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THE SITUATION ROOM

Mitt Romney's Big Night; Isaac's Aftermath

Aired August 30, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They will be playing a significant role later tonight here in Tampa as well.

And a watery nightmare -- the Isaac disaster still unfolding for thousands of people. And now a dam is in danger of breaking.

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

Every minute of every day here in Tampa has been building up to tonight. And in just about four hours, Mitt Romney will accept the Republican presidential nomination.

We have just received some advance excerpts from what he will say.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is down there on the convention floor.

What do you know over there, Jim? Share with our viewers.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Romney campaign just released excerpts of Mitt Romney's speech that he will be delivering later tonight when he accepts the GOP nomination.

A key quote here I want to put on screen if we can do that right now, Mitt Romney is going to say -- quote -- "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed, but his promises gave way to disappointment and division," Romney will say. "This isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. With your help, we will do something" -- that from Mitt Romney.

I can also tell you from looking at the excerpts, he is not only going to be talking about his father, but his mother, saying his mother would have been proud of many of the female GOP leaders that took the stage during this GOP Convention.

And this will also be an opportunity for Mitt Romney to lay out a vision of the future, according to his campaign advisers. But this very much will be a look at Mitt Romney's past, almost a political equivalent of Mitt Romney, this is your life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Just hours from the speech of a lifetime, Mitt Romney was all business, a few pictures with his campaign staff, a quick walk-through at the podium, and off he went.

Earlier in the day, more than 100 family members of both Romney and his wife who came in from across the country sat on the convention floor, waiting their turn for the ultimate political souvenir, photographs on stage.

ACOSTA (on camera): Did you see this in him growing up?

SCOTT ROMNEY, BROTHER OF MITT ROMNEY: You know, when I was 12 and he was 6, no. Later on, as time went by I saw him grow into a spectacular leader.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The GOP nominee's older brother Scott Romney hopes voters get a closer look at the man he has known all his life.

(on camera): What should the country know about your brother that they don't already know?

S. ROMNEY: I think they know a lot already about him and they will know more about what a warm, caring and great person he is and what a leader he can be and how he really has been able to fix everything he's ever done and he will be able to do something to fix this country.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And it's as if Romney's entire life has been building up to this moment, the son of a former presidential candidate, the successful businessman who lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy only to then turn around the 2022 Olympic Games and launch a successful run for governor and finally his own White House ambitions.

In contrast to the red meat speech delivered by Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan...

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?

ACOSTA: ... this night will show the softer side of Romney, members of his Mormon church from Boston and also in the lineup, Olympic athletes from the Salt Lake City Games Romney helped rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mitt came in and did the things that he did and put his team together to make it one of the most successful Olympics of all modern time, that was proof for us that he was really behind us.

ACOSTA: The campaign's goal, to show that behind the rallies, attack ads and the gaffes...

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like to be able to fire people who provide services to me.

ACOSTA: ... there's a president in the making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people will look at what he's done as a businessman, what he's done in the Olympics and what he's done as governor of Massachusetts, what his family is like and what he's like as a family man, and they will see the Mitt Romney that they haven't seen yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, Mitt Romney will not get much sleep or rest after this convention speech tonight.

He has campaign events scheduled tomorrow in Florida, then he is off to Virginia and Ohio. But, Wolf, I have to tell you, I talked to a senior Romney adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, just a little while ago and he pointed out something also that's very important.

And that is as soon as Mitt Romney accepts the GOP nomination formally tonight, they will be able to tap into the general election funds. Up until now, they have only been spending primary funds and they say they will have a sizable financial advantage over the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They have a lot more cash on hand than the Obama campaign, that is to be sure.

And we're going to see over these next two months hundreds of millions of dollars spent on both sides, but the Romney people have a lot, lot more to spend in these final two months.

Next week, during the Democratic Convention, is he going to be out on the campaign trail with, without Paul Ryan? What are we hearing about that?

ACOSTA: Well, I should mention that that event tomorrow morning here in Florida will be with Paul Ryan. They're going to be doing more campaign events tomorrow together.

But I have to tell you, Wolf, they're keeping all of their plans close to the vest at this point as to what is going to go on next week. I did talk to Eric Fehrnstrom and he did sort of indicate there will be some campaign events going on next week. Whether or not that means Paul Ryan going to Charlotte, I do expect Romney campaign staffers and surrogates to go to Charlotte.

