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Paul Ryan's Big Night; Paul Ryan Plays Attack Dog; Storm Surge Forces New Evacuations; Dozens Rescued In Plaquemines Parish; Dramatic Rescues As Isaac Stalls; New Orleans Weathers Isaac; Paul Ryan's Big Night; Surveying Isaac's Flood Damage; Interview with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn

Aired August 30, 2012 - 06:00   ET




REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What is missing is leadership in the White House.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Paul Ryan delivers a jolt to the GOP convention, painting the president as a disappointment. But tonight, the main event, Mitt Romney says, I accept.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And our other big story, the relentless storm. Isaac still dumping rain on Louisiana this morning and right now there are new evacuations, buses and boats are bringing thousands to safety. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I am Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I am John Berman live at the CNN Grill in Tampa for the Republican National Convention where tonight it is Mitt Romney's big moment.

The former Massachusetts governor will accept his party's presidential nomination and as the Republican National Convention draws to a close here in Tampa we're all talking about what he might say.

Last night, it was running mate, Paul Ryan, in the spotlight in the role of the political attack dog. Ryan delivered a wide ranging attack on President Obama. And, believe me, the crowd ate it up. They went wild.

CNN's White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is here with me now. Ryan's speech received very, very well.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Received very well and really one of the themes that he talked about was empty promises.

He was talking about how four years ago you had a candidate that made big sweeping promises and was iconic and wasn't able to deliver on them. It was very much his message.

He said we had four years of the run around. It is time for a turn around trying to frame Mitt Romney as that person. Here is part of what he said.

BERMAN: He did talk a lot about different policy issues, too. He -- in some cases there were some factual challenges. Medicare came up.

KEILAR: Medicare did come up. We didn't have the last sound bite. But I think it was striking because he was talking about faded posters in this generation of people trying to get on with their lives.

But on the issue of Medicare he talked a lot about this and one of the things that I think is certainly worth the fact check is this statement here.


RYAN: The $716 billion funnelled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.


KEILAR: Now we have heard this over and over because the Ryan/Romney ticket is very susceptible on Medicare criticism because of the Ryan budget and because of the Romney plan, which deals with entitlement reform, which is a very touchy issue politically.

So here they are again, as we've heard them do targeting this money that was taken out of Medicare under health care reform on the provider side to pay hospitals, to pay insurance companies.

The interesting thing as you know, John, Paul Ryan's budget itself included those cuts if you call them cuts. It is somewhat debateable although the Romney plan does not. But certainly under his budget they were included.

BERMAN: On the very issue of Medicare though Paul Ryan seemed to be saying bring it on. I mean, it has been an issue that traditionally hasn't been great for Republicans, but obviously Ryan spoiling for a fight here. Nevertheless, Paul Ryan also has some fun with this subject of Mitt Romney saying he sort of like, you know, boring old dad.

KEILAR: He did. Like he sort of an old funny daddy, what I took away from it. He was talking about the music that Mitt Romney likes. That it is akin to elevator music and he said what I like is ac/dc and Led Zeplin.

And this is interesting. I wonder kind of what you think about this. I sort of thought maybe it humanizes him. Maybe it is an acknowledgment of self awareness that Mitt Romney is this kind of maybe not as cool as a younger candidate or Paul Ryan might be. What did you think?

BERMAN: You know, I did think the Republicans were spending all week trying to warm Mitt Romney up and maybe it's a risk for Paul Ryan to remind people that he listens to elevator music. That was a picture of Mitt Romney watching the speech with his grandchildren.

It is hard to mess up the picture, but it was in that picture. Thanks, Brianna. We'll come back to you in a little bit. Zoraida, back to you in New York.

SAMBOLIN: That was fun. Thank you very much, John. Now to our other top story this morning, Tropical Storm Isaac relentless' battering of Southeast Louisiana.

It is a slow, agonizing water torture there. Take a look at Isaac at this hour. Slow moving, but still packing 45 miles an hour winds and very stinging rains. Right now, thousands of people are being evacuated west of New Orleans in St. Johns parish after a storm surge forced water over the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

Dozens of people who failed to heed the evacuation warnings finding themselves in desperate need of rescue after water over topped four levees south of the city in Plaquemines Parish creating the flooding the parish did not see even during Hurricane Katrina.

