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Republican National Convention; Hurricane Isaac Makes Landfall

Aired August 28, 2012 - 21:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican convention is finally under way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This convention will come to order.

ANNOUNCER: Under the cloud of Isaac's lashing of the Gulf Coast. Party leaders are watching Isaac and the tone of their celebration as the build-up begins for Mitt Romney to accept the Republican nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine delegates -- for the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney.

ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, the woman who could be the next first lady in primetime.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: We're not going to take it anymore. We're taking the White House back.

ANNOUNCER: Ann Romney is ready to take the stage and address her husband's weak spot. Can she show voters sides of his personality that she sees?

A. ROMNEY: He is as loose and funny and spontaneous as you'd ever want to see and just so much fun to be with.

ANNOUNCER: Getting the last word. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His keynote speech should be vintage Christie laced with humor and bite.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The president is going to come on the air to talk about the economy. And I said, what the heck, I got 10 minutes to waste, why not?

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

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Florida, I'm counting on you to help me win in November.

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Republican National Convention. It's your vote, your future, your country, your choice. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And look at this, the skyline of beautiful Tampa, Florida. We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Welcome to this Republican National Convention in Tampa. We're just over an hour away from one of tonight's highlights, a speech by Ann Romney.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with my CNN colleague Erin Burnett. We're watching everything that's going on. The next two hours, going to be very exciting at this convention.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, this is really the heart of tonight's activities. It's going to happen over the next two hours. And let's go through what's coming up in the next 60 minutes. We're going to hear from former senator, Rick Santorum. Obviously that's a speech a lot people are looking forward to that was a fiery opponent in the primaries. But we do expect his speech to be a call for social conservatives to get on board, to unite behind Mitt Romney.

We're also going to be hearing from former congressman Artur Davis. Now he spoke at the Democratic convention in 2008. So it's a big win for them to get someone to switch parties. This time he is supporting Romney. And he's going to ask his supporters to get on board and do the same.

Also ahead, we're going to be hearing from one of the Republicans' rising stars. Now that is South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley. She's young, she's only 40 years old, very energetic. That governor is going to be speaking this hour.

Out along the Gulf Coast, though, all eyes are on Hurricane Isaac which has started to make landfall as the winds are picking up. It looks like it's absolutely horrible there. Although, as Anderson says, it's still not hurricane force winds where you are -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's certainly true. And as Chad Myers has been pointing out all night long, the worst is yet to come. We are anticipating hours and hours of this. From midnight to 8:00 a.m., Chad, believing the worst will be. But, again, the winds, the rain has really picked up.

But I want to check in with Ed Lavandera. We lost contact with him. We've re-established contact. He's in Grand Isle.

Ed, what's the situation there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. We're holding up as best as we can here in Grand Isle. But the winds -- I think we were talking earlier, the loudness and the ferociousness of the winds that are coming through here is just really hard to describe. And you know as the night has fallen here, and it is so dark, you at least want to be able to see if there's any kind of debris swirling around you.

We're well buffered here -- next to the home, but it's so dark you can't see beyond the -- beyond the lights. But we've tried to put some lights here to give people a sense of the storm surge that we've been talking about and what the concern has been. And you can see just how powerful the wind is and what it can do and how it can move water.

This is water that is coming from the bay side, the north side of Grand Isle, the barrier island that we're on. This is an island that stretches about seven miles long and about a half mile wide. And the wind through most of the day has been just coming in severely from the northern side of this island.

And this is the water that has really started to rush up. And we expected this and it will be -- you know, this is why we're up here at this higher vantage point, to protect ourselves from this. And the question now is just how high it will get.

We're told now that the eye of the storm is perhaps coming either very close to us or right over us which would come as welcome news because this is -- we've been enduring these winds for several hours now. So the eye of the storm will be a welcome respite from all this, to be able to kind of settle down and catch our breath. And have the conditions and the weather conditions here settle down a little bit.

So fingers crossed that we can get a little bit of the eye of that storm to come over us, to give us a little bit of a break, and kind of get a sense of just how much damage we're seeing around this area. At this point, it's almost impossible to tell based on -- you know, we can't see. There's only a few homes from people who have not evacuated. And they still have generators on. There was a local -- one of the emergency officials had a home that was powered up over here but that person has left.

There's a couple of other people, as you can see some lights kind of flickering from the distance. But, you know, a treacherous night here that we're dealing with -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Ed, be careful. We're going to continue to check in with you.

