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Republican National Convention

Aired August 28, 2012 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Tampa, we've watched Mitt Romney go over the top in a roll call of delegates.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And now they are getting ready tonight to hear from his wife Ann. All the while, a storm is closing in on New Orleans.


ANNOUNCER: Isaac lashes the Gulf Coast. A complication for Republicans, as they nominate their presidential candidate. This is where Mitt Romney steps into the arena. This is where he claims his party's prize. A bruising primary battle behind him. And the fight of a lifetime ahead.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to stand for America and we're going to win.

ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, Republicans try to reset the stage. Sharpen their message. Define their candidate. And counter the Democrats' attacks.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've heard this trickle-down fairy dust before.

ROMNEY: He's got no new ideas for getting the economy going.

OBAMA: It's like Robin Hood in reverse.

ROMNEY: This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.

OBAMA: It's Romney-hood.

ROMNEY: The president is taking things to a new low.

ANNOUNCER: After four years of Obama, Republicans over three days in Tampa will change the game. But Romney still has something to prove.

ROMNEY: This is an election about restoring the promise of America.

ANNOUNCER: The skeptics in his own party and independents taking their first hard look at the man, his record and his running mate. REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm excited for what lies ahead. I'm thrilled to be a part of America's comeback team.

ROMNEY: Together, we're going to take back this country. And keep it the hope of the earth. Thank you so very much, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Now, CNN turns the spotlight on one of the biggest platforms in American politics. In a state where presidential elections are won.

ROMNEY: Florida, I'm counting on you to help me win November.

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Republican National Convention. It's your vote, your future, your country, your choice.


BLITZER: We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with my CNN colleague Erin Burnett. We're here on the convention floor and they're all pumped up already, these Republicans.

BURNETT: They are. There's been -- there's been some songs, some country songs. One, "I Built It," which of course has been one of the monikers of this campaign. And we're going to be hearing from the man who gave Mitt Romney a very tough fight during the primary season tonight.

Among the many speakers, we'll hear from former U.S. senator Rick Santorum. He's going to be speaking tonight, Wolf. He's sitting just a few feet over to our left. And we expect him to call for party unity.

The delegates also tonight are going to be hearing from Arthur Davis, a former Democratic congressman who has become a Republican. They want to tout that tonight. And another speaker will be South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, Indian American. She got elected with the help of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, of course, Wolf. Tea Party role in this convention going to be very interesting to see.

BLITZER: Very important speeches. We're watching it all. And just a little while ago, the delegates here at the Republicans National Convention in Tampa officially nominated Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan. Now they'll be hearing from some of the party's biggest, biggest stars, as Erin just pointed out.

Candy Crowley is over on the podium where she can watch the speakers come and go and talk to some of them. Also, we have reporters on the scene. Jim Acosta, Dana Bash and John Berman. They're all on the floor of the convention. They're speaking to delegates. They're speaking to VIPs. We'll also be checking in with all of them throughout the evening.

But I want to go to John Berman right now. John, what's going on where you are?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm in the Louisiana delegation right now. Let me just walk in here right now. This is Bill and Kay Dorey. They are from Lake Charles, Louisiana, they have family in New Orleans.

Let me ask, first of all, you spoke to your brother today. Your family doing OK?

BILL DOREY, LOUISIANA DELEGATE: Yes, both of my brother and my sister. They're both fine, yes.

BERMAN: Now there's been a lot talk about whether it's appropriate at all for Republicans to be having this convention tonight. These festivities. Do you feel like there's any issue there?

DOREY: I feel, I feel much better about being here this time. With the fact that we've got great administrators and our mayor, Mitch Landrieu, and our governor, Bobby Jindal. I think we've learned a lot from Katrina. I think the cops are working in New Orleans. I think the police have been straightened out. I think there's a lot of things now that have been put in place to make it safer to be in New Orleans.

BERMAN: So this isn't inappropriate in any way, what's going on?

DOREY: No, no, not at all. I feel very comfortable being here, knowing that my family's there and they're comfortable calling me. I had called, as I've said earlier. They're fine. I'm fine being here.

BERMAN: Now while I have you here, I do have to tell everyone here, Bill Dorey gave $2 million to Rick Santorum's super PAC, the Red, White and Blue Fund. Your guy didn't win. That's a lot of money. Any regrets?

DOREY: Not at all. It wasn't the money so much as it was I cared a lot about him, his family, his character. He's a great, great individual. And it turned out he wasn't the man but we got a good man in Mitt Romney and we're going to win it. We need to. We need to win it.

