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Live at the convention: Gov. Pawlenty

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty sat down this afternoon with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in St. Paul for the last in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here and now have archived video below. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We also live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We did newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 1:38 p.m. ET. At the end, "Country First:"

The last question to Pawlenty is about what the GOP slogan "Country First" means to him.

"It means that you believe there are certain values and interests" that are so important to the country that you should put them ahead of personal interests, he says.

And he uses Republican presidential nominee John McCain's life as an example -- particularly the moment when McCain turned down an offer of release from his Vietnamese captors because other Americans had been held as prisoners of war longer and deserved to go home ahead of him.

In later years, Pawlenty says, McCain put the "country first" when he went against his party to call for a "troop surge" in Iraq.

The governor says "country first" does not "ring true for Barack Obama. ... He is one of the most partisan members of Congress."

Update at 1:31 p.m. ET. "I'm slow, but I'm not that slow:"

When Pawlenty realized that John McCain was going to announce his vice presidential selection last Friday in Ohio -- and that he, Pawlenty, had been asked by the Republican National Committee to be in Denver on Thursday -- he realized he wasn't going to be on the ticket.

"I'm slow, but I'm not that slow," he says with a laugh.

Update at 1:27 p.m. ET: Palin has the necessary experience:

The Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, "has executive experience." She has dealt with a legislature, Pawlenty says, dealt with the media and a National Guard. She has been in charge of a state budget and has built an administration.

"No one person at any one moment in time is going to know everything," he says. But he believes Palin "has the intelligence and experience ... to be an extremely effective vice president and (potentially) president."

Update at 1:22 p.m. ET:

Republican presidential nominee John McCain often refers to himself as the underdog in the race. Pawlenty says he believes McCain is still "facing a bit of an uphill climb, but he has made enormous progress ... and he may even be tied."

Update at 1:18 p.m. ET. Obama has "run nothing and accomplished not much:"

"He's been a law school professor and he's been a community organizer, a part-time state legislator with a highly partisan record and a U.S. senator for three years" -- who has spent most of that time running for president, Pawlenty says of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

"He's run nothing and accomplished not much," Pawlenty adds.

Update at 1:14 p.m. ET: Pawlenty begins by welcoming everyone to Minnesota. It is, he says "a state with a great political tradition, that unfortunately in my view leans pretty hard to the left."

"We're really delighted to host the convention," he adds.

As for the campaign, he says the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidate, is "terrific."

On what's next for him, Pawlenty says, "I did not get into this thinking or wanting to be vice president or anything else" in a potential McCain administration. "I don't know what my future holds. ... I'm happy to be the governor of the state of Minnesota."

Armey: 'Bubba' vote could sink Obama

There are voters in key states who will not cast their ballots for a black man and that could cost Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama the election, former House majority leader Dick Armey said this morning during a "newsmaker" discussion with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors.

Armey was the latest guest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

We hope to have archived video here later. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We plan to do newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 5:30 p.m. ET. Here is the complete session with Armey (scroll below to see a clip that zeroes in on the discussion of the "Bubba" vote if you wish to see just that). If you don't see the video player, refresh your page. Then click the "on" button. Don't be surprised if it's "in progress" when it starts playing. The feed is running on a continuous loop:

Update at 4:15 p.m. ET. Here is a segment of the Armey session in which he talks about the effect Obama's race might have on the election. We hope to have video of the rest of the session available later.

   

Update at 2:12 p.m. ET. A key exchange:

Question: "Apart from Barack Obama's qualifications, do you think his races makes it impossible to win this election?"

Armey: "No, it's not impossible. But elections, as we saw in the case of Gore vs. Bush, are won on a very narrow margin. Now there are key places. Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, are trepidatious (sic) election fields for Barack Obama for the matters I've discussed."

 

Update at 2:05 p.m. ET: There's now a story about Armey's remarks posted here.

