Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Isaac Heading for GOP Convention?; Interview With Tampa, Florida, Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Terrorism in Tampa?

Aired August 23, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Florida and the Republican Convention brace for Isaac and a worst-case hurricane scenario, the storm closing in on Haiti right now, where hundreds of thousands of homeless from the country's last disaster.

Plus, anarchists threatening to target the Republican Convention in Tampa, possibly with homemade bombs.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All eyes on Isaac right now, the tropical storm churning through the Caribbean. The latest forecast is cause for concern for millions of Americans. The National Weather Service is calling for the storm to gain strength and become a Category 1 hurricane as it closes in on the U.S. mainland.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is just starting a press conference right now which we are monitoring. We're going to bring you the headlines in just a moment. But, certainly, Tampa in Florida lies within the storm's potential strike zone, just as that city is preparing to host the Republican National Convention.

Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. He's in Tampa for us.

Brian, what are you seeing? What's going on in Tampa?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of preparation, Wolf, a other of monitoring of this storm right now. Most of the models have Isaac moving pretty far to the west of here, but even if it does, whether it is a hurricane or tropical storm, it could cause some problems here for the convention just because of the residual rain and wind that could occur here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): It is low-lying, surrounded by water, and plenty vulnerable. The city of Tampa is about to have tens of thousands of visitors downtown, and one of them might be Isaac, whether it is a tropical storm, a hurricane, or an outer band of either.

(on camera): From the water, what's the worst-case for storm surge in a place like this?

DAN NOAH, METEOROLOGIST, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: A perfect Category 5 hurricane would produce 30 feet of surge, which is about the level of the first strip of blue tiles that you see.

TODD (voice-over): Dan Noah, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says that probably won't happen with this storm. But the area of the city right where the Republican Convention is being held is in danger of storm surge, no matter what Isaac brings.

The mayor is preparing to issue evacuation orders for downtown Tampa if the storm brings any force, but only after consulting with law enforcement, state and federal authorities, and Republican Party officials.

For their part:

SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No, there's no such thing as canceling. As I said, we have contingency plans. Our first priority is the always going to be safety of the people that are here in Tampa Bay, both the visitors and the residents.

TODD: But evacuating Tampa while the convention is under way has specific challenges.

(on camera): Because Tampa may not have enough hotel space to house the 50,000 or so extra people that are coming for the convention, many who attend are going to be staying along the beach areas and in places maybe like Clearwater across the bay here and St. Pete just to the south. Best way to get in and out of Tampa from those places are these causeways and these bridges right here. But the problem is when hurricane and tropical storm-force winds hit, these are among the first roads to be shut down.

(voice-over): Florida's governor says local residents should gather three days' worth of supplies. Dan Noah says he is concerned about out-of-town visitors trying to move from building to building during the storm, whatever its strength.

NOAH: The one thing about Tampa Bay is once the water gets into the bay, it piles up. And right where we are standing is where it piles up. And that's why some of the biggest storm surges occur right here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Another major concern is having enough law enforcement officers here to work the convention. Many of those law enforcement personnel scheduled to be here are coming from out of town, so they may be affected by the storm, whether they have to stay and serve at their home jurisdictions or whether they may be marooned somehow, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us, thank you.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BLITZER: Let's find out a little bit more, Kate, what's going on in Haiti right now, because I am really worried about those people, hundreds of thousands of them in those tent cities. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Wolf. Haiti is a big concern always when you're talking about weather conditions because of the situation that happened two years ago especially.

Right now, as Chad mentioned, this is where hundreds of thousands are still homeless from the country's last natural disaster, that massive earthquake two years ago.

Our Gary Tuchman is on the ground in Port-au-Prince for us. I want to bring him in if he's available.

There you are, Gary. You're in the middle of what I believe is a tent city. What are residents there telling you? How concerned are they about this storm that is headed right their way?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, here is the amazing thing.

I am standing here with five of the roughly 400,000 people who have been homeless for the last two-and-a-half years from the great earthquake hit Haiti January 12, 2010. These two young ladies and three very young ladies don't understand English. But we had an interpreter talking with them before, and they had no clue whatsoever that a tropical storm named Isaac was on its way to Haiti.

This area here is called Ecar (ph). Ecar is a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. There are about 1,000 families that live in this tent city, these is dilapidated tin homes. And they have been here for the last roughly 955 days since the earthquake.

