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Campbell Brown

Analysis of Day Four of the Republican National Convention

Aired September 04, 2008 - 23:00   ET


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it, not just for the many comforts of life here; I loved it for its decency, for its faith, and the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people.
I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea; a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.

I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our armed forces, become a teacher, enter the ministry, run for public office, feed a hungry child, teach an illiterate adult to read.

Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better and you will be the happier because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your president. I'm going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God as I thank him that I'm an American; a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth. And with hard work, with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.

Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country. Fight for the ideas and character of a free people. Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all. Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other.

Wonderful Americans, stand up stand up stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you and God bless you and God bless America.

COWBOY TROY, SINGER: [Singing Raisin' McCain]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN "SITUATION ROOM" ANCHOR: He spoke for nearly an hour, John McCain delivering his acceptance speech before a rousing crowd.

We're back here on the floor of this Republican Convention. There's nothing like an excellent balloon drop and confetti drop, Anderson, to get the party going.

A lot of these people are going to be leaving here and the celebration for them here in St. Paul is only just beginning.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN "AC360" ANCHOR: Nothing short of a band which is clearly Wolf Blitzer's favorite thing that he's going to play balloons.

BLITZER: The balloons, the confetti is very good too with the pictures of John McCain and some leaders there.

COOPER: But certainly from John McCain, we heard in his acceptance speech, a lot of specifics, arguably more specific than we heard in Barack Obama's acceptance speech. After several nights, where many commentators said were lacking in specifics.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN "ELECTION CENTER" ANCHOR: Yes, I think you're right. And there was all this talk I think before the speech about how much he needed to focus on the economy because that's perceived by many to be his weakness.

And I thought when he went through it at the beginning, he did it in a very personalized way or a way in which he tried to say to people, telling people stories individually, I feel your pain, I connect with you, I hear you, which had been one of the criticisms going into those.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is a punctuation point on a remarkable campaign. A week ago, we saw a page of history, an African-American nominee.

Tonight, I think we have a testament to tenacity. This guy has been written off so many times and he scratched in part as way back and whether you agree with one thing he stands for politically, he's a pretty tough remarkable guy and we're seeing that tonight.

And he gave a pretty compelling contrast with the other side. The American people have a clear choice on this election from a policy perspective as from two guys, two men with very compelling and very different personal stories as well.

COOPER: Alex Castellanos, through the narratives from the beginning of the week of this convention, it has completely changed now. The party certainly seems energized, largely due to Sarah Palin.

From your perspective, how did John McCain do tonight and how has this week been for the Republican Party?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In all honesty, I think John McCain proved he's not going to win this election with oratory. I think after a while I said about a book one time, the only problem with it is that the covers were too far apart. And I think perhaps this was a tad long. But he may not win it with oratory but he might win it with character. He did open up his soul tonight and shared with us the moment that his life changed. The moment that he decided that he owed this country something and the rest of his life would be about service before self.

And we can talk about issues all we want. But one of the things the American people tell you they feel is that they've heard promises for years and nobody keeps them. And I think the McCain campaign tonight was trying to tap into that saying yes, here is where we stand on the issues but you know what? We're going to deliver and we're going to put you first, not ourselves.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I also think this was a re-branding of the Republican Party as we head into this general election. We've heard a lot about experience.

John McCain was re-branding the party as the party of change. That he's the reformer who can take on his own party. He told us how he fought his own party and at one point he said it's not that I will fight for any one party. I will fight for what is right for America. So he's taking this party right now in a very different direction.

KING: One other quick point. I guess generationally the difference between McCain and Obama is stunning to me. In almost the first paragraph of his speech, because of where he comes from generationally, he pays tribute to a Republican president who is very unpopular.

That line is going to end up in Democratic ads and he knew it but he believed it was the right thing to do to pay tribute to a Republican president. Then later on he challenged his own party and saying if we don't change we deserve to lose.

BLITZER: When was the last time at any party convention, someone stood up and told their own party, we've lost our way, I'm going to take us back? That's pretty strong stuff.

