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Mitt Romney Accepts GOP's Nomination for President; Mitt Romney Gives Speech to Republican National Convention; Interview with Ron Johnson; Interview with Debbie Wasseman Schultz; Isaac Still Dangerous; Holmes Called School Minutes Before Massacre; Trayvon Martin Shooting; Andy Roddick Retiring; Mitt Makes His Case; Make My Republican Convention; Breaking Down The Night

Aired August 31, 2012 - 7:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT, and we are coming to you live this morning from Patch's Place. It's a diner in Tampa, Florida. Our "Starting Point" this morning is he's in. Listen.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Chairman, and delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States!



O'BRIEN: That was Mitt Romney's first speech as Republican presidential nominee going after voters who are souring on President Obama.

And Dirty Harry makes a surprise appearance, not really a surprise, although what he did was a surprise to some people. Listen.


CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: I'll start it, you finish it. Go ahead --

(CHANTING) make my day.


O'BRIEN: Clint Eastwood grabbing some laughs and raising some eyebrows too. He had an unscripted endorsement of Mitt Romney. Maybe some of that should have been scripted. We'll talk about that this morning.

Also Isaac is still a deadly danger working up the Mississippi River. We'll update you on what's happening there. Ann Romney will join us and senator Son Johnson, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and Joel Stein is with us. It's Friday, August 31, and STARTING POINT begins right now. Good morning, welcome everybody. Let me introduce you to our team with us. Representative Jason Chaffetz is with us, friend of the show, Romney supporter, we always love having him, and Cathy Castor, a Democrat from right here, the state of Florida, Ryan Lizza is with us, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker," and John Berman is with us as well. Nice to have you all.

Our starting point is going to be Mitt Romney's shining moment at the Republican national convention in the biggest speech of his political career and some people said the best speech of his political career. He attacked President Obama's record saying his failed promises and time to turn the page. Here's what he said.


ROMNEY: How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America? Many of you felt that way in Election Day four years ago. Hope and change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I ask you 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?


O'BRIEN: Mr. Romney also got very personal, opened up about his family, his Mormon faith and trying to connect to voters who still may feel they don't know much about him. A guest was pitched as a mystery guest but we knew who it was, Clint Eastwood. What he said was mysterious. CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar join us this morning. Hey, Brianna, good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. From historic Plant Hall at the University of Tampa, not far from the convention center here, Mitt Romney last night attacking President Obama on his economic record, standing up for his own business record and trying to target persuadable voters saying you may have voted for President Obama four years ago but it's OK to change course.


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 will get it right but this president cannot tell us you're better off than when he took office.

KEILAR: The center piece of Mitt Romney nomination acceptance speech, an attack on President Obama's economic record.

ROMNEY: Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China?


ROMNEY: Does it fail to find the jobs need for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? CROWD: No.

KEILAR: Romney laid unite a five-point plan to create 12 million jobs and become energy independent by 2020 and cut deficits but fell short on details. The Republican nominee did not shy from his business experience at Bain Capital.

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


ROMNEY: 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 avoiding saying the word "Mormon," he pivoted with personal anecdotes.

ROMNEY: We were Mormons, and growing up in Michigan that may have seemed out of place, but my friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we go to.

KEILAR: 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 feeling you had was the day you voted for him.



KEILAR: As you noted Soledad, Mitt Romney was also a little bit upstaged by one of the surprise speakers last night, Clint Eastwood. He spoke before Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, who introduced Mitt Romney, and it was pretty interesting. It made for a bit of a strange and uncomfortable moment when he kept talking to a chair as if it were President Obama. Here's a bit of that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EASTWOOD: But 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.



KEILAR: Soledad, the Romney campaign said that this was not a blunder, but certainly a lot of observers thought it was strange and wondered if it was. They are trying to target white male voters no doubt, a constituency that doesn't really go towards President Obama that he's lost ground with that is very important to Mitt Romney in this election. We'll see exactly what the effect is of that, if any.

O'BRIEN: He was pitched as a secret but it wasn't such a secret. Thanks Brianna Keilar for that report.

