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CNN ELECTION CENTER
Republican National Convention Day Two
Aired September 2, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is the Republican National Convention, the Xcel Energy Center, here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This is day two of the Republican Convention.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Campbell Brown and the best political team on television.
We're standing by for a tribute. The theme tonight is service, country first service.
The actor Robert Duvall narrates this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT DUVALL, ACTOR: You can't really touch your country, but you can serve it. You can't really see your country, but you can love it.
America is a love story, a love all Americans share. And from our midst rise extraordinary men and women who lead her to greatness, Americans who found their love of country so profound that it naturally came first in their lives, before work, before friendship, before self, before war, through peace, despair and success.
Our country is here, we are here because of their belief in all of us.
My name is Robert Duvall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's clearly a night of images, as we saw this video from the Republicans, Robert Duvall narrating the video.
Donna Brazile is watching it.
You even saw, Donna, you saw several Republican icons in there, Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They got a round of applause. President Bush right after 9/11 when he went to ground zero got nice round of applause. He will be speaking to this group from the White House. That's coming up shortly.
But you also saw Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King. They were seen in that video as well.
It's a different convention than the Democrats' in Denver last week. What do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, symbolically, they are unifying figures. I think every American would agree that we have come a mighty long way, especially as it relates to equal justice under the law.
I thought the video was an attempt again to portray a different brand of Republicanism. This is reclaiming their heritage as a party of inclusiveness. And that video was meant to show that as Republicans, that they care about every American, not just those here in the hall, the choir, so to speak, but the congregation, the larger America out there.
BLITZER: All right. Donna, I know you are going to be with us all night.
Tara Wall is here with us as well. We have got an excellent panel, the best political team on television, in fact, joining us from our CNN Election Center as well.
Let's show a picture of that panel. And then our viewers can get a sense of some of the expertise they're going to get. We see -- we see among our panel there Amy Holmes and Jeff Toobin and -- who else is there? Hilary Rosen, I see her. I see Leslie Sanchez. Carl Bernstein and David Gergen here with Campbell and me on the floor of the Republican Convention.
I want to stress, Campbell, we're still on the floor here, but, you know, this whole convention is pretty low to the ground. They didn't decide to have a high podium. They wanted to have a low podium. We will talk a little bit about -- more about that later.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Creating that intimacy.
Gloria Borger is here. Bill Bennett is here. And, of course, John King is here as well. James Carville, by the way, is joining us from our Washington bureau. He will be joining us throughout the night as well. We have got a podium reporter, Candy Crowley. Dana Bash is on the floor, Jessica Yellin.
Need I say more?
BROWN: Hey, this is what we call the muscle flex, because it really does demonstrate the muscle that you have behind you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we want to make sure we get a terrific, diverse range of opinion from everyone, because we're going to hear the entire gamut as we go forward.
Those of us who were in Denver last week, Bill -- and you were joining from us the CNN Election Center -- and those of us who were here, you look out in this crowd, it's a different audience. It's a different crowd than we saw in Denver last week.
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It's a different crowd. It's a different audience.
But the message is unifying. I thank Donna Brazile for that.
That video was interesting. That was an American video. It started with the Federalist Papers, the Declaration. I was thinking about what Carl said, just to gig him a little bit. He talked about Sarah Palin and her passport.
This is something I have heard of, her two things. Why didn't she get a passport and she's never been on "Meet the Press." See, this is the Eastern problem that people have. You can actually be somebody and not be on "Meet the Press." And James Madison, believe it or not, actually never left America. Jefferson was a great president. He spent too much time in Paris. The need for European experience wasn't in James Madison.
So, there's a lot...
BROWN: The world is a little different.
BENNETT: Yes, the world is a little different. And America is a much more dominant and predominant and important place than Europe is right now.
So, by the way, when she got her passport, she didn't go to Paris. She went to Kuwait to see the soldiers. So, there's a kind of cultural underpinning here, Wolf, and it's going to play itself out over the next three days.
BLITZER: Let's let Hilary Rosen weigh in as well. She's a Democratic strategist.
