updated 9/5/2008 3:23:27 PM ET 2008-09-05T19:23:27

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Michael Smerconish, Lisa Murkowski, Robert Gibbs, Kim Gandy, Charmaine Yoest, Steven Hayes, John Harwood

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  After eight years of waiting, John McCain finally gets his big night.  The challenge now is to keep Sarah Palin‘s electricity alive heading into the last 61 days in the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

Welcome to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory, live from Rice Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, again tonight, the final day of the Republican National Convention here. 

And my headline tonight, “Palin on the Breakaway.”

The self-described hockey mom fired up the Republican base and mocked Democratic rival Barack Obama.  Palin answered questions regarding her qualifications by charging Obama as the one with the real resume problem. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. 

This world of threats and dangers, it‘s not just a community and it doesn‘t just need an organizer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Just hours ago, Obama defended his work as a community organizer, firing back late this afternoon at an impromptu press conference in York, Pennsylvania. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Why would that kind of work be ridiculous?  Who are they fighting for?  What are they advocating for? 

Do they think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?  I think maybe that‘s the problem.  That‘s part of why they‘re out of touch and they don‘t get it, because they haven‘t spent much time working on behalf of those folks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Palin‘s attacks may be getting under Obama‘s campaign‘s skin.  But back here in Minnesota, the stage is set for McCain to take the spotlight this evening.  His goal on the final night of the convention, keep the momentum, the enthusiasm alive, while making clear that a McCain administration would be a fresh start. 

Governor Palin was a fresh start—a big part of that fresh start last night, focusing on her biography.  Here‘s what she said about her small-town upbringing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. 

I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA. 

(APPLAUSE)

I love those hockey moms.  You know, they say the difference between that hockey mom and a pit bull, lipstick. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  All right.  Air America‘s Rachel Maddow, soon to be the host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” here on MSNBC, how did she do?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Just an awkward segue—pit bull, lipstick, Rachel.  I know.

I think that it was an entertaining speech.  The thing that struck me the most was how confident she was.  And I think that maybe has resulted in sort of two sides of the street way that this has been interpreted. 

If you already hated Barack Obama or if you were already with this ticket and you wanted some red meat, you probably thought this was the most charming thing you‘ve ever seen in your life. 

GREGORY:  Right.

MADDOW:  If you don‘t hate Barack Obama and if you weren‘t sure about this ticket, I think it‘s possible that she came across as insulting and sarcastic.  And she didn‘t really say enough substantively about what she was going to do, what her vision was for the country, I think, to win over people who didn‘t know her and weren‘t predisposed to like her already. 

GREGORY:  “Washington Post” columnist, associate editor of The Post, Eugene Robinson, Sarah Palin resurrected Obama‘s line from this past April when he said that in times of economic hardship, Americans tend to cling to their guns and religion, using it to paint him as an out-of-touch elitist. 

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  In small towns, we don‘t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they‘re listening and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren‘t listening.  We tend to prefer candidates who don‘t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  So this was a big applause line, both of these, Gene.  The question is, outside the hall, the swing voters, the Independent voters this campaign wants to reach, how did it play? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, good question.  I mean, I think, look, part of the role of the vice presidential candidate is to attack.  Clearly, she‘s going to attack.  We‘re going to hear that phrase over and over again, I think, attacking on the “bitter,” the guns, the religion. 

I don‘t know if that really reaches Independents, moderates in the suburbs.  But I think it might reach those small-town voters.  The question is, are there enough of those to tilt the balance to McCain?  But she‘s clearly going to go after them. 

GREGORY:  But was there a need to kind of dismiss Obama a little bit, to sort of bring him down by reducing some of the high-flying oratory from last week to something that could be ridiculed? 

ROBINSON:  Well, there was a need to try.  Now, we should all remember that Hillary Clinton tried for months to bring down Barack Obama‘s oratory and didn‘t succeed. 

GREGORY:  Right.

ROBINSON:  So that may not be, you know, a place to put all of your marbles.  You know, if you think that‘s exclusively the way you‘re going to win the election, you might not do it. 

GREGORY:  All right.  MSNBC anchor, chief Washington corespondent, Norah O‘Donnell, egged on by those chants last night of “Drill, baby, drill”—that was from Michael Steele, right? -- Palin expressed her support for offshore drilling, and this is how she did it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Our opponents say again and again that drilling will not solve all of America‘s energy problems.  As if we didn‘t know that already.  But the fact—the fact that drilling, though, won‘t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  So, how did she come out on this energy debate? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  She probably could have said a little bit more because she is the governor of Alaska and she‘s been a leader on energy issues.  But I‘m sure we‘re going to hear more from her on that. 

Look, 37 million people tuned into to watch Sarah Palin last night.  That‘s just a million short of who turned in to watch Barack Obama.  People are interested in this woman because she‘s the first woman on the Republican ticket.  And a lot of people said they liked that she was a confident person.  It‘s interesting people did raise question about her tone...