Coming up, we're going to talk about Mitt Romney's not so secret weapon, his wife, Ann Romney. Ron Johnson is our guest and from the Obama camp we'll talk to Debbie WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. First let's get right to Christine romans with an update on other stories making news today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Two bodies have been recovered from a flooded Plaquemines parish home. Isaac is now a weakening tropical depression slowly moving north but in its wake, entire neighborhoods are underwater and hundreds of thousands of people without power still this hour. Meterologist Rob Marciano live from New Orleans where they are making a difficult transition into recovery mode this morning, aren't they?

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: They are, especially outside the city, they are doing it amongst a lot of water. Yesterday I had the opportunity to do a fly-over with the coast guard. They have a ton of barges and tankers that have run aground in many cases. Also on that flight, a colonel from the army corps of engineers assessing the levee system to see how that held up and here in the city did very well. Outside of the city, north of town, they had rescues ongoing there. On the west side of Lake Pontchartrain, thousands displaced there. They are still flooded out. The story is ongoing. Where is it going now? It is in Arkansas, slowing moving north and east into places where they could use the rain across the heartland, the corn belt. For the corn crop it's too little to late but other crops it may help a little bit. Anywhere from four to six inches of rain expected in those areas.

Here in New Orleans, many area in the dark still, but power expected to slowly be turned on throughout next couple of days. But outside of the city they are slowly recovering.

ROMANS: Thanks Rob. Be careful today again. To find out how to help, visit our impact your world page at New details in the Colorado movie theater massacre. Suspect James Holmes called a University of Colorado switchboard nine minutes before he allegedly open fire in the theater. That number he called can be used to get in contact with faculty during off hours. Those revelations coming during a hearing yesterday. Holmes' psychiatrist testified she called campus police after their last session. That was about a month before the shooting. He's accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others during a midnight screening of the "Dark Knight Rises."

The Pentagon now threatening legal action against the Navy Seal who wrote a book about the Osama bin Laden raid. The Pentagon's top lawyer wrote a letter addressed to Mark Owen, saying he violated secrecy agreement. The officers said he and another Seal finished off bin Laden and identified him as the leader of Al Qaeda. The release has been moved up a bit.

O'BRIEN: No question, that is going to go into serious litigation. We return to our STARTING POINT in Tampa, reaction to Governor Mitt Romney's acceptance speech on the national stage last night. Senator Ron Johnson is from the VP pick Paul Ryan's home state. I'm not standing in a foot of water, which is an improvement. Let's talk about the highlights and low lights of Governor Romney's speech.

SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) WISCONSIN: I certainly enjoyed the part when he talked about how President Obama kind of guaranteed that in his administration we'd see the rise of the oceans slow and earth heal and what Governor Romney would do, would concentrate on you and your family.

O'BRIEN: Jobs, jobs, jobs.

JOHNSON: And jobs, jobs, jobs. I think when you take away the totality of the convention, what you saw as a Republican party, you saw nominees convey to the American people that Republicans care about every American, that we want to see every American have an opportunity to build a good life and the way we do that is not the way President Obama has done it by growing government but by really understanding what made this country great.

O'BRIEN: So then talk to me about where you thought were the weakest moments in his speech.

JOHNSON: There were no weak moments.

O'BRIEN: Come on, you have to pick one.

JOHNSON: Some people may see he may not be as stylish as President Obama. But tell you what, if I had to choose style over substance in terms of president of the United States, I'll take substance every time and I think that's exactly what you see in Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. We have men of real substance, people not running to be president or vice president because they want to have the title but because they care deeply about what's happened to the country. They realize our nation is in financial peril and they are going to step up to the plate and provide what is missing in Washington today which is leadership. We need leadership.

O'BRIEN: There are lots of messages about immigration, right? Senator Rubio's entire speech was a remarkable speech coming from an immigrant family and the dream America has offered to people outside of the United States. You also had lots of conversations about women, women were very high profile.

But there seemed to also be this conflict at the same time, after Senator Rubio's speech, Governor Romney kind of walked out shaking hands. One of the last people he hugged was Governor Jan Brewer. You just talked for 15 to 20 minutes before the love of immigrants in the country and Jan Brewer is kind of face of that. Women high profile, a lot of question last week was about women's rights and contraception and abortion rights. It seemed to me to be very conflict between what we were seeing and the conversation we have been having. Is that a problem?

