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CNN Live Event/Special

Democratic National Convention - Examining Obama Speech

Aired September 06, 2012 - 23:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States, showing why clearly there's an advantage of going second. He had the opportunity to respond in detail to so many of the critical points made by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan last week in Tampa and the president has also wanted to differentiate his philosophy, his vision, his outline for where the United States is right now and where it's heading.

It was clearly an effort to respond to all of that criticism that the Democrats and the Obama administration and the president and the vice president took last week.

The president was clearly, clearly making a point that Mitt Romney didn't mention the men and women of the U.S. military last week. Didn't mention the sacrifices paid by the troops last week in his speech in Tampa. And so that's why so much of the president's comments today thanked the U.S. men and women of the -- of the U.S. military for what they have done, a clear differentiation of what was said.

There will be many points in the president's speech that will now be debated, but for now he has done exactly what he and his advisers wanted to do, set the stage for two complete different visions, domestic policy and national security between himself and Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley is up on the podium -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in this speech we saw two things. One was, I need more time. And the other one was, what we have been told from the very beginning of this campaign, almost 18 months ago, I think I recall talking to Obama political advisers and they were talking about choice. They don't want it to be a referendum on the last four years, which they -- even the president says are incomplete on the economy and other things. They want this to be a choice.

I thought this was tougher on Mitt Romney then we were led to believe. I think this was less specific about what would be different about the next four years than we were led to believe, but it got back to their core message. I need more time and the choice you have is very clear -- Wolf.

Anderson, sorry. BLITZER: As we watch what's going on, the celebration is only just beginning here at the Time Warner Cable Arena. But the folks obviously, at least inside this building, and I suspect around the country, were thrilled by what the president had to say.

Anderson, he clearly still has that oratorical skill that he's always had over these many years.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Although it certainly wasn't a speech full of soaring rhetoric like some of his speeches four years ago. Some of it comparing sort of to a State of the Union almost in terms of kind of going down a checklist.

James Carville, what did you think?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I thought the Democrats had a very, very good convention here. No doubt about it. And the level of oratory was very high. This was, this is probably not the best (INAUDIBLE) of the convention. But what I'm really struck by is the sort of muscular tone and attitude of both the vice president and the president tonight.

This is not the mommy party on show here, this is the daddy party. And you saw that in that they really wanted to get that across and I think to some extent they were successful. I thought he was pretty good when he was talking about education, a very good speech. But some of the speeches here were just some of the best convention speeches I've heard anyway. There's a high level of oratory.

COOPER: David Gergen?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought -- really change, very good convention for Democrats, I thought it was a very strong speech.

Anderson, there's been an art in the speeches at conventions. He started out eight years ago in Boston and he was magical. And then he came to Denver and I thought he was compelling as a candidate. Tonight he was presidential. And it's a different aura, it's a more dignified speech, but he's also a -- he's scarred, he's more mature, and he's not promising as much.

There is very little here in the way of promises about jobs, you know, in terms of where we're going on this, how much we're going to get the deficit down quickly. I thought -- I thought he lowered the bar in terms of what he was trying to achieve. But I did think he was very presidential. I think it was -- he's moved from hope and change to hope and faith.

COOPER: And at one point he even said I am a different person.


COOPER: I'm not just a candidate. I am president.


ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, save for the portion at the end where I thought he spoke movingly about this is about you, it was a page out of Ronald Reagan's State of the Unions where he identified with individuals' struggles in their life. I thought the rest was same old, same old. The same speech, many of the same promises that this country has heard for four years.

And in that sense, I think it's a hit and a miss. Too many of the same things that the American people are looking for, have been disappointed in, and didn't receive, a string of promises, none of which came true. He also did not talk about Obamacare at any real length. He did not talk about the stimulus, he did not talk about the cap and trade. It is as if he just didn't want to talk about 2009, '10 or '11.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But I think that that's what Bill Clinton did for him so he didn't have to do that tonight. I thought that this was a defiance speech at every single level. Taking on Mitt Romney by the way on foreign policy saying that they're new at this and that I'm the experienced person on foreign policy. I was interested this entire evening to see how much Osama bin Laden we were talking about here.

And one other thing that was very interesting maybe because this whole election in some way or another is about the role of government. And I think he had a very interesting line here that was geared to those independent voters. Those ones sitting on the fence which is, we don't think government can solve all our problems, but we don't think government is the source of all of our problems either.

And I think that those are the voters he was talking to when he said that.

COOPER: John King, let's (INAUDIBLE).

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think a very smart, well-crafted speech, both strategically and tactically. Ari has a good point, will people listen to him? Is he a credible messenger after four very tough years in office. But strategically he wanted to say this is your fight, too. You're in this struggle with me. And I think by acknowledging his failings and his mistakes -- you know, the critics say he's arrogant, he doesn't get you. I think that was a smart move strategically.