BROWN: And here's the challenge, though. I think when you talk about you're pointing to Alex, and Gloria, maverick, reform. I mean he does have a record obviously of bucking his own party. And he's also a huge part of the Washington establishment.

BLITZER: And just like the Democrats emerged from their convention in Denver a week ago, and exactly united the Hillary Clinton forces, the Barack Obama forces, the Republicans are leaving St. Paul united. The conservatives, the more moderate branch.

COOPER: And not just united but energized in a way that they were not before. Sarah Palin with Candy Crowley is on the platform. Candy you've covered a lot of these speeches; your thoughts?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I thought it was a really interesting speech for a couple of reasons. They deliberately made it the anti-Obama speech, meaning not wanting a speech like his. There were not that many slices. There was a comparison between Barack Obama and John McCain saying he's for this, I'm for that.

But no slicing cuts. He clearly left that to his vice-presidential candidate yesterday. I thought the other difference was that if yesterday was about the -- this ticket reaching out to the base. It was about Sarah Palin saying, listen to the base, you can come onboard, I'm a conservative.

Today for John McCain, it was about reaching out to the middle. It was about saying I reach across party lines, I'm a maverick. I have bucked what has gone on with my party. And oh, by the way, we've really messed this up and I'm going to get us out of it.

So a very different constituencies between last night and today; last night was all about getting the base together and tonight was all about reaching out beyond that lens, beyond the TV lens and saying to the moderates, to the middle of this country and the swing voters who are going to decide this election, listen, I am not the guy with the R by his name, I'm an American, I'm somebody who can reach across those aisles and get this job done.

COOPER: Dana Bash is on the floor. Dana, obviously a lot of excitement right now on that floor.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of excitement, absolutely. There's no question about it. First of all, there's nothing John McCain likes more than confetti and he's got his confetti tonight.

But one thing that really struck me as somebody who travels around with him is that we've heard a lot of these things before. Many of these themes, many of the specifics, whether it's on the economy or idea of service, he talks about constantly almost every day either in his prepared remarks or on response to questions he gets in the town hall meetings.

But he's kind of side to emulate here tonight. But the thing that McCain advisers said going into this, that he's really trying to capture, is the idea that he gets it. He gets that this is the year of change. And try to communicate and convince the American people that at this time of change, somebody his age, somebody who has been around a long time, been around Washington a long time, somebody like that can actually be that agent of change.

And that's why you heard that. Right off the bat he said change is coming. That was no accident that he said it. That was the kind of theme that he tried to put forward right at the very beginning of this speech, Anderson.

COOPER: Tara Wall, you write for "The Washington Times," a CNN contributor, Republican. Do you leave this convention with far more excitement, far more optimism than perhaps you entered it?

TARA WALL, WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, absolutely. I think maverick McCain is back. I think that is quite apparent tonight. The supporters are going to be out in full force. I think you've seen in the fund-raising just overnight with Sarah Palin. He certainly has carried that through. Tonight, I think the base is energized, they're fired up. He touched on many topics that are classic really conservative issues as well as that bipartisanship that you talked about, reaching across the aisle.

He's a maverick in two ways essentially, a maverick for bucking the party trend in many ways but also a maverick in being able to reach across in a bipartisan manner to effect change.

I thought it was very effective the way that he balanced getting the message out, getting his policy initiatives out, talking about that service, talking about the war in a way. He said I hate war but he understands it, coming from the position that he's coming from, he hates it but he understands what's at stake.

These are all themes that have been carried out through the weeks. We saw the fire, the rhetoric all week long and he measured it in a way that was balanced where he didn't have to go on the attack, where he could give his position, say where he came from, say where the party needs to go, where the country needs to go without abusing and attacking his opponent but drawing those distinctions with his opponent.

I think the base certainly is fired up and he talked about stand up, fight with me, fight with me, fight with me; that really got folks fired up towards the end. I think this party definitely fired-up and ready to go.

