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Gulf Coast Prepares for Tropical Storm Isaac; Republican National Convention; Interview with Mitt Romney's Sons

Aired August 27, 2012 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": And CNN's coverage of the Republican National Convention continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred by your trust, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is America, a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like 1,000 points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fight with me, fight with me, fight for what's right for our country.



BLITZER: Tampa, Florida, is ready to party and the Republican National Convention is officially open for business.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Wolf, but New Orleans is hunkering down right now. A big storm is heading our way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Gulf Coast on alert for a new hurricane disaster. Isaac churns toward the shores of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all understand how important preparation is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Threatening the same spots where Katrina hit exactly seven years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen the results of people thinking that they somehow are stronger than storms. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Florida --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican National Convention in session and called to order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans officially open their convention but delay the speakers and festivities for 24 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stands in recess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though Tampa dodged the worst of the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Convention made the same decision I made. The most important thing we can be doing in the state is keep everybody safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, CNN is live in New Orleans and at the Convention Center in Tampa. We're tracking Isaac's power and path, preparations in the danger zone and any political fallout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our thoughts are with the people that are in the storm's path and hope they're spared (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the storm overshadow Mitt Romney's crowning moment now that journalists and voters are shifting some of their focus to Isaac?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plus, the private side of Romney as he prepares for the most important speech of his life, his sons open up to CNN about their dad. Now, our Republican Convention coverage, the players, the issues, the stakes and the storm, the road to the White House leads through Tampa right now.


BLITZER: And welcome to Tampa, Florida. It's wet. It's a little wind blown but not as bad as it certainly could have been. Only 19 hours from now, the Republican National Convention will reconvene and thousands of delegates will formally begin the process of making Mitt Romney their nominee for president of the United States. Inside the hall, the final preparations are being made for the first of three star-studded nights.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Tampa. Joining us throughout all of our coverage, CNN's Erin Burnett -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "OUTFRONT": That's right and today we had a moment, the convention formally convened. Wolf was sitting here as it happened, only for a short time though. Party Chairman Reince Priebus gaveled the convention to order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- called to order. BURNETT: And the Republicans started a second national debt clock because you need to have two to measure how much further in the red this country is going to go just during the few days of this convention. The real action, though, starts tomorrow.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to be delivering the convention's keynote address. And another highlight of Tuesday night is going to be the speech by Mitt Romney's wife, Ann. Everybody is going to want to see that. But while all that's going on, New Orleans of course could be facing the wrath of what will be Hurricane Isaac on exactly the seventh-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

BLITZER: Can you imagine how eerie that is?

BURNETT: It is eerie.

BLITZER: Almost exactly seven years to the day, another hurricane, not Katrina, Isaac, about to hit that Gulf Coast.

BURNETT: Identical storm path, it's unbelievable.

BLITZER: You can't make this kind of stuff up. Right now let's go to CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's on the scene for us in New Orleans. He always is on the scene. He's one of the city's main lines of defense. Set the scene for us, Anderson. What's going on over there?

COOPER: Yes, Wolf, I'm at the 17th Street canal, the water is held back by one of the levees that broke back in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the city. That levee failed. They have poured billions of dollars into this, some $10 billion have been spent on repairing and strengthening New Orleans' levees over the last seven years. And now after Katrina, it looks like they are going to be tested. Here is the very latest.

Isaac is getting stronger, we know that. Its maximum sustained winds are now 70 miles an hour, just four miles an hour under hurricane strength. New Orleans could begin feeling tropical storm force winds tonight. But the center of the storm is not forecast to make landfall until Wednesday. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered along the coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, all in the track of this storm. Thousands of people have been heading inland, particularly those who are in low-lying areas outside the levee protection zones. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of the Republican Party's rising stars, tells a reporter today that he is staying home.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: I will not be speaking or attending the Republican Convention in Florida. Certainly party conventions are interesting but there's no time for politics here in Louisiana along our coast.


COOPER: CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano is with me here in New Orleans. Our meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers is in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Let's start with Chad. Chad, what is the latest on where Isaac is heading? What do we know?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, a little bit of good news in the past hour and a half because we had an eye wall trying to form and that could have really made the storm much bigger very quickly. That eye wall fell apart. It did not make it all the way around and so we are not going to see that rapid intensification tonight that we could have. Not saying that another eye wall is not going to try to generate.

I'm sure it probably will. But at least the first one didn't make it. That means the development will be a little bit delayed. Delay it all you want because the longer it's delayed those shorter amount of time it has in the water. The official forecast, though, Anderson, somewhere about 2:00 a.m. -- this is 2:00 a.m. Wednesday night, a little after midnight tomorrow, all the way here, 100 miles to the left or to the right of this line and that line goes right through New Orleans Proper actually probably around Tenor (ph), but you get the idea.