GREGORY:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  ... but no one raised questions about the tone of Senator Joe Biden.  This is a flash point.

GREGORY:  It‘s interesting the fascination with her. 

Radio talk show host  Michael Smerconish, also a columnist for “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and “The Daily News,” you have to wonder as we ask you to think about John McCain tonight whether he‘s been overshadowed here. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  If I were John McCain and I were back stage last night, I would be getting nervous about my performance tonight. 

David, in advance of that speech, I thought that to the extent Sarah Palin would be a game-changer it would be only by imploding.  I was wrong.  She was a game-changer last night because she‘s so far exceed expectations. 

In the hall last night, the vibe was such that I thought I was watching a movie unfold.  Some kind of a combination between Kevin Kline as “Dave” and Reese Witherspoon in “The Election.”  She pulled it off, and poise, in one word, is what I saw. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

As we heard, Palin didn‘t pull any punches last night, leveling a series of attacks at Barack Obama.  It certainly energized the base inside the hall, no doubt outside the hall, as well.  They‘ve got some new fund-raising to show that off.  But did she turn off those Independent voters? 

Joining me now is Republican Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski. 

Senator, welcome. 

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI ®, ALASKA:  Thank you. 

GREGORY:  Vice presidential nominee Joe Biden reacted to Sarah Palin‘s speech specifically today on MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE.”  This is what he had to say, and we‘ll get your reaction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look, and the amazing thing to me is, I didn‘t hear a single solitary word in that.  I didn‘t hear the word, the phrase “middle class” used.  I didn‘t hear a word about health care.  I didn‘t hear a word about education.  I didn‘t hear the word “Afghanistan” or “Pakistan,” where al Qaeda and bin Laden live. 

I didn‘t hear a single substantive thing.  All I heard was a distortion of Barack‘s position and our position on taxes.  And so, you know, this is right out of the playbook, I guess.  This a Karl Rove kind of deal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  So, to use the McCain campaign‘s criticism of Barack Obama, he can give a great speech, but where are the specifics, let me turn that question back around to you and Sarah Palin. 

MURKOWSKI:  Well, you know, you can say that there wasn‘t enough specific in terms of policy proposal.  I think what Sarah Palin needed to do last night was introduce herself to the American public. 

We in Alaska know who she is.  We‘ve been following her as she has built her career, as she has taken on every challenge and met them.  But Joe Biden, Barack Obama, none of them—none of them knew who Sarah Palin was. 

And so if she had moved straight to the specifics and laid out a detailed energy plan, and yet had not kind of laid out to the American public who she is, then there would have been criticism for that.  So, you know, to suggest that she needed to cover everything in this debut speech I think ignores what she is able to do given the time period she has in this convention speech. 

GREGORY:  Senator, there‘s a lot of criticism of the left wing media,

some of the speakers put it last night, for asking questions about how well

her record is known and how the vetting process went on McCain‘s decision

to pick Governor Palin.  Dan Balz of “The Washington Post” writes this

today: “There is consternation even within some parts of the GOP that

McCain has recklessly risked the party‘s chances of holding the White House

by making a visceral decision rather than a thoughtful one.”

Despite these attacks on the media, would you not say that rank and file Republicans are just as concerned as everybody else about making sure that the McCain campaign understands the full background in her record to make sure there‘s nothing that‘s disqualifying? 

MURKOWSKI:  Well, I think we all want to know that we know everything going into it.  But I think what we need to recognize is, just because the full media didn‘t know Sarah Palin and know everything about her before John McCain made this announcement last week, doesn‘t mean that she‘s not a qualified individual to step into this role as vice president. 

I think we need to keep in mind she‘s been out there, she has been in a leadership position.  Let‘s give her that credit.  But to suggest that she‘s not ready for prime time, I think the people who were watching her, the millions of people who were watching her last night, would disagree.  I think they‘re saying she‘s ready, we‘re ready for Sarah. 

GREGORY:  Well the question of whether she‘s ready for prime time may not be as important as whether she‘s ready to be president.  Is she? 

MURKOWSKI:  I think that John McCain has looked high and he‘s looked low for that person who can serve with him to move this country forward.  I trust John McCain‘s judgment.  And in looking at how she complements what he brings to the White House, I think she is ready. 

GREGORY:  What‘s the top of her to-do list now as she moves beyond electrifying this convention and the Republican Party?  What does she have to accomplish in the weeks and months ahead? 

MURKOWSKI:  Well, she‘s got to keep this momentum going.  Right now there‘s kind of this love-fest going on with Sarah as people are getting to know her.  They are excited, they are charged up, they‘re enthused by this fresh face, this tenacious, tough Alaskan woman. 

