Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton Speak In Denver Thousands of party activists, journalists, politicians and union leaders are in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. In this week's edition of The Political Junkie, NPR political editor Ken Rudin evaluates the impact of the speeches given by Michelle Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
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Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton Speak In Denver

Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton Speak In Denver

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Thousands of party activists, journalists, politicians and union leaders are in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. In this week's edition of The Political Junkie, NPR political editor Ken Rudin evaluates the impact of the speeches given by Michelle Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.


This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're broadcasting today from the Knight Studio at the Newseum.

(Soundbite of audience applause)

CONAN: The Obamas bookend the Clintons in Denver, Ted Kennedy wows 'em one more time, a primary squeaker in Alaska, and we await McCain's veep. It's all ecstasy for the Political Junkie.

(Soundbite of Political Junkie Intro)

CONAN: On Wednesdays, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to discuss the presidential campaign, in particular, and politics, in general. There's news this week from Anchorage, Lansing and Orlando, and all of John McCain's houses. But Denver is center of the political universe this week. Our main focus this hour is on the message you're hearing from the Democratic National Convention. A bit later, Christopher Hitchins joins us as we continue our conversation about "This American Moment."

But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us from Denver. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: How are you, Neal?

CONAN: I'm good.

RUDIN: OK. You know President Bush, of course, is going to come to the Republican Convention next week in Saint Paul. Who is the last president who failed to show up at his party's convention?

CONAN: So if you think you know the last incumbent president who skipped his party's political convention, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We're also going to take answers from here in the audience at the Newseum. Ken, last night, John Warner's keynote address - well, I think...

RUDIN: Mark Warner.

CONAN: Mark Warner, yes. Mark Warner, he's replacing John. He hopes to replace John Warner. But anyway, the keynote address will be little noted nor long remembered. I think we can agree on that. But Hillary Clinton delivered an address that bolstered Barack Obama and blistered John McCain.

(Soundbite of Senator Hillary Clinton speech, 2008 Democratic National Convention)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): With an agenda like that, it makes perfect sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities because these days, they're awfully hard to tell apart.

CONAN: A 23-minute speech last night. Ken, I believe it qualifies as a stem-winder.

RUDIN: It was a great speech. It was - she did everything that was expected of her and more. The talk for the last couple days was what kind of body language would she have. We always talk about Ted Kennedy on stage at the 1980 convention in New York City, really not praising President Carter at all, who lost it for the nomination, mostly about Ted Kennedy's agenda. And so a lot of people were worrying, wondering what she would say, but she said everything they hoped to say. Not only did it help Barack Obama, it certainly helped Hillary Clinton, too, and if nothing else, it had to have helped unify the party because that's what so many Democrats are nervous about.

CONAN: And unify the party, there were some nervous, just as you suspected, that not only might she have a lukewarm endorsement of Barack Obama, but also talk more about herself, and there's been great concern about this campaign ad that's been run by John McCain. And of course, political polls show that something like 20 percent of Clinton voters might agree to support John McCain and John McCain has been running this series of ads.

(Soundbite of John McCain campaign ad)

Senator CLINTON: I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

Unidentified Man: Hillary is right. John McCain for president.

CONAN: And that - well, I think she said, I'm Hillary Clinton, and I don't endorse that message.

RUDIN: I don't approve that message, exactly. And if there's any doubt about where she stands, it was erased last night on the stage. It was forceful, it was funny. It was the best speech, I think, she's ever given or at least I've heard her give in all her years of political life. And it was, again, a lot of, you know, a lot Democrats before were saying, well, I still can't come over to Obama. The rules were rigged. We were cheated out of the nomination. The loss is a hard feeling. It seemed like everybody on the Clinton side was upset except for Hillary Clinton herself.

CONAN: Well, let's see if we get some answers to the trivia question. Joining us now on the line is Sue. Sue is calling from National. Where is that? National...

SUE (Caller): No, Nashville.

CONAN: Nashville. My screen, I could not quite understand - Nashville, Tennessee. Go ahead, please.

SUE: I think I actually remember President Dwight D. Eisenhower not showing up when Nixon was nominated.

CONAN: And it would have been 1960. Ken?

SUE: Yep.

RUDIN: Well, you know something? The answer is certainly more recent than that. But I don't remember Eisenhower standing up there for Nixon in 1960. There was a great Eisenhower quote in 1960. When they asked him what Richard Nixon had done to deserve a full term, and he said, if you'd give me a few minutes, I'll try to think of something. But I don't know if Eisenhower showed up in '60, but the answer is more recent than that.

