At DNC, Obama Must Show 'Roadmap To Future'

Weekend Edition Sunday guest host Linda Wertheimer speaks with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell about the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Rendell is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Heading into this year's convention, the Democratic Party is not better off now than it was four years ago. At the 2008 Democratic gathering in Denver, then-Senator Barack Obama made his pitch to a hopeful electorate more than ready for political change. This week, he and his fellow Democrats have to make their case to voters tired of a bad economy and not especially hopeful about change coming from politics and politicians of either party. So, what should the Democrats do? We're joined by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. He's also a former chairman of the Democratic Party, and therefore has chaired a democratic convention. He's on the line from Philadelphia. Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

FORMER GOVERNOR ED RENDELL: My pleasure, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: You've obviously been to your fair share of conventions. What is the biggest thing the Democrats need to do in Charlotte?

RENDELL: I think we need to do three things. Number one, I think the president has to convey to the American people that he knows how difficult the challenges they're facing are. No one can do like Bill Clinton - I feel your pain - but he's got to convey to them that he understands that the rough times that many of Americans are going through and that it's all consumes his, literally, every thought - and I know that it does. That's number one. Number two, a Although it is true that many Americans are not better off than where they were three and a half years ago - although I would make the case that some are - he's got to make the case that the country, the nation, is better off than it was three and a half years ago when he took the oath of office. Now, of course, the president has to make clear that we know that it's not good enough but that the improvement has been significant. And then thirdly, he has to lay out his road map for the future. And if he can do all those three things, he'll come out of Charlotte in good position to win the election.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think, though, that a convention is a good place to accomplish something like that, even just to hold on to the American people's attention long enough to explain that to them?

RENDELL: Well, I do think that the American people listen and there are usually three speeches that matter - the keynote, the vice presidential speech and the presidential speech. And, obviously, of all of those, the presidential speech is the most important. So, I do think that the American people, I think they watch one hour of the convention, they watch the three debates and that's what they watch, basically, the American people.

WERTHEIMER: Do you like going to conventions?

RENDELL: Yeah, I do. You know, there's a lot of talk about get rid of conventions, they don't serve a purpose anymore. But I do think they serve a purpose for the party regulars. They're the ones who in the next 10 weeks will carry the fight to door-to-door campaigning, will carry the fight to rallies. And for them, the convention is like taking three days' worth of five-hour energy drinks. It sort of recharges their batteries, number one, and gets them ready for the arduous fall campaign. And number two, there's something very American about Pennsylvanian Democrats meeting and talking to Washington State Democrats or Oregon Democrats or Alabama Democrats. So, I would never get rid of conventions. I think they serve a very salutary purpose.

WERTHEIMER: So, is there any part of you that actually would like to be running the show, as you did in - was it Los Angeles in 2000, right?

RENDELL: Pretty much every waking moment and sometimes in my dreams, yeah, absolutely. The toughest thing for me is I've run things for so long. I've been a chief executive in politics for about 33, 34 years. And now I'm enjoying my life but I don't feel like I'm running anything or really doing any substantive to get things done, to get people to work, to improve our kids' educations. So, after doing what I've done for so long, it's hard and you do miss it.

WERTHEIMER: Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, joining us on the line from Philadelphia. Governor Rendell, thank you very much.

RENDELL: Well, our pleasure. And I hope it's a good convention, and I hope Americans pay attention as we wind down towards Election Day.

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