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Republican National Convention; Hurricane Isaac Makes Landfall

Aired August 28, 2012 - 23:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, performing the world premier of their song, "One Light," please welcome Three Doors Down.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there you have it, Chris Christie delivering a powerful, powerful keynote address.

Erin, they're getting excited over here. A very different speech, obviously, than Ann Romney who delivered a speech of love for her husband. He delivered a very, very tough, blistering attack on the president of the United States, the Obama administration. He wanted to get this crowd going, set the stage for tomorrow, Thursday, and Thursday is the day that Romney will deliver obviously his acceptance address. That's what his charge was and he certainly delivered from the Republican standpoint.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly seems like that both of those speeches delivered and were very powerful in totally different ways. Just watching Mitt Romney and his family sort of file out of here with the special box they're sitting in Chris Christie's wife, Mary Pat, and their children, but you know, I thought it was interesting how in very different ways, I know both of those speeches tried to accomplish a lot of the things in very different ways went for the women issue.

When Ann Romney adlibbed, I love the women, when Chris Christie talked about his mother, and we've talked about a lot, of course, who's the most influential and powerful person in his life. They were targeted at that group they've had trouble winning over.

BLITZER: Good point. You saw Mitt Romney sitting next to his wife and Condoleezza Rice on the other side.


BLITZER: And our special coverage continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Republicans try to warm up Mitt Romney's image by letting voters see him through his wife's eyes.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I am still in love with that boy I met at a high school dance, and he still makes me laugh.

ANNOUNCER: Keynote speaker Chris Christie drives home the party's differences with President Obama.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Tonight we're beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make America great again.

ANNOUNCER: The excitement in the hall, tempered by Isaac's lashing of the Gulf Coast.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'd like to offer our thoughts and prayers for the safety of those in the pathway of the hurricane.

ANNOUNCER: Now the first full day of the Republican National Convention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All 37 votes for the next president of the United States, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

ANNOUNCER: The hits, the misses, the message. Did Mitt Romney's party do what it takes to be America's choice?


BLITZER: You are looking at live pictures of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Quiet outside, it's rocking inside of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Right now, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this Republican National Convention right here in Tampa.

I'm Wolf Blitzer along with my CNN colleague Erin Burnett.

We heard some powerful speeches in the past hour.

BURNETT: We certainly did. Obviously, Mitt Romney officially clinching the Republican presidential nomination today in the roll call, and this evening he made a surprise appearance here in the convention hall to watch his wife, Ann. Her speech was just one of the many memorable moments and I have to say this, Wolf, I think when he came out, there was something about it, and we're talking about his love for him, I had a tear in my eye. I think a lot of people did, just seeing the love story that it is. But there were a lot of highlights today. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Proudly cast all 50 of its votes for the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: So in 70 days when the American people walk into the voting booth, what should we do? We should throw him out. Because we can do better, and we can do a lot better, and it starts out -- starts with throwing out the politician who doesn't get it and electing a new president who does.

PRIEBUS: Mitt Romney spent his life turning around failing enterprises. And America needs a turnaround, specifically, we need Barack Obama to turn around and go back to Chicago. MIA LOVE, UTAH CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: His policies have failed us. We're not better off than we were four years ago and no rhetoric, bumper sticker or Hollywood campaign ad can change that.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Send a message to President Obama. And that message is three simple words. We built it.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Mitt Romney always asks, how can I help small businesses grow, innovate and compete? It's the question that this administration never thinks to ask. But why should we be surprised? President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Just think what we could do if we had a president who would support us and not obstruct us, who understands the economy, and who has actually balanced a budge budget, heck, for that matter, somebody who has actually passed a budget.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: You know, I got a feeling and just because I don't like the Black Eyed Peas, I've got a feeling that we're about to elect the new president of the United States of America.

CHRISTIE: We need politicians to care more about doing something and less about being something. And believe me, believe me, if we can do this in a blue state like New Jersey with a conservative Republican governor, Washington, D.C. is out of excuses.

Leadership delivers. Leadership counts. Leadership matters. And here's the great news I came here tonight to bring you, we have this leader for America.

A. ROMNEY: I can't tell you what will happen over the next four years, but I can only stand here tonight as a wife and a mother and a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment. This man will not fail.

This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America.


BLITZER: All right. There's the kiss, the kiss from Mitt Romney who came out on the stage right after she finished speaking, powerful speech from Ann Romney, from Chris Christie who delivered the keynote speech.

Let's go upstairs, CNN's John King has got a group of our experts ready to weigh in with a quick thought or two -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, let's assess what we heard on this big first night of the Republican National Convention. Two different messages, Ann Romney speaking, trying to show the softer side of her husband saying, she wanted to talk to the American People about love. Chris Christie, in that fiery keynote -- address saying he wanted to tell the American people Mitt Romney was ready to tell the hard truth, and make the tough choices. Let's assess tonight. Roland Martin, Alex Castellanos, Gloria Borger and David Gergen with me.