SUE: OK, thanks.

CONAN: He probably had a good tee time.

SUE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: And that was when I was seeing Tina Turner. That was really an unusual time for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Am I as funny away from the audience as I am at the audience?

CONAN: More uproarious than ever, Ken.

RUDIN: That's what I was afraid of.

CONAN: Mark is on the line from Wilmington in North Carolina.

MARK (Caller): Yes, sir. I was going to go with Truman but that's obviously not correct. Can I make a guess?

CONAN: Well, you guessed...

MARK: I think Truman and Dewey in '48.

RUDIN: Truman would have been - if anything, it would have been Truman in '52. But again, it's more recent than that because Truman decided, after the New Hampshire primary in 1952, not to run for a full term and the nomination went to Adlai Stevenson who was then the governor of Illinois. That was the last person from Illinois to be nominated until this week in Denver, but more recent than 1952.

MARK: OK, thanks.

CONAN: And Mark, we're going to have to restrict you to one guess. I mean, these are strict rules we have here on Political Junkie.

MARK: OK, thanks a lot.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now to - I think Andrew is next, Andrew, calling us from Easton, Pennsylvania.

ANDREW (Caller): Hi. Lyndon Johnson, 1968.

RUDIN: That is correct.


RUDIN: That is correct.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: We have a winner.

RUDIN: Lyndon Johnson. Like Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson didn't run for a full term in '68 because of the Vietnam War. The Chicago Convention, as everybody remembers, was a disaster for the Democratic Party. It nominated Hubert Humphrey, but Lyndon Johnson did not show up in '68 in Chicago.

CONAN: Hubert Humphrey seemed not wanting Lyndon Johnson to be there, not wanting to be tied to an incredibly unpopular president in an incredibly unpopular war.

RUDIN: And yet he almost won the election. A lot of people say if the election had gone on two more weeks or two more days or whatever, Humphrey could have beaten Richard Nixon in a very, very close election.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get - thanks very much, Andrew. You win the no-prize this week.

ANDREW: You're welcome.

CONAN: And let's see. We mentioned earlier Ted Kennedy, speaking to the convention just the other night in Denver. This an incredibly courageous moment. We're reading today that not only did he have the risk of - he's been taking a lot of, you know, pill - treatments for his cancer, so he had the risk of infection, but also had kidney stones the night before, must have been in incredible pain. Anyway, Ted Kennedy got up and in a surprise appearance did address the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

(Soundbite of Ted Kennedy speech, 2008 Democratic National Convention)

Senator TED KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on.

(Soundbite of crowd applause)

CONAN: And Ken, those last remarks, in particular, I think raised goosebumps in a lot of people in the crowd.

RUDIN: It did, and it just raised goosebumps with me, as well, and I just heard it two nights ago. But you know, it was very similar to that stirring speech that Ted Kennedy gave in 1980 in New York in Madison Square Garden.

CONAN: And let's listen to the end of that speech to the convention in 1980.

(Soundbite of Ted Kennedy speech, 1980 Democratic National Convention)

Senator KENNEDY: For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

CONAN: And...

RUDIN: You know, it's...

CONAN: Go ahead, Ken.

RUDIN: I was going to say, you know, what's fascinating about this is that the emotional pull of a Kennedy at a Democratic Convention, I mean, goes back to 1964 when they had that tribute to Bobby Kennedy - I'm sorry, to John Kennedy, who had been assassinated nine months before that. And Bobby Kennedy stood up on the stage in 1964 at Atlantic City at the convention. Lyndon Johnson didn't even want him there, but he knew he had to speak. And again, another time when a Kennedy spoke and everybody was brought to tears. And it came full circle on Monday night in Denver with Ted Kennedy's speech.

CONAN: And it had to be very welcome for the Obama crowd to think of - well, before there were Clinton and Obama Democrats, well, there were Kennedy Democrats and Roosevelt Democrats, too. It spoke to an earlier time in the Democratic Party.

RUDIN: Exactly. And when we saw Michelle Obama and we saw the Obama children on the stage Monday, it obviously - we talk about when John Kennedy said in his inaugural speech in 1961 that a torch had passed to a new generation of Americans, it almost seemed fitting that Ted Kennedy was speaking on Monday. Barack Obama will speak on Thursday, and a new torch is passing to a new generation of Democrats, let alone Americans.