That is a category two hurricane at 100 miles per hour. It can still turn right. It can still turn left. Most of the surge with this track would be on this side of the storm. Back into Bay St. Louis (ph), back into Lake Pontchartrain and certainly into New Orleans Proper. Hopefully all of those things that they put together to stop this surge, another surge coming into New Orleans, hope it all goes well. You know it's only as strong as the weakest link. We'll have to see if there is a weak link -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I want to bring in Rob Marciano who's been here now all day. It really is water is the biggest concern, where the storm surge could go and the amount of rain, right?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly, so you've got water coming in on one side and then you've got the rainfall that's going to be piling up on the other side. And what you've been talking about behind you, this is just one of many structures that have been built since 2005 --

COOPER: Right, it's a huge structure.

MARCIANO: And there's more than this. There's so much more, $11 billion spent on this and I got the opportunity earlier today to go up with the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to get an aerial view of some of this and the video really is striking because what you see behind us is certainly big and impressive up close. But when you see it from the air, the enormity of the project is really impressive. You're looking at flood walls, some of which stretch two miles long with piles and structures and piers that are driven 200 feet deep.


MARCIANO: I mean this is a seawall that is designed to protect against a surge of a category two or three hurricane. COOPER: That was the big -- one of the big problems with this canal right here. This is the 17th Street Canal. They actually -- there's a report that says they actually hadn't -- the Army Corps of Engineers hadn't dug the pylons deep enough so when the water came against it the levees here fell.

MARCIANO: Right. It was more of an under wash than it was an over wash. The water went underneath and then kind of kicked out the legs of those walls, so now instead of them only being 15 or 16 feet deep, those are 40 feet deep. The seawall down on the east side to protect the east side of the city, again, those walls are down 150 to 200 feet deep, so incredible engineering --

COOPER: But in an area like this, and we are outside the levee protection zone right now, so an area like this is going to flood.

MARCIANO: Yes, this will likely flood. I mean you've got Lake Pontchartrain right there. We're outside the protection areas. Once we get any sort of north wind, which will likely happen you know when the storm exits, depending on which side it comes in from, you'll get some flooding here like we saw during Katrina. But with this structure now, you won't get on the other side of that and these pipes -- these pipes are amazing. Each one of these pipes can pump out over 8,000 gallons of water per second so --

COOPER: So it's actually not stopping water from coming in. It's pumping water that's in the city out.

MARCIANO: It's a twofold thing and I do want to highlight you know the chopper pilots from the Coast Guard drove us around. So you know their heroic work that they gave us during Katrina.


MARCIANO: That work likely won't be replicated, thankfully again. Keep your fingers crossed. But I asked the pilot that flew us around as far as what it's like to mentally prepare as a Coast Guard pilot when a hurricane comes through.


LT. J.G. MICHAEL YANEZ, U.S. Coast Guard: You don't want to just go you know plowing head long into this thing. You know Mother Nature does not care what you're flying. She does not care how many hours you have as a pilot. She doesn't care who you're flying for, if you're the Coast Guard or not. We have very deep respect for the weather and the adverse conditions. We're going to do what we can within our limits to save what lives we can and that's why you know we as Coast Guardsmen train the way we do. We also encourage people to evacuate when they can, where they can, how they can before the storm even hits because by the time we're out there plucking you off a roof or wherever it is that you're stuck it's something went wrong along the way.


MARCIANO: So clearly they have a message for the public as well, which is listen to your city officials and evacuate when you have to.

COOPER: Right.

MARCIANO: As a category one storm they're not going to evacuate in New Orleans Proper but they may have to make rescues outside the city --

COOPER: You don't want to make this sound worse than it is though. This is a weaker storm than Hurricane Katrina was at this point.

MARCIANO: Much, much weaker. But it's also a storm with large circulation and that means that the surge is going to be probably greater than a category one storm. It means when it comes on shore as a weak one, so we have to be wary of that and certainly the surrounding areas outside of these levee walls are going to be impacted and those people are already on the move. They have been evacuated.

COOPER: And they said it could even be a weak category two when it comes, so we'll be watching that. Rob Marciano, we'll continue to check in with you as well as Chad Myers.

Back in Tampa today, Ron Paul supporters kicked up a short ruckus on the convention floor. We'll see what that was all about. Also our Piers Morgan is standing by in the CNN Grill (ph) with all five of Mitt and Ann Romney's grown sons. That's next.


BURNETT: The storm that changed everything here in Tampa now is threatening New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The big question right now is just where it's going to hit in that band, right around New Orleans.

BLITZER: Really worried about what's going on over there. Convention officials and delegates know they'll be competing with a potential, potential disaster. For more on how they're coping, let's go down to our team of convention floor correspondents including Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, John Berman. Jim let me start with you. What do you have for us? What's the latest as far as the storm and this convention?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Republican officials just wrapped up a briefing about an hour ago. They did stress that this convention will go on with its current shortened schedule, three days, three nights, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. But I had a chance to catch up with the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, who stressed that Republicans will have to be, in his words, be nimble as they have to roll through the punches with this storm approaching the Gulf Coast. Here's what he had to say.