CNN has Isaac covered like no other network for you. David Mattingly standing by live in Gulfport, Mississippi and meteorologist Karen Maginnis tracking the system from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

But first, we're going to head over to Brian Todd. He is in Plaquemines Parish where the levees were just not high enough to hold back all of the rising flood waters -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, the situation here very unstable still at this hour. Parish President Billy Nungesser as of last night said they're still trying to assess whether there are stranded residents in this area.

Several dozen had to be rescued yesterday, some 3,000 people deciding to stay here even when a mandatory evacuation order was issued ahead of the storm. This wall behind me is not the levee in question.

This is a seawall that is obviously this side of that levee is on the other side of us, but still there is water coming through even seawall. So a lot of flood waters on the other side of this wall here, no imminent danger of this being compromised in any way.

But still we're going to be hopefully going out with the parish president a little later today to assess some of this. We're told by the state government that some 800 homes had significant water damage in this parish from the over topping of that levee.

It was an 18-mile long stretch of it that was over topped by the incredible surge of flood waters from a marsh and now the Army Corps of Engineers is going to try to reverse the process they call a day version.

Usually they try to pump water from the Mississippi River into this marsh land, which is lower than the Mississippi normally now the water in that marsh land is higher than the Mississippi.

So they'll try to reverse that and try to open a channel and floodgate and get that water by gravity back into the Mississippi River and see if it brings some relief to the residents of this area.

SAMBOLIN: I am sure everybody is hoping that that indeed works. Brian Todd in Plaquemines Parish. We'll check back in with you in a little bit.

Late last night, we learned that President Obama signed federal disaster declarations for dozens of areas of Louisiana and Mississippi where non-stop rain led to more dramatic rescues.

Dozens of people plucked to safety, some by land, some of them by water. National correspondent David Mattingly is in Gulfport, Mississippi. And David, has it let up there at all?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is letting up a little bit, but not enough to really feel any sense of relief because the conditions right now are almost identical to what we saw 24 hours ago.

A little less rain right now so that is a good thing, but the winds are still strong. We have seen tropical storm force conditions now since midnight yesterday.

So right now it is all a matter of waiting for this to let up so teams can get out there for their damage assessment to find out exactly they have to recover from after this storm, but take a look at some of this video first from Bay St. Louis.

This area east of us here was hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina. Now time around they're seeing very high flooding. Again, the storm didn't move out the way it was supposed to. It just moved in and stayed here.

So they're seeing flooding in that area higher than what they expected to see and also some video this morning from Gulfport, Mississippi, not Gulfport but Biloxi, Mississippi.

A lot of street flooding there and the casinos were closed ahead of the storm by order of officials there, but you can see the street flooding there and similar street flooding here in Gulfport.

But also here in Gulfport there was a confirmed tornado touching down, damaging at least one home here in the gulf port area. Right now, the story of all across the Mississippi gulf coast of course is the rain.

Right here in Gulfport, we have seen 9-3/4 inches rain so far with this storm that is 3-1/2 inches more than on New Orleans -- Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: All right, David Mattingly live in Gulfport, Mississippi. Thank you. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is tracking Isaac and has predicted it is simply not going away. So of course, the question everybody wants to know is when is it going to finally move out?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think we'll start to see the rainfall diminish later on this afternoon. It is pulling away some of that deep core convection. It really seems to be evolving into a rain shield now with less intense precipitation.

But look how much of the rainfall we have seen since the storm made its way on shore. In Louisiana just about 19 inches of rainfall, so a grim situation there and now in addition to the flooding, to the over topping of the levees.

There is a tornado watch that is in this area that encompasses South Eastern Louisiana, portions of Mississippi and Alabama. We have had a number of tornado warnings as you heard David Mattingly mention.

There have been some reports of tornadic touchdowns. No reports of any injuries, but some damage to some homes. So we get these bands of intense showers that move on shore.

Those are the critical bands that could lead to some tornados being spawned so that tornado watch goes until 8 a.m. Central Time as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its way towards Arkansas.