I also think it's fair to say, he did not say a lot new here. There were some new goals but not any real new specifics. I think that he will be lucky that there was not a lot new at the Republican convention either and because Mitt Romney did not make a clear break from George Bush. Mitt Romney did not make a clear break from past Republican orthodoxy. The president was able -- it gives the president a chance to make a stronger case. There's a choice to go back. If you pick the other side.

Tactically we just had a three-day convention for a 50-state nation that was about two states. Two states. Michigan and Ohio.


BORGER: Let me guess -- Yes.

KING: Michigan and Ohio. Because if the president can keep those, if the president can keep those, it is almost impossible for Mitt Romney to win the White House.

GERGEN: Correct.

FLEISCHER: Anderson, there's one sentiment, though, that does get into the issue of what he promised tonight. It was a stern sentiment but I think it's evocative of the problems he's had over the four years. When you take off the uniform we will serve you as well as you've served us. Because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their head.

Beautiful sentiment. Is he promising all our veterans housing? Is he promising all our veterans jobs? This is part of the false hope when he gives a soaring rhetoric, makes these statements similar to the Janesville plant in Ohio where he said this plant, plants like this should stay open for 100 years. He did it here tonight for the veterans. Again, I wish it was true, but it's the false hope.


CARVILLE: You know, the Janesville thing has been fact-checked a hundred times. I'm not going to re-litigate that. And I'm not going to take a sentence. I'm going to tell you this was one very good convention that the Democrats had. You just can't walk away and say that Bill Clinton sets this thing up in a way that couldn't be.

I thought -- and again, I was struck, again, by how muscular and how in-their-face these Democrats were. These are not the Democratic Party that I sort of grew up with. This is a kind of a different kind of attitude that they have coming out here. And it was just stylistically, I may not very much moved --

COOPER: This is not Michael Dukakis riding in the ticket.

CARVILLE: Right. Right. It's not Dukakis. It wasn't Kerry. It wasn't -- a lot of that.

GERGEN: I think that's right. And especially on the social issues. And I -- you know, I think the Republicans have left open -- they keep pushing women's health issues, women's choice, which I think they're making a lot of headway.

But I want to go back doing contrasting with the Bill Clinton's speech last night. Bill Clinton gave his speech as a politician and it was a fabulous speech. I mean I think it was the best speech of the convention. But he had -- he didn't have the burdens of office and Barack Obama comes here tonight with the burden of office, not having delivered, having disappointed, and he had to be graver. He had -- he couldn't be Clinton again. He could -- he had to give a different kind of speech.

COOPER: And he had to be president.

GERGEN: He had to be president. Yes.

BORGER: It was also interesting because he was very strong in the parts where he said here's what I won't do if you re-elect me. Not only what I will do, because as you point out there weren't a lot of new things. But here's what I won't do, for those two states you're talking about. I won't give up on the middle class, I'm not going to give tax cuts to the wealthy. So middle class families have to give up their deductions. And secondly, of course, the Medicare issue.

COOPER: He did give a head nod to Simpson-Bowles, Bowles-Simpson.

BORGER: He did. So is everyone, by the way.

KING: He did. And people will criticize him for that. People will criticize him for that because he appointed the commission and then he walked away from its findings, and he said he had his reasons. Paul Ryan was on the commission, he voted no, he said he had his reasons. So there will be people in both parties who say wait a minute, fellas, you know, a little bit of hypocrisy there, where were you when the commission report was issued? Why didn't you stand for it then?

One other thing that really struck me. I lost count in the videos and in the speeches about how much we heard about Osama bin Laden. And I messaged the senior person in the campaign, saying, I thought you can see that this election was about the economy. And while that was good for you, it would not be determinative. And they said it was important to stress the foreign policy skills. To Gloria's point, they want to say -- they said it was more important because they wanted to make one word, tough. Tough.

And connect this -- and connect it to the economic struggles, that he's tough and he's fighting. Will it work? I don't know. But I was struck by how much in every video and every speech they had -- there was bin Laden there.

BORGER: I think that goes to the point Alex was talking about earlier, which is leadership.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: Which is foreign policy.

COOPER: And we heard backbone a lot, spine, things like that.

KING: Right.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Wolf Blitzer is down on the floor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, one of the things that's interesting is when you go last after all these other Democrats, the former president of the United States, Joe Biden, so many others, you inevitably are going to repeat many of the themes that these people have already heard and millions of people have already heard around the country. It's one of the disadvantages of going last to be sure as well.

Let's get some reaction. We're getting reaction from delegates on the floor.

Brianna Keilar, you've been speaking to folks. What are you hearing?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. I'm hear with the governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, and we're getting some reaction from him to the speech. But I just also wanted to ask you, you said on Monday that we're not better off than we were four years ago, I know, as you're taking a picture here.

I know that you -- hold on. I know that you backed away from that, but we heard Vice President Biden tonight and Bill Clinton yesterday say that we are better than we were four years ago.

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Of course we're better off than -- of course we're better off than we were four years ago, because our country is creating jobs again. Look, this recession was very deep, but we have not recovered all we lost in the Bush recession but we're moving forward and not back.

