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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Florida Governor Rick Scott; Tropical Storm Isaac Targets Haiti; A New Bain Distraction for Romney?; Anarchists Threaten GOP Convention; Isaac Threatening Haiti; New GOP Divide Over Akin Controversy; Bill Clinton Stars In Obama Ad; Tight Race In Battleground States; Beer Enthusiasts Want Obama's Recipe
Aired August 23, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Tropical Storm Isaac on a potential collision course with the Republican National Convention. We're live in Tampa where Republican leaders are preparing for the worst.
Also, we're live in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where more than 400,000 people living in camps are bracing for a devastating hurricane to hit just 24 hours from now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up first, the wrath of Tropical Storm Isaac barreling through the Caribbean right now. We're watching what's going on as it picks up steam over the warm waters of the Caribbean, heading towards Florida potentially.
The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is joining us right now.
Governor, what's the latest information you're getting? How worried should Floridians be right now?
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know, we're used to hurricanes in Florida. We have a great emergency management team at the state level and at the local level.
And we work with FEMA well. We're doing updates. We will do our next update about 5:15. We will get some additional information from the National Hurricane Center at 5:00. It fortunately is going a little bit further west, but we will be prepared whatever happens. But hopefully it will dissipate and it will go away. But if something happens, we will be ready for it.
BLITZER: What parts of your state are you most worried about right now, Governor?
SCOTT: Well, right now it's clearly the Keys. You know, we will see what happens when it goes across Cuba, but the Keys are our biggest concern right now.
After that, it appears to be going further west away from Tampa. But right now it's the Keys and that would happen early -- it looks like early Monday morning. So that's what we're getting ready for first. But as we find out where it's going, we will get the rest of the state ready.
I want everybody in our state to get prepared. At the same time, we're a tourism state. You know, we're ready for hurricanes. I want everybody to feel comfortable that they should be coming to Tampa. We're going to have a great convention in Tampa. We will have 50,000 people there and it will be a great convention.
BLITZER: So you're not suggesting evacuations or anything along those lines, at least not yet, even in the Keys, is that right?
SCOTT: Oh, absolutely.
I mean, absolutely we're not. Right now as you know it's a tropical storm. We will see what happens as it goes through Hispaniola and goes through Cuba to see how much is left. It looks like we will clearly get some rain, but we will see how much wind we get.
BLITZER: I'm heading myself off to Tampa to cover the convention. I will be there over the weekend. Are you in touch with Republican National Committee leaders, the Republican Party leaders, giving them some potential worst-case contingency advice?
We have -- we're doing two calls a day, and with the Republican leaders, local officials, state officials, federal officials to keep everybody informed, get everybody with the same information so we can make a good, informed decision together.
But clearly we're going to have a great convention, but we're going to be ready for this. If something happens, we will be ready.
BLITZER: Are we convinced, based on all the information that you're getting right now, Governor, that this tropical storm by the time it reaches Florida, wherever it reaches, will in fact be a hurricane or will it still be a tropical storm?
SCOTT: Right now, we don't know.
The projections are that it will be -- it should be a hurricane, but, look, it's still going to go over a lot of land, so there's still a lot of issues to deal with. We don't know the intensity. We don't know how much rain there will be and we don't even know the path yet.
So it's still a few days out. Every time, every day we will get a little bit better information. That's why we're doing twice-a-day phone calls with everybody involved, federal, state and local, the RNC Committee. We're talking to them to keep everybody informed so we can make a good, valid decision.
But just remember, Florida is used to this. We have had hurricanes before. We have a great team here. So we're very comfortable we're going to have a great convention.
BLITZER: Here's what concerns me and I have covered hurricanes in Florida and I have got a lot of good family and friends who live down there.
The elderly. You have a lot of seniors that live down there right now. Is there any advice you think you need to give them even at this relatively early stage before we know for sure where it might make impact?
SCOTT: Absolutely, Wolf.
We want everybody to have a three-day supply of food and water. You should go on a Web site called FloridaDisaster.org. Have your checklist. Make sure you know who you want to contact if there's a problem. If we need them, we will have shelters all across the state. You will know -- follow the weather, follow any evacuation plans if we have any.
