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82-year-old Neil Armstrong has Passed Away; Tropical Storm Isaac Heads Toward Florida and the Gulf Coast; The Republican National Convention will Start on Monday in Tampa

Aired August 25, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM where we're watching three big stories unfolding right now.

He called it one giant leap for mankind when he set foot on the moon. Now mankind is mourning the death of the legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Also, Isaac hammers Haiti and is now eyeing the United States. Tampa could be a target forcing some Republican delegates to already change their plans.

And the Republican ticket. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now on the campaign trail together before a final push to Florida and the nomination.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'm reporting from Tampa today. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

We'll get to the death of astronaut Neil Armstrong in a few minutes.

But first, the latest forecast for tropical storm Isaac which has now pounded Haiti and may soon turn its fury on Florida. Hurricane warnings and watches are now up in the southern part of the state. And the storm could threaten the Republican convention here in Tampa.

Let's go straight to our meteorologist Rob Marciano. He is at the CNN weather center for the latest forecast.

Rob, what do we know right now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, it is just off the coastline of Cuba. And it really hasn't gone over a tremendous amount of landfall. Pounded Haiti with a lot of rain, moving through quickly on the western slopes and then the east side of Cuba, and here it is right now, there's the center. So, it's held its structure fairly well.

The deal with this thing, it's very large. So, forget about the path. I think everybody in Florida is going to feel some sort of impact of this regardless of where it goes at this point.

Northwest movement at 21 miles per hour, 60 miles an hour winds. It was almost hurricane when it hits Haiti. We do think, of course, that it's going to strengthen over the open waters the Florida straits.

Here's a breakdown of what we expect in Florida as far as the warnings and watches. We have hurricane warnings posted pretty much from Naples down to Key West and just south of Miami or Largo through the Keys as well. Tropical storm warnings and some tropical storm watches that do include Tampa and the bay area there, meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible in the next 48 hours. And that certainly is a possibility.

All right. Here we go, here's the official forecast track from the national hurricane center. Sunday night into Monday morning is when we expect this thing to cross the Keys, potentially at that point as a hurricane and then getting into some of the juicier warmer waters of the gulf of Mexico, category one, category two is the forecast now, could even go higher than that if this thing stays a little bit longer over the gulf.

Anyone from the big bend area, just north of say, Cedar Key back through Biloxi is in the cone of uncertainty. But everyone east of this, including the Florida peninsula is going to get some heavy rain and certainly some wind from this thing. But looks to be a substantial storm in the making, Wolf, and most of our computer models are coming into better agreement and making it west of Florida, but that's the bad side of the storm.

So, you're going to get some gusty winds, probably going to be power outages around the bay area and certainly some rain, as well, coming at you on Monday into Tuesday - Wolf.

BLITZER: Here in Tampa. What about in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, what about that whole southern part of the state?

MARCIANO: Yes. They're going to get winds, as well, and a big-time waves and some rain. They've already got a ton of rain in advance of this system. So they're going to be water logged no doubt about that, the heaviest winds, though, definitely going to be along the Florida Keys. They're going to get hit hard likely with hurricane-strength winds tomorrow night - Wolf.

BLITZER: Might not just be one, could be a category two, as well. We'll stay on top of it together with you. Much more on this story coming up.

Rob Marciano, thanks very much.

Other news we're following. He was an American hero and a space pioneer. The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82. His family says the cause was complications from heart surgery he had this month.

President Obama praised Armstrong in a statement saying and I'm quoting now, "Neil was among the greatest of American heroes, not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation and when Neil stepped on the foot of the status of the moon for the first time he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten."

Mitt Romney added this. Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes, with courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where a man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth. I met and spoke with Neil Armstrong a few weeks ago, his passion for space, science, and discovery, and devotion to America will inspire me through my lifetime. That's from Mitt Romney.

CNN's John Zarrella is joining us now. He's covered space for a long time.

