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Republican National Convention Coverage

Aired August 30, 2012 - 21:00   ET



BUSH: This is America. A brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.

BOB DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're just an hour away from the most anticipated moments of this Republican National Convention.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Tonight we'll see whether Mitt Romney can unite and inspire his party and convince the country that he should be president.


ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, Mitt Romney's crowning moment as the Republicans choice to replace President Obama and lead the nation.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need more excuses. We don't need more blame. We don't need more small-minded attacks. What we really need is a new president.

ANNOUNCER: A rising Republican star gets the honor of introducing Romney. Senator Marco Rubio will help Romney appeal to crucial voting groups, Latinos and residents of Florida.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Mitt Romney is an extraordinary person. And I think at the end of this convention, that's going to be clear to the American people.

ANNOUNCER: Will Romney do what it takes tonight to help seal his presidential dream and deliver on his promises?

ROMNEY: I got a promise to you guys, there are better days ahead if we get a better leader in Washington.

ANNOUNCER: Now CNN turns the spotlight on one of the biggest platforms in American politics. This is the Republican National Convention. This is Mitt Romney's night.

ROMNEY: He and I will be the next president and vice president of the United States and America will be stay strong and prosperous and free.



BLITZER: We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this, the Republican National Convention. That's ongoing right now in Tampa, Florida. We're counting down the minutes until Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduces Mitt Romney for tonight's acceptance speech.

I'm Wolf Blitzer along with Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: That's right. Tonight all eyes are going to be on the former Massachusetts governor. It is not an exaggeration to say this will be the most important speech of Mitt Romney's life.

BLITZER: Our CNN correspondents are in position throughout the arena. They are here in Tampa. Candy Crowley is up there on the podium right next to all of the speakers tonight.

Candy, give us a little preview of what's about to happen.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's about to happen is Mitt Romney -- I mean, it's not even just the most important speech of his life, it's probably the -- of his political life which probably the most important hour.

It is not that even the Romney campaign believes that this one speech will suddenly catapult him into a big lead, but they know that this is the beginning of the kind of the final chances in that fall campaign, to make your case. The biggest sort of unfiltered message he can give to the biggest crowd. Not just in this hall but on the other side of the television camera.

So he has a lot to accomplish with this speech. If you listen to the folks saying we want this and that on the floor. It almost doesn't matter what he says. They are here and prepared to vote for him. But what he needs to do tonight, so many people have said, show that he does understand the problems that Americans are facing.

We've seen some of these folks really kind of testifying for Mitt Romney from this podium tonight. Talking about Mitt Romney, the person that you don't see, you know, with the cameras around, so he's got to define himself and define his agenda. So it's a tall order, very big hour, for Mitt Romney -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Big, big hour indeed. Probably less than an hour or so from now, we'll be hearing from Mitt Romney himself.

Let's go to Anderson up in the skybox.

Anderson, I think it's fair to say, this speech tonight will influence a lot of those undecideds or switchables one way or another.

COOPER: Yes, as David Gergen pointed out earlier this night, this is really probably the first and last time Mitt Romney will have a chance to speak to the American people uninterrupted for some 30 minutes or so.

We know the speech. In the speech, Mitt Romney is going after President Obama. Also try to offer an alternative vision for the country's future. And while he also will talk about his life story, he probably won't get as personal as he did during an interview recently with our Gloria Borger.

We really did see a much more personal side to him in that interview.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we did. And I asked him a question I think that's kind of mystified a lot of Americans about who Mitt Romney is. Take a listen to what he said.


BORGER: What do you stand for? What is Mitt Romney's -- what is at Mitt Romney's political core?

ROMNEY: At my core is keeping America the strongest nation on earth. With the best homes and values. The best schools. With an economy second to none. And the capacity to defend liberty with a military that's also second to none.

I want to keep America strong. I love this country. I love the principles this country was based upon. Those principles, applied honestly and consistently, will help families, will help working people, will grow a permanent middle class with better wages and better prospects.

I want to do that for the American people and for this country which I happen to believe is an exceptional nation unlike any other on earth. It was founded on the principle that our rights come from the creator and that we can pursue happiness as we choose. This exceptional beginning leads to an exceptional role and mission.

BORGER: So the people who say you've been on both sides of issues or you've changed too much, what do you say to that charge?

ROMNEY: Look. The president just changed his position on gay marriage. No one has any comment on that. That's just -- that's fine because that's President Obama. We all say that's fine, he changed his position, oh, that's fine. He changed his position on a lot of things. A lot of things he said he was going to do, he decided not to do. In my case, when I ran for office, I said, I'm not going to change the laws as they exist on abortion. I'm going to keep them the same. And then a bill came to my desk which would have expanded dramatically the capacity of individuals to create embryos and then destroy them. And this was for scientific purposes. And I said, I can't sign that.

