GOP Delegates Hope McCain Addresses Economy
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Much of what happens at a political convention is aimed at galvanizing the faithful - the delegates. But the acceptance speeches are aimed at a bigger audience - the national audience that's tuning in. Last night, Sarah Palin accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination; and tonight, the marquee event: John McCain makes his speech.
Our co-host Robert Siegel has been asking Republicans in St. Paul what they hope to hear from McCain. Today, he went to the delegation from one critical state where the latest poll show a dead heat - Ohio.
ROBERT SIEGEL: Republicans figure: Win Ohio, win the White House. And in the past two presidential elections, they did. But 2006 was a disaster for the Ohio GOP, they lost the governorship and they lost a U.S. Senate seat. After Senator Mark DeWine was defeated by Democrat Sherrod Brown, DeWine returned to Ohio to chair the McCain campaign.
And this morning, he told the delegates that the set up of the convention floor tonight will be different from previous nights.
Mr. MIKE DeWINE (Former Republican Senator, Ohio): Everything is changed. When you walk in there, don't get alarmed when you can't find your seat. It's there, we're still in good shape, but it is to have this conversation. You'll see John McCain talking to the American people about what his vision is for the future of this country. And I think it's going to also be a magnificent night. I want to thank all of you for what you've done. Maybe you signed up…
SIEGEL: The stage is being set to contrast with Barack Obama's Denver speech rather than compete with it. This will be a conversation. As to what McCain should actually say?
Mr. DeWINE: I think what John McCain will say is this is a new presidency. They want someone who says, look, we're all Americans. And I have a proven record of being able to bring people together.
SIEGEL: It's about his capacity to lead more so than a particular program or a phrase one could place on a new approach that will address our economy.
Mr. DeWINE: I think what people will understand during the course of this campaign is that John McCain is just a different guy.
SIEGEL: A brief digression about Mike DeWine. Last year, after he had taken up the McCain banner in Ohio, the national campaign famously faltered and laid off staff. DeWine says he had trouble recruiting candidates to be McCain delegates, so he dipped in to his reserve.
Ms. FRAN DeWINE: I'm Fran DeWine, Mike DeWine's wife of 41 years, and I am a delegate for John McCain.
Ms. KATHY HOLCOMBE: I'm Kathy Holcombe from Worthington, Ohio. I'm Fran's sister, and I'm a delegate.
Mr. BILL DARLING: Bill Darling. I'm also from Worthington, the senator's son-in-law, and I'm a delegate.
Ms. ANNA DeWINE: I'm Anna DeWine. I'm Mike DeWine's youngest daughter, and I'm 16, so I'm not a delegate.
MS. ALICE DeWINE: I'm Alice DeWine. I'm Mike and Fran's daughter. I'm a delegate from Ada, Ohio.
Ms. ISABEL DARLING: I'm Isabel Darling. I'm Mike DeWine's granddaughter, and I'm 12, so I'm not a delegate.
Mr. KEN STRUEWING: I'm Ken Struewing, and I'm Fran DeWine's brother. And I am a delegate.
SIEGEL: And anybody absent and not appearing this morning whom we should be hearing from?
Mr. DeWINE: Well, we have a lot who are absent, but we probably don't have time to go through all of them.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: I asked some non-DeWine Ohio delegates what they hope or expect tonight. Ben Rose is a local Republican leader from Lima, Ohio.
Mr. BEN ROSE: Well, I think, first of all, he's going to talk to voters and not us.
SIEGEL: You're the set here, you're the backdrop, the people in the conventions…
Mr. ROSE: That's exactly right.
SIEGEL: And what does he say on this speech, do you think, that connects with voters and that gives him a win?
Mr. ROSE: He has to say that he's more than a Republican, which he is. And he has to say that he's a change agent, a reformer. He has to remind people that this is a dangerous world; and he's qualified from day one to handle national security issues; and he has to bring home the people, which I think he can clearly bring home; that he cares about the individual economic plight of American workers; and he'll do that.
SIEGEL: Economic concerns were very much on the minds of these two members of the Ohio delegation - Mary Anne Christie, the former mayor of Madeira, Ohio, near Cincinnati; and Marilyn Clark(ph), a party leader from North Columbus.
Ms. MARY ANNE CHRISTIE (Former Republican Mayor, Madeira, Ohio); I think John McCain has to come on that floor and, you know, talk about how he is going to provide security for all of us and provide a stop to spending, so that we can reduce taxes, so we can afford to live in this country. We're slowly becoming a second and third-rate country.
SIEGEL: I'm seeing your fellow delegates nodding. Marilyn Clark, you agree?
Ms. MARILYN CLARK: Yes, I agree with Mary Anne 100 percent. There's a lot more to change. If change is not for the better and it's not going to benefit the public and people who are suffering, then it's no real good change.
SIEGEL: But if I hear the both of you right, he should acknowledge that people are hurting right now.
Ms. CHRISTIE: Definitely. We all are hurting. You know, and I have, you know, ample money, but I still feel the pinch. I mean, I feel like I buy my car every time I go to the, like, gas pump.
SIEGEL: And that's the challenge for John McCain tonight: to go beyond biography and issues of national security, and connect with people who feel financially strapped today and very anxious about tomorrow.
From the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, this is Robert Siegel.