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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Democratic National Convention; Examining Michelle Obama's Speech
Aired September 4, 2012 - 23:10 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The first lady of the United States, not hitting a homerun but probably a grand slam as far as what her mission was to do. She told a wonderful love story about her relationship with her husband, a wonderful story as a mother as far as her relationship with her two little girls. She clearly needed to rally the base and that's exactly what she did.
Candy Crowley, you're up on the podium up there. She did an amazing job for this president of the United States.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She did. And what's interesting to me is she told some of the same stories we've heard her tell so many times. She could have given this -- she did in fact give a speech very similar four years ago, but how is it different? Now it's through the prism of the presidency.
So she took all of those experiences and did two things, I think. First of all, say hey, maybe we've been in the White House for four years. Maybe we're now millionaires a couple of times over. But in our hearts, we're still those middle class people with those middle class values, we're still with you, we still understand you. A very important message that this entire convention is aimed at. The middle class.
So relating to the middle class problems saying sure, that's who we are in the White House, but in my heart, in his heart, he is in fact still middle class.
I think the second thing she did, and Wolf, you mentioned this, the base. And what does this do for the base? Remember that guy you were so excited about? Remember that guy who got up here and wowed you with his background and his stories and his dreams? Still the same guy. Still the same dreams.
So I think she did those two things and obviously you saw it was very well received, certainly in this crowd.
Anderson, up to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I just want to get quick reactions from our panel. James Carville, you've heard a lot of speeches.
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. I've heard a lot of speeches. It was a great speech. This was just a really great night. If you're David Axelrod, Jim Messina, David Plouffe, this is only night one, but you've got to be ecstatic. This was one heck of a night. It really was. I don't say that as a Democrat. You can't just sit here and look at the quality of speeches that were up there and come to any other conclusion.
COOPER: David Gergen, have you heard a speech from a first lady like that?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't remember one. And I want to echo something James said.
Anderson, I think if they had two more nights like this, they could possibly break this race open. They -- if they had three good nights on television like that, they came ready for prime time. I think in Tampa some of the Republicans weren't quite ready for prime time. Too many of them were self-referential talk about themselves. They really -- they knew what they were doing here tonight. They did it very well.
I thought Deval Patrick actually had the most powerful speech of the night. But overall, I think that they just -- they understood, after -- doing your second convention, they came in here as pros. And I think they did very, very well. I thought her testimonial was very, very moving. But to go to James' point, it was the overall evening that I thought worked the best.
COOPER: Ari Fleischer?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I hope you'll forgive me for not joining the swoon. Look, I enjoy spouse speeches. Spouse speeches always give a nice character reference about the president. And that is important. You wan that texture. But the fact is for President Obama he's a known quantity and a bad economy is a known bad economy.
Nothing that the first lady says changes what people know about President Obama one way or the other, nor does it change the facts of the bad economy and give people reasons to think that the policies that have not worked in the last four years work in the next four years.
Certain -- some speeches are much more effective in a hall of zealots than they are in the real world of voters.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that what this whole evening did is tell you, again, lift the veil. Tell you how President Obama makes decisions, maybe you agree, maybe you disagree, you're that independent voter out there. But as Michelle Obama said, his decisions are values based. And as Mayor Castro said, his decisions are based -- he never forgot where he came from. Saying Mitt Romney doesn't get it.
So the theme of the evening was yes, he might be president of the United States, yes, things have occurred. But, but this is a man who makes decisions for the right reasons. And if you can come away with that idea --
COOPER: I want to hear from John King in a moment. We have a picture now of President Obama watching the speech -- he said he was going to watch it earlier with his daughters. And that's a picture that's just been released -- John King.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm actually surprised they didn't show that in the hall during the speech. They have had a goodnight production wise tonight without a doubt. Then you heard some great speeches and that one by the first lady is going to be hard. You know, Bill Clinton is a good speech giver, Barack Obama is a good speech giver. But that's going to be hard to top. There's an open ballot somewhere if she wants to run for anything, tonight would be a good night to sign up.
However, let me try to split the difference here. Part of the goal here is to say Mitt Romney made some progress in the polls on who understands the middle class at his convention. Part of his speech, part of the other speeches about he's on your side. President Obama is. He understands your struggles, he has struggled, he is fighting for you. Then she made a very powerful case.
But to Ari's point, he's been the president for four years and one of the challenges of this convention, one of the tests of the days and weeks after, is people hard a lot of lofty speeches from Barack Obama four years ago. Now they'll match up against his four years as president. And so it's interesting. But mostly that strikes me on opening night tonight compared to what we heard in Tampa, the Democrats think 2010 was an aberration. They are saying invest. That means more spending. They're making a strong case for government.