John, what else do we know about Neil Armstrong's death that seemed to have come so suddenly when we heard about it today?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is true, Wolf. It was very sudden because I know after the heart surgery that he had within the last month. I talked to some of his fellow astronauts, retired astronauts who said that he was doing well, that he had come out of his surgery well. So, now dying from complications from that procedure certainly taking everybody -- shocked everyone.

You know, it's funny, he was always such a quiet person. And shied away from the spotlight. I saw him a couple years ago at an Apollo 14 reunion. He went to all of those events and he seemed very comfortable when he was in those surroundings with his friends, with his fellow astronauts. But publicly, he always shied away from those kinds of events.

We have a statement that came in a little while ago from Charlie Bolden NASA administrator on behalf of the agency. And in part the statement reads, as we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut, and true American hero.

And in their statement today, that his family issued, they put it, perhaps, as well as anyone could very simply saying that Neil was a reluctant hero.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Neil Armstrong was born on his grandparents' farm in Ohio in 1930 when air travel was still in the infancy and space travel was the stuff of science fiction. But Armstrong says he had the same dream over and over again. He was hovering above the ground while holding his breath.

Armstrong took his first airplane ride when a plane called the tin goose came to local airfield. The bug had taken hold. As a teenager, he began taking flying lessons, even before getting his driver's license. Armstrong pursued his passion and earned a degree in aeronautical engineering. He joined the military during the Korean war and flew 78 combat missions in Navy panther jets.

Later, Armstrong became a test pilot for X15, the rocket plane that laid the ground work for space travel. It was some ride soaring an amazing 40 miles above the earth at 4,000 miles an hour. And then in 1961, during the height of the cold war in the midst of the space race with the soviet union, president John Kennedy made a dramatic challenge.

JOHN KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

ZARRELLA: The next year, Armstrong joined the enormous undertaking and became an astronaut. Four years later, he made his first journey into space as commander of the Gemini8 mission which nearly ended in disaster. Armstrong kept his cool and brought the spacecraft home safely after a thruster rocket malfunctioned.

The next trip to space was on July 16th, 1969. He and astronauts buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off on Apollo 11 on a journey of 250,000 miles, a journey into history. It took them four days to reach their destination, the world watched and waited as the lunar module eagle separated from the command module and began its descent. Then came the words from Armstrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The eagle has landed.

ZARRELLA: About 6 1/2 hours later at 10:56 a.m. Eastern time on July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.

ZARRELLA: He was followed by Aldrin. Armstrong was on the surface for two hours and 32 minutes, Aldrin just 15 minutes less.

The two astronauts staked an American flag, scooped up moon rocks and set up scientific experiments before returning to the main spacecraft. The three crew mates returned home to a hero's welcome, though none of them ever returned to space.

Armstrong seen on the left was 38 when he made his historic landing. The first man on the moon left the astronaut core the next year and taunt engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He once joked, quote "I am and ever will be a white sox, pocket protector, nerdy engineer." He was, of course, much, much more than that.

He was also a husband and father of two. And a man who left his footprint forever on the U.S. space program.

John Zarrella, CNN, reporting.


BLITZER: And joining us on the phone right now, Mark Kelly, a former space astronaut and the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Mark, tell us what Neil Armstrong meant to you.

MARK KELLY, FORMER ASTRONAUT (via phone): Well, as a young boy growing up in New Jersey, you know, he as well as a few other astronauts, the ones I knew were my inspiration. I mean, I was 5- years-old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. And, you know, they -- it allowed me to understand that, you know, people could do these things. And maybe one day I could be one of those people.

BLITZER: Tell us about the last time you met with them. I assume you met with them over the years.

KELLY: Yes, I saw them in February at the event for the 50th anniversary for John Glenn's historic flight. And to see Neil up there reflecting about John Glenn and the first time they met, it was pretty interesting story. I mean, I've got to tell you, one of the highlights of my career as an astronaut was that dinner I had this past February where I got to sit between John Glenn and Neil Armstrong for, you know, at this event. It was certainly one of the highlights of my career as an astronaut.

