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Romney's Night; Deadly Floodwaters; Romney: "Time Has Come To Turn The Page"

Aired August 31, 2012 - 05:00   ET



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mr. Chairman and delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Taking the challenge -- Mitt Romney plays to disillusioned voters and his own doubters. His first speech as the presidential nominee.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Destruction and ruin in its wake. Gulf Coast residents dealing with the wet aftermath as Isaac now heads north.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. I'm live in Tampa this morning. I'm at Pach's Place, a fine eating establishment, a very popular restaurant here over the course of the morning. This place will fill up with happy and completely fulfilled people.

On the subject of fulfillment, perhaps political fulfillment -- after all the build-up, last night was finally Mitt Romney's moment. In front of a packed house that was really hanging on his every word, Romney introduced himself to America, or reintroduced himself, depending on how you look at it. His goal: show people who he is, who he really is, and convince undecided voters, especially those key independents, that it's time to give up on President Obama. So how did he do?

We're going to be joined by our CNN White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, who is with me in Tampa at a different location.

So. Brianna, what did you think?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John, from historic Plant Hall at the University of Tampa.

We saw Mitt Romney attacking President Obama. He also defended his business record and it was almost as if he was saying to voters who may have voted for President Obama in 2008, it's OK to make a change.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROMNEY: This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else's fault. This president can tell us that the next four years, he'll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you're better off today than when he took office.

KEILAR (voice-over): The centerpiece of Mitt Romney's nomination acceptance speech, an attack on President Obama's economic record.

ROMNEY: Does the America we want borrow $1 trillion from China?


ROMNEY: Does it fail to find the jobs need for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college?


KEILAR: Romney laid out a five-point plan to create 12 million jobs, become energy independent by 2020 and cut deficits. But he fell short on details.

The Republican nominee did not shy away from his business experience at Bain Capital.

ROMNEY: That business we started with ten people has now grown into a great American success story. Some of the companies we helped start are names you know and you've heard from tonight. An office company called Staples, where I'm pleased to se the Obama campaign has been shopping.

He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.

KEILAR: For a candidate who has tried to downplay his Mormon faith, sometimes even avoiding saying the word "Mormon", he pivoted with personal anecdotes.

ROMNEY: We were Mormons. And growing up in Michigan, that might have seemed unusual or out of place, but I don't really remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we follow than what church we went to.

KEILAR: And his poll shows voters think President Obama is much more likely to understand their problems, Romney declared the time has come to turn the page.

ROMNEY: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans -- and to heal the planet.

My promise is to help you and your family.


KEILAR: Romney recast Ronald Reagan's classic election-year question --

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

KEILAR: Telling voters --

ROMNEY: You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president, when the best day you've had was the day you voted for him.



BERMAN: I was right there in the hall, Brianna when this was happening and you could tell the delegates were hanging on his every word. He did have them listening and paying attention.

Now, being in the hall I also saw something like I've never seen before, and that was Clint Eastwood up on stage speaking to an empty chair.

Explain this to me, if you can.

KEILAR: Yes, I don't know that I can even completely explain this. This was Clint Eastwood was the surprise guest before Marco Rubio, senator from Florida who introduced Mitt Romney and he was speaking to an empty chair -- seeming to indicate that President Obama should be sitting in that chair. That's who he was talking to.

It made for a somewhat strange and uncomfortable moment. Here it is.


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What? What do you want me to tell Romney to do that? He can't do that to himself. You're crazy.

You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.


KEILAR: The Romney campaign, John, refused to say that this was a blunder, or maybe a miscalculation, especially because Clint Eastwood seemed to drone on and on. But certainly a lot of observers thought that this was a blunder and this even got a tweet out from the president's own Twitter handle, not from the president himself. It doesn't have that B.O. signature on it. But it says, "This seat's taken" and it's a picture of President Obama in chair. It appears to be likely in perhaps the Roosevelt Room, we're not sure -- where it's a picture of him from behind and it says "the president" on the placard of the chair.

So they responded with a little bit humor and certainly pressing back.