Update at 12:55 p.m. ET. The session is over. During the "Bubba" discussion, Armey also said:

It's "sad, but it's real," that some people won't vote for a black candidate. And Republicans, he said, "would not encourage" such views. They are "deplorable."

Armey also said that what Obama often says is his "funny name" is another handicap for the Illinois senator because some voters mistakenly think Obama is Muslim.

"These are handicaps he has that translate into real-number outcomes," Armey said.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET: Congress needs a parent:

"Congress is not going to work it's way through major problems," Armey says, unless it has "a parent/president who is capable of serious, consistent discipline. ... I think McCain is capable of doing that."

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. Obama's race could sink his chances because many "Bubbas" won't vote for a black man:

"The 'Bubba vote' is there and it's real," Armey says. "Bubba is there in western Pennsylvania ... in Ohio ... Bubba is not just in Louisiana ... and he can't bring himself to vote for a black man."

In a close election, says Armey, the "Bubbas" who refuse to vote for Barack Obama and instead cast their ballots for Republican John McCain or someone else could tip a key state -- and its electoral votes -- away from the Democrat.

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. On Gov. Sarah Palin:

Is he at all concerned that Palin might not have enough experience to be vice president and be a "heartbeat away" from the presidency? Not at all, Armey says.

"If Barack Obama wants to make a comparison of preparedness, he needs to compare himself against John McCain. ... He can't even win the comparison" against Palin.

Update at 12:02 p.m. ET. A Bush "third term:"

Armey strongly rebuts the idea -- pushed hard by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama -- that Republican John McCain would continue the policies of President Bush.

"First of all, that's totally unrealistic in terms of appraising John McCain," he says. "He is who he is and he's had many disagreements with President Bush over the years."

Armey

(Photo by H. Darr Beiser of USA TODAY.)

Live at the convention: Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who made an unsuccessful bid for this year's GOP presidential nomination, sat down this afternoon with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in St. Paul for the latest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here and hope to have archived video here later. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We'll also live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We plan to do newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 3:23 p.m. ET. The session just ended.

Update at 3:17 p.m. ET. On Palin's choice.

Asked what he would have done if his five sons had been as young as some of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's children -- and if his family had faced some of the same challenges Palin's now does, with a baby that has Down Syndrome and a 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant -- and he had been asked to be a vice presidential candidate, Romney says:

"I think Sarah Palin did the patriotic and responsible thing. ... She said 'I'll stand up and serve ... I've got some challenges at home with my daughter right now,' and then she stood up and served."

The job of vice president, says Romney, is not something most people seek. But, he says, "anybody in this country would have a hard time saying no if asked by the nominee of their party."

That said, he jokes, "given the rambunctious shenanigans of my sons, I can't imagine putting them under the spotlight of a presidential campaign."

Update at 3:09 p.m. ET. Advice for going up against Biden?

Asked if he has any advice for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin before she goes up against Democrat Joe Biden in vice presidential debates, Romney says he doesn't -- but goes on to say he suspects Americans will like what they see, even if Biden wins "on points."

"The man could talk a dog off a meat wagon," he says of Biden. "Sarah Palin speaks from the heart."

Update at 3:02 p.m. ET. He's not running for anything:

"I have no interest in a cabinet position," Romney says. And, "I'm not running for office in any state."

As for whether he might run for the White House again, Romney says that "my expectation is John McCain wins, then he wins again and our vice president runs in eight years."

Update at 2:55 p.m. ET. "She's running for vice president:"

Romney starts by addressing a question about whether GOP vice presidential choice Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, is qualified.

"I thing Gov. Palin without question has more experience than Barack Obama," he says. "Barack Obama has no experience in leading and managing an enterprise and Gov. Palin does."

And besides, he says, she's running for vice president -- not on the top of the ticket as Obama is.

Romney

(Photo by Evan Eile of USA TODAY.)