And 300,000 people died on January 12, 2010, and the days after. That's roughly 3 percent of the entire population in this nation. There's great concern. Ever since that day we kept saying if a tropical storm or hurricane comes to Port-au-Prince, what will happen To the 400,000 roughly people who still live in these places.

What we're finding is this. These people didn't know anything was happening and most of them aren't planning on going anywhere whatsoever. There are shelters in this country, they're in police stations, they're in churches, and people are there. But these folks are afraid to leave their home because if they evacuate these homes, they're afraid they won't be able to come back to them, never mind the fact if this tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane hits here, these places will be gone.

Mudslides are epidemic in this nation. They have been for years. In 2008, 800 people were killed in storms. In 2004, 3,000 people were killed during Hurricane Jeanne. Anything could happen tomorrow. And we just wish the best for these folks.

It is hard to say off you go because realistically they can't take everything and go into these small shelters. You don't know what to do. You feel helpless as a reporter. But that's what's happening here. These people are going to wait it out, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I am sure of course they feel helpless as well. Just the pictures you're showing us there, you can see just how devastating even a heavy thunderstorm could be for them, let alone a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.

Is there anything realistically that can be done, is being done as far as trying some sort of preparation to help them?

TUCHMAN: I think what stands out, Kate, is this is the only hurricane or tropical storm I have covered where I have seen absolutely zero preparation in a city.

When you drive from the airport in Port-au-Prince to this neighborhood, which is about a 40-minute drive, there's absolutely no indication that bad weather is on the way. I am sure in some parts of the city, particularly in the wealthier parts, there is some boarding up. But right now, as we feel our first raindrop since we have been here, there's absolutely no preparation in the poorer parts of Port- au-Prince.

BOLDUAN: And, as you said, hundreds of thousands of people could be hit square on. Gary Tuchman in Port-au-Prince for us, thank you so much, Gary.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Preparing for a major convention and a possible hurricane. Tampa's mayor is working around the clock, but will take a few minutes out to talk to us about what's going on.

Also, new polls from some critical battleground states that could decide who the next president of the United States will be, that's coming up at the bottom of the hour.

At 22 past, details of a Texas judge, I'm not making this up, a really elected Texas judge is talking about civil war in the United States if President Obama is reelected.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are tracking Tropical Storm Isaac as it heads towards Florida, and so is the Tampa mayor, Bob Buckhorn. He's bracing for a possible hurricane as his city prepares to welcome about 50,000 people to the Republican National Convention.

The mayor is joining us right now.

Mayor, first of all, we had Governor Rick Scott here in THE SITUATION ROOM a little bit earlier. I want you to listen to what he said about your city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Tampa is open for business. We're going to have the convention. We're going to do it. We're going to have a great convention.

Tampa is ready for this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, mayor? Is your city ready for whatever happens?

BOB BUCKHORN, MAYOR OF TAMPA, FLORIDA: Wolf, we have been preparing for this for a year-and-a-half. We couldn't be more excited to host the RNC.

We are absolutely ready. The governor is dead-on right. We're going to have a great show starting on Sunday night at the Tropicana, and the opening ceremonies will be here on Monday. Isaac is just a distraction.

BLITZER: Well, what happens if Isaac does move up the coast and it starts blowing water into Tampa Bay? We have all seen the diagrams potentially what could happen. How worried are you about that?

BUCKHORN: Not particularly worried.

I was on a conference call with the governor about an hour ago with all of the emergency management officials, the National Weather Service. The track looks good for Tampa. It looks like it is moving west, it looks like it is heading out into the Gulf. It is only a Category 1 storm or perhaps a tropical storm.

There would not be much storm surge if the current track continues. There might be a little wind, there might be a little rain. That would occur on Monday. It appears to be a fast-moving storm, Wolf, so it would be done by Tuesday, out into Gulf of Mexico, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the convention will absolutely be fine.

BLITZER: Well, I hope so because I am heading down there myself. I will be one of those 50,000 people heading to your beautiful city.

But who would make the final call? If there is a need, and we certainly hope there isn't, if there is need for some changes, if you will, an evacuation of sorts, who makes that decision?

BUCKHORN: Well, there's multiple decision points and multiple decision-makers.

