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Interview with Reince Priebus; Interview with Martin O'Malley

Aired August 26, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Suppose they threw a party and a hurricane came? Just the fear of that has already postponed this party for a day. I'm Candy Crowley on the floor of the Republican Convention in Tampa.

Today a preview of the three-day Romneyfest in Florida designed to answer one question, who is this guy?


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is time have a president that believes in uniting the American people, not dividing the American people.


CROWLEY: Mitt Romney's convention and a tropical storm named Isaac with party chairman Reince Priebus and Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Then, growing the GOP with Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas.

Plus, from the observation deck, Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley and unconventional convention wisdom with Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, all on this special edition of State of the Union.

First, Florida is under a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Isaac heads towards the Keys. Joining me now on the phone is Key West Mayor Craig Cates. Mayor Cates, tell me what the situation is now and what you are expecting?

CRAIG CATES, MAYOR OF KEY WEST: We'll we're expecting possible category 1 hurricane winds later this afternoon, or just strong tropical storm winds. We are having our first meeting of the morning at our emergency operations center with a conference call of all of the local agencies to get updates and make sure everyone is prepared.

CROWLEY: And so there is no evacuation that you are expecting. This is something that Key West can weather?

CATES: Yes, we have asked the visitors to leave yesterday and -- the ones who wanted to, and they have left. A lot of people have left. But a lot have stayed, and we just asked them to stay in the hotels inside until the storm passes.

CROWLEY: Mayor, I have to tell you, you are sounding pretty laid back about this. Are you -- this must not be the biggest thing you have ever seen coming.

CATES: Oh, no, I'm a fourth generation here in Key West, so I have seen quite a few storms come through, but we have seen so many, we are prepared. And the city is prepared and the businesses and the locals. So, this is not a real bad storm, it is just going to be a bad weather for several hours. And we will be prepared for it.

CROWLEY: Well, Mayor Cates, we will be watching you and hopefully be back in touch. Good luck to you. Thanks so much for joining us.

CATES: All right, thank you Candy.

CROWLEY: Isaac is forcing some changes at the Republican Convention. Joining me, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. So we're now -- we've gone from four days to three. It wasn't a direct hit you were worried about?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No, it wasn't a direct hit and we don't think it is actually even tracking our direction, it's tracking the opposite direction. The problem we had though, Candy, was that the driving rain and sustained winds, the predictability of that was a problem. The reason why we ultimately ended up making this decision was for the safety of our delegates and guests. We couldn't really be assured of total safety for the buses that are traveling over long bridges, over open water with sustained winds.

The Secret Service decided to take all of the tenting outside down, understandably so. But what that meant, though, was that fewer entrances in the building and people standing outside for a long time in a driving rain and wind.

And the last piece is that if you get the arena here behind us here full and things end up deteriorating on Monday, and you can't get people back, that is a problem. And obviously, we just had to -- it is the right thing the do.

CROWLEY: So you are not worried about having to cancel any part of Tuesday. You think you will be free and clear of that?

PRIEBUS: No, no, no. We're 100 percent full steam ahead on Tuesday.

CROWLEY: Now, how do you -- you had a schedule on Monday. Are you going to have to drop anything, or are you just putting everything else into the cramming of it into the three days?

PRIEBUS: Well, we are going to be meeting with the producers later today, but so far the word is that almost all of it is going to be accommodated into the Tuesday/Wednesday programming. Everything is going to move ahead. The business will start early afternoon on Tuesday. We will get an exact start time probably later today out there for you, but everything is going to be back to normal on Tuesday.

CROWLEY: Monday was the roll call vote.


CROWLEY: When will that now take place? Tuesday? PRIEBUS: Yes, it'll be on Tuesday. So everything we were going to do on Monday as far as the business is concerned will be on Tuesday.

CROWLEY: On Tuesday.

But you had some big speakers as well, Jeb Bush among them. Where do they go?

PRIEBUS: I think most of the speakers are going to be accommodated during the week, but I don't have any announcements for you now. I think a new schedule will be coming out today. But I don't -- I think you're going to see that there might be some shortening of speeches, but most of our guests are going to be accommodated.

