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Republican Convention: Sarah Palin Looks to Deliver Big with Speech; Capturing the Youth Vote; Monitoring the Weather, Tropical Storm Hanna Continues Raging

Aired September 3, 2008 - 10:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Welcome back from the CNN Election Center in New York. I'm Soledad O'Brien with continuing coverage of the Republicans in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can see right there, it's a fine day in the forecast. Somebody once said there are two seasons in Minnesota -- winter and August. Well, I guess it still must be August then.
Things are starting to cool off a little bit though. We are told, politically, though, the temperature is rising, the excitement building. Delegates and crew getting ready for John McCain to arrive in the twin cities, expecting it a little before noon local time. He's not going to be speaking tonight but a trio of rivals from the primary will be and so will his already controversial running mate, the Alaska governor Sarah Palin. So lots to talk about plus the new ads. The new one rolled out last night aimed at praising John McCain at the expense of Barack Obama.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN contributors Tara Wall and Hilary Rosen. Tara is with the conservative "Washington Times," Hilary with the liberal "Huffington Post."

Nice to see you both.

Let's begin with you, Tara. If we can listen to a little bit of what Fred Thompson had to say last night in his speech praising Senator John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's pretty clear there are two questions that we'll never have to ask ourselves -- who is this man, and can we trust this man with the presidency?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He got a big cheer, but, Tara, as you well know, the theme of yesterday was, in fact, who is John McCain? So I thought that was an odd way to spin it for him. And of course, sort of, for me at least, it hearkened back to, and who is his running mate, Sarah Palin? Do you think this was an effective message. I heard of cheering but outside of that convention, is that a message that's going to work?

TARA WALL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's effective certainly for the base, as you heard. He was very effective as well as Laura Bush. You could tell who the more popular speakers were last night. Look, the theme -- although the theme was service, there's also this ongoing theme, if you will, of character, conviction, judgment and showing these stark contrasts between character, conviction, judgment. Character, conviction, judgment.

You hear that over and over again. It almost surpasses, if you will, experience in a way because the experience one has, whether it's small, short experience, long experience, it's what that person has done with that experience in the short time or the long time that they've had that experience. So I think that you're going to see that contrast, you have a record that you can almost pin down on Sarah Palin and some of the decisions that she's made versus a Barack Obama who some say, you can't really pin down his decisions because he really hasn't made any decisions in the short time --

O'BRIEN: We'll talk about her record -- stop there for a second. We'll talk about her record in just a moment. Let me bring Hilary into our discussion. Some people talk about this being the red meat, which is a phrase I just really hate because it's icky. But do you think that the attacks on Barack Obama, which we heard from Senator Lieberman, which we also heard from Fred Thompson too, were they effective?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, part of a convention is to differentiate yourself from the other guy, and we heard a lot of attacks on John McCain last week. I think that's to be expected. The polling over of the last couple of days is showing the economy is still the number one issue and that Americans now believe that Barack Obama is as capable of dealing with our situation in Iraq as John McCain is.

That's a big shift from the last several months. That's really, I think, what the Republicans have to focus on, is what messages are going to move the needle to make people believe that the Republicans more of the same can help on the economy. Because right now they don't believe it. They think Barack Obama offers more opportunity for them than John McCain does.

O'BRIEN: Tara, do you think Governor Palin was the best pick? I mean, to a large degree, you have this experience question, which I think is a valid question, and you also have this pregnant daughter issue, which you might believe is relevant issue or a non-relevant issue, but it's on the front page of newspapers where I have to imagine people would prefer other stories. Do you think that she was, you know, the most outstanding person to pick as his running mate?

WALL: Well, I think -- listen, that's up to the campaign to decide. I think they believe they did make a very good pick and many Americans I think will come to that conclusion and after they learn more and more about her. Listen, if you look at the numbers, you know, this bump that was talked about outside of the Democratic convention did not really happen for Barack Obama. The public is still supportive of both candidates.

O'BRIEN: No. But he's edging by a handful of points. I mean, in all fairness, he's up by I think five points by the last poll. Go ahead.

WALL: He is up by five points, but it's certainly not the bump that was anticipated or expected is what I'm saying. So, listen, I think there's going to be a lot of time for the American public to decide who is going to be the better team. But, listen, this issue about her daughter, folks need to remember what Barack Obama himself said, kids are off limits. It's almost like we're opening a whole another Pandora's box.