BLITZER: What was he like as a person?

KELLY: You know, he -- very low key. Like John Zarrella said, you know, he never really looked for the limelight after Apollo 11. He talked for a long, long period of time. And he really enjoyed aviation even after he left the astronaut office. One of the things he said to me in February is that he stopped flying recently. Just for a short period of time, and he was looking forward to getting back to flying his airplane again. And, you know, he was 81 or 82 at the time just five months ago, and that was one of the things he was looking forward to start flying again.

BLITZER: How do you hope, Mark, future generations will remember Neil Armstrong?

KELLY: Well, I think, you know, I think, you know, centuries of generations are going to remember Neil Armstrong. I imagine thousands of years from now, I mean, there are iconic names that will fade away. But Neil Armstrong, Christopher Columbus, you know, a handful of others as explorers, you know, their names will be around too. Forever as far as I'm concerned. And he's someone I really, really looked up to. Gabby and I today, when we heard the news, we were both very, very, very sad. It's a sad day.

BLITZER: A sad day indeed, and Mark Kelly, thanks so much for sharing a few thoughts with us on this important day. We really appreciate it.

KELLY: You're very welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And by the way, coming up a little bit later, I'll speak with another space hero, John Glenn. He'll join us to talk a little bit about the death of Neil Armstrong, as well. Other news, though, we're following including here in Tampa. It's now a city that is bracing, not only for 50,000 visitors who are coming at the Republican convention, but also a potential hurricane.

Plus, the significant and deadly damage the storm did in Haiti. We're going there live.

Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're on the campus of the beautiful university of Tampa. Look at these buildings. It's a majestic place, indeed. It's lovely right now. Let's hope it stays like this.

But guess what, we're all concerned. Republican convention visitors are heading here to Tampa in big, big numbers, maybe 50,000, but Isaac could arrive on their heels.

We've just learned that the Republican National Committee is holding a conference call during this hour to talk about the storm preparations. We'll brief you exactly what we know as soon as we know it. Standby, there could be dramatic word coming from the Republican political establishment here in Tampa.

Tampa officials and the airlines are doing what they certainly can do to get ready. There's still a lot of nervousness.

Brian Todd has been here for several days now getting ready for this convention.

What is the latest? Are they ready because no one knows for sure how much damage a tropical storm or hurricane can do on this convention.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The city says it's ready, Wolf, the convention officials say they're ready. Emergency management officials say they're ready. We do have words though, late word that at least two delegates are not coming to the convention and it's directly due to the weather. Alabama congressman Joe Bonner not coming, John Young, the president of Jefferson parish in Louisiana, not coming. Those are two delegates who are in the path, possible act of the storm. They want to stay in their home district in case the storm hits there. Also Alabama's governor Robert Bentley is not coming. He wants to stay home in case the storm hits there.

We've talked to airport officials today at the Tampa international airport. They've started to meet with officials of the airlines, Wolf, to discuss the possibility of having to cancel flights, the possibility that the airport may have to shut down. So far no disruption in air traffic. They don't anticipate having to close the airport, but they are talking about it. They're going to try to give people about 24 hour's notice if they have to cancel the flights.

But even with this, the spokeswoman for the airport told me by Monday, some of the delegates are still going to be coming in Monday morning, by Monday, they may -- those people may have trouble getting here. If you've seen Rob's forecast, it's supposed to pass well west of here, but Sunday night, Monday morning, they're going to be getting remnants of it in here, so the airport traffic might be affected. Some delegates. Some Wolf, may not be able to get here Monday morning if that's what they're planning.

BLITZER: How long would it take to get the airport back up to speed if they do have to cancel in some place? Shut it down for a while?

