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Romney Makes Birth Certificate Joke; New Presidential Poll Numbers; Thousands Converge on Tampa for Convention; Romney's "Birth Certificate" Remark; "What I Learned At Bain Capital"; "Romney Revealed"; New York Shooting: Gun Purchased Legally; Armstrong Drops Doping Battle, May Lose Titles; Jerry Nelson, Voice Of "The Count" Dies

Aired August 24, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now:


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.



BLITZER: A stunning campaign turn for Mitt Romney, reigniting the birther controversy with an apparent joke only days before taking the national stage in Tampa. The Obama campaign is not laughing.

Plus, Tropical Storm Isaac is barrelling straight for Haiti. Only hours from now, hundreds of thousands of people still living in tent cities could get a lashing they haven't seen since that devastating earthquake nearly three years ago. We will have the very latest forecast. That's coming up. We're also live from Tampa, where Republicans are closely monitoring this storm.

And our brand-new CNN/ORC poll is kicking off convention season with a surprising new look at the state of the presidential race. We're breaking down all the numbers for you.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, a surprising moment for Mitt Romney out there on the campaign trail. The Republican presidential candidate who is only days away from taking the national stage in Tampa made an unscripted apparent joke about his birth certificate and in a matter of seconds reignited the heated political controversy over where President Obama was born.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just as Mitt Romney was about to reintroduce himself to voters, he made a birth certificate joke and the Obama campaign is not laughing.

(voice-over): Mitt Romney was on a roll, riding into Michigan on his campaign bus with his wife and running mate at his side. But moments later, the GOP contender took what appeared to be a sharp turn into birtherism, cracking what sounded like a joke at the president's expense.

M. ROMNEY: Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital.

No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.

ACOSTA: The comment drew an instant rebuke from the Obama campaign. "Governor Romney's decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America."

M. ROMNEY: Thank you. Thank you.

ACOSTA: The Romney campaign told CNN the candidate wasn't using prepared remarks and that it was just a reference to the candidate's Michigan roots, saying in a statement "The governor has always said and has repeatedly said he believes the president was born here in the United States."

But the line was a hit with some in the audience, who say they still have doubts about the president.

JENNY SIMONI, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: I personally loved the joke. I am one of those people, so I really believe that holding out on giving that birth certificate out publicly was the wrong thing to do.

ACOSTA: President Obama has joked about the subject himself and his campaign has made light of the conspiracy theories by putting Mr. Obama's birth certificates on mugs.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Mitt and I grew up here. We fell in love here.

ACOSTA: But the comment quickly overshadowed the campaign's attempt to reintroduce Romney to voters just days before the convention. Ann Romney choked up as she talked about the couple's early days.

A. ROMNEY: It's amazing.

ACOSTA: And in a media blitz, they are getting personal. Romney admitted he needs to loosen up to "Parade" magazine, saying: "I'm an emotional person. There's a, I don't know, societal norm that if you're running for office, you can't be personal and perhaps I bow to that too much." Polls show Romney still trails the president in likability but leads on the economy. To work on Romney's personal appeal, Ann Romney is slated as the featured speaker on the opening night at the convention. Tuesday brings a tribute to Ron Paul. Then, on Thursday, the convention will dive deep into Romney's leadership in the Mormon Church, a reversal for a campaign that has largely avoided talk about the candidate's faith.

(on camera): Romney and Ryan will have one more joint appearance in Ohio before the GOP Convention, and then Ryan will get a send-off in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, on Monday -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta on the trail for us, thanks very much.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here.

I tweeted earlier when I heard that joke that this sounded to me like an unforced error on the part of Mitt Romney because you knew it was going to revive all the birther stuff out there.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a great way to put it, because as we will get to in just a minute, we have brand-new poll numbers out today that are encouraging for Governor Romney. This race is so close. Every moment is precious. He's going into the ramp-up to his convention, and he needs to change his image with the American people, come across as softer, more personable, more in touch with the middle class.

I reached out to an aide who is traveling with him with a convention-related question in the middle of all this. And the aide messaged back, "I'm too busy bailing out water," meaning they knew they had a problem. It's a wasted day and it takes you back into an issue that I think we both have used the word it's foolish. We could use other words. It's just a ridiculous conversation.