Here with me meteorologist Rob Marciano.

It's interesting the rain is starting to really kind of -- you get that stinging rain as the wind is picking up.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's what happens, man. You know the little raindrops moving at velocity. You know, 30, 40, 50 miles an hour at times, it's quite painful. You know, it's dark now. You can't see the river but earlier we saw it flowing the wrong way. Because of the way that the storm is set up. But the river is actually very low because of the -- because of the drought. Now so much -- but elsewhere. So some people are going to get some beneficial rains.

But the rainfall that's coming down now is piling up in the streets of New Orleans, no doubt about that. And those pumps are working overtime to get them -- get that rain water out, over on the other side of the levee. So it's a really fascinating city, and the way they've attacked it to try to protect it both -- on both sides. The storm surge and the rainfall that's coming in now. And we're going to be in it for the long haul, for sure.

COOPER: And some $10 billion in rebuilding the levees and improve the levees over the last seven years.

Soledad O'Brien is in Jackson Square, right in the heart of the French Quarter.

Soledad, are you seeing much water on the ground there yet?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": Yes, just a little bit pooling. Really not that much considering all the rain we've had here. The wind has picked up a lot as you guys have pointed out and it's a -- it's obviously raining harder than it was. And for a little while, folks were coming out and kind of hanging out a little bit. Those have all gone away as the weather has picked up and gotten a lot worse.

So not as much water as I would expect what Rob was telling us. And of course that's a big concern here. You know, we took a look at one of those big $1 billion projects earlier, this big wall that they've created to block the storm surge.

And literally block it, Anderson, what they've done is to build this wall that's two miles long, and the goal of course is to make sure the same thing doesn't happen that happened in Katrina, which is water running right into the city, the storm surge essentially taking over in the Lower Ninth Ward. , the city of New Orleans, even St. Bernard Parish being hit by that storage surge.

So putting this giant wall to block it with big channels, big hates that can close, was the strategy there. Because I think that's a big concern for people here.

Right now, it seems, you know, every time Chad Myers tells us there's going to be a band, no joke, we get another big band coming through. And we're in the middle of what's been deteriorating weather and we're expecting that it's going to stay this way for a little while.

COOPER: It is amazing, Chad, and Soledad brings up the point, that how well you can predict, you know, five minutes from now a band is going to hit and sure enough it happens.

MYERS: Yes, it's on radar. The radar's worked fabulous, Anderson. And we have a lot of rain coming for you. Honestly, you are not going to get out of this very large area of green and yellow for quite some time. This is going to rotate at you for at least another hour, maybe longer. And you may not get out of this at all until you get very close to the eye. That's in store for you.

Here's Eddie Lavandera right there. Eddie is actually in between bands. This is the northern eye wall. That's the inner eye wall that Eddie is going to get and about the next 10 minutes it will be the worst weather he gets all night. And then he will get to that. And that right there is the eye of Isaac.

And it's going to move right on up toward the north and right into -- west of you, right into Baton Rouge. Everybody thinks Baton Rouge is so far inland, there won't be problem. There's no inland for most of the way to Baton Rouge. It's the bayou. The bayou does not slow down a hurricane. The same way the bayou didn't slow down or the everglades didn't slow down Wilma as it smacked across from the west and then hit Ft. Lauderdale from the wrong way.

The everglades are not land. There's more water than land. The bayou is not land. There's more water than land. This storm actually continues to get bigger for at least the next 10 hours -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow, that's depressing. I had water -- I got water everywhere and so I got water in my ear. I couldn't hear what you said what -- when is the eye wall, the worst part, going to hit New Orleans?

MYERS: I would say somewhere between 4:00 and 8:00 a.m. the Hurricane Hunters have it moving northwest at eight miles per hour. It seems to me like it might be closer to 10. So if you're 100 miles away, you're probably somewhere between 90 and 100 from the eye, the center of the eye, that's somewhere between nine and 10 hours from now. That's the closest approach.

The approach will probably take it west of Kenner, west of Metairie, not right through downtown New Orleans. You probably won't get the eye but what you're going to get is the worst part of the eye. You get the eastern eye wall which mean you get the forward motion plus you get the 70, 80, maybe 90 per hour gusts. And that comes in around between 4:00 and 8:00 in the morning. It will be a tough night for everyone.