But we have a great plan for the elderly, for anybody with special needs. But the first thing you need to yourself get prepared.
BLITZER: And folks, about an extra 50,000 people or so will be coming to Tampa for this convention. At this point, you're telling everyone, correct me if I'm wrong -- you're still telling everyone don't cancel your flights, don't make any changes, come to Tampa for the convention.
SCOTT: No, Tampa is open for business. We're going to have the convention. We're going to do it. We're going to have a great convention.
Tampa is ready for this. The city looks beautiful. Remember, we're a hospitality state. We do this every day. We're prepared in case there is a hurricane, but in the meantime we're going to make sure we have a great convention.
BLITZER: When you picked -- and you're a Republican. When you picked Tampa to be the site of the Republican Convention, right in the middle of the hurricane season, was there a lot of discussion about potentially bad weather and Tampa being the site of the Republican Convention? Walk us backwards a few years, when they made that decision to select Tampa.
SCOTT: Well, everybody knows that we're a state that has had hurricanes, but we have the best emergency management team in the country.
We're ready for these things. So they knew we would be prepared at the state level and at the local level. And they knew Tampa was going to be and the state of Florida were going to be a great hospitality location because we do this. We have 87 million tourists a year come to our states. We're good at these conventions.
BLITZER: One final question, Governor, before I let you go. And I know you have a lot of work. What would it take to cancel that convention? How bad, in other words, would it have to be and who would make that call?
SCOTT: Well, the decision will be made by the convention, the host committee of the convention. The CEO is Bill Harris. His team will be the ones that will make the decision.
My job is to help keep them informed, make sure everybody, state, local and federal, have all the facts. So that's a hypothetical. But the most important thing is we will make sure everybody is safe. I'm responsible for this state. The local elected officials are responsible for their communities. And the convention will make a decision if they couldn't have a good convention. But I'm very comfortable. We have a great team in place, we have plans in place. We will implement those plans.
BLITZER: We will get the latest forecast about a little less than an hour or so from now. We're going to speak to the new director of the National Hurricane Center as well.
Governor, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Florida. We are going to be watching this obviously very, very closely. Thanks very much for joining us.
SCOTT: Sure. And I will see you next week.
BLITZER: I will see you maybe in Tampa, who knows. All right, appreciate it very much. Rick Scott is the governor of Florida.
SCOTT: All right.
BLITZER: Brian Todd is in Tampa right now. He's standing by with a closer look at just how high the water could surge if -- and it's obviously still a huge if -- if a hurricane or even bad tropical storm weather were to hit.
What are they saying over there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, experts are telling us that they could get a storm surge of maybe up to six feet if this hurricane hits full force and comes into the Tampa Bay area.
But that's if it hits full force. Right now the models don't have it hitting full force, the models have it projecting out to the west a little bit, but there's still going to be a lot of rain here probably in the next few days, when Debby -- either tropical storm strength or hurricane strength moves near this area.
And the problem is, as you can see behind me, this is a very low- lying area. Most of Tampa is either at sea level or just above sea level. Storm surge is the number one killer during these storms. When the surges come in, people tend to stay around these shorefront areas to watch the storm, to maybe walk around sometimes because maybe they're thinking it's not going to be as strong as it could be.
But that's a very deceiving thing. Officials are telling us and weather experts are telling us people have got to get away from the shoreline areas. Just eight weeks ago, Bay Shore Boulevard here in Tampa only a few blocks from where I'm standing was pretty much completely underwater during Tropical Storm Debby.
And that was again a tropical storm, not a hurricane as Isaac is projected to be by the time it hits here in a couple of days, Wolf. The mayor, Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa, has said they have contingency plan after contingency plan.
But what we do not have right now are specifics on exactly how they're going to evacuate the 50,000 or so added people who are going to be all around this area in the next few days. Those are the 50,000 people converging here for this convention, staying right where we are, at that hotel behind me, and all around this downtown Tampa area. They have to figure out what to do with them if and when the storm hits right here.
BLITZER: But they're making those kinds of contingency plans, I assume right now, Brian, even as we all hope they won't have to implement those contingency plans.
TODD: That's right.