In Tampa the Republicans think 2008 was the aberration when the country went too far left in 2008. They now want to come back. Well, two months from today the voters tell us who's right.
FLEISCHER: The other point, too, is the Democrats spent a lot of time in the convention particularly earlier talking about social issues, gay marriage, abortion. Really interesting, Republicans spent a lot more time talking about the economy. Democrats are now trying to stretch social issues because they have to get out their base.
CARVILLE: I'm sorry. The idea is to put on a good convention. They put on a heck of a convention. And can't just somebody say the quality of the speech making was extraordinary? The use of the family members particularly, Mayor Castro's family --
FLEISCHER: You did that.
CARVILLE: It was an extraordinary night. Just saying it was an extraordinary night. Whatever it was, they're Democrats, yes, we're Democrats, we believe in investment, we believe in education, they made their case. Great night.
GERGEN: All right. But let me just put one cautionary note. We were talking about beforehand. They still have to climb a high mountain. They still face hard realties. You know, a poll came out the hill today that said 54 percent of the people in this country, they'll think Barack Obama deserve to be re-elected. By 52-31 people think we're worse off than we were four years ago. He's got to --
FLEISCHER: That's my point about the zealots in the hall.
GERGEN: In the next two nights they've got to come with the realities. And he's got to do --
FLEISCHER: And the country is on the wrong track.
CARVILLE: It didn't change the reality of the economy. I agree with that. They had an incredible night. The quality of the speeches, everything was extraordinary.
COOPER: Hey, Kate Bolduan is actually down on the floor, I believe.
Kate, who do you have?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm here with two Kennedys. Two men that many of our viewers will be very familiar with. Ted Kennedy Jr., here with me, as well as a former Republican -- former congressman from Rhode Island. Not a Republican, a Democrat.
Gentlemen, Patrick Kennedy, thank you very much for meeting me down here.
You both came down here to listen to this speech with us. To listen to the first lady.
Congressman, first to you. What is your reaction? What's your takeaway from the first lady's speech this evening?
PATRICK KENNEDY (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first, she was introduced by a woman who represents the families of our wounded warriors and she has made a priority for this administration standing by the men and women who served all of us and we all have to love her for the work she's doing for our wounded warriors.
Second of all, she reintroduced us to her husband and translated how his own personal experience has made him the man he is and explained why he has been the fighter he's been fighting for. For the Lilly Ledbetter Act because his grandmother was discriminated against, because of health care reform. Because her father had M.S. Because of student aid. Because her and husband both had to fight to pay off their student loans.
So it basically illustrated that his own personal experiences were what illustrated why he's in the fight for all Americans, whether it's student loans or health care or fairness in pay. Because it's a personal experience for his family.
BOLDUAN: And I also want to ask you. I mean, earlier this evening I know you both saw it as well. There was a moving tribute to your father.
EDWARD KENNEDY, JR., SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY'S SON: Yes.
BOLDUAN: What would Ted Kennedy say if he was -- if he were here this evening, and most specifically how would he make the case for another four years for President Obama?
E. KENNEDY: Well, you may remember my father came out quite forcefully with my brother Patrick at the time. We were serving with him in Congress. Took the risky move and endorse this president.
E. KENNEDY: He thought he had the right stuff to be the person that was going to carry this next generation. So my father, if he were here today, would be giving the nomination speech for another four years of this president.
You know, as Michelle just said in her remarks, you know, President Obama took the gutsy stand and said health care is going to be a priority. Not because it's easy, but because it's hard. And -- and really lived up to the promise that he made my father before he died that he was going to make health care priority. Now he didn't backpedal on that like a lot of his political advisers.
And that is why I think my father thinks that -- thinks that he's an incredibly gutsy guy. He's an authentic -- you saw Michelle's speech. It's full of honesty, authenticity, I think she's an amazing woman and it was -- it was really wonderful.
BOLDUAN: Thank you both very, very much. Never enough time to speak with you. Ted Kennedy Jr., Congressman. Thank you very much for your time.
P. KENNEDY: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Wolf, I'm going to send it back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Let's go to Brianna Keilar. She's got a guest right now. I think he's going to suggest that tonight is going to be a good night. A good, good night.
Brianna, you're with Will.i.am, is that right?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And very appropriate because we just heard a song by the Black Eyed Peas here.
So, Will, you know the first lady. You've been involved in the military family's initiative. What did you think of the speech? WILL.I.AM, MUSICIAN: Well, I remember when I met Michelle Obama in 2007 and I saw her speak at a very small fundraising lunch and I was so moved by her speech that when I saw Barack Obama's speech in New Hampshire I was just moved by the whole movement. And seeing her today reminded me of the first time I met Michelle Obama and watching her speech.