REINCE PRIEBUS, Republican National COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: That's the plan right now. But I will tell you that we're going to be nimble and that if we have to do anything to incorporate some of the occurrences around us into our schedule and program and what that means, I don't know. But I can assure you, we're moving on tomorrow. We're planning on having all three days. But we will be nimble if we need to be.


ACOSTA: And so if that means if events start unfolding badly in New Orleans and reflections on what's happening in New Orleans are needed, Reince Priebus says that's what will happen to the schedule. But as you heard in those comments, he simply does not know what the future will hold so he can't fully explain how they will deal with all of that. But obviously this is a big concern to people in Louisiana. I know that my colleague, Dana Bash, has been keeping tabs on the Louisiana delegation and she joins us now live on the other side of this convention floor -- hi, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim. That's right. We're over where the Louisiana delegation will be when this convention gets under way. And there are still many delegates here in town despite the fact that hurricane -- looks like Hurricane Isaac is headed straight for their state. And it is, as you can imagine, very, very difficult emotionally for a lot of the delegates that we talked to. Some of them actually did go home. But some -- many of them actually stayed. One reason is because they would probably be evacuated anyway. But the other reason they say is because they have a job to do here. Listen to one delegate I spoke with.


ADONICA DUGGAN, LOUISIANA DELEGATE: I think that for Louisiana people, we know that the political part of it's important, what we're here for. But it is hard to celebrate in some ways when you have your heart in a different place.

BASH: Your stomach must be in knots right now.

DUGGAN: Absolutely. I'm a mom of four small kids, so my husband and my kids are home.


BASH: Now most of the Louisiana delegates I spoke to said the show must go on, that they really think it's important to stay here and to get their message out about Mitt Romney. They also said that depending on how Isaac goes, they really hope that Republican officials who are running this convention tone down the tenor, tone down the intensity of perhaps the attacks, if in fact the weather makes it so, makes the need for it. And you know I talked about the fact that there is nothing going on here today. It's pretty clear behind me. But there was one bit of drama here today. And I want to turn it over to my colleague, John Berman, to talk to us a little bit about that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Dana. You know the convention barely did any business today. But there was still enough time for a little bit of trouble and it happened back here in the back corner of the convention right by this sign which says "we can do better". Now, it's a message clearly meant for President Obama. But today here in the back of the convention, we saw Ron Paul supporters. They were holding up their signs here, a couple dozens staging something of a tiny little demonstration by this sign here.

The clear message, perhaps Ron Paul could do better than the ultimate Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. Now the Paul supporters, they don't have nearly enough delegates to cause any real trouble here, any kind of serious floor fight. Ron Paul's name won't even go into nomination. But still they can cause trouble like we saw today. Now I was speaking a little bit earlier with some people close to Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky. And they tell us, they don't want to see any trouble at all from the Paul supporters and they'd like the message to get out to all of them to behave when they're standing here in the convention hall. We'll see if that happens -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, standing up here at the podium thinking about this sort of collision course of a campaign and a convention and tropical storm -- Hurricane Isaac coming. One of the speeches we will hear tomorrow night, Ann Romney from this podium right behind me, talking about the tone. This is a woman obviously who will come up and talk a lot about her husband. But the keynote speaker is also on tomorrow night. And that is the very in-your-face New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

I spoke to a couple of people about his speech, about what they were expecting from him tomorrow night. And the fact is that while we think of him as a very in-your-face guy and a guy that really will take it to them, meaning take it to the Democrats, and has become a favorite of the conservative side of this party, there is the other side of Chris Christie. And that is the New Jersey governor who is a Republican in a very Democratic state.

He has had to work with Democrats. He has gotten some things done. And so they say both those Chris Christies will be on display tomorrow night -- Wolf, back up to you.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very, very much. We're looking forward to all of that. We're also looking forward to Piers Morgan, Erin. He's getting ready to speak to Mitt Romney and Ann Romney's five sons. There they are. They're at the CNN Grill (ph). We're getting excited. We're going to hear from the Romney sons and Piers. That's coming up next.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Joining me in the CNN Grill (ph), this is very exciting. I have got all five Romney sons and I'm now going to try and pass a test I failed a moment ago -- Ben, Craig, Tagg, Josh, Matt.




MORGAN: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you do it without the earpiece in?

MORGAN: No, no, no one was giving me any information. I was just trying to remember. Now chaps, we're at a crucial stage of the campaign. Your father is within breathing distance of the White House, big pressure. How are you guys coping as his sons with all the negativity that begins to pour down on what is, you know, your dad's head? What do you think?

