updated 9/5/2008 3:20:10 PM ET 2008-09-05T19:20:10

Guests: Thomas Kean, John Pyle, Trent Lott, Eugene Robinson, Jason Rampton, John Tyler Hammons

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight‘s them is peace, a safer and more secure America.  The evening begins exactly an hour after the Associated Press reported that the president‘s top defense advisers have recommended that no more American troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, 15 brigades now, 15 brigades next January. 

The words of the sage of Baltimore are as ever pertinent and should be used throughout this evening as a kind of minority report.  “The whole aim of practical politics,” Henry Louis Mencken wrote, “is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Mencken wrote that in 1918. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  From St. Paul and New York, with political director Chuck Todd, and special correspondent Tom Brokaw, Ann Curry, Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O‘Donnell, Ron Allen, and Luke Russert reporting from the floor of the convention center, the anchor of “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” Brian Williams, chief White House correspondent David Gregory, the panel:

Norah O‘Donnell, Michelle Bernard, Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, and Eugene Robinson, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, Howard Fineman at the campaign “Listening Post,” and Savannah Guthrie on the road in Wasilla, Alaska. 

With the official Republican videos of Governor Palin and Senator McCain, and speeches by Senator Lindsey Graham, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Cindy McCain, and the acceptance speech from the 39th nominee of this party.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Join our cause and help America elect a great man as the next president of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  Thank you!  And God bless America! 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening, alongside Chris Matthews in St. Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York.  And as the Obama campaign reveals it has raised $8 million since Governor Palin‘s speech last night, that eternal question tonight for Senator McCain, Chris, what do you do for an encore? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, that‘s right.  He has to follow the best act this week, and that‘s of course, his candidate for vice president.  Though, I think he‘ll have the same game plan that she had last night, change the subject.  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s what they have to do, change the subject. 

It cannot be, are you happy with the way things are going in this country?  If that‘s the question, the answer is Barack Obama.  The question has to be, whose traditional values do we identify with?  Whose values are you afraid of?  Let‘s go.

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s the national anthem with Trace Adkins. 

(MUSIC PLAYING, “THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER”)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OLBERMANN:  Chris, now that they‘re under way, there are three excerpts out from John McCain‘s speech, which is still three hours in the offing.  And two of them, at least, present some of the challenges that faces him, at least from my perspective, and what we were talking about before the anthem played. 

Let me read you one of them: “I‘m very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country, but I can‘t wait until I introduce her to Washington.  And let me offer an advance warning to the old big-spending, do-nothing, me first, country second, Washington crowd, change is coming.”

It is amazing.  What kind of alchemy goes into this equation, that the mayor of a 7,000-person town who hired her own six cylinder high octane Washington lobbyist and got $27 million worth of earmarks for her little town is running alongside a multiple-term senator and congressman and vowing to go in and be the outsiders in Washington? 

This is amazing stuff.  How do you balance that in a speech? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s like, I can‘t do it alone, I need her to do it. 

And you‘re right.  He has the chops of having been here all these years.  And the fact that he‘s now selling her is his point.  I mean, she‘s going to go in there like head first and he‘s going to follow her into the fire. 

It is an amazing sort of humility on his part to say, I need to sell the governor because people wouldn‘t believe that I could do it.  Pretty interesting handoff, I think. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw and our NBC News and MSNBC political director Chuck Todd, as we begin our tour of the arena in the last night here in the Republican Convention. 

Tom, Chuck, set this night up for us.  Obviously it ends with McCain.  What do we have to see from the Republicans for them to take advantage of what they set in motion last night? 

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think what he has to do is take it to the next level.  It doesn‘t mean that he has to match the same kind of emotional temperature that Sarah Palin—who, after all, was largely unknown even to this audience until last night. 

Tonight, John McCain, who is such a familiar figure in American politics, will strike what I‘m told is, well, what his campaign has called a higher tone.  And that I think that there will be a lot of emphasis on his authenticity, his commitment to country, that‘s what we‘ve been hearing here a lot.  And he‘ll be talking about starting the Republican Party anew. 

Tonight, in effect, he‘ll be running not just as commander-in-chief of the country, but as the chief executive of the Republican Party, as well.  George Bush appeared here on Monday night from the White House.  That‘s the last that we‘ll see or hear of him in this convention.  And if John McCain and his campaign has anything to say about it, my guess is it‘ll be one of the last times we see him until the first Tuesday in November. 

Chuck, any disagreement? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, no.  And I think what he has to do, though, is he has got to talk to the slice of undecided voter that Barack Obama effectively talked to last Thursday, which are these folks that are upset about the economy, they‘re not happy with the direction of the country, they‘re not happy with President Bush. 

And we saw the reason why Obama got such a quick bounce in a lot of those polls is a lot of these folks are predisposed to vote for the Democratic line.  They‘re voting for change.  So what is McCain going to do tonight?  He‘s going to say the word change a lot, he‘s going to say the word reform a lot because he wants to win some of these undecided voters. 

And this is how we‘ll know if it was an effective speech, if we see the numbers move back closely together.  In all of these national polls, there is one or two out there that are already moving now.  But a little unreliable that data.  That next data that we get on Tuesday and Wednesday, particularly when the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll comes out next week, but other data, if that 5- to 8-point lead that Obama got after the initial bounce last Thursday is shrunk down, then you‘ll know that McCain effectively talked to that slice of voters who want change, but haven‘t decided if they trust that McCain is enough change or if they trust whether McCain is—Obama is ready to do the job. 

BROKAW:  And, Keith, what Chuck and I have been saying repeatedly here, and we remind our viewers of this, if you‘re living in Ohio or in Michigan or if you‘re living in Iowa or Nevada or Colorado, those are the polls that you‘re going to want to watch. 

The universe is one thing, but in those battleground states, you want to see how John McCain does there, whether he picks up some ground.  For example, he‘s trailing pretty significantly in the last poll here in Minnesota.  They hope that Minnesota they can pull into their column because they‘ve lost it narrowly in the last two election cycles. 

TODD:  I hate to rain on the Minnesota Republican parade here, but I have a feeling this could be the last night John McCain is in the state of Minnesota before November.  I think they kind of know this was always a reach, but they stayed in the state because the convention was going to be here.  After that, the only agricultural Midwest state he may go into is Wisconsin. 

OLBERMANN:  Gentlemen, thank you.

The state-by-state polls take 50 times longer than that one number, but it‘s a time well spent.  All right.  Let‘s go on to the floor.  Kelly O‘Donnell has been covering the McCain campaign throughout and joins us now with a little bit more. 

And we have some excerpts released, but I guess you have an insider‘s perspective a little bit on tone and it‘s a 50-plus minute speech.  There‘s more than just three excerpts in it. 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, very definitely.  Keith, I also want to give you a sense, as you were just talking about, those battleground states.  It‘s those delegations that are right along the way here, closest to John McCain when he gives his remarks tonight. 

Viewers we‘re watching last night will see a very different stage tonight.  They‘ve reconfigured it to bring John McCain down lower, right at the level of those who are here on the floor level audience, allowing him to be a bit closer, trying to have more personal connection. 

As far as content, advisers tell me the speech runs about 24 minutes, that added time is allowed for reaction, applause, and so forth.  Now what will he talk about?  Advisers say that he will try to lay out a vision that will show John McCain‘s humility, they say, talk about some of the lessons he has learned over the years. 

As Tom and Chuck have been pointing out, trying to set that he has a record that he will try to use to say that he can be an agent of change.  Advisers say that they felt their assessment of the remarks Barack Obama made on his big night in Denver, their judgment was that that was too negative from the perspective of McCain advisers, sounded more like what a vice president would do. 

So they‘re saying John McCain will have a lighter touch.  That the toughest knocks on Barack Obama were last night from Governor Palin.  So McCain will not do that, they say.  He will talk about his biography to a great degree, and they will try to say that he has a record Barack Obama does not, that kind of idea that that he will try to communicate to voters here.

And although they acknowledge that he is not always the greatest speaker, and compared to Governor Palin‘s performance or Senator Obama‘s, they think he can do well here because he has been practicing this for about six weeks, working a lot in the last few days, and he‘ll get a chance to talk to people at eye level—Keith, Chris.

OLBERMANN:  Kelly O‘Donnell, on the floor. 

And now obviously tonight is framed entirely by last night and the overwhelming reaction in both parties and by both genders.  Andrea Mitchell is on the floor at the Xcel Center in St. Paul with some of the reaction of some of the women delegates at that convention.

Andrea, good evening. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

Of course, the reaction here has been extraordinary, because you have the conservative base, women among them, even those women who are not in agreement with Sarah Palin on some of the social issues, and don‘t agree with her, for instance, on abortion and her position against abortion rights, were very taken by this.

And the Republicans, McCain campaign, and the Republican Party in general believe that this is the face of the future.  They know that women, particularly married white women, have decided the last few presidential elections.  They think that if they can reach these women, reaching across ideological lines, that they have a very good chance of winning the election. 

They think that they‘ve made a good start here.  They don‘t know yet whether Sarah Palin‘s remarkable beginning last night will reach the broader audience.  Whether, in fact, they have created a new political star, they believe that she has.  And, in fact, their plan is to have her take some time, she‘ll go home to Alaska after campaigning this weekend with John McCain, and not have her do a number of more rigorous interviews in the near term. 

She has her son leaving next week for his Iraq deployment.  So that will be family time, time to get her ready, to get her up to speed.  And now they say that they may try to have her speak over the heads of the media, the media who they‘ve been campaigning against, think that they can perhaps pursue that strategy. 

But they do think that they have a new star who can reach those key women voters.  And if she does, if she reaches across ideological lines, that that could be critical in this election—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, it‘s this kind of problem that they would prefer to have rather than the other one.  But one of the realities of politics, as the Democrats and Senator Obama know right at this point, often with perception and momentum in a campaign, what you heard last is what sticks with you. 

Is there a fear among those who were so impressed last night by the governor‘s speech that necessarily Senator McCain‘s speech cannot have that kind of impact and to some degree, the boom factor, the excitement factor will be lessened by the actual presidential candidate‘s address tonight? 

MITCHELL:  In fact, they‘re embracing that contrast.  They‘re trying to make a virtue out of necessity, which is that John McCain, as Kelly has been reporting, is not that comfortable with big audiences.  You can see they‘re scaled down the size of the arena, they‘ve made it a little bit more intimate with the ramp that they‘ve built out. 

But, in fact, they welcome that comparison, with Sarah Palin being so exciting.  They welcome the fact that this is a man who is clearly comfortable around strong women.  And the bet is that a lot of women across America are going to like that concept, like the fact that he has welcomed this young woman on the team who is clearly a dynamic speaker—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Andrea Mitchell on the floor.  Thank you kindly, we‘ll get back to you, of course, throughout the evening. 

Ron Allen is also on the convention floor with the former governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean—Ron.

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks, Keith, and good evening to you. 

He‘s also the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission.  And I want to ask you about national security, which we‘re certainly going to hear a lot of tonight with John McCain.  Everybody in this room is assured that Governor Palin is qualified enough on those matters.  But people outside of this room, of course, are not. 

What is your assessment of how she stacks up on matters of foreign policy and national security? 

THOMAS KEAN ®, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  Well, I think governors, historically in this country, have stacked up pretty well on those issues.  I mean, if you think of the great presidents who have been governors, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, I mean, governor after governor.  And they‘ve all been very good at national security.  So I don‘t know why Sarah Palin will be any different. 

ALLEN:  As I understand it, she‘s not very well traveled.  I‘ve traveled internationally quite a bit and there‘s a different understanding you have of the world if you‘ve been there.  She has probably never been to Iraq, I don‘t know if Afghanistan.  That certainly would help in some ways, no? 

KEAN:  I believe she has been to Iraq.  But I don‘t believe she has been to many other places in the world.  But I think she will remedy that.  You get to be vice president, it‘s one of the things you do, you attend funerals around the world. 

(LAUGHTER)

KEAN:  And I think—I think she‘ll be going around doing a number of diplomatic missions, I think, for President McCain, if he gets to be president.  And I think she‘ll learn what she doesn‘t know. 

ALLEN:  Let me ask you a practical question about New Jersey.  It‘s a state that the Republicans want to put in play this time around.  Is it really in play? 

KEAN:  It‘s in play as long as the campaign works it.  I mean, if John McCain wants to come in, Sarah Palin wants to come in a number of times, campaign in the state, then, yes, I think we can carry it. 

ALLEN:  And what does John McCain have to say to the people of New Jersey and other states that are swing states this time around to really put the Republicans over the top? 

KEAN:  New Jersey doesn‘t want much more than any other state does, I mean, we want to revive the economy.  We want good jobs.  We don‘t want high taxes.  And we want a president who is going to deal with international affairs, and people safe. 

And John McCain has all of those qualifications. 

ALLEN:  Thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

KEAN:  OK.  Thank you.

ALLEN:  Keith, back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Ron Allen and Governor Kean.  Thank you, Ron.  Thank you, Governor. 

Ann Curry is our podium correspondent throughout this Republican Convention, has been, and joins us again now from the convention floor. 

Ann, good evening to you. 

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, the convention floor is still filling.  We have representatives here from four states.  One of them is wearing a button that says “we‘ve struck oil with Sarah Palin.” So obviously a big vote of confidence for her after her speech last night.  But we also have John Pyle, who is a Kansas delegate. 

And you‘re also a veteran.  And I‘m wondering, you have a very strong opinion.  Tonight we‘re going to see a videotape of John McCain that I believe is going to be very emotional, showing his service and what he went through during his time as a POW.  What does—what do you need to hear from John McCain tonight?

JOHN PYLE, KANSAS DELEGATE:  He will reinforce what we‘ve already felt.  And that he‘s committed to going ahead and win the war and he‘s not going to pull out before things are done and set in place.  He‘s not going to rush through with what the other party has decided. 

CURRY:  You feel this strongly in part because you are a Vietnam veteran.  And in Vietnam we did pull out, and you‘re saying you do not want this to happen again. 

PYLE:  That‘s pretty much it.  And we dishonored a lot of veterans, my brother being one.  So we‘re not going to do that again. 

CURRY:  All right. Well, thank you very much, John Pyle, for speaking to us and thanks to all of you for being here as well, talking to us, from Nebraska, from Kansas, from Georgia, and from North Carolina.  Thank you so much for standing here. 

And we‘ll be all waiting now, Keith, for the big speech tonight, which is going to be one of the most important John McCain will ever give.  And it is very possible that as last night‘s speech from Sarah Palin drew a lot of tears, I think tonight‘s videotape, at least, about John McCain‘s years of service is likely to be highly emotional. 

Now back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Ann Curry, completing our tour of the states before the action begins, really, at the convention floor.  Thank you, kindly. 

All right.  Back out to Chris in St. Paul. 

MATTHEWS:  NBC News White House—chief White House correspondent David Gregory, there—the question tonight, the McCain future.  That‘s something new for us, the future. 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, it is.  I felt after Obama‘s speech at Invesco Field that it was clear, the choice in this campaign would be, who do you trust to deliver change?  If people don‘t like the direction of the country, so who do you trust to change it? 

The task for both of these campaigns—on the Obama side is to make the case that McCain is more of the same.  He‘s just like George W. Bush.  For McCain tonight, he‘ll say tonight, change is coming to the Washington crowd. 

Can he count on the maverick image that was undermined by the last four years of getting closer to Bush so he could make this run here in 2008?  Can he still hold up that old image?  And is he believable to independent voters that he‘s a maverick?  That he has been outside the party?  That he can make a convincing argument that he can deliver change along with Sarah Palin, despite the fact the Republicans have held control of Washington for much of the two terms of George Bush? 

MATTHEWS:  The risks, if he talks about a deal on health care, if he talks about action on climate change, if he talks about big initiatives for the future, does he risk alienating the conservative base that‘s in the convention tonight? 

GREGORY:  Not after Sarah Palin.  That was the down payment on the base.  And it was a big one, it was a lot more than 10 percent.  I think it was a lot closer to 20 percent in terms of enthusiasm. 

And look, Obama had work to do.  He had the Clinton issue to deal with in his convention.  He had to reintroduce himself to voters—not reintroduce, he had to introduce for the first time.  So he had all of that business to do.  And McCain had to create some enthusiasm and he has done that. 

He has got to make more of a centrist argument.  He is going to talk about tonight, I will reach out my hand out to anyone to help me get this country moving again.  I have that record and the scars to prove it.  Senator Obama does not.  Think about the “Gang of 14” on judges.  Senator Obama was outside of that.  He had to position himself for the liberal base. 

So it‘s that kind of experience that he wants to hold up to say, look, I can reach across the aisle in a way that Obama has not.  I can bring real change because I was the guy who for years created so much strong feeling against me in his own party. 

MATTHEWS:  The problem area, how dramatic will he be in terms of his commitment to keeping our troops in Iraq to get the job done?  How dramatic will he be in terms of facing down the threat from Iran? 

GREGORY:  Well, I think he‘s going to be strong on both counts.  And I think that‘s both a play to the base, just in political terms.  But I think the best he can hope for among independents, who largely have turned against the war, but who do not like the idea of complete withdrawal, is to hold it up as a character issue, an authenticity issue. 

That things look bad, both for me, politically—McCain speaking here, but for our effort generally, and I supported a surge, I bucked the way the execution of the war was moving forward.  Can he get some points for that despite the fact that the war is quite unpopular? 

MATTHEWS:  Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Chris.  Thank you, David.

Coming up, the former Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, plus, first thoughts from our panel and what John McCain needs to accomplish tonight.  More excerpts from his speech upcoming, as well.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the final night of the 2008 Republican National Convention.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention.  John McCain set to speak and accept his nomination in the 10:00 hour Eastern time.  Meanwhile, our correspondent Savannah Guthrie is learning more about Governor Sarah Palin.  She reports to us once again from the Alaska bureau, specifically the Wasilla, Alaska, annex to the Alaska bureau of NBC News. 

Savannah, good evening. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So what is the—what is the sense of it today?  Obviously a shelf life for that speech would probably be considerably longer in the speaker‘s hometown than anywhere else.  Is there still that sense that the thing just—that she might as well just finished speaking 20 minutes ago? 

GUTHRIE:  Yes, I think you really put your finger on it.  I mean, there‘s definitely a high here.  As I told you before, actually, everywhere you drive around here, there are signs, “go, Sarah, go,” “we believe in you,” “we love you, Sarah.” 

And people were really thrilled with that speech.  I mean, obviously, nationally she has gotten mostly good reviews for the speech.  Here in Wasilla, it‘s probably—well, 100 percent of the people we talked thought it was fantastic.  I mean, they‘re very proud of her and I think they feel like she really put her best foot forward and answered a lot of her critics. 

Clearly she has been under the white hot light of the media glare for a long time now, probably what seems like a long time, Since last week since she was chosen as McCain‘s running mate.  So there‘s no question in my mind that the people here feel like she really rose to the occasion and gave a heck of a speech last night. 

OLBERMANN:  And what is the—what are the public events in Governor Palin‘s hometown tonight?  What‘s the follow-up there after—I mean, will anybody who is not from Wasilla draw a crowd in Wasilla tonight? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, I think it was quite unusual to have, even on a weekday, 100 people at a bar gathered around a political event.  I mean, it was like what you‘d imagine people being crowded around a bar, TV sets, for a big game.  And instead every line was like the winning basket, people went crazy. 

I don‘t think we‘re going to see that repeated tonight.  Although I hear there are watch parties up in Anchorage, which is about an hour from here.  We‘re going to try to make our way up there.  So we‘ll let you know if we make it.  You know I‘m always traveling for you, Keith. 

But there‘s not any organized event like there was last night.  Palin was the main event for the folks around here. 

OLBERMANN:  Savannah Guthrie, on the road in Alaska.  Honoring the memory of Charles Kuralt by doing so.  Thank you, Savannah—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is with us right now. 

Senator Lott, thank you.  Let me go to the tough part of this discussion first, the “HARDBALL,” if you will.  What did you make of Barack Obama throwing down the gauntlet last week toward your colleague John McCain in saying he has got a temperament problem? 

TRENT LOTT ®, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, you know, look, there are going to be charges and counter charges.  We all have occasions when we say something we wish you hadn‘t or we lose our temper.  But John has really—in my opinion, I‘ve seen him grow and mature.  I think John is ready for this job. 

And by the way, if you care passionately about things, trying to get things done right, sometimes a little emotion and showing some passion doesn‘t hurt. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he have a temper problem? 

LOTT:  No, he doesn‘t have a temper problem.  I think over the years, in the past, he has showed that temper.  And you know, Chris, very well, that John and I clashed on occasion over the years.  But as the years have gone by, I‘ve grown closer to John, I‘ve watched John mature and get ready for this job. 

John is ready.  Will he exhibit passion and sometimes temper?  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about his challenge tonight.  What do you think is before him as this challenge?  Does he have to—you remember George Bush senior would talk about “the vision thing.” Does he have to exemplify, illustrate, lay before us a 10-year, a 20-year vision of America going into the 21st Century under the leadership of John McCain? 

LOTT:  I don‘t think so, Chris.  It won‘t be something of that length or something that soaring and oratory.  This is going to be vintage John McCain.  He‘s going to come out on this new stage.  He‘s going to be eyeball to eyeball with the delegates and the American people.  He‘s going to walk around the platform and he‘s going to give them straight talk. 

But here‘s what I hope he will do and I think he will do.  We know John McCain, we know his history, we know the military family in his career, POW, Senate, the good, the bad, all of that, we know that.  What really matters now is, what does it mean to have a maverick now as president?  Do we want that?  What does that mean? 

For the family of four working out there, driving a truck that‘s having problem with the cost of fuel and health care and they‘re worried about the government and want better education, they‘re worried about immigration reform, what is John McCain going to do for us?  For those people I just described? 

What does it mean with the experience he has had?  I think John is going to lay it out there.  I think this is a time where John McCain is going to show us that he is in a position to do things out of the box.  He‘s going to make a difference and he‘s going to address the concerns of the working men and women in America—in fact, all Americans regardless of race, region, and certainly of sex too. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Former Senator, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.  Senator, thanks for joining us tonight.  Back to you, Keith. 

LOTT:  OK, Chris, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Senator.  Thank you, Chris. 

When we return, the panel will join us out in St. Paul.  You‘re watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican National Convention from Minnesota and New York.  We resume after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention.  Let‘s introduce our panel for tonight.  And it is an illustrious one, if familiar.  MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell, featuring Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post.”  And by the way, one hell of a columnist if you get the “Washington Post.”  MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, who continues to amaze me with her political wonders.  I don‘t know where you are, madam.  I don‘t know where you are, somewhere in the middle.  And of course, a man we recently went to battle with in the strongest terms, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Let me read you all something we have on the record.  There‘s no embargo on it, Keith mentioned a bit of it.  Here‘s something for John McCain, just to spur discussion as we await his comment tonight.

“I love my country because it is not just a place but an idea, a cause worth fighting for.”  Pat, what is that America that he would lead and perhaps recreate in four and eight years as president? John McCain, because he‘s going to have to tell us tonight. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well what he‘s talking about - there‘s two ideas, Chris.  One of them is if we‘re a traditional nation like France and the other is we‘re a great propositional nation which is based on the ideas of Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and these other ideas, the Arthur Schlessinger idea.

And I think this is, frankly, it‘s very neoconservative idea that we are united by a proposition upon which we agree democracy, equality, all of these ideas and the abstract and our folks, quite frankly, on the other side believe that we‘re more of traditional nation as other nations.

MATTHEWS:  So what to the country?  What does that mean in terms of what he‘s offering for the next four to eight years?  His vision tonight?

BUCHANAN:  I think he‘s probably going do go up above specifics on to the ideas that do unite all Americans.  And the Gettysburg Address as a premiere example of that. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Patriotism. 

MATTHEWS:  But is that a vision of four to eight years? 

O‘DONNELL:  Patriotism is what he‘s talking about, country first.  Another phrase that McCain has used serving a cause greater than one‘s self.  That is patriotism.  The contrast they are trying to draw is that with service versus selfishness with Barack Obama.  Remember that line that Barack Obama gave at Invesco Field that this is not about me, it‘s about you.  That‘s the thing that‘s being drawn out that McCain is about country, about services and Obama is about selfishness and all about himself. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to be a viewer and trying to get a concrete notion of what this guy is offering as a product.  What will it be, Gene?

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST:  I think we don‘t know. 

