DNC Delegates Weigh In On What Obama Should Say

Audie Cornish talks with various people attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., about what they think President Obama needs to say in his speech Thursday night.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish at the Democratic National Convention.

Finally, it's President Obama's turn, a chance to make the case for a second term. It's been four years since the president spoke passionately about hope and change before a packed stadium in Denver. Tonight, due to concerns about the weather, it will be a much smaller venue. And after four years in office, his words will likely strike a different tone.

So what do Democrats want to hear from their president? Here in Charlotte, we put that question to delegates and congressional leaders.

REPRESENTATIVE EMANUEL CLEAVER: He needs to say in some fashion that I have not been operating these last four years with a speedometer. I've been operating with a compass. And it's better to go in the right direction than to go in the wrong direction fast.

KATE COOP: I think he needs to talk about the economy and how he's going to, you know, create jobs. I also think that he needs to remind Pennsylvania that he didn't come into this election, you know, with a perfect economy.

SENATOR NANCY PELOSI: I would like to see him make it very clear to people when they say are you better off than you were four years ago, that four years ago, our country was on the brink of a depression.

SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think he needs to remind people of how challenging things were and the progress that we've made.

ANDY FORD: Well, I think he needs to really talk about his accomplishments and do some bragging on all the things that he's done well during the last four years.

CLEAVER: The president needs to remind people about Ledbetter. I think he needs to remind them of Don't Ask Don't Tell. He needs to remind them that it was this administration that sought to do something that every president has done since Harry Truman, and that is try to deal with this escalating cost of health care.

CORNISH: That's Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Florida Delegate Andy Ford, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and Pennsylvania Delegate Kate Coop.

Others we spoke with said they want the president to elaborate on the issues they care about. Here's Nebraska State Senator Steve Lathrop.

STATE SENATOR STEVE LATHROP: I think he's got a case to make and can make it to the American people, the difference between his vision and the Ryan-Romney vision on Medicare and on tax policy, moving the middle class forward.

RON WIMPLE: Protecting middle class and the retirement for the seniors.

KULJEET SINGH NIJJER: Economy, safety, health issues, women's rights.

COOP: I also think he needs, for at least women voters, I think he needs to remind them that truly Roe v. Wade could be reversed. And it's not set in stone that we have that right.

CORNISH: We heard there again from Kate Coop, California delegate Kuljeet Singh Nijjer, and Ron Wimple, a delegate from Michigan.

Still, others here are hoping for a more personal message from President Obama.

GLORIA BATTLE: My name is Gloria Battle, and I'm from Deerfield Beach, Florida. I want to hear a speech that speaks of inclusiveness. And I want him to bring that out more and more, letting us know that it does not matter whether you're black, white, red, or purple, as far as I'm concerned. We all have needs. We all have things that other people can help us with. It is something that I don't get from the - or that I haven't gotten from the Republican Party.

CORNISH: And Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says President Obama needs to focus on trust.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN: I think the case he has to make is that when you vote, you're voting for the next four years, and I'm the one you can trust to fight for the middle class of America, to rescue it, restore it and rebuild it.

CORNISH: What does he have to do to draw in maybe some of those white working-class voters that he has a deficit with in the polling?

HARKIN: Well, those white working-class voters are middle-class voters. And I think what he has to point out to them is that, look, under economic plan that I have put forward, we are making progress. So I think that's the case he has to make. But I think more than anything else, people vote for someone they like, and I believe that Obama will comes across as more likeable.

CORNISH: Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and other Democrats with advice for President Obama on tonight's address.

SIEGEL: That's my co-host Audie Cornish reporting from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

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