Obviously people stayed in New Orleans, they told them not to get out. It's going to be a tough night, the wind is coming.

COOPER: Yes. When you get some good news, Chad, let me know. We'll come back to you.

MYERS: I will.


COOPER: Yes, please. Nine -- Chad is saying nine to 10 hours until the worst of the eye wall, that eastern part hits.

MARCIANO: OK. So it's even slower than we thought. And that's going to be the MO of this storm. A long duration event. Even though it doesn't have winds of category 2 or 3 storm, when you have hurricane force winds that are battering any structure, especially city structures and -- let's not forget some of the -- some of the skyscrapers. You go up 30 floors in a skyscraper, that basically increases your category of a hurricane by one.

So instead of this being a category 1 coming on shore, the higher skyscrapers, the higher floors of hotels, and other office buildings, in New Orleans proper, it will feel and react more like a category 2. And just in the last really 30 or 40 minutes we've been seeing power flashes on the west side of the river. We've been seeing power flashes east of us as well. And that's going to start to accelerate. We're going to start to see lights out around the city.

COOPER: It's going to be a long night ahead for all the folks in New Orleans, along the Gulf Coast, all throughout this area. We're going to be bringing it to you live all evening long.

Let's check back in with Erin and Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, be careful over there. We'll stay in constant touch with all of you. You're doing an amazing, amazing job.

We're also here in Tampa, we're standing by for some of the most important speeches of the evening at the Republican convention.

BURNETT: That's right. It's really all beginning in a moment. Former Senator Rick Santorum, who as we all know, tried his best, sort of came from nowhere and became the real block to Mitt Romney's path to nomination, he's about to stand in front of the delegates and stand behind his man now Mitt Romney. What is he going to say? It's going to be a crucial speech. We'll take a break and it's next.


BLITZER: Look at this, live pictures to the Tampa Bay Times Forum outside. Inside, they're getting ready to hear from former Senator Rick Santorum, former Republican presidential candidate.

Dana Bash is on the floor with a special guest ready to set up his speech.

Dana, what are you seeing?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Who better to set up this speech of Rick Santorum than his wife and the Santorum clan actually here. Karen Santorum is here.

How do you feel? This was -- I mean I followed you all on the campaign trail for weeks and months. Must be a little bittersweet.

KAREN SANTORUM, WIFE OF RICK SANTORUM: It was always so great to see you, by the way. You know what, this is great. I mean, this is so exciting. To feel the energy and enthusiasm in this room, I'm just so excited. The thought of getting America getting back to -- America getting back to our founding principles, to freedom and liberty, and, you know, what we're all about.

I'm really excited. So it's great to be here and see so many friends. We're having a great time.

BASH: Good to be here and see so many friends but obviously you've worked very, very hard. All of you worked very hard.

K. SANTORUM: Yes, yes, we did. BASH: So that -- so that instead of Ann Romney speaking tonight, it would be you speaking tonight.

K. SANTORUM: Yes, and that's OK. We ran the race. We ran a great race. I was so proud of Rick. I mean, to win 11 states and almost four million votes was amazing. At the same time, we're fine, you know, we lost, it's OK, and we're so proud of Ann and Mitt Romney. They're doing a great job and we're really rooting for them.

BASH: Have you established any kind of relationship with the -- with the Romneys, as time has gone forward?

K. SANTORUM: Not yet, though but I would love to so --

BASH: What should we expect to hear from your husband tonight? I mean there's a lot of anticipation because it was a tough race between the two of them.

K. SANTORUM: Well, he wrote his speech and it goes a lot to our founding principles, to welfare reform, to the basic root of what we are, with faith and family, and that really goes to the core of his message.

BASH: OK. Well, he's probably going to speak soon. I can't let you go without asking about your sweet Bella, your daughter Bella.

K. SANTORUM: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Who everybody was following during the primary campaign.

K. SANTORUM: She's doing great. She has succeeded every expectation. She is the most joyful happy child. And I want to say hi to my son John who I think -- is watching.


BASH: OK. And I'm going to wrap up here because I think that your husband is going to take --

K. SANTORUM: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Take the stage very soon.

K. SANTORUM: OK. Have a fun.

BASH: And I know that you don't want to step on that. Thank you, all.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

You know, not many of those Republican presidential candidates have been invited to speak in prime time here at this convention. Rick Santorum is one of them. Ron Paul we know didn't do it, Herman Cain didn't do it, Michele Bachmann hasn't done it. Newt Gingrich had a little brief speech. But not necessarily in primetime. Rick Santorum is clearly someone they want to try to unify this party.

