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updated 8/31/2008 11:32:26 AM ET 2008-08-31T15:32:26

MR. TOM BROKAW: Our issues this Sunday: John McCain picks an unexpected choice for his running mate.

(Videotape)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I am very pleased, very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States, Governor Sarah Palin.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Can this little-known Alaskan governor help pull Hillary Clinton voters to the McCain camp? And how will this duo combat the Obama-Biden ticket? We ask the national co-chair of the McCain campaign and the governor who will be host to this week's Republican convention in his state of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. Plus, Senator Obama makes it official.

(Videotape)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Did the weeklong Democratic show in Denver give the Obama-Biden ticket a boost? And how do the two presidential tickets stack up on the major issues facing the next administration? Our political roundtable weighs in: the anchor of CNBC's "Closing Bell," Maria Bartiromo, who interviewed Sarah Palin last week; presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; NBC's chief White House correspondent and host of MSNBC's "Race for the White House," David Gregory; NBC News political reporter Andrea Mitchell; NBC's political analyst who worked on McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, Mike Murphy; and NBC News correspondent traveling with the McCain campaign, Kelly O'Donnell.

But first, Hurricane Gustav is threatening the Gulf Coast, as New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin issued this dire warning.

(Videotape)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN: This is the mother of all storms. This is the real deal. This is not a test. For everyone who is out there thinking that they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: That would be one of the biggest mistakes you could make in your life.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Let's go live now to New Orleans, where Weather Channel meteorologist Jeff Morrow has the very latest on the track of the storm.

Jeff, what do you have for us?

MR. JEFF MORROW: All right. Well, good morning there, Tom. Basically what we're looking at is a weakened hurricane at this point. It crossed over Cuba last evening; in fact, some of the damage reports coming out of Cuba were quite substantial. This was a 150-mile-an hour-hurricane, Category 4, when it crossed over western Cuba, but now it has left that country behind and has emerged into the Gulf of Mexico. The track now still seems to be narrowing and it looks like it'll probably make a landfall here somewhere in south central or southeast Louisiana during the day on Monday. But it looks like it may be slightly weakened. That's what people are hoping here. But still, nobody's taking any chances, particularly with what Mayor Ray Nagin just said last night, as you reported. A lot of folks are getting out of town. Mandatory evacuation orders are now coming up here for Orleans and Jefferson Parish, right around the city. So folks are heeding his advice. I think if the mayor wanted to somewhat scare people into leaving, it may be working, because a lot of people have been leaving town here. The hope is that this hurricane continues to weaken as it moves to the north, but we don't know that for sure yet. It's a wait and see here as we head through the rest of today and head into Monday. Tom:

MR. BROKAW: All right, Lee Morrow. We ask you to stand by in case we need an update in all of this.

And joining us live from here in St. Paul, the site of the Republican National Convention which is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Mr. Governor, welcome. Some good news in all of that. If it is weakening, here's the Pioneer Press this morning: "It's On...For Now." What are the contingency plans?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): Well, Tom, first of all, our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with the people of the Gulf Coast. And the folks who are organizing the convention are thinking of contingencies ranging from mildly altering the schedule, all the way to fundamentally changing the convention and everything in between. So they're going to monitor this very closely and make changes as appropriate. Of course, we're not going to have a big party or festival here if there's problems or concerns facing the Gulf Coast.

MR. BROKAW: President Bush was scheduled to be here tomorrow night to address the convention in person. We're hearing that he is likely to stay at the White House, which seems to make a lot of sense.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Of course. It wouldn't be appropriate to have the president here if his time or attention is needed responding to or preparing to deal with the crisis in the Gulf Coast, so we understand that.

MR. BROKAW: But there's no chance of calling off the convention because you've got to proceed to get his name on the ballot, among other things, John McCain.

GOV. PAWLENTY: The convention has to go forward in these four days. It's really a question of what does it look like and it may have to be converted into something that's more focused on the hurricane, on Gustav. We'll just have to wait and see as the terms and conditions on the ground dictate them.

MR. BROKAW: I don't want to stress the weather metaphor too far, but we had a thunderstorm of epic proportions last Friday when John McCain unexpectedly announced that Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, would be his running mate. We want to begin with that here this morning, if we can. To borrow a phrase from your profession, the legal profession, let's you and I agree that we can stipulate certain things, OK? She is a conservative and pragmatic politician. She's been tough on corruption in Alaska. She's popular with a winning style and personality. But the fact is that she has been governor less than two years and before that she was a mayor of a town with a population of less than 7,000. Her candidate at the top of the ticket has the bull of a constitution--has the constitution of a bull elephant, but he is a 72-year-old man and a cancer survivor. She will be a heartbeat away from the presidency. This country is engaged in two wars, it's facing a resurgent Russia, a rogue Iran, a financial crisis that may be the greatest since the Great Depression. I think our viewers want to know what's in her background that prepares her for dealing with all that and the possibility that she would have to step up into the Oval Office?

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, I think Senator McCain, of course, one of his main attractions and assets and strengths that he's a maverick with a record of reform. She's a maverick with a record of reform. And if you look at her background and I know her a bit as a fellow governor, she's an individual who is smart, she's strong, she's capable, she's dedicated, she's diligent and she has executive experience. She's functioned as a governor, she's the commander in chief of a national guard, she's a former mayor, she's the former chair of an energy commission in Alaska, which is one of the more high-profile issues and operations in Alaska. She's deeply involved in the energy issues, which is really one of the foremost national security issues we have in our country in terms of its connection to transference of wealth to places like the Middle East and Russia and Venezuela. So she is somebody who I think is very capable to be in the executive position. And one last thing, Tom, she's running for vice president. She has as much or more experience as Barack Obama, who's running for president.

