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Isaac Pounds Gulf Coast; Paul Ryan to Speak at Republican National Convention; Interview with Jeb Bush; Paul Ryan's Big Night; Unsolicited Advice; Fleeing Plaquemines Parish; Trapped In Attics And On Roofs

Aired August 29, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: Isaac relentlessly pounding the Gulf Coast now for nearly 24 hours. The powerful tropical storm is now parked over the region, will likely stay there for several hours to come.

More than 775,000 people are without power across five states and dozens of people trapped on rooftops and homes flooded with water are having to be pulled to safety. CNN reporters are spread out across the entire region. They're covering the storm from every angle. We will go to each of them live.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Republican National Convention here in Tampa. We're also only hours away from Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, taking to the national stage.

And Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, has warned his party to -- quote -- "stop acting stupid" about attracting Latino voters. I will talk with him live about the challenges facing Republicans.


Isaac has stalled over the Gulf Coast on this, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Right now, Isaac is blasting the entire region triggering storm surges of at least 10 feet and flooding in some areas that's being called deceptively deep. Forecasters say those surges are only going to get worse.

Let's get straight to our Soledad O'Brien. She's joining us on the phone right now from Plaquemines Parish, seeing some of those harrowing rescue operations under way firsthand.

Soledad is on the phone.

What's the latest, Soledad?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know they had to stop for a while putting the boats in the water because the wind was picking up and it was a driving rain and it was actually pretty dangerous for some of the rescue workers.

Then they had some other boats that went back in about half-an- hour later, fire boats from St. Bernard Parish and other folks, some of them volunteering their boats to try to rescue some of the people in Plaquemines Parish. It's quite a remarkable thing to see this wall, this flood wall.

The flood wall is doing a terrific job of protecting Plaquemines Parish and protecting St. Bernard Parish, but on the other side of the wall, directly on the other side of that wall, there's about 15 to 20 feet of floodwaters. Those waters have absolutely inundated some of the homes in Plaquemines Parish because they are outside the levee protection.

What has happened there is the levee on the far side has breached. There's been overtopping of the levees, we're told, and that means some of the storm surge has absolutely blown in across the parish. Tons and tons of flooding is what they're dealing with there.

It was quite a remarkable thing to see. And no surprise and you could feel the force of those winds and the rain coming down in sheets. You can see why the folks would be hesitant to put people in the water to try to rescue the folks who decided to wait out the storm even though there was a mandatory evacuation for Plaquemines Parish.

BLITZER: There is a sense this could go though on for many hours, is that right, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Really, Wolf, and that's because the storm even though it's a Category 1, a number of people, including the sheriff of St. Bernard parish, has told me for a Category 1, you wouldn't think it would do this kind of damage they're seeing in Plaquemines Parish, a lot of the damage that is similar to what they had in St. Bernard Parish back in Hurricane Katrina.

But the problem is this storm has just stood over the parish. It just doesn't stop. The sheriff, Jim Pohlmann, in St. Bernard Parish said it just would not go away. It just won't roll through. And actually Katrina rolled through quite quickly, did a lot of damage, but moved through.

This has just been camped out here. We have been since yesterday covering the winds coming in. And it just hasn't abated and it's been a real problem. But I think it's also messing up the rescue efforts as well.

It's unclear, Wolf, how many people are actually still in their homes. We spoke to a woman who is now at the St. Bernard jail because they have taken the people who have they rescued out of Plaquemines Parish and brought them to higher ground at the St. Bernard jail.

She said she didn't want to leave. She thought it was just a Category 1 and wouldn't be too dangerous. She thought she had a lot of pets and probably wouldn't be able to put them up in a hotel. They decided to stick it out. Well, she was able to climb out her second floor window and the water came in around 4:00 in the morning.

She left her husband and some of the pets behind and took her son with her, obviously just an absolute emotional wreck, devastated because her home is probably a total loss.

BLITZER: Do they think the system worked? Obviously it worked better this time than with Katrina, but are they generally satisfied with the preparation for what's going on, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's kind of an interesting question.

We heard from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers early in the morning and told us, said, listen, the levees have done very well and they were concerned about the pumping and the flooding because this is a little water event, but they felt very good about how the levees had done in the federal protection area.

But Plaquemines Parish, where you're seeing this problem, those are not levees within the federal protection area. So those are levees that over years, the parish itself has been trying to build up and make stronger and they just weren't able to get it done in time for this storm.