What she needs to do is take it to that next level and let the American public know how much substance there is to this woman, how much she can truly provide for this country in terms of a leadership role.  She‘s—no doubt about it, she‘s got a tough road ahead of her.  She‘s been focussed on Alaska issues and she‘s been doing a good job representing us in the state.  She‘s now got to move that focus, obviously, to the broader picture, domestically, around the nation, and internationally.  So she‘s got her work cut out for her. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Senator Murkowski, thanks very much for being with us tonight. 

MURKOWSKI:  Thank you.

GREGORY:  Coming next, how is Obama responding to Sarah Palin‘s attacks?  I‘m going to put that question to Obama‘s communications director, who just happens to be here in St. Paul.  Robert Gibbs when RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE returns.

We‘re live at the Republican convention here in St. Paul. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot, when that happens, what exactly is our opponent‘s plan? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

That, of course, was Sarah Palin, wasting no time going on the attack against Barack Obama last night.  In fact, she used the words “Obama” and “our opponent” 56 times. 

Just hours ago, Obama fired back, defending his resume and his work as a community organizer.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  They haven‘t talked about the fact that I was a civil rights lawyer.  They haven‘t talked about the fact that I taught constitutional law.  They haven‘t talked about my work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate.  They‘re talking about the three years of work that I did right out of college as if that‘s—I‘m making the leap from two or three years out of college into the presidency. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Barack Obama campaign strategist Robert Gibbs is live at the Xcel Center to go one-on-one with me now. 

Robert, good to see you. 

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Hi, David.  How are you? 

GREGORY:  I think the most pressing question here, Robert, were those Greek columns really made out of Styrofoam? 

GIBBS:  You know, the Greek columns looked a lot like columns you might see at a state memorial or something like that.  I don‘t know what they were made out of.  I was more concerned about the message that we had in Denver that laid out a plan for how to bring this country, how to move this country forward. 

We haven‘t heard that yet out of Sarah Palin or John McCain.  Maybe we‘ll hear something tonight. 

GREGORY:  Well, let me ask you this, because the criticism of Barack Obama for a long time—he‘s been on the campaign trail, I don‘t have to tell you, for so many months more than Sarah Palin has, and she‘s just burst on to the campaign scene.  The criticism was that he was not specific enough.  And, in fact, such heated criticism that you had to take it upon yourself during that final speech in the convention to define change for people‘s lives.  That was the line from his speech. 

So if you‘re attack against Sarah Palin is that she gives a great speech, but where are the specifics?  Why aren‘t you being a little bit more patient with her? 

GIBBS:  Look, that‘s not my critique of Sarah Palin, that‘s my critique of the entire Republican convention.  David, you‘ve been here for two full nights and heard speakers and haven‘t heard one idea about how we‘re going to get people more jobs, how we‘re going to stop shipping jobs overseas and giving tax breaks for companies that do it. 

Maybe we‘ll hear it tonight, but my guess is we‘ll hear more of the same.  John McCain voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time, my guess is we‘ll hear that same rhetoric tonight. 

GREGORY:  Palin took on Obama‘s ability to energize a crowd, framing him as an orator, but not an actual lawmaker.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  We‘ve all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers, and there is much to like and admire about our opponent.  But listening to him speak, it‘s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the state Senate. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  That was Governor Palin last night, of course.  And also, the McCain campaign has released this new TV ad.  And it‘s called “Alaska Maverick,” comparing Palin‘s experience to Senator Obama‘s.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  The Journal says Governor Palin‘s credentials as an agent of reform exceed Barack Obama‘s.  They‘re right. 

NARRATOR:  She has a record of bipartisan reform. 

NARRATOR:  He‘s the Senate‘s most liberal. 

NARRATOR:  She took on oil producers. 

NARRATOR:  He gave big oil billions in subsidies and giveaways. 

NARRATOR:  She‘s earned a reputation as a reformer. 

NARRATOR:  His reputation?  Empty words. 

MCCAIN (voice-over):  I‘m John McCain, and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  So Robert, how do you respond to all of that? 

GIBBS:  Well, let‘s look at what Sarah Palin said last night.  Again, it was a terrific speech from a pure delivery standpoint, but it sure didn‘t match the truth. 

Barack Obama authored a major law in the state Senate, in Illinois, to make sure that special interests couldn‘t control the process, and he did the same thing in the United States Senate.  People have called it the strongest ethics and lobbying reform law since Watergate.  We‘re proud of that law, we‘re proud of working with Senator Dick Lugar to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, working with Republicans like Tom Coburn to open up transparency in the budget process. 

David, that‘s real reform, it‘s not Sarah Palin reform, which is to be for the Bridge for Nowhere before you were somehow against it, or to be under investigation by the legislative body in Alaska for the hiring and firing of a state trooper.  I don‘t think that‘s being a maverick or that‘s being reform. 