MR. BROKAW: But Barack Obama has been before the American people for more than 20 months now. He has debated 20-some times against some very tough opponents. He's participated in one-on-one interviews around the world. He's been vetted, in effect, by the American people, and in most national polls he continues to lead your candidate by a small margin. But people have made some judgments about him and they've not had that same kind of exposure to Sarah Palin. Let me just ask you, quickly, do you think that she would be better on the economy than Mitt Romney, who was a successful entrepreneur and governor of Massachusetts, or better on terrorism than Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, who also ran Homeland Security? Or better, in a lot of matters at the national level, than Joe Lieberman, who is John McCain's close friend from the Democratic Party who's been supporting your party?

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, one of the objectives here is to be able to relate to and understand and meet and address the needs of average Americans, blue-collar Americans, people who are struggling economically, people who have had a tough time in life. That's a big part of the concern in this election, our economy. It helps to actually have lived that life or walked that walk. And so in addition to her role as governor, being somebody who is dealing with the economy successfully, by the way, in Alaska, she's also somebody who has, has a background, that's, you know, lived the life that, that we talk about. We talk about people sitting around the kitchen table and balancing a budget with a family and having to worry about meeting--making ends meet economically. She and her family have actually done that. I would say that's pretty good preparation for understanding and relating to the economic needs of average Americans.

MR. BROKAW: Let's share with our viewers and with you as well an editorial in the Fairbanks Alaska Daily News-Miner. "[Palin] has never publicly demonstrated the kind of interest, much less expertise, in federal issues and foreign affairs that should mark a candidate for the second-highest office in the land. Republicans rightfully have criticized the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, for his lack of experience, but Palin is a neophyte in comparison; how will Republicans reconcile the criticism of Obama with the obligatory cheering for Palin?

"Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job. McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation's when he created the possibility that she might fill it. It's clear that McCain picked Palin for reasons of image, not substance."

Same question raised by your hometown newspaper, The Minneapolis Tribune. "McCain surprises, but is Palin ready?" Fay Palin, her mother-in-law, in Alaska, said, "She enjoys hearing Barack Obama's speech. She still has not decided which way she'll vote." Then she went on to say, "I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket other than that she's a woman and a conservative." So there are substantial questions that remain out there.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, in fairness to Governor Palin, let's do the same analysis as to Senator Obama. He's basically graduated from law school, went on to be a community organizer and a law professor, went to the U.S. Senate and began running for president, essentially, the day he arrived. So he didn't even stick around in the Senate very long before he began running for governor. So what it is in his background, Tom, that would give him that same type of requisite wisdom and judgment and insight on national security matters or foreign affairs matter or anything else? But importantly, Senator--or Governor Palin is an executive. She has--during that time that he's been running for president, she's been running a large enterprise of the state of Alaska successfully as an executive, as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, and by all accounts, somebody who's formidable on policy, who's smart, and basically has guts and grit because of her background, and can relate to people.

MR. BROKAW: And people who have looked Alaska--at Alaska and her executive experience have pointed out, it's a small state and gets most of its money from oil revenue.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, it's...

MR. BROKAW: It doesn't have the same kind of tough choices that you have to make here in Minnesota, even.

GOV. PAWLENTY: It's bigger than the enterprise that Barack Obama worked for as a staffer in Chicago.

MR. BROKAW: The conventional wisdom within the Republican Party that I've been reading is that by choosing Sarah Palin, John McCain is going directly after those Hillary voters who are not happy with the way she was treated by Barack Obama.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, I think Senator McCain has picked a candidate here who complements and amplifies his strength. A maverick with a record of reform, somebody who's willing to take on the establishment, even if that means the Republican establishment, and she's done that. And if you look at the Hillary supporters, people who are--men and women who are concerned about the economy, places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, the Midwest and other places, you know, what kind of candidate are they going to relate to? Somebody who has walked their walk, have lived a life like them, understands their needs and concerns and their family? I think they're going to look at Governor Palin and say, "You know what? She's somebody I think can relate to my challenges, my concerns, because she's lived a life like that."

MR. BROKAW: This is only anecdotal, Governor, but a number of them have said to me already, "Hey, listen, this is not just about gender. This is a woman, for example, who is against abortion, she's pro-life, she is a member of the NRA. That's not my kind of candidate."

GOV. PAWLENTY: I think it's wonderful that she is a woman, but that isn't why Senator McCain picked her, and that isn't why she's on this ticket. She's on this ticket because he believes she's the right person in light of her experience, her judgment, her background, to be vice president. The fact that she happens to be a woman is somebody--is a, is a instance where she can bring some credibility, perhaps in speaking to that segment of the population, to the electorate.

MR. BROKAW: It was also important that she not be in favor of abortion or choice.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, I think Senator McCain said from day one he wants somebody that is with him on the ticket that reflects his priorities and values for the country, and he has spent an entire career being pro-life, so I don't think that comes as a surprise.

MR. BROKAW: We're still learning a good deal about her, and I know we will continue to. In the...