We did it with the Clintons, the Bushes, right now we're doing it with Sarah Palin. I think there's going to get a point where there's going to be a backlash, if you will, if liberals and Democrats who are stirring this up continue pushing this. There could be a backlash for Democrats. So I think they have --

O'BRIEN: But let me stop you there. Right, but isn't the issue, Tara, before I bring in Hilary on this, isn't the issue that if you have a governor who has voted against young women like her daughter getting sex ed in school, I mean, doesn't this become a valid issue? And not as somebody who's trying to stir things up, just someone who's trying to get a straight answer from somebody. It doesn't that then become a viable issue, a decision she had to make?

We're going to let Tara answer before I bring in Hilary.

Go ahead, Tara.

WALL: You know, I think people can dissect what her positions are and aren't. I think her position has been consistent with her position on life and her family's position and decisions have been consistent with her position on life. And again, this is something that has elevated and raised the enthusiasm of the base, evangelicals, conservative Republicans are inspired. It's gone a long way to help McCain raise money. It's gone a long way to help him restore what was lost within the party.

Again, American people decide who are the better candidates. You can argue every day about who's got better experience, who doesn't. Listen, quite frankly, some would say it's a wash. You got one experience from one ticket and one experience from the other ticker.

We're looking at the two men who are running for office and what they bring and who their vice presidential picks bring. I think at the end of the day when we hear Sarah Palin tonight people are going to learn a lot more than they anticipated about this woman. And there's still a lot of time to find out who she is and what her positions are. She was brought in to be a reformer, she was brought in because of the tough stances she's taken. I don't think this is a shrinking violet. This is somebody who is strong, who is tough. And despite her short time in office, could prove to be someone who has not only strong conviction but also has strong judgment.

O'BRIEN: Well, I guess we'll see. What do you want too hear from her speech tonight?

ROSEN: Well, I want to hear why it's OK for her to cut benefits and health insurance for most working families in Alaska and take a position against health insurance reform when her family and her kids get to be on the Alaska state payroll. I think it's about issues. I think she is a compelling person. But I think we need to pivot to the issues and it's our job in the news business I think to start keeping these guys focused on the difference that the choices the American people have to make. This match-up is about issues, too.

O'BRIEN: Hilary Rosen and Tara Wall joining us. You know, we're out of time, Tara. But guess what, we have the entire day to talk. That is the beauty of doing shows with me. I'm here all day. And so are you. Thanks, ladies. I appreciate it.

Coming up, we're going to talk to bloggers on both ends of the spectrum in St. Paul, weighing in on what they're seeing. First, though, a quick break and these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. They were barely a factor in 2000, more so in 2004 and they are a force to be reckoned with today. Bloggers descended on Denver. Now they're practically thick on the ground in St. Paul.

Joining us to talk about that is Rachel Campos Duffy. She is with parentdish.com, also Erin Kotecki Vest of Blog-Her. Get it? Blog-Her. And she is pulling for Obama. They're both moms.

I know, Rachel, you have five kids, is that right? What are the ages?

RACHEL CAMPOS DUFFY, PARENTDISH.COM: Eight, six, four, two and three months.

O'BRIEN: Wow. You almost forgot about that last one there.

And Erin, I know you're a mom, too. How many kids do you have?

ERIN KOTECKI VEST, BLOG-HER: I have two children. They're five and three.

O'BRIEN: All right. So we're all juggling between us we have practically a dozen kids here. Erin, let's start with you. Obama supporter, and yet when I was reading your blog you said you had to practically to pick you jaw off the floor because of what the liberal bloggers were writing about. Why?

KOTECKI VEST: Well, the liberal bloggers to a certain degree but mostly the conservative bloggers. I love that I'm seeing conservative bloggers talk about sexism. I love when I see them talking about things like child care and all of these things that are coming with the Governor Sarah Palin pick.

O'BRIEN: But some of the liberal bloggers and people writing for main stream papers have said similar things that I've read. As a working mom, I found it very discouraging. You know, can she be VP because she's got the kids, basically is the argument. KOTECKI VEST: I've only seen that on a very small portion of liberal blogs and they've definitely been the fringe extreme liberal blogs, not at places like Blog-Her or Mommycrats or any of the other sites that are supporting Barack Obama.

