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The Situation Room

Obama Prepares to Accept Party Nomination; McCain on Verge of Revealing VP

Aired August 28, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, thanks very much.
It's an event that will change American history as we know it. Barack Obama accepting his party's nomination from this massive stadium before a massive gathering. A party of VIPs and ordinary voters. You're looking at these live pictures of Denver's INVESCO Field here at Mile High stadium. We want to point out a special camera view to you, the sky cam. CNN brought the sky cam to INVESCO Field, and you'll be seeing a lot of this throughout this program, indeed, throughout this historic night.

I want to tell you that our crews worked at breakneck speed transforming our set here. Also, other crews transformed what is normally a football field to what Democrats hope will be an awesome and awe-inspiring arena. We have CNN correspondents spread out all across to bring you every moment of this historic night.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the Democratic Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

BLITZER: The unprecedented nature of this event will have many people now and beyond asking the question, where were you when? Barack Obama will give it the very day that Dr. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech 45 years ago. We have correspondents watching this.

But let me bring in our best political team on television, Gloria Borger, John King is here. Gloria, this is day four of this convention. We've had three days so far. This is going to be the biggest, not only in importance, but physically the biggest as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and look behind us, Wolf. It's already starting to fill up, largely with the media, of course. Folks waiting in line to get in. This is Barack Obama's big moment. And he's had a lot of good speeches at his convention. Now it's up to him to have a conversation with the American voters himself. To tell them not only who he is, but where he wants to take the country.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's a fascinating looking around, Wolf, as you see not only the delegates, but the invited guests, the tickets from the western state. This is part of what you see is the double challenge of Barack Obama. Gloria is dead right. The most important challenge tonight is to make that woman sitting at home in Allentown, Pennsylvania or the man in Parma, Ohio in the kitchen to think he's talking to them, that it's a conversation.

But look at that set. That's not a conversation. The rest of us around the stadium, 80,000 they expect in the end, is part of poem's effort to rewrite the new rules of American politics by registering all these new voters and change the electoral map by doing well out here in Colorado and throughout the West.

So two challenges to Barack Obama. The most important one is to convince the American people, I'm safe as commander in chief.

BLITZER: And he'll convince everyone here, the 80,000 -- they're convinced, the millions, maybe tens of millions who are watching in the United States, that's the audience he really needs to appeal to on this night.

Let's go straight to Suzanne Malveaux. She's here on the field at INVESCO Field.

First of all, Suzanne, tell our viewers where you are.


We're getting ready for the big speech, obviously right here in the New York section for the delegation. I've been tell by Bill Burton, campaign spokesperson that Barack Obama is making tweaks up until the very last minute. But this really is his personal message to the American people. He's been scribbling on a notepad for months, turned in his first draft about a week ago or so. He also has looked at past acceptance speeches by John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to give him a sense of what he needs to do today and what his message is going to be, he's going to outline who he is, define himself as a man of humble beginnings, raised by a single mother.

He'll also has values and hard working that has brought him to this point. Then he's going to talk about ordinary Americans, some of the problems they're facing when it comes to the economy. And he's going to draw a specific contrast, we're told, with his own plans, his own policies and vision when it comes to energy, health care, education, and that of John McCain, he will talk about foreign policy as well.

And Wolf, one of the important things is really the symbolism as well with this speech, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The symbolism for Barack Obama for many people is the realization of that dream. The campaign, of course, not lost on them. He's going to be addressing that, talking about really being -- the historic significance being the first African American nominee for nomination for major party for presidency. This is really going to be very compelling and it's going to be a very personal message to the American people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Suzanne's going to be with us all night. Stand by, Suzanne. Let me go back to Gloria and John. The big speech will be obviously Barack Obama. That will be the culmination of these four days. But in the hour before he speaks, we're going to hear from Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States, almost a president, he got pretty close back in 2000.

BORGER: Yes. He would say he won. But that's another story. It's interesting that Al Gore is even going to be here tonight, Wolf, because, of course, there was a lot of back-and-forth about that. Because Al Gore has now said he's above politics. It's kind of beneath him at this point. But he clearly is an Obama supporter. He speaks not only to the Democrats, but he does speak to independent voters out there.

And in terms of the people here, they're already convinced, as you were saying before. But it's those one in five voters who say they could still change their minds, or who haven't decided, that Al Gore is going to try to talk to tonight.

BLITZER: Will he get some of those undecided voters do you think from Barack Obama?

