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Waiting to Hear Obama's Pick for Running Mate; Preview of the Democratic National Convention; Buses Collide in New Jersey; Tropical Storm Fay Continues to Create Problems for Floridians

Aired August 22, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today. Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown. A busy, busy day.
Keep them guessing. Barack Obama chooses a running mate. We are waiting for an announcement and searching for clues.

Also - 2011, target date for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq. Negotiators reached that deal. Will U.S. and Iraqi governments sign off on it?

And an American father and two daughters separated by a surprise war. Now the family reunion. See my interview with them today, Friday, August 22nd in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Boy, talk about keeping us in suspense. Barack Obama has made his vice presidential choice, and we are waiting for him to tell us who it is. That could happen at any time. Our entire political team is on VP watch this morning. We have crews at the homes of some possible picks, including Senators Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and Governor Tim Kaine. We are watching Midway Airport as well in Chicago in case anybody lands there. Obama plans to send out a text message, as you probably know by now, announcing his choice. We are going to have live coverage and analysis just as soon as that announcement is made.

So Obama playing it coy. That's for sure. He wouldn't give reporters even a hint when asked about his choice yesterday.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've made the selection, and that's all you're going to get, all right?


COLLINS: In a CBS interview that aired this morning, Obama talked about what he looked for in choosing a running mate.


OBAMA: Obviously, the most important question is, is this person prepared to be president? The second most important question, from my perspective is, can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally? And the third criteria for me, I think, was independence. I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a "yes" person when it comes to policy making.


COLLINS: The best political team on television is all over the story this morning. Wolf Blitzer is joining us from Washington and senior political analyst Bill Schneider is in Denver. Wolf, I want to begin with you. You heard what Barack Obama said there to CBS. He mentioned two things, somebody who's not a yes person and someone who has a keen sense of international issues. What does that tell you?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, it leaves the door open somewhat. It does make it clear - he said something very similar in the interview he did yesterday with the newspaper "USA Today." He wants to be challenged. He wants to make sure that he gets a lot of different perspectives. Some immediately thought he was hinting at Hillary Clinton. Certainly would not necessarily be a yes person, do whatever, you know, just immediately say yes, sir, yes, sir, yes, sir to the president of the United States.

On the other hand, Joe Biden could fit that bill. He's got very strongly held views, the chairman of the foreign relations committee. He's been in the senate for god knows, about 30 years or longer. And he certainly has very strongly held views on a wide range of issues.

Remember, he's not only the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but he's also a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that deals with Supreme Court justices and court nominations and a lot of other legal issues. So he's a strong personality, as we know, as well. So, you know, you never know in this kind of business. We'll just wait and see.

COLLINS: Yes. And we're trying to get as many cameras dispatched, of course, as we can. And we have it pretty well covered but there are certainly other players to talk about, another female to talk about. What about the governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, a very popular two-term governor and that could help if they're looking for this to carry the state of Kansas. That hasn't happened since the '60s.

BLITZER: Yes. That would be, you know, it would be a long shot. Kansas doesn't have a whole lot of electoral votes and Kathleen Sebelius is not very well known outside of Kansas. In effect, what he would be doing if he picked her or Tim Kaine, for that matter, the governor of Virginia, he's only been governor for a couple of years or so, not very well known outside of Virginia, in effect what he would be doing would be doubling down and saying, you know what? I'm going outside the beltway, I'm going outside Washington. I'm committed to change. I'm bringing new people in.

Whether it's the governor of Kansas or the governor of Virginia. It would be a risky move on his part, but it would be - I guess it would reinforce the notion that he is the candidate of change.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. A good point. Want to go ahead and bring in our political analyst Bill Schneider now who is standing by in Denver as well. So, Wolf, stick around for us. Bill, your thoughts at this point. We've been talking about it, of course, all morning long. A lot of different players out there to make sure we have good notes on.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what he wants to do is reverse what appears to be a slide in the polls over the last couple of weeks. To do that, he might take a cue from the Clintons. Maybe even take a Clinton.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is on board.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.

SCHNEIDER: Are they listening? The "Wall Street Journal"-NBC News poll reports that a bare majority of Clinton supporters say they will vote for Obama. 21 percent favor McCain while 27 percent are still undecided or say they will vote for somebody else.

