stephanie.

BLITZER: He is very lucky to have a wife like that. Ann Romney is a wonderful woman as well.

CUTTER: Yes. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Stephanie Cutter, thanks for coming in.

CUTTER: Thank you.

BLITZER: He is certainly a hard act to follow and big shoes to fill. The mayor of San Antonio, Texas, he will give the keynote address tonight.

Anderson Cooper is standing by. He will join us with our panel.

Much more of our live coverage from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate is still here. She's got a couple -- getting ready to go on the floor.

BOLDUAN: Can't get away from you, exactly.

BLITZER: But before you do, we've got to work to do.

BOLDUAN: Have to work before we have some fun. Some other headlines that we are actually watching that we want to get you caught up on right now.

The flow of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war is turning now into a flood. The United Nations says about 103,000 people sought safety in neighboring countries in August, and the total number of registered Syrian refugees is now approaching a quarter million. A Red Cross spokeswoman warns the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating.

And crews are reporting progress in the fight against a wildfire burning in the mountains of east -- east of Los Angeles. It's now 15 percent contained. More than 3,600 acres have burned so far, and more than 800 people are on the ground fighting the flames. Not many people live in the area, fortunately. But there were about a thousand campers there for the holiday weekend who had to evacuate.

And also, there's a controversy surrounding the arrival of Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles later this month. This is pretty interesting. Almost 400 trees are having to be cut down to make room for the giant shuttle to be trucked from the airport to its new home at the California Science center. Officials there say they will plant twice as many replacement trees, but some residents complain that will take years to grow to full growth.

And finally, Republicans had Clint Eastwood. Some Democrats are pushing to have Betty White deliver some star power to their convention. Petitions are up on Facebook as well as Change.org to give the 90-year-old actress a speaking role in Charlotte. But a spokesman for her current series, "Hot in Cleveland," says there are no plans for her to attend the convention.

Well, she has thrown her -- she has in the past thrown her support behind President Obama, but doesn't look like the petition is going to get her here.

BLITZER: Got to love Betty White.

BOLDUAN: Got to love Betty White. There's nothing wrong with her.

BLITZER: Would be a big crowd pleaser if she showed up.

BOLDUAN: She sure would.

BLITZER: Without a doubt. No empty chairs. No more empty chairs. Thanks very much.

The first lady, Michelle Obama, will take stage here in Charlotte just in a few hours, giving her speech before a prime-time audience that will include her husband.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever I say here today, it's going to be at best a distant second to the speech you will hear tonight from the star of the Obama family, Michelle Obama. You know, this is just like a relay, and you start off with the fastest person. So I'm going to be at home, and I'm going to be watching it with our girls. And I am going to try not to let them see their daddy cry, because when Michelle starts talking, I -- I start getting all misty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He might get misty. As I've been saying, let him get misty. There's nothing wrong with that.

BOLDUAN: Don't hear that very often.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar is on the floor. She's getting some new information on what we might be hearing from the first lady. We'll do that RIGHT after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go to the floor. Brianna Keilar is standing by right now. Brianna, you're getting more insight into what the first lady might be saying tonight in her big speech. What are you hearing? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I'm told by one source simply this, that she is a character witness and a very unique kind. For instance, some of the president's top aides, Vice President Joe Biden may be with President Obama when he makes decisions in the Oval Office, but when he goes home at the end of the day, it's Michelle Obama that he talks to and that is the perspective that she's going to give.

Make no mistake, she'll be on message. She'll be talking about his values. She'll be talking about how he's put the middle class first when he was working through health-care reform and the auto bailout. But it's really going to have much more of a personal tinge. And we're expecting her remarks to go about 25 minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, we know that the president says he's going to be watching with his daughters from the White House. It was the first day of school for the girls today. This is an emotional moment for the entire family.

KEILAR: That's right, and he will be watching along with his daughters, Malia and Sasha. Big day for Malia, I should say. She entered high school today. And we know that Mrs. Obama called home to talk to her daughters and see how day one went.

But they'll be staying up tonight. We understand they'll be staying up not just with their dad but also with their grandma, Michelle Obama's mom, Marion Robinson, and they'll be watching that speech from within the residence at the White House.

BLITZER: And tell us about the military mom who's going to be introducing the first lady?

