CHERYL CORLEY, host:
I'm Cheryl Corley, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin is in Denver this week covering the Democratic National Convention. Just ahead, all politicians say they support the American family, but we find out which leaders actually put that into practice in their offices. That's next in our Mocha Moms segment.
But first, the Democratic National Convention officially opened last night with emotional addresses from lawmakers and family members of the presumptive presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama. And as I mentioned, Michel Martin is at the convention, and she joins us now for an update. Hi, Michel.
MICHEL MARTIN: Hi, Cheryl.
CORLEY: Well, you were on the floor talking with the members of the Congress and delegates to the convention. What are they saying out there in Denver?
MARTIN: Well, it depends on who you talk to. If you talk to some of the many first-time delegates here, particularly people who got involved in the process in part because they were so excited about Barack Obama or if it is just their first time at the convention, a lot of excitement, as you might imagine, a lot of sort of the giddiness of the experience taking it all in.
But if you talked to a lot of the experienced legislators and, interestingly to me, people who both were long-time supporters of Obama and supporters of Senator Clinton. I sensed there was an underlying anxiety. If you look at the polls over the course of the week leading up to the convention, the race has tightened considerably. The Obama lead has been cut really to within a margin of error in most polls.
In part, that was probably due the fact that the Obamas took a vacation in preparation for the convention and the fall campaign while McCain was still out on the stump. And there was also an aggressive series of ads taking on Obama, so that probably has something to do with it. But there is a sense of anxiety about it.
This is going to be a hard road in the fall. This is not going to be sort of an easy ride, and there was some concern that the campaign, the Obama campaign, has not reached out as much as some of the experienced legislators would have liked to them. And you could attribute that to whatever you want, ego, the fact that this was an insurgency campaign or whatever. But I just think that there is a sense that this really is a fight, and everybody's got to be prepared for the fight in the fall.
CORLEY: Well, I want to talk about a couple of the speeches that took place last night. Of course, there was videotaped tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy, who's battling brain cancer. And he wasn't expected to be there. He did come. So tell us about the moment when he took the stage and about his speech?
MARTIN: Clearly, the emotional high point of the evening. Obviously, there was a lot of anticipation about Michelle Obama's speech. But when Ted Kennedy took the stage, it was really hard to describe. I had actually just come off the floor for a minute, and I saw everybody running to the video screens. There were video screens set up all along the perimeter of the arena, so that the folks who cannot get on the floor can keep with going on in.
And literally, people were running to these screens and crowding around them, including all the volunteers. And so, of course, when I got back out there, the energy was - I mean, it's such a cliche, but electric. There's no other word for it. And people were all on their feet - there was not one person sitting down - and hanging on every word.
And I think that there was, of course, so much respect for the courage it took, the strength that it took to get there, particularly when you're battling something as serious as he is. But also, I think that there was an appreciation of what he was trying to accomplish. He was making it very clear that the Barack Obama's candidacy is extremely important to him, and that he wanted to do everything he could to support him.
CORLEY: Well, of course, Senator Obama's wife, Michelle, gave the keynote address for opening night, talked about her family and the country. What was she trying to accomplish with the speech?
MARTIN: Well, the whole evening was really about reintroducing Barack Obama to the public, despite the fact that he's had, you know, enormous crowds throughout the campaign season, I mean, just huge crowds, record setting crowds. The fact that he's not as well-known, the polls reflect the fact that he's not as well-known as either of some of his primary contenders or Senator John McCain.
So last night was about sort of fleshing out the picture of Barack Obama. Who is this person really? Who is he at his core? And the spouse is often central to setting that picture or painting that picture. Michelle Obama had a couple of tasks last night. One was to help complete the picture of Barack Obama. Is he somebody that we can trust? Is he somebody who really speaks to sort of core American values, which is something that clearly, even one of his primary opponents tried to attack, and clearly is going to be an issue in the fall campaign.
And also, I think, frankly, there was some effort to rehabilitate her image and to correct some of the mis-impressions that she may have left during the primary campaign, when she said some things that did not sit well with most Americans. But mostly, this was about letting people know that Barack Obama is somebody just like them, somebody who lives the American dream and someone who you can trust.
CORLEY All right. Well, thank you so much, Michel. We'll, of course, be talking to you some more.
MARTIN: All right. Thank you, Cheryl.
CORLEY: Tell Me More host Michel Martin joined us from Denver, where she is reporting this week from the Democratic National Convention. She'll be back later in the program.
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