O'BRIEN: What do you make of that?

CAMPOS DUFFY: I disagree with that.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Rachel. Sorry.

CAMPOS DUFFY: I've seen it all over the place, and I think that I'd like to see the feminist establishment and some of the other people that came out and decried the way that Hillary was treated, show that they can go beyond party and partisan politics and come out in defense of what's happening with Governor Palin. Because I think it's unfair and what I am seeing from the women that I come in contact with on a daily basis, also my blog, is that they're watching and moms are watching this to see what is going to be said by the feminist establishment, by the liberals.

I know Barack Obama has come out and decried it, but I think there needs to be a stronger voice out there. And this could potentially alienate a lot of women voters out there if that doesn't change.

KOTECKI VEST: I'm not sure you're looking in the right places, Rachel. Because I've seen it on some of the biggest feminist blogs out there. There is even a sexism watch going on right now on many of them where they have a ticker going every time they see something that the media has done.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but is discussing someone's fitness for office -- and we're going to have to assume for either vice presidential pick that they potentially could wake up one morning and guess what, you're now the president because something terrible happened to the guy who was president -- is discussing someone's experience, why is that considered sexist and off bounds? There's a couple of conversations I've heard where people say, that's sexist to say that she doesn't have experience. Why is that?

CAMPOS DUFFY: Because she does have experience. She's the governor of a state that's extremely important right now at this time that we're dealing with energy. She has experience as an executive, making decisions on all kinds of levels. So I think that --

O'BRIEN: Right. OK. But let me stop you there because this is kind of where interviews get a little strange. Because when you ask people to start listing literally, they can't make a big list.

With all due respect, Rachel, everyone says, you know, she's got experience on a lot of issues, you know, governmental executive, and then it kind of stops. I mean, Alaska has 670,000 people and a $6 billion budget, which is small. You know, Governor Bush, which he was governor before he became president, that was 24 million people, right? I mean, in all fairness. CAMPOS DUFFY: Right. But the list is also short for Barack Obama.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but that's another argument. I'm talking about your candidate. Let's talk about your candidate, the VP.

CAMPOS DUFFY: Well, let's talk about my candidate. I think for one she's a woman who's not only handling herself as a governor, she was a mayor. She had her feet on the ground. I think that her local experience is really not being taken seriously, and I think that people are looking for politicians who maybe don't have a huge resume explaining all the things they did but have experiences with real people, real lives, real women like me who have five kids who have to deal with local issues. I think that in that regard she is experienced. And let's not forget she's running for the number two spot, not the number one spot. And again --

KOTECKI VEST: She's just a heart beat away from that spot. And while I love that she's a real woman and a real mom and she has that experience, I also want her to understand and know what's happening in North Korea right now and has been out of the country once or twice.

CAMPOS DUFFY: Well, we have not heard her speak on North Korea yet. I'll concede that. But I think just like it's obvious that this is a woman who's intelligent, will be able to be a great, astute woman who can listen and learn from being vice president and will be ready if and when that time comes. I think that the sexism comes because she's not being held -- she's being held to a higher standard because she's a mom than I think she would be otherwise.

O'BRIEN: So, OK. Let me get you to clarify. Why is that a higher standard? I mean, how is that a higher standard?

CAMPOS DUFFY: Well, I've heard journalists say, well, how can she -- I've heard journalists even on this network say things like, you know, can she really -- is she up to be vice president because she has five kids? You know, Senator Rick Santorum has six kids. I've never heard anybody ever say that --

O'BRIEN: I have not heard one person who works for CNN, if that's what you're talking about, say that at all. We've interviewed people who say that and ask some similar questions about, isn't that sexist? So I'm not sure exactly who you're referring to.

CAMPOS DUFFY: Well, they're asking the question. Again, I've never heard senators or congressmen with lots of kids being asked that sort of question. I think it's something that's reserved for mothers.

KOTECKI VEST: I think the sexism has been coming in because you're looking at people who don't normally speak about sexism. I'd like to see Carly Fiorina decry what happened to Michelle Obama and the attacks against Michelle Obama. I'd like to see people like Rachel talk about what's happened with the attacks against Michelle Obama the same way and with the same vehemence they're doing with Sarah Palin. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, that's not going to happen on either side. Ladies, we're out of time. I thank you both. Rachel Campos Duffy is a mom blogger with parentdish.com and Erin Kotecki Vest is with Blog-Her. Thank you. I appreciate the conversation. Very, very interesting.