TAGG ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: You know you don't worry about the negativity. It comes with the territory, you knew it was coming before we got in. And you just kind of roll with it and keep moving and try to get your own message out there, which is a positive vision for what my dad believes America can get back to, try to get those 22 million people out of work back to work and that's his message. He and Paul Ryan are going to do everything they can to break through all the negative stuff out there and deliver that message to the American people.

MORGAN: Josh, I mean when you see an attack ad like the Obama Super PAC ad and it basically accused your father of being responsible for a woman's death, what do you really feel? Be honest.

JOSH ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: You know some of these go too far clearly and we find them you know the ones that are untruthful you know they are hard to watch. We don't like it. It's not fun. But at the end of the day the reality is the people who know my dad best, the people who have spent their lives with him or have worked with him at some point, the people who are supporting him and the people who know him the least are the ones who have the bad things to say. And at the end of the day, my brothers and I and my mom we know who he is. We know what he stands for. We know what kind of person he is so we do let it roll off our back. But yes some of those ads take it too far.

MORGAN: Matt, your dad seems -- I've interviewed him three times -- seems a very laid-back individual. What is the biggest anger moment you've seen from him throughout this whole campaign? What's the moment when he's really got upset?

MATT ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: You say he seems laid back is that what you said?


MATT ROMNEY: All right. He can be very intense and you know he can also be laid back when the time's right. We were talking earlier you know he was a CEO and he was a governor. And so that's really part of who he is. But he's also a grandfather. And when we see him in those moments, he really is laid back. And he really is a terrific grandfather. But we've seen him intense as well. I mean you know out on the campaign trail, you encounter a lot of scenarios and you encounter hecklers and different things. And you know he's -- I think he's handled it all very well. But when he needs to be intense, we've all seen it.

MORGAN: OK. What is the biggest misconception about your father? Something that you keep reading and you think, you know what, he's just not like that?

BEN ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: Well, you know I'm not going to get into the media misconceptions of my father. I'll just say what I think -- what I think my father is and he's a great dad, a great grandfather. I think he's a phenomenal leader. He's a turnaround guy. He's come into situations time and again and turned around difficult situations. And you know he's caring and he's doing this for the right reason.

MORGAN: Don't make him perfect. You're making him out to be some kind of saint. I mean what are the -- when you're criticizing him, where would you be critical? Come on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just cares too much.

MORGAN: He cannot be perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His hair is too perfect.

MORGAN: He cares too much.


MORGAN: My God, you're going to make me cry seriously. Craig, you're the youngest. The youngest always tells the truth about their old man. I've got three sons and my youngest -- if he was doing an interview, he'd give it to me straight. So come on. I want to find a chink in the armor.

CRAIG ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: A chink in the armor about my dad?


CRAIG ROMNEY: You know --

MORGAN: Nobody wants Mr. Perfect.

CRAIG ROMNEY: No, you know I -- he does have chinks in the armor, but I'm not going to tell them to you. But you know he's a role model to all of us, I think, and we have tremendous respect for him. For me, it's a great privilege to be able to travel the country on his behalf, speak to people and hear about the issues that are important to them.

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) turn to the documentary that Gloria Borger did last night. Fascinating series of interviews -- your mother got very emotional. Your father got pretty emotional too actually, two great pivotal moments in his life, in both their lives, but one when he nearly died in a car crash --


MORGAN: -- and secondly when your mother became first ill with MS. When you watch that, were you surprised by the fact they were so emotional on camera?

TAGG ROMNEY: No, you know that's the mom and dad that we know. My dad is a very emotional guy. He cares very deeply for his family and for those that he loves around him. And the people that he comes across in his life, he cares very deeply. When he's in front of the camera and on the stage, I think he has his guard up because when he doesn't I think he gets assailed a little bit for saying the wrong phrase out of turn.

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) sometimes he just you know metaphorically rip his jacket off and you know what --


MORGAN: This is what I'm really like --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's who -- that's all the time. I think people who see him at work, as governor and running the Olympics tell you of a man that is -- cares deeply, is passionate, will run through brick walls to make things happen. He's flawed. All of us are flawed.

MORGAN: What are the flaws? Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well the Democrats are doing their best to kind of tell those people -- so we're going to try to tell the other side of the story.


MORGAN: Let me give you some allegations. One is that he's boring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't -- you know I wouldn't say that. He's a pretty interesting guy. I can't imagine anyone I would rather sit down with and spend an hour talking to about, you name the subjects. He's a lot of fun to listen to and talk to and argue with.

MORGAN: Josh, the other allegation, he's a flip-flopper, doesn't stand for anything. One minute he believes this, the next minute he believes that. Is he a man of principle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is and if you look at his career and what he's done at least in the public sector, he has the same goals from the beginning. And he loves to help people. And if you look at what he did as governor, he was doing things to try and help people. He's running for president. This is not an ego thing for him. He doesn't need this. It's not going to give him -- you know make him feel better about who he is as a person. But he recognizes he's in a position to be able to really help people, to help turn the economy around, so the one really steady, consistent thing about my dad, in my opinion, is his principles, what he stands for, and what he wants to do for this country.

