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The Opening of the Democratic National Convention; Study: Organic Foods Not More Nutritious; Democratic National Convention; Language Change on Israel; Indoors or Outdoors; GOP Response Team; Rising Democratic Star

Aired September 4, 2012 - 16:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the gavel is about to drop here in Charlotte as the Democrats begin their national convention. Can they convince a weary middle class that their economic to-do list will turn things around this time? Standby.

A rising star, the San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro, will give the keynote address tonight saying the American dream is still a reality.

Then the first lady, Michelle Obama, takes the spotlight to tell us what her husband is really like outside the spotlight.

Plus, the Democrats drop a reference to Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the platform and a reference to Israel as America's, quote, "strongest ally in the region." We're taking a closer look at what's going on and the possible fallout.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Charlotte.


And this convention is now beginning here in Charlotte, the formal start of this convention.

Let's listen to the chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: The 46th Quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party will now come to order.




WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Welcome, delegates, alternates, standing committee members, special guests, friends, members of the news media, guests from around the world and fellow Americans, to our deliberations.

Over the next three days, we will hold the most open and accessible political convention in history.




WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Viewers from across the country and around the world can watch the entire convention, gavel to gavel, live streamed on the Democratic Convention's Web site and through our mobile app. In addition, the entire program is also being streamed simultaneously in Spanish.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: During our National Convention, we will clearly demonstrate why we need to keep Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But this convention is about more than renominating President Obama. It's about Americans coming together to build one economy, not from the top down, but from the middle class out and the bottom up. This convention's success will be based on engaging the American spirit and involving people who want to put their shoulders to the wheel and change our country for the better.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have -- we're so proud that we have the largest number of delegates ever assembled at a Democratic National Convention.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And as I look out -- as I look out from this podium, I see a diverse assembly of Democrats who represent the strength and unity of our party.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The Democratic Party is the oldest continuing party in the world. And your participation in this convention is a testament to the fact that we are also the most vibrant, inclusive and energized political party, aren't we?


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So -- so now -- now for some housekeeping. At this time, let me remind delegates that presidential nominating petitions must be submitted to the office of the secretary no later than 6:00 p.m. today. Vice presidential nominating petitions must be submitted to the office of the secretary no later than 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. Petitions should be delivered to the secretary's office, which is losla -- located on the floor level concourse.

Delegates, alternates and guests, please give a round of applause.


BLITZER: All right, while they go through some housekeeping, some procedural matters, let's bring in Candy Crowley and Gloria Borger to assess what's going on -- they are pumped, Gloria. They're pretty excited, all these Democrats down there.

BORGER: Right. Well, don't forget, they were watching the Republican Convention last week. There are a lot of things that were said there that they want to set the record straight if you talk to them about it. They believe that they've got to talk to those same voters that Mitt Romney was talking to last week, that 6 to 8 percent of the electorate that remains undecided, women in particular, Hispanics in particular. That's their target this week.

BLITZER: They've got a big challenge ahead of them, Candy. This is not an easy matter.

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: It isn't, because they know full well that, in fact, the economy is not where anyone would like it to be. So it's -- it's hard to go hurrah, you know, we've really done well, except for you have to have some of that progress that the president claims, as well as, you know, sort of look forward and say here's what we're going to do.

BLITZER: It's a -- it's a whole matter of, I guess, the tone that they're going to set in the next three days...


BLITZER: -- today, tomorrow and Thursday.

CROWLEY: You know those word clouds that we sometimes do, like how many times a word is said?

I think the really biggest cloud is going to be middle class at the end of these three days, because that is -- that is -- remember when the president is on the campaign trail, oh, all Mitt Romney and his crowd did was talk about me and Mitt Romney. But we're going to talk about you.

So that has been -- been sort of their aim. Their aim is to have a contrast here. They -- they think their keynote speech will be able to contrast directly with Chris Christie's. So they're going for, you know, sort -- sort of that comparison.