Whether or not Paul Ryan goes, that remains to be seen, but I would as the president, as the president was trying to bracket Mitt Romney's message this week, the Romney campaign will be giving them a taste of their own medicine.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta will be on the floor for us the entire evening. Thanks very much.

You don't have to look too carefully to see the next generation of party leaders on display here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Some are playing some pretty prominent roles.

CNN's Dana Bash is also on the convention floor.

Dana, are we seeing a transition already to the next generation of Republicans?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and you know, historically that is what conventions are for.

Remember, Barack Obama wasn't even in the Senate yet when he gave a very memorable keynote address and it really launched him into national prominence. That's really what we're seeing, but even more so at this particular convention.

You see I'm in front of the state of Florida where we are of course right now, and the guy that's going to give the speech introducing Mitt Romney is one of those next generation prominent Republicans, Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Listen to the man that will introduce Mitt Romney tonight with Jon Stewart.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Have they said to you, hey, charisma boy, take it down a notch?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They haven't told me. Only thing they have asked me to do is introduce the governor. They give me 15 minutes to say anything I want.

BASH: Forty-one-year-old Marco Rubio insists his speech will be about Mitt Romney, not him. But the truth is this convention is largely about him and other Republican up-and-comers. Tampa put a spotlight on the fact that this is a party in transition.

A black female congressional candidate.

MIA LOVE (R), UTAH CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The American dream isn't just my story, it isn't just your story, it's our story. It's a story of human struggles, standing up and striving for more.

BASH: The first Latina governor.

GOV. SUSANA MARTINEZ (R), NEW MEXICO: We share a core belief that the promise of America must be kept for the next generation.

El sueno Americanos es tener exito.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MARTINEZ: It's success. It is success.

And success is the American dream.

BASH: But perhaps more than new diverse faces, this is a GOP going through a generational shift. Check out this massive convention space showcasing Google, Twitter and other technology and social media. Sure, People Romney's age use all this, but for Gen-Xers Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan's age, it's in their comfort zone.

Only a 40-something or younger could pull this off.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope it is not a deal breaker, Mitt. But my play list, it starts with AC/DC and it ends with Zeppelin.

BASH: But youth and diversity is hardly pulling the GOP towards the center -- 44-year-old Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a conservative icon.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Voters in Wisconsin got to determine who was in charge. Was it the big government special interests in Washington or the hardworking taxpayers of our state? The good news is the hardworking taxpayers won.

BASH (on camera): When you look at Mia Love or you look at Susana Martinez, you might think one thing, but then you hear them talk, and you realize they're very conservative.

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: They are very conservative and I think they're very conservative because they know from their own life experience that conservative principles work better. That's why I became a full-fledged conservative because I saw in the real world, you decentralize decision making, it works better. You empower individuals, it works better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: As for the up-and-coming Republican that's going to be highlighted tonight, Senator Marco Rubio, I am told that he is although very conservative, he is not going to give a red meat speech.

A source that's familiar with his speech says he is going to talk more about what he has talked about over the years that propelled him into the Senate, about what he calls exceptionalism, and what he means by that is the American dream. He is a Cuban-American. He is going to talk about his experience and how that has guided his principles and his philosophy.

I am also told, Wolf, his whole goal is simply to set the stage, set the table for the man who will come after him, the man of the hour, Mitt Romney -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Transition to a new generation of leaders continuing to unfold. Dana will be on the floor for us throughout the night.

Much more on what's going on, a huge night for the Republicans. Historic night. Mitt Romney getting ready to accept the Republican presidential nomination -- much more on that coming up.

But there's another story I want to update you on, what's been happening along the Gulf Coast. The watery disaster caused by Hurricane Isaac is still unfolding.

An earthen dam on the Louisiana-Mississippi border is now in danger of failing. More than 2,000 people live immediately downstream. Evacuations have been ordered. Crews are making what they call a relief cut in the dam to ease the pressure. The emergency is also far from over in Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish.

CNN's Brian Todd is there and he's on the scene for us.

Brian, you rode along on a rescue mission. How did that go?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a little frustrating for a lot of rescue officials here.

They're still looking for stranded victims. We went with rescuers in an airboat convoy, one of the few ways they can even get to them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Billy Nungesser has little time and way too much water to cover. The Plaquemines Parish president is on the second day of a search mission trying to find anyone stranded from a massive flood surge.

We ride with him in a convoy of airboats, one of few ways to reach residents isolated by floodwater.