BORGER: People say you're kind of too secretive. You're out of touch. You play by a different set of rules.

ROMNEY: Well, I know that the Obama campaign is going to do everything they can to try and deflect from the economic record of the president and his failure to come up with a plan to get the economy going in the future. So they try to attack me on a personal basis and frankly distort my policies in remarkable ways. Saying things that I do not believe. But nonetheless, one of the things they've come up with is to say, oh, he won't release more of his tax returns.

They didn't have that problem when John McCain was running. He released two years of tax returns. That wasn't an issue. They didn't make that an issue at that point. But boy, they're making it an issue now. And why? Only one thing's changed. President Obama's now president and his record is not good and he's looking for something else to try and make it the issue.

And you know what, the American people care about good jobs and good schools. And they know that's what I can deliver.


COOPER: Let's talk about this with our panel. It's interesting, Alex, when asked the question what is at his core, I think some critics would say, well, look, he didn't really answer that question in a personal way.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: But you were talking about the possibility of turning that into an asset. Saying this is a man who he doesn't talk about himself but through his actions you see his heart.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a very quiet form of leadership in that way. And I think one of the things you're seeing is the Romney folks are trying to frame this campaign a little differently from here forward. A candidate who speaks with words, Barack Obama, versus a candidate who speaks with what he does, with actions.

You know, not do as I say, do as I do. And Romney has a pretty spectacular record when you looking at his achievements in life. But I think Romney's core, yes, he gave an answer there about his political core. And his intentions for the country. But at his core, it's family and faith. That's really where everything comes from for him.

COOPER: James Carville, who I think we just interrupted from a Mardi Gras party.


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's the Louisiana Republican delegation gave me this. It's solidarity during the storm.

COOPER: All right, good.


COOPER: Do you buy that? Do you buy Alex's answer?

CARVILLE: Well, I buy that he's a good family man and he's obviously a man of faith. I don't think that anybody would deny that. The problem is, the country has many good family people and many people of faith. The question is is that what is -- how is he going to take America from here to there? We know he wants a strong America. I doubt very many people in this hall want a weak America.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait a minute, wait a minute. I think the issue here, Anderson, is the Romney team made a mistake by not trying to define him early on and bringing up what we're hearing tonight, these remarkable stories. And the Obama team, in a very aggressive way, as all campaigns -- good campaigns often do, they sought to define him. They poured in hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising and they have painted him as a dark elitist rich corporate raider who does not care about others. And I think that -- I think the Romney campaign --


BORGER: But he --

COOPER: Because -- I mean, to your point, he has an extraordinary story to tell. I mean the Oparowskis, I don't know of many politicians who have done what he did on a personal quiet level for a dying child.

BORGER: But you know he and Ann Romney talked about that the other night and I ran into this constantly, which is that he doesn't like to talk about it. He's not --

CASTELLANOS: He does not.

BORGER: He's not -- his answer to my question on political core was a political answer, and it wasn't as good as anything else he said about his faith and his family and his life. He's not a really natural politician.


BORGER: And that answer is the answer people are hearing when he's on the stump.

COOPER: John? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's -- they won't like this in team Romney but it's the Dukakis problem. That work and public service and governance is one thing, your life is something else. And what you do in your life when you step up on the political speech, it's like the parish priest to the rabbi or the minister, when he's at your family barbecue, he's as loose as can be, he's happy, he's joking around.

But when he's up on the altar, he's got the garb on, and he's doing a serious business. Dukakis viewed it that way. What does my life have to do with my job? And part of it is Governor Romney views it that way. Plus he has a more private side where he just thinks, that's my private life and I don't want to brag.

COOPER: We also have Ari Fleischer with us and Roland Martin.

Ari, from a public relations standpoint do you think it was a mistake not to try to show that side of Mitt Romney earlier on, to allow the Obama campaign to define him in some voters minds?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I do. I think they had a late start on that. I think the Romney campaign attacked and attacked hard, and I go back to the Pennsylvania primary. I remember when Rick Santorum dropped out, the Romney people were still running ads. And I was thinking, they should be running positive ads. Why are they still attacking? This was moments before or days before he got out.

I don't think they established the narrative about Mitt Romney as well as they could have and as early as they could have. The Bain attacks aren't going to work but I wish that they had run those ads and made this case earlier.