Of course, you're hoping they won't have to. They, of course, have plans to carry on with this convention and nominate Mitt Romney no matter what happens by week's end next week, by a week from today, so that process will go through no matter what happens with the weather here.
One of the contingencies that they're planning for just the local people in and around the Tampa area and St. Pete, they're handing out sandbags. They were doing that today. I think that's still going on, at least probably for the next hour, so people are able to come and get sandbags, those who are kind of experienced in this area, live in this area and think that they need it for their immediate homes.
We just came in off the causeway also, Wolf. That's a big issue here because downtown Tampa probably doesn't have the hotel space for all the 50,000 people who are staying here so the causeways are a key artery for where a lot of people will be staying.
They're going to be staying at the beaches. They're going to be staying maybe in Clearwater, St. Pete. That's across Tampa Bay from here to the west. The best way to get there are the causeways, the bridges. Those are the first roads to be shut down during tropical storm or hurricane-force winds. So that's not going to be an option for people if that hits. You can get to the city by going north and around. It takes a lot longer. During a storm that's a lot more problematic as well.
BLITZER: Brian Todd is on the scene for us, as he always is. Brian, thanks very much.
I will get the forecast live at the top of the hour. The director of the National Hurricane Center, Richard Knabb, will be joining me live. There's a new forecast that is about to come in. We will update you on -- we're tracking Isaac all along the way. Also we will be speaking later here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the mayor of Tampa. He will be joining us live as well, a lot more coming up on this.
Floridians certainly aren't the only ones bracing for Isaac's wrath. So are more than 400,000 Haitians who are living in camps, many of them only in tents. Their country still hasn't recovered from a devastating earthquake almost three years ago. We will go there live.
And another potential Bain distraction for Mitt Romney. We have details of what they call a document dump that could cause potentially some new political headaches just before the convention. Our own Jim Acosta is reviewing all those documents.
And not all Republicans are happy about party calls for the embattled Congressman Todd Akin to get out of the key Senate race.
BLITZER: A new potential headache for Mitt Romney only a few days before the Republican Convention, this one involving his former private investment firm, Bain Capital.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You have been going through a lot of these documents. What are you finding out?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a headache that keeps coming back time and again for Mitt Romney. As soon as the story was up on the Gawker Web site, both campaigns started reviewing these newly released Bain documents. In the end they may only reinforce voters' opinions one way or the other about Romney's time at the firm.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Just days before the start of the GOP convention, the Web site "Gawker" unleashed hundreds of pages of internal documents from Mitt Romney's former primary investment firm, Bain Capital. The document dump includes financial statements that suggest some of the firm's offshore holdings are parked in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
This financial statement shows assets totaling $3.6 billion with investments in big-name companies, Burlington Coat Factory and Dunkin Brands. According to the statement, the partnership intends to conduct its operation so that it will not be engaged to the U.S. trade or business and therefore will not be subject to U.S. federal income or withholding tax on its win come from U.S. sources. Under the current laws of the Cayman Islands, there are no income, estate, transfer, sales or other Cayman Islands taxes.
In a response, the Romney released a statement saying, "Governor and Mrs. Romney's assets are managed on a blind basis. The investment decisions are made by a trustee. Furthermore, the trustee does not decide where funds he invests in are domiciled, the sponsors of the funds do."
Another Bain document seems to contradict Romney's attacks on the president's stimulus plan. This letter from the Bain holdings Sankaty Advisers to its investors in 2010 warns, "With an economy that is still highly dependent on fiscal support, the outcome of the midterm elections could lead to gridlock that would have major ramifications. An expiration of stimulus would be a significant fiscal drag."
Compare that to what Romney told a crowd in New Mexico.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president's policies have not worked. Almost everything he's done has made it harder for this economy to recover, and as a result of that, middle income families across America are having hard times.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up.
ACOSTA: To defend the president's handling of the economy, this new Obama campaign ad turns to Bill Clinton.
CLINTON: It only works if there is a strong middle class. That's what happened when I was president. We need to keep going with his plan.
ACOSTA: The Bain documents resurfaced as yet another distraction for Romney, who went to New Mexico to detail his new energy plan.