I was moved by her speech today. It was Michelle Obama that, you know, being a momma's boy and being raised by a strong single mom, why I, you know, was, you know, inspired by the Obamas.
KEILAR: And, you wrote in 2008 an iconic song, "Yes, We Can." It was symbol of this campaign. Very optimistic. Optimism among many voters has been lost. What do you think about that and do you think President Obama can get that enthusiasm back or enough to push this over the top?
WILL.I.AM: Well, the -- "yes, we can," the sentence is "yes, we" in capital letters, can, collectively. Individually changing your family, changing your neighborhood, your community and spreading that to change your state and then your country. And if you think "yes, we can" is waiting for, you know, someone to do it for you, it's the collective of a village that's going to change this.
So that's what, you know, the inspiration that came from Michelle and Obama did for me to change my neighborhood. I built a STEM school in the East Los Angeles Boyle Heights where I'm from. You know.
KEILAR: Science, technology, engineering, math.
WILL.I.AM: Engineering and math. So, you know, we have to move forward with four words, science, technology, engineering and then mathematics. So four more years to complete, not to complete, but to -- keep forward with what we signed up for.
KEILAR: And real quick. Your song last week was the first one to be broadcast from Mars. How cool was that?
WILL.I.AM: It's cool because what it means and why it was beamed back from Mars, to inspire these kids to want to be scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians, so inspire these kids to take interest in the STEM education to become entrepreneurs, innovators and create the next medical equipment, the next turbine engines, the next, you know, new innovative, you know, tools to change our lives.
KEILAR: All right, Will, thank you so much.
Heading back to you, Wolf, that's Will.i.am. Of course a musician and also a philanthropist here to support President Obama.
WILL.I.AM: Go out and vote, everybody.
BLITZER: And I'm sure he believes that tonight, indeed, is going to be a good, good night. I love the Black Eyed Peas.
Let's go to Soledad O'Brien. She's got a guest on the floor. The senior senator from New York -- Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST, STARTING POINT: That's right. I'm going to guess that Senator Schumer would agree with that. Tonight is going to be a good night.
Nice to see you, Senator. Members of the New York delegation are making their way down and out. Let's talk a little bit about Michelle Obama's speech. The crowd here and certainly among members of the delegation went wild when she spoke.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Powerful, if was moving. What I really liked about it, it was both personal but it related to all of the issues that affect us in a personal way. I thought it was a knock-out.
O'BRIEN: She has high favorables. And certainly the president would like to have some of that rub off on him.
SCHUMER: Well --
O'BRIEN: How do you compare it to Ann Romney's speech?
SCHUMER: I thought, look, what was the most memorable thing about the Romney speeches? Both Ann's and Mitt's. That his parents left, his father left a rose for his mother. That's not about Mitt Romney. And the story that Michelle Obama could tell about her family and Barack's family is so much more moving and meaningful to the average American than Mitt Romney's. Both talked about how they both loved their husbands and both are good fathers.
But in terms of what it means to struggle and move up, and how you need a little help, and I thought it was a -- it was a beautiful way to put it, but it was a bit of a slap, when you make it to the top, you don't slam the door on those behind you. I thought she knocked it out of the park.
O'BRIEN: When you talk to --
SCHUMER: I was moved. And I've seen a lot of these speeches.
O'BRIEN: When you talk to voters who are concerned about the economy, to conversations about that, her personal relation translate well into worries about the economy.
SCHUMER: If you tie it into what matters to them, she had -- Mitt Romney and Ann Romney never had a debt in their life. They had more student debt than they -- you know, than they could deal with. They know what the average middle class person is going through. And this election is going to be won by who can convince the middle class, they can do more for them in the next four years.
I think Michelle's speech compared to Mrs. Romney's speech, without any aspersions, far more related to the average middle class person.
O'BRIEN: Senator Chuck Schumer, nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us this evening. SCHUMER: Nice to see you, Soledad. Good to be here.
O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.
And let's send it right back to Anderson.
COOPER: Soledad, thanks very much.
I mean, let's hear from our panel. Comparisons between Michelle Obama's speech and Ann Romney's speech. How you think they compare? Whether or not that's a far comparison.
Roland, it's the first time we've heard from you.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would say that's an unfair comparison. Not even close. As I listened to her speak, I immediately thought back to 1988 when Rev. Jesse Jackson stood in front of the delegates in Atlanta in 1988 and a portion of that speech where -- when he said I understand, I understand where you come from, talked about where he was born, how he was born, didn't have a name. And so that first half of the speech was essentially her saying I understand. I understand exactly where you're sitting on. We understand what you're going through.