(on camera): You going to stay until the water goes down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TODD (voice-over): In the tiny town of Ironton, complete devastation, houses inundated by not only water but a grassy muddy sludge. A rescuer says they got three people out of this house in the storm. In places like this, rescue officials tell us that what they're looking for are signs of people on the roofs. Unless they're incapacitated, they say they will come out, let you know they're there.

This was all triggered by the overtopping of a levee during Hurricane Isaac. Nungesser believes about a 30-mile stretch of that levee is underwater, meaning he and his teams may have to cover about 60 square miles of engulfed village and he is already exhausted.

(on camera): What do you think you got in here?

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: It's unbelievable, deja vu, man. This is unbelievable.

TODD: You have been through the oil spill and you have been Katrina, and how would you rate this?

NUNGESSER: There's more water here than Katrina.

TODD (voice-over): And potentially more people stranded. Coming in off the floodwaters, stopping here at Billy Nungesser's house, he says built the house and this wall here to withstand hurricanes, and it's barely holding up, but it's got to. He has 11 survivors of the flood staying here.

We watched 65-year-old Melanie Bekaris (ph) handicapped and with dementia being brought out for airlift. A sheriff's deputy tells us her husband tried to drive her out during the storm. Their car got pushed into a flooded ditch. Then:

RANDALL FORTMAYER, SHERIFF'S DEPUTY: And then they got on top the vehicle, and the water got deep to where they had to start swimming. They found a log or a telephone pole, where they was hanging onto that. Then when it got to the debris line, they couldn't go no further. He kind of tied his wife to the pole, with her head up out the water and he kind of crawled over to the debris to the levee and then ran up the levee and came here.

TODD: How is this for clinging to whatever is not underwater? Two cows take refuge on a porch, this one stuck on a barbed wire fence, and it was later freed. The humans who stayed in this area during Isaac had been warned.

TODD (on camera): Why did you stay here when everybody was told to get out?

SHIRLEY JOHNSON, SURVIVOR: Because we had nowhere to go, and no way of getting out. So we stayed together as a family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Others who are now stranded said they stayed because they knew it would take a long time to get back to their homes. Billy Nungesser says it will take at least a week for waters to recede and he says that's only because they're going to start punching holes in the levee just trying to bring some relief.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in Louisiana, thanks, Brian.

This important note to our viewers. The need will be tremendous. You can impact your world by helping victims of Hurricane Isaac. Find out how to do so and go to CNN.com/impact.

Getting back to the news here in Tampa. A prominent role tonight for some of Mitt Romney's fellow Mormons. We're going to hear from one of them about putting Mitt Romney's faith in the spotlight.

Also at 48 past the hour, it's business as usual, business unusual I should say for some owners in Tampa. How the convention is hurting some small businesses. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It has sometimes been a delicate issue during the campaign. But Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is expected to be part of tonight's lead-up to his acceptance speech.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here.

You did an excellent documentary on this, but you had a chance to go in depth. He seems to be coming -- a little bit becoming more comfortable talking about his faith.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he is.

And in doing that documentary, Wolf, I spoke with someone named Graham Bennett. He worked with Mitt Romney when Mitt Romney was what they call a bishop in the Mormon Church in his home of Belmont, Massachusetts.

And the Mormon church has no paid clergy. When they say bishop, what they mean is somebody that's actually leading the congregation but comes from the congregation. Let's play a little about what Graham Bennett had to say about Romney in the '80s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM BENNETT, FRIEND OF MITT ROMNEY: When Mitt was the bishop, there were about 60 youth in the ward and the expectation is that you interview the 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds once a year, but the 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds twice a year.

So Mitt said I'm going to dedicate every Tuesday night, I am going to arrange my schedule to be at the chapel and from 7:30 until about 9:00 I'm dedicating that to interviewing youth.

And so as his counselor, we would print out a list of birthdays of the youth. We would then have the responsibility for contacting them, inviting them to come in and meet with Mitt. Well, over the course of his term as bishop, if you run the numbers, 250, 275 30- minute, 40-minute one-on-one discussions with members of the congregation, and the discussions are along the lines of how's life going, how is your relationship with your parents, what are you thinking about education, are you planning on college?

How are you doing in your own search for faith and for meaning? And it really is in consistently following through on that kind of action that I think he made a significant difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Yes. And he's letting reporters come in now, see what's going on.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: I think this is going to help in the general election. The Republican primaries, I was always convinced he didn't really want to get into that whole issue, but now he is feeling so much more comfortable. I think the American public is feeling so much more comfortable.