MORGAN: When you take an issue like abortion, for example, where he's gone from one pretty extreme position to what would be the opposite, people say that's an illustration of where he's not principled. What would you say it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's evolutions everybody has in life. You know I don't think you could find a single person who hasn't changed their position on any issue in a lifetime. And so for him to change positions and explain why he changed those positions and circumstances changed, I think that's a good thing. I think someone who is able to do that is open to learning new things on different issues, you know I think someone who has got an open mind and willing to look at things is a good thing in a leader.

MORGAN: Matt, lots of emotive issues around the Republican issues this year, especially the nominee race, a lot of the conservative social issues came to the fore. You guys are all Mormons, obviously. We all know about that faith.

When you meet young people, they say the problem with the Republican Party today, if they don't like the apparent intolerance over gay rights, over abortion, over these kind of issues.

You're young guys, how do you feel? Are you completely wedded and fined up to these positions that the party takes?

MATT ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: You know, obviously we're not running for president so our positions don't really matter. But our dad is. And one thing that I can tell you about him and about us is our faith teaches us to love everybody regardless of what their situation is, what their orientation is. That's first and foremost. You love everybody.

But as far as policies are concerned, we all believe that family is important. And my dad does as well. That's something worth fighting for. How that exactly shakes out in the issues, that's up to him to decide. But we all believe the same things.

MORGAN: Tagg, some of the language used by some of the Republicans -- not leveling this at your father. But some of the language can be very, almost bordering on bigoted. You're younger guys. It tends to be a bit generational. Do you wish sometimes the language used by the Republicans was less emotive?

TAGG ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: I think my dad's been very compassionate in his views. He believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he's also very compassionate and understanding that people have other opinions. And I think he's been respectful of both sides in that argument.

This race, I don't think, is going to come down to social issues. We have 23 million Americans out of work, an economy that's stalling and we've added $5 trillion in debt in the last 3 1/2 years -- or $7 trillion in debt or -- it's going to come down to who can turn the economy around, get things moving again. People trust my dad on that a lot more than they do Barack Obama.

MORGAN: The Mormon faith, we touched on it earlier. In the documentary last night, your parents expounded more on this. We've hard a lot of the negatives about Mormonism. What are the positives, from your point of view? What are the great assets of being a Mormon, that you would advocate?

BEN ROMNEY, SON OF MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: Well, in a view brief sentences, I guess, for me, at least, it's taught me great values in my life, how to live my life, how to treat other people, just like a lot of faiths that are out there that are a lot of great things about Mormonism, who to -- you know, how to live your life and treat your neighbor and love others.

MORGAN: You don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't take drug, you don't womanize. I mean -- you're strapping young guys. Do you ever feel like, damn it, I wish we hadn't been Mormons?

BEN ROMNEY: These are all things that have been great blessings in my life at least. You know, living by that sort of code has really been wonderful for me.

MORGAN: Do you think the ethos of family values is really important? Craig, this time with you, do you think actually it's a great asset?

CRAIG ROMNEY, SON MITT AND ANN ROMNEY: You know, I hope so. It's very important to us, the values we've been taught from a young age. And they're core principles of our faith and obviously we're very proud of that.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break. We're going to stay with you guys. Apparently, so many women are tuning in to watch these five handsome -- well, six handsome guys. We're going to come back after the break. So, we'll see you in a moment.


MORGAN: Back live at the CNN grill with the Romney five, as I've now dubbed them.

Josh, let's talk taxation. I know you've been champing at the bit to get to this.

JOSH ROMNEY: Fantastic.

MORGAN: A lot of people say, come on, the old man should just release more of his financial records to just clear up once and for all how much tax he's paid.

JOSH ROMNEY: He's paid his taxes. And this is a gimmick by the Obama campaign to take the message off the economy and on to my dad's personal taxes. You know, at the end of the day, we have $16 trillion in debt, 23 million Americans out of work.

And Obama continues to talk about my dad's personal taxes. I mean, these are not things that really matter in the grand scheme of things. They want to use the taxes as a gimmick to hit him over the next few weeks to focus on my dad's taxes.

But really the big issue is the economy. The economy's faltering, it's sputtering along. Obama's had 3 1/2 years to get it turned around. He hasn't done it. That's the real issue.

MORGAN: Matt, how hard is it to be the son of a guy running for president with all the scrutiny and he's stinking rich. Whichever way you dress up, you're very, very rich people. How hard is that? When you get people attacking him for his success and his wealth?

MATT ROMNEY: As Tagg pointed out earlier, this is the game of politics and we're prepared for that. But it is tough. I mean, it's tough to see that.

We know he did a great job of making that money. He worked very, very hard to do that. And nothing really -- you know, we don't take anything for granted. We know that there are a lot of people out there that are really struggling.