BLITZER: Hilary, what do you think about all of this?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the passport issue, certainly, people don't have to go travel around the world, but the fact that she's never been outside of the country before that trip is a little startling.
Listen, as a practical matter, Sarah Palin was a gimmick pick. And the big issue tonight I think is George Bush. And that's the bookend that John McCain has to deal with. So, you have got the bookend of George Bush and where John McCain is today.
John McCain picked Sarah Palin because he's trying to get some of that change message to rub off on him. He's been with George Bush for 90 percent of his votes for the last number of years. And he needed to find some way to say he was going to be different. Right now, it looks a little gimmicky.
The issue is, is he going to be able to get closer to where that change message? Does Sarah Palin help him do that and to get out of the sort of new situation he's been in, tied closely to George Bush, or does Sarah Palin end up being a different kind of noose, which is really just story after story with more and more trouble?
I think he's kind of -- he's the one who may be bookended, although he might not like the bookends tonight.
BLITZER: All right, I want everybody to hold on for a second.
We're going to hear a lot tonight about Sarah Palin. We're going to be hearing a lot about her tomorrow and Thursday, throughout the balance of this campaign.
We sent our own Kyra Phillips up to Alaska a few days ago to do some actual reporting and digging to find out a little bit more about this woman, the Alaska governor who would be the next vice president of the United States.
And, Kyra, you have been speaking to a lot of folks up there. What are you discovering about the governor?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think no matter what your politics are, Wolf, she's a fascinating woman. And that's pretty much the feeling in Alaska.
She represents change to everybody here. I hear a lot of comparison, she's the Barack Obama of the Republican Party. That's what locals have been saying, because she's young, she's new, she's charismatic. People love her here. They flock to see her speeches.
And she went up against her own party and she was critical of her own party. And that was refreshing to people here. They were ready for that. They wanted that. She's one of the most popular governors in the country right now.
So, I was listening to your analysts. And, yes, there are these stories that have been popping up recently talking about various investigations and the situation surrounding her daughter. But I think we can't lose sight of the good things that she's done for this state and what she has done to sort of revitalize voters here. And they talk a lot more about politics now.
As I have been mingling with the locals and talking with various leaders, it's sort of like what Barack Obama created. Folks have come out to get involved in political activity since she's become governor because they find her so fascinating.
I have to say I wish that I could have a chance to sit down, have a beer with her, go fishing with her, and just learn more about her as a person and how she's been able to reach the point that she has, considering she came from very little experience.
BLITZER: Knowing Kyra Phillips as we do, not only would you like to have a beer with her, go fishing with her. You would like to go hunting with her. You would like to have a good time with her as well.
BLITZER: Kyra, stand by. We're going to be coming back to you.
PHILLIPS: Don't tell my friend Bill Bennett.
BLITZER: All right.
I know we're going to -- we will pick up that conversation down the road.
I know we're going to have a lot more to talk about with Kyra.
I also want to alert our viewers we're going to keep reporters and crews up in Alaska for the next several weeks, as we begin to learn more and more about the governor who might be the next vice president of the United States.
But I want to go down to Dana Bash on the floor behind me.
Dana, you are with a delegate right now, Republican delegate, who wasn't sure about John McCain; is that right?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wasn't sure about John McCain.
And I'm here with Kendal Unruh.
First question is, tell me about how you felt about Senator McCain before and now how you feel about him, given the Sarah Palin pick.
KENDAL UNRUH, REPUBLICAN DELEGATE: Well, McCain was not my first choice when I first had a pick of all of the potential nominees. And, as a values voter and an evangelical conservative, let's just say that there's been a history of mistrust with McCain.
I actually served on the platform committee and I came here with the very strong intention of keeping the core party principles very conservative.
And what I can tell you is, with the selection of Sarah Palin, whom values voters had actually been championing for several months now, it completely energized the base.
BASH: Now, show me what's on your hat.
BASH: Because this is what drew us to you.
UNRUH: You bet.
BASH: Turn that around, so our viewers can see what it says there.
BASH: Particularly, "I support unwed mothers."
UNRUH: I do.
BASH: That's something that you made?
UNRUH: I did. I had to make these out of hotel coasters.