BORGER: Wolf, he spent 15 years of his life leading his church in one way or another, either locally or in the state of Massachusetts as state president. That's a lot of time, and effort, and energy.

BLITZER: He's very charitable to the church and other causes as well. BORGER: Tithing.

BLITZER: What does he need to do tonight?

BORGER: I have been speaking with some people in the Romney campaign. They tell me a couple of things.

First of all, the big question that he needs to face is will people coming away from the speech believe that I care about people like them? They know people understand that he is a wealthy man, but they want to make the case that despite his great wealth, he understands their problems.

They also say they need to really understand that he is a man of character. What they have to do, they don't want to move the needle. They don't expect to move the needle that Mitt Romney will somehow jump ahead in the polls. What they want to do is move the needle on the question of cares about people like me, because that is really dragging him down compared with President Obama.

BLITZER: We will see how he does. We will know soon enough. You will be with us throughout the night as well.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: A speech that has been truly weeks and weeks in the making. We will have much more on what Mitt Romney needs to say tonight to win over some skeptical voters.

Plus, we will also get Democratic reaction live this hour. The Democratic Party chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, she is standing by to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Excitement now building here in Tampa for Mitt Romney's big speech tonight and the Republicans' big night. Also, the Democratic take on what we have seen here in Tampa this week. I will speak live this hour with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and she's the Democratic Party chair.

Also, why some small businesses in Tampa will be glad to see the convention close. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, we're about three-and-a-half-hours away from Mitt Romney's acceptance speech tonight here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. With a nationwide audience of tens of millions, it is a chance for him to try to seal some positive perceptions and perhaps change negative ones some voters may hold.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here with us as well.

John, what does Mitt Romney from your perspective need to accomplish tonight? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just having a conversation with one of his top advisers, who said Mitt Romney needs to convince the American people he is uniquely qualified to deal with the economic problems in the country now and convince them it is time for President Obama to go and he has a better plan and plan that will actually work and get the economy going.

He has some things if you look at the polling data working to his advantage. Let's go through some battleground states as we look at our numbers from a national poll. The governor had consistently had a lead when voters are asked the question who would better handle the economy. This is not as big a lead as the Romney campaign would like.

But in our latest poll he has a four-point edge over the president. Slight edge when they are asked that question who would better handle the economy. When you ask other questions of a similar vain, we will move over to the state of Virginia, another big battleground, who has a clear plan for solving the country's problems, again Romney has an advantage over the president.

When voters look at the number one issue, who has a plan to solve it, Governor Romney does quite well. The problem is what we call the empathy gap maybe for lack of a better term. You move down and look at this, you see when asked questions like this, who is in touch with problems facing the middle class, then you see a significant advantage for the president, Wolf. A huge advantage.

Majority of Americans think the president is much more in touch with problems facing the middle class. That's part of the strategic imperative for Governor Romney tonight, close the gap. One last thing I want to do is use some data from the Pew Research Survey Center. Just look at this chart when we bring it up.

Everybody take a minute to zone in. Look at the biggest circles and they asked people to describe Romney with one word. Some people went a little beyond that, say out of touch, 10, but honest, 32. That's a good score. Businessman, can be good or bad, depending on how you view it. Rich, 31.

You see this is an odd test, just an interesting test some pollsters use to do it. Some of this is neutral, some positive, some negative. What the Romney campaign hopes tonight, Wolf, that when people are asked after the plan, they will say honest, and they will say has a plan to get the economy going.

BLITZER: You understand, John, how much work goes into a huge speech like this tonight. Share with the viewers a little bit what Romney and his advisers have been going through these last few weeks.

KING: Obviously it is a three part speech essentially. Some part of it is personal, to reintroduce himself. Americans know his name, but the Obama campaign spent so much money, its super PAC allies have spent so much money, he wants to reintroduce himself.

Part of it is a personal story, who he is, what makes him tick ,if there's a crisis in the White House, a big challenge in the White house, how does his gut and mind work? That's part of it, the personal. Part two of the speech is to make the case against the incumbent president.

I know you have Mr. Carville with you. He's the last strategist and Bill Clinton was the last candidate to run a campaign where you defeated an incumbent president for the United States, no easy task, especially when the president is well liked even in tough economic times. He's well liked.

