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The Democratic National Convention got underway in Denver Monday. NPR has a full team of hosts, producers and reporters there. KSMU's Missy Shelton spoke with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about the historical significance of the convention and what we can expect tonight.
Shelton: Linda Wertheimer is a senior national correspondent for NPR and started covering national political conventions in 1976. Since then, she's only missed one convention. I asked her if the Democratic National Convention this year is historic.
Wertheimer: There's no question that it's just unlike anything that's ever happened before. We have an African American, in Barak Obama who's going to be nominated in Denver, running against a woman who was the first woman candidate who was ever given any kind of a chance to win, and she very nearly did win, Hillary Clinton. There's the tension at this convention in which the Clinton delegates are very reluctant to, many of them, very reluctant to give up on their candidate. The convention is being presided over by the first woman to be speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. All those things add up, it seems to me, to a major historical event. And then there's another element to it, this is unusual in that normally you have clusters of candidates running in primaries and caucuses, and their delegates arrive at the convention but they're not at any large numbers. There's a scattering of this persons, and a scattering of some others and then there's the winner who is the completely strong, has the completely strong showing at the convention. In this case, we have a very close number of delegates between the Clinton delegates and the Obama delegates and although all sides agree that Obama is going to be the nominee, there are a tremendous number of Hillary Clinton delegates here which creates a kind of an amazing tension. The Republicans once got down to a two man race like this with Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. But the Democrats, I can't remember when they got into one that was quite this close for this long as the one between Clinton and Obama.
Shelton: In that context, what can we anticipate hearing from Hillary Clinton when she gives her speech tonight?
Wertheimer: She's going to thank everybody and, you know, talk about her campaign and all of the milestones that it has meant for her and for the country and then of course she is going to ask her delegates to please turn all of their attention and energies to electing Barak Obama. And the, you know, part of the tension of this moment is how seriously will she ask? How convincingly will she make that case? How much will they feel that that's what she really means for them to do? And whether she does or she doesn't, whether they will be willing. It's not that all of the Clinton delegates are in full rebellion, that's simply not true, but some, a small portion of the Clinton delegates are upset. Whether she can persuade them to, as Governor Ed Randell puts it somewhat inelegantly, whether she can persuade them to get over it or not, you know that's the interesting thing about tonight.
Shelton: You know as the Republicans watch this sort of end fighting that is happening, what does this mean for them, if anything?
Wertheimer: I don't think much. I don't think that they'll necessarily see this as a, you know as a wedge that McCain can drive. Because when you're talking about the women that are backing away from supporting Obama, in order to move into the McCain camp they would have to make some fairly serious decisions about supporting a candidate whose position on the war is, generally speaking, quite different from theirs, whose position on choice is quite different. So, you know, they'd have to really do a one-eighty to get over into the McCain camp. I keep thinking that they're cooling down, I mean the polling shows that they are cooling down, but I don't think that this gives McCain any kind of a big opportunity.
Shelton: Linda thanks for taking a few minutes to visit with us.
Wertheimer: Well it's fun to do it. Thank you so much.
Shelton: I've been speaking with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about the Democratic National Convention. I'm Missy Shelton for KSMU news.