CONAN: And we saw that emblemized, as you mentioned, by Michelle Obama's address on Monday night where she tried to portray herself and her husband as humble products of the American Dream.

(Soundbite of Michelle Obama speech, 2008 Democratic National Convention)

Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: In this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House. And we committed ourselves. We committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

CONAN: Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention on Monday night. And that was certainly the highlight of the first day of the Democratic National Convention, Ken.

RUDIN: You know, it's funny, and yet I saw a lot of comments by Democratic partisans who said that the Democrats were not tough enough on Bush and McCain. They were not tough enough on the Republicans. I thought, I mean, from my standpoint, and I was on the floor - standing up, though, I mean, I'm not lying on the floor...

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: I was standing up on the floor at the convention, I thought it was a perfect mood to begin a week of party activity. Ted Kennedy was very warm and very gracious. I mean, there were a lot of tears. You know, nobody expected to see him there. Michelle Obama still addressed the fact that a lot of people don't know who Barack Obama is. And for all the complaints about there's no red meat, well, you certainly had the red meat last night on the stage.

CONAN: And we can expect so much tomorrow night, or tonight, rather, when Joe Biden, the new vice-presidential nominee, takes the stage along with Bill Clinton. A little less clear what Bill Clinton's going to have to say.

RUDIN: Right. With Joe Biden, it's clear, I think, as everybody agrees, the first three hours of Joe Biden's speech are always the most dynamic, I think everybody enjoys that the most. But you know, Hillary Clinton made it clear how she feels about Barack Obama and again, a tremendous speech last night. There's more question about Bill Clinton because his remarks about Barack Obama had been far more tepid, far more reserved than his wife. And you know, if anybody seems to be most upset about the result of the Democratic nomination, who the Democratic nominee will be, it seems to be more Bill Clinton. So it will be very interesting to see his reaction, his body language when he speaks.

CONAN: One of the questions that he sort of tap-danced his way around was, was Barack Obama ready to be president of the United States? Let's see if he addresses that question tonight. There has been some Republican criticism that Hillary Clinton did not address that question directly last night. So let's see if it comes up tonight in the address by former President Clinton to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

So what message are you hearing from the Democrats in Denver? Are you listening? Are you tuning in? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. More with Political Junkie Ken Rudin when we come back in just a moment. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan. We're broadcasting today from the Knight Studio at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Out in Denver, we have Ken Rudin, NPR's political editor. He's covering the Democratic Convention there for us this week. Later, we expect the roll call vote that will nominate Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for president, though there are still some questions as about how exactly that's going to work, all of this leading up to Obama's acceptance speech tomorrow night at Mile High Stadium, which seats some 75,000 people.

If you've been watching this week, what message are you hearing from the Democrats in Denver? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can read what other listeners are saying on our blog, as well, npr.org/blogofthenation. Of course, we'll take questions from the audience here at the Newseum, as well.

And Ken, before we get to those questions about what Democrat - what listeners are hearing from the Democrats in Denver, there's some other political news this week, including an interesting primary in the state of Alaska.

RUDIN: Right. Ted Stevens, who's been a senator since 1968, longer than any Republican in the history of the Senate, is under indictment for a corruption scandal. He's always won re-election by overwhelming majorities. But he's under indictment, there's a cloud over him. But yesterday's primary was interesting. He won, pretty handily, over 65, close to 70 percent in a field of six candidates. But some Democrats think that's the best thing that could have happened to them because Ted Stevens remains very vulnerable. You have a very popular Democratic opponent, Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. So it could be bad news for the Republicans, but I think most people feel that Stevens won by a larger margin than anyone expected.

CONAN: And there's one congressional seat in the state of Alaska, that one in the Republican side. That primary is a squeaker.

RUDIN: Well, that's very interesting. Don Young, who was actually - actually, Don Young became a congressman in 1973 after Mark Begich's father, Nick Begich, died in a plane crash. I mean, it just shows how closely everybody is involved in Alaska. But Don Young is also under an FBI investigation. Talk about giving some favors to campaign donors, and he barely squeaked by - we don't even know, it's not even official yet, but he has like a hundred-vote lead or something like that over the lieutenant governor of Alaska, who, by the way, was endorsed by the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. So the Republican Party is really split in Alaska. It's a state that has been in GOP control for a long, long time. But again, as we talked about the new change on the Democratic presidential front, there seems to be a change coming on in Alaska, as well.