BLITZER: Because they keep saying, James Carville, our contributor, it's the middle class, stupid now. They used to say, in '92, "It's the economy, stupid." But now, Candy is absolutely right, it's -- for these Democrats, it's the middle class, stupid.

BORGER: It -- it not only is going to be about the middle class, but it's also going to be about this question of leadership, what kind of a leader has President Obama been?

You see that after the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney's numbers moved up on that very important leadership issue. And when people vote for president of the United States, they want to follow this person. So they've got to understand that he can really take them to a place that they want to go.

CROWLEY: Let me tell you the -- the other thing about the -- the beauty of the middle class and -- and, you know, appealing to the middle class is pretty much everybody thinks they are middle class, unless you're really poor or really rich. It -- it encompasses so many voters. Even those that some of us would not consider to be middle class, they -- they kind of still do. If you would look at their income, you'd say, oh, you know, that's probably higher. But -- but -- so this is a huge group. And so it is to that, what they want to say, we want sustainable jobs. We want it -- you know, and they'll talk about energy and education and all those things that the president talks about to kind of have those sustainable jobs, investments, he calls them.

Republicans, of calls -- of course, call them more spending.

But that's their aim.

I think it's interesting that there's not, per se, a theme every night. We saw one with the Republicans, there was a theme. But if there's a theme here, it's -- it's flat out the middle class.

BLITZER: Were you surprised, Gloria, that Romney didn't get much of a bounce out of his convention?

I mean, it -- it was 49-47, according to the CNN poll, before the convention. It's 48-48.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Statistically, there hasn't really been much movement.

BORGER: I -- I think there are a few things at play. One is that, of course, you had a month to six weeks barrage of completely negative advertising, tens of millions of dollars spent against Mitt Romney going into his own convention. What they wanted to do was sort of stop the bleeding there. And what they -- and this may be spin on their part. What they were saying to me is it wasn't so much the head-to-head, it's the underlying numbers that they were looking at. And they did make gains with Independent voters. That's important to them.

BLITZER: All right. They -- they're getting ready for the presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem. Let's watch and let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presentation of colors by the Disabled American Veterans, the Stanley County Chapter 12 Honor Guard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the W.R. O'Dell Elementary School third grade class from Concord, North Carolina, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, from the hit musical comedy drama, "Glee," Amber Riley, to sing our national anthem.



BLITZER: A beautiful rendition of the national anthem performed by Amber Riley.

Let's go down to the floor.

Dana Bash is standing by -- Dana, give us a little flavor. I'm looking out there at a lot of empty seats so far.

I'm sure it's going to be packed before the night is done. But so far, not all the delegates, not all the invited guests are inside.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not everybody is here. It has gotten a lot more crowded literally in the past 10 minutes or so.

But one thing I think it's interesting to point out, having just come, all of us, really, having just come from the Republican Convention in Tampa, is that the Democrats just simply have more people here because they have twice as many delegates as the Republicans. So that is why you see each delegation -- for example, right here, if you want to point over here. This is North Carolina. Of course, they get a front row seat because we are in their home state.

If this was at the Republican Convention, they would have maybe had three rows. But now they have from here all the way to the front because they have so many more delegates per state. So that's kind of interesting.

But you can sort of feel that the vibe is getting more excited. People are -- are -- are starting to -- to trickle in and -- and get ready for the speeches that we're going to see tonight. But the first order of business is really going to be to accept the party platform that we were talking about in the last hour, which we've really just gotten our first eyes on for the past two hours.

BLITZER: And, Dana, that whole notion of removing the clause from the convention four years ago, eight years ago, that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, is there an explanation why the Democrats decided to remove that clause from -- from the platform?

It was, obviously, in the Republican platform last week.

BASH: We don't have an explanation quite yet. You know this, Wolf, historically, the Democratic side, or at least before 2008, it wasn't in there because it has been so controversial with regards to U.S. policy toward Israel, because the -- the U.S. has been unclear or unsure about whether they wanted to rock the boat by saying Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, is the capital.