David, let me start with you. It's not your first rodeo. Mitt Romney comes into this night. Ann Romney is supposed to make him more human, more kinder and gentler, to borrow a phrase from previous Republican convention. Then Chris Christie comes out and says the president of the United States hasn't had courage essentially, that he's ducked all the hard choices. Mitt Romney will tell you the tough truths. A successful night?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was very successful for them. There were very powerful speeches. They've packed them in. In some ways it was really good to have the two together, the storm forced that. But there was a difference between them. I noted that Chris Christie really helped to reinforce the vote that Mitt Romney already has. I think he really strengthened that.

Ann Romney by distinction I think added to the vote he's likely to get. And that was very, very important. I don't think Chris Christie's speech as such was one we'll remember for a long time, but Ann Romney's speech has a chance to be remembered. I -- you remember so well in 2004 when we were all sort of agog at Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic convention. I thought this is one of the best speeches we've heard at a convention since then.

KING: And so Gloria Borger, Ann Romney, David says, tried to move the ball into the new voters, to bring in some new voters. There's obviously a huge gender gap. I believe we have a little bit of the speech from Ann Romney where she was trying to make the point that her husband, yes, he was born wealthy, but she said he earned his wealth and she also tried to make the point that he has struggled, talked about their marriage and described it in an interesting way. Let's listen.


A. ROMNEY: I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a storybook marriage. Well, let me tell you something, in the storybooks I read, there never were long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have a chapter called MS or breast cancer.

A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.


KING: The point she was trying to make?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That he's a real guy, she loves him, they have a real family, real story, real marriage, that they've had their struggles. What was interesting to me about Ann tonight, though, was not only that she tried to kind of be the character witness for Mitt Romney, but I also felt this was a political speech wrapped in velvet. I mean, she attacked, I mean not President Obama directly, but said, to women, we are too smart to know there aren't easy answers, but we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers. That's a political speech, and it was delivered so artfully. Not only talking to women, but saying, you know what, you can't pull one over on me, I'm going to tell you who the real Mitt Romney was, and we as women understand the problems here.



KING: Let's check, Roland, I want to bring former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, he also joins our conversation.

Ari, in 2000 and 2004, you were with a Republican president in a convention in a very, very close election. Let's go back to the first one when George W. Bush was challenging essentially the incumbent, the vice president of the United States Al Gore. Every night in a close election, you need to use your convention to move the ball. If that's the case, did Mitt Romney move the ball tonight?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I really think she did. I thought that was one of the most effective speeches I have ever heard. She just has such a grace to it and such a human touch to it. And that's what you were looking for in a speech that would help Mitt Romney tonight. And one, it was a gender gap closer, I think it was written to do that in the first half of the speech, and the second part was the testimonial about Mitt's character, his nature, his warmth, and that is something that is identifiable weakness that the Romney people really wanted the American people to know more of.

The part I'll remember about it was how she described why he doesn't brag about the charitable deeds he's done and the good gifts and things she's done along those lines. He did it, she said, because it's just the right thing to do, not a political talking point. And I think that's very effective. If there is a critique of her speech, I think it was going to be people who say, you're wealthy, you can't possibly understand what it's like.

But I think there are going to be a lot more people who say, she really gave a speech from a mom's point of view, that a mom can really relate to.

KING: A lot more to discuss in the hour ahead. Roland and Alex still with me in the booth here. They both have things to say. I want go back, though, to Wolf and Erin.

And you, Wolf and Erin, were much closer. This was the first time we saw Governor Romney in the convention hall. He came on the stage after Ann Romney's speech, but then was sitting just a few feet away from the two of you in the VIP box, watching Chris Christie and occasionally coming to his feet with the rest of the delegates here, to applaud a bit.

BLITZER: Yes, it was a nice gesture, I though, Erin, for obviously the Republican presidential nominee. He is now the nominee. He was nominated officially by this convention. He sat next to his wife, he sat next to Condoleeza Rice. He listened attentively. He was not smiling a lot. He looked a little -- I don't know. How would you describe it?

BURNETT: I don't know, Wolf , and I were not trying to come up with the right word because he didn't seem -- he wasn't smiling.


BLITZER: He wasn't that animated.

BURNETT: It's a big moment and you would want -- yes, very stern.

BLITZER: Maybe he was a little bit of -- a little bit of -- not shock, but just a little bit stunned that this night has come. He is the nominee --

BURNETT: Makes a sense of this.

BLITZER: -- of the Republican Party to be president of the United States, and a little bit more than two months he'll know whether or not he is the president of the United States.