Look, as you mentioned just in the intro, she talked about Barack Obama 56 times.  She may say she‘s not from Washington, but boy, she‘d sure fit in there with the type of negative attacks that we‘ve come to expect.  But at the same time that we‘ve heard these negative attacks through the last eight years, nothing‘s happened on the issues that matter most to the people. 

Our economy‘s gone downhill, fewer people can afford health care, fewer people can afford to send their children to college.  That‘s what they want Republicans and Democrats to talk about.  That‘s what Barack talked about last week in Denver, but we haven‘t heard much of that here in St. Paul. 

GREGORY:  OK.  Robert Gibbs, who‘s on the floor of the Xcel Center here at the Republican convention. 

Robert, thanks a lot for being here. 

GIBBS:  Thanks, David. 

GREGORY:  And coming next, brand new battleground polls out tonight.  Obama has a commanding lead in one red state, but it‘s a dead heat in one of November‘s biggest prizes.  We‘re going to show you which state is truly too close to call when THE RACE returns live from St. Paul, right after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back with a look at what is on THE RACE‘s radar today.

New battleground polls from “TIME” magazine, CNN and Opinion Research in Iowa, which went for Bush, of course, in 2004, but for Al Gore in 2000.  Obama has a 15-point advantage, really leveraging all of that ground support he had from the primaries, or rather from the caucus, leading McCain 55 percent to 40 percent. 

But look at Ohio, the state that decided the ‘04 election.  It is too close to call.  Obama 47 percent to McCain‘s 45 percent, which is within, of course, the margin of error. 

And Smerc, we‘re going to be talking a lot about Ohio as this race goes on, the final 60 days. 

SMERCONISH:  We are.  And you know what‘s interesting?  I went over to look at the newly configured hall for tonight, David.  If there‘s any doubt as to what states they‘re making a play for, go see who has the front row seats tonight. 

Pennsylvania is up front.  There‘s Ohio.  There‘s Missouri.

My hunch is that in the end, when all the dust settles, it‘ll be a neck-and-neck race and will remain so.  Frankly, there hasn‘t been too much national movement in the numbers since this process were narrowed to these two. 

GREGORY:  And you know, Gene, one of the things that you‘ll hear McCain talk about is the Upper Midwest, the industrial Midwest, where, since we‘re still talking about Sarah Palin so much, probably more now than we will in a couple of weeks, where she could have a real impact with working class voters. 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I guess that‘s part of the idea.  We‘ll have to see.  I mean, you know, Alaska is different from the Upper Midwest, from the Rust Belt states.  And we have yet to hear a message on the issues that those voters really care about, the economic issue. 

GREGORY:  The economic message.  It is an economic message that really is going to be important for them to hear. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

GREGORY:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  And we haven‘t heard that from them.

GREGORY:  OK.  We‘re going to take a quick break here.  Up next, is McCain/Palin the ticket for women? The leaders of two powerful women‘s groups face off on the issues affecting female voters when THE RACE returns after this break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  It‘s McCain‘s big night, but did the convention already hit

its high note with Governor Sarah Palin?  What does McCain have to say

tonight to get through to voters and keep voters from getting overshadowed

to keep him from getting overshadowed by her?  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, the back half now.  I‘m David Gregory.  Sarah Palin used her own family as part of her message last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  To the families of special needs children all across this country, I have a message for you.  For years, you‘ve sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.  And I pledge to you that if we‘re elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  The ‘08 race making history and cracking the ceiling for women all over the country, starting for Hillary Clinton and now Governor Sarah Palin.  The question tonight, how will Palin fare among women voters?  Facing on this question, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women .  She is in Washington tonight.  And Charmaine Yoest, president of American‘s United for Life, who joins us here in St. Paul.  Welcome to both of you. 

Let me start, Charmaine.  Here‘s what Gloria Steinem wrote in the “Los Angeles Times” today, quote, “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with—

“she means Senator Clinton—“her down home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing, and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton‘s candidacy stood for and that Barack Obama‘s still does.  To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying someone stole my shoes, so I‘ll amputate my legs.” 

CHARMAINE YOEST, AMERICAN‘S UNITED FOR LIFE:  That‘s pretty outrageous.  I think it‘s really an interesting spectacle to see the feminists going after Governor Palin like this.  Because she‘s just so—she‘s been so terrific.  And I think they‘re really threatened by the fact that she is a conservative instead of being a leftist, and that she doesn‘t toe the line on their radical agenda, particularly on the life issues.  They‘re really, really upset she‘s a pro life—that she has a strong record on—

GREGORY:  Fair enough.  But when you call it a radical agenda at the same time that the campaign is trying to reach those Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom may share those views on abortion. 