CROWLEY: Worried at all that a hurricane is going to outshout you over the next four days?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, it is what it is. I mean, so we're going to tell the Mitt Romney story. We're still going to prosecute the president on what he promised and what he delivered and why we think we need to save this country and put a new -- and put Mitt Romney in the White House.

CROWLEY: Okay. I want to talk more politics with you after the break. And a little bit more about what kind of message you want to come out of here. Stick with us. We will be right back.


CROWLEY: On the eve of the Republican convention, our brand new CNN/ORC poll shows a dead heat in the presidential race. Break down the numbers and you see the sputtering economy drags on the president while Mitt Romney's problem is the perception of Mitt Romney. Consider the question, who is more in touch with the middle class? 39 percent of likely voter said Romney, 53 percent, Obama.

Who is more in touch with women, just about as vital a voting demographic as it gets: Obama, 60 percent, Romney, 31 percent.

Who cares more about people? 53 percent Obama, 39 percent Romney.

We are back now with RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

Clearly there is a connection problem here that people are looking at your candidate and saying he doesn't care about people. He doesn't care about the middle-class. He doesn't care about women. He scores high on competence, low on compassion. What about this event changes that?

PRIEBUS: Well, I wouldn't make that conclusion just based on, you know, a single poll.

CROWLEY: Well, a lot of polls show that. I mean, this isn't, you know, an outlier or anything.

PRIEBUS: It shows that Obama in that poll has an advantage on those issues, it doesn't prove -- it doesn't say that people think that Mitt Romney doesn't care about the middle-class and doesn't care about women, it just says in those polls there is an advantage.

But let me get to the question. We have to tell the Mitt Romney story here next week. People are just getting to know Mitt Romney. Obama has been president for four years.

And I think it is incumbent on us to do two things. One, we still have to prosecute the president as far as whether he fulfilled the mission that he laid out in '08. And he didn't, But the second piece is telling the story about a man that is decent, honorable and gave away his father's inheritance, started something from nothing and created a great business. Five good boys. Saved the Olympics. Governed in a difficult state as a Republican and he was very successful.

PRIEBUS: We need someone to fix this economy. And Mitt Romney is the one that can do it. But that is part of what a convention is all about.

CROWLEY: It is something that he's talked about a little and that others around him have talked about. I mean, certainly, they haven't shied away from this is a man who is generous, et cetera, et cetera, and hasn't taken hold.

At the end of these four days, after he gives his acceptance speech, what is anybody going to know that is different about Mitt Romney than they know now?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think they are going to learn about who he is as a person, who he is as a father and husband, who he is and why he believes that the American dream is alive and well. I think we have got a really optimistic message for America. I think that we are coming out of this as the party that believes in the American dream, that we believe that every child and every parent, Republican or Democrat, wants their child to be successful. We are the party who embraces success.

And I have got to tell you, I think that this sort of miserable glass half full America that Barack Obama is selling out there is not the America that parent's want for their kids. And I think we can take that message of the American dream and embracing success, and we can win on that message.

CROWLEY: Let me play you something that the president -- the president -- the governor and his running mate were in Michigan on Friday. And this is something that Mitt Romney said. Why don't you take a listen.


ROMNEY: I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born at Harper Hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised.


CROWLEY: This blew up Twitter, it blew up the internet. People criticizing Mitt Romney saying he is putting that out there, because that, you know, is something that's like catnip to those who still don't believe that a president who has produced a legitimate birth certificate is really a citizen of the U.S. Is that helpful?

PRIEBUS: You know what, I think it is a nothing. You know, the fact is that Mitt Romney, myself, and from the moment that I became chairman and consistently Governor Romney has said that this is a non- starter, Barack Obama is born in Hawaii.

CROWLEY: So, but why even bring it up? I mean, I think that was the problem is that just when you bring it up you put it out there and you are a high profile guy, you're about to be the Republican nominee, and people think, this is playing to that group.

PRIEBUS: Well, first that wasn't what he was doing. I mean, he is a Michigander. He is making the point we are ahead in Michigan. We're doing well in these battleground states. And he's making the point I'm from Michigan. I was born here.