KING: His stature has clearly increased, both politically and a as statesman on the issue of climate change and the like. It's a big joke in the Gore staff he's going to bring out his inconvenient slide show and put it in the big screens throughout the football stadium here. But look, it tells you a lot about how the Obama campaign views this and they are putting all hands on deck.

Remember, Al Gore didn't want Bill Clinton anywhere around him. There's a lot of tension between Bill Clinton and Al Gore in that campaign back in 2000. Barack Obama understands, yes, the fundamentals favor him. Yes, the polling at the moment favors him. He is asking the American people to elect a 47 year old man they don't know very well who happens to be an African American on top of that.

He knows the big challenge here and he wants all the help he can get. And they do believe Al Gore helps with younger voters, energy, climate change, a huge mobilization issue for them. And they also think he just has stature to make a case.

BLITZER: He is a Nobel Peace prize winner as we know, as well. All right, guys, stand by. John McCain's campaign is determined to try to muscle into the spotlight here on Barack Obama. And one way to get some attention is to stoke the fires surrounding who he'll pick as his vice president.

CNN's Ed Henry has more -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John McCain is finally on the verge of revealing his vice presidential pick. And Mitt Romney was here near Las Vegas making his final pitch for the job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Mitt Romney. HENRY (voice-over): Mitt Romney in the key swing state of Nevada. Auditioning to be John McCain's running mate.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. GOVERNOR, MASSACHUSETTS: We didn't agree a few months ago about what the direction of our party ought to be, but we sure agree now that John McCain needs to be the next president of the United States.

HENRY: He deflected questions about the job during an interview with CNN. But sure sounded like someone comfortable with being number two.

ROMNEY: I'm campaigning across the country to help John McCain get elected. My turn is over. I'm anticipating continuing to work for Senator McCain and his ticket until November. And a victory, I sure hope. And so this is about him, it's not about me.

HENRY: As a former businessman, he could complement McCain's national security credentials.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's really good on economic issues. I think he would be a strong vice presidential candidate.

HENRY: With the election so tight, McCain advisers say it's tantalizing to consider, Romney might deliver the 17 electoral votes of Michigan, where his late father served as governor. But in the Republican primaries, McCain and Romney were bitter rivals.

ROMNEY: He voted twice against the Bush tax cuts. Only two Republicans did that.

HENRY: That question of chemistry is a big reason other contenders are still in the hunt for the veep slot. Including 47- year-old Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. McCain could highlight his maverick image and win some independents by tapping Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge, both who support abortion rights.


HENRY: Conservatives would be furious if he picked a moderate, but in the end this is a gut check for John McCain. And some of his advisers say he may go for a bold stroke -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Henry, for that.

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

It's an exciting, historic night, once again, Jack.


And it was pretty easy to see last night why Bill Clinton was elected. When he's on, there's nobody any better. The former president came out swinging, declared Obama's ready to lead. He rather cleverly pointed when he was running in 1992, the critics were saying the same thing about him, he's too young, he's too inexperienced. Clinton said those criticisms didn't work then against him and they won't work against Obama now because quote "Obama's on the right side of history."

Like his wife he called on Hillary Clinton's 18 million supporters to vote for Barack Obama. He went even farther, though. He praised Obama's ability to inspire people. His intelligence, his curiosity, his clear grasp of foreign policy, the strength he gained from the long primary, the good judgment in choosing Joe Biden. I mean, it went on and on and he did it all with a straight face. Bill Clinton tore into McCain saying after two terms of President Bush in this case -- quote -- "The third time is not the charm."

Clinton cited a laundry list of Republican failures over the last eight years, the sinking image of America overseas, quote, "People world over have been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

With thousands of delegates waving American flags, it finally seemed like party unity had arrived at the convention.

So here's the question: Did the Clintons deliver for Barack Obama?

Go to, you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. We'll check back with you shortly.

As we've been reporting, Al Gore is here in Denver. He's the warm-up act for Barack Obama tonight. He'll speak before this massive crowd that's beginning to pour into INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium. Candy Crowley is standing by with a little assessment of what we can expect.

Also, Barack Obama and John McCain hope to win the state of Michigan. I'll speak to its governor, Governor Jennifer Granholm. She's standing by live. We'll talk about the Democrats' chances.