But it's -- the platform didn't just do that, it also took out another line from 2008 which said that Israel is the most important -- I'm not -- this isn't verbatim, but the para -- paraphrase that Israel is the most important ally of the U.S. in the Middle East. That also not in this. So it is very interesting, obviously. We're just learning about this new language, or the omitted language, I should say. And we're getting to the bottom of it.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

I'm going to be curious to see if the president of the United States has any mention of Israel, has any mention of Jerusalem, has any mention of Israel as an ally in his speech Thursday night.

There was a brief mention of Israel in Romney's speech on -- last week in Tampa.

But we're going to go in depth on what's going on over here.

Stand by. I want everyone to stand by.

With the Republicans linking the Obama record to the Jimmy Carter years, should Democrats try to distance themselves from the former president of the United States?

And outside or inside, the Democrats plan to fill a huge stadium for President Obama's big speech Thursday night.

But what happens if it rains and if it pours?


BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Guys, thanks very much. Donna, you could be sitting some place here, a better seat, but you wanted to sit here with me. Is that right? DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. As you know, I'm an officer of this convention, and I can sit on the podium. But Wolf, I want to sit with my colleagues, and I want to sit next to you.

BLITZER: We love to have you here. Let's talk a little bit about the themes. We're going to hear, you know, obviously from the first lady tonight. She's going to speak about the story of Barack Obama coming from the roots that he came from. Quite different than what we heard about the story coming from Mitt Romney, coming from a wealthy family. He didn't come from a wealthy family. How does that resonate?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, if you look at how many presidents have been millionaires, and certainly Barack Obama is now a multimillionaire. Barack Obama -- I mean, Mitt Romney is a multi, multi, multimillionaire. But you know, the thing about first ladies speeches and I saw this in Laura Bush, it brings out a side of these husbands that they cannot talk about themselves.

Certainly, the story of President Obama growing up is a very moving story. It's an American success story. She'll share that. I like these speeches, and I find them poignant.

BLITZER: What does it say to you, Donna, that the first lady of the United States is Michelle Obama? When you hear her speak tonight, what will you think?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, she's an amazing woman. She's an incredible mother, a friend, someone who cares deeply about folks (ph) from all backgrounds. She spent the last three and a half years, as you know, focused on military families. That's been her, you know, most passionate focus as first lady.

I think, tonight, she's going to give us a glimpse into their personal, private life. Talk about Barack Obama as a husband, as a father, as a leader in our country. But you know, Laura Bush once said and I loved this, she said, you know if you're in a grocery store and someone walks up to you and say why should we rehire your husband.

She said that she felt that she could answer that question. Tonight, Michelle Obama will be doing the same thing.

BLITZER: I'm sure she'll do an excellent job as Ann Romney did last week. Both of these women are powerful, wonderful women, and both of these men are lucky to be married to them. Let me play a clip, Ari. You know, I'm anxious to get your response. We're going to have a tribute tonight. We're going to see it here at the Democratic convention through the former president, Jimmy Carter.

Obviously, Bill Clinton will be giving a powerful keynote address tomorrow night. A major address introducing -- you know, welcoming the president putting his name and nomination, if you will. But listen to what Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When it comes to jobs, President Obama makes the Jimmy Carter years look like good old days. If we fired Jimmy Carter then, why would we rehire Barack Obama now?



BLITZER: Pretty bad, if you remember those days. But what do you think about this decision that the Democrats made to honor -- he is a sitting -- a former sitting -- former president of the United States. What would you have done?

FLEISCHER: Well, I have a special fondness for Jimmy Carter, because this is a well-known secret, but I was a liberal Democrat growing up. Because of Jimmy Carter, I became a conservative Democrat, and then because of Ronald Reagan, I changed parties right after college and became a Republican.

