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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Republican National Convention Coverage; Rescuers Save Dozens Trapped by Floods

Aired August 29, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: -- tonight's message that Americans need to change.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Commitment, Mitt Romney and I make to you is this, we won't duck the tough issues, we will lead.

ANNOUNCER: Will Ryan defend his own record and his budget plan under fierce attacks of the Democrats?

RYAN: You heard the president has been talking about Medicare a bit lately. We want this debate, we need this debate and we are going to win this debate.

ANNOUNCER: Also at the podium in prime time, former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, lends a voice of foreign policy experience to the pitch of Romney and Ryan.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The rebuilding of an American voice abroad is really right at the core of what we have to accomplish and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the people to do that.

ANNOUNCER: Now CNN turns the spotlight on one of the biggest platforms in American politics. This is the Republican National Convention. This is Paul Ryan's night.

RYAN: It's not too late to fix this country's problems.

ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICA'S CHOICE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. And we'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This convention underway and the excitement tonight is about to begin. During this hour, we'll hear from one of the Republican Party's most prominent social conservatives, the former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. He will address this convention.

And in an another important speech this hour, the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, she will make her case against President Obama's global policy. Here inside the convention hall, excitement clearly building as the delegates await the acceptance speech from the vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.

I'm Wolf Blitzer along with Erin Burnett. And we're watching everything going on behind us.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Right. And as you say, excitement building, you can feel it. It's getting -- it's already full but it feels like more and more people are coming in. And people are ready for this speech. And during this hour, we're going to be joined by a very special guest, the convention keynote speaker. You may have seen him speak last night. A speech a lot of people are torn on. Was it wonderful or not?

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, will join us to answer criticism that his speech was more about himself and his state than it was about the nominee for president of the United States, from the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Piers Morgan is going to be interviewing Governor Christie live here. That's coming up on this hour.

Our correspondents are also in position throughout the arena here in Tampa. Candy Crowley is on the podium right next to tonight's speakers.

Jim Acosta, Dana Bash and John Berman, they're down on the convention floor among the delegates and the VIPs.

BURNETT: That's right. And Dana Bash joins us now.

Dana, you have a special guest, someone who was supposed to speak at the last convention. Hurricane Gustav, I believe, interrupted his plans to speak. Not invited to speak tonight but a good friend of the vice presidential nominee.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A very good friend of the vice presidential nominee. I'm joined by the House majority leader, Eric Cantor.

Thank you very much. Now you are a fellow young gun. You and Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, you were dubbed the young guns in the kind of stuff you adopted it. You know him very well. He's one of your very good friends. Describe Paul Ryan, a Paul Ryan we might not know.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, you know, what I hope the American people are going to see tonight is what I know about Paul Ryan. You know he is a family man, he has a wonderful wife who is accomplished in her own right. He has three beautiful children, and he is dedicated to actually fixing the country for his kids' future.

And, you know what, you hear a lot politicians make promises and talk the talk. But Paul Ryan actually walks the walk. He's a genuine individual working to try and cure the ills facing this country. And I know that we're going to hear a very powerful speech tonight. One that will lay out a very, very bold choice that the country is going to have to make in November.

BASH: Could you tell us a personal story about your working with or knowing Paul Ryan that might illuminate what you're talking about?

CANTOR: You know, I just say this, you know, something you see Paul and he may seem to be a little bit distracted or unplug from things going on around him on the hill. But the reason is, he's plugged into his iPod. You know? And -- you know, he is very much an individual that's focused on physical fitness. He likes good music. And you know he can actually kick back and have a good time, too.

Because I know a lot of the folks that have been talking about Paul say he's a wonk, and he's into -- on the budget, and all the bean counting and the numbers which is absolutely true. He's got a strong intellect and a real appetite to sort of just engross himself in the numbers, but he is a great guy. And I think he's going to make a great vice president for us and a great leader for the future. Not only of our party but for the country.

BASH: You talk about his fitness. I know he's big into P90X.

CANTOR: Yes.

BASH: Which I can't even imagine doing. You did it with him for a while but not so much anymore.

CANTOR: Yes, listen, I mean he -- again I think throughout the years that he came up, he was actually a fitness instructor. So he's very cognizant of that. And P90X is something that Kevin McCarthy brought to the House gym and there are a lot of members that actually try and stay in shape. But if you've ever done those videos, that's a tough workout. It's all about that theory of muscle confusion.

BASH: Yes.

CANTOR: That's a real challenge.

BASH: Yes. Confusion is the key word there.

Let's talk a little bit about the speech. What do you hope that your friend Paul Ryan does tonight in terms of his message? And maybe you know what he's going to say tonight.

CANTOR: Well, what I think that you're going to hear is Paul laying out sort of the choice that the country's got to make and laying out the fact that it is urgent the country step up and make a decision as to who we're going to be. Are we going to continue to be the country where you have big American dreams that are laid out and people can actually go after and chase them?

Are we going to be the country that tilts towards economic and individual freedom? Or are we going to choose a path much more akin to the likes of Greece and others in Europe where you see a much larger presence of the government, telling people a lot of things that Americans aren't used to the government telling them what to do in terms of their health care, in terms of the way they run their business and the way they hire their employees.