Live at the convention: Rep. John Boehner

The top Republican in the House, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, sat down this morning with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in St. Paul for the latest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here and have most of the session archived here. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We'll also live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We plan to do newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET. The session just ended.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET. Palin is qualified:

Pressed on whether he believes GOP vice presidential choice Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska, is ready to step in as president if necessary, Boehner first talks about Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

"I don't think Barack Obama is qualified," he says. "She's the only one on a ticket who's actually had executive experience, administrative experience, at running a government."

But is she ready?

"She can do it. She can get the job done. I have no doubts about it."

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Boehner is confident in the "vetting" of Gov. Palin:

The congressman says he's sure the vetting that was done by presidential contender John McCain's campaign of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was "very thorough."

"There is risk in every choice," he adds. "It just is what it is. ... I don't think there's much concern to the American voters" about whether the McCain team thoroughly researched Palin's background and experience.

He goes on to point out that Democrats "didn't choose a woman. John McCain did."

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET: McCain is no Bush and Palin is no push-over: Boehner says of GOP presidential candidate John McCain that while Democrats are trying to portray him as a clone of President Bush, "most Americans aren't buying it and aren't going to buy it."

Of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, he says that "working, middle-class American voters will be able to identify with the lady next door." She will be, he says, "a great asset because she can communicate like the lady next door" but also is a tough executive. Democrats are going to find that out, he predicts.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET: Boehner begins by talking about what he believes the convention is about.

He says it is "telling the story of our ticket. It's the story of John McCain and his maverick role over the years. ... And it's about his running mate. It's never been about going after the other team" and attacking Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's presumptive vice presidential nominee, Boehner says he does not believe there is any more pressure on her because of reports concerning the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter or some policy differences she has with McCain. The nation is going to like her, he says. "She sounds like the woman next door," he adds, but also is a reformer who has battled the "old bulls" during her career.

Live: Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Steele

Former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele sat down with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in St. Paul today for the latest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here and hope to have archived video later. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We also live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We plan to do newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 2:02 p.m. ET: The session just ended.

Update at 1:57 p.m. ET. "Yes," Obama has been playing the race card:

Asked if Democratic presidential nominee has been playing the "race card," as Republican John McCain's campaign has suggested, Steele says he can answer that very simply -- "yes."

The McCain has said that when Obama tells voters Republians will try to scare them by saying he looks different, the Democrat is in fact playing that race card.

Steele says that's exactly what Obama is doing, but that he's told fellow Republicans they cannot be shy about being critical of Obama just because he might try to accuse them of racism. Steele says he tells them "don't be stupid," but that if they stick to "substance" they should be as tough as necessary on Obama.

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Obama has not been "tested" as he has:

Steele, who ran for the Senate in 2006 and lost, says the hasn't "heard anyone call Barack (Obama) an Uncle Tom ... a traitor ... lawn jockey for the Republican Party" as he was.

"When it comes to this question of race in politics, Barack has not been tested."

Update at 1:40 p.m. ET. Of the news that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, Steele says "it's an American family" and "kids do what kids do." He doesn't think it will affect the campaign. "We're all human and we all go through life's experiences," he says.

Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. On Palin and the experience issue: Democrats can't "negate the inexperience of their candidate" (Sen. Barack Obama) by arguing that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's two years in office and a decade of local experience before that don't qualify her to be vice president, Steele says. He also says "you don't ant to diminish what these small town mayors do." (Palin was a mayor before being governor.)

Live at the convention: Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sat down this morning with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in St. Paul for the first in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Republican National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here and hope to have archived video here later. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

We live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We plan to do newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, as we did at last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. Go here to see them all.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET: The session just ended. At the close, Gingrich said that if Gov. Sarah Palin's two years of experience as a governor and a decade of experience before that as a local politician are issues, "then Obama ought to resign from the (Democratic) ticket." The Democrat's experience, in his view, isn't as deep as Palin's because Obama has never been in an executive position.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Obama and Biden run the risk of being made fun of:

Gingrich says he believs "the greatest vulnerability of Obama and Biden is human -- they're more susceptible to being made fun of than to being angry about."

