Will Clinton's Speech Help Obama Win Votes?

Hillary Clinton is urging all of her supporters to get behind Barack Obama. In a prime-time speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton told the delegates, "No way, no how, no McCain." That line drew applause from Obama, who was watching with supporters in Montana.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. We haven't heard from Barack Obama or even Joe Biden, but to some political reporters, the key moment of the Democratic convention may already have happened. NPR's Juan Williams was watching it last night in Denver. He's on the line to talk about Hillary Clinton's speech last night in support of Obama. Juan, good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So I'm looking here online at the trusty tabloid, the London Sun. And they've chosen possibly the least flattering photograph imaginable of Hillary Clinton, but even here you have incredible energy. You have a real sense of an energized former candidate. Was she on target in trying to show her support for Obama?

WILLIAMS: Oh, I think she did. You know, I think she did it right from the start, too, Steve. She started off by saying, you know, she's a proud Democrat, she's a proud American and she's a proud Obama supporter. So she didn't have anybody waiting. She didn't go through the story of her campaign before she made it explicit that she's there to support Barack Obama.

It was a 23-minute speech, and I just thought she really nailed it in terms of going after McCain as well, said that McCain, the senator - who's the presumptive nominee - is her friend. But then she added no way, no how, no McCain and said, you know, the Republicans are having their convention in the Twin Cities - no surprise because McCain and President Bush, with his low approval ratings, should be twins. And so I think it was, for her, a real effort, and I think studied effort, to make it clear to her supporters who were - I'm telling you, they were pumped up last night, Steve, the hall was really buzzing - to make it clear to them that, you know, she's for Barack Obama.

INSKEEP: Although you've got thousands of pundits watching you in a moment like this, whoever you are, and they're looking for any tiny sign that you're not sincere about this. Did anybody pick out any tiny sign of that?

WILLIAMS: Oh, you know, we have a draft of the speech. And I might say, by the way, that the Obama people didn't get a draft of this speech, and they were a little upset about that.

At the last minute, all kinds of changes were being made by the Clinton team. But, you know, there were some points where she didn't express, as it was in the text, that support for Obama, but then other times, when she came back and inserted her own words about the need to support Obama.

So, no, I don't think that anything jumps out where people - some people were talking about the body language, but it looked to me like she was thoroughly in it and really - she didn't slow down so much on the support Obama as she did slow down and emphasize with emotion, grow even somewhat misty-eyed about talking about her own campaign.

INSKEEP: Of course, the bigger question is whether Hillary Clinton voters, supporters out in the countryside, are going to be energized for Obama or stay home or vote for McCain, as some are telling pollsters they will.

WILLIAMS: Well, that's right. I mean, it's an astounding number. Different polls have different results, but basically, what you're seeing is about 20 percent or so of people who voted for Clinton are not committed to voting for Senator Obama and especially among women. And I think women feel a special connection to Hillary Clinton, and in some cases feel that they, you know, the Obama team, dismissed her too cavalierly and didn't respect the fact that she got 18 million votes.

I might add that, you know, just around the hall, when I'm talking to Clinton supporters, they point out that her team has raised millions, $4 million, for the Obama team, while the Obama team - which promised to help her retire some of her debt - has done a really small job, about $400,000. And again, there's lots of these grievances all around, but it looks good to me in terms of what she has done right now because she has her own political future to protect.

INSKEEP: Juan Williams, very briefly, is Bill Clinton's speech now tonight almost as important as Hillary's was last night?

WILLIAMS: It's going to be watched more closely, Steve. You made the point about people looking. I think the sense is from people close to the former president that he really doesn't like Barack Obama and feels that Barack Obama has not acknowledged his time in the White House, his service to the country, even that he may have called him a racist in some ways. So that's going to be watched closely.

INSKEEP: Juan, thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: Always a pleasure to talk with you. NPR news analyst Juan Williams, speaking with us from Denver.

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Clinton: 'Barack Obama Is My Candidate'

Audio Highlights

Read transcripts and hear the audio from some of Tuesday night's key speeches:

Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center. i i

Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center, where Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption John Moore/Getty Images
Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center.