And I totally agree with that. We're better as a country when we're creating jobs and that's what we're doing now.

Look, these guys are going to cut and splice any words that anybody says out there, but the fact of the matter is that they cannot detract from us that our country is creating jobs again, rather than losing them.

KEILAR: But I --

O'MALLEY: And I totally agree with that, and always have. As you know from seeing the hundred other interviews I have done.

KEILAR: Sure. I know that. But I guess my point is I think some people looked at your comments and thought there was an acknowledgement of just realty, how tough things are. Are you afraid that Democrats are walking away from Charlotte maybe overconfident --

O'MALLEY: No, no, no. Look.

KEILAR: -- if a lot of Americans disagree with what we've heard about the four years being better?

O'MALLEY: No, look, I think -- I think in all honestly, look, our country is doing better and when our country does better, we all do better. But I think we also have to acknowledge the hard and serious truth that we have not yet recovered all we lost in the Bush recession and that's what I believe.

I think that's what every economist believes. We haven't recovered every job we lost in the Bush recession but we're clearly moving forward and not back, we're creating jobs rather than losing them. Home foreclosures are down. Job creation is up. Unemployment is down. GM is alive and hiring. I mean we're making progress. We still have a lot more work to do.

And that's what this convention is about. I was so proud of my party and so proud of my country during these three days. I mean our best days in life as Americans aren't the easy days, they're the hard days when we acknowledge the fact that many of us are still suffering and still looking for work and we recommit ourselves to creating jobs and expanding opportunity.

KEILAR: Governor O'Malley, thank you so much.

Wolf and Anderson, back to you.

BLITZER: And Brianna, there will be a reality check 8:30 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning when last month's jobs numbers will come out.

Let's go to Soledad O'Brien.

Soledad, where are you?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm standing up near the California delegation and the Massachusetts delegation. We're talking to Congressman Becerra.

We've heard analysts say, they thought the speech was more in-you-face than maybe had been predicted by some. At the same time not as many specifics as we were told all during the week that we would get. Enough specific, do you think, for those who are decided to sway toward the president?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: I think for the purpose of a -- acceptance nomination speech, absolutely. The president had a clear purpose here. Make sure you understand that there's a difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

I believe he planted the flag, showed us that he's going to talk about we moving together, not we moving separately. It's a distinction between the Republican message and the Democratic message. The vice president made that very clear also.

O'BRIEN: But Republicans have taken hope and change and said, you know, where is the hope, where is the change, and come back on that theme a lot. Tonight we heard the president say you're the change and sort of turn it back to the people. Good strategy?

BECERRA: Not only good strategy, but he's also said, you've given me the hope to believe that our better days are still ahead of us. Because that soldier that today is walking with that prosthetic and moving forward, that child who today survives because she has access to good health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act, that senior who today still has Medicare guaranteed, all those people have hope. And I believe the president is saying very clearly to America, you get to choose. November 6th is very important. Because there are two paths that we can take. One where it's we and one where it's just one.

O'BRIEN: When you were speaking earlier to that, you spoke about (speaking foreign language), the American dream.


O'BRIEN: Do you think Latinos will be swayed enough by this to vote in the large numbers, frankly, that the president needs to support him at the polls in November?

BECERRA: Soledad, it's something very important. On this convention floor, Democrats had the courage to say what we really believe about immigrants. We put immigrants on that stage. We put some immigrants on the stage that the Republicans would rather deport.

The Republicans are not willing to talk clearly about immigration and immigration reform. We are ready to tell America, another generation is going to build us up. Let's applaud what they do. Let's bring them on up.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Xavier Becerra, nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.

BECERRA: Thank you. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate your time.

And let's send it right back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Soledad, thanks very much.

Kate Bolduan is on the floor as well.

Kate, where are you?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. I'm over here in the Pennsylvania delegation with the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.

Governor, thank you for taking the time. I want to get your reaction to the speech, but specifically, you all know that Democrats criticize Governor Romney in Tampa for not offering anything new, not offering detail. We heard goals from the president tonight, but do you think there's enough trust out there in him that he can actually deliver on those goals after four tough years?

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Well, I think Americans all over are wondering whether our government regardless of who's in control can deliver on those goals. And I think the president sounded a theme that's very important. After this election, we're going to have to act as Americans. Not Republicans, not Democrats. We're going to have to work together and meet some of these challenges. He laid out some of his plans, this plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. It's a good plan, it's a plan that should have been enacted a year and a half ago. This plan to improve the economy, he laid that out in the jobs bill last October. And if that bill had been adopted, the CBO says we'd a million, maybe a million and a half new jobs created in America.

So although he wasn't as specific as he could have been, he sounded a great theme and that theme is that America works best when we all take care of each other. It's why I'm proud to be an American and why I'm proud to be a Democrat.

BOLDUAN: Did he do enough to lock in the independents? The key independents for this election?