JOSH ROMNEY: One of the great ironies in this election is that President Obama is straight make it a disqualifier to be successful. If you've had a successful career in the private sector, that disqualifies you from being able to be a good president. And obviously President Obama has not had a business career and has not had that opportunity but wants to point to my dad's success as being somehow disqualifying.

MORGAN: Knowing your father as you do, can you guarantee to the American people he's got nothing to hide about his finances?

JOSH ROMNEY: Yes. I know my dad and what he stands for. I know his value system. He is the most honest guy I know, complete integrity. So he's got nothing to hide. He just really wants this to be about the economy, to focus on the economy.

Let's not distract ourselves with all these peripheral issues. Let's talk about the economy. Let's get down to the real issues.

When you look at his vice presidential pick, this is a guy who spent his time in Congress really tackling the issues. And whether or not you agree or disagree with him on some of the issues, at least he's trying to make a difference. And my dad is doing the same thing. This is -- you know, he really wants to make a difference.

Let's talk about the issues.

MORGAN: Tagg, were you concerned when your dad picked a running mate who looks like one of his sons?

TAGG ROMNEY: You know what, I think Paul Ryan was a brilliant pick. There are a lot of political reasons to pick other people. My dad picked the person he thought would do the best job with him to tackle the debt and get the economy moving again and to pick up the nomination for the Republican Party eight years from now when he's out of office.

So, he didn't pick Paul Ryan for political reasons. He picked him because he was the right person to pick. I think it says a lot about how my dad will govern. I think, you know --

MORGAN: But it's quite a bold move. I think people were taken aback by the fact that it was quite audacious.

TAGG ROMNEY: And you look at what he'll do in office. He's not going to worry about the day-to-day back and forth and what's this or that person going to think. He's going to do what he thinks is the right thing to do and bring the American people along and have them get them behind him and lead forward and fix the problems that we're facing right now.

MORGAN: Craig, your dad has a big speech coming up on Thursday, huge speech. What do you want him to say? When you talk privately, do you say, dad, just come out and do this?

CRAIG ROMNEY: Say how great his sons are.


CRAIG: You know, I think it's a great opportunity for people to get to see him in a very unfiltered way, to get to hear his story and his vision for this country. I think in large parts, he's been defined by the opposition up to this point. It's a chance for him -- for the voters to get to know what kind of candidate he really is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's funny is we keep getting e-mailed speeches from friends that want -- this is exactly what he needs to say.

MORGAN: But you want him collectively to be a little bit more passionate and emotional than he's been so far. Is it a good chance for --

TAGG ROMNEY: But don't you think -- have you listened to the last couple -- I mean, since he picked Paul Ryan especially. You've seen a lot of passion and emotion.

MORGAN: That's what I mean. You begin to see it bubbling over. And in the documentary, again, Gloria Borger documentary, great insight into -- he's got it there, you can tell. He's like a caged lion, you know?

And I just wonder whether you collectively say like that this is the moment, this speech could win you the election? Do you say that to him?

MATT ROMNEY: I haven't said it to him. I trust him. I really do. He's very, very capable. If I had half the intelligence he had, I'd be really thrilled. So I really trust him. He knows what he's doing. He's very capable. And he'll give a great speech.

I think there are going to be a lot of big ideas. I think he's going to get down to how to fix the economy. That's really --

MORGAN: Ben, you're a doctor. And your mother's making a huge speech tomorrow. She's been through an extraordinary ordeal with her health. And yet when I've interviewed her, you would never imagine it for a moment. And she's brought you five guys up, she's been attacked for it. People assume with all your money she had all this back-up and help and so on. But that wasn't true, right?

BEN ROMNEY: No. She's been really a role model for me in this regard as well. She faced a really difficult situation and attacked it head-on. You know, she said, OK, what are we going to do about this, how am I going to get better? And she and my dad worked together and said, let's tackle this, we can overcome this.

And she worked really hard to get to where she is right now. And I just have nothing but pride and admiration for them.

MORGAN: I want to end with all of you giving me one word, which is a great description of your dad. If the one who's already gone before you has already said it, you can't use the same word.



MORGAN: Frugal?

CRAIG ROMNEY: Qualified.

TAGG ROMNEY: Generous.


MATT ROMNEY: I said integrity on an earlier episode. But I'll say loving as well. He's very loving.

MORGAN: Loving as well, that's a nice way to end.

JOSH: Like father first.

MORGAN: Father can often be the one thing that is a great vote- winner. Chaps, it's been a great pleasure to meet you.

Josh, Matt, good to see you. Great to see you, Tag -- Craig, Ben. Got you all right again.

That was a fascinating interview with the Romneys' sons. I'm going to turn it over to Wolf and Erin.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It was really terrific. Great work, Piers. You know, whatever you want to say about the Romneys, they are blessed with five terrific sons.


BLITZER: Great daughters-in-law.

BURNETT: A perfect-looking family.