He goes on to say in that snippet, an idea, a cause worth fighting for.  But I confess, I don‘t know—I suspect that Pat is right.  I suspect that he‘s talking about the ideals that bind the nation together.  That is certainly what Barack Obama would say.  He would describe America as its values, as its ideas, as its founding documents.

MATTHEWS:  Barack Obama would say we need national health care of some kind, while John McCain says we need mainly a tax break.  Is it a distinction here?

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It is a distinction, but I don‘t think that‘s what we‘re going to see from McCain tonight.  I think we‘re going to see him talking in huge ideas, he‘s going to be talking about Ronald Reagan, the shining city on a hill.  He‘s going to be talking about Sarah Palin, the notion of equality.  He‘s going to invoke the statement that she gave last night when she said every woman can walk through the door of opportunity. 

That is what John McCain is going to be talking about tonight because regardless of who was elected, our nation is going to make history this year.  And he‘s going to want to make sure that Americans realize that it‘s not just electing an African-American.  If you elect John McCain, you‘re going to be electing a woman as vice president of the United States. 

BUCHANAN:  I think ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.  Just what Norah‘s saying, I think that patriotism theme is going to be very prevalent all through it tonight because that‘s what John McCain is about in his heart.  He‘s about honor.  Country first, country above all and sacrificing for that higher goal. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Will there be a big tangible tonight?  Because we know two things came out of the decision to elect President Bush, George W.  Bush.  One, big tax cut and the brackets, the big brackets.  We know about that policy.  A big tax cut especially affecting the higher brackets and an elective war eventually with Iraq.  He didn‘t promise that, it came about as a result of circumstances and policy development.  Can we get a big tangible tonight from John McCain?

ROBINSON:  I think the closest thing to a tangible will be restoring trust in government, making your government work for you, as opposed to working itself. 

MCDONNELL:  Reform, cutting spending.  But you‘re absolutely right.  The Democrats today, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, have laid down the gauntlet saying where is the substance?  What are you going to do for working families?  You belittle my service as a community leader.  Tell us exactly what you‘re going to do for working families.  That‘s the challenge they‘ve laid on the table. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got a state of the union for the Democrats, will we get one from the Republicans tonight?  Back to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right, the process of nominating Governor Palin as vice president has now picked up steam on the floor of the Republican Convention.  Here is Mr. Huntsman to continue this as you hear the chant in the background.  Mitch McConnell will come on to call for the nomination by acclimation.  Here‘s what‘s going on at the podium. 

GOV. JOHN HUNTSMAN, UTAH:  God bless the great United States of America.  Thank you, all, so very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Senator McConnell here. 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  Thank you to the governor.  It‘s now an order under rule 40-a of the rules of the convention to recognize the delegate from Alaska.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Chairman?

MCCONNELL:  For the purpose of offering a motion to nomination by acclimation. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. Chairman, I‘m Annette Kriczer (ph) from the capital city of Juneau, Alaska, and I have with me a few of my close friends.  And apparently, a few more of Sarah Palin‘s friends.  Mr.  Chairman, it‘s a great day to be a Republican.  It‘s a great day to be a woman.  It is a great day to be a Republican woman.  So Mr. Chairman, I am proud to move that Sarah Palin be nominated by acclimation by this convention for the office of vice president of the United States. 

MCCONNELL:  Is there a second?  The chair hears a sufficient second.  Without objection, the previous question is ordered and the question now occurs on the motion of the delegate from Alaska.  All those in favor signify by saying “aye.”  Those opposed no in the opinion of the chair, the “ayes” have it.  And the motion is agreed to without objection.  The motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.  Delegates and alternates, ladies and gentlemen, I‘m proud to declare that the 39th Republican National Convention has unanimously nominated Sarah Palin for the office of vice president of the United States.

OLBERMANN:  For a moment in history for the Republican Party in business, nationally, anyway since 1856, and since 1854, for the first time nominating for national office, somebody other than a white male. 

MCCONNELL:  She‘s been nominated by this convention. 

OLBERMANN:  Sarah Palin the vice presidential nominee, Mr. McCain‘s nomination, of course, a total expected certainty in this entire process.  It is amazing, however, one note here from last night.  That for two hours after that speech last night, and I pin this primarily on myself, nobody here asked was that a president up there? Governor Palin spoke, could that be a future president up there?  Or did America see one?

Questions to ask one‘s self, I suppose.  Up next, “MORNING JOE‘S” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski from the Xcel Center.  Later on, Luke Russert joining us from the floor of the convention.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you have seen it any time in the first three quarters of an hour of our coverage of the convention tonight, guys in work helmets and reflector vests on the floor of the convention.  The Republican Convention, they are not remodeling anything and there‘s no need to panic, nothing‘s about to fall down.  Andrea Mitchell is down on the convention floor with some of the gentlemen in question to explain what‘s going on.  Andrea?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, gentlemen and ladies from Alaska, they are today suited up in these hard hats, which say, I‘m borrowing one of the delegates, an alternate delegate, Dr. Jason Rampton who is a dentist.  And I think you‘ll love this pun.  It says “drill now, drill here.”  So you‘ve got a dentist, Keith, if you can appreciate the sense of humor here who is saying drill here, drill now, drill more.  Dr.  Rampton turn around just a second if you don‘t mind, sir.  And the back of this, just a bit more so we can catch a picture of this.  These are caribou nestling up to the pipeline, which Dr. Rampton, say is good for them. 

JASON RAMPTON, ALASKA DELEGATE:  The caribou absolutely love the pipeline.  When the pipeline was built 30 years ago, there were about 3,000 caribou up there in that area.  Now, 30 years later, there are over 30,000 caribou.  During the winter time, the caribou snuggle up to that pipeline because it gives off heat.  The oil is warm as it‘s pumped through there and it provides warmth to the herds of caribou that come through there.  And in the summer time, there‘s mosquitoes that swarm up there very, very heavy, swarms of mosquitoes, but when the caribou go up on the gravel pads that support the pipeline, it‘s not as thick with mosquitoes.  So they love it in the summer time too.  So I guess if you‘re a caribou, you‘re voting for the pipeline.  If you‘re a mosquito, you‘re voting against the oil. 

MITCHELL:  OK, Dr. Jason Rampton from Eagle River, Alaska.  And they‘re very excited because, of course, Sarah Palin has been nominated by acclimation here tonight.  Keith?

MTICHELL:  Andrea Mitchell, thank you.  Thank you, Dr. Rampton.  I might add a scientific caveat here.  Dr. Rampton is to some degree full of canal water.  There‘s also ample scientific evidence that the migratory caribou in Alaska are dying off in part because of the pipelines bisect the areas in which they can in fact migrate. 

In any event, out to Chris in St. Paul. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, right now, “MORNING JOE‘S” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are with us in from inside the Xcel Center.  Joe and Mika, I‘ve got to get an update from you if you don‘t mind on this war.  Is this a real war or a phony war that the Republicans who are putting together this convention are starting with the media?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, I think it is the Palin family and the McCain campaign thinks it‘s a real war.  They think it‘s a war that started before they even got into town.  They think there was some subsidiary lies on the Internet that the media picked up too quickly.  And I think it‘s a war that they‘re going to engage in because they believe that it will help them politically. 

I must say, I have never seen a campaign taking on the press winning.  It provides the base a sugar high, especially a Republican base.  But after that wears off, you have to deal with all the collateral damage.  And a negative attitude and just about every media story that‘s written about you.  I‘d advise against it.  I always followed Senator Alan Simpson‘s advice, get along with the press, engage them and always return your calls. 

But I think tonight, Chris, John McCain has a bigger problem.  Last night, all the party insiders and professionals I talked to said last night was the most energized, most exciting night of any Republican Convention since Ronald Reagan‘s in Detroit back in 1980.  Sarah Palin was a star inside the hall and outside of the hall, 37 million people watching.  And the base energized in a way they haven‘t been energized in a very long time. 

But, here‘s the problem.  This morning and throughout the day, the setting here and the emotional impact has caused sort of a morning after impact.  And right now, the mood around here is flat.  The lines, much shorter tonight than last night coming in.  The hallways looking deserted.  This has more of a feel of a mid year rules committee conference for the platform committee.  The excitement is not there right now. 

MATTHES:  OK, Mika I‘m getting time warnings.  Give us some thoughts on your perspective here. 

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  A couple of things.  Sarah Palin, I think, proved her ability to perform and connect on extremely extreme circumstances last night.  The big question for her is can she now perform in major network major net work interviews and in the debates.  So that‘s the next challenge for her. 

I spoke to David Axelrod.  He talked a little bit about the Obama campaign and how they look at this.  They say the Republicans have raised a million dollars since her speech.  They‘ve raised eight times that.  They‘re very proud of that.  They point to the fact that they think Sarah Palin appealed to the base but not necessarily to middle American women and they feel like her message maybe doesn‘t resonate with exactly everybody. 

Having said that, I get the sense, Joe, that the campaigns are switching messages.  Because Tucker Bounds was saying that John McCain tonight was going to rise above any barbs toward his opponent and that he is going to not attack Barack Obama and this speech tonight is going to be a call to action.  Do you see a switch?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah, that it will be more presidential.  He‘ll leave it to the vice presidents and Barack Obama to attack.  The McCain campaign trying to spin tonight, Chris.  It will be John McCain who will rise above petty politics and reach for the middle.  If that in fact is the case, well, that will be a change for both sides. 

BRZEZINSKI:  And Chris, sitting with Cindy McCain tonight will be a woman from Rwanda who they are flying in who she met five weeks ago on her trip there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Back to you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, John McCain tonight.  Thank you, Joe Scarborough. 

Thank you, Mika.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks, Chris.

OLBERMANN:  One excerpt already released from the McCain campaign puts contradicts Mr. Bounds.  “I will reach out my hand to anyone who helped me get this country moving again,” Mr. McCain will say.  “I have that record and the scars to prove it.  Senator Obama does not.” 

So high road is of course a relative term.  Up next, we‘ll go back down to the convention floor for—excuse me, Joe is talking off mike?  McCain‘s speech tonight, Palin‘s speech last night.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with MSNBC‘s coverage of the final night of the Republican National Convention.  Luke Russert continuing his coverage of youth issues at these conventions for us and joins us with a youthful politician from the floor of the XCel Center.  Luke, good evening. 

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.  We‘re here with John Tyler Hammons from Muskogee, Oklahoma, the youngest mayor in America just turned 20-years-old today.  Congratulations on that.  A lot is being made of this convention about the importance of executive experience.  Why do you think executive experience is very important to have on the presidential ticket?

JOHN TYLER HAMMONS, MAYOR:  Because at the end of the day, the president is responsible for you and I‘s safety.  He has to make decisions at a split second.  He can‘t take it to the council.  He can‘t take it to a vote.  He can‘t vote present.  He has to make a decision. 

RUSSERT:  Now, you‘re only 20-years-old.  Are you taken seriously around your hometown?

HAMMONS:  I like to think so.  The voters have entrusted me.  They‘re looking to me for leadership and wisdom.  I‘m trying the very best I can to serve them in that capacity. 

RUSSERT:  What do you think is the most important thing in John McCain‘s platform for young people?

HAMMONS:  I think the fact that he has reached out and chosen someone from another generation to be his vice president shows that he does care about the next generation.  And we need to.  My generation will one day run this country if we don‘t do it already.  So reaching out to us is very important. 

RUSSERT:  Keith, there you have it, the Okie from Muskogee.  Let the Merle Haggard jokes roll.  Back up to you.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s even older than that, Luke.  Thank you Luke, thank you Mr. Mayor.

When Chris and I return, Tom Brokaw will join us and in one hour, let‘s roll out those big speeches beginning with Senator Lindsey Graham, John McCain‘s best friend in the Senate.  And then in just about two hours from now, Senator McCain will accept the Republican nomination, the 39th Republican nominee for president.  More from St. Paul and New York right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Guests: Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Adam Putnam, Eugene Robinson, Michelle

Bernard, Pat Buchanan, Tom Moe, Linda Lingle, Eric Cantor

KEITH OLBERMANN, CO-HOST:  Funny to think of the 144 years ago at the Republican convention and things going so badly in this country that the man—that man is doing a physical impression of—Abraham Lincoln was about to be not renominated for president of the United States and then the Civil War all turned around because Sherman won in the south and won in Atlanta.

In any event, a nominee for president promising tonight that, quote, “change is coming.”  That nominee is not Senator Barack Obama, rather, the Republican he faces in the 2008 general election, Senator John McCain, accepting his party‘s nomination on this—the final night of the Republican National Convention at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Alongside Chris Matthews in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York.

And we heard our colleague Joe Scarborough talked about a certain flatness inside that building and it brings me back to my earlier point, could there be a “Sarah Palin” hangover?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, CO-HOST:  Well, I think it‘s a tough act to follow but let‘s face it, he presents us with Sarah Palin.  This is a brilliant move politically so far.  And I get back to the little contra-talk, the little kerfuffle I had with Pat Buchanan about an hour ago.

And the question is: Can they control this nominee over a short period or do they have to throw her to the wolves?  At some point, does she have to do “MEET THE PRESS,” does she have to do the tough interview shows or can let her continue to be the big room show?  I mean, she‘s fabulous in the big room.

I was kidding the other day that she could be the number one speaker at the Washington speaker‘s bureau if everything else failed.  But that‘s not really the situation she‘s in.  She‘s going to have to either accept the countdown situation, how many days has it been since she was nominated that she has yet to accept a full-fledged first-rate TV interview and/or accept one and risk the questioning that could get her off of her game.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  While we can avoid that (ph), let‘s run the table here on the convention floor.  Ron Allen is standing by on the floor at the Xcel Energy Center with one of Senator McCain‘s fellow POWs from Vietnam—Ron.

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, good evening, Keith.  Yes, I‘m with Tom Moe, who has a very unique understanding and relationship with John McCain.

You spent the better part of five years next door to him at the Hanoi Hilton.  What is it going to mean to you to see John McCain up on the stage behind me?

TOM MOE, FMR. POW WITH MCCAIN:  Well, first off, I lived next door to him for maybe a year.  I was in Hanoi for a little over five years.  But the meaning to me is that this is the beginning of a new journey of a very, very long journey already, to come from a black-painted cell with a rusty bucket, to being beaten and crippled within an inch of your life, to standing here on the threshold of becoming president of the most powerful nation on earth is very moving to me, because I have those memories, the vision of him back in those days.

ALLEN:  What does it take—we can‘t even imagine what it takes to endure that—how do you describe the qualities that that instills in someone?

MOE:  Well, you know, we had—we were very fortunate to have strong faith, to have excellent training.  We kept ourselves fit and we put all of those things together and the love of our families to endure.  And, I think, it would be foolish to say it was easy.  It was very, very tough.  But those things kept us going.

ALLEN:  And what do you think this means to John McCain?  You know him better or in a way that nobody else does perhaps.

MOE:  Well, you know, what you see, though, when you see John McCain every day, what you see those qualities that he displayed maybe most vividly then, but they‘re still there.  That‘s why he‘s so persuasive in a town hall setting, one-on-one, person-to-person.  You see those qualities come out.  You can see it in his policies.  I can‘t imagine anyone else being where he is right now because of that.

ALLEN:  Thanks very much, sir.  A very moving story, it‘s just every time I hear it, it‘s very moving.  Thanks very much.

MOE:  Appreciate your time.

ALLEN:  Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Ron.  Thank you, Mr. Moe.

And to that point one of those three excerpts that was released by the McCain campaign about the speech tonight, one of them I‘ll read in brief.  “I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else‘s.  I loved it not just for many comforts of life here, I love it for its decency, for its faith and the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people.  I love it because it was not just a place but an idea, a cause worth fighting for.  I was never the same again.  I wasn‘t my own man anymore, I was my country‘s.”

That is clearly the theme for tonight, although it‘s officially labeled as peace.

Ann Curry continues along now with that theme on the floor with some of the veterans in the New York delegation—Ann.

ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, Keith.

In fact, I‘m wondering if you could tell me, you served in desert storm.  How much does it matter to you?  What—the fact that John McCain has served, how much is that affecting your decision to be here in support of him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, certainly, that‘s a big factor in my support of John McCain.  But it‘s not the only one.  You know, probably, the most important factor for me personally is to know that John McCain is a man of change.  His whole career has been spent putting country first.  Obviously, even sometimes he even bucked his own party at times, and he‘s reached across the aisle to Democrats at times.

So that is important to me.  Someone who can really make true change to America.

CURRY:  I‘m also surrounded by some marines.  I‘m overrun here with marines.

So, both of you served in Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s correct.

CURRY:  What would you like to say in terms of John McCain‘s life story and specifically his service?  I expect this videotape we see tonight of his service to be quite emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘d like to thank him as a Navy pilot for protecting us ground marine troops in Vietnam when they used to cover us with the air strikes and things of that sort.  So it was an awful lot of help that they gave us.  And I respect Navy pilots and they helped us out in a lot of close pinches.

CURRY:  Is his service critical to your decision to support him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I think, absolutely.  That‘s what drew me to John McCain.  I was in Marine Corps aviation myself, but I was on the ground working on the airplanes that these folks flew.  I know what it‘s like to have pilots leave.

CURRY:  You‘ve got two sons in the military.  In fact, one has come back from Iraq, another will be deployed.  What do you want to say about John McCain as the commander-in-chief as opposed to Barack Obama?  Very quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One reason I support John McCain is he‘s the right man to be commander-in-chief for my sons.  Nothing is more precious to you than your own sons, and I‘m so proud of them.  John McCain is the only one I can imagine to be their commander-in-chief.  He has the knowledge and experience to fulfill that task.  I am fully confident of him being that.  I cannot imagine Barack Obama being that.

CURRY:  All right.  Well, I think we‘ve run out of time.  I appreciate, gentlemen, all of you spending this time with us.  Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Ann Curry on the floor at the convention.

Kelly O‘Donnell is now joining us from the convention floor as well amid the Missouri delegation, that swing state.  Missouri, forgive me—

Kelly.

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, this is a very important corner if you‘re from one of those battleground states.  I want you to meet Zack Berktreser (ph).  And he has got one of the best seats in the house.  Tell me, how do you get this far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, they asked me to hold it for the governor just to keep it warm for him.

O‘DONNELL:  Don‘t you love that, just like the Oscars, they have place holders.  But you are also a delegate and you are from this state that is really highly watched this time.  Now, what do you see as being the potential of how John McCain and Sarah Palin go out of this convention to your home state?  What do they need to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The most important thing that John McCain and Sarah Palin could do in the state of Missouri is to come and show how diverse they are.  They have Sarah‘s very social conservative record.  They have John as a reformer, as just an absolute sterling silver American.  I mean, you couldn‘t get a better group.

O‘DONNELL:  Did it make a difference to you that John McCain selected Sarah Palin in terms of what you think your neighbors at home, how they‘re looking at this ticket now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think Sarah Palin was possibly the best choice that John McCain could have possibly made.  There were a lot of other very experienced, very good people, but her outsider-ness and her track record even in those short years was so wonderful that that‘s why I feel she‘s the best candidate he could have picked.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, for as long as you‘re in this seat, it‘s good to talk to you.  I know you‘re holding it for the governor.

And guys, to give you a sense why this is so important, you can see the photographers are already pre-positioned to get close to where the senator will speak tonight.

Governor Pawlenty, host here of Minnesota, is at the podium now.  And you can see where he is and then you can see where that new podium has been moved to give you an idea of how John McCain is going to move more into the crowd, to give you a sense of things.

So it is really tight seating here.  And it‘s a kind of different feeling if you‘re from a battleground state.  You really get the premium pass—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Just coincidence, no doubt.  Kelly O‘Donnell with the good seats by the Missouri delegation—thank you, Kelly.

Governor Linda Lingle, who would have, but for a scheduling changes, introduced Governor Palin last night, who spoke on her behalf in the afternoon yesterday, Governor Lingle of Hawaii on the floor of the convention center with our own Andrea Mitchell—Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks so much.

Governor Lingle, you know her so well.  You had lunch with her today as part of the Republican governors.  What is the biggest challenge that your friend and colleague, Sarah Palin, is going to face now that she‘s the candidate?

GOV. LINDA LINGLE, ® HAWAII:  I think it‘s getting up to speed on the national security and foreign policy issues.  She‘s obviously extremely knowledgeable in the broad range of domestic issues governors deal with, such as healthcare, education, energy, the environment, economic development.  She can go toe-to-toe with anybody.

But I think it‘s obvious that she will need to get up to speed.  Now, the good thing is—she has as much foreign policy experience as their presidential candidate.  So, I don‘t think it will be a huge problem for her.  She‘s a quick study.  And fortunately, we have John McCain on the ticket as well, at the top of the ticket.

MITCHELL:  But, of course, Barack Obama is on the foreign relations committee.  He‘s traveled abroad.  He‘s been vetted for 20 months, gone through 22 or more debates.  So how quickly does she need to get up to speed and how is she going to handle the challenge of subjecting herself to interviews and to the foreign policy debate, the debate, in general, to come with Joe Biden?

LINGLE:  Well, as you know, as you followed Obama‘s campaign, he had some real gaffes on foreign affairs as he was going through his own campaign.  And that‘s because in his entire time in the Senate, he spent two years campaigning for president.  As you know, Senator McCain goaded him into making that foreign trip going back to Iraq.  Otherwise, he wasn‘t planning to do that.

So I think, again, you have to concede that she‘s been operating at a state level.  She does need to get up to speed.  But their presidential candidate really has no experience in foreign affairs.

MITCHELL:  Now, you have similar backgrounds.  You have more years of service, though.  You were the mayor of Maui for eight years, now governor for six years, before that, you were an elected official as well.

You‘re a Republican with a Democratic legislature.  You‘ve managed to get things through.  You also support choice.

So you disagree with her on some of the social issues?

LINGLE:  Well, I think what you‘re going to see is that Sarah Palin is going to attract people whether they line up with her on every issue or not.  In fact, I had a great voicemail from home today from a well-known person in the state who‘s known as a feminist pro-choice.  She said, “I want you to know, governor, that the ladies at the gym this morning are so outraged at the kinds of questioning that Sarah Palin is getting on two aspects.  Number one, they‘re asking her how can you be a mother of five children and be vice president.”  And she said, “We said the same way we do.  We do our jobs and we care for our families.”

They are also very upset about raising the experience issue with a woman that has so much more experience than their presidential candidate.  Obama has never been the CEO of anything.  Neither has Biden.

Sarah Palin has been the governor for almost two years, a good governor with an 80 percent approval rating.  She‘s been a mayor of a small town.  And when you‘re a mayor, you can‘t hide.  You‘re personally responsible for your decisions.

So women, I think, across the country, whether they‘re pro-choice or pro-life, I think they‘re going to want to see a woman, because they know one thing, Andrea—when Obama failed to put Hillary on the ticket, he created a situation where it may have taken eight years for a woman to reach this level.  And if it‘s not Sarah Palin, it will likely be eight years before women of America have another chance to be in this sort of a leadership position.  And I think because of that she‘s going to pull a lot of them over.

MITCHELL:  Thanks so much.  Governor Linda Lingle.

LINGLE:  Thanks, Andrea.

MITCHELL:  And so you can hear the narrative that‘s coming out of here, Keith.  They are clearly targeting women voters, the voters that have been critical in so many elections and Republican governors stick together.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Andrea, thank you.  Thank you, governor.

I love the governor or anybody else repeating those talking points.  They give us the names of the news organizations that have actually questioned whether or not mothers have a right to sit in office, but we haven‘t heard that list yet.

By the way, this in from the Obama campaign.  That number we gave you before about $8 million raised since the governor of Alaska gave her speech last night, Ms. Palin, the number now according to the Obama campaign is $10 million raised since that.

So, galvanizing the base on both ends of the stick, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have to agree.  I sit here waiting for that list of major news organizations who have questioned her motherhood or her right to become vice president given her motherhood.  I don‘t think it ever has happened.  But of course it‘s become the talking point for all the spokesmen, especially the governor of Hawaii there.

So, let‘s bring in David Gregory back on the floor.

David, you‘re down there.  What‘s it like down there?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think everybody is gearing up including Eric Cantor, the congressman of Virginia.

And, congressman, Chris and I earlier in the evening were talking about what McCain does tonight to create a blueprint for the rest of this campaign—the blueprint that he actually runs on.  How does he make a pivot off of all of the energizing of the base here over the last couple of nights to target swing independent voters?  Those are the people he wants to reach.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, ® VIRGINIA:  Well, you know, I think, obviously he‘s going to have the unique opportunity, David, to talk directly to the American people tonight.  I think he goes into this opportunity with a certain comfort level out there with most American people and that they know who John McCain is.  They know John McCain is a war hero.  They know his dedication to the country.