RENDELL: I think Bill Clinton made that case to the independent voters last night. If you're a voter who cares about data and cares about which direction the country is going, I think Bill Clinton laid out a terrific case allowing President Obama to really -- a horrific theme. There were some heroic themes about the value of education, about giving the kids the opportunities.


RENDELL: I became a Democrat because I believe we're the party of opportunity. And I think President Obama inspired the base.


RENDELL: Inspired all of us. And I think as the campaign rolls out, during the debates, he's going to make his case to the independent voters. But boy, everyone who's leaving this hall today is proud to be a Democrat.

BOLDUAN: Governor, thank you for your time.

Wolf, as he said, the campaign continues.

BLITZER: It certainly does. Going on to the next chapter right now, Jessica, our chief White House correspondent.

You sat with me, we listened together. I thought there would be more specifics. There were a lot of goals expressed, generalities. A lot of stuff we've heard before. I didn't hear any specific new initiative that the president unveiled, did you?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think they released the specifics to us in the press and the media and they expect us to talk about them and write about them tomorrow. And discuss them. And I think he'll be discussing them on the trail. I leave early tomorrow morning on a bus tour with him, I expect he'll talk about it.

There are three new details he'll talk about, goals. What I was struck by in the speech, Wolf, was almost a logic puzzle he solved, which is he had promised change four years ago, if people feel like he hadn't delivered on that, how does he explain it. And how does he keep them on board. And the turn I thought he made in the speech was he said you are the change. You are the change. And if you don't stay with me, you're not believing in yourself in a sense.

Believe in yourself, recommit to what you committed to four years ago. And that was a way to reengage those supporters who might be feeling disaffected.

BLITZER: Yes. And he was really robust in his criticism of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. He didn't mince any words. I thought he would take the higher road, but he really went at them.

YELLIN: I think he was just drawing a distinction. If I can make one other point.


YELLIN: We made a point on our air about veterans and that the president was making an empty promise on veterans. I should point out that the president has pushed for two initiatives that have passed both veterans -- a tax credit for employers who hire veterans who have been out of work. That passed Congress. It was part of the jobs bill. And also he took executive action to protect veterans who have been wrongfully foreclosed on while they're overseas, may now have a form of redress for that.

BLITZER: And these Democrats tonight went out of their way to praise the U.S. men and women of the military.

Anderson, a lot more to digest, but let me throw it back to you.

COOPER: Yes, let's look at sort of the electoral map and where the race is now. John King is at the magic wall -- John.

KING: Anderson, a convention, obviously you have big strategic goals. The president laid out but not a lot of specifics. But where he's been and where he wants to go. There's a big strategic arc, but there's also a tactical thing. How many people, how many people at this convention ending with the president talked about the auto bailout? Almost everyone had talked domestic policy.

What states do they mention when they said that? Michigan and Ohio.

I want to show you just why. Here's the card lay out in the electoral map. Dark blue is solid for the president, light blue leaning for the president, dark red solid for Governor Romney, light red leading for Governor Romney.

The president has about 237, we say now, 191 for Governor Romney. You need 270 to win. Michigan we have as leaning Democratic. There's one poll recently that showed it a toss-up but the Republican super PACs that were advertising in Michigan, they have pulled out. Republicans now, the Romney campaign says it will fight but the Republicans are now less and less optimistic about Michigan.

What would happen then if the president keeps Michigan and wins the state of Ohio? All that attention there. Turning that one blue, look what that gets the president, 255. Right? To 191. If nothing else changed on the map, count the rest. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of the toss-ups. Governor Romney would have to win five or six of the remaining eight states.

Let me map it out for you. Let's assume for the sake of argument he won Florida. That's 29 electorals. If we give that Governor Romney he would get those. Now you're looking at tougher terrain but let's say he wins this state, North Carolina. The president won it in a perfect storm last time. Let's give it Governor Romney. He's getting in contention here. But here's the dynamic. The president doesn't have to fight in this dynamic. He would be competitive -- competing in all these states, but he doesn't have to fight in all of them.

Big Latino population out of Nevada, if the president can hold that and make it blue, it puts him on the doorstep. Governor Romney has to essentially run the board of what's left. He would have to win Virginia, he would have to Wisconsin. The Democrats think if they're winning Ohio, they're also winning Wisconsin. But let me give it to him for the sake of argument.

Then he would have to win Iowa, again, a state -- the president won last time. Then you're in a battle ground where Governor Romney would have to win the rest of them. Then he'd have to win here, it gets him over the top. New Hampshire would leave him just shy. Point being, if the president can take Ohio, it makes Governor Romney's math not impossible, Anderson, but almost impossible.

The president then could pick a state and say, I'll give up on this one, I'm going to invest here. I'll give up on this one, I'm going to invest here. I'll give up on that one, I'm going to pour in here. So if this is blue, if this is blue, and that's where all the attention was here, if the president can keep this blue, not impossible for Governor Romney, but almost -- Anderson.