BERMAN: Well, your first man, Rick Santorum, is speaking tonight. Best wishes to all of your family. All of the people in Louisiana.

DOREY: I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Thanks for joining us.

DOREY: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: All right. John Berman on the floor. We're going to get back to you.

These floor reporters that we have out there, they're going to be busy talking to people out there. They're getting a little flavor of what's going on.

BURNETT: And everyone will get a sense of just sort of how fluid it is. People moving in and out, coming and going. It's very, very busy here on the floor.

Let's get to Dana Bash now.

Dana, where are you?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am standing in -- next to the -- forgive me, they just started to sing "Amazing Grace." Let me just toss back to the booth, and I can come back when they're done with that. I don't want to be disrespectful.

BLITZER: You know what, we can listen to "Amazing Grace." Let's listen to them present this -- present this song.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless. And thank you.

BLITZER: The Oak Ridge Boys performing "Amazing Grace." Appropriately enough on an important night like this, when there's bad things happening along the Gulf Coast.

Let's go back to Anderson Cooper.

Anderson, what's going on right now?

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Well, we've just gotten word that Isaac has made landfall. I want to quickly go to Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center.

Chad, at what point did it make landfall and where?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, really, land and fall down across the Mississippi Delta is kind of an oxymoron. It's a part of the delta here where just the sludge that comes out of the Mississippi River gets poured down in here before it gets into the Gulf of Mexico. But there's one little west arm down there that the center did pass over. Obviously, not a road down there, nobody lives down there, it's just the last thing you see before you hit the Gulf of Mexico with your boat.

So, yes, it did cross right there. It will be crossing not that far. In fact, not -- I mean 10 miles just to the east of Eddie Lavandera and that's where that heaviest wind will be for the next at least hour moving closer and closer to you.

The map behind me describes how much rainfall everybody is going to get. Not only surge but every white spot from Mississippi all the way over to just west of Baton Rouge. That's 10 to 15 inches of rain. And all that rain has to run off somewhere -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, it sure does. I'm here with meteorologist Rob Marciano.

You know, Rob, even though this is not a huge wind event, even though the speed of the wind is low compared to some of the hurricanes we've been seeing, it is still very dangerous to be outside. We are watching very closely, we picked this area by the port frankly because there's not a lot of possibility for debris around here.

But if you look over here the side of this building, the part of the siding is already looking like it's going to fly off. So we're keeping a close eye on that. But with Rob, it really does give you a sense of just even a low level wind speed can, over time, goes long enough, can wear things away.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's the key with this storm. It's moving so slowly. Much slower than Katrina was. It's that constant pounding of the wind. Even structures like that with sheet metal or flashings off rooftops. They're going to -- they're going to take some pressure here over the next really 18 hours.

As Chad mentioned that the storm made landfall. It's about 60 miles out as the crow flies from New Orleans. So, you know, this thing is only moving eight, nine miles an hour. So it's still going to -- where that center of circulation gets to New Orleans, and then behind it, there's still significant weather. If not worse weather behind it. So this is going to be a long duration event. And I think that's what's going to be remembered for.

COOPER: It's also kind of the worst possible timing for the worst part storm to be -- Chad is saying between midnight and 8:00 a.m. here, in darkness, when you have the worst storm, the worst part of the winds, the worst part of the rain. You've got -- you don't see what's coming, what's flying around.

MARCIANO: No. Obviously. So that's -- the darkness, the unknown of what's going on. Certainly will be an issue. And probably when power outages are going to start to happen as well. So -- and the questions of the surge and the levees, will they hold, and will those pumps continue to do their thing as the rain comes down.

COOPER: We keep looking at this building. I'm wondering as it makes some creaking noises and we're getting a small gust here. We're going to have a lot more throughout the evening obviously from all our correspondents all throughout the region.

For now, let's get back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.

Rob, thanks to you as well.

We interrupted Dana Bash. She was about to tell us what's going on but we heard a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" by the Oak Ridge Boys. Dana, what were you saying when we got interrupted?

BASH: I wanted to tell you a little bit about what I'm hearing that the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to say tonight. You see him standing next to the New Jersey delegation. He of course is the keynote speaker this evening.

A lot had been -- a lot of discussion has been going on about the fact that he certainly can throw some punches, but I am told, as I first reported last night, that it's probably going to be more positive in tone. I have some more nuggets about what I'm told he's going to say. He's going to argue that the American people can handle the truth. And that they need to treat people like adults.

