McCain VP Pick May Steal Obama Thunder

Barack Obama's speech is expected to focus on where he comes from, what he's going to fight for, what he means by change and how he's different from John McCain. But McCain hopes to steal Obama's thunder with an announcement of his vice presidential pick.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

After three nights of political hoopla and speeches, tonight Barack Obama finally takes the stage to accept the Democratic presidential nomination. The stage is a new one. It's Invesco Field at Mile High. It's the football stadium where Denver's football team, the Broncos, play.

And Senator Obama's speech comes on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech. We'll hear more about that anniversary in a few minutes, and we'll hear what some of the people in Denver hope their candidate will say tonight.

BLOCK: Also, there's soon to be news on the Republican front. John McCain is expected to appear tomorrow at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, with his pick for vice president.

NPR's Mara Liasson joins us from Invesco Field in Denver to talk about both these events.

And Mara, let's talk first about the Democrats. You're there at Invesco Field. What's expected tonight? Barack Obama wowed the crowd four years ago.

MARA LIASSON: He did. And Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that Obama has four goals tonight. He wants to tell people where he comes from, who he's going to fight for, what his change means, and he wants to make a contrast with McCain.

And Obama himself has said that tonight's speech is going to be a lot more workman-like and less lofty rhetoric than people are used to hearing from him. He clearly wants to say in very concrete terms how he's going to help middle class families who are struggling economically.

The Obama campaign is also trying to do something to make this very grand venue more intimate. I'm on the floor or the field of the stadium right now, and I'm looking at the set they built. It's kind of a faux Greco-Roman colonnade. It looks like one of those restaurants in Las Vegas. I'm sure it looks great on TV.

But they have been thinking about how to make it seem like he is with ordinary people instead of just a lone gladiator with a huge adoring crowd.

BLOCK: And the expectation would be that coming out of the convention, Barack Obama should get a substantial lift in the polls.

LIASSON: Well, he's already gotten one. The Gallup's tracking poll today shows that he is 48 to 42 above McCain. And don't forget, he came in to this convention in the Gallup tracking poll with McCain ahead by one, so he had gotten no bump from his announcement of Joe Biden as the vice president.

Most national polls, he's still running neck-and-neck. But in the electoral map, it is now the closest it's been since early June. Obama still has about 260 electoral votes based on state polling. McCain has 221. That's pretty good shape for a Democrat.

And I should say there is this silly game that goes on with expectations and polls. The McCain campaign put out a press release where they said we expect Obama to get a 15-point bounce out of Denver, and that of course is ridiculous.

BLOCK: Well, John McCain is coming right up on Barack Obama's heels now with this vice presidential announcement. And there's some speculation it could come out before tomorrow and then steal some thunder. What are you hearing about that?

LIASSON: Well, stealing thunder is the McCain's modus operandi this week. He's been very adept tactically at not seeding the spotlight to Obama. He's released ads during this convention, throwing back Hillary Clinton's words against Obama in the primary. Tonight he's going to air an ad right during Obama's speech where he speaks directly to the camera addressing Obama himself.

And I think the vice presidential announcement tomorrow, and possibly a leak of it tonight, is more of the same. The two finalists seem to be Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, and Mitt Romney, of course McCain's rival in the primaries. And those are two very different directions.

I mean, you've got McCain - you've got Romney, who of course has a lot of experience; might measure up well against Biden in a debate. On the other hand, he probably has a lot of houses.

BLOCK: Yes.

LIASSON: And maybe Pawlenty with working class roots, and he's talked about how important it is to appeal to Sam's Club Republicans, not just country Republicans, would be a better choice, I don't know.

BLOCK: Mara, looking ahead briefly to St. Paul, what are you expecting next week from the Republicans?

LIASSON: I am expecting what the Republicans always do. They come out with a message. They deliver it with a sledgehammer. It's relentless. It's efficient. It's disciplined. They get their message out on the first day and they hammer it home, day after day after day. That is what I expect them to do. They've done it in the past and they'll probably do it again.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Mara Liasson at Invesco Field in Denver.

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