When you hear that, all of a sudden you're saying, wait a minute. Here's somebody literally explaining you just paid off your student debt, one (INAUDIBLE) student debt right now in this country right now. That is a way for you to connect with somebody.
I think Ann Romney tried to do that last week when she talked about the ironing board. Talked about living in the basement apartment. That's what voters want to hear so they can say I need to know that you get me.
That when you're sitting in that Oval Office, that you will think about me, you will understand me. You will be representing me. That was -- that was extremely effective and frankly the president needs to listen to her speech and convey a lot more of that in order for him to connect, I think, to voters.
COOPER: It is extraordinary, this election, whether both for Ann Romney and Michelle Obama, the extent to which the campaigns are relying on the wives of the candidates to really put forth a message. I mean, both very strong, powerful women.
GERGEN: In both conventions so far the most memorable speeches have come from women. It reminds me a lot of the Olympics, you know, where the women athletes were the really ones we found most interesting. I actually think the both women did their husbands a great deal of good. I agree that Michelle Obama's speech was extremely effective but so was Ann Romney's. Let's face it. I mean she had a -- she had a story to tell to humanize her husband and it was a story most Americans didn't know. And she got it across very, very well.
FLEISCHER: And I think the big difference was Ann Romney's speech was designed to inform people about a candidate who most Americans don't know. This was his biggest audience ever, 30 million watched the speech. He is still a newcomer on the political scene as all challengers are.
The speech by the first lady tonight was designed to remind people about the things that they like best about Barack Obama that's gotten lost because the economy is so bad and the country is on the wrong track. So one task inform, the other remind. Very different missions.
BORGER: Not only to remind but also to say he's the same person you used to love four years ago.
BORGER: And he's still the same guy. And by the way, he hasn't forgotten where he came from. I mean this audience here erupted in "yes, we can" a few times.
COOPER: I know, which we have not -- I have not heard that for a while.
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
KING: To remind -- because, look, he's muddied, he's bloodied, he's been an incumbent president in very tough times. So whether you're a fan or an opponent, he's very different. She's trying to somehow recreate the magic mood of 2008. We will not have an election by 2008.
KING: But the biggest takeaway from the night is the Democrats begin this gathering with an unfamiliar position. In 2006 and 2008, they had a huge intensity edge. In 2010 Republicans had the intensity edge. At the moment Republicans have a narrower intensity edge. Republicans think the electorate is still more like 2010 than 2008.
You heard her, we must never work harder. Every speech tonight --
BORGER: Get out and vote.
KING: -- including her to cap the night. I thought very effective in speaking to the Democratic base. The bigger question is, after four years of an incumbent president, you know, what about that small slice out there? That's not mostly -- mostly talking to the people in the hall than people like him around the country. Democrats --
FLEISCHER: How transferrable is an endorsement, even coming from a spouse. That's the ultimate issue in politics. Candidates stand on their own feet, on their own merit. If Romney has to do it, President Obama has to do it.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: But in terms of mobilizing the base, her decision to put voting into sort of the same category as serving overseas as some of the many struggles that we as a nation have gone through over the years, I thought was very effective as a way to get --
GERGEN: Because she brings this credibility having worked for veterans. I mean it was a nice turn right there at the end. To channel that energy. But you have to say, Ari, the intensity in the hall, maybe because it's a bigger hall, they have a lot more people. But there does seem to be more intensity in the hall than what we saw in Tampa.
MARTIN: Well, Anderson --
FLEISCHER: I don't have to say.
MARTIN: And Anderson, I also talk about the voting piece, you're dealing with voter suppression efforts, you're dealing with enthusiasm as well. And so what she is trying to say is yes, this is a fundamental right as an American, the issue of voting.
COOPER: Certainly respond -- people respond well to that here in the hall.
CNN's Piers Morgan is standing by with tonight's keynote speaker, also with his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro had the crowd on its feet. Sharing stories about his family's quest for the American dream. You'll hear from them.
And of tonight's many highlights our analysts are ready to tell us their top takeaways from this first night at the Democratic National Convention. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back here at the Democratic National Convention. And our CNN analysts are getting ready to give us their takeaways from tonight's convention.
Jessica Yellin is here, our chief White House correspondent.
Give me one thing that really stood out and what you learned tonight.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that one of the goals tonight, Wolf, was for the Democrats and the Obamas to say tonight that in a sense we are more like you than the Republicans and the Romneys. That we understand the problems you're going through and we can relate better.
They did it in a number of ways by specifically hitting on the issues that they want to connect on gays and lesbians, what they've done for them, women and Latinos. They have to turn up the turnout in those categories.