That's it for us right now. Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Election Center in New York. I'll see you back here in just about 15 minutes as we continue our nonstop coverage from the convention. Back to CNN NEWSROOM right after these messages. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

Deadly flooding with Hanna hovering over the Caribbean, now the storm plots a move on the southeastern United States.

President Bush arriving in Louisiana shortly to see Gustav's multi-billion dollar broadside. Also, minutes away, Louisiana's governor coming up live.

The first Gustav evacuees begin trickling home to the New Orleans area. Disaster information they should know today, Wednesday, September 3rd. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Tropical thunder. One killer hurricane fades away. Another big storm bears down. Hanna could make landfall in the U.S. Friday after a deadly rampage through the Caribbean. Even more threatening storms are on the horizon. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast deals with the aftermath of Gustav. Hundreds of thousands of people without power today, and the first evacuees as you see here just now returning home. That's good for some of them, but we need to get the very latest because there could be more to come. Maybe not in the exact same place, which is a good thing.

Jacqui Jeras, of course, joining me now to talk more about that.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, we may be seeing some changes too by the way with Hanna. Our new computer models are coming in. And until Hanna starts that northerly turn, you know, we're not real confident exactly where the U.S. it's going to be going. So let's go ahead and show you the latest statistics here with Hanna. There you can see still holding with 60-mile-per-hour winds. So, you know, that's nothing to blink at certainly. And heavy rainfall across Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Now, this storm has been moving easterly today, and the more east it goes, the more that's going to ultimately change our track. And we are anticipating that northerly turn at least within the next 12 hours and making its way up towards the U.S. coast. Notice that cone of uncertainty which stretches from about Melbourne all the way up into the Carolinas.

Now, the new computer model forecasts are coming in, and look at these spaghetti models. Each of these lines representing a different solution and most of them are bringing it much farther to the northeast than originally. So the National Hurricane Center issued their new advisory at 11:00 Eastern time. We'll watch that very closely for any changes in this track. Of course, the farther east it is too, Heidi, will delay the timing of the storm so we could be looking at Saturday instead. So we'll bring you up to date on that and we'll tell you about Ike and Josephine, coming up in a little while.

COLLINS: OK. Very good. All right. Jacqui, we'll get back to you shortly.

The Gulf coast tangled in the wreckage of Hurricane Gustav this morning. Half of Louisiana's households are without electricity. Now the two million people who fled the storm, most are waiting for permission to return.

CNN's Sean Callebs is following this story in New Orleans for us this morning.

Hey, Sean, so any signs of life there this morning? Anybody sort of moving around? I see a couple of people behind you now.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The place is kind of stirring a little bit. We're here in the heart of the French quarter on Bourbon and Bienville. We saw the sun come out just a short while ago, fist time in a number of days. And let me give you an idea that yes, this is slowly, slowly coming back to life. We have a couple of cameras out here.

We're staying right next to the Desire Oyster Bar. As we walk inside there, you got to check this out. This is something residents just haven't seen here. People have been eating tuna fish. They've been eating peanut butter the past few days. Well, now, there's a big buffet out there, hot food, electricity, people eating in a very civilized fashion. Granted this is the exception, not the rule. But know what? It's a start. It's a start.

And we know that later on today the first of the 1.9 million evacuees are going to start coming back here to find out exactly what happened to their homes. The people we see coming in right now are basically essential personnel, what's called tier one or tier two people. These are like doctors, nurses, medical professionals, business owners, people who have a placard who are allowed to come through and visit the city.

Now, secondly, we talk about those power outages. Just horrific. We've got to talk about that, the largest number of people losing electricity since Hurricane Katrina. Who would have figured that one? 800,000 people in Louisiana, there in Mississippi, in Arkansas as well. This thing cut a wide swath through the area. In fact, they call it a glancing blow of this category 2 once it came in, it wasn't a direct hit. Still the edge of the eye wall, about 35, 40 miles away from New Orleans, so it was very close. City officials say, look, this was not a dress rehearsal. This was serious.