We think Little Rock, 3 to 6 inches of rainfall and eventually over the next several days it begins to wring itself out completely across the Ohio Valley. Zoraida, this is a system that just does not want to give up.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Karen Maginnis live for us in Atlanta. Thank you.

New Orleans avoiding a direct hit from Isaac and avoiding catastrophe, but streets are still flooded. Power is still out. People are being rescued. We'll get an update on the situation on the ground coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 13 minutes past the hour. These are live pictures from Gulfport, Mississippi. You can see the winds are still whipping and you can see in the background there, the water is still pretty angry.

Our meteorologist Karen Maginnis said hopefully by this afternoon that area will be feeling some reprieve from all of this. So across the city of New Orleans, streets are flooded and trees are down.

Three quarters of the city is still without power, but the levees are holding. New Orleans police have declared a dusk to dawn curfew, a dozen cases of looting reported as of yesterday.

So joining me now is the deputy mayor of public safety for the city of New Orleans Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Sneed. Are you there, sir?

LT. COLONEL JERRY SNEED, DEPUTY MAYOR (via telephone): Yes, I am. I can barely hear you.

SAMBOLIN: OK, I will try to speak up for you. Good morning to you and thank you for taking the time to spend with us this morning. Could you tell us what is the current situation on the ground there in New Orleans?

SNEED: The wind is finally reducing here. This storm took forever to get here and now it never wants to leave. The winds are dying down. We still have some minor street flooding.

The big thing is no power for about 160,000 of our citizens. That's the biggest concern right now. We're able to get some crews out yesterday and start cleaning up.

We'll hit it hard as soon as it is good and we can see real good and start recover ops today hard and heavy.

SAMBOLIN: And what about the safety there for all thbose workers? Are you concerned about that?

SNEED: What?

SAMBOLIN: The safety. Their safety.

SNEED: Yes, that's why we weren't able to get out yesterday. The winds were still high and gusts, but again the winds should be down to where it is safer for our citizens and we are in a tornado watch and we have to be careful about that.

Safety is our most ultimate concern. We want to get power back up. We want to get the streets back and get our systems back. We can't jeopardize life, so we'll take care of our public safety people and energy and so forth and work safely, yes.

SAMBOLIN: And I know that this is a slow process and you're hampered by a lot, especially the conditions that are still there in that area. But do you have any sense this morning of how many homes and businesses have been damaged?

SNEED: We don't have good numbers. There is damage out there, but we have a lot of trees down. Of course sometimes those trees fall on homes and I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there is quite a bit of damage out there. It is not like a Katrina and some of our surrounding areas took a bigger hit than we did. It is your home but it is really bad, but we'll get that and better assessment done today.

SAMBOLIN: That's certainly a good point. The New Orleans police department superintendent said at a press conference last night there have been about 12 examples of looting so far and arrests have been made each time.

Are you still concerned about that? Were there any more incidents over night?

SNEED: There weren't any more over night. I can't praise our police department enough. They have been on the scene and have made numerous -- quick arrests on incidents like this, so they're out in force, and these weather conditions are quickly responding to and capturing.

Look, we've got -- everybody has got some bad people out there that will burglarize and loot even in good weather and some will take advantage of it, but the police department is has done a wonderful job on top of it. We do have some National Guard here assisting them to give them a little more people on the street watching things.

But overall, our citizens have been very good. They haven't been out much. We did the 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew to help us out a little bit and most of our citizens are staying in and listening to us.

SAMBOLIN: That is good news. We know that you have your hands full. Thank you so much for spending time with us this morning, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Sneed, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Thank you very much for that.

Eighteen minutes past the hour here. Gas prices are still climbing. The effects of Isaac of course have not helped but relief at the pump could just be around the corner.

Christine Romans is going to join us to explain.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Twenty-one minutes past the hour. We're minding your business this morning.

You probably saw a jump in gas prices because of hurricane Isaac. But there might be some relief headed your way soon.

Christine Romans is here to explain. I call it good news when you say prices are going down.

ROMANS: Well, I'm looking at wholesale gasoline prices. They are starting to come down and a lot of experts say the surge if you will, pardon the pun, in the price of gasoline will probably start to come down if not Monday, Labor Day and then Tuesday, and you'll start to see it recede a little bit and that's because the story is going to start to get refined to get into gasoline and it's going to be flowing.

