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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mitt Romney's Moment; Isaac Continues to Threaten Gulf Coast; Mitt Romney Accepts GOP Nomination for President; Interview with Kathy Castor

Aired August 31, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live this morning from a packed place in a diner in Tampa, Florida.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, Governor Mitt Romney is in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

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

Dirty Harry made a surprise appearance. And it was certainly a surprise. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: All right. I'll start it. You finish it. Go ahead.

AUDIENCE: Make my day!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Clint Eastwood getting some laughs, raising some eyebrows in an unscripted endorsement of Mitt Romney, that they might have wanted to script a little bit.

Also, Isaac is still deadly and dangerous, working its way up the Mississippi River.

It is Friday, August 31st. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Let's introduce you first and foremost to our team:

Congressman Jason Chaffetz is with us. He's a Republican from Utah. He's a Romney supporter and frequent guest on STARTING POINT. Always nice to have you with us. We appreciate it.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor is a Democrat from Florida. Nice to have you with us.

Ryan Lizza is a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Ryan, nice to see you. Kind of shouting down the table.

RYAN LIZZA, NEW YORKER: Safe to say Eastwood did make all of our day, no?

O'BRIEN: Yes. In some ways, a wacky highlight of last night.

John Berman, CNN anchor of "EARLY START." Nice to have you with us as well.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is Mitt Romney and his shining moment at the Republican National Convention. It's certainly was the biggest speech of his political career so far.

He attacked President Obama's record, saying that his promises have failed, and it's time to turn the page.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special is 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: There are many people who said that the former governor was going to also have to get personal, so he opened up last night about his family and a little bit about his faith, trying to connect to voters who still say that they don't know that much about him.

CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us with more from last night.

Hey, Brianna. Good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

We are here at historic Plant Hall at the University of Tampa not far from where Mitt Romney last night knocked President Obama's economic record, stood up for his own business record, and said essentially to persuadable voters you may have voted for Barack Obama four years ago, but it's OK now to change course.

(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?

AUDIENCE: No.

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

AUDIENCE: No.

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 see 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.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: Romney recasts 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.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Brianna, they had announced a mystery guest. And, of course, we kind of knew before the mystery was officially revealed that it was going to be Clint Eastwood. But what he said, I thought it was kind of weird. It certainly funny in parts but it was a little bizarre. Tell me a little bit about that.

KEILAR: Yes. I think weird is a very good word to describe it. When he first took the stage, Soledad, and he spoke right before Senator Marco Rubio of Florida who was discussed as a potential veep pick for Mitt Romney, and Rubio introduced Romney.

When he first started speaking, I thought maybe there's some kind of off the cuff appeal here, but it quickly turned strange and at times uncomfortable as he repeatedly talked to a chair as if it were President Obama. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: I know you were against the war in Iraq. And that's OK but you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK. You know, you thought that was something that was worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for the 10 years. But we did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now a Romney campaign spokeswoman told CNN that you can't really judge Clint Eastwood by the same -- through the same lens, political lens, that you would judge some of the other speakers. But certainly, Soledad, this was not the tone of Mitt Romney's speech, which was targeting more persuadable voters.

And another thing that was interesting, you heard Clint Eastwood there talk about Afghanistan. Mitt Romney did not talk about Afghanistan at all.

O'BRIEN: Yes. I thought it was really kind of off, some of the talking points as well. We'll talk a little bit more about that.

Brianna Keilar for us this morning -- thanks Brianna. Appreciate it.

So what was the Tea Party's take on the convention?

The Tea Party, as you might remember, was hosting a troublemaker fest right across the street. The former Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is going to join us live to talk about that in just a few moments.

First, though, I want to get right to Christine Romans for a look at the rest of the day's top stories.

Hey, Christine. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning gain.

There's sad news out of Louisiana. Two bodies have been recovered from a flooded Plaquemines Parish home. The first casualties of hurricane Isaac in the state of Louisiana, another person was killed by a falling tree in Mississippi.