BURNETT: And it's amazing because they were such fierce rivals during the primary. And I remember that. You know, we were covering it. And now to have him be the one that is actually here on primetime speaking. But you know his family, it's interesting, you look at them and you see what a tight-knit family it is.

You also think about Rick Santorum and how warm he is, Wolf, remember when he would interact with you or see people on the trail, that warmth, that natural political style. He had that. So --


BLITZER: Gloria -- Gloria Borger and David Gergen are watching and waiting for Rick Santorum as well.

Gloria, first to you, what do you expect we'll hear?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I expect that Rick Santorum is going to talk to evangelical voters this evening. And he's going to let evangelical voters know that it's OK to vote for Mitt Romney. This is very, very important speech for Mitt Romney. Because of course those are the people who were following Santorum, and so devoted to Santorum. Because not only do they have doubts about Mitt Romney's Mormonism and lots of doubts about him on the cultural issues.

But I will also tell you, Wolf, what's interesting to me, since Santorum and Romney have never appeared together on the stage --

BLITZER: Here he is, Rick Santorum is about to speak. So let's listen in. Former Republican presidential candidate.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, thank you very much, thanks. Thank you. Thank you. It is -- thank you. Bless you. Thank you. Thank you, Pennsylvania.

It is a great honor for me to be here tonight. With the love of my wife, Karen, over here, and -- my 93-year-old mother from Florida. And some of our children. My oldest son, John, wanted to be here tonight, but he's a first-year cadet at the Citadel and --


SANTORUM: So I just want to say to you, John, proud of you, son, thank you.


SANTORUM: I am a first generation American. At the age of 7, my dad came from -- to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from the mountains of northern Italy, on a ship named Providence. How providential. That one day his son would announce for president just down the road from the deep mines where his father, my grandfather, mined coal until he was 72 years old. When my grandfather died, I remembered as a kid kneeling at his casket and not being able to take my eyes off his thick strong hands. Hands that dug his path in life and gave his family a chance at living the American dream. Working the mines may not have been the dream he ever dreamed. I never dared to ask him. But I think his answer would have been that America gave him more than he had ever hoped.

America believed in him. That's why he believed in America.


SANTORUM: My grandfather, like millions of other immigrants, didn't come here for some government guarantee of income equality or government benefits to take care of his family. In 1923, there were no government benefits for immigrants except one -- freedom.


SANTORUM: Under President Obama, the dream of freedom and opportunity has become a nightmare of dependency. With almost half of America receiving some sort of government assistance. It's no surprise fewer and fewer Americans are achieving their dreams, and more and more parents are concerned their children won't realize theirs.

President Obama spent four years and borrowed $5 trillion trying to convince you that he can make things better for you. To put your trust in him and the government. To take care of every problem. The result, massive debt. Anemic growth. And millions more unemployed.

The president's plan didn't work for America. Because that's not how America works. In America --


SANTORUM: In America, we believe in freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. To work hard to make the dream of reaching our God-given potential come true. We believe it -- we believe it because it still works. Even today, graduate from high school, work hard, and get married before you have children, and the chance you will ever be in poverty is just 2 percent. Yet, if you don't do these three things, you're 38 times more likely to end up in poverty.

We understand many Americans don't succeed because the family that should be there to guide them and serve as the first rung on the ladder of success isn't there or is badly broken. The fact is, that marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the highest. Most single mothers do an heroic work and an amazing job raising their children.


SANTORUM: But if America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage and the family in America today.


SANTORUM: From lowering taxes to reforming social programs, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are dedicated to restoring the home where married moms and dads are pillars of strong communities, raising good citizens in our neighborhoods.


SANTORUM: A solid education should be the second rung on the ladder to success. But the system has failed. President Obama's solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools and nationalize curriculum and student loans.

Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be in charge of our schools, not the Department of Education.


SANTORUM: Yet we all know there is one key to success. That has helped people overcome even the greatest of obstacles. Hard work. That's why work was the centerpiece of the bipartisan Welfare Reform Law. Requiring work is a condition for receiving welfare succeeded. And not just because the welfare rolls were cut in half but because employment went up, poverty went down, and dreams were realized.

It's a sturdy ladder of success that is built with healthy families, education and hard work.