COOPER: Donna Brazile, former Gore campaign manager and CNN Contributor, they say the Republicans are fired up, ready to go. Should the Democrats -- do they need to recalibrate what happens tomorrow and next week?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, John McCain is a very decent man. I've had the honor to work with him on campaign finance reform. And you heard tonight some of that effort to reach across the party lines. But you also heard John McCain acknowledge what we've been saying all week, that his party has been in control of Washington for 12 of the last 14 years.

And I think tonight John McCain's speech was really a speech where he's trying to tell us that he can bring about the change. Last week he talked about his experience. Tonight he talked about change.

I think he has to clarify which vision he will go after, will he bring us more experience. Will he clean up Washington, D.C. or will he bring us change that will help restore America's place in the world? And really restore the American dream for all Americans?

BLITZER: And there is Sarah Palin with Todd Palin, the vice- presidential nominee became official today. Todd Palin, the first dude as they like to call him in Alaska. This has been exciting we almost got bombarded.

COOPER: A giant balloon, well, Donna Brazile was talking a giant balloon -- BLITZER: Almost came and ate us.

COOPER: I think it was intentionally aimed at you, part of the elite media.

BLITZER: Unlike you.


BLITZER: We've got a lot more. We're only just starting. Here's an important note for all of our viewers. Coming up, in the top of the hour a very special "LARRY KING LIVE;" Larry is going to have a whole bunch of Democrats on the program and they're going to be able to respond to what we heard tonight from Senator McCain. At the top of the hour, midnight Eastern, "Larry King Live; you're going to want to stick around for that.

And much more of our coverage coming up.

COOPER: We have Democrats, we got Republicans, we got Independents, a whole of host of people.

BLITZER: Do you want to review the whole cast?

COOPER: No, please no.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, we'll take another quick break. Right after this, much more of our coverage from St. Paul.


BLITZER: All right, we're back here, we're back here not at Times Square, we're here on the convention floor. Anderson Cooper has disappeared he's been taken over by this giant balloon.

There it is right there, there it is right there, we are protect by a little a canopy we have up there but the balloons are still coming down the --

COOPER: The audience is determined to get a balloon in.

BLITZER: These balloons got in here and you know, normally this is Times Square. Have you ever been to New Year's Eve at Times Square?

COOPER: The last five years I've hosted CNN's special in Times Square.

BLITZER: I knew that.

COOPER: But I appreciate that. You're at one of those fancy Washington parties we've heard so much about and that's last week.

BLITZER: You go to Times Square.

COOPER: But I'm with the people on Time Square.

BLITZER: Do you know who is with the people at Times Square right now?

COOPER: Right, who?

BLITZER: Jim Acosta.

COOPER: There you go.

BLITZER: He's with the people at Times Square, there was a viewing party of people who wanted to see John McCain at Times Square, just as last week, there was a viewing party at Time Square.

They watched CNN on the big screen they watched Barack Obama and today they watched John McCain. What do you think Jim, and how did it go?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it can be a little bit like going on Safari trying to find Republicans in New York City. But fortunately, we're in Times Square and there are lots of tourists here, many of them from red states, as red as Sarah Palin's lipstick.

This is also a melting pot, so a lot of Republicans also live in Big Apple. I'm joined by two of them right now, I'm joined by Luke and Brita. And Luke you're from Texas, I mentioned red states earlier. Do you think John McCain closed the deal with Republicans and conservatives in states like Texas tonight?

Luke: Absolutely. Obviously a lot of deal was made about Sarah Palin and how she closed the deal. I think absolutely, listening to this speech tonight, we're so proud to be Republicans and so proud to be an American but absolutely any red state, any purple states, a lot of blue states are going to be comfortable with John McCain this year.

ACOSTA: And Brita, I want to ask you because one of the things that struck me about this speech was its patriotic appeal. There was a lot of McCain's biography in this. How did that strike you when you heard the story once again about John McCain's time in captivity?