So, on one hand, yes, absolutely, I think so far so good for the levees, big concern about the levees obviously in the wake of Katrina. Now the folks move onto pumping trying to figure out will the pumps hold and do their job, as it becomes a big water event? Of course, but for Plaquemines Parish outside the levee system, they're dealing with what St. Bernard Parish was dealing with seven years ago.

It's an absolute mess. When we spoke to the sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, he said today is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He said, as terrible as this anniversary is, it's great to be able to pay back the favor and help rescue our neighboring parish, as people did to us and did for us seven years ago.

So I think it's a terrible, terrible anniversary to be doing a lot of the same things they experienced themselves in St. Bernard Parish to help the folks now in Plaquemines Parish, which is a very low-lying area.

BLITZER: All right. Soledad, we will stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much.

Let's head over to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Ed, you're where the Gulf of Mexico flooded virtually the town trapping a lot of residents, including you. Tell our viewers what happened.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, the officials here on Grand Isle are the ones the emergency officials who had stayed back and been in a command post and waited out the storm here have been trying to figure out and get to many parts of the island to figure out who may or may not need help at this point.

But that is proving very difficult because it has now been 24 hours since we have been reporting from the first initial bands of Hurricane Isaac, now Tropical Storm Isaac that came ashore here in Grand Isle, and we are still feeling these effects some 24 hours later.

We spoke with the mayor a little while ago and he's been trying to get around as much of the island as possible. But he said there's many places that they're just unable to get to at this point.

So they will continue. They know that they're anywhere between 30 and 50 people on this island. Many of those people who stayed back are well-prepared for these kinds of things. And they don't necessarily think they will need help to get through this.

But you never know what might have happened in the overnight hours with this storm. So, they're trying to get to as many places. And what we're dealing with here, Wolf, is the storm surge. Everywhere you look around us here, we're in the -- basically in the middle of the island in the home of Dean Blanchard (ph), as we have been reporting for the last couple days.

Everywhere you look here, look, Wolf, and this is actually much better than what it looked like earlier this afternoon. We have had some -- earlier today there were about probably like three to four and maybe even five feet of water surrounding us in the storm surge and the power that the water was rushing by us with was incredibly impressive.

But it is now starting to go down. The house we're in, we're on the second floor, Wolf, about 15 feet off the ground. So we have got plenty of cushion and plenty of room. But the house that we're in did take about six inches of water into the bottom floor. So that was a rather disconcerting as we woke up this morning and we could hear the water sloshing around on the ground floor.

But the water seems to be starting to recede. It's not raining as much, but the winds are just sustained and they keep going, definitely not as strong as they were at the height of this storm. And the very eye of this storm came over us here in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

So we're getting through this, but as we have been talking about, this is a brutally slow-moving storm and it's really kind of delaying things and being able to kind of get out in begin the assessment of just how bad the situation is here in Grand Isle.

Or as we look around many of the structures, the good news is many of the structures and the homes don't seem to have taken any kind of structural damage and collapsed. There is some significant roof damage. But from a structural standpoint, everything seems to be looking OK, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, he's joining us from Grand Isle, Louisiana, thank you.


BLITZER: And, by the way, one of the levees south of New Orleans couldn't hold back the water. Stranded residents in Plaquemines Parish had to be rescued. We're going to hear from residents who made it out safely.

And the other huge story we're following today, this Republican Convention. Among the guests, he's warned his party to -- quote -- "stop acting stupid" about attracting Latino voters. I will speak live with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush about the challenges facing Republicans.

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


BLITZER: We'll have much more on tropical storm Isaac, what it's doing in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. That's coming up. But there's another big story we're following, this Republican convention.

One of the biggest challenges facing the GOP this November certainly will be winning Latino voters. Let's talk about that and more with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He's brother of one former president, son of another former president, maybe you'll want to be president one of these days.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you don't want to talk about that right now.

Let's talk about -- you were quoted as saying "Republicans are acting stupid", direct quote, "acting stupid," when it comes to trying to trying to attract Latino voters, which is a hugely growing segment of our population. What did you mean by that?

BUSH: Pretty clear what I meant. But I meant it over the long haul, which is what I said, that over the long haul as we change demographically as a country and seeing Latino becomes a bigger and bigger part of the scene and operation, you're going to have the need to change the tone on many issues.