Second part of the speech, they have been working on this, Governor Romney doing most of it, make the case against the president. But they don't believe as Paul Ryan said last night that's enough. They think then he has to prove to people his business experience, work at the Olympics and work as governor makes him -- and again they believe -- what they're trying to do tonight is make the case he is uniquely qualified to be the turnaround guy to help an economy in trouble.

BLITZER: John with will be us throughout the night of course as well. Thank you, John.

Let's get some more now with CNN political contributors. Joining us now, the Democratic strategist James Carville and the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

How does he deal with that problem, Alex, Mitt Romney, when people associate him with words like rich and businessman?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He will still be rich and a businessman after this convention.

But he has to let them see something else. Ann Romney threw a pitch the other night. She showed us Mitt Romney through her eyes. Tonight, it's his job to let us see it through our eyes. He has to tell us what's important to him, what's at his core.

That's something that's been a challenge for Mitt Romney. He is a private man in a public world. That's going to be a hurdle for him. But he just has to speak from his heart, speak straight.

BLITZER: You were a brilliant strategist for Bill Clinton. If you were giving him advice, and I you're not, I know he is not going to listen, but seriously, if you were working for the Romney campaign and the candidate said to you, James, how do I do this, how do I fix this, become more likable, what would you tell him?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would say, Governor, this is the real opportunity we have here.

What happens in the 45 minutes that you're up there is 10 times more important than everything that has happened at the convention combined. And I would say I wouldn't worry right now about people liking you. When you walk off that stage, the people that watched that, I want them to say inside that this guy has an idea how to fix this thing. He has a way that he is going to go about it. He understands what's going on in the country. He understands what's going on in my life, and he's got a plan to try to fix that.

If he accomplishes that, the other stuff will take care of itself. Now, that is -- that sole line, I asked you to do one simple thing: I asked you to kill Superman. OK? It's not the easiest assignment.

But I would not get him to say, look, you've got to be sure you do this. You've got to be sure you do that, no. Be sure that people see you as a man that is aware of what's going on in their lives and that people see you as somebody that has a plan to make it better. If you get that done, you've done a lot.

CASTELLANOS: Any time in the campaign, Wolf, you're talking about humanizing your candidate, you're dehumanizing him. You're making him look in all the mirrors, and it actually hurts.

James is right: the big problem in this country is getting the economy going again. There's a fire, put it out. Nobody much cares, really, about whether the fireman is their best friend or not. But they do want to know if they can trust him, and that's what's important. And he'll do that by speaking honestly and directly, not warm and fuzzy.

CARVILLE: Yes, he's not -- and also it's self-defeating to a guy to say, "Look, people think you're a jerk. Now go out there and prove that you're not." OK, you know.

BLITZER: My advice to him would be advice they gave me when I first started going on television: just be yourself. Don't worry so much about the camera, because he is a charming guy, an intelligent guy behind the scenes. He's a funny guy. In small groups, I've gotten to see him. But when he gets in front of that camera, he stiffens up a little bit. Let Mitt be Mitt, if you will.

CASTELLANOS: I'll tell you a story. The first time I ever met Mitt Romney I was in his kitchen. He says, "Alex, Governor Romney. Good -- Mitt Romney, good to see you. Good to see you. I'd like you to meet my wife Ann. And I'd like you to meet my other wife, Beth." It was his campaign manager. He's got a great sense of humor. He's a delight to be with.

BLITZER: Doesn't come through.

CARVILLE: But that doesn't -- it doesn't matter, because he's not very good publicly doing these kinds of things. He's not very comfortable revealing himself. All he needs to do tonight is a simple thing: "I understand what's going on and I understand how to fix it." And if he gets that done, he's done a lot.

BLITZER: When -- when Ronald Reagan was running for -- against an incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, back in 1980, he asked these series of questions. Let me play the clip because on the other side, I'm going to ask both of you if Mitt Romney should do the same thing right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think when you make that decision it might be well if you would ask yourself: are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then I think your choice is very obvious who you vote for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that a question, a series of questions that Mitt Romney should be asking right now?

CARVILLE: No. Look, let me tell you, the Obama people may just put him up there and say, OK, "They want you to go back to four years ago. They think that that was the garden time in America. Let me tell you what was happening. GM was going broke. Bin Laden was running around. There was a financial crisis. The stock market was down. Have we made enough satisfactory progress? Yes." But if their idea is where they want to go, is to some garden time four years ago, I think that would be a big mistake. And I mean that. I would leave that alone, because that's a question that they're going to answer well.