BRITA: I never tire from hearing the story of John McCain. I'm like one of our former U.S. presidents, I think it's inspiring, and makes me want to be a better American, a better woman, and so does Sarah Palin, I have to say. My pin here.

ACOSTA: I can see the sign here.

BRITA: Read my lipstick is a direct result of her speech last night. She demonstrated that you can be powerful and yet retain your femininity. You can throw a punch even with a French manicure. She is going to inspire a generation of you female Republicans and a few male Republicans as well.

ACOSTA: Ok, very good and so there you have -- a Sarah Palin fan there as you can tell -- Anderson. And they came with signs here. Turn it up today, one says, you know your organize and other says, bitter redneck, the other says read my lipstick, an obvious reference to Sarah Palin's fans of the Alaskan governor and of John McCain here tonight.

Back to you Anderson.

COOPER: I was unaware she had a French manicure but I think by next week she's going to have an American manicure. So I don't -- I think some people on this crowd are not going to like that, that's one of those European ideas Barack Obama picking up on.

Let's check in with some of the folks in New York. Often the way some things play here in the hall, it's very different the way it plays on television.

Let's talk to David Gergen who is standing by in New York -- David.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, two things this speech worked very well tonight. One, the recounting of his days in that prison. I don't think he's ever done it in quite so much detail before a large public audience. And it was moving and it helped set up very nicely the character point that Alex was making a few moments ago.

People do vote to a significant degree upon the character of the candidates. And here, he was able to really underscore the argument. First I was a warrior overseas, now I'm going to be your warrior in Washington. And I thought that worked for him.

Secondly, I thought that he dropped the personal rancor from the speech. His differences with Obama are deep but he didn't make them personal. And I thought that really worked well for him and made him seem more of the man of honor and the kind of candidate we thought. I wish he had been able to remove some of the personal rancor from the last two nights the convention, it raises questions whether he really can control his party.

But one that did not work for him I thought, and this may go a little contrary what you all thought in the hall. I did not think that the substantive part of the speech worked very well, it was mostly a re- run, a retread of a lot of old Republican ideas that have brought us to where we are now.

I think the country is looking for fresh answers. It's hard to separate yourself out from President Bush when you essentially have the same economic policies as President Bush.

And I thought that the policy presentation was a little thin. His heart was in the retelling of his story, his convictions, and in dealing with international threats, not in the economics.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, to David Gergen's point, he makes a very valid point. A lot of this was sort of back to the future. There wasn't much talk about the 21st century looking forward, dealing with the new world as we now face it with a resurgent China and other resurging countries.

Is that a mistake? Were they looking back too much?

BERNSTEIN: A lot of it has been -- tonight was very gauzy unspecific and until McCain's speech, this convention has been nasty. There's been two -- you can't put these two concepts together here, the life and record of John McCain until this campaign. And what we've seen in this convention in Minneapolis. They just don't fit.

The crowd, the message until tonight, which was a kind of mud fest, of partisanship and John McCain getting up tonight and saying wait a minute, we've got to reach out and be non-partisan; same with picking Sarah Palin as his running mate.

He could have had Joe Lieberman; he could have reached across. He could have had Tom Ridge. Those were his two first picks who he really agrees with on the issues. And instead he went for this partisan rancor, Giuliani's speech, Lindsey Graham's speech.

John McCain has run this convention and got the convention he wanted. It may have positioned him better in the election itself. But it is a very different thing than this reaching out maverick that he has defined himself over the years. There's some difference between these two aspects of himself that somehow haven't come together in this convention.

BLITZER: All right. They're dancing right here. The Republicans are dancing. Anderson, you want to grade these Republicans how they dance compared to the Democrats last week? Because we saw dancing last week. We're seeing dancing this week.

Campbell, go ahead, you can weigh in also.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN "ELECTION CENTER" ANCHOR: I think they're equally bad.

BLITZER: No, no.

BROWN: Our cameraman is easing out.

COOPER: You're a professional. You should never be caught dancing on camera. That's just a general rule.

CASTELLANOS: We do have some rhythmically-impaired Republicans here tonight. I think a federal program should correct that.

