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Obama under pressure to deliver 'speech of a -

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Obama under pressure to deliver 'speech of a generation'

The World Today - Friday, 29 August , 2008 12:15:00

Reporter: Kim Landers

ELEANOR HALL: To politics in the United States now where senior Democrats have been paying their
own tributes.

HILLARY CLINTON: I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by
acclimation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.

BILL CLINTON: My fellow Democrats, I say to you, Barack Obama is ready to lead America and to
restore American leadership in the world. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United
States.

JOE BIDEN: I watched how Barack touched people. How he inspired them and I realised he had tapped
into the oldest belief in America - we don't have to accept the situation we can not bear. We have
the power to change it.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the flavour of the mood at the Democrats National Convention in Denver
with speeches this week by Senator Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton and
vice-presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden.

And in Denver today Senator Barack Obama will make history by accepting the Democrat nomination to
run for president.

It will make him the first Black American to be a major party nominee for the White House.

And he'll accept the nomination on the same day that civil rights leader Martin Luther King made
his "I had a dream" speech 45-years ago.

Later in the program we'll cross to our correspondent Kim Landers in Denver as Senator Obama makes
his speech.

But first let's hear from our regular commentator on the US election, Professor of Politics at
Stanford University, Dr Simon Jackman.

Simon Jackman, Barack Obama is delivering his acceptance speech today - not in the convention hall
where everyone else has been this week but in a massive sports stadium. How much pressure will be
on him as he delivers this speech?

SIMON JACKMAN: I think he would be under a lot of pressure no matter where he gave it but he is
under an awful lot of pressure. The race has tightened up. The party has rallied behind him with
great political theatrics all week long in the convention centre.

And the table has been set and now it is up to him to deliver perhaps the speech of a generation is
what I think a lot of Democrats will be hoping for from his tonight.

ELEANOR HALL: Why is he not doing it in the convention hall? Doesn't doing it in a big sports
stadium leave him open to criticism that he is more pop star than presidential material?

SIMON JACKMAN: Well that is the criticism. The Republicans playing political jujitsu on every move
he makes at the moment. But look, if he can deliver 80,000 people, fill an 80,000 person stadium
for this speech, that is just magnificent.

I mean the theatrics, the images of this, the sight and the sound of 80,000 people rising in a
standing ovation; this idea of change. So I think that is why they are doing it; it is going to
look great.

ELEANOR HALL: And of course, Barack Obama is also delivering this speech on the 45th anniversary of
Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech - a lot of symbolism there. Would Democrats have
planned for it to coincide with this anniversary?

SIMON JACKMAN: I don't think so. I think it could well have been Hillary Clinton making this speech
tonight had things turned out differently. So I don't think the date was set with a view to
coinciding with Dr King's speech.

But it is interesting nonetheless. It creates sort of a dilemma. The Obama candidacy is, sort of,
got this incredible historical significance to it; the fact that he is now the first
African-American nominee of a, presidential nominee of an American political party. The fact that
the speech is happening on this night.

I think what the Democrats would really love to do is make this less about Obama and more about
what the Democrats will offer the American people in contrast to the Republicans going forward.

But in a way, because the speech does coincide and has all this force of history behind it, you
know, inevitably some of the discussion and some of the talk and the theatrics will focus back on
Obama, the person, the African-American person.

And I think that is something, frankly, that has been actually more of an hindrance than a help in
the last couple of weeks and may indeed explain why the Republicans and John McCain have pulled
level in a lot of the national polling.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you say he is expected to deliver the speech of a generation. How is the issue of
race likely to play in this election?

SIMON JACKMAN: Well, to be frank with you I think a lot of the American commentators over here have
been tip-toeing around the issue. I look back at data that I was collecting and others like me were
collecting back in the primary race between Hillary Clinton and then candidate Obama.

We were finding there that a tremendously powerful predictor of who you voted for among Democrats
right. So whether you voted for Clinton or Obama was your perspective on a bunch of racial issues.
Your attitudes towards affirmative action, towards racial quotas, the extent to which you believe
America was still plagued by racial, a legacy of racial injustice.

That cluster of attitudes was incredibly powerful as a predictor of which way you voted in the
primary season and like I said, I think a lot of the commentary in the United States of late has
tiptoed around this issue that Obama is yet to connect with white working class voters who live
outside of major metro areas, who may be older, who may not be as, who may not be college educated.

I think frankly that is a polite way of saying there is a bunch of people out there, who, if it was
sheer economics, would break for a Democratic this time around. But because it happens to be an
African-American at the top of the ticket, are finding it difficult to give the tick to the
Democrat.

ELEANOR HALL: And despite all the hoopla this week, the polls must be worrying the Democrats. You
have said to us before that the tide is really running in the Democrats' favour given the
unpopularity of the current Republic president.

So why do you think it is that McCain and Obama are so close in the opinion polls?

SIMON JACKMAN: I think the Republicans have had very few cards to play in this campaign so far but
they have played them very, very well. The few dimensions on which McCain is preferred to Obama and
that is issues to do with national security, whether he is a risky bet is, Obama's relative
inexperience compared to McCain.

The Republicans have run with those as best as they can and have made great political headway in
what should otherwise be a very difficult political season for them. Now, and that is partly why
the pressure is on Obama tonight.

I think this speech and indeed some of the lead-in he got from other, you know from the Clintons,
from Joe Biden's speech last night, really focusing this campaign back on what is wrong with
America at the moment and how the Republicans are to blame for much of it. Re-establishing that as
the terms of debate are really important.

ELEANOR HALL: Now there had been some talk that John McCain may have rained on the Democrats parade
by announcing his vice-presidential running mate today and he may even have picked Colin Powell. We
know now that he will be making the announcement tomorrow.

What is your guess on who he will pick?

SIMON JACKMAN: Oh, that is a great question. I tend to think these long shots like Powell or
Lieberman may not be in the offing. The smart money was saying Romney here from Massachusetts. I
would not be surprised if we saw that Minnesota Governor, Pawlenty get the nod in the end just on
the basis of the electoral map. Minnesota would be a very good state for the Republicans to get.

ELEANOR HALL: And next week is the Republic National Convention. Do you expect the fight to really
intensify then?

SIMON JACKMAN: Yeah, I mean the Republicans aren't wasting any time, right. They are going to be
out in front of this, dominating tomorrow's news cycle with the veep announcement by McCain and
they are not going to let the Democrats sort of get too much of a free pass out of what has been a
great week full of political drama and great political theatre for them.

They have backed this race back into a tight position. They would deeply love to keep it there and
we're not past. This is Labour Day weekend in the United States; the historical sort of start of
the fall campaign. America comes back from the beach and the summer homes and the kids are back in
school and the weather starts to turn colder and people start watching more TV and start thinking
about the election coming in November.

And this is where it gets very real and the Republicans have done very well over the summer and
they will want to hang onto that going forward into November.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Jackman, thanks very much for joining us. And that is the professor of Politics
at Stanford University, Dr Simon Jackman, our regular US presidential commentator and we'll hear
from him again next week from the Republican Convention.