TODD: Well, the airport people tell us five to six hours after the airport has -- after the storm passes, they can get the airport up and running. Now, that may not be so much of a factor, it passes by Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, you know the convention stretches until Thursday night. They can get it up and running and a lot of the delegates who need to leave will probably be able to -- traffic may be backed up if they have to shut it down, but there you have it.

They also have very specific evacuation plans for the delegates here in town. That's been a big question. Fifty thousand people who would not normally be here are going to be in the downtown area, most of them from out of town. They have specific plans to evacuate those people on buses, public transportation buses, school buses if they need to. They are getting, communication is key. Getting word to the delegates. This is where you need to go if you're staying here, if you are staying there, if you need to be in town. And this is when you're going to need to go.

But they're telling everyone from out of town, pay attention to the public announcement about evacuations. They've got to do that and they're also telling them, if you're curious about the storm and you want to go see it, don't. Stay away from the water front. A lot of them are here for the first time and want to see a storm, don't do it.

BLITZER: Good advice, Brian. Thanks very, very much.

Hurricane warnings are now posted in parts of the United States. We're going to have the latest on Isaac from the national hurricane center. Standby for that.

Also, bystanders hit by police gunfire. We have new details of that shooting in New York city at the empire state building.


BLITZER: We're just getting new details in about that shooting near the empire state building in New York.

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

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials now say all nine people injured were actually wounded by police gunfire.

Officers shot a total of 16 rounds at 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson after he shot and killed a former co-worker who had previously filed a complaint saying he feared an attack by Johnson. Police have released this surveillance video showing Johnson apparently pointing something as two officers approached coming within a few feet of him. Then he falls abruptly to the ground after apparently being shot.

And the U.S. embassy in Mexico says two of its American employees shot yesterday by Mexican federal police are now in stable condition. Mexican authorities aren't commenting on the investigation. The victims were traveling with a Mexican naval officer in an embassy vehicle with diplomatic license plate when confronted by police south of Mexico city. They opened fire when the embassy vehicle tried to evade them.

And a huge explosion at one of the world's largest oil refineries has left at least 26 people dead. Officials at the facility in northwest Venezuela say a gas leak sparked the blast which set fire to at least two tanks and damaged nearby homes. More than 80 people were hospitalized and president Hugo Chavez has declared three days of mourning.

And Samsung is appealing a federal court ruling that says the company willfully violated multiple patents held by Apple and used the technology in Samsung products. The court is recommending Samsung pay Apple more than $1 billion in damages. Samsung filed a countersuit but was not awarded any money.

We're talking $1 billion potential fine there, Wolf, a lot of money on the line.

BLITZER: Yes, not just that billion dollars, but potentially they can't use that technology. Think of all the revenue they're going to lose as a result of this. And all these other companies that are trying to copy some of Apple's products, as well.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: So there's a huge, huge amount of money involved in this.

Lisa, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, Isaac is continuing to threaten the United States right now. Hurricane warning is up in the Florida Keys already. They're already boarding up parts of south Florida. We're going there.

Standby, we'll get an update from the national hurricane center.

And a heartbreak in Haiti. The story that ravages the tent camps where hundreds of thousands of people have been living. Now many are completely homeless once again.

Plus, we're counting down to the convention here in Tampa. The Republican running mates, they are out on the campaign trail. They're working their way toward Florida and the nomination.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just getting word that Florida governor Rick Scott is going to cancel his convention activity schedule for Sunday and Monday in order to monitor what's going on with tropical storm Isaac which may become a hurricane. Obviously, a lot of people in Florida very, very nervous right now. Certainly after hammering Haiti, Isaac is now eyeing the United States.

A hurricane warning is up for the Florida keys. That means hurricane conditions are expected when Isaac approaches tomorrow.

CNN's Jim Spellman is joining us from Key West down in Florida.