BERMAN: You know, there is a difference of opinion, Brianna, I did hear from a lot of people overnight, including Erick Erickson who thought that the Clint Eastwood moment was effective. So it should be an interesting discussion. Thank you very much, Brianna. And in just a few minutes, we will get more analysis on the big speech. Both Clint Eastwood's and Mitt Romney's, from CNN contributors Margaret Hoover and Erick Erickson. But before that, let's go back to New York and my friend, Zoraida Sambolin -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Hey, John, I know you were there last night and you were watching. Did you have one of those moments that you thought was really significant or something you're going to be talking about a little bit later? There's a lot of chatter about Marco Rubio as well.

BERMAN: My moment was about Mitt Romney. I've covered Mitt Romney for a lot of years and I followed him back when he was governor of Massachusetts. There was stories and a tone that I've never heard before, when he told a story about how his father left a rose for his mother every morning of their lives and the mother knew that the father, George Romney, passed away because one morning she woke up and there was no rose there. And I was like -- that really got to me.

And he also spoke about how he longed to see his five boys fighting in his bedroom every morning. That was a very sweet moment. There was some human moments there from Mitt Romney that you do not usually see from him, and if you were tuning in for the first time to that election, that may have left an impression on you. So, that's what I walk away with, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, John, thank you very much. For those who haven't watched, I'm glad you're sharing some of those moments. We'll check back with you very shortly here.

It is seven minutes past the hour.

Two bodies have been recovered from a flooded Plaquemines Parish home. The first known casualties from hurricane Isaac in the state of Louisiana. Isaac is now a weakening tropical depression, it is slowly moving north. But in his wake, he left entire neighborhoods -- look at this -- under water and hundreds of people without power as well.

The two deaths, a man and a woman were found floating in their kitchen in seven feet of water.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is live from New Orleans where they're making the difficult transition into recovery mode this morning.

What is the very latest there, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, there's still a lot of water around outside of the city, at least. A lot of the city is still in the dark over the entire storm zone. You're talking about 800,000 people still without power as of 5:00 last night and lots of damage around the city.

But the waters outside the city are going to be slow to recede all around the lake and down around Plaquemines Parish. Yesterday, I had the opportunity yesterday to fly with the Coast Guard chief of operations for the Mississippi River. And also the Army Corps of Engineers, assessing two things, how did the levees and the pump stations and the surge barriers hold up. And also what kind of shape is the Mississippi River in so that the coast guard can open it back up to river traffic. A huge source of commerce, they've got to get that thing back up and running.

After the flight I asked the Army Corps of Engineers colonel how he thought the whole system held up through the storm.


COLONEL EDWARD R. FLEMING, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We're still in the middle of this. You know, if you think about seven years ago today, everybody walked out of their house and saw the sun and the sky and thought everything was over. And then the water started to continue to come up and up. And we saw a little bit of that this morning. We were cautiously optimistic. But we're still watching. Water is still rising, particularly on the west bank as it falls on the east bank and we have to be vigilant.


MARCIANO: The area where there was thousands of people that had to scramble for their lives across the east bank, that water is still pooled. They're trying to decide do they break the levee and drain the water or pump it out. Out in the Mississippi, they've got their issues as well. Some of the heaviest rainfall fell on that state and the Lake Tangipahoa, the dam that holds back the water, that's been weakening and threatening to unleash water across thousands of people. So far, so good there, but a couple of deaths across Mississippi, and they have their own struggles.

So, this is a multistate, multimillion -- multimillion dollar, multimillion person event, Zoraida and we're slow to recover across the Gulf Coast.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I want to focus on the two deaths in Plaquemines Parish. I know the area was under mandatory evacuation. Have they looked already house to house there and made sure that everyone else is safe? Or should we be concerned that there may be more people that perhaps died because of the storm?

MARCIANO: I don't think they're done with that operation yet. Everything is very spread out. Some of these houses are very remote. So that continues to happen and the waters are still high there.

So it's going to be an ongoing procedure. Just yesterday, we were at the Coast Guard base and they continue to pull people who were being rescued from their homes, back to the Coast Guard base. So it's a big area to cover and they're still going through it.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob, we know that the storm is continuing to move also and dumping a lot of rain. So we're going to check back in with you and find out where it's headed and how bad it's going to be for other people. Thank you.

And also, to find out how you can help those devastated by tropical storm Isaac, visit our "Impact Your World" page, at They really could use some help them.