Another poll shows John McCain has been making gains among white men and working class whites, the same voters who delivered for Clinton in the primaries. How does Obama reach those voters? Same way Bill Clinton did in 1992 and Hillary Clinton did in the primaries. Economic populism.

CLINTON: If I tell you I will fight for you, that is exactly what I intend to do.

SCHNEIDER: Look who's a born-again populist now.

OBAMA: What I can do is I can say, I'm going to wake up every day thinking about you. And thinking about how to make your life a little bit better.

SCHNEIDER: Obama even used his new populist edge to slice up McCain.

OBAMA: I guess if you think that being rich mean you've got to make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong.

SCHNEIDER: Here's another idea - put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. It would turn the democratic convention into a love-in. 4,400 delegates singing kumbaya. Would Clinton add to the ticket? Apparently. If Clinton were the democratic nominee for the president, the "Journal"-NBC poll shows she'd be leading McCain by six points. Obama's lead in the poll? Three.


SCHNEIDER: Direct was the issue that got Obama the democratic nomination. The economy was Hillary Clinton's issue. But if he wants to win the election, he's got to run on the economy, which means he's got to find his populist voice because you know what, populism is popular. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Good point too. Thank you, Bill Schneider, our political analyst out there in Denver. Thanks also to Wolf Blitzer. I know the two of you are working your sources very, very well and will let us know when we need to come back to you with this announcement of Barack Obama's vice president. Thanks again, Wolf and Bill.

The democratic convention just three days away. CNN's convention coverage begins in prime time tonight with chief national correspondent John King in Denver.

Back to this breaking news now out of Nevada. A small plane may have crashed into a house in north Las Vegas. The fire break out near the site of the reported crash. No aircraft, though, is visible in these pictures. Firefighters, of course, are battling the blaze right now. These pictures coming in to us from our affiliate there, KBBC. It was unclear, still at this point, if anyone was inside of the house. But we, of course, are following the store. And we will bring you more information just as soon as it becomes available to us.

Tropical storm Fay dumping heavy rains and kicking up deadly surf. Two swimmers drowned in the treacherous storm with waters of the Atlantic Ocean. An Indiana woman ignored the warning signs and died near Jacksonville beach. To the south in Daytona Beach, another tourist also wandered into the dangerous rip tides and got into trouble by the time crew arrived, she was dead.

Conditions critical. Patients had to be turned away from this central Florida hospital after floodwaters poured into the emergency room and main entrance. Ambulances were notified to reroute patients who would normally be taken to Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City. Existing patients are not being relocated though but could be moved to higher floors if the flooding gets any worse.

So where is Fay headed right now? CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano standing by in the severe weather center and working on this all morning long. Where is Fay?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Very hard. Working feverishly. This time yesterday, the storm was sitting offshore and not doing a whole lot. So, now we had it on the move, just moving westerly about six miles an hour. It has decreased in intensity, but that really doesn't matter. We've seen this thing come onshore as a, you know, a 60-mile-an-hour storm once, twice, three times Fay is a lady.

And now, it's really the rain has been the main issue as we've been covering this. So spiraling rain that's continuing up into south Georgia, down into southern and central parts of Florida. And Orlando, god, Mickey Mouse just can't catch a break here. It has been raining there constantly it seems. The good news is for St. Louis, the Melbourne, for the most part, you're dry. Daytona up through Elm Wood and through parts of Jacksonville, St. Augustine, you're really getting the worst weather you've seen so far with onshore winds, the storm surge, battering waves. I mean, those piers and beaches are just taking a beating.

Cedar Key, meanwhile, on the other side of the coast, winds there are coming westerly. And there's the center of the storm now past Gainesville and getting out of Gator nation. Might very well get into the Appalachia area over the weekend. They may make a fourth landfall, that's potentially what may happen here, around the Panama City area. Notice if it goes a little farther to the south, we get into the gulf.

I mean, New Orleans is not out of the cone of uncertainty here. We don't think that's going to happen, but it's a possibility. And considering Fay's track record of not really doing what we think it's going to do. I mean, certainly we would want to keep that in the back of our minds heading into the weekend.

Much-needed rain across parts of southern Georgia, but that could be flooding rains. If we get that to the north of Georgia and through parts of South Carolina, North Carolina. That would be nice. But that might not happen for a few days. So, we'll try to work that into the equation.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Thank you, Rob Marciano. Appreciate it.

MARCIANO: You got it.

