'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Speech and John McCain's VP Nominee

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 28, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BURTON, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I'm not going to apologize for the ent husiasm in our campaign. We're going to be out there — Barack Obama will accept the nomination with 80,000 Americans waving American flags out at Mile High stadium.

And this is in contrast to John McCain who is going to be in Minneapolis, surrounded by his lobbyist friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And so you see, Americans, this grand venue here with this magnificent stage and 80,000 people in attendance is simply a function of the enthusiasm among Barack Obama supporters and the felt need, as you can see in those vast seats there, to get them all into the stadium, or at least as many as possible, so they can hear what we're now being told is going to be not a boring or rhetorical flight, but instead a workmanlike speech.

Some thoughts on all this now from Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, FOX News contributors all.

Mort, reflect with me a little bit here. When the planning was done to have this venue for this night, do you really think it was originally for the purpose of a workmanlike speech?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: No. I mean, look, Obama is going to deliver his usual eloquent, soaring speech. But what he's got to do —

HUME: We're told he's not.

KONDRACKE: No, he's going to do it. Fred and I were at a breakfast this morning with David Axelrod, and David is the high command, and they said eloquent it will be, as usual.

But in addition to that, what he has to do is paint a vivid picture of how his economic plan relates specifically to the average person. Now, it's not going to be a state of the union message with a lot of itemization, but somehow he has to link those things and make them vivid. Exactly how he's going to do it, I do not know.

But the other thing is it's quite clear from this whole convention that making John McCain the issue as well as Barack Obama the issue is a high priority of this convention, and they certainly done it- "more of the same."

HUME: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: If Barack Obama could do nearly as well as Jennifer Hudson did with "The National Anthem"-

HUME: That was great, wasn't it?

KRISTOL: That was fantastic. I'm really glad I came out here early just to hear that.

HUME: I love that.

KRISTOL: It lifted my spirits after an hour and a half in a traffic jam and security getting in here.

I think Obama — I don't believe all this stuff. He could spend time laying out a policy agenda, he could spend time contrasting with John McCain, but Democrats are beating Republicans this year, and people know Barack Obama is a Democrat. That's not the problem.

The problem is people need to be convinced that Barack Obama can be commander in chief, that he is a suitable president for America.

So I think what he says about himself, his background, his experience, his judgment is really what is most important.

HUME: They're saying, Mara, that this is going to be 50 minutes, allowing for a lot of applause. The speech itself runs just over a half hour. That's a lot to do even in a half-hour address.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: It is a lot to do, but I do think he has the two goals. He has to be concrete about his economic plan. He hasn't completely connected yet with working class voters. He has to explain how his plan will help them in their struggles economically.

But I also think he does need to come across as a credible commander in chief and show some strength. Because we know what is coming in St. Paul. It is going to be a four-day attack on his credentials to be commander in chief. So I think he has to use tonight for that, also.

HUME: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Whether he scores big or not, that that's the question. I think it depends on who he appeals to.

If the media is thrilled, if the educated middle upper class is thrilled and African-Americans are thrilled, that proves his speech didn't do much. That's his base.

The question is whether he can appeal to the big block of swing voters, and that's white working class voters, particularly in the industrial belt. They are culturally conservative. They are not people who are putting solar panels on their roof. They don't get a wind thing in the backyard. They're pro-military.

HUME: They're called turbines, Fred.

BARNES: Turbines, OK. They're pro-military, they're pro-gun. They tend to be pro-life and pro-religion. And they are the kind of people who may ((inaudible))

— Martin Luther King Jr., but Kind is not high on their list of great American heroes. He has to appeal to those people.

HUME: What about this business that-we know that this venue was selected, and it is quite striking, quite unusual, I think it's fair to say. It was selected before the Berlin speech, where he spoke to 300,000 people in a foreign country at a campaign event.

Is the atmosphere here in danger of speaking for itself in a way that continues this portrait of him as a man who thinks of himself as this single, almost messianic figure who is here to save us from the terrible depredations of the Bush years?

LIASSON: If he was standing down there and looked like a lone gladiator being adulated by 80,000 inspiring fans, yes, there would be problems.

But they're taking steps to have him surrounded by ordinary people, to have the stage be intimate even though the venue is grand.

And I think the Obama campaign has a balancing act. Look, it has a lot of strength. It can get 80,000 people out. John McCain can't do that.

HUME: Are you are sure?

LIASSON: I don't know if he could get 80,000 people in a venue like. This will use this as an organizing field. They want every person here to text message someone else and convince them. That's its strength. They just don't want it to feed in this caricature of him as this messiah.

