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All Eyes on Sarah Palin Tonight; Iowa and Minnesota: Two Battleground States for Obama & McCain; Obama Slams Republicans

Aired September 3, 2008 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And it's happening right now. Amid questions and criticisms, John McCain's vice presidential pick gets her turn to speak. Everything about her speech will surely be watched, weighed and wrangled over.
Two states both sides desperately want to win move from toss-ups to leading one side, including this state, where Republicans are putting on their huge show of political force.

And Barack Obama says Republicans are talking badly about him because they have few good things to say on the issues. He could slam them even more in a live event. That's coming up this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in St. Paul, at the Republican National Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

She's likely never seen a night fraught with so much anticipation, expectation and pressure. Governor Sarah Palin is set for the biggest night of her political career. Today she toured the stage from which she'll give her speech. Last night she prepared for it.

The McCain campaign says she huddled with her advisers into the wee hours of the morning. How she does is all the more important, because the McCain campaign says she's under siege from a blitz of questions.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's on the floor of this convention right now.

And no doubt, Dana, all eyes will be on Sarah Palin tonight.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. That's why we're told that she is working with some McCain advisers right now, up until the last minute, tweaking and practicing her speech.

Word from inside the hotel room where this is happening is that she is an indefatigable workhorse, but also somebody who is also calm in the storm that's around her. But as we know, really all that matters tonight when she steps up to that podium behind me is the question that she has to answer, whether she has what it takes to be VP and whether she could step in at any time and be president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): An airport photo-op, the McCain family greets the Palins. And a moment. John McCain hugs and lingers with 17-year- old Bristol Palin and her soon-to-be husband, Levi Johnston, expressing empathy, CNN is told, about thrusting them into the spotlight with news of her pregnancy.

But tonight the eyes of the world will be on her mother. Sarah Palin appeared at the convention hall podium as dawn broke, just in time to be captured by morning television shows, trying to get comfortable on her new stage. The first public Palin sighting all week, because she's been holed up in this hotel, working around the clock with McCain aides, looking for just the right tone for her address, trying to sway undecided voters like this one we met in battleground Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have much experience, a first- time governor. You know, so you do have to worry about that a little bit. But, I mean, the main thing is I haven't really got to see her, haven't got a chance to listen to her speak.

BASH: To help tackle questions about her experience, CNN is told one issue she'll highlight is her command of the energy economy, a top issue in this election she's been heavily involved in as Alaska's governor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And one McCain aide I spoke to who has been involved in crafting her speech says another goal is actually standard VP fare, to lay down the contrast between her running mate, John McCain, and their opponent, Barack Obama. But it's also because so few people know very much about her, Wolf. As you know, it's also coming across as somebody who is likable.

One key quote that I thought was interesting that may sum up what they want here, is they want to put across someone with a common touch, but an executive presence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And she has, Dana, really sky-high approval numbers in the state of Alaska right now, doesn't she?

BASH: Absolutely. I think she is the most popular governor in the nation at some 80-something percent in her state. That is one of the many talking points that the McCain campaign has been spreading around as they have been trying to introduce her to the American people. And they hope that that will come across, the reason why her approval ratings are so high, that will come across when she speaks her tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Dana. You're going to be with us all night, so stand by.

Barack Obama may want to pay attention to a promise from McCain's campaign that the political attacks will sharpen tonight. A McCain adviser says Governor Palin will join in that effort, part of her speech designed to target Barack Obama. But she won't be alone. You can be sure that Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, all slated to speak tonight, will also be on the attack against Barack Obama.

And this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We have some brand-new polls on how the race between McCain and Obama is shaping up in two key battleground states.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's joining us now. Bill, so what's changing?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The electoral map is changing, Wolf, and not in a direction that this convention would like to see.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello Cedar Rapids!

Hello Sioux City.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Remember Iowa, where it all began? Well, the battle for Iowa is not over. It's now a battleground state for November.

A new CNN/"TIME" poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation has Barack Obama leading John McCain by 15 points in Iowa. It looks like Iowa's turning blue again.

Iowa was Barack Obama's breakthrough state. He won the Democratic caucuses with a powerful organization.

John McCain barely competed in the Iowa Republican caucuses. He came in fourth.

The Republicans are meeting in Minnesota, a state that's voted Republican for president only once in the last 10 elections. And this time? Obama has a 12-point lead over McCain.