And a truly deadly storm flirts with becoming an even more devastating force of nature. We'll have the latest on Hurricane Gustav, straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the Democratic National Convention and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're here at the Democratic National Convention at INVESCO Field, Mile High Stadium. It's normally a football stadium. Tonight it's the Democratic National Convention. And history will unfold. Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination in front of more than 70,000, maybe 80,000 people who will gather here in this stadium. Among them, the former Vice President Al Gore. He'll be speaking just before Senator Obama.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's joining us now.

Candy, set the stage for us. I want to hear a little bit more on what we can expect to hear from Al Gore.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just got off the phone with a source familiar with this speech, and familiar with the process of putting the speech together. One of the things emphasized was that the former vice president said it was very important, he wanted a very, very strong endorsement of Barack Obama. That's something they went over a couple of times.

Beyond that, it is the speech that you would expect Al Gore to give. He will in fact meld, as I was told, his climate change message with this endorsement. The source couldn't remember whether there was a specific reference to John McCain, but he did say that Gore will be critical of Supreme Court appointments. He will talk about the Bush tax cuts. And he will talk about civil liberties and the loss of privacy that he sees in the Bush White House.

I will also tell you, and this will be a refrain that many will remember, if they have seen Al Gore recently, he will tell this crowd, listen to me, because I'm a guy who should know, elections are really important. You can't afford to sit this out. You can't afford to sit on your hands. You need to get out there.

So he will take that very personal message to this crowd. I will also tell you that this source who understands Gore's thinking at this point says that Gore has offered to campaign for Barack Obama, and that he is ready, willing and able, and the source says he will go and campaign for Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Candy, thanks very much.

We heard last night our own James Carville saying that the former president, Bill Clinton, will actually go out and campaign for Barack Obama as well. Two big heavyweights campaigning for the Democratic nominee.

Republicans meanwhile are taking some pot shots regarding the backdrop for Obama's speech. Let's go to Jessica Yellin. She's out there on the field.

Jessica, they're coming up with an interesting description of this set.


The stakes for this speech are exceptionally high. In addition to the normal anticipation, there is the move to an outdoor stadium. There's the size of this crowd that you mentioned, more than 75,000 people expected. And then there's this elaborate set that they've built. The joke here is that it's the Barackopolis.


YELLIN (voice-over): First, he was criticized for the messianic language.

OBAMA: This is the moment when the rise of the ocean began to slow and our planet began to heal.

YELLIN: Then there was snickers over the fake presidential seal. Now heads are shaking over the backdrop for what could be the most important speech of Obama's campaign. It features classic Greek columns that evoke the Parthenon, the Lincoln Memorial and Caesar's Palace.

The McCain campaign is calling it the temple of Obama.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: I think the American people sitting around the kitchen table wondering if they can make next month's mortgage payment are not really concerned about what the backdrop is at a speech.

YELLIN: The Obama campaign points out there were columns behind George Bush when he accepted the 2004 nomination. And you know something's up when they want to be compared to George Bush. The backdrop seems to be at odds with several of Obama's goals tonight, to convince undecided Americans he shares their values, and that he's ready to be a statesman.

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You're supposed to think Lincoln Memorial. And instead, I think you are thinking will the candidate be wearing a toga and will somebody be feeding him grapes.

YELLIN: The Republicans are grinning. They believe this all reinforces the message from their mocking Internet ad campaign that Obama sees himself as a deity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will experience an epiphany and you will say to yourself, I have to vote for Barack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let it be written. So let it be done.

YELLIN: But the Obama campaign's convinced no one will be talking about the stage tomorrow.


YELLIN: And Wolf, there's another nod to history here. This is the first time a Democratic presidential nominee of either party has held their nominating speech outdoors since 1960 when JFK accepted the nomination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you know, Jessica, when JFK accepted the nomination in Los Angeles, he did it at the coliseum. The football stadium out there. So there may be a little bit of a coliseum, they may have been thinking JFK, Coliseum, L.A. 1960, Barack Obama 2008, a little bit of a coliseum here at INVESCO Field.

Jessica, stand by. This is going to be a long night. A historic night for all of us. Michigan, certainly one of the all-important toss-up states in this presidential election. And Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is here with me right now.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Are you comfortable with that Coliseum back there?

GRANHOLM: What I'm comfortable is we have America invited in. This is democracy. This is the best of what we have to offer. The people get to decide who leads the nation, who makes the rules. And this unprecedented number of people who want to participate is a great thing.

There's going to be 10,000 house parties tonight across the nation. People who are watching and who want to be part of selecting their next leader. I think it's a great thing for America.