And I think there‘s a comfort level in the part of most that he is

befitting of being commander-in-chief of this country.  So, I think -

GREGORY:  But why should he win the change argument which is so crucial after spending the last four years getting closer to President Bush to set him up for a run in his party to be a steward of the party?

CANTOR:  David, I think you and I can disagree a little bit how close he‘s been to President Bush.  I mean, there are many, a host of number of issues that we can talk about from environmental security, from torture, to some of the spending and tax issues that John McCain has differed with our president.

I think, also, John McCain has developed a reputation for being a challenger of the status quo in Washington.  He is a—in the forefront of the debate, about ending earmarks and the pork barrel spending that‘s gotten out of control.

I think you‘ll hear a lot about that.  I think you‘ll hear a lot about his goal of trying to make sure that we have accountability returned to Washington so that the federal government can start working for the people again.

GREGORY:  Again, a political question to look at issues like Iran, the threat from Iran and the war in Iraq.  For the swing voters, for independent voters, not necessarily the Republicans in this hall, how does John McCain address those two issues—the case of Iraq, an unpopular conflict to a lot of voters?

CANTOR:  You know, again, I think that we‘re—most of America, if they‘re watching tonight—will see a John McCain that is both pensive, deliberate, and strong in his convictions.  And, obviously, he was the big proponent of the surge.  And we‘ve seen now evidence that the surge has had some success.  I think the public understands that.

John McCain will continue to talk about the grave threat that this country still faces in terms of radical Islam and the spread of that movement.  And what we need to do to make sure that we do everything possible to secure this country.

GREGORY:  Sarah Palin rocked the house last night.  But what does she do for the second act now because the questions will continue—she‘s going to have to get now in more of the national spotlight because she‘s new on the scene, new in the campaign?

CANTOR:  Well, you know, I find some of the criticism kind of interesting toward—directed towards Governor Palin, especially, I think, when Senator Biden talked about the fact that in her speech she didn‘t talk about the economic issues, she didn‘t talk about the middle-class.  You know, she doesn‘t need to talk about the middle-class.  She is the middle-class.

You know, she will serve and is an inspiration to so many people across this country, to married couples such as my own when both spouses are working.  We‘re trying to balance the needs of raising children, managing a household and pursuing a career.

GREGORY:  She still needs to talk about a prescription for dealing with the economy even if she‘s from the middle-class, doesn‘t she?

CANTOR:  Well, I think that John McCain will obviously talk about that tonight, will talk about trying to relieve some of the burdens that families have now due to high inflation caused by the energy crisis.  I think that Governor Palin brings a tremendous amount of expertise to that question as well, having served as a governor of an energy-producing state.

GREGORY:  Congressman Cantor, thanks very much.  Good to talk to you.

CANTOR:  Thanks, David.

GREGORY:  Back over to you, Keith.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Gregory.

GREGORY:  Chris—sorry.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Chris, thank you.  Thank you, David.

Noting from the “Associated Press,” this is continuing the little drip, drip, drip.  “Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin seems to have switched colleges at least six times in six years, including two stints at the University of Idaho before graduating from there in 1987.”  “Federal privacy laws,” the “A.P.” reports, “prohibit the schools from disclosing her grades and none of the schools contacted by the ‘Associated Press‘ could say why she transferred.”

There was no indication any were contacted as part of the background investigation of Palin by presidential candidate John McCain‘s campaign, a spokeswoman from the University of Idaho at Moscow saying to the “Associated Press” reporter, “Our office was not contacted by anyone.”

A long story.  We will leave it at that for the time being, more on that when we come back.

And also, more from inside the Xcel Center.  Plus, our panel rejoins us.  We‘re two hours away from Senator McCain‘s acceptance.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to MSNBC‘s coverage of the final night of the Republican convention out here in Saint Paul.

Let‘s bring in the panel.

I want you all to talk about this amazingly fluidity of this campaign.  CBS last week at the end of the Democrats ‘convention had a 48 to 40 advantage for Barack Obama and his ticket.  That is gone.  It‘s 42 even now.  Obviously people are opening their minds again to either candidate.  The 48-40 advantage is gone.  It‘s down to 42-42 which tells you mathematically people once again suspended judgments.

Look at this fact sheet (ph), Pat.  You‘ve been through many of these campaigns.  And all of you jump in.  These numbers are depressing.  Thirty-eight percent say they have a favorable view of Buchanan—I‘m sorry, Obama—compared to 34 percent unfavorable.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The higher I‘ve ever been.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s barely an advantage, 38-34.  On the McCain side, it‘s 37 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable.  Neither of these candidates is catching on as a phenom.  Now, maybe Governor Palin did last night.  But the two candidates for president are struggling to get their favorables significantly above their unfavorables.

Pat, a historic perspective.

BUCHANAN:  The historic perspective is this—given the tremendous coverage of the media, the attack ads on both sides, the attack ads against Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries, the conservative attacks on

McCain, these negatives have been rising and rising and rising.  When I ran in 1992, Chris –

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  All four candidates who were left—Jerry Brown, and me, and Bush, we all had negatives in the 40s.

And that‘s a result of the attacks on them, the controversy, everything they‘re associated with.  It‘s not until a person gets into the presidency, he gets his boost.  And I think you‘ll see Sarah Palin, she‘ll probably have a very high, maybe 55 percent, you‘ll wait after two months, she‘ll be right down there with the rest of them.

MATTHEWS:  So much friction, Rachel, so much with these polling numbers, it shows that people are grinding on this issue, grinding the candidates through the system here.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  But what we‘re also seeing is 40 million and 38 million Americans turning out to watch speeches at this point in the campaign?  It‘s—I mean, people are engaged with this and they may dislike these candidates, but they‘re paying a lot of attention to them.  The country is obsessed with this story.  And to have unfavorables that high along with interest that high, I think, is fascinating and points toward a very divisive election in the fall.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC WASHINGTON CHIEF CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, o of the things that John McCain will say today is that the constant partisan rancor stops us from solving problems in Washington.  According to our political unit, in the last 2 ½ months, the McCain campaign has ran 15 different negative or contrast ads.  McCain will decry that tonight.

I went back to our political unit and I asked how many has Obama run?  Fourteen.  That‘s part of the reason that those negative numbers are so high.

This is an electorate that is engaged as Rachel points out—this is an electorate that is also being bombarded with messages about what these two men represent—the fight is on.  That‘s why, I think, Sarah Palin did what she did last night.  That they decided not only to do biography but to do a blow-by-blow and try to demean Barack Obama‘s record as a community organizer.

MATTHEWS:  Is this like the lobsters not letting one of the lobsters out of the tank?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the minute a guy or a woman gets a little bit popularity, are we going to see now a bombardment against Governor Palin because people like her?  We have to get that down to the 30s again?

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, Pat is absolutely right.  She‘s going to get dragged down.  She‘s going to start out up here and she‘s going to get dragged down.  But, one thing –

MATTHEWS:  This is so depressing, guys, because it means we‘re not going to have a popular victory in November.  We‘re going to have somebody who squeezed across the finish line.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Not yet, we still have debates.  The debates, I think, are going to be really important.  You‘re going to see the two guys there together, McCain, Obama.  You‘re going to see Palin, Biden.  And I think a

lot of people will, you know—are kind of suspending their judgment until they get a chance to compare -

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But if every time someone scores—we know this is going to be (INAUDIBLE) moments in these debates when the candidate, it could be Barack, it could be McCain or Governor Palin or Joe Biden, they‘ll say something we find, I hate to say the phrase, loveable.  We will like them.  Immediately, there will be a torrent of negative ads that night destroying the person.

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s the problem, Chris, the problem is we‘re evenly divided, we‘re probably a 45-45 country.  And the last 10 percent, what do they vote on?  They‘re very soft, so they vote more against someone than for someone.  That‘s why the negative ads are going to pour in and pour in.

MATTHEWS:  But, to what effect?

BUCHANAN:  Well, they dropped Obama.  Look what they did—Obama was at almost 50 percent and now he‘s down to 42.  The hammering that‘s going on at this convention has been working and the hammering on McCain will work.

MATTHEWS:  Rachel?

MADDOW:  We‘ve got—we‘ve got the position right now we‘re in the American politics, the common wisdom on both sides is—pick somebody who‘s got a loveable personality, pick somebody who‘s likable, pick somebody who the American people can connect with, and then they‘ve run campaigns based on how much this person is like you or not like you.  And it all comes down to this personality stuff.  It‘s all about these favorable stuff.

It‘s not a campaign based on the issues.  And the question about

whether or not we should be optimistic about our country and our patriotism

is whether or not issues-based appeals work anymore.  That‘s the question -

BUCHANAN:  I disagree.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Your verdict is no.

MADDOW:  No, I‘m optimistic.  I think that issue does work.  I don‘t think it‘s all about personality.

BUCHANAN:  Sarah Palin is a sensation because she‘s down the line -

the conservative loves her on issues and ideas even before they met her.

       

MADDOW:  Sure.  But her -

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE), because I think her appeal is personal so far.  I know, in this convention, it‘s obviously ideological.  But when you meet somebody, I want to like these leaders.  I want heroes and heroines, don‘t you?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Barack is an immensely likable guy.  Every time you see him talking in, you know, just quietly, he‘s a decent likable guy.  There‘s no doubt about it.

O‘DONNELL:  The 38 million people that tuned in last night did not tune in because they like or know her issues yet.  It‘s just too soon.  They tuned in because she‘s the first woman.  This is historic.  This is a historic election.

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  We slip by that everybody.

A couple moments ago, the Republican Party going back before Lincoln, did something it had never done before.

MADDOW:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  It nominated a woman for national office.  And, of course, we get so use to this in our ADD (ph) mentality, that was five minutes ago, that‘s not news—Gene.

ROBINSON:  It‘s an amazing moment.  This has been an amazing year.  We will look back on this year as one of the most remarkable years in American politics in the last 50 years at the very least, the last 100 years.  I don‘t know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  At the end of this tussle, will we like this person?  Will we say—I don‘t want to be too romantic about it, but will we say, “Great, we‘ve got a new president”?

ROBINSON:  At the end of this, we‘ll be relieved we‘ll have somebody.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  Almost half the country probably will be angry but, you know, maybe with any luck, we‘ll come out of it with somebody whom we can grow to love and respect (INAUDIBLE).

MADDOW:  What we‘re going to have is we‘re going to have somebody who we like taking the number one job, somebody we like taking the number two job and most of what we‘ll know about their talents is that they‘re really good at insulting people on the other side of the aisle.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  No, I think we tear our leaders down constantly given—

I think in both parties and we all do it and it‘s constantly picking at them and going after them and going after them.  And I don‘t know how—whether a democracy can really survive year in and year out after the kind of negativism that hits constantly and constantly.

ROBINSON:  I agree (ph).

MATTHEWS:  All we have left are the trappings.  We have the Air Force, we got the White House, we got the yacht, anything to make them look good after we destroy them.  We‘ll be right back.  Thank you.

Let‘s go back to Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And don‘t forget, Chris and panel, that the loser‘s campaign, the losing party‘s campaign begins probably no later than June of 2009.  So we get to start it all over again immediately.

All right.  Still ahead: Chris, Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd as we await the big speeches of this, the final night of the 2008 Republican convention—Senator Graham at the top of the hour, Tom Ridge, Cindy McCain, Senator McCain.

We are advised and here‘s an illustration of it—we‘re advised that Governor Palin has already left her hotel for the convention center.  And that is, believe it or not—doesn‘t look like much of a motorcade assembling but it is the motorcade for Senator McCain assembling to take him to the convention where he will deliver a 50 minute speech—at least 50 minutes or so is what allocated for it.

We will bring that to you live as part of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  -- a 50 minute speech—at least that‘s been allocated for it.  We‘ll bring that to you live as part of MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The we rejoin you with MSNBC‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention.  That convention will shortly pay tribute to the memory of those lost on 9/11.  In the interim, Andrea Mitchell is on the convention floor with the former governor of Arkansas, one of last night‘s speakers, Mike Huckabee.  Andrea? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Thank you, Keith.  Governor and Mrs.  Huckabee, what is the biggest challenge now for Sarah Palin?  She had a terrific kickoff as far as the delegates are concerned.  Does it translate across America?

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She had a great kickoff.  I think America came to love her in the short time they have gotten to know her.  All she has to do is go out there and be Sarah Palin.  She‘s winning the hearts of America because she‘s like so much of us.  She is who we are.  She‘s that person who has worked in the PTA.  She has built her career up from the ground, running for city council and mayor and governor, and has done things that other people didn‘t think could be done and she‘s done it as a woman, as a mother and is a remarkable example of what a person can do when they put their mind to something. 

MITCHELL:  Governor, I was talking to Governor Lingle of Hawaii and she acknowledged that Sarah Palin does have to prove that‘s she‘s got some experience—if not experience, some knowledge of foreign policy, that she‘s got to get up to speed, and that there is a learning curve.  How does she accomplish that? 

HUCKABEE:  She‘s obviously a very intelligent person.  I think some time people talk about how much do they know.  It‘s not their knowledge that we really elect them for.  It‘s their judgment.  If we just were electing for knowledge, we‘d go to Harvard and we‘d pick out a political science professor who probably knows more than anyone who has ever run for president, but has never been the president and probably will never be.  It‘s about the judgment.  It‘s about the capacity to look at the information in front of you and say, this is the course we need to take.  I make the decision and I‘ll live with the consequences.  That‘s what Sarah Palin brings is good judgment and convictions and character. 

MITCHELL:  John McCain is giving his speech tonight.  Is there any risk that she overshadows him?  He‘s not known for being, you know, comfortable in large crowds and teleprompters and all the other parts of that deal. 

HUCKABEE:  I talked to Senator McCain this morning.  And I told him, you know, you‘ve got a tough job. I‘m going to be praying for you.  You‘ve got a tough job.  He laughed.  But the truth is John McCain has his own unique way of communicating and it‘s heart-to-heart.  That‘s what I think he‘s going to come do tonight.  He‘s going to show us who he is and America is going to realize this guy is ready to be president, and we‘re going to get him elected. 

MITCHELL:  Thanks so much, Governor Huckabee, Mrs. Huckabee.  Back to you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Andrea, thank you.  Thank you, Governor Huckabee. 

Let‘s turn now to NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw and our political director Chuck Todd.  As we wend our way into the evening, still half Sarah Palin and half John McCain, I guess, Tom, that‘s exactly where the Republicans want to end up.  Will they end up there? 

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  I think that‘s very hard to predict at this point.  I do think that John McCain will not try to match, in terms of the emotional temperature of the speech last night, of Sarah Palin.  Sarah Palin had a greater opportunity than Senator McCain did, because she was largely unknown and there was a big sympathy factor in this hall for her. 

Tonight, Senator McCain will be reintroducing himself to the American public once again.  He has a very gifted speech writer in Mark Salter.  Yesterday, we were told by the McCain campaign that it‘s not going to be punch and counter punch against Barack Obama, who did take some specific shots at Senator McCain last week in Denver.  Tonight, they‘re going to raise the tone a little bit.  I think there will be some references to that. 

But mostly it will be about saying to the American public, this is a new Republican party.  I‘m now in charge.  Forget the last eight years.  It‘s been kind of amusing to me about how many of these speakers have said, we‘ve got to retake Washington.  It‘s been their party that‘s been in control for the most part for the last eight years.  Tonight, they have to make that turn and say, we‘re going to have a new Republican party.  We have some new ideas.  And John McCain I think tonight will begin to share some of those with us, when it comes to the economy specifically. 

One of his principal economic advisers is saying you‘re going to hear a lot about jobs, jobs, jobs in the coming weeks because, after all, that is at the top of almost every voter‘s list.  Chuck Todd. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, it‘s interesting, you know, if this crowd is fired up for McCain‘s speech, there‘s a chance that he didn‘t reach where he wants to reach.  He almost—he needs to speak outside this arena.  Sarah Palin spoke to the base last night.  They‘re fired up.  In many ways, she gives McCain room to maneuver on this. 

Look, he needed a make over from the last three months.  The last three months, he had been put into this box of George Bush‘s third term.  And he needed to get out of this box.  Sarah Palin has given him that breathing room, gets the base fired up and at the same time makes him look not like Bush.  Tonight he‘s got to go all the way now, be able to sound like a reformer, make the case that he can be a change agent, too. 

And he‘s speaking to this group of undecided voters.  A lot of them are women.  That‘s good news for him with the Sarah Palin pick.  But a lot of them are very unhappy with Washington, very unhappy with President Bush and very unhappy about their own economic situation.  So what kind of—can John McCain connect on the economy?  It‘s a big challenge for him.  It‘s something he hasn‘t done well. 

OLBERMANN:  You had mentioned earlier, and you and Tom just hit on this again, that Senator McCain will be going for that higher tone.  And yet you can‘t win a convention—you can‘t win an election based purely on bipartisanship.  So how does—what kind of striving is there for Senator McCain to walk sort of a balance beam, to use an Olympic term, between the partisan and the bipartisan?  How can you hit the other guy enough without knocking down your own argument about bipartisanship? 

BROKAW:  I think that last night was a lot about hitting the other guy a lot.  And there is a feeling in the country, Keith, that we do have to do away with politics as usual.  A lot of folks are really tired of this—

OK, let‘s go now, Keith, if we can, down to the floor.  We want to share with our viewers the tribute to the victims of 9/11. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The first attack occurred in Iran; 444 days America held hostage.  Then again and again, at our embassies, our Navy.  They grew ever more bold.  Their call was, on those who believe in God and hopes for reward, to obey God‘s command to kill Americans. 

And kill us they did, this time on American soil.  The date was September 11, 9/11.  This enemy sworn to our destruction has been at war with us for decades.  This we now know. 

Jihadists are still intent on attacking civilization, freedom, the very soul of America.  It is a war we never chose to fight.  And for too long, we‘ve looked the other way.  But the enemy is wrong.  This is a war America will win. 

We‘ll have a president who knows how.  We remember where we were that day, what happened, what we were doing, how our lives changed.  We remember buildings burning, bodies falling, so many stories of bravery.  We remember. 

We will carry memories of your beautiful faces and those loving voices now gone forever.  And we will never let it happen again. 

BROKAW:  Tribute to the victims of 9/11 and to the continuing war on terrorism.  A lot of talk in this hall tonight about Islamic rage and Islamic terrorism, accusations—this, by the way, is Bud Day, medal of honor winner in Vietnam, World War II veteran, as well as a Korean War veteran, who served with John McCain.  That‘s the word.  And suffered with him at the Hanoi Hilton. 

At any rate, Keith, what I wanted to say is a large part of what this convention has all been about is about John McCain can lead during a time of war.  The real vulnerability for Barack Obama, in the polls we‘ve seen up to this point, is whether or not he‘s the riskier choice to lead this country and whether he‘s qualified to be a commander in chief.  He loses by a pretty significant amount on both those counts.  And that‘s why we‘ve been hearing so much about John McCain‘s military background, his service, his determination to see it through, because once again it‘s not only an objective problem out there, but it‘s one of the ways of trying to reach out to those independents, those Reagan Democrats, if you will, and say, come to our side because America‘s security is at stake. 

That will be both the subtle and the overt message coming out of this campaign, out of this convention, if the Republicans want to be successful. 

OLBERMANN:  Tom, Chuck, great thanks.  Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd.  We‘ll be back with you later on in the broadcast.  I‘m sorry.  It‘s necessary to say this, and I wanted to separate myself from the others on the air about this.  If at this late date any television network had of its own accord shown that much videotape and that much graphic videotape of 9/11 -- and I speak as somebody who lost a few friends there—it, we would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead, and perhaps even for trying to evoke that pain again. 

If you reacted to that videotape the way I did, I apologize.  It is a subject of great pain for many of us still and was probably not appropriate to be shown.  We‘ll continue in a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We‘re at the scene of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.  We‘re awaiting remarks by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime ally of John McCain.  But let‘s go down to the floor with David Gregory. 

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Chris, thanks very much.  I‘m with Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida.  Congressman, good to see you.  A lot of anticipation after Sarah Palin for Senator McCain.  How does he top her? 

REP. ADAM PUTNAM ®, FLORIDA:  Well, it‘s going to be hard.  I‘m glad that I don‘t have to follow the speech that she gave.  She did a terrific job, really captured the imagination of the country.  You know, a lot of that is to be expected.  I mean, the country knows John McCain a little better than they knew Sarah Palin yesterday.  But John McCain has a fantastic story to tell, a great vision for the nation, and I think people are going to tune in for that as well. 

GREGORY:  One of the things Barack Obama did in his acceptance speech last week was offer a pretty concrete blue print for how he‘ll run in the final 60 days.  What do you think that blueprint has to look like for John McCain? 

PUTNAM:  Obviously, when people think of John McCain they certainly know his life story and emphasis on national security issues.  But we‘re looking at a nation where there‘s a lot of anxiety out there about the economy.  So I fully expect that you‘re going to hear from John McCain, his vision for the country not only on security, but also on domestic issues, including energy and economic messages. 

You know, we haven‘t seen an advanced draft of the speech.  I don‘t know how detailed he‘s going to get.  But I think you‘re going to see a great performance from the senator. 

GREGORY:  When you go back to your home district—there‘s a lot of people in Florida—I don‘t have to tell you what the housing crisis has done there.  Do you think McCain hats established a mastery over the economy? 

PUTNAM:  I think John McCain certainly has a vision and a philosophy about the economy that is more in tune with my district and, frankly, much of the country, than where Barack Obama is going.  I think, you know, in terms of embracing free enterprise and strengthening global competitiveness and keeping tax rates that are—keeping tax rates low and making sure that we‘re not totally dependent on people who don‘t like us for our energy. 

Energy is, frankly, the number one issue out there.  The economic message is a more vague message, but specifically when you say what drives you nuts about the economy right now, it‘s the inflation that‘s caused by the high energy prices in this country.  And he‘s got a message on that.  And I think it‘s one more in line with the American people than Barack Obama‘s. 

GREGORY:  When you look at Sarah Palin last night and it‘s a glimpse of the future of the party—it could be the immediate future if they won as a ticket and go to the White House.  Do you think—we know there was some discussion in the McCain campaign about the benefit of him serving one term, were he to be elected? 

PUTNAM:  I think that‘s the kind of—you know, that‘s the kind of, you know, parlor talk that folks in Washington like to talk about.  She clearly is the future of the party.  We‘ve got a lot of bright young people in the party, who are serving as governors and serving in the Senate and serving in Congress and serving as mayors.  So we have a deep bench.  I think this is just an exciting election. 

Barack Obama clearly is the future of their party.  The torch has been passed from kind of the Clinton era to this new era on the Democratic side.  Obviously, you‘re seeing some new faces come out on the Republican side.  You‘re really seeing, I think, the shifting of a generation of leadership in both parties right now. 

GREGORY:  What decides this election? 

PUTNAM:  You know, that‘s a great question.  I think that you‘re probably looking at an election, absent some external event occurring, that is more focused on domestic issues.  I think energy will continue to be a hot issue, particularly for the northern states, as they begin to fill up their home heating oil tanks and are impacted beyond just their vehicle gas tanks.  Clearly, you‘re talking about very dynamic, larger than life personalities, the history-making narrative on both sides of the ticket that‘s going to play a role also. 

GREGORY:  But it‘s striking, having just seen that 9/11 tribute video, the last election cycle, 2004, was very much decided on the question of who‘s tougher on the terrorists.  Here it may be who can fix the economy. 

PUTNAM:  I think the 2004 election definitely was largely a referendum on the war.  And that‘s why George W. Bush did very well.  I think that this election very—will be much more emphatic on the domestic issues, all though intervening events always occur.  And you look at the last six weeks with the Georgian situation and, frankly, how that, you know, I think was a turning point for John McCain in the last month or so. 

GREGORY:  Congressman Putnam, good to see you.  OK.  Back outside to Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, David Gregory.  Let‘s go right now to Kelly O‘Donnell, who joins us from the convention floor with a preview of what we‘re going to see tonight.  Kelly. 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, I want to give you a sense of what it feels like to be in this room here.  And it‘s much more intimate, much smaller than it appears on television.  One of the things I wanted to share with you is what it looks like to read a prompter.  There it is.  That‘s one of three prompters.  And you can see it‘s not moving, yet Joe Gibbs, the former football coach, is speaking. 