As it relates to the Republican National Convention, that's internal to the RNC. They will make that decision. They have a process in place. They have to get a nominee out of this event. I am sure that they have taken precautions and thought of every scenario. As relates to Tampa proper, that's my jurisdiction. That would be my call as regard to an evacuation.

The governor on his end would look at a state of emergency for the affected areas. But the decision to actually evacuate would be made in conjunction with all of the partners. And we have been working hand in hand, Wolf, for a year-and-a-half. We will not make a decision without all of our other partners having the same information, in all likelihood at the same table at the same time. BLITZER: What are you telling your residents of Tampa right now? What should they be doing, if anything?

BUCKHORN: Well, when you're a Floridian, you live with this every summer. We will go through a half a dozen of these in the course of this year alone.

We just tell them to take precautions, to do what they always do, to look at their hurricane plan, to make sure they're stocked up. We don't think there will be an evacuation. We really don't think this storm will have much of an impact, but we need to train every year all the time in the event that something really catastrophic does happen.

Our residents are used to it, but we always remind them every time we get one of these occurrences.

BLITZER: Especially the older residents. They're the most vulnerable, to be sure.

Mayor, I will see you in Tampa over the weekend. Thanks very much. Good luck.

BUCKHORN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a little worrying. I know the mayor is trying to put the best foot forward, but I'm a little worried about...

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: They're taking precautions, and we're just going to have to track it and we're going to watch it. We are tracking it obviously through the show.

But there's also another threat facing the Republican National Convention, anarchists threatening to create mayhem and even possibly use homemade bombs. We're going to have more on that coming up at 40 past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Here is a quick look at some of the stories that are trending right now on CNN.com.

An Iowa archer is going for gold at the Paralympic Games in London. This is truly amazing. Our affiliate KCCI reports Matt Stutzman was born without arms, but is able to use parts of his nose, mouth and chin to help him shoot the bow. Truly amazing. The Paralympics' opening ceremony is next week. Stutzman has his first shot at a gold medal on Labor Day. Good luck to him.

A new milestone for NASA's commercial space initiatives. NASA administrator announcing today a finalized agreement with Space Exploration Technology, also known as SpaceX, which is scheduled to launch the first of 12 contracted cargo flights the International Space Station in October. The NASA administrator also announced progress towards the launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. We will be watching that one closely.

Probably don't want to miss this one, guys. Texas Democrats are calling for the resignation of a Republican elected county judge that warned this week the country could descend into civil war if President Obama is reelected. His comments were broadcast by a local affiliate. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think he is going to do if he gets in next term?

TOM HEAD, TEXAS COUNTY JUDGE: He is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N.

OK. What's going to happen when that happens? I'm thinking worst-case scenario.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right. I understand.

HEAD: Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war, maybe. And we're not talking just a few riots here and demonstrations. We're talking -- we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: There's no recall process for that Texas office. The county's Republican Party chief says he does not agree with the judge, but he is entitled to his own opinion.

BLITZER: That's a sick, sick thought. What is he thinking?

BOLDUAN: It was amazingly strong.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You are saying he has been elected?

BOLDUAN: He has been elected. He apparently also said he had talked to the sheriff, and that the sheriff had told him he has his back, but the sheriff says he had no conversation like that.

BLITZER: Terrible. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

BLITZER: The embattled Congressman Todd Akin, he is in Tampa right now, but not for the Republican Convention. He is huddling with social conservatives, assessing his campaign in Missouri. What advice do they have for him?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: the race for the White House state by state, we have new poll numbers. Also, a warning of anarchists possibly plotting to bomb the Republican Convention.

Plus, hundreds of thousands of people with virtually no shelter exposed to the storm as Isaac closes in.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama is leading Mitt Romney, sometimes narrowly, in three critical battleground states, according to a new poll. "The New York Times"/The Quinnipiac University/CBS News survey has the president three points ahead in Florida, six points ahead in Ohio, just two points ahead in Wisconsin.

Let's talk about what's going on with CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of "The National Journal."

Ron, let me start with you. What should we take away from these three key battleground states?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, if Obama wins either Ohio or Florida, he is a favorite to win. So the fact that he's ahead on both of them today is very good news. The other thing that is important about these polls is the consistency of how the demographic groups are breaking out. It's like the last round of Quinnipiac/CBS/"New York Times" polls.

