Analysis: Denver's Done; On To St. Paul Veteran political strategists Republican Tucker Eskew and Democrat Mark Mellman wrap up the Democratic National Convention in Denver, look ahead to next week's Republican gathering in St. Paul, Minn., and talk about John McCain's vice presidential pick.
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Political analysts Tucker Eskew and Mark Mellman talk with Steve Inskeep on 'Morning Edition'

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Analysis: Denver's Done; On To St. Paul

Political analysts Tucker Eskew and Mark Mellman talk with Steve Inskeep on 'Morning Edition'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep, and this is the Democratic candidate for president.

BARACK OBAMA: With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.

INSKEEP: Barack Obama spoke before tens of thousands of supporters at an open-air stadium in Denver. Millions more watched at home, and we're going to get some analysis this morning from a couple of expert witnesses, Republican, Tucker Eskew, and Democrat, Mark Mellman, are political strategists who've helped guide us through the campaign. Welcome back to the program, gentlemen.

TUCKER ESKEW: Good morning.

MARK MELMAN: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And I want to challenge each of you in effect to see the speech from the other side and Republican Tucker Eskew, we'll start with you. As a professional - political professional, what if anything worked about this speech?

ESKEW: I think a good bit. It was well delivered as you would expect. It was before an extremely large and enthusiasts - mostly enthusiastic crowd, the optics, the cinematics if you will of this rock star appearance were really well managed. And it covered a lot of bases that are important for Democrats to hear from their candidates, and I think it covered some of the bases that swing voters would like to hear. So I think it got to - you know, he got the job done. He's a magnificent speaker.

INSKEEP: Some of the bases that swing voters would like to hear, what's one of those bases that's important in your mind?

ESKEW: I think whether he's truly ready to lead, whether he's done anything in his life that qualifies him for this most important job in the world.

INSKEEP: OK, Democrat Mark Mellman, what false notes if any were there in this speech?

MELLMAN: Well, I would like to oblige here with an answer to your question, but I think it was as near perfect as you get. You know, I think an important measure that John McCain is trying to make this campaign about risk. You know, arguing Obama's the risky choice. But I think last night Barack Obama made it clear that continuing this Bush-McCain status quo is the far riskier choice, and I think in that sense the speech was transformative though and I think it really transformed us in other ways. It transformed Barack Obama's story into our story, and I think he transformed himself into the kind of real and natural leader that Americans are looking for. I think it's really hard to find a false note in that speech.

INSKEEP: Although did it work to speak in a stadium in front of more than 80,000 people when Republicans are saying, look, this isn't a serious politician, he's a rock star?

MELLMAN: Well, I think it did. I think first of all, part of that was pure political organizing. Eighty thousand people are going to walk out of that stadium back to their homes and talk to their friends, talk to their co-workers, talk to their colleagues, and really be strong advocates for Barack Obama's message. Second, I think the - you know, for those who saw it on TV, you saw - you were swept up, I think, with the emotion of the moment, and I think that large audience helped you to be - helped people be swept up by the emotion of the moment. I don't think anybody could look at that as Barack Obama said, his life has not been the life of a celebrity.

INSKEEP: OK. Well let's follow up on that because Barack Obama effectively responded to - or responded to the charges that he was a celebrity. He spoke about his grandmother who raised him and who sacrificed to make sure he had enough. Let's listen.

OBAMA: I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped my life, and it is on behalf of them that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

INSKEEP: In just a couple of second, did he effectively answer that charge, Mark Mellman?

MELLMAN: Oh, I think there's no question he answered that charge. I don't think it was a very serious charge to begin with. But that the boldness for his vision, the specificities of his platform, the strength of his leadership were all really on display. That's what he had to do and he did it as I say, in the most perfect way you can imagine.

INSKEEP: Tucker Eskew?

ESKEW: I think framing up the election is running against a celebrity has been one of the most effective turning points for a campaign that hasn't had many of them. The McCain campaign carried itself through August on a roll, on a number of issues, and on that framing. And I thought it was a verbal way to address it but not a particularly effective one, and I think over and over again the Barack Obama campaign will find ways to take that strength and see the McCain campaign turn it on its side and make it about celebrity, because so little substance really backs it up in terms of the hard work that leaders do to prepare themselves for this job.

INSKEEP: And in the last couple of seconds that we have, would each of you hazard to guess as to who John McCain might be picking as a vice presidential choice today.

ESKEW: I'll take that first, that we - he's got a great list of potentials, and I know not who he will choose. I thought they've done a tremendous job of keeping that to themselves, and they're ready to spring it and now, turn the nation's attention to what John McCain will do. I think it'll be a very effective day for the McCain campaign.

INSKEEP: Mark Mellman, 10 seconds.

MELLMAN: Well, it won't be me or Tucker or you Steve.


ESKEW: You got it. You got it.

INSKEEP: Gentlemen, great to talk with you both.

ESKEW: Thank you.

MELLMAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Tucker Eskew and Mark Mellman, political strategists who've been guiding us through the campaign.

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