So, let's send it back to John Berman. He's anchoring our coverage of the Republican National Convention -- John.

BERMAN: And we're here at Pach's Place in Tampa, because back at the convention center, the speeches are over, the balloons have fallen, but will the poll numbers rise for Mitt Romney after his convention performance. More convention analysis live from Tampa, coming up.


BERMAN: The political dust is still settling here in Tampa this morning, where just a few hours ago, Mitt Romney told thousands in a packed arena and millions more at home why he should be president or more specifically, why President Obama should no longer be.


ROMNEY: This president can ask us to be patient, this president can tell us it was someone else's fault. This president can tell us that the next four years, he'll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you're better off today than when he took office.


BERMAN: So with the Republican convention now in the history books, the Romney campaign will be watching the polls closely to see if they earn that most coveted of prizes in presidential elections, the post- convention bounce.

Joining me now to talk about this is Margaret Hoover. She is a CNN contributor and a Bush White House appointee.

And Erick Erickson, also a CNN contributor and the editor-in-chief of

First impressions, Maggie?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I thought mission accomplished. I thought, that's what Mitt Romney needed to do -- by the way, thanks for calling me Maggie.


HOOVER: That's what Mitt Romney needed to do. I mean, all the talk and all the buzz right before was: is he going to be able to outshine the people who came before him? Are they going to overshadow him?

They didn't at all. He absolutely delivered. In my view, I thought he did what he needed to do. He also let the American people see who he was.

By the way, he was -- while he was speaking to the people in the convention, who know him. All of these Republican voters, by the way, have been looking at him since 2008 and the primaries leading up to it. This was his first introduction to independents, to women, to all those folks who might vote for him whose votes he needed, and I think he delivered.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I'm not a Mitt Romney fan. That speech last night kind of -- I was like where's this guy been? It was the best speech he's given. It was a good speech that his delivery made great for him. He's not a great speaker, but it really was a good, good speech.

And the story about his father and the rose, dying -- his mom knew his dad died because the rose wasn't there in the morning -- and the line, there were a number of independents who I came into contact with last night who said the line that stuck out with them, which didn't stick out with me by the way, because I still got small kids, was wanting the kids still small and on the bed.

BERMAN: Absolutely. You're like, I just want to sleep.

ERICKSON: Yes, I've got a 3-year-old, I want to sleep.

BERMAN: He also talked a little bit more about his record. He filled in some of the gaps for people and justified some of the things he's been criticized for in the past and one of the things is Bain Capital.

Let's listen to what he called the Bain success story.


ROMNEY: The business we started with ten people has now grown into a great American success story.

And yet the centerpiece of the president's entire re-election campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression?


BERMAN: Does this inoculate him to the Bain attacks?

HOOVER: I mean, I thought that was a very powerful line. I thought it was one of his most powerful lines.

This is his argument he's making, really, are you better off than you were tomorrow? And how are you going to help create an economy that's creating more jobs if you're attacking the job makers?

ERICKSON: You know, when you're running a campaign, one of the things you want to try to do is turn the thing that you're perceived as being weak on, into strengths. Making the Bain statements really helped him that I really am a job creator, I really am a fixer. Barack Obama has never worked in the private sector. I think that's the message you need to get out.

BERMAN: We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't play a clip of Clint Eastwood last night here. So, let's listen to Clint Eastwood, because I need to ask you about it.

ERICKSON: Absolutely.


EASTWOOD: What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself.

You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.


BERMAN: Now, this is one of those moments where half the smart people on twitter were writing, this was a disaster. Half the smart people I follow on Twitter were saying this is a great moment. What do you guys think?

HOOVER: I was tweeting with folks in Colorado and Iowa, totally anecdotally. But they were saying, this is really funny. This is playing well. They were saying, this is hysterical. This is funny.

So, look, I don't think it hurt Romney at all.

ERICKSON: You've got to remember, the people in fly-over country, they're looking at this, this has been a brilliantly scripted convention, here is one moment of authenticity of a guy who is saying to them, (INAUDIBLE) conversation a lot of people are having, saying I really like the man in the White House, but I'm not sure I want to vote for him again.

BERMAN: I completely agree with you that it was something different and he made people listen. I have a question about, what's the same conversation that people are having, because I can't imagine anyone having -- that was something I've never seen before anywhere.