BLITZER: I think that Alex makes a good point.

Everybody has to stand by because we have a lot more to report on what's going on here on the floor of the convention.

Don't forget, "Larry King Live" has a special edition coming up right at the top of the hour. Larry has a whole bunch of Democrats who are itching to weigh in on what John McCain said tonight and on what all these Republicans have been saying throughout this convention week.

Much more of our coverage.

Remember, That's also where you can get much more information.

Look at all those balloons. They're on the ground. A lot of people having fun stomping on those balloons right now.

We'll continue our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: They're still celebrating here at the Republican Convention. It's over with, guys. Move on.

They're not ready to move on yet, but they will be pretty soon. They're celebrating. They had a great convention. They're energized; they're excited and ready to go into battle right now about 60 days before the election, November 4th. As I like to say it will be a sprint until then.

Jeff Toobin, what do you think? How did John McCain do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I had a very strong reaction to the speech, Wolf. Others may disagree. I thought it was the worst speech by a nominee that I've heard since Jimmy Carter in 1980.

I thought it was disorganized, I thought it was themeless, I thought it was very, very boring until the end when he started talking about his personal story, which is, of course, remarkable and always important to hear.

I personally cannot remember a single policy proposal that he made because they had nothing connecting them. I found it shockingly bad.

BLITZER: Jeff, the next time you have to tell us how you really feel about John McCain's speech because -- be blunt.

TOOBIN: Wolf, just compare Sarah Palin's speech. Sarah Palin's speech was riveting, it was exciting. The crowd was into it. You remembered what she was talking about. She was a -- go ahead.

COOPER: I must say, maybe we should bring in Amy Holmes who was speechwriter. I did wonder if they had sent all their speechwriters over to Sarah Palin's hotel room over the last couple of days and no one was really helping out John McCain.

AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, goodness no, I think that's a very unfair reading of this. Obviously Sarah Palin got a lot of the zingers. I think what this speech was, was a showcase of John McCain, the statesman.

This is a speech that was a long time in coming, a long time to get to that stage. Tonight he opened with a graciousness towards his opponent. And there's another thing he also did; he hit on the issue of trust.

He says that he looks forward to earning the voter's trust. He mentioned trust again throughout the speech. And I think that's interesting point, because we know that in the Republican primary that he did better on the trust issue against his Republican opponents. He said I won't let you down, I won't let you down. I think that that was very strategic and intentional. And at the end, again, bringing back that statesmanship theme when he's describing his transformation from a self-absorbed, reckless fly boy to a man of honor and service to his country. He called upon his fellow citizens to serve. I think that that's what this speech was really about.

COOPER: Paul Begala, obviously the Democrats want to talk about issues. We heard a lot, so much biography. Do the Republicans, and will they continue forward, want to make this as much as possible just a referendum on who you like more, Barack Obama or John McCain.

PAUL BEGALA: I think McCain made it absolutely clear tonight. His message is I'm a hero and Barack Obama is not. Now, that is true.

Obama is an admirable person in many ways but John McCain suffered grievously for our country. It would be hard to find somebody who has done more or suffered more certainly for our country than John McCain.

But I think what he was trying to say is I'm a patriot and a maverick who can change things. I think the Democrats can and will ignore the patriot. They're not going to do like the Republicans did who smeared and lied about John Kerry who is also a war hero but focus on the latter.

If they allow John McCain who has, by my count, 169 lobbyists involved in his campaign, some of whom are on the front row for that speech, to become a maverick, John McCain talking about being a maverick or being for change should be as ridiculous as Michael Dukakis and the tank.

You never look good when you're on the other guy's message. And Mike Dukakis just was never going to look as strong, frankly, as George Bush's father, who was a war hero. And John McCain is never going to be as plausible as a change agent or a maverick or reformer as Barack Obama, who is change incarnate.

I think that that is what the election will come down to. The McCain people are going to make it about McCain's really remarkable personal story; that will be great for them. But the Obama people ought to have the easier go making it about the economy and change and who is really for change.