KRISTOL: — This is 75,000 Americans —

HUME: As far as we know, but almost undoubtedly.

KRISTOL: I don't mean to insult our friends from the foreign media. What was offensive a little bit about Germany was 200,000 Germans when he was not yet president of the United States in a football stadium.

And I think he can get away with this, frankly.

HUME: All right, the Obama speech is the main event. Does the McCain campaign have a shot tomorrow at cutting off the bounce before it can fully happen? We're talking about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclimation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for the president of the United States!

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.

JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next president of the United States of America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: And tonight it is Obama's turn to say that he will accept the nomination.

But barely more than 12 hours after this event is over, the delegates have gone home and they're breaking down the scene here at Invesco Field, John McCain is expected to stand at a news conference in Dayton, Ohio, in the heart of battleground country, and announce his choice for vice president, a choice the McCain camp is telling us tonight has now been made.

A number of potential short listers are said to be on their way to Dayton. We don't know which one it's going to be.

The question is, first of all, how much will this event, coming right on the heels of these proceedings here, step on the effect of them, Fred?

BARNES: It will step on it a little bit, but if Obama gives a crackerjack speech, that will help him overcome anything.

But, Brit, look at it this way. If John McCain picks, say, Joe Lieberman as his running mate, or former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, two people who would probably anger the conservatives in the party, you would have a whole new story. There would be a division among Republicans.

If he picks somebody a little safer, like Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, it's just not as big of a story.

HUME: Because it's a better, safer, more effective choice?

BARNES: Safer, anyway.

LIASSON: The biggest thing going for John McCain is that these are so little space between these two conventions. They are back to back.

HUME: Will that work for him, or will that work against him?

LIASSON: It is working for McCain because it is going to give him the potential to step on whatever bounce Obama gets out of this. And having the vice presidential announcement on Friday just fills up one of those three days.

HUME: It seems to me that you have a news cycle. Obama owns it today, he'll own it tonight, he owns it in the morning.

LIASSON: Right, and that's it. And he doesn't get to enjoy his bounce.

If there were more space between the conventions, Obama could go on a trip with Biden and try to milk some of the bounce. But McCain is going to fill it up.

KRISTOL: The McCain campaign is proud of its misdirection by sending several people, apparently, off with travel plans to Dayton, Ohio. I was warned not to read anything into what Carl Cameron accurately reported, that Mitt Romney apparently is flying, or at least pretending to fly —

HUME: We're hearing that Mike Huckabee is on his way, too.

KRISTOL: And Mitt Romney.

What I was told about two days ago, for what it's worth, were that the finalists were Tim Pawlenty, the favorite, Joe Lieberman, the much discussed pick that would boil Republican waters but might win some independent voters over, and Meg Whitman, the former CEO of E-Bay I believe is a finalist.

HUME: What about Romney?

KRISTOL: I don't believe that Romney is in the final cut.

HUME: Why is that?

KRISTOL: I'm really not sure, honestly.

HUME: I'm hearing that, Mort, that McCain —

KONDRACKE: Too many houses.

HUME: Too many houses between them. And I don't know how long that would last as an issue, but you know you would hear about it right away.

KONDRACKE: It would be a gift that would keep on giving. Look, the idea that McCain has all these houses, and that he's got the same tax policy as George Bush —

HUME: So the idea is vote against McCain and Romney because they did too well by the private sector?

KONDRACKE: Well, in Romney's case, he did some by himself, but he inherited some. In any event, it is too many houses for the average working person.

We gave Obama a lot of credit for the discipline and the secrecy that he managed to keep for his running mate. We got to give the same kind of credit to McCain, even better. It is on in 24 hours. It hasn't leaked. No secret service reports. So McCain has a disciplined secret keeper.

HUME: So what is your guess? This is out and out speculation, but what's your guess? Do you think Pawlenty?

BARNES: It's only a guess. He is the one guy who would do no harm.

LIASSON: My guess is Pawlenty.

HUME: And to what extent would the Pawlenty choice, given his current standing in Minnesota, put that state in play for McCain?

LIASSON: I don't really know if Pawlenty can swing Minnesota to the Republicans, but at least he's from a working class background, he has thought a lot about how the Republican Party can appeal to what he calls the Sam's Club Republicans instead of just Country Club Republicans, of which Romney is one.

And he could help. I don't know if he could swing Minnesota.

HUME: Well, he brings a little bit of youth, doesn't he?

All right, panel, thanks very much.

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