Sen. Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea check out the setup at the Pepsi Center, where Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night.

John Moore/Getty Images
A protester holds up a Hillary sign and a rubber mask of Hillary Clinton. i i

Outside the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, it was obvious Hillary Clinton still has plenty of loyal supporters. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
A protester holds up a Hillary sign and a rubber mask of Hillary Clinton.

Outside the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, it was obvious Hillary Clinton still has plenty of loyal supporters.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned plea for party unity in a forceful address to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, declaring, "Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our president."

Clinton, who narrowly lost the race for the Democratic nomination to Obama, delivered her anxiously awaited speech before a packed house at the Pepsi Center in Denver, jokingly giving her thanks "to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" while wearing an orange pantsuit.

But she also challenged her supporters, many of whom have been reluctant to transfer their allegiance to Obama. "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or ... were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"

Clinton called presumptive Republican nominee John McCain a colleague and friend but said the nation doesn't "need four more years of the last eight years." She said it made sense that McCain and George Bush would be together for next week's Republican convention "in the Twin Cities, because they're awfully hard to tell apart."

'Psychological Release'

Clinton was given an extended ovation before and after her address. And at least some of her supporters were mollified by her remarks.

"I feel psychologically released," said Clinton delegate Deborah Hauser of New Haven, Conn. "She reminded me I didn't vote just for Hilary but for progressive ideals."

Fellow Connecticut delegate Jennifer Just, an Obama supporter, said Clinton "did what she needed to do" in rallying her supporters behind Obama.

Obama may have thought so as well. He reportedly called Clinton after her speech to congratulate her.

Earlier in the night, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who's now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, delivered a keynote speech focused on economic themes.

"The most important contest of our generation has begun — not the campaign for the presidency or the campaign for Congress, but the race for the future," he said, adding that electing Obama president is the nation's "one shot to get it right."

Warner said that race won't be won "by a president who is stuck in the past." He said the nation needs "a president who understands the world today. We need Barack Obama as the next president of the United States."

'Wake Up, America.' Unleashing Attacks On McCain

But most of Warner's remarks were devoid of the sort of partisanship that characterized many of the Democrats' speeches on the convention's second day, and more in tune with the post-partisan approach that Obama has embraced.

"I know we're at the Democratic National Convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn't matter if it has an 'R' or 'D' next to it," Warner said.

Several of the nation's Democratic governors were given prime-time opportunities to address the convention. Ohio's Ted Strickland, a Clinton supporter during the primary, said, "It's time for a president who will bring our jobs back and bring our troops home. It's time for Barack Obama."

While there was some consternation among Democratic pundits that there weren't enough attacks on McCain's record in Monday's opening session of the convention, most Democrats seemed to shake off any hesitation on Tuesday. Speaker after speaker tied McCain to the unpopular presidency of George Bush.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a staunch Clinton backer during the primary season, targeted the high cost of gasoline and said the Bush administration "stonewalled taxing energy company profits. Guess who voted with the Bush administration 90 percent of the time? John McCain."

Rendell noted that many of McCain's top advisers work as lobbyists for oil and gas companies, and said, "The only thing green in John McCain's energy plans are the billions of dollars he's promising in more tax cuts to oil companies."

Ohio congressman and one-time presidential contender Dennis Kucinich delivered a populist-tinged speech that had many delegates on their feet. "They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children's inheritance and hollow out the economy. We cannot afford another Republican administration. Wake up, America."

How Will The Roll Call Play Out?

Wednesday may provide a clearer picture of the extent of unity among Democratic delegates as the roll call of the states is held. A traditional convention staple, the roll call has been the subject of delicate negotiations between the Obama campaign and Clinton backers.

Obama's supporters want to avoid a noisy and potentially divisive demonstration of support for Clinton, while supporters of Clinton say the roll call will provide the "catharsis" they deserve. The compromise appears to be to allow the roll call to proceed until after the New York delegation casts its votes. At that time, Clinton would end the proceedings and call for Obama to be nominated by acclamation.

The highlight of Wednesday night will be the speech by Obama's new running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. Biden, notoriously loquacious, may be hard-pressed to limit his remarks to the prime-time window allotted by the TV networks.

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