YOEST:  You know what‘s really interesting, though, when you look at the polling data?  I‘m seeing stuff coming across my desk that shows that a very large percentage of Hillary supporters are pro life.  So I think it‘s really interesting when you talk about the women‘s vote, so many times we assume that it‘s just monolithic voice that supports abortion rights.  But in actual fact, the vast majority of American women do support the pro life agenda. 

GREGORY:  Kim Gandy, is Sarah Palin a feminist? 

KIM GANDY, NOW PRESIDENT:  You know, I think that if she identifies herself as a feminist, she probably is.  But my guess is that she does not identify with the feminist movement.  She‘s been promoted all summer long by Rush Limbaugh, who calls women‘s right supporters feminazis.  My guess is he wouldn‘t have been promoting Sarah Palin if she wasn‘t pretty well lined up with his views.

And I‘ll take issue with what Charmaine just said.  The majority of the American public supports not only Roe v. Wade, but supports access to contraception, to birth control, to family planning, to emergency contraception, and supports them very, very strongly.  And they particularly, by an enormous, enormous margin, support access to abortion in cases of rape and incest.  Even Cindy McCain supports access to abortion in those situations.  But Sarah Palin doesn‘t. 

GREGORY:  Let me just get to something she wrote as governor in 2006.  Palin completed a questionnaire for the Conservative Eagle Forum, where she laid out her views on several social issues.  In particular, as for her views on abortion, Palin wrote, quote, “I am pro life with the exception of a doctor‘s determination that the mother‘s life would end if the pregnancy continued.  I believe that no matter what mistakes we make as a society, we cannot condone ending an innocent‘s life.” 

YOEST:  Here‘s the thing, I don‘t want to get into dueling data with Kim, because she and I know this data really well.  It depends on how you ask people the question.  Everybody knows that.  The thing that‘s really exciting about Governor Palin and her life record is that when she was in Alaska, one of the things she was very strong on was parental notification for abortion.  This is the future of the life debate, is that is the topic that polls 80 percent of the American people.  They‘re common sense things we can come in agreement on.  And that‘s what Governor Palin stands for and that‘s why people are so excited about her.  She‘s a down to Earth, common sense, authentic and genuine person that the mainstream of America people can come alongside.   

GREGORY:  Kim Gandy, Sarah Palin was also asked in this questionnaire to list her top three priorities for families in this 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire.  This is how she answered, “one, creating an atmosphere where parents feel welcome to choose the venues of education for their children.  Two, preserving the definition of marriage as defined in our constitution.  Three, cracking down on the things that harm family, gangs, drug use, and infringement of our liberties, including attacks on our second amendment rights.” 

I want to ask a narrow political question, which is when you talk about the voters who supported Hillary Clinton, more culturally conservative Democrats, what about those answers does not match with how they feel? 

GANDY:  You know, I think that the Hillary Clinton voters felt very strongly that she was speaking for them on issues that affected their lives and their pocketbooks.  And that‘s an area where this ticket has absolutely promoted not one single item, in terms of recovering from what George Bush has done for this economy.  And, in fact, what they‘re offering us is a lot more of the same. 

Barack Obama‘s offering middle class tax cuts to, what, 85 percent of the working families in the entire United States?  We‘re offered none of that by the McCain-Palin ticket.  They‘re not only appealing to a very right wing base, with opposition even to birth control and opposition to family planning. 

YOEST:  Come on.  Now you‘re being—getting really too far into the talking points. 

(CROSS TALK) 

GANDY:  You can‘t change the facts by interrupting me, Charmaine.  The facts are the facts.  This is a very, very extremist ticket, that has no plans for us other than more of what we‘ve gotten from George Bush. 

GREGORY:  Quick response, then I want to move on to a different area. 

YOEST:  Yes.  Well, she‘s being outrageous in bringing up the whole birth control issue.  There is no opposition to birth control in this platform.  The thing that I thought was exciting about Governor Palin last night is she didn‘t have to talk about life.  She talked so much about energy.  And that‘s a woman‘s issue.  It‘s a pro-family issue.  Families this summer have been so stressed by the prices at the gas pump.  I think it‘s really exciting to see her going out there and talking about a whole host of issues, and not defining herself in a narrow way as just a woman‘s candidate. 

GREGORY:  Let me ask you both a question.  While the McCain campaign would like to quell this kind of debate, I suppose, these questions from coming up in the media—I‘ll describe an experience I had here in St.  Paul, Minnesota, where I spoke to a self-described independent woman who said she was leaning toward McCain, but the choice of Palin turned her off, not because of her views on abortion, but because she thought with five kids, including a child of special needs, that she was assuming too much responsibility.  Now, this could be a big debate among women who are trying to strike the right balance between careers and family.  Is it an issue for debate, do you think, among voters? 