JOHNSON: I think you're reading too many into some of those other symbols. The totality, we did see so many women involved in our party. We are nation of immigrants and we have immigrants in powerful positions now in our party. Governor Romney himself, I think Marco did a really good job of pointing out the fact that governor Romney, as almost every American is, a product of immigrants. It was his grandfather that came here from Mexico.

O'BRIEN: And I thought that might have also underscored a bit of a challenge. I think we have the sound bite from Senator Rubio where he the last line before the introduction -- let's play that where he talks about "It's not just my story," he said, "it's all of your stories as well and said," it's also the story of the father of Mitt Romney, right? I thought, well, that seems to underscore that that's a challenge. It's not his story, it's his father's story. Isn't that a problem?

JOHNSON: Then you look at what happened in terms of an Romney describing how their marriage began. I thought it was beautiful the way they didn't are a storybook marriage but a real marriage.

O'BRIEN: A struggle of immigrants coming from Cuba is a challenge.

JOHNSON: But take a look what Americans saw and what finally was conveyed to Americans which dispelled the myths. Governor Romney and Ann started from humble beginnings and had a small little apartment and ate off an ironing board. We also heard about their quiet charitable giving and how they are involved in their community and how they have helped people. I really respect an individual who doesn't toot his own horn and goes about being generous and caring and kind and that's who governor Romney is. He won't talk about it. I respect that. I think it's up to us. We need to point that out so the American people can see it. From my standpoint what the conventions are about --

O'BRIEN: What about the Democratic convention? What do you worry about coming out of that? Because there's going to obviously be an effort to paint Governor Romney as out of touch, all the of the things we've talked about over the last weeks and months. What are you most concerned about?

JOHNSON: I'm sure the Democratic convention will be the same thing as President Obama's campaign has been, nothing other than distracting the American public away from President Obama's record. It should be all about President Obama's record of success, but his record is one of failure. If you want a metric that proves that, median household income declined more than $4,000 during this administration. I can continue to tick things off, $5.3 trillion worth of debt.

O'BRIEN: Governor Romney has said he's going to create 12 million jobs. As you know, Moody's analytics says it's going to happen anyway, what he announced in his speech --

JOHNSON: That's exactly right. It should have happened under -- with President Obama had he not undertaken an assault on job creators and spent this country into ever increasing levels of debt and not increased regulations --

O'BRIEN: I think there point is it's going to happen no matter what, President Obama or Governor Romney, either way it's on track to happen.

JOHNSON: The point being it should have been on track to happen had not President Obama pursued policies that prevented the American economy from recovering the way it normally would, especially after a severe recession. The more severe the recession, the faster the economy generally recovers because the American economy is a real marvel because of the free enterprise system, not a marvel because we relied on the growth of government. President Obama believes in his heart all solutions flow through government and government control and that there's an elite group of people that can control everything. We believe as conservatives and Governor Romney believes, no, the reason we've been successful because of freedom and individuals striving and aspiring to build things. That's what made America great.

O'BRIEN: You see that as the difference -- as you know the Democrats will say that's completely wrong and misstatement of the differences between the two parties and we'll have an opportunity to hear from them today. Senator Ron Johnson, it's nice to have you with us.

JOHNSON: Have a great morning.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, likewise.

Still ahead this morning, listen.


ROMNEY: I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.


ROMNEY: But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.


O'BRIEN: Governor Romney's night is over. Now the Democrats are ready to fire back. Coming up next, DNC chair Debbie WASSERMAN SCHULTZ will be our guest with her reaction to Senator Johnson and Mitt Romney's speech. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: "You deserve better," that was the core theme of the biggest speech of Mitt Romney's political career. It happened right here in Tampa, Florida. He accepted the Republican nomination for president and accused President Obama of squandering the optimism that helped him win the Oval Office. Here's a little bit of what he said.


ROMNEY: How many days have you woken up feeling something special was happening in America? Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and change had a powerful appeal. 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?