KEILAR: The name of the woman who will be introducing Michelle Obama is Elaine Brye. She's from Winona, Ohio. This is in northeastern Ohio. It's a part of the state that President Obama has spent a considerable amount of time campaigning in.

And back during the holidays, she sent a Christmas card to Michelle Obama, I'm told by a source, thanking her for what she's done with military families. You know, that's been a big priority for not just the first lady but also for Joe Biden's wife, Jill Biden.

And this source said Michelle Obama felt like she owed Elaine Brye a thank you. And that's because she's the mother of five. Four of her kids are in the military, in different branches of the military.

And it was back in March, actually, that Brye and her husband, Courtney, were invited to the White House. They got to come for a spectacular event, a state dinner in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron and sit at the head table with the Obamas and with the Camerons.

And Wolf, we do know that Mrs. Obama spent some time practicing her speech in her office in the East Wing. I'm told she's had a very heavy hand in writing this. She's worked with the team but also with her chief speechwriter, Sarah Hurwitz (ph).

And has the president seen her rehearse the speech? I'm told no. In fact, she also has not seen him or heard his speech. A source telling me that she wanted to see what he has to say on Thursday with fresh ears, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna is on the floor. We're anticipating the first lady's speech later tonight. And we'll, of course, hear that and see that live. Brianna is not going too far away, as well.

Anderson Cooper and our political team, they are both -- they are all standing by to talk a little bit more about tonight's big speakers, the first lady and the keynote address, the San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro. Is he the Democrat's next big star? Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go upstairs to the CNN sky box. Anderson Cooper is standing by, sitting down. Anderson, you've got your whole team over there. What's going on?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I do. We're joined by CNN chief national correspondent John King. Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us and senior political analyst David Gergen.

It seems to me, David, you know, we're all anticipating Michelle Obama's speech tonight. And the evolution of Michelle Obama from really, I think, many people, she was, I guess, more of a divisive figure four years ago. In terms of poll numbers, she was below President Obama. She's now -- surpasses him in terms of popularity.

DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she hadn't done much of it, back then. She is a passionate woman. And she has made an evolution. I think it's been a very graceful evolution. So she gets a lot of credit for people now.

In many ways, she now has become more of a traditional first lady. She's a mom, you know, has these beautiful children. And people are engaged with her. But she's pulled back. She doesn't have the thorns coming at you; she's not spiky any more. But she's one of the most popular people in the country.

COOPER: And yet do we know what role she plays with President Obama, I mean, not just obviously as a wife but in terms of the campaign? Is it similar to Ann Romney's role?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've been very smart in terms of a first lady. They've been very smart.

In the Clinton days, we knew Hillary Clinton is a policy advisor. She had an office in the East Wing. She had a very policy-oriented staff in the East Wing.

With Michelle Obama, the president says she's his partner. She says she's someone that you're (UNINTELLIGIBLE), someone he bounces ideas off of, somebody he talks to last every day.

Have you ever seen a story where it says this policy was changed because Michelle Obama says this? They're very, very careful about that. To David's point, they make it more remote. It does take the edge off.

When you travel the country, and you meet people who just dislike the president, a visceral reaction to him, they think he's too liberal, sometimes frankly, it's the race question. They'll always say, "But I like her and I love how the family, they've made me proud of the family in the White House."

COOPER: Do we know what her role tonight is going to be? I mean, there was a lot of talk about Ann Romney sort of trying to personalize her husband to voters.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think in a way Michelle Obama is going to do some of the same stuff, kind of lift the veil if you will.

I think one area where she can be very helpful to her husband is in talking about how he makes the tough decisions, how he's calm under pressure, how he is intellectual about it, mature about it. And let people into this sort of notion of Barack Obama as a real leader. Because when you look at President Obama compared to Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney is ahead of them right now in the latest polls on leadership.

And so I think she can tell the American people a little bit about how he makes those important decisions.

COOPER: But she's not going to be throwing punches tonight or really getting into policy, do you think? Ann Romney gave an interview this weekend in which she said, you know, it's time for a grown up, which you know is a pretty pointed barb against the president of the United States. You don't think Michelle Obama is going to be...

KING: I think she'll be more subtle. She will talk about her roots growing up in a middle class family. She'll talk about the health struggles of her father. She's talking about now being a mother. She'll try to make that connection.