CONAN: And also in Detroit. One Democratic superdelegate is not in Denver. The mayor of Detroit is still there and apparently his fate is not going to be decided as mayor at the state capital.

RUDIN: Right. Governor Jennifer Granholm has the power to remove him as mayor. The City Council already passed a non-binding five to four vote saying that he should resign, of course. He will not resign and Granholm - they're having a September 3rd hearing - it's very possible that she may decide that Kilpatrick should be removed.

And of course, there are racial overtones there because Kilpatrick is African-American and a lot of people are saying that this is not worthy of being removed from office. It's about lying and an affair and perhaps some city funds being used. But again, in a state like Michigan, which is so crucial to Barack Obama's chances, it's a distraction, I assume, that Democrats would not like to have.

CONAN: Well, anyway, let's get back to what message people are hearing from the convention. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Let's start here at the Newseum.

ADAM (Audience Member): Hi, this is Adam from Moorestown, New Jersey. I was just wondering if you thought that - I guess you could call it a borderline obsession with going green, this year's DNC, from biodegradable balloons to feng shui(ph) dishes to no red meat. Would you say this serves as a good indicator of the Democrats' future environmental policies?


RUDIN: Well, I think, obviously, every - I mean, ever since Al Gore, certainly, the environment has been a big Democratic issue, but Republicans have taken it on, as well. John McCain has also, you know, he's criticized for some of his environmental votes but the Republicans are alike in that, as well. You know, I've been wearing the same underwear in Denver for four days, just, you know, to conserve water and things like that. But it's obviously a big issue there, but Denver - first of all, Denver and Colorado are big environmental, big green states when it comes to the environment and that message is clearly getting across in everything that's happening here this week.

CONAN: And if you look at the political ads, the one thing that both candidates seem to endorse is windturbines. So that's nothing. Let's see if we can get some callers on the line, and let's go to Ron, Ron with us from Tucson, Arizona.

RON (Caller): Hi there. Thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

RON: I just wanted to say that I was really energized by Hillary Clinton last night. Frankly, I mean, I thought that they were taking the gloves off when Obama chose Biden as his running mate. He was my original choice before the primaries got passed Iowa. And I thought that was going to be happening and Hillary just proved it last night. I originally voted for her in the primaries in Arizona and came to regret my decision because of the way her campaign conducted themselves. But if she had stayed - kept that tone through the primaries, I think she'd be the nominee now.

CONAN: Well, it was certainly one of the closest - the closest race in my memory, Ken. So nevertheless, do you think a lot of the Democrats were energized by Hillary Clinton last night?

RUDIN: It was a tremendous speech. I mean, again, there was a lot of anticipation, a lot angst getting into it, but you know, people said, had she given that kind of speech before, she'd be the nominee. Had Michigan and Florida counted when it should have counted, she would have been the nominee. I saw a release today from Michael Dukakis who apologized for losing to George Bush, Sr. in 1988. I'm not making this up. He said it's his fault that we have George W. Bush today because he lost to Bush Sr. in '88.

So you know, I guess, you know, if Burr hadn't shot Hamilton, things would have been different today.

(Soundbite of laughter)

A lot of "what if's" involved here, but the point is is that Hillary gave a great, great speech. About Joe Biden, though, you know, a lot of Democrats are excited about the prospect that Joe Biden, being the attack dog he is - and of course, that's not what Obama likes to do but - and everybody's anticipating the vice-presidential debate. But remember, we go back to 1988, we always think of Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle and how - everybody says that Lloyd Bentsen wiped the floor with Dan Quayle and yet Bush-Quayle won 40 out of 50 states that year.

So we talk about the vice presidency and we spend a lot of time talking about it this week, but ultimately, and I've said this over and over again, voters vote for the top of the ticket and I think that's what - ultimately, that's what it will come down to.

CONAN: Ron, thanks very much for the phone call.

Mr. RON: All right.

CONAN: You mentioned, Ken, red meat. Well, certainly the McCain - Senator McCain handed the Obama campaign a gift late last week when Senator McCain couldn't remember - asked how many houses that he owns. The Obama campaign replied with an attack ad very quickly.

(Soundbite of Barack Obama campaign ad)

Unidentified Man: Maybe you're struggling just to pay the mortgage on your home. But recently, John McCain said the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Hmm. Then again, that same day, when asked how many houses he owns, McCain lost track. He couldn't remember. Well, it's seven. Seven houses. And here's one house America can't afford to let John McCain move into.