BLITZER: There's a huge challenge for you as a governor of Michigan. Our own Paul Begala, our Democratic analyst, he said if John McCain wins Michigan, it's over for Barack Obama. I think you would agree.

GRANHOLM: I think there is no path to the White House that doesn't go through Michigan for either candidate.

BLITZER: So what are you going to do?

GRANHOLM: So that's why I'm so glad Barack Obama is starting his bus tour. He is going to be in Michigan. Joe Biden will be in Michigan. Because there wasn't much of a primary in Michigan, our voters haven't really had a chance to see and touch and feel these candidates. So it's really important for them to be present. And I think that once they hear -- our state's going to be the state of the contrast. Our voters are the voters that have been hit hardest by the Bush policies, by outsourcing of jobs, by the foreclosure problems and all of that. They want to hear pocketbook issues.

BLITZER: There are a lot of Reagan Democrats ...

GRANHOLM: There are. Absolutely.

BLITZER: And they voted Republican a lot over these years.

GRANHOLM: What they want to hear -- believe me, those Reagan Democrats have gotten socked in the jaw over the past eight years. Since the year 2000, Michigan will have lost about 400,000 jobs.

BLITZER: Why so close then, the polls in Michigan?

GRANHOLM: McCain has been here in Michigan. They campained in the primary. And he, of course, won Michigan in 2000. So of course, he's been to Michigan. We're familiar with him. Barack Obama hasn't had that opportunity yet. So he's coming. He's been here a couple times. He's made some terrific statements. His speech on energy in Lansing was just out of the park. So I expect that people will be watching to hear the nuts and bolts tonight.

BLITZER: If McCain picks Mitt Romney. His father was once governor of Michigan, George Romney and he's a son of Michigan. How worried would you be?

GRANHOLM: The son is not the father, I can tell you that.

BLITZER: Tell us what ...

GRANHOLM: I think, first of all, Mitt Romney is the ilk of the very wealthy guy who was part of a company that was involved in disassembling companies and offshoring jobs. Those are fighting words in Michigan. We have angry voters because of these policies of job losses. We don't want to put someone in the White House that is more of the same. As they keep saying. A continuation of what's gone on for Michigan in the past eight years, it ain't going to fly. So there needs to be somebody who's talking about that contrast.

BLITZER: So you're going to deliver Michigan?

GRANHOLM: I'm not going to deliver Michigan.

BLITZER: It's up to you.

GRANHOLM: It's not up to me but it's up to all of these great voters who are going to be watching tonight who really care about their future.

BLITZER: You were born in Canada, across the Great Lakes from Michigan. And as a result, you can't be president of the United States. Do you ever think about what if?

GRANHOLM: Listen, I just say thank the good Lord sometimes, because I don't know that I'd want to be part of this, as the person. But I can tell you, it's a privilege to be part of it in terms of persuading people he's the right man for the job.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks for dropping by.

GRANHOLM: You bet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, a lot of pressure on her.

In an exclusive interview today with CNN, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blames, get this, blames the United States for the crisis in the Republic of Georgia. You're going to want to hear the White House response. President Bush's press secretary has some very harsh words about what the Russian prime minister is alleging.

And as we approach this, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, all eyes are right now on a new storm that might, repeat, might hit New Orleans. It could happen during the Republican convention. We have the latest forecast. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll get back to Wolf and the Democratic National Convention in just a moment.

First here are a few other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is blaming both the United States and Georgia for the conflict over two break-away regions. In a CNN exclusive Putin says Georgia is responsible for the first military action there, but says the United States had a role, too.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The fact is that U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict during the hostilities. Then it should be admitted that they would do so only following direct orders from their supervisors. Therefore, they were acting and implementing those orders, doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their supervisors.


COSTELLO: Putin accuses the United States of orchestrating the conflict for political purposes. In the exclusive CNN interview, Putin says Russian defense officials told him the war would give a U.S. presidential candidate advantages in the upcoming election by drawing the attention away from the war on terror and the ailing economy. The White House denies that.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The claims, first and foremost, are patently false. But it also sounds like his defense officials who said they believe this to be true are giving him really bad advice.


COSTELLO: Also, today China and several Central Asian nations denied the military actions.

Millions of people from Texas to the Florida Panhandle are on alert as Tropical Storm Gustav heads for the gulf coast. CNN meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers is watching the storm for us.