He's also going to outline the party's differences in philosophy and the philosophy of governance. And talk about the fact that the Republican Party believes that the American people are ready for the truth and that they should be trusted with their instincts and their motivations.

The other thing is of course the New Jersey governor is a Republican in a blue state. So he is going to talk about some of his experiences in New Jersey at bipartisanship and getting things done even though it is very tough for a Republican to do anything in a Democratic state. He's going to talk about solutions, for example, his experience with the pension benefit reform.

The last thing I'm told he's going to do is he's going to argue that the Republican Party should focus more on the power of ideas than on rhetoric. I was told that some of us might be surprised that there isn't more red meat in this speech, vis-a-vis Barack Obama. We'll see later this evening.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to Dana.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you.

You know, Dana is going to be busy. As we say, all of these guys are going to be very busy. But we're watching what's going on, including up on the podium.

BURNETT: That's right. Up on the podium, we're getting a little bit of sense, Wolf, of what Ann Romney, Chris Christie, might say later tonight in those crucial addresses that they're going to be giving in the 10:00 hour Eastern.

Candy Crowley is there.

Candy, what can you tell us about those speeches?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you know, if this is the beginning of writing the chapter on Miss Romney through the eyes of friends and family, then she is the first paragraph. Ann Romney. She'll be on tonight. We've seen some excerpts from her speech. And basically they're just what you would expect. A very personal look at her marriage, at the man that she has come to know.

There seems to be a theme throughout that this is the man to run the country, this is the man who can fix the economy. But from a very personal point of view, at one point, one of the excerpts that they gave, she said, you know, people talk about our storybook marriage and then she said, but I never read a storybook that talked about, you know, five screaming children on rainy days, about MS, which she has, and about breast cancer, which she also fought. She said, we're just a real American family.

So this is the beginning of saying, look, we are -- you know, we have problems just like you do. That kind of attempt to get beyond what has really defined Mitt Romney up to now, and that has been the fact that he's a very wealthy man. And that some people, and certainly in the polling shows, that people are having a difficult time warming up to him. They don't see him -- in our latest CNN/ORC poll, they don't see him as being able to relate to people. They don't think he -- they think Barack Obama is the person who relates better to the middle class.

They think Barack Obama is the person who relates better to people in general. So that's something he has to overcome. And she is the beginning of that effort here at this convention.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to Candy Crowley.

And, Wolf, you've been a part of that, talking to the five Romney boys, who are trying to give you a sense of their dad in a human sense.

BLITZER: You know, another rising star in the Republican Party, Senator Kelly Ayotte, is speaking right now from New Hampshire. I want to listen in.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: -- with rules, regulations and red tape. From the National Labor Relations Board to the Department of Labor to the EPA, under this administration, the regulations are up and the job creation is down.


AYOTTE: President Obama's view is clear. He actually believes that as a small business grows, the federal government should take a larger and larger share of its earnings. That's punishment for expanding and creating more jobs. I call it a success tax.


AYOTTE: And, you know, the very best example is Obama-care. And let me tell you what I hear in the real world about Obama-care. Just a couple of months ago, a successful restaurant owner in Concord, New Hampshire, told me about his dilemma. He wanted to open up a second restaurant and hire more employees. But you know what, he realized that if he did, he would trigger penalties under Obama-care. And he couldn't afford it. So he never opened up that restaurant. Is that what we want for small businesses in America? No. To be afraid to grow because of the government? To face penalties when you create more jobs? To be told you're earning too much?


AYOTTE: Isn't it time that we had a leader who believes that creating jobs ought to be celebrated, not penalized.


AYOTTE: That is why Mitt Romney is running for president.


BLITZER: All right, so there she is, Kelly Ayotte, the Republican senator from New Hampshire, speaking at this crowd. They're only getting started here during tonight's roll call. Republican officials, though, did do something that clearly snubbed Congressman Ron Paul of Texas by refusing, refusing to read his vote totals from the podium.

Stay with us. We're about to get reaction from his son, the United States senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.

And -- we'll also get an update on the hurricane which is really beginning to pound.


COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac which has now made landfall around Plaquemines Parish, Plaquemines Parish, which is going to have a dust-to-dawn curfew. It is already starting to get dark here in New Orleans. I'm along the Mississippi River, in the port area of New Orleans. But I want to take you to Grand Isle where Ed Lavandera has been standing by.

Ed, what are you seeing down there? How is it?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Well, we are struggling to bring you this shot now over here over the last few minutes. This is definitely the most intense part of this storm that we've experienced all day.