Another tossup state shifts to the Democrats. The last election came down to Ohio. This one could, too. Ohio is still up for grabs. Obama 47, McCain 45 percent.

Ohio is a Hillary Clinton state in the primaries, with a lot of culturally conservative Appalachian white voters. In Iowa and Minnesota, whites are voting for Obama. In Ohio, whites are voting for McCain.

What about those blue-collar white voters who were so important for Clinton in Ohio? Thir's pretty solidly for McCain.

Bottom line? Ohio stays in the tossup column. Iowa and Minnesota move to Obama.

On our new electoral map, Obama's got 243 electoral votes, still shy of the 270 he needs to win, but getting closer. McCain still at 189, with 106 electoral votes in the diminishing number of tossup states, including Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: So, what's changed since 2004? Well, two states that voted for George W. Bush last time have shifted to Obama, Iowa and New Mexico. Six Bush states are now in the tossup category: Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

Two states that voted for John Kerry last time are now tossups. That would be Michigan and New Hampshire. And not a single Kerry state has shifted to John McCain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating new numbers, Bill. Thanks very much.

Let's get a closer look at what these new poll numbers might mean for these two presidential candidates. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is looking at this.

And you're looking at our magic map. What do you see?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here, let's just do the simple math Bill just went through. Let's assign.

This is where we started the day, Barack Obama with 226 electoral votes, John McCain with 189. But let's make the shift. We just heard Bill talking about that.

A new Minnesota poll. We had it as a tossup. Well, now we're going to turn it not red but blue. That moves Barack Obama up to 236.

Iowa, we will turn it from a tossup, we will turn it blue. That puts Barack Obama, as Bill just noted, at 243. That leaves him only 27 electoral votes shy of what he would need to clinch the presidency.

Now, all of this can change over time, but what does it tell you? It tells you that John McCain, Wolf, based on the map as we now have it, has little room for error. He has to hold Ohio a tossup. He would have to hold Missouri a tossup. He would have to hold Florida, which has been a red state.

This election could come down if those states stay Republican to a place like New Hampshire, Virginia, out here, Colorado and Nevada. Here, I'm going to switch maps and show you something.

Remember this now. We're now down to these number of tossup states. Most of them Bush states last time. Let's switch maps to show you something that has to be of deep concern to the McCain campaign.

This is the state of Ohio. Bill just talked about it. This is a state -- let me reach across here and come to -- fill in the counties.

This is a state that George W. Bush won last time, 51 to 49 percent. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. It is a tossup right now, Wolf, but I want to show you an area right down in here. This is the Cincinnati/Dayton area. Look how red that is from the last election.

George W. Bush carried this state. Then he carried it again back in 2000. Again, look how red this area is.

Right now in the Cincinnati/Dayton area, the key area for Republican turnout, Barack Obama and John McCain are tied right now. Obama has done well with the blue-collar voters that tend to be down here in this end of the state down here. He's starting to make some gains among them.

But the key point right now, Wolf, in the state of Ohio is that in Cincinnati/Dayton, the key area of Republican turnout, tied. That is a big problem for John McCain, something he better address right here at this convention if he's going to keep Ohio red.

BLITZER: I suspect he will be doing precisely that and his people will be targeting that area with a lot of money and a lot of ads. That's the normal strategy.

KING: You can count on it. One of the strongest parts of the state party organization is Hamilton County. That is Cincinnati. It is a very strong organization, but those numbers are a wakeup call that the Republican ticket has a lot of work to do in a state he simply cannot afford to lose.

BLITZER: All right. John's going to be with us all night as well.

Republicans surely hope they could have the day for themselves, but Barack Obama is throwing a wrench into that plan. He's getting attention for criticizing Republicans, even during their convention.

Today, Senator Obama launched this zinger from Ohio...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: John McCain's campaign manager said that, "This election is not going to be about the issues, it's going to be about personalities." That's a quote. He said, "It's not going to be about issues, it's going to be about personalities," which probably explains why last night when they were speaking, all these speakers came up, you did not hear a single word about the economy.

Now, think about it. Not once did people mention the hardships that folks are going through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Obama might not be through with his criticisms. We're waiting for a live Obama event this hour in Ohio. We'll go there live once he starts speaking.