Chad, where is Gustav right now and what's its projected path?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's right over eastern Jamaica right now. We'll be getting an update in the 5:00 hour. This storm, although it kind of broke itself up last night, moved off of Haiti back into warmer waters south of Haiti, we call that kind of getting a new location for the eye. It's now running over Jamaica. It wasn't supposed to do that. Now heavy rainfall in Jamaica proper.

There is that big turn. See how it moved down almost 100 miles from where it was. It just jumped to down there. And then the forecast is into the Gulf region. I won't say New Orleans, that's the center of the cone, but it's a big cone, from Pensacola all the way to Houston. A lot of people, Carol, think that nobody's left in New Orleans. But still 1.1 million people live in those six parishes around New Orleans. Used to be 1.3 to 1.4 million. There's a lot of people still there.

Then Hannah, this thing popped up today. This is forecast to be a hurricane. That right there, that's Florida. It's making a run at it, but it's going to get pushed down to the south by a big shove from the northeast by some winds and some shear here. Where it goes after that, nobody knows. This is already five days out. Hasn't hit the U.S. yet. Obviously more to come as the week goes on. We have a one- two punch right now. The next one is Ike. And then Josephine after that. I think we could have those by the end of the weekend.

COSTELLO: We'll keep watching. Chad Myers, thank you.

Now let's head back to the home of the Denver Broncos, and Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Carol.

Happening right now here in Denver, there is a security nightmare. You're going to see what it takes to get into a stadium with a presidential candidate. The Democratic Party, the biggest star, 75,000 spectators. We're going to show you how difficult it is to get into the stadium. Makes a trip to the airport look rather easy.

And one of the Republican's most sustained attacks on Barack Obama could still back fire. We've done some digging and turned up plenty of celebrities in their party over the years.

And our first look at the Republican Convention. They're already hard at work crafting the counterattack to everything the Democrats have been trying to do and say this week.

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

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

BLITZER: Amidst all of this, there's another political story that's developing right now. Multiple Republican sources confirming to CNN that John McCain has in fact decided on a running mate. But we don't know yet who that person is.

Let's discuss with John and with Gloria a little bit.

I can only tell you guys one thing, that the governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, had been scheduled to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM right about now. And, suddenly, earlier today, just a few hours ago, we got a call, saying, unfortunately, he can't -- he can't make it right now.

I don't know if that means anything, doesn't mean anything.


BLITZER: But I'm just reporting that to you.

KING: He canceled a couple of other media interviews as well. And I was told he was going to head back home to Minnesota.

That, of course, had started the, "It must be Pawlenty. Earlier today, there was the rumor in the halls of the State Department that it was going to be Colin Powell. I'm told by two sources close to Secretary Powell, absolutely not.

So, Wolf, you have lived this day. As I have been saying all day long, I have lived this day too many times.


KING: We do know John McCain is supposed to make that call, and then also call the others who he considered, sometime today. He's on a plane right now from Phoenix to Ohio, where he has a big rally tomorrow to introduce his running mate.

We have heard Pawlenty. We have heard Romney. We have heard the wild cards, Lieberman and Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania. This is a day where we just keep making phone calls all day long. We will see what happens.

BLITZER: Yes. What do you think?

BORGER: Well, I mean, I'm hearing the same things that John is hearing, and that Dana Bash is hearing.

And friends of -- one friend of Pawlenty hasn't been -- told me he hasn't been able to reach him today. Well, what does that mean?


BORGER: And, so, you know, a cone of silence does develop around someone who's chosen, because they're afraid that it's going to get out, because they have been told that -- that they can't let it out. And it's their first test as a...


BLITZER: And, remember, Joe Biden, uncharacteristic, was silent for weeks.

BORGER: Well, he was told that Thursday night, right?

KING: Yes, about 30 hours.

BORGER: ... until John broke the story, right?


BORGER: But it was that Thursday night. And, so, we were -- we were sort of stunned. But we're working on it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Who's the safer choice, Gloria, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty?

BORGER: I think Mitt Romney is probably the safer choice, although there is a fear that this would look like a ticket of wealthy and wealthier, and that could be a problem.

Pawlenty really does appeal to the conservative base in the party. But -- and he's, by all accounts, been a good governor. But does he pass the commander in chief threshold, when you have a candidate who is 72 years old, today, by the way -- or tomorrow, right, tomorrow?

BLITZER: Pawlenty is about the same age as Barack Obama.

KING: And has a pretty compelling blue-collar story. I think he actually comes from a Democratic family. So, you would think he matches up against Biden. But can he debate Biden in a debate?