ROMNEY: I will set a national goal of America and North America, North American energy independence by 2020 -- North American energy independence by 2020. That means we produce all the energy we use in North America.
ACOSTA: And not everybody is impressed with the Gawker story. One writer from "Fortune" magazine dubbed the Web site's exclusive as tons of smoke without any fire.
BLITZER: The Bain capital talk about the stimulus in 2010, he was long gone.
ACOSTA: He was long gone.
BLITZER: Even by 2002, 2003 at the latest.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: Even though he left in 1999 to go work for the Olympics. So some of the current executives of Bain are Obama supporters, they are giving money to the Obama campaign. So we shouldn't necessarily be all that surprised that some of the comments from current Bain executives are complimentary to the Obama administration's positions.
ACOSTA: And lo and behold, Bain Capital being a private firm was trying to make money for its investors. Part of the way of doing that for a lot of these firms was to put money in the Cayman Islands. Mitt Romney was making money off of these investments, but as you heard from the campaign, they are saying and they have said this before, keep in mind those funds, those assets for Mr. and Mrs. Romney are managed by a blind trust and that trustee is controlling where those funds are going, not the Romneys themselves.
BLITZER: It's still interesting to review all those documents.
ACOSTA: It's what the public needs to do.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. He'll be heading down to Tampa as well.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: Isaac isn't the only threat authorities are watching in Tampa. The other serious concern: anarchists.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now with this part of the story.
What is the latest on the potential for anarchists to show up in Tampa?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the FBI and Homeland Security both say that when it comes to demonstrators, most of them tend to be peaceful at these conventions. But what they're saying, they're warning law enforcement to be on watch for extremists who might be, for example, trying to buy material that could be used for a bomb or who were undergoing firearms training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings world, we are anonymous. All of us have carefully prepared to face our authoritarian government at RNC for well over a year now.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Extremist groups already have posted videos on YouTube threatening to shut down the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican National Convention, August 27th, 2012, is the day we take our battle to the streets of Tampa.
DOUGHERTY: Authorities are taking the threat seriously. In an intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned state and local law enforcement that anarchists are targeting the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, too, and they could even try to use improvised explosive devices, IEDs, the type of homemade bomb insurgents use in Afghanistan.
The bulletin says since March the FBI has had intelligence indicating that individuals from New York plan to travel to Tampa and attempt to close all of the Tampa Bay area bridges during the convention next week. The groups are likely to focus on critical infrastructure outside of the security perimeter, the bulletin says, because they expect the main venue to be tightly controlled.
Extremist have a history of trying to disrupt major events, like the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in 2009, using tactics like blocking streets, intersections and bridges, and sparking violent confrontations with police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our mission is to ensure that everyone has a safe platform on which to express themselves.
DOUGHERTY: Thursday in an undisclosed location, the Secret Service showed reporters their multi-agency communication center where law enforcement officials will coordinate their operation to keep Tampa safe during the convention. Extremists claim they're ready too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have an opportunity to fight back at the Republican National Convention. How you might back is up to you.
DOUGHERTY: A law enforcement official tells CNN there is no specific threat to the conventions and they're not watching any specific anarchists who they think might be trying to mount an attack, but they do say they have to be prepared based on what they learned, the lessons they learned at the Republican Convention four years ago and also on an alleged anarchist plot this spring in which a bridge near Cleveland was supposed to be blown up and there were, by the way, Wolf, arrests in that case.
BLITZER: I remember that case.
Thanks very much, Jill Dougherty -- a sobering report indeed. We'll stay on top of that story.
We're also keeping an eye on tropical storm Isaac. We're standing by for an update from the national hurricane center. The director will be joining us live with the latest forecast.
And in its path, Haiti still rebuilding from a devastating earthquake with hundreds of thousands of people still in tent cities. Our own reporter on the ground, Gary Tuchman, makes a shocking discovery. Do a lot of these people even know what's heading in their direction?
BLITZER: Opposition forces say at least 155 people were killed across Syria today.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, violence is raging in Damascus. More than 60 of those killed were in and around the capital city. President Obama spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron last night and they both agreed that it would be completely unacceptable if the Syrian government began using chemical weapons. If that happened, the two countries say they would, quote, "revisit their approach".