ERICKSON: It was quite interesting.

BERMAN: Guys, Erick Erickson, Margaret Hoover, you'll be back later. We have a lot more to talk about this morning.


BERMAN: Now, we want to send it back to Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You kind of danced around that one. Did you like it or not like it. What did you think?

BERMAN: It made me listen. It's not a matter of liking or not liking. It was so different from anything I had seen. I just wasn't sure where it was going. I never knew what would happen next. So, in that sense, I was hanging on every word. It doesn't mean it was effective. But I was definitely listening.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I think they're right, it played different there than it did at home, they're absolutely right about, because I was laughing. Thank you, John. All right. Twenty minutes past the hour. Get ready for a fall season full of hot new gadgets for you. A new Kindle, a smaller iPad, and so much more. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Hello there. And welcome back. Twenty-four minutes past the hour. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are higher this morning and everyone is waiting for the big speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke today. Christine Romans is here. She's on this.

What do people want to hear from him?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Markets want to hear that there's going to be more stimulus, the economy is going to get a little more juice from the Federal Reserve to keep it going until a real recovery can take hold. There have been some conservative who are complaining, wait a minute, we have been putting all of these different methods into the Federal Reserve and all these different stuff into the economy, we still have a subpar growth.

But Ben Bernanke, the Fed chief, and many others are saying without that the recovery would have been even worse. There's a big Jackson Hole conference for central bankers. Think about groupies for central bankers, reporters and writers and people who follow the Central Bank will be in Jackson Hole waiting to see what he has to say about what the Fed stands ready to do, if need be, in the economy.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're also talking -- I just teased gadgets and everybody is, the geeks there want to know about the latest and greatest coming out.

ROMANS: You know, a lot of new stuff to talk about, the new Kindle Fire is unveiling next week. The last version we're told sold out according to the company, retails for about $199, less than the iPad, which is $499.

And look at some of the other things expected this fall -- the iPhone 5, the word on the street is that maybe that's going to be coming around the end of September, September 21st. Could there be an iPad mini? We don't know for sure, but everyone who covers gadgets is talking about it.

The new Microsoft surface tablet is not a gadget. But Windows 8, the new version of the operating system.

In six years, there hasn't been a new Nintendo Wii. A new one is coming out, and I just told you about the Kindle and the Kindle Fire. So big fall, big gadget fall we're expecting. So watch the space.

SAMBOLIN: And if you were looking at the video of the first gadget, I think it was the Kindle and a little kid, a really tiny kid. That's on their Christmas list, which is not too far away.

ROMANS: Right.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Let's send it back to John Berman. He is anchoring our coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Hi, John.

BERMAN: Hey, Zoraida. We're here in Pach's Place, which is a restaurant here in Tampa. The convention center is all but shut down.

Just ahead, that's where Mitt Romney was laying out his plan, trying to reveal the real man in the biggest speech of his life. Will the polls show he succeeded? We'll have more live from Tampa, coming up next.



MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. My promise is to help you and your family.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Promising jobs for your vote. Mitt Romney takes the fight to President Obama on the biggest stage of his life.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Swamped. Gulf Coast residents dealing with the wet aftermath as Isaac heads north leaving destruction and, sadly, death in its wake.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman live at Tampa. We are at Patch's Place, because the Republican convention all finished, all said and done. It is over, and Mitt Romney got a little personal last night in what was easily the biggest speech of his political career. He talked about his family, he talked about his Mormon faith, and his speech pointed to the sharp differences with President Obama, saying promise has given way to disappointment and division in just four years.

The convention's closing night also featured a rising Republican star, and a Hollywood icon, with a fascinating interview with the president in the person of an empty chair. Let's hear about all of this starting with Mitt Romney's big speech. CNN White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, joins me now from a different location here in Tampa.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Good morning to you from historic plant hall at the University of Tampa.

Mitt Romney last night here in Tampa really attacking President Obama on his economic record, and he was also standing up for his own business experience at the same time that the Obama campaign has really tried to make a liability of it, zeroing in on workers and companies where jobs were lost after Bain Capital took over.

Romney standing up, not only for his business experience, but also highlighting President Obama's lack of business experience.


ROMNEY: He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to the task at hand. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.