And the one thing we should make clear is, there is no evidence to suggest that this election will come down to anything except Barack Obama vs. John McCain.

BLITZER: Correct.

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: But these things do matter.

Again, Obama has been getting pretty good reviews -- and you see some of the polling data -- for making a good, you know, a grownup decision and picking a guy like Joe Biden. The same test applies to McCain. Maybe it's a little different because of his age. But, in the end, it comes down to the two candidates. But there's a buried treasure out there somewhere, Wolf, and we got to go chase it.

BLITZER: All right, go chase. We will be...


BLITZER: We will be waiting, and we will look forward to that.

There's also some developing news in the McCain camp that we're following, among other things. It's the biggest night yet here at the Democratic National Convention. Ahead, Olympic gold medalist -- an Olympic gold medalist recites the Pledge of Allegiance and an Oscar winner sings the national anthem.

They are going to bring to gavel this day four of this -- of this Democratic Convention. We will have it for you live -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Barack Obama getting ready to deliver arguably the most important speech of his life.

Let's discuss what we can expect to hear.

Joining us now is Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

Is he ready? Has he practiced? Are they still tweaking some of those words?




BLITZER: He's ready? He's ready? They're -- but they're still tweaking?

GIBBS: He's ready. He's been practicing. But I anticipate he will tinker around with a couple of words here and there, some phrases, right up until the beginning of the speech.

BLITZER: Give us a little preview of what our viewers around the world can expect.

GIBBS: Sure.

I think, tonight, he will do three things. I think he will retell his American story and how he lived the American dream. And I think, secondly, he will talk about the vision he has for this country and where he wants to take it, how are we going to create millions of new jobs, how are we going to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, how are we going to make health care more affordable, and repair our relationships in the world.

And I think, finally, he will put in front of the American people the choice in this election. With Barack Obama, you will get the change that this country needs. With John McCain, you will get, quite frankly, more of the same George Bush policies that we have had for the last eight years for the next four. And, quite frankly, that's a direction we can't afford to take the country...


BLITZER: So, will he be hammering away at John McCain?

GIBBS: Senator McCain will be mentioned in the speech.

BLITZER: By name?

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Whenever he mentions him, he always first praises him, his heroic service in the military. Then he goes on to slam him a little bit.

GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, everybody is respectful of Senator McCain's heroic service to this country. Senator Obama mentions it wherever he goes. And he will mention it again tonight.

BLITZER: All right.

So, then walk us out after this speech. He then goes out on the campaign trail. He's going to be focusing in on, what, about a dozen states right now that are the key battleground states?


GIBBS: Right now, the McCain campaign is focusing on 11. We're focusing on 18, because we, quite frankly, just see a broader map.

We will spend the next few days in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But, soon, again, we will be back down to Virginia and North Carolina and Florida, out West, Montana, where we were just a couple of days ago.

BLITZER: How aggressive will you get if there's -- what occurred in 2004, the so-called swift-boating, if it really starts to go hard, trying to undermine Barack Obama?

GIBBS: Look, we think that we have to change the tone of our politics to get anything done in Washington, to get anything done both in this campaign and afterwards.

But I can assure you that we will not hesitate to swing back, and swing back hard, when malicious lies go on television that say anything about our candidate's character that just simply isn't true.

BLITZER: Robert Gibbs, we will be speaking a lot. Thanks very much.

GIBBS: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming over.

And we're only minutes away from the start of today's session of the Democratic National Convention. You will see it live here, that gavel going down. They will be performing "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Pledge of Allegiance. We will have all of it for you. That's just the beginning of what's going to be a very historic night.

And our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has some of the wild stories of what people are doing online to try to get tickets to Invesco Field here at Mile High Stadium.

Plus, our "Strategy Session" for Barack Obama's historic address, how does he connect with a stadium full of people and millions of voters at home? One Democrat who apparently won't be here tonight is Bill Clinton. I will ask Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett if that's good or bad for Barack Obama.

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


BLITZER: Believe it or not, people online are still scrambling to try to get their hands on some of those free passes to tonight's event here at Invesco Field.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She is watching the story for us.

Abbi, what are these folks doing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the ticket that everyone wants to get ahold of. And people online have been getting desperate.

Take a look around the Denver's version of craigslist today, and you will see people offering a hundred or hundreds of dollars to get their hands on one of these free credentials. Those that don't have money are offering anything else they can. "Stay in my house if you have got a ticket to barter," or this woman saying, "Professional massage therapy, $500 worth, in return for two tickets, just so I can get into Invesco Field."