It used to be, Gloria Borger, in the old days, when one party had their convention, the other candidate would be relatively quiet, let their convention go forward. But the nature of the schedule this time, these back-to-back conventions, and then a sprint to November 4th after this Republican convention, they're not wasting much time, either of these campaigns.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: No, there is no time. I mean, in this 24/7 news cycle, you have to let every charge -- you can't let any charge go unanswered.

So, what you hear Barack Obama saying today, he's trying change the conversation again back to the economy, which is, of course, the Democrats' strong suit in those battleground states that John King was just talking about. So no time for that.

BLITZER: We're going to hear a lot more about the economy from the Democrats.

All right. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a quick question. Was John McCain quiet during the Democratic convention?

BLITZER: No.

BORGER: No.

CAFFERTY: That's what I thought.

BLITZER: He was -- both of these candidates, they don't want to waste any time.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but McCain was just as vocal and just as critical during the Democratic convention as that little snippet we just saw Barack Obama commenting on the speeches last night, right?

BORGER: But Jack, remember that John McCain did an ad congratulating Barack Obama on his historic choice as the Democratic presidential nominee.

CAFFERTY: So what?

BORGER: Remember that?

CAFFERTY: Yes, I do remember it. But I also remember that John McCain was vociferously critical day after day after day during the entire Democratic convention. Do you remember that?

BORGER: Both are true. Both are true.

CAFFERTY: Now, when it comes to Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, the hits just keep on coming. Some of the latest revelations surrounding John McCain's surprise choice of a running mate, the Associated Press reporting a private lawyer has been authorized to spend $95,000 of state money to defend Palin in the trooper ethics probe. Contrary to her message of reform, Palin worked hard to get pork barrel money for her city and her state. And also according to the AP, her husband was once a member of the Alaska Independence Party. Some members of that group advocate that Alaska secede from the union. That would not be country first.

Also, the boyfriend of Palin's 17-year-old unmarried pregnant daughter expected to join the family at the Republican convention.

The McCain camp is pushing back hard on all this. It's calling questions about Palin's background a faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee for vice president and suggesting that Palin is a victim of gender bias in the media.

Where have we heard that before?

They insist Palin was subject to a long and thorough vetting process. Really? "The Washington Post" reported this morning the head of McCain's vetting team didn't do an in-depth interview with Governor Palin until the day before she was offered the number two slot on the ticket.

Some are wondering if Sarah Palin could turn out to be another Harriet Miers, a vastly underqualified woman who was nominated by President Bush to become a Supreme Court justice. Miers later had to withdraw her name from consideration.

Gee, that's that parallel again.

No presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP choice since Democrat George McGovern in 1972. McGovern dropped Tom Eagleton after 18 days when revelations surfaced about Eagleton's mental health. Eagleton, too, had been a last-minute selection.

So here's the question: Should John McCain consider replacing Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

Not since Katrina have we seen the volume of e-mail on a story that we've seen on this one since last Friday when Palin was announced. We've gotten over 30,000 e-mails in the two days, Friday and yesterday, just on this story alone. I mean, it's just unprecedented.

BLITZER: And would you say most are going one way or the other? Or they're sort of both -- these e-mails split down the middle? What's the -- I know you haven't done a scientific survey, Jack, but you read a lot of them.

CAFFERTY: I haven't even read them. Thirty thousand e-mails?

BLITZER: I know.

CAFFERTY: It would take me until next Christmas. You know, it's just an interesting water-cooler type subject of discussion. The Democrats are kind of divided over whether he ought to replace her because they think -- some of them think her being on his ticket will help Obama's chances. And some of the Republicans are the same way. Women are kind of divided.

It's an interesting mix of opinions. But she certainly has captured the attention of all of us in a way that none of these politicians has managed to do in a good long while. So for however long this lasts, it makes the campaign a lot more interesting than it was before she jumped into the mix.

BLITZER: I suspect millions and millions of Americans will want to stick around later and watch her speech later tonight here at this Republican convention.

All right, Jack. Stand by. We're going to get back to you soon.

The McCain campaign says that Governor Sarah Palin is under siege from a barrage of questions. Is she getting an unfair deal? I'll ask the conservative commenter Glenn Beck. He strongly supports her.

And to help those most hurt by the conflict in the Republic of Georgia, the Bush administration is now planning a $1 billion aid package. Might this provoke Russia? What's going on?

And Hurricane Gustav leaves many people to pick up the pieces while three more storms conspire to cause more death and devastation. Might Hanna, Ike or Josephine come to where you live?