BASH: Why? Why did you make a button that says "I support unwed mothers"?
UNRUH: Well, certainly, there's not a vendor that is emphatically stating how I feel.
But there's been a media fight and there's been a liberal-agenda- driven fight against a 17-year-old gal who made an unfortunate decision. And she's dealing with the consequences of that decision. And all the unwed pregnancy is doing is endearing us more to Sarah Palin, because what it shows is, she not only talks the talk, but she walks the walk with her value system, and he instilled the values, the sanctity of life and human dignity into her child. And she then made the choice to continue with a pregnancy, even as embarrassing politically as it was for her.
They made great, great decisions.
BASH: Kendal, thank you very much for sharing your views.
As you see, Wolf, a lot of support here for Sarah Palin, and especially interesting to see support for John McCain. That was a little bit lukewarm before, but it's much more enthusiastic because his decision -- of his decision to pick Sarah Palin -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We keep hearing that story over and over and over again, Dana, from these delegates.
I want you to find some more delegates with those unusual hats, as well.
All right. Stand by, everybody. We're only just beginning. We will take a quick break.
CNNPolitics.com is where you can see everything going up on the podium, watch what is going on. Our coverage continues right after this.
BLITZER: They had a contest to see who would lead all of us in the Pledge of Allegiance. And we have a video that the Republicans have put together.
The winner is a 15-year-old woman -- girl, I should say -- named Victoria Blackstone. Here's the video. They're about to play for the video for all of the delegates, everyone here, describing the commitment to country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA BLACKSTONE, 15 YEARS OLD: When I pledge myself to the flag of the United States of America, I am able to become a part of our country's proud history.
I am with our founding founders in Independence Hall, and I myself sign the document. As I gaze at the flag, I see the same flag Francis Scott Key saw, which inspired him to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."
With the flag, I stand by Thomas Jefferson as he signs the Louisiana Purchase, expanding our country to the next frontier. I join Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they explore the west. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I journey in the night with the slaves to freedom, and I can hear the Emancipation Proclamation.
With the flag, I am an immigrant at Ellis Island, hoping to enter the home of the free and the place where dreams come true. During the Great Depression, I join my fellow Americans in a bread line.
As I devote myself to this banner, I stand alongside the soldiers of Iwo Jima, helping them to raise our flag. I march in Montgomery as we boycott the bus system. I tremble with pride as Martin Luther King Jr. tells me of his dream in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
When I see the flag, I am also there as the Twin Towers crumble and fall. I work with the firefighters to recover the bodies, and I volunteer with those handing out food and medicine.
And, as I stand before the flag, I am with my cousin as he flies his helicopter in Iraq.
For me, the flag of the United States of America unites Americans to their proud history. It is the symbol that has stood beside America since the day of our founding.
And, though someone may destroy the material part of the flag, no one can take away what our flag symbolizes. When I see our flag, I see every single man and woman who has dedicated their lives to our flag and the people, the ideas, and the country it represents.
With my morning recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, I take my place beside them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNRUH: Ladies and gentlemen, please stand as Victoria Blackstone leads us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
(PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Wow. What a moment for this young woman, this 15-year- old Victoria Blackstone of Roseville, Minnesota. She wrote that essay. She was selected to lead all of us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
And what an exciting moment. What a talented young woman, indeed. Wow.
All right. Let's take another quick break and continue our coverage on the other side.
Remember, CNNPolitics.com, that is where you can go and see everything happening up on the podium, get some more information -- much more of our coverage from the Republican Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota, right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our coverage. We're here at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This is day two, but it's really almost like day one, since yesterday was abbreviated, no music, no celebration, strictly because of Hurricane Gustav. Now they're getting back into the act of a usual convention.
Campbell, this is what we expect from Democrats and Republicans. And the Republicans are living up to expectations.
BROWN: A little music.
BLITZER: One thing is true. They know how to put together a convention.
BROWN: A little music, a lot of enthusiasm. We have seen some really compelling videos. And I think we will see more tonight, especially as they focus on the biography of John McCain and we see how they tell his story, which should be pretty impressive.