CASTELLANOS: We agree on that. But that's not what they're saying: go back to four years ago. They're saying move ahead. You're not better off than you were four years ago.

I'll tell you, last night CNN did a focus group, undecided voters. Tom Foreman and the undecideds, sounds like a rock band. And you know the line that scored the best for Paul Ryan in his speech? Why would you be any better off the next four years than you've been the past four? That was a winner. It shouldn't just be just a line in Mitt Romney's speech tonight; that should be his whole speech.

BLITZER: He's paraphrasing Ronald Reagan's line. When I heard that, I found it the same thing.

CASTELLANOS: Exactly.

CARVILLE: The thing Reagan did, he asked four years ago. Now, if you want to put it in the future, and I think opens -- that's a question that President Obama has got to answer at our convention is, what's his plan to make the next four years better, that's very fair.

But when people talk about here that there was a time when America was this, there are a lot of people in America that feel like they weren't included in that time. And that's just a dangerous game that the Republicans are playing. And they play it too much. CASTELLANOS: We're not playing. We're asking why would the next four be any better than the last. That's different. That's what Paul Ryan asked last night. That's where this campaign is going. We have a shot.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Don't go too far away. You'll be with us through the night, as well.

Democrats are reacting strongly to Paul Ryan's big speech last night. Up next, we're going to speak to the Democratic National Committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's here in Tampa. She will join us live as our convention coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some harsh charges against President Obama by the newly nominated Republican candidate for vice president of the United States. Let's get some reaction now from the Democratic Party chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. She's joining us here in Tampa.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in. And I want to get your immediate reaction, because just in the last hour, I had a chance to sit down with Paul Ryan, the congressman, a man you know very well. And he made some serious accusations against the president. Once again, we heard his speech last night. Here's a little clip, and I'll get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN (R), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Absolutely not. No, no, no. There's plenty of land to go around. Both parties own this problem. Yes. So I've been saying that for years. All I would say is President Obama made it worse. President -- the debt went up $5.5 trillion under the Obama years.

More to the point, this crisis is coming closer. It's already hitting Europe. And President Obama has had four budgets, and four times he avoided tackling the problem. The Senate hasn't passed a budget for three years. That's the opposite of leadership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Congresswoman, that's a pretty strong statement from Paul Ryan. Go ahead and give me your reaction.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, unfortunately, Paul Ryan has made a decision to just simply separate himself from the facts and from the truth.

In his speech last night, that was evidence where he basically gave an utterly fact-free speech, accused President Obama of his policies closing -- causing the closure of auto plants in his hometown that was closed during President Bush's tenure, suggesting that President Obama ignored the Simpson-Bowles commission recommendation, his own commission, when Paul Ryan sat on that commission and voted no and led the Republicans in the House on that commission to vote no, as well.

Accused President Obama of cutting Medicare by $716 billion and cutting benefits. Not only not true, but also the same savings that he included in his budget that Romney and Ryan have proposed.

So you know, the notion that we should actually be honest and factual apparently has been a decision that's been laid aside during this convention week.

And that's because underneath the policies that they've embraced of allowing the middle class and proposing that the middle class pay for budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, which are policies that dragged us back to the failed policies of the past that got us into this mess in the first place, taking us back there, they know it's unpopular. So they're really going to have to play fast and loose with the facts, and that's really unfortunate and cynical.

BLITZER: Well, I did press him on that whole issue of when that GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, was closed. The president went there as a candidate in February of 2008. They announced it would be shut in June of 2008 during the Bush administration, and effectively it was shut during the Bush administration. And I asked him to -- if he wanted to revise or amend his comments on that specific issue. Here's what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: I'm saying he came and made these promises, makes these commitments, sells people on the notion that he's going to do all of these great achievements, and then none of them occur. These are empty promises that become broken promises, and that's the story of the Obama economy.

He said he was going to cut the deficit in half in four years. We're nowhere close. He said unemployment, if he passed the stimulus, would never go above 8 percent. It's been above 8 percent ever since.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So you get the point of what he's saying. The president did promise if he -- if he had the opportunity, he would make sure that plant would be open for 100 -- 100 years, even though it subsequently was shut down during the Bush administration.

SCHULTZ: Look, Paul Ryan is going to try to distance himself from the fact that he told a lie on national television in front of the entire country and really undermined his own personal and professional credibility, given that he is the vice-presidential candidate and he'll be the nominee on his party's ticket. It's really sad and unfortunate.