And then by Mrs. Obama making the case that they have been struggling to pay their bills only so few years ago. Whether it's true or not, they're trying to make that case. And it was pretty effective in this hall at least. We'll see in a week or so how effective it was out in the broader field.
BLITZER: It couldn't have been more effective inside this hall with 20 or 25,000 people over there.
Let's go up to Candy Crowley.
Candy, give us one thing you learned tonight that really stood out.
CROWLEY: I'm not sure we learned it except for we saw this coming. This is about what we're seeing in terms of the lack of enthusiasm, at least in the polling, of young folks for Barack Obama at least as compared to four years ago. The Latino community we're also seeing a drop in their enthusiasm.
This entire night was towards driving the base out and that includes we understand you, the repeated references to the middle class. This is we get you, they don't.
I think my other impression of the night is that Michelle Obama certainly may be mother-in-chief, she may be first lady, but she's also a heck of a politician. There were some nuanced hits at Mitt Romney in there, but they're certainly, certainly were there as she viewed her husband, the same husband she described four years ago, through the prism of the White House, and saying he's still that same guy. Remember who he was, how excited you were about him.
And by the way, Mitt Romney, though she never mentioned his name, it was very clear, that there were some pointed references there to saying they really don't get you. We get you -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point, Candy.
And as I go back to Anderson up there in the skybox, Anderson, what really stood out for me was the fact that these Democrats, all of them tonight, basically doubling down on some of the most sensitive issues out there, whether the Obamacare, the health care reform, same-sex marriage, whether it was abortion rights for women. They were not running away, they were addressing them directly, clearly seeking to rally that base and make sure that the Democrat base would be enthused and get out and actually vote.
COOPER: And it wasn't just one speaker or two speakers, it was a number of speakers.
COOPER: Bringing up all those issues time and time again.
Just a quick takeaway, top takeaways from tonight, John.
KING: We make it complicated. Sometimes politics is about math. Tonight was about the addition of the Obama coalition. Reach out to African-Americans, Latinos, gays, working mothers and from Deval Patrick a chastise for the Democrats who've walked away from this president, saying have a backbone, stand up for what this president believes in. They know they need every piece to turn out to win a very close election.
BORGER: I'm going to piggyback on that because I think Michelle Obama may be the most effective get-out-the-vote person that we'll see at this entire convention including the president, reminding people who he was. And if you're a kind of a Democrat sitting on your couch and you're thinking of not voting because you're not excited about the president anymore, she spoke directly to you tonight.
MARTIN: This is about going on the offensive. This is about not being scared as Wolf said to touch on those issues. And so every time an Ari Fleischer says the economy is off the track, what you do is remind of what happened when his guy was running. I'm a native Texan, trust me, that was no track when he was running the economy.
And so you go on the offensive. You don't play defensive. You lay it out by simply saying we're not going to be scared of you trying to paint us into a different corner. We're going to be as aggressive as you are. You want to fight, let's roll.
COOPER: Ari, your takeaway?
FLEISCHER: Well, I think it started at the beginning with that video where the narrator said that the government is the only thing we all belong to. I think there's an underlying theme and so much of this convention, you need the government to make it in America.
COOPER: We're going to have more from David and Ari in a moment but Piers has two very special guests -- Piers.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I do indeed. Here in the CNN Grill, the beer is flowing and not for the first time I am seeing double.
Gentlemen, so this is the test. I know that one of you has a blue tie, one has a purple tie.
JOAQUIN CASTRO, TWIN BROTHER OF MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: That's right.
MORGAN: One has a wedding ring and one doesn't. And according to you, you're the better looking one.
JOAQUIN CASTRO: That's right. And you've just confirmed --
MORGAN: You are Joaquin and you are the star of the night as far as many people concerned. Hats off to Michelle Obama.
Julian Castro. Great speech.
MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: Electrified the conference. How are you feeling? Are you feeling relieved?
JULIAN CASTRO: Yes, I'm a much happier man right now than I was about an hour ago. So, yes, very relieved, it went well. I got a little assist from my daughter, I think.
MORGAN: Who's over there, Carina. With your wife Erica and your mother Rosie.
JULIAN CASTRO: Cozying (ph) a little while.
MORGAN: They've all come to support you. A big night for the family. I was very struck, I think most people were, by the very moving account you gave of your grandmother Victoria. She came over from Mexico as an orphan to San Antonio.
I just wondered, as I was watching you speak, and watching you both up there, how do you think she would have felt seeing you guys now at this huge convention beamed around the world. Great emotions, I would have thought?