Isaac is now a weakening tropical depression, slowly moving north toward Missouri. Entire neighborhoods are submerged. More are threatened by floodwaters, and hundreds of thousands of people are still without power.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is live from New Orleans where they are starting the recovery process this morning.

Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. It's a slow one, especially in the areas outside the city where the floodwaters still remain very, very high.

We went up yesterday with flyover with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. Twofold mission, one to check out the levees and the system that has been in place since Katrina. That held up very well.

Also to check on the Mississippi River itself, a number of barges and tankers actually broke away and ran aground. So they have to clear those up before they open the Mississippi back to shipping commerce.

Other issues around the lake, north and west of town where they are not as protected. In Slidell yesterday, heavy flooding there, rescuing folks as well. And in LaPlace, north and west of the city by about 30 miles, tough to get to because it's pretty much flooded in, thousands of people displaced from flooding in that community. They don't expect that water to drain for a week and a half.

All right. Where is this going and how much rain have we seen? Surprisingly, Mississippi and Florida lead the way as far as how much rain has fallen from this thing. Seventeen inches in Kiln, Mississippi, over 16 inches in parts of Florida. Here in New Orleans, we've seen over 10 inches.

Little Rock, Arkansas, where the center of the storm is, and the radar shows a good rain shield that's stretching across the Mississippi into areas that could use it, drought stricken areas. They will take that rain for sure. No rain expected here in New Orleans.

Hundreds of power crews are lined up on canal street ready to go to work to try to restore power to the hundreds of thousands still in the dark today. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Rob.

We're learning that Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes, he called the University of Colorado switchboard just nine minutes before he allegedly opened fire. That number can be used to get in contact with faculty during off hours, that coming from a hearing yesterday.

Holmes' psychiatrist testified she called campus police after their last session, about a month before the shooting.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others last month.

The Pentagon now threatening legal action against the retired Navy SEAL who wrote a book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. That book is called "No Easy Day." The Pentagon's top lawyer wrote a letter to the author addressed to his pen name, Mark Owens, saying he violated agreements to not divulge military secrets.

The author said he and another SEAL, quote, "finished off bin Laden" and then identified him as the leader of al Qaeda -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Christine Romans, thank you for that update. Christine, appreciate it.

Back to our STARTING POINT this morning, we've been talking about Mitt Romney's big night in Tampa. Officially he's become the Republican presidential nominee. In a speech, he really was appealing to voters who are unhappy with the last four years.

Here is a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, I'm an American. I make my destiny. We deserve better. My children deserve better. My family deserves better. My country deserves better.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congressman Jason Chaffetz is with us all morning, joining us on our panel. He's a Republican from Utah, supporter of Mitt Romney. He's been in our show a zillion times.

Let's talk a little bit about the big takeaways. Obviously, for Governor Romney, there are certain things he had to do, and he was getting a lot of advice from editorials like, you need to do this, you need to be approachable, you need to lay out a plan, you need to be likeable, you need to attack President Obama, don't attack President Obama.

What do you think first and foremost had to do?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, this was his opportunity to introduce himself to the nation. I think people needed to look at him and say, could this person be my president. And to that extent, I think he absolutely succeeded. I think he was very presidential. I think he was very commanding. And I thought he was very personable.

And that's the Mitt Romney that I know, that I wanted the country to see.

O'BRIEN: Likability.

CHAFFETZ: Yes, just the likability. He is a very reasonable, decent human being. That started with Ann Romney's speech, which I thought was phenomenal. And then Paul Ryan hit it out of the park. And Mitt Romney delivered too.

So maybe a little bit of a distraction with the Clint Eastwood thing. But the success of the night was Mitt Romney showing that he can be the president of the United States.

O'BRIEN: Low on specifics.

LIZZA: It was low on specifics. I thought overall what he was trying to do was give permission to voters who are a little unsure about the president but like him personally, give them permission to sort of break up with Obama. You know, it was a lot of the attacks on Obama that we heard earlier in the week that really got the crowd going. Romney didn't do that. He sort of eased back a little bit from that.

He wanted to say this guy -- it wasn't an angry criticism of Obama. It was, we gave this guy a shot, but it just didn't work out. Let me now try.