My favorite here -- this person actually got tickets -- or two short people, they want a periscope, so they can actually see the speech. You will see very few posts of people who actually have tickets to sell, some of them for crazy prices. Remember, these credentials were given out free. About 80,000 people are going to be there. But 100,000 people requested a ticket in just the first 48 hours. Convention officials have said they have been clamping down on some of these online sellers.

They warn that, if they see tickets online, they can deactivate the bar code associated with it. So, the person may not be able to get in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, a desperate attempt to get into this field. All right, thanks very much.

We're already here at Invesco Field. And our skycam is showing us some dramatic pictures. You're going to be seeing this sky cam throughout this coverage here on CNN of what's going on. Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech before a crowd of about 75,000 inside this stadium, millions more at home.

But will the McCain team try to turn tonight's event into a campaign issue? Paul Begala, Leslie Sanchez, they're standing by.

And we will also go live to New Orleans and check in with CNN's Sean Callebs to see how the Big Easy is preparing for Tropical Storm Gustav.

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


BLITZER: Let's get back to our "Strategy Session" right -- right now.

Joining us, our Democratic strategist Paul Begala and our Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

What do you think, first of all, Paul, about -- about this decision to move here, to -- 75,000, 80,000 people that are going to be packing this stadium -- as opposed to just spending day four winding it up at the much smaller, more intimate 20,000 -- I mean, 20,000-seat arena?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a risk. It's audacious. It's Obama, right?

This is a guy who he didn't have a chance getting into this race, right? He was taking on my friend Hillary Clinton, the best brand in politics, the best fund-raiser. And he did it. All the smart guys told him not to do it. So, I like a guy who's a risk-taker.

It's also an organizational tool. Colorado is a swing state. People, as Abbi reported, are fighting and trying to bribe each other to get tickets to come in here to see a politician give a speech. That's fantastic.

If he can swing Colorado, he also, third, makes the argument I want to open things up, right? This is not a smoke-filled room with 72,000 people here. And I hope that the Republican criticism doesn't get in his head.

They're essentially saying, "Don't give too good a speech, Barack." You know, he does need to bring it down and basically talk to a family in the living room in Parma, Ohio, a middle class family here. But, at the same time, there's nothing wrong with a politician who can move our hearts. Look at JFK or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton.

BLITZER: Leslie, could John McCain do what Barack Obama is doing tonight, get a stadium with 75,000, 80,000 people, for the final day of his convention and fill it?


And I don't think John McCain is really trying to do that. I think there's a big difference between celebrity and leadership. I mean, there's no doubt that there's very few people in the world that could command an audience like this. It's very impressive. The United States loves great orators and people that inspire and that have charisma. No one takes that away. It's, is this gentleman qualified to be essentially the CEO of the United States? He's never run a company. It goes back to those things.

But, in terms of presentation, Paul is right. It's intimacy. It's talking not so much to the people that love you, because anybody who comes here has pretty much decided. It's the people that don't know you.

BLITZER: The people who watch on television are much more important. The millions, tens of millions...

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... of those folks are much more important to this race than those who have gathered inside here.

SANCHEZ: There's an interesting point about his personality.

Last night, he did -- he went on stage. He surprised Biden. He didn't have to speak. He could have just stayed there, had the euphoric moment. But he can't resist an opportunity to be with a crowd and be with an audience.



SANCHEZ: No, a lot of people speak to that.

BEGALA: Now, no politician ever misses a chance to speak to a roomful of people who love them.


BEGALA: But what Obama has -- this will be his challenge, to bring it down, to make it intimate, even as he's exhorting...


BLITZER: Has this been a successful convention?

BEGALA: You know, we will know better after tonight, Wolf. I still...

BLITZER: When the polls -- to see how much of a bounce he gets?

BEGALA: Not just polls, but will every Democrat walk out of here with a 30-second speech they can tell in the elevator at work going down from the eighth floor to the lobby, here's why I'm for Barack Obama?

So far, no. They have not been sufficiently negative on McCain for me. They have not mentioned George Bush enough for me. But, you know, Barack can't carry all that himself. Joe Biden did some. Brian Schweitzer did some. The president and Hillary did some. But he's going to have to do some...


BLITZER: We're told, Leslie, that John McCain has decided on his running mate. We don't know who it is yet. We don't even know if the running mate knows who it is yet.