We've been talking about storm surge. We are on the second floor of a home here in the middle of Grand Isle. When you talk about storm surge, this is what we're talking about. This is water that is being pushed in underneath the houses. We're about four blocks away from the bay side of this island.

Just look below us here. The water is rushing underneath the home and behind on the back side of this house where we're at here on Grand Isle.

Anderson, I'm struggling to come up with words to be able to describe just how loud and how intense the ferociousness and the loudness of the winds that we're experiencing now. When you stand here and you look up, you can just -- you can hear this roaring sound just blowing right over your head.

The clouds are so low. At some point -- now it's getting dark here and it's almost hard to be able to make all of this out at this point. With the clouds are so low, it feels like you can just kind of reach up and grab them.

The intensity here of this hurricane now is as intense as we've seen all day. And we've already known that there are power lines. Now we can't -- we can hardly see anything. As you look out into the darkness here as night is starting to fall which makes this even more disconcerting because you don't know what's flying around here.

But the wind -- the wind gusts have been taking a toll on many of the structures around here. You anticipate that at some point there will be pieces of metal roofing, what have you, that will begin to fly off, so those are one of the concerns we're talking about. And so this is an incredibly intense storm that we're feeling right now -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, again, Ed, as it becomes dark, that's when it really gets scary for folks all around here, because you just don't know what's flying around in the air in terms of debris and the --

LAVANDERA: No question.

COOPER: You really can't see it.

LAVANDERA: No, you know, you're trying at least to be able to hear something that's flying around there but that's why I brought up just how loud the wind is right now. It keeps you from being able to hear and kind of figure out where various sounds are coming from. So we are hunkered down on the -- this side of the house which has given us a decent amount of protection.

But as you can see as the wind and the rain blows through here just how intense it is. And how ferocious it is quite frankly. And what has really surprised me is just that, you know, you can see the storm surge and the power with which this water is starting to blow up underneath the house. We're at a safe distance here and the depth of the water isn't that troubling but you can really get a sense of just how quickly it's moving and the power, the wind, is what moves this storm surge and this water into the island.

Like I said, we are four blocks away from the bay side, the north side, of this island. And you can see that this water is just rushing rapidly. And we can see it rising in many parts around us right here in the middle of this -- the home that we're at right now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, I want to bring in Chad Myers in just a moment, but I just wanted you to see as darkness comes, what we're seeing here. You know, you try to see how quick the wind is moving and the rain. You can see a little bit on the reflection just on the ground right by our satellite truck and the satellite truck is pushed against the wall there. We parked it there so that there is a shift in wind, that satellite dish doesn't act like a sail and literally if it's in the wrong location it can get picked up by the wind and literally flipped over, so that's why you try to find a location where there's not going to be a lot of debris and where the satellite truck can be protected on -- usually by one strong wall.

Chad Myers, where -- can you show us the big picture of where Ed Lavandera is and what he's experiencing?

MYERS: Yes, Ed is right in the northern part of the eye wall. Just trying to get another inner eye wall forming here. It's had a very hard time getting the inner eye wall. But when it does form, I assume it still will, we still have a good 10 hours before it hits true land. Remember, all it's really hitting down there now is bayou.

So here's where Eddie Lavandera is right there. There's the northern eye all. Eddie will eventually get right here, which is the center of the eye. It will get completely calm, and then Eddie will get this wind coming from a different direction at an equal speed, if, pray, even not more.

Anderson, you are up to the north. You are right there. You are -- next band, honestly, your next band is 10 minutes away and you are going to get slammed. This band right here will have 50 to 70-mile- per-hour wind gusts in it. That's New Orleans proper.

Our own Soledad O'Brien will also get that probably in about five minutes. You need to be taking some caution, precautions if that building indeed by you is beginning to come apart.

There's Grand Isle. There's the eye. Right through there. It made landfall on that little spit of land. Part of the Mississippi Delta itself. Ed Lavandera right there.

This is now becoming a more intense storm because the eye is beginning to form in a smaller circle. Think about an ice skater with her arms out. One foot on the ground skating. She spins very slowly. When she pulls her arms in and begins to do that spin, that spin is angular momentum, and that spin goes much faster when her arms are in.

This hurricane is now pulling its arms in. Wind gusts to 106 miles per hour just reported off the coast at an oil rig -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, Chad, when you say this band that's going to come you say in about 10 minutes, it's going to hit us hard.


COOPER: You say 50 to 70-mile-an-hour winds, what are the winds right now so we have some comparison?