KEILAR: And John, I know, this probably struck you as well, but Mitt Romney talked about his faith. And this is someone who frequently avoids saying the word "Mormon" even though he is of Mormon faith. He said it last night, talked about growing up as a Mormon in Michigan, which he said was sort of different.

But he also said at the same time, you know, we weren't concerned about that. As kids, we were really worried about kind of what we were doing day in, day out, really trying to downplay any concerns that some Christians, particularly in his own party, may have about his faith.

BERMAN: You're right, Brianna. It did strike me, because Mitt Romney is so comfortable talking about his faith in person and has been so careful, really, not to over the years and political forum. So, I think you're absolutely right, that was striking.

Something else that was striking was Clint Eastwood who opened up the 10 o'clock hour of the convention last night with his speech that did not seem like it had been vetted by the Romney campaign and did not seem particularly scripted.

KEILAR: No, it was really off the cuff. Some observers said that it may have been a blunder, and it was downright strange. I think it's fair to say, he addressed the convention and throughout a lot of it, he was talking to an empty chair as if it were President Obama. Here's part of it.


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: I know even some of the people in your own party who are very disappointed when you didn't close Gitmo, and I thought, well, I think closing Gitmo, why close that, we've spent so much money on it. But I thought maybe it's an excuse -- what, do you mean, shut up?


OK. Just, I thought it was just because somebody had a stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City, maybe that was it.


KEILAR: So bottom line, John, this was kind of weird, I think it's fair to say, and President Obama's official Twitter account, not him personally, because it did have that "B.O." signature, if it's straight from him, but it said, "this seat's taken," in a tweet, and there was a picture of President Obama. It's seeming to be in a cabinet meeting from behind, sitting in a chair that says "the president on it."

And it's interesting, you mentioned, while a lot of people thought that it was a blunder, some people think maybe that it will pay off, and I think that's because obviously as Mitt Romney is really trying to capitalize on the White male voter, this is something that is going to get a lot of publicity, and perhaps, maybe Clint Eastwood will be out on the circuit talking about Mitt Romney here in the days and weeks to come.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Brianna Keilar. As you said, people -- there are people who do think it may have been effective. Margaret Hoover and Erick Erickson, you can't see but are eating a big breakfast right over there. They both thought that the Clint Eastwood thing worked well.

Meanwhile, and political (INAUDIBLE) barely have time to take a breath. That's because the Democratic National Convention will get underway next week. The formal program starting on Tuesday in Charlotte.

Former president, Jimmy Carter, and First Lady Michelle Obama will speak on Tuesday, Carter by remote, Mrs. Obama in person. President Bill Clinton speaks on Wednesday, and then the convention moves outside to the Bank of America stadium. That's the home of the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.

That's where the speech of Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama's big speech. We will be live in Charlotte, North Carolina. We're heading there from Tampa. We will be hosting EARLY START all next week with frequent visits from the best political team on TV who are eating breakfast right now next to me. You just can't see them. Meanwhile, we send it back to Zoraida in New York -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Listen, I cannot believe you just called them out while they're in the middle of eating breakfast. You know, payback is really tough.


BERMAN: They're hungry. They got to eat.

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

It is 36 minutes past the hour. A new judge has been assigned to the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin last February.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): On Wednesday, a Florida appeals court granted Zimmerman's request for a new judge. Zimmerman's attorneys argued that comments Judge Kenneth Lester made about their client put his right to a fair trial at risk. Lester will be replaced by Judge Debra Nelson(ph). There's a picture of her there.

Los Angeles police chief, Charlie Beck, is responding to an incident in which two of his officers were caught on camera tackling a handcuffed woman and then celebrating it with a fist-bump. Thirty- four-year-old registered nurse, Michelle Jordan (ph) was twice tackled to the ground by the officers after being pulled over on August 21st for allegedly talking on her cell phone while driving.


CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES CHIEF OF POLICE: Every Los Angeles police officer, regardless of rank, will be held accountable for their actions. I've also mandated that the video be played in all roll calls and at commanding officers at ten (ph) and discuss use of force issues throughout the department.


(INAUDIBLE) and their Chief Beck has relieved the captain of the division of his command. One of the officers involved has been assigned to desk duty. The other has been sent home.