BLITZER: Yes. Any day they're not talking about the economy, it's a wasted day for the Romney campaign.

Let's take a look at our new CNN/ORC poll numbers because some interesting numbers you're about to release.

KING: Some fascinating numbers. This is first time we used likely voters. You look right there, there's the race for president. President Obama at 49, Governor Romney at 47 percent. That is a dead heat.

Going into the convention season you have a dead heat in the national horse race election. When you go a little bit deeper here, let's look. It's the dead heat. We talked about Governor Romney's image. What do people think of the candidates?

Well, 52 percent favorable rating for the president, 47 percent unfavorable. He's above water, as you say, above 50 percent. And look at for Governor Romney, and that is a dramatic improvement when you go to likely voters from registered voters. The likely voter sample tends to be a bit more Republican. Look at that, 50 percent approval rating there.

Then we want to look at what do independents think? We know Democrats are Republicans are pretty loyal. Look at this, how close this is -- 48 percent of those who describe themselves as independents say they plan to vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket and 45 percent, essentially a statistical tie, say they will vote for Obama/Biden.

One other thing we want to look at, close elections like this tend to be decided in the suburbs. What do suburban voters think? Here you go again, 48 percent Obama/Biden, 47 percent Romney/Ryan.

Romney has to do a little bit better if he is to win. Republicans need to win in the suburbs but again going into the dramatic back-to-back conventions, a dead heat in this race. There's no question you talk to anybody in the campaigns, they think both candidates have to be as good as can be at their conventions. Then they think the debates will settle the race.

BLITZER: We also got some new poll numbers on abortion rights for women in the aftermath of the comments of the Todd Akin uproar, the Missouri congressman who is running for the Senate in Missouri right now. Share with our viewers what we're learning in terms of shifts on abortion.

KING: It's fascinating. You have Akin and the rape controversy, the abortion controversy and then you have the Republican platform which says it calls for outlawing all abortions, even in the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.

It's clear the American people, even a lot of Republicans don't go that far. If you look at our polling numbers, abortion should be legal in -- 35 percent of our likely voters say it should all circumstances, 9 percent say most circumstances, 37 percent say a few circumstances. That's rape, incest, life of the mother. Only 15 percent say no circumstances.

The Republican platform is out of touch, out of step with the American people. But look at this. Do people think Governor Romney is going to come to Washington and be a culture warrior, an anti- abortion president? They don't and 66 percent say he would be a Republican when it comes to the economy, 60 percent say he would be an orthodox Republican when it comes to health care, and look how the numbers drops when it comes to abortion.

Most voters don't believe it will high on his priority list.

BLITZER: The Republican platform may not have spelled out any exception for abortion, but Romney at least recently has said he believes there should be exception for rape, incest and certainly the life of the mother.

KING: Right. He's hardly the first candidate in either party to have some distinctions with key items in the platform.

BLITZER: John, thanks very, very much, John King reporting for us.

Turning now to Tropical Storm Isaac, in a matter of hours, it could have a devastating effect on Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people still living in tent cities could be slammed by flash floods and landslides, not to mention the risk of disease that could come with it all.

Then there's the state of Florida also potentially in the storm's path, where thousands of people are beginning to gather for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.


BLITZER: Some 50,000 people are heading to the Republican Convention in Tampa, including me. So how do they get out if Isaac hits? Just ahead, we go there live.

Officials are working on potential evacuation plans.

Also, Mitt Romney tries to play up his years at Bain Capital in a brand-new op-ed article. Can he turn around what some consider to be a negative storyline?

And a gunman opens fire in front of the Empire State Building.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, there's just cops running down and people are taping off scenes. It was just kind of like a scene out of "CSI," honestly, but it was real. And it wasn't that long ago that 9/11 happened. So I was just kind of like, is this really happening?



BLITZER: Thousands of people are already converging on Tampa with the Republicans presidential convention set to get under way on Monday. Tropical storm Isaac isn't far from anyone's mind.

Right now our own Brian Todd is in Tampa.

Official there is, Brian, are working on contingency plans when and if the storm were to hit. What's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're working on those 24/7, Wolf. You know, the models that us just talked to Chad about, the models say this could very well track to the west. But officials here know, as you and Chad know now, that this could also turn suddenly to the east and hit this area. They also know any residual effects from this storm could make things very dicey for the people here about to converge.