O'BRIEN: So, you know, I look at some of the conflicts within the party, though. We have spoken about this. I thought Marco Rubio really hadn't been talked about. We're talking about Clint Eastwood.

Marco Rubio gave what I thought was a great speech. And he is a good speaker anyway. I thought this was a really personal speech. And yet it was all about the immigrant story. And then when you think about the last two weeks we've been covering the Republican Party is with Governor Romney himself is immigration, problems with Latinos. The polling confirms it for sure. And then also sort of these issues that the Republican Party, the GOP, has with the Latinos.

CHAFFETZ: I disagree a little bit. First of all, the Republican Party put up some of the superstars that happen to be of Hispanic descent. The governor of New Mexico, she was wonderful.

O'BRIEN: Susana Martinez.

CHAFFETZ: She gave a great speech. Marco Rubio is, obviously, at the top of the pile.

The reality for the Democrats and President Obama is the Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the presidency. They didn't do anything about immigration. I was on the subcommittee for two years when Nancy Pelosi was the speaker of the House. They only met 12 times. And never did we have a substantive immigration bill come before us.

So the president cannot say we had any sort of success. He did not fulfill his promise.

O'BRIEN: Well, the polls don't support you on that. And I think part of that --

CHAFFETZ: But that's the reality. And maybe we need to do a better job communicating it. But the president did not deliver to that group. They did not deliver the promise of fixing it.

O'BRIEN: But your candidate has said, I would not sign the DREAM Act. People should self deport. And those things, I think, have resonated very strongly among Latinos who, you know, who feel like this issue is sort of an -- even though they may first and foremost think economy, this is a personal issue.

REP. KATHY CASTOR, (D) FLORIDA: When you look in the hall, the audience in the hall really was not reflective of this diverse dynamic country that is America. And while Marco Rubio is a terrific orator, they have -- they can't just place him on the podium and make up all of the damage that they've done with their very harsh policies on immigration.

Mitt Romney's very harsh of discussion during the primary season that he was very anti-immigrant. We've got to realize that America in the 21st century is diverse, dynamic, and the keys to economic growth are going to be international growth, what we do to support families of all kinds.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's not just immigrants, by the way, saying this. Jeb Bush was on this program yesterday. Mel Martinez, the former chairman of the Republican Party says --

O'BRIEN: Lindsey Graham.

BERMAN: -- they're telling that's got to be different and deals with these issues.

O'BRIEN: Lindsey Graham said, you know, paraphrasing, but roughly, we don't have enough angry white men.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Bush said earlier, we could -- as Bush was -- when he was asked, is the Romney campaign doing a good enough job reaching out to Hispanics? He said they were just doing OK. Do you think they're doing better than OK?

CHAFFETZ: I think the message that we want to fix legal immigration is the one that needs to resonate more. I actually sponsored a bill in the House that passed. It's one of the first times we've ever passed something that's languishing over in the Senate. But, I think, Republicans can grab that memo, because in large part, the Democrats have failed to deliver when they had all the leverage to do so.

LIZZA: But do you agree with Bush that the republicans aren't doing so great with reaching out to Hispanics?

CHAFFETZ: I thought this convention was a very good example of reaching out and making it (INAUDIBLE) and showing that they did -- we have one of the most dynamic governors in the governor of New Mexico. She's a wonderful spokesman for the party. She got a primetime spot as she should, and I think we need to continue on that effort.

O'BRIEN: We got to take a short break.

Still ahead this morning, did you know that there was actually another event in town this week in Tampa? The trouble maker fest was hosted by Tea Party favorite, Christine O'Donnell. Did she make some trouble in Tampa? We'll take a look. She's going to join us straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after the short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. This morning, Mitt Romney is getting ready for his victory rally and a day of campaigning in Virginia. He's coming fresh off one of the biggest nights of his career when he made his GOP nomination acceptance speech. Tea party favorite, Marco Rubio, introduced Mitt Romney, setting the message it's time to unite and support the nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Christine O'Donnell is a former Republican Senate candidate from Delaware. She's also the producer of the Troublemaker Fest that took place here at the exact same time in Tampa. Nice to have you with us.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE: Thank you. O'BRIEN: -- highlights and lowlights of the speech last night.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: No.