And you know what, have we really gotten to the point where we can't have any levity at all in politics? I mean, we have gotten to a place in politics that is ridiculous. No one can say anything that is remotely humorous and, you know, the president makes jokes about this all of the time. He plays these, you know, he came out to correspondents dinner a year ago and I mean, come on.

CROWLEY: He did. But the joke is on him, that is a little different than someone else.

But let me -- and it is a political year and you know how that is going to get taken.

But let me move you on to one other subject, and that is Todd Akin who has decided to stay in the race in the senate despite a lot of the mainstream Republicans saying he really ought to get out. This is the man who spoke about, quote, "legitimate rape," and about how women could shut down not get pregnant from a rape. I mean, just basically some nutty stuff.

PRIEBUS: I call it biologically stupid.

CROWLEY: OK. And how difficult does his decision to stay in the race make it for Republicans to seize control of the U.S. senate? PRIEBUS: Well, I think that it is more difficult. I think that is very clear. I think that he should get out of the race. He has time to get out of the race. And I think he ought to put the mission of liberty and freedom ahead of himself. And right now...

CROWLEY: He says he is not going to.

PRIEBUS: Well, but he has got time and I think he should get out and so do a lot of others.

CROWLEY: But you think he could cost the Republicans the Senate?

PRIEBUS: Sure. Absolutely.

CROWLEY: OK. Reince Priebus, thank you for coming by. I think that we will see you over the next couple of days.

PRIEBUS: Just a little bit.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it. Stay dry.

Mitt Romney's dad, George, was considered a moderate Republican when he was Governor of Michigan. Has the GOP shrunk its tent since then? Three prominent Republicans are here next.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not your father's Republican Party and this is not even Mitt Romney's father's Republican Party.



CROWLEY: Joining me are Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas. Welcome all.

We thought this was the perfect spot and you were the perfect people to talk about the future of the Republican Party. There was an interview with Bob Dole, former -- someone I think you all know -- former presidential candidate in the Telegraph on Thursday and here's some of what he had to say about the party.

"We have to be open. We can not be a single issue party or a single philosophy party. There is a big split in our party, there is this undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don't dare not toe the line."

I want you to take that comment by Bob Dole and combine it with Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts who wrote a letter to Reince Priebus and said, "you need to open up the party more with some language in the abortion plank of the party platform that leaves room for people with different views" What is so wrong with that? HUTCHISON: Well, I think that we do need to realize that people come from different states. And that requires maybe a different type of representation. Mothers and daughters can disagree on abortion. We shouldn't put a party around an issue that is so personal and also religious-based.

I think that we need to say, here are our principles and we welcome you as a Republican. We can disagree on any number of issues, but if you want to be a Republican we welcome you. And I think we do.

HUTCHISON: I really think we do.

And I think a lot of the people think the party platform is something that is rigid. It is not really. People -- there's a normalcy about the party and the candidates.

CROWLEY: Governor?

WALKER: Well, Candy, I think the best way we appeal to people across the spectrum is by talking about the issues they care about. When I talk to the voters in my state, which is a swing state, a state where I won by a bigger margin just a few months ago than I did two years prior, it was not just Republicans and conservatives, it was independents and even some discerning Democrats that voted for me.

And what they care about is the economic and fiscal crisis our states face and our country faces. It is why we won. It's why Paul Ryan was elected many years ago in a congressional district at the time that was almost evenly divided and yet wins by more than 60 percent.

Voters want to know what you are going to do to take on the economic and the fiscal issues facing our country. And that is what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan bring to the table.

CROWLEY: And, Al, I want to get to you, but I want to first throw -- show some figures to our audience. And this is under choice for president among Hispanic registered voters, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, 28 percent; Barack Obama and Joe Biden, 63 percent.

Can the Republican Party survive in a nation that is quickly becoming minority-majority if they do not do something to kind of soften what may be a perception, but at least soften the edges of what is seen as a very rigid party?

CARDENAS: Well, I think the problem is getting to know us better, Candy. There are two candidates who did well, Ronald Reagan and George Bush. They had a common denominator, one was from Texas, the other was from California.