COOPER: Roland.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't want to hear all this nonsense about, well, he's a private guy. He wants to keep it close to the vest. You're running to be president of the United States. You're not going to hide stuff. You have to show something to the public. You have to be willing to give them some glimpse into who you are --

COOPER: But Roland --

MARTIN: -- if you want to -- if you want to connect with them.

COOPER: Roland, let me push back on that because there are those who say look, President Obama is a very cool customer. He's not a --

MARTIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- necessarily natural politicians. He's out there backslapping. In fact, that's been one of the biggest criticisms, even by his wealthy donor supporters who say he doesn't show them love. MARTIN: There's a difference between backslapping like Joe -- like Vice President Joe Biden and then being able to tell your story. In 2007 when then Senator Obama was deep down in the polls and this was -- this was July and August of '07, they made it perfectly clear to him, guess what, you're going to have to talk about your mother and when it comes to breast cancer. You have to talk about recently repaying your student loans.

You're going to have to show some of yourself. And so if you want to connect with people, you're going to have to give them something. You can't play the corporate role all the way.

COOPER: You know what --

MARTIN: You have to do it.

COOPER: Alex, I remember Bush 41 in his acceptance speech saying, you know, I'm mangling, I don't have the exact quote. But it's, you know, I'm a quiet man but I hear the quiet voices that other don't.

CASTELLANOS: Other people don't. Well, that describes Mitt Romney as well. I'll tell you a story. We made a commercial for him four years ago when he ran unsuccessfully. Of course got him to this place. But it was about a man, a co-worker at Bain who had lost his daughter in the city of New York, 14 years old. They couldn't find her. And Mitt Romney had shut down Bain, the whole business, and took everybody to New York, gridded the city until they found her.

The campaign didn't give us the story. We had to uncover it. We had to go to them and ask for it. And they didn't want to let us do anything with it.

BORGER: But --

CASTELLANOS: We finally persuaded them to let us do the story.

COOPER: And --

CASTELLANOS: And Romney said, well, I don't know. You'd have to ask Bob Gay because this is his family and his daughter.


CASTELLANOS: I will offer --

COOPER: James, what do you do with a candidate like that? Do you --

CARVILLE: Yes. I mean, first of all, you have to talk before you start. But you know, if you get into politics and you want to be president, there's things that you have to do that other people don't have to do. It is -- just comes with the turf. I don't think --


CASTELLANOS: Timing matters though.

GERGEN: I don't think they have to put you -- I don't think you have to get out there on Oprah.

CARVILLE: Well, I didn't say you have to go to Oprah.

BORGER: Well --

GERGEN: I don't think you have to engage in psychic (INAUDIBLE). I think you should --

CASTELLANOS: But also, can I just --

COOPER: Wait. One at a time.

CASTELLANOS: I just lost a lot of races in September. I've won them in September that I then lost in October. We've still got 60 some days to go here. And all of a sudden we're solving a question that's been one of the biggest roadblocks to Mitt Romney's success. The timing may not work out so bad.

GERGEN: That may be true.

BORGER: I think this all have to do with fear about the Mormon faith and not wanting to bring that all up again because they've felt like they dealt with it in the campaign you were in in 2007, 2008.

GERGEN: I think -- Anderson, you've -- you faced this in your own life. You should not have to sort of go out there and tell everybody everything about you to be a public figure and be a respected figure. Other people can do it for you as they're doing it here tonight. What's surprising with the Romney campaign is they have not put those other people out earlier.

COOPER: It is different, though, just being a public figure and running for president.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: But I hear what you're saying.


COOPER: But we -- I'm sorry, we got to get to John King because we've to take a break.

John, you're -- what do you have with the magic wall.

KING: I just want to lay out part of the challenge tonight. Part of the governor's speech is who I am and what makes me tick. Then part of it will be what he thinks is wrong with the current administration's policy and then he's going to try to lay out what he says would be a plan to fix it.

And Anderson, we just want to look at some polling data. Just to underscore the challenge for you. Here's Governor Romney's goals tonight. Who would better handle the economy? He leads right now but it's a very slight lead over the president.

One of the goals tonight is to build on this by presenting. It will be a five-point plan. Not a 55-point plan. A plan he says will make the economy better. That is a big challenge to the speech tonight. Improve that number heading into the president's convention.

Look at this. Has a clear plan for solving the country's problems. Governor Romney again wins on this one. He'd like to build some more on this especially with those independent voters in states with high unemployment. And to what you guys were talking about. Who is he as a man? That's one of the issues here in trying to change this.

Is he in touch with the problems facing the middle class? This is where the president has a giant advantage. The so-called empathy gap if you will. And that's what a lot of these personal testimonials are about tonight. As been discussed, a lot of the money has been spent by the president's campaign and by the super PACs aligned with the president.