Paul Ryan knows that when it comes to the two choices, the two paths that Americans will have, President Obama's budget, which actually proposes that we strike a balance, that we make sure that if you work hard and play by the rules, that everyone in America has a chance to be successful, not just people who already are and should pay your fair share, unlike Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's budget which actually increases taxes on the middle class to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Actually turns Medicare into a voucher system, and pulls that health-care safety net out from under seniors.

These are policies that are overwhelmingly unpopular. The only thing they have left is to resort to lies and dishonesty. And even a poll has come out recently which shows that Americans are really feeling like the Romney/Ryan ticket is not honest. And there's a reason for that, because they clearly have played fast and loose with the facts, been called out on it repeatedly, and then cynically had their own consultants and advisers say, well, facts aren't important when it comes to this campaign.

This is unacceptable. And we believe that we should make sure that we debate on a higher plain, and at least compare policies in a truthful and factual -- and factual way, and that's what President Obama and our party has done and will continue to do.

BLITZER: But he did on certain things, the congressman, Paul Ryan, now the Republican vice-presidential nominee, was right when he said that the president promised to cut the deficit in half over four years. That didn't happen. When he says that he promised the unemployment wouldn't go above 8 percent, it's been above 8 percent now for a long time. So not on all of these things was he distorting the facts last night.

SCHULTZ: Well, there were plenty of examples of the distortion. But you know, the bottom line is that President Obama inherited the largest set of problems of really any president since FDR. And, thanks to his policies, thanks to the recovery act that put a tourniquet on that hemorrhaging, stop the bleeding and allow his policies when they took effect to bring us to 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector, without any help at all, I might add, from Paul Ryan and his Republican Tea Party colleagues in Congress because Wolf, they have made it clear they only care about one job: Barack Obama's. They made it clear consistently that their goal is to defeat Barack Obama at all costs, and they have no interest in working with this president to focus on job creation and get this economy turned around.

So President Obama has essentially been doing this by himself deliberately with no help from the Republicans, and that's not right. I think the American people see and believe that it's not right. They think we should work together.

President Obama will encourage -- continue to encourage our colleagues from the other side of the aisle to come to the table and work together, focus on making sure that we have a president in the White House who's fighting for the middle class and working families and who believes that, in America, if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have an opportunity to be successful.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her home state of Florida. She's here in Tampa at this Republican convention. Next time I see you, I'll ask you how awkward that feels to be amidst all these Republicans, Congresswoman. Thanks very much for coming in.

SCHULTZ: Been fabulous. Thank you.

BLITZER: Glad you're enjoying it.

Still ahead, how history records acceptance speeches. A closer look at some pitfalls that Mitt Romney may -- repeat, may -- want to avoid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Republican National Convention is certainly pumping millions and millions into the economy here in the Tampa area. But some small business owners say that tight security is actually costing them money.

CNN's Joe Johns is joining us now to explain what's going on. Joe, you had a chance to speak of some -- to some of these business owners. What have they been telling you?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they tell me they're hurting. Tampa's mayor says he thinks this convention has pumped something like $150 million into the city's economy, but people have talked to say they haven't seen very much of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): For the delegates listening in the Tampa Times Forum, it's pretty clear that Republicans love small business.

PAUL: Behind every small business there's a story worth knowing.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Mitt understands the hopes and dreams of small business owners.

JOHNS: And those local establishments lucky enough to secure a spot inside the convention complex are doing very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh, we're doing a lot of business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, there. What can I get for you?

JOHNS: Take Buddy Brew...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have Iced Americano.

JOHNS: ... a Tampa coffee shop that has a kiosk within the Google (ph) Pavilion. Owner Dave Ward and his employees are scrambling to keep up with thirsty customers.

DAVE WARD, OWNER, BUDDY BREW: Well over 1,000 --- 1,000 cups a day.

JOHNS: But just a few blocks outside the closely-guarded security perimeter, it's a dramatically different story. BRYAN GOODELL, MANAGER, FRESH: I would say it's the worst. We've been open for two years. It's probably by far the worst two weeks since we've opened.

JOHNS: Bryan Goodell, the manager at Fresh, a downtown lunch spot, says the big crowds never came, driving revenues down about 80 percent from an average week.

GOODELL: We haven't seen the people. Where are the people?

JOHNS: Were you expecting the people?