GOV. PAWLENTY: I would also say on that, Tom, if I could, you never hear Barack Obama getting asked whether he would pick a pro-life candidate for his ticket...

MR. BROKAW: Huh.

GOV. PAWLENTY: ...or whether it was important to have a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic side. You notice that question never gets asked of the Democrats.

MR. BROKAW: In the governors race--as a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi and I talked about this just last week, and she got in a lot of trouble with the Catholic Church because he refused to say when life begins, and when I asked her about it, she then had her own explanation based on what she thought was church doctrine, and the church came after her. So we have put that on the table, I just want to get that on the record if I can.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Understood.

MR. BROKAW: OK.

In the governor's race, she refused to be specific about her views on creationism vs. evolution, but as I understand it, she did say that she thought that the two subjects should be taught side by side in public schools. Do you think that's a good idea?

GOV. PAWLENTY: I saw her comments on it yesterday, and I thought they were appropriate, which is, you know, let's--if there are competing theories, and they are credible, her view of it was, according to comments in the newspaper, allow them all to be presented, or allow them both to be presented so students could be exposed to both, and--or more, and have a chance to be exposed to the, to the various theories and make up their own minds.

MR. BROKAW: In the vast scientific community, do you think that creationism has the same weight as evolution, and at a time in American education when we are in a crisis when it comes to science that there ought to be parallel tracks for creationism vs. evolution in the teaching?

GOV. PAWLENTY: In the scientific community, it seems like intelligent design is dismissed. Not entirely, there are a lot of scientists who would make the case that it is appropriate to be taught and appropriate to be demonstrated. But in terms of the curriculum in the schools, in Minnesota we've taken the approach that that's a local decision, but I know Senator Palin, or Governor Palin, has said intelligent design is something she thinks should be taught along with evolution in the schools, and I think that's appropriate from my standpoint.

MR. BROKAW: Given, given...

GOV. PAWLENTY: But I believe--my personal view is that's a local decision.

MR. BROKAW: Given equal weight.

GOV. PAWLENTY: At the local school board.

MR. BROKAW: And you would recommend it be given equal weight.

GOV. PAWLENTY: We've said in Minnesota, in my view this is a local decision. Intelligent design is something that in my view is a plausible and credible and something that I personally believe in; but more importantly, from an educational and scientific standpoint, it should be decided by local school boards, by--at the local school district level.

MR. BROKAW: Governor, this is The Economist, which is not exactly a house organ for the Democratic Party, as you know. They say "Bring back the real" John "McCain." Among other things, they talk about his evolution as a candidate. They conclude: "Hawkish foreign policy, irresponsible tax cuts, more talk about religion and abortion. All this sounds too much like Bush 3, the label the Democrats are trying to hang around the Republican neck. We preferred McCain 1." Isn't that a fundamental issue for your party going into this campaign, about whether John McCain will be seen simply as an extension of George Bush, who's running at record low approval ratings?

GOV. PAWLENTY: The problem with that argument, Tom, first of all is that Senator McCain has spent an entire lifetime developing and establishing a brand as a maverick and as an independent, even relative to President Bush as it relates to climate change, as it relates to campaign finance reform, as it relates to surge, as it relates to importing prescription drugs from Canada, as it relates to spending, as it relates to nuclear arms proliferation, as it relates to torture. The list goes on and on and on. On most of--on many of the big issues of the day--not the average statistics, but the big issues of the day, Senator McCain has parted from President Bush. And people recognize him as a maverick and as an independent. So that argument doesn't stick. The other thing I would add is as people talk about President Bush's approval rating, as low as it is, it's twice as good, nearly so, as the Congress, which is run by the Democrats. So if you want to hook Senator McCain to an--President Bush, then we'll hook Senator Obama to a Congress that is half as popular as the president and say that he's going to be a rubber stamp for a Congress that is even less popular.

MR. BROKAW: Good debating point, but Congress is not running for president.

GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, when you put a president and a Congress together, it's a pretty unstoppable package as to what will happen to the country.

MR. BROKAW: Governor Pawlenty, thanks very much for being with us this morning.

GOV. PAWLENTY: You're welcome.

MR. BROKAW: We know this is going to be a busy week and some tough decisions are ahead for you as well, and we wish you all the best. And I know I speak for all of us, we're, we're happy to be here in the great state of Minnesota.

GOV. PAWLENTY: We're glad you're here, Tom. Thank you very much.

MR. BROKAW: Great. Thank you.

Coming up next, Obama and Biden vs. McCain and Palin. Our political roundtable will weigh in: Maria Bartiromo, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Mike Murphy and Kelly O'Donnell. All that and more next here on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. BROKAW: Our political roundtable after this brief station break.

(Announcements)

MR. BROKAW: We're back. We turn first to NBC's Kelly O'Donnell who's traveling with the McCain campaign in St. Louis headed for the Gulf Coast, I gather, Kelly.

MS. KELLY O'DONNELL: Yes, Tom. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are changing up their schedule today, going to Jackson, Mississippi, to get a briefing at an emergency operations center. And what this really means for the campaign at this point is an opportunity to try to show the kind of leader, the kind of reaction time that John McCain has and the kind of way he would engage in a crisis. And they see that as a potential opportunity here. But of course, what they expected is so different. They had hoped for the kind of roll-out of the running mate and the big convention that would showcase John and Cindy McCain, their family, introduce Governor Palin to the country and they know now they will not get that.