"Start with the rock show ending of the speech on Thursday. If you're complaining about a Paris Hilton/Britney Spears commercial and then you hire a Britney Spears producer to create a fireworks and Greek temple experience, you are just begging for somebody to make fun of you."

Update at 12:05 p.m. ET: Going after the blue collar vote.

Of  Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Gingrich says with her history as a hunter, local politician, basketball star and other attributes "if I had to drop her into a bar to talk to guys in Duluth or drop Joe Biden into a bar, give me a  break. ... He's been in the Senate since she was 9."

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET: "Contempt" for those who say Palin isn't experienced enough:

Gingrich begins with a strong defense of Republican presidential contender John McCain's decision to make Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin his running mate.

He has "close to contempt" for those who say "riding Amtrak for 35 years" (a reference to Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden) or "writing a book" (a reference to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama) is better experience than Palin's two years as a governor and more than a decade as a local elected official.

"Frankly, the problem with the other side, as Ronald Reagan used to say, is that they know the wrong things," Gingrich says.

"Obama is a pure politician." The argument that Palin has less experience, he says, "is totally phoney. ... She has more experience in the real world at running things than the Democratic ticket combined."

Live at the convention: Top Obama aides

David Plouffe and Dan Pfeiffer, two top aides to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, sat down this afternoon with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in Denver for the last in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Democratic National Convention.

Plouffe is Obama's campaign manager. Pfeiffer is one of the campaign's spokesmen.

We webcast the discussion here, and the archived video is below. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

Also down below, we live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We did newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, and will do them again next week at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Go here to see them all.

Update at 2:11 p.m. MT/4:11 p.m. ET: McCain has an "enthusiasm/intensity gap:" Plouffe contends that Republican John McCain "has an enthusiasm/intensity gap (among voters) that if not corrected is fatal. ... I don't think they thought they could correct that through a positive explanation of McCain's agenda."

That strategy, he says "has not increased the intensity independent voters, particularly women." In focus groups he says, many ask "what does he think we are, stupid?"

He also says the media are "being taken advantage of" by the McCain campaign because it is releasing TV as -- he says -- but isn't putting many of the controversial ones on the air.

Update at 1:56 p.m. MT/3:56 p.m. ET: Plouffe says that if Republican John McCain chooses former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to be his running mate, the GOP would be "doubling down on out of touch" when it comes to economic policy.

"No matter who he picks," Plouffe adds, "what's on the ballot" are McCain policies that would continue those of the Bush administration.

Update at 1:47 p.m. MT/3:47 p.m. ET: A little hoops action: Pfeiffer says Obama spent some time this morning playing basketball, and that "nervous" isn't the word to use to describe how Obama feels before giving his acceptance speech this evening. "Excited" is the better word, Pfeiffer says.

Update at 1:45 p.m. MT/3:45 p.m. ET: Plouffe begins by saying he believes the Obama campaign "met and exceeded expectations" so far this week at the convention. A major goal, he says, was to give voters a "greater understanding of Barack Obama's life and values."

Live at the convention: Former president Carter

Former president Jimmy Carter sat down this morning with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in Denver for the latest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Democratic National Convention.

We webcast the discussion here, and the archived video is now below. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

Also down below, we live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We've been doing newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, and will do them again next week at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Go here to see them all.

Update at 1:38 p.m. MT/3:38 p.m. ET: There's now a USA TODAY story about Carter's comments here.

Update at 11:32 a.m. MT/1:32 p.m. ET. If Obama loses in a close contest, race will have been a major reason: Carter is asked if he thinks Obama's race will be a factor in the election. "It depends on the closeness of the loss," he says. "If he loses by 2 or 3 percent, then I would certainlly say that the racial issue was a factor."