(LAUGHTER)

O'DONNELL: For me, the highlights were watching the family afterwards, watching the kids chase the balloons. There was such an innocence and an excitement. And at one point, Mrs. Romney was trying to corral the grandkids, and it was such an honest moment. And it was just beautiful to sit there and watch and absorb it. And I think, at least for me, and hopefully, the voters got the same feeling that grownups are in charge now. You know, the grownups are here, and it was just a wonderful moment.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that there was anything missing in that speech? What did not --

O'DONNELL: No.

O'BRIEN: -- deliver?

O'DONNELL: No. I think that he was -- what was missing was actually a good thing. He wasn't -- or Governor Romney wasn't negative against Obama. He talked about Obama's mistakes, but he didn't attack President Obama.

And I thought that that was a very gentlemanly, very diplomatic way to demonstrate the two contrasts between our two candidates. It's capitalism versus collectivism. And collectivism has failed.

O'BRIEN: So, you're saying that the Republicans represent capitalism, and the Democrats represent collectivism or communism?

O'DONNELL: No. The two different tracks that America is on, restoring a truly authentic, benevolent free market where the entrepreneur can flourish, and the hard work is what creates the jobs that he promised as opposed to the collective whole where half your paycheck goes to the government, and they give you everything, and that kind of punitive tax code that snuffs out the individual entrepreneur spirit that has made the American dream.

O'BRIEN: So, Congressman Chaffetz, she's describing the Democrats as communists. You're saying collectivism. That's communism. And you're saying -- do you believe that's true?

CHAFFETZ: I wouldn't word it like that. I think we have two different visions. I wouldn't phrase it exactly like that. But I do believe there are two divergent approaches. Do we want to believe in bigger government, more government? Barack Obama has supported a budget that never balances.

There are 143,000 additional federal workers on the federal payroll since President Obama took office. I just think, fundamentally, he believes that government is more of the solution, where I think a candidate Romney believes that we're going to have to have -- there's a proper role for government, but it's a limited role of government.

O'DONNELL: And I do want to clarify. I didn't say the Democrats are communists. I did not use that phrase. I don't want people to misunderstand what I'm saying. But if you look at the policies that are coming out of this administration, not all Democrats, but this administration, we are definitely headed into the direction of more government control.

President Obama, himself, has said that he wants to nationalize more of the private sector. And that's not what America is all about. That is not the American dream. The American dream isn't to have a car and to have a house.

The American dream is that if you work hard, and you save, and you prepare for the future, and you put the next generation ahead of yourself, you can earn a car and earn a house.

O'BRIEN: I think Democrats would say that's their message as well.

O'DONNELL: Absolutely. That's why I said --

O'BRIEN: It sounds like you're calling the administration then that collectivism is another word for communism, right?

O'DONNELL: Coming from President Obama's own mouth are some of these statements. When he says redistribute the wealth. This is what is turning off so many independent voters and so many common sense Democrats. When they're taking a closer look at what the two candidates have to offer.

And you don't need stats or professional economists to tell you that gas prices have doubled under this administration. Grocery prices have risen.

O'BRIEN: And at the same time, the administration has put a lot of money into the private sector, right? So, if you're heading toward communism, you would not be doing that. You would be taking over. I mean, my mother is Cuban, right? So, I can talk a lot about communism to you. I know a lot about it.

O'DONNELL: Right, right.

O'BRIEN: So, I would say, if you're putting money into the private sector, which has been done --

O'DONNELL: You're putting government dollars into the private sector, and that's --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- so it can flourish.

O'DONNELL: It's nationalizing these private businesses.

O'BRIEN: But that that is not nationalizing. If you -- I spent this week while everybody was here. I was walking along, you know, levees, right, that have been built with federal money, to protect oil companies, to protect companies in the Gulf Coast.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: There's a role for the federal government. Just as congressman --

O'BRIEN: But that's not nationalizing.