COOPER: Like how much more is it going to go up in 10 minutes?

MYERS: You are not more than 25 miles per hour now with the gusts of 35.


MYERS: So your winds will double.

COOPER: OK. So that's -- that's going to be -- we're going to see a significant shift in about 10 minutes. We'll try to bring that to you live.


COOPER: Just as a viewer you can get a sense of the difference because that's what people are going to be experiencing now all night long.

We've got to take a short break. Our coverage continues and we'll have more of course from the Republican convention in Tampa. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: I want to listen in to Ohio Governor John Kasich. He's wrapping up his speech. Listen to this.

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (R) OHIO: If there is anything we need in government today, it's people who understand how to create jobs, plain and simple. And the people that criticize folks in business just simply don't get it. They've put us in this hole.

Mitt Romney has a history of being a great job creator. Secondly, he was a great governor. He went from billions of dollars in the hole when he became governor to billions of dollars in surplus when he left.

And he went from the loss of tens of thousands of jobs when he became governor to the creation of 40,000 new jobs when he left office. And he did it in tax-assachusets of all places, OK.

And remember this, beyond his work in business and beyond his work in government, he's a natural leader. He took those Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and took them when they were in peril and headed down the drain.

He fixed the Olympics and made every American proud of what he did in Salt Lake City and built a shinier and brighter America as a result. Folks, I want to tell you this, Joe Biden disputes a lot of those facts.

But Joe Biden told me that he was a good golfer. And I've played golf with Joe Biden. I can tell you that is not true, as well as a lot of the other things he says.

Folks, for the good of our kids, I know we're at a Republican convention, but this is not about Republican and Democrat, this is about somebody that's going to get this country moving again. Restore the strength of our country. Energize the people. Set them free in a free enterprise system. That's what this is all about. It is about our children. It is about our families. It is about our country. And, frankly, ladies and gentlemen, it's about the world.

Because even though they don't want to admit it, they depend on the United States of America to lead and to bring moral purpose to the globe.

Ladies and gentlemen, we got to leave here and march and get to everybody to make sure that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, our president and vice president of the United States! Thank you all very much!

BLITZER: All right, John Kasich, the Ohio governor, getting this crowd going here. We're here on the floor of the Republican National Convention.

Tonight's roll call, which you saw live here on CNN, among other thing, Republican officials clearly snubbed Texas Congressman Ron Paul by refusing to read aloud his vote totals from the podium.

With us now is the congressman's son, United States Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator Paul, I got to tell you -- and I like your dad. You love your dad but like him a lot.

I was pretty shocked to hear that they wouldn't even read from the podium how many votes Congressman Paul got.

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, one of the interesting things was the crowd was reciting how much they got. So when they wouldn't announce it from the podium, you would hear an echo from the crowd of the Ron Paul supporters who were announcing his totals.

BLITZER: Why would they do that? It seems so petty and so ridiculous. I mean, your father worked hard in the Republican Party. He went through all the rules.

I believe he didn't do anything illegal in getting those votes. He went through the process. He worked hard. He's not a young guy and they wouldn't even give them the courtesy to acknowledge how many votes he got.

PAUL: It's been a mixed bag. Many things the Romney campaign has been conciliatory on. We've worked hard and with them on the platform. We've gotten many things we wanted in the platform.

One of my dad's signature issues has been audit the fed. That's part of the Republican platform now. One of the issues I've talked a lot about is drones shouldn't be crisscrossing American citizens' property and cities without warrants.

That's now into the platform. Protections against unreasonable search and seizure we've gotten into the platform. The declaration of war, so we won a lot of battles, you don't win all the battles.

There were some compromises on what delegates would be seated. Some of the delegates on my dad's side still weren't happy, but I think we did win some battles. So I don't see it all as bad.

I also see the future of the Republican Party is they need to embrace libertarians. Because there's much of the country we're not winning in. We're not winning in California or New England. If we want to win again maybe they'd embrace more of the ideas of the Ron Paul fans.

BLITZER: Your dad's retiring from Congress. He's not going to run anymore. He had said this is the last time he's running for president of the United States. I just thought it was inappropriate to end his political career, if you will, on a note like this, before his own party.

PAUL: It could have always been better. We would have loved him to speak here also. There's a little bit of movement each way. I mean, he was asked to give an overt endorsement and he wasn't quite there --

BLITZER: He was invited to speak, but they wanted to clear his speech in advance. They wanted to vet it.

PAUL: Right.