We're watching these three storms in the Atlantic right now.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the Republican National Convention. Everyone getting excited, ready to hear from arguably, at least right now, the most intriguing woman in the United States, the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin. She'll accept the Republican vice presidential nomination tonight.

Glenn Beck of our sister network Headline News is joining us right now.

Glenn, what does she need to say tonight, not only to folks here on the floor who will love her -- most of them will, almost all of them will -- but to the millions of Americans who will be watching tonight?

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": I think she needs to say a couple of things.

First of all, she just needs to be herself. She needs to be a straight shooter and just say what she really believes. And by that, the last thing she needs to say is, "I'm just like you."

She demonstrates in her life and in her history that she is just like a lot of Americans. That's what she needs to say.

To the media, I think she needs to quote Archie Bunker and say, "Shut up, yous." It is amazing to me, Wolf, the coverage on Sarah Palin.

You said earlier that I'm a big supporter of hers. I'm not really a big supporter of hers. I am intrigued by her. I like what I do know about her.

I don't know enough about her yet. I've never seen her speak before. We'll see it tonight for the first time. So I can't say I endorse her or anything else, but what I can say is, I don't hate her like the many in the media just have this vitriolic hate for Sarah Palin.

I saw this today. This is amazing to me. It's "US" magazine. It's "Babies, Lies and Scandal."

And in it, it talks about -- it's a story on the blog story about how the baby's probably not hers. It's probably her grandchild, which is completely unfounded. But that's what it is.

Then there's another story about Troopergate in here. Troopergate, they conveniently leave out, is really all about the fact that her sister-in-law was married to a state trooper. The charges were that he was taking his stun gun and abusing the family with the stun gun. He then, and this has been verified, threatened the life of the governor's father. And yet somehow or another, that part of Troopergate never seems to get out.

And then in my favorite part -- by the way, "US Weekly," owned by a huge Obama supporter and the owner of "Rolling Stone," the other reason that you shouldn't vote for her is because she has iffy friends. Wow, I find that ironic from a group of people who told us that friends don't mean anything when it comes to Barack Obama.

The hypocrisy here is stunning.

BLITZER: But when you want to run for president, though, and vice president, it seems -- and all presidential and vice presidential candidates, whether Democrat or Republican, they certainly have to realize they're going to be exposed to this kind of treatment.

BECK: No, no, no, Wolf. You are exposed to treatment. But Americans, what people don't understand, I think, is that Americans -- and this is not left or right, this is America. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. We are fair people.

We want to -- we want to hold your feet to the fire. We need to be able to see if you can take it. But we also would like it to be somewhat fair.

Tell me, the "Babies, Lies and Scandals," what exactly is that? We're not getting a fair look at Sarah Palin. We are getting -- she's being Quayled. She's being Clarence Thomased. I don't know what you want to call it, but in 30 years of broadcast, I have never seen the kind of attitude that the media has expressed toward Sarah Palin. And quite frankly, the list goes on.

If you stand against Barack Obama, God help you, because the media will do the dirty work for you. They don't need a hatchet man. They've got the media.

BLITZER: Well, at least tonight the American people will be able to see Sarah Palin.

BECK: Yes.

BLITZER: She'll speak for about a half an hour. She'll be right behind us, unfiltered. Everyone will get a sense to judge this woman based on what she says tonight.

BECK: Let me say -- real quick, if you don't mind me saying, I want to say this to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BECK: People called me on my radio show yesterday, and they said, "Glenn, who do you trust? Who is there that you trust?"

And I have to say this, and I said it on the radio yesterday, and let me say it to you. I wish we were in person.

Wolf, you have demonstrated every step of the way that you are an honest broker of information. Every experience I've ever had with you has been a good, decent, fair exposure. And I appreciate it.

Somebody has to be trusted in the media. Somebody has to be fair and say the truth, no matter which side it falls on.

BLITZER: And we're desperately trying to be as fair as we can this week covering this Republican convention, last week in covering the Democratic convention. We want our viewers out there to appreciate what's going on in this convention hall, just as they did last week in Denver.

I appreciate your words, Glenn. Thank you very much.

BECK: You bet. Thanks, Wolf. You bet.

BLITZER: And just a little bit ago, the New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, made a very important announcement. It effects millions of evacuees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. You're going to find out what he said. That's coming up in a minute.