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: That's infrastructure. We were supposed to build infrastructure. We're supposed to take care of state-to-state transportation.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- is a path to communism giving people healthcare ?

O'DONNELL: I didn't say that. When we talk about healthcare, we're missing a point. The problem with healthcare is we need to address the cost. We need --

O'BRIEN: -- which people would say the ACA is doing. So, when you talk about nationalizing something, and you're really taking sort of the words that they use in Cuba, frankly, communism. I mean, really.

O'DONNELL: I'm talking about -- you're saying that the words they use in cuba are coming from President Obama.

O'BRIEN: Oh, certainly not. You're saying that.

O'DONNELL: I'm saying these words, redistribute the wealth, economic equality, are buzz words that our president, our own president, has used. And the problem that there is history, there's quantifiable data, to prove that these buzz words, this economic philosophy that he's touting, does not work. They sound noble and they sound appealing.

O'BRIEN: -- economic philosophy meaning what? Are you saying -- you sound like you're saying you think the president is a communist.

O'DONNELL: That's not what I'm saying.

O'BRIEN: Economic philosophy, right? What do you mean by that?

O'DONNELL: When he says tax the wealthy, it's only fair, you have to look at --

O'BRIEN: -- get rid of tax cuts for the wealthy. When you look under other people's proposals, and Mitt Romney and other -- when we looked during the primary, there are plenty of people who would -- at the tax center, for example, who would say the middle class, actually, is hurt more by what Governor Romney proposes.

O'DONNELL: That's not true --

O'BRIEN: They do, absolutely.

O'DONNELL: These principles of lower taxes, lower regulation, and cutting government spending. When those three are coupled together, they work, whether it's a Democrat --

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: These principles work whether it's a Democrat such as Kennedy and Clinton who's implementing them, and they don't work when it's a -- even when it's a Republican, such as Nixon and Bush, who are violating them. So, there are basic economic principles on which the American economy was established and built.

Both parties have strayed from these, and it's going to take a radical ideological reawakening to get back and fix the American economy.

O'BRIEN: Is Mitt Romney the radical ideological reawakening?

O'DONNELL: I am not saying that Governor Romney is that. Again, you're putting words in my mouth.

O'BRIEN: I'm just asking questions.

O'DONNELL: That's what it's going to take. It's going to take drastic cuts.

LIZZA: If Mitt Romney won -- if he wins, would you --

O'DONNELL: I can't hear you. I'm sorry.

LIZZA: If Mitt Romney wins, would you serve in his administration if asked, and if so, what kind of job would you be interested in?

O'DONNELL: I don't think that's even an appropriate question. Right now, we got to make sure that it's when Governor Romney wins.

LIZZA: So, when he wins, would you serve in his administration if he asks?

O'DONNELL: Are you in a position to offer jobs?

(LAUGHTER)

LIZZA: I'm asking you as a Republican who endorsed him --

O'DONNELL: Well, who knows? I mean, that's asking what I'm going to do with my life in the next year, and it depends on what happens in this country. And I'm going to go where I'm best need. And it might be to continue to play a pundit role. It might be in Washington. Who knows?

LIZZA: Would you serve in the Romney administration if he asks?

O'DONNELL: I don't know. I don't know. I want to go where I'm called to go. And who knows?

O'BRIEN: Christine O'Donnell, nice to have you with us.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Soledad.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It is very nice to have you. We'll have to do it again.

We're going to take a short break. Still ahead this morning, we're talking about what was hurricane Isaac. It's now -- I believe it's a tropical depression. Still dangerous, though. We'll tell you which states are getting hit right now. Also, a projection of where that storm is going.

We're live in the CNN hurricane headquarters, and that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Tropical depression Isaac is still bringing heavy rain and the threat of flash flooding. Let's get right to meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the CNN hurricane headquarters. Bonnie?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine, it's hard to believe this much rain fell in New Orleans. But when you look at Isaac's overall rain totals, we're talking about 20 inches in one city, and that is New Orleans. Elsewhere, Isaac made an impact in Florida. A lot of people dealing with flooded roadways in south Florida right now. But really the main threat continues to be Arkansas into Louisiana and as well as Missouri. We're definitely they are getting some heavy thunderstorms across much of Missouri from Springfield straight to St. Louis.

