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President Carter Mulls Historical Significance of Barack Obama

President Jimmy Carter sits down with Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields and David Brooks to reflect on the race for the White House, Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy, and the historical significance of the moment.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now there's going to be a brief interlude. And we're going to use that time to the best advantage possible by talking to former President Jimmy Carter.

    Mr. President, thank you for coming.

    JIMMY CARTER, Former President of the United States: Jim, it's great to be on your program. I watch you every night…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Well, terrific.

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    … and look forward to Fridays.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Yes, well, share with us your own personal enthusiasm, level of enthusiasm for the Obama-Biden ticket.

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    Well, somebody already said I'm the elder statesman here. And I think this is my ninth convention in a row, beginning in '76.

    I think that this is one of the most exciting and challenging opportunities for the Democratic Party we've ever had. And I say that looking back at a long time of history.

    But I don't think there's ever been a more enlightening, and inspirational, and innovative primary season than we've had. It came out almost exactly even, as you know. There are still some holdbacks among the former Clinton supporters that haven't yet supported Obama enthusiastically.

    But I predict that, by the end of this convention, we'll see the end of that reticence and a major jump in the public opinion polls for Obama.

    I notice in one of the periodicals this morning, USA Today, that only 46 percent of Hillary Clinton's supporters are now enthusiastically for Obama. And the same thing happened to me, by the way, if I have just a moment, in 1976, because you may or may not remember — well, you're old enough to remember…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I remember '76.

  • JIMMY CARTER:

    … but the Gerald Ford and Reagan people were at each other's throats. They went through a horrible Republican convention. And many of the Reagan people swore before God they would never support Gerald Ford.

    And they didn't for a number of weeks. In fact, right after the conventions, I was about 15 points ahead. But as the time went by, they slowly went from Reagan to Gerald Ford, and I just won by a narrow margin. I got a majority, by the way.

    But I predicted this time we'll see this convention make the difference. They won't wait weeks after the convention. They'll do it almost immediately.