COLLINS: Much of Texas also dealing with heavy rains and flooding. In Houston, some streets became completely impassable. Strong, drenching storms have created a miserable week for Texans. In the southern part of the state, more than a thousand homes have been damaged by flooding. In the north, near the Oklahoma border, residents dealt with six straight days of downpours in some areas, rainfall totals reached nine inches.

Breaking news to get to out of Iraq. U.S. troop withdrawal to be completed by the end of 2011. That agreement reached by U.S. and Iraqi negotiators.

Live now to CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

So the negotiators agree to this, what's the next step now, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, both governments have to sign onto it as well. And from the U.S.'s side, it pretty much just requires President Bush's signature. On the Iraqi side, it has to go through a multitude of levels of approval, eventually it will end up in Parliament. And that is going to be the trickiest part in all of these because there are so many different vying factions, political factions within Iraq's parliament.

Right now, most notable is the bloc that is loyal to radial Sheik cleric Muqtada Al Sadr that has already come out and said that even though this agreement does include a timeline, they just don't believe that the negotiators are actually going to be able to implement this agreement and that U.S. forces will, in fact, leave Iraq. But, according to what we're hearing from Iraq's top negotiator, by 2009, June 30th of that year, U.S. troops will be gone from Iraqi cities. They will be on their bases with the caveat that if needed they can move back in at the request of the Iraqi government.

And as you just mentioned right there, the date of 2011. By the end of that year, all U.S. forces will be gone. However, the Iraqi government can ask them to stay on longer. There will be a joint committee set up to assess that at that point in time, a committee that will also be assessing the security situation as it develops on the ground here. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Arwa Damon coming to us live from Baghdad. We know you'll stay on top of that story for us.

Thanks, Arwa.

You're helping with the bill even if you don't know it. Taxpayers pay for the major parties' major party.


COLLINS: We are watching and waiting. Barack Obama's announcement of his choice of a running mate could come at any time. We have crews covering the potential picks and our political team is on the VP watch. I believe we're looking at Senator Joe Biden's house on the upper left; Senator Evan Bayh's house on the upper right and, of course, Chicago's Midway Airport. We are looking for anyone who might be landing there. We will, of course, bring you live extensive coverage just as soon as we get word of Obama's announcement.

An update to tell you about regarding tropical storm Fay, too. Florida's Governor Charlie Crist has actually announced now that there are three more deaths that have been blamed on Fay. That would unfortunately bring the death toll now to six. It's very likely tat those numbers could change, of course. A couple of the deaths were blamed on drownings, as we reported here earlier, and three by traffic accidents, also one carbon monoxide poisoning. So we will continue to follow, of course, that story. Tropical storm Fay still lingering in Florida.

In Texas now, a grand jury has indicted three more members of a polygamist sect led by convicted felon Warren Jeffs. The "Associated Press" says the suspects belong to the compound that was raided several months ago. You may remember more than 400 children were temporarily removed. We're still waiting to hear the details on these new charges.

Detroit's ongoing saga. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick back in court today, his attorneys refused the plea deal offered in the felony assault case against him. Kilpatrick is accused of shoving investigators as they tried to serve a subpoena related to his perjury case. A not guilty plea was entered. Also this other story that we have been following for you out of north Las Vegas. You can see here some flames in a home. We have been told that a small plane may have crashed into that house. Again, in north Las Vegas. And of course, you see fire crews there trying to extinguish those flames. We cannot see any wreckage, though, of the plane so we want to see if we can get more information. We have someone on the phone with us right now who's going to help us out with that.

Deputy fire chief Kevin Brame of the North Las Vegas Fire Department. Deputy chief, can you tell us what you know at this point?

VOICE OF DEP. CHIEF KEVIN BRAME, NORTH LAS VEGAS FIRE DEPT.: At this point, what we know is we do have a small aircraft that has crashed into a single family residential home. We currently have two fatalities and a third victim has been transported to our local trauma center.

COLLINS: Is there any way to know at this point whether or not those people were inside the home or inside the plane?

BRAME: At this point, the information I have indicates that there's one - aboard the plane, the pilot, and two individuals that were in the home.


BRAME: The individuals in the home, one is a confirmed fatality, one has been transported.

COLLINS: That's an awful story. Obviously we continue to look at those pictures and just wanted to find out what you may know about it. I imagine it's way too early for me to ask, but just in case, does anyone have any idea at this point what may have happened here? Any witness accounts?