And again, I think that it's a very -- it's a very appropriate kind of discussion that we're having tonight. Because this is what's facing the country. And in the end, Dana, it really is about -- we're going to come out of here as a party with a ticket. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Republican candidates across the country that are dedicated to really making life work for people again.

BASH: Thank you. Thank you so much.

CANTOR: Absolutely.

BASH: House majority leader Eric Cantor.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Dana. Thank the majority leader for us, as well.

Jim Acosta is on the floor. He also has a special guest. Who's with you, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I am with the House majority whip Kevin McCarthy. He is also one of the young guns that book -- that -- I guess was co-written or written by you and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan was the thinker, Eric Cantor was the leader, and you were the strategist if I'm not mistaken in that trilogy.

And let me just ask you about the strategy of having a vice presidential candidate who's talking about reforming Medicare in places like Florida. Is that good strategy?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY WHIP: It's a good strategy. He's talking about saving Medicare. Where you have Barack Obama taking $700 billion from it. And if you do nothing to Medicare it -- it goes bankrupt. Paul Ryan is willing to have the courage to talk to the American people and save it. That's the --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: Paul Ryan talking about state, same $700 billion, isn't that right?

MCCARTHY: The president took $700 billion. Romney says he'll put it back. That's a fundamental difference. But the difference you get from Paul Ryan, you get the honesty. Even if you talk to Democrats they don't say something mean about him. He has the brain power. That's different than you found in Washington in quite some time.

ACOSTA: Ad tell us about Paul Ryan. Why do you think he's here at this moment. Why? Why do you think Mitt Romney tapped him? Is it because he makes this ticket more palatable to conservatives? What is it?

MCCARTHY: No, no. I think he picked him for his brain power. You've got to think about this. What Paul has gone through in his life. He's been in a seat that's a Democrat seat. He's able to listen to Democrats and independents, and win on policy. Paul never demonizes the other side. He talks about policy and the difference is he solves problems.

He takes a conservative principle but solves it. And I've never met a more humble, a bigger heart but a bigger brain power than anybody I've seen.

ACOSTA: And getting back to what we're going to be hearing tonight, I know we're going to be hearing some biography. He's going to talk about his family life, the struggles that he's been through, but he's also going to be talking about policy as well.

You know, who -- why do you think Paul Ryan is on this ticket? You know, why do you think he is -- why do you think he's the guy that Mitt Romney wants to put up on this stage? Because this is a big move.

MCCARTHY: This is a very big move.

ACOSTA: You only get one vice president.

MCCARTHY: One vice president. Just like Mitt Romney. He went and looked and analyzed everyone. He felt who can best serve as president, who has the experience, but who could best lead and be a team to help turn America around.

The number one issue is economics. Paul Ryan has driven about economics. This guy knows more about it and proposed. Most of his plans are bipartisan. He always usually has a Democrat on it as well. You can look -- Erskine-Bowles, strong Democratic chief of staff for Clinton, what's he say about him? He's the most honest, articulate, smartest individual he'd met. He says he runs circles around him.

ACOSTA: Did Paul Ryan ever drive you crazy with all that heavy metal music and grunge music up on Capitol Hill?

MCCARTHY: He usually puts that into his earphones, but we do P90X in the morning but as you could tell, he's much more -- he's better at it than I.

ACOSTA: He's a little more advanced.

MCCARTHY: Yes.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks, Kevin McCarthy. Appreciate it.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very, very much.

You know we're learning a lot about Paul Ryan, Erin. BURNETT: And it's interesting. Because a lot of people in this country don't know much about him. The poll before the convention, 16 percent or so Americans weren't familiar with him at all. So a lot of people are going to get to know him for the first time tonight.

And Dana, I believe, is joined by someone who knows Paul Ryan even better than the two men we've just heard from.

BLITZER: Yes indeed.

BURNETT: The good and bad from his whole life.

Who do you have, Dana?

BASH: Well, who better to describe you for better or worse, as you said, is your brother. And that's who I have.

Tobin Ryan, thank you very much for joining us.

TOBIN RYAN, BROTHER OF PAUL RYAN: My pleasure.

BASH: And Tobin's son Mack Ryan.

MACK RYAN, PAUL RYAN'S NEPHEW: Hi.

BASH: Paul Ryan's nephew. Just give us first of all a glimpse, if you will, into who your brother is. People are just being introduced to him really on a national stage for the first time tonight.

T. RYAN: Yes. I think -- first of all, he's about the most authentic guy I know. We grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin. I think his story maybe unfolded a bit tonight. And I think that story, there's going to be a plot of people, particularly from the Midwest, and communities like ours where the story -- they're going to identify with his story.

BASH: Now I heard a story which I would love for you to tell about a hiking trip that you all took. I think it was the four Ryan children with your father. Tell us about that.

T. RYAN: It was all six of us, the whole family, and my mom, you know, she leads the charge, she's the one who always -- you know, would take us on these backpacking trips. And this is many years ago. And of course at the time, we didn't -- we didn't realize the foreshadowing involved, but we were -- we were surpassing -- summiting a mountain. We were all carrying our own packs. Paul was only 7 or 8 years old.

Horrible day, we're in a blizzard. We get to this top and all of a sudden this beautiful -- meadow with sheep unfolds beneath us. We're all exhausted and we're sitting down. And Paul creeps up and starts singing "America the Beautiful." And --

BASH: How old was he? T. RYAN: I think he was 7, maybe 8. And I'm not sure he even knew all the words at that time. And all of us to a fault, we're -- watching this guy with tears in our eyes thinking what an amazing scene. And sure enough, perhaps there was some foreshadowing in there.