BLITZER: Let's go down to the floor. Dana Bash has a special guest, who has watched this speech, listened to the speech with extraordinary interest. Dana, who is your guest?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My guest is somebody Sarah Palin actually talked about last night. It's Colonel Tom Moe. Col. Tom Moe is here with me and actually was in solitary confinement for one year in the cell next to John McCain in Vietnam.

Looking back all those years ago, did you ever think you'd be standing on the floor of a convention with confetti and balloons falling after he became the Republican nominee?

COL. TOM MOE, FORMER POW: Not in my wildest imaginations. We wanted to come home. We wanted to be with our families and I know John was thinking the same thing.

BASH: And he talks a lot about his service tonight, something he's sometimes just reluctant to do that. As somebody who went through that, how do you feel about that as part of a big political speech?

MOE: He needs to address it himself and point out in his own words his feelings. Especially, you know, his trip to correction, you might say. That was the message he gave, not to say, you know, what a great guy he was because he's the last person to say that himself.

But he talked about his imperfect youth and the message was so strong and so honest, like a confessional. And then when he saw the right way, it made him change drastically and be the person he became.

BASH: Colonel, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

Wolf, Colonel Moe is not just a friend of John McCain's, he's actually now an activist for him in the very, very important state of Ohio, trying to convince voters to get out and vote for him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Ed Henry is on the phone. We'll go to him shortly.

We know Leslie Sanchez is very anxious to weigh in on all of this.

We're going to continue our coverage right after a quick break.

Remember, a special "Larry King Live" coming up right at the top of the hour. You'll want stick around for that. Larry has got a whole range of Democrats; Democrats who are itching to weigh in on what the Republicans said tonight.

COOPER: I think they loved what he said tonight.

BLITZER: The Democrats, they're crazy about it. They're out of control enough.

And you'll see it on "Larry King Live" in a few minutes.

But in the meantime stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: There are still some folks here on the convention floor, they're still celebrating. But the balloons are all down. That balloon drop worked magnificently.

I want to check in with Larry King because he's got a very special program coming up live at the top of the hour. Larry, tell our viewers in the United States and around the world what you're working on?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Well, we know how Republicans in St. Paul reacted to John McCain's speech, Wolf, but how do the Democrats think he did? We have got people like Michael Dukakis, Arianna Huffington and Governor Mario Cuomo, just a few who are going to rate McCain's remarks. And I don't think he's going to get a high mark.

Coming up on "Larry King Live" next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Larry. We're going to be watching and I know all of our viewers are going to be sticking around. A terrific "Larry King Live" coming up right at the top of the hour.

COOPER: Someone who I think I can guarantee is going to give the speech high marks is Leslie Sanchez, Republican activist also a CNN contributor. She's in New York. Leslie, take it away.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you so much, Anderson. By the way, we like your guys and dolls matching outfits. They're very nice. We're really getting a kick out of that.

COOPER: We were up until like 4:00 last night on the phone coordinating; very difficult.

SANCHEZ: I was going to say the biggest thing that Senator McCain was able to do was emphasize that he believes in serving a cause greater than yourself. And that was such a big part of it. While he kept the POW message on the forefront, I think I would agree with David Gergen that he talked about it in the most personal terms and how it shaped his life story in a way that I don't think many people had ever heard before.

And finally, I think the third theme is country first. It's a populist message versus me first which is looking out for the special interest in the groups. It was a great contrast with the Democratic ticket. I think it's something we're going to continue to see through November.

COOPER: Leslie, isn't the subtext, Leslie, that the Democrats don't believe in country first and do you honestly believe that?

SANCHEZ: It's not that they don't believe in it. It's where is the commitment going to be? Is it going to be doing the right thing? It's not an issue of patriotism, it's an issue of are you going to cater to the special interests. Are you going to cater to all these groups, unions, bureaucracies.