So, you know, the fascinating thing about history is you remember when you win that second term or not. Jimmy Carter didn't and he's been pretty much vilified in most American people. If President Obama loses, that Jimmy Carter analogy instantly going to become absolutely true. That's why he needs to avoid that Carter attack.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans have said to me. Ari was very diplomatic, but a lot of Republicans have said to me, they're thrilled that the Democrats are here tonight promoting Jimmy Carter because, they say, it reminds a lot of people of another incumbent Democratic president who lost to Ronald Reagan and what the country was going through in those days.

BRAZILE: You know, the two choices we have this year is going forward and looking back. Once again, the Republicans want to look back, look back to 1980, to see if this is, you know, a race similar to that exercise. I like Jimmy Carter. I got involved in politics, because of Jimmy Carter. The 39th president of the United States who signed Camp David Accords, the SALT 2 treaty with the Soviet Union, helping relations with China expand the relation (ph).

There's so much he accomplished. He lost to Ronald Reagan. That was a very difficult election, had a tough primary, a tough economy. But I still like Jimmy Carter. He won the Nobel Prize ten years ago. God bless, Jimmy Carter.

BLITZER: We will see that tribute later tonight. Guys, thanks very, very much.

Three and a half years after taking office, almost four years, we should say, President Obama gives himself an incomplete grade on fixing the economy. Is that good enough to win re-election? We'll ask two Democratic leaders in a live interview, Senator Mark Warner and former Virginia governor, Tim Kaine. They're both standing by.

And it can cost twice as much as regular food, but is buying organic food really better for your health? There's a new study that has just come out. Standby. That's coming up as well.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Lisa Sylvester. Here are some of the top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now.

Organic foods, apparently, don't contain any more vitamins or nutrients than regular foods despite costing up to twice as much money. That is according to researchers from Stanford University who looked at more than 200 studies comparing the two categories.

They did find that organic produce and meat contained fewer pesticides, but they couldn't say whether the difference was enough to have an effect on people's health.

And first on CNN, the commander of U.S. NAVY SEALs has sent all 2,500 of them a harsh message saying, quote, "He's disappointed, embarrassed and concerned that some of them are speaking publicly about their secret missions and training." CNN exclusively obtained a copy of the message from Rear Admiral Sean Pybus.

The highly anticipated book, "No Easy Day," written by a Navy SEAL about the Osama Bin Laden raid comes out today.

And GQ is reporting that vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, that he has chosen his new secret service codename. Inspired by his love of hunting, he's going to be known as Bowhunter.

His wife, Janna, is going by Buttercup which is reportedly a nickname her husband uses for her, and the Ryans received secret service protection last month after Paul Ryan was named Mitt Romney's running mate.

And democrats drop a reference to Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a reference to Israel as America's strongest ally in the region. Could that hurt them in November?

And our latest poll shows independent voters moving toward Mitt Romney. Wolf Blitzer is back to ask a pair of top Democrats what that's all about.


BLITZER: Want to go right to the convention floor and I'm down here on the convention floor right now. Dana Bash is standing by. Dana, we've been talking earlier about a buzz, a lot of buzz out there that the Democratic Party platform rejected the language that was in the platform four years ago, eight years ago, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Also deleting a reference to Israel as being America's staunchest ally in the Middle East. I understand the Democratic National Committee is now responding. What's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You asked me just a few moments ago why they did it. Well, I asked the DNC (INAUDIBLE) and their answer was that they are simply following what the Obama administration's policy is. That the White House said several months ago that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And that is why that is not in the platform as it was in 2008. It still is a little bit perplexing frankly because that had been the policy up until 2008, at least (INAUDIBLE) in the platform up until in 2008, but they decided to change it four years ago. And the -- there was no difference with regard to final status negotiations as it is right now.