Oh my. Look at this. Look at this. That is a great white shark devouring a seal along the coast of Chasm near Cape Cod. It's one of many shark sightings that have forced town officials to shut down several beaches. Local fishermen are reporting a lot of shark activity in that area, just a few hundred feet for Chasm's really busy beaches.

Andy Roddick is hanging up his racket. Roddick who just turned 30 says he will retire right after the U.S. Open. He is the last American to win a grand slam men's single title. That was a 2003 U.S. Open. Roddick is scheduled to play his second-round match at this year's open. That is scheduled for tonight.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And ahead on early start, the horrible, just simply horrible discovery in the aftermath of hurricane Isaac. A couple killed right inside their home. We have a live report coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 41 minutes past the hour. Two bodies have now been recovered from a home in flooded Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. These are the first known casualties in a state where Isaac made landfall. And Isaac is now a weakening tropical depression. It is slowly moving north.

Left in his wake, look at this, neighborhoods totally under water and hundreds of thousands of people without power. Those two casualties were a man and a woman found floating in their kitchen. They were in seven feet of water.

Meteorologist, Rob Marciano, is live from New Orleans where they're transitioning into recovery mode this morning. At the height of the storm, we had almost a million people without power there. What's the latest now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As of late last night, it was still over 800,000 across four states. You mentioned those bodies that were found down in Plaquemines parish, sad stuff for sure, and there's still people that are cut of down there.

That area that was flooded where the levee overtopped is now filled with water, and they're trying to figure out, do they bust through another back levee and drain it out into the Gulf of Mexico or do they pump it out? Either way, it's a sad and disturbing sight for sure, and all the locals are telling me, worse than Katrina, worse than Gustav, worse than they've really ever seen.

Not just here, though. Mississippi as well. They got a ton of rain over there. They have a couple of fatalities also, falling trees. They've got drone issues as far as dams around (ph) big lakes that are weakening and possibly threatening lives. So, this storm is certainly not over in that regard and it's on the move to the north.

I want to talk about where it is. Here's the radar shot. It's pretty much centered right over Little Rock, almost Arkansas. Still a wide swath of precipitation with it. Now, though, it's getting into areas that really could use the rain. So, this is great stuff. Some of the areas are so dry that, you know, the ground may not absorb it all. So, you might actually see some localized flooding.

But generally speaking, from Arkansas right up through the Cornbelt, in through Indiana, they're going to get anywhere from five to, in some cases, seven inches of rain. So, that's -- that's certainly a beneficial stuff there. A little too -- too little, too late certainly for the corn crop, but other crops may -- may take some of that very well.

Here in New Orleans, a lot of debris on the road. It's tough to get around the city for the most part was shut down again yesterday. Likely will be slow to recover today. So, this is a worst-case scenario, certainly, for the folks who live down the Plaquemines Parish, but also around Lake Pontchartrain, Zoraida.

There's a number of communities, west of the lake and north of the lake, that are also still dealing with floodwaters that have yet to recede, and thousands of people still displaced from their homes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob, we appreciate that. When we come back, I want to talk a little bit about how they're planning on removing that water, because I know that that's hampering the recovery efforts in the area as well. Thank you for that.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's send it back to John Berman. He is anchoring our coverage of the Republican National Convention. And you've moved now. You're having breakfast somewhere?

BERMAN: I ate already, although Erick Erickson and Margaret Hoover are here next to me. They're eating right now, but I had ,y breakfast before the show, so I could give my full attention and you my full attention, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for that.

BERMAN: We're at Patch's Place, a restaurant, a local watering hole here in Tampa. Last night, Mitt Romney, he launched the final phase of his campaign for the White House with a high-stakes speech at the Republican convention. Romney accepted his party's nomination with an appeal to disappointed and disaffected Americans, and he asked them to vote President Obama out of office.


ROMNEY: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?


ROMNEY: You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.