O'BRIEN: Florida Congresswoman Debbie WASSERMAN SCHULTZ was here in Tampa for that speech. She's the chairwoman for the Democratic National Committee. Thanks for being with us. In that speech, what did you take away that most worries you as a democrat as you head into Charlotte?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITEEE: Well, actually, what is deeply concerning to me is as an American is that Mitt Romney had the audacity to not layout specifics but nice platitudes about how he would create job, 12 million of people, get a handle on the economy and apply his economic wizardry to the nation's problems and did it in a way that didn't give us any specifics and that's easy to do but governing --

O'BRIEN: When he teared-up to talk about his family and parents married for 64 years. That was emotional or talking about five kids.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The bio stuff was very nice, the first moments anyone really saw that from Mitt Romney, I think he had to do that. If he didn't, I don't think anyone would be saying that he did what he need to do. I don't think he did what he needs to do. I don't think most Americans watching the speech, particularly if they are undecided got to the end, said yep, that's the guy. He really didn't give us any sense of how is he going to increase defense spending, cut taxes for wealthy and create 12 million jobs, and do it in a way that cuts spending? It makes no sense.

O'BRIEN: You felt it was low on specifics.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He didn't deliver specifics. His advisers have said that, if he gets specific he gets in trouble.

O'BRIEN: He had to introduce himself.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Re-introduce himself.

O'BRIEN: Whatever you want to call it and connect emotionally. I'll play a little clip about what he said about his parents.


ROMNEY: My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by every day example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still see her saying if her beautiful voice, why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?


O'BRIEN: He was choking up in the speech and I think that resonated. People loved watching that.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That was warm and wonderful. I think it was a missed opportunity for him to say he believes women deserve equal pay for equal work. He has not even said he would be willing to sign the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act. He warmed himself up and talked about his family, and his wife the other night said how much she loves him. This was an -- my sense of this convention this week more about tearing down Barack Obama than leaving the American people with the impression of what Mitt Romney's presidency would be without any specifics.

O'BRIEN: They spoke about jobs, jobs, jobs. Isn't that going to be a huge challenge for Democrats if you look at job growth over time? Last month's jobs numbers were amazing, no one will say that.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We've gone from President Obama inheriting an economy that was hemorrhaging $750,000 jobs a month, and thanks to his policy U.S., 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector.

O'BRIEN: Slow job growth.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have a long way to go and President Obama has said that. Simply saying the word jobs a whole bunch of times during the Republican national convention doesn't give Americans any understanding of how they would do that. And that's what's important. There are two paths and visions in front of voters.

O'BRIEN: What do the Dems do next week?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Next week we're going to have -- very different from this week, which was an invitation-only, special interest funded, enthused affair. Our will start with a community festival celebrating the Carolinas and Virginia and close with President Obama accepting the party's nomination for a second term, also with an open to the public event in front of tens of thousands, because we believe that the people that should be celebrated are the working families of America and middle class and folks who really Mitt Romney and his party leadership think we should let the crumbs that trickle down eventually help them.

O'BRIEN: They would completely disagree. I can see Congressman Chaffetz saying hm. We'll discuss that straight ahead.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney's not to see secret weapon, Ann Romney. Also, what's next going into the presidential election. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Some headlines for you this morning on STARTING POINT. The remnants of tropical storm Isaac still bringing heavy rain and the threat of flash flooding. It's now a tropical depression and on the move. Let's get right to our meteorologist, Bonnie Schneider, in the CNN Hurricane Headquarters. Good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And some very strong thunderstorms to places like Alexandria, Louisiana and we're watching for a lot of lightning associated with the system as well.

It's more of a heavy rain maker for parts of Little Rock, Arkansas including Port Smith and areas (inaudible), Missouri so heavy rain working its way through this region, which, of course, is beneficial because we're under severe drought in this part of the country.

So in terms of a rainmaker, we're looking for very heavy rain going into the next few days, 2, 4, 6 inches of rain across the Midwest including St. Louis. Once again, this rain is beneficial for the region so that's good news.

Unfortunately, we still run the risk of areas with more rain that's flooded. A lot of it has to do with the fact it will take a while for a water to recede.

And that's where we have flood warnings in effect still for Louisiana and Arkansas and flash flood warnings popping up now in lower Arkansas where the rain continuous to come down heavy and hard. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Bonnie. Now this morning, new details in the Colorado movie theatre massacre. Suspect, James Holmes, called the University of Colorado switch board just 9 minutes before he allegedly opened fire at that Aurora movie theatre killing 12 people.

The switch board can be used to get a hold of faculty during off hours. Those revelations are from his public defender during a pact hearing yesterday.