Jim, are you people being evacuated from the Keys? What's the latest information? What's going on where you are?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is a thing sort of calling an evacuation, they're encouraging all visitors, tourists that come here every weekend in the summer and all yearlong to get off of the keys. They added extra flights here to try to get people who flew in out of the island. That last flight is going to take off next hour. After that, there's about 120 miles of two-lane roads to get back to the mainland of Florida. They want everybody who is leaving to leave, everybody who stays to stay indoors and stay safe.

BLITZER: What about people who stay back in key west, what should they be doing? What are they telling folks to do if they decide to stay there?

SPELLMAN: Well, they've opened four shelters in the keys here and they especially are encouraging people who live in trailer homes and people who live on their boats down here at the keys to get out of the boats, get out of the trailers and go into one of the shelters.

Take a quick look here, Wolf. This is usually on a Saturday night here in Key West, (INAUDIBLE), right in the heart of key west would be packed. Very few people here, only about 20 percent occupancy in the hotels.

But you know, Wolf, people come here to party. They say they're going to have hurricane parties, they are going to ride it out. Have fun while it's going on. That makes officials nervous here. People say they've been lucky in the past, hope they're lucky again - Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Spellman in key west for us. We will stay in touch with you.

The winds and the rain certainly have let up in Haiti as Isaac has been moving on, but the massive tent camps which shelter hundreds of thousands of people have suffered significant damage. And many have once again been left with nothing.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is joining us now from the capital of Port-Au- Prince in Haiti.

So how did it go, Gary? What's going on right now? GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after about 20 hours, it appears the rain has finally stopped here in Port-Au-Prince. It was a very rough Friday night through Saturday. It appears at least three people have been killed in this country. It's likely that number will go higher as the search goes on.

We spent a lot of time yesterday in tent city. Thousands of people moved into the tent city after the earthquake from January 2010. People said they did not want to evacuate. Most people stuck it out. Fortunately, it looks like nobody in that particular tent city we were at was seriously hurt. But the tent city is damaged.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): A little girl wearing her Sunday best on a Saturday that is anything but the best. For the hundreds of families who live in this Port-Au-Prince tent city. Tropical storm Isaac came through and a combination of flood water and winds decimated course at the tents, the only homes these family have now destroyed, their possessions all ruined.

He's one of six children who lived in this tent which was torn apart while they were all in it.

Was it scary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: Yes, I'm very afraid. I'm afraid of the rain.

TUCHMAN: The rain? And the wind.


TUCHMAN: And since father says he's done his best to take care of his children since the 2010 earthquake destroyed their home. But he says now he doesn't know if he has the capacity to make it better.

Even before the tropical storm, this camp may have been fit for the chickens and pigs who wander around here, but not the people. But if it was mostly unbearable before Isaac, now it's completely unbearable.

And here's something to think about. The people who came here arrived because they had to evacuate their homes after the earthquake. Now many of them have to evacuate again. And when you have to evacuate from a place like this, where do you go?

This mother of two says she has no idea. For the second time her home is gone. Yvonne Justine (ph) says she will stay in the tent next door and try to figure out what to do next.

It wasn't just homes that were destroyed, so was the church in the tent city and so was this bread shop, a place the community relies on. This woman who works there was doing her best to catch some of the tropical storm's fresh water so she could still try to make some bread. The sanitary situation here has always been miserable. It is, of course, more so now. These people have gone through so much trauma in the earthquake, are once again dealing with trauma.

Pauline Joseph (ph) says when tropical storm Isaac came through, it was very, very bad. Nobody could sleep. And effective immediately, a lot of people will continue to lose sleep because they have to figure out quickly where they will lay their heads at night.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, port-au-prince.


BLITZER: Gary Tuchman on the scene for us.

Let's get some more now on Isaac and the threat to the United States. Ed Rappaport is joining us, the deputy director of the national hurricane center.

Ed, thanks very much for helping us understand what's going on. When do we expect this tropical storm to become a hurricane?