And we're also watching the farm where Democratic nominee Barack Obama is supposed to do some politicking at a barbecue. We're going to take you live there once it starts.

Stick around. Much more of our coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And it's happening right now. Governor Sarah Palin gearing up for her big speech tonight right here at the Republican National Convention. She's expected to tell voters who she is and why she's qualified to be vice president.

One crowd she won't have to convince, Evangelicals. We'll tell you why that voting bloc right now very much on her side.

On the offensive, Senator Barack Obama blasting the McCain camp in a crucial battleground state. You're going to hear what he has to say. That's coming up live.

And the Bush administration offering a helping hand and a huge check to a former Soviet republic. That's the now independent Republic of Georgia.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Republican National Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin is being compared to giving the whole Republican base a can of the energy drink Red Bull. That colorful comparison comes from the southern Baptist leader, Richard Land. As CNN's Mary Snow reports, Christian evangelicals are very happy with what they're seeing and hearing from the Alaska governor, even though it may prove to be controversial.

All right, Mary, tell our viewers what you're finding out in all your reporting.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly, evangelicals are energized.

When Governor Palin announced Monday that her teenage daughter was pregnant and would have the baby and marry the father, many evangelicals said, the news only solidified their support of her, and they're rallying to her defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As Alaska Governor Sarah Palin faces scrutiny, the religious right is rallying to her side. Her socially conservative positions generated enthusiasm among conservative crowds, like this one in O'Fallon, Missouri.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SNOW: Palin is a staunch opponent of abortion, even in cases of rape. She believes creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools. She declared a week in October of 2007 as Christian Heritage Week in Alaska. And she has spoken openly about her faith on issues like Iraq, as she did when she addressed the congregation at the Assembly of God Church in Wasilla. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pray for our military men and women, who are striving to do what is right also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan, and that that plan is -- is God's plan.

SNOW: Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention says, McCain's pick of Palin has turned around skeptics.

RICHARD LAND, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: It looks like, when they picked her, that they put the whole base on Red Bull. Yes, it is amazing how it has energized the base.

SNOW: Focus on the Family leader James Dobson, who said he wouldn't support McCain, now says he's now moving closer to being able to vote for him.

CHARLES DUNN, REGENT UNIVERSITY: She's the bridge to get them on board. So, she serves an important function there for those people who oppose McCain, but realize that, in opposing McCain, they had nowhere to go.

SNOW: But, while the religious right rallies, one political observer says it could turn away the Hillary Clinton supporters McCain is trying to attract.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It's probably guaranteed that very few Clinton supporters, in the end, will vote for McCain/Palin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And, Wolf, so far, support of Palin has turned into cash, according to the McCain camp. It says it's raised $10 million since Palin's choice was announced last Friday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a lot -- lot of money for the McCain campaign.

All right. Thanks, Mary. Thanks very much.

We have heard from the analysts and the pundits about Sarah Palin. Now you're going to hear from people in her own state. That's coming up next -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, Oprah Winfrey, she's talking about how she felt during Barack Obama's acceptance speech. Our cameras were there as she taped the first show of her new season -- that story coming up.

We're here in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the floor of the Republican Convention, where, tonight, Sarah Palin, the vice presidential candidate, will speak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama, speaking right now in -- in eastern Ohio, not far from the Pennsylvania state line, he's talking about how worried Americans are right now.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: ... going up and up and up.

More money is going out on gas and food, and, yet, wages and incomes have not gone up at all. You know, when Bill Clinton was president, the average family income went up $7, 500. Since George Bush has been president, the average family's income has gone down $2,000. So, it's harder to save. It's harder to retire.

And, most importantly, people aren't sure whether the next generation is going to be doing better off than we did, or whether America is going to find itself unable to compete in this international economy and unable to generate good jobs for our children and our grandchildren, with -- with good benefits and decent retirement. That's what's at stake in this election.

And the reason I am running is because I believe that the American promise is a promise that we owe to the next generation, and the generation after that, and the generation after that, a promise that, if you work hard in this country, if you try, then you can make it. That's what we're fighting for. That's the choice we face. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right, Gloria Borger is here.

He's doing his stump speech. He's got his lines, obviously. He's trying to refocus this whole race on the economy and the eight years of the economic record of George Bush, saying, if you vote for the Republicans right now, get ready for another four years of this economic crisis.

BORGER: You know, it's kind of interesting, Wolf, because, with the choice of Sarah Palin as running mate for John McCain, the experience argument kind of goes out the window, to a -- to a certain degree.