GOODELL: Yes, we were expecting thousands and thousands. We were expecting our streets to be full of people.

JOHNS: And he's not the only one. A few blocks away, the Loading Dock pub is deserted during the usual lunch-hour rush. It's a shock to owner Karen Warren, who stocked her refrigerator with extra food and scheduled more staff this week.

KAREN WARREN, OWNER, LOADING DOCK: It's been awful. It's not been business as usual. It's the exact opposite of business as usual.

JOHNS: And this kind of unexpected slowdown can really hurt the bottom line.

WARREN: It will take me three to four months to get back what I've lost this week. I feel like it's going to take me that long. I'm even struggling for payroll this week.

JOHNS: Both businesses say the security measures are partly to claim. Metal crowd control fencing and checkpoints just steps from their store fronts make it difficult for regular customers and convention goers to get there.

Another hurdle: no street-side parking. That's forced Sharon Kyte, the owner of Designing Eyes, to deliver glasses ordered from her store curbside.

SHARON KYTE, OWNER, DESIGNING EYES: It's actually now a drive- through store.

JOHNS (on camera): So you're doing drive-through glasses drop- off?

KYTE: Yes, could be a new concept.

JOHNS: But that type of enterprise isn't enough. Kite says it's still one of her worst weeks in over 20 years.

(on camera) There's been so much disruption downtown, many stores didn't even bother to open their doors. This flower shop does a lot of deliveries downtown, but given the circumstances, they decided, at least today, not to bother.

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA: I mean, clearly those in the downtown perimeter and in close proximity to the secure zone are having some challenges.

JOHNS (voice-over): Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he always expected some businesses to always be disappointed because of the security realities of hosting a convention.

BUCKHORN: There's nothing I can do about that. That's the reality of a post-9/11 world.

JOHNS: That tight security has resulted in very few incidents between police and protesters: two crowds Karen Warren would love to see in her shop before the convention ends.

WARREN: I'd be very excited. I'd welcome them with open arms and do whatever I could do to make them happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And Karen Warren had some advice for small business in Charlotte at the DNC next week. Don't stock up too much. Don't hire too much staff.

Still, there are some businesses around here doing very well. Large businesses like hotels, for example, and of course, the caterers too, Wolf, they're racking up the bucks.

BLITZER: Yes, winners and losers in this story. Thanks very much for that, Joe Johns.

A speech for the history books. We're going to take a closer look at what past nominees have said and what they wish they hadn't.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some are famous, some are infamous. In just a few hours, Mitt Romney will deliver his acceptance speech here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and history will record it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DWIGHT EISENHOWER (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept your summons.

JOHN KERRY (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Reporting for duty.

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept your nomination.

BILL CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For president of the United States.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's so hard for us to remember this, but in the old days, the nominee would be chosen by the convention. There was no way the nominee would be at the convention. That would have been considered very much out of bad taste. It all changed because FDR decided he wanted to break precedence. He had to do something to break the mood of the country, which was suffering so deeply under the Depression.

In 1936, as he was going down the aisle to give his acceptance speech, he shook somebody's hand, lost his balance, fell on the floor, his braces unlocked, his speech sprawled out all over the floor. They get him up. They get him up to the podium. He puts his speech back in order, delivers perhaps the most historic speech, the "rendezvous with destiny" acceptance speech.

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.

GOODWIN: What an acceptance speech can do is to generate enthusiasm, not just in the convention hall, but in the country at large for the candidate. It sets a tone for the rest of the campaign that I think can -- can really put a person way ahead of where they would be otherwise.

REAGAN: We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

GOODWIN: One of the things that can be a problem in an acceptance speech is if you make a promise that you then cannot easily deliver on. Nixon promised, and he thought it was a great energetic thing to do, "I will travel to all 50 states."

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sick and tired...

GOODWIN: He was exhausted by the end of the campaign. And the Kennedy campaign knew that if he had had fewer states to concentrate on, he could easily have won that race.

Mondale at his acceptance speech said, "Let me tell you the truth."

WALTER MONDALE (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did.

GOODWIN: Just the idea of raising taxes became a terrible thing for him.

Similarly, when Bush Senior said, "Read my lips, no new taxes," that became a promise that then undid him when he broke it during his presidency.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Read my lips, no new taxes.

GOODWIN: So you have to be careful to not make some dramatic promise that cannot be fulfilled.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And CNN's coverage of the Republican National Convention continues right now.