One place where Governor Romney did make some progress, as you mentioned, is when voters were asked who's more in touch with the middle class? One of the goals of this convention is to get that back.

And that's one of the things she will talk about, the "I know you're out there struggling. We struggled. When we were a young couple, we struggled." She'll talk about student loans and how when they were young, they didn't have much money to try to make the point that you may be disappointed in this economy, but "trust me, I've seen him every night. I've watched that hair go gray. Look at the pictures from four years ago, and President Obama now, he understands how you're hurting. And it pains him every day."

I think that's part of her -- it's human but in a different way. He's the incumbent president.

BORGER: It's protective. It's also interesting because what Ann Romney did in attacking -- you know, the Obama campaign, she said, "Do you think they'd be attacking my husband if they had had four successful years?" Of course not. So what she was doing is saying, "I know this man. He won't fail. And why do you think they're attacking him?"

GERGEN: One of the things that worked for Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression, remember in those long years of trying to recover, is people thought he was on their side. And people had pictures of him up on their walls. And tonight I think in part what she is about is to make it clear we're going through a hard time, but he's really on your side. You're middle class; he's with you. He's dedicating every waking hour to make your life better.

COOPER: Also, we're going to be hearing tonight from what many consider a rising star in the Democratic Party, Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio. You -- you've met him. You...

GERGEN: Yes, I had dinner with him a month ago in San Antonio. He's hot. Some people think he's the -- that he's the Latino Barack Obama. And he has this opportunity, just like Obama had in 2004, to give that keynote address that catapulted him onto the national stage and made him a national star. And that's what Castro obviously would love to do tonight. Whether he can get there or not, I'm not sure. But he's a very reform-minded young, dynamic mayor. He's got an identical twin brother.

COOPER: His brother, who I think is running for Congress, is going to actually be introducing him.

KING: Wolf, this is -- you know, it's hard to go from -- Julian Castro is unlikely to go from being a mayor to being president.

But if the Republicans do not solve their crisis with the Latino community, his state, Texas, we could be talking about that in one or two conventions as a potential blue state because of those politics, because of the growth of that population.

New Mexico has been a swing state in the Gore elections, the Bush-Kerry elections. Not this time, because now 40 percent of the electorate are Latino, and the Republicans now say probably can't do it. See the growth in Nevada and elsewhere.

This is a huge crisis for the Republicans and a giant opportunity for the Democrats, where they bring this young guy in, someone that's saying reform, he wants to emphasize reform regardless of his ethnicity and also wants to try to generate -- the president's big question with Latinos, is not really with the Latino vote; will some of them stay home because they're disillusioned for economic or other reasons. The mayor's challenge tonight is that you have to come out.

GERGEN: Right.

BORGER: He's a very -- he's a very interesting guy, and he's proposed a controversial city sales tax to pay for early education for kids because of budget cuts in San Antonio. That's going to be on the ballot. That's sort of taking a stand there, saying we need to do this, so we can get these kids in early education. It will be interesting to see what happens with that ballot.

COOPER: It was interesting to watch Cory Booker's speech, the mayor of Newark. CNN broadcast it live. I don't think any of the other cable networks broadcast it live. It actually, from watching the speeches, I mean, this hall was on their feet for him. He's a dynamic speaker, whether you agree with what he was saying or not. Did it surprise you that he didn't have a more prominent role?

KING: An interesting point. The permanent chairman of this convention is the mayor -- the Latino mayor of Los Angeles. We mentioned Julian Castro will give the keynote tonight. Mayor Cory Booker. When you look around the country, a lot of the rising stars for the Democrats are mayors. Why? They had 29 governorships when Barack Obama won presidency. They only have 20 now.

So his party is meeting at a time -- he's their leader in an undisputed way. But if you look at the numbers, his party has actually suffered. I'm not blaming him. But his party has suffered dramatically. House seats, Senate seats, governorships, they've lost nearly 1,000 state legislative seats while Barack Obama has been president. So these younger people of the future, are all the mayors.

BORGER: Could it be that he criticized the attacks on Bain on national television and then had to go and kind of walk it back? Do you think...

GERGEN: I do think that's right. Cory is seen as a rising national star within the Democratic Party. He has a wide network of people outside Newark who support him, as you know. In New York, for example.