What does that mean?  The prompter is not working.  Why is that a problem?  Well, John McCain is the featured speaker tonight and he‘s someone who is not always comfortable with a teleprompter.  You guys know from reading them in the studio and certainly people at the podium have had to deal with it.  It is a way to keep a level of comfort when you‘re speaking to an audience.  And comfort is part of what they‘ve been trying to do here. 

This is the area where John McCain will be speaking from tonight.  They came in earlier.  He got a sense of it.  They adjusted the prompters there.  Then you‘ve got what I would call orchestra seating here.  The folks—there must be about two dozen of them with a very special pass, a blue pass that gives them access to what seems like orchestra seating. 

Now, what is also different here than what we saw for the Democrats is the sky box of the VIPs.  In the—for the Democrats, it was elevated and it had a great deal of light associated with it.  But for here, it‘s on the floor level. 

The other thing, Chris, you don‘t see the word Republican anywhere in this hall, except at the very top of each of the state names, in small print around that circle.  All of these issues of imagery and setting to communicate ideas that are different—a different kind of Republican is what they‘re trying to say.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Great reporting.  I love that lively wrap around of what‘s new in that hall.  We can‘t see from up here.  Pat Buchanan, is it significant that often your political party—

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sometime party. 

MATTHEWS:  Fails to advertise its brand name?  Would this be like Coca-Cola not putting the brand name on the bottle?  Is this that bad?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s sort of a Tylenol situation.  Here‘s what they‘re doing, Chris.  We talked about this before.  This is remarkable what is being under-taken here.  We have two outsiders, two mavericks who are going to come and change Washington, and turn out the administration that has represented them, which is the Republican administration.  The outsiders are running against the inside Republican administration. 

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  I love it.  It‘s amazing.  It‘s not a rebranding.  It‘s an unbranding. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It‘s an unbranding.  As one member of Congress said earlier, if the Republican‘s party‘s brand was Alpo, they‘d take it off the shelves. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a guy that is not running for re-election.  Norah, it‘s amazing to watch the Democrats.  They haven‘t been super-partisan, but they love that word Democrat still. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  And you have not heard the Republicans at this convention mention the name George W. Bush or his record from that podium, because they are trying to run away from it.  Remember, Obama tried to paint him as McBush, McSame, voting together 90 percent of the time.  The goal then for John McCain tonight is to recapture that image of the maverick.  In many ways, he did that with the choice of Sarah Palin and also talk about how he wants to change Washington. 

It‘s so amazing how he has appropriated the language now of Barack Obama.  He‘s going to say just that, change is coming with his ticket. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, this Republicanism without the Republican brand, it‘s new for presidential election, I think. 

But it‘s not new for the Republican party.  Remember 2006, Michael Steele -

-

MATTHEWS:  Back to Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Chris.  Coming up in this next hour, speeches from Senator Lindsey Graham, former Homeland Security Secretary, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, and then Cindy McCain.  And then lastly.  the piece de resistance, in about half an hour, John McCain‘s acceptance speech, with or without teleprompter.  Chris Matthews and I will return with the MSNBC coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Guest: Lindsey Graham

KEITH OLBERMANN, CO-HOST:  Senator Lindsey Graham, former Governor Tom Ridge, and Mrs. Cindy McCain, all stepping up to the podium this hour at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to recommend Senator John McCain to the nation as the nation‘s next president.  Also, the biographical video of his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, which did not air last night.

Chris Matthews is in Saint Paul.  I‘m Keith Olbermann in New York.

And Senator Graham is approaching the podium.  Let‘s go right to the podium.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SOUTH CAROLINA:  Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, this speech is for the troops.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  By every measure, the surge of the troops into Iraq has worked.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  It has worked.  Sectarian violence and coalition casualties are at record lows.  Fifteen of the 18 political benchmarks have been met by the Iraqi government.  The Iraqis have a larger, more capable army.  Oil production is dramatically increasing.

This week, Anbar province, once an al-Qaeda stronghold, was turned over to the Iraqis.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  American combat brigades who made up the surge have returned home in victory.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Now, we know the surge has worked.  Our men and women in uniform know it has worked.  And I promise you, above all others, al-Qaeda knows it has worked.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  The only people who deny it are Barack Obama and his buddies at MoveOn.org.

(CROWD BOOING)

GRAHAM:  Why won‘t they admit it?  Because Barack Obama‘s campaign is built around us losing in Iraq.

(CROWD BOOING)

GRAHAM:  Without John McCain‘s courageous leadership, there would never have been a surge.  I know.  I was there with John McCain and Joe Lieberman every step of the way.

In our visits to Iraq, ladies and gentlemen—in our visits to Iraq, we saw the situation deteriorate.  The troops we met, the sergeants, the captains and the colonels had such respect and admiration for Senator McCain, they felt comfortable giving him something he knows a lot about, straight talk.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  They said, “Senator McCain, this ain‘t working.”  John heard their message and put their interests ahead of his own.  He came back to Washington and told everyone, including Republicans, we must change course.  For his honesty, some accused John of being disloyal.  But John McCain‘s loyalties, ladies and gentlemen, have always been to his country and to our men and women in uniform, not a political party.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Calling for more troops to be sent to Iraq was one of the most unpopular things John McCain could have done.  Some said it was political suicide.  But you know what?  It was the right thing to do.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Because losing in Iraq would have been a nightmare for America.  Al-Qaeda would have claimed victory over our nation.  Sectarian violence would spread throughout the region, and Iran would fill the vacuum.

Last summer we came within two votes—two votes of a congressionally-mandated surrender.  One Democrat—one Democrat broke with his party to support the surge.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank God for Joe Lieberman.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  It was John McCain‘s voice and credibility that stopped the Democratic Congress from losing this war.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  General Petraeus‘ plan will be a model for generations to come, and our troops will be heroes for the ages.  Those who predicted failure voted to cut off funding for our troops and play politics with our national security will be footnotes in history.  Let there be no—let there be no doubt about it, we are on the road to victory.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Victory.  You can say it at this convention, we are winning.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  And you know what?  America is safer because we‘re winning in Iraq, a Muslim nation in the heart of the Arab world that rejected al-Qaeda, a nation where the rule of law replaces the rule of gun, a place in the Mideast where a woman can finally have a say about her children‘s future.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  While if Barack Obama expresses appreciation for our troops‘ service, he refuses to acknowledge their success.  They have worked too hard.  They have sacrificed too much for a patronizing pat on the back.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Barack Obama went 2 ½ years between visits to Iraq and never once sat down with General Petraeus.  If Barack Obama cannot appreciate that our troops are winning in Iraq, he should not be their commander-in-chief.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Don‘t get me wrong.  I‘m not saying Barack Obama doesn‘t care.  I‘m just saying he doesn‘t get it.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Not once—not once was Barack Obama‘s eloquent voice ever raised in support of victory in Iraq.  Not once was it used to rally our troops in battle.  Instead, he inspired those who supported retreat and would have accepted our defeat.

We should all be grateful, ladies and gentlemen, that Barack Obama was unable to defeat the surge.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  The surge was a test for Barack Obama.  He failed miserably.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Our troops deserve a commander-in-chief who acknowledges their success, has walked in their shoes, speaks their language, shares in their sufferings and will lead them to victory in a war we cannot afford to lose.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  That person is my dear friend, John McCain.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  John often says, he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war.  Here‘s the good news.  We‘re going to win this war, and John McCain will be our next president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  But wait, but wait.  It gets even better—because John McCain has won the toughest and most talented political reformers in America as his running mate.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

GRAHAM:  Let‘s watch right behind me and learn more about the phenomenal governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.  God bless America.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NARRATOR:  Mother, moose hunter—maverick.  Mayor, governor—maverick.

The original maverick made an astute choice when he asked Governor Sarah Palin to join him in his effort to remake Washington.

Alaska, a far corner of America that accounts for 20 percent of our domestic oil, has produced a remarkable woman who has never been afraid to put her city, state, or country first, regardless of consequences.

One of four children in a close family attracted to Alaska by its unlimited promise and an environment suited to outdoor adventure, young Sarah had a childhood of family, hardwork and a love for the environment.

As a teenager, Sarah would rise at 3:00 a.m. to join her dad on pre-dawn moose hunts.  She shared a room with two sisters that was heated through the Alaska winters by a wood stove.  She went on to lead her high school basketball team to a state championship and graduated from the University of Idaho before returning to Alaska to marry Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart.

The Palins are a busy clan, raising a family of five, ranging from a 19-year-old son, who volunteered for the Army and is expected to soon be sent to Iraq, three daughters and a son born last April.

Sarah started out as a hockey mom, who got active in the PTA.  She served on the city council and grew frustrated with what she considered the town‘s wasteful spending and high taxes.  And she defeated an incumbent for mayor.  It was a sign of things to come.

“I recognize,” she said, “that if we had the same good old boys serving, nothing would ever change.  We needed new blood.”

As mayor, she managed to increase funding for infrastructure while cutting property taxes.  And she didn‘t stop there.  Sarah led a charge against Alaska‘s attorney general over conflicts of interest.  And that led to his resignation.

She was appointed chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  She developed a keen understanding of America‘s energy industry and was known for her maverick ways in taking on the major oil companies if she thought they were shortchanging her state.

She fought battle after battle, one eye on waste, one on corruption, working hard to rid Alaska of both.

Finally, her love for Alaska led Sarah Palin once again to take on an incumbent, this time for the governor‘s office.  She won the primary overwhelmingly, then defeated a popular former Democrat governor in the general election.

Soon after, several current and former legislators were indicted for taking bribes.  She signed sweeping ethics reform legislation, auctioned the governor‘s jet on eBay, eliminated the household help at the governor‘s mansion, and drives herself to work.

Sarah Palin may not be six feet tall, but she‘s a self-made giant in making government work for us.

She loves Alaska, loves America, loves her family.  She loves integrity, frugality and moose, too.  When Alaska‘s maverick joined America‘s maverick, the world shook, the world trembled, and the world will soon be a better place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

OLBERMANN:  Offered without comments, the first of two words of that video that was intended as the introduction for Governor Palin last night squeezed out by time consideration last night, first two words mother and moose hunter.

The Sarah Palin video, the introductory Palin video, so we can bring you Cindy McCain‘s introductory video and her speech and her introduction, the video to her husband.

We need to take a break here.  You‘re watching MSNBC‘s live coverage of the 2008 Republican convention.

TOM RIDGE, ® FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIDGE:  We can win.

OLBERMANN:  As former governor, former Homeland Security Secretary Ridge continues to address the convention ahead of Cindy McCain and the video introducing her, we are getting, I guess, hints—they‘re not being inscrutable about it but they‘re clearly giving us hints about the themes that will be prominent in John McCain‘s speech and for analysis of that in advance, let‘s go to Tom Brokaw, our NBC News special correspondent inside the Xcel Center along with Chuck Todd—Tom.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you, Keith.  Well, I do think that we are seeing the story line developing all night long here.  Tom Ridge was just referring to the fact from his campaign was not doing well, he didn‘t give up, he didn‘t wave the white flag of surrender.  That has been one of the catchwords here tonight.

Talking about Iraq as well, Lindsey Graham talking about the surge and the success of it.  At one point, he said it led to victory and another point saying it will lead to victory because Barack Obama, as you know, was opposed to the surge when it began and Barack Obama, any number of Democrats, have had difficulty acknowledging that it might have had some success.  It‘s still unresolved in Iraq, which is important for everyone to remember.  But John McCain was an enthusiastic supporter of the surge.

So I think with we‘re doing here, once again, is to try to reinforce his credentials as a commander-in-chief.  And he reminded everyone in showing that 9/11 video that Islamic terrorism is still out there and these are the consequences of attacks on this country.

So I do think that what we‘re seeing here is a pattern that will play out tonight.  They don‘t want to talk about the economy.  They don‘t want to talk about the financial crisis.  They can talk about energy, but then they would be forced in some circumstances to talk about the absence of an energy plan in the last eight years from an administration and a White House that has been occupied by a Republican, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  You know, the Republican strategists I talked to have a split personality when it comes to Iraq.  Look, the McCain and McCain campaign wants to make the case that Iraq is succeeding and believes if you improve the numbers on Iraq, if more people over time in this campaign believe that the Iraq War was worth it, if they believe the surge was successful, that somehow that will improve numbers.

There are other Republicans, particularly ones advising those running for the House and Senate down the ballot who are just like—stay away from Iraq.  They cringe.  Some, there are going to be a lot of Republicans not happy that tonight has such a focus on national security, on Iraq, and not on the economy.  They worry that it‘s a little bit tone deaf.

And while—look, John McCain, this is where his stubbornness—and he believes, look, he was right about the surge and he feels like he was right about the surge.  So the stubbornness here is this is the McCain campaign they believe they need to improve this.  Other Republicans wish they would talk about the economy.

BROKAW:  And Democrats will say, and I think correctly, that there were certain benchmarks that the surge was supposed to reach and they haven‘t reached them in terms of political resolution.  There are still real difficulties in getting a cohesive central government.  The province chiefs still want more power than many people in Washington or, for that matter, Prime Minister Maliki would like them to have.

So although the surge has had real success, when Lindsey Graham said tonight the troops have come home with a victory, that probably was an overstatement.  But after all, this is a political arena and they want to play that out here tonight.

So John McCain will come out and he will be the warrior, as he has been throughout this campaign.  There‘s been a lot of talk again here tonight about his terrible injuries suffered when he was in Hanoi.  And my guess is that in the introductory video tonight, we‘ll revisit that very, very painful time in his life.

TODD:  Well, and there‘s going to be quite the introduction.  I‘ve been hearing, I think we‘re going to hear a familiar voice, our friend Fred Thompson is going to be involved in the introductions here tonight.  It should be an interesting, almost NBA-like introduction when we see this happen.

So, they‘re following a football game on one of our sister network there on the broadcast.  So it will have a sports feel when we see John McCain come out.

BROKAW:  And, Keith, we‘ve been talking about Tom Ridge here, listening to him speak a little bit.  Tom Ridge is the popular former governor of Pennsylvania, secretary of Homeland Security.  That didn‘t work out so well for him as an assignment, but we‘ll be seeing a lot of him, because Pennsylvania will be in play.  And in his own introduction, he talked about his experience in Vietnam.

James Webb, the Democratic senator from Virginia, says in his new book, “Born to Fight” that the Democrats still have to make peace with the Vietnam veterans.  Vietnam veterans are suspicious of them.  And a lot of those Vietnam veterans are independents and Reagan Democrats and they‘re trying to go after them here tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck, back to one point that you made that I thought was just fascinating—is there any way to measure which group in the Republican Party is right about embracing Iraq or avoiding it at all costs?  Any indication yet from the down ticket races which group is correct?

TODD:  Well, look, we don‘t know.  We haven‘t seen the numbers move.  We always ask this question, was the Iraq War—the decision to go into Iraq worth it or not.

And the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll, the worth or not worth it does not change even as more folks the surge appears to have worked.  Militarily it seems like things are more secure.  So, look, the voters are split on this.  You know, you have one party so sure that you shouldn‘t have done anything and one party so sure you should have done everything and guess what?  The voters are in the middle, they want a little bit of both on this run.

One point, by the way, on the Vietnam thing—if John McCain does not win the presidency, Vietnam will not produce a president.  And that is sort of an amazing thing in our country if it doesn‘t happen, because normally our wars do produce presidents, eventually.  World War II produced a bunch of them—veterans, that is.  The Civil War obviously produced a whole slew of them, Revolutionary War.

Vietnam—maybe it‘s a fitting tribute to Vietnam and how controversial it was if a president never ends up coming out of that war.

BROKAW:  It remains a very complex issue in the American psyche and in the American political arena.  Both parties have Vietnam veterans and they‘ll be very conspicuous in the course of this campaign.  Al Gore and John Kerry, two Democratic candidates for president, were both Vietnam veterans.  That was the party that (INAUDIBLE) as against the war and the idea in many instances of even serving in that war—Keith.

OLBERMANN:   An extraordinary legacy that has been with some of us for the whole of our conscious lives.

Tom Brokaw and Chuck Todd will be back with you later on in the evening as we await the Cindy McCain video and the Cindy McCain introduction of her husband.  She‘s going to have a considerable long one, 25 minutes or so.

Chris Matthews rejoins us from Saint Paul.

There is that point that Chuck made is just fascinating as a dynamic with Republicans, is it not, that this split among the strategists “Embrace Iraq, avoid Iraq”?

MATTHEWS:  Of course, because the Iraq War remains the light motif of this campaign.  It sits back there and it‘s a 40-year debate.  On one side, the people who thought the Vietnam War should have been prosecuted further, we should have stuck with that war, we should have won it.  On the other side, people who believe that it became a mistake when it was escalated and this decision to go to war in Iraq was another mistake along the same line.

I do believe, although, the war looks like it‘s going better over there—and I thought Lindsey Graham made some very good points on the floor just a moment ago—I think it remains the way the world looks at this campaign.

If you look at the whole world watching this campaign, they see Barack Obama as a war critic.  They see John McCain as a war veteran.  They see that as the central issue in the world as they watch this campaign.

So, that said, I do think we‘re going to see this come to the fore in the debates.  I think a good moderator is going to have to force both these men to show their visceral attitude about the war in Iraq, what they feel about it, because that will tell us where they will take us as president.

OLBERMANN:  We are within, literally, seconds of the end of Governor Ridge‘s address and the beginning of the videotaped introduction to Cindy McCain.  The Republicans have been more than prompt throughout the evening.  They were ahead of schedule last night.  They‘re probably about 2 ½ minutes now behind schedule, I think for the first time since Tuesday night they‘re actually running late on the clock.

This could affect when Senator McCain‘s acceptance speech begins.  It could affect when Cindy McCain speaks, because they have less time to be flexible in those regards because the Cindy McCain speech has been given 29 minutes in the rundown for this final night of the Republican convention. 

And the John McCain speech has actually been entered for 53 minutes, which

those are long periods of time.  If you ever tried to plan anything out, you know what happens when their only big ticket items left on the schedule and something gets you to get you behind that schedule.

       

So now, with Governor Ridge wrapping up, the next piece of business

I almost said vividness (ph) -- video business would be the introduction of Cindy McCain by videotape.  And here that comes.

(MUSIC)

OLBERMANN:  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention.  The final evening awaiting the videotaped introduction of Cindy McCain, the would-be first lady of the United States.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NARRATOR:  In Arizona, there was a small quiet dusty western town.  So you can imagine the joy of Jimmy and Smitty Hensley on May 20th, 1954, when their baby daughter was born.  They named her Cindy Lou.

Cindy‘s new dad was a true American patriot.  He joined the Army Air Corps as soon as his age would allow, borrowed money just to buy his uniform, then became a decorated World War II B-17 bombardier.  He flew in the same squadron as the Memphis Belle, who shot down three times and seriously injured the last time as the plane ditched in the English Channel.

But Jim made it home safely and met Smitty, his beautiful and spirited bride-to-be at a USO dance in Memphis.  Not long after, he brought his southern belle back to Arizona.  Jim and Smitty were the greatest generation, the generation that accomplished big things and grew strong on big dreams.

In 1955, Jim and Smitty sold everything they owned, borrowed all they could, and scraped together $10,000 to buy the distribution rights for a company new to Arizona.  It was called Anheuser-Busch.  Well, the rest is history.

Great products, hard work, commitment to each other and to little Cindy Lou added up to building one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributorships in the country. 

Cindy Lou Hensley.  She got all the attention of her father.  He took her on treks in the Arizona wilderness and camping along the Mexican border.  They were truly best friends.  Jim and Smitty desperately wanted Cindy to go to college, so off she went.  When she earned her masters in special education from the University of Southern California, Cindy became the first person in her family to ever graduate from college. 

Then she came home to Arizona and taught special needs kids of migrant farm workers in the little town of Avondale.  In 1979, with her parents at a Navy cocktail party in Hawaii, a handsome captain came up and introduced himself.  His name was John McCain.  He was the Navy‘s chief liaison to the Senate in Washington.  He was 41 but told Cindy he was 37.  She was 24 but told him she was 27.  It was love at first sight. 

In 1980, they were married, and she introduced John to his new home of Arizona.  She gave birth to Meghan in 1984; John IV, called Jack, in 1986; and Jimmy in 1988.  The same year Jimmy was born, Cindy founded the American Voluntary Medical Team, a nonprofit group that organizes doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. 

In 1991, she camped in the Kuwait desert five days after the end of the Gulf War to take medical supplies to refugees. 

In Bangladesh that year, she found a special baby girl in Mother Teresa‘s orphanage and brought her back to the United States for surgery on a cleft palate that could save her life.  On the flight home, she decided she couldn‘t part with her.  When she came out of the plane holding the little girl, John asked, “Where is she going?”  Cindy just said, “To our house.”  John nodded, “Yes, I thought so.

Cindy has seen and smelled the death of genocide, helped treat wounds resulting from landmines and war.  She wrapped her helpless arms around children dying from malnutrition and has been humbled watching the strength of others in their quest for freedom. 

She watched with fear, pride, honor and tears while her son, Jimmy, left for combat in Iraq.  Like every mother whose son is at war, Cindy lived to hear his voice.  She kept her phone in her hands so she wouldn‘t miss his call. 

She‘s been around the world just trying to do her best to honor her father, who she remembers as considerate, generous, thoughtful, kind, devoted, humorous and passionate about his country.  She shares his love of life. 

Cindy became a pilot and shares her passion for fast cars with her sons.  She even got her wrenches out and built a few race cars.  Cindy and her son, Jack, might just have the only mother-son drift racing team in existence.  Her father was the inspiration. 

John McCain encouraged her to go far beyond what she thought she could do, helped her find her path to serving a cause greater than herself.  But it is Cindy McCain who gets in, rolls her leaves up, and accomplishes miraculous life-changing things for others in places around the world few would dare to go. 

Not a day goes by since the loss of both her parents that Cindy doesn‘t think of her father‘s simple words, “Just leave this earth a better place than when you got here.”  Well, she‘s off to a darn good start. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Before I begin, I would like to introduce you for the seven reasons that John and I are so happy as a family.  Starting on this end, this is Meghan McCain, Andy McCain, Jimmy McCain, Jack McCain, Bridget McCain, Doug McCain and Sidney McCain.  Thank you. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

John and I are so pleased and so happy to have them here with us tonight.  Nothing has made me happier or more fulfilled in my life than being a mother.  But while John and I take great joy in having been able to spend time together this week as a family, our hearts go out to the thousands of families who have had to leave their homes once again due to devastating weather. 

It‘s not in our natural instinct to rally them, to lift them up with our prayers, to come to their aid.  It‘s also our duty as a country.  That duty is what brings me before you tonight, and it‘s much larger, more important than John or me or any of us.  It‘s the work of this great country calling us together and there‘s no greater duty than that, no more essential task for our generation right now. 

That‘s been very much on my mind these last few months as I‘ve traveled our country.  Each day, after the bands packed up and the speeches were done and the camera lights darkened, I always came back to how blessed and honored I was to be a part of our national conversation. 

And in these times when so many of our fellow Americans face difficult situations, what I saw moved me deeply.  Families worried about losing their homes, towns deserted by industries once at their center, mothers with no choice but to send their children to unsafe and underperforming schools. 

But I have also seen the resilience of the American people.  I‘ve heard stirring stories of neighbor helping neighbor, cities on one end of the country offering help to fellow citizens on the other.  Despite our challenges, our hearts are still alive with hope and belief in the individual ability to make things right if only the federal government would get itself under control and out of our way. 

So tonight is about renewing our commitment to one another, because

this campaign is not about us.  It‘s about our special and exceptional

country.  And this convention celebrates a special and exceptional

Republican Party.  The hand we feel on our shoulder belongs to Abraham

Lincoln.  Our country was born -

(APPLAUSE)

Our country was born amidst the struggle for freedom and our party arose from a great battle for human rights, dignity and equality for all people.  We give way to no one and no other party in that cause. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

From its very birth, our party has been grounded in the notion of service, community, self-reliance and it‘s all tempered by a uniquely American faith in and compassion for each other‘s neighbors.  A helping hand and friendly support has always been our way.  It‘s no surprise that Americans are the most generous people in history. 

(APPLAUSE)

That generation of spirit is in our national DNA.  It‘s our way of doing things.  It‘s how we view the world.  I was taught that Americans can look at the world and ask either what do other countries think of us or we can look at ourselves and ask what would our forefathers make of us? And what will our children say of us? 