CONAN: A picture of the White House. I mean, there's some dispute. It might be seven houses. It might be eight. In any case, we've also seen attack ads by outside groups. There's an ad that is running in certain television markets in Michigan by the same people who brought you the Swift Boat ads of four years ago.


RUDIN: Oh, that means me.

CONAN: Yeah.

RUDIN: I was wondering whether we're going to hear a tape of that.

CONAN: I covered that earlier.

RUDIN: These ads are very effective, and I think on the number of homes, I mean, John McCain will say, look, you know, my wife's finances and mine are separate and I don't know what you count and which ones - what condominiums you count and what you don't count. But a lot of people here on the floor, at Denver, are wearing these buttons saying, ask me how many homes I own. So obviously, it was one of those tell-me(ph) marks that the Democrats would love to portray John McCain as being out of touch.

But again, we're going to see next when the Republicans meet in Saint Paul, that, you know, if John McCain is out of touch, then Barack Obama is an elitist, and you'll see those commercials, as well. And you know, a lot of people who follow politics say this should be, you know, we should - voters should be smarter than this, should not pay attention to this kind of, you know, scurrilous stuff, but we've seen it also works. I think that's why they do it.

CONAN: Let's get another question from here at the Newseum.

SUSAN (Audience Member): Hi. I'm Susan from Albany, New York, and I want to preface my question saying I never was a Clinton supporter, but Barack Obama has identified Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, "Team of Rivals," as one of his favorites, and I wondered if you saw any influence of the book on his choices or you could make any predictions based on the book.


RUDIN: Wow. Well, I've long tried to stay out of the prediction business. I mean, I thought Jack Reed would be the vice president on the Democratic side. I was convinced Barack Obama was going to win the New Hampshire primary. So I'm pretty wrong on mostly everything and that's why I'm on the show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: But you know something, I mean, obviously, Barack Obama had to weigh a lot of things. Barack Obama had a resume gap to fill and that was on foreign policy experience, and, you know, whatever Joe Biden does or does not bring to the ticket, Biden has been in Senate foreign relations, he's been in the Senate since 1973, he has tremendous foreign policy experience, a strong debater, as I said earlier, a good attack dog, and I sense that there's a comfort level.

And a lot of people are talking about, you know, John McCain perhaps picking Mitt Romney. They don't seem to have that comfort level. Romney and McCain went after each other during the primaries. If McCain is going to use Hillary Clinton's comments about Obama in his commercials, you know the Democrats will have a field day repeating, regurgitating what McCain and Romney said about each other. So obviously, there is a comfort level when you pick a team. And so far, it seems like Obama is very comfortable with the person he has chosen as VP.

CONAN: And, Ken, we have Doris Kearns Goodwin with us right here. No, we don't. It's the old Woody Allen joke. That book will be committed to memory by next week, so...

RUDIN: That's right.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get - here's an email, this is from Richard in Cleveland. "Hillary threw her support to Obama. What is Obama doing to get Hillary's supporters appeased? I'm looking forward for Obama to make his case for himself on Thursday night."

RUDIN: Well, I mean, look. If the roles were reversed and Hillary Clinton were the nominee and if we were spending all this time talking about what Barack Obama wants and what Barack Obama's people want, I think there would be an outrage from the Hillary Clinton people saying, look, I'm the nominee, not him, let's focus on me. So I think Obama has been very magnanimous about this - what's been a distraction for him. He has not shown any irritation. He has not criticized. But the Clinton people do feel that Obama has not done enough to raise money for Clinton.

And Hillary Clinton - you know, it's interesting, right after Hillary Clinton gave that great speech last night, her campaign sent out another fundraising email saying, you know, it was a great speech, but please give money to us. When everybody was holding up the Hillary Clinton signs last night, on the bottom, it did not say, barackobama.org, it said hillaryclinton.org. So it was very interesting that there still seems to be two different camps there.

But again, obviously, I suspect, just as Hillary Clinton did last night, Barack Obama's speech would not only talk about what he intends to do as president, what American people need to hear, but a very gracious, I suspect, reach out to Hillary Clinton. He's already said that he thought her speech last night was outstanding.

