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Shields, Brooks and Historians Examine McCain’s Message of ‘Change’

Buoyed by spirited speeches, the GOP convention came to a close Thursday night. Analysts Mark Shields, David Brooks and a panel of historians discuss the strengths and weaknesses of John McCain's acceptance speech and the GOP message of "change" in Washington.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now let's go to our analysis and closing thoughts from Mark Shields and David Brooks, as well as Michael Beschloss, Richard Norton Smith, and Peniel Joseph, and Andrew Kohut. Judy Woodruff is down on the floor.

    Judy, are you there? And can you hear us?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Yes, Jim, I can hear you. I don't know if you can see in the background — well, I guess you can — the balloons, the confetti, it's everywhere. The music is the Wild West. The Republicans know how to throw a big national convention. They've done it again.

    John McCain, not somebody one thinks of as being a particularly skilled orator, but he gave a great speech tonight. The crowd was on its feet time and again. He told his personal story, as you heard.

    He started out telling Barack Obama, "I respect you, I admire you," but then he went on to say, "I will not take backseat to anyone." He said, "I've fought the lobbyists." Time and again, he said, "I'm going to fight for you."

    And he wove all of this, his personal story in with what he will do for the domestic, for the economy, on the domestic front, and then he was tough when he talked about Russia.

    So time and again, he struck notes that resonated with this crowd, and probably nothing resonated more than when he mentioned the name early in his speech of his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. So firing on all cylinders tonight, Jim, I think you can say.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Richard — thank you, Judy — Richard, firing on all cylinders? Is that the words you would use to describe what happened tonight?

  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University:

    I think so. You know, it's interesting. Clearly, the Democrats have no monopoly on hope and change, because the biggest change that occurred this week is this party has hope.

    This is a party that came in to St. Paul, if not defeatist, then, quite frankly, highly skeptical of its own chances. This was a party that came here not terribly unified, not altogether thrilled about its nominee.

    All of that, I think, has been transformed in the course of the last three days. You could feel it last night during Governor Palin's speech. You can feel it tonight.

    It's interesting the pivot away from George Bush. Senator McCain spent more time tonight apologizing for the last eight years than he did boasting about the last eight years.

    And, finally, we've talked several times about whether this was too biographical, whether there was a lack of specifics, particularly on economic issues.

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