YOEST:  I think it‘s fascinating, David.  People are just getting to know Governor Palin.  I have five kids.  So this debate this week has been so fascinating that people like Kim are the ones who are partially pushing this discussion.  You know, Todd Palin is getting air brushed out of the picture. 

GREGORY:  To be fair, I don‘t think Kim had anything to do with my conversation with this voter the other day. 

YOEST:  OK, to be fair there.  But you‘re seeing a lot—for example, on “The View” the other morning, feminist anchors there promoting the idea that perhaps it would be too much for her.  Where is that coming from, from women‘s groups and people who are supposed to be women‘s advocates?  They‘ve always been the ones saying that women can take on these great challenges.  And everything I‘m hearing from the Palins is that the vice presidency and her public service is a family mission and Todd Palin is very, very involved in that. 

And even—you quoted Gloria Steinem.  She concludes her piece today talking about how we need to have men involved in the home and yet that‘s exactly what Governor Palin is saying her husband is going to do.  There‘s a lot of hypocrisy there. 

GREGORY:  Kim, there are, of course, a lot of households where men are just as involved in raising the families.  In this case, here‘s a household where he‘s been doing that and will continue to do that, in an even stepped up way now that she‘ll be on the campaign trail. 

GANDY:  I don‘t doubt that that‘s the case.  Clearly, she has been able to serve as governor for the last almost two years with support from her husband, and I think she said her mother, as well.  You know, women and men figure out how to deal with their families when both of them have a career.  And, you know, I think that that‘s part of our society.  But I think it‘s interesting that the Republicans and the conservatives, who have been pushing, pushing, pushing back against women being employed outside the home, against women having high-powered careers. 

But suddenly, when it‘s one of their own who is in that situation, then it‘s oh, no, you can‘t talk about this.  Don‘t talk about her working outside the home when she has small children.  There‘s a little bit of a double standard going on here.  But I‘m glad the Republicans have finally discovered sexism. 

GREGORY:  All right.  I‘m going to leave the debate there.  I‘m sure there‘s more to say on both sides of this. 

YOEST:  We‘ll talk about it another time. 

GREGORY:  Thank you both for being here.  Coming next, will attacking the media be a successful strategy for Senator McCain?  We‘re going to go inside the war room with Rachel Maddow and the “Weekly Standard‘s” Steven Hayes right after this break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back now on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, taking you inside the war room now with Air America host, and soon to be the host of her own show right here on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, and Steven Hayes of the “Weekly Standard.”  Welcome to both of you.

I want to start with you, Steven.  Tonight, a big moment here.  We have to forget—we can‘t forget, I should say, that John McCain is the one who will ultimately be evaluated here.  His speech tonight, how did they make the pivot from in some ways reigniting the culture wars, from a lot of red meat in this convention, to a blueprint for the rest of his campaign where he really wants it to be decided among swing voters and independent voters? 

STEVEN HAYES, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”:  I think they make the pivot with this speech tonight.  This speech is going to be reform, reform, reform, heavy on issues, lots of talk about energy, talk about national security, of course, John McCain‘s record on national security, talk about the economy.  Democrats have been critical of Republicans for not talking enough about the economy.  We‘re going to get more of that tonight.  So I think basically John McCain is going to make his own best case tonight. 

GREGORY:  Do you think he takes on Obama in the way that others have? 

HAYES:  I don‘t think it‘ll be that aggressive.  I think there‘ll be a few lines here and there, certainly not as aggressive as Rudy Giuliani last night, not as aggressive as Sarah Palin last night.  But I think there will be—the word of the day is contrast.  There will be an effort to create some contrast. 

GREGORY:  Contrast?  We had plenty of contrast last night.  It was between the Republicans and the media.  Mike Huckabee took one of several shots against the media last night.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘d like to thank the elite media for doing something that, quite frankly, I wasn‘t sure could be done.  And that‘s unifying the Republican party and all of America in support of Senator McCain and Governor Palin. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  As a political tactic, first of all, this is not new.  Second of all, it can be very effective, particularly if they‘re successful at creating Palin as a kind of icon, in the way that Reagan was.  But Rachel, is it trouble for McCain tactically down the road, again with the swing voters, when this was the same politician who used to refer to the media as his base? 

MADDOW:  Yes.  There‘s a credibility issue with John McCain having had such a symbiotic relationship with the press and having had such a positive relationship with the press over his career, in a way that he has admitted.  But I also think that the reason this is a tried and true tactic is because it never really backfires.  When is the last time that a politician complaining about the press or in this case, not complaining about, but attacking the press, ever came back and hit them?  It just doesn‘t.  It doesn‘t work that way, even though rationally you think it would.  So it‘s sort of predictable, but it does work. 