On the fact that an African-American is now, for the first time, the presidential nominee of a major party, Carter says that makes this "the most momentus election this country has seen in the last 100 years." There's already been history, he notes: It's almost a miracle ... that he has won the unanimous support of the convention."

Update at 11:25 a.m. MT/1:25 p.m. ET. On Sen. Lieberman: He hopes, Carter says, that enough new Democratic senators will be elected in November so that Democrats no longer need Sen. Joe Lieberman (their 2000 vice presidential nominee, now an independent and a supporter of Republican John McCain) in their caucus.

Carter says he saw a poll of delegates on whom they thought would be the most unwelcome guest at this week's convention. Some thought, he says, that the answer might be "the former senator from North Carolina" -- a reference to John Edwards, who recently admitted to having an extramarital affair. But, he says, "the overwhelming winner was Joe Lieberman."

Update at 11:23 a.m. MT/1:23 p.m. ET. Lift the embargo on Cuba: It was a "stupid mistake" to hit Cuba with tougher trade and travel restrictions in recent years, Carter says. "I think you ought to rech out to people. ... Let's lift the (travel and trade) embargo. ... That's the best way to bring democracy to Cuba."

Update at 11:16 a.m. MT/1:16 p.m. ET. Bush is capable of having a successful post-presidency: Asked what advice he might give President Bush on what to do after he leaves office, Carter (known as one of most successful "post-presidents" in recent history, but like Bush left office with his approval ratings very low), says that aides to Bush have come to his Carter Center to consult on that issue. "If the Bush administration has one noted achievement," he says, "it would be its benevolent contributions to Africa." Carter believes that Bush could play a great role in solving Africa's problems because of the president's "deep commitment" on those issues.

"He has great potential," Carter says. "I don't have any doubt he has the capability."

Update at 11:10 a.m. MT/1:10 p.m. ET. McCain is "milking" his POW experience: Republican presidential candidate John McCain is "milking every drop possible" out of his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for 5 1/2 years and his career as a Navy pilot, Carter says.

Update at 11:06 a.m. MT/1:06 p.m. ET. Bush administration has been an "international catastrophe:" Reminded that when he first ran for president he was said to lack international experience, a charge now being leveled at Barack Obama, Carter says he had more experience than the current President Bush and that Bush's international record has been a "catastrophe." Republicans can't make the case against Obama, he says.

Update at 11:03 a.m. MT/1:03 p.m. ET. Obama can win Georgia: The former president starts by saying that he thinks there's a "good chance" Barack Obama will win Georgia -- Carter's home state. A Democrat hasn't done that since Carter was in office. Race, he says, is still a "subterranean issue," but things are changing. The Illinois senator "carried Georgia very strongly" in the primaries, "against two very attractive white candidates (Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards).

Live at the convention: Rep. Rahm Emanuel

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., just sat down with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in Denver for the latest in our series of "newsmaker" discussions at the Democratic National Convention. Before getting elected to Congress, he was a top aide to President Clinton. In 2006, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel was instrumental in his party regaining control of the House. He is among his party's Congressional leaders.

We webcast the discussion here, and the archived video should play for you. Hit your refresh button if you don't see the player, and then click the "on" button.

And down below, we live-blogged as it happened. Scroll down if you want to read some of the highlights.

We've been doing newsmaker sit-downs each day of the convention, and will do them again next week at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Go here to see them all.

Update at 9:54 a.m. MT/11:54 a.m. Obama is tough enough: Asked whether Barack Obama is tough enough to be president, Emanuel says that "Barack Obama beat the Democratic establishment in the primary. Look at the history of upstarts in our primaries. Ask Bill Bradley. Ask Gary Hart. Ask Howard Dean. You get to win one primary and then the establishment comes in and 'whack.' "

"He's an incredibly competitive person. ... Anybody who says (Obama isn't tough) I don't think gets it. ... This is an incredibly disciplined, competitive person."