BASH: Now he -- your brother has said that he had to grow up fast because your father died suddenly. And he unfortunately was the one who found him. He was the only one in the house.

T. RYAN: Yes.

BASH: Describe what that was like for your family and for him in particular since he was the only one left at home.

T. RYAN: Sure. You know, it was obviously a very pivotal time for him, for our whole family. Paul was home, he was alone. Just about to enter high school, and he found our father. He had to grow up very fast. Our 80-year-old grandmother who had Alzheimer's moved in with us at that time. I was already in college. All the two siblings were away and my mom decides to go back to college and get a new skill and start her own business.

And so Paul is the man of the house and my mom's partner, he's working a job, he's doing everybody's lawns and he's -- he becomes class president the same year. So he's a guy that may have not had the normal 16-year-old life, but it really acted as a catalyst, I think, to put focus in his life and for him to truly embrace life in a way once again that I don't think most teenagers would.

BASH: And where does the philosophy that he espouses come from? Is this something that he grew up with? Did you --

T. RYAN: I think our -- you know, dinner was at 6:00 every night, full family, and I think there was encouragement of ideas in general. But, you know, we weren't a family that was espousing either Republican virtues or conservative virtues or Democratic virtues necessarily. There was support for many different politicians.

Ronald Reagan did become a big influence. And I think that became a topic around our dinner table. And when you think about it, starting in 1980, you know, through to when Paul ended up going to college, you know, that was probably a main topic.

BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask you, Mack, I heard that you had a pretty important baby-sitter last night. Who was it?

M. RYAN: It was my Uncle Paul.

BASH: So everybody, your whole family came here to watch Ann Romney's speech and he was back at the hotel with you?

M. RYAN: Yes. He was just hanging out with me, Charlie, Sam and Liza, we're just having a great time watching a movie.

BASH: What's he like as a baby-sitter? M. RYAN: Can you repeat the question?

BASH: What is he like as a baby-sitter?

M. RYAN: He's fun, energetic. He's just a great guy to be with. And he's just --

BASH: Did he -- did he let you stay up late?

M. RYAN: Well, we knew we had to get up early tomorrow morning. Yes.

BASH: And any candy? Any sweets?

M. RYAN: Nope. They're very healthy. They -- not --

BASH: You know, I should -- I should have known better than to ask you that question about Paul Ryan. He's very healthy. Yes. Bedtime stories?

M. RYAN: Movie.

BASH: What did you watch?

M. RYAN: We watched "Lilo & Stitch."

BASH: So he didn't make you watch the convention?

M. RYAN: Nope. We did that during the day and at night we're just together as a family.

BASH: Very good. Thank you so much. Good luck to you both. Appreciate your time. Thanks, Mack.

M. RYAN: Thank you for having us on.

BASH: Thank you. Back to you.

BLITZER: And Dana, one quick question while you have the brother of Paul Ryan there. I'm curious, because I've read a lot about Paul Ryan. Why did he decide to leave Wisconsin and go to Miami University of Ohio when he wanted to go to college? I know he's a great Green Bay Packers fan. What made him go to Ohio?

BASH: He is. You're right.

BLITZER: OK. Here's a question from Wolf Blitzer. He wants to know why your brother left Wisconsin to go to Miami of Ohio especially since he's such a Packers fan?

T. RYAN: Well, that's right. And Paul is a huge Badger fan. His two older brothers went to Notre Dame. And I think Paul wanted to make his own path. And knowing my mom, she grabbed him and they went on a tour around the Midwest and saw a lot of schools. And he fell in love with Miami of Ohio. And Ohio is one of those states I think that it is almost a second home to him. BASH: Just so happens that he went to college in a swing state. Imagine that.

(LAUGHTER)

T. RYAN: Foreshadowing again.

BASH: There you go. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good call on his part. Ohio. Ohio, Erin, as you know, no Republican has ever been elected president without taking Ohio.

BURNETT: Maybe that's an omen. I have to say I love his nephew saying he wasn't allowed to have candy or soda. I have to admit, on and off, I dole it out generously because then you can always hand them back when they're wound up at the end of the night.

BLITZER: That's your job as an aunt.

BURNETT: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. We're about to be joined by one of the stars of last night's convention here. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered the keynote address last night. He's going to be with our own Piers Morgan. That's coming up.

Also --

BURNETT: Our thanks to social media. We are giving you a chance to be a part of our CNN convention coverage. So please go to Facebook.com/CNN and answer this question, does Representative Paul Ryan make you enthusiastic about the GOP ticket? We're going to give you the results just a little later during tonight's coverage. We'll be right back from Tampa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper, reporting live from New Orleans where now Tropical Storm Isaac continues with winds and rain throughout the entire southern Louisiana region. Also into Mississippi. We're going to take you to Gulfport, Mississippi, very shortly. And also get a live update from Chad Myers at the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

But today here in Louisiana, the story has been in Plaquemines Parish where we have seen a number of very dramatic rescues. People trapped in their attics, trapped on the roofs of their homes. Dozens of people have so far been rescued. Those rescue operations have been going all day from -- early, early this morning, even in the high winds and the heavy rain rescue crews were out there, citizens were out there in their own boats trying to rescue their neighbors in need.