That‘s a big challenge.  In living up to it, we know the security and the prosperity of our nation is about a lot more than politics.  It also depends on a personal commitment, a sense of history, and a clear view of the future.  I know of no one who better defines how to do that, whose life is a better example of how to go about that than the man I love, whom I‘ve shared almost 30 years of my life, my husband, John McCain. 

From the beginning of time, no matter how accomplished in other fields, women have always sought a husband with an eye to what kind of father that man would be.  Well, I hit a home run with John McCain. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I got the most marvelous husband and friend and confidante, a source of strength and inspiration, and also the best father you could ever imagine. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

In that most sacred role, he brought to our children his great personal character, his lifelong example of honesty and his steadfast devotion to honor.  He has shown the value of self-sacrifice by daily example.  And above all, John showers us with unconditional love and support every family dreams of. 

I know what his children say of him and his courageous service to America in war and peace leaves no doubt what our forefathers would make of him. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

It‘s these virtues of character that led him to this campaign, to this moment.  John McCain is a steadfast man who will not break with our heritage, no matter how demanding or dangerous the challenges at home or abroad. 

And let‘s not be confused.  These are perilous times.  Not just for America but for freedom itself.  It‘s going to take someone of unusual strength and character, someone exactly like my husband to lead us through the reefs and currents that lie ahead. 

I know John.  You can trust his hand at the wheel.  But you know something? What I‘ve always thought, it‘s a good idea to have a woman‘s hand on the wheel as well. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

So how about that, Gov. Sarah Palin? 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

John has picked a reform-minded, hockey-momming, basketball-shooting, moose-hunting, salmon-fishing, pistol-packing mother of five for vice president. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And as a fellow hockey mom myself and a western conservative mother, I couldn‘t be prouder that John has shaken things up, as he usually does. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

No one can get the job done alone.  And that‘s why I‘m glad John will have Gov. Palin by his side.  We all have to work together, build consensus the way John has done all of his life.  His leadership inspires and empowers and places ultimate success in all of our hands. 

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “With freedom goes responsibility - responsibility that can only be met by the individual himself.”

I have been witness to great service and sacrifice, to lives lived with humility and grace.  In World War II, my father‘s B-17 was shot down.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but he was quiet about that, never claimed to have done more than his small share, just like my husband. 

I think John was a hero in Vietnam -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

But you know something?  John just thinks it was his turn.  Our son, Jack, will graduate from the United States Naval Academy next year, fourth generation, ready to do his service.  And our son, Jimmy, a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, served honorably in Iraq. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Jimmy served honorably in Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of other young men and women just like him are doing for America and freedom everywhere.  The stakes were never more clear to me than the morning I watched my son Jimmy strap on his weapons and board a bus headed for harm‘s way. 

I was born and raised in the American west, and I will always see the world through the prism of its values.  My father was a true western gentleman.  He rose from hard scrabble roots to realize the American dream.  With only a few borrowed dollars in his pocket and a strong back and a can-do spirit, he built a great life for his family. 

His handshake was his solemn oath.  He looked you straight in the eye and always believed in the best of you, unless you gave him good cause not to.  Modest and good-natured, he had deep roots in our American soil. 

He taught me life is not just about you.  It‘s also about nurturing the next generation, preparing a better world for all of our children and helping them find the right way up. 

We all come to that knowledge in different ways.  For me, the great moment of clarity was when I became a mother.  Something changed in me.  I would never see my obligations the same way again.  It was after that, I was walking through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, surrounded by terrible poverty and the devastation of a cyclone.  All around me were in the children and the desperate faces of their mothers.  The pain was overwhelming and I felt helpless. 

But then I visited an orphanage begun by Mother Teresa and two very sick little girls captured my heart.  There was something I could do.  I could take them home.  And so I did. 

(APPLAUSE)

Today, both of those little girls are healthy and happy.  And one of them you just met tonight, our beautiful daughter Bridget. 

Much is expected of a country as blessed as America.  And our people are at work all over the globe making it a better planet, doing their part.  It was my privilege to work with the men and women of the American Volunteer Medical Teams in places like Zaire, Micronesia, Vietnam, watching as they relieved whole towns from disease and rescued countless children from sickness. 

The reward for sharing in that work is truly indescribable.  To see a child rescued from a life in the shadows by Operation Smile is to witness and share a joy that has is life changing.  And the challenges go on. 

I just returned from the Republic of Georgia where HALO Trust, an organization specializing in the clearing of the debris of war, are rescuing innocent victims from landmines and missiles.  Sometimes, the courage of others leaves me breathless.  I only need to speak the word Rwanda and the images it conjures up are beyond description. 

In my box tonight is Ernestine, a woman, a friend, a mother like myself whom I met in Kigali.  She suffered unimaginable horrors and was made to watch appalling havoc wreaked by her family.  Yes, as the violence in her country subsides, she doesn‘t seek retribution.  Instead, she offers love and seeks reconciliation for her people.  She says simply, “It‘s time to move on for me and my country.”

Ernestine, please stand up. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Ernestine, your courage is humbling.  Your forgiveness is healing. 

You are my hero. 

Forgiveness is not just a personal issue.  It‘s why John led the efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam, to retrieve the remains of our MIAs, to bring closure to both sides.  That‘s leadership, national leadership, and it‘s leading by example. 

(APPLAUSE)

The presidential contest will begin in earnest when this convention closes.  If Americans want straight talk and plain truth, they should take a good close look at John McCain. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

A man tested and true, who never wavered in his devotion to our country, a man who served in Washington without ever becoming a Washington insider and who always speaks the truth no matter what the cost.  A man of judgment and character.  A loyal and loving and true husband, and a magnificent father.  This is a good man, a worthy man.  I know.  I have loved him with all my heart for almost 30 years.  And I humbly recommend him to you tonight for nominee for the next president of the United States.  

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I am so grateful - I am so grateful to have had the chance to speak with you tonight.  And for the honor that you are about to grant my husband and indeed our entire family, I promise you I will work every day to help John strengthen our freedom, and to serve this great country with the honor and dignity and the love it deserves from each and every generation it blesses.  May God bless all of you in America, the citizens of the gulf coast, and all of the sons and daughters serving this great country around the world tonight.  Thank you. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, CO-ANCHOR:  Cindy McCain wrapping up a little bit ahead of the schedule which leads to interesting speculation about what the Republicans are going to do on the floor until after the top of the hour and the John McCain video and John McCain acceptance speech. 

But we know what we‘re going to do here.  Chris Mathews joins me again from St. Paul.  There is a lot in there, of course.  I thought something very interesting early on, Chris.  Cindy McCain now making it both parties that have denied that the campaign is about them.  Sen. Obama said the same thing in Denver last week.  It‘s somewhat at odds to the concept of American political campaigning. 

CHRIS MATHEWS, CO-ANCHOR:  Well, I think they‘re all selling their family biographies.  And again, if you could only go, everyone watching right now, to both political conventions, you could see the massive cultural difference between the two political parties. 

Of course, it is very hard for me as a commentator to be too particular about it without offending somebody.  But there is a massive difference in these two parties.  You saw in that biography, a great deal of pride in her father‘s business career, and organizing a Budweiser distributorship and making a lot of money at it.  This is very much a Republican business crowd.  The way they look at it, that is an extraordinarily positive story from a Republican point of view.  And not necessarily negative from a Democratic point of view. 

But it‘s a kind of a mercantile family that went west and did well, that did charitable work, that took in this young girl from Bangladesh, individual charity rather than social policy being advanced here, very much a Republican, sort of type, positively. 

It‘s different than the Democratic way of looking at it.  Democratic Party would talk about perhaps policy, or social policy, helping people who are poor as a policy.  The Republicans talk about it as an act of individual, well charity if you will, in a positive sense. 

It‘s a different culture.  You‘re seeing it on parade here.  If you got to meet some of the delegates, you‘d sense it more dramatically, I think.  Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  It informs the conventions and informs the delegates and -and I guess feeds - upon itself, you have -people who would be attracted to this and other people who would be - people who follow the same sort of life path. 

How far does it carry outside of these convention halls, what you are bringing up?  I mean, how much is this true of the average Democrat or the average Republican?

Well, you heard Cindy McCain saying that she wants the federal government off our backs.  That goes way back to Goldwater.  That‘s a very profound belief among Republicans especially in economic matters.  They want less taxes, less regulation, less politically correct prescriptions about their life.  They want to lead their lives very much like American cowboys if you will, in an iconic way.  That is their self-image. 

Democrats are much more communitarian.  It takes a village, they believe, and joining in together on social policy and looking out for each other.  They think everyone on their own is a negative attitude.  You heard

last week, the way they made fun of the Republicans for believing “Everyone on their own.  Take care of yourself.”  Well, they think that is a negative Democrats.  Republicans think that is a positive.  It‘s all very much self-image at war here.  And both parties sort of know who they want to be seen as, and you are seeing it here.  And you‘re seeing it here. 

OLBERMANN:  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the last night of the Republican National Convention and the nomination of John Sidney McCain as its 39th party presidential pick in a history of candidates that goes back to John C. Freemont, I guess, in 1856. 

Keith Olbermann in New York.  Chris Mathews at our MSNBC Headquarters in St. Paul and David Gregory for us inside the Xcel Center in St. Paul as we wait for the introductory video of Sen. McCain. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR:  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the last night of the Republican national convention and the nomination of John Sydney McCain as 39th party presidential pick in a history of candidates that goes back to John C. Freemont, 1856. 

Keith Olbermann, in new York, and Chris Matthews in St. Paul, and David Gregory inside the Xcel Center in St. Paul as we await the introductory video of Senator McCain. 

David, Chris‘ last points about the two kinds of American stories, success stories, as indicated in Cindy McCain‘s address to the—to the crowd.  It‘s one of the flaws of our political system.  She was talking about get big government off our back.  When was the last time big government got off anybody‘s back in a Republican administration or Democratic one? 

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, right.  I think you are setting up the theme of John McCain‘s address tonight which is a guy on the inside, who has been part of Washington but will make the case for why he is fighting to get the Republican Party back to the idea of much smaller government back and it‘s the kind of western ideal he‘s shares with his wife, Cindy McCain, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, as icons within the Republican party, who wanted to limit government. 

I wanted to also make a point, Keith, about something Cindy McCain said about Governor Palin.  She said I always thought it is a good idea to have a woman‘s hand on the wheel as well, and praised her husband for shaking things up again as he always does.  A couple of points from that.  The first one is that it‘s indicative of the fact that Cindy McCain has played a large role in this campaign.  The McCain campaign is insular insofar as there are stalwarts who have been around John McCain for a while.  Mark Salter, the speech writer, of the speech we will see here in a few minutes is one.  And Cindy McCain has done a lot to manage the people who are around John McCain.  So she has had a very important role in the campaign in 2000 and now in 2008. 

And her point about Governor Palin being on the ticket and McCain shaking things up, I think that will be a big theme of this speech.  The last couple of nights has been about the McCain campaign being in sync with the Republican base.  I think tonight‘s speech is going to be about McCain the maverick, the guy who likes to shake things up.  And though he has been in Washington so long, if you give him the power, the keys to the White House, he is going to do what he wants to do, which is to push for reform and shake up the town. 

That‘s the vision of change that he‘s got to sell to the American people, to those swing voters if he‘s going to be successful at a time when so many Americans think the country‘s off on the wrong track. 

OLBERMANN:  The schedule here, the video will start, just waiting basically for the networks to get done yammering, broadcast networks.  The video will start.  Then John McCain will speak.  We probably will be aside through the end of that. 

Let me ask, Chris, there‘s a balancing act ahead for John McCain.  He will talk bipartisanship, what he wants to do, country first and all the rest of that.  And has to bash the Democrats to some degree does he not? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Yeah, I think we have gotten so many whiffs of the case that he is going to be positive in big picture and futurist.  I really think, at his age, defending eight years of this administration, he can‘t afford to be retrospective.  He can‘t afford to go back over anything.  Everything has to be projected forward to a positive notion, that he is not simply the default button if you don‘t want to take a chance on Barack.  Then you are taking two different chances here, and one‘s safer.  He has to propose a vision tonight.  He really has to—maybe not the new frontier, maybe not the New Deal or fair deal, but something Republican like that, where you can walk away and say I can get the next four to eight years—I can imagine John McCain taking us into the 21st century with gusto.  I think that is the challenge tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  David, another balancing act here would have to be Iraq.  We have talked about this earlier.  The two minds and the Republican Party, embrace Iraq or avoid it at all costs.  What does he do about that, especially in the context of the report from the Associated Press tonight that President Bush‘s advisors have told him no further troop withdrawals? 

Let‘s go to the video introducing Senator John McCain.                

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

NARRATOR:  Some call him a soldier, naval aviator, POW, a father, son, a husband. 

They once called him congressman and now call him senator.  Some call him hotheaded.  Some called him names that can‘t be repeated.  But of all the names so many have called John McCain in his years of service to America, truly at his core, John McCain is a:

ROBERTA MCCAIN, MOTHER OF JOHN MCCAIN:  Momma‘s boy. 

NARRATOR:  A four-star warrior for a grandfather who stood on the USS Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender, went home from war the next day, and died, a four-star father, commander of the Pacific at the time his son was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. 

His father would take a single guard and drive to the border between North and South Vietnam.  He would stand for hours, gazing north.  It was as close as he could get to his son, who was imprisoned in downtown Hanoi, the city he had just ordered to be carpet bombed.  It was a love for America, above all else, for the McCains. 

R. MCCAIN:  Our military family is like all military families.  We—it‘s kind of a case of make do.  We‘re all in it together.  It‘s a—a Navy family, in my view, is—is wonderful. 

NARRATOR:  John McCain‘s remarkable role in America‘s history began before Vietnam.  He was on the first ship to enter Cuban waters during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and again on the USS Forrestal, where, scrapped into the cockpit awaiting his turn for takeoff, a missile accidentally fired from a nearby F-4 Phantom and hit a fuel tank.  The fire burned for 13 hours.  One hundred and thirty-four men lost their lives. 

John McCain‘s life was somehow spared.  Perhaps he had more to do.  A year later came Hanoi.  Critically injured and with wounds never properly addressed, for the next five-and-a-half years, John was tortured and dragged from one filthy prison to another.  Violently ill, often in solitary confinement, he survived by the faith he learned from his father and grandfather, the faith that there is more to life than self. 

ORSON SWINDLE, FELLOW PRISONER OF WAR:  In his book “Faith of My Fathers,” John wrote: “In prison, I fell in love with my country.  I had loved her before, but, like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted.  It wasn‘t until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.”

NARRATOR:  When the North Vietnamese realized who his father was, they offered John early release as a P.R. ploy.  He said no.  He would honor first in, first out, like everyone else.  And, so, he chose to spend four more years in hell. 

Five-and-a-half years later, the war was over, and McCain was set free.  The constant torture and isolation could have produced a bitter, broken man.  Instead, he came back to America with a smile, with joy and optimism.  He chose to spend his life serving the country he loved, first in the United States House of Representatives. 

R. MCCAIN:  Where else in the history of the United States of America have you had a person, over time, with experience that he has? 

NARRATOR:  It says much about the man that Senator McCain led the efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam.  Five-and-a-half years in their hell, and he chose to go back, because it was healing for America. 

That‘s country first. 

He staked out a name for himself as a common sense conservative, pro-life, smaller government, a faith in the American people‘s ability to chart their own course, committed to protect the American people, a ferocious opponent of pork barrel spending, and would do most anything to keep taxes low, keep our money in our pockets. 

John McCain abhors waste, outspoken, brash, but honest, honorable, and razor-sharp effective.  He‘s not it in for the glory, not to please any political party.  John McCain has seen too much to think petty.  His is a larger cause, a faithful, unyielding love for America, country first. 

He was one of but a handful in Washington who said long ago that we would never reach a true success in Iraq unless we provided the manpower and material to get the job done right. 

And, today, our nation stands thankful for that warning, as our troops are now able to provide the kind of security in Iraq that will lead to peace in that country, a more stable Middle East, and greater security for our families here at home. 

No one cherishes the American dream more.  Father of seven, his children represent an all-American panorama, stretching from an airline pilot, to a son in the Navy, a son in the Marines, to his youngest daughter, a teenager now, who became a McCain after his wife, Cindy, discovered her as a baby in one of Mother Teresa‘s orphanages in Bangladesh. 

What a life.  What a faith.  What a family.  What good fortune that America will choose this leader at precisely this time. 

The stars are aligned.  Change will come.  The change must be safety, prosperity, optimism, and peace.  The change will come from strength, from the man who found his strength in a tiny, dank cell, thousands of miles from home. 

R. MCCAIN:  He will renew America.  He loves our country.  Country will always be first with my son, John McCain. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you have lived in a box, you fear no man.  You know no fear.  You have known hate.  You have known elation.  You have longed.  You have dreamed.  You have reached.  And you have forgiven. 

When you have lived in a box, the world becomes clear, no time for petty, no time for wrong, just time for right, each moment sharply aware, each step part of a journey.  When you have lived in a box, your life is about keeping others from having to endure that box.  You shout, you push, you lead. 

You left long ago the shallow of self and put your people first, your country first. 

John McCain. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AUDIENCE:  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain! 

John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain! 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

AUDIENCE:  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain! 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)   

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you all very much. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you all very much. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA! 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA! 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA! 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA! 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)        

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  John McCain!  John McCain!

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you. 

AUDIENCE:  John McCain!  John McCain!  John McCain!

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you all very much.  Thank you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

J. MCCAIN:  Tonight, I have a privilege given few Americans: the privilege of accepting our party‘s nomination for president of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  Thanks.  And I accept it with...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  Thank you.  I—and I accept it with gratitude, humility, and confidence.

In my life, no success has come without a good fight, and this nomination wasn‘t any different.  That‘s a tribute to the candidates who opposed me and their supporters.  They‘re leaders of great ability who love our country and wish to lead it to better days.  Their support is an honor that I won‘t forget.

I‘m grateful to the president of the United States for leading us in these dark days following the worst attack in American history.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  The worst attack on American soil in our history and keeping us safe from another attack that many—many thought was inevitable. 

MCCAIN:  And to the first lady...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  And to the first lady, Laura Bush, a model of grace and kindness in public and in private. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  And I‘m grateful to the 41st president and his bride of 63 years for their outstanding example...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  ... for their outstanding example of honorable service to our country.

As always, I‘m indebted to my wife, Cindy, and my seven children.  You know, the pleasures of family life can seem like a brief holiday from the crowded calendar of our nation‘s business.  But I have treasured them all the more and can‘t imagine a life without the happiness that you‘ve given me. 

You know, Cindy said a lot of nice things about me tonight.  But, in truth, she‘s more my inspiration than I am hers. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  Her concern for those less blessed than we are—victims of land mines, children born in poverty, with birth defects—shows the measure of her humanity.  And I know that she will make a great first lady.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  My friends, when I was growing up, my father was often at sea, and the job of raising my brother, sister and me would fall to my mother alone.  Roberta McCain gave us her love of life, her deep interest in the world, her strength, and her belief that we‘re all meant to use our opportunities to make ourselves useful to our country. 

I wouldn‘t be here tonight but for the strength of her character.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  MCCAIN:  And she doesn‘t want me to say this, but she‘s 96 years young.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who helped me win this nomination and stood by me when the odds were long.  I won‘t let you down. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I won‘t let you down.  I won‘t let you down.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  To Americans who have yet to decide who to vote for, thank you for your consideration and the opportunity to win your trust.  I intend to earn it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  And, finally, a word to Senator Obama and his supporters.  We‘ll go at it—we‘ll go at it over the next two months—you know that‘s the nature of this business—and there are big differences between us.  But you have my respect and my admiration. 

Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us.  We are fellow Americans, and that‘s an association that means more to me than any other. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  We‘re dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights.  No country—no country ever had a greater cause than that.  And I wouldn‘t be an American worthy of the name if I didn‘t honor Senator Obama and his supporters for their achievement.

But let there be no doubt, my friends:  We‘re going to win this election. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  MCCAIN:  And after we‘ve won, we‘re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I know these are tough times for many of you.  You‘re worried about...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  Please, please, please.  My friends, my dear friends, please.  Please don‘t be diverted by the ground noise and the static. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  You know, I‘m going to talk about it some more.  But Americans want us to stop yelling at each other, OK?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  These are tough times for many of you.  You‘re worried about keeping your job or finding a new one, and you‘re struggling to put food on the table and stay in your home. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  All you‘ve ever asked of your government is to stand on your side and not in your way.  And that‘s what I intend to do:  stand on your side and fight for your future.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  MCCAIN:  And I have found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, Governor Sarah...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  And I want to thank everyone here and all over America for the tremendous, wonderful, warm reception you gave her last night.  Thank you so much.  She deserves it.  What a great beginning.

You know, she has an executive experience and a real record of accomplishment.  She‘s tackled tough problems, like energy independence and corruption.  She‘s balanced a budget, cut taxes, and she‘s taken on the special interests. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  She‘s reached across the aisle and asked Republicans, Democrats, and independents to serve in her administration.  She‘s the wonderful mother of five children. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  She‘s—she‘s helped run a small business.  She‘s worked with her hands and knows—and knows what it‘s like to worry about mortgage payments, and health care, and the cost of gasoline and groceries.

She knows where she comes from, and she knows who she works for.  She stands up for what‘s right, and she doesn‘t let anyone tell her to sit down. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I‘m very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country, but I can‘t wait until I introduce her to Washington. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  And let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big- spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second crowd:  Change is coming.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I‘m not—I‘m not in the habit of breaking my promises to my country, and neither is Governor Palin.  And when we tell you we‘re going to change Washington and stop leaving our country‘s problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it. 

And we‘ve...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  We‘ve got a record of doing just that, and the strength, experience, judgment, and backbone to keep our word to you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  You well know I have been called a maverick, someone who...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  ... someone who marches to the beat of his own drum.  Sometimes it‘s meant as a compliment; sometimes it‘s not.  What it really means is I understand who I work for.  I don‘t work for a party.  I don‘t work for a special interest.  I don‘t work for myself.  I work for you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I have fought corruption, and it didn‘t matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans.  They violated their public trust, and they had to be held accountable. 

I have fought the big spenders...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  I have fought the big spenders in both parties, who waste your money on things you neither need nor want, and the first big-spending pork-barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it.  I will make them famous, and you will know their names.  You will know their names.

(APPLAUSE)

We‘re not going to allow that while you struggle to buy groceries, fill your gas tank, and make your mortgage payment.  I‘ve fought to get million-dollar checks out of our elections.  I‘ve fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes.  I‘ve fought crooked deals in the Pentagon.  I‘ve fought tobacco companies and trial lawyers, drug companies and union bosses.

(APPLAUSE)

I‘ve fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq when it wasn‘t the popular thing to do. 

(APPLAUSE)

And when the pundits said—when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I‘d rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.

(APPLAUSE)

And thanks—thanks to the leadership of a brilliant general, David Petraeus, and the brave men and women he has the honor to command...

(APPLAUSE)

... that—that strategy succeeded, and it rescued us from a defeat that would have demoralized our military, risked a wider war, and threatened the security of all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

I don‘t mind a good fight.  For reasons known only to God, I‘ve had quite a few tough ones in my life.  But I learned an important lesson along the way:  In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.

(APPLAUSE)

I fight for Americans.  I fight for you.  I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost...

(APPLAUSE)

... lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market. Bill got a temporary job after he was out of work for seven months. Sue works three jobs to help pay the bills.

I fight for Jake and Toni Wimmer of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. 

Jake...

(APPLAUSE)

Jake works on a loading dock, coaches Little League, and raises money for the mentally and physically disabled.  Toni is a schoolteacher, working toward her master‘s degree.  They have two sons.  The youngest, Luke, has been diagnosed with autism.  Their lives should matter to the people they elect to office.  And they matter to me.  And they matter to you.

I fight for the family of Matthew Stanley of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

(APPLAUSE)

Matthew died serving our country in Iraq.  I wear his bracelet and think of him every day.  I intend to honor their sacrifice by making sure the country their son loved so well and never returned to remains safe from its enemies.

(APPLAUSE)

I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party.  We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us.  

MCCAIN:  We lost—we lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption.  We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. 

We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties—and Senator Obama—passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies.  We lost their trust when we valued our power over our principles.