Unfortunately, I think we just lost Ed Rappaport. We will connect with him. We will get the latest from Ed Rappaport at the national hurricane center, stay with us. We're watching this story very, very closely. Ominous developments, clearly, for the state of Florida.

Where coming now the Republican convention, as well, here in Tampa. The Republican running mates making a big campaign push before heading to Tampa. But could Isaac rain on their parade? Standby.

And the first American to orbit the earth talks about the first man to walk on the moon. The former astronaut John Glenn, he'll join us. We'll remember Neil Armstrong.


BLITZER: We're here in Tampa right now where Republicans will convene starting Monday to officially nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. But the storm named Isaac may prove to be an unwelcome party crasher.

Our chief political correspondent, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" Candy Crowley is here watching all of this going down.

You've been here for a while, Candy. If this is this hurricane or really bad weather, how does that impact this convention?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hurricanes make it hard to travel from point a to point b, so you'll see fewer people in the convention. But remember, just in the totality of it, the storm won't be here for four days if it comes here at all.

The business they have to do is nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The important thing for Mitt Romney, look, they'd like all four days, but the important thing is for him to get that speech out there, his acceptance speech.

And I don't know if you recall, but at the last Republican convention, that also started a day late. They canceled the first day because there was a hurricane. I think it was coming to Louisiana, everybody was still with Katrina fresh in their mind didn't want to look as though they were partying while bad things were happening. No one remembers that, John McCain got nominated and the rest is history.

So, look, it's a problem because there's lots of -- they had it all planned in terms of on Monday night we'll do this and on Tuesday night we'll do this. But, you know, they'll deal. And they'll get it done.

BLITZER: They've got a conference call they're getting ready any moment now. I know our political director Mark Preston's going to be listening to see if there are any changes. Standby for that.

I also want to play a clip. This is Mitt Romney today in Ohio speaking assertively.


ROMNEY: -- all these wonderful things he's going to do, people are going to stop and say, but how are you going to do something different than last time? They've experienced the last four years, they know if they reelect him, they get four more years of the same. It is not his words that people have to listen to, it is his action and his record, and if they look at that, they'll take him out of the office and put people into the office that will actually get America going again.


BLITZER: And even as we were watching that clip, Candy, Mark Preston, we're going to hook him up because we're getting new information. Because of Isaac, the tropical storm now could be a hurricane, there may be some changes going on.

Mark is here, Mark Preston. Put on that little mic --

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Breaking news at its best.

BLITZER: Yes. Tell us what's going on because you're just getting an e-mail.

PRESTON: From the news team, you know, right now from Republican officials that are telling us now that they will start the convention on Monday and they will immediately go into recess, start the convention again on Tuesday. And the reason why they do this now is they're telling us in the statement they've just put out that their delegates and safety of all the people who are coming here to Tampa is utmost importance. And as we all know, 50,000 people will be coming here to Tampa.

Wolf, Candy, you know, they want to make sure that everyone's safe and as Candy was saying, the most important they think is getting Mitt Romney nominated and then the storm will pass and they will move on. BLITZER: What they were going to do starting tomorrow afternoon is do the formal roll call and get that out of the way and hear from the states, Candy, and we would know that Mitt Romney is the official nominee, Paul Ryan the official nominee. But now they have to do that on Tuesday instead of tomorrow. They'll delay by 24 hours.

CROWLEY: Right. And who knows when they'll start it. I mean, this is not something that anybody covers anymore. You know, the great state of Alaska --

BLITZER: We cover --

CROWLEY: We will.

BLITZER: We will cover it.

CROWLEY: We will be there. But we're going to cover whenever it happens. What I'm saying in prime time, which is, what you know, this group is headed for and trying to get the Mitt Romney message out there. They can do roll call and have us cover it, you know, in the afternoon and then move into their Monday night. I mean, who knows what they're going to do? But they'll get the business done.