BLITZER: And I just want to remind viewers, Piers, very important, right at the top of the hour, an encore presentation of Gloria Borger's "Romney Revealed" documentary. If you didn't see it, even if you did, you might want to see it again. Good stuff.

BURNETT: It really was.

And tropical storm Isaac, just below hurricane strength right now. We are about to get an updated forecast and storm track for you on exactly whether it will be a category 1 or category 2. And it strikes land.

We're going to go live to the National Hurricane Center, where they're trying to figure out exactly where it will make landfall. That's next.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. You're looking at some of the new levees that have been built in New Orleans, around New Orleans, over the last seven years, since hurricane Katrina, $10 billion spent on that levee system.

Joining us is the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, Ed Rappaport.

Ed, what's the latest on the storm? What do we need to know?

ED RAPPAPORT, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: What we need to know about Isaac is that it's approaching the Gulf Coast. It will be making landfall probably in southeastern Louisiana 24 hours from now. While it's now a tropical storm, it has a chance to go to category 1, perhaps category 2.

Everybody thinks about the wind. That's not the main risk from Isaac. The main risk from Isaac is flooding, it's water. In fact, 90 percent of the lives lost in the United States due to hurricanes are drowning.

COOPER: In terms of the length of time that folks in this area along the Gulf Coast are going to be feeling the effects of this, what are we looking at? I've heard this is a slow-moving storm once it gets over land.

RAPPAPORT: Yes, that's part of the problem. We have a risk, first of all, from storm surge as the system comes ashore.

And on this map, you can see an area of green here. That's an area where six to 12 feet is possible, if indeed the storm gets to category 2. That's southeastern Louisiana, including near New Orleans all the way over to Biloxi.

But the storm is forecast to slow down. That means we also have a risk of flooding from rainfall, perhaps moving annual 5 miles per hour. Means the storm is going to take a long time to clear any particular area. And 6 to 12 inches of rain, locally 18 inches of rain is possible.

COOPER: I want to bring in our meteorologist, Chad Myers.

Chad, what at this point do you want to know about the storm that we don't yet know?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ed, I know you've had a lot of planes through this thing and thank you for that. Thank you -- from the American people don't realize how much energy goes into sending those planes in and getting those crews. But I know that they tried or almost found an eye wall about an hour and a half ago. It appears now that that eye wall may have failed.

Do have any kind of update on that that I don't have?

RAPPAPORT: That's our interpretation as well. The satellite imagery suggests that what -- it looked more intense about an hour ago. It doesn't now. Still think there will be some intensification. It is running out of time. That's why we don't think it will be more than category 1, perhaps category 2 at landfall.

But, again, the wind isn't the big issue here. It's going to be storm surge at the coast and then flooding from rainfall over several days inland.

MYERS: Some of the models I'm looking at, 20 inches of rainfall potential, even in New Orleans, which is a bowl, they have to pump all that water out. What can happen with that? That freshwater flooding is a real danger.

RAPPAPORT: It's a danger either way from the salt water or the fresh water. Again, most lives lost are due to drowning in this country. In this case, both storm surge and rainfall, flooding are in play.

COOPER: Yes. And we're in one of those canals -- we're at one of those levees that failed seven years ago to hurricane Katrina, the 17th Street Canal. It is a very different system here in place. We're going to be in place. We'll watch it closely in the 24 hours ahead and more.

We're going to check in with Chad throughout this evening.

Ed Rappaport, appreciate your time.

The storm is forcing changes to the GOP convention schedule. Coming up next, will it have an impact on the so-called convention bounce? We'll look at that, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back at the Republican National Convention here in Tampa. We're now joined by Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley. And over at the magic wall, our own John King.

John, bounces out of these conventions, I assume Mitt Romney's expecting to get one, but let's look at the history and what we might anticipate this time around.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's always the question coming in, Wolf, how much of a bounce, if any, will you get. It's a bigger question I think this time for Mitt Romney because of Isaac and the potential impact of the storm on the coverage of the convention.

So, let's go. We'll use Tampa as our guide, where we are today. And let's take a look at the convention bounce in time.

If you notice this recently, the bounces have been relatively small. President Obama plus two. On the left side by the way, this is the party that went first in this year. This is the party that went second in that year. President Obama got a two point bounce. John McCain, nothing. His convention was second in 2008. He got nothing.

In 2004, it was John Kerry. Remember, this is the convention that made Barack Obama a household name nationally. He did well. John Kerry, the nominee, got nothing of a bounce from 2004. That was in Boston.

But George W. Bush only got a couple points from his.

If we go back to 2000, this is perhaps appropriate, the closest election of our lifetime, George W. Bush gets eight, and Al Gore gets eight, even in the bounces right there.

Bob Dole got 11 in 1996, but he was in the 30s. So that 11 simply put him to the 40s, didn't make him very competitive.

This is the big number. Everyone says, wow, Bill Clinton got 16 points in 1992. He won the election with 43 percent of the vote.