And the Romney camp has been more quiet about who he is as a human being. That's one of the reasons you have this gap. It is the key goal tonight. Almost a strategic imperative to say this guy is a man and he has to do a lot of it himself, Anderson. It's not the person you have been told he is in all those crazy attack ad in the past couple of months.

COOPER: And we'll see how much he can do that tonight or at least the start to do that tonight. Right before Mitt Romney takes the stage for really what is going to be the most important speech of his political career thus far.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, rising star in the Republican Party, will introduce him.

Up next, how Rubio plans to use President Obama's words to help sell Mitt Romney to the American people.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican National Convention here in Tampa, the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Clint Eastwood, we're going to be hearing from him tonight. He was the mystery guest. The surprise guest no longer a mystery. A surprise. Clint Eastwood will be hearing from Mitt. Also a performance by the "American Idol" season five winner Taylor Hicks. He'll be coming up to the stage as well.

Meanwhile, let's go down to CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She's on the podium and she has a preview of what Senator Marco Rubio will be saying when he introduces Mitt Romney later tonight.

Candy, give us a little flavor of what we expect to hear from Senator Rubio.

CROWLEY: It will sound familiar to folks who have indeed follow Rubio in the last five, six years of his political career and certainly the last two when he's been in the U.S. Senate. It's the story of a young man who grew up in a community of exiles. That being Marco Rubio. He will talk about American exceptionalism meaning the -- a special system that America has. He will say that it allows you if you have a good idea and work hard that you can build a business.

This will sound familiar because we've heard that theme through the last couple of days. He will talk about how Mitt Romney is the guy that believes in American exceptionalism that he is the one -- and he's the one that can, in fact, bring the dream alive again. We're now hearing that the motorcade bringing Mitt Romney to this forum is on its way.

Earlier of course Mitt Romney was -- was looking over the final parts of his speech as we have talked about. It's quite a huge speech for him.

Marco Rubio, one of those rising stars, one of those rising stars and one of those folks that they wanted to put out here. Because they do see, and we've seen every day, and talked to John McCain about it, in fact, the passing of the torch to kind of a younger generation of Republicans and one of them includes Marco Rubio who, as you know, Wolf, had been talked about for so long, as perhaps a vice presidential candidate.

Not his time this time around but there isn't a person in this audience sitting in Florida, his home state, that doesn't think that they will hear from Marco Rubio along down the road. So that's why he gets this sort of prestigious spot where he introduces the Republican candidate for president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A whole new generation of Republican rising stars, now in their early 40s, like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan.

Dana Bash also has one of those rising stars in the Republican Party. Dana's on the floor.

You're speaking with the Utah congressman, Jason Chaffetz.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Has known Mitt Romney for 10 years and is a Mormon, and is a Mormon like Mitt Romney.

So I want to ask you about this first. We understand, I talked to a Romney adviser who said he is going to talk about his faith tonight which he rarely does. As a Mormon politician, why is that so difficult? What is the issue?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Oh, I don't know that it's so difficult. I guess I appreciate the fact that he doesn't necessarily down on it. He just -- you know, he's not always doing that first. He's talking about policies and principles and how to get the country back on track. But if you want to get to know Mitt Romney, yes, you need to talk about it.

BASH: What do people misunderstand the most about your religion, about Mormonism?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And I think if you understand the amount of commitment and time and volunteerism that goes into it, I think it's an amazing part of who he is and what he's done. It's changed his life and changed it for the better.

BASH: Now you are -- you have a close relationship with Mitt Romney. You've been out on the campaign trail nonstop. You unfortunately lost your father just a few months ago in May. And then you went out with him right after that. Tell me -- tell our viewers that story.

CHAFFETZ: Yes, the day after my dad's service, I found myself on the bus with Mitt Romney. It was just the two of us in the back. And, you know, we spent 20, 30 minutes just talking about when he lost his father. And both his mom and his dad had passed away and he had that mantle. And I was going through that same thing. And I don't like talking about it too much publicly but that's the kind of person that I know in Mitt Romney. He puts his family first. He's very compassionate. He's just a great leader in that way. That's the way I know Mitt Romney.

BASH: Hey, thank you very much. Thank you for your time.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Erin is here with me as well.

And Erin, you know, Clint Eastwood, he's going to be speaking today. Marco Rubio, as we've been hearing, he's going to introduce Mitt Romney. He's got a powerful speech, we're told. He's going to make some specific points. And there will also be some other entertainment, shall we say?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there will. Taylor Hicks, season five winner of "American Idol," is going to be -- going to be speaking, or performing. It's going to be a pretty Interesting event. Clint Eastwood also interesting to so many people.