BLITZER: And he said no, he's not ready to do that. Was that appropriate, to tell someone like Ron Paul, you can speak, but we will edit, we will make sure that what you say is something we want to hear?

PAUL: In the end, he did get to speak here in Tampa. We had our own rally.

BLITZER: But not at the convention.

PAUL: But he got to speak for an entire hour, got to say whatever he wanted to say. And his message still gets out there. Really what's incumbent upon the republican, it's not so much about the speech here it's whether or not we want to get bigger as a party and whether we want to win in places where we're not winning.

We're not winning in New England. We're not winning on the west coast. We're not winning Illinois most of the time. We give up 150 electoral votes. If we want to be in play with those, a lot libertarian ideas appeal to independents and moderates.

One of the most amazing things that I think was one of all polls. CNN did a poll late in the campaign, when Ron Paul had no chance, he was still polling virtually even with President Obama because he does well with independents and moderates.

BLITZER: You wholeheartedly endorse Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, right?

PAUL: Yes.

BLITZER: Your father says he can't do that. PAUL: It's just a difference of tactics and a difference of I support them because I think they're way better, no question -- I don't know that our country really survives four more years of all the regulations that we're getting and the debt.

BLITZER: That's a little harsh, survive?

PAUL: It is --

BLITZER: Wait a second, wait a second. If President Obama is re-elected, you think the United States of America, in four years, will not be the United States of America?

PAUL: I'm worried about our currency not just because of this president from 40 years of deficit spending, but it's accelerating. I'm worried if we're on this pace, it's an exponential curve we're looking at of accumulating debt, that there is a danger to the currency.

I'm not talking really apocalyptic terms, but I am concerned that you don't always know when a currency fails. In 2008 was a panic. That was pre-Obama. We're not blaming it on Obama. It's our country, Republicans and Democrats, have been looting the treasury. It's getting worse.

BLITZER: You acknowledge Republicans are big spenders as well.

PAUL: Absolutely.

BLITZER: They don't want to cut the defense budget. You're not going to hear a lot of people here say the Defense Department should be cut.

PAUL: You might --

BLITZER: We'll hear it from you --

PAUL: -- the speech tomorrow night --

BLITZER: We'll hear it from your father. He once teamed up with Barney Frank to cut that defense spending. In the platform, Mitt Romney, he's not saying cut defense spending.

PAUL: No, but I'll tell you what. I always try to look for the glass being half full. We worked on audit the fed for four years. We're starting audit the Pentagon. It was introduced by Tom Coburn who is a Republican.

We have I think four Republicans and four Democrats. I think Joe Manchin's on it. I think Claire McCaskill may be on it. We have people on both sides saying the Pentagon cannot tell the American taxpayer they're too big to be audited.

BLITZER: Are you with Paul Ryan, now the vice presidential nominee of this party, when he wants to do a voucher system for Medicare? PAUL: I'd go one step further. I would give every senior citizen the same health care plan that I have, the congressional health care plan. And it would save $1 trillion over 10 years.

But I'd do it now. I'd just say immediately you get a better plan then you've ever had. It's the federal health care plan. It is subsidized. There's no more money out of pocket.

And this is what you get, all of your congressman have it. It's great. I would give it to all senior citizens immediately.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in. Tell your dad I want to speak to him maybe tomorrow if he's got some time. He's going to be here, right?

PAUL: I'm not sure, but I'll ask.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in. Jim Acosta's standing by. He's got a special guest as well. Jim, where are you?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm right next to the Maryland delegation, but I'm actually standing here with the former speaker of the House, from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, Wolf.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for joining us for just a few minutes. Let me ask you something. You went toe-to-toe with Mitt Romney. It was a bruising process.

His wife is about to come here tonight to make this big speech. He'll come out on Thursday night. Is this Mitt Romney's Republican Party now?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think he's certainly the leader of the Republican Party. I think he's earned that the hard way. He spent six years running for president. He took a tough defeat in 2000.

He turned around and kept coming. I tell people I threw the kitchen sink at him. It turned out that he had a bigger kitchen so he threw a bigger sink at me.

But I have great respect for him and what he's doing. And I believe he'll be a very, very formidable president. I actually believe he's going to win this election decisively.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about some of this Ron Paul stuff that broke out here on the convention floor. Is that good for your party?

GINGRICH: I think what happened was some of the guys got heavy handed in the Rules Committee. They unnecessarily caused a confrontation. The minute they understood that's what happened, they changed. They got to a compromise. It was all taken care of. I wouldn't over read it.