If this happens again, they're going to order evacuations again. We're going to go through the drill again. And everything we've talked about doesn't really come down to a hill of beans unless the levees hold, and they did hold, Heidi. That was very significant. $2 billion worth of improvements. And so far, things are going pretty well. Sun is out. People coming back. Let's get the city up and running again. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. I know you love it there, that's for sure. All right. Sean Callebs, we sure do appreciate all of your reporting throughout all of this. We will check back with you a little bit later on. Sean Callebs for us in New Orleans this morning.

At the bottom of the hour, we expect a briefing from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He'll update his state's recovery efforts now. So we will watch that and of course, and bring you the very latest news from it.

Hurricane Gustav evacuees can return to New Orleans tomorrow. We've been reporting this. But what kind of dangers will they find when they get there? Personal finance editor Gerri Willis joining us now with safety tips when returning to the hurricane zone.

Certainly something to be talking about this morning, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That's right. Well, you know, the very first thing you want to do is inspect those surroundings carefully inspect the outside of your home, checking for loose power lines, gas leaks, structural damage, wear waterproof boots when you do this and gloves to avoid flood water from touching your skin. And if you smell gas, don't go into your home.

If you hear a hissing noise or smell gas when you do go inside, make sure you turn off that main gas valve that's located outside if you can. Now, call the gas company from a neighbor's residence. Don't do it at home. And if you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you'll need a professional to turn it back on. Of course, don't smoke or use gas lanterns or candles. Lighting the inside of your home because you know, you just risk some kind of flammable material going up in flames.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. That's a very good point. What about mold? I don't know if people would be able to detect it this early on, but certainly if you've had flooding there is this risk of mold, which certainly can be toxic.

WILLIS: And gauging from my e-mail, it's a big concern of folks. Mold is a problem if you have flooding in your home and it's not covered under your home owner's policy. First you want to take out items that have been waterlogged and that can't be cleaned or dried. Then air out the rooms by using fans and dehumidifiers. Open as many windows as you can. Remove mold mix one cup of bleach in one gallon of water, wash the item with this mixture and then scrub rough surfaces with a stiff brush. Rinse the item with clean water, then dry or leave it to dry. Of course, you want to be wearing rubber boots, gloves, goggles when you use this bleach because let me tell you it's not pleasant.

COLLINS: Yes, no. Very, very strong. What about important documents, your photos, I mean, anything that you really want to hang onto that's in the paper form.

WILLIS: Well, that's the worst, when you find wedding photos, maybe a birth certificates have been damaged. If the object is still wet, rinse with clear water, a fine hose spray, clean off the dry silt and debris from your belongings with soft brushes or dab with damp cloths. Air-dry objects inside if you can. Remove wet paintings from their frames and let them air-dry away from direct sunlight. Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear water but don't touch those surfaces. And don't put damp items inside a sealed plastic bag. You're just creating a situation where mold will grow.

And of course, if you have any questions, send them to us at toptips@cnn.com. We love to hear from you. We answer those questions right here every Friday. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Gerri, nice to see you. Thanks so much.

WILLIS: Thank you.

COLLINS: North Korea blew it up. Now it's reportedly putting its main nuclear reactor back together again. Japanese media says it's because the U.S. has not removed the communist nation from its list of states that sponsored terror. The cooling tower at the Pyongyang plant was destroyed in June. It was seen as a show of Pyongyang's commitment to ending its nuclear program. But Washington wants international verification before removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list.

Strong words from Pakistan today aimed at coalition troops in Afghanistan. The government saying an alleged cross-border raid is unacceptable and a gross violation of Pakistan's territory. Local leaders in the Waziristan area say at least 20 civilians were killed in the raid. There's no information on this yet from coalition officials. South Waziristan is considered by the U.S.-led coalition as a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin on the national stage tonight, live pictures of the Republican National Convention right there out of St. Paul, Minnesota. We'll have more convention coverage coming up.

And Hanna on the horizon. The southeastern U.S. gets ready for a possible hurricane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Good morning from the CNN Election Center in New York. I'm Soledad O'Brien with our continuing coverage of the Republicans in St. Paul.

John McCain is expected to arrive shortly in the Twin Cities. His running mate is speaking tonight and the pundits call it crucial for her. Also talking tonight, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. That's the big picture.

Let's get some more on the pieces now from CNN's Jessica Yellin.