Is there potential positive in this? Well, they're trying to assess that right now. One of the things that I'm hearing is that if the president is not participating, and that's what we expect now, the White House says there might be some way he would be involved in a lesser way, that might actually be a benefit to John McCain because of the Bush 3 label that has been put on this.

Also, no matter what the convention looks like, it's unlikely now that the Democrats and the Republicans will be judged on the same playing field, a side-by-side picture. That may help John McCain. This opportunity to show how he would react to a crisis might be a plus as well, but clearly they lose the kind of spotlight they had hoped for to really introduce the country to this McCain-Palin ticket. And they just don't know what the political impact of that will be. So from talking to advisers, what I'm really watching is a group that has been planning for months for this convention, weeks for the roll-out of this running mate. They're now simply having to improvise. Tom:

MR. BROKAW: Thanks very much, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, who is traveling with the John McCain campaign as they head for the Gulf Coast. And of course, what this party cannot afford to do is to boo two in a row when it comes to a big storm hitting the Gulf Coast.

We're back now with our political roundtable. NBC's David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and in New York, Maria Bartiromo of CNBC who recently interviewed the new vice presidential candidate of the Republican ticket, Sarah Palin, the governor or Alaska. We'll be talking a lot about that. In fact, this pretty well sums it up for a lot of people looking in. This is the cover of the Daily News. "McCain picks political rookie for veep: The Very Odd Couple."

We want to begin by talking about Governor Palin and what we want to do if we can, Doris, is to put in some perspective John McCain's attitudes about the vice, about the vice presidency. He was asked about this eight years ago when he was thought as a prospective candidate for George Bush when they had that heated exchange. Here's what John McCain had to say about what he thinks of the vice presidency.

(Videotape)

SEN. McCAIN: The vice president has two duties. One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other is to attend the funerals of third world dictators. And neither of those do I find an enjoyable exercise.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Doris, this is a surprise choice, but she is a winning personality. You, in fact, had lunch with her recently at a larger gathering, I guess. She's taken on corruption in Alaska, she's taken on her own Republican Party. But in fact, the magnitude of what lies before her can almost not be discussed in just a few moments.

MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: No, I think the idea that the vice president's main role is to simply inquire after the health of the president is an old whacked idea that's no longer relevant. First of all, when you look at history, nearly one out of three vice presidents have actually become president, most of them because of the death or assassination or the resignation of a president. Secondly, the office of the vice presidency has become so much more powerful ever since Mondale, really. I think there was a sense in which you cannot have somebody there without a real job to do, so it no longer makes sense to say, as Daniel Webster did, "I don't propose to be buried before I die," or to say, "It's the most insignificant office in the history of the Constitution," as John Adams did. That's looking back at old jokes.

So it really does provide a window, I think, onto the first major decision that Mr. McCain made. Even last spring he said, "I know I'm older, and I'm going to choose somebody--the first important thing is that they be ready to be president." I think the other window we may be seeing is, hopefully not, is the vetting process. I mean, how much time do they have to really vet her? Look what happened with, with Mr. Quayle. Everybody says, "Well, they won anyway." That's...

MR. BROKAW: Tom Eagleton.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: That's--and Tom Eagleton. I mean, that undid, in a certain sense, McGovern's campaign right away to have to let him go from the ticket. And it shows are you serious in the deliberative process you're creating. You're going to have to create Cabinet officers, Supreme Court people. What is the process you're going through? If something crops up now, just as it did with Eagleton and just as it did with Quayle, even though they won in the end, Quayle and Bush, it threw the campaign off for a while. We keep forgetting.

And I think the last thing is just a sense in which you wonder about what pressure it's going to put on Governor Palin. You could be Einstein and not be able to answer the questions that you guys are going to put at her. And to put somebody in that position and then to think they're going to be ready, I think as you were saying earlier, it's true that maybe Obama wasn't as ready as we thought three, three months ago, six months ago, 18 months ago, but we've gotten comfortable with him. It's the public perception. Because we know him now, we've seen him. And we have not seen her. So I think it's a very strange choice. I understand the maverick part, he wanted to be running against the Republican Party. She's a maverick, she's Teddy Roosevelt, he's Teddy Roosevelt. They like hunting and fishing, and that's his hero. But I think it's a very strange choice.

MR. BROKAW: Mike, you know McCain well. He's a rogue and a gambler. He's more than double down on this call, though.

MR. MIKE MURPHY: Yeah. He's not afraid of a big bet. I mean, he's a paradigm breaker, that's who he is. I think the McCain campaign would tell you what they're trying to do here is make it very clear their campaign is about change in Washington and he picked a rootin' tootin' maverick corruption fighter who has a stellar record doing exactly that in Alaska where there's some corruption that needs to be fighting. I think the question is what is the price they will pay for this pick? What it says about McCain is he's definitely a maverick. That's a big plus. It also puts the experience issue, where McCain had been getting some traction, in a much weaker position. It's hard for them to defend her on experience.

Finally, it strikes me as a base pick. She is going to crush in this room, in this hall, when the convention gets going--should it, with the hurricane. She's going to be a star inside the Republican Party. But in the tough business of practical politics you don't care, really, how happy your voters are, you care about how many voters you're going to get. And the question is what new voters--from my point of view, anyway--will she bring to help McCain win in a tough year? Is this the year for a base pick or is it the year for a more of a ticket splitter pick? So in one way he focused his message on reform, there's no doubt now she's really accomplished that and she has great charisma to carry that message. But what about the side cost of this as far as questioning his decision making process and experience? Ultimately, I'm not sure a vice president is as important as we all make it. But it does say a lot about the guy. Balance sheet: strong reformer now, but the--on the experience issue is he paying a heavy price for that and does he get any new votes for this or just reinforce the votes he already has?

