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Politics In The News: The Democratic Convention


And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia. And I'm with NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. And Don and I and many others from NPR are going to be covering the Democratic National Convention, which begins tonight, Don. But, I mean, there's already been news coming out all weekend. The activity has begun.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Remember those sleepy summer weekends of your No more.

GREENE: (Laughter). That's right.

GONYEA: So on Friday, Hillary Clinton chose her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia, of course. Then we had a blowup over leaked emails.

GREENE: Yeah, I mean these are - these are the emails that have been the news during the weekend, I mean, suggesting that the party was favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders through the nominating process.

GONYEA: Right, the Democratic Party - which led to a resignation. Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz - she will resign after - after the convention.

GREENE: After, which is important. I mean, she's going to be gaveling in this convention, which could be a moment for, I mean, who knows what? There could be Bernie Sanders supporters who are - who are booing her. I mean, this couldn't - this might not be the display the party was looking for in any way.

GONYEA: Hard to imagine something isn't going to happen in that moment.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, let's talk more about this. Robert Costa from The Washington Post is here in our studio at member station WHYY in Philadelphia. Robert - your hometown, right?


GREENE: Welcome home.

COSTA: Thank you.

GREENE: And Cokie Roberts joins us, as she does most Mondays. She joins us from just outside Washington, D.C. Hi, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David. How are you? Hi, Robert.

COSTA: Good morning.

GREENE: Cokie, how big a deal is this - these emails? I mean, it seems like it is angering a lot of people who feel very strongly about Bernie Sanders.

ROBERTS: It's a big deal at the moment, but it's not a long-term big deal, just like Melania Trump's speech was not a long-term big deal. You know, these are things we get very excited about. And would the convention and the Democrats prefer not to have had this? Of course they would. But look, it's hardly surprising that the Democratic National Committee was interested in not having a person who had not been a Democrat until very recently be the nominee. So that's part of what you're dealing with here. And then there's all this intrigue of whether the Russians were behind it. So, you know, this is - this is a complicated story, but they've - they'll get it behind them quickly and move on with what looks like a very well-orchestrated convention.

GREENE: That is some of the speculation now. I mean, somehow - somehow Russia or the Kremlin might have wanted Donald Trump to be president and sort of created these leaks. None of that confirmed, but that has added to a lot of intrigue. Robert Costa, what do you make of this? I mean, it seems like one could argue that this, at a moment when the Clinton campaign and the party wanted to show unity, this is exactly not what they needed.

COSTA: It's also something that's been really brewing for a long time. When you look at the talk of a rigged system, you often hear Donald Trump talking about a rigged system. But there's the same concern on the American left. And I was with Senator Sanders in the California primary, and you sense on the left this anger over establishment politics, that their system has not been fair, that Bernie Sanders never really got a fair shot in the primary. And now, these e-mails seem to reveal this - all this - what Bernie Sanders supporters think is a conspiracy against Sanders. And so, in their minds, she had to go. But a lot of Clinton aides, they say this is actually best it happened now. They're ripping off the bandaid before the convention.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

GREENE: Well, let's talk about Tim Kaine, the running mate Hillary Clinton has chosen, because that choice has also not sat well with some supporters of Bernie Sanders, who wanted someone they considered more progressive. But Hillary Clinton, I mean, did an interview on "60 Minutes" with Tim Kaine last night. I mean, Cokie, you have followed Kaine's career for a long time. What should we know about him?

ROBERTS: Well, I think that the - the main thing that the left needs to know about him is that he comes at everything from the perspective of a serious Catholic, a social-justice Catholic. And that really informs everything he does. So even on issues that they disagree with him on, like trade, he does that because trade is known to be very helpful to poor people in developing countries, and that's something he cares very deeply about. They don't - there have been people who have not liked his stance on abortion. Again, coming from his Catholic convictions, where he is, you know, pro-choice as a legislator and governor, but not as a person. And so I think that, you know, that giving a sense of who he is will make that clearer to people. But the main thing about him, David, is that he's nice. And when people were asking me, you know, what kind of person should Hillary Clinton pick for vice president, I just kept saying somebody nice.

GREENE: Why? Why do you say that?

ROBERTS: Because people don't think she is. Now, you know, you can argue about that, but that is the perception of her, is that she's not a nice person. And Tim Kaine is a nice person, and that will come across. I kept saying it's basically a young Joe Biden, and that is Tim Kaine.

GREENE: Robert Costa?

COSTA: And, Cokie, you're so spot-on because I grew up here in the Philadelphia suburbs, and these are moderate areas of the country that are really going to swing the general election. And Tim Kaine, he's important to the Clinton ticket on policy, but also on temperament and tone, that nice-factor. These moderate voters around the country who say to themselves, I may be intrigued by Trump's populism. I'm not really sold on Clinton. But it's something about Trump's temperament, his tone that I find off. Tim Kaine is a reassuring figure.

GREENE: But can - can a running mate do that much to help out a candidate connecting with people?

ROBERTS: No, not a lot. And we - you know, we mined through data on this. And the only time we can really see that it made a difference was Lyndon Johnson in 1960 delivering Texas. But - but it can shape an attitude about a candidate, just like a spouse can. And so I think that - that Tim Kaine can help in that way. And also, of course, he's from Virginia, which is a very important swing state, and he's still quite popular there. I have to say, though, David, Hillary Clinton has a - Clinton has a big challenge here. I mean, we are looking right now at a poll that just came out this morning from CNN, all taken after the Republican convention. And Donald Trump got a good-sized bump out of that convention. And she needs to overcome that in this one.

GONYEA: But back to Kaine, his niceness. The vice presidential nominee is supposed to be the attack dog. Is he going to be a nice-guy attack dog? I mean, what - what are we going to see?

COSTA: I think you're going to see someone who has the - the presentation of a dad next door, someone who is going to maybe wag his finger at Donald Trump but is not going to provide the red meat that some of the progressives want to hear. That's why I think Senator Sanders, his - his speech here at the Democratic National Convention will say much more than Senator Kaine's speech in whether this party can leave Philadelphia united. Can the left and the center-left be united again about Secretary Clinton? That comes down, I think, more to Sanders than anyone else.

ROBERTS: To Robert's point, yesterday, Kaine on "60 Minutes" said, most of us stopped that name-calling thing about fifth grade. That is the dad.

GREENE: Although, I mean, the name-calling - if you call it that - that Donald Trump, you know, has been doing, many people have found it very appealing. And that speaks to...

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

GREENE: That speaks to the poll that you're seeing.

COSTA: And I hear from the Trump campaign that they're thinking up nicknames right now for Tim Kaine. And that's the thing the Clinton campaign has to be prepared for. This is going to be a relentless general election campaign.

ROBERTS: Yeah, but she knows that.

GREENE: All right, we'll leave it there. Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. Robert Costa from The Washington Post and NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you all.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

COSTA: Thank you.

GREENE: All covering the national - Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia on NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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