TODD (voice-over): Rush hour buildup on I-275 outside of Tampa, plenty of volume. And this is a normal day. This city is about to take on 50,000 more people downtown, delegates to the Republican National Convention and others. If Isaac comes near Tampa, officials face a logistical migraine.

(on camera): How are you going to get the 50,000 out-of-towners out of here or to safety?

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA, FLORIDA: Obviously the buses would be available to move folks. The key is to get folks from the low lying areas to higher ground where it's safe. Part of that will depend on the track of the storm, which will dictate which bridges are used and people are moved out to the middle of the state.

TODD: Mayor Bob Buckhorn says sheltering in place could be an option but it depends where people are when the storm hits. Neither the mayor nor other local officials would give specifics of evacuation plans. One official said that's due to security concerns but they said they've gamed it all out inside two command centers to, which we got access to.

HOLLEY WADE, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CTR.: It helps keep track of where the system started, how the system is moving.

TODD: Even remnants of the storm could cause big problems in the convention zone.

(on camera): This is Bay Shore Boulevard, the main drag here in Tampa. Just a few weeks ago parts of this road were underwater, flooded by tropical storm Debby. You could see how close it is to the water. Tampa Bay just comes up as kind of a funnel, ends in this corner right here.

You can you see how close all of it is to the Tampa Convention Center and the forum where the convention is going to be held. Officials are worried that not only will they have a headache of trying to evacuate tens of thousands of people from this area during a storm, but that out-of-towners may venture down here during the storm out of curiosity, not knowing the risks.

(voice-over): Another major concern: a possible shortage of police.

Many law enforcement officers slated to patrol at the convention are coming from other Florida counties. If their jurisdictions get hit by the storm, Mayor Buckhorn says if that happens, they've got more than a thousand of National Guardsmen ready to make up the shortfall.

BUCKHORN: I would expect their law enforcement personnel would stay, as supposed to coming here to help out.


TODD: He's talking about police in other jurisdictions who may come from other jurisdictions to help out. They're slated to do that, but they may not be able to do that, because of the storm, they may have to stay in place, maybe deployed to their jurisdictions. As you heard him, he's got the National Guardsmen ready to help out, about 1,400 or so, to make up for that potential shortfall in police, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are officials, Brian, doing to warn out-of- towners, delegates, journalists, others about the risk of this possible storm?

TODD: Well, they're doing things like putting up pamphlets and brochures in their hotel rooms, to talk about, pamphlets that talk about rip tides and currents, and storm surge, what to watch out for if it comes near, you know, the shore line and you're walking along an area like this. But they're also telling them about evacuation routes, they're putting the word out in the hotels, far and wide, this is where you go if you have to evacuate, if you're downtown, this is what you should do. They're trying to get the word out to as many delegates as possible because they're going to be staying from areas that's stretch from here and Tampa, way out to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, which is pretty far west of here.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in Tampa, we'll check back with you, thank you.

So, here's a question: Who is the Republican who would be president? Strategists say he began laying groundwork long ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to run for president of the United States and he understood that within the Republican nominating process, somebody who was pro-choice or pro gay rights or anything toward a progressive stance would lose.


BLITZER: Still to come right here on THE SITUATION ROOM: Mitt Romney's days as governor of Massachusetts. Our own Gloria Borger and her powerful new documentary gives us an intimate look at Romney's path to power.


BLITZER: The killing escalates in Syria as concerns mount for a missing journalist as well.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, across Syria fighting is fierce, many are dead and the living are fleeing by the thousands. Opposition activist says almost 150 people have been killed in violence just today. CNN is unable to independently confirm the information but heavy fighting was reported in and around Damascus, as well as other cities and towns.

And the United Nations say the number of Syrian refugees has now risen to more than 200,000. Turkey says 3,500 refugees flooded over the border in just one day.

And the McClatchy News Agency says American freelance journalist Austin Tice has gone missing. Tice has been reporting from Syria since May. His last public post appeared on Twitter August 11th.

And Eastman Kodak wants to get out of the film business. The iconic but bankrupt company announced yesterday its unit which sells traditional film and photographic paper is itself up for sale. Film has been essentially been overtaken by digital photography in recent years. Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez says sale of the division would be a major step towards reorganization. Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in January.