We‘re going to change that. 

(APPLAUSE)

We‘re going to recover the people‘s trust by standing up again to the values Americans admire.  The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics.

(APPLAUSE)

In this country, we believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential, from the boy whose descendants arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers.  We‘re all God‘s children, and we‘re all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

We believe—we believe in low taxes, spending discipline, and open markets.  We believe in rewarding hard work and risk-takers and letting people keep the fruits of their labor.

We believe...

(APPLAUSE)

We believe—we believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life...

(APPLAUSE)

... personal responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who dispense justice impartially and don‘t legislate from the bench. 

(APPLAUSE)      We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods, and communities.  We believe in a government that unleashes the creativity and initiative of Americans, government that doesn‘t make your choices for you, but works to make sure you have more choices to make for yourself.

(APPLAUSE)

I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can.  My opponent will raise them.  I will open...

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

I will open new markets to our goods and services.  My opponent will close them. 

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

I will cut government spending.  He will increase it.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

My tax cuts will create jobs; his tax increases will eliminate them. 

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance.  His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat...

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

... where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs.  Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from going overseas. 

(APPLAUSE)

Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families.  

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend, and invest as you see fit. 

(APPLAUSE)

Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity.

I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy, and it often sees that your government hasn‘t even noticed. Government assistance for the unemployed workers was designed for the economy of the 1950s.  That‘s going to change on my watch. 

(APPLAUSE)

Now, my opponent promises to bring back old jobs by wishing away the global economy.  We‘re going to help workers who‘ve lost a job that won‘t come back find a new one that won‘t go away.

(APPLAUSE)

We will prepare them for the jobs of day—of today.  We will use our community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities. 

(APPLAUSE)

For workers in industries—for workers in industries that have been hard-hit, we‘ll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one, while they receive re-training that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage.

(APPLAUSE)

Education—education is the civil rights issue of this century.

(APPLAUSE)

Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school?  We need...

(APPLAUSE)      We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice.

(APPLAUSE)

Let‘s remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

(APPLAUSE)

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parent

when it fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children.  And I intend to give it to them. 

(APPLAUSE)

Some may choose a better public school.  Some may choose a private one.  Many will choose a charter school.  But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats.  I want schools to answer to parents and students. 

(APPLAUSE)

And when I‘m president, they will.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow Americans, when I‘m president, we‘re going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades.  

MCCAIN:  We‘re going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don‘t like us very much, and some of that money...

(APPLAUSE)

We‘ll attack—we‘ll attack the problem on every front.  We‘ll produce more energy at home.  We will drill new wells off-shore, and we‘ll drill them now.  We‘ll drill them now.

(APPLAUSE)

We‘ll—we‘ll—my friends, we‘ll build more nuclear power plants.  We‘ll develop clean-coal technology.  We‘ll increase the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas.  We‘ll encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power.  But Americans know better than that. 

(APPLAUSE)

We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet. 

My friends...

(APPLAUSE)

... it‘s an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we‘ve faced greater challenges.  It‘s time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.

(APPLAUSE)

This great national cause will create millions of new jobs, many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity, jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce.

Today—today, the prospect of a better world remains within our reach.  But we must see the threats to peace and liberty in our time clearly and face them as Americans before us did:  with confidence, wisdom, and resolve.      We have dealt...

(APPLAUSE)

We have dealt a serious blow to Al Qaida in recent years, but they‘re not defeated, and they‘ll strike us again, if they can.  Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism and is on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. 

Russia‘s leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power.  They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world‘s oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of re-assembling the Russian empire. 

And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and our prayers. 

(APPLAUSE)

As president, I‘ll work to establish good relations with Russia so that we need not fear a return to the Cold War.  But we can‘t turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people.

We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I‘m not afraid of them.  I‘m prepared for them. 

(APPLAUSE)

I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it shouldn‘t do.  I know how the world works.  I know the good and the evil in it. 

I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don‘t. 

(APPLAUSE)

I know how to secure the peace.

MCCAIN:  My friends, when I was 5 years old, a car pulled up in front of our house.  A Navy officer rolled down the window and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  I rarely saw my father again for four years. 

My grandfather came home from that same war exhausted from the burdens he had borne and died the next day. 

In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home with me. 

I hate war.  It‘s terrible beyond imagination.

I‘m running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has.  I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals—to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace.

(APPLAUSE)

In America, we change things that need to be changed.  Each generation makes its contribution to our greatness.  The work that is ours to do is plainly before us; we don‘t need to search for it.

We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children. 

All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution, and the end of the Cold War.  We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.

(APPLAUSE)

The—the constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn‘t a cause.  It‘s a symptom.  It‘s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.

(APPLAUSE)

Again and again—again and again, I‘ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed.  That‘s how I will govern as president.  I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. 

My friends...

(APPLAUSE)

... I have that record and the scars to prove it.  Senator Obama does not.

(APPLAUSE)

Instead—instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn‘t think of them first, let‘s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let‘s try sharing it. 

This amazing country...

(APPLAUSE)

This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to.  I‘ll ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me.  And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

We‘re...

(APPLAUSE)

We‘re going to finally start getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won‘t care who gets the credit.

My friends, I‘ve been an imperfect servant of my country for many years.  But I‘ve been her servant first, last, and always.  And I‘ve never...

(APPLAUSE)

I‘ve never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn‘t thank God for the privilege.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  Long ago, something unusual happened to me that taught me the most valuable lesson of my life.  I was blessed by misfortune. I mean that sincerely.  I was blessed because I served in the company of heroes and I witnessed a thousand acts of courage, and compassion, and love.

On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin, I prepared for my 23rd mission over North Vietnam.  I hadn‘t any worry I wouldn‘t come back safe and sound.  I thought I was tougher than anyone.  I was pretty independent then, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

I liked to bend a few rules and pick a few fights for the fun of it.  But I did it for my own pleasure, my own pride.  I didn‘t think there was a cause that was more important than me.

Then I found myself falling toward the middle of a small lake in the city of Hanoi, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and an angry crowd waiting to greet me. 

(LAUGHTER)

I was dumped in a dark cell and left to die.  I didn‘t feel so tough anymore. 

When they discovered my father was an admiral, they took me to a hospital.  They couldn‘t set my bones properly, so they just slapped a cast on me.  And when I didn‘t get better and was down to about a hundred pounds, they put me in a cell with two other Americans. 

I couldn‘t do anything.  I couldn‘t even feed myself.  They did it for me.  I was beginning to learn the limits of my selfish independence.  Those men saved my life.

(APPLAUSE)

I was in solitary confinement when my captors offered to release me.  I knew why.  If I went home, they would use it as propaganda to demoralize my fellow prisoners. 

Our code said we could only go home in the order of our capture, and there were men who had been shot down long before me.  I thought about it, though.  I wasn‘t in great shape, and I missed everything about America, but I turned it down.

A lot of prisoners had it much worse...

(APPLAUSE)

A lot of—a lot of prisoners had it a lot worse than I did. I‘d been mistreated before, but not as badly as many others.  I always liked to strut a little after I‘d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. 

But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before, for a long time, and they broke me.

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn‘t know how I could face my fellow prisoners.  The good man in the cell next door to me, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. 

Through taps on a wall, he told me I had fought as hard as I could.  No man can always stand alone.  And then he told me to get back up and fight again for my country and for the men I had the honor to serve with, because every day they fought for me.

(APPLAUSE)

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else‘s.  I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here.  I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people.  

MCCAIN:  I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for.  I was never the same again; I wasn‘t my own man anymore; I was my country‘s.

(APPLAUSE)

I‘m not running for president because I think I‘m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. 

(APPLAUSE)

My country saved me.  My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. 

And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one.  If you‘re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them.  Enlist...

(APPLAUSE)

Enlist in our Armed Forces.  Become a teacher.  Enter the ministry.  Run for public office.  Feed a hungry child.  Teach an—an illiterate adult to read.  Comfort the afflicted.  Defend the rights of the oppressed. 

Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

(APPLAUSE)

I‘m going to fight for my cause every day as your president.  I‘m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank him, that I‘m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth.  And with hard work—with hard word, strong faith, and a little courage, great things are always within our reach. 

Fight with me.  Fight with me.

(APPLAUSE)

Fight for what‘s right for our country.  Fight for the ideals and character of a free people. 

(APPLAUSE)

Fight for our children‘s future.  Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

(APPLAUSE)

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.  Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

(APPLAUSE)

Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight. 

(APPLAUSE)

Nothing is inevitable here.  We‘re Americans, and we never give up. 

(APPLAUSE)

We never quit. 

(APPLAUSE)

We never hide from history.  We make history.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America.  

Guests: Michael Gerson, Tom Ridge, Pete Wilson

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  And now John McCain is officially and formally the presidential candidate of the Republican Party for 2008, its 39th, his bid for this moment more than a decade—Governor Palin standing slightly in front of him. 

The acceptance speech not without high points.  Certainly, that conclusion, for instance, as he stirringly talked above the crowd noise at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a speech not without significant stumbles. 

Governor Palin, he said, worked with her hands and nose.  The comma was in another place.

But, Chris Matthews, what was this speech, in sum, do you think? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Keith, it‘s been said, long before this convention, long before this nomination became clear, that John McCain is the only Republican who has a chance of winning this election this year, because he is such a maverick, because he‘s a man who spent eight years, in many ways, separating himself, off and on, against this administration. 

He is clearly a fighter pilot, not leader of a bomber wing, not even a previous leader, but a man who has been out there on his own.  He said it again and again tonight.

I have never heard an acceptance speech that included such a clear confession of failure by a political party, in terms of political corruption, in terms of overspending, in terms of failure to deal with the need for energy independence, a very clear confession within this testimony of what he will do. 

In other words, he is separating himself from the eight years of this administration, I believe effectively.  I think this crowd is applauding his divorce from this administration tonight, because they know that only a divorced Republican can win this election.  They want to win.  They‘re willing to pay the price of confession, of admission of failure. 

It‘s a dramatically different, very different statement for a nominee in accepting the nomination of a party, and, at the same time, rebuking the party for its failure.  It is dramatic.  It may well be the one brilliant move that could win him the election. 

OLBERMANN:  He said—to your point, I am grateful to the president, and then later referenced the first lady, Laura Bush, and the 41st president, but at no time did he say the words “George” and “Bush” together. 

But one thing about your point on this sort of repudiation of his own party, at least as it existed before his ascendancy, when he said, “We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us,” there was a pause as if—as if he were waiting, although I can‘t say that he was, but it seemed as if he was waiting for some applause or approval. 

I didn‘t hear anything in that—in that call.  Would—are the—are the delegates not with him on this point yet?  Is there still some sense that there is another means to win the election without this distancing themselves from the current leaders of it?

MATTHEWS:  Well, the balloons say yes, but their hearts say no. 

Well, the balloons say yes, but their hearts say no.  I mean, they—they know he is the only route to deliverance.  They want to be delivered from the unpopularity of the current president.  I mean, he—he said it decently.  He said it well. 

He said, as you say, I‘m grateful to the president for leading us in those dark days following the worst attack in American history on our own soil, but then he quickly moved away, and very effectively established himself again with the iconography of the fighter pilot.  I‘m out there all alone.  I‘m on my mission alone.  I broke with the pack, I look for fights.  I‘m that kind of a guy.  I‘m a maverick—again and again—trust me to break from this eight-year history and produce something brand-new and reform-minded. 

I thought that was pretty stunning, as—you are right—the delegates may not like the tone of it, but they know what is happening here.  This man has launched himself.  I believe he will be ahead in the polls next week.  They see a winner here.  Americans like a winner, even though he had to do it the hard way. 

OLBERMANN:  To David Gregory inside the Xcel Center, and initial thoughts—David.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE”:  Well, Keith, I think it is striking, as we look at John McCain and listen to him in this speech, describe himself as an imperfect public servant, but a servant nevertheless. 

This is now the head of the Republican Party, who is saying to the party, look, I know you haven‘t always liked me.  But, in the course of the three days, he has done a couple of things.  He has perhaps given the party its greatest gift, after the Bush years, and that is a reason to believe that there is some more fight left, and that there could be a Republican still in the White House after the Bush years. 

He said:  Make no mistake.  We will win this election. 

That wasn‘t just rhetoric.  He is trying to convince these Republicans around the country that they still do have a fighting chance, after a lot of, frankly, depression in the party. 

He also staked out that ground by saying, I don‘t work for any particular party, which, to go to Chris‘ point, is an assertion of what his past has been, the—the maverick at the Naval Academy, the maverick in—in the fighter jet when he went a little bit too far, and got shot down, by his own admission going a little bit too far. 

And, so, now he is coming full circle to say that, I have given you—and Governor Palin—a reason to be excited again at this convention, and a declaration of some independence from the ways of Washington and the ways of the Bush administration. 

Note, he—he—he praised President Bush for his leadership in the dark days after 9/11.  And that was about it.  Beyond that, the war in Iraq, et cetera, he parted company and was notably silent—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  He—he said he was grateful to the president.  He did not mention him by name, otherwise than—than the—his—his title. 

And I thought it was interesting, somewhat ironic, as he stepped off the—the platform there, I believe the first hand he shook was that of Elaine Chao, the labor secretary in the Bush administration.  So, sometimes, events overcome symbolism and re-bridge bridges that were thought severed. 

On to the convention floor, Kelly O‘Donnell, our regular correspondent, with the McCain campaign for the reaction from that vantage point—Kelly. 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I want to tell you, in about nine months of traveling with John McCain, and hearing hundreds of speeches, I have never heard him talk in such great detail about his own personal story with respect to his time as a POW.

He has been resistant to do that over time.  And his aide and advisers have convinced him that it is the best example of the kind of change and reform, and even rebellion, that he wants to bring about, in political terms, today.  So, they have convinced him to talk about it more openly and to use that story, both as an illustration of biography, but as a metaphor for what he wants to do politically. 

Now, Senator McCain and Governor Palin and their families are still here, working the rope line, in the political parlance, shaking hands and so forth.  In all the months of traveling with them, I have never seen all seven McCain children together on the same day.  They often travel, but never all together.  So, that was a big part of this night for the McCain family, and, of course, the Palins with their five children and extended family. 

I can tell you, both Senator McCain and Governor Palin have their suitcases packed, because, literally, within minutes of leaving this event, they are heading to the airport—I will be, too—jumping on the plane to leave Minnesota, going on to Wisconsin, a battleground state, where they hope to take all of this hoopla, all of this unity, and the introduction of a new ticket to a battleground state to begin the fight. 

The rallies will go on the next couple of days.  Then, Governor Palin will begin to split off, traveling on her own, as this new ticket tries to go out and talk to voters—Keith, Chris. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Kelly, go—go get them, and—and get ready. 

And have a safe travel.  And thank you. 

All right, let‘s go elsewhere on the convention floor, Andrea Mitchell reporting for us now—Andrea. 

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith—

Keith, I can hear you.  I don‘t know if you can see me, because I chose the worst place to be on this floor.  I‘m right in the middle of the balloon drop. 

You can imagine the excitement of the—the real McCain supporters here.  They heard what they thought was a rallying cry.  And it was interesting, as you have all noted, that this was not a partisan speech. 

The celebration on the floor continues. 

But the least partisan speech—I am somewhere, somewhere on the floor of this convention, surrounded by balloons and confetti. 

But it certainly does mirror the excitement of this crowd.  And they were rallied to a cry, a cry for patriotism, a cry of service, and a much more personal description than John McCain has ever before given about his service and what happened in that prison cell in Hanoi. 

And I think, at this point, I‘m about to...

OLBERMANN:  I think the term...

MITCHELL:  ... be bombarded by the balloons. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  The term you are looking for is flee. 

MITCHELL:  It‘s really quite extraordinary.

OLBERMANN:  All right, Andrea Mitchell, good luck. 

Reporting from the... 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Somewhere on the floor. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the political equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese, apparently. 

Let‘s go up to the—the safer vicinity of the—of the rafters with Tom Brokaw, our NBC News special correspondent. 

And, Tom, I‘m—and Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News” has now been able to join us.

You will forgive the—the pause there, gentlemen. 

Senator McCain is headed back out now, back out in—onto that platform. 

So, this—this celebration is far from over, Tom.

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Let me just say at the outset, however, though, Brian and I feel very, very privileged to have reserved seats for Andrea “Boom-Boom” Mitchell and the dance of the Republican balloons. 

(LAUGHTER)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  A bunch of balloon-wielding thugs down there.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS:  Free Andrea Mitchell. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW:  Well, look, Keith, to get back to the business at hand—and look at her.  She‘s indomitable.  Not these balloons, nothing will keep Andrea...

(LAUGHTER)

BROKAW:  ... from reporting from the floor of the convention, something that we have known all our lives. 

If you think John McCain is a warrior, a journalistic warrior is right there in the middle of those Republican balloons. 

WILLIAMS:  I have been in Ramadi with that woman with automatic weapons going off.  That didn‘t stop her.  But it appears Mylar has stopped Andrea in her tracks.  Where...

(CROSSTALK)

BROKAW:  Listen, I think, Keith, to get back—look, there she is. 

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS:  The “Where‘s Waldo?” of this convention.  Get that microphone up there, Andrea, with the NBC logo. 

OLBERMANN:  So we can find you in this—this mess. 

All right.  The...

MITCHELL:  I‘m OK.  I‘m—well, I think I‘m—I think we are going to be able to get out of here at some point. 

But, right now, this is the biggest balloon—I have seen Reagan balloon drops.  I have been covering conventions for decades, but I have never quite seen—well—or felt, so many balloons all at one time. 

OLBERMANN:  And, Andrea, apparently, you are the target, too. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  I mean, you have got to figure that at least this crowd of Republicans knows how to throw a party. 

OLBERMANN:  Or at least throw a balloon. 

BROKAW:  Now, Keith, if we‘re still on, I think what you can say is that this speech did work for this hall, which was an important part of what John McCain wanted to do. 

A lot of these delegates, as we have been saying, come here not as the most wildly enthusiastic John McCain fans, because they have parted company on a number of issues over the years, and they were very often not happy with his kind of rogue or maverick status in the U.S. Senate. 

But he made that a centerpiece tonight, saying to Washington, Democrats and Republicans alike, change is coming. 

It is very tough for him, obviously, to run on a Republican record of the last eight years, with two wars.  Iraq seems to be going better, but we‘re not home free yet.  Afghanistan has got real difficulties at the moment.  The allies are not pulling all of their weight there.  Taliban are resurgent in that part of the world. 

And, so, he has to say, we are going to to change things.  I‘m taking control of a new Republican Party. 

OLBERMANN:  Brian, Tom suggested it played very well inside the hall -

in hall, worked inside the hall. 

Should we expect that it worked outside of the hall, especially given that context...

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  We have lost a cameraman, too.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS:  Another senseless victim of the balloon drop. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh.  All right.  That man is still safe. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Aim some balloons at him. 

All right.  Tom pointed out, it clearly worked inside the hall. 

With the context of Governor Palin and that explosive debut, that three-hit shutout on the first night out of the gate, did it—did this speech work outside the hall, do you expect? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, that‘s a great thing about this.  We get to—we get to find out. 

We are going to wake up tomorrow morning in another city and have 61 days, and it is going to seem like these next nine weeks fly by, but what a grueling campaign. 

You know, Tom and I both used the word warrior tonight to describe John McCain.  Look, he has never been accused of soaring oratory.  It‘s not his thing.  Chuck Todd tonight already had some interesting findings.  He becomes, you know, kind of wedded to that head-on Teleprompter.  It‘s a straight-on address you get from him. 

He had those three disruptions early on, the unfortunate green screen appearance, Keith.  I know you already noted the song “Barracuda” that came on instantly after him. 

But this is—this is, right here, what it is all about.  The Democrats had theirs last week.  This is the Republican message.  This is the Republican ticket.  And after two Bush terms and a speech, as you noted, with no direct by-name mention of President Bush, this ticket now heads on. 

We‘re joined here in the booth by the gentleman who was to be Andrea‘s guest before we lost Andrea, and—former Pennsylvania Governor and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. 

Mr. Secretary, thank you for making do and coming on up here with us. 

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF:  Great to join you.  Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  Got a better view on the party. 

BROKAW:  Based on your—based on your Homeland—if you still have the number for a SWAT team, we would like send them down to rescue “Boom-Boom” Andrea Mitchell down there in the dance of the balloons. 

RIDGE:  I‘m sure Andrea can take care of herself. 

WILLIAMS:  I got a big one coming up here.

BROKAW:  Keith Olbermann just asked a question.  Obviously, this speech played very well here in the hall, especially the end, where it is, fight, fight, fight, you know, for this country and for the Republican Party, and for the ideals of—of John McCain. 

If you look at Pennsylvania, you have got a tough record to defend, eight years of Republican rule.  We have got a tough economy, energy crisis, no energy plan has emerged in the last eight years, and two wars going on. 

RIDGE:  I think Pennsylvanians would like to catch up with history. 

I think it was one of the more remarkable statements John made tonight.  We know we have good schools.  We don‘t have enough good schools.  We know we need to become less dependent on foreign oil.  We know that the economy is driven by small business.  Much of what John talked about today will resonate throughout—throughout Pennsylvania. 

BROKAW:  But the fact is, Governor, that you have had eight years of a Bush administration, and a lot of Republicans in Congress for the last eight years, so, why wouldn‘t the American people say, look, they had their shot; we‘re going to change? 

RIDGE:  Because John—Bush—because John McCain is very much his own man, because John McCain brings a different style and a different approach toward Republican leadership, because John McCain has made some promises that I think Americans can feel comfortable about that he will keep. 

You know, John McCain has talked a lot about the need to—and, again, I go back to that line, let‘s catch up with history.  And we‘re behind.  And there‘s a Democrat Congress that has helped keep us behind.  And I think the fact that he will reach across the aisle, very much a bipartisan nature.  That‘s how he‘s operated in the past.  And I think Americans want—I think Pennsylvanians want him to operate that way in the future. 

WILLIAMS:  You mentioned your home state, where people are also hurting in this economy. 

RIDGE:  Right. 

WILLIAMS:  Was there enough in the speech for you, was there enough in this evening, this convention for you, on the economy?

RIDGE:  Yes.

Perhaps I‘m just too—too close to the potential impact for a massive, massive energy initiative.  Clean coal technology, we like to hear that in Pennsylvania.  We like to hear the notion that we‘re going to have nuclear energy, and be less dependent on foreign oil.  We like to hear about reducing taxes.  We like to hear about opening markets for our farmers and for our industrial concerns. 

So, yes, and the fact of the matter is, that is a quick snapshot.  And then it will be up to me and up to John and Sarah to come into Pennsylvania and help me convince them to vote for John in the fall. 

BROKAW:  You have—you are very close to John McCain. 

RIDGE:  Yes. 

BROKAW:  Have the two of you had discussions about the kind of Cabinet and administration he would like to put together? 

RIDGE:  We have not.  We have not, Tom. 

I am quite confident, when he said tonight he want to attract Democrats and independents to serve with him and to work with him, he will.  I will be—I would be very surprised if he didn‘t have a very interesting and bipartisan Cabinet to serve America. 

WILLIAMS:  How will a hockey mom and a mother of five fare in Pennsylvania coal miner country? 

RIDGE:  Pretty well.  Pretty well. 

You know, the first time that I knew that she was going to be John‘s vice presidential nominee—like everybody else, I learned about it through television—I mean, I did a quick—I did my own quick research about her. 

I think she is a very authentic woman.  I think the authenticity (INAUDIBLE) that her life, her career, her family, and everything else plays very, very well in Pennsylvania. 

BROKAW:  Governor Ridge, thank you very much—Keith Olbermann, back to you. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  Tom, thank you. 

Brian, thank you. 

Governor Ridge, thank you. 

And we will continue our look for Andrea Mitchell.  She‘s out there somewhere, we know. 

In a moment, more with Chris Matthews in Saint Paul, much more from the convention floor. 

You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention, just concluding now in Minnesota. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. MCCAIN:  I wouldn‘t be an American worthy of the name if I didn‘t honor Senator Obama and his supporters for their achievement.

But let there be no doubt, my friends:  We‘re going to win this election. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

J. MCCAIN:  We‘re going to win.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. MCCAIN:  I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it shouldn‘t do.  I know how the world works.  I know the good and the evil in it. 

I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don‘t. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Back inside the Xcel Center in Saint Paul now with Ann Curry, our correspondent, standing by with former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson—Ann. 