Last night, though, the most recent numbers we have, another 2 cents on the national average, up 2 cents, $3.83 a gallon and you can see depending on where you live, it's worse. We saw prices rise 4 cents or 5 cents on the Gulf Coast. But look at the Midwest, around the Great Lakes.

You saw big chunks there, Wisconsin $3.89, Illinois $4.09. Part of the reason is because that part of the country gets a lot of its gasoline through pipelines and as we know, things really shut down in the Gulf of Mexico where a lot of that stuff was coming up. So, that's really important to watch. I think those prices are going to start to come down just a little bit.

I want to talk about the storm damage. We saw storm damage the first kind of initial estimates we're getting, maybe up to $1.5 billion of insured losses, on shore insured losses, for this category 1 hurricane that is now a tropical storm. It doesn't even put it in the top 10 for damages and losses because of hurricane Katrina is the worst, $46 billion. And even Irene last year, $4 billion.

SAMBOLIN: When I saw that list this morning I was surprised and then when you remember all of these.

ROMANS: Right, and some of those are category 3 and category 4 storms. The issue with Isaac will be the rain and the water and what we know is everyone is getting in there now trying to make sure things are secure and the port of New Orleans is hoping it will be open as soon as tomorrow, the Coast Guard will make that final call. But you're going to start to see more storm estimates and people starting to get back to business.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Christine.

Let's send it back to John Berman, he is anchoring coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Good morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad -- I mean, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Long night, night.

BERMAN: Tonight of course is -- a long night here. It is the big night here tonight in Tampa. Mitt Romney accepts his party's nomination after all the other speakers, can Romney sell himself?

Our special coverage of the convention from Tampa continues, next.



RYAN: College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters.


BERMAN: Paul Ryan talking tough on President Obama, a rousing warm-up for Mitt Romney who tonight makes the biggest speech of his life.

SAMBOLIN: Trapped in attics and plucked from roof tops, Isaac is still dumping rain on Louisiana and right now, we have new evacuations, busses and boats, bringing thousands to safety.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. I am Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman live at the CNN grill in Tampa, the site of the Republican National Convention. And tonight is the night that Mitt Romney has probably dreamed about for years, because tonight, he accepts the Republican Party nomination for president.

He does have a tough act to follow. Paul Ryan had the crowd fired up last night with a wide ranging criticism of the president's policies and really even his overall vision.

Joining us to talk about this is our CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar and Will Cain, contributor to CNN and also a columnist for

I want to start with you, Brianna. Really, set the stage for what Paul Ryan did last night.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Obviously in this election, that is a referendum on President Obama's performance on the economy, the House budget chairman of the hitting him on this and specifically, he took aim at the president's performance and how it relates to a plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Here's what he said.


RYAN: Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years. That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.


KEILAR: Now, the Obama campaign is jumping all over this, John, because it's not quite true. It is not true actually. This was a plan to close this plant that was announced under the Bush administration. PolitiFact has looked at this and said that it's not accurate. So, just certainly something worth fact checking I think from the speech.

BERMAN: Paul Ryan, a shrewd politician and a lot of fun with word play, not always necessarily accurate. He also did talk some about Mitt Romney and laid out the character differences between the two men.

KEILAR: That's right. When you look at Mitt Romney and polls certainly show this, that a lot of voters feel like perhaps he is out of touch, or he's not really likeable and obviously trying to loosen him up. We have seen that throughout this sort of imagery make through this convention.

So, he talked about his musical choices. Take a listen.


RYAN: We're a generation apart. Governor Romney and I, and in some ways we're different. There are the songs on his iPod which I've heard on the campaign bus, and I've heard it on many hotel elevators.

As I said, look, I know it's not a deal breaker, Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin.


BERMAN: So, elevator music. I laughed. I did think it was funny joke.

Will Cain, I want to bring you in. Good idea to highlight that Mitt Romney is kind of a stiff?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it is a good idea to always be honest and you brought up honesty a couple of times this morning, John. So let's not pretend that Mr. Personality, Mr. Excitement. I think Paul Ryan earns authenticity with comments like that.