All right. Let's talk about this big that speech Sarah Palin is going to be delivering. What do you think she has to do? What notes does she have to hit?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, she has to do two major things. First, she has to explain to people a little bit more about who she is. She's so new on the scene, on the national scene, that everyone's -- voters are curious about her back- story, how she got into politics, why she's in it.

And the second piece is, what it is that motivates her, what shapes her political vision. And the campaign is determined to provide information about her record that would portray her as a maverick -- the word they love to use -- as somebody who has fought entrenched interests in Alaska. This is how one Republican strategist put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she should tell us a little bit about her fight up the political ladder in Alaska, the work she did as a mayor. I mean, this is real stuff. This isn't the United States Senate or some kind of lofty, inside the beltway story. This is a real story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And in this way, Soledad, she would sell herself in a sense as a version, a younger version, of John McCain, the guy who has fought special interests his whole life. That's the story they're telling.

O'BRIEN: Is there a risk, though? When he says she should focus on the work she did as a mayor. She was the mayor, but of a town that's barely twice the size of my high school. I wonder if there's a risk there, people saying, at some point, are you ready to be president if the last thing you did before this governor job was be the mayor of 5,000 people?

YELLIN: This is a real scratch your head issue, sort of where you fall on this depends on where your alliances already lie.

The McCain campaign is even putting out a new ad saying that Sarah Palin has more experience than Barack Obama and the Democrats this morning on a conference call with reporters -- Obama's campaign, one of his senior advisers, says, if that's true, then she also has more executive experience than John McCain so she should be at the top of the ticket. They're just going to keep going back and forth over this experience issue. And in some ways it makes it -- it at least makes it much more complicated for John McCain to make the argument that his ticket overall has more experience than Obama's.

O'BRIEN: Let me talk a little bit about the news that's on the cover of sort of the local papers here about the pregnancy of her daughter. What are you hearing behind the scenes? Are people dismayed by this? You certainly see that rallying to the governor's side, but I'm wondering, you know, if in private, everyone's dismayed that that's been taking the focus?

YELLIN: Well, first of all, the delegates here dismissed that story out of hand as not relevant at all to her ability to be on this ticket. So people, the lay Republican folks at this convention, are embracing her wholeheartedly despite the story.

Republican operatives are saying publicly that they're outraged, horrified by the media and they're really on the aggressive, on the attack, insisting that the media is inappropriate.

Behind the scenes it's hard to believe they're actually surprised by this. There was good reason they sort of dumped or leaked that information on the day that Gustav hit. They likely thought it would be buried. And frankly, Sarah Palin came onto the national scene at that speech with John McCain selling herself as a mother of five. She sort of put herself forward as this female -- she brought motherhood into the story herself.

So, you know, it's complicated. Had they introduced her just as a maverick politician, a lot of these issues, I think, would be more tricky for the media to explore. And certainly in the days to come I think the media will focus a lot more on some of her political history, the ethics investigation, and less on the pregnancy story.

O'BRIEN: And maybe see how she does in her speech and take a look at how that is received as well.

Jessica Yellin for us, thanks.

Thanks, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, Barack Obama's known for reaching young Americans. John McCain is making a strong effort, too. We'll talk about that with the national chairman of the Young Republicans right after this short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: You can there, live pictures of Sarah Palin doing a walk-through this morning for her big speech there tonight. Actually, that was earlier this morning. So, unless she's been spending hours on the floor, she's not there. She's moved on.

She's 44-years-old. The governor of Alaska, bringing a little youth to the GOP ticket. The question right now, of course, is what do young voters want? And what do many of them see in the Republican Party? Going to talk about Jessica Colon, she is the national chairman of the Young Republicans.

Nice to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.

When you look at the numbers, you see that Senator Obama has a hefty lead over John McCain when it comes to appeal to young voters -- 56 percent for Obama, 36 percent for Senator McCain.

What do you think the Democrats are doing well that the Republicans clearly are not, as you can see in these lagging numbers?

JESSICA COLON, NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS: Good morning, Soledad.

You know, that's a residual left over from the primary season. Actually, Senator Obama's numbers have fallen quite a bit in the last few weeks and Senator McCain's have begun to rise in the young vote. And I believe that young Americans, like many general election voters, are starting to really pay attention and see that Senator McCain's authenticity, his experience and policies on energy, health care, climate change, fiscal responsibility, and national security identify more with what they're interesting in.