Hispanics in those states knew them well. Hispanics at large in the country got to know them better. Mitt is still at the early stages of getting to be known by our community. I am a firm believer that knowing the Mitt Romney I know, great family guy, great human being, one of the most generous men I have met, that the community, once they know his personal qualities, will warm up to Mitt. Now, you know, and can we get this done in 75 days? I think enough to win this election. And then it's a long-term project to do a lot better institutionally as a party.

CROWLEY: You know, I think I hear this, I remember when Jim Gilmore was head of the Republican Party, governor of Virginia, and I remember sitting down and talking to him, and he said, we have to get into these neighborhoods, we have to talk to these people at the ground level, we can't do it in the last three months of an election.

And yet here we are many, many years since he has been chairman of the Republican Party and you are still talking about the same thing. Is there something wrong with the way that this party presents that causes these kinds of numbers?

CARDENAS: Well, look at it on the positive side, we did so much better amongst the Hispanics than the Democrats did in 2010. We elected three Hispanic governors, in New Mexico and Nevada and Puerto Rico, people that were appealing not only to the Hispanic world but to mainstream America in those states as well.

So we elected Marco Rubio, Texas just selected in its primary Ted Cruz. I think when it comes to statewide elections, we are doing a lot better with Hispanics. And it's only a matter of time before Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get to be liked as well.

I'm an optimist. I think 2010 showed that you can stick with your convictions as a true Republican and do well with the electorate if you are Hispanic.

CROWLEY: Let me pick up on another demographic, female. When you look at gender preferences in our latest poll, the CNN/ORC poll, and Obama/Biden 54, Romney/Ryan 42. That's actually about normal for Republicans. They never poll as well among women. But women vote in bigger numbers and they are larger portion of the vote than men. What is the Republican Party problem with women?

HUTCHISON: We don't have a problem with women. I think that is a...

CROWLEY: Well, you have got a big gap.

HUTCHISON: Well, I think that women are looking at the issues they care about, which are jobs and economic prosperity. And I believe when we show the differences between what President Obama has done and the overwhelming debt that he has put forward, the "Obama- care," which is going to essentially break down our health care system, I think that women -- when we focus on the election, which people haven't done yet, I think the women are going to say, we need a change and we need a better economy, and it is not going to be four more years of what we have seen in President Obama.

CROWLEY: But you know, Governor, again, this is not a new phenomenon that Republicans tend to do better among men, and that is a pretty big gap and one you can't ignore. It's very hard to win elections without the women's vote. So there is a longstanding problem here of some sort, would you agree? WALKER: Well, but I also think it's perception. I think the senator is right. I think nationally in the media, there is kind of this idea that there are silos. That women only care about these issues, that Hispanics only care about these issues. What I find talking to the voters is they care -- there is a cross-section.

There are a lot of the Hispanic voters who are small business leaders who care about the economy. There are a lot of women I know, and particularly moms I meet at factories and farms and small businesses who care about their kids and their kids' financial future.

CROWLEY: Then maybe they don't like your economic message, but something...

WALKER: Well, no, I think a lot of times, particularly when you see these polls, it's a perception that certain blocks of voters only care about certain issues. I think we need to stop siloing voters and start saying, what are the issues you care about in your home, not next door, in your home and address those issues.

And I think, you talked about Ronald Reagan before, President Reagan particularly three decades ago brought our party and our country together talking about economic and fiscal sustainability.

That is what Mitt Romney has got to do. It's certainly an area of great concern to most Americans when you think of 12 million Americans out of work, you think of 42 consecutive months of unemployment at or above 8 percent, whether you're a female voter or whether you're a Hispanic voter, any other block out there, those are numbers that should concern you.

CROWLEY: You know, Al, if you will jump in on this, I think what I am trying to get to is I agree that women are not one issue voters largely, so if women are interested in the economy, which they are, they are obviously also interested in family life and child care and all of those things, there is something about the Republican Party that makes them feel as though that's not where they find a comfortable home. They find it inside the Democratic Party. Why do you think that is?

CARDENAS: Well, let me give some credit to the Democrats for all of the wrong reasons. We run campaigns integrating Americans. If you see our posters, if you see our brochures, they are destined to reach Americans at large. What is good for one American is good for all.