Barack Obama is not so much on the defense on that anymore. So, he's trying to play offense, to talk about the one thing that he says wasn't talked an awful lot about last night, and that's the economy.

You know you're going to hear tonight, as we did last night, the Democrats are going to raise your taxes, that you can't -- you can't trust them, particularly Barack Obama, to be in charge of the economy.

And what he is going to continue to point out is, do you feel better off today than you felt eight years ago, an old Ronald Reagan line that the Democrats are now using. BLITZER: And most...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And most Americans will say they feel worse off than they did eight years ago...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... less confident than they were eight years. The Republicans will say they are going to raise -- the Democrats are going to raise taxes, get a bigger government, more government spending, socialized medicine, all that kind of stuff. We will be hearing a lot of that tonight.

BORGER: Right.

And -- and Sarah Palin is going to talk about the economy, in terms of energy policy, because that's one area, being a governor of Alaska, where she does have a certain amount of expertise. And so, she's going to -- she's going to try and talk about the economy in -- in light of energy.

BLITZER: Stand by, Gloria. We're going to be here for a while.

So far, the harshest words at this convention may have come from the White House.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain's resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president delivered that partisan blast right from the White House.

Here's the question some are asking: Is that appropriate? That's a question for our "Strategy Session" that's coming up.

And Meghan McCain has a new blog post about what it's like being a politician's daughter. It's very timely, in light of what Sarah Palin's children are going through right now.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some of Sarah Palin's biggest fans undoubtedly are the members of her own state's delegation here in St. Paul. Let's go to that delegation.

Ed Henry is on the floor with us right now.

They're pretty excited in Alaska about their governor becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And I'm here with a member of Sarah Palin's Cabinet, Annette Kreitzer. She's the head of the office of administration, Department of Administration, in this state.

Tell me, you have been in Cabinet meetings with her. What kind of leader is she?

ANNETTE KREITZER, COMMISSIONER, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION: Well, she's very tenacious. She says what she means, and she means what she says.

And those of us around her listen very carefully when she gives us our directions. And one of the largest things I think she's done recently is push through the AGIA legislation, gas line -- Alaska gas line initiative...

HENRY: Sure. And...

KREITZER: ... to get a gas line for Alaska.

HENRY: Now, you have been in those Cabinet meetings.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: Democrats have been ripping into her, saying she has no experience. Give us an example that you recall that shows she does have the experience that would give us a window on her judgment.

KREITZER: Well, I think the AGIA bill is one of those examples.

And the ACES bill, which was a bill to increase oil and gas taxes in Alaska, she was very -- she demonstrated extreme leadership there. And, in the Cabinet meetings, there was no doubt this is the highest priority. "So, if your business is not the highest priority, be prepared, when I go in to meet with legislators, that some of your other priorities of the state may have to take back seat to that."

HENRY: Let talk...

KREITZER: And that's tough sometimes.

HENRY: Let's talk about the -- Governor Palin as a woman...

KREITZER: Yes.

HENRY: ... up there, an historic night.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: A lot of pressure on her.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: This is really -- most American -- of the American people are seeing her for the first time tonight.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: How does she deal with pressure?

KREITZER: Well, it may be an unusual analogy, but she and I are both hunters. And, when you're hunting, and when you hunt for some of the things that I hunt for, you have to focus. You have to take a breath and focus when you're out there doing that.

And I think that's probably what the governor will do. The governor will take a breath, she will focus, and she will be her tenacious, empathetic self.

HENRY: Last thing. You have read all these media accounts. You told me you're a former reporter. The governor is a former sports reporter.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: The media has been scrutinizing her.

KREITZER: Right.

HENRY: What is one thing you haven't seen in the media yet that you want the American people to know about the governor?

KREITZER: Well, I -- in the media, what I haven't seen yet is, for some of them, some more accurate reporting.

It's troubling to me that some of the stories that have been printed, like the front page of "The New York Times," that had to be retracted about her voter registration.

HENRY: Whether she had become an independent.

KREITZER: That's right. She's been a registered Republican all of her life. And they had to retract that story.

So, for me, part of the problem with the media is, get your facts straight first, before you print the story.

HENRY: Sure.

Thanks very much for your time.

KREITZER: Sure.