We've seen dozens of these rescues. And it -- what is not clear at this point how many more people may still be trapped in their homes. People have decided not to evacuate even though there were mandatory evacuations in Plaquemines Parish. It's a region that had not seen flooding like that in Hurricane Katrina. So a lot of people thought this storm is not going to be as strong therefore they didn't need to leave.

But every storm is different, as Chad Myers has been saying now for days. And in Plaquemines Parish, this storm meant very high water that came up very fast and trapped an awful lot of people.

Let's check in with CNN's John Zarrella who's in Gulfport, Mississippi.

John, what's the situation there?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I have to tell you that it's been 20 plus straight hours of heavy rain and wind. Tropical storm force wind here in Gulfport. This is literally the first break we've gotten since midnight. When I've been on the air all through the night and today. First break we've seen.

You know, that back there, Anderson, that's Highway 90. The Gulf of Mexico just beyond that. We tried to traverse Highway 90 today and about a mile and a half east of here, it's washed out. Much of it is gone. The Gulf of Mexico at high tide today. When the wind was blowing inland, blowing from the south to the north, it literally rose up. And as far as you could see, you could not see any of the beach. The beach was totally under water.

The waves pounding over the top of Highway 90 and much of the roadway covered with sand, covered with water, and rising water at the time.

You see the wind picking up as well again here. We were told, the governor has said that they had 35 boat rescues today in Mississippi. There's some 35,000 people here without electricity but the big issue has been the rain and the continuing rain here of more than 20 inches, we're told, has fallen in Mississippi and continues to fall this evening -- Anderson?

COOPER: More than 800, 000 people without power right now. About three quarters of them are in the state of Louisiana. Let's check in with Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center who's got an overview of the storm.

Chad, what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wind maker around the core. Winds are down to 50 or 60 miles per hour. People can handle that. You can even get outside in that. Along these things aren't still falling off the house or off the trees. It's turned into a tornado maker and a flash flood maker tonight.

Our John Zarrella is right there. There is Gulfport, there's Biloxi, and here over here, Dauphin Island, and we know about some erosion to these barrier islands. Erosion to the coast as well, and some of these storms as they rotate onshore will produce tornados tonight. Let me zoom out just a couple of spots so you can see there's still the core of the rain is from Baton Rouge all the way over to Mobile. There's a lot of dry air in Texas and western Louisiana. The storm is not making its way over there. That means the storm is dying, literally dying a slow death. But in its death, it will still put down all of the rain. In its death, it will still make all of the tornadoes that we have always expected with this storm.

And now at least 20 parishes and counties with flashflood warnings from Louisiana to Mississippi, all the way over even into Alabama now. And Dauphin Island area to the west of Mobile, flashflood warnings for you. People like John was saying, they have seen out 20 inches of rain from Gretna, right across the river from where you are, 18.75 inches of rain in the rain bucket in 36 hours -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. It's so much rain. A lot of people have really been surprised by it. Again, the story tonight and darkness has come. Plaquemines Parish, southeast of here in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Untold how many people still may be in need of rescue. How many people may still be in danger. It is very difficult for those rescue crews. There are high winds out there. There's a lot more rain out there. We were just out there about an hour ago. It is a very tricky situation for rescuers. We'll continue to update you throughout the evening and into tomorrow. Right now, let's go back to Wolf in Tampa.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you. Appreciate everything, all of you guys are doing.

Meanwhile, here in Tampa, lots of people are talking about the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's keynote address before this convention last night. So what does the governor himself think about all the commotion he's generated? We're going to find out. He's standing by to speak live with our own Piers Morgan and that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And welcome back to the Republican National Convention. The crowd is here. They're all excited. Ann Romney is here as well as her son -- one of her sons sitting next to her and daughter-in-law. And we're getting to hear from Condoleezza Rice and of course the vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. But there's Ann Romney. She's here on the convention floor in the VIP segment.

Piers Morgan is also down there. He's got a special guest. Piers, tell our viewers who's sitting next to you.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the one and only Governor Chris Christie. Welcome, governor.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Piers, happy to be here.

MORGAN: Now I've been walking around today testing the temperature about your speech last night. And the range of comment goes from absolutely loved it to the most catastrophic, selfish, indulgent speech in the history of conventions.

CHRISTIE: Yes, well, everyone has an opinion. That's what makes America great.

MORGAN: Are you surprised by the reaction? It's been pretty extreme either way.

CHRISTIE: No, listen, I'm not surprised at all that I bring out in people strong reactions? No, it doesn't shock me in the least. But my job last night was to lay out what the difference is between Republican governance and Republican ideals and Democratic ideals, and what that's going to mean for our country in the next four years. And I was really happy with the way it went.

MORGAN: The problem is no one would contest that. But they weren't quite sure if you were doing it for your future presidential race or for Mitt Romney's current presidential race.

CHRISTIE: I don't know how people could be confused. I laid out the case for Mitt Romney, as a former governor. If you do these things at the state level, like we have done them in New Jersey, it can be done at the national level, if you get someone who knows what they're doing. I don't think anybody was really confused at the end of the night that was listening.