I think a lot of people assumed, even though he's a lifelong Republican that he was a Democrat, Democrats given his "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad. A lot of people interpreted that. But as we know he's a longtime Republican.

BLITZER: You know, it's going to be -- the music here at these convention whether Democratic conventions or Republican conventions is always one of my favorite parts as you well know.

BURNETT: Too bad all of you can't see Wolf sometimes when he's not on camera.

BLITZER: Did you hear the --

BURNETT: Dancing.

BLITZER: G.E. Smith, formerly with the "Saturday Night Live" band when they were doing "My Girl," the Temptations song? They've done that a few times. Every time you're moving a little bit.


BLITZER: You're moving a little bit.

BURNETT: We have moved a little bit.


BURNETT: And we have to give Wolf a lot of credit. For those of you who don't know. Before that play when Mitt Romney came out to greet his wife, Wolf said, I bet that's the song they're going to play.

BLITZER: We were here Sunday at a rehearsal and they were practicing "My Girl," the Temptations, and I said, yes, that's the song they will play when Ann Romney makes her presentation and you know what, they did.

BURNETT: They did and Wolf was singing along and enjoying it.

BLITZER: That's a real love story, as we've all heard, that love story between Mitt Romney -- Ann Romney's speech was clearly one of the great moments of this convention.

BURNETT: It was, and you could feel, you could feel the love. Whatever your politics are, you could feel that love between two people. Which I think is a heart-warming thing.


BURNETT: No matter what your party, anything, it's nice when you see that.

BLITZER: Yes. I think the crowd is going to be pretty excited when they hear from Taylor Hicks right now. He's got some good entertainment. Some good songs. We're going to be singing -- where he's going to be singing right now. I want to make sure that we listen to this. I love going to the music as you well know.

BURNETT: I know we're waiting for it. A second or two delay but we've been waiting for this one.

BLITZER: You know what, it's worth the wait. And as we await Taylor Hicks, I just want to remind our viewers, Clint Eastwood, he's going to be making a special presentation. It was supposed to be a big surprise but you can't keep that a surprise.

BURNETT: No, you can't. And we don't really know exactly how long it will be, what it will be, but he's definitely going to be appearing right around Mitt Romney's speech so it's going to be a crucial -- a crucial one, and now I believe we are going to hear from Taylor Hicks.

BLITZER: All right, here we go.

BURNETT: Here we go.

TAYLOR HICKS, SINGER: How we doing? Get up, everybody.


BLITZER: Taylor Hicks, season five "American Idol" winner. He's rocking here at the Times -- Tampa Bay Times forum. We're getting ready for the main event. That would be Mitt Romney's speech. His father was governor of Michigan and also ran for president.

You're going to hear right now what he thinks his dad would say if he were alive to see tonight's acceptance speech. First, though, a convention flashback.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Palin's 2008 speech was extraordinary. It really was charismatic moment.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That was hysterical. It was funny. Her whole delivery was great. So that's a speech that one will remember even regardless of what happened later.



COOPER: Tonight's main events are coming up here at the Republican National Convention. Clint Eastwood, Marco Rubio and, of course, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney accepting the nomination for Republican candidate for president of the United States.

First, Dana Bash, who is down on the floor with mitt Romney's brother. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. I have Mitt Romney's big brother, Scott Romney. Thank you very much. This has got to be -- describe the emotions.

SCOTT ROMNEY, BROTHER OF MITT ROMNEY: It's pretty thrilling. It's so exciting. I can't describe it. I couldn't sleep last night because it was so much fun.

BASH: I watched you give -- announce the delegates for your home state of Michigan. You got really choked up. S. ROMNEY: Well, I got emotional because as I prepared to say what I was going to say, I thought about my love for my brother and what a great guy he is. And it was very difficult to get it all out.

BASH: Now, you have gone through political campaigns throughout your life because of your father. Talk about what your father, if he were here, would be thinking, saying, feeling, as he watched your brother accept this nomination?

S. ROMNEY: My father would be excited and thrilled. He'd be fantastic. And he'd probably try to tell him what to do, because that's the kind of guy he was. He was a leader.

But Mitt did this on his own. Mitt's an incredible guy himself.

BASH: What should the American people know about Mitt Romney? Anything that you can tell us that only a big brother would know?

S. ROMNEY: There are several things. I think that we've talked here tonight -- people have talked about his compassion and he's been an unbelievable leader. I can just tell you, in addition to that, he's been a fantastic brother to me. When I've had troubles in my life -- I've gone through a couple of divorces. I've had cancer. My brother was there for me.