ACOSTA: You released your delegates. GINGRICH: Sure.

ACOSTA: Aren't you asking the question why didn't Ron Paul?

GINGRICH: Fundamental difference. Ron Paul has run on an ideological basis for virtually his entire adult lifetime. He sincerely deeply believes in the things in the things he believes in.

So it's much harder for him to say automatically that he's going to do something. I'm a party loyalist. I spent my whole career in Georgia, building the modern Republican Party. And it's easy for me to say I'm a team player.

I want us to get together to beat Barack Obama. You know, I think Ron Paul is going to indicate quite clearly he is for beating -- I think Ron Paul is going to help bring all of the -- 90 percent of the Ron Paul people will be with Romney and the other 10 percent will probably sit it out.

ACOSTA: The theme tonight is "We Built It." It's on the walls here. The Obama campaign says, wait a minute. You took that out of context. That's taken out of context.

GINGRICH: I think that's such total baloney. We did a thing at Newt University today. People can see it at We showed you what he said. Obama clearly was denigrating the work ethic. He was denigrating the effort of individual business --

ACOSTA: Wasn't he talking about you need roads, you need bridges, get the supplies to your business?

GINGRICH: No, you don't say to somebody, you don't think you work hard -- what does this have to do with roads? This president is pathetically dishonest over and over.

The only person who out-dishonest him is Joe Biden who's hopeless. He was giving a straight socialist baloney. You, if you went out and worked hard --

ACOSTA: You really think the president's a socialist?

GINGRICH: I will show you this, of course, he is. I don't see how you can have another serious interpretation of it. This president would like government to run everything --

ACOSTA: Name one thing the government has taken over, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Well, the government today increasingly runs the banks. The government today increasingly runs the auto industry --

ACOSTA: -- the Bush administration --

GINGRICH: No, a lot of the implementation is under Obama. Obama is increasingly encroaching on the energy industry. Obama, every time you turn around, they took over the student loan program. It's now a government-run program. Every time you turn around, Obama adds something new to government either through bureaucratic socialism where you get to keep your companies, just they run it or through direct takeover.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm going to toss it back to you, wolf. The speaker never at a loss for words as you can see here tonight. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I've known him for a long time and he's always been blunt. All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Much more coming up from the Republican convention.

Also, we're following the other big story tonight, a huge story just a little while ago. Hurricane Isaac made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. And the worst of it is about to hit.

Our correspondents, including our colleague, Anderson Cooper, they are all standing by live. We're going to check in with them in Louisiana when we come back.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac. I'm here with CNN meteorologist, Rob Marciano.

Chad Myers talked about a strong band coming in about 10 minutes. I think we are in that now though it seems to have died down.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the last 10 minutes was pretty harrowing. We had winds gust to tropical storm force and rain was coming down in sheets, 2 to 3 inches an hour. It's this type of heavy rainfall that they're worried about, that those pumps can't handle.

COOPER: You forget how much rain, how much water just pours down over the course of even a few minutes.

MARCIANO: It is hard to get your head around. In some times, it's 3 to 4 inches an hour. During the squad that was really bad, I saw some power flash.

Now we're starting to get into the part of the storm where the winds are strong enough to be knocking out some power. We're just about to get into the bad part here in New Orleans.

COOPER: We've lost contact with Ed Lavandera who is in Grand Isle. I want to check in with Chad Myers. Chad, give us the big picture. How is it look?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The big picture is the squall that you're in now, Anderson, will literally last for more than an hour. It is a very wide squall. It is coming out of the center of the circulation in a spiral band. You're in the outer bands now. And in the next four or five hours, you may get to the inner bands, but the storm is back over water. The big story is it made landfall. It made landfall over a spit of land that was part of the Mississippi River back over water now.

It will continue to gain strength because literally there's no real land there. There's no "there" there. So right there is that little spit of land that was the Mississippi River. The line went right over the end of it back over water now.

Our Eddie Lavandera is right there. He is getting pounded by the storm at this point. That's Grand Isle, winds gusting there at 76 miles per hour. Those gusts will be with us all night long there.

Probably by 3:00 or 4:00, they'll begin to calm down. Remember, if you're in New Orleans proper, you will actually see winds in those high-rise buildings much higher than 80 miles per hour because we saw a wind gust to 106 miles per hour at 270 feet at an oil derrick out in the gulf.

So if you're down in the ground, your winds will be 80, but if you're up in these tall buildings, easily over 100 miles per hour on top of these buildings. Most of them ready to take that kind of abuse.