These are really heavy downpours of rain in a drought stricken area. So you'd think the rain would be beneficial. But when you have so much so fast, it can cause flooding.

Look at the computer models. We're talking about six to eight inches of rain on the high side just north of St. Louis. So that's going to be very, very heavy rain. And that will be over the next few days. We're monitoring that as the track of tropical depression Isaac slowly works its way across the heartlands, eventually working its way into Illinois and Indiana. Of course, the intensity will die down in terms of the wind speeds, but we're still looking at a substantial storm and big rain maker for much of the Midwest and even into areas south of Chicago and Indiana. As I mentioned, we'll see the precipitation spread there. So just to let you know, the immediate threat is for flash flooding in Arkansas just south of Little Rock. And we still have some flood advisories for Louisiana, because it will take some time, Christine, for that water to recede. When you're talking about 20 inches, that's not a quick drain out. It's really going to take some time to get things back to normal there.

ROMANS: Bonnie Schneider, thank you.

Andy Roddick says he's retiring from tennis after the U.S. open, Roddick making the 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 singles title. That was in 2003 U.S. Open. He is scheduled to play a second round match at this year's Open tonight.

And 17-year-old Erin Dimiglio making history as the first female varsity high school quarterback in the state of Florida. She plays for south plantation senior high, a QB Her goal is to throw a touchdown pass this season. I certainly hope she does.

We'll go back to Tampa right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Here in Tampa, Mitt Romney is getting ready for his farewell before he heads to Virginia. Just a few hours ago, he told thousands of people in a packed arena and millions more at home why he should be president, or more specifically why President Obama shouldn't have the job of president anymore.

The theme is a variation on Ronald Reagan's famous question, are you better off today than you were four years ago? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How many days have you woken up feeling that something really and 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Kathy Castor has been joining us all morning, a Democrat from Tampa and also a supporter of President Obama. Nice to have you with us.

REP. KATHY CASTOR, (R) FLORIDA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Tell me what you thought was the biggest problem from the Democrats perspective. That was a very friendly speech. It was a very personable speech. And he didn't attack president Obama. He sort of said, listen, I understand if you're disappointed. Maybe don't give him a chance. Give me a chance. CASTOR: First of all, everyone in the Tampa bay area has been thrilled to host the Republican national convention. I think everyone had a different time, it went off without a hitch.

O'BRIEN: Says the congresswoman who represents Tampa.

CASTOR: Law enforcement really did a fantastic job. I think it's clear after Mitt Romney's speech that Republicans like Democrats love America. We're all focused on economic opportunity for all. But the visions are very different. Mitt Romney and the Republicans have a very narrow vision that's focused on a top-down approach, rewarding those corporations that have those special interests, tax benefits, and the tax code, the very wealthiest among us, while the Democrats and Barack Obama, and you'll hear this in Charlotte next week, are focused on empowering the middle class, building those ladders of opportunity, education.

We're still the world leader, and people want to come from all over the globe to come to our colleges and universities. Medical research -- we've got to create these high wage jobs. We're doing that here in the Tampa bay area at the University of South Florida, a large research university, innovation, a strong national defense. We're right down the street from air force base, special operations command, central command.

O'BRIEN: So this is the message we'll get next week. But for the message from last night was a message about jobs, jobs, jobs, and also I thought a very personal message. They did this thing called dial testing. I have done this before. You give everybody a dial, and they dial parts of the speech and it went well. I'll play a little bit where he starts talking about his parents. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. 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?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He's choking up. He's very emotional. And when they dial tested that, men and women, they loved it. They loved him. That's a problem if you're a Democrat, right? Everyone's been saying we'd love to see the real personable Mitt Romney, and he delivered it last night.