And this next surveillance video is likely to make you cringe. Tack a look here. A distracted mom carrying her 4-year-old son at a Boston subway station yesterday, see there she walked right off of the platform. She fell face down, perilously close to the high voltage rail. Fortunately, though, the next train had not arrived and a man and a woman helped them back on the platform. These two people -- they helped out but then vanished without identifying themselves and mother and child were not seriously injured.

Just unbelievable pictures when you take a look at that and so fortunate that that did not turn out to be a true disaster, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank God for that and thank God for those people who were willing to jump in there and save that mother and child.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. What a story.

All right. Here's a question -- do you want to know what it's really like to experience the Republican National Convention from the inside?

This Tuesday, you can join the CNN election roundtable with me and CNN's political team. Submit your questions, get answers in real time in this live, virtual chat. Don't miss the CNN election roundtable, Tuesday noon eastern by logging in to Post why your questions and we'll talk live Tuesday, noon Eastern.

It's certainly been a thorn in President Obama's side since he came to office. Now, his opponent putting his own spin on what's going on. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is the place that we were born and raised.


BLITZER: What was he thinking? Mitt Romney we're talking about. Our strategy session is coming up next.


BLITZER: A seemingly off-the-cuff remark today from the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney raising a thorny issue that simply won't go away for President Obama.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.


BLITZER: Big round of applause for that line. Let's talk about what's going on in our "Strategy Session" with two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala and contributor, the former Bush White House speech writer, David Frum.

Let me start with you, David. I said it was an unforced air. Why is he talking about birth certificates knowing how sensitive this whole subject is out there?

DAVID FRUM, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think the Obama campaign has a staff meeting every morning where they say how do we get the Republicans in the media to talk about something other than jobs and gas prices?

And can we get them to buy at the apple? And it seems like every day they do. Jobs, gas prices, gas prices, jobs, dare to be boring. Stick to those two things, that's where you live and Romney will be president.

BLITZER: Why does he do this? I mean, it wasn't in his prepared statement, his prepared script or anything like that. Maybe he thought he was just being funny. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He ought to listen to David Frum. Thank God he's working for CNN and not Mitt Romney. And Romney doesn't watch this network because we're about ideas and fact so we're safe from his actually hearing David's strategy.

But I think the most likely thing is it was a gaffe. There is, however, a strategic benefit. Yes, it distracts from the economy. David is right. It also distracts from Todd Akin, the congressman who has dominated the news this week with his talk about forcible rape or legitimate rape.

It distracts from Paul Ryan who wrote the first bill trying to restrict women's right to access abortion if they are a victim of rape down to this hideous race forcible rape --

BLITZER: It's off the subject of abortion and on to the subject of birthers?

BEGALA: I think it was more likely that it was a gaffe, but you can't deny that it served tactical purposes today to get us off this horrible, ridiculous rape language that his running mate has been using in legislation.

FRUM: Nothing like a gaffe to distract from another gaffe. These guys are on stage for hours and hours and hours. And the smarter they are and Romney is one of the smartest men ever to run for president, the harder it is to keep saying the same thing over and over again. It gets boring.

One of the challenges of campaigning is the willingness to just be boring, to say the same thing all over and over again. It's new to each audience, because you have to keep the country, it's a vast country. Communication is slow.

Mitt Romney doesn't need to go negative on Barack Obama. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does that every single month.

BLITZER: I'm convinced he was -- do over on that one.

BEGALA: But he hasn't apologized. Why not say it was a goof, it was a gaffe, sorry, Mr. President, move on. I advise the pro-Obama "Super PACs." I'm being paid to --

BLITZER: The "Priorities USA."

BEGALA: Right, but if I can give him a free advice. You are a brilliant guy who said a stupid thing. Why don't you just come forward to say that?

BLITZER: Here's the tweet that official Barack Obama Twitter handle put out today. Let's put it up on the screen. "Song of the day "Born in the USA" is Mitt Romney falling into the Obama campaign strategy to tie him closer to Donald Trump," who obviously has supported the birther claims.