BLITZER: And we're getting ready to see an amazing one about the adoption of their daughter in Bangladesh and Cindy McCain, how she informed John McCain about that. It's a pretty, pretty amazing story.
But that 15-year-old girl, Bill Bennett, who wrote that essay, it got her the privilege of leading all of this convention in the Pledge of Allegiance. As a historian -- and you have written books about American history -- that was quite a little essay she wrote for a 15- year-old.
BENNETT: It sure was. It sure was. I hope her teacher gave her a good grade on it.
BENNETT: You know, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the best people to ever grace the Senate, smartest people, said, politics is important, but culture is more important than politics.
Cultural symbols. Look for the cultural symbol.
And if I can make one last comment, one name that hasn't been mentioned yet by us, you are going to hear a lot, the brooding omnipresence, Ronald Wilson Reagan. You heard the applause when his face appeared. He will be invoked a great deal.
And it is the mantle of Reagan. This is one of the questions, one of the ways we have been talking about this election this year. What would Ronald Reagan do? On whom will this mantle fall? And you will see him invoked, I think, many times, and appropriately so. He's one of our big heroes.
BLITZER: I know you have got to get going pretty soon. You have got an early-morning radio show that you have got to do. But you will be back with us tomorrow.
Alex Castellanos is standing by to come up here and join us.
Bill, thanks very much.
BENNETT: You bet.
I don't need a passport to get back to CNN, do I?
BENNETT: No, I don't.
BLITZER: You just need a credential.
BLITZER: You got one of those.
BLITZER: Don't leave yet. You're still all hooked up.
BENNETT: OK. I won't. Stay in...
BENNETT: ... place.
BLITZER: Stand by.
I want to go down to Ed Henry. He's got a special guest on the floor.
Ed, I take it you have the youngest official Republican delegate with you; is that true?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, Wolf. We go from a 15-year-old girl to a 19-year-old boy, really a young man.
John Tyler Hammons, he's actually the youngest mayor in America from Muskogee, Oklahoma.
What's it like to attend your first convention?
JOHN TYLER HAMMONS (R), MAYOR OF MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA: It's a whirlwind. I have see governors, former presidential candidates, secretaries, senators. And they all want to meet me. They want to take my hand, want to get my autograph. That's pretty cool.
HENRY: So, it's pretty cool. All right.
HAMMONS: Oh, it's amazing.
HENRY: Now, we hear a lot about Barack Obama's appeal to young voters, but you obviously feel inspired by John McCain. Why?
HAMMONS: I believe McCain has the experience and the drive to keep me safe. National security is a big thing for me. And he has got the experience needed to do that.
HENRY: OK. Talking about experience, I understand you told me that your town has 40,000 people.
HENRY: The town that Sarah Palin ran had about 8,000 or 9,000 people.
HENRY: And Democrats say she doesn't have enough experience to be vice president. What say you?
HAMMONS: I think she can do it.
She's got -- she's a sitting governor. She's got lots of executive experience. And I hope one day maybe she will share some of her experience as mayor with me, so I can improve my town.
HENRY: Now, you have told me you have met a lot of interesting politicos here on the floor.
HENRY: Who's the one person you haven't met yet that you really want to meet?
HAMMONS: Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. If I can meet him, it would make my dreams come true.
HENRY: Well, they used to call him America's mayor. You're now the youngest mayor.
HAMMONS: ... mayor.
HENRY: And you're the youngest one, but he was America's mayor, as the mayor of New York.
And, Wolf, this gives us an idea of the kind of characters we have here on the floor, the kind of people who really get passionate about this. And here's someone, his first time ever at a convention. He's pretty pumped about it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's an assignment for you, Ed.
We said he was the youngest delegate. He's the youngest mayor in the United States, as far as we know. We will take his word for it.
But let's find out who the youngest delegate here. And maybe we can speak to the youngest delegate as well. That's your next assignment. You got it?
HENRY: All right, thanks, Wolf. I got it.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, we got him working on a tough story. He can do this for us. I have total confidence.
All right, let's take another quick break. We will continue our coverage here at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul -- right after this.
BLITZER: All right. There she is. Cindy McCain, the would-be first lady of the United States. She's here at this Republican Convention. She's in the box. She's going to be watching this together with all of us.