BLITZER: So what should they be doing, your fellow Republicans?

BUSH: I think -- I think the focus ought to be on aspirational messages that are more hopeful and optimistic, economic growth over a sustained period of time, building capacity for people, particularly the newly arrived so they can make a contribution to our country, get the border control issues correct. But let's move beyond that to create sustained economic growth for a majority of people.

BLITZER: Support something like the DREAM Act, is that something Republicans should be doing?

BUSH: Immigration is a gateway basically. It's a check off point for Latino voters. They want to hear about the bigger, broader issues.

Finding a permanent solution to the DREAM Act qualified people is definitely the responsibility of the next president. This president has had a chance to do it, he did it by executive order for purely political purposes, but he's not brought comprehensive immigration reform to the forefront even though he promised it and he had a majority for the first two years.

So, yes, those are issues that need to be dealt with. But I think from a political point of view, across the country over the long haul, Republicans need to be more respectful of voters that are trying to attract.

BLITZER: In this last poll, we had the CNN/ORC poll, Latino's choice for president 68 percent Obama, Mitt Romney 27 percent. That's a huge gap. That's only going to grow. I mean, when Romney spoke about self-deportation, how badly did that hurt him? You're familiar, you speak Spanish, you know the Latino community.

BUSH: So it gets to the question of tone, again. I think there's a better way of saying we need to control the border. Great countries need to secure the border for national security purposes, for economic purposes and for rule of law purposes. And you can say that in a respectful way so you're not turning people off.

And that's my basic message is, that in order to govern with conservative principles, you have to win. In order to win, you have to recognize that the country is changing. We're getting older. And we're getting more diverse in our population.

BLITZER: Florida's going to be a critical state. Another huge issue here, Medicare. You have a lot of elderly senior people on Medicare. They generally love Medicare. They love the way the program exists right now.

But Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney, are talking about a voucher program. They're confused. What does that mean to you that there would be a voucher program for Medicare for seniors who are eligible for Medicare?

BUSH: Well, first of all, the Ryan plan, the proposal and the Romney plan, they're slightly different. They were proposed at different times. Both of them say that anybody under the age or over the age of 55 will not have any changes in their plans. So that senior voter that you're describing --

BLITZER: What are the changes though for people under 55? And they're thinking about they're going to be 65, 67 in the not too distant future, what would be the advantage of them of going to vouchers as opposed to the current system, which most seniors like?

BUSH: They don't have to change.

BLITZER: So what's the advantage of a voucher system? Why would anybody want to give up the current system?

BUSH: You'll be given more choices. And those choices will be maybe at a lower cost. It may not require as big of a downpayment. You may get certain kinds of benefits that the traditional Medicare plan doesn't allow.

And if it doesn't satisfy, you can stay in the current plan. And that's the basic plan.

BLITZER: That scares a lot of older people. As you well know, you talk to them all the time.

BUSH: If you check the polling amongst Florida voters, elder voters are supporting Mitt Romney by a double-digit lead.

So, does it require persuasion? Does it require education? Absolutely.

But the idea that you can scare seniors election year after election year with false accusations, that doesn't work. It worked in 1994 when I ran for governor when my opponent said I was going to take away Social Security, as a governor that would be hard to imagine, but that's because I didn't share who I was enough and people began to doubt. Now, you know, after election cycle after election cycle, it's not going to work.

BLITZER: So you personally support this voucher proposal?

BUSH: I support dealing reforming Medicare so that it can be saved. If we keep doing what we do, there is no possible way that we can afford it. I mean, that's the simple fact. It's a false choice to say keep what we have versus an alternative. What we have is going to have to be modified because we can't afford it.

BLITZER: Looking forward to spending quality time who knows over the next four years what you might decide to do. You want to say anything?

BUSH: I want to say welcome to Tampa.

BLITZER: OK, Governor, thanks very much. Got a beautiful state here.

BUSH: It is.

BLITZER: Great city and hospitality's been fabulous.

BUSH: Great. Great.

BLITZER: With rain pounding down on residents of Plaquemines Parish, escaping the flood waters is not necessarily easy. We're going to have much more on the other huge story we're following. We have some unedited stories of survival coming in from the Gulf Coast.


BLITZER: All eyes are on Paul Ryan here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. He's headlining tonight's lineup in only a few hours with his speech introducing himself to the American people.

Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is here, watching what's going on. Set the stage for us.


BLITZER: This is going to be a huge introduction for millions of Americans to Congressman Paul Ryan.

ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that just a few moments ago, Paul Ryan was meeting with the Wisconsin delegation. But up until that point Romney and Ryan aides have been saying that the Wisconsin congressman has mainly been staying behind closed doors, laying low, working on his speech for tonight.

The Romney campaign is very pleased with what happened last night here with Ann Romney and Chris Christie's speech. And they are predicting conservatives will be fired up when Ryan takes the stage.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It was nearly silent on the convention floor as Paul Ryan had his mic test at the podium. But advisors to Mitt Romney are confident the vice presidential contender will make some noise with a speech aimed right at the Republican base.

With Romney at a foreign policy speech in Indiana.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the past four years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to diminish.

ACOSTA: All day long, convention officials dangled conservative catnip in front of the cameras, sending Condoleezza Rice and Marco Rubio to do their own walkthroughs at the podium. But with the job of humanizing the GOP nominee still a top priority, the Romney campaign followed up Ann Romney's blockbuster speech by sending the couple's son, Tagg, out to reporters to carry the family banner.

TAGG ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S SON: Get to know over the next couple months they'll continue to warm-up to him. People getting introduced to him for the first time.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I can tell you, Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it.

ACOSTA: If an Romney's job was to win over hearts, connecting with conservative minds is all about Ryan.

(on camera): With all this biographical stuff, don't the voters need to hear more substance as to what this ticket is going to do for the country?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I think there will be plenty of that. I think that's part of what Governor Romney will talk about. I can guarantee you'll get plenty of substance any time Paul Ryan speaks.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Down on the convention floor on the first night, one of Romney's old rivals Governor Rick Perry told CNN he sees the GOP ticket as balanced.

(on camera): Does the Paul Ryan pick go a long way in satisfying conservatives that Mitt Romney is a real conservative?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Here's what it is, it's a team. It's two people that complement each other. It's two people that have business backgrounds that are clearly in line with what most Americans want to do.

ACOSTA (voice-over): With GOP rising star, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, also on the schedule for the second night, Republicans are making a hard sales pitch to Latino voters. Once again, it was Mrs. Romney front and center.

A. ROMNEY: They are mistaken if they think they're going to be better off with Barack Obama as their president.


ACOSTA: Now, the trick tonight may be to keep Ryan, who is a rock star with conservatives, from setting the bar too high for the man at the top of the ticket. And speaking of Mitt Romney, he's expected to watch Ryan's speech from his hotel room with Mrs. Romney. And according to a Romney aide, the GOP contender's speech is almost done, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know if we're going to have a TV camera in that hotel room?

ACOSTA: I don't think so.

BLITZER: Watching them watching the speech? Sometimes they do that.

ACOSTA: That's a very good question. That might happen. And there was some speculation earlier today, Wolf, that Romney would make an appearance as he did last night, tonight. But at this point, the Romney campaign is not confirming that.

And one other thing, I don't know if you noticed earlier today when Paul Ryan walked out on stage, his wife and daughter and sons joined him at his side. It was a pretty amazing family picture night. I asked Mrs. Ryan -- I shouted a question to Mrs. Ryan, "Did you get any sleep last night," she nodded, yes, they did.

BLITZER: She did get some sleep.

ACOSTA: Hard to imagine with all those kids in a hotel room.

BLITZER: It's a lovely family they have as well. Is he going to be very wonky tonight? Is it going to be more personal introductory remarks? There's a lot of people, as we say, they don't even know him.

ACOSTA: I think -- he is a deer hunter. So, I think we can expect some red meat tonight, Wolf. I think part of the speech will be biographical. But make no mistake, I'm hearing from Romney aides and Ryan aides that the goal tonight is to get the conservative base fired up.

BLITZER: He'll speak during the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: We'll, of course, have live coverage. Part of our special coverage here at the Republican convention.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BLITZER: Paul Ryan's big night at the convention. The vice presidential candidate, he's preparing for what could be a defining moment. Millions and millions of Americans don't know much about him. What he needs to say to wow the crowd. Much more on this part of the story, coming up next.