SANTORUM: But President Obama's policies undermine the traditional family. Weakened the education system. And this summer he showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency. By waiving the work requirement for welfare.

Now I helped write the welfare reform bill. We made the law crystal clear. No president can waive the work requirement. But as with his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, President Obama rules like he is above the law.


SANTORUM: Americans take heed, when a president can simply give a speech or write a memo and change the law to do what the law says he cannot do, we will no longer be a republic.


SANTORUM: Yet, as my family and I crisscrossed America, something became so obvious to us. America is still the greatest country in the world. And with god's help, and good leadership, we can restore the American dream.


SANTORUM: Why? Because I held its hand. I shook the hand of the American dream. And it has a strong grip. I shook the hands of farmers and ranchers who made America the bread basket of the world. Hands weathered and worn and proud of it. I grasped the dirty hands with scars that come from years of labor and the oil and gas fields, mines and mills. Hands that powered and build America and are stewards of the abundant resources that god has given us.

I've gripped hands that work in restaurants and hotels, hospitals, banks and grocery stores, hands that serve and care for all of us. I clasped hands of men and women in uniform and their families. Hands that sacrificed and risked all to protect and keep us free. And hands that pray for their safe return home.


SANTORUM: I held hands that are in want. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job. Hands growing weary of not finding one but refusing to give up hope. And finally, I cradled the hands, the little broken hands, of the disabled. Hands that struggle. Hands that bring pain. Hands that ennoble us and bring great joy.

They came to see us. Oh, did they come to see us when they found out that Karen and I were blessed with caring for someone special too, our Bella.


SANTORUM: Four and a half years ago, I stood over a hospital isolet (ph) staring at the tiny hands of our newborn daughter, who we hoped was perfectly healthy. But Bella's hands were just a little different. And I knew different wasn't good news.

The doctors later told us that Bella -- that Bella was incompatible with life, and to prepare to let go. They said even if she did survive, her disabilities would be so severe that Bella would not have a life worth living.

We didn't let go.


SANTORUM: Today Bella is full of life. She has made our lives and countless others much more worth living.


SANTORUM: I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God's children, born and unborn.


SANTORUM: And we say -- and we say that each of us has dignity. And all of us have the right to live the American dream.

(APPLAUSE) SANTORUM: And we also say that without you -- without you, America is not keeping faith with its dream, that all men -- all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


SANTORUM: Ladies and gentlemen, you know we are stewards of a great inheritance. In November, we have a chance to vote for life and liberty, not dependency. A vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will put our country back in the hands of leaders who understand what America can, and for the sake of our children must be to keep the dream alive.

Thank you and God bless you and God bless America. Thank you. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please welcome the next U.S. senator from the great state of Texas, Ted Cruz.

BURNETT: You have been listening to Rick Santorum there give his speech endorsing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. One interesting thing, Wolf, to me was that he put the whole abortion debate, the whole platform debate that Mitt Romney has sort of wanted to brush into the corner right front and center with all the children born and unborn.

BLITZER: It was vintage Rick Santorum, the kind of speech he could have delivered if -- if he had been the Republican presidential nominee, if he had beaten Mitt Romney. That's the speech he would have delivered. Only at the very, very end did we hear that full throated endorsement of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Most of that speech was a speech he could have delivered if he had been the nominee.

BURNETT: On his own night. It was really just the last couple of sentences there where he got to Mitt Romney.

David Gergen joins us now. David, what's your take of this? Was that the full ringing endorsement that Mitt Romney needed or not?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was an endorsement. It wasn't full and ringing. He did get to it at the last minute. I think the critics are going to pounce on this speech for repeating this Republican charge that President Obama's waiving the rules on welfare when so many say that's just simply untrue.

But with conservatives, this speech will resonate, because as you know from traveling the country, there is a rising anxiety among conservatives and in many other households about the growing number of children born out of wedlock. There is resentment about the growing number of people going on benefits.

And on the abortion issue, I actually thought he came at that in a way that was not as alienating as the platform. He tried to express it in a more positive way, about respecting life. The platform has this really sledgehammer view that all abortions are going to be outlawed, even for rape or for incest, and even for health of the mother.

And that is from -- you know, that is what has brought on this sort of outcry from the other side. So I thought it was a very interesting speech. It helped unite the party. But it left a lot of issues out there that Democrats will come back on.