Update at 9:50a.m. MT/11:50 a.m. ET. McCain and Bush are "echoing" Obama: Emanuel runs through a series of national security issues -- notably the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the nuclear ambitions of Iran -- on which he says Barack Obama has taken positions in recent years that President Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain are now "echoing.

Obama, he says, "has shown himself to have the capacity of mind and judgment" to be president.

Update at 9:39 a.m. MT/11:39 a.m. ET. McCain will "say and do anything:" Asked about whom he would like Republican John McCain to choose as his running mate, Emanuel turns his answer into a critique of the GOP's presidential candidate. "None of them (the potential VP choices) are going to cover up the real argument -- John McCain has basically taken his beliefs, put them in a safe, and will say anything and do anything" to get elected, he says. Emanuel cites McCain's previous opposition, and now support for, the Bush tax cuts as one example.

"The voters are going to smell that he doesn't believe what he's saying," Emanuel predicts.

Update at 9:37 a.m. MT/11:37 a.m. ET. Clinton wrote that speech: Emanuel says the speech that former president Bill Clinton delivered last night at the convention was written by Clinton himself. "I thought it was a great speech," says the former Clinton aide.

Update at 9:32 a.m. MT/11:32 a.m. ET. Voters will wait to decide after debates: "I think this thing is going to be tight all the way through until the debates are over," Emanuel says of the presidential race. Many voters are going to wait until then, he says (the last debate is Oct. 15).

Update at 9:28 a.m. MT/11:28 a.m. ET. He says Democrats will gain seats: Emanuel begins by saying that historically, the party that makes gains in the House and Senate gives back some of those gains in the next election cycle. "You have to back ... to 1932 and 1934 ... for a period where the party who wins major gains follows up with other significant gains after that. ... I don't know what the exact numbers are going to be like ... (but) we will make gains this election cycle in both the House and Senate."

"Race by race, our candidates are better than their candidates."

Live at the convention: Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois just sat down with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors in Denver for the latest in our series of convention "newsmaker" interviews with key lawmakers and politicians.

Technical difficulties kept us from webcasting all of the dicussion, but we did have much of it. And you can watch it here. Hint: Refresh your page if you don't see the player, then click the "on" button to get it going.

We'll be doing newsmaker meetings during next week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul as well. If you want to see all of them, go here.

Update at 2:04 p.m. MT/4:04 p.m. ET. Too soft? Asked if the first night of the convention was "too soft," as pundit James Carville has said, Durbin objects.

"The first night of this convention, I think, was critical," he says. "The appearance of Ted Kennedy was an amazing moment." And Michelle Obama, he says, "was trying ... in a very positive way (to) make sure that those who don't know her understand her values."

Carville, he says, should "lighten up."

"We get it ... it's the economy, stupid."

Update at 2 p.m. MT/4 p.m. ET. Clinton could not have done any better:

"i could not have asked more of her last night," Durbin says of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the speech she gave to the convention. "I don't think there's another word she could have said" to indicate more strongly her support for Obama.

Update at 1:57 p.m. MT/3:57 p.m. ET. The roll call: Asked about how tonight's roll call will proceed at the convention, Durbin says he doesn't know the "final outcome" of negotiations between aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and aides to Sen. Barack Obama about how things will happen. But, says Durbin, "virtually all of (the scenarios) would result in Hillary Clinton making clear that her delegates are supporting Barack Obama."

Update at 1:54 p.m. MT/3:54 p.m. ET: Durbin says he has been urging the presidential campaign of his fellow Illinois senator, Barack Obama, "to bring Barack close to street level ... to voters and families. ... So that he can understand better what faces us."

Update at 1:50 p.m. MT/3:50 p.m. ET: Asked about Sen. Joe Biden, the Democrats' choice for vice president, Durbin says about the Delaware senator that "you don't have to send him to candidate boot camp."

Whomever Republican contender John McCain chooses "will have a formidable opponent in Joe Biden," Durbin says.