COOPER: A lot of people in the business media.

GERGEN: Yes, the business media loves him. He's a real reformer. You know, he's got a lot of money that's coming in through education.

But what I think is -- for him, it's a question now of working his way back into favor with the Obama folks. He was exiled for a little bit there.

COOPER: All because of that -- that...

GERGEN: Oh, yes. He got off the talking points, boom. There's a reason they have talking points...

KING: This dust-up over the Israel plank could also come back. He's the co-chairman of the platform committee. And a lot of Democrats say why. Why when Governor Romney is trying to make an issue of the relationship with Israel, why would you change the language? The last platform said Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East. It's gone. We've had Jerusalem at the capital. A lot of Democrats are saying why? Why would you touch that at a time when you know Governor Romney is looking for an opening?

GERGEN: If he stayed on talking points, he would have had a 9 p.m. slot.

COOPER: Is that right?

BORGER: Maybe 8:30.

GERGEN: No, no.

COOPER: Certainly a lot to watch for tonight. Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio. And, of course, Michelle Obama from Brianna Keilar, I believe, is saying she's going to speak, probably, for about 25 or so minutes. Should be an interesting speech, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think it will be longer, Anderson, with all the applause. Twenty-five minutes maybe without too much applause; could go longer. We'll see how she does. She's a very good speaker.

And talk about an unforced error. A lot of these Democrats are telling me right now the removal of that language from the platform toward Israel, Jerusalem and God (ph), for that matter, an unforced error. They're trying to figure out what happened, and so are we. Stand by for that.

All right. We'll get back to you guys. We've got a lot more complete coverage of this. The Democratic National Convention, here in Charlotte, North Carolina, continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here at the Democratic convention at Charlotte, North Carolina. The excitement is brewing. There were empty seats. There still are some empty seats, but this place will be full very, very soon.

Clint Eastwood really started something with his speech at the Republican National Convention last week. Empty chairs now seem to be popping up everywhere. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even at the Democratic convention, a chair is no longer just a chair. Clint Eastwood is lurking there.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: What do you mean, shut up?

MOOS: No one is shutting up about the chair.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "COLBERT REPORT": Please welcome Clint Eastwood's chair! MOOS: When Clint finished talking, someone came to take the chair away, but it seems to be haunting the Democrats now. When Newark Mayor Cory Booker fell at the Democratic convention and hurt his ankle, someone tweeted, "Oh, that must hurt. Use Clint Eastwood's chair."

EASTWOOD: What do you want me to tell Romney?

MOOS: First it Eastwooding, when people took pictures of themselves pointing or their pets staring at a chair. And then there was the invisible Obama Twitter account, followed by the comedians. Bill Maher called Clint Eastwood's routine a metaphor for the Republican Party.

BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": A confused old person yelling at something that doesn't exist.

MOOS: Jon Stewart wondered why the president the Republicans described bears so little resemblance to the one he knows.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": There is a President Obama that only Republicans can see.

MOOS: It's celebrated in song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Chair, you made me look worse than my hair.

MOOS (on camera): At first, the jokes were mostly about Clint Eastwood. But then the tables were turned, the chair swiveled.

(voice-over) Romney supporters declared National Empty Chair Day, prompting an outpouring of empty chairs with teleprompters, an empty chair occupied by an empty suit. An empty chair bowing to the Saudis.

(on camera) Swivel to the right wing.

(voice-over) Even Sarah Palin tweeted an empty chair with a booster seat on it.

(on camera) Swivel to the left wing.

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": After watching Clint Eastwood, be honest. Be honest. Sarah Palin is not looking too bad now, is she?

MOOS: But instead of the love, say, Pee-wee Herman shows his special chair.

PAUL "PEE-WEE HERMAN" REUBENS, ACTOR (singing): Hey Chairy, I love to sit on you.

ALISON MORK, VOICE OF CHAIRY (singing): Hey, Pee-wee, I love it when you do.

MOOS: One mash-up took a scene from "Gran Torino" and kicked the butt of invisible Obama chair. In the words of Luther Vandross...

LUTHER VANDROSS, SINGER (singing): A chair is still a chair.

MOOS: This chair's not going anywhere fast.

VANDROSS: Even when there's no one...

MOOS: This chair has legs.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And CNN's coverage of the Democratic National Convention continues right now.