BLITZER: We're joined now by CNN contributor, Sirius XM radio host, Pete Dominick. He's over at the CNN Grill here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

He's getting some unsolicited advice from our panel. Pete, what are you hearing?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm hearing a lot, Wolf. Thank you very much. Here with my brilliant panel. There's a lot of talk about the mixed reviews last night of Chris Christie for one. Let's take a snapshot of what we heard so far today.


ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Chris Christie, who gave the keynote address, he talked about love but in a much different way.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Tonight, we're going to choose respect over love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was criticized for taking 17 minutes to mention Mitt Romney's name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mitt Romney doesn't win, there's going to be a battle for who's the leader of the party. And I think Paul Ryan no doubt tonight has the opportunity to seize that and sort of close the deal. Chris Christie I think fell way, way short.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think by 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight the nation will know how unique Paul Ryan is as a policy visionary and as a spokesperson for our party.

(END VIDEOTAPE) DOMINICK: All right, so a lot of talk about Chris Christie last night and Paul Ryan tonight. Guys, are these guys at odds? We're all on the same page, right? They're all trying to get Mitt Romney elected. Aren't they, Ross?

ROSS DOUTHAT, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: I mean, I think Chris Christie was kind of a victim of Twitter. I think if you were watching the speech last night as a journalist you were sitting there, Christie was talking and suddenly you're sitting there with your hand held and you're reading people tweeting.

And suddenly people tweeting when's he going to mention Mitt Romney? It's been 5 minutes, it's been 10 minutes and that became the narrative about the Christie's speech.

But I thought Christie's speech was actually pretty good. In fact, I thought it was better than Ann Romney's, which I think was a little bit overrated. I don't know what Carly thinks as the Republican woman here.

CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, you know, it's interesting. I thought Chris Christie followed the pattern that other governors laid out. Every governor who got on that stage last night talked about their experience applying conservative principles to a difficult situation and their success.

And Christie added to that by saying here's how people respond to this. They respond to leadership and then, of course, he tossed the ball to Mitt Romney. I think hindsight's 20/20.

But it occurred to me this morning we might be having a different conversation if Chris Christie had preceded Ann Romney. I think there was a little bit of whiplash going from Chris Christie to Ann -- from Ann Romney's let's talk about love to Chris Christie's what I'm focused on is respect.

DOMINICK: Is this a four-day commercial for Republican principles or to get Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan elected?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: It's a little bit of both. Here's the deal, it's easy in hindsight. You said hindsight's 20/20, that's true. Do you want Ann Romney though to follow Chris Christie?

I mean, people -- this build-up for Chris Christie I think was his biggest enemy. People thought this guy was going to come and do everything imaginable and frankly, I thought it was a big belly flop of mean.

To me it didn't work. On the other hand, Ann Romney comes out and says I want to talk about love. She talks about love. She gets love and respect.

Chris Christie talks about and says I don't care about the love, I just want my respect. I don't think he got respect or love. So for me I look at it as one of these weird situations where in hindsight Ann Romney should have followed Chris Christie. Nobody said that yesterday. Not a single person said that yesterday.

DOMINICK: Mr. Mayor.

BOB BUCKHORN (D), TAMPA MAYOR: It's interesting. It looked like a trial run for 2016. Mrs. Romney was great. She was very warm and affectionate and you could tell the deep admiration and affection she has for her husband. But others were touting her own credentials more than they were talking about their nominee.

DOUTHAT: Well, I think with Ryan though tonight I think setting this up as Ryan's chance to sort of outshine Chris Christie in the 2016 sweepstakes. Mitt Romney has a very good chance of actually winning this election.

DOMINICK: What's Ryan's mission tonight?

DOUTHAT: Ryan's mission tonight is to sell Romney.


DOUTHAT: Sell himself. And I think sell swing voters who might be, you know, he's introducing himself to the national electorate for the first time. And he has to present himself not just as Mr. Wonky conservative, but also as Mr. relatable potential vice president.

DOMINICK: Right. What I don't understand is how are we not already sold on Mitt Romney? He's been running for president a long time. We have had a really good long time to get to know Mitt Romney.

You know, Ann Romney said last night you got to get to know my husband. We know him as good as we're going to get to know him. What else are we going to learn?

FIORINA: First of all, I think that's a very loaded question if you don't mind my saying so.

DOMINICK: I don't.

FIORINA: Mr. Mayor, I'm shocked and amazed people would use the platform of a convention to highlight their own credentials. That's what politics are all about.