Campbell Brown is here with us as well. Now, Alex Castellanos has joined us, our Republican strategist. Gloria Borger here. John King is here as well, plus our panel.
Let's talk a little bit about who we're seeing, John. JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Never seen in public, that is Bridget McCain, the adopted daughter to Cindy McCain's left. She is very rarely in public. She Googled herself at the age of 16 and found out about the attacks against her in the South Carolina primary back when John McCain ran for president in 2000.
Her parents hadn't told her about them. She literally Googled her own name and found out about them that her parents had to tell her.
And to Cindy McCain's right on the left of your screen, that is 96-year-old Roberta McCain. That is John McCain's mother and his testament that at age 72, he's got a lot of kicking and fighting left. Whenever anyone brings up his age on the trail, he talks about his mother Roberta.
And, Wolf, I can --
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And she made a name for herself during the primaries too.
KING: I can attest to you, she is spunky, she is feisty and she says things that sometimes her son starts running for cover when she says them.
BLITZER: You know, I remember I got her at one of those dinners in Washington with the press. It was either the White House Correspondents Association dinner or the Radio and TV Correspondents Association dinner. And we just had a brief chat but I was, you know, certainly blown away by Roberta McCain. And I said to myself, she's got some spice there. Now we know where John McCain gets some of that spice.
KING: She was the admiral's wife, you have to remember that. And he was a big figure in the Navy. And he would entertain senators, and he would entertain congressmen and he would occasionally even have the commander in chief come and visit him, as Richard Nixon did at one point during the Vietnam War. And so, she has been on a big stage for a long time. But the most important thing about her, Senator McCain can gamely (ph) tell you that she is a spunky Irish woman.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. She's got a twin sister, correct? Who travels around the world with her and McCain calls them Thelma and Louise.
BLITZER: It's a pretty amazing story. But Alex Castellanos, you're with us right now. Give us your thoughts what's happened so far and what's going forward as you, a Republican, look at this convention.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, we're finally getting to start the convention. It's so nice to have one. You know, every party should. And finally, tonight, I think we're going to see not only John McCain's story, a story of service. And frankly, it's not just his service to the country but it's a calling to all Republicans, to all Americans to step up and serve, keep this country strong. Grow this economy. We're going to hear that.
But I think we're also going to begin to hear a little edge to this, too, draw some differences because, you know, right now, this needs to be a little more aggressive convention so we can get the -- Republican Party must get back on message here.
BLITZER: Because I was going to say there are plenty of Republicans, Alex, who are a little nervous looking at poll numbers, not only national poll numbers but poll numbers in the key battleground states like Florida or Pennsylvania or Ohio and Michigan.
CASTELLANOS: Well, you know, Republicans have been nervous for quite a while. This is a close election -- way too close. And, of course, we all know they're big democratic trends that are taking this election in the Democrats' direction. And we have to reverse that. That requires a fairly aggressive campaign, I think, from Republicans. That's what we want to see here this week.
BROWN: And, Alex, we're going to hear from President Bush tonight not in person but by videotape. And he is expected to talk about a little bit about some of the lessons from 9/11. And we just think back to 2004 and how the convention was about the lessons of 9/11, almost more than anything else. Do you think that still holds as a real message for the Republican Party, an important message, or has it been overtaken by economic concerns?
CASTELLANOS: It's certainly been overtaken by economic concerns on a day-to-day basis. Certainly when you're paying five bucks a gallon for gasoline, when you see people losing their homes, when, you know, those concerns are immediate and day-to-day. And when you go to sleep at night, when you tuck your kids in, you know there could always be another shoe to drop.
We've been lucky with George Bush. You know, he's kept Democrats and Republicans safe now for six, seven years. But we always know something could happen. That issue never goes away, and I think that's something that you're going to see John McCain pound on, too.
BORGER: I guess the question is, how does John McCain embrace the message on fighting terrorism at the same time distancing himself from George W. Bush who we're going to hear from this evening? It's a difficult task.