In California, authorities say Rodney King died from an accidental drowning and drugs were involved. Alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and PCP were found in his system. The coroner's report says King was, quote, "in a state of drug and alcohol-induced delirium" when he either fell or jumped into a swimming pool in June. He's 47. No foul play is suspected.
King gained, of course, notoriety in 1991 when he was beaten by L.A. police. Video of that incident sparked widespread rioting.
And the Federal Reserve is through with AIG and has billions to show for it. The New York Fed announced today that it has sold the last of its securities related to the insurance giant's bailout. All told, the Fed turned taxpayers a profit of nearly $18 billion. The Treasury Department however still owns $29 billion in AIG stock but it too expects to turn a profit when it's all said and done, so that is not bad at all, $18 billion going to the taxpayers, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I just assumed all that money going to AIG would be lost to taxpayers. It's encouraging that they got it back, at least most of it right there.
SYLVESTER: Yes, I know a lot of people at the time were saying that money is going out the door, we're never going to see it again. But, you know, treasury, though, still does have that $29 billion to be sure.
SYLVESTER: So, just put in a little bit of context to this, Wolf.
BLITZER: But they are saying, once they get rid of that stock or whatever, they're going to make money as well. Let's hope they do. Taxpayers could really use it.
SYLVESTER: That's right.
BLITZER: Let's hope for the best. Thanks, Lisa.
Nearly half a million Haitians still live in tents after a massive earthquake. Now a tropical storm is bearing down on them bringing massive rain, flash floods and mud slides. We're going live to Haiti when we come back.
BLITZER: Tropical Storm Isaac is barrelling down on Haiti. It's forecast to be a hurricane -- at hurricane strength when it makes landfall, unleashing strong winds and as much as a foot of rain. CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Port-Au-Prince. He is joining us now. Gary, as all of our viewers know, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake two and a half years ago so many of the hundreds of thousands of people are still recovering in tent cities, if you will. How bad would this hit be?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation has been desperate, Wolf, for the last two and a half years, for the last 955 days since the earthquake and now it's increasingly dire because of this tropical storm or hurricane that's coming right towards Port-Au-Prince.
This is a community (inaudible). This is in Port-Au- Prince. You can see the people behind me. These are just five of the people. Hello. These people were just a few minutes ago pointing to their stomachs. They want some food, they're very hungry.
It makes you feel terrible as an outsider and a reporter because everybody in this community and there are hundreds of people live here, they're all hungry. They don't know where to go.
Here's another thing they don't know. They don't know a tropical storm or hurricane is on its way. We had a translator go into the community a short time ago. Every person we talk to is totally unaware of something called Isaac on the way.
When we tell them that a hurricane or a tropical storm is coming, they say what are we to do? We explain there are shelters in police station, in churches and they say we're not leaving these tents. We're not leaving these houses, this is all we have. We're staying.
It may rain, the mud may come down, but then it will get sunny and will be dry again. What they don't know that in 2008, 800 people were killed in storms and 2004, Hurricane Jean killed 3,000 people here.
There hasn't been a tropical storm or hurricane since the earthquake, which killed 300,000 people here in Haiti, which is 3 percent of the entire nation's population. Indeed, there are still 400,000 people, 4 percent of the population homeless, living in tent cities like this.
Most of these people are staying put inside their tents, inside their ramshackle homes, and they are going to ride out whatever Isaac is when it comes through tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Gary, what's being done as far as preparations on the island are concerned?
TUCHMAN: Wolf, this is the first time in any of the hurricanes or tropical storms I've covered where I haven't seen one business, one residence boarded up. I'm sure there is some boarding in some of the wealthier neighborhoods, but in the average neighborhood here in Port- Au-Prince, there is no sign whatsoever that a tropical storm or hurricane is on its way. BLITZER: What a sad, sad story. We're going to stay in constant touch with you, Gary. And you'll update us on what's going on. Our heart already is going out to all the folks who are going to suffer in Haiti to be sure. Gary Tuchman on the scene for us on that island.
The latest Isaac update, by the way, from the National Hurricane Center only minutes away. We're going to bring it to you as soon as it comes in.