HAYES:  Let me make this point.  In 1992, when George H.W. Bush attacked the media—you know, there were the bumper stickers, vote Bush, annoy the media.  In 1996, Bob Dole attacked the media, where‘s the outrage?  Those were different because they were attacks that were made as the campaigns were going down.  I think these attacks are criticisms of the media are being made now because, frankly, they‘re true.  Sarah Palin has gotten shabby treatment.  It‘s been disgraceful in my view. 

MADDOW:  What‘s been disgraceful? 

HAYES:  I could say the reporting that she‘s a member of the Alaskan Independent Party when she wasn‘t. 

MADDOW:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Can I address each one?  The chair of the party said that she was a member and then she retracted it and the papers that said—that reported what the chair of the party said then followed with a correction.  How is that shabby?

HAYES:  And Elisabeth Bumiller was on this network and was asked whether she stands by the story, and she said she does.  That‘s crazy.  You don‘t standby a story where there‘s a factual mistake. 

MADDOW:  Her attendance at those conventions, I think, makes that no so suspect. 

HAYES:  There‘s a repot that she supported Pat Buchanan.  Totally false.  The report that she slashed—

MADDOW:  Does the fact that Pat thought that she was a supporter doesn‘t help?

HAYES:  Let me finish.  You asked me to list inaccuracies.  I‘m doing it.  The report that she slashed funding for special needs care, totally false.  The report that she slashed funding for abstinence programs, false.  You can go down the line and I‘m not getting into the stuff about her family, which I think was incredibly over the line.  ABC News showing a picture of Bristol Palin‘s midsection, blacking out the other stuff.  It‘s outrageous and people have a right to angry about it. 

MADDOW:  I understand that people are angry about it.  I disagree that all of those things are inaccuracies.  I think the reporting on the Alaska Independence Party, she did court that party quite aggressively.  She did make multiple appearances at those convention.  Her husband was a member of that party for years.  And there was an initial statement from the party that she was a member.  The vice presidential candidate of the Republican party being a member of a fringe secessionist movement is a huge story.  The idea that that should have been shied away from and not be reported on, after she was introduced to the country as the nominee, is shocking. 

HAYES:  When it‘s shown to be wrong, you don‘t stand by the story. 

MADDOW:  You retract it. 

HAYES:  And you don‘t stand by it after you retract it. 

GREGORY:  This debate will go on.  I want to get to one other topic before I go to Savannah Guthrie, who is in Alaska.  George Bush, President Bush, yes, he hasn‘t been here.  No, his name has not been mentioned.  Is that enough for John McCain to achieve separation, to break that Bush/McCain chain? 

HAYES:  You know what?  I think the Bush/McCain chain is largely a

creation of the Obama campaign and it‘s something that we in the media have

sustained.  It‘s hard to make John McCain the third term of George W. Bush

when for eight years, we‘ve heard about how much John McCain has challenged

George W. Bush.  And the attempt last night by the Obama campaign so say

that Sarah Palin is an extension of George W. Bush‘s policy because she had

the same speech writer, to me—honestly, I think it was one of the most

laughable statements to come out of either campaign throughout the entire -

-

MADDOW:  There is that awkward tape of McCain saying I voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time and I‘m with him on every issue.  There‘s still the awkward fact that we haven‘t heard a McCain campaign proposal on the economy that‘s any departure whatsoever from what Bush would do.  And I think what Americans are mad about is eight years of a Bush economy, in addition to a lot of other issues, and not having any grounds on which to separate them. 

HAYES:  Sure, then there‘s also John McCain calling for the resignation of Bush‘s defense secretary in the middle of a war. 

MADDOW:  He never called for—That‘s absolutely untrue.  He never once called for Rumsfeld‘s resignation. 

HAYES:  Rephrase it.  I stand corrected.  John McCain‘s harsh repeated criticism over the course three years of Donald Rumsfeld in the middle of a war, that‘s different.  Calling for the surge before the Bush administration. 

MADDOW:  How does John McCain describe his own relationship with George Bush on Iraq?  He says, nobody has stood more with George W. Bush on Iraq than I have.  That‘s an awkward fact. 

HAYES:  How did Barack Obama describe his position on the Iraq war in relation to George W. Bush in 2004?  There‘s not a lot of difference between me and George Bush at this point. 

MADDOW:  Unbelievable, that Obama‘s the bush guy on Iraq. 

Unbelievable.

HAYES:  It‘s unbelievable that John McCain is the third term of George Bush‘s—an extension of—

(CROSS TALK)

GREGORY:  Steve and Rachel, thank you very much. 

Coming next, McCain‘s big night.  What will he say to the nation when he accepts the Republican nomination just a few hours from now?  Here‘s a live look at the Xcel Center, where the gavel is about to be raised.  RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE will come back right after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back.  Sarah Palin had millions watching her last night, among them, the residents of her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of about 7,000 people that call it home.  So what do they think of their native daughter‘s big night?  Savannah Guthrie has our daily debrief from Wasilla, Alaska, today.  Hey Savannah.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, David.  Yes, we‘re hear in the Wasilla Bureau of NBC News.  You‘re looking at it right here.  People here are very excited, loving their hometown girl.  They had this watch party last night.  And people were clapping, seemed like every line was an applause line.  And they‘re very, very proud. 