BERMAN: Romney says what America needs are jobs, lots of jobs, and that he's the man to make that happen. Now, Governor Romney recruited a rising GOP star, Florida senator, Marco Rubio, to start making the point on achieving the American dream. Rubio introduced Romney by sharing his personal vision of success, his Cuban immigrant parents impressing on him that in America, anything is possible.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: We live in a troubled time, but the story of those who came before us reminds us that America has always been about new beginnings. And Mitt Romney is running for president because he knows that if we are willing to do for our children what our parents did for us, life in America can be better than it has ever been.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Rubio endorsed Romney back in March, which was actually toward the end of the Republican primary contest. Now, another Floridian, Jeb Bush, the brother of the former president, George W. Bush, also addressed the convention last night. And this was really interesting, because before launching into a speech about education, he said he had to get something off of his chest.


JEB BUSH, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies.


BUSH: You were dealt a tough hand. You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked. In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions and you haven't done it.


BERMAN: The former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, said his brother, George W. Bush, is a man of integrity, courage, and honor and that George W. Bush kept us safe in challenging times.

Ahead on EARLY START, much more here from Tampa on the conventions, including this key question, did Mitt Romney make inroads with undecided voters? He needs to win them to win the White House. So, we're going to check in with a group of undecided that we talked to last night and see how they felt about Mitt Romney's big speech. You're watching EARLY START.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Very glad you're with us. Mitt Romney's greatest challenge last night might have been persuading undecided voters to get behind him. So, what CNN did is we assembled a group of undecided voters last night. And as Tom Foreman tells us, the Republican nominee may have come up a bit short.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was fascinating to watch the reaction here from our 28 undecided voters from around here, a group that leans a little bit Republican, but there are Democrats in the crowd a little bit, too, and mainly independents.

And watch in particular how they responded to the highest point of the night for this group when Mitt Romney talked about his dad and mom and how they related to his mom's aspirations.


ROMNEY: When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I could still see her saying in her beautiful voice, why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?



FOREMAN: A massive cheer from the crowd there and a big reaction from the women here also when he said about his mom running for Senate and dad supporting her. Why did that make you feel good?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just kind of humanized him that he has parents, and he has a warm, loving family that he's come from, and he understands what we're going through as parents and bringing up our own children.

FOREMAN: Even if that makes you feel that way, does that move you closer to wanting to vote for him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still undecided.

FOREMAN: Even after hearing that, it made a difference, but not a big difference?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not a big difference.

FOREMAN: One of the other things that was interesting in this was the reaction from all of you to the attacks. When the attacks began, interestingly enough, the women here liked them much more than the men did. Watch what happened on this. The women are the pink line, the men are the blue. Watch how they respond during this attack on the Obama record.


ROMNEY: But tonight, I'd ask a simple question, if you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama?


ROMNEY: You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.


FOREMAN: Why do you think that men here did not seem to like the attacks as much as women?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, for me, personally, it doesn't do anything for me. It's not informative. So, I mean, it really doesn't kind of indicator to my decision-making at all.

FOREMAN: You just don't really care about that. Let me see, who's a woman here who generally thought the attacks were effective and a good thing, because you had to be here because you're all registering that way. Who likes some of the attacks? A little bit? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was a very fair question to ask, are we better off than we were four years ago?

FOREMAN: That's all it came down to, a fair, decent question to ask at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's fair to take a look at the record, what has Obama done in the past four years. I think he had a right to ask that.

FOREMAN: Let me move to the back here and just ask a couple other questions. Did anything happen tonight that really change your mind, because the overall impact seemed not particularly strong throughout the speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, it did not change my opinion at all. I wish there was something that would have shocked me or persuaded me to, you know, vote that way. But I was kind of still even keel.

FOREMAN: Ready for it but just didn't get it. And one other quickly over here, what about you? What did you think? Anything that moved you at all in this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I liked everything that was said, but I wish there was a better alternative. He sounds much better than Obama, but I still don't give up the hope.

FOREMAN: Well, this is a group that I said from the beginning that is undecided voters. They all tend a little bit more Republican, but mainly, they're independents. And when you watch the dials tonight, I'm telling you, there just wasn't a tremendous amount of movement.

So, that's the thing that Mitt Romney probably most has to worry about, because these are the voters that he has to get all over the country, the undecideds, the independents, they'll decide it.


BERMAN: Really interesting to hear from those undecided voters here this morning. Of course, Mitt Romney was the headliner in Tampa, but it was a side show by Clint Eastwood that has a lot of people talking this morning. Dirty Harry, uncut, definitely unscripted, that's coming up.