BRAME: Right now, we don't have that information. And obviously since it's a fairly new incident, the FAA and NTSB have been notified. And that nobody from those agencies are on scene as of yet. And our portion of it, we're still just trying to just mitigate the fire concerns and secure the area. So I don't have much detail beyond what we've been able to advise so far.

COLLINS: OK. And obviously that does usually take some time. I just wonder if you may know, deputy chief, anything about the flight pattern around this particular neighborhood that we're looking at. I know that we're talking about the airport in north Las Vegas there. Planes typically fly over this neighborhood on a regular basis?

BRAME: Yes. North Las Vegas Airport is a relatively busy municipal airport that handles small to medium-sized aircraft. So it is a fairly active airspace in and around the airport.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we certainly do appreciate your time in helping us to learn the very latest in this plane crash. You are looking, once again, at north Las Vegas area where a plane has crashed into a home. We have now just learned from Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Brame, there are two fatalities with one injury and that person heading to the hospital as you would imagine. We'll stay on top of that story for you as well.

Watching and waiting. Barack Obama's announcement of his choice for a running mate could come at any time. We have crews covering the potential picks, and our political team is on the VP watch. We'll bring you extensive live coverage just as soon as we can find out who the person is.


COLLINS: Credit cards, foreclosures, planning a budget. You have questions in this tough economy. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is joining us once again to answer some of your e-mails. Hi there, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi there, Heidi. Good to see you.

COLLINS: You, too. Let's go ahead and get to the fist question here from Deb. This is what she wants to know. What is the most economical way to get financial planning and budgeting advice?

WILLIS: Well, Deb, you know the first place to go is the web because you can find some great answers on the web. is a great place to go with these budgeting tools. It helps you figure out how much money you should be spending for each and every category of your life. And it gives you real world examples of how you should be spending your money. is a great place to go. Also also have some great tips on how to spend your money the right way.

COLLINS: So Deb go to the web. All right. Question number two coming from Irena. She wants to know, I recently got a letter from my credit card company informing me they closed my credit card account I've had for six years. The reason they gave me was inactivity. The balance on the account was zero and we did not use it until January of 2008. Can they do this? And second how will it affect my credit score?

WILLIS: Irena, great question and you know what? They can do this and it's happening more and more often, becoming more and more common. The real problem is, when they close a credit card, that reduces your overall credit outstanding. And that means your debt looks like it's more so your credit score goes down as a consequence. So, I know, it's bad news.

COLLINS: Yes, it does.

WILLIS; But the idea here is that if you have a credit card, you have a credit card line open, is that you use it occasionally to keep it active. Now, I know this is contrary to a lot of advice we give you not to spend a lot of money on credit cards. But the rule of thumb here is that the credit card companies are getting much more strict about how they run these operations. They're trying to squeeze all the money they can out of them. And you have to understand how they think and how they work to use your credit card effectively.

COLLINS: Well, just curious, for my own knowledge, do they let you know that in the credit card agreement that you either initially sign with them or if there's a change, are they required to let you know?

WILLIS: Well, this particular activity, you know, there are loads of details in your credit card agreement, everything from how often they can change your rate to how much. Lots of details there. This particular thing, this is really -- remember, this is a service that you're buying. You know, this isn't like there's really a credit card bill of rights out there that guarantees you access to a credit card line. This company is selling you a service. So at the end of the day they operate them how they want to and you just have to try to keep up the with rules. That's what we're here for.

COLLINS: That's kind of scary, your credit score being affected.

WILLIS: I know. I know.

COLLINS: Let's get the last one from Don in Colorado. He wants to know, if my house goes into foreclosure, can the financial institution that I have a conventional loan with garnish or seize any part of my social security check?

WILLIS: Well, the good news here, Don, is no. They cannot seize your social security check. That's hands-off. But some of your other investments might be affected if you have stocks or bonds in a separate account outside of a 401k or retirement savings account, that could be impacted. But this is the very kind of thing you have to think about when you go into foreclosure. The other impacts on other parts of your financial life.

And of course, as we were saying earlier this week, Heidi, a lot of people going into bankruptcy now, not really recognizing what the kinds of impacts are for years and years and years on their financial life. A lot of folks in trouble out there. We're helping you try to steer clear of those problems.

COLLINS: Absolutely. We want to remind everybody to keep sending those questions. They always send great ones. Don't they?