All right. We're going to have a lot more analysis of what's going on. Earlier we also heard a former Democratic congressman Artur Davis speak before this crowd. He's from Alabama. Originally four years ago he seconded the nomination of then Senator Barack Obama to be president of the United States.

Now, very different, he's turned against President Obama. He's now a Republican. He's going to be joining us live when we come back.

BURNETT: All right. We're also following breaking news on the hurricane, and we'll have the latest on that hitting Louisiana as we speak. Very dangerous there. Anderson Cooper is there. We'll be back.


BLITZER: Chris Christie delivered a very powerful keynote address. He's the Republican governor from New Jersey suggesting that it was pretty amazing that at this convention a Republican governor from New Jersey was delivering the keynote address, but you know what, thanks to John Berman, our newest addition here at CNN, you know what he tweeted?


BLITZER: Back in 1988 a Republican governor of New Jersey, Tom Kean, that keynote address at that Republican convention.

BURNETT: Correction for Chris Christie.

BLITZER: It's not all that unusual to begin with.

Dana Bash, you're in the New Jersey delegation right now. Tell us what's going on.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom Kean was here and I won't bore you, but I actually can recite the famous Tom Kean New Jersey commercial because I'm from New Jersey. But I won't bore you with that. I will tell you, though, standing here with the New Jersey delegation, and really on the floor in general, it really was a different feel when Chris Christie gave this keynote speech.

This is my fourth convention where I'd been on the floor of the Republican convention and Republican Party in general like their red meat, but particularly for Republicans. This speech was much more revivable than red meat, and Chris Christie really spent a lot of time as his aides had told me before trying to be positive, but he also was talking kind of in soaring general terms. It took a long time to talk about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. He wanted to make this more thematic, and that was very clear.

BURNETT: Interesting, Wolf, too, be waiting sort of a little longer again to mention Mitt Romney.


BURNETT: And that's not the first time that happened tonight.

BLITZER: But once he did, he really got into it.


BLITZER: And obviously made a very, very full endorsement of Mitt Romney.

BURNETT: Vigorous.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta is on the floor, as well.

Where are you, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm right in front of the VIP box, Wolf. We were standing right here and watching Mitt and Ann Romney as they were watch Chris Christie give his speech, but there was a poignant moment before Mitt and Ann Romney got to this box or as they got to this box.

When they arrived, they were embraced by their three sons. You could tell it was a touching and poignant moment for the Romney family. And then during Chris Christie's speech, there was that moment when Chris Christie got the entire crowd on their feet to sort of salute Mitt Romney and Romney, he decided to sit in his seat during that point, even the people around him were standing up and applauding, including Condoleezza Rice, who was seated right next to him.

But I think this was sort of a moment of humility for the GOP nominee, something that Ann Romney was talking about tonight, a theme I think they'd probably like to take into the other nights of this convention -- Wolf. BLITZER: Good point. You know, I am getting ready for this next interview that they have upstairs in the CNN skybox. And let's go back to John King.

John, special guest standing by?

KING: We do have a special guest, one of tonight's speakers and the man who has the unique distinction of speaking at then Senator Barack Obama's 2008 Democratic convention. You see in here the former Republican congressman, Artur Davis, is with us.

Congressman, welcome to the conversation.

ARTUR DAVIS, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Former Democratic congressman.

KING: Former Democratic congressman, Artur Davis from the state of Alabama.

You spoke at the Democratic convention four years ago and you said give this young man a chance, give this new hope, give this new change a chance. Tonight you essentially said you were sold a bill of goods. After your speech, I want to just introduce this now, because I expect we might get a little feisty here. My friend on the far end took issue.

First, I just want you to --

DAVIS: And I am so shocked to hear that.


MARTIN: You know exactly how I feel.

KING: How important is this first night especially since, because of Isaac, one night was lost of this convention? In your mind, what was the single most important point the Republican Party with you as its new member here tonight made?

DAVIS: Well, if I can leave myself out of it, the most important point tonight was when Ann Romney walked to that stage by far. And I'm a huge Chris Christie fan, but the most important moment tonight was when Ann Romney walked to that stage and I got to see a lot of her speech from the floor.

She connected with the audience in the room. She connected, I'm sure, with the people who were sitting at home and watching her, and I don't think a lot of the American people know a lot about Ann Romney, and that's not surprising. We often don't learn about the would-be first first ladies until after the nominations, I thought Ann Romney's introduction tonight to the American people was a homerun.

So I love Chris Christie. I think his speech tonight was very effective, but I think Ann Romney was the pivotal moment of this evening. KING: So you're making the case tonight that Ann Romney gave a genuine testament to her husband's character. I want to -- I want to make most of this conversation tonight about Ann Romney, Mitt Romney and Governor Christie's keynote, but Governor Christie, part of his message was be genuine, be authentic, tell the hard truth.

My friend earlier tonight after your speech -- and Roland Martin, I want you to explain to the congressman just why.