COOPER: So a lot of trips to Ohio no doubt, also Michigan as well in the weeks ahead.

KING: Right now -- right now Romney was born in Michigan. Remember that.

COOPER: Right.

KING: He thinks he can win Michigan. But they're not spending money there right now. And David Axelrod has said from the very beginning -- the president is not spending money either. David Axelrod has said from the very beginning that if, if, if this comes into play and that's 16 votes, they say they'll just go in there and bombard the state with ads. Mitt Romney opposed the auto bailouts. The president was for.

Now Mitt Romney says his position is more nuance than that but the Democrats say they have the high ground there. And again I just want to take these states back. These are our tossups right now. You take them back to goal. These are the tossup states and Ohio is among them, Wisconsin is among them, Iowa is among them. Go back here. That one is not. Sorry. That was my bad. That's leaning. This one is. This is where we are right now. And the president already has an easier -- not easy, but easier path to 270. And boy oh boy, this state we often call decided, if that one goes blue, you don't want to go to Vegas and bet that of the remaining you've got to win all but one or all but two. Depending on the size of the state. It's just near impossible math and that is the goal of this convention.

The goal of this convention is to make Governor Romney's math which is already hard, harder still.

COOPER: Does anybody have a question for John here?


BORGER: No, I mean, I guess, you know, my question would be, I mean, so the Romney people have to win back everything that President Obama, the traditionally red states.

KING: Right.

BORGER: All the traditionally red states that President Obama won in 2008. Then they've got to win the real battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio, and then they've got wild cards.

KING: If you look at it from the Republican perspective, this is how Karl Rove lays it out. Think 3-2-1.

BORGER: Three-two-one. Exactly.

KING: Three-two-one. Now I'm going to go back, I'm going to put Ohio back as a tossup state. The three or the three most Republican states by historical DNA that President Obama won. They are Indiana, which we already lean for the Republicans. They are North Carolina and they are Virginia. Those are the three.

Governor Romney has to start by picking up the three. Then there's the big two. Florida and Ohio. If Governor Romney can do that, then you see it's 266, you need 270. Then he only needs one more of the remaining states. But that calculation includes Ohio. If you take Ohio away, then he's back, he's ahead of the president in this scenario, but the president -- you know, these are all more Democratic leaning states at the tossup states, if you will.

This gets much, much tougher here. Much, much tougher here if this state goes blue, the math for Governor Romney just become -- if the -- here's the way to look at it. If the Democrats are winning Ohio, then why aren't they winning Iowa? If the Democrats are winning Ohio, then why aren't they winning New Hampshire? Because that is a more Republican state traditionally than this state.

And you could make the argument Paul Ryan complicates it some. If the Democrats are winning Ohio and the AT in there, then why aren't they winning Wisconsin? No Republican in modern times has won the presidency without that state. That's why this convention has spent a whole lot of time talking about Michigan and Ohio.

COOPER: Wolf, you've got a question as well.

BLITZER: Yes, I wanted to just throw it out and let's discuss it for a second. If you're Erskine Bowles or Alan Simpson, they were the two co-chairmen of the Simpson-Bowles debt commission. The former Wyoming senator and former Clinton White House chief of staff. Listening to these two conventions you've got to be scratching your head, you've got to be saying to yourself, what is going on?

Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, raises the whole issue and complains that the president rejected the recommendations even though Paul Ryan himself was a member of the commission voted against it. Didn't point that out.

Joe Biden, he raises the whole issue of Simpson-Bowles in his remarks even though the president didn't accept the recommendations effectively rejected those recommendations. And now the president in his remarks, he says, and I'll read it precisely what he says, the president says, "Now I'm still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission," referring to Simpson-Bowles.

So the question is, why didn't he accept those recommendations to begin with a year or so ago whenever that was, instead of saying now he's ready to work and accept those recommendations. I throw it out to whoever wants to answer that.


BLITZER: Because I'm perplexed.

BORGER: I think --

FLEISCHER: Wolf is asking a governing question in a political year. That's what happened. I think frankly when the president took that bus trip beginning in August of last year, that's when the president made the decision that he was going to focus on the campaign. Congress gave up, too, at that point. We've been in a campaign mode for a year. The word Simpson and Bowles are blinking on pause.

BORGER: But I think you make a good point, Wolf. One thing I didn't hear in the president's speech is sort of any kind of sense of hope about overcoming the gridlock that Bill Clinton spoke about the other night. Because that's also what those swing voters want. And when you talk about Simpson-Bowles, bipartisan commission, et cetera, et cetera, it's being used as a political football only nobody has fully embraced it. And that's a problem.

KING: They have to say nice things about it for the independents out there.

BORGER: Right.

KING: Who feel deeply about this. But the Republicans were not ready to raise taxes because they were not going to alienate their base. The Democrats, the president was not ready embrace the Medicare and other spending cuts involved because he's not ready to alienate these people. Because both parties think fundamentally it is a base election where you need every one of yours to turn out.

