CNN's Jake Tapper: 'I have never seen' a convention like this

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Jake Tapper on the set of his show "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

CNN's Jake Tapper has an advantage over other reporters at the Democratic National Convention: He doesn't need directions when he's getting around.

"One thing that I know, if nothing else, is Philly and this state, and why it might be competitive in November," Tapper said. The host of CNN's The Lead grew up in Queen Village and Lower Merion and is excited to walk into the Wells Fargo Center every day. "It's wonderful walking into an arena with the Flyers and Sixers insigniasNormally, when I travel for these things, I don't buy a lot of stuff. I'm not going to wear a Cleveland Cavaliers shirt, but I can buy stuff here because I still identify with so much as a Philadelphian."

So you think Pennsylvania is in play in November? Ed Rendell thinks so.

It might. If the Trump theory holds, it could be. I know a lot of Democrats who are worried about it. We'll see what it looks like in October.

You were here for the 2000 RNC. As someone who knows the city, how do you think these conventions compare?

Post-Rendell, the city has improved a great deal. That's the biggest difference from when I grew up here. What was interesting about the Bush convention, even though it was a non-incumbent campaign and the Democrats had held the office for eight years, it was a much cheerier tone than the Cleveland convention we saw last week. In terms of George W. Bush's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns and conventions, they're actually more similar than Bush's and Trump's in terms of tone. 

This convention is odd for you in that you've become a part of the story. Your name was mentioned in the DNC e-mail leaks.

Anybody who covers politics would have been part of that conversation. I'm sure my name appears just as much in the RNC and Trump e-mails.

The media narrative of this campaign has been that news has focused more on entertainment than issues.

I see that sometimes, but I don't think that's the case with our coverage at CNN or my coverage. ... it's not entertainment. The stakes are too high.

You've been both criticized and praised at different points of the campaign for being too soft on candidates or hammering them hard. 

You want to be tough but fair. Whatever you do, you're going to be complimented and criticized. I've seen real tough pieces complimented and criticized and seen astoundingly unfair interviews that were complimented and criticized. You have to be tough but appropriate and hope the viewers respond.

These are unlike any recent conventions. How does that affect future campaigns?

Both of these conventions have been full of news, and neither has gone exactly according to the candidate's plan. And that's fascinating. Normally, these are boring: They're four-day infomercials where seldom is heard a disparaging word. But there have been distractions and mistakes on both sides.

This year is so unusual. The primaries were so divisive. This will be my fifth presidential campaign as a reporter. Primaries get contentious, but I have never seen one like this. I've never seen one where people didn't rally around the candidates the way they haven't with Trump. There's so many who haven't endorsed him  including Ted Cruz. It’s not the same [at the DNC], but you see contentiousness — and the refusal of some Sanders supporters to get on board.

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