DAVIS: I'm glad I get equal time.


KING: Essentially --

DAVIS: I don't normally get that with Roland Martin.

KING: Essentially --

MARTIN: That's (INAUDIBLE) interviews with me so I give you --

DAVIS: You're right. I normally do.


KING: You used the word, you used the word fraud.

MARTIN: I used the word political fraud. And that is, why didn't you apologize that you voted with the Democrats and the president 95 percent of the time? When you talked about what the president didn't do, why didn't you say, you know what, as a member of Congress this is what I did? Why didn't you take ownership of that? Why didn't you take ownership of the fact that you were one of the folks who's championed this president, you used his face and name in ads running, and then when you didn't win the Democratic nomination -- Democratic nomination for governor, then you got ran out of Alabama and so you chose to flip into Virginia?

So why didn't you talk about your own voting record as a Democrat versus (INAUDIBLE)?

DAVIS: Well, here's what I would say. I'm not surprised --




DAVIS: I'm a little surprise you actually -- well, you said you'll give me equal time. I will surprise you with my answer.

Roland, I wish that when I was serving in Congress in 2009 and 2010 I wish I had been more outspoken about the Obama agenda, I was outspoken about one part of it, the health care law. I'll sit here and freely admit to your audience I should have voted against Dodd-Frank. I should have been more outspoken about the overall direction of policy during those two years.


BORGER: So why did you decide --

DAVIS: If people want to make the judgment, that's simply because I did not oppose every aspect of the Obama agenda, that I'm not a credible spokesperson now, they have every right to do that but I'll make a point. I understand there's focus on me because I used to be an elected official and I spoke four years ago, but according to Gallup, if I can cite Gallup on CNN.

KING: You sure can.

DAVIS: There are 9 percent of Obama supporters who do not plan to vote for the president this time. Now even by my poor Harvard math, David, which you can relate to, that is 6.3 million individuals. So every time people say to me, oh, Davis is just made because he didn't get elected, he is mad because Democrats didn't vote for him, I'm very curious about the other 6.29 million people and what their motivations are.


DAVIS: And that 6.9 million people that they lose primaries, when they embittered against Democrats, they're ordinary Americans who are wrestling with this choice. But I will make this point. I'm in them camp that that believes it's not enough for Republicans to just beat up on Barack Obama. Bobby Jindal, my friend in Louisiana, says that and Bobby Jindal is dead on right about that. Chris Christie I think was also on his way making that point tonight. It is not just enough for Republicans to beat up on Barack Obama. The American people like Barack Obama for the most part. Except for the hard core base of our party, the American people like him.

BORGER: Well, but those are the people who eventually nominated Mitt Romney.

DAVIS: But they're not the swing voters in this race.

BORGER: And those are the Tea Party people -- but you were talking --

DAVIS: Sure.

BORGER: You were here tonight because you're talking to the swing voters. I mean, you're talking to --

DAVIS: I tried to make the case to them tonight.

BORGER: You're -- so how do you make the case -- I mean, why, why do that? Why have such an incredible 180-degree change?

DAVIS: Well, Gloria, I'll be honest with you. The easy thing would have been for me to frankly do what you guys are doing and to be a pundit. It'd be an easy thing for me, no offense to what you do, but the easy thing would have been -- (CROSSTALK)

KING: Not always as easy.


DAVIS: -- a plague on both of your houses.


DAVIS: Well, here's what I mean when I say that. It's very easy on Washington, D.C. to do the plague on both your houses game. Always both sides would only work together in a bipartisan way, and for a period of time perhaps I seemed to do that, but I came to the conclusion that on all of the issues that we are debating as a country right now, my views line up with the people who were down here.

BORGER: But you gave a bipartisan speech.

DAVIS: Not with the folks next week in Charlotte.

BORGER: You gave a speech trying to appeal to the independents.


DAVIS: Well, there's no question about that. I think that's a good thing, but you know what I am talking about.

MARTIN: I still don't understand. John, when you talk about health care, when you were a congressman you made no attempt to talk to the president about your concerns regarding health care --


DAVIS: Roland, you overestimated my influence a great deal.

MARTIN: You made no effort to even talk to him.

KING: I'm going to take the --

MARTIN: That's what you told me.

KING: I'm going to take a prerogative being the guy at the end of the road driving the train at the moment. Let you guys continue the conversation. We got to work into a quick break because we've got a lot of important news still to cover tonight.

The speeches by Ann Romney and Chris Christie, we'll continue that conversation. We'll tell you a bit about the big night tomorrow night, Wednesday night, at the Republican National Convention and of course we'll also continue our breaking news coverage of Isaac and its impact on the Gulf Coast.

Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We'll get back to the Republican National Convention shortly, but Chad Myers has got some new information on Hurricane Isaac which is doing a serious job on the Gulf Coast.