CASTELLANOS: It's tough. But you know what, on terrorism that's the one issue he doesn't have to separate himself from. That issue you bring the Republican Party together but George Bush still has credibility on that issue all the way across the spectrum. It's other issues that Bush is the concern on.
KING: For all the talk of change in this election, having President Bush in the hall by videotape should remind Americans of this change. 1980 I would consider the dawn of the cable television age. There have been seven presidential elections since then. In all seven of them, there has either been a presidential or a vice presidential candidate named Bush or Clinton. In six of those seven, there has been a Bush that's either the vice presidential candidate back in 1980 or as the presidential candidate, his father or George W. Bush.
So there's a changing of the guard in both parties regardless of what happens come November. And that's striking. All the way back to 1980, the Bush family name has been dominant in Republican politics.
BLITZER: And the dawning of the cable news business. 1980 is when CNN was established by Ted Turner, and we're grateful to him for that.
Let's bring in James Carville. Can the Republicans do what they did four years ago and effectively use that 9/11 war on terrorism card to get John McCain elected president?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, not so pretty difficult. Alex, anybody would agree that it's much less an issue now and economic issues have really surfaced. And you know, we're in the middle of an economic slowdown. We're in the middle of the biggest credit crunch that we ever had. I mean, they're going to use it some but they are also kind of starting a little bit in the hole here.
If you look at the remarks on this before, the polls didn't look too bad for them right after the Democratic Convention but this Palin thing is not playing very well around the country. So they got three days to dig themselves out of the hole, go on offense, introduce Sarah Palin.
They have a big job here. And as I said earlier, they can put on a pretty good convention. I suspect they can do OK, but I don't see how they can come out here changing the underlying dynamics of this election.
CASTELLANOS: I think there are a couple things that could happen. One is, you know, Sarah Palin surprised some people when John McCain first introduced her. You know, we're all wondering who is this governor from Alaska. But then the next thing you know, she gives a pretty strong speech and we got a sense of who she is.
I think one of the things that's going to happen here tomorrow night is, oh, that's why John McCain picked her. Reformer, change, stood up to oil companies, stood up to her own party in Alaska, got some things done. I wonder if she could do that in Washington.
So, yes, I think this convention we saw how the Democratic Convention flipped in just a couple of days, same thing can happen here.
BROWN: But Leslie Sanchez, do those basic questions even if that -- because that is, in all likelihood, I think what Alex just mentioned, what we're going to hear from her tomorrow night. But do these basic questions about experience, experience in foreign policy especially go away?
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's not really going to be the question. With respect to her, Campbell, I don't think it's going to go to foreign policy. It's going to talk about what Alex is saying with respect to reform, change.
There's an interesting concept. Can she reach across party lines and get things done? Is she willing to work and be somebody who's outside of Washington to correct the problems in Washington?
Also, I want to go back to John King's point when he was showing the map. Where was this a strategic pick? If you look at some of the areas like, Southfield, Michigan; Dayton, Ohio; Montgomery County; Lehigh, Pennsylvania, those are areas where in focus groups they look exactly like Sarah Palin in terms of their mannerisms, their style, how they want things done. It's very strategic in the sense that she has such broad appeal to the middle class that it's really going to be critical in counties that were lost by 3,000 votes.
BROWN: And Gloria Borger, and we haven't even talked about this yet, but the appeal to women.
BORGER: Absolutely. You know, I spoke with somebody, a Republican strategist close to the campaign today. And he said, look, it's not a mystery. We were going to lose this election without our base and without women.
Women are swing voters. They saw an opportunity, and they're trying to grab it here. I think the jury is still out on this. I think --
BLITZER: And I'd say let's not forget that this will be the first time ever that a Republican Convention has nominated a woman to be the vice presidential running mate.
Let's take a quick break because we have much more coming up. We're standing by to hear live via satellite from the White House President Bush will be addressing this convention as the last time he will speak as president of the United States before a Republican Convention.
And guess what? There's a musical entertainment coming up as well. We're going to tell you who's going to be entertaining all of us, millions of you out there.
Stay with us. You're watching the Republican National Convention right here on CNN.