MR. BROKAW: To that end, the National Review said, "By picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has wowed the public and enthused the right. He has reinforced some of his winning themes that he has the mind-set of an outsider and a fighter against corruption. He's also reinforced his appeal as a candidate more in touch with traditional values and moral issues." That goes to the base.

There are other Republicans who are saying, "Listen, we'll be able to pull those Hillary Clinton voters who are not happy with the way Obama treated her across the line." What are the chances of that, Andrea?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, they, they think now that they have a story. They have a story of a working mom, she is a colorful character, an Annie Oakley, you know, Annie get your gun. They love her story. But when she tried to talk about Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, in western Pennsylvania yesterday at a rally with conservative Republican voters, Hillary Clinton was booed. So she can use the Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro analogy if she wants to in interviews. She cannot use that at Republican rallies. She is not appealing to the same women who were really voting or supporting Hillary Clinton on ideological issues, but they think that they can peel off some of these working class women, not college-educated, who--the blue collar women who were voting for Hillary Clinton and may be more conservative on social causes.

Clearly, on the abortion issue, this is a woman who not only believe in fighting abortion, she made a personal choice which she's willing to talk about. She had a baby after being told that the baby would be developmentally challenged, her infant child. So she is a portrait of that.

The interesting thing is that John McCain has--as Mike has said--has returned to the original John McCain, the maverick. We are told that he wanted to pick Joe Lieberman. They tested it. He wanted to throw that long ball, and having tried that and having been shot down by the conservative base, he still wanted to fight Washington, to choose someone who took on Ted Stevens, and to take on the public corruption issue, and to say, Washington is broken. They decided they've reached a ceiling. The experienced argument was not working. They had to adapt and take the change argument, which was working somewhat for the Democrats, and by taking it, saying Washington is broken, this woman will help me fit it--fix it. It doesn't get to how is he going to govern. It gets to how me makes decisions. It's a fascinating portrait of John McCain.

MR. BROKAW: There's another issue in all of this, and Maria Bartiromo got to it when she interviewed Governor Sarah Palin just last week.

Maria, we have you in New York, but I want to share with our audience, first of all, that interview in which you talked about energy and the oil pipeline that she negotiated on far better terms than her Republican predecessor for the people of Alaska. Let's listen to some of that and then get your reaction to it.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): When you consider the naysayers, the--kind of the fearmongers, 30 years ago before the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline was built--and remember, that pipeline has supplied 15 billion barrels of oil into our domestic supplies here in America--and by the way, Biden, Joe Biden, was one who voted against that Trans-Alaska oil pipeline 30 years ago. He was fearful of allowing ramped up domestic supplies of energy even then, so of course, I fear that if he's of the same mind today, we're in a world of hurt there.

MR. BROKAW: That's Sarah Palin talking about getting the oil pipeline reactivated again, the one that began, as she pointed out, 30 years ago. But at the same time, Maria, she talks about wanting to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Reserve. Is she going to hold to that position?

MS. MARIA BARTIROMO: Yeah, I think so, Tom, and I think that this is a very, very important point, because while yes, we spoke about anti-corruption and about Hillary and her charisma, I think the biggest value she brings to the ticket is her expertise in energy. This is her comfort zone. She made a very compelling case to me that the area that we're talking about that is being debated about whether or not to drill, ANWR as you mentioned, is 2,000 acres in a 20 million acre plain. This is her comfort zone, this is really what she's overseeing.

Alaska is one of the few oil-rich areas we have in this country alone. She is going to really campaign on that--on that platform, not only as energy and oil relates to the economy. We know that oil is one of the biggest issues we face when it comes to the economy. It's certainly crippled the economy over the last year, watching oil prices reach record highs. But also, as energy relates to national security. So this is a very, very important piece of the picture, and I think she brings great value there, making that point that it is a small swath of land, and it really will not impact the wildlife, as of course is the concern, because we've got caribou and bears and moose there, and the upset or the worry is that it's going to impact the breeding of the wildlife. She feels very strongly that that is not the case, and I think that that knowledge of energy is going to be very important for the McCain ticket.

MR. BROKAW: Beyond energy, how conversant is she with the other big economic issues of the day, especially the liquidity crisis that this country is facing, home foreclosures?

MS. BARTIROMO: Well, she felt, actually, that the Republican Party has a--has a advantage when it comes to the credit card issue, when it comes to credit. She felt that Joe Biden dropped the ball on that. She talked to me a little about that in the interview. She also talked about healthcare. She had real opinions in terms of what should be done with regard to economic growth overall. And the truth is, Tom, is that energy is a big party of that. I mean, that really is one of the, one of the biggest issues we face.