He's the one that called me every night and analyzed what I should do to help solve my problems. He's been fantastic for me.

BASH: OK, thank you so much for taking the time. We're going to let you go back up in the VIP box. Speaking of VIPs, Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, is here in the hall, we just heard. And we expect him to be up in this VIP box momentarily.

Wolf and Anderson?

COOPER: Yeah, Dana, we just saw him entering with his security, his wife as well. Gloria, you talked to Mitt Romney about his father and about how he's going to be thinking about his dad tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, his father was a huge influence on his life. As you know, he ran for the presidency, three-time governor of Michigan, and he just died in 1995. So I asked him what his father would be thinking of this particular moment. So take a listen.


M. ROMNEY: Well, he would be extraordinarily excited. He'd be campaigning. When I ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1984, he was out campaigning. He was going into parades and walking with Ann at fund-raisers. My dad loved it and he would love this.

And he'd feel this was a critical time. He'd be telling people, we have to get new leadership, America's in trouble. I can hear him now.

BORGER: Would he be telling you what to do?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, of course. He used to wake up in my campaign that he helped me on -- he'd wake up, 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, take out his yellow legal pads and write these extensive notes about what I should say and which issues were critical.

He's very involved. My dad is a guy -- I know he's passed away, but I think of him in the present tense. He's a guy who never pulls back, never retired. He was always going full bore.

BORGER: You are in a unique position of having been raised in a completely political family, two politicians in the family. Not only George Romney but also Lenore Romney, who ran for the Senate unsuccessfully. But is there a moment that kind of stands out for you in your political upbringing?

M. ROMNEY: Yeah, yeah. And actually, both of them lived their lives outside of politics. They didn't get involved in politics until their mid-50s. It was then to make a difference. So that was not their career so much as the -- the desire they had to make a difference.

But I do recall that in my dad's re-election -- he had two-year terms. He was running in the same year as Lyndon Baines Johnson, who would go on to win by a landslide. And dad's pollster, Walt Devries, came in and said, George, Lyndon Johnson is so far ahead, we're seeing the numbers come in; you can't possibly win.

And you know, I was a kid in high school and I thought, oh, no, you know, we're going to lose. I'm going to be embarrassed at school, these little things that a kid thinks.

My dad said -- he was clear, he said, I'm not in this because I worry about winning or losing, I'm here to make a difference. He was completely undisturbed by the news. He cared about -- passion for the mission that he was in the middle of fighting for. And winning or losing didn't change his perspective at all about who he was.

It was one of those moments you look and say, ah ha, he's not defined by elections. He's been defined as a man of character throughout his life. And elections don't change that.

BORGER: Do you feel that way as you look at this election, win or lose?

M. ROMNEY: Absolutely. There's no question in my mind that we're at a critical time in our country's history. I offer a different course than the one we're on. I think it's a much better course for middle class Americans and a better course for strengthening the country.

But, you know, this is a choice that's up to the American people. And who I am has been long ago decided by my wife, by my five sons, my grand kids, daughters in law and the people who know me best.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: David, I find it both touching and telling that he talks about his father in the present tense at times.


COOPER: You knew George Romney.

GERGEN: I did. When I was young, I knew George Romney, who was working in government. I was working in the same administration, the Nixon administration. And he was absolutely an admirable man.

I do think that there were a couple of lessons. One, he was a moderate. He was very progressive on civil rights. He ran into a lot of road blocks against conservatives.

Secondly, he made this famous statement -- he was running for the presidency about him being brainwashed in Vietnam. And that brought him down. I think it made Mitt Romney more cautious.

COOPER: Very cautious on the trail. We have to take a break. Still to come, Clint Eastwood, Senator Marco Rubio. And of course Mitt Romney's acceptance speech begins very soon. It is the moment all of us, everybody here in this hall has been waiting for.

The VIPs are being seated, including Romney's running mate. Stay with us for history in the making.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican National Convention. We're here inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This convention, they're getting ready to hear not only from Marco Rubio -- he will introduce the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney -- but of course Mitt Romney. This will be the most important speech of his political life. Tens of millions of Americans will be watching.

He's trying to make a strong impression, especially on those who are still either undecided or leaning one way or another but may yet be switchable, as they say.

Let's get a little sense of what's going on the floor. Jim Acosta is one of our floor reporters. Jim, what are you seeing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can show you right now which is just off to the my left. This is the rope line along the VIP booth entrance. We expect Mitt Romney to come out of this dark black curtain here on the other end of the floor here, and then take his seat next to Mrs. Romney in just a few moments.