CONAN: Well, it was certainly a great speech. Anyway, we're talking with our political junkie, Ken Rudin. If you'd like to read his political column, say, some reason you think that may be helpful, you can find the Political Junkie column at npr.org. He's with us every Wednesday here at the Newseum. Today he's in Denver. Next week he'll join us from Saint Paul in Minnesota where the Republicans hold their convention contest. We're expecting Senator McCain to announce his vice-presidential pick on Friday of this week to try to take whatever steam may have built up by the Democrats away as quickly as possible and get the Republicans back on the front burner. And of course, you'll find coverage of that right here at NPR and on npr.org. You can listen to coverage of the convention at npr.org, and tonight, at many of these NPR radio stations - I'll get that straight. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

And let's get Kat on the line, Kat calling us from Grand Junction in Colorado.

KAT (Caller): Hello.


KAT: What I'm taking away from watching the whole thing this week is the kind of hope that we've all been needing for so long, and also, I think it was Deval Patrick who called for us to let go of our cynicism. I have been fighting this for so long. So many people have become so cynical about our political process and the direction our country has gone in the past failed eight years. What I'm hearing from Deval Patrick and the other speakers who are so inspirational, the governor of Montana and Hillary Clinton herself, is that we need to let go of the cynicism and really, really put our hope into - back in Barack Obama.

CONAN: So Kat...

KAT: And it's something I intend on doing.

CONAN: So Kat, you're looking for inspiration hope rather than red meat?

KAT: Absolutely.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much.

KAT: We haven't had any of that for so long. We know the red meat will come along. We know that. It can't help but come along. But we need - we have to turn our minds and our hearts to the positive, and the more we do that, the more we have power to turn our country around.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Kat. And that replicates an argument that's been ongoing within the Obama campaign, Ken.

RUDIN: Absolutely. I mean, it obviously was a brutal primary campaign but Barack Obama can be very inspirational. I think one of the reasons he will be the nominee officially tomorrow - officially tonight, actually, is because he is inspirational and he sells hope. Hillary Clinton in the past has said he needs more than rhetoric. John McCain, of course, has tried to pick up on that theme, but you know, there was a lot of hope in 1988 for the Democrats in Atlanta. Michael Dukakis came out of the convention with a 17-point lead. So it would be very interesting to see. Even if the party sounds united coming out of Denver, even if the polls show a bump, you know, the Republicans are coming back next week. It would be very interesting to see when all is said done, after the two campaigns, after the two conventions are over, what the numbers will look like. And then you have a very compact general election campaign.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another question from here in the Newseum.

ZACH (Audience Member): Hi, my name is Zach from Tempe, Arizona. I just want to know why the elitist question has been such a big deal during the primaries in this whole election on both sides. Isn't the whole point of the primary, isn't the election to find the best, most qualified candidate? And wouldn't we want a member of the elite as a president or is it just a question of status or attitude?

RUDIN: Well, elite is one of those loaded, you know, pejoratives. I mean, you know, you don't want somebody to be elitist but - theoretically, I mean, Franklin D. Roosevelt was an elitist, John F. Kennedy was elitist, and yet they still spoke for the common man and common language. So I think it's just something they like to throw out at people. And then when you talk about Barack Obama's education - I mean, the thought of somebody, you know, being born in Hawaii to white and black parents coming out as an elitist is pretty remarkable. But you know something, I think the McCain people know that they have a great orator in Barack Obama, and I don't think they know how to deal with it. And so what they decided that elitist would be the kind of word that you want to throw out there.

CONAN: And it certainly was the kind of charge that worked against John Kerry, too.

RUDIN: That's true. I mean, but of course, you know, anybody who is windsurfing on vacation is something that exactly what fell into the hands just of the Bush campaign. George W. Bush was sold as somebody you'd like to go out and have a beer with, while, you know, John Kerry also was windsurfing.

Let me just tell you also, before we run out of time, that you should know that the delegates right now are all in their hotel rooms, they are now coalescing, they deciding who's voting for whom, and so when the roll call begins later this afternoon on the floor, you know, somebody from, you know, the state of Colorado, will come out and say, Colorado cast its 12 delegates for Hillary Clinton and 11 delegates for Barack Obama, whatever. So right now all the delegates are meeting in their rooms going over those numbers right now.

We suspect that there will be an initial roll call, a tally of states at the convention, and then, again, the speculation is that Hillary Clinton will come out and call to stop the roll call vote and say Barack Obama's nomination should be made by acclamation.

CONAN: Ken Rudin, thanks very much. We appreciate your time.

RUDIN: Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: Political Junkie Ken Rudin with us from Denver. Again, he'll be with us from Saint Paul next week. Up next, we continue our series of conversations on This American Moment. Christopher Hitchens will join us. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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