We'll also speak live at the top of the hour with the national director of the National Hurricane Center. He'll be joining us live.
Plus, not everyone in the Republican Party is happy with the backlash against the embattled Congressman Todd Akin. We have details of that story. That's coming in as well.
And President Obama has been known to throw back a beer or two since taking office, but now aficionados are on a quest to find out what's in the special White House brew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of any plans at this time to divulge the secret recipe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The backlash against Republican Congressman Todd Akin and his so-called legitimate rape comment has created a new divide inside the GOP.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. We know almost every leader in the Republican Party wants him out of this race, but there seems to be a little bit of a backlash growing among Republicans.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There really does. You know, we've been hearing growing frustration in the last few days and in some case it's even outrage from a number of social conservative leaders and activists about the way Akin was treated.
To be sure pretty much across the board they say the term "legitimate rape," which Akin has apologize for is wrong, but the concern is that the stampede away from Akin was not just about him, but social issues in general in the Republican Party.
So I want you to take a look at this quote from an e-mail from an Evangelical activist. His name is David Lane and it was obtained by our Dan Gilgolf.
He said the swift knee-jerk reaction to throw Akin, a strong conservative pro-life, pro-family Born Again Christian under the bus by some in the Republican Party is shining the light on their actual agenda.
He went on to say, we haven't seen anything this vicious since some of the same operatives did this to Sarah Palin. Now, Wolf, ironically, Palin is one of those who says that Akin should go.
But what this is doing is exposing a split within the social conservative movement. I want you to listen to a couple of interviews that we got with two points of view on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he were to ask me, I would say, brother, it's unfair. It's sad. You won the nomination fair and square. But for the good of the cause, you need to step aside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes if it looks like a pylon, it can have the opposite of the intended effect. And, you know, Congressman Akin is a highly respected member of Congress. He's served for six terms. He's a serious legislator.
He's respected by his colleagues. He's won with a huge percentage of the vote in his district. He won a huge upset in this primary. He's a very serious figure in Missouri politics and in the House. So he made a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, one social conservative activist I talked to today said that he thinks that the Republican Party really applied a double standard here because Akin is socially conservative.
And in some cases in the past when more moderate Republicans have made gaffes or mistakes or done things that could hurt their chances, the party has stuck by them.
BLITZER: Ralph Reed, we just heard the sand bite from Ralph Reed, a Christian conservative leader, if you will, a political activist, does he want Akin out or is he telling Akin to stay in?
BASH: He won't say. He actually -- he made pretty clear to us that he -- and I talked to him for a while today. That he -- that the party is split, the social conservatives are split, but he personally only gives his advice privately.
He's being very careful there, but what is also interesting is that Akin is in Tampa. Akin is not going to the convention, but as we speak he is in Tampa. The reason he is there, Wolf, is that there have been quiet, almost secret meetings today with social conservatives.
They have actually been going on for the past 24 hours or so. They're holding a reception for him today. Now, part of this is to make sure that Akin can keep his campaign going when it comes to money.
Now, he announced today that he raised $100,000 in the last few days. Now, just to be clear, it's not bad, but it is nothing compared to what he needs, the millions that he needs to raise to effectively campaign against the Democrat, Claire McCaskill.
Now, we should also know that he has been underfunded and done pretty well in his past campaigns.
BLITZER: Because we know that the Republican establishment, the Republican Party, the Senatorial Campaign Committee, all the outside --
BASH: Super PACs.
BLITZER: The super PACs, they are going to give him zero.
BLITZER: So he's going to have to raise all that money himself if he stays in. He's got until the end of September, second deadline, a little bit more complicated than the first one to get out. We'll see what he does.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana.
So do you want to know what it's really like to experience the Republican National Convention from the inside? Listen to this. On Tuesday, you can join the CNN Election Round Table with me and CNN's political team.
Submit your questions and get answers in realtime in this live, virtual chat. Don't miss the CNN Election Round Table Tuesday, 12 noon Eastern, by logging on to cnn.com/roundtable. That's where you'll go and we'll talk. All of us will talk Tuesday at noon Eastern.
We're keeping a very close eye on the tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean right now. We'll get an updated forecast in the next few minutes and we'll go live to the National Hurricane Center. The director is standing by to join us.