Jim Spellman has been on the story from the very beginning and he joins us from Denver. Jim, break this down for us. JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Yes, this was all about a notebook. OK, now this is a notebook that James Holmes sent to his psychiatrist, Dr. Lynn Fenton just hours before the shooting.

The prosecutors want it and defense doesn't want to give it up. So two things have really risen here that are very interesting, on the 11th of June, about five weeks before the shooting, we know that James Holmes saw Dr. Lynn Fenton.

But she says they severed their relationship on that point and she never saw him again. The defense is saying, look, he mailed her a package and he made this phone call just 9 minutes before the shooting to a main switch board number where she could potentially be reached after hours.

The defense is saying, regardless of what the doctor thought, he is still considered to have a relationship with her. The judge still hasn't ruled on this yet. They're going to have more on this coming down the road in September.

The reason this is so important is because it could be central to an insanity defense. The defense says it's him reaching out for help. The prosecutors want this because it may show that he was planning this ahead of time.

Being methodical while he was buying guns and ammunition and not in fact insane so this will be a very important part of how they can put together their defense and the prosecution.

ROMANS: All right, Jim Spellman in Denver following this for us in the very beginning. Thanks, Jim.

A new judge has been assigned to the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin last February. 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 that put his right to a fair trial at risk. The appeals court agreed and Lester will replaced by Judge Debra Nelson. Zimmerman is facing second degree murder charges.

Andy Roddick says he is retiring from tennis after the U.S. open. Roddick is making that announcement yesterday on his 30th birthday. He was once the world's top player, but his ranking has tumbled in recent years.

Roddick is the last American to win a grand slam men's single title. That was 2003 U.S. Open. He's scheduled to play his second round match at this year's open tonight -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you very much. Suddenly got very, very noisy in the diner this morning. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Ann Romney, talking to her, she's been faithfully by her husband's side. Coming up next, she's going to sit down with our Candy Crowley for a live interview about Mitt Romney's big moment last night and her own role in the campaign. That's straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. Got to take a short break. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, Team Romney heads to Virginia today to begin the final phase of the campaign. Last night, Mr. Romney closed out the Republican convention with the biggest speech of his political career. It included a Reaganesque attack on President Obama's performance. Here's what he said.


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.


O'BRIEN: So how does he feel today about his performance last night? Our Candy Crowley is speaking to the person who knows Mitt Romney best, his wife, Ann Romney. Candy is with us. Good morning.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Mrs. Romney, good morning to you from all of us here. Let me ask you after all of the grandchildren had gone away and all the kids were gone and it was the two of you, what was Mr. Romney's assessment of how he did last night?

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: You know, it's interesting, Candy. We shared more about the fact of the journey and shared more about the feelings that we had for our parents that had passed on and how we wish they could have been there and it was more of a reflective thing.

I mean, I knew he had done a great job and I think Mitt was pretty confident that, you know, he felt very good about his speech and was very excited to deliver it. So it was very reflective last night because, you know, a lot of people came into our lives through testimonials.

And different things that stood up and told a different side of Mitt than we've been hearing about from the attacks that have been coming our way. And for me, I think that was the feeling that we had is just this gratitude that we had for the life we've lived and for the lives of people that we've touched.

That stood up and said, you know, this is making us mad hearing about the attacks on this guy and we know who he is. You know, we actually had Pam -- my son ran into her in the lobby of the (inaudible) and say, hi.

So we were able to have her come up and you know, share and give lots of hugs and share those memories. So it really was a reflective moment for us on looking back on our life.

CROWLEY: Now, in his speech as well as in your speech, there were certainly a lot of words sort of extended reaching out towards women. We've talked a lot in the media.

I'm sure you've seen in the polls about the so-called gender gap and also the difference between the women who support President Obama and the women who support the governor. What do you -- when you look at it, what do you think the problem has been there?

ANN ROMNEY: Well, you know, I don't look at it as a problem. I look at it as an opportunity. That's why I was grateful for our ability to let people see Mitt in a different light and to see how he's lived his life.

To see the stories about his mother and about the feelings she would have had last night seeing all of these elected women and the chance that we had from other women to stand up and say, you know, I've worked with this guy to have his lieutenant governor, chief of staff

Someone that's worked in his cabinet, all of these women that have lived and had experience, real life working experience with Mitt and saying, let's look at a different lens with this guy because this is how I know him.