HENRY: And, Wolf, we heard earlier from my colleague Dana Bash that the governor has been basically holed up for the last 48 hours working intensively on her speech.

Annette told me a little while ago that she's seen her work up close, that she is intense, and she's always been wondering what kind of vitamins the governor takes to keep up that hectic schedule. I bet we're going to hear a lot of about that from a lot of the McCain surrogates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, do a quick question with her, if you don't mind.

KREITZER: Sure.

BLITZER: She was referring to the story "The New York Times" retracted about the Alaska Independence Party, which Sarah Palin has never been a member of. But her husband was a member, a registered member, of that party.

Ask her what that party is all about.

HENRY: Talk to us. Wolf has a question about the fact that Sarah Palin's husband was a member of the Alaska Independence Party. What's your understanding about what that party stands for? What's the significance of that?

KREITZER: Well, I think the name is great attractor to a lot of Alaskans, because a lot of Alaskans want to maintain that independent spirit.

And there -- there's been a lot of change in that party. I first came to Alaska in 1983 from New Mexico. We grew up in Dayton, Ohio, my husband and I. And when we first came to Alaska, we thought that was an interesting party, because, on the surface, some of the things that they stand for are independence from government, trying to stand on your own two feet, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, those kind of things.

When you find out more about what the party stands for, I think that's when you have to make a decision, gosh, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

HENRY: Thank you very much your time. I know it's a big night for everyone in the Alaska delegation.

KREITZER: Yes, it is.

HENRY: Thanks for taking the time -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're learning a lot about Alaska right now. And we will probably learn a lot more.

All right, Ed, thanks very much.

A top aide to Sarah Palin tells us she will speak to the convention tonight as someone with both hands on the steering wheel of America's energy economy. In that case, why did she seem to speak so glowingly of Barack Obama's energy plan only a few weeks ago? You are going to want to hear and see Brian Todd's report. Stand by for that.

I will also speak with a top spokeswoman for Barack Obama's campaign and ask if they're ready for the attacks we all know will be coming from this podium behind me later tonight.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and our Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

What does Sarah Palin need to say tonight -- we know she is going to do well with the conservative religious base -- but to reach out to independent women, especially those women who might be disappointed that Barack Obama didn't select Hillary Clinton as his running mate?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, this is a very historic evening, the second time in our nation's history that we have selected -- a major party has selected a woman to be on the ticket.

I remember, back in July of 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was selected. So, twice in my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to see that.

But I think Governor Palin tonight should be herself. She should try to reach out to all voters, and -- and to remind them that she's one of us, she understands our pain, our -- our struggles. And -- and I also believe that they should allow her to say, look, I'm a reformer. I'm not going to Washington to continue the same policies that George Bush and Dick Cheney have promoted, because it's wrecked our economy.

BLITZER: Given her outspoken position against abortion rights, against homosexual rights, against gun control -- she's in favor of guns, as you know -- is it realistic to think that Hillary Clinton supporters might go ahead and vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, you don't have to agree with somebody on every issue to vote for them.

And I think Donna nailed it. I think that's exactly what she has to do tonight, plus one other thing. And that is, her character is being tested tonight. You know, we're all wondering if this woman has the strength to lead the nation. Well, guess what? She's in the crushable right now.

We're seeing whether she has the mettle to take a beating like this and pass that test. So, one of the things she has to do tonight to appeal to those independent women is to look unflinchingly in the eye of the media and everyone in this country, go through her paces, deliver her speech. And, if she passes that test tonight, she's well on her way to becoming the candidate of change and reform here and helping John McCain...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's one thing, though, for her to deliver a beautiful speech that's on a Teleprompter, well-written, crafted. It's another thing for her to do a serious interview with a journalist, or a bunch of journalists, who are going to ask very specific, forceful, tough questions.

BRAZILE: Well, that's a moment, because I think, at some point, the campaign will have to unleash her to, you know, talk to the media. And I'm not just talking about "People" magazine, although I read it, but talk to you, talk to some of the other, you know, anchors around the country, because people want to know a little bit more about Sarah Palin, her views, her values, and exactly what she would do to change course in America.

CASTELLANOS: And that -- and that time will come.

But, you know, when you're introducing a new candidate, a new product, you don't -- you don't do it on defense first. You -- first, offense. You tell your story your way. And it would be malpractice for them to -- to put her in that media meat grinder now.

That day will come, and it will come soon.