I see Carl raising his hand. Are you going to fundamentally do the right thing? I think John McCain laid out where he is in terms of character and his judgment, which is also the contrast with Barack Obama.

COOPER: Ed Henry is down on the floor. Ed, who are you with?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm in the Alaska delegation. I want to let you in on a little ritual that goes on here in the final moments on the floor.

We've been seeing on all 50 states, the delegates sign their state sign. You see here, Alaska. With Ralph Ziekins (ph) he signed his name pretty large here. Ralph, you were telling me you were going to eventually bring this back to Alaska and have Sarah Palin sign it. Tell me about this ritual.

RALPH ZIEKINS, ALASKA DELEGATE: Every one of our delegates, all of our guests, our special guests and all of our delegates, everybody who came here from Alaska to see this wonderful convention signs this.

HENRY: How do you think John McCain did compared to Sarah Palin?

ZIEKINS: I think it was great. I think Sarah did a great job, but I thought John was -- he was a humble man. There were no chin thrusts. He was a humble man showing he's called to lead the nation and he's going to live out that call.

HENRY: What about him talking about his time as a POW, very movingly you could see him halting, sometimes getting emotional. He doesn't do that a lot.

ZIEKINS: No, but I tell you what, I don't blame him. I probably would have done the same thing and any other American would have. It shows a man stood up against tremendous pressure and he said it right. He said he didn't really love his country until he was away from it.

HENRY: Thanks very much.

Obviously, Wolf, you can imagine here in the Alaska delegation they're going to be celebrating all night.

BLITZER: Yes, the Alaska delegation should be celebrating all night, Anderson. If Barack Obama was thinking that Alaska might be eligible for a Democratic win this time, probably not going to happen.

COOPER: Probably not. After that address, certainly not only all Alaskans knew who Sarah Palin was, but certainly, I mean, the entire country has been talking about her this week.

BLITZER: Yes, and you know what else, I looked over the text of John McCain's speech -- we're going to talk about this after the break. But you know what was missing from this speech as opposed to almost all of the other major speeches that have been delivered here at the Republican convention?

BROWN: Criticism of Barack Obama personally?

BLITZER: No. There was criticism of Barack Obama. But you know what was missing? There was no criticism of the liberal news media. The elite news media, there was no criticism from John McCain.

COOPER: It would be hard for John McCain to criticize the liberal elite news media given that he is probably friends with -- I don't know him personally but he's friends with probably a good number of the people who are commenting.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about that, because I think it's an element that we should discuss.

John King is standing by; you're going to show us something on the map that our viewers in the United States and around the world need to know.

We'll take another quick break. Much more of our coverage coming up right here in St. Paul right after this.


BLITZER: Let's go right to John King. He's here at the convention. John, what does John McCain need to do now? You look at the map and the race to 270; the number of electoral votes needed to be president.

J. KING: Let's look at it because when you leave the convention, you don't go to places where you're strong. You go to places where you need to address some weaknesses.

So let's look where John McCain and Sarah Palin are going. And as we do, let's remember this. Barack Obama right now has a pretty good lead in the Electoral College; states either solidly or leaning his way. You need 270. Barack Obama is only 27 votes away at the moment.

So John McCain needs to change the map. And let's look at how he's trying to do it in these first hours right out of the convention.

First place he's going is here; to the state of Wisconsin. Let me reach over here and bring the colors in. Look at this one last time, this is 2000; Gore 48, Bush 47. Let me fast forward you now to 2004; Kerry 50, Bush 49. A classic swing state has gone blue the last two times but just narrowly.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are going right here. They're going to Ozaki County just north of Milwaukee. What are they looking for there? They're looking for suburban voters in close and more rural ex-urban voters out here.

This is a battle for women. Hockey moms. More affluent women out here. What Sarah Palin calls, she says she's a Sam's Club Republican. You find them here. They need them in higher numbers than they have them right now. That is stop number one as they try to put Wisconsin back into play.

Then they're going to come over here to the state of Michigan and they're going to be just north of Detroit. This is Montcalm County. Look at this in 2000, George Bush carries Montcalm County 50 percent. This is 2004; John Kerry, 49 percent.