BLITZER: I clearly got the feeling, David, that it was the kind of speech that if -- if Romney doesn't win, and President Obama's re- elected, potentially could set the stage for 2016 for Rick Santorum. I suspect he hasn't given up that dream of being president of the United States.

The motorcade of Mitt Romney and the family coming over here to Tampa Bay Times Forum. You take a look at this video that we just shot a little while ago. Ann Romney getting ready in the next hour. She'll be delivering a speech right at the top of the hour. We're anxiously looking forward to that speech.

Ann Romney getting ready to deliver a speech. Candy Crowley is up on the podium. She's watching all what's going on. You got a special guest, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do, Wolf, Senator Kelly Ayotte, as you know, freshman senator from New Hampshire. She gave her speech up here a little before Rick Santorum gave his.

Senator, thanks for joining us.


CROWLEY: I think for the first timing so prominently mentioned other than in the platform fight, we heard Rick Santorum talk about the abortion issue. We've had a lot of folks say over the past several weeks, look, this cannot be our front burner issue.

Do you worry that high-profile talk, putting the social issues front and center, hurt the Republican party at this point?

AYOTTE: Well, I actually think that certainly we know that Rick Santorum, he was expressing his strong views on this issue. And people have strong views on it. But the focus has been on the economy and, really, the president's record, where we are with over 42 straight months of over eight percent unemployment.

My speech was about small business, my own family's story about small business. And really, that's -- we need to get our economy moving. And that's been the focus of Mitt Romney. You know, people have strong feelings about the social issues. And we respect that.

CROWLEY: When you look around this arena and when you look at the polling, you know what the gender gap is. You know that the percentage of females supporting President Obama versus Mitt Romney is double digit gap there. What is wrong, do you think, here that the Republican party hasn't been able to attract more women?

AYOTTE: I actually think that this gender gap is going to close up, because at the end of the day, women -- my family, I'm worried. I'm the mother of a seven-year-old and four-year-old. It's about the debt. It's about what we're passing on to the next generation.

And also what jobs are available for our kids that are coming out of college. And we look at the number of college kids that are unemployed or underemployed. That is really those bread and butter issues, at the end of the day. I think that's going to bring women to the polls and really bring them around to Governor Romney and his record.

CROWLEY: Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, I hope to talk to you more down the line, thank you.

AYOTTE: I hope so, Candy. Thanks so much.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it. Wolf and Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thanks so much to you, Candy.

In addition to the convention here in Tampa, we are also following the breaking news along the Gulf Coast.

BLITZER: It is breaking even as we speak right now. It's now a hurricane, Hurricane Isaac. It's moving in over Louisiana and Mississippi. Our own Anderson Cooper is standing by. He'll bring us the very latest from New Orleans when we come back.


COOPER: There you see the strength of -- the amount of water that's pouring down here in New Orleans. And the worst is yet to come. We're here with meteorologist Rob Marciano. Still already a lot of people without power.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, like 150,000 already. So easily going to be a million people without power before this is done. And then there's reports of some of the levees outside of the main system, water getting close to coming to the top of those. So a lot of concerns tonight.

COOPER: We really won't know the full extent of flooding and where and -- until really daylight probably.

MARCIANO: Yeah, for the most part. We'll see some street flooding tonight, that's for sure. So whether or not the pumps keep up, that's going to be a question tonight. But in the levee situation, we'll see tomorrow morning.

COOPER: Yes, 20 inches of rain, Chad Myers was saying, in New Orleans. That's extraordinary.

MARCIANO: There's no way even for the newer pumps to keep up. So there will be flooding. It will take a long time to drain. Hopefully it won't be too damaging.

COOPER: Let's check in with Ed Lavandera, who has been out in Grand Isle that has really been seeing some bad, bad weather. Ed, how is it now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, these winds continue to be quite a problem here in Grand Isle, as we're just on the edge of the eye of this storm. We were hoping, the last time we spoke, to get a little bit of a reprieve, that perhaps the eye would come over us and give us a little bit of a break. But that has not happened yet.

We just got of the phone with the mayor here in Grand Isle to kind of get a sense if they've been able to get a sense of any damage that is out there. When you look out here, outside of a couple of lights here that are powered up by the generator that we have been using here, it is absolute darkness out there.

The mayor says they've had some reports of roof damages across various parts of grand isle, but they've not been able to go out and do any kind of assessment. Right now, it is just simply too dangerous with the winds incredibly intense at this point, Anderson.