COLLINS: Also, "Issue number one," real quickly, Jerry, coming up in about an hour and a half?

WILLIS: That's right. You know, we're, of course, on top of the election news today which is very intense. We're watching -

COLLINS: What? What election news? What do you know?

WILLIS: I wish I did. Put the phone call in but it's not been returned. We're waiting to find out, will Barack Obama announce his vice presidential running mate today? We'll be on top of that story, handicap the possibilities out there for you. Heidi. COLLINS: OK. Very good. Gerri Willis, appreciate it. Thank you.

WILLIS: Thank you.

COLLINS: Well, he does know. When will you know? When will we know? Barack Obama gets ready to reveal his vice presidential running mate.


COLLINS: The VP watch is in high gear this morning. Barack Obama's announcement of his choice for a running mate expected at any time. We are covering this story from all fronts. We have crews outside the homes of some of the potential picks and we will bring you extensive live coverage just as soon as we get word of Barack Obama's announcement. You see a plane there at Midway Airport down at the bottom. Hmmm. Got our eye on that -- oh, actually a couple of planes, as you expect out of airports.

Barack Obama tries to hit John McCain where he lives. He's trying to use McCain's uncertainty over the number of houses he owns to show he's out of touch.

The story now from Jessica Yellin.


YELLIN (voice-over): For Barack Obama, it's a gift from John McCain.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guess if you think that being rich means you got to make $5 million, and if you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong.

YELLIN: The Obama campaign is convinced this message is on the money, and they're taking it all the way to the bank. They've already released this ad.


NARRATOR: When asked how many houses he owns? McCain lost track. He couldn't remember. Well, it's seven. Seven houses. And here's one house America can't afford to let John McCain move into.


YELLIN: And top surrogates are hitting 16 states to mock John McCain for, in the campaign's words, losing track of his houses. Obama supporter and VP short lister Virginia Governor Tim Kaine made the case on CNN.

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: He couldn't count high enough apparently to even know how many houses he owned. YELLIN: The Obama campaign believes this line of attack will persuade voters that McCain is out of touch with regular folks and can't fix what he doesn't know is broken. It could also diffuse charges that Obama is elitist. It's as if they're saying, who's the snob now?

OBAMA: And if you're like me and you got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective.

YELLIN (on camera): Remember when George H.W. Bush went to the supermarket and was astonished to see the cashier using a scanner? That moment devastated his campaign because it allowed his opponent to argue that Bush was out of touch with middle America. Well, now the Obama campaign is saying John McCain's house gap is another scanner moment.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Chester, Virginia.


COLLINS: Well, national polls show the presidential race in a dead heat now. We do have some new numbers from crucial swing states to share with you.

An American research group poll from Florida, shows McCain leading Obama, by just one percentage point; 47 percent to 46 percent. In New Hampshire, it's Obama over McCain; just one percentage point again -- 46 percent to 45 percent. Both of those results are, of course, within the margin of error. Obama has a 10-point lead over McCain in Minnesota; 48 percent to 38 percent. And that's according to a poll by a Minnesota public radio in the Humphrey Institute.

Convention fanfare. Democrats unveil their high-tech digs in Denver. Earlier this morning, we got a first look at the podium that will be the centerpiece of the convention at the Pepsi Center there. And CNN's convention coverage begins in primetime tonight with chief national correspondent John King, in Denver.

Russian forces on the move in neighboring Georgia. They are apparently keeping a promise to start pulling out.

Want to go live now to CNN's Michael Ware in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

So Michael, how is all of this looking to you, where you stand?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to quiet Georgia's national security adviser, Heidi, we are seeing a pullout of Russian troops.

Now, obviously it's still a complicated picture and there's some conflicting reports of check points remaining, check points being removed. Still some signs of digging in, paces. Signs of Russian troops simply donning peacekeepers uniforms so-called, rather than actually shifting.

However, the general trend is indeed that Russian forces are making significant moves out of undisputed Georgian territory. Now, obviously as stated and as they were before the conflict that began on August 7th, the Russians have made it eminently clear that they will remain in a largely pro-Russian enclaves on Russia's border of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

What remains in question is, how much control will those Russian forces be it as peacekeepers or else, will continue to have over the call of Georgia's infrastructure, such as the highway that its cut, or the all-important seaport on the Black Sea coast that ships oil to Europe and beyond?