Once again, you see the centrality in the Democratic coalition of these college educated white women, who tend to be socially liberal, are probably the ones most likely to be effected by what's going on in Missouri. Obama is running at 48 percent with them in Florida, 54 in Wisconsin, 57 in Ohio, much better than with any other group of whites. And that and the minority vote, which is staying in his corner, about 4 to 1, is the margin that is putting him ahead in these places and nationally as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Dana, what do you take away from this? Especially if you take a look at the Wisconsin number, I mean, 49-47, this is vice -- Paul Ryan's home state. What do you take away from that? I mean it's close.

(CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is just the latest of many, many polls, including ours that show it effectively within the margin of error. I was in Wisconsin for the recall effort, and even then, way before Paul Ryan was on the ticket, they were very excited because everything was ahead of schedule in terms of the ground game. They had 25 offices up six months before they had done it in the past, and now that of course Paul Ryan is on the ticket, they feel that they're in better position.

Now, remember, presidential candidate has not won on the Republican side since Ronald Reagan in almost three decades.

BLITZER: Since '84.

BASH: So it's been blue -- since '84, it's been blue for a long time. But locally it has been trending red. And the amount of energy there for -- on the Republican side, vis-a-vis Scott Walker, you can't really underestimate that, and put Paul Ryan on top of that, it's really good.

BROWNSTEIN: Wisconsin -- Wisconsin's natural condition is to be close. I mean Obama won it big last time. But most of those previous five wins have been nail-biters. And Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan are anomalies. Part of what's been happening in the Democratic Party over the last really 40 years, but certainly the last 20, is losing grounds with white, blue-collar workers.

In Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, they do a little better than they do elsewhere in the country with those -- with those voters, and that's why they've been able to remain competitive there. But it is somewhat defying gravity and then you look at Obama's numbers nationally, for example, at NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll today, he's down to 35 percent among blue-collar white men, 34 percent among blue- collar white women.

But in those states, especially Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, he does -- he does -- better enough to stay competitive and stay ahead.

BASH: And one last point, you're talking about the map when it comes to Obama, if you flip that around, Obama campaign officials admit that if they don't win Wisconsin, it is very, very difficult looking at the map to get the electoral votes they need.

BLITZER: What about Missouri, the Republicans won it narrowly the last time. They got the Todd Akin, assuming he's going to stays in, who knows if he drops out at some point, do you really think that state is realistically a battleground state?

BROWNSTEIN: No. No, I don't see any way for Obama to compete in that state. And that is one of the classic place, heavily blue collar electorate, a lot of evangelical Christians. It'd be very difficult for Obama.

The group -- I mean the story -- the overall story of 2012 to me is the groups that Obama won in 2012 by and large are sticking with him, but the groups that resisted him the first time, blue-collar whites, college white men, white seniors, are moving even further away from him. So states like Missouri where there are a lot of those voters just get much tougher.

BOLDUAN: And Dana, you've been following the fallout of Todd Akin's comments, and he tweeted out that he's raised some $100,000 kind of since the scandal broke. It's kind of -- it's absolutely counterintuitive to what kind of the pile on effect that we've been watching of top party leaders, Mitt Romney even saying it's time for -- you know, kind of saying it's time for him to step down.

But now you're seeing some conservative voices stepping out to say that he's getting a bad rap here. I think we have some Ralph Reed sound. Listen to this first then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH REED, CHAIRMAN, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: There are certainly social conservatives who feel that he's gotten a bum rap, that there's been a rush to judgment, and that he's apologized and he ought to be given an adequate opportunity to see if he can mount a campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So this -- does this -- did this rush to pile on, to push him out, is this going to back fire?

BASH: It will among some social conservatives. Ralph Reed is in down in Florida, in Tampa, early for a very secretive meeting, two-day conference of social conservatives. It's called the Council for National policy, it's kind of like fight club. If you're in a fight club, you don't talk --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: It's really like that. It's very, very secretive. But there are a number of people down there, I talked to some of them secretively, and they said that there is a split internally. I should mention this is important. Todd Akin is there now.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: He's with them and he is trying to gauge support among them. And -- from what we've heard, he's getting different points of view. Lot of members saying stay in the race because this is important for our movement.

BOLDUAN: He's got amazing (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

BLITZER: This is just coming in, and I'll share with Dana, she might not even know this.