So it is a bit of a question mark particularly given frankly as you know, Wolf, the political question marks that some American Jews have especially in key swing states like Florida about President Obama's commitment to the state of Israel. So this is probably going to raise a lot more questions in their minds. The other thing that this statement goes on to say is that they want to underscore that President Obama has undeniable and unshakable commitment, has an undeniable and unshakable commitment to Israel's security. That clearly is trying to explain or, you know, help understand that they still have (INAUDIBLE) even though they don't say in the platform that the U.S. is -- that -- excuse me -- that Israel is the most important ally in the Middle East -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The 2012 platform does not include the language of the 2008 platform describing Israel as America's strongest ally in the region. Dana, thanks very much.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what's going on with two special guests, Senator Mark Warner is here from Virginia. The former governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, a Senate candidate is here as well. You know something about politics and I'll start with you, Governor.


BLITZER: You were chairman of the Democratic Party.

KAINE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: This is a sensitive issue especially in a state like Florida where as you know a lot of Jewish voters are there. The Republicans are already making hay out of this that this president and the Democratic Party removes a reference to Jerusalem as Israel's capital and deletes language that Israel is America's strongest ally (INAUDIBLE). How do you explain it?

KAINE: Wolf, I know the Republicans want to make this a wedge issue, but one of the great things about U.S. support for Israel is that it's been bipartisan since Harry Truman, a Democrat, put the U.S. behind recognizing Israel within minutes of the declaration of statehood (ph), recognition of Israel and our relationship has been a fundamental value of our party and our nation. And it is the case that the Israelis say let us with the Palestinians negotiate what the ultimate path toward a two-state solution is. They're very, very adamant that the U.N. or others not dictate terms. We shouldn't dictate terms but we just need to support the relationship and that's been our party's policy -- BLITZER: But politically, as you know, and I'm going to bring Senator Warner in (INAUDIBLE) this is sensitive stuff we're talking about. You appreciate this more than most.

KAINE: I do. But you know look, what I appreciate is that there's an effort by some to make Israel a wedge issue in this country. It's not a wedge issue. The relationship is strong. It's bipartisan and it needs to be. And when people try to make it a wedge issue, they actually hurt the United States and they hurt Israel.

BLITZER: What do you think? You're a senator, you're familiar with all these issues --


BLITZER: This is a very sensitive issue --


BLITZER: -- why did they decided to do this --

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I think the Obama administration and this president is the strongest friend of Israel that Israel has. And I think America views Israel as a very, very strong ally. I know I do. And I think that, as Tim has said (INAUDIBLE) who will try to make this a wedge issue and I think the record of this administration stands for itself.

BLITZER: Is Israel the strongest ally in the region?

WARNER: I believe it is.

BLITZER: So why wouldn't that be included? It was included four years ago. Why would they delete it this time?

WARNER: I think that Israel has been, will be and will always continue to be in a bipartisan fashion our strongest ally in the Middle East.

BLITZER: Why -- how do you -- why do you think they took that language out?

KAINE: I don't know what the wording explanation is, but the mere fact of this particular part of the platform, which talks about the U.S.-Israel relationship is so unique, you don't have those kinds of platform planks with respect to every other nation. There's a reason that there's a U.S./Israel relationship plank on the platform and it attests to the fact that this relationship is a special one and a very close one.

BLITZER: This is a sensitive issue. You're running for the Senate. You've got a tough race over there. How sensitive is this issue in Virginia?


BLITZER: I know in Florida, in New York, where there's large Jewish population --

KAINE: Support for Israel is bipartisan in Virginia. As mayor, I went to Israel with 50 mayors from around the world to Jerusalem in April of 2000. I was Prime Minister Netanyahu's guest at the (INAUDIBLE) commemoration (INAUDIBLE) in April of 2009. Virginians don't question my commitment to the U.S./Israel relationship.

BLITZER: It's still a little awkward on this day when we should be talking about a lot of other stuff and people don't even pay that much attention --


BLITZER: -- to the platform we're talking about. So let's move on.


BLITZER: Talk a little bit about these latest polls. You saw that in our overall poll Romney didn't get much of a bounce.



BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) one point in this 48-48 right now, this 49 Obama, 47 before, but take a look at this among independent voters out there. Before the convention Obama had 45 percent, Romney 48 percent. Now Obama's down to 42 percent, Romney 52 percent. That's a 10-point gap among independent voters, likely independent voters.