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks so much.  You know, actually, Michael is also a columnist for “The Washington Post.” 

Michael, well, you‘re—you were a speechwriter for George Bush. 

What do you think of the speech we heard tonight?

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  The

speech had some strengths, particularly towards the end.  This telling of his personal story had some power, because it talked about his vulnerability and brokenness, not his triumph.  I thought that was interesting. 

It set out the right theme, reform.  But the policy was the problem.  The policy in the speech was rather typical for a Republican, pretty disappointing.  It didn‘t do a lot of outreach to moderates and independents on issues that they care about.  It talked about issues like drilling and school choice which was really speaking to the converted.  I think that was a missed opportunity. 

You know, many Americans needed to hear from this speech something they have never heard from Republicans before.  And in reality, a lot of the policy they have heard from Republicans before. 

CURRY:  You actually—we were talking earlier, we were talking about the people who are here at the convention.  And it‘s interesting, you made an interesting comment.  You were saying that many of the people here in the convention were not actually McCain people.  What did you mean by that? 

GERSON:  Well, you know, he has had a checkered past with the Republican Party.  There was a lot more spontaneous enthusiasm for Governor Palin last night than there was John McCain tonight. 

CURRY:  But he had a lot of people in tears, especially when he was talking about his POW experience, I mean, people of all ages and both sexes. 

GERSON:  I did think the personal aspects of this speech were the strongest.  You know, he told the story but he told it in a different way. 

It wasn‘t typical.  It wasn‘t just his triumph.  It was also his

brokenness.  I thought that was very good. 

But when you look at what he needed to do, he needed to say to Americans, I‘m not a typical Republican.  This is what I am going to do to bring that reform message to make it real. 

Now he is going to probably try to do that in the next few days, but tonight was not particularly innovative, interesting, or promising. 

CURRY:  Was it the speech of a maverick? 

GERSON:  It was the speech of someone who talked about being a past maverick.  The question is, how is he is a future reformer?  And I think that question is still only partially answered. 

CURRY:  All right.  Well, Michael Gerson, thank you so much.  A former Bush speechwriter, as you mentioned, and also a current columnist for The Washington Post, and certainly perhaps in his comments, perhaps an indication of how well this speech might have played outside this hall. 

Now back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Ann.  A blunt assessment of that speech from Mr. Gerson. 

Now back out to the floor, Ron Allen with, the former governor of California, Pete Wilson, a Republican stalwart out there for many years—

Ron. 

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.  Yes, I tell you where I am, but I don‘t know, because they have torn down all the signs out here and the convention floor is just crazy.  It was an amazing night for people who watched this.  I have to say that John McCain lost some people in the middle when there was a dip. 

But when he came back with that powerful story at the end, so many people I think were amazed, they had never heard him speak like that.  And that was really the power of the speech.  With me is former California governor Pete Wilson. 

Did you think John McCain had something like that in him?  You have never heard him speak like that before I imagine? 

PETE WILSON ®, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR:  Well, I have.  But it was in private, when he was talking about what he experienced as a prisoner.  He is a very courageous guy.  He does love the country. 

He was telling what he has said in private and it‘s going to make him the kind of leader that will be incapable of backing down. 

ALLEN:  Why do you think he felt like he had to bare his soul and really let America hear this story?  It‘s difficult for him obviously to tell it.  But it‘s certainly very powerful. 

WILSON:  I think it was difficult for him, but I think he was persuaded that he really needed to make clear to the people how he feels as he does and why.  And it is relevant to the kind of challenges that he is going to have to face. 

ALLEN:  Thanks very much, Governor Wilson. 

WILSON:  You bet. 

ALLEN:  Looking out for another balloon drop, and back to you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Watch out for the balloons.  The balloon has gone up.  Ron Allen, thank you. 

One note about the degree to which Senator McCain—and it struck me too sitting here listening to the speech, when he mentioned that he had been broken.  The detail he went into was significant and significantly different from most of his stump speeches.  But it‘s fair to point out, I think, that just after his release in 1973, May, he detailed his experience as a POW in a lengthy account in U.S. News & World Report, now better known as U.S. News.

And he talked about the—“I was at the point of suicide because I saw I was reaching the end of the my rope, I signed a document.” Pretty much everything that went into detail, tonight, in a written form back in 1973 from Senator McCain. 

We will hear from political director, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, and our panel when we resume MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The first big-spending, pork barrel, earmarked bill that comes across my desk I will veto it.  I will make them famous.  And you will know their names.  You will know their names.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.  My friends.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  I have that record and the scars to prove it.  Senator Obama does not. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And while Senator Obama‘s campaign has issued a traditional statement, several of them rebutting remarks from Senator McCain, there was another statement issued on behalf of all Senator Clinton tonight.  I will read it in full.  It‘s not long. “The two party conventions showcased vastly different directions for our country.  Senator Obama and Senator Biden offered the new ideas and positive change American needs and deserves after eight years of failed Republican leadership.” 

“Senator McCain and Governor Palin do not.  After listening to all the speeches this week,” Senator Clinton concludes, “I heard nothing that suggests the Republicans are ready to fix the economy for middle class families, provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans, guarantee equal pay for equal work for women, restore our nation‘s leadership in a complex world, or tackle the myriad of challenges our country faces.

“So,” she finishes, “to slightly amend my comments from Denver, no way, no how, no McCain-Palin.” Back into the Xcel Center, NBC News political director Chuck Todd is back with us. 

And, all right, we have heard a lot of praise of this speech.  But Michael Gerson, of The Post and former a Bush speechwriter was, I thought, unusually critical, and said that it was neither innovative nor interesting nor the right speech for that crowd or the crowd watching. 

Where does—where does the truth lie, any idea? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, look, that was a very tough assessment.  And when he said it, you know, it‘s funny, I had circled this one part of the speech where he talked about, if a Democrat has a good idea, I don‘t care if it is a Democrat or a Republican, if it is a good idea we are going to do it. 

And it struck me, when I was reading it at the time, I‘d been reading ahead while he was giving his speech, I thought, boy, this would have been a good time to actually insert talk about the idea, a Democratic idea that you would want to propose or promote, if elected. 

And he didn‘t there.  And then when I heard Michael Gerson say what he said when he said, well, where—why was the policy proposals that he did offer—why did they sound so generically Republican why didn‘t he have something new?  That was—like I said, that was a very interesting critique. 

And it does make you wonder, look, this—this convention is not going to be remembered for this acceptance speech.  This convention is going to be remembered for Sarah Palin.  I mean, the two biggest applause lines tonight in McCain‘s speech was the, -- when he mentioned Sarah Palin, and then when she walked out, this place erupted. 

And so, this was definitely Sarah Palin‘s convention.  John McCain is being cheered for having the guts or the foresight to pick her, and to sort of anoint her as the heir apparent. 

But look, the McCain campaign would fully acknowledge they weren‘t going to win this in a speech-making contest.  And they‘re very glad we don‘t have succession of election nights, Keith, as you remember during the primary season.

And we would sit there and go back and forth and we would see Obama give these victory speeches and then they would show McCain giving an alternative speech that night.  It wasn‘t necessarily a victory.  But he would just be moving along while he was waiting for his Democratic opponent. 

We would say, it‘s a good thing for McCain the general election isn‘t going to be held in a series of successive eight weeks or something like that where every Tuesday the nation tuned in to compare and contrast the two speeches. 

One other point on this.  Our director—our producer of this, John Reece (ph), was pointing out, he was surprised there was no humor in the speech.  And that‘s usually a John McCain trademark. 

So, look, it almost felt like it was that he had to give this speech, he knew he had to get through it.  And now that he is done, I have a feeling he is almost going to be relieved that this is behind him and he‘ll look more forward to the debates and engagement rather than do what he did here. 

Look, he tried to be a change agent tonight.  He said the word “change” 10 times.  He said the word “fight” 25 times.  He said only “experience” three times.  So the message obviously was a fighter for change with a little bit of experience thrown in.  I don‘t know if that is how it will be received.  But it may not matter, Sarah Palin is providing the makeover that he needed—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And, Chuck, one thing—one technical thing that may have appeared on television and it hearkens back to those early speeches that we talked about, specifically the first big one that he gave in contrast to an Obama speech where he appeared behind—or in front of a very poorly chosen green flat backdrop behind him. 

On television, early in this speech, it looked like they had done that again.  In fact, it was such a tight shot of Senator McCain against that giant video screen which was showing fields of grass, that it looked like just a plain green screen.  And later one it looked like just a plain blue screen, as we are seeing some of the—the mechanics of this process. 

Now the blue screen was the sky around a flapping American flag.  So sometimes what works in a hall doesn‘t work too well on TV.  Chuck Todd, thank you.  I‘m going to go to David Gregory now and ask him about a point that Chuck just raised and addressed. 

It sounded like from just sitting here that the biggest applause was for Governor Palin when Senator McCain mentioned her.  And Chuck sort of confirms that from inside the building.  I would like your opinion on it too.  And more importantly, I would like your opinion on whether or not that constitutes a problem if number two gets a bigger round of applause than number one does for any candidacy? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it‘s an important point that Chuck makes.  And I actually don‘t think it is a problem, at least not right now. 

And that‘s because, Keith, I think it is important to point out that John McCain, for the first time in his political life, became something tonight.  And that is the leader of the Republican Party.  That is no small thing in the life of Senator John McCain, who has not really been right with his party for all if these years in Washington. 

And that‘s how he has wanted it.  He has made a lot of friends, but he has made enemies as well.  And we‘re just talking about in the Republican Party.  All of that played out in 2000 and continued to play out within the Bush administration as well. 

Yes, even in the second term of the Bush administration, when there was a protracted fight over the treatment of prisoners and the question of torture and interrogation techniques, at the same time, when he was getting closer to the president on the issue of Iraq. 

So I do think that Chuck is right, that this convention was about the base.  This convention was about enthusiasm among Republicans.  Barack Obama didn‘t have that as an issue.  Barack Obama had unity issues.  He had self-definition issues.  He had to define what change means. 

There are different issues on this, enthusiasm is one.  And I think that McCain-Palin come out of this convention with more enthusiasm in the base.  Very significant.  I am, however, surprised.  And this goes to the Mike Gerson point, that there is not more of a blueprint of an appeal to independent and swing voters on policy issues that they will work off of. 

We know that energy issues is an appeal and drilling is an appeal to independent voters, there has been some traction there in the polling.  When he talks about education, he talks about it being a civil right for the new century, that is a George W. Bush line from the year 2000.  When he called education the new civil right, it‘s a carbon copy. 

So there is a challenge here going forward.  What he has done here is create a frame, I think, for the campaign to come.  Which is that it is about transcending party, that McCain can now lead the Republican Party, but he doesn‘t work for the Republican party. 

He works for the Republicans, for the Democrats, he works for the American people.  That‘s the theme he wants to sell.  And now he will have the debates and he‘ll have the campaign trail to start to fill some of that out, in particular policy areas. 

And just in conclusion, the economy is issue one.  Senator Clinton‘s statement that you read goes to that.  The Obama response, in the course of this convention, goes to that.  Who has got the energy?  Who has got the ideas to deal with this economy in turmoil?  That‘s what will be so important.  You have been hearing that from rank-and-file Republicans on the convention floor.  That‘s what we‘ll watch very closely to see how it all plays out—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And it will be interesting, David, to see if there are any lingering holes there.  As I suggested, the point that, as we mentioned a couple of times, “we were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us,” not only has the Obama campaign picked up on that in its formal statement about the speech, but again there was no applause for that. 

And when Senator McCain offered something of an olive branch towards Senator Obama about the differences between the two camps and the campaign ahead and the troubles ahead, there was booing relative to Senator Obama‘s name, not necessarily the concept.  But there just seemed to be those tiniest, at least, of little disconnects between the speaker and his audience tonight. 

All right, up next, Chris Matthews and the panel from St. Paul with more thoughts and analysis.  MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention continues after this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I am very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country, but I can‘t wait until I introduce her to Washington. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back now.  Let‘s take a look at what everybody on the panel thinks about the big point of tonight.  What is the main point that will be reported in the major newspapers tomorrow?  Pat Buchanan. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The main thing obviously is McCain delivered his speech.  But the main thing that is being done in these speeches tonight, which is deliver contrast between the Obamas and the McCains. 

Cindy McCain is someone who has traveled the world, done all of this work with charities, adopted this baby, you know, as a contrast from Michelle.  John McCain was—deliberately did not try for the eloquence of Obama.  He said in simple declarative sentences, in other words, I am a tough veteran, I‘ve been through hell in my, I‘ve failed at times, but I am the tough character you need for the world in which we live. 

And he has—and you saw Lindsey Graham... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he is personal. 

BUCHANAN:  It is personal.  Lindsey Graham said basically Obama is just a defeatist.  And I am a tough customer and it‘s a tough world, and I‘m the guy that will lead this country.  I think it is a powerful, powerful contrasting message.  And I think it may have worked tonight with the American people. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that there were strong personal moments in this, very much so.  I am moved by just about every speech that I hear.  I was moved very by the end of the speech. 

But I do think that the big thing that happened here is that we learned that John McCain‘s campaign really takes seriously the fact that the Obama campaign keeps throwing back at them John McCain‘s assertion that he doesn‘t understand the economy very well. 

So we had this long treatise on the economy, but honestly, it was sort of like a long term paper about Bush Republican economics.  It was job training, taxes stink, unions stink, more free trade agreements. 

You give him credit for addressing the economy at length and in great detail, but people aren‘t mad at Barack Obama about the economy.  People are mad at George Bush about the economy.  And he just proposed a lot of Bush‘s economic ideas.  I think he really missed that. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC ANALYST:  I think the main thing is that at a Republican Convention, John McCain effectively disowned the last eight years of a Republican administration.  Except for 9/11 and the war in Iraq, he disowned the Bush years completely.  And I think it has a couple of really interesting implications. 

First, in a sense that makes the Democrats‘ job clearer.  He wants to divorce himself from George Bush.  What they have to do is tie him to George Bush and remind people that he is a Republican and is a leader of the Republican Party. 

Second, you know, the Republicans have claimed that Barack Obama is the center of a cult of personality, that he is a celebrity.  In effect, it is really John McCain who is the man without a party in a sense. 

I mean, because he is—he has so disowned the Bush years and that legacy that he is in effect saying, yes, I am a Republican, but I am different, I am me, I am John McCain.  And so it is just an interesting switch.  He kind of is what he claims his opponent is in a large sense. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Maybe in many ways this is Sarah Palin‘s party, as some people have said, this is Sarah Palin‘s convention. 

I think what is most striking about that speech is that the biggest applause lines dealt with Sarah Palin.  You have a fight now on our hands for women voters, non-college-educated women voters, where this is going to be fought in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which is where they are going tonight to fight for that state. 

This is why Hillary Clinton—this is the first time we have heard from her all week, isn‘t it?  Hillary Clinton, why she put out the statement.  Guess where Hillary Clinton is going on Monday?  Florida. 

They are putting her out there to push back on Sarah Palin.  The Obama campaign is already talking a new strategy.  They are going to use the female governors, the female senators to go back.  They are worried about the female vote, the women vote now because Sarah Palin, even though she may not be with a lot of women on issues, they liked and turned out and watched. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me go to Gene‘s point.  He is exactly right.  John McCain shed the Republican Party.  Good bye to that.  Good bye to Bush.  This is between two couples, the Obamas and the McCains.  Do you want them, or do you want us? 

Obviously Obama is eloquent and all the rest of it.  But it‘s a lot of fluff.  As Lindsey Graham called him, a defeatist, wanted to cut and run.  And McCain and his wife and Obama and  -- that‘s what they wanted, the battle between the two couples. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Exactly!  That‘s what I think they may have done!

MADDOW:  If it is the working class and it is the mainstream voter in these middle income swing states that we‘re talking about, they want to hear that the economy is going to get better under the next president. 

And John McCain just gave a long, boring, undergraduate term paper in the middle of this otherwise good speech about John McCain having endorsed all of Bush‘s economic policies. 

MATTHEWS:  When we see them together, when the next big event occurs  at the end of this month, John McCain in one corner, Barack Obama in the other, will John McCain be able to keep it a personal test?  Or will Barack Obama be able to bring it back to the historic question of the direction of this administration and do you want to change radically?  Rachel.

MADDOW:  The McCain campaign will do everything they can to make it all about personality.  The Obama campaign has shown that they‘re willing to do the opposite.  It‘s a fight for the soul of the American people. 

Do we want to vote for character?  Or do we want to vote for ideas? 

BUCHANAN:  But what McCain will do—what McCain will do, it will—he will make it into mano y mano, it is John McCain-Barack Obama. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But you know, what the fight is, will it be personal or will it be partisan?  We‘ll be back.  Let‘s go back to Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Chris, when we return, much more analysis ahead on the final night of the Republican Convention.  The points that were hit, those that were left out. 

This bulletin.  Andrea Mitchell is safe.  More from New York and St.  Paul after the break.  This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Savannah Guthrie

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Until tonight, it had seemed that the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, might have belonged solely to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, despite the fact that she‘s number two on the GOP ticket. 

Senator John McCain may or may not have changed that less than an hour ago.  He certainly did not do better in terms of response than did Governor Palin.  But he claimed the convention and the nomination and the party for himself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Tonight, I have a privilege given few Americans:  the privilege of accepting our party‘s nomination for president of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nevertheless, the greatest applause at any point in this speech was when Senator McCain mentioned Governor Palin.  He also thanked the current president, would not mention either this President George Bush, nor the previous one, by name, only mentioned Laura Bush, thanked the current president, though, for keeping America safe, making the claim that a McCain administration would be transparent and held accountable. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to.  I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me.  And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator McCain‘s days of being resistant to talk in-depth about his time as a POW certainly over now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:                  MCCAIN:  I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else‘s. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Alongside Chris Matthews in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC headquarters in New York, as we continue our coverage of the Republican National Convention as it concludes. 

And, Chris, I‘m going to go out on a limb here and suggest to you that, by many measures, if not all of them, right now, this campaign is not McCain-Obama.  It‘s Palin-Obama.  What do you think? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, that‘s true.  And I think it is also—more importantly, perhaps, it‘s—I think it may be Palin ahead at this point, in that sense. 

Look, one of my favorite old movies is “Bill of Divorcement.”  It‘s a Katharine Hepburn-John Barrymore movie.  This was a bill of divorcement tonight.  He divorced himself from George Bush, perhaps the smartest move of the campaign. 

Listen to what he says.  I have never, Keith, heard lines like this in an acceptance speech: “I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party.  We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us.  We lost the trust in the American people when some Republicans gave into the temptations of corruption.”

By the way, today, Jack Abramoff got four years in a penitentiary.  At the same time, the stock market went down 350.  This is time for confession. 

“We lost their trust when, rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger.  We lost their trust when, instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties—and Senator Obama—passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies.  We lost their trust when we valued our power over our principles.”

This is a statement of divorce.  It‘s a statement of confession.  But here is the interesting point.  He is confessing George Bush‘s sins.  That‘s what is so interesting.  He is indicting the current Republican president, so that he can break out from him and win the succession. 

And, then, of course, Bush will be standing next to him on the inaugural stand.  Is Bush compliant in this?  Is he watching tonight?  Did he agree not to come to this convention, so he wouldn‘t taint it?  Did he agree to these words?  Does he agree with this thought that his administration was a betrayal, eight years of betrayal? 

Is this the message of eight years of this presidency that he is willing to put his name to?  It is fascinating stuff. 

And, Keith, it may well work.  That‘s what is fascinating about it. 

OLBERMANN:  Here‘s the irony to it.  It may—it may well work with independents.  But does the reaction in that crowd tonight, when he—when he made the remark about, we were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us, there was a pause, seemingly for silence, and—for applause, rather—and there was just silence. 

And when he mentioned the—the reference to Senator Obama and both parties passing another corporate welfare bill for oil companies that you cited, which would naturally be an applause line...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  ... or a point at which Obama would be booed, there was, again, silence...

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  ... but silence as if, well, exactly, why would you think a house full of Republicans would be upset about welfare bill for oil—welfare bills for oil companies? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  The—the astounding thing was, the president signed the bill. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  In each case, it was a confession of something done wrong by the man whose name still leads this party, the president of the United States. 

You have pointed out effectively tonight how they didn‘t mention his name.  They didn‘t mention the name of his father.  They didn‘t invite him here.  He didn‘t come here.  The balloons came down to celebrate that they‘re escaping him.  That‘s what is going on here.  This is a breakout. 

This is a chance to still win Republican rule by abandoning any loyalty to the president of the last eight years and the leader of their party. 

Pat, it‘s an astounding—I have got Pat Buchanan.  I‘m sorry if I have to distract, but when I have a Pat Buchanan here. 

This is an act of political—what is it? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I‘ll tell you what it is.

MATTHEWS:  How do you describe—I don‘t have... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  It is a declaration. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, what do we call this thing?

BUCHANAN:  No, no, it is a declaration of independence...

MATTHEWS:  From Bush.

BUCHANAN:  ... from the Bush administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.

BUCHANAN:  When, in the course of human events, it‘s goodbye, you guys.  We‘re going in our direction. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Keith, you heard it from the—you heard it from the master‘s voice here.  This is a party that has divorced itself from itself, to free itself, to keep power.  It‘s astounding. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  The conservatives in the country will welcome this, because a lot of them will say, they betrayed our principles.  Why are we...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is the “they”? 

BUCHANAN:  The conservatives think the administration in Washington lost in ‘96 -- or 2006 because it deserved to lose. 

MATTHEWS:  So, the real bad guy here is George W. Bush? 

BUCHANAN:  The real bad guys are the guys that came to do good and did well instead. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are they?  Who?  Name them.

BUCHANAN:  The guys who were thrown out in 2006. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, they‘re still—they‘re gone now, are they?

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you what. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Jack Abramoff has four more—four more years of serious time. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I have to tell you that, if I were President Bush tonight, sitting up there in the—up there in the third floor of the White House and watching this display, I would say, I get it.  I‘m the bad guy. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s exactly—look, he is running against the corrupt leaders of that party.  And so are the conservatives. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s astounding.  So, reelect us because we screwed up? 

BUCHANAN:  No, we get—get rid of those guys and...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

BUCHANAN:  What he is saying is, our guys did behave corruptly, a lot of them.  They screwed up.  Bring us in.  We are not like those guys that sold us out. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pat and I agree—Keith, back few you.  I have to tell you, it‘s an astounding bit of stagecraft and politics because, it is almost like a soldier calling in fire on his position. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to have this position blown up, so I can escape from it.  The metaphors are abundant, obviously, here. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But the fact is, Keith, this is astounding political action tonight, to condemn your own administration, so that you can be elected. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s one of the cartoon characters.  We have met the enemy, and he is us. 

But don‘t worry about one thing, Chris or Pat.  No doubt, President Bush was watching the Giants and Redskins tonight, not—not the convention. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s go to the floor of the Xcel Energy Center, Ron Allen on the floor there, with—as—as the cleanup arrangements have already begun—Ron.

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, yes, the cleanup crews are nearby. 

And did you just say cartoon characters?  Well, we found quite a few characters here. 

First, the confetti that fell, look at that.  It‘s John McCain, Cindy McCain, and (INAUDIBLE) smile there perhaps. 

And in terms of real characters, we found the vice president of—nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is so nice to meet you.  And hasn‘t it been a fabulous evening? 

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN:  It has been.  It has been, indeed. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes it has.  I couldn‘t be more proud of America. 

ALLEN:  So, Governor Palin, what will you do in your first days in office?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I need a nap.  I‘m very tired.  It was exhausting, but so worth it. 

ALLEN:  Thanks very much. 

Who are you really? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Elizabeth Wyler (ph).  And I‘m here with the Utah delegation. 

ALLEN:  Thanks very much. 

You‘re supposed to say you‘re Sarah Palin.  You have got to get this thing down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, sorry.

I‘m Sarah Palin. 

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN:  Bye. 

We have got a few other characters here. 

You guys have some of the small souvenirs? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Indeed.  Yes, my name its future president in waiting John McCain.  I‘m ready to take office and help America.  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.

ALLEN:  But you have got to do—you have got to do this without your lips moving, or else it doesn‘t really work. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute. 

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can‘t do it.

ALLEN:  Yes.  Can you do it without your lips moving? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, John McCain.  Yes, we can give it a try there. 

ALLEN:  Thanks very much, guys.