We know who Mitt Romney is. It is time for us as voters to accept who he is and we have to choose the path or stick with the President Obama path.

BERMAN: Paul Ryan, of course, is something of a conservative icon and his speech really well received in that crowd. What kind of impression did it make on you, Will?

CAIN: You know, I think it was great. I know Brianna talked about it earlier, the anticipation was Paul Ryan give voice to a complicated message, not an easy sell and that is this message of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free market invisible hand economics.

Now, that's just not the easiest thing to sell. It is easier to sell auto bailouts or anecdotal economics. Not saying that's right or wrong. Actually, I am saying it is wrong. But I'm saying this is a tougher sell. He did a good job, kind of awkward throat clear throughout the night. But the message was pretty good.

BERMAN: He got one warm-up (INAUDIBLE) by the end, I think he did it quite well. But, Will, you're something of a prophet of honesty when it comes to serious policy issues. Paul Ryan did -- by the way, he didn't lay out his own Medicare plan last night, conspicuously absent were the details of his plan last night. However, he did talk about the president's.

I want to listen to one thing he said.


RYAN: Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.


RYAN: An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.


BERMAN: As I said, as the self proclaimed profit of honesty on the issue of Medicare, what do you think about that?

CAIN: Well, look, John, this is a complicated issue. There has been a lot of confusion about it. But it's true that $716 billion that would have gone to Medicare are going to fund Obamacare.

Now, what does that mean? Does it mean benefits will be reduced for Medicare beneficiaries? Well, the Obama campaign says no, it's going to reduce payouts to providers and benefits should stay the same.

In the end, what Republicans suggest is fewer providers will be available if you take the $716 billion out.

BERMAN: It's the same $716 billion Paul Ryan has had to take out.

CAIN: That is absolutely true. Now, the difference is Mitt Romney says he's not going to take it out. Right or wrong, Mitt Romney says he's leaving it in. He sees it as good politics.

KEILAR: If it is Paul Ryan speaking here and casting aspersions on the same chunk of change, how is it anything but disingenuous?

CAIN: Oh, Brianna, disingenuous is the exact wrong word. It might be talk watered but he is running on Mitt Romney's plan not his plan, so he has the right to say we're not going to take this out under what would be our administration.

BERMAN: Let me talk about Mitt Romney before we run out of time here, because he is giving a speech tonight. I check on the calendar. It is on the schedule.

I think the bar is really high here. I think Condoleezza Rice who we haven't had a chance to talk about and also Paul Ryan set a very high bar for the speech tonight, amongst the crowd that doesn't necessarily have a real connection with Mitt Romney to begin with. How difficult will it be with him tonight?

CAIN: Well, back to the elevator music, you can't set a bar for Mitt Romney that honestly he cannot meet. Don't expect him to come out and be a rock star tonight.

What I hope Mitt Romney can do is again put voice to a message that's hard to sell and we're going to have to accept Mitt Romney for who he is. I think he will do pretty well, John.

BERMAN: And, Brianna, what's the White House saying this morning about what's going on here so far in Tampa?

KEILAR: Well, it's very much the Obama campaign and they sent out a scathing response, the head of the campaign, Jim Messina saying basically, as far as Paul Ryan goes they felt it was all lies when it came to Medicare, when it came to the Janesville plant, and the overarching message they said was this is just indicative of the type of campaign they're running if they can't even rely on the truth. I think we're seeing that on both sides, though, right?

BERMAN: I think we are seeing it on both sides. We'll hear more tonight from Mitt Romney and tomorrow from everyone here.

Brianna Keilar, thanks for joining us.

Will Cain, we'll see you a little bit later.

Zoraida, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Great conversation. Thank you.

Major flooding from Isaac leads to some pretty dramatic rescues. The Coast Guard and ordinary citizens, heroes this morning -- a closer look at the extent of the damage and the story from the flood zone.

Soledad joins us live from St. Bernard Parish. That's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.

Isaac didn't just soak Plaquemines Parish, it submerged entire neighborhoods as ordinary people did the extraordinary, risking their lives to rescue neighbors that were trapped inside their homes.