And President Clinton stars in a new political ad, but is what he's not saying a bigger message than what he is saying in that script?
And later, the president has something thousands of people want, but guess what, the White House isn't sharing.
BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart. She is a former spokeswoman for both the Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann presidential campaigns.
Ladies, let's start off with this new Obama campaign ad featuring a star.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This election to me is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment. This is a clear choice. The Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper income people and go back to deregulation.
That's what got us in trouble in the first place. President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up, investing in innovation, education and job training. It only works if there is a strong middle class. That's what happened when I was president. We need to keep going with his plan.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Alice, what did you think of that ad?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's kind of hard to say who he's promoting there. He wants to talk about who is going to return us to jobs and who is going to help promote the middle class. That's Governor Romney. That's the Romney/Ryan ticket.
And of course, with all due respect to President Clinton, he's never let the truth get in the way of his message. When we're talking about the best person to create jobs and a stronger middle class, it's the Romney/Ryan ticket. That's their whole message.
BLITZER: Alice, you obviously weren't listening all that closely to the ad because he goes after the Republicans plan. He said the Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper income people and go back to deregulation. That's what got us in trouble in the first place so he is hammering away there.
STEWART: The Romney/Ryan plan is about cutting government spending. It is about promoting free market growth and that will help turn the economy around. And their free market principles include energy exploration. They include improving skills for workers.
They include doing away with burdensome regulations and it also includes promoting trade that's best for America. All these steps will go about turning the economy around and creating confidence in our current economic situation that will help those who create jobs create more jobs.
Unlike the current president, who happens to think the private sector is doing fine and thinks that those who actually start businesses don't build it themselves. That's insulting to the American people.
BLITZER: Well, Donna, I want you to react to that, but react in the context of this as well. He does criticize the Republican plan, but he doesn't mention Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan by name in that ad. What do you think about that? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think it's an effective ad for the simple fact that Bill Clinton understands how to create jobs, 22 million jobs. The clear message in that, Wolf, is that the country should not go back to the same failed economic policies that put us in this deep mess in the first place.
Under this president, the leadership of the Democrats, we have created more than four million jobs over the last three years. If the Republicans stop talking about their plans and start actually helping implement some of the plans that President Obama has put forward.
We will be further along, but one thing I have to say about Bill Clinton. He is the most popular politician, one of most popular politicians today with 65 percent approval rating, maybe 66 percent according to the latest Gallup poll.
The only other politician -- well, she's not really a politician in my sense, but our first lady, Michelle Obama, she's also popular. So to have Bill Clinton out there talking about the choice in this election, laying out the vision, it's a net plus for President Obama. It's a net plus for Democrats who hope to win back the House and Senate.
BLITZER: I want your quick reaction to these new polls that are just out on some of the key battleground states. I'll put them up beginning in Florida right now. It's very, very close within the margin of error, 49 Obama, 46 Romney, slightly closer than it was on August 1st.
Let's go to Ohio right now. Look at this, it's still Obama 50 to 44, ahead in Ohio, very much the same as it was on August 1st. Let's take a look at Wisconsin, a little bit of a bounce thanks to Paul Ryan. Right now, 49-47 for Obama in Wisconsin, it was 51-45 August 8th.
Donna, let me start with you. It looks like it's narrowing in those key battleground states. How worried should the Obama team be?
BRAZILE: Look, Wolf, we know that there's a lot of volatility in this electorate, which such a small percentage of independents who will ultimately decide this election.
I'm surprised the president is still so strong in these states given the financial advantage that the Republicans have had and also the press advantage they have had.
We've spent most of the year talking about their primary process. The good news is that I think the president will be able to continue to bring more independents as well as rally the base and reach out to the middle. But right now, I think we're in good position to win this election.
BLITZER: Alice, as you know, no Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio. The president still has a six-point advantage in Ohio. Is there a scenario that Romney can win without capturing Ohio?
STEWART: Well, there certainly is, and the path to victory is based on the current referendum on the president's policies and how he has failed to make things better for the American people.
As things get closer to November, we're going to see Governor Romney continue to overtake the president in these key battleground states. And the number to really watch, the important number these days, is the fact that the Romney campaign is outraising the Obama campaign tremendously.