JULIAN CASTRO: I think she would have been extremely proud. She wouldn't have believed it. She passed away about 15 years ago now, and so we weren't in public service yet. She couldn't have imagined it. But she'd be proud of her grandsons and also of her country because it's really an American dream story. So I think she would just overwhelmingly be proud.
JOAQUIN CASTRO: She passed away a few months before we graduated from college and so, you know, it was very special for us tonight to hear Julian tell her story, that is the story that so many of our families have experienced, and really whether they've come from Mexico, or Ireland, or Italy, or Germany or Asia, that really is the story of America. Each generation was --
MORGAN: It is the American dream at its purist. And there's something that I think people have forgotten about to a large degree through these terrible recession hit times. What does the American dream really mean, do you think? How do you reinforce the kind of story that you guys can tell America?
JULIAN CASTRO: Well, it means that there's this -- as Joaquin has said many times. He's campaigning for Congress these days. But this sort of infrastructure of opportunity, of strong public schools, of good universities, of student aid, of those things that it takes to experience opportunity in America and America has been the land of opportunity.
And so it's our family is I think one example of that. But there's so many other examples and the importance of tonight and of this election is which one of these candidates is going to ensure that America remains unquestionably the land of opportunity in the coming years. And tonight my speech was about why I'm convinced that's President Barack Obama. MORGAN: I mean you gave Mitt Romney a few good zingers. A lot of one of that, you know. You've just got to ask your parents for the money. Gee, I wish I'd thought of that. We're all having a chuckle of that. But there was a clear line tonight, drawn by almost every speaker.
JULIAN CASTRO: Sure.
MORGAN: The difference between Mitt Romney's relationship with the electorate, particularly in terms of his personal wealth, and you guys. You're obviously a good illustration of that. Perhaps more than the Obamas in many ways.
But how much do you think that is going to come into play as a key factor in the election? Do you think the American people are going to look at Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and say this guy is a wealthy guy, he's out of touch with us. I prefer to go with the devil I know who has admitted he's only done half the job really. What do you think?
JULIAN CASTRO: Well, what I think is that when folks compare where the nation was when President Obama took office and you heard several speakers say that, losing 750,000 to 800,000 jobs a month and then you compare where we are right now, 29 straight months of private sector job growth, 4.5 million new jobs, that I'm confident he's going to lay out the case very convincingly for why even though we haven't made the -- we're not where we want to be, we have made significant progress.
And that means something very real for people's lives. You know more students that are able to go to college, more folks now that are able to get back to work. We see that in Texas. So I don't think anybody would say that we're where we want to be. But we're better positioned as a nation than we were in January of 2009.
MORGAN: A lot of buzz tonight about your speech, as I say. Electrified everybody, prompting some people to say wow, we haven't heard a speech like that since Barack Obama in 2004. This guy could be president. Now either of you could end up --
JOAQUIN CASTRO: I'll go ahead and leave that to him. If he becomes president, I need Secret Service protection.
MORGAN: I suppose my overriding question is, if Barack Obama thought he had a problem with a name like Barack Obama becoming president, the first President Castro of the United States of America is quite a moment.
JULIAN CASTRO: It's never going to happen.
But I do grant you that Florida would be pretty hard.
MORGAN: Listen, congratulations.
JULIAN CASTRO: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: It was a ground-breaking speech.
JULIAN CASTRO: I really appreciate it.
MORGAN: People very excited.
JULIAN CASTRO: Thank you.
MORGAN: And may the best man win. It comes down to the race off.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Piers. We're looking forward to your live show from the Grill right at the top of the hour. Shall we say a star is born here at the Democratic National -- or perhaps two stars are born tonight? I think the answer is two stars are born.
Now speakers at this convention tonight certainly gave President Obama a lot of credit for creating 4.5 million jobs during his first term. Can we actually believe all these numbers? Our reality check team has the answer. That's coming up next.
And we want you to take part in CNN's coverage of the Democratic convention. Log on to facebook.com/CNN, answer this question. Who do you think was the best recent first lady? Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama?
We're going to have all your answers, that's coming in a little while.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the way of money or material possessions, but who had given us something far more valuable. Their unconditional love, their un- flinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, as you just saw tonight, Michelle Obama gave tonight's featured speech at the Democratic National Convention. What a speech it was. A lot of other speakers had the delegates on their feet cheering. Take a look at some of tonight's highlights. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRAT NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: The 46th Quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: This November, with the re-election of President Barack Obama, this generation of Americans will expand upon the hope, the dream, the truth and the promise of America.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: The Democratic women of the House are ready to join President Barack Obama to move America forward.
TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: He said he would end the war in Iraq. And he has. He said he'd go after al Qaeda and he'd take out bin Laden and with our great SEAL team that's exactly what he did.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Last week Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he's seeking to command, but he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word Afghanistan.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Today's Republican Party believes in two sets of rules. One for millionaires and billionaires, and another for the middle class. And this year they've nominated the strongest proponent and clearest beneficiary of this rigged game. Mitt Romney.
TOM STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Mitt has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It's summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss alps.
GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Governor Romney, just because you bank against the United States of America doesn't mean the rest of us are willing to sell her out.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
JULIAN CASTRO: When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says no. When it comes to respecting women's rights, Mitt Romney says no. When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney --
CROWD: Romney says no.
JULIAN CASTRO: Actually --
JULIAN CASTRO: Actually, Mitt Romney said yes, and now he says no. CROWD: No.
M. OBAMA: After so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are. No. It reveals who you are.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
But at the end of the day when it comes time to make that decision as president, all you have to guide you are your values and your vision and the life experiences that make you who you are. When people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character and his convictions and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Those were some of the moments in the hall that got a lot of people on their feet tonight. Let's go to Erin Burnett and Tom Foreman for a reality check in some of the speeches tonight.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, a lot of things were said this evening making fact-checkers everywhere very, very, very busy. But there was one cornerstone claim of the Democrats. It has been said so many times in the past two weeks you cannot count it in tonight. They pounded it like a nail. That President Obama has created more than four million jobs since taking office. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: Today our economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs a month to adding 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last 29 months.
BOOKER: Who added 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last 2.5 years?
JULIAN CASTRO: We've seen 4.5 million new jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So it's clear. The claim is the president created 4.5 million new jobs since taking office. The problem here is not in the math, more than four million jobs have been created. What is missing here is context.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: Yes. And context is everything. Now Rahm Emanuel said it right, he used those crucial words private sector. That makes the verdict on this technically true. So let me just show everyone the math.
And Tom and I went through this. Jobs added, private sector jobs during this administration, 4.5 million indeed is the right number. The problem is, is as we all know there were many jobs lost. In fact there were five million private sector jobs lost. So net jobs lost, private sector, 500,000. Now and actually -- again, private sector is the crucial word, because if you actually look at other jobs, including government jobs, the picture is actually much worse in terms of net loss we are still 1.1 million jobs in the hole under this administration.
And Tom, another thing tonight when you look at this in terms of the unemployment rate, so many people are asking, are you better off than you were four years ago. We all heard Governor O'Malley from Maryland with that stumble this weekend, but when you look at the unemployment picture which is the center of this whole election, the answer is categorically we are not.
If you look at -- right now current unemployment rate 8.3 percent. And we will get a new number after the president's speech on Friday morning.
FOREMAN: Sure. Sure.
BURNETT: Election day 2008, that number was 6.5 percent. Inauguration day, that number was 7.3 percent. So worse off by either one of those measures. But when you look at where we were in the peak, the peak unemployment rate, everyone was 10 percent. So we are better than we were at the very worse, but we are not near where we were when the president took office. And a lot of the jobs that we have gotten back are not necessarily the ones that we want.
FOREMAN: Yes. They're not the same ones. So we're looking at selective numbers to begin with. But when you look at the jobs we got back, it's important to remember. Some of the jobs that were gained in this first administration -- the first term here were temporary jobs. They were jobs that were spurred by stimulus money or maybe by census work, that sort of thing. They're not jobs that lasted.
They're still counted as jobs, but more importantly there have been surveys out there that have indicated that somewhere around 80 percent of the jobs that have been lost in this recession and afterward were middle to high-waged jobs, and about 60 percent of the jobs we've gained are low-wage jobs. So not just that we lost jobs and got some jobs back, but the jobs we got back generally are not on par with the ones we lost.
BURNETT: And Tom said this, because that means something crucial that the first lady said is not necessarily true. Here is her claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: That's how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again. Jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs. Right here in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Yes, I'm sure there are many families who'll say any job is a good job right now.
FOREMAN: But they aren't as good as the jobs that were lost. By and large, look at the numbers, look at the facts, that's what shows up.
BURNETT: That's right. That's our verdict there on that crucial charge tonight. Back to you, Wolf and Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Let's -- let's talk about some of those numbers, what you heard.
David, how do these -- in terms of facts, did you hear a lot of egregious things tonight?
GERGEN: Well, I -- you know, in Tampa we had a lot of fact-checking to do. There were some misstatements there.
MARTIN: A lot.
GERGEN: We all know that -- a lot. I do think this -- I think what they're not -- what they did, they had a heck of a night, but they're not facing some of the hard realties. And that is we're still in an economic mess. The economy is back to where it was before the recession. But I think Erin can correct me, but I think we still have five million less jobs today than we had before the recession started.