WARNER: As your polling indicates, any kind of analysis of a post-convention bump, this has been the smallest I believe since Bob Dole's 1996 convention. And we know where that campaign ended up. I think you'll see those numbers return (INAUDIBLE) particularly (INAUDIBLE) one outlier after the Democratic Convention. I also think we've been campaigning around Virginia -- the governor and I -- and we're seeing extraordinary strong support for the president. And we actually think in Virginia we have a chance to pick up a lot of our military families and veterans that were really tough to break into four years ago --


BLITZER: -- campaigning for the president. I want to play a clip because this is causing a lot of buzz from an affiliate KKTV in Colorado. I'll play the exchange, the reporter and the president. His answer is generating some reaction. Listen to this --


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I would say incomplete, but what I would say is the steps that we've taken in saving the auto industry, in making sure that college is more affordable and investing in clean energy and science and technology and research, those are all the things that we're going to need to grow over the long-term.


BLITZER: He was asked what grade he would give himself on the economy over the past three and a half years. And he said, you know, I would say incomplete. Now, all of us went to college. We know what an incomplete means. You've taken the course work but you didn't meet the deadline, you got an incomplete. I was pretty surprised that he says that. Were you?

KAINE: Wolf, it was a remark that showed some humility. The president's right. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and we're gaining them 29 months in a row. Stock market was in the seven's or six's, it's in the 12's and 13's now. GDP was shrinking, it's now growing. No one would go back to where we were four years ago economically or in our international relations. We're moving forward. But the president is humbly acknowledging that, look, we've got to put -- you know we've got to put our foot on the gas and one of the ways we do it is we put a Congress in place that decides that they're not just going to gridlock everything but they're actually going to work together --


BLITZER: Senator, what grade would you give the president when it comes to the economy?

WARNER: I give the president a good grade.


WARNER: I give him a B-plus, A-minus, more to be done, and I think what we've got to look at is where we go from here. And where we go from here is looking at the plan that President Obama offers and the Romney/Ryan plan. I was a business guy longer than I've been a politician. You know if you're a business, you invest in your people, your plant equipment, and you look at what your competition is doing. The Romney/Ryan budget cuts education, infrastructure and research --

BLITZER: B-plus, A-minus --

KAINE: You know, I was more fixated, Wolf, on that question that's been kicking around the days before now which is are we better off than we were four years ago. I really can't believe that people would argue that we're not. I mean we were in two wars that were open ended blank check. One is done and we're drawing down in Afghanistan. We didn't know where bin Laden was. We found him and wiped him out. The banking industry and the auto industry were going down the drain. They've both been rescued. We are -- where we were four years ago not a single American would want to return back to that. We're going forward and we need to put our foot on the gas.

BLITZER: Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, gentlemen, thanks very much. Virginia, you're confident?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm confident -- yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it were today --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got 63 hard days --


BLITZER: All right. We'll see you. We'll watch it all together (INAUDIBLE). As the DNC continues its business on the stage, we're waiting for the popular mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker (ph), to take the stage. He's dubbed the hero mayor. We're going to bring that to you live. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The Democrats are holding their convention in this huge indoor arena, but it may not be big enough for President Obama's big speech. That's supposed to take place in a packed outdoor stadium. So here's the question, what happens if it rains? Kate Bolduan is here. She's been looking at the skies for us. Our meteorologist and severe weather expert, Kate, what's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the moment at least (INAUDIBLE). So I guess the conclusion is Mother Nature is either nonpartisan or bipartisan, however you put it. Either way you want to slice it, weather is now taking a pretty major role in both conventions including right here in Charlotte.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): It's already caused a soggy kickoff to the week's events. Now, one of the biggest wild cards of the Democratic Convention, the weather and whether it will force President Obama's much-anticipated acceptance speech from the open air Bank of America Stadium indoors. The official word from the Obama campaign, outside is still a go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We plan to proceed with the event, rain or shine, just like it was a Panther's game. In the event of severe weather, of course we'll make contingency arrangements.