And currently they're sitting at $60 million -- $60 million more cash on hand that will help them get through this convention and get closer to November. That's quite a bit of money to put ads on the air --
BRAZILE: They have deep pockets.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, Donna. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking right here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well, but money as we all know in politics certainly is an important factor. Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.
We're keeping a close eye on Isaac right now. Right at the top of the hour, we'll go to the National Hurricane Center. The director is standing by to release the latest forecast for us. Stand by.
And first, thousands are asking for the White House to release a specific recipe. You see the picture. You know what we're talking about.
BLITZER: There's a call for the president of the United States to release more information about his beer. But the press secretary over at the White House says there are no plans to give it up, at least not now.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM for us. This is quite a situation. I didn't even know there was a White House recipe for beer.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are three recipes actually. There are three different kinds of beer. As you know, it really doesn't hurt to drink beer if you're a candidate, right?
This gives a person the appeal of that every day guy or gal. And that's really a plus when you're trying to appeal to voters. But brewing beer is something different. The Obama White House is the first to make its own.
KEILAR (voice-over): During his time in the White House, President Obama has thrown back more than a few beers. There was the infamous White House beer summit, with a Harvard professor and the police officer who arrested him, a visit to a pub in Obama's ancestral hometown of Monigall, Ireland.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am very impressed. It is delicious.
KEILAR: This past St. Patrick's Day in Washington.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Cheers!
KEILAR: And most recently --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Bud lights all the way around.
KEILAR: -- At the Iowa State Fair. Prompting the crowd to alter the normal four more years chant to this --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Four more beers! It is ice cold and tasty.
KEILAR: On that trip to Iowa, the president told a voter his campaign bus is stocked with a special beer brewed at the White House. Now beer enthusiasts want the recipe.
They're urging its release on the White House website and one blog has even filed a freedom of information act request to get it. So what's the chance that will work? We asked CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: As a legal matter, I think there's a remote chance the White House would be forced to disclose the beer recipe. But as a political matter, why wouldn't they want the beer recipe out there? What would be better?
KEILAR (on camera): Do you think the White House should release its recipe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely.
KEILAR (voice-over): Jay Irizarry is co-founder of Chocolate City Beer Brewery, one of the few microbreweries in Washington, located just 3.5 miles from the White House.
(on camera): What does that mean if the recipe is released? What happens?
JAY IRAZARRY, CO-FOUNDER, CHOCOLATE CITY BEER: People will probably clone it, which will be fine. Everybody will be like, Mr. Obama, look what I'm drinking. Your honey ale or whatever he's drinking, I guess.
KEILAR (voice-over): There are three kinds of beer brewed at the White House. According to this blog, Obama foodorama, White House honey ale, White House honey blond, and White House honey porter, made with honey from the beehives on the south lawn. All this hoisting of suds is good politics too. It's supposed to make the president easier for voters to relate to.
IRIZARRY: It's good to see Obama drinking beer. You know like President Bush hunting, that relates to a lot of people this one's pretty much across the board. From Washington State to Florida, Maine to California, everyone's drinking beer.
KEILAR: But not everyone's drinking the White House beer. And as the effort to uncover the recipes heats up, even the White House press corps has weighed in.
(on camera): Our reporters said White Hops and then someone else said Beer-uacracy.
IRIZARRY: White Hops isn't bad, if it was a white beer. You know, maybe he should go looking into more of a wheat beer style, because then he'd be able to (INAUDIBLE) House or something like that. That would be cool.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KEILAR: Now, this is actually my personal favorite for a beer name, Baracktoberfest. But this name was taken by a St. Louis company, Schlafly, that made this beer back in 2008 while Obama was campaigning. And, you know, so far, we don't have the recipe for any of these beers, but people are -- are going to petitions.whitehouse.gov, petitions.whitehouse.gov, trying to get the White House to release it.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: But you want that recipe, don't you -- Brianna?
KEILAR: I'm just curious.
KEILAR: I want to know what's in it.
BLITZER: We'll find out. I'm sure we will.
KEILAR: Maybe do some home brewing here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Brianna, thank you.