GERGEN: They're rallying around Simpson-Bowles because it's one of the most popular ideas around the country. If you travel everyone says, why didn't they take Simpson-Bowles? But frankly both sides are dancing. Neither one is really willing to make the tough calls about what it would take to do Simpson/Bowles. And here tonight, we had a president who left a huge loophole because what he said was, in addition to saying I like the principles of Simpson-Bowles, he also said, I want to take all that money we're going to save from no longer fighting these wars, which is $1 trillion, and I want to invest it and I --

COOPER: Nation building -- nation building here at home.

GERGEN: Nation building --

COOPER: James?

GERGEN: Good. That's a lot more spending.

CARVILLE: But the answer that people give is that he was advised not to embrace it because if he did it would get no Republican support. And in fact, the deal that he had made with Boehner was less favorable to Democrats than Simpson-Bowles was itself. There's not a Democrat that I know that doesn't think that the president is going to negotiate from some framework of Simpson-Bowles in 2013 --

COOPER: I want to check in with Candy. She's got a response, I think, from the Romney campaign -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Probably something you might expect but this actually comes from the Romney campaign manager, who says, "Tonight President Obama laid out the choice in this election making the case for more of the same policies that haven't worked for the past four years. He offered more promises but he hasn't kept the promises he made four years ago. Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record. They know they're not better off and that it's time to change direction. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will restore America's promise and deliver a better future for our country."

So here again, going back 18 months, you can see exactly where Republicans and Democrats were going so many months ago and that is this president wants it to be about a choice, it's either going back and or going forward. It's either old Bush policies or mine. And of course the Republicans want it to be on the president's record -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

The Democratic National Convention came to a rousing and emotional end today. I want to just go back to Candy for a second.

Candy, while I have you, a lot of our viewers are aware that the next major events now that both of these conventions are over with, the next major events will be three presidential debates in October and one, one vice presidential debate in October. You will be moderating one of those presidential debates. You've had a chance to hear the Republicans in Tampa. You've now had the chance to hear the Democrats here in North Carolina.

And I wonder if you just want to give us a little thought, what's going through your mind right now as you start preparing for your role as a moderator.

CROWLEY: I think -- I think what we've talked about here, which is fine, but what are the specifics? I mean think for both of them. You can look at these conventions and they gave sort of broad outlines. But for President Obama, what's new about the next four years. For Mitt Romney, how exactly would you do tax reform? How exactly would you reform Medicare, not Paul Ryan's plan, well, then what is your plan?

So I think there's a lot of specifics that may -- they keep talking about the differences they can make in people's lives. Every day, middle class Americans. Well, those differences are things like what sort of deductions are you still going to get? What will I have for my health care. How much is the debt going to be if we do X, Y and Z. So I think what the debates do is begin to clarify the details insofar as you can get them without having an actual bill. But it begins to clarify from the first, second and third debates exactly what either of these two candidate will do that directly affects the lives of Americans. Because that's what people vote on.

BLITZER: Yes. And as important as these two conventions are, they are really important. Those three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. I suspect will be even more important than making sure that those still undecided voters or switchable voters make up their mind.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights of what President Obama just said. Before we do that, I want to remind our viewers we do have a focus group that's ready to give us some analysis, independents, undecided voters. But let's go to some highlights first of what he president had to say.


OBAMA: I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. Times have changed and so have I. I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the president.


And that, and then, and that means I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I've held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return. I've shared the pain of families who have lost their homes and the frustration of workers who have lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I've made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them.


And while I'm very proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.


But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I'm naive about the magnitude of our challenges. I'm hopeful because of you.


BLITZER: Let's go to Erin Burnett for a reality check on some of the promises President Obama made tonight.

I know you've been reviewing all of this, Erin. Give our viewers a sense of what you've discovered.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: That's right. Some interesting things here, Wolf. You could tell from the way he did the speech it was more of a, here's the promises I'm making for the future, he was trying to come up with some specifics and he did. So we looked into them and one of them you may have heard pretty loudly and clearly was manufacturing.

The president said, I am going to create one million manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016. Now we looked into that. I think the verdict on this one is maybe. Obviously the president has lost manufacturing jobs during his term, but over the past couple of years has gained about 500,000. So if the economy really picks up steam, that one million could be easily achievable in the next four years.

Doubling exports by the end of 2014. I'm going to give that a yes. This is a promise actually, not a new promise, everyone. He made this promise back in 2010. Exports from the United States overseas are already up 30 percent. So he needs to get another 50 percent increased. Talked to a couple of people tonight. That is possible unless things really fall apart in Europe and China. So I'm going to give that a yes, that promise is something he will be able to keep.

Energy, Wolf, he had -- some promises there and some very specific ones, and I wanted to hit this one specifically. He said, I'm going to cut net oil imports in half by 2020. Now this is -- everybody, completely achievable. Did you know that American oil production is up 25 percent since 2008? Right before the president took office.