Donald trump is going to be at the convention. We don't know exactly what he's going to be doing. But Sheriff Joe Arpaio who's also one of the big birther activists out there from Arizona, he is going to be at the convention as well.

FRUM: Well, look, a lot of things you do at the conventions, you send out the cowboys and you round up the stray cows and bring them home and there you put a big barrel over them and keep them invisible and away from the cameras and there's this contest between the media trying to find the wackiest members of the party at the convention.

And the party trying to put them on a boat and send them out on booze cruise into the middle of the water and that happens in the Democratic convention too because they have their wing nuts (inaudible).

So Romney is trying to hold together a coalition, but he also -- they know this, they're skilled professionals. But this election will be decided as most elections are by economically anxious middle- aged women. Those are the people the campaign needs to talk to every single day.

BEGALA: But he needs to shut down this dog whistle --

BLITZER: Donald Trump, he has always said he believes that the president of the United States was in fact born in the United States. He has always been consistent on that. He doesn't deviate from that line.

BEGALA: And yet, he subset the table of Mr. Trump and the other dog whistle kooks who are sending out really dishonest, I know, and pretty disgraceful messaging about our president.

You can fight about economic issues. You fight about foreign policy issues, but the notion of his very legitimacy being undermined by Romney's allies and today, I think accidentally by Mr. Romney, it does not help Mitt Romney at all.

BLITZER: I think you'll agree on that part.

FRUM: It's not helpful. Talk about jobs and gas prices.

BLITZER: Here's something that is helpful. I thought this article, this op-ed article that he wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" today defending his years at Bain Capital was constructive, important, he put his position out there among other things.

He wrote this. He said "I know what it takes to turn around difficult situations, and I will put that experience to work to get our economy back on track, create jobs, strengthen the middle class and lay the groundwork for America's increased competitiveness in the world." That was a pretty strong article.

FRUM: And convincing. There is a lot of artificiality in the Obama administration's critique. The Obama administration has no problem with private equity, has no problem taking money from private equity.

It doesn't want to change the rules governing how private equity does business. It just thinks this one particular private equity guy should be made as exorable as possible to keep him away from the job the president has now got. If the Obama campaign wants to argue there should be restrictions of buying and selling of companies.

There should be government supervision of layoffs. They want to make those case that would be an interesting debate as it is --

BLITZER: There have been a lot of successes at Bain Capital, if you list some of those companies, Sports Authority and others that have done really, really well in creating a lot of jobs. BEGALA: Certainly, Mr. Romney has a right to claim to credit for that, but for him to write an op-ed titled "what I learned at Bain Capital," it would be like Prince Harry saying what I wore in Las Vegas.

We know. What he learned at Bain Capital is how to hammer the middle class to enrich himself and his wealthy investors. How to lay people off, cancel their health benefits, load their firms up with debt so they can't compete anymore.

BLITZER: What about those thousands of people who were competing? They are working hard at Sports Authorities and others who have jobs?

BEGALA: He rigged the game. If the company did well, he made money. That's good. We salute that. I applaud. Sports Authority is a great company. Staple is a great company. Good for Mitt Romney.

He should pay his fair share of taxes, which he doesn't. But when the company goes under and he makes that management decision loading them up with debt, he should -- made himself millions carrying the health benefits of guys like Joe Soptic.

BLITZER: "Priorities USA", and you're part of that. Are you running the controversial ad, which seems to suggest he was responsible for the death of that woman?

BEGALA: It does not say that at all.

BLITZER: Are you running the ad?

BEGALA: Now it's not on the air, but if people will give us more money, --

BLITZER: Why aren't you running the ad?

BEGALA: Because you guys have done our job for us. We've got a million hits on YouTube for free.

BLITZER: So that's why you're not going to run it --

BEGALA: I'm not going to discuss our purchasing strategy. I will thank Mr. Romney for highlighting our ad. It's a very effective ad and I'm proud of that ad.

FRUM: Was there one substantive policy change that any major Democrat is advocating that would any way prevent Mitt Romney from doing all of those things again if he returns to the private sector?

BEGALA: I would restrict or outlaw debt financed dividend payments. What Romney did with Mr. Soptic's company, he loaded the company up with debt, used that to pay himself millions and then the company went under.