On the, on the banking sector upset, he's going to need more credibility, obviously, McCain, on that issue. I don't think that she's necessarily well-versed in, in, in the liquidity crunch, but, but I think that, that she came across so strong with regard to economic matters as they relate to energy and as they relate to overall economic growth that I think it was a very savvy pick, actually. She's very accessible, very personable, as, as you've said. You know, when I was walking around, we went to the highest point in Anchorage and we walked around a field so she could show me really where the main areas were for, for drilling and you had to see her with some of the people on the ground. She, she went over to people. I mean, clearly a reporter is, is there with her, so she has an agenda there, but she was very comfortable going and, and, and welcomed by the people and, and even the people on the ground, when I was traveling there throughout Alaska. You know, one person said to me, I said, "So how's the governor doing?" to the driver of the, of the car and people on the plane and in the airport. And they said, "You know, we, we really, we love her. The first thing that she did when she got in office is she gave up the plane, the private plane, and she gave up the chefs." And she said, "Look, I don't need any of this. I want to focus on economics. I want to focus on what Alaska can do for the rest of the country."

And remember, if we were to see drilling, not only in that ANWR area, but on the coast in the North Slope, that's also a lot of job creation because there are ripple effects to drilling and she talked a lot about that as well, how we could see tremendous job creation as a result of activity in that part of the country. So clearly that is her sweet spot and that's what she is going to be focused on. I think you make a good point about the liquidity crunch, but I also have to be impressed with her knowledge on this issue of energy, one of the biggest that we face.

MR. BROKAW: All right. Thanks very much, Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, whose interview with the governor, by the way, is in BusinessWeek magazine.

Until the moment that she was chosen, however, there was some question about would John McCain reach all the way to the North Slope for his vice presidential candidate? That included Sarah Palin herself. This is the interview that she gave to a reporter on July 31st of this year. That's just six weeks ago. Let's listen to this for a moment.

(Videotape, July 31, 2008)

GOV. PALIN: But as for that VP talk all the time, I tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard and in administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: You don't think, David Gregory, we're going to see that on some Democratic ad, do you?

MR. DAVID GREGORY: I think there just might be a chance, just like that there, there is that historical tape from John McCain as well, questioning the value of the vice presidency. I just want to make one point here about the potential outreach to independent voters, who with this pick have the opportunity, if they're Republican leaning, to vote for history without voting for Barack Obama. And I think that's significant. I think the oil issue is one that's gotten some traction for John McCain among independent voters. So, you know, Mike brings up the point, are there new voters that are available through this? I do think independents are possible here and it goes back to this change argument. On my way over here this morning, there's a billboard and it's got McCain hugging Bush and it says, "Is this what change looks like?" After hearing Obama's speech in Denver, I think it became very clear to the McCain campaign that if they don't get into the debate about who can bring you change, that they could lose and lose badly. They may have an advantage on national security, they have got to level out this change argument.

MR. BROKAW: How unsettled were the Republicans by Obama's speech on Thursday night in Denver?

MR. MURPHY: I think pretty unsettled. Kind of the officer class of the Republican Party took it very, very seriously and said that was a very--and I believed it, too--a smart speech that put him into all kinds of places he needs to be to win the election, a lot of senators messaging. So I think that the Republican Party, I think that the McCain campaign wanted a change-up. The question is that I keep coming back with, you know, I don't believe the puma theory. I don't believe that pro-choice Democratic Primary voters are going to switch parties to the Republican to vote for a pro-life running mate who's a Christian conservative. I just can't see it. So in the kind of blue-collar cultural conservative places, I think it will help McCain, but I think he's got most of that vote. A lot of it's a cultural protest vote to Obama and his liberalism.

The question is in the white, independent kind of wine and cheesier world, will she help or will she be a problem? And I, I agree with, with David, on part of it I can see her helping. Other parts, I--Oakland County, Michigan's the perfect example. I saw a poll in July where McCain was losing it by 11 points. Can't win Michigan with those numbers. He's got to bring Oakland County back. In the blue collar areas she'll help. In the more upscale, independent areas, her social positions are going to be a big problem, she's not going to help. So it's a balance and we're going, we're going to have to see how she plays. And if she, with her charisma and her corruption fighting can move the focus off I think her social positions. If the Obama campaign can trap her there, I think she's going to be an anchor. If she can be a reformer with McCain and get that stuff out of the main picture, she could help.

MR. BROKAW: She does have a very winning way about her, Doris, and--does that make it pretty tricky for Joe Biden when he debates her in a debate that will get a lot of attention anchored by Gwen Ifill, I think in St. Louis?

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Oh, no question. I mean, when I did sit with her over lunch and I was speaking at a, at a state legislator conference in Anchorage, she's absolutely charming, she's warm, she was well read, she was fun. And Biden has to worry about what Mr. Bush Sr. had to worry about when he debated Ferraro, that you cannot be condescending, you have to be careful and yet you want to unleash your counterpunch, as he would. I suspect he'll be preparing that for a long period of time. You know, and I think we make too much of the debate itself. Everybody keeps saying as long as she performs OK in the debate and she doesn't screw up, it's OK. It's what happens every day between now and then; some event occurs in Russia, can they ask her, "What do you think?"

MR. MURPHY: Yeah...(unintelligible).

MR. GREGORY: Well, can I just say, I think there's also an overstatement of the importance of social issues like abortion in this debate. This is a woman who's got five children and is the governor of Alaska. I think she's figured out the work-life balance that a lot of women struggle with.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: That's right.

MR. GREGORY: She went into labor and got on an airplane to go back to Alaska. That's pretty cool. I think there's a lot of people, men and women, who are going to look at this story and say, "This is a compelling person. I want to take a new look at this ticket."