I had a chance to talk to a senior Romney adviser earlier tonight just to get his reflection on what he thought was a key moment of the night. And he pointed to those testimonials coming from members of Romney's Mormon church as being what he called a real moment in this convention, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Dana Bash. She's also on the floor.

BASH: Wolf, I am in the middle of the floor of this convention. As you can probably see, it is standing room only. It is packed, packed, packed. It's pretty hard to move around in here.

The anticipation is palpable. And just so you know how many people are down here and the kind of people who are down here, check this out. This is New Jersey, the guy who came -- gave the keynote address, the governor of New Jersey, came down to hear Mitt Romney give his speech. That, of course, is Chris Christie.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to John Berman. John, where are you?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing right by the Arizona Delegation. Wolf, the last few nights there have been some empty seats here. There were people sitting down. There was even some frustration among delegates that people weren't showing more emotion, getting up and dancing.

That's all changed tonight. There's definitely more emotion. We heard from people who were touched by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, those stories of people that he helped. There were tears all over this audience.


BLITZER: John, thank you very much. Let's take a break for two minutes. When we come back, there's an amazing video tribute to Mitt Romney they prepared. There's Ann Romney. She's getting ready. Her son is there. We're going to go and watch this tribute as we await Mitt Romney, his acceptance speech. That's coming up.


BLITZER: All right, Mitt Romney will be speaking here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the acceptance speech. History will be unfolding. He will be clearly the Republican presidential nominee. This is an important acceptance speech.

We expect it to continue at least for 30 minutes, probably more, after all the applause and the introduction. Before that, Clint Eastwood, he'll be here as well. Clint Eastwood, a Republican, he has endorsed mitt Romney. We're going to be hearing from Clint Eastwood, Marco Rubio, the young, very popular senator from Florida. He is here as well. He'll do the formal introduction of Mitt Romney.

As we get ready for this amazing video tribute to Mitt Romney, let's go back to the floor, the entertainment, BeBe Winans and the Tampa Bay City Life Church Chorus.


BLITZER: BeBe Winans, an amazing performance. He is a registered Democrat, but he wanted to perform here to show unity in America. And now get ready for this video, a tribute to Mitt Romney.

All right, the video is about to begin, we are told in the next 30 seconds or so.

Erin, you know, the -- as we get ready for this video, this is GE Smith, the band here. You know how I love. They were "Saturday Night Live."

We're not going to listen right now, because within a second -- Paul Ryan is here already. Ann Romney is here. They are all here. Mitt Romney is backstage. His the motorcade came a little while ago and.

See Paul Ryan right there getting ready for this video tribute. They have worked, Erin, really hard on this video tribute. It is going to show Mitt Romney obviously in a very, very personal but powerful and very positive way.

BURNETT: Yes. And they are giving some real time to it, right. They are going to have about 10 minutes to really get a sense of the man and his life and his past.

And then obviously after that, you'll have Marco Rubio and then Mitt Romney himself will be coming out to give his speech. We have been watching the family. There's been a little bit of musical chairs going on there, Wolf. I don't know if you've noticed a little chair switching going on.

BLITZER: Yes. Here is the video.

M. ROMNEY: I believe this is land of opportunity. I believe that if we restore the principle of opportunity and hope and give everyone a fair chance, you're going to see this country come roaring back.

A. ROMNEY: You can never predict what kind of tough decisions are going to come in front of a president's desk. And if you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they've lived their life.

DAN JANSEN, OLYMPIC SPEED SKATER: They were asking me about what's going on with -- you know, with what happened with the scandal and what my opinion is of if we can pull this thing off. And I said, yeah, it is going to be just fine. They said, how do you know? And I said, because I just met Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were afraid. People were thinking that something terrible could happen. After 9/11, the way we looked at these events changed drastically. More so than any Olympic games, the world was watching was this one. How was the United States going to respond? Could they put on an Olympic games?

M. ROMNEY: It was worse than I had expected. I thought the Salt Lake turn around was just a public relations turn around. Instead, it turned out to be a financial turn around and a governmental turn around. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was not a figure head. He was not only running this show, but he was out there speaking to the people and showing them, through his words, through his actions, what the Olympics could mean to the United States.

A. ROMNEY: When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, both of us just dissolved in tears.

M. ROMNEY: Probably the toughest time in my life was standing there with Ann as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came.

A. ROMNEY: I was very, very ill. I don't know if people knew how sick I was. I was frightened. Mitt was frightened, but I needed him desperately.

M. ROMNEY: Look, I'm happy in life as long as I have got my soul mate with me.

A. ROMNEY: Mitt decided to honor heroes throughout the country and that the torch relay was going to be all about heroes. And Mitt chose me as his hero.