COOPER: Chad Myers, what's the big picture?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The big picture for Eddie is that the northern part of the eye wall still is not over him. So the center of the eye not over him yet. That's why he's still getting those very gusty winds, 70, 80 miles per hour from the east.

You're about to see some wind as well, Anderson. We're going to get rid of that here for you. We will see this air here, right here. That's big heavy rainfall band coming to you in about an hour.

So in about 20 minutes all the way to about 45 minutes from now, you'll get a break in here from what you have right now, one of the outer squall bands, the center of the circulation right here over the still of the Delta of the Mississippi. Anderson?

COOPER: Our coverage is going to continue throughout the -- throughout the night here. Correspondents all across the region. We anticipate Ann Romney speaking at the Republican Convention very soon. That, of course, we'll bring to you live. Republican convention is next. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The Republicans here at this convention, they're all pumped up right now. I want to go up to John King. He's over at the CNN Skybox. There will be some other speakers, John, before Ann Romney speaks. That will be the highlight of the evening.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Ann Romney and Chris Christie in the 10:00 evening on the east coast, Wolf, clearly the highlight of the evening. But among the speakers we're about to hear in a moment is somebody who has a unique place in we'll call recent convention history. He's Artur Davis. He was a Democratic congressman from the state of Alabama. He is speaking at Mitt Romney's Republican convention tonight. And he also spoke at Barack Obama -- then Senator Barack Obama's Democratic Convention four years ago.

Artur Davis telling Democrats, especially southern Democrats, four years ago that Barack Obama should be president of the United States. Tonight, he will make the case he has had his chance, that Governor Romney should get to replace him.

Is this something that will move voters? Is this something that will help Mitt Romney, say, among African-Americans? Artur Davis is African-American. Let's ask Gloria Borger.

Some people say it's a significant play. George W. Bush brought the former Democratic Governor Zell Miller of Georgia to his convention. He was a very conservative Democrat. Some people will say it helps. Other people will say Artur Davis, who has since moved to Virginia, is a political opportunist looking to find a new home.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What this is about for the Romney campaign is disaffected Democrats. And they are using him as a symbol of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and are now what they call the switchers or they hope will be the switchers. So he's the perfect opportunity for them to say, OK, here was somebody who was very enthusiastic about President Obama, has now changed his mind, and he is going to tell you why, and that is why you should change your mind, too.

KING: Let's see if he can help. Let's listen. Former Congressman Artur Davis speaking to the Republican National Convention this cycle.

ARTUR DAVIS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Who knew when asked, could government conceivably impose a federal mandate requiring middle class Americans to buy health insurance, whether they could afford it or not, that the Obama answer would be yes, we can.

So this time, in the name of 23 million of our children and parents and brothers and sisters who are officially unemployed, underemployed or who have stopped looking for work, let's put the poetry aside. Let's suspend the hype. Let's come down to Earth and start creating jobs again.


DAVIS: This time, instead of moving oceans and healing planets, let's pay our bills down, and pay the debt down on that wall, so we control our own future. (APPLAUSE)

DAVIS: And of course -- of course, we know that opportunity lies outside the reach of some of our people. We don't need flowery words about inequality to tell us that. And we don't need a party that has led while poverty and hunger rose to record levels to give us lectures about suffering.


DAVIS: Now, ladies and gentlemen, there are Americans who are listening to this speech right now who haven't always been with you. And I want you to let me talk just to them for a moment.

I know how loaded up our politics is with anger and animosity. But I have to believe we can still make a case over the raised voices. There are Americans watching right now who voted for the president, but they are searching right now, because they know that their votes didn't build the country they wanted.

To those Democrats and independents whose minds are open to argument, listen closely to the Democratic party that will gather in Charlotte, and ask yourself if you hear your voice in the clamor, ask yourself if these Democrats still speak for you. When they say that we have a duty to grow government even when we cannot afford it, does it sound like compassion to you? Or does it sound like recklessness?


DAVIS: When you hear the party that glorified Occupy Wall Street blast success, when you hear them minimize the genius of the men and women who make jobs out of nothing, is that what you teach your children about work?


DAVIS: When they tell you America is this unequal place where the powerful trample on the powerless, does that sound like the country your children or your spouse risked their lives for in Iraq or Afghanistan?


DAVIS: Do you even recognize the America they are talking about?