Let me reach across you, go back in time one more time. Al Gore carries this county, it goes blue in 2000; but just barely, 50 percent to 48 percent. Who lives here? Reagan Democrats. They are conservative, blue collar Democrats. John McCain, the Republican base is not big enough. If he's going to win this election, he needs to win Democrats who live in places like Montcalm County.

One more stop on this trip in the early days, they're going to come way out here to the west and they're going to go to one of the key battle grounds in the west and that's Colorado. It is a dead heat right now. They're going to be right here in Colorado Springs, El Paso County. About 12 percent of the state's population, it is the home right here of "Focus on the Family" and other major evangelical groups; that is one target in Colorado Springs right there.

But when you get out here in this next circle, and I'll make it blue, out here these are the rural, small town Americans that Sarah Palin was speaking to last night that the Republican ticket needs to keep like George W. Bush did in 2000 and 2004 if they are to keep a key battle ground in the mountain west and other places like it in the red column.

I'm going to pull back out now to the full national map and come out of here. This was George Bush's map in 2000. This was George Bush's map in 2004. John McCain leaves this convention in a much weaker convention than George Bush left both of his.

If he is to get competitive in this race, he needs to change the map and he needs to do it by winning more Democrats and by winning what they would call either hockey moms is the new term here or Wal-Mart moms. They're two different groups.

COOPER: I'm wondering, Alex Castellanos, are we underestimating personality in all of this? We have seen over the last two Sarah Palin, who certainly on authenticity -- sorry, you've got a balloon bouncing on top of your head. It's hard to take you seriously there for a moment.

CASTELLANOS: It's harder without the balloon.

COOPER: Are we underestimating the importance of character and personality in terms of when people are going to the voting booth?

CASTELLANOS: I think it makes all the difference in a presidential race like this. Character is everything. Because these folks know that a president is going to be tested in unimaginable ways. Who imagined before 9/11 that we would face the tests we have? Who would imagine we would see the economic changes we have?

And so, again, John McCain has had an interesting line in his speech tonight that Obama could not say. He said I have a record and the scars to prove it. I'm ready. You can trust me when the unimaginable happens. Barack Obama, maybe next time but not now.

BLITZER: Gloria, it would have been a sure applause line if John McCain had done what so many of these other Republicans did, simply go after the so-called liberal elite news media. That was missing from his speech.

BORGER: I think John McCain didn't want to go on the attack against anyone tonight. First of all, let your surrogates do that; that's not the job of a candidate, generally. Secondly, he can often look mean when he goes on the attack. And third, he's trying to appeal to those suburban women that John was just talking about, those lower income women who are undecided. Going on the attack is not really appealing very often to women voters. And so I don't think it would have worked for him tonight.

CASTELLANOS: I was just looking through this and there was an interesting thing he did do. He went after something a little bigger, and that is the me first, country second, Washington crowd, which I think if you're so inclined could include the media elite. But the idea that was very strong tonight that there are Americans who think they've lost touch with Washington.

BLITZER: All right guys, we've got to leave it right there. But you know what? Our coverage is not going away because Larry King is coming up.

I want to thank everyone here. Campbell, thank you very much, I know you're heading back to New York. Anderson, going to --

COOPER: I don't know. Hurricane, New York, I'm not sure. We'll see.

BLITZER: You know, you got a big one coming in Florida.

COOPER: We'll be on the air tomorrow on "360."

BLITZER: Ike, it's a mess down there.

COOPER: If Tina shows up, I'll be there.

BLITZER: All right, only if Tina's there. I don't believe it.

Thanks very much for joining us. It's been great covering both of these conventions. I want to thank our producer, David Borman; he's at the CNN Election Center right now. He makes all of us look good. We want to thank him very much.

COOPER: And John Klein, our boss.

BLITZER: John Klein, of course, the entire network. Thanks very much. We'll be back tomorrow.

Let's go to Larry.