What's the latest, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. We still have a storm surge now at Shell Beach. That's Lake Bourne just to east of New Orleans at 10.5 feet. That is not breaching any new of the walls though. The walls are doing fine. The levees are doing fine at 10.5 but they have to get much higher than that.

Now there is a potential for it to get much higher than that, because, Wolf, this storm has moved about six miles in two hours. Since you left us and didn't come back, you know, during the break, this thing hasn't done very much at all. It hasn't moved. It is just pouring rainfall into these places that sure don't need it. And we are going to watch out for Anderson Cooper here in a second, let me show you what's going on with Anderson. He has another bit of a storm system heading his way.

Here's New Orleans right there. Here's the very next band heading into New Orleans. It has been kind of calm for a while for Anderson, but now I bet it's picking up. Let's ask him live.

Anderson, how are you doing?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Chad, you're exactly right. It has been calm and I'm here with meteorologist Rob Marciano. It has been calm, really, for the last hour or so while Ann Romney and Chris Christie were speaking, but as Chad was saying we really just picked up in the last five minutes or so.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's been remarkable the past few minutes, the rain coming down sideways and the wind blowing. The winds have been gusting here in New Orleans to over 65 miles an hour, so that the eye of this thing as Chad has probably mentioned is 90 miles just so our south.

Hurricane-force winds go at 65 miles so we're just on the outer edge of that, might get not -- might not get full hurricane-force winds, but we're getting this consistent wind of well over 40, 50 miles an hour, and that's what's knocking off power all around town.

COOPER: Yes, Chad, in terms of the timing, what are you seeing now, because earlier you spoke, when we spoke you thought maybe around midnight to 4:00 or 5:00, even 8:00 a.m. would be the worst of it. But what are you looking at now?

MYERS: You know, some of these computer models that were just kind of showing just the past couple of hours. Don't have it moving much at all over the next four or five hours and then it slides off to your west. And you may still be in what you're seeing now for another solid eight hours, and this is the flooding that everyone is concerned about. Let me take you here to our Google Earth, we'll fly you where you are. This is right here. The bottom of the Mississippi River is right here. There's where the center of the hurricane is. Eighty miles per hour. Our Eddie Lavandera is right there, finally, finally Eddie is in the eye, so the winds have calmed down for him. He had a 74-mile- per-hour gust earlier.

Here's you right there at the Port of New Orleans, Anderson, and also for you, Rob. Right here along the river. The river has been going the wrong way all day. This river was down to about a three-foot datum, now it's up to 10 feet. It hasn't been up to 10 feet because of freshwater rain, it's been up to 10 feet because the saltwater is pushing up the Mississippi River the wrong direction.

We also know this big 10-foot surge here, Lake Bourne, that right there, would be Shell Beach. That's pushing all of that water into Mr. Goal right through here. And Mr. Goal would be flooded by now had this been Katrina. But because we're seven years to the good, this big wall right here is keeping all of that water out of the Nine Ward. Just like it's supposed to.

We will get rain on and off all night for you. The next thing I'm worried about that we haven't talked about a lot, Baton Rouge, because tomorrow afternoon this storm may still be a 75 to 80-mile-per-hour storm right over Baton Rouge. There is the center of the line.

Baton Rouge, you need to batten down -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Chad. Thanks very much.

And I mean the real question is, with how much rain are we going to get overnight, and how much flooding is there going to be? Because you can see even around here, just -- I mean just on the ground, there is a lot of -- there's, you know, water just laying around. That's all water that's just coming from the rain and you really get a sense when you look over here by our satellite truck which we parked to kind of hug the wall in case the wind changed direction, because you don't want that satellite truck to flip, you really get a sense of -- you can really see how much that rain is just pouring down. And it's been like this now on and off throughout the evening.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's really just been sheets of rain, almost a really dense rain. It seems to be coming down with some high volume and so that's sort of rain piling up, coming off rooftops and getting down to the low level areas. You know the drainage canals get build up, and the most kick in.

I talked to my source at the Army Corps of Engineers just a few minutes ago. He said everything so far is working according to plan and there's no major issues or concerns. Some of the river gauges, the main river gauge here at the Mississippi, that's up about five feet since this morning, so that we've seen a rise there. A similar rise up at Lake Pontchartrain. Of course the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain is going to be an issue because they've got that -- they've got the wind pressing that water up there. So -- COOPER: You've also talked about the ability of the pumps, the capacity of the pumps actually pump out the rainwater. If Chad is right and we have 20 inches of rain here over night over the course of this storm, the pumps cannot keep up with that.

MARCIANO: No, they can't. And it's one of these things that the Corps just kind of acknowledges and knows that there's going to be some flooding and in some of the more typical areas around town, and the locals are more familiar than we are, but it's just a matter of how bad it's going to be because they are designed to pump out one inch of water for the first hour of the storm. We've already seen that. And then half an inch of rain after that and we're seeing rainfall rates that exceed two and three inches an hour certainly, and that's going to continue right through the night.