BLITZER: And we're live here on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They're getting ready to hear soon from President Bush. He'll be speaking live before the convention. He's at the White House. He was supposed to speak yesterday, but they had to postpone that because of the hurricane that was affecting the Gulf Coast. I want to welcome back our viewers. We're also standing by to monitor another convention, Campbell, that's going on not very far away in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis. Take a look at this.
About 10,000 people we're told are there. This is Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas. He's having his separate convention in Minneapolis. We're in Saint Paul, and he's speaking before his supporters there.
He's not running for president. He was running as a Republican presidential candidate. Did fairly well. Raised a ton of money.
BROWN: Raised a ton of money, I was going to say.
BLITZER: Yes. A ton of money.
BROWN: Had an incredible online operation.
BLITZER: It was one of the huge surprises of the Republican primary process, but he didn't win. And he's having his little alternative convention right now. We'll monitor that as we monitor -- as we obviously pay much closer attention to this Republican Convention that's going on right now.
I want to bring in Donna Brazile and Roland Martin. They're watching both -- they're both watching this convention as well.
Roland, let me start with you. As you take a look at the expected frontal assault on Barack Obama and Joe Biden that we can expect tonight, tomorrow and Thursday, the Republicans believe they need to make this contrast, they need to go on the offense in order to regain some sort of momentum.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. I mean, talking to Bill Schneider, you look at what happened last week. Senator Barack Obama after his speech on Thursday picked up about 10 points among independents. He also did a better job along the number of Senator Hillary Clinton supporters who were considering John McCain.
But the next day, of course, Senator John McCain named his VP and then he solidified his Republican base. And so, they're all going to make a play for the independents. This is a matter of defining the tone of this campaign.
Remember, after this convention ends, we've got what? Eight weeks. And so, there's not much time. This is not like when Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis ran where you really had two and a half months or so before the election. And so, they have to do the job this week of saying this is who this guy is.
BROWN: And that much at stake here, Donna Brazile. They don't have a lot of time, do they?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think John McCain needs to distinguish himself from George Bush. If you look at the new CNN poll, 54 percent of the American people believe that John McCain will represent more of the same. So I think its number one priority before he begins to level attacks at his opponents is to really define himself and to define what it means to be a conservative at this moment, because most Americans understand that over the last eight years we've seen the conservatives on Capitol Hill run up the budget deficit.
And so, the American people are really looking for a change. They're looking for a new direction and I think right now, the McCain campaign should focus on his own brand and try to give the American people a better picture of himself.
Look, we just saw this picture of Ron Paul with 10,000 people. That's a lot of people. So, again, it's about unifying your party and then coming out with a central theme of attack against your opponent this fall.
BROWN: And Carl Bernstein, with President Bush, his approval rating, as Donna just mentioned, where they are. How much of a blessing is it for John McCain to not have him here in present in a way he would have been on Monday night along with Dick Cheney speaking to this convention?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Simple answer. It's a real blessing. The important thing about John McCain and his success as a politician has been that he has defined himself as a post-partisan figure. That he has reached across from the Republican side to Democrats. That he believes in, you know, a bipartisan approach to foreign policy, to some domestic policy that he thinks his party has been wrong very often on issues.
But now, he's got a problem, which is he is running as a George Bush Republican, to a large extent, as a down the line conservative. And so, that puts into question what has always been his greatest appeal. We were about to have an election, you would have said a few months ago, in which both nominees for president had a post-partisan vision of the country and to the cultural warfare of the past quarter century. That would be a great thing for America. Now, we seem to be heading for a different thing here at this convention.
BROWN: Hilary Rosen, but the counter to that also is with the people in this room and Alex Castellanos made this point earlier, George Bush is still enormously popular. I mean, there is going to be massive applause when he speaks to this crowd here tonight.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's right. And tonight you're going to hear George Bush say John McCain is the man for the job. And John McCain, then, is going to have to spend the next eight weeks shirking that endorsement in many ways.
And I think that's a big problem. He's got a -- he's going to have to not alienate the base he has just energized by choosing Sarah Palin, who are still very loyal to George Bush, that 30 percent evangelical base and still do well going out to get independents.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Rachael Lampa right now. Rachael Lampa is a Christian singer, 23 years old. Has performed in the Vatican, Billy Graham crusades. Let's listen to Rachael Lampa.