My life was in -- you know, in jeopardy, and I was like as vulnerable as a person could be. And I trust Mitt. I trust him with my life.

M. ROMNEY: Oh, she is gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. You know, I can't explain love. I don't know why it happens. I don't know why it endures the way it does. You know, at the very beginning, I sat with her and chatted with her and put my arm around her and something changed.

A. ROMNEY: My 16th birthday party was when Mitt and I really became sort of an item. Mitt helped plan it. And it was just sort of the beginning of our romance.

1968, he flew into the Detroit Airport right before Christmas. Of course, his mother is like got her arms open, and he runs right by her and grabs me.

M. ROMNEY: On the car ride home from the airport, I turned to Ann and said, I feel like I have never been away. And she said, I feel the same way.

A. ROMNEY: So by the time we got home, we got out of the car and we tell everybody, well, we are getting married like next week. We compromised and waited until March 21st.

M. ROMNEY: Sweet baby.

A. ROMNEY: Sweet baby.

I could do OK when I had the two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother and I, Matt, fought a lot.

A. ROMNEY: Three not bad. Four, it got to be a little much.

M. ROMNEY: Hello, Ben.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And oh my gosh, very rambunctious.

A. ROMNEY: -- water on the mud. There he goes.

And then it was the fifth one. And Craig was my most active child. He was a handful.

M. ROMNEY: Craig, hi. Don't squirt me.

CRAIG ROMNEY, SON OF MITT ROMNEY: I remember my mom was always begging for us to be quiet. She said, please, can I have quiet in this house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could bend a lot of rules and get into a lot of trouble. We could never, ever say anything bad about my mom.

M. ROMNEY: I traveled a good deal in my early career. I would call Ann and I could hear the boys in the background. And she might be a little exasperated. And I would say, Ann, don't forget, what you are doing is more important than what I'm doing.

A. ROMNEY: I hate to say it, but often I had more than five sons. I had six sons.

M. ROMNEY: How are you, knuckle snorts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was really playful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you know, it is like, you know, you know.

A. ROMNEY: Mitt would walk into the door after work, leave the briefcase at the door. That was it, never thought about work again until he left in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just felt like we were the most important thing in his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to mom if I ever needed money, because you never went to dad. He was way too cheap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad didn't have the right bulbs. So he replaced it with whatever bulb he had. The problem is that it sticks out too far and blinds you as you cook. So he just solved that with some tin foil and duct tape.

GEORGE ROMNEY, FATHER OF MITT ROMNEY: I've been poor. I have worked from the time I was 12. I know what poverty is. I have been up through it.

A. ROMNEY: For mitt, I think that he idealized his father. He really was his hero. M. ROMNEY: In the summer, my dad used to pack up our family and take to us to the great national parks. It was during those trips that I fell in love with America. Dad was born in Mexico. His parents and grandparents had moved to Mexico. They were refugees from the revolution.

I remember Ann asking my dad, what was the most meaningful accomplishment of your life? And without hesitation he said, the greatest accomplishment in my life is having raised you four kids.

Like me, he fell in love young. Family for mom and dad was everything. My dad worked for his dad. He was a drywall guy. And back then they called it lamp and plaster. He could put nails in mouth and spit them out pointy end forward. I grew up watching my dad lead.

G. ROMNEY: Look, I'm in public life today because I'm concerned about America. I'm concerned about what is happening to America.

M. ROMNEY: But if he felt some way about a particular issue, there was no question in your mind about how he felt. Friends called him the Brick, because he was immovable. He let me tag along in some very unusual settings.


M. ROMNEY: And I didn't realize he was giving me an experience that was more helpful from a leadership standpoint than anything I learned in school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staples I think is a good example of where Bain and Company can support the management of an excellent company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was special about Mitt is he understood what was behind the numbers. What was behind the numbers was great people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney valued every employee. He made it a point to let us know that every employee was critical to the success of Staples.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would anybody want to save on envelopes and file folders?

Mitt is a cheap son of a gun. And if can save 50 cents on paperclips, he'd drive a mile to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He knows how to grow jobs, bring jobs back to this country. And if you ask me why, because I've seen him do it first hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was dealing with the fundamental problems that companies confront. He was dealing with them in a way that allowed them to grow, to add jobs, to build factories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wicked smart. M. ROMNEY: When I became governor of Massachusetts, I took the skills I learned in business and went to look at our state budget. We were about three billion dollars out of balance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will never forget the first cabinet meeting. The governor asked one of his assistants to bring out a list of campaign promises. Now there were something like 44 campaign promises.

The governor said, by the end of this administration, we're going to go right down this checklist and keep each and every promise that was made. And I said, he's different.