DOUTHAT: No one after Barack Obama's famous key address in 2004 was saying, he stepped on John Kerry and it's so terrible. I think you can do both. You can sell yourself and do your party a favor.

FIORINA: But I do think to your question seriously, look, it is true that a lot of people haven't tuned in to this quite like the way us political junkies do. I do actually think this is important.

The reaction that I've heard from so many Democrats to this is a bunch of adjectives. When people are throwing adjectives around, they don't have ideas or facts.

I think what the Republicans are trying to do last night and I think Paul Ryan will do tonight is talk about ideas. Talk about policies. Talk about solutions.

And so the Democrats now I think there are going to be pressure on the Democrats next week to get rid of the invective. Get rid of all the emotions about Republicans being mean and insincere and offer ideas. What's going to work?

JONES: I agree with you in the following respect, I think Paul Ryan for Democrats is conceivably the most dangerous weapon the Republicans have. I hope he goes in tonight and tries to make sure that the Tea Party likes him a lot.

I hope he tries to be their hero. If he doesn't, if he realizes he can actually turn and be a crossover, if he tries to become Jack Kemp tonight, I think Democrats have a problem. Because this guy, he's good looking --

DOMINICK: Who was his mentor?

JONES: Jack Kemp. I hope he gets caught up in this convention atmosphere and does tonight what they did last night, fire up that Tea Party base.

Then I'm going to sleep very well. If Paul Ryan says this is my chance to lead the whole country toward opportunity, we're in deep trouble. I don't believe he actually has a message that can --

DOMINICK: Tonight at a convention, isn't he supposed to talk in great narratives and talk a lot about Mitt Romney and how great he is?

DOUTHAT: This is -- to differ just a little bit with Carly, I think what we've seen from Republicans to date has been a lot of themes, a lot of philosophical statements, but not that much nitty- gritty.

I mean, Chris Christie talked a lot about the idea of tough choices and so on, but he didn't actually say here are the entitlement cuts we're putting on the table.

And I think Ryan part of his -- and I think van would probably agree with this, part of his skill set as a politician is he gets a little wonky and people like it.

So I think there is an advantage for Ryan in going a little bit deeper into the policy weaves. Not in the sense of saying we're going to spend this amount in 2017, but in sort of selling himself as a guy who knows the numbers really well.

DOMINICK: He also has to sell himself. You're right, I agree, I change my mind. We get to know Mitt Romney tonight because people haven't paying attention. But Paul Ryan is way more unknown than Mitt Romney. How much does Paul Ryan have to talk about Paul Ryan?

FIORINA: I think that's exactly right. I think there have been real ideas and solutions put on the table last night particularly by the governors. But I think the challenge now, Van, to your point is to make it clear to the voters that reducing the size of government is not different from growth.

It is part of a growth agenda and an ever expanding federal government is stifling growth. We have to make that case tonight. And I think Paul Ryan is well-qualified to make it.

DOMINICK: I got to can ask the mayor of Tampa, you are a Democrat. You were on the RNC stage yesterday. You're a delegate next week in Charlotte. How dare you put city before party?

BUCKHORN: Shame on me.

DOMINICK: Is that what you did? Did you do that?

BUCKHORN: I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I will tell you as a Democratic mayor, I am proud to host the RNC. It's great for my city. It's great for jobs. I'd do it again in a second. I don't care about the partisanship and that's why mayors should rule the world.

DOUTHAT: If we see him in Charlotte, he might make a slightly different point.

BUCKHORN: No, I won't.

FIORINA: You've done a great job by the way, Mr. Mayor, in welcoming everyone to Tampa.

BUCKHORN: I'm so proud of our city.

DOMINICK: All right, guys. Well, thank you for joining us this brilliant conversation as always. Appreciate it. We got to throw it back to Wolf in a moment here. So, back to Wolf. Thank you, guys.

BLITZER: Pete, thanks very much. Much more on the political convention that's going on. They're getting excited about what's going to happen tonight. Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee will address this crowd.

The other huge story we're following right now, the disaster unfolding along the gulf coast including in Louisiana. Isaac is causing more damage than Hurricane Katrina did in one particular area seven years ago. We'll explain what I mean.

And we've got some amazing video of the rescues. You're going to see it raw and unedited as it came into CNN.