BOLDUAN: The forecast calls for more rain than shine and that shouldn't come as a surprise.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Showers pop up everyday in the south in the summer. But will there be thunder and lightning? That's the key to the Charlotte forecast. Will there be lightning around the stadium with people sitting outside? If there's lightning, they'll just put them inside in the mezzanine (ph) just like a football game. Thursday has the best forecast of the whole week.

BOLDUAN: Still, Democrats acknowledge it's a gamble.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's a very high risk. If the president you know, gets wet, that's one thing. If you have 75,000 people, and God forbid there's (INAUDIBLE) lightning that could really be awful. Here's the other side. There is a certain sort of heroic imagery when he stands there getting soaked and he's done this before. And what you would hope and pray as a Democrat is that the audience then feeds off that. That's sort of my optimistic hopeful spin as a Democrat. Still, Lord, hold the rain off, please.

BOLDUAN: The contingency plan includes moving the speech back to the Time Warner Cable Arena. But that also means a fraction of the seating capacity and a very different scene from Denver four years ago.

OBAMA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A scene the delegates want to relive no matter what Mother Nature brings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've sat in the rain for a lot less things than that. So I definitely would sit in the rain to listen to my president speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you kidding me? I mean getting this president elected, I would stand out in freezing cold snow, yes, I'll be fine, rain or shine. The makeup will run a little bit, I'll be a little frustrated, but no, this will be wonderful.


BOLDUAN: Campaign officials are not tipping their hand on when they think they need to make that final call of stay outside or move indoors. Really, Wolf, they're only saying that they will have enough time to alert everyone that's attending to make -- that they're making alternate arrangements --

BLITZER: They've given away all of the tickets, 65,000, 70,000. There's standing room only there, so a lot of excited people will be very disappointed if they have to move it indoors.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely because it's a fraction of the seating in here compared to at the Bank of America Stadium. They said one important thing the way they're going to be able to alert everyone is that you have to activate your credentials. So they'll have contact information for every person that wants to be attending at the Bank of America Stadium.

BLITZER: And the people who were lucky enough to get tickets, they've made commitments that they will go out there and they'll -- to get people to register. They'll take people to vote.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: In North Carolina a very important battleground state --

BOLDUAN: Toss up key state. BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) good work. Thank you. It's the Democrats' big week here in Charlotte, but Republicans -- yes, Republicans, certainly would like to share the spotlight. We're going to introduce you to their so-called Rapid Response Team as the GOP war room heats up. Stand by. And coming up in our next hour, the Democratic rising star, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker (ph), he will address this convention. We'll take it live.


BLITZER: The Democrats don't have Charlotte to themselves right now. The Republicans have set up a war room right near the convention site with a quick reaction team and they are ready to pounce. Let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are just a few blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena. This is the NASCAR Plaza Building (ph) and just like you saw in Tampa, this may be the week for Democrats here in Charlotte, but Republicans don't want to cede all of the attention, so this is the GOP War Room here and this is Sean Spicer, a spokesperson for the RNC. So what's going on here?

SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATL. COMMITTEE SPOKESMAN: This is our GOP Response Center. We've got -- we are here to make sure that the president's record and our side of the story, Mitt Romney's story is told. But more importantly we're trying to remind Americans that they're not better off four years from now when he goes and gives that speech. We've got everything from a Rapid Response Research Team that's fact-checking this -- what they're putting out to the media. We're fact-checking their speeches, putting out our side of the story, making sure that we keep them honest. We've got some of our top surrogates here, people that you heard from at the Republican National Committee.

KEILAR: So you're putting them on TV. They're actually in -- there's a studio downstairs --

SPICER: We've got a studio right downstairs, state of the art. We live stream our press conference every day. We bring in press to hear our side of the story, and then we make them available for network interviews, local interviews throughout the country and battleground states.