MORGAN: The confusion came because you didn't mention his name for 17 minutes. And by the end of the speech, you had mentioned the word "I" 37 times and the word Mitt seven times.

CHRISTIE: Listen, at the end of the day, what I was doing was building the case for Mitt Romney. Do you think there's anybody here that doesn't know his name? This is really kind of silly stuff.

Listen, I understand that folks in the media have nothing better to do but to do that kind of stuff. And they want to create controversy. I understand that, because these conventions have become kind of prepackaged shows and you all want to have something different to talk about.

But I can tell you this, if you look at the substance of the speech last night, which is what I'm most concerned about, it lays out a very closer case that we need to tell people the truth, we need to make hard choices and we need to implement that now.

MORGAN: The thing I was quite surprised about, knowing you quite well now, was I thought you would be like the red meat on the barbecue when it came to Barack Obama. I thought you would be roasting and grilling him. You went quite light on Barack Obama. I was surprised by that.

CHRISTIE: Listen, what I did was I went heavy on the case for Republican governance. I don't think anybody in America, except for the most left wing partisans, believes that Barack Obama deserves a second term. What we now have the obligation to do as Republicans is convincing them why we have better ideas, why our way would be the better way. My job as the keynoter is not to tear down the president. My job as the keynoter is to make the case for the Republican brand and the Republican party. And that's what I did last night.

MORGAN: If you were going to tear down the president, how would you do it?

CHRISTIE: I've done that many times. We were in Aspen last week, and I said, you know, this is a guy who I think the last three and a half was like in a dark room looking for the light switch of leadership. He hasn't found it for three and a half years. He's not going to find it in the next 69 days.

There's a lot to be said about that. But the fact of the matter is that I really believe that case has already been made, Piers. I believe that case has been made against the president. We need -- there's nothing new anyone is going to figure out about the president in the next 69 days. But they need to find out things about our philosophy and how our nominee reflects that philosophy.

That's what we did last night. I work very closely with the Romney campaign. They had my draft and knew what I wanted to say. They didn't change a word of my speech. So I have to assume they're real happy with it. .

MORGAN: When it comes to the president, do you think he's an honest man?

CHRISTIE: Yeah.

MORGAN: You do?

CHRISTIE: Sure.

MORGAN: You don't think he misleads the American public?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think he misleads people in political commercials. But I don't think that's breaking new ground. I generally think that he's an honest person. I just think he's dead wrong on policy. And I think he's led this country in the wrong direction.

And I also don't think he has the first idea about how to use executive power. But I don't think that means he's generally a dishonest person.

MORGAN: Has he been dead wrong about everything or can you find things to credit him with?

CHRISTIE: I think on certain areas of education policy I agree with him, trying to empower charter schools and choice around the country. I think he's been right on that. Not every bit of his education policy, but some of it.

MORGAN: Foreign policy.

CHRISTIE: Yes, I'm not going to go through like a checklist with you.

MORGAN: No, but given that Condoleezza Rice will be up there tonight, and one of the allegations is the Romney/Ryan ticket is their lack of foreign policy experience. She obviously is laced with it. I would imagine she would be pushing that agenda, as she did in my interview earlier, saying that it's time for the framework of America's foreign policy to be really determined by whoever wins in November.

People are a bit concerned that the Romney/Ryan ticket is lacking in experience there.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think that President Romney will surround himself with an excellent cabinet, excellent advisers. But also, a lot of foreign policy, in my view, Piers, is the willingness of the president to make tough choices. And I think that, you know, Mitt Romney will make those tough choices. And he will not be confusing folks out there.

He will stand with our friends. And he'll stand against our adversaries. And he'll get people around him. The one great thing about Mitt -- one of the great things about him is that he's not stuck on being the smartest guy in the room. He'll surround himself with extraordinary people to help make his government a success and our country a success. .

MORGAN: Given that people have said, you know, why didn't Chris Christie talk more about Mitt Romney, given that's been the criticism -- and clearly you didn't intend that, from what you've told me -- what else would you say about the man. You know him better than many people now.

What are the qualities that maybe we're not aware of?

CHRISTIE: I mean, this is a man with an extraordinarily good heart. I mean, I've watched him interact with my children. You see politicians interact with children, especially ones that don't know the first thing about it. It's an abomination, right? They're patting them on the head like this and not knowing how to deal with them.

I've seen Governor Romney with my children, my eight-year-old and my 11-year-old. And he's incredibly engaging with them and cares about them and makes them feel special when he's with them and wants to pay attention to them.

This is a guy who's an engaged father, an engaged grandfather. That tells you something about his heart. I think that that's not necessarily always come through.

MORGAN: Do you want to see more of that on his speech tomorrow? Because I interviewed his five sons, for example. One of them said to me, the trouble with dad is he's always a CEO in public. He can't sort of remove that shackle of the corporate existence he had for so long. And people don't see the real Mitt Romney that they see behind closed doors. Is Thursday the time for him to sort of metaphorically rip open his jacket and say, this is the real Mitt?

CHRISTIE: I hope he does, because if he does, the American people are going to like him and trust him and make him the next president of the United States. I'm convinced of that.

MORGAN: When it comes to trust, this election could come down to the economy and to who believes who most about the future for solving the economy. You have an interesting experience in New Jersey. You've lowered taxes and balanced budgets. Unemployment has risen to the highest level since 1977.