They run segregated campaigns. You go to an Obama headquarters, it is "women for Obama," "blacks for Obama," "Hispanics for Obama," you know, "lesbians and gays for Obama." It is all about segregating communities and dividing them.

We believe that it is effective, but we don't believe that is the way to go, and, frankly, I'd rather, you know, go upstream, swim upstream, make it a little harder, but do it the right way.

I think dividing Americans for the sake of political gain is a horrible way to go. And they are doing it effectively, but who wants that?

CROWLEY: Between now and November, what does the president -- what does the governor need to do to attract enough Latinos to at least give him a victory and enough of the female vote, give him a victory, what does he have to emphasize?

HUTCHISON: I think relating to the middle class, just as you said earlier in the polls. This is a family who has raised five boys. Now, they relate to what moms are facing all over this country, and that is a hard job.

And I think relating to the people and I think they are going to show that now that people are focused, I think that Ann and Mitt Romney are exactly the kind of first family we need.

CROWLEY: Has not come across yet, Governor.

WALKER: No, and I think this week is going to be a good example of that. He has got to show -- you know, Mitt Romney has got all of the experience you need to be a president, I think that when he picked Paul Ryan a couple of weeks ago, he shows he has not only got the skill and the experience, he has got the passion and, most importantly, the courage.

I think swing voters, I know in my state, in Michigan, and Iowa, and other swing states across America, what they want is someone who has got the courage to take on the tough issues. Mitt Romney can show that again and again and again. And he is going to do it again this week.

CROWLEY: A last word from you, Al Cardenas, and that is the Romney and Ryan ticket got a very stiff letter from an anchor at a Latino network and said, you are not going to get the Latino vote until you change the anti-immigrant policies. Would you agree with that?

CARDENAS: Well, I say this, the only one who said a responsible -- made a responsible comment about immigration this presidential race is Mitt Romney. When he said he was going to work on a bipartisan basis to accomplish immigration reform, the president says my way or the highway. It is divisive. It has got nothing in four years. Mitt has got to get that message across, and I comfortable he will.

CROWLEY: American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, Governor Scott Walker, Kay Bailey Hutchison -- probably won't be your last convention, but your last as an elected officer.

HUTCHISON: Right. It will be different. I'm going to have a good time. And they're doing a great job here in Tampa trying to, you know, deal with what is being thrown at them.

CROWLEY: They are. Thank you all so much, I appreciate it.

President Obama and Democrats are not laying low during the Republican Convention. Their counter-message with Maryland Martin O'Malley next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: One of many Democrats who will be following the Republican convention is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley who joins me now. He is Washington.

Governor, thanks for being here. I think that you heard our previous panel talk about the need for them to expand the party, but they believe that in the next 75, 76 days they can do that. In fact, that is kind of what this convention is about is kind of opening up the party and letting voters see what Republicans are about.

Your reaction?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think it is going to be very hard, though they will try to reinvent Mitt Romney and try paper over some of the more extreme comments he has made about immigration or women's rights, but I think that will be very difficult.

Candy, what people are going to see very clearly, simply in the pictures, that come into their living rooms of these two conventions is a party of exclusion and a party of inclusion. The Republicans have kind of painted themselves into a kind of a real demographic corner, if you will. And you hear people like even Jeb Bush even saying that they have the change for the long-term, because the view of white Anglo-Saxon American, a true American, on questions where I was born sort of thing is really off putting to those of us who believe that our diversity is our strength, that we are nation of diversity.

CROWLEY: Well, governor, it is absolutely true that the president has joked I think over the past two couple of White House correspondents dinners that I have been there, he has joked about the whole birth certificate thing, can't you just take this Mitt Romney at his word, he was joking. He was in his hometown of Michigan, what is so wrong with that?

Have we lost, quote, our sense of humor as one of the previous guests suggested?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think that what it betrays, though, is a loss of and a lack of perspective and an appreciation that when you have policies and when you advance positions that are bashing of new Americans and new immigrants, when you have policies that want to take us back in terms of women's rights and freedom of women to choose, I think it becomes a very exclusive party and that birther comment is simply more -- is more icing on that cake.

