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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Republican National Convention
Aired August 29, 2012 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there he is, the Republican vice presidential nominee and his beautiful family there. His mom is up there. This is exactly what this crowd of Republicans here, certainly Republicans all across the country, were hoping for.
He delivered a powerful speech. Erin, a powerful speech. Although I marked at least seven or eight points that I'm sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I'm sure they will. But as far as Mitt Romney's campaign is concerned, Paul Ryan certainly on this night delivered.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Certainly so. I mean, obviously, we were jotting down points. There will be some issues there with some of the facts. But it motivated people. And he is a man who said I care deeply about every single word. I want to do a good job. And he did deliver on that. Precise, clear, and passionate.
BLITZER: And to the point . And our coverage of this Republican National Convention continues right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: In Tampa tonight, Paul Ryan officially claims his job as Mitt Romney's running mate.
Warming up the crowd for Ryan, former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And we'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're watching this Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
I'm Wolf Blitzer along with Erin Burnett.
Erin, we've heard some powerful speeches tonight including from the vice presidential nominee.
BURNETT: We certainly have. And Condoleezza Rice, great job, too. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan just wrapped up his acceptance speech. It was one, though, of many memorable moments tonight. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third session of the 2012 Republican National Convention. The convention will come to order.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Our nation is in desperate need of leadership. We believe Mitt Romney is the man for this moment. After four long years, help is on the way.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Our great nation is coming apart at the seams and the president just seems to point fingers and blame others. President Obama's administration will add nearly $6 trillion to our national debt in just one term. And I'm hoping it's just one term.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Everywhere I go in the world, people tell me that they still have faith in America. What they want to know is whether we still have faith in ourselves. I trust that Mitt Romney has that faith and I trust him to lead us.
I trust him to know that an American president always, always, always stands up for the rights and freedoms and justice of all people.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Where does America stand? You see, when 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. 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.
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.
RYAN: I'm the newcomer to this campaign. So let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record. And so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they've got left.
With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money. And he's pretty experienced at that.
So here's the question. Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years? What is missing is leadership in the White House.
The man assumed office almost four years ago. Isn't it about time he assumed responsibility?
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: And that was the highlight of this evening. Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee, clearly electrifying these people, these Republicans here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
We all knew he had a lot of substantive background as a member of Congress, chairman of the House Budget Committee. Frankly, I was a little surprised to hear how effective as a speaker he would be even though several points he raised will clearly be disputed by his critics.
Let's go up to the booth. John King is standing by.
John, several points he made will be disputed, but there's no doubt he delivered a powerful speech.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A powerful speech, Wolf, and for the first time brought real convention level intensity and energy to this hall. Other speakers have had the occasional ovation. Paul Ryan had this crowd engaged. They are now ready for the fight and he framed it that way. And he framed it as very much the fight Republicans waged back in 2010. About the size, the scope, the role of government and he cast President Obama as somebody who four years ago had a lot of promises but a failure as a leader in the presidency.
Let's get a quick first impression from everybody up here in the skybox. David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Ari Fleischer and James Carville.
Let me start with you. We'll have a longer conversation later, but Paul Ryan to you the headline, the major accomplishment or lack thereof.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We'll start with the proposition that conservatives will think tonight that maybe they have a new Reagan. This was a powerful speech. He threw down the gauntlet. This audience loved Ann Romney. They love Condee Rice. But this was the speech they were waiting for. Democrats will sharply disagree. We're going to have a great debate this fall.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that Paul Ryan did a great job. And he had to do a couple of things. He had to portray President Obama as two things. Divisive and a disappointment. To look at those persuadable voters and say give Mitt Romney a shot here and I think that's exactly what he did tonight.
And he was the first person we really heard in this convention take on President Obama directly, prominently, and repeatedly and say this man has failed.
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: A jolt of adrenaline. This was a jot of optimistic economic adrenaline that Paul Ryan delivered tonight. And that's something the Republican Party needs. That confidence we can make the big decisions to take on the future. Also keep your eye on health care. If -- it's a Romney-Ryan ticket can neutralize the Democratic historic advantage in health care and they may be doing it on this Medicare-Obama attack. Huge changing issue in the politics of this -- this election.
KING: James Carville, after listening to Paul Ryan tonight will Democrats be nervous and worried about this campaign?
FLEISCHER: He's talking to you, James.
FLEISCHER: Never mind. I'll talk for him.
KING: Just your impression of Paul -- what's -- will Democrats be worried after hearing this from Paul Ryan tonight?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that Democrats are worried right now. They were worried before this convention. It's a very tight race. If you look at it, Obama's probably up one to three points. So who wouldn't be worried in that circumstance? But we're excited about our own convention, too. This doesn't end.
I thought tonight it was really striking how much different he was tonight than he was in Norfolk when he was announced. He seemed to be measured, determined, spoke at much slower cadence. I mean the style was a lot different tonight than it was back in Norfolk. I thought that was kind of interesting.
I'm sure that was obviously there's many political speech (INAUDIBLE) this was planned out and thought out to be that way. I just thought it was a really interesting contrast between him and a month ago or whenever that was.