Our senior congressional producer Deirdre Walsh is reporting that U.S. Capitol Police are currently working with the FBI on a reported threat against Congressman Todd Akin, that according to a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman. The spokeswoman says it is an active, open investigation. She declined to say more, citing a policy against discussing the security of members of Congress.

But that's a late-breaking development.

BASH: That is. And it's -- you know, unfortunately, it's -- the times that we live in, it's -- we have reported during the time of Gabby Giffords and other --

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: -- security concerns. You know, most members of Congress are just like us, they walk around without security. But in this situation --

BLITZER: Yes.

BASH: They'll probably get some help.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay on top of this part of the story, too.

Guys, get ready to head down to Tampa. Let's hope that Isaac stays away from Tampa.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BASH: Let's hope.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: No one wants Isaac.

BLITZER: As we all get ready just getting down there. By the way, you can experience what it's like to be at the Republican National Convention. Tuesday, I'll be hosting the CNN election roundtable along with CNN's political team. You can submit your questions and get answers in real time. Join our live virtual chat, that's Tuesday, noon Eastern, log on to CNN.com/roundtable. You'll get all the information on how to do it.

Republicans only days away from the national convention in Tampa and the weather isn't the only serious threat they're facing. Up next, anarchists, yes, anarchists are making plans to disrupt the party, some of them violent plans.

And later, bracing for a tropical storm. We're going to show you what it takes to withstand the strong winds expected to bear down on Haiti and the Gulf Coast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Concerns about security at next week's Republican convention in Tampa are growing, with federal officials now warning that anarchists may target the gathering, possibly with homemade bombs.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is working the story for us.

So, Jill, what are you finding out?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know this very well that at these conventions there always are demonstrators. But what they're talking about is anarchist extremists, as they put it. And they're saying that most, of course, people at these demonstrations, certainly are peaceful, but what they're warning local and state officials about to be is on the look for anarchists and extremists who might be purchasing, for example, explosives material that could be used for bombs, or for anybody who might be obtaining firearms training. These are the things they're watching for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings, world, we are Anonymous. All of us have carefully prepared to face our authoritarian (INAUDIBLE) at RNC for well over a year now.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Extremist groups already have posted videos on YouTube, threatening to shut down the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican National Convention August 27th, 2012 is the day we take our battle to the streets of Tampa.

DOUGHERTY: Authorities are taking the threats seriously. In an intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned state and local law enforcement that anarchists are targeting the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, too, and they could even try to use improvised explosive devices, IEDs, the type of homemade bombs insurgents use in Afghanistan.

The bulletin says since March, the FBI has had intelligence indicating that individuals from New York planned to travel to Tampa and attempt to close all of the Tampa Bay area bridges during the convention next week. The groups are likely to focus on critical infrastructure outside of the security perimeter, the bulletin says, because they expect the main venue to be tightly controlled.

Extremists have a history of trying to disrupt major events, like the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in 2009. Using tactics like blocking streets, intersections and bridges, and sparking violent confrontations with police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our mission is to ensure that everyone has a safe platform on which to express themselves.

DOUGHERTY: Thursday, in an undisclosed location, the Secret Service showed reporters their Multi-Agency Communications Center where law enforcement officials will coordinate their operation to keep Tampa safe during the convention. Extremists claim they're ready, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have an opportunity to fight back at the Republican National Convention. How you fight back is up to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: Now a law enforcement official tells CNN there is no specific threat at those conventions, and also they're not looking at any specific individuals, any specific anarchists who they think might be trying to plot some type of attack. But they do say they have to be prepared, they cite the lessons that they learned after the Republican convention four years ago, and they also cite this alleged anarchist plot this spring that was supposed to be trying to blow up a bridge near Cleveland and there were arrests in that case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

I asked Tampa's mayor about this anarchist threat. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA, FLORIDA: We know who they are, we know their tactics. We were in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. There will be a very, very small minority that are intent on trying to disrupt this event, but we're going to have 4,000 law enforcement personnel deployed on the streets and we're going to take them out. I mean, we're not going to tolerate the shenanigans we saw in Seattle or Minneapolis, Saint Paul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Florida Governor Rick Scott says he'll call out the National Guard if necessary to keep the peace at the Republican convention. We're going to be watching that closely.