COOPER: And I don't know if you saw that vehicle while Rob was talking, but the vehicle that came, just did a circle and turned around. That was a police vehicle. And we've been seeing that all night. They are out there. They're on patrol. They are not hunkered down. They're out on the streets just trying to keep an eye on everything.

MARCIANO: Absolutely, and our crews that have been out shooting various things around town have said that the streets are desolate. The major roadways are -- have very, very little traffic. So it looks like the folks have been -- had taken heed, and if they haven't evacuated at least gone into their shelter and stayed in place.

COOPER: Yes. And at last count I heard it was 150,000 people without power. I heard another count maybe said 200,000.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's over 200,000 now and again that number is going to climb as we go through the night. This constant barrage of winds that are well over tropical storm force. And in some case hurricane gusts. It's going to continue as they got power.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to take you into the eye of the storm. We're going to talk to Ed Lavandera down in Grand Isle. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back. Our continuing coverage of Hurricane Isaac here.

You were just out taking some wind readings, but it's hard to tell in this area.

MARCIANO: It is. And we've got some buildings around us, so it's twirling in many areas and I sense that we're starting to get a little bit of a wind shift, and with the storm being nearly due south of us, the more it moves off to the west, the more the winds -- and it's going to change the dynamic of the storm at least for New Orleans. And one of the ways, one of which is that it getting pressure from the constant wind and you're now going to see maybe some loosening of the -- MYERS: Seems like we've lost that signal there. We kind of waited for a little bit. Here's what happens when you're out there in a hurricane and you have this dish up. It's about six or eight feet around and it's pointed up at the satellite and then all of the sudden the wind gusts hit it, it shakes a little bit and it takes our signal away from pointing at the satellite so we'll wait for that to come back.

Let me show you where these guys are because now New Orleans really in the thick of it. I didn't really get surprised by them losing that signal. There is the hardest band New Orleans has seen all night long right through there. Winds in this band would at least be 60 gusting to 75. Now that's not quite hurricane. You have to have sustained at 74 miles per hour to be a hurricane.

But that's the signal here, and that's the signal lost that we're getting. Also sometimes the satellite that we send up, that signal can't even get through all the rain, and if you're a Dish Network or a DirecTV person you know that you get rain fade when it rains real hard and you are trying to -- you're trying to watch a football game, it's raining so hard and then the football game goes away until the rain stops.

But our John Zarrella is down here where the rain actually has stopped. That is right down there in Grand Isle. That is -- that's Ed Lavandera here at the -- we have John Zarrella in Gulfport which is way over here. We sent him over here, and because there could be a surge, we know there's been at least three feet of surge, so tell me what you have over in Gulfport, Mississippi, sir.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chad, how did you know it was dry here, too? You're absolutely right. And actually, you know, it feels, it feels like, you know, you are getting a bucket of water poured on your head, and then for a while, it's like the atmosphere gets rung out, and right now, it's just dry here. It's windy, it's gusty, it's dry, but we've certainly not experienced anything of tropical -- above tropical storm force gusts here.

Take a look out there in the distance. That -- you were mentioning the storm surge, why we were here. And it's still -- the tide is still relatively low. It's coming in now, but far from high tide. And you can see the waves breaking, but I walked down there a few minutes ago and it's still not come up past the beach, and that's Highway 90 for our viewers out there that runs along the Mississippi coastline here.

And it's quite likely that by tomorrow afternoon, a portion of that, certainly, could be underwater as that tide comes up maybe six to nine-foot of storm surge here.

And, you know, Chad, I know you and many of the viewers are going to recall this, where I am standing is 20 feet high. This is Courtyard Hotel and it's one of the most --


ZARRELLA: -- famous images --

MYERS: For just a second, I'm told by the producers to erupt.

ZARRELLA: Yes. Go ahead.

MYERS: So that we can go back to Anderson Cooper because his signal is back.


MYERS: So because his signal is so intermittent.


MYERS: And I know yours is going to be good, I'm going to go to Anderson right now -- Anderson, go.

ZARRELLA: All right.

COOPER: Yes, hey, Chad, thanks very much. We're here with Rob. Literally when our signal went down, I mean we just got welled up and we're just going to walk with the camera and let's give you a sense to how bad it's become now. Right now we're underneath an owning here but when you step out --

MARCIANO: There it is. It's just incredible. Just the sheets of rain that are coming down across this area. And the rooftop and destruction that were our equipment is taking shelter and it's just pouring water out and what seems to be, you know, a couple of hundred gallons per second. It's truly amazing the amount of water that Isaac is dumping on New Orleans right now.