O'BRIEN: So all of those things you think are the list that the Republican Party should be working on to improve its image among younger voters?

COLON: Absolutely. You know, in the Republican Party, we really focus on ideology. We don't focus too much on identity politics. And the young voters in the Republican Party and many young Americans are interested in those things that are the current issues right now. Energy is absolutely the top of the list, as is national security and fiscal responsibility.

We are sick of this crazy spending that has been going on in Washington and we know that Senator McCain could come in and fix it.

O'BRIEN: The crazy spending that's been going on in Washington, we've got a Republican president and he's been in office now for eight years. Doesn't he take a lot of the blame for that?

COLON: Well, you know, Congress itself spent a lot of that money, and we sent them home in 2006. So we're ready to come back and do what Republicans do best, which are good fiscal managers.

O'BRIEN: Is it a problem that John McCain is 72-years-old? Is there a sense that young people do not identify with someone who is older, maybe old enough to be their grandfather, and also has said many times that he's not really computer literate and isn't interested in some of the things that young people gravitate to heavily -- blogging, et cetera?

COLON: You know, Megan McCain has a great blog and her parents participate in it. And -- so I know he's familiar with technology and those types of things. I don't know what he does on a daily basis with that.

As far as the age issue goes, we find that that really doesn't -- people don't feel out of touch with him because he's older. As a matter of fact, I think they take comfort in the fact that they know he has the life experience that we need right now to be the next president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What about the life experience of Governor Palin who's now the vice presidential pick? What do young Republican voters think of her?

COLON: Well, like the rest of the Republican base, we are very excited about the pick of Governor Sarah Palin. We welcome her and, as you know, and as you've been hearing from this convention, she's been brought in and embraced by the base of the GOP, and we can't wait to get her out on the national stage. I think that she really empowers young women for sure to now, like she said in the speech, that we can shatter the glass ceiling that we had 18 million cracks in.

It's a process, and we're very thrilled that we can have, from the Republican Party, a vice president of the United States.

O'BRIEN: Jessica Colon is the president of the Young Republicans, joining us this morning.

Nice to talk to you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

Got much more convention coverage coming to you in just about 15 minutes and of course throughout the day.

In New York, I'm Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Election Center. We'll sent it back to Atlanta and CNN NEWSROOM right after this short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Good morning once again, everybody.

Tropical thunder -- one killer hurricane fades away, three more storms expected to grow stronger. The closest to the U.S.? Tropical Storm Hanna. Voluntary evacuations could begin along Georgia's coast today. Landfall? As early as Friday. Two more potential threats on the horizon, Tropical Storms Ike and Josephine.

Hanna expected to move north after a deadly rampage through the Caribbean. The death toll in Haiti continues to rise. The latest report, 23 dead over the past two weeks. More than 100 people have died in flooding and mudslides there. Thousands of people are now in shelters. Pretty incredible pictures there coming in.

Want to get the very latest, of course, on all of these storms. CNN meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, is with me now.

JERAS: Hi. Well, the most immediate thing, Heidi, is Hanna. We were talking last hour about the potential of maybe a little bit of a shift in the track as those new models were coming in. Lo and behold, we have a new track. So it is looking less likely for Florida now and more likely for South or even North Carolina.

So come over here. Let's check out this track here. There you can see that cone of uncertainty, and it is showing really it's hitting up from Savannah on northward. A lot of that has to do with what Hanna has been doing recently, and that's that it took a nice little turn on off to the east. So the further east this thing went, you knew that that was going to make it more of a Carolina storm as opposed to down here into Florida.

And so that looks like the most likely scenario now. And it also looks like it started that northerly track. So it's moving to the north right now at 6 miles per hour, but we're still waiting for more of that northwest turn. We think that's going to happen in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Still bringing it up to the Category 1 hurricane and it's going to be getting to some warmer waters as it gets up towards the Gulf stream. But we have other elements, like the wind sheer, kind of fighting Hanna a little bit. So we don't think that this is going to be a major storm, but certainly we know Category 1 can certainly cause their own part of damage.