BLITZER: Get back to the Republican National Convention in a few moments. The other big story we're following happening along the gulf coast. Right now, more than 750,000 customers are without power across five states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. Those numbers actually have been increasing all day.

A work force of 10,000 company and contract workers from 24 states have been enlisted to help get those customers back online. Joining us now on the phone is Dustin Gould who evacuated Plaquemines Pparish a little while ago. Dustin, what happened where you lived in Plaquemines Parish?

DUSTIN GOULD, EVACUATED PLAQUEMINES PARISH (via telephone): Wolf, I tell you, it was rough last night. The winds really picked up. They were probably gusting I'd say nearly close to 85 miles an hour. A lot of trees down and a lot of water.

BLITZER: A levee over top creating even the kind of flooding that apparently in your parish that didn't even happen during Hurricane Katrina exactly seven years ago today. Give us the extent of damage that occurred where you live.

GOULD: Well, told the levees have busted down south. It's flooding a lot of people near the Myrtle grove area. Where I live a lot of streets have been flooding. There's a canal towards the marsh side. And it's getting high, a lot of water.

BLITZER: Now, you're 22 years old now. You're a student at the University of New Orleans. You were 15 at the time of Katrina. Give us a comparison then and now.

GOULD: A lot more preparedness I'd say during Katrina. We expected a very strong storm and we wound up evacuating for this one. I guess we were all caught blindsided.

BLITZER: Your mom got caught in the house in Plaquemines Parish? How is she doing? What are you hearing from her?

GOULD: Actually, she wound up having to go to the hospital. She's been hunkered down over there for a while now.

BLITZER: What's the status of your house though?

GOULD: My father?

BLITZER: No. Is your home OK? Is your house OK?

GOULD: The house, as of now, yes. It seemed fine. A few houses in the area got pretty severe wind damage as far as roofs peeling back and things like that.

BLITZER: Well, Dustin, good luck to you. Good luck to your family. Good luck to everyone down there in Plaquemines Parish. We'll stay in touch with you. Appreciate it very much.

GOULD: Thank you, Wolf. Take it easy.

BLITZER: All right, thank you.

Some people spared by Hurricane Katrina are being pounded by Isaac. Just rescued from the flood waters some survivors in Louisiana describe what they saw as they were fleeing their homes. We're going to bring you their dramatic unedited stories. That's coming up next.

Also much more from the Republican National Convention here in Tampa, Florida. We're watching two big stories.


BLITZER: Pure chaos in one part of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish where water flooded over a Gulf of Mexico levee trapping dozens of people in their attics.

Our affiliate, WWL, was there for some of these harrowing rescues. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How high is the water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 15 feet around my house, maybe 16.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people are back there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None right now. We had a couple. This is it from where we are.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it like back there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is horrible. Everybody's house is gone. Nobody got a house. Nobody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How high is the water?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water's almost over my head down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name? How do you spell it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your last name.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you. You take care. You all right? What's it like out there? Here. Let's get you over to the truck, OK. Are you OK? Whoa! We're going to get you over to this truck I think over here, all right? Are you OK? OK. OK. Are you OK?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the matter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First we were going to try to leave and then we didn't because we had nowhere to go. Then come on the TV and said a breach in a levee. We were trying to leave but trying to drive in the car couldn't see anything in front of your face. And with me being a diabetic and I had a stroke, we were in the house. We stay in a trailer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it like back there now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bad. Water's over the top of the roof. We had to break through the ceiling and come through the attic. And they took us out of the attic into the boat. It's very bad down there, very bad. I think four, around 4:00 or so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We live in a trailer. And they got a couple other trailers in there and he's got a couple old houses. So we went in the house. We drove in it was dry when we drove in. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the boat had to come and get you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We've been calling all night for them to come get us. They told us to get out and we said we can't get out. We couldn't get up here. So they just took us off the roof just now in the boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sharon Sylvia. Please, whatever you do, they're going back to get my son and my daughter-in-law. Please make sure his name is Eric Sylvia. Please make sure he gets back with me again.


BLITZER: That report from our affiliate, WWL, a powerful, powerful rescue missions underway. And they're continuing. By the way in our next hour, I'll speak to a woman who escaped the flooding, but her husband and parents are still in the house with 9 feet of water in it. Much more on this story coming up.

Also much more from the coverage from the Republican National Convention here in Tampa. Standby for some never before seen excerpts from Gloria Borger's interview with Ann Romney.