Soledad O'Brien from "STARTING POINT", is in St. Bernard Parish.

And you have been talking, Soledad, to people rescued from their flooded homes. What are they telling you?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's actually the rescues were quite dramatic, Zoraida, and first I will point out that this rain, this downpour has just rolled in and it's kind of weather they were seeing all day and trying to effort some of those rescues yesterday. We spent the day here.

This big wall behind me is a flood wall and what is amazing about this wall, it really on the other side there is some 10 to 15 to 10 feet of water that are not coming into this parish. We're in St. Bernard Parish.

On the other side of the wall is Plaquemines Parish. So, they were plucking people from their homes, from their roofs, at their windows on the second floor.

On the other side of that wall in Plaquemines Parish, when the levees were over topped, the far levees, and water came into the parish. They brought them right around this corner here into St. Bernard parish to the jail where they were able to give them some food, dry them off and help them make contact with their friends.

So, the folks were telling us how terrifying it was, middle of the night, 2:00, they got a call, levees have been breached is what they were told, although it looks like it was over topping at this point as far as we know.

And they basically started gathering up stuff in some cases and a few hours later, boom, within minutes, water had flowed into their house. Some cases, people were sleeping and woke up to what they thought was a trickle of water was water gushing into their homes. They grabbed everything and ran for their lives.

Some people had to be plucked off the levees and that's what we were seeing yesterday being brought this way after being literally taken off the levee and brought to safety as you can imagine sitting on the top of a levee, for people who don't levees, kind of a hill to block the water on either side and sitting there until the rescuer could get there and absolutely miserable and completely terrifying for these folks.

SAMBOLIN: Soledad, has everybody on the other side of that wall now been rescued or are they still in that process this morning?

O'BRIEN: Unclear at this time. We have been told by some they don't believe there are more that need to be rescued. But they've been -- you know, with this kind of weather, it's been kind of challenging to really have a completely clear day where you can and water is still very high and that's been problematic.

I know today they're hoping to put the boats back in and get another opportunity to run through these neighborhoods.

Keep in mind -- we're talking about, Zoraida, subdivisions, right? So these neighborhoods, subdivisions basically under 15 feet of water and the only thing you can do is bring a boat in and navigate the streets like rivers and try to see who needs rescuing from their attic. It's treacherous for the people who are the victims and the rescuers, too.

SAMBOLIN: And I know yesterday, when we were on the air together, there were actually some neighbors that were taking out their boats and going and saving people. You talked to some of those folks as well, didn't you?

O'BRIEN: We will. We'll talk to more this morning. Absolutely heroic stories and that's one of the things I think is always the amazing part of disasters and covering devastation as you hear, the stories of people who are true heroes. One young man and his dad and we'll hear from them this morning, got in a boat, from the neighborhood and waited on this side and brought their boat up there and put it in the water and started going house to house finding people that needed rescuing -- really, really heroic.

And we'll talk to that young man. He's 25 years old, talk to him this morning. He is credited with saving dozens and dozens of people. Pretty incredible young man.

SAMBOLIN: And what about the conditions? I see it did start raining again and looks like there is quite a bit of wind associated with it as well. And so you worry about some of these rescue workers. We saw some helicopters actually taking some people out. Do you think the conditions will allow for that again today?

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, hopefully. It is moving through very slowly and bands like that are just really a pain but for the last couple of hours we have had clear weather and if that keeps up, that's going to be very helpful because the helicopters can get in.

The Coast Guard yesterday said until it is clear they can't obviously fly in in stormy weather. It's unsafe for the people trying to do the rescuing.

So if the weather is clear and we're hoping that it will be, that will be great news for the rescuers today to get in there and make sure that there's nobody else who needs to be pulled out, and we've heard the storms moving slowly out, so that should be great news.

SAMBOLIN: And I know that a lot of these people on the other side of the wall were not expecting the high volume of water. Where are they all going?

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, for a lot of them when they hear category 1, they just thought it wouldn't be so bad. The problem with this storm is that it has kind of camped over Plaquemines parish and really over this area so it is a water problem, a flooding problem, the over topping, the storm surges as people predicted.