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Yeah.

MR. MURPHY: And she has the benefit of low expectations, which in politics...

MS. MITCHELL: And in terms of the abortion issue, it has so fired up the base. The evangelical base, the, you know, the foundation of what John McCain needs, the people who came out in Ohio and elected George, you know, George Walker Bush, this is the, the key group that now is so energized. They were sitting on their hands, they were not excited about the other alternatives. They would have completely rebelled with Joe Lieberman. They tested that. They test marketed that and it was going to blow up the convention. The chairman of the Republican Party was told by state chairmen that there was going to be a floor fight right here to oppose Joe Lieberman if that were the pick. So that was when they retreated. And what surprised some of his closest advisers is that John McCain was so wedded to throwing that long ball that he went for Palin, surprising his closest intimates.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Right.

MR. BROKAW: Mike, as you heard, I asked Governor Pawlenty about creationism vs. evolution. He said they ought to be taught side by side in schools, local school districts should decide. How does that cut with the independents?

MR. MURPHY: It's trouble. Again, if we get into a social issues debate with those particular swing voters, we're in big trouble. I believe that McCain cannot win in this environment without ticket splitters, people who vote for him for president but vote Democrat down the ticket. He may need as many as one out of five of his ultimate voters to be a ticket splitter. So the question is in a bad base year for Republicans, if we get caught on pure base issues--I agree, the evangelical vote loves her, but I, to the point I said earlier, I'd rather have lukewarm evangelicals and a whole lot of voters...

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. MURPHY: ...than delighted Goldwater-sized crowds and a completely delighted 45 percent of the vote. So if Sarah Palin the reformer, corruption fighter becomes who she is, she can help. If she gets trapped in the other stuff, I think she's an anchor. And we don't know yet how it's going to play.

MR. BROKAW: David, we've been talking about the, about the importance of the Rocky Mountain West in this election. Obviously this is a woman who will have some appeal there. We'd just like to share some of her sayings and some of the sayings of her family as well. "When [Alaska's gubernatorial] candidates were asked their favorite meal ... Palin nailed it best," according to Vogue magazine. "`Moose stew,' she said, `after a day of snowmachining.'" And then when Vogue went to her parents' home, "Buoys of all colors hung from the house and outer buildings. On the back of [Palin's parents'] 4x4 a bumper sticker read, Vegetarian--Old Indian Word For `Bad Hunter.'"

MS. MITCHELL: Yeah.

MR. BROKAW: "Even before McCain picked [Palin], people outside Alaska were beginning to notice the young governor with the bright smile" - the "runnerup in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest--whose good looks spawned a bumper sticker that read: `Coldest State. Hottest Governor.'"

Is that going to work in the West?

MR. GREGORY: Well, I think a lot of it does. And as you know better than anybody, you talk to people like Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who--and he will attribute his success as a Democrat in Colorado not to social issues, but to issues like the economy that began to turn more Republican-leaning independents and even some Republicans in the state his way. I think the economy is a huge part of this. A lot of the working-class voters in states like West Virginia or Ohio, where she was debuted, or Pennsylvania were Democrats primarily for economic issues if not social issues. Obama still has an advantage there, even if he hasn't grabbed the issue completely. I think Sarah Palin helps John McCain get it.

MS. MITCHELL: Yes, I agree with that.

MR. GREGORY: That's the attack line from Obama that he's out of touch. She's got some working class roots, the hockey mom thing.

MS. MITCHELL: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: A union husband, a husband who's in the union. So I think she may help deliver that to independent voters in the West and elsewhere for whom this is going to be a big issue, the economy.

MS. MITCHELL: I...

MR. BROKAW: Let's talk about Obama for just a moment, who had a big, successful Democratic convention last week. When I was getting to the airport yesterday in Bozeman, Montana, one of the security guys says to me, "Wow, that was some speech. I hadn't been paying much attention this year, but that was really something." And then he paused and said, "My God, he promised everything." So did it work for him?

MS. MITCHELL: I think it worked in terms of being an attention-getting huge event, brilliantly executed and a speech that had a great deal of passion. I think if you look at the laundry list, it's not paid for and, you know, despite the claims, and you can make the argument anyone can go after those specifics, but one doesn't expect that in an acceptance speech. He has to fill in those details. Giving a list of promises is not filling in the details, giving people the meat on the bones that they've been waiting for. But in terms of showing his inspiration, his historic role, I think it was extraordinarily successful. I think it's one of the reasons why leading up to it, anticipating it, why John McCain felt that he had to match history with history, he had to break through and get people to pay attention to the fact that John McCain now with Sarah Palin, is attempting to also cross a barrier, an historic barrier.

MR. BROKAW: But did they take experience off the table by choosing Sarah Palin?

MR. MURPHY: I don't know if they totally took it off the table because president vs. president is still the main event, as opposed to VP vs. VP. But it's a lot harder. It's harder for McCain to say what really counts is being ready on day one to walk into the Oval Office when he's 72 and his vice president may be higher on charisma and lower on experience. I think what you're going to see here at the convention is less grinding on experience now because a lot of that issue I think is out the window, and more grinding on fiscal stuff. The point Andrea made. You had 25 minutes of promises and two sentences of how he was going to pay for them in that speech. Republicans are going to drill down into that. They're also going to go after the runaway train of Pelosi and all the pent-up kind of liberalism in the Congress getting ready to rip, plus a Democratic Senate, plus a Democratic president, the one party, one way to go and try to make that kind of a scary consequence of Obama.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: You know, I--I'm sorry.