COOPER: Yes. And we lost the signal and we think we had positioned the satellite truck pretty well there against the wall, protected from the wind, but with this heavy kind of rain, I mean just get knocked off the air.

MARCIANO: You do. It's just -- and the same rain fade that people get home that have satellite dishes in the home, we get it here to a lesser extent because our dish is bigger, but yes, we're going to have some problems here going forward and, you know, peeking at the radar and listening to Chad, boy, we're in for it tonight, when it keeps raining like this, and raining sideways, it's no night to be out. That the people of New Orleans have certainly taken that advice and are staying indoors.

COOPER: Yes. And Chad, in terms of where the band of the storm is, is this -- I mean, is this the kind of representative of what it's going to be like during the night or is this particularly bad?

MYERS: This is particularly bad. You are in --


MYERS: -- right one of the worst outer bands so far. Now there's still much more that will be more intense in about six hours when the eye gets closer to you, but right now, you in the most intense outer band we've seen so far. And zoom right into News Orleans right now. You see it kind of sliding or slamming in from the south and southeast. And it's still going to get worse before it gets better, in the next 15 minutes for both of you.

So if you need to take cover, go ahead and do so, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take actually a quick break. We'll be right back. Our storm coverage continues. Stay with us.


COOPER: And you're looking at pictures of Gulfport, Mississippi, the tides really starting to come in. We are going to talk to our John Zarrella who is there. And I'm here with Rob Marciano, we're in the Port Area in New Orleans. Soledad O'Brien in Jackson Square. We got correspondents all throughout the region and again, I mean, we're right now over the roofs so that's water for pouring off the roofs, I don't want people to think that is the rain, That's water pouring off of a roof.

And let's just walk around this way. Around by where the satellite truck is just to kind of -- you really get a sense of how strong these winds are right now, as Chad pointed out, we're in this band and it is just whipping the wind. And there's a lot of water on the ground and it's this kind of water that can lead to flooding from the rain.

MARCIANO: Yes, just rainfall. Freshwater flooding is what we talk about and here in New Orleans and outside of the levee, we haven't really spoken too much about what's going on outside the protective levee of the city which is 133 miles of reinforced stuff that's been built up since Katrina.

But outside of that in the lower lying perishing where there's been spotty mandatory evacuations there, they're in a battle tonight and they've been -- and the many areas have had sandbagging and do it the old-fashioned way without the modern engineering that the Army Corps has offered up. So they're battling some of these -- this rainfall and the storm surge tonight we talked about.

The river, the lake level has risen since the storm has come on shore. And the rainfall is going to continue to come down. So fresh water flooding here in the city and then fresh water flooding inland as well. And we can't forget our friends who live away from the coast. This is more than just a coastal event. We're going to see dramatic inland flooding as well.

COOPER: And again, this is going to continue on throughout early tomorrow. Let's check in with Soledad who's down there in Jackson Square.

Soledad, how is it down there?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, STARTING POINT: Yes, same thing we're seeing here, Anderson, which are these sheets of driving rain just picking up in this band that Chad told us was coming and now it's there and the gusting winds as well. One of the things we're seeing in the last few minutes or so, I'd say last 10 minutes, is this standing water for the first time. When the water was coming in, it was raining and then it would stop, and it would rain, it would stop.

That gave the wear lots of time to clear but now we're actually seeing because the water is coming down so hard, it's actually beginning to stand and that's an indication that it's -- this could be a problem. I think it's the standing water that you guys were talking about, because that's going to be a problem for the pumps and the drainage system as well.

You know, earlier we also saw, when it wasn't quite so windy and the rain wasn't driving quite so hard, some people walking around, some of the bars are actually open, believe it or not, but actually as soon as it got a little tougher out here, folks have pretty much left the area, and you pointed out the police officers have been patrolling. We've seen the cars coming through. They've been really tough about trying to get people out of these areas and trying to get them to go inside.

As you can see, the trees, we're a little concerned sometimes about some of the debris and things breaking up and coming our way, so we're trying to keep an eye on that as well, as the winds have picked up just as Chad promised with this outer band. The winds have picked up significantly -- Anderson.

COOPER: I should point -- I should point out several thousand National Guard troops from Louisiana were mobilized. I saw them driving around in Humvees this morning down in the French Quarter when I was out running this morning. So there's a lot of -- there's a lot of -- there is a heavy police and law enforcement presence on the ground, and you've seen it as well.

MARCIANO: Absolutely. You know, and there's -- there was anxiety a few days ago when we thought this might be a category 2 or 3 storm, but there's always been this sense of control and calm over the city of New Orleans. I mean, there's been so much work done since Katrina. So many -- so much protocol and plans that are in place that you almost feel like, you know, unless this thing was a category 3 or higher that they have things under control and so far so good in that regard.

COOPER: And we're going to go out very, very carefully. Let's check in with Ed Lavandera who is in Grand Isle. He's been losing his signal off and on.