And he cares about women's issue and he cares about women. So for me it was just a great opportunity to be able to tell our side of the story.

CROWLEY: The truth is that the gender gap as we've come to know it sort of in modern political times has been there for Republicans for almost three decades. So it's not a problem actually peculiar to your husband's campaign.

Do you think there's something about the Republican Party that tends to turn off some women voters at least in sort of double digit numbers when you look at the gender gap? We've had some Republicans say, some of it is the rhetoric and some is the policy. What do you think it is?

ANN ROMNEY: You know, I mean, I'm not a political pundit so I'm not going to be able to really answer that. But I will tell you what I'm hearing from women across the country right now.

And they are -- those that may not have voted for a Republican in the past are coming up and telling me this, that enough is enough. That they care not about their own job and their children's job and their husband's job, which they do care about because they are worried about those, they also are caring about the legacy of death we're leaving their children.

I think they recognize it's time for someone that understands the economy and understands job creation and understands how responsible he's going to be in making sure their children are not going to be burdened with the debts.

I'm hearing from so many women that may not have considered voting for a Republican before that said, it's time for the grown-up to come, the man that's going to have -- take this very seriously and take the future of our children very seriously.

And I very much believe, Candy, that it is going to be an economic election and a lot of women may be voting this cycle around in a different way than they usually are. And that is thinking about the economy and thinking about their own jobs and their husband's jobs, but also thinking about the future.

CROWLEY: Mrs. Romney, I sure wish we had some more time. Come back when you stay with us a little longer. We appreciate it this morning.

ANN ROMNEY: Thank you, Candy.

O'BRIEN: And that's sort -- $64,000 question, I would imagine, right, which would be, is it going to be people voting on jobs or will there be sort of other issues that frame what the electorate -- polling shows its jobs, but that could change in the 60-some odd days that remain.

CROWLEY: I supposed, but it's been there for an awfully long time. It's the economy, but she gives the answers most Republicans give when you say what is the problem with Hispanics and what's the problem with women here?

They say, well, you know, they are really -- the economy so they're going to come to us, but it's a longstanding problem. It's a three decade gap particularly with women.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Chaffetz, it's nice to have you with us. How do you answer that? Because I would agree whenever you ask that question, it's sort of we don't have a problem.

Sort of a conflict in what we would see and sort of the conversations we've been having over the last months or so about immigration or about women's issues. That had to be a challenge for the party. How do you answer that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I think over the course of the last three days, you saw a lot of very strong, very accomplished women take the center stage. The governor of New Mexico, I thought she was absolutely fabulous.

She talked about how she thought she was a Democrat, but then when she really sat down with somebody and went through what she really believed in, I'm actually a Republican. And she wanted to great success.

I thought the strength of Ann Romney's presentation really gave a glimpse into the greater Romney family. So jobs, the economy, but it is bigger and brooder than that.

When people look at the things that the Republican Party stands for, we have a lot of women who have been very successful that we can point to that will be great role models for people moving forward.

O'BRIEN: You've been nodding your head like, no, no, no.

REPRESENTATIVE KATHY CASTOR (D), FLORIDA: Well, women's issues are economic issues. Democrats support equal pay for equal work for women. Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House have voted against it. The first bill that President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

On women's health, President Obama has made significant progress while Republicans have been obstacles to improving access to birth control and improving services to women.

And then Medicare, remember, women live longer than men. So when the Republicans propose to voucherize Medicare, undermine that economic security in the retirement years. That has a greater impact on women and sure gets our attention.

O'BRIEN: And I think by seeing how vigorously Congressman Chaffetz is moving my table here when you bring up Medicare, I think it is a question about who's going to own that part of the debate.

Whoever owns the we're going to fix Medicare, we're going to change Medicare, whoever can sort of win on that front is going to win. We're going to continue this conversation. We got to take a short break. I'm going to bring Ryan in to talk a little bit about that in a moment.

Still ahead, it's the moment everybody was talking about and it's a moment that had nothing to do with Governor Mitt Romney. Clint Eastwood on the stage, what do you think about the empty chair and the conversation he had with it?