SONG PERFORMED BY RACHAEL LAMPA: I can't find you. Are you hiding or am I? Should I go or should I wait for a sign? Following your voice, walking through a desert night. And then seeing a silent storm in the sky.
And I stand in my emotion and I let it be my own. Because I know I'm not forsaken and I'll never be alone.
When I fall, when I fall. I know will I be landing. When I fall, when I fall, you will still be standing.
Somewhere in the silence I can hear your broken voice. Like a radio station fading out of range. Somewhere in the crowd from the corner of my eye, I thought that I could feel you walking by.
And when I get this feeling like I am not so strong. I still can feel you with me. Yea you've been there all along.
When I fall, when I fall, I know will I be landing. When I fall, when I fall, you will still be standing. When I fall, yea.
Somewhere I'm alone, won't you take my empty hands. And fill them with your love won't you take me as I am.
When I fall, when I fall, I know will I be landing. When I fall, when I fall, you will still be standing. When I fall. When I fall. Yea, yea. I know, I know will I be landing. When I fall.
RACHAEL LAMPA, CHRISTIAN SINGER: Thank you so much.
Thank you. It's such an honor to be here, you guys. Thank you so much for having me. And I want to sing this next song for you. This is called "Blessed."
SONG "BLESSED" PERFORMED BY RACHAEL LAMPA: I may never climb a mountain so I can see the world from there. I may never ride the waves and taste the salty ocean air.
Or build a bridge that would last a hundred years. But no matter where the road leads one thing is always clear.
I am blessed. I am blessed. From when I rise up in the morning till I lay my head to rest. I feel You near me. You soothe me when I'm weary. Oh, Lord, for all the worst and all the best I am blessed.
All along the road less traveled I have crawled and I have run. I have wandered through the wind and rain until I found the sun.
The watching eyes, they ask me why. I walk this narrow way. I will gladly give the reason for the hope I have today.
I am blessed. I am blessed. From when I rise up in the morning till I lay my head to rest. I feel You near me. You soothe me when I'm weary. Oh, Lord, for all the worst and all the best I am blessed.
Oh, You've given me joy, You've given me love, You give me strength when I want to give up. You came from heaven to rescue my soul. This is the reason I know, I know.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, know I'm blessed. Till I lay my head to rest I feel You near me. You soothe me when I'm weary. Oh, Lord, for all the worst and all the best, oh, oh, oh, oh, Lord, I am blessed.
LAMPA: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: Rachael Lampa. She's a Christian singer. She's got a beautiful voice, and she delighted this crowd here at this Republican National Convention.
We just want to make clear we're going to try to cover this convention, bring you all the highlights not only the political speeches and we're standing by to hear from President Bush. He'll be speaking live from the White House via satellite.
We want to give you a feeling of what's happening on the floor, and no one is better to give us that feeling than Anderson Cooper who has just come back from New Orleans where he did a spectacular job covering that hurricane.
Before we get started in some of the political talk, give us a reflection of what it was like to be back in New Orleans almost exactly three years to the day after Katrina to see the entire city virtually evacuated and awaiting the worst.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, to see it evacuated was actually a good thing. I mean, the people really responded. Really, the citizens. It wasn't just government officials at the state, local and federal level who learned the lessons of Katrina, as far as we know, because the storm really wasn't as hard as it could have been, but the citizens of New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana learned the lesson as well.
1.9 million evacuated, the largest evacuation in the state's history. So, you know, to see the city empty like that was a good thing. And, you know, to be there on the third anniversary of Katrina as I was on Friday night was, you know, it's a privilege every time to be able to go and tell the story, the continuing story of Katrina, which has been happening in New Orleans.
But if you had written it in a book or had it in a movie, no one would have believed that there would be another hurricane on the weekend of the third anniversary.
BLITZER: And by all accounts, they learned a lesson -- the federal, the state, and local authorities.
COOPER: Yes. And you know, FEMA wasn't tested in an after storm response in the same way. And a lot, you know, there's still and people need to come back and the response of those people coming back, that will also be another kind of a test.