So, you're right. I think they were really not expecting it and some of the places that were flooded that didn't get flooded in Katrina. You know, when you think about that, it's pretty remarkable.

So, they have been brought to St. Bernard jail and being fed and housed for now and obviously their homes are under 10 feet of water in some cases and sometimes more. So, we have to figure out what the next steps are because until that water goes down they can't think about what the next step is going to be.

SAMBOLIN: Really an incredible situation there. Soledad O'Brien, anchor of "STARTING POING" -- I know you will have a lot more beginning at 7 a.m. Thank you very much for that.

Right now, 43 minutes past the hour. Let's send it go back to John Berman. He is anchoring our coverage of the Republican National Convention -- John.

BERMAN: Zoraida, first of all, let me say I miss you back home. It is nice to see you even if just on TV here.

SAMBOLIN: I miss you, too. I tweeted out a picture saying this is a view I will have for the next two weeks because you go from there to the DNC. So, going to miss you.

BERMAN: It will only make you are on bond stronger.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan here brings his A game, the biggest speech of his political career. He went after the president hard and he set the stage for Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney's moment in the spotlight tonight.

Our special coverage of the Republican National Convention from Tampa continues in a moment.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I am John Berman, live at the CNN grill.

We're here in Tampa for the Republican National Convention. That is a live look at the floor right now. Not much action this morning.

But last night, it was easily the biggest speech Paul Ryan has ever given as he officially accepted his party nomination for vice president.

The Wisconsin congressman came out swinging against President Obama's time in office.


RYAN: They have run out of idea. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they have got left. With all their attack ads, the president is throwing away money and he is pretty experienced at that.


BERMAN: That speech and line got an enthusiastic reception here in Tampa.

The question is: how might it shape the race?

I'm joined right now by Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn, a congresswoman who was on the platform committee, a leader amongst your party. You were in the house last night. Paul Ryan, gosh, the floor seemed to love him.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: The floor did love him and I think the American people are going to realize how genuine he is in trying to solve our nation's fiscal woes. You know, Paul is a guy of big ideas and he's not afraid to put something out there and say let's consider this or let's think about this or let's have a discussion on this issue.

BERMAN: He is a guy of big ideas and also he gets praise a lot for being a man of specific ideas.


BERMAN: But not a lot of specificity. "The Washington Post" has written recently about the Romney-Ryan ticket. It says, "If Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney want credit for not ducking and believe the voters are entitled to the clearest possible choice, it would behoove the candidates to offer more details about what precisely voters are choosing."

You know, Paul Ryan is known for making cuts on taxes and Medicare, but when do we talk about budget cuts?

BLACKBURN: Well, and he has. You can look at his track record. Look at Ryan budget that the House has brought forward. Look at the way we've addressed across the board spending cuts. Look at the way we have talked about reforming the trust funds, Medicare and Social Security, making those stable, secure, solvent, and then addressing entitlements in Medicaid, the largest of the entitlements.

You know, there is time for specificity. Last night was the time to say -- hey, we've got a pathway and this is where we're going to go.

And I think you're going to see him fill in those specifics as we go forward.

BERMAN: There were some moments of specificity. There were somewhat factually challenged or having called into question at least. He talked about the president's reaction to the Simpson-Bowles commission, the debt reduction, the deficit-cutting commission. He criticized the president for not acting on the commission when Paul Ryan who was on it voted against it.

BLACKBURN: Right. You know, he did favor bringing it forward and having a vote on it and Paul was not in favor of raising taxes. He was in favor of doing all of the cuts first, and there are so many of us in the House that have said you can't tax your way, you're going to need to go in and make some of these cuts and the spending adjustments first.

BERMAN: How can you criticize the president for not acting on the Simpson-Bowles commission if you vote against it?

BLACKBURN: Well, the president chose to do nothing. When was the last time he called Republicans to the White House and said let's talk about how to get this spending under control? He has added $5 trillion to the budget in a three year period of time. He has put more debt on this country than any other president in history.

BERMAN: Let me ask a quick question.


BERMAN: Because if Ryan was received well last night, so was Condoleezza Rice, by the way.

BLACKBURN: Oh, fabulous.

BERMAN: How high is the bar for Mitt Romney tonight?