We have these deficits that are mounting. I don't think -- I don't think I heard anybody that talked about deficits. And we don't have a game plan for getting out of this mess yet. So that's what they still have to do before this is over. I think they haven't given us sort of factual misstatements but I think that they have -- I think they've glossed over the hard realties.
MARTIN: Well, I'll tell you, one of the things you can also look at is that you talk about in five years, five million lost, 4.5 million added. The final six months prior to taking over, 3.47 million lost in six months. And so that positions you to understand what we went through in 2009, 2010. I make -- I make the argument and we talk about how is the economy doing. We were basically on life support in 2009. We're now as a nation in ICU. Guess --
GERGEN: Roland, I just want to say one thing, Ari. Roland, every other -- we are three years into the recovery. This is the slowest recovery we've had since the Great Depression.
MARTIN: Yes. And Ben Bernanke, the head of Federal Reserve knows that.
GERGEN: When we've had other presidents, they've gotten us out a lot faster.
GERGEN: And this has not happened.
COOPER: Ari --
COOPER: Would you be surprised to hear the president give himself an incomplete grade? I mean is --
COOPER: I know you'll agree with that. At the very least. But is it a mistake for him to say that?
FLEISCHER: I think it's the best he can do. The Democrats -- rhetorically the best -- the Democrats are in a squeeze. It's the same thing about, are you better off than you were four years ago. If they say no, they're reinforcing everything people think has gone wrong in the last four years. If they say yes, you're better off, then you're out of touch. That's the same issue here, Anderson, why they have to say that. He has to give himself an incomplete.
But to the bigger question, and the president used a football analogy in Ohio the other day. The real issue is, the previous head coach got fired and I happen to work for him, the American people don't want George Bush anymore. Four years into the new head coach's job, the team is still losing and losing badly.
The American people are not going to vote in November on who the previous head coach was. They're the owners of this team and that's the issue that's outside this hall. The economy, the deficit, the debt. The fact that two-thirds of the country thinks that the country is on the wrong track.
COOPER: Jessica, I know you want to get in. We got to bring up to Candy.
YELLIN: Incomplete is maybe more succinct but he's essentially said the same thing before. He says --
COOPER: He said it on "The View" earlier.
YELLIN: But he says almost every day on the stump, the economy isn't where it needs to be and his case is, I want another four years to get it there. The case he needs to make when he comes here at the end of the week is, I do have a plan to get us there and that's why incomplete makes sense. So he has to make the next logical jump. He has to bridge that to say yes, the incomplete will pay off if you give me another term.
COOPER: And Michelle Obama tried to echo that tonight by saying he's playing a long game.
Candy, you're down on the floor.
CROWLEY: I think some of the things that we heard from the -- up until the first lady's speech went to the other subtext of the campaign, which we were told from the very beginning is what they wanted to be about choice. You heard despite all the protestations we heard about Mitt Romney's convention was so negative and all they did was attack the president, we heard a lot of stiff attacks against the president tonight and this was the night to say to Americans you've got a choice.
You can have either this guy or you can have the president that you know. So you heard that particularly from Governor O'Malley. You can go forward or you can go back. So it is up to the president, I think, on the cap of the Thursday to say, yes, but how was the second term different from the first term?
Back to you in the booth, Anderson.
COOPER: And Wolf, tomorrow another big night. A lot of big speakers.
BLITZER: Well, I'm anxious to hear Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States. I know he's been working really, really hard on his speech and he's going to do whatever he can to try to get President Obama re-elected. That will be a powerful speech during the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour. That will be the highlight of tomorrow night, Thursday night.
Two big speeches, the vice president and then of course the president of the United States, and I'm anxious to hear how far the president will go in answering the question that Jessica and many others have raised. Will he spell out in detail what would he do differently over the next four years in order to turn this economy around?
COOPER: Yes. A lot to watch for. Want you to take part in your coverage.
BLITZER: We do. We want all of our viewers to take part in CNN's coverage of this Democratic convention.
Log on to facebook.com/CNN, answer this question. Who do you think was the best recent first lady, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama? We'll have the answers in a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. OBAMA: And like so many American families, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success or care that others had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michelle Obama earlier tonight. We want to thank you for going to our Facebook page, telling us who you think is the best recent first lady. Sixteen percent of you said Laura Bush, 12 percent said Hillary Clinton, and 72 said Michelle Obama.
Certainly right after her speech probably has set women very high.
BLITZER: A lot of her fans out there.
COOPER: No doubt about that.
BLITZER: She did an excellent speech, there's no doubt about that.
Well, for Wolf Blitzer and I, Piers Morgan continues our coverage now from the CNN Grill -- Piers.