KEILAR: Let's be honest, this is all about stealing the limelight here in Charlotte.

SPICER: It's about two things. This is about having a little fun and at the same time ensuring that our message gets out there and that voters don't just hear the one sided speech out there and that they understand that whether you're looking or talking about the economy, debt and deficit that those kind of things are still important and that we're able to get out there and highlight them.

KEILAR: And there you have it, two months out from Election Day, and neither side is ceding an inch -- Wolf. BLITZER: As they shouldn't. They should be working really hard and they are. Brianna, thank you. And we're only minutes away from a rising star of the Democratic Party, the Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker (ph), he's ready to address this crowd here at the convention in Charlotte. We will bring it to you live. Stand by.


BLITZER: We are awaiting Cory Booker (ph), the Newark, New Jersey mayor, but another Democratic huge rising star will take the stage later tonight. We're talking about the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He becomes the first Latino to give the Democrats' keynote address. Here is CNN's Ed Lavandera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey everybody. I'm Julian Castro.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First thing you need to know, it is pronounced "hoo-lee-AHN" Castro. The "j" is silent, not "JOOL-lee-uhn", but even if you get the Spanish wrong, don't worry. San Antonio's Latino mayor has never mastered Espanol either.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: I understand Spanish better than I speak it. I grew up in my household with my mother and my grandmother mostly speaking English, so I understand it. But speaking it back is always the challenge.

LAVANDERA: Julian Castro's grandmother immigrated to San Antonio from Mexico and worked as a community activist in San Antonio's Chicano movement. From those humble beginnings Julian Castro and his twin brother went on to Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Now he's a rising star in the Democratic Party, tapped to give the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, the same speech an unknown Barack Obama gave at the convention in 2004.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You get talked about as someone who could be the first Hispanic governor of Texas, even -- some people even suggest the first Hispanic president of the United States. Do you like that kind of talk? Can you handle that kind of pressure?

J. CASTRO: No, I would be lying if I said that that's not flattering. Of course it's flattering to anybody, but the biggest mistake that I could make or anybody could make in this situation is to believe the press, to believe the hype.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Castro was elected mayor in 2009, and then reelected with 82 percent of the vote. Now he's 37, the youngest mayor of a top 50 city in the United States. He's also used to the baby face jokes.

(on camera): One of the funnier things that has happened to you when you first met President Obama, he jokingly asked if you were the intern.

J. CASTRO: That's right -- yes.

LAVANDERA: You being asked to do the speech, is that kind of making up for that jab?

J. CASTRO: No, I don't know, I don't know. But I accept, you know I always got the age jokes at different points in my career.

LAVANDERA: Is it still happening?

J. CASTRO: Every now and then, you know but I'm starting to get the gray hair that I need from my 3-year-old daughter and from politics.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This is the biggest speech of Castro's career. Latinos enjoyed prominent speaking roles at the Republican Convention and Castro must convince Latinos to stick with President Obama and turn out in big numbers.

(on camera): There are a lot of Latino leaders out there who say that President Obama has not been a friend to the Latino community.

J. CASTRO: Under any score, immigration, education, health care, any number of issues, he has been a very effective advocate for the community -- for the Latino community.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): He is in the midst of pushing for a small sales tax hike to fund pre-kindergarten programs for low-income children back in San Antonio. Castro enjoys a squeaky clean political image. Except for that 2005 San Antonio River Walk (ph) Parade scandal, Castro was a city councilman and couldn't make it to the parade in time. So his twin brother jumped on the City Council float instead. Castro's political opponents said the brothers were trying to fool the massive crowd. Castro laughs it off now.

(on camera): How can we be sure that you're going to be the Castro brother giving the speech tonight?

J. CASTRO: Well he says that he is a lot better looking than I am.


J. CASTRO: And the wedding ring is another good way --

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Actually his brother, Joaquin Castro (ph), will introduce his twin at the convention. You'll see the Castro brothers standing side by side.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


BLITZER: From the mayor of San Antonio to the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker about to speak.