Windows have been upgraded obviously from what was the Katrina debacle there with some of those windows being blown out. Sometimes you get stone and tar, the tops of the roofs is just stone and tar, those stones can be dislodged and fly around like little bullets, just shooting out windows.

So that's always a possibility. Water's piling up into Lake Bourne. The surge there is 9.8 feet. I see you guys are still being pounded by that rain, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and Chad, just very briefly, you say the worst still hours away?

MYERS: Absolutely. You have this band for an hour. It will stop. And another more terrific band or horrific band will begin after that. You're going to see this type of weather all the way to 4:00 in the morning, maybe even 8:00 in the morning. Right now, 100,000 people in Louisiana are without power.

COOPER: Yes, Chad, you couldn't hear what Chad was saying, but he's basically saying this kind of storm about 4:00 a.m. and flashes in the distance too.

MARCIANO: Yes, power flashes, so we're not even into the heart of it as far as New Orleans is concerned. It's unlike Katrina in so many ways now because of just the path that it's taken skirting the coastline like that. So this right front quadrant we're in, it's going to make it harrowing for quite some time both with the wind and the rain.

COOPER: You have a wind meter, what has it been reading? MARCIANO: Tropical storm force, 39 miles an hour. You talk about not having been in a hurricane for a couple years. You forget it's difficult to stand in winds over 50 miles an hour.

If we're saying it's hurricane force winds and we're standing like this, hurricane winds will blow you over in a heartbeat, extremely difficult to stand in.

COOPER: We'll have coverage all night long and all tomorrow unfortunately as well. This is a long storm. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Let's check back in with Erin in Tampa -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, it already looks pretty grim there. The winds will get so much worse than they are right now.

Here in Tampa, in just a few minutes, we'll hear from former Senator Rick Santorum. It's one of the crucial speeches of the night. We expect him to call for party unity.

Remember, he won 11 states back in the primaries. Despite that bruising primary battle, he is now firmly in Romney's camp. Will his speech convince the party's social conservatives to get on board with passion? Stay right there.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to Tampa in our coverage of the Republican National Convention. I'm John King up at the CNN Sky Box.

In the hour ahead, Rick Santorum, he's the former senator from Pennsylvania who came closest to blocking Romney's path to the nomination. He will speak tonight urging the party to unify.

Then at 10:00, the keynote speech from the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Ann Romney addresses the American people to tell them more about human side, the personal side of her husband. A pattern though and some of the other speakers we've had.

Tonight, I want to use the magic wall to show you. We heard a bit earlier from Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell spoke. The hall is about to hear from Scott Walker, he's the governor of Wisconsin.

And a bit later tonight, Brian Sandoval, the governor of Nevada, look at those are all Republicans from blue states. All states President Obama carried four years ago.

Obvious, but important targeting there for the Romney campaign. What else makes those states important, remember, Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire. Let's come to the projection right now.

We'll show you why those states are so important. New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada among the big toss-up states, the key targets for Mitt Romney as he pick speakers for the convention here to try to drive coverage back home in those local states.

All key targets as he tries to get to the magic number of 270 to win the White House. Let me walk over to our booth here. David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Alex Castellanos, Donna Brazile.

Alex, you've help script Republican conventions in the past. A lot of people say these are dinosaurs and we don't need them anymore in this age.

When you do this, state by state targeting, does it really help? Is there something one of those senators says tonight that helps turn the state back home?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's tough to make the case. It's a news spike they can take back home. A lot of people watch this convention, not tonight, but over the next week, in the news bites and the news that comes out of it.

If you can generate a good two, three, four days from a convention like this, conventions are not organizational vehicles anymore, they're communication speeches.

KING: How much does all Republican governors, in a close election, turn out operations organization?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very important for Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign has a great ground game. They were famous for it four years ago. When you have governors, you've got a lot of apparatus in place.

That's going to be very, very useful. Particularly, you know, look at a state like Wisconsin, which Mitt Romney's pollster was telling me earlier they believe is really in play because Paul Ryan, well, you've got a Republican governor that can help make the difference.

KING: A very big hour ahead, Rick Santorum in the 9:00 hour. Again, Chris Christie in the 10:00 hour. Our coverage of the Republican National Convention here in Tampa continues in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is America, a brilliant diversity. Spread like stars. Like a thousand 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.


COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper live in New Orleans where Hurricane Isaac is intensifying, but the worst is yet to come.

BLITZER: And the storm's definitely on the minds of delegates here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. As they get ready to hear from tonight's featured speakers.