People will say well, look, that's a classic argument against the Republican position. Right? You've lowered taxes. You've balanced the budget, but it's got you nowhere with unemployment. What do you say to that?

CHRISTIE: First of all, the statistic that it's the highest in 35 years is wrong. It was higher in October, November, December of 2009 than it is now. So it's a bad statistic. But secondly, what we're doing in New Jersey is lowering the number of people who are working for the government. We're making government smaller. That's part of what we're doing.

That's going to help to unleash the private sector. And you're going to see those numbers go down over the course of time.

BLITZER: Who do you blame, yourself or Barack Obama, for unemployment in New Jersey?

CHRISTIE: The fact of the matter is that the national economy has a huge effect on what happens in New Jersey. But also, I just told you, we made a concerted effort to lower the number of public employees. Our government had gotten to big and too bloated and we needed to make it smaller. That's going to have an effect on those numbers, a short-term effect. But the long-term effect is going to be we're going to take more money out of the government back into the private sector.

Remember this, we've grown 90,000 new private sector jobs since I was elected governor. And in the last 12 months, we're the fourth highest state in America in the creation of new private sector jobs. (So the comeback has begun, Piers. And it's going to take us a while. We're digging out of a heck of a hole. But we're going to get there.

MORGAN: People who heard your speech last night and have been a bit critical have said this was entirely a pitch and a play for him to be president, you.

CHRISTIE: I don't understand that.

MORGAN: Did you have literally no aspirations to be leader of the free world?

CHRISTIE: Listen, since last October, I've traveled to 15 different states for Mitt Romney. I sat and allowed you to harass me in my office for an hour that somehow Mitt Romney was not going to win and Rick Santorum was going to be the nominee. And I steadfastly stood by Mitt Romney because I believe he would be the nominee and I turned out to be right, because I think he's the best person to be president of the United States.

So anybody who reads that into it just hasn't watched what I've been doing for the last year, which is been working as hard as any outsider for Mitt Romney and for his election as president. I'm proud to have done it.

MORGAN: Governor, thank you for talking to me. I think you've made a few things very clear.

CHRISTIE: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: Back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Piers. Good interview. The former governor of Arkansas, the former Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. You want red meat? Get ready.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: -- I heard some folks say that after hearing me speak, the delegates are going to say, we sure can do better than Huckabee. And that's when they will unanimously nominate Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: I want to say that Tampa has been a wonderful and hospitable city. And I'm grateful for all that they've done for us. But the only hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine. Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman-Schultz practicing her speech for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week.

(BOOING:

HUCKABEE: Bless her heart. Four years ago, Mitt Romney and I were opponents. We still are. But we're not opposing each other. No, we are mutual opponents of the miserably failed experiments that have put this country in a downward spiral.

The United States of America was originally an experiment. But it was an experiment in recognizing God-given individual liberty and creating a government in which no one is deemed better than another, and in which all of us are equal. Not equal in abilities, but equal in intrinsic worth and value.

It is the essence not just of who we are, but what we are. Let me just say to those who question how once rivals can be now united, it's quite simple. We have Barack Obama to thank.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: It was Barack Obama who said "you didn't build it." Translation, it doesn't belong to you.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Well, no small differences among us in our party approximate the vast differences between the liberty limiting, radical left wing, anti-business, reckless spending, tax hiking party of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, versus an energized America who knows we can do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: For four years, we've given a chance to a man with very limited experience in governing, no experience in business whatsoever. And since taking office, mostly interested in campaigning, blaming and aiming excuses at his predecessor, the Republicans, and people in business, or as Republicans like to call them, employers.

We've stagnated into an economy that has taken all of that hope right down the slope and has left millions without jobs, forced out of their homes by foreclosure, herded into dependency upon a government that promises us candy but gives us cavities.

Barack Obama seems intent on enrolling more people on Food Stamps. Mitt Romney's focus is going to be on generating more jobs that will make Food Stamps unnecessary for them.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: We know full well we can do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Mitt Romney turned around companies that were on the skids. He turned down a scandal-ridden Olympics that was deep in the red, into a high point of profit and patriotic pride. And he turned around a very liberal state when he erased the deficit and replaced it with a surplus.

Do you remember when Barack Obama said that if he couldn't turn things around in three years it would be a one-term proposition?

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Well, it's been almost four years. I say let's make him a proposition he can't refuse. Let's vote him out.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: I understand that the job of president is admittedly tougher than running a company, an Olympic contest or a commonwealth. But when one sees what even Bill Clinton noted was a sterling record of problem solving that has marked the life of Mitt Romney, we are confident that we will do better.

(APPLAUSE) HUCKABEE: I am thrilled to say that Romney has been loyal to his lovely wife who knocked it out of the park last night in this arena.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: He -- he's been loyal to his sons, to his country, to his employees and to his church. Well, I'm sure now that the press is going to tell you he isn't perfect. But, my friends, for the past four years, we tried the one that the press thought was perfect and that hasn't worked out all that well for us.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: That's why tonight I tell you, we can do better.

Our Founding Fathers left taxation and tyranny seeking religious liberty and a society of meritocracy rather than aristocracy. What they created was a bold experiment in government, believing that God gave us inalienable rights and that the role of government is simply to make sure that those rights are protected.