BRAZILE: But she's a governor. She's a sitting governor, so she's -- she's faced the press before. The question is if she's ready to face the national media.

BLITZER: The Alaska press can be pretty tough, too.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: The national press is another story.

All right, guys, stand by. We have got a long night ahead of us.

Meghan McCain has some very interesting company on her latest blog post. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIPER PALIN, DAUGHTER OF GOV. SARAH PALIN: Vote for my mom and John McCain.

(LAUGHTER)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Vote for my dad and Governor Palin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Republican candidates' children, they're getting political. We are going to show you more. That's coming up. And, today, a very important visitor got a firsthand look at the damage Hurricane Gustav left behind in Louisiana. That would be the president of the United States.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On today's political ticker, John McCain's daughter, Meghan, is using her blog to offer her full support to Governor Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is watching all of this online.

What's going on, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Meghan McCain is saying it's rough being the daughter of a politician, something she knows from experience. And she's using her blog to rally in support and defense of Bristol Palin and the Palin family.

There's a ton of behind-the-scenes photos here from the last few days, last weekend of campaigning, Bristol Palin on the right there holding baby Trig, pictures there of Sarah Palin as well, multitasking with the baby, with a BlackBerry.

And, as she posts all this, Meghan McCain describes her own experience in 2000, when her father, John McCain, was asked by a reporter what he would do if Meghan McCain hypothetically found herself pregnant. Meghan McCain saying that's something that still comes up in interviews now, and, because of all this, she's saying, "I feel a certain kinship with these daughters."

She posted this video with the 7-year-old Piper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

P. PALIN: Vote for my mom and John McCain.

(LAUGHTER)

M. MCCAIN: Vote for my dad and Governor Palin.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TATTON: That video, Wolf, that they posted online, they are calling "Girl Power" -- back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thank you.

Let's head over to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Does the rest of the world do elections like we do here in the colonies?

BLITZER: No.

CAFFERTY: They don't, do they?

BLITZER: I think this is a unique -- this is a unique experience.

CAFFERTY: This is the -- this is the comedy relief for the entire planet for this year.

Question this hour: Should John McCain consider replacing Sarah Palin on the Republican ticket?

Tony writes in Connecticut: "No do-overs. If McCain took advice from those bumbling fools who found her, he has to live with losing the election. He would have lost anyway, but he's going down hard now."

Berta writes: "Quite a conundrum, eh, Jack? A, he replaces her, looks like the foolish, impulsive, misogynistic goofball that he is. B, he keeps her, and looks like the foolish, impulsive, misogynistic goofball that he is. I vote for all of the above, but, then, I'm voting for Obama."

Daryl writes: "Ha! Wouldn't you love that? Not a chance. She is going to put him over the top. Just wait until the polls come out next week."

Michael writes: "It seems to me the Republicans are the ones exploiting the pregnant daughter of Sarah Palin. They are marching her around the convention like she's some kind of a trophy. These people are just way too hypocritical for me. And, within the next 10 days, I believe Sarah Palin will step down, due to family considerations."

Jason in Illinois: "This pick has one major benefit for Republicans, in that she energizes the right-wing base. The problem is, the base isn't enough to win anymore. Dumping her would say that this was a cynical political pick to begin with, further damaging McCain's increasingly shaky image as someone who wants to reform Washington. He's made his bed. Now he's got to lie in it."

Keith writes: "He should, but I hope he doesn't yet. I hate the fact that I can't turn away from a train wreck."

Paul writes: "Not at all. It's just what the liberals want. She is more than -- she's more qualified than Barack Obama to be the president."

And Anna in New York writes: "No. This plays out better than 'Desperate Housewives' or any of the soap operas."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

I'm older than you are, and I can't remember any vice presidential candidate kicking up this much dust.

BLITZER: Thomas Eagleton, back in 1972, when he was dumped by George McGovern, what do you think about that?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes, but that was -- I don't know. That was a little different.

It was -- they had found out he had some electric shock treatments and been treated for some mental illness. And they jettisoned him about 18 days after he was nominated.

But he -- as I recall -- and I was working in Kansas City at the time -- he didn't -- he didn't come to the party with all of the attendant accouterment as -- as Governor Palin has. It was kind of a cut-and-dried deal. He was there for a couple of weeks. They said, oh, we found some medical records. He's out of here -- kind of a surgical deal by comparison.

BLITZER: All right. OK, Jack, stand by.