MR. MURPHY: No, no, go ahead.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: I think that equally important to this speech was the way the whole convention laid out. I mean, I think what it showed was a certain strength on the part of Obama. Everybody was saying the week before, he looks weak. He's allowing those Clintons to assume so much of the public stage. In fact, I think by giving them their moment in the sun, it let the resentments go away to some extent. It allowed them to go out as winners rather than losers. At the same time, he choreographed the whole thing perfectly. He had those early nights of biography. They probably were not too much, even though it seems so, as long as in the speech in the end, he counterpunched to the Republicans. And everything was on time. I mean, it wasn't like McGovern at 2 AM or poor Harry Truman.

MR. MURPHY: Tremendous discipline, I agree with that. It really was.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: He spoke at 2 AM. You know, Harry Truman was great. He was speaking at 2, it went on so long at 2 AM, they had these doves in the ceiling that were going to come out flying as doves of peace.

MR. BROKAW: And they fell asleep.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: They were cooped up so long--no, worse than that.

MS. MITCHELL: Did they fly?

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: By the time they came out, they came floating down and they bit the delegates on the heads. But everything was timed.

MS. MITCHELL: You're going to see more of Hillary Clinton now, also.

MS. KEARNS GOODWIN: Right.

MS. MITCHELL: I think that the campaign knows--the Obama campaign knows that they need to use her to counteract Sarah Palin and to try to show that you can explain her views are not mainstream women views, they will argue. It's going to be hard, though, going after Sarah Palin. The first day there was a disconnect where some of the people within the Obama campaign took her on and then Obama said, "No, we don't want to do that." She was not mentioned in Obama's and Biden's big appearance yesterday on the road.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, that's a very key point. They're very afraid of gender. I talked with top Obama's strategists who was like we've got to be very careful about this because they're expecting the press to go make Sarah Palin famous in a bad way and they'd be very happy with that. Maybe not approach...

MR. BROKAW: Maria Bartiromo in New York, when she made her announcement the other day, as I understand it, she wrote in the speech a tribute to Geraldine Ferraro and to Hillary Clinton. Fred Barnes, in writing in The Standard this past week praising her social values says she is not a feminist. Is Sarah Palin a feminist by virtue of the fact that she ran for governor as a woman against the odds and has talked about some of the indignities that she's had to suffer as a result of being a woman? Or would she describe herself not as a feminist?

MS. BARTIROMO: You know, I don't think she would describe herself as a feminist, but I think that she would describe herself as a champion for women. You know, her comments when she accepted the role from John McCain that, you know, "We're not done. We have more work to do," I think were very telling. In my interview, she praised Hillary. She said, "You know, I'm looking at Barack and I'm looking at his choice and I'm thinking, jeez, why didn't he choose Hillary Clinton?" I mean, this was her quote. She said, you know, she's not--she was very savvy about this. She said, you know, "She's not what I would like to see represented in the White House, but she ran an awesome campaign," is what she said to me.

You know, she, she is trying to be a champion, I think, for women, and talk about breaking through the, the glass ceiling, but not coming across too strong, and using words like awesome, really trying to appeal, I think, to, you know, being a regular folk. I think the point David made was, was right on in that she really is attractive to the working class. Her husband works for BP, an oil company, up on the North Slope, and is called a Sloper, you know. And then she referred to him, which I thought was really cute--she referred to him as the first--Alaska's first dude. So she comes out with these references that, that sort of immediately unnerve you and--putting herself in, in with the masses. But no, I wouldn't call her a feminist.

MR. BROKAW: She, she has that--she has that Alaska candor.

Mike, final question.

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROKAW: If there is something unexpected in the international arena, will it now cut both ways? The conventional wisdom was it would help John McCain, but with Sarah Palin and no foreign policy experience as his backup, would it also raise questions about whether that ticket is ready for it?

MR. MURPHY: I believe it would. I think she is very strong in charisma, but as a strategic pick, she's very fragile.

MR. BROKAW: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: One bad gaffe, or two in a row, I think maybe a pile-on starts, and she's in big, big trouble.

MS. MITCHELL: Yeah.

MR. MURPHY: So McCain made a big bet on her. If she can exceed expectation, she could be really good. A couple of bumps along the way, and a crisis could be that bump, if she has a gaffe, could be devastating.

MS. O'DONNELL: I agree with that.

MS. MITCHELL: And he doesn't know her. He met her briefly, twice. He does not know her. This was not a real job interview. He's going on what he's been told about her and on her reputation.

MR. BROKAW: Well, I can't think of a more appropriate metaphor for the beginning of the Republican Convention than Hurricane Gustav. I mean, that really sums up what we've been through here in the last 20 months or so in this country, and we'll see how it plays out here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, in the course of the next week.

Thanks very much, everybody. We'll be right back with MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MR. BROKAW: That's all for this week. Don't forget to tune in to NBC News and MSNBC all week for coverage of the Republican National Convention here in St. Paul. And of course, we will be constantly updating the track of Hurricane Gustav, which will have an impact on this convention. But our hearts and thoughts go out to the people on the Gulf Coast today. We hope it'll all turn out pretty well. Last report was the indication is that the storm is weakening somewhat, but it is still very dangerous.

I'll be back from Washington next week, because if it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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