BLITZER: Yes. The business is important. But it's also important to remember this storm, the projection now, Mark, is that it'll still be in the gulf not only Monday, but Tuesday, as well. May not make landfall in the panhandle of Florida or elsewhere in the gulf coast, maybe until Tuesday night and that could have a damper to put it mildly on this convention.

PRESTON: Sure and we saw that, of course, back in 2008 when John McCain had to delay his convention by one day. We were all in Minneapolis and remember Saint Paul. If they happens, if that storm hits, it's a category two, if it hits a populated area, I think it's going to be very difficult for convention officials to try to put on a party down here in Tampa if we see death and devastation along the gulf coast.

But to add to that, Democrats are watching this, as well. Because I think it would be very difficult for them to be throwing a party a week later if we saw, you know, sorrow along the gulf coast.

BLITZER: And what you're saying, Candy, and we saw this most important thing for these Republicans is Wednesday night, the Paul Ryan speech, right? Thursday night, the Mitt Romney speech. That's what they really want the American people to see.

CROWLEY: They would love the whole four days because they wanted to roll out this whole sort of here's what Mitt Romney's about, here's the guy you don't know. Here's the compassionate, you know, middle class loving candidate. So, they wanted to kind a roll out his biography and define him on their terms. They can still do that. But the fact of the matter is, if those two speeches and the official nomination that is key here.

BLITZER: So tomorrow, basically they'll have a pro forma session, they'll just gavel it open and then shut it down and there'll be no events on that convention floor?

CROWLEY: Like Congress.

BLITZER: Is that what you're saying?

PRESTON: A spike between Democrats and Republicans and they're trying to get nominations through, they'll start it up, they'll be able to keep it going at that point. They will gavel it out, quite frankly. But they'll be hunkered down in hotels at all around us.

BLITZER: And people wonder, Candy. This is important. Why this formal nomination is so important. He's got a ton of money out there, Mitt Romney. He can't spend a lot of that money until he is the official nominee of the Republican Party. Only then can they start spending the money and it's a lot cheaper for the commercials once he's the nominee to spend a lot of that money.

CROWLEY: Yes, but I don't think we're talking about his -- figured he'd be the nominee by Thursday and then start spending money. He's had plenty of friends to help them out. They've spent a lot of money as it is. He's just fine until he gets the nomination.

BLITZER: So money's important, though, right?

PRESTON: There's no question. I mean we have seen all these outside groups and quite frankly, we know that campaign is the fuels of all of these campaigns, is money.

BLITZER: All right. So, just to repeat the headline, just to repeat the headline right now. The convention will open formally on Monday. They'll gavel it open, but then they'll recess until Tuesday. They're going to hope that this storm will move quickly and they'll be able to get their business going.

You know what? I want to check in with CNN's Rob Marciano over in the CNN weather center.

Monday, Tuesday, these are critical days, Rob. What is -- I know it's still early. What's the projection right now? Where will this storm or hurricane be on Monday and where will it be on Tuesday?

MARCIANO: OK. Well, that's the time it's going to be in the open gulf of Mexico, at least for the forecast. And at that point it should be a hurricane of likely category one status. So you're talking about Tampa and the west coast of Florida that will probably be in -- that will probably be in tropical storm-force winds at that point.

So, you know, recess not a bad idea because you're talking about winds 35 to 40 miles an hour, possibly sustained, that is difficult to just walk through let alone do anything else going from building to building. And the likely -- there'll probably be power outages, and if this track forecast gets a little bit closer to the west coast, which is entirely possible, then you're talking about even higher winds. So, that's when we expect the worst weather, not only in Tampa, but along the west coast of Florida Monday night into Tuesday. And then eventual landfall a little bit farther north probably along the northern gulf coast and the panhandle Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday evening. So, that's the time line at this point. The longer it stays over the gulf, Wolf, the more time it'll have to strengthen. At this point we're looking at a category two storm with potentially winds of 100 miles an hour making landfall across the Florida panhandle. That could change for the better or worse. We'll keep you posted.