I do think, though, that the real issue of this campaign is going to be about...

CROWLEY: I'm sorry, what do you mean more icing on what cake? What did you think that the birther comment was about?

O'MALLEY: I think the birther comment when you combine it with Mitt Romney's other comments, the comments he made abroad about the president not truly appreciating when he was in England the Anglo- Saxon perspective in the world, when you put it together with his anti-immigrant policies and the things that he has said, I think that what it reveals is a sort of perspective on America that would take us back to the days of Ozzie and Harriet rather than recognizing that we are in fact a strong people, because we are a diverse people.

We are people who believe that every individual has and should have the opportunity to succeed, and that opportunity expands in our country when each of us has the ability to make it in America.

CROWLEY: Is that code for you think he is appealing to the white vote?

O'MALLEY: I think that his -- I think, well -- I think that their party in fact is a party that has a problem as Jeb Bush has said with being an exclusive party, a party that makes comments about women's rights, about immigration, about even basic voting rights.

I mean, look at the number of their Republican governors who have signed bills who make it harder to vote. When you have a party that says coded things that makes totally false adds up about falsely saying that the president is trying to undo welfare reform, I think you are going to see a lot of pretty heavily and not so subtly coded messages from the Romney/Ryan campaign that it's not in keeping with an America that is going forward and becoming more diverse with fuller freedom for every individual.

CROWLEY: Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley. We will see you in Charlotte a week after this.

O'MALLEY: Thanks very much, Candy.

CROWLEY: Tropical Storm Isaac has forced a state of emergency in Florida. The state's Governor Rick Scott is next.


CROWLEY: I'm joined now by Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, but at this moment, a Floridian governor. And I want to ask you, when you look at this hurricane approaching Florida from the south, what are you most worried about in the state?

SCOTT: Well, we're going to have two landfalls. It's hitting the Keys right now, and the problem down there is going to be the wind. And then we're going to have the Panhandle, and that's going to be rain. The Panhandle's already saturated and the potential as much as 20 inches of rain. So that's going to cause a lot of flooding, which we've already had about a month ago with Tropical Storm Debbie.

So the first thing is I'm worried about the citizens and the residents down in the Keys. So we'll start getting information about that.

But, you know, we're ready. We're a state that knows how to do hurricanes. We don't like them, but we know how to do them. We do hurricanes well and we do hospitality well, and... CROWLEY: And you have to do both this week.

SCOTT: And this week we've got to show both sides.

But -- but what I'm doing is I'm gathering information, making sure everybody has all the resources they need, keeping everybody informed so they can make good decisions, and so it's going to -- we're going to -- we're going to get through this. I just want to make sure everybody's safe.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you to put your political hat on now, in particular the addition of Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket. As you know, he has a proposal out there about reforming Medicare. Tell me how this has played in Florida with -- understanding that you think that he's got a great plan and et cetera, et cetera, you know this is the sort of thing that can scare, in particular, seniors.

SCOTT: Right. You know, and I think this race in Florida is the same as mine in 2010. You know, there's a lot of issues that are important, but it's all about jobs. Everybody is worried about am I going to keep my job...

CROWLEY: What about the seniors? Are they worried about jobs or are they worried about Medicare? SCOTT: They're -- they're worried about their kids having jobs, and a lot of them are still working. I mean, they're having to work. They've lost their retirement in the recession, and so the biggest issue they have is jobs, for themselves or for their children.

And so I think, as long as Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan talk about how they're going to get our state back to work, they'll win Florida. But that's the whole key.

CROWLEY: At this moment, in the latest polling, Florida shows President Obama six points up, which is outside the margin of error. He's leading. Why is that?

SCOTT: Well, you know, I'm not a big -- I don't know much about polls. I know that...

CROWLEY: But you know about Florida. Why is he leading in Florida?

SCOTT: I think -- I think it's still going to be -- I think it's still early but I think the issue is going to be, when you go to the polls in November, you're going to say, who is going to help me either keep my job or get a job?

And whether it's for you or for your children or for the future, that's going to be the entire decision.

CROWLEY: We have also new polling out we've talked about on this show that basically shows that folks think President Obama cares more about the middle class, cares more about people in general and cares more about women.