America's highest profile Catholic official, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has been picked to deliver the closing prayer at next week's Republican convention. Just one of the stories Erin Burnett is taking out front later tonight.

Erin, tell our viewers what's coming up at top of the hour.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": All right. Well, Wolf, we looked through this. You know, why Cardinal Timothy Dolan -- all right, you've now got a Catholic VP. But this is -- this is significant, you know, at the convention to say we're going to have a Catholic priest give the benediction and we're going to have a Mormon also offer a prayer.

Why is Mitt Romney doing it? Well, there's a real interesting statistic here, Wolf, and that is Catholics. Second biggest religious group of the United States of America and the group that could decide who goes to the White House. The numbers here are pretty stunning. We've broken it down on how crucial this is. And we've got a panel of Catholics, all people included, even the moderator are Catholics.

So we're going to get to the bottom of that one. Plus, Molly Ringwald, the master or mistress of reinvention. She's going to be our special guest tonight with some interesting words for Barack Obama, a man she supported him for president in 2008.

Back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching at top of the hour. Erin, thanks very, very much.

BURNETT: All right.

BLITZER: She's always got a good show. BOLDUAN: She always has a good show. I always look forward to it at the top of the hour.

Also, coming up, though, deadly misconceptions about hurricane force winds. We'll show you why people who choose to ride out the storms are risking their lives coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Preparations for the Republican National Convention in Tampa now include preparing for a possible hit by a storm that could become Hurricane Isaac. Walking outside is a big part of the convention experience because of the security perimeter. Delegates and people at the convention will have to deal, though, with powerful winds at least potentially.

CNN's John Zarrella gives us a taste of what they'll go through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): And the water is getting higher.

(Voice-over): There I am in North Carolina battling the wind and water last year during Hurricane Irene.

(On camera): You can feel the wind and the rain.

(Voice-over): Looks pretty bad, doesn't it? The problem is sometimes our perceptions of a storm's strength are different from reality, and that can lead to injuries and death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're actually doing here is we're creating a little bit of constructive unease, and that unease is the thing that's going to propel people to do something differently.

ZARRELLA: The University of Florida and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes have teamed up to try and understand how people perceive wind, rain, and water.

(On camera): Are you ready?

CORINNE NOVELL, UNIVERSITY STUDENT VOLUNTEER: Yes.

ZARRELLA: You're sure?

NOVELL: Yes.

ZARRELLA: Don't want to call this off?

NOVELL: No.

ZARRELLA: All right. It's your funeral.

(Voice-over): Standing on a wooden platform, university student volunteers are strapped into harnesses on top of a wooden platform. Then the giant turbines are turned on. They are blasted with six different wind speeds up to 100 plus miles per hour. Sometimes they're hit with wind and water.

The participants hand signal their wind guesstimates to a researcher.

NOVELL: I think I -- the highest I estimated was like 85 miles per hour.

ZARRELLA (on camera): All right. And how fast that really was?

NOVELL: How fast is it?

ZARRELLA: Sixty.

(Voice-over): Researchers are finding most people pretty accurate at the lower wind speeds. But like Corinne most overestimate the higher speeds.

GREG WEBSTER, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR: So it's simply -- and part of humans is not really having experience these types of winds.

ZARRELLA: Researchers say what's clear so far is that people with prior tropical storm or hurricane experience are better estimators of wind speed. The problem is, most people have never been through one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: And that is really the truth. You know, I got in that wind machine, and Wolf, you probably remember that right after we did this piece the last time. And one of the things you take away from that, you know, they cranked the winds up to 100 for me, is that when you are in that, it's a sustained wind of 100. Coming at you and coming at you relentlessly.

When you're out in a storm, even if you're in winds that strong, it's gusting that's strong, and then it lays down a bit and then it gusts again. So unless you are at core of the hurricane, right at the center, you don't always experience the very real experience sustained winds of in excess of 100 miles an hour.

BLITZER: Yes.

ZARRELLA: Wolf, Kate.

BLITZER: That could even be a category 1.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: And certainly category 2 but that's --

BOLDUAN: If I remember it correctly, John Zarrella did very accurately guessed the winds speeds that he was up against during that live shot.

BLITZER: He did. He is a professional.

BOLDUAN: He's a professional. He's that good.