And I think that they‘ve been somewhat disturbed by some of the media coverage.  I guess they feel some of the media‘s been too tough on Sarah Palin.  And they felt like she‘s really showed the country what she‘s made of.  Now, obviously, she‘s extremely popular in this state.  I think her approval rating‘s over 80 percent.  She‘s even more popular in her home town. 

She has her detractors.  There‘s no questions, she‘s made some enemies by some of the things she‘s done while in office as mayor, but also governor.  Some people say she‘s not the fiscal conservative she claims to be.  That, for example, there‘s a sports complex here in Wasilla which everybody loves, that she says was the baby, the crowning accomplishment of her tenure.  But some people say it still continues to be a money pit. 

So reporters will continue to be here and to really comb over that record, because, of course, those are the qualifications she‘s putting forth to qualify for the vice presidency.  More from Wasilla in the days to come, David. 

GREGORY:  All right, Savannah.  In our bureau in Wasilla, thanks very much, Savannah Guthrie.  We want to go inside the Xcel Center as our daily debrief continues.  CNBC‘s John Harwood, also of the “New York Times” to address what we expect, John, should be a big issue tonight, and likely will be.  And that is the economy, something we have not heard a lot about so far in the course of this convention, which has some economic conservatives a little concerned. 

JOHN HARWOOD, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, sure it does, David.  And from here in the Xcel Energy Center Bureau, we hear from McCain aides on what he‘s going to do is really try to connect that biography we‘ve heard about for the last couple of days with his plan for leading the country.  He‘s going to talk about reform.  He‘s going to talk about taking power away from Washington elites, and trying to cross that partisan divide, which is a big challenge rhetorically after the hockey stick that Sarah Palin took to the shins of Joe Biden and Barack Obama last night. 

GREGORY:  What specifically, though, John, on the economy do you expect from McCain?  DOW down about 350 points today.  This is going to be a top concern here going forward?  And I‘ve talked to Republicans coming into this convention who said that McCain must establish very some specific mastery of issues like the economy. 

HARWOOD:  Well, he certainly believes he‘s got the high ground on the energy issue.  Drilling is something that Sarah Palin hit last night for sure.  John McCain‘s going to hit it again tonight.  I also think the tax issue.  It‘s been a Republican standby ever since Ronald Reagan.  But they‘re going to keep hitting Barack Obama, saying that his prescription at a time when the economy is weak is exactly the wrong one, talk about his proposals for extending the Bush tax cuts, adding new tax cuts for corporations and new tax credits for children, and trying to use those to stimulate the economy. 

GREGORY:  All right, John Harwood from CNBC and the “New York Times” inside the convention.  John, thanks a lot.  Back here with the panel, Michael Smerconish and Rachel Maddow.  All right, Smerc, what do you expect from McCain tonight? 

SMERCONISH:  I don‘t think that he‘s going to swing the heavy lumber. 

I thought Rudy and Sarah Palin did that effectively for him last night.  He‘s got to appear as a statesman.  They‘re trying to recreate that town hall feel, in which John McCain has been so effective.  And then, in a word, substance, lay out the specifics so that tomorrow you can‘t say, where was the beef? 

GREGORY:  Rachel, you know, we talked a lot about Obama needing to establish himself as presidential in the eyes of America.  McCain‘s got a good deal more experience, but in the eyes of his own party, does he have to be seen a way as presidential in a way that he may not have been before, because he‘s been kind of a flame thrower outside the party. 

MADDOW:  I think the Republican party unity issue is a lot more interesting than we give it credit for.  It‘s not just that Bob Barr is pulling 11 percent in New Hampshire right now, and there was a dissident shadow convention in Minneapolis.  It‘s also that McCain has to toe this line with his party.  We saw in the speeches last night that any conciliatory note towards Barack Obama, like we heard from Mike Huckabee, even anything positive about McCain, got sort of moderate applause.  But any red meat attacking Barack Obama and going after liberals and the media and the elites got people off their seats. 

The risk is that it turns into 1992, when you make the people inside the room very happy and you make the rest of the country very scared. 

GREGORY:  All right.  The count down is on.  We‘re waiting for it. 

That does it for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE tonight.  I‘m David Gregory.  Thanks to the panel tonight and the program is about to get underway inside the Xcel Center.  We‘ll see you tomorrow back in Washington, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  Stay tuned now.  I‘ll be joining Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews for out live convention coverage here in St. Paul, as John McCain accepts the Republican nomination.  This is MSNBC, the place for politics.

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