DAVIS: And what can we say about a house that doesn't honor the pictures on its walls? John Kennedy asked us what we could do for America. This Democratic party asks what can government give you. Don't worry about paying the bills. It's on your kids or grand kids.

Bill Clinton took on his base and made welfare a thing you had to work for. This current crowd guts the welfare work requirement in the dead of night, and won't tell the truth about it.


DAVIS: Bill Clinton, Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson reached across the aisle and said meet me in the middle, but their party rammed through a health care bill that took over one sixth of our economy, without excepting a single Republican idea, without a single vote from either house, from a party whose constituents make up half of this country.


DAVIS: You know, the Democrats used to have a night when they presented a film of their presidential legend. Folks, if they do it in Charlotte, the theme song should be this year's hit "Now You Are Just Somebody That I Used To Know."


DAVIS: My fellow Americans, when great athletes falter, their coaches sometimes whisper to them, remember who you are. It is a call to their greatness in a moment where their bodies and spirit are too sapped to remember their strength. This sweet, blessed, God-inspired place called America is a champion that has absorbed some blows. But we bend; we do not break.


DAVIS: This is no dark hour. This is no dark hour. This is the dawn before we remember who we are.


DAVIS: So may it be said of this time in our history, 2008 to 2011, lesson learned; 2012, mistake corrected.


DAVIS: God bless you. God bless you, Tampa. God bless you, America. Let's take this country back. Thank you so much.


KING: The former Democratic Congressman from Alabama Artur Davis, a key speaker at Barack Obama's Democratic Convention four years ago, telling the Republican Convention and the American people watching that they didn't get what they bought four years ago, that independents and Democrats should have an open mind and consider Mitt Romney.

Let's consider the moment with our panel here. Roland Martin, I want to start with you. Artur Davis, speaking to independents and Democrats out there, saying some of you didn't get what you bought. Will -- did he make a persuasive case to have them at least look at the Republican ticket?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Independent or Democrat, you heard that -- you just heard a political fraud, a political fraud. This is somebody who never campaigned as a conservative Democrat, who never uttered that he was a conservative Democrat, who always said that he was in lock step with the Democratic party.

You noticed that Artur Davis never brought up his own voting record when he was in Congress, when voted with Democrats. He never brought up that he ran ads with Obama in his own commercials. Not only that -- now understand, I thought he was a fraud when he was a Democrat. Two days before the House vote, I went down to the House -- to the floor of Congress and I was talking to different members about how they were going to vote. He said, I'm going to vote against the health care bill. And I said - I asked him why. He stated why he voted against it.

I then said, congressman, have you made an attempt to talk with the president to relay your concerns. His response was he has never called me. I said, wait a minute, you campaigned for him. Are you telling me you couldn't get a meeting with the president to share your concerns? He couldn't even answer that question.

That tells me you are a fraud as a member of Congress and you were a fraud tonight.

BLITZER: Alex, do somebody watching tonight who might not have Roland's history with the congressman see him as a fraud or see him as someone is making a point that I didn't get what I bought?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Roland has never heard the story about the puppy, young puppy. Is he A democrat or a Republican? Well, he is a Democrat today, but tomorrow his eyes will be open, and he'll be a Republican.

And I think that is what has happened to Artur Davis. Anyone who grew up in the party of John F. Kennedy and heard him say, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and has seen this administration, I think, just the opposite, ask what your government can give you -- I thought any time you have a get from the other side, a high ranking official from the other army come over to your side, it is valuable.

But it also says your party is open. It's not narrow and extreme. Important speech.


KING: We'll see how the conversation continues. A very big hour ahead. Ann Romney speaks for her husband, Chris Christie delivers the keynote address. A big opening night at the Republican National Convention. Our coverage continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Convention is finally under way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This convention will come to order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the cloud of Isaac's lashing of the Gulf Coast. Party leaders are watching Isaac and the tone of their celebration as the build-up begins for Mitt Romney to accept the Republican nomination.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Tampa tonight, the woman who could be the next First Lady in primetime.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: We are not going the take it anymore. We are taking the White House back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ann Romney is ready to take the stage and address her husband's weak spot. Can she show voters sides of his personality that she sees.

A. ROMNEY: He is as loose and funny and spontaneous as you would ever want to see. And just so much fun to be with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting the last word, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His keynote speech should be vintage Christie, laced with humor and bite.