Right now we're getting a little more confidence as far as what we expect to see for the Florida peninsula. And that does include tropical storm-force winds likely across Tampa Monday night especially into Tuesday morning - Wolf.

BLITZER: And just to be precise. Category one is what? 80-mile-an- hour winds. Category two is 100-mile-an-hour winds. Is that what's going on here?

MARCIANO: Yes, roughly 95-mile-an-hour winds is where your category two starts kicking in and 100-mile hour winds is what we're forecasting, but some of our computer models, you know, getting over these warm waters, Wolf, will ramp that up even more.

If we get it onshore quicker, that's better. So if anything that's been brighter the last few hours is that the models have increased the timing or the speed of this thing bringing in Tuesday afternoon, Tuesday evening, as opposed to Tuesday night into Wednesday morning and that would give it more time to strength. But right now, certainly storm to be taken very, very seriously and it's a big circulation regardless of the path is on the east side. The entire Florida peninsula is going to see some effect of this heavy rain and certainly gusty winds which at times will be dangerous - Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Rob Marciano. We'll stay in close touch with you, obviously.

The other important news we're following, including the astronaut Neil Armstrong has passed away. John Glenn, he's standing by to join us. He'll remember his fellow astronaut and space hero.


BLITZER: More now on the death of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong. The first man to set foot on the moon. He died today of complications of heart surgery at the age of 82.

His fellow astronaut and space pioneer John Glenn, the former senator from Ohio, is joining us on the phone right now.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in to share a few thoughts about your close friend. Certainly condolences across the board. How do you think Neil Armstrong will be remembered?

JOHN GLENN, FORMER ASTRONAUT (via phone): Well, I'm sure that most people in the world will remember Neil as the first person that made a footprints some place other than earth. And that landing on the moon was monumental. People have looked up for thousands of years and wondered what was on the moon. Then Neil let this nation's effort a course and was the focal point of a big team that made that actually happened.

I'll remember him, I think, more broadly than just that. Neil became entranced with aviation as a young person and actually had his pilot's license before he had his driver's license, and stuck with aviation and was a Navy pilot. Was an experienced combat pilot in Korea, some 78 missions and that went on to buy some of the most experimental airplanes in the world like the X15 and things like that. And out of that into the space program.

But through all of this, he remained just the person Neil wanted to be. He was not looking for the spot light. He saw himself as the leader of a big team that brought forth some wondrous things for this country. I'll remember him for his whole career, though, not just that one event.

BLITZER: What was your best personal memory with Neil Armstrong?

GLENN: Well, I think the -- just as a personal friend, more than anything else. Being able to share views and talk about things and I'll always remember that, of course. But I'm sure that he'll be remembered mainly for the landing on the moon, which is something that had never been done before and people all over the world, of course, will react to his passing and be sorry for it. I'll look forward to remembering him mainly as a very good friend in addition to all the other things he did.

BLITZER: Passed away from complications of heart surgery at the age of 82. Neil Armstrong.

Senator Glenn, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

GLENN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And anyone who missed it will never, never forget Neil Armstrong's really important first step on the moon. All of us who were alive in 1969 will remember it. We're going to revisit that historic moment when we come back.


BLITZER: A quick programming note. Gloria Borger's special documentary on Mitt Romney "Romney revealed, family, faith and the road to power. " It airs Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And afterwards I'll be anchoring a Republican National Convention special from the convention floor 9:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday night.

That does it for me right now. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM.

We leave you tonight with a moment in history that made Neil Armstrong all of our hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: OK. I just checked the -- getting back up to that first step. It's adequate to get back up.


ARMSTRONG: It's a pretty good little jump. I'm at the foot of the ladder. The foot beds are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches. So though the surface appears to be very, very fine grained as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder. Now and then it's very fine. I'm going to step off the LEM now.

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.