All right.  It‘s getting a little crazy out here, so back to you guys. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Ron. 

Savannah Guthrie in Governor Palin, the real one‘s home town, Wasilla, Alaska, for reaction to the first day after the Sarah Palin speech, when some other guy got up and spoke tonight. 

Was that the view, or was—or was there enthusiasm there nonetheless, Savannah? 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it wasn‘t exactly the way it was last night. 

I mean, there‘s no question, people around here think that Sarah Palin was the main event.  And life has kind of returned to normal.  We went to the same place we were at last night, where the big watch party was going on.  And, this time, there was football on the television screens. 

But I have to tell you, they did change it to the McCain speech.  And people were watching.  It wasn‘t as much of an enthusiastic, rousing crowd as it was last night.  But people watched.  They were attentive. 

And we talked to some of them afterwards.  And they said they liked the speech.  It is interesting.  I‘m starting to hear a more divergence of opinions about Sarah Palin here.  Everyone loves her that we talked to, pretty much.  But some of the people we talked to tonight said they were a little concerned about her experience and concerned about whether or not she is ready for the vice president‘s job. 

And one woman said to me, I would be worried if, God forbid, something happened to John McCain.  Would she be ready right away to assume the presidency?

So, we‘re starting to hear a little bit more of a dissenting opinion.  But there‘s—the real bottom line, here in Wasilla, she is extremely popular.  They do love this governor.  And they were very attentive tonight.  Most people we talked to here are definitely supporters of the ticket. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m fascinated by—by the dynamic.  It‘s—I guess—I don‘t know that either of us could answer this question.  It might be deeply sociological or psychological.  But there is...

(LAUGHTER)

GUTHRIE:  Perfect. 

OLBERMANN:  ... that beautiful kind of, oh, this is somebody who belongs to me kind of effect in a hometown, in a home state, in a home country. 

And then, with time, that sort of begins to deteriorate slightly.  Is there any way to measure it?  It was just a slight change from yesterday, in terms of the universal support for the governor, or significant? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, I think it really depends on who you are talking to. 

I talked to another young woman today who said, look, the reason I don‘t support her is because she is from a small town.  I am just not sure if she is ready.  She said, but I realize the small-town aspect of Sarah Palin is what a lot of people love about her. 

And I think you kind of put your finger on it.  There‘s a certain element, especially around here.  You know how it is in your own family?  Nobody else can talk bad about your family members, but, within the family, of course, you can have at it all day long. 

And I think there is a certain element of that, particularly when many people here felt that she was really under siege leading up to yesterday.  So, they have sort of circled the wagons.  They‘re protective of her.  They love her.  They feel she has been a successful governor. 

But I do—when you really start peeling the onion a little bit, you do start to hear people have a few reservation about whether she is ready. 

OLBERMANN:  And it‘s also interesting, and another psychological one, which we won‘t even speculate on here about what happens when somebody starts defending themselves and swinging with both fists, if that protectiveness goes away, because you think, well, this person can take care of themselves.  We will find out. 

Savannah Guthrie, reporting from the Alaska bureau—thank you again, Savannah.

(LAUGHTER)

GUTHRIE:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Coming up here, Chris Matthews and the panel back with us. 

And, throughout the day, we have been asking you to text-message your opinion on the following question:  Will the McCain-Palin speeches help win over independents and undecided voters? 

Results in.  Twenty-one percent of those who participated said, yes, the speeches will help.  Seventy-nine percent said, no, they would not.

This is MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican Convention. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back in Saint Paul.  Here we are.  Look at that crowd of our people out here, to compete with anything out there on the floor. 

The Republican Convention has just wrapped up.  They have got a nominee for president and for vice president. 

I‘m here with our illustrious panel that has been raring to go here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think she—the question you have to ask is, how does this lead to the debate?  Because I think that‘s the next big moment.  We‘re all going to be together. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I

agree.

MATTHEWS:  And I think there has been an element of, if not macho, something of personal guts that has been displayed in both directions...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... like, Barack Obama, just last week, said, I am going to take him on in judgment and temperament, like it was, I‘m going to stand against him and take him on.

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He threw all that stuff about me during the fight between Russia and Georgia.  I am a man, too.  I‘m going to take him on. 

And, then, tonight, I sensed John McCain made a couple of points about personal courage.  First of all, he displayed it in his life.  Is this going to be something like that when they walk in that room together, a physical kind of test of who will stand up to the other person and defend themselves as a person? 

ROBINSON:  Well, I think they—there certainly will be some of that. 

You know, keep in mind, John McCain did say extraordinarily generous things about Barack Obama tonight as prelude.  And then he you know, kind of got into it with him. 

But, yes I think the debates are going to be a very important moment, because John McCain has essentially said, you know, my platform is me, basically.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  That is the platform.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What shows up in that room...

ROBINSON:  It‘s not the Republican Party platform.

MATTHEWS:  What shows up is the party. 

ROBINSON:  He doesn‘t believe half the Republican Party platform. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I mean, he really doesn‘t. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  So, his platform is John McCain.  Here is who I am.  I am a

you know, I‘m a fighter.  I‘m going to fight for you.  I‘m going to reform government.  I‘m going to fix Washington.  You have to believe in me. 

So, he have to—has to establish that in the debate against Obama. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Norah.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Norah first.

(CROSSTALK)

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  The battle lines are drawn, I think, also on the issue of working Americans, ordinary Americans, with the economy the number-one issue. 

Just looking at a—a fund-raising letter sent out by Barack Obama, why would the Republicans spend a whole night of their convention attacking ordinary people, talking about Sarah Palin belittling his experience as a community organizer?  That is what is really going to be drawn here. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  Not only his experience, but the Republicans are making it also an argument about ordinary Americans, and—or—excuse me—Barack Obama is going to turn it back and say a job...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  Who is going to address the values of working families, that substantive issue?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So much happened.  You know, you and I grew up with the debates being personal, starting in ‘60...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... where the two men may have said all kinds of things about each other at a distance, but, when they come in the room, you know the chemistry changes. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  And, so, when it happens, it seems to me that we‘re going to have one heck of a bout, with perhaps 100 million people watching. 

I‘m looking at these numbers this week.

O‘DONNELL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  If 40,000 people watched—perhaps watched last week, if the same number...

O‘DONNELL:  Forty million. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Forty million.

If 40 million did it again last night, perhaps again tonight, we are getting to rev up to something like we have never seen in this country...

BUCHANAN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  ... an almost universal audience of Americans watching a debate. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

The 1960 election is exactly right.  Remember, Schlesinger had that right—had to write the book, “Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make a Difference?” because on the issues, they‘re so close together.

Where Kennedy won it in the first debate was on personality.  It‘s him or me.  And the country went for him.  You know, what do independents say?  What is the cliche?  I don‘t vote for the party.  I vote for the man. 

That‘s what independents say. 

That‘s what McCain wants, people not to vote for the Republican or Democratic Party.  He loses.  They vote for the man.  So, he gets in there mano a mano with Obama, and he finds issues on which his position is more popular, and, obviously, he has been right, and he has been wrong. 

I think he‘s going to have the advantage, because I think Obama will try to attach him to the party, and McCain will (inaudible) it off, and come right back as a man. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, your thoughts about this, because this is almost gladiatorial.  If it is going to be about personal stuff, you know, the right stuff, the ability to walk in the room with the self-confidence, get sleep tonight before, do your homework, but, in the end, it is what happens in that room. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Absolutely. 

And it‘s not just—it‘s not just going to be the presidential debate.  It is going to be the vice presidential debate as well.  I think people are going to look very, very closely.  I will be very interested in seeing the chemistry between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. 

You know, we are in unprecedented territory here.  We saw it in the Senate race, when Hillary Clinton ran in New York.  But this is the first time we will see it at national level, at least on this type of level.  Biden has got to be so careful. 

You know, Annie Oakley out with both guns—with both guns roaring last night. 

(LAUGHTER)

BERNARD:  And Joe Biden can‘t do that to her.  We still live in a country—thank God—where we expect chivalry. 

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  And he‘s going to have to be very careful. 

MATTHEWS:  Tom Brokaw and others are going to be moderating this, but I get a sense the situation will be such that they will want to just get out of the way as fast as they can, because the public wants to see these two go at each other. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not sure that there‘s going to be so much on the style and these two men. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t? 

O‘DONNELL:  First of all, there will be.  I mean, the men look very different in many ways, too.  Barack Obama is tall.  John McCain is much shorter.  There are age issues.  And, obviously, there are race issues. 

But I also do think there  are huge substance differences, Pat, just to disagree with you about—I mean, there are huge differences when it comes to taxes. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  There are huge differences when it comes to health care. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  This is not the debates that we saw with Hillary and Barack Obama.  This is a totally different... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We looked at Rick Warren‘s thing. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  Now, Rick Warren, McCain came out—I don‘t care what you asked him.  It—was certitude.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  He answered directly, right went to the audience. 

And Barack came out, was meandering around like he was in a tutorial of some kind. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, it was an away game for him.  It was a home game for McCain. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But he wasn‘t clear and sharp and crisp.  And McCain will be. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what you call that in politics?  One guy grabbed -

or person—grabs the issue.  The other guy handles it. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  McCain grabbed.  Barack handled.  And you can always tell who is handling the hot potato. 

ROBINSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I wish you didn‘t ask about abortion, where the other guy said, life begins at conception.  I love this question. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, that‘s right. 

You know, to think back to Kennedy-Nixon, though, I mean, and Marshall McLuhan, and television being, you know, a cool medium, as opposed to a hot medium...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  ... which we, by the way, don‘t believe here on the panel. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  But that will be an interesting contrast. 

Will McCain be the—you know, that tightly wound John McCain, who—whose passion you can see?  Will Obama be the cooler, more detached Barack Obama?

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  Will he be able to translate that demeanor into the eloquence that he is able to show to big crowds?

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  Will he be able to show that in an intimate setting? 

BUCHANAN:  His trouble is, he is so good.  He‘s a long-distance runner, you give him 45 minutes.  But that eloquence can‘t come through in 45-, 30-second responses. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  That is Obama‘s problem.  And that is where certitude comes through.  It is an exclamation point vs. a question mark, and it always wins. 

MATTHEWS:  Keith, I think the point we are making and agreeing on, that this event this week tonight, with its crescendo tonight out here in Saint Paul, its crescendo last week in Denver, are the undercards to the big bouts coming between these candidates for president and V.P. 

OLBERMANN:  And the first of those now, at least on the East Coast, is exactly three weeks from tonight, September 26, Friday already on the East Coast.  And, thus, we are three weeks away. 

One prediction—not to—not to argue with you, old friend, but I think they will not get to 40 million tonight in terms of the audience, largely because of the opening football game and other reasons.  But we will see.  Ratings come in every day. 

When Chris and I return, Howard Fineman and the campaign listening post, how the McCain campaign plans to use Sarah Palin in the coming days. 

You are watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the 2008 Republican National Convention. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn‘t a cause.  It‘s a symptom.  It‘s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  And I have found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, Governor Sarah...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN:  ... Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  More evidence that was the applause line of the night for Senator McCain in the length of his 50-plus-minute speech, when he mentioned Governor Palin, his vice presidential running mate, as heard in the hallway, as heard on TV, as well—as heard in the hall, not the hallway—perhaps the hallway of the hall. 

But it was so loud that, in fact, stopped Senator McCain in his tracks, couldn‘t get her own name out, which begs the question, as we continue with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican Convention, from “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman at our campaign listening post, the word on how the campaign plans to use Governor Palin in the coming days. 

We heard Kelly O‘Donnell rush from the floor, saying the bags were all packed, and the—the jet was gassed up.  They were their way to Wisconsin. 

What‘s happening with—with the Palin-McCain campaign, if you will?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Keith let me say, first of all, that the accidental brilliance of picking Sarah Palin is on display last night and tonight.

Sarah Palin is the ideological heir—heiress of George W. Bush, without having anything to do with George W. Bush.  So, she will continue to do, on the campaign trail, what she did here, which is speak to the base, while John—John McCain speaks to the rest of the country. 

But, before she does that, I am told by a top McCain adviser, one of the top running the campaign, that they‘re basically taking Sarah Palin back to Alaska. 

The way this fellow put it to me, we basically, you know, spirited her out of Alaska in the dead of night.  We‘re going to let her go back there.  Her son is going to be shipping off to Iraq early next week, as I understand it. 

So, they‘re going to use tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday Tuesday, maybe until middle of next week, ostensibly to allow her to go home and sort of straighten up her affairs, but also use the plane time and the time on the ground to begin the education of Sarah Palin. 

She is going to have briefing books on the plane.  She is going to have briefing books back in her—in—in Alaska.  She is going to be reading and studying to make sure that she understands John McCain‘s positions on the issues, that she understands how to tread the fine line between attacking your own administration and supporting the philosophy of conservatism, and begin to educate her on the issues she is going to have to be dealing with in the days and weeks ahead. 

So, they are going to take a time-out.  And they‘re not going to be doing, as far as I can tell, any substantial media interviews, with the reasoning, if not the excuse, that she has got to go home and tend to her business. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that—obviously, that posits one big problem, which is exploitation of the big bounce from last night. 

But the second thing is, the—the question that inevitably has to

come up—we just got a hint of this from Savannah Guthrie‘s reporting

from Wasilla, where—where some of the bloom has come off the rose, as is

has to be expected, after the excitement of what happened last week since her name came up last Friday, so dramatically.  What happens when that question comes out—you may see a great campaigner here, you may even see a great conservative, do you see a potential president?  How do you prep somebody to answer that question which is so visceral and hard to even know when it is being asked? 

               

FINEMAN:  Well it‘ hard to do.  She met the test in terms of the stagecraft of last night and exciting the crowd here.  She has a lot of studying to do and that‘s what they will do, a lot of prep work between now and middle of next week.  There‘ll probably be some events associated with the fact that her son is going to be departing for his duty and so they‘ll make a gesture out of that and probably a pageant out of that in some ways.  But, I would not expect, at least, from what this person told me, and he‘s pretty much running the campaign, not to expect her out on the campaign trail really out in Alaska or out in the country very much before the middle of next week.  And they want to take that pause to train, because she‘s not going to have a whole lot of time before they have to put her out on the campaign trail middle of next week.  And there is a lot of work to do, a tremendous amount of work to do just to get her ready for that. 

OLBERMANN:  You have to refine this act, because if you take her speech last night, which was as partisan as partisan could be then put it next to his speech, which was this effort at bipartisanship and repudiating the Republican administration, they don‘t sound like the same campaign.  Let‘s see if they can level the playing field between them. 

Howard Fineman at the “Listening Post,” thank you.  Up next, some of the highlights from McCain‘s speech, tonight.  Much more from Chris Matthews and our panel.  MSNBCs coverage of the now concluding 2008 Republican convention continues after this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  My heartfelt thanks to all of you who helped me win this nomination and stood by me when the odds were long.  I won‘t let you down.  I won‘t let you down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Let there be no doubt, my friends, we‘re going to win this election.  We‘re going to win this election. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with MSNBCs coverage of the Republican convention.  Senator McCain had a tall order indeed to try to follow Sarah Palin‘s speech last night.  After drawing contrast with Senator Obama, he talked about how his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam shaped him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn‘t know how I could face my fellow prisoners.  The good man in the cell next door to me, my friend, Bob Craner saved me.  Through taps on a wall, he told me I had fought as hard as I could.  No man can always stand alone.  And then he told me to get back up, and fight again for my country, and for the men I had the honor to serve with, because every day they fought for me. 

(APPLAUSE)

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else‘s.  I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here, I loved it for its decency, for its faith, and the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people.  I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for.  I was never the same again.  I wasn‘t my own man anymore, I was my country‘s. 

(APPLAUSE)

I‘m not running for president because I think I‘m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need.  My country saved me.  My country saved me and I cannot forget it, and I will fight for her as long as I draw breath so help me God. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And as Senator McCain wrapped up his acceptance speech he rallied the crowd in the Xcel Center in Saint Paul that had been omnisciently silent when he repudiated the current administration and called for bipartisanship.  This time he rallied them to join in his fight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one.  If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them.  Enlist—enlist in our armed forces, become a teacher, enter the ministry, run for public office, feed a hungry child, teach an illiterate adult to read, comfort the afflicted, defend the rights of the oppressed, our country will be the better and you will be the happier because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself. 

(APPLAUSE)

I‘m going to fight for my cause every day as your president.  I‘m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God as I thank him that I am an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth.  And with hard work—with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.  Fight with me.  Fight with me.  Fight for what‘s right for our country.  Fight for the...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Pointed out elsewhere amid the calls to teach, to minister, to run for public office, to teach adults, to feed children and defend the rights of oppressed, pretty defines the concept of the community organizers whom Governor Palin mocked last night. 

In any event, Chris Matthews will be back with the panel next.  This is MSNBCs coverage from New York and Saint Paul of the 2008 Republican convention.  We return after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  All you have ever asked for your government to stand on your side and not in your way.  That‘s what I intend to do—stand on your side and fight for your future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back from Saint Paul with the panel and I‘ve been quizzing everybody as we‘re taking a break here, as to what‘s going to be remembered of this week and what‘s going to be remembered from last week in Denver?  What will make the time capsule, what will we mention the day after the election when we try to figure out why somebody won?  I think there‘s a real consensus among the five of us that Governor Palin‘s speech, now, this is a duh, was the speech of the week.  You want to make thoughts on that? 

ROBINSON:  Look, it was the speech of this week, of this convention.  I mean, it was the moment, her introduction.  She is some character and—and we‘re going to learn more about her as we go along. 

MATTHEWS:  We figured out, if everything goes bad, Pat and I agree, if everything goes with her, she‘s with the Washington Speaker‘s Bureau; she will be a zillionaire speaker of the century.  Here she is, Governor Palin making her sort of national debut with such power. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And the other great speech, I think, of the last two weeks that may be greater than this one.  Pat, why don‘t you on the right, talk about it—Barack Obama‘s tour de force last Thursday night, in Denver. 

BUCHANAN:  Barack Obama is a superior orator to anybody in either party.  He‘s on a different level, but he had to rise to the top of his game and he really did.  And frankly, I mean his election could very much depend on that, just as the Republican victory or defeat depended on whether Sarah Palin would come off as someone who really belonged in the national leagues, if you will, and she rose to the occasion.  I think she came down here way up to here, but Barack starts off at a higher level and rose to the top of his game... 

MATTHEWS:  You said last week, very memorably, that was one of the great, if not the great acceptance speeches. 

BUCHANAN:  I can‘t think of an acceptance speech that I can remember or will remember as well as that. 

O‘DONNELL:  And you know what is fascinating?  This is the latest we have ever had conventions.  We have 60 days.  We have got a sprint. 

MATTHEWS:   It‘s like baseball. 

O‘DONNELL:  We have got a sprint to Election Day.  We are going to have a series of these debates every single week.  That may actually benefit Sarah Palin, because that‘s a shortened period of time, that‘s not a long period of time where she‘ll have extensive number of interviews. 

BUCHANAN:  And do Larry King three times in that period. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, these are the gold medals, if you will, in Olympian terms—certainly, Governor Palin, and certainly, Barack Obama.  Now, to a very closely contested silver medal award, I would like to recommend the speech that grabbed me, it really did, I thought Hillary Clinton‘s—and it‘s not in the words of her speech.  There was an exuberant, positive, absolute lacking in self-pity, absolutely positive future oriented speech she gave which I think really lifted the Democratic convention last week, beyond what it could have been without her doing it. 

O‘DONNELL:  We started these past two weeks with Chuck Todd saying at end of the Olympics, this is the equivalent of the political Olympics.  And so, we‘ve seen the finest in each party speak.  And you‘re right, Hillary Clinton, the silver medal.  And on the Republican side, it was Rudy Giuliani.  I watched you and Pat love that speech by Rudy Giuliani.... 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re East Coast guys.  We‘re also city guys.  You know what I think it‘s funny, because a year ago, by the way, you‘re right who‘s ever making fun of pundits, but of course, Keith‘s right about how to pronounce the name.  But, I thought it was going to be a subway series last year.  I thought Rudy had the chops, the attitude, the world recognition after 9/11 and then I thought Hillary Clinton had everything going for her.  I thought it was going to be the battle between the two of them.  It turns out, they gave the two second best speeches. 

ROBINSON:  Yeah.  No, if we‘re going to have a tiebreaker between the two, we learned during the primary season, Hillary travels better than Rudy does.  And so, that could be the tiebreak.  I mean, she has an appeal beyond New York. 

MATTHEWS:  But you know what‘s funny?  They spent the whole week making fun of East Coast hotshots.  Right? 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  And the speech they liked the most was Rudy‘s hotshot, East Coast, big city speech. 

ROBINSON:  You liked that. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course I liked it. 

BERNARD:  I would at least like to mention that tonight, if we go back to Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, that one of the things that I will leave these last two weeks thinking about is that both of them embody the American dream.  If you look at Sarah Palin, she‘s not there because of who she‘s married to, she‘s not there in office because she‘s a Washington powerbroker, she is a pure feminist, she is doing what she wants to do.  She did it on her own, same thing with Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  I like that you said it, and I like what you said.  I didn‘t have to say it.  We‘ll be right back from Saint Paul with more from the panel.  This is MSNBC coverage of the just completed Republican National Convention for 2008 from Saint Paul, Minnesota.  We‘ll be back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at Saint Paul, Minnesota, the scene of the just completed Republican National Convention.  By the way, that license plate for “politics” is underwater behind me in a fountain, here.  A great artwork here by the producers.  Last thoughts from tonight? 

BERNARD:  I‘m feeling philosophical tonight.  I‘m loving our Bill of Rights and our Constitution.  I‘m thinking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And thank God for Sarah Palin and Barack Obama.  It‘s going to be a fantastic election. 

O‘DONNELL:  I think you can‘t discount the historical significant of what has happened this week.  The excitement, 40 million people watching Barack Obama, another 40 million watching Sarah Palin.  People want change in this country and the two parties have chosen different-looking people to be on their ticket for a reason. 

MATTHEWS:  Nobody‘s playing defense. 

O‘DONNELL:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  Two incredible weeks, two incredible conventions.  Two weeks ago we thought the Democratic Party was hopelessly divided.  Guess what, it‘s not.  You know, the Hillary Clinton people are onboard, we got the Democratic Party.  A week ago we thought the Republican Party was essentially moribund, had no chance, who was John McCain going to pick.  He picked Sarah Palin, re-energizes the whole thing.  It looks like the same old race.  It looks a lot like the same old race, but it‘s new... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, enough of all this uplift.  It‘s Pat‘s turn. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  Pat should reflect on how much he‘s enjoyed spending time with us.

BUCHANAN:  As of last Thursday night I thought the Republicans were going to lose, no way they could catch them after Obama‘s speech.  John McCain drew a card, and he drew an ace, unbelievable.  And her speech this week, we now got the most exciting race we‘ve had this year.  It is even more exciting now and you got it in Palin and you got it in Obama, a new generation is about to push the old generation off the stage. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, great, well said.  It was a down card, too.  Let‘s go back to Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, you got a final thought, too, don‘t you? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think I share in all this, because I do think all these things happen, Keith—I thought the Hillary Clinton people really did come aboard, the ones who were Democrats, last week, and I do think that Party is united behind—the first African-American candidate for president who‘s really got, well a 50/50 chance, right now. 

I think this week, the McCain people were very smart in playing to their conservative base, picking a conservative from this base to be VP.  The irony, again, John McCain‘s not one of them, he‘s a maverick, he‘s a lone fighter pilot and he‘s going out there on his own having escaped the Bush administration record.  I think that‘s what‘s going on.  Will his opponent let him get away with it?  Will he let him get away with denying his connection to eight years of Republican rule?  If he does, he loses.  So, he‘d better not let him get away with it.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, will his supporters let them get away with it?  It went right past both of us, Tom Ridge, on the air here, not more than an hour ago, said:  “John Bush—John McCain is his own man.” We‘ll see if there are other Freudian slips like that or non-Freudian slips. 

The first presidential debate, September 26 at the University of Mississippi, now just three weeks away.  Before that, September 11, that‘s next Thursday, the Service and Civil Engagement Forum in New York, both of the candidates, there.  And on Monday, another, -- next Monday, Senator Obama will join me here on COUNTDOWN—the three big events that we see on our political calendar.  For Chris Matthews in Saint Paul, I‘m Keith Olbermann in New York.  Safe travels, Chris.  Goodnight, everybody. 

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

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