So fearful were they that the government would grow beyond their intention that even after crafting our magnificent Constitution, they said, we can do even better. They added amendments. We call them the Bill of Rights. Those Bill of Rights limit what the government can do. And they guarantee what we the people have the unimpeded right to do, whether to speak, assemble, worship, pray, publish, or even refuse intrusions into our homes.

Many of those founders died to pass on that heritage. They had lived under the boot of big government. And what they said was we can do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: As a kid growing up in a household, my dad never finished high school. I grew up in a family in which no male upstream from me had ever finished high school, much less gone to college. But I was taught that even though there was nothing I could do about what was behind me, I could change every about what was in front of me.

My working poor parents told me that I could do better. They taught me I was as good as anybody else. And it never occurred to them to tell me that I could just rest comfortably and wait for good old Uncle Sugar to feed me, lead me and then bleed me.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: They told me to get off my backside, work hard, take risks and treat people honestly and honorably.

And look at me today. I've become, as the press like to label me, a failed candidate. Oh, it's true. I have fallen from the high perch of politics. And now I wallow in the mud of the media.

But I still know that as a country we can do better. And with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, we will do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: I want to clear the air about something that has been said. People wonder whether guys like me, an Evangelical, would only support a fellow Evangelical. Well, my friends, I want to tell you something, of the four people on the two tickets, the only self- professed Evangelical is Barack Obama. And he supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at anytime in the womb, even beyond the womb. And he tells people of faith that they have to bow their knees to the God of government and violate their faith and conscious in order to comply with what he calls health care.

Friends, I know we can do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Let me say this as clearly as possible, that the attack on my Catholic brothers and sisters is an attack on me.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: The Democrats have brought back that old dance, the limbo, to see how low they can go in attempting to limit our ability to practice our faith. But this isn't a battle about contraceptives and Catholics, but about conscious and the creator.

Let me say to you tonight, I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Joe Biden said, show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value. Well in the Senate, Joe's party hasn't produced a budget in three years. What does that say about their values?

And by the way, speaking of budgets, Joe Biden's budget shows that while he wants to be very generous with your money, through higher taxes and government spending, for years, he gave less than two tenths of one percent of his own money to charity. He just wants you to give the government more, so he and the Democrats can feel better about themselves.

Mitt Romney has given over 16 percent of his income to church and charity.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: And my friends, I feel a lot better about having a president who will give generously of his own money instead of mine or yours.

(APPLAUSE) HUCKABEE: My concern is not Barack Obama's past, but my concern is for the future, not his future, but for the future of my grandchildren, little Chandler and Scarlett.

And under this president, we have burdened each of them with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and a system that will collapse upon itself because he thinks we can prosper by punishing productivity and rewarding reckless irresponsibility.

The Democrats say we ought to give Barack Obama credit for trying. Folks, that sounds like the nonsense of giving every kid a trophy for showing up.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Let's be clear, we're talking about leading the country, not playing on a third grade soccer team. Look, I realize this is a man who got a Nobel Peace Prize for what he would potentially do. But in the real world, you get the prize for producing something, not just promising something.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Sometimes we get so close to the picture, we really can't see it clearly. I've had the privilege of working with Bono for the past few years in The One Campaign to fight AIDS and hunger and disease around the world. Bono is an Irishman and a great humanitarian.

And I remember him telling me of his admiration for America. He said America's more than just a country. We're an idea. And he reminded me that we are an exceptional nation with an extraordinary history, who owes it to the generations who are coming after us to leave them with an extraordinary legacy.

But if we don't change the direction of our nation now, our bequest will be nothing but an extraordinary shame. But dear friends, we can do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: President Obama is out of gas. And Americans are out of patience. And our great republic is almost out of time. It's time that we no longer lead from behind, but that we get off our behinds and leave something for those after us, instead of a mountain of debt and a pile of excuses.

Tonight it's not because we're Republicans, it's because we are Americans that we proudly stand with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we say we will do better.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: God bless you. Thank you. God bless.

(APPLAUSE) BLITZER: Four years ago, he wanted to get the Republican presidential nomination. He didn't get it. He lost to John McCain. But you just see Mike Huckabee there, the former Arkansas governor, giving what I called a pretty red meat kind of speech, going after the president of the United States.

But he was really enthusiastic about Mitt Romney.

BURNETT: He had a lot of good one liners in there too. But he's really the warm-up act for the big event of the night. Condoleezza Rice is going to be giving a speech. And then, of course, the big one of the night, Paul Ryan is going to be making his debut to much of the country. That's coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is getting a standing ovation. Let's listen to her speech.

RICE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) Thank you so much. Good evening.

Good evening, distinguished delegates. Good evening, fellow Republicans. Good evening, my fellow Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

We gather here at a time of significance and challenge. This young century has been a difficult one. I can remember as if it were yesterday when my young assistants came into my office at the White House to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and then, a second plane, and then a third plane, the Pentagon. And later, we would learn that a plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, driven into the ground by brave souls who died so that others might live.

(APPLAUSE)

From that day on -- from that day on, our sense of vulnerability and our concepts of security were never the same again.

Then, in 2008, the global financial and economic crisis would stun us. And it still reverberates as we deal with unemployment and economic uncertainty and bad policies that cast a pall over an American economy and a recovery that is desperately needed at home and abroad.