All right. Let's see what's going on here. There you can see the satellite picture of Hanna just north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Now, this is Ike, winds of 65 miles per hour. And actually, this is the old update. That -- it hasn't come in yet. It's 70, so our computer is a little behind -- 70 miles per hour now for Ike, which means it is getting very close to hurricane status. And Ike is one that we're worried about that could potentially become a major hurricane as it moves off to the west.

We think it's going to be moving into the Greater Antilles and over towards Cuba late in the weekend and early next week. It's still too early to tell yet with Ike whether or not the U.S. will be impacted, and if so, where.

Josephine is next down the line. This is the best one that it looks like it will probably just be what we call a fishing storm, staying out over the open waters but certainly bear watching.

Gustav not quite over and done with just yet, Heidi. There you can see a tornado watch in effect for parts of Louisiana and on into Mississippi and flooding rains will be a big problem throughout the Mississippi Valley -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Jacqui, thanks so much for that. We know you are watching all of these storms for us. We will continue to check in with you because, obviously, still a lot going on in the weather department.

Meanwhile, on the Gulf Coast, the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav now. Two million people fled area. The first, as you see there, are now trickling back in. They are discovering massive power outages. Nearly half of all the homes and businesses in Louisiana are without electricity. Officials say it will take weeks to get power restored to all of those areas.

And this hour, President Bush is on the way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to get a firsthand look at the devastation. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There's real concern about the storms now forming. One or more of which could deliver a punch to this already battered state.

(voice-over): There was so much debris and so much water in Grand Isles, the helicopters carrying Governor Bobby Jindal and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, had trouble finding a place to land.

The officials came here to assess the damage. There was a lot. And offered help to these local officials like this fire captain who had been working with his men to clear sand from the streets.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, LOUISIANA: General, just let me know. We're going to be able to move some guard rails to start helping you clear off some of (INAUDIBLE).

CAPT. JOEL BRADBERRY, GRAND ISLE FIRE DEPT.: All right. Appreciate it. I'll let them know. Thank y'all very much.

JINDAL: No, it's important. We want to help you get back on your feet.

BRADBERRY: All right. Thank you, governor.

MESERVE: Grand Isle was one of several stops at which federal state and local officials generally applauded one another for preparations and response to the storm.

There was wide spread agreement the evacuation of much of the population has contributed to the happy outcome. Citizens had learn from Katrina and took themselves out of harm's way. This tour was proof Chertoff had learned something, too. He was criticizing for appearing disengaged during and after Katrina. This time he was here before the storm.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's much easier to get ground crews if you're close to where the ground is.

MESERVE (on camera): President Bush also faced criticism for staying away too long after Katrina. Undoubtedly a factor in his decision to visit here, today.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Baton Rouge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Hurricane Gustav's devastation. Here's a look by the numbers. Nearly half all homes and businesses in Louisiana, are without power. Now, the 2 million who evacuated the Gulf Coast, most are still awaiting permission to return home. Early insurance estimates, up to $10 billion. That's compared to $41 billion for hurricane Katrina.

You may actually crack a smile at the gas pump. Huh? Louisiana's oil industry weathered Gustav and that is helping oil prices slip again today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Oil prices continue sliding this morning. Analysts say hurricane Gustav appears to have caused less damage to oil production facilities than first feared. Lower demand and a stronger dollar also getting the credit.

And the national average price for regular gasoline down about a third of a cent this morning, now $3.68 a gallon. That's way down from the record high of $4.11, AAA reported that back on July 17th. So, gas prices have been falling recently, but that doesn't undo the damage in Detroit, from months of pain at the pump. And today, the big three are set to take another hit.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

COLLINS: Tiger Woods has something other than golf on his mind. He and his wife Elin, are about to become proud parents for a second time. Woods says on his web site his wife is due in late winter. Woods has not played golf since his U.S. Open victory back in June. You remember that. Reconstructive surgery on his left knee has sidelined him for the rest of the year. Woods says he's enjoying watching his daughter Sam grow. She was born the Monday after the 2007 U.S. Open.

Star appeal in Chicago's bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey taping her season opener today at a Chicago park. Hundreds of people stood in line for hours for tickets. 150 U.S. Olympians, including Michael Phelps, are scheduled to attend. Harpo Productions calls the show a welcome home for athletes and a chance to show off Chicago. The show is slated to air on Monday.

Republicans rally around the running mate. The stage is set for Governor Sarah Palin's national debut tonight. Convention coverage coming up.

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