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Campaign Uses Convention To Spread Obama's Vision


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Obama appeared briefly on stage last night at the Democratic convention. He gave Bill Clinton a hug just after the former president made a stirring case for Obama's re-election.

INSKEEP: Tonight, the current president stands alone on that indoor stage. He'd been planning to address a massive crowd in an open air stadium. Democrats cancelled that plan, citing a chance of thunderstorms. Soon after news of the cancellation spread, we talked with deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.

Why cancel the outdoor event?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, there was a high chance of thunderstorms and we just couldn't take the risk that we'd have to evacuate people, so that we weren't putting them in danger. It's very disappointing. We had 65,000 people coming to see the president, but you know, between now and the election we're going to do everything we can to ensure that they have a chance to see him. And you know, we'll be back in the arena tonight.

INSKEEP: So let me ask about the practical effects of this. Of course, Democrats famously filled the stadium for President Obama in 2008 in a swing state in Colorado. It was an explicit part of the strategy to try to energize thousands of people to go out and win a swing state, which in fact your side won. The idea was to do the same thing in North Carolina and now you don't get to do that.


INSKEEP: Did you just diminish your chances of winning a swing state?

CUTTER: No, I don't think so, Steve. You know, in total it was well over 80,000 people that signed up for credential and said they wanted to come. Each one of those people will get a personal touch from this campaign. There is enthusiasm out there. We've already made a significant down payment in this state. We are, you know, in all four corners of it, we are organizing like crazy. And we're doing it mostly with volunteer help.

INSKEEP: Which is a small version of a larger question that seems quite central for your campaign. How do you build nationwide enthusiasm for President Obama, given that there's not going to be the same sense of history that there was the first time around?

CUTTER: Well, we don't seem to be having a problem now in building that enthusiasm. If you've been watching his road into the convention, tens of thousands of people have been coming out to see him. And the number of people that are volunteering for the campaign all over the country, we're exceeding levels that we saw in 2008. And then in the last category, which is registering people to vote, we're at 147 percent of where we were in 2008 at this time. So we are exceeding every single benchmark we set in 2008.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about a line in Michelle Obama's speech on Tuesday night. She was talking about values she learned from her family. And she referred to learning honesty and integrity and that the truth matters. Now, she was talking in general terms about values she'd learned, but reporters in the hall saw that as a very subtle dig at Republicans, who are accused of misstating a lot of facts at their convention. Was it in fact a dig at Republicans?

CUTTER: I think that she was saying what she believes in, that honesty does matter, particularly when you're talking to the American people about where you want to take this country. It's not a particular dig anybody. But as we move forward in the lead-up to the election, we should just take note about, you know, who's being honest, and you know, speaking honestly about some of the tough challenges that we face, and speaking honestly about our solutions to those challenges.

Last week I was in Tampa and, you know, one of the senior advisers to the Romney campaign, you know, had the gall to say that our campaign is not going to be run by fact-checkers.

INSKEEP: Are you going to let your campaign be dictated by fact-checkers?

CUTTER: We do everything we can to ensure accuracy in what we say and what we do. We put a lot of effort into making sure our advertisements and our - things that we're doing this campaign are as factual as possible.

INSKEEP: What did you think the other day when PolitiFact, the fact-checking website, found you were wrong on TV when you said that President Obama's job creation had exceeded President Reagan's record?

CUTTER: Well, I actually misspoke there. And I'm happy to say that. And what I meant to say, that President Obama's job creation record, private sector job creation record, exceeded President Bush's in his recovery. Overall, over the eight years of the Bush administration, they actually saw a negative job number. They lost private sector jobs. We're at 4.5 million private sector jobs up over the past 29 months.

And, you know, Steve, I just want to make one other point. A big difference you're going to see this week compared to last week is that we are running on our ideas. We're not hiding any details, not answering questions. You'll see our ideas and our vision for how to move this country forward all over this convention. Last week not one tangible idea was put out by the Republican Party to move the country forward.

Mitt Romney, a $5 trillion tax cut that he won't tell anybody how he's going to pay for. You know, there's another side of honesty here, is being honest with the American people about what your policies are and what they mean for them. And that's something that Mitt Romney continues to play hide the ball with.

INSKEEP: Stephanie Cutter, thanks for much for taking the time.

CUTTER: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: She's at the Democratic convention. Now, at the end there she said that under President Obama there's been a gain of 4.5 million private sector jobs in 29 months. She is correct, as she stated it, though that does not count the loss of government jobs or the collapse in the job market as the president took office in 2009. In total, after that big drop in jobs at the start of the Obama administration, the number of people employed in this country is getting close to the same number as when the president took office. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.