Ed, what is it -- what it's like there because you were getting some really tough conditions about an hour or so ago?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as you started tossing to me, Anderson, we're hoping to show you, we had some lights and then we just lost power as well. So we're going off to you just the one camera light here off the top. One of the things that we're dealing with right here. And if you should look over the edge here, the water has just been rushing around the house that we're in. We're standing over the garage and just a little while ago, the water started rushing in. And we're probably about a foot or so away, a foot and a half or so away, from starting the bottom floor of this house, and start taking in water. So right now we're in the eye of the storm. That's Dean Blanchard right there and he's going in that room there to check the generator because it keeps going in and out of us, and that's why we lost some power.

But, you know, we're getting dangerously close to the house taking on water on that first floor. We're up on the second floor. We'll be fine. Thankfully the heart is -- you know, when you came to me a couple of hours ago, the wind was just absolutely devastating here in Grand Isle. We seem to be, I think, in the eye of the storm or on the edge of it, but it has calmed down. Now we need to go through the back end of the storm, so we'll see how things change here in the next few hours, but we're getting a respite in just a little while go.

You can't see out there in the darkness now, but one of the emergency vehicles that is able to drive in high waters was out patrolling. And I talked to some city officials here in Grand Isle a little while ago and said -- who told me that they were waiting for it to die down a little bit so they could go out and do some initial surveys of the island to see what kind of damage and problems they have.

But a great deal of water on the roadway, that's going to be a problem and we're going to continue to monitor -- there you go. The lights come on and then come back off here. So that's what we're dealing with here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, I want to bring in Chad.

Chad, you know, I got some tweets earlier from folks who were saying we weren't talking enough about what's happening in Mississippi. Give us a picture of what is happening not just in Louisiana but also in Mississippi because this is a storm which is affecting a wide swath of the people.

MYERS: It certainly is. And even Bay Saint Louis now has a storm surge right here. That would be to the west of Biloxi -- I'll draw them for you. This is the area that got hit so hard by Katrina. It was a 27 to 37-foot wave or surge in the Bay Saint Louis. The surge here is six feet tonight. So certainly not what Katrina was.

The same kind of story here over toward Biloxi and Gulfport to surge in about 3.5 feet. But the deal with the wind so far, and really why we haven't talked much about Mississippi and Alabama, because the winds have been paralleling the coast for most of the day and even in -- toward New Orleans, kind of coming in from the north. That is not a surge type wind as the eye moves to the north -- to the northwest up here. Our winds will shift direction and Rob Marciano talked about how that shift affected you guys.

And that shift will bring the winds on shore and that onshore will take that water and throw it into the bays and the rivers, and up on to the beaches and that's where the erosion will come from. I was just talking to John Zarrella out there. And he was actually in very good conditions. But they're about to go downhill, his conditions, because there's a band coming in from the ocean on to him and from Biloxi to Gulfport back over to Bay Saint Louis and past Christiane, winds there will gust at least 45 to 50 miles per hour. But because you're so far away, Mississippi, Alabama, you're so far away from the eye. I don't believe you're ever going to see any hurricane conditions tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, you mentioned John Zarrella. Let's bring John Zarrella in.

John, show us the water if you can and what you're seeing.

ZARRELLA: Yes, and just like Chad was just pointing out, Anderson, we have seen that wind just cutting across almost from, you know, the east to the west, just paralleling the coastline. So what you can see out there, there's the wave action in the distance there. Highway 90 right in the foreground coming up over there. And because of the way it's been blowing all day we have not seen any water piling up on Highway 90. But just as Chad was pointing out, we're not getting that rain band, that's squall line that's coming in.

But, you know, Anderson, all people out there have to do is take a look at the lights. The lights are on. Which means that we have not had the kind of powerful storm that you've had there. But you're also referenced Katrina, and I want to go back real quick to a point I was making with Chad. We're standing at 20 feet right here. Down there, that sea level and this hotel here, one of the incredible pictures from Hurricane Katrina back seven years ago, you remember it well.

That Pontiac Grand MV driven through the hotel lobby. Well, that's the hotel we're at now. And inside the hotel is the high watermark. Twenty-eight feet, 10 inches, right at the top of the first floor ceiling.

Now obviously we don't expect any water to come up up here on tonight. But we are starting to see the rain come in. We're seeing another one of these squall lines move through. But as Chad was pointing, we doubt that we'll see anything near hurricane force. The storm pulling away from us.

But they've got 35 shelters open, Anderson, only 1500 people in those 35 shelters. They've got food, water, generators, everything is staged in the northern part of the state and outside of Mississippi, ready to come in tomorrow if they need it -- Anderson.

COOPER: We'll continue checking with all our correspondents. Waiting for that eye to hit New Orleans and this region. Our storm coverage continues in a moment.