And we have seen -- we have seen that the desire for liberty and freedom is, indeed, universal, as men and women in the Middle East rise up to seize it. Yet, the promise of the Arab spring is engulfed in uncertainty, internal strife, and hostile neighbors our challenging the young, fragile democracy of Iraq. Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threat to regional security. Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, where does America stand? (APPLAUSE)

Indeed -- indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see when the friends or foes alike don't know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place.

Since world war ii, the United States has had an answer to that question. We stand for free peoples and free markets. We will defend and support them.

(APPLAUSE)

We will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.

Now, to be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I know, as you do, the sacrifice of Americans, especially the sacrifice of many of our bravest in the ultimate sacrifice, but our armed forces are the surest shield and foundation of liberty, and we are so fortunate that we have men and women in uniform who volunteer, they volunteer to defend us at the front lines of freedom, and we owe them our eternal gratitude.

(APPLAUSE)

I know too it has not always been easy though it has been rewarding to speak for those who otherwise do not have a voice. The religious dissident in China, the democracy advocate in Venezuela, the political prisoner in Iran.

RICE: It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies and to intervene on behalf of the most desperate. The AIDS orphans in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia. It has been hard, yet this assistance together with the compassionate work of private charities, people of conscience and people of faith, has shown the soul of our country. And I know too -- I know too there is a wariness. I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough. But we can only know that there is no choice, because one of two things will happen if we don't lead. Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.

My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind.

(APPLAUSE)

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality. Our well- being at home and our leadership abroad are inextricably linked. They know what to do. They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us. From Israel to Columbia, from Poland to the Philippines, our allies and friends have to know that we will be reliable and consistent and determined. And our foes can have no reason to doubt our resolve because peace really does come through strength. (APPLAUSE)

Our military capability and our technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney's hands. We must work for an open, global economy, and pursue free and fair trade, to grow our exports and our influence abroad. If you are worried about the rise of China, just consider this -- the United States has negotiated -- the United States has ratified only three trade agreements in the last few years, and those were negotiated in the Bush administration.

China has signed 15 free trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more. Sadly, we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade and it will come back to haunt us.

(APPLAUSE)

We must not allow the chance to attain energy independence to slip from our grasp. We are blessed with a gift of oil and gas resources here in North America, and we must develop them. We can develop them sensitively, we can develop them securing our environment, but we must develop them.

(APPLAUSE)

And we have the ingenuity to develop alternatives sources of energy. Most importantly, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of our strength, the American economy -- stimulating private sector growth and stimulating small business entrepreneurship.

(APPLAUSE)

When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see an American government that continues to borrow money, that will mortgage the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny.

RICE: That is not the America that has inspired people to follow our lead.

(APPLAUSE)

After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful economic and political experiment in human history. That is the true basis of American exceptionalism. You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea. And what an idea it is. That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow Americans, ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have never been jealous of one another and never envious of each others' successes.

(APPLAUSE)

No, no, ours has been a belief in opportunity. And it has been a constant struggle, long and hard, up and down, to try to extend the benefits of the American dream to all. But that American ideal is indeed in danger today. There is no country, no, not even a rising China that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we do not do the hard work before us here at home.

(APPLAUSE)

More than at any other time in history, greatness is built on mobilizing human potential and ambition. We have always done that better than any country in the world. People have come here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons.

They have come here from the world's most impoverished nations just to make a decent wage. And they have come here from advanced societies as engineers and scientists that fuel the knowledge-based revolution in the Silicon Valley of California, in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, along Route 128 in Massachusetts, in Austin, Texas, and across this great land.

(APPLAUSE) We must continue to welcome the world's most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.

(APPLAUSE)

We have been successful too because Americans have known that one's status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans have believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can control your response to your circumstances.

(APPLAUSE)

And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are.

(APPLAUSE)

My mom was a teacher. I respect the profession. We need great teachers, not poor ones and not mediocre ones. We have to have high standards for our kids, because self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.

(APPLAUSE) And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day.

(APPLAUSE)

If we do anything less, we can damage generations to joblessness and hopelessness and life on the government dole (ph). If we do anything less, we will endanger our global imperatives for competitiveness. And if we do anything less, we will tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement the turn toward entitlement and grievance.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home. And they will help us lead abroad. They will provide an answer to the question, "where does America stand?" The challenge is real and the times are hard. But America has met and overcome hard challenges before.

Whenever you find yourself a doubting us, just think about all those times that America made impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect. Our revolutionary founding act as the greatest military power of the time, a civil war, brother against brother, hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, but we emerged a more perfect union. A second founding when inpatient patriots were determined to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation.

A long struggle against communism with the soviets even -- the soviet union's collapse and in the aftermath of 9/11, the willingness to take hard, hard decisions that toward us and prevented the follow on attack that everybody thought preordained.

(APPLAUSE)

And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham. The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, yes. Yes. Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect, but we know it was never inevitable. It took leadership. And it took courage. And it's a belief that our values. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have the integrity and the experience and the vision to lead us. They know who we are. They know who we want to be. They know who we are in the world and what we offer.

That is why -- that is why this is a moment and an election of consequence. Because it just has to be that the freest most compassionate country on the face of the earth will continue to be the most powerful and the beacon for prosperity and the party across the world. God bless you and God bless this extraordinary country, this exceptional country: The United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)