And it's also a great question is, what will be their range of movement? Now, whilst there had been an agreement to pull back to these pro-Russian enclaves, the Russian forces are insisting that they will maintain security or buffer zones to maintain their protection. Now, it's anyone's guess just how broad and far-reaching those buffer zones will have to be. They're going to be to at least seven kilometers inside Georgia.

So, now this will be a question of what the troops there are going to be able to do. But, the headline certainly is that we are seeing the first signs of a Russian withdrawal from some of the major conflict zones -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Michael Ware, giving us the picture there in the Georgia area. We sure do appreciate that.

Michael, thank you.

In the middle of that struggle we certainly have another update to tell you about. Out of Georgia, a heart tugging story we told you about first last week.

A New Jersey man has now reunited with his two young daughters who were trapped in Georgia. 7-year-old Ashley and her 3-year-old sister Sophia, were visiting their grandparents when Russian troops invaded. Today the girls are with their dad in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.



COLLINS: Joe Evans and his daughters and brother-in-law are joining me now to talk more about this fantastic reunion.

Joe, I'm standing here looking at your daughters and your brother-in-law, lots of smiles on your faces.

Tell us how you were reunited.

JOSEPH EVANS, FATHER: The French ambassador went himself with his team to do the extraction. And I've got to say, Viva la France. Thank you. And God bless America.

How do I feel? It was the biggest -- you can imagine the relief and then they were close contact with my wife back in the states. So it was really a big effort. So, I'd just like to thank everybody. Thank you.

COLLINS: And we should let everybody know that 7-year-old Ashley is standing below you and your 3-year-old Sophia is right next to you, in the arms of your brother-in-law.

What did they tell you, Joe, when you first saw them about what happened?

EVANS: Yes. Well, the baby, you know, she's a baby. So, you know, she's kind of not with the news. But my other daughter was a little shooken up when they did the turnaround in Gori. So, it was quite an experience for her to see. And I'm just glad I got her again. And they're keeping me busy.

COLLINS: We should remind everyone that when your daughters were trying to get out of the area, they were trying to make their way to the embassy, but they were actually turned around by soldiers in Gori, which is the highway there that had been blocked off by Russian military vehicles. So, obviously a very scary moment for them.

Joe, what happens next, now? Are you going to be heading back home shortly, back to New Jersey?

EVANS: We have tickets scheduled out of (INAUDIBLE). And it's very hard to get a ticket out of Tbilisi. We have some cops trying to bump us up out of TBS, But, you know, we'll see how that goes. And as far as my country, I'd like to say thank you to everybody.

And I'm sure that these events will be remembered, as they will be etched into American history. My daughters Ashley and Sophia represent the beacon of liberty that shines around the world. God bless America and Viva la France! My girls are going home.

Thank you, everybody, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.


COLLINS: We had an opportunity to do that interview yesterday, shortly after the reunion with Joe Evans and is two young daughters. Also should let you know he said they received quite a bit of help from the French government in that reuniting. So, good for him. And they also are telling us that they hope to be on a flight back to the United States by tomorrow.

Watching and waiting now. Barack Obama's announcement of his choice for a running mate could come at any time. We have crews covering all of the potential picks. Somebody knocking on the door of one of those homes now. Our political team of course, is on the VP watch. We are going to provide you extensive live coverage just as soon as we get word of Barack Obama's announcement. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Tropical Storm Fay. The floodwaters deepen and the death toll grows. Just minutes ago Florida's Governor Charlie Crist confirmed that six people have now died there since the storm first came ashore. Rainfall totals are staggering and a flood emergency in many areas is just getting worse.

Reporter Casey Black is with CNN affiliate WJXT. And he's joining us now with the latest from St. Augustine, Florida -- Casey.

CASEY BLACK, WJXT REPORTER: Yes, Heidi, we're seeing some of the strongest wind and rain we've seen all morning long. As you look behind me, this street at one point in time was only partially flooded. But now that has since tripled in size.

It's getting absolutely huge out here. We've seen about 8 to 12 inches of rain this morning alone. We've seen about 20 to 30 inches of rain over the past couple of days. And with the rain coming down this hard this fast, this flooding is only expected to get worse.

Wind gusts right now, 30 to 40 miles per hour at times. As we just heard a moment ago from Governor Crist, six deaths related to the Tropical Storm Fay. Two drowning; one in Daytona Beach, one in Neptune Beach. One person died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. And there also have been three traffic fatalities as a result of this storm.