Some people loved it. Other people thought it was bizarre. We're going to talk with "Time" columnist, Joel stein and get his take on it. That's ahead. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The Republican National Convention is over here in Tampa. This morning everybody will start clearing out. A few hours, Mitt Romney fresh off his big acceptance speech is going to hold his farewell victory rally before he heads to Virginia.

But the moment that everybody is talking about is Clint Eastwood's speech. Joining us now is Joel Stein. He is a humor columnist for "Time" magazine. The last time we spoke, I was getting drench and you were making fun of me being out in the rain.

JOEL STEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I still feel bad about that. O'BRIEN: Apology accepted.

STEIN: You looked great wet.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about Clint Eastwood. He came out, hair kind of dishevelled and I remember thinking like, wow. This is going to be interesting. What did you think of that?

STEIN: I think the (inaudible) he mentions. That is the best moment I've been to a convention. It was insane. How did the Romney camp allow that to happen? They are such a scripted group. They must have known he was going to talk to an empty chair, right? At some point, they thought that was a good idea.

O'BRIEN: So let's play a little bit. Here is a clip where he is discussing with the empty chair and the empty chair is responding back to him. Listen.


EASTWOOD: 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.


O'BRIEN: So the crowd was going wild. You were there.

STEIN: Well, he finally started making sense at that moment. So people were relieved, but before that, you didn't know what he was talking about. He was just talking to an empty chair. Yes. I loved to hear the pitch that he made where everyone said, yes, let's do that.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that was -- I mean, it came out of this really nice video montage that it was all about sort of the family values, if you will, of the Romneys. And then it kind of cut to awkward, I think is fair to say, weird at times, uncomfortable at times, funny at times. Did that work?

STEIN: It's a bit of a comical interlude. People take a deep breath. They were excited to see Clint Eastwood there. I thought that he was going to bring Nancy Reagan out on his shoulders and run around the stadium. I thought that made it work, but it was just fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had he had Nancy Reagan on his shoulders that would have been the most normal thing.

O'BRIEN: But does it play well? Ultimately, it's about how people take it. It's not about how we feel about it.

STEIN: You only have a few opportunities to get your message out. You have your vice presidential selection, your convention speech, and the debates.

And we're all sitting here talking about a somewhat crazy moment by Clint Eastwood, rather than what was in Mitt Romney's speech. And I don't know from your perspective, but that's not successful, is it?

CHAFFETZ: He made some very poignant points. When he was talking about maybe we should try a businessperson. I thought it was pretty good.

O'BRIEN: He basically said, you know, that President Obama was an attorney. Listen.


EASTWOOD: I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway, because it -- yes, I think it's maybe time, what do you think, for maybe a businessman, how about that?


O'BRIEN: I was thinking, well, Mitt Romney is an attorney, right? He said who thought it was a good idea for people to have an attorney?

CHAFFETZ: Well, he has a law degree, but he clearly is a businessman. He didn't go out and practice law and hang up a shingle and represent people in court. He is a businessman and that was the point he was trying to make.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two other issues he touched on, which I thought was strange from a Republican messaging point was Guantanamo Bay, sort of criticizing Obama for not closing Guantanamo Bay.

And the war in Afghanistan, he made a libertarian argument that we shouldn't have gone into Afghanistan. And that's not the Republican message, is it?

CASTOR: And frankly, it reminded me of a neighbor when I was a young girl who would yell get of my lawn. I'm not really sure it really spoke to the critical issues. It was a light moment and everyone loves Clint Eastwood and his movies.

O'BRIEN: The invisible Obama chair now has its own Twitter account. Last night, it has 36,000 people following.

STEIN: And rising every minute.

O'BRIEN: All right, Joel, nice to see you. Thanks for joining us. We have to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to continue live here from Tampa, Florida. We'll be talking about last night's big event. Stay with us. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the Republican National Convention isn't the only show in town. Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell is here as well. We'll check in with her. And also find out how her trouble maker festival went. Also ahead, the very latest on what is now tropical depression Isaac. We'll tell you which states are getting hit now and which states to watch out for.

Plus, the switch to recovery mode in New Orleans. We'll take you there live.

Also new details about the Colorado movie theatre massacre. Did James Holmes called his therapist from the theatre right before he started shooting? You're watching STARTING POINT. We're live from Tampa. We'll be back in just a moment.