FRUM: So you're suggesting is you would like to see an end to the tax deductibility of dividends -- BEGALA: No, dividends ought to be paid out of profit -- but that's me as a policy wonk, which I'm really not.

FRUM: Interest payments are tax deductible so you're saying that should not happen.

BEGALA: I don't want to rewrite the tax code now.

FRUM: That's just to kick at somebody.

BEGALA: Mr. Romney's record -- his sole calling card for the presidency is I did a great job at Bain Capital. He caused an enormous pain that he did not need to cause to perfectly innocent people and he's accountable for that. That's how he enriched himself.

FRUM: It is 100 percent policy free personal attack.

BEGALA: No, it's not. It's his record as government. He's running on this record. Just as we examine his record in government at Massachusetts. This is not personal. This is business.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it there, but to be continued I'm sure down the road. Paul, David, thanks very much.

So what about Romney's years as a Massachusetts governor? What do they reveal about him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the politics of it have been so complicated that it's ironic that the biggest thing he achieved as governor is something that he almost never talks about.


BLITZER: Gloria Borger is here with a peek at her powerful new documentary "Romney Revealed: Family, Faith and The Road To Power." That's coming up.


BLITZER: Days before Mitt Romney reintroduces himself to America as the Republican presidential nominee, we're learning more about the years leading up to this very dramatic moment.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger has a special documentary on Mitt Romney.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Two years into Romney's term as governor of Massachusetts he sets his sights on something bigger, something that would mean a legacy -- health care.

SCOTT HELMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE REAL ROMNEY": He had not had a major achievement that he could point to as some big political success in a future campaign. He needed something to say I had done this and it was a big deal.

BORGER: Romney decided to push for health care to cover everyone in the state, but that meant mandating most residents to buy health insurance.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The governor felt that it would be wrong for the economy and wrong for our business sector to impose a mandate on employers, to require them to provide insurance to their employees. But he felt it very important that people take responsibility for their own health care.

BORGER: It was Romney's big moment, but now a liability. Republicans bitterly oppose any kind of mandate.

HELMAN: I think the politics of it have been so complicated that it's ironic that the biggest thing he achieved as governor is something he almost never talks about.

BORGER: No less complicated, the politics of abortion. While Romney was personally opposed to abortion, he ran for governor supporting abortion rights.

But once in office and presented with stem cell legislation that would, in Romney's view, have the potential of destroying embryos, he changed his mind.

ROMNEY: And I realized that what sounded good in a campaign, when I actually became the governor and was going to be the person who would sign a piece of legislation which could take human life, I simply couldn't do that.

BORGER: Democrats say it was about ambition.

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC MEDIA CONSULTANT: He wanted to run for president of the United States and he understood that within the Republican nominating process, someone who was pro-choice or pro gay rights or a progressive stance would lose.

BETH MYERS, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I didn't see it as a flip flop. I think you saw the tensions between personal beliefs and a public persona.


BLITZER: And Gloria is joining us now. Gloria, how much of this haunted Mitt Romney in this presidential campaign?

BORGER: I think it's haunted him quite a deal, Wolf and from both sides not only you saw Tad Devine there from the left, the Democrats, but also on the right, Wolf. That's what haunted him during the primaries.

The conservatives are very skeptical about him on the issue of abortion, on health care reform. These are two things that have stayed with him, and that's why he's had such a problem rallying his conservative base. Maybe Paul Ryan can help him with that.

BLITZER: We're going to have another sneak peek of Gloria's excellent new documentary in our next hour so standby.

This important programming note for all of our viewers, you can see Gloria's special this Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, "Romney Revealed: Family, Faith And The Road To Power."

It followed at 9:30 p.m. Eastern with a special Republican National Convention preview. Monday night, I'll lead our live coverage of the convention starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Lots of news coming up around the convention.

Meanwhile, a deadly shooting in front of the Empire State Building. Just ahead, we have new information about the gunman and the target.


BLITZER: We're getting new information that's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM on that shooting outside the Empire State Building in New York earlier this morning.

A gunman and his intended victim are dead. Eight more people wounded. Poppy Harlow is in New York for us. Poppy, what are you learning?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you, Wolf, is this happened during rush hour at one of the busiest intersections in all of New York City.