BLITZER: But, by all accounts, Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, Mitt Romney, maybe Joe Lieberman, they're all finalists. What do you think?

SANCHEZ: I think they're all strong candidates. I think one test -- you just asked if you're going to know if this is a successful convention -- is if the Republicans have to change anything in their convention.

I think, you look at the Joe Biden -- you know, good pick for them. It's not making John McCain react in any way. I don't think that it's changed the dynamic of what we're looking for next week.

But I think, if you look at candidates, Pawlenty, very strong, seasoned on the economy. But I'm interested also in Mitt Romney. He's somebody, people forget, in Iowa, he had a ground game operation.

BLITZER: Who scares you the most?

SANCHEZ: He had an operation before anybody else.

BEGALA: Tom Ridge.

SANCHEZ: Tom Ridge.

BEGALA: Tom Ridge scares me the most. I think McCain wants him...

BLITZER: Because of Pennsylvania?

BEGALA: He could carry Pennsylvania, which, if that happens, very hard for Barack Obama to win. But he's pro-choice. McCain doesn't have the guts to stand up to the base of his party.


SANCHEZ: ... the conservatives.


BLITZER: Guys, guys, don't go away, because we have got a good night ahead of us.


BLITZER: Next week's Republican Convention, by the way, may be missing one of the party's biggest names. You're going to find out why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to skip the convention, even though he's scheduled to be a major speaker.

And with only hours to go before his acceptance speech, Barack Obama must be under tremendous pressure. We will speak about that and a lot more.

That's coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a great night for kissing connoisseurs. There were tender husband-wife moments, tender father-son moments.


MOOS: Tender mother and son moments. Tender...


MOOS: Wait a minute. Was that a little too tender? Already, YouTubers are jazzing up versions of Barack Obama kissing his running mate's wife, Jill, on the mouth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle cannot be happy about this.

MOOS: Oh, come on. Michelle is mouthing "I love you" to her guy.

This happened once before, when Obama announced Biden would be his running mate. This is no Al Gore lip-lock. Maybe it was just poor aiming. Obama gives most women a peck on the cheek. Why get touchy about this, when they all seem to be touchy-feely types?


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



BLITZER: In our "Political Ticker" right now: Republicans could have a huge hole to fill in their convention opening night schedule. The California Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is supposed to speak, but he may be a no-show. Schwarzenegger vows to skip the convention to stay in California if battling lawmakers can't agree on a state budget that's now two months overdue. Schwarzenegger says, resolving the problem is more important than speaking at his party's convention.

And, remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out

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

CAFFERTY: Imagine that, an officeholder who puts his job first. That's a rare breed.

The question this hour: Did the Clintons deliver for Barack Obama?

Brian in Kingston, New York, writes: "I have been an Obama supporter throughout the campaign. Bill and Hillary reminded me this week why I liked them so much before the primaries. I don't know how persuasive they were to the hard-core Hillary holdouts, but they certainly redeemed themselves in my eyes."

Mary in Michigan says: "Being from the battleground state of Michigan, I know no one generates more enthusiastic crowds than Bill Clinton when he visits Detroit and the metro area. With Bill and Hillary on board, it ought to be a slam-dunk for Obama. If Obama loses this election, it will definitely not be the fault of the Clintons. The division in the Democratic Party has been created by" -- you ready? -- "the news media and the hierarchy of the party."

Ted in Oregon says: "They delivered like the post office, compared to overnight FedEx, but they eventually did their jobs. Why did they need so much arm-twisting to get things done for their own party? I was ready for unity on day one of the convention, not when the Clintons decided to stop whining."

Gail in Alabama says "The Clintons have done what was expected of them, and they have done a darn good job. It's now up to Obama to close the deal. There is not a thing he can say to get my vote. It's just not going to happen. I can't vote for a community organizer, someone with the judgment he has, plus no experience. I'm not willing to take that risk."

Bill in Pennsylvania says: "I think there's nothing more the Clintons could have done for party unity than the speeches they have given the last two nights. By the way, I am now going to the shed and get out my snow shovels out. You had nice things to say about the Clintons two days in a row."

And Kevin in Massachusetts says: "I really don't know. I couldn't bring myself to watch. Hannah Montana was on the Disney Channel."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: the stage now set for an historic night -- Barack Obama only a few hours away from becoming the first African-American to accept a major party nomination for president of the United States. But attention will soon shift to the Republicans as well. We could soon be learning who John McCain has picked for his running mate, possibly even before this night is over.