CASTOR: I think it was very important for Mitt Romney to have a warm performance, and I think he accomplished that. But now we're going to have a real debate over policy. And I think the best example is to go back and look at the Republican Congress and the policies, the fights and debates we've been having in the congress. I think the Republicans have really kept us stuck in the mud when it comes to job creation. They have opposed president Obama jobs Bill, which was going to put teachers back in the classroom, help repair school buildings, fund innovation.

O'BRIEN: Chaffetz is giving me a look like I need to jump in.

CASTOR: And he is a good friend. We serve on the budget committee. So we've had these debates. But the Republicans really have been an obstacle to job creation and kicking this economy into a higher gear.

O'BRIEN: Your good friend just called you an obstacle to job creation. And when you poll people, they point fingers at both parties. They say that Congress, represented by the two of you, aren't doing your jobs.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: She's an exceptionally nice person. And you're right. Tampa has been a fabulous convention. But the reality is that the Democrats had the House, the Senate, and the presidency. They had all --

O'BRIEN: For six months.

CHAFFETZ: No, for two years they had all the levers of power. They could pass whatever they wanted. They didn't pass some of the things that I think this country does need. I think they overspent. They spent over $800 billion on a stimulus with a promise that unemployment would go under eight percent. It's been 42 months it's been above eight percent. And as Mitt Romney said last night, you can't just keep blaming the Bush administration. You can't just keep blaming the house Republicans. People want leadership. They want results. And what I think Mitt Romney successfully did last night is give permission to those people who are truly undecided, I know you've decided, I've decided, we know how we're going to vote, but the truly undecided people, I think they are thinking, you know, we gave that a shot. Let's try something new. Let's try Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

CASTOR: I think when you talk to the construction worker that was put to work building the highway from the port of Tampa, to the interstate, they are thankful for the president and the recovery act. When you talk to the nurse that was hired to work in the community health center built here in east Tampa, with the Recovery Act, that was meaningful to them. When we repaved the runway at MacDill air force base because of the recovery act and that private contracting company had jobs to provide, money in the pockets of the workers, jobs meant business in the Tampa bay area. And then we turned. And then we knew we had to kick it into another gear, and the Republicans in Congress said no. They said no, and this will be the debate that we'll have.

O'BRIEN: This will be the debate. Whoever can own this messaging of who has pushed for jobs, who's making changes to Medicare, who is dismantling it, who is creating it and supporting it, whoever can own that messaging, true or not, is really going to have an advantage, I think.

We're going to take a short break and then we'll talk about Mitt Romney's speech and how it stacks up. We're asking David Frum to take a look at it for us. He used to, of course, be a speechwriter for George W. Bush. He's going to assess how the speech as a speech was last night. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

In just about an hour, Mitt Romney is going to kick off a rally before leaving Tampa for a campaign stop in Virginia. Just a few hours ago, of course, he accepted the Republican nomination for president. Delivered a speech that took aim at President Obama's last four years in office and the promises that he made to the American people.

Let's talk about the speech with David Frum. He is a CNN contributor, contributing editor as well at "Newsweek", "Daily Beast" he's also a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

Nice to have you with us.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: How would you grade it as a speech?

FRUM: That speech is not one for the ages but it's one for right now. It did exactly what Mitt Romney needed to do. It told the studio, the people watching, "Yes, I'm human. No, I'm not scary. That he compensated for the political vulnerabilities created by some of the more extreme things that the congressional Republican Party has done over the three years. He had a message about I'm concerned about you, your economy. Not just the economy.

And he -- with an accumulation of personal details -- showed rather than told the man he is.

O'BRIEN: Yes it's not some of the -- the pictures, the video, but the family movies were amazing. And it was sort of surprising you hadn't seen them before then.

FRUM: The little -- the son putting the icing on his cake with his face as the spatula was very cute.

COSTELLO: Yes it was very, very cute.

Ok, he choked up as well when talking about his parents. I want to play a little clip of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday 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 in her beautiful voice, why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You had a tweet last night that you said the Republicans have data that must say Americans know nothing about Mitt Romney --

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: Right.

O'BRIEN: -- than his wealth.

FRUM: Right.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that that goes a long way. I mean, how much of an impact does a night like that have?