Shock, terror frankly among all the people trying to go to work here and what we can tell you about, the gun that was used in had shooting, a .45-caliber pistol.

We now know that it was purchased in 1991 in Florida, but the suspected gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, did not have a permit to carry it. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden there's cops running down and people are taping off scenes. It was like a scene out of "CSI," you know, honestly, but it was real. And it wasn't that long ago that 9/11 happened so I was just kind of like is this really happening?

HARLOW (voice-over): Shaken and terrified as she was heading to work, 27-year-old Rebecca Fox watched a deadly shooting unfold in front of the Empire State Building.

REBECCA FOX, SHOOTING WITNESS: When I walked across the street, I saw a woman had been shot in the foot and she was just in shock sitting there. And I looked down and saw another man had been laying on the ground and he wasn't moving.

HARLOW: CNNhas obtained amateur video from the scene. Anika Basu watched the scene from a city bus as she was on her way to work.

ANIKA BASU, SHOOTING WITNESS: I heard the gunshot and looked toward the left and saw three or four people fall. Like I said, the whole entire crosswalk emptied and people were running and we didn't realize that people -- if it was an actual gunshot or what.

HARLOW: Witnesses say they saw blood on the sidewalk, coffee cups strewn about and people running frantically. Police describe the suspected shooter, Jeffrey Johnson of Manhattan, as a disgruntled employee laid off from Hazan Imports here in New York garment district about a year ago.

They say the man he shot and killed was a former co- worker, who he was feuding with over alleged workplace harassment.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: In a dispute with a former worker, he produced the pistol and fired at close range, striking his 41-year-old victim in the head.

HARLOW: Eight others were also shot. A nearby construction worker notified two nearby on-duty police officers who then fired 14 rounds, killing Johnson in the process.

MAYOR MICHEAL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: The tape clearly shows the guy has the gun out and trying to kill the police officers. He is dead. The perpetrator is dead.

HARLOW: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said some of the wounded may have been inadvertently shot by police.

(on camera): Police say the 58-year-old suspected shooter was wearing a suit and tie. At 9:00 a.m. rush hour, he would have blended in with a lot of folks going to work here. But in one hand he had a .45-caliber pistol. In the other, a bag with an additional magazine in it.

(voice-over): Johnson's superintendent says he lived alone on the second floor of this building. He saw him leave just after 8:00 a.m. wearing the same suit he usually did. His neighbor, stunned.

GISELA CASELLA, JOHNSON'S NEIGHBOR: I'm in shock. I can't believe it. He was the nicest guy. I think he snapped or something. I don't know.

HARLOW: Law enforcement tells CNN there is no indication of any terrorism connection. Mayor Bloomberg, though, has long called to stricter gun legislation.

BLOOMBERG: We are not immune to the national problem of gun violence.

BASU: You know, a couple of things can change in your day and some days I walk to work and that could have been me easily.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARLOW: I can tell you, Wolf, we know at this hour that all of the eight other shooting victims have been treated or are being treated at area hospitals. They are all expected to make a full recovery.

Police interestingly -- Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told us that they were able to see the whole shooting play out from video taken from surveillance cameras at the Empire State Building. I asked the commissioner if that video will be released.

He said we don't know, possibly after the investigation. No connection in this shooting at this point, though, at all to the Empire State Building. It just happened in front of the iconic building -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Poppy Harlow on the streets of New York. Thanks very much.

At the top of the hour, we're getting a new forecast from the National Hurricane Center. The director will join us with an update on Isaac.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, cyclist, Lance Armstrong is facing the loss of seven Tour De France titles now that he's ended his fight against doping charges.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency slapped a lifetime ban on Armstrong and stripped of his win since 1988. But the U.S. agency's authority to strip him of title is that is in question. International agencies will now review that decision.

And sad news today for "Sesame Street" lovers, Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer who for decades gave voice to the long-time character "The Count" he has died. Here's a classic clip.


KERMIT THE FROG: Can you take me up to the seventh floor?

THE COUNT: At last, sixth floor, seventh floor, eighth floor --

KERMIT THE FROG: Wait a minute, I wanted to get off on the seventh floor!


SYLVESTER: A lot of children learned to count along with "The Count." Jerry Nelson, he was 78 years old -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good man, indeed. Sorry to hear that.