Why is that, do you think? Why has -- according to people who know him, why has the real Mitt Romney not been out there?

SCOTT: Well, I think Governor Romney is getting out there. I mean, anybody that's sat down with him knows he is a -- he is a caring person. I spoke to him twice yesterday. And, you know, the first thing he wanted to talk about was, OK, so how -- how are the are citizens of Florida doing? You know, it wasn't how's the convention coming or what's the issues there. He says, OK, how -- you know, tell me about this -- tell me about this storm; tell me about the citizens of the Keys and what's going to happen in the Panhandle?

So that's what -- that's the type of person he is. I think, as he gets out, people will know that. He's a great person. He cares about people.

CROWLEY: He's running out of time, though, isn't he? I mean, we've got -- we're down to the crunch time now in September.

SCOTT: He'll -- he'll get his message out. He cares about people, and it's all going to be about jobs.

CROWLEY: Governor Rick Scott, thank you for stopping by. You have a busy week ahead no matter what happens. We appreciate it. SCOTT: Nice seeing you.

CROWLEY: When we come back, the re-selling of Mitt Romney and where the presidential race stands with our political panel.


CROWLEY: Joining me is Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for The Washington Post, and Ron Brownstein. He's a senior political analyst for CNN and editorial director at The National Journal.

Welcome to the Republican convention.



CROWLEY: We're the early birds here, kind of, the canaries into the cave, at this point.


BROWNSTEIN: The calm before the storm.

CROWLEY: Exactly. Let me -- I want to talk first about Wisconsin, because I just thought the polling up there was really interesting. CNN has put Wisconsin into its toss-up state. And I want to quote for you a story that was out on CNN about the time the numbers came out.

"An Obama campaign official said the new poll numbers could be a sugar high from the Ryan announcement and said Wisconsin has gone Democratic for years." BROWNSTEIN: Well, it has gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections, but most of them have been very close; 2008 was the anomaly, where President Obama won big.

I mean, the natural condition is for it to be a close state, in part because Democrats there have to win a higher percentage of working-class white voters than they do in most other states.

Now, having said that, I do -- I do think it's going to be close. But the fact that the Democrats were still ahead in the immediate aftermath of Ryan shows that it's still, I think, an uphill climb for the Romney ticket there.

TUMULTY: But I think you've got to remember there's another race going on in this state, too, and that's a very interesting Senate race. And I think the Republicans did themselves a big favor by nominating a former governor, Tommy Thompson, who has a lot of crossover appeal in Wisconsin and, you know, a lot of fondness, fond memories for him.

CROWLEY: While we're on that Senate race, let me just ask you -- I talked to Reince Priebus and said, does the fact that Akin won't get out in Missouri make it very difficult -- make it more difficult for Republicans to take control of the Senate?

He said, yeah, and we still want him to get out. He's still got time.

BROWNSTEIN: I was -- you know, look, it's a very conservative state with a lot of the evangelical Christians, but in the first poll -- the St. Louis Dispatch did a poll -- McCaskill was now up. And, you know, and there's -- there's a spillover effect, right, because we've talked about this before.

I mean, one of the things that is holding up Obama nationally to his narrow lead over Mitt Romney is that he's running very well with white-collar white women, who tend to be the most socially liberal part of the white electorate.

BROWNSTEIN: He won 52 percent of them last time, he's polling at 53 percent or above in just about everything, including your new CNN/ORC poll last week. And the more the focus is on social issues rather than the economy, the easier it is for him to hold those socially liberal women.

CROWLEY: Any chance that you see -- if he is ever going to change his mind, I was just sort struck by Priebus going, no, I think he can still get out.

TUMULTY: Yes, I think the party almost overplayed its hand here. They've got the guy in a corner where, you know, he couldn't get out right away. But I do think that there is still time. And, you know, when -- a few of these polls that show him running behind by the double digits will be enough.

BROWNSTEIN: I'll say one thing, though, if it's done that way, solely in response to polls, I think it's going to be a little shadowed. I mean, it's going to -- I mean, there's an argument to be made, the kind of party bosses pulling out the guy at the last minute just because the polls looked bad, it's not as clean as if he would have gotten out earlier.