Why 16? In the middle of the Democratic convention, Wolf, you remember New York City, Ross Perot dropped out of the race while Bill Clinton was accepting the nomination. In that same week, that race went up, Ross Perot got in. That was topsy-turvy one.

This was my first presidential campaign. Michael Dukakis came to Atlanta about eight or nine points ahead. He left with a seven point bounce. He was plus-17 points in the immediate post convention polls. George H.W. Bush got some of that back in his Houston convention a couple weeks later.

But remember, the lesson, the history of bounces, yes, they matter, yes, they help. Michael Dukakis was up 17 points right after his Atlanta convention, up 17 leaving the convention. He lost, lost big, lost 40 states. BLITZER: Think it made any difference to McCain that his convention four years ago was only three days, he got zero bounce?

That's part of it. I mean, the conventions are closer together now, number one. This one was shortened.

But if you think about this, not a lot of cable chatter back in the day. Not a lot of blogosphere back in the day. The campaigns are longer. They're more expensive. The TV ads are run nonstop. In the cable world, in the blogosphere world, there's less time to think and reflect.

And our politics -- plus, the number of undecideds has shrunk. If you look at our polling right now, there's not a big slice of the American people out there who don't know what they're going to do this time. So, a number of factors, including the modern media.


BLITZER: Sit down, John, Erin's got a question.

BURNETT: Gloria, I just want to -- you know, John goes through this every year, it seems every year, less and less. Whether it's Facebook or Twitter, or social media, cable, whatever it is, but so I guess the question is do conventions matter? Do you bother with this whole song and dance for four days?

BORGER: Sure they do. Yes, you do, you absolutely do, because the conventions are the ones sort of testimonial, the undiluted testimonial to the candidate, that they've got chance, a shot to speak to the American people directly. And I think that's important for every candidate.

I think what we may have seen with someone like Bob Dole who got an 11-point bounce, as John points out, is that he was probably a candidate performing a little bit below expectations. Now, if you look at the candidates, we're polling them all the time. We -- we know where the voters are a lot of the time.

So they're probably both performing at about where we anticipate they are. So the bounces might be -- might be less.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And don't overestimate the importance of these bounces. I think Michael Baron did a look back to 1964 and said in almost half of the races since 1964, the guy with the biggest bounce lost. So you don't want the curse of the bounds, no.

So you have that. But you know, it also matter don't want the bounce now, right? So you have that. But it also matters to these folks. Because, remember, these are the activity ones. These are the ones you really need to keep pumped up through November. So it obviously matters to not just those here that are activists but that are out there. And it is your way to -- in an undiluted way, to reach the shrinking group of swing voters. KING: And remember, these are national bounces we're talking about here. And one of the things we learn more and more, as you get closer in these elections, closer to current time, fewer and fewer states are in play. There were more states in play back in '08. Even in the Dukakis/George H.W. Bush race. Much of the Midwest was in play.

There was a time we thought California might still be in play, eight or nice this year, even are fewer battleground states. Eight or nine this year, even fewer probably last time around in the end.

So, you look the national poll is what you give you the bounce, because the McCain/Obama race really wasn't close in the end. And you apply that by state and state and things are very different.

BLITZER: These conventions are selectively located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida, two key battleground states. And that's what our new poll shows. Both of these states are in play.

BORGER: They're very much in play. So that's important for Mitt Romney this week. It's also important for Mitt Romney, don't forget, he's been under an assault, a barrage of negative advertising that is trying to define who he is over the summer. It has been quite successful.

This is his moment to try and step out and say this is who I am, not who other people define me as, and he's got to do that well here. You can't really -- you can't emphasize enough the importance of that for him.

KING: And it will be. It's the question we can't answer and he can't answer, is how much will this storm take away from his audience with the American people. It's a critical audience. We can look at the bounces, some are big, some are small. There's no question he needs this audience, with the American people, to change some of the undercurrents of the race what people think of him as a person. Does he have empathy for the middle class. You talk to any senior Romney adviser and they're frustrated by the possibility of losing some of that one-on-one chance with the American people.

BLITZER: That speech is going to be critically important. Assuming it takes place Thursday night. I believe it will, the Romney speech.

CROWLEY: This is his biggest audience ever. So it is his biggest chance ever, to reach as many people as he can. John's exactly right. They have to see Romney as Romney sees Romney, because they've really been seeing him as President Obama and his team see him.

BURNETT: Has to be praying there is no disruption from the storm that would cause that speech to be delayed, put off, not happen.

BLITZER: Who knows what's going to happen -- what we do know, something huge is going to happen right after we say good-bye. Gloria Borger has done an outstanding documentary -- BORGER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- on Mitt Romney. That's about to begin, isn't it?

BURNETT: It's about to begin. We'll be back at 9:30 as soon as this documentary again. Up next, "Romney Revealed" with Gloria Borger.