FRUM: Well I mean, this is the man who is the son of a former candidate for president -- a serious one and a former governor.

The idea that there's this much data that you have to tell people, that you have to tell people look, I have a family. And this is how I raised them. And these are things that people just didn't know about him.

And it was -- his feelings for his family -- you would think that's the thing we all --

O'BRIEN: He's been running for a long time.

FRUM: He's running for a long time and we all know this about him. But the base they went through so many basics. You have to think this is an introduction they must deeply feel they need.

O'BRIEN: The Democrats next week obviously are going to come right back to the wealth message that we're talking about -- taxes and tax cuts for the wealthy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

FRUM: Well, that's is going to be a potent message for them. That Mitt Romney has given himself a very difficult platform to overcome. That you know, he didn't talk about this big tax cut. He didn't talk about the Ryan plan. But it's in the air. And his running mate did. And he's got the symbol of the radicalism of the congressional Republicans at hand.

His message is, I think, "I'm going to control these people. Don't worry. The country will be in safe hands. I am a safe choice." But there are a lot of unsafe choices over his shoulder.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see what the polling shows. I always love to watch an event and get my assessment of it and then see sort of what the numbers are as well. David Frum it's nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.

FRUM: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I've got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: When we come back, we'll take a look at our "End Point". We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We're getting word that the Romney campaign and Mitt Romney himself will be traveling to Lafitte, Louisiana. They're going to -- he's going to be travelling with Louisiana governor, Jindal and they're going to meet with first responders there.

The area obviously has been hit by lots of flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. He'll meet with the first responders and thank them for their work. That is -- we're going to obviously be covering that as we continue to talk politics today.

We've just got a minute left for "End Point". Everybody gets a couple of seconds. All right. Start. What do you think? Big take away.

DAVID FRUM: The big take away, Romney's speech did what Romney needed it to do. But too much of this convention was the party talking to itself, not enough the party talking to the country.

O'BRIEN: What happens next?

FRUM: What happens next is this party had better start talking to the country. Talk to that economically anxious woman, mother, and to reassure her that this party has an agenda that is beneficial for her, that will create jobs, and is not simply interested in taking away benefits.

O'BRIEN: Do you think it gets derailed or, you know, sidetracked by the Congressman Akin thing, right? You might want to talk economy but all of a sudden that happens, you're derailed.

CHAFFETZ: I thought Ann Romney was just an absolute superstar, when she talked about this hasn't been just a storybook marriage. We've had to deal with things like cancer and MS. I really think it was the first time the nation got to see the person I know and the Romney family, which is just so sincere. And I just -- I think everybody could see them as the president and first lady. And Paul Ryan was a great pick, gave a great speech. And Marco Rubio also knocked it out of the park last night.

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman, you get 15 seconds. He went a little long.

CASTOR: After two and a half years of private sector job growth, manufacturing jobs coming back to make things in America, the stock market has come roaring back, we have to now decide is the vision for further economic growth this narrow Republican vision, where the top one percent and corporations get tax cuts to create jobs? Or do we build on these ladders of opportunity. Medical research, education, innovation, infrastructure. And that's what you'll hear in Charlotte.

O'BRIEN: Ryan Lizza, what have you got for me?

LIZZA: Quickly, Romney's speech last night reminded me that a danger of the Democratic attacks on Romney is that if they become too caricatured and too unreal that they lose credibility. Because what you saw last night after months and months of just pounding Romney as a corporate raider and this sort of, you know, evil businessman, he was a normal family man. I think that's the danger of the character attacks by the Democrats going too far.

O'BRIEN: We'll be watching it. Because of course on Monday we start all over again, but this time we are heading to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Be sure to join us live.

Maryland congressman, Elijah Cummings will be our guest; Charlotte mayor, Anthony Foxx is going to join us; Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley and much, much more. Of course, Congressman Chaffetz, you're back with us as well.

We're out of time today. Everybody has a great weekend. We'll see you back her on Monday.

Let's get right to Carol Costello and NEWSROOM. Hey Carol, good morning.