We are -- we have a lot of oil in this country, a lot of natural gas, and some people say Raymond James, an investment firm, we will have zero oil imports in the United States of America by the year 2020. So he definitely should be able to cut it at least in half. Note, though, this is going to be a brown energy boom, not a green one.

He also said 600,000 natural gas jobs could be created. Yes, this comes from a study that came out at the end of last year from IHS. It's going to be shale gas. So that I'm going to say is a yes.

Then he made a promise, Wolf, on national security. This one I find much more dubious. He says he's going to end wars and the money from the wars will go to the economy and to paying down the debt. Now we spent $115 billion last year on the war in Afghanistan and the residual of what we're dealing with in Iraq. The problem is this is not $115 billion, if you're not spending it there you could put it back towards paying down the debt. This is money we're borrowing already. So that seems to be a little bit off in terms of the way he phrased his rhetoric there.

And then the last thing I wanted to highlight something you all were just talking a moment ago about, cut the deficit by $4 trillion. A key promise the president made. Four trillion of course is the same number of Simpson-Bowles. And as you pointed out, Wolf, the president did not support Simpson-Bowles even though it was his own commission. He didn't support the recommendations, neither did Paul Ryan. Both of them have mentioned it now essentially and both came up with their own plans.

Part of the reason the president did not support Simpson-Bowles was it did things like increase the Medicare or Medicaid co-pay. Of course it wanted to cut tax rates. We know the president wants to let the Bush cuts expire. And it also would get rid of a lot of the mortgage interest deduction. These things are politically hard to handle but obviously everyone knows some combination of them need to be done.

So, Wolf, we'll see whether he actually goes ahead with the Simpson- Bowles, but $4 trillion, by the way, is a good start but we probably need to do even more.

BLITZER: Yes. And we'll see what the jobs number is tomorrow morning when it's released as well.

BURNETT: It's going to be a big -- yes. Very critical.

BLITZER: We'll see -- it's a good number or a bad number, obviously.


BLITZER: In this political season, it will have an impact.

Erin, good work, thank you.

Our focus group of undecided voters listened very closely to the president's speech and they rated it in real time. The women had a much different reaction than the men did. We're going to tell you what they liked and what they didn't like. Stay with us.


OBAMA: I know campaigns can seem small, even silly sometimes. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. The truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising.

If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I.




OBAMA: All they have to offer is the same prescriptions they've had for the last 30 years. Have a surplus, try a tax cut. Deficit too high. Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations and call us in the morning.



COOPER: President Obama from earlier tonight. Now just as we did during the Republican convention, CNN assembled a group of undecided voters to watch the presidential acceptance speech. Tonight's group is made up of North Carolina voters because it's the convention's host state obviously.

Tom Foreman has been over in the CNN Grill monitoring their reactions -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As our focus group sat here using these dial testing devices to record every moment of their thoughts about this speech, it was fascinating to see the reaction from all of you compared to the people in the hall. And I want to back up here and first of all have you all raise your hands if you came into tonight truly undecided.

Let's take a look at the group here. Basically everyone is undecided. The question is, did President Obama make them more decided?

Well, look at the reaction when he said one of his signature lines. Something the party has been pushing for two days here about moving forward, not back.


OBAMA: After all we've been through, I don't believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small business woman expand or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We have been there. We've tried that. And we're not going back. We are moving forward, America.



FOREMAN: The people in the hall just loved that. People here, not so much. Why do you think -- why do you think that whole idea of we're going to keep moving forward, not moving back didn't resonate more with all the voters here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure I believe all the things that he said about going forward and not going backward. I'm not convinced.

FOREMAN: You're not convinced of that. What about you? What did you think when you heard that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was convinced. I believe him.

FOREMAN: You do believe him. So you would have been one of the people helping push the dials up a little bit.

Why do you believe him when you don't?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think he's sincere and honest.

FOREMAN: OK. Let me ask some of the men in here. What did you think when you heard all of that? The men by and large seemed more skeptical here than the women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was sincere, I just don't believe him. I think he wants to move everybody forward but I still think he lives in the past. He's -- I mean from everything I've heard, they're still blaming Bush and that was four years ago. I don't think they're --

FOREMAN: One of the -- one of the things I'm curious about here, and I want to ask over here about, is when I watch your reactions I couldn't help but wonder if some of you felt like you've just heard all this before, good, bad or otherwise, you've heard it a lot and people seem almost fatigued a little bit. What did you think? Did you like it? Were you inspired?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I am quite sleepy. The -- I think the statement gets lost. It's -- perhaps it's not flashy or whatnot. I agree with the statement, but there's just so much else going on in the speech.

FOREMAN: Yes. Let's take a look at one other quick section here. One of the biggest, earliest spikes here came when he talked about energy independence. Look at what happened when he talked about gas prices.


OBAMA: In the last year alone we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day. More than any administration in recent history.


And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.