There are a lot of people on the road right now. Here in St. Johns County, a lot of people are still going to work today. And that's causing some frustration with those employees because they say, hey, the governor is telling us it's not good be on the roadways but yet, we're still required to go to work. So, some people are of course, getting frustrated with this.

But as you see can there, you take a look at the sign behind me. It's wiggling all around. Definitely some intense conditions out here. St. Augustine is one area in particular that is prone to flooding, especially because it's so close to the Intercoastal and the San Sebastian River. And right now, we're getting close to high tide, which Heidi, is only going to make things worse.

COLLINS: Yes, still a few hours of a way.

And Casey, I don't know if it's possible or not, because of the way I hear that wind blowing. But last time we talk with you, you showed us the bridge and how close the water is underneath. At some point they're probably going to have to shut that down. But I wonder if it's changed much since last time talked.

BLACK: It's getting closer to the top. They haven't shut it down. As a matter of fact, here in St. Augustine, Florida, there are quite a few bridges. They haven't shut any of them down at this point in time. But you know, that's something they're really going to considering. Because like I said, high tide is getting really close. The waters are rising substantially. So, that's something that they're going to have to consider.

COLLINS: All right. We'll you'll keep your eye on it for us. We sure do appreciate it. Casey Black, standing there in St. Augustine, Florida.



COLLINS: In the meanwhile, we are watching and waiting. Barack Obama's announcement of his choice for a running mate could come at any time. We have crews covering many of the potential picks. And our political team is of course, on the VP watch. We're going to bring you extensive coverage as soon as we get word of that announcement right here on CNN.


COLLINS: You may have ownership in the upcoming political conventions and just not realize it.

As CNN's Drew Griffin reports, you probably helped pay for these extravaganzas.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): If you check that little box on your tax return pledging $3 to presidential elections matching funds, you are contributing a lot to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know that. No, it does surprise me actually.

MUSIC: Let's all celebrate and have a good time.

GRIFFIN: It surprised us, too. Hold on to your goofy convention hats. The Federal Election Commission will give $34 million of your money, $17 million to each party to help pay for the party.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: And you have to wonder what that buys us. The taxpayers are footing the bill for essentially four-day long campaign ads for the parties and their candidates.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So who came up with that idea? Come on, you already know, don't you?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Yes, an act of Congress, of course. Former Federal Election Commissioner Scott Thomas says the idea was noble at the time. Back in the 1970s amid concerns over corruption, the push was to get private money, big donors out of presidential elections and equal the playing field for little known candidates. In a compromise, Congress decided each taxpayer could even choose to contribute by simply checking that box.

THOMAS: With the checkoff, the concept is, you know, only if citizens are actually willing to basically earmark at that time, a dollar of their taxes to go to this program. Will it get there?

GRIFFIN: But keeping them honest, here's what Congress never bothered to tell you about that check box. It hasn't replaced private money or big donor influence. It doesn't give enough to even the playing field for lesser known candidates and nowhere does it say "check here to pay for a party."

(on camera): It sounds like the voters are getting hoodwinked on this thing.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Certainly I think that most people when they're checking that box have no idea that they're paying for party conventions in Denver and St. Paul.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Steve Ellis, with Taxpayers for Common Sense, says no matter how you look at it, it doesn't make sense.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: More news that we are following here, just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. Boy, look at this scene. Roxbury, New Jersey, coming from our affiliate WABC in that area. Live pictures for you of two buses that apparently collided. One of them flipped over as you can see down below the bridge there, the overpass. This is Interstate 80 in Rocksbury, New Jersey.

Apparently, according again to WABC, there are dozens of injuries here. We are also being told at the same time that initially, according to emergency workers told WABC that these injuries did not appear life threatening. But, as you can tell, one of those buses just flipped right off the overpass there. They collided on this Interstate 80 and that embankment apparently looks to be about 50 feet.

So, boy. An awful scene, once again, coming in from our affiliate WABC, Rocksbury, New Jersey. We'll stay on top of that story and try to find out more details for you here at CNN.

Watching and waiting. Barack Obama's announcement for his choice of a running mate. It could come at any time. We have crews covering many of the potential picks. And our political team, of course, on the VP watch. Everybody is standing by, ready to go on this. We'll bring you extensive live coverage just as soon as we get word of the announcement, we promise.