BLACKBURN: I think it is pretty --

BERMAN: Would you want to follow that?

BLACKBURN: It's a tough act to follow.

Condoleezza was fabulous last night. You look at her speech, Ann Romney's speech, Governor Martinez's speech -- those have been such standouts. And I think Paul did an incredible job last night. It was a big speech and he hit a home run.

BERMAN: I should say I have enjoyed seeing you on the floor. I think I saw you there the other need with your 2-year-old grandson Chase?

BLACKBURN: Chase, yes.

BERMAN: Do we have a picture of chase maybe? I should tell you even if we don't have a picture, he is incredibly cute.

BLACKBURN: He was, talking on the phone to Captain America and Superman, the Republicans.

BERMAN: He grabbed. Is he a future delegate to the Republican convention?

BLACKBURN: I think he is, don't you?

BERMAN: All right. Well, we hope Chase does get sleep, doesn't stay up too late tonight, or any night during the convention. We're so glad you're here. And we'll see you again on the floor.

BLACKBURN: Happy to be here.

BERMAN: There he is as we say goodbye to Chase. We'll back to Zoraida in New York.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. You know what? That's an early education there for little Chase. I'm loving that.

Thank you very much, John.

All right. Next on EARLY START, saved from the flood. We'll talk to some folks who are lucky to be alive this morning.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Storm surges and flooding still threatening lives in Plaquemines Parish where water jumped levees and flood waters have reached 14 feet. When the floodwaters grow, the Delgadillo family of Braithwaite, Louisiana, fled to their attic. They were ultimately saved by their neighbors.

Rafael Delgadillo took this cell phone video of his 8-year-old daughter Escena (ph) being lifted to safety.


RESCUER: It's OK love. Yes, we're coming. Look, I'm going to give you. Head first, OK/

All right. He's going to a life vest on you, OK, love?

RAFAEL DELGADILLO: Good girl, baby.

RESCUER: All right, baby, you're good.

RAFAEL: Good girl. All right, cool.


SAMBOLIN: So joining me now on the phone is Escena's father, Rafael Delgadillo.

Good morning to you.

DELGADILLO (via telephone): Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: So I'd like to start with your little girl. I know your wife Melanie was there as well. Is everybody OK this morning?

DELGADILLO: Yes. Everybody is fine this morning, though. Everyone is doing OK.

SAMBOLIN: Now that area was under mandatory evacuation. Why did you decide to stay?

DELGADILLO: Because the property (INAUDIBLE) a little bit higher, and during Katrina, our house actually didn't take any water. In fact, a lot of my neighbors moved a lot of their farm equipment and tractors to my house just because they knew it didn't take water during Katrina.

SAMBOLIN: So, tell me what happened and what forced you up to the attic.

DELGADILLO: Basically we got the call that the back levee broke and as soon as the back levee broke I went ahead and got my provisionals and as soon as water started coming into the house I woke up my daughter and got my wife up to the attic, and I have provisions in the attic and animals up there, and we just my neighbor or actually my neighbor called me because he wanted to know how we were doing.

SAMBOLIN: And the people who actually rescued you were your neighbors, so they risked their lives because the situation was very grim and dangerous at that time. How did that happen?

DELGADILLO: Oh, yes, there is a couple of families, the Schaefer (ph) family, there's a gentleman named Juan, there's a gentleman named Randy Siebert (ph), and a gentleman named Brandon Lyons (ph), they all pretty much put their resources together and we heard voices on the roof and we heard the chainsaw break the hole open and came out and there was a gentleman named Lonnie and my friend Brandon and my next door neighbor helping us out.

SAMBOLIN: And at that point how much water was in your home.

DELGADILLO: That water was about five inches from hitting the ceiling.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

Well, Rafael Delgadillo, we are so happy that you are OK, that Melanie is OK and Escena is OK. We wish you well. We know you lost everything in this storm. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us this morning.

DELGADILLO: Thank you very much. Have a nice one today.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. You, too.

Soledad O'Brien is coming up with more on ordinary citizens who are now heroes in the wake of Isaac.

That's it from EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman, live at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

A special "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien live in New Orleans starts right now.