FOREMAN: He talked about less dependence on foreign oil. As a group here you liked it. Who here liked that statement? Somebody had to because somebody liked it. What did you like about it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just like hearing how they're going to lower gas prices. I mean right now Americans are suffering with gas under -- you know, just $4 a gallon and we keep -- you know, we need to find other ways around that rather than putting windmills on every corner, or forcing people to use mercury for their light bulbs in their house. That's not lowering gas prices.

FOREMAN: There seemed to be a real emphasis here for a lot of you on pocketbook issues. For all the high rhetoric, for all the great talk, whenever he talked about actually, practical pocketbook issues, people liked it better. Were you one of those people?


FOREMAN: And why? Why does that matter so much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think we're all concerned about our pocketbook and where the spending is at.

FOREMAN: It's one of those things you have to deal with. At any event, fascinating to watch the reaction from our group here as they watched this speech. We'll get to look at some other things as the evening moves on.

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much. Wolf and Candy have joined us up here at the skybox. Van Jones has as well, CNN contributor.

Van, we haven't heard from you. What did you think of the speech?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: Well, first of all this was not a normal convention. This was more like a revival and it was a revival for a reason. This party needed a revival. People came to the city depressed, discouraged, somewhat afraid and we spent three days getting inspired.

The speech in that context is kind of like the bishop coming out. All the young preachers have done all their best preaching they can do, the bishop kind of comes out, he kind of consecrates everything that went before. He was much more statesmanly, much more reserved. But the branding that this party is going for, now it's very obvious. They're trying to combine two things you don't see very often. On the one side it's the compassion, it's the cooperation, but then this combativeness, this competitiveness, and you haven't seen both together. I think the president was in line with that strategy.

COOPER: David Gergen, you were talking about that earlier. A kind of a muscular strategy or maybe it was --

GERGEN: Yes. Defiance.

COOPER: Defiant.

GERGEN: The speech, in that sense. And I think he is taking a different tone into his second term if he wins that. And that is, as he said in Jessica's documentary -- Jessica Yellin's documentary for CNN, I work with -- I'll work with the Republicans when I can but if they won't work with me, I'm going around them. And that is a very different view than he brought into the first term and I think he brought that to the speech tonight.


BLITZER: But here's what's interesting.

FLEISCHER: But here's the problem.

BLITZER: Ari, you'll be interested in this, too, because I know your passion. Last week Mitt Romney in Tampa said this president threw Israel under the bus, flatly. Strong statement. Yesterday at this time we were all talking about the platform in Jerusalem. Commitment to Israel and all of this. Today the president says in his speech our commitment to Israel's security must not waiver and neither must our pursuit of peace.

Here's the question, and David, I don't know if you want to weigh in as well. Do you think that line was added as a result of all the commotion yesterday involving the platform or he was always determined to reiterate America's launch any support for Israel?

FLEISCHER: I can't tell you whether it was or wasn't. I don't think it matters. The issue here is if our commitment can't waver, why has it wavered? And that's the vulnerability which Republicans have a small window to exploit the Jewish votes so overwhelmingly go Democratic, but the Republicans make inroads could be big in Florida and Ohio.

But here's something else that I've caught, and you heard that undecided voter talk about, well, I -- he's sincere but I don't believe him. Here's something else the president said. I won't pretend the path I'm offering was quick or easy. I never have. He did say it would be quick. He told us the jobs were shovel-ready. He told us the deficit would be cut in half in his first term. He told us that unemployment would not break 8 percent and it'd be below 6 percent in 2012.

COOPER: But also from the earliest days he took --

FLEISCHER: He did make those statements.


COOPER: From the earliest days, though, that he took -- he took the White House, he was saying how difficult the road ahead was going to be.


JONES: And I think one of things that's important to remember, the package he passed was never even called a stimulus package, it was called a recovery act because we were going to be in a long period of trying to build back. So we also got much worse data once he got into office. One thing I think that's important to recognize here as we go forward. We're going to see this party coming back now much more confident with much more courage and confidence in its own ideas. There was an unapologetic defense of liberal values here. This was not a party that was trying to tone down, pretend that it's something it's not. Pride and its ideas that's going to fire the base up and that's going to be very important going forward.

GERGEN: Let me just go back to your question, Wolf, on Israel. I sense through all the speeches tonight that the Democrats, especially the president, are speaking with much more authority and confidence about foreign policy than they are about the domestic accomplishments. And there was a line that Biden -- I think it was Biden, or maybe Kerry, about Israel that I'm sure came in afterwards, citing Netanyahu about how firm we've been.

COOPER: We -- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was part of a very emotional moment tonight when she helped Gabrielle Giffords walk on the stage for the "Pledge of Allegiance." The Democratic Party chair standing by to talk to Piers Morgan.

BLITZER: It's going to be emotional and we also like you to take part in our coverage of this Democratic National Convention. You can log on to Answer this question. Who gave the best speech at the Democratic convention, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama or the First Lady Michelle Obama? We'll have your answers in a little bit.