But, John, I did want to ask you. I mean, Floridians are obviously no strangers to storms. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. How worried are people about Isaac, do you think?

ZARRELLA: You know, that's in the back of their minds. And they certainly, you know, if it wasn't for Isaac there were remembrances planned tomorrow, there are events to mark 20 years. Because it literally changed the entire face of south Miami, Hurricane Andrew, and Miami Dade County.

And so this added something on top of it. And people, yesterday, were scrambling to buy batteries, flashlights, plywood for their homes, you know, well in advance, and I think than what they would usually do. And I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that so much talk has already been given to, hey, you know what, 20 years ago, Andrew, only the third category 5 hurricane in recorded history to ever strike the United States, hit south Miami.

So, you know, and it was certainly a wake-up call, that storm, as far as building codes go and preparations go for hurricanes.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So devastating. That's why we use the line better safe than sorry. And be prepared.

BLITZER: I remember Andrew 20 years ago. It was bad.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Really bad.

BOLDUAN: John Zarrella, thank you. We'll definitely be talking to you quite a bit.

All right, still coming up, move over remote, apparently. There is an amazing new button that could change the way you watch TV. That's Jeanne Moos. She's coming up next. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have certainly all been there, scrounging for the remote to hit the mute button when that same annoying ad comes on, if only it was easier to find. But one company has figured out a new way and a new button to help.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you are desperate to make the TV shut up. When you are in a rush to get rid of Rush.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's Barack Hussein Kardashian.

MOOS: When you're sick of Snooki, no longer will you have to fumble for that miserable tinny tiny mute button you can never find in time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put some zip back in your love life. Call --

MOOS: Introducing, Smash Mute.

GIBSON CAROTHERS, SMASH MUTE CREATOR: You can't miss the mute button. That's one thing. It's 200 times larger than your average mute button.

MOOS: Creator Gibson Carothers calls it the mute button with attitude. So unlike the little one in your remote --

CAROTHERS: When you do find it, it's kind of like, excuse me, will you please discontinue speaking, thank you. This unique button is a little bit more from the gut. Shut the -- you know.

MOOS: Smash Mute may be the must-have political novelty of 2012 to do what the president himself suggested.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most of what you hear, you can pretty much just go mute.

MOOS: Mute you and you too. The button is selling on the Smash Mute Web site for 25 bucks. It's easy to program by pointing it at your regular remote as if they're mating. Perfect for conservative wanting less of Michael Moore.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: And for me to come on here and have to listen to that kind of crap, I mean seriously --

MOOS (on camera): Good-bye, Michael.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: We have a president that doesn't give a damn about inconveniencing people. And I want to talk about --

MOOS: You're fired.

(Voice-over): Smash Mute is a brainchild of the same guy who sold 220,000 Hillary Clinton nutcrackers. Smash Mute is even going after the dog demographic.

Its maker says Smash Mute was designed with those erectile dysfunction commercials in mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you can be ready any time the moment is right.

CAROTHERS: When the time is right, hit the Smash Mute, is what I like to say.

MOOS: But there are so many moments when the time is right. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You know, our executive producer Patricia (INAUDIBLE) she would like one of those for real people, real time, not just for television.

BOLDUAN: Right. She has nothing to say about how much she loves hearing us talk out here.

BLITZER: She would just go --

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Right. I would never mute you, Wolf.

BLITZER: No. You can mute me if you want.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Would you --

BLITZER: Right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: No mute.

BOLDUAN: No mute. We've got to finish the show.

BLITZER: We are counting down to the Republican National Convention in Tampa starting Monday night 7:00 p.m. Eastern right after "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll of course be in Tampa heading up our coverage. I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, Candy Crowley, John King, along with all of our expert political analyst for coverage you won't find any where else. It's going to be terrific. Very exciting. I'm pumped.

BOLDUAN: We're hoping the only person not attending is Isaac.

BLITZER: Isaac. Let him stay away, far, far away from Tampa.

Remember, you can also follow all of us, see what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tweet me @Wolfblitzer and tweet Kate @Katebolduan.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

BLITZER: People need to know, I just called your last name.

BOLDUAN: Well, they can Google it.

BLITZER: They can figure it out.

BOLDUAN: Yes. BLITZER: OK, @Katebolduan, @Wolfblitzer.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.