And I think he will not -- there will be some issues for whoever succeeds him if that's the way it happens.

CROWLEY: Looking at the swing states in general, of which Missouri is one, when you look at them in toto, at least the ones that we consider to be swing states, President Obama is winning in six of them, Romney -- Mitt Romney leads in one, Iowa seems tied.

So when you look at this, what does it tell you about the road ahead for Mitt Romney? Because we keep talking about how the horserace is tied. But the rubber hits the road, if you will, in those swing states.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, look, I mean, you now have two sets of swing states. We used to -- you know, when Karen and I started covering politics, they were just -- races seemed to be decided always in kind of the "monsters of the Midway," the big Midwestern rust belt behemoths of Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania.

Now there's also a Sunbelt track. There is that North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, very different. In the Midwestern states, older, preponderantly white. It's kind of a slow growth or decline in population. The Sunbelt states much more diverse, younger populations, very different kind of alignments there.

You would think that given the way voters are responding overall that Romney would have a better chance in the Midwestern states and Ryan, the pick certainly suggests that, than along the Southwest kind of crescent.

But the reality is that the president is holding on pretty well in Ohio, certainly ahead in Michigan. Ohio is the one. I mean, you know, Ohio is kind of the anomaly here. The president's strength in Ohio is a little bit better than it should be given the kind of national demographics of this race. And it has sort of seemed like that last line of defense for him in this race.

CROWLEY: But isn't it because, Karen, when you look at our poll, a lot of other polls, it's kind of competence versus compassion. People really don't like what the economy looks like. They do blame Barack Obama for that. But they haven't warmed up to Mitt Romney in any way.

I mean, the numbers between who cares about -- who cares more about the middle class and more about women, more about people in general, can he -- is there time enough for Mitt Romney at this convention and in the debates and on the road to turn around the kind of huge gaps there are, the compassion gaps?

TUMULTY: Well, I think that it's -- it's going to be a different sort of dynamic. It's going to be nastiness. It's going to be just absolutely unrelenting slinging of mud between now and then.

BROWNSTEIN: But it's job one, I think, job one for Romney at this convention is to close that gap. Not to tear down Obama further, his approval rating is under 50. He needs stronger...

CROWLEY: He needs people to like him more.

BROWNSTEIN: He needs people to like him and believe he cares about them, even more important than liking him.

CROWLEY: Right, right. Ron Brownstein, Karen Tumulty, thank you. Have a good convention.

TUMULTY: Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: The road to Tampa and the massive effort to get ready for the big bash, that's next.


CROWLEY: And finally, in the past year-and-a-half, no fewer than six Republicans led the race for the Republican nomination at one point or another. They were all led by the same north star, all headed right here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to win this nomination in Tampa.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to get the Republican nomination and become president of the United States.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to go on to Tampa and win the nomination.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're doing some counting. We're counting up the delegates for the convention, and it looks good.


CROWLEY: Mitt Romney will accept the Republican nomination Thursday. And despite the primary season ups and downs, the 20 debates, the breathless field, the horserace, there was always some part of us that knew it would end here with him.

A CNN/ORC poll taken last June showed 42 percent of Republicans thought Romney would be at the top of the ticket. Only two other Republicans hit double digits and they didn't even end up running.

So here we are inside The Tampa Bay Times Forum on the eve of the Republican Convention, at the end of which the presumptive Republican nominee can drop the "presumptive" part. The signs are hung, the balloons are in the rafters, the backdrop is in place. CNN has been planning its convention coverage for months. Our crews have been working non-stop here in Tampa since early this week so we can bring you today's show and all the others you will see as part of our in-depth coverage in the coming days.

We don't publicly thank the people who do the heavy lifts around here often enough, but we'd like to do so now. When you watch our programming, you are watching the work of a dedicated, hard-working, sleep-deprived team of CNN producers, technical crews, and engineers. We thank them for making it happen.

And thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Tampa. Stay with CNN throughout the week for wall-to-wall coverage of the Republican National Convention and Tropical Storm Isaac.

"FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" starts right now.