Below are MSNBC panelists and reporters' first reactions to John Kerry's speech:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”
I thought that this would be the week that John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, would have to replicate if he could, the power of President Bush’s performance on the days after 9/11, especially the very gripping manner in which the president stood next to that firefighter in New York and said that those who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us.
Well, tonight, I think he tried to do that. If you read these words, I think they are the key to tonight’s speech. He said: “I am proud, that after September 11, all our people rallied to President Bush’s call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.”
I think he was saying that, I am going back with you to that moment to offer a different direction from that rubble. He took us to Iraq. I am taking us to work leadership again. He went the wrong direction when we were united. I am bringing us back together in the right direction. I think that was the key to tonight’s speech.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
I think he won the night from the very first moment, where he said, "I am John Kerry and I am reporting for duty." This was the most pro-defense, pro-military, pro-patriotism, and pro-flag.
"I’m running for commander in chief, shot from the gun turret, in the boats." He’s saying, "my bravery, my service will be for the country now." And there hasn’t been a Democratic Convention like this or a speech like that.
WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO
Democrats came to Boston this week for the purpose of moving the party and its leadership from Clinton-Gore operation to Kerry-Edwards.
Everybody speculated, including the pundits, that it would never happen, that Edwards would not have the strength, that Kerry would not be the strength, that where would still be the lingering hover of Bill Clinton over this party. Edwards did his best to take that away, but tonight John Kerry did exactly that. This is now John Kerry’s Democratic Party and John Kerry will win if he continues this process.
John Kerry delivered the speech the way John Kerry could deliver the speech. He didn’t deliver it by anybody else’s standards. He understood exactly what he was doing and the intellectual manner in which he made the presentation.
I think John Kerry has taken Bush’s turf and turned it into Democratic turf, just as Bill Clinton took Republican proposals and turned them into Democratic proposals.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
There was no mention of Bill Clinton, no mention of other past presidents. Kerry said that "just saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn’t make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn’t make it so. Proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn’t make it so."
He is saying that he will never go to war without telling parents and soldiers that he is prepared to win the peace.
I think a lot of questions should be raised and are going to be raised in the next few days about his points on trade, tax cuts, the promises, what Howard called "the laundry list," because it simply doesn’t add up. So the policy prescriptions are a real issue here.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”
The words, as Willie Brown said, were remarkable coming from a Democratic candidate.
From the very beginning, John Kerry was very rushed. He was given remarkable words to say. The speech and the pacing were rushed.
Compare this speech tonight to the gold standard of these types of speeches, Bill Clinton, 1992, Ronald Reagan, 1980. He blew through some great lines that were written for him.
If John Kerry had delivered that "mission accomplished" line and just stepped away from the microphone, the crowd would still be cheering. I am not saying these aren’t great lines. I am not saying this wasn’t a great message to take to Middle America. I am saying he blew threw his best applause lines in a way Bill Clinton would never have done.
You do not rush history. You do not rush your introduction to the American people. This is John Kerry’s most important moment.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR
The perspective from the floor was as unique and interesting, to watch where his teleprompter was and paused.
We said on the network immediately following the end of the speech, without value judgment or opinion, "he motored through." He motored through all applause breaks, did not let them naturally reach a crescendo or play out in most cases and certainly put down two attempts to chant Kerry, Kerry.
He had a digital clock about three feet high directly staring at him across the hall from here, meant to be a podium clock. It read 10:55 at the end of his speech. But there was no questions, with all that’s been said and written about the primetime, over-the-air-network especially, coverage of the convention that was the approaching witching hour.
As Tom Brokaw pointed tonight, the networks would have gone over if Kerry had gone over, but he went through this speech in rapid fashion. He had a story to tell. He had a job to do.