KING: I also thought, Wolf, as we go back to you down the floor, interesting at the end. Of course he's speaking in the audience, the hall here to Republicans who needed a little bit of red meat but that appeal at the very end to all Americans regardless of party. He said at least give us a luck. I think that forebodes, as James has said, it's a very close election.
If this new Republican ticket is going to win, it needs to make converts.
KING: In weeks ahead.
BLITZER: All right. Among those 10 percent or so who are undecided or switchable, as they say, he was clearly addressing them.
Let's go to the floor. Let's sweep around with our reporters, get some reaction. Dana Bash is down there.
Dana, you've got a guest. DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I do have a guest. I have the governor of the state of Wisconsin. People -- nationally know him very well, Scott Walker, because of the recall back home.
What did you think of your friend Paul Ryan's speech?
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Well, I thought it was -- I was ecstatic about it. Very optimistic, even though he talks about some tough numbers, he's an optimist. That's why he's here. That's why he's in the game. That's why he's going to get it done. Absolutely thrilled.
BASH: The Paul Ryan that I covered back in Congress is a wonk.
WALKER: He's a -- he's a total wonk in Washington. He's a total wonk at home. But he's a guy who got into this because he's an optimist. It came out of Reagan. It came out of Jack Kemp. I was glad that people saw the Paul Ryan I know tonight.
BASH: Governor, thank you very much.
WALKER: Good to see you.
BASH: Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana.
Let's go to Candy Crowley, she's up on the podium.
Candy, like me, you've watched a lot of these conventions over the years. What did you think of this Paul Ryan address?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, he brought it. I mean he really did blow the roof off this place. This was the speech they were waiting for. Ann Romney was great, Chris Christie might have got mixed reviews but they loved him here. But the spark in the air when he started to talk.
And I just thought actually just in terms of words and the speech writing, anytime you've got a speech that has your mother in tears, your governor in tears, you close to it mentions AC/Dc and Zeppelin and then talks about the supervision, the sanctimony of the central planners, is -- his was a lot in it. I mean I thought it was really well crafted and it was crafted certainly mostly for this audience.
But at the end there certainly was again this kind of powerful drive to sort of push out and say come and join us no matter what party you're with. So this was the tee-up for Mitt Romney tomorrow. And he certainly gave him, you know, a board to jump off of, for sure -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And no doubt even though a lot of Republicans are afraid of the Medicare debate, what we heard from Paul Ryan, he said bring it on.
BURNETT: Bring it on.
BLITZER: You want to debate Medicare, we're ready to debate Medicare. And we will win. You heard him make that claim.
BURNETT: Yes, that's right. Actually you look at some of those numbers. He and Barack Obama are not that far off on some of the key parts of Medicare, which may surprise a lot of people but the people that we really want to know what they think tonight, Wolf, were those independents. There aren't many of them left who are undecided. But they are the people who will decide who wins the White House in November.
And a group of undecided Florida voters came here to Tampa for CNN, watched Congressman Ryan's speech, along with our own Tom foreman, and literally it was like a -- you know, touch of the dial. Every single thing that they thought they rated it.
Tom, what was the verdict?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was fascinating to watch it here. I have to say these voters, we listened to them a little bit beforehand. They have a tendency to be a little bit more on the Republican side in terms of their view of things. But all of them unconvinced Republicans.
Let me start with one big question if I can first. All of you here, after Paul Ryan's speech tonight, do you feel more positive about leaning toward the Republican side with your vote? Little bit? Less positive? Nobody. Sort of in between a little bit.
Take a look at this one bite because one of the interesting things here is if you look at the lines here, the pink represents the women, the blue represents the men. Look at how they reacted differently to an attack in the Paul Ryan speech. It's different than what you heard in the hall. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Nearly one in six Americans is in poverty. Millions of young Americans have graduated from college during the Obama presidency. Ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can't find the work they studied for or any work at all.
So here's the question. Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: A big applause line there and you may have been able to see in the lines there that the men -- responded to the attacks better than the women did. How did you feel about the attacks in the speech? Good thing or bad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any time that there's any attack, I don't feel good about it. You've got to focus on the positive of stuff. But getting back to what you said about Paul Ryan, I really liked everything he said, but he's just going for VP. You know, he's not the main guy so --
FOREMAN: Still the big question for you on that.
What about you? Did you like it when he's talked tough about the economy and about the president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he spent a lot of time bashing President Obama and not enough time talking about what they're going to do for this country. I really do.
FOREMAN: All right. Let me grab a guy in the back row here. What about you? Is -- when he went after the president and pointed out what he thought was wrong with the president's programs, what did you think about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was spot on on what he pointed out there. But that, you know, he hasn't done enough in the four years. All anybody can do, if somebody gives him the opportunity, it's what they do with that opportunity. He was given the opportunity as president of the United States and he has not turned the country around in four years.
FOREMAN: In the early parts of the speech, what happened was the women in our group here generally lagged below the men in terms of their approval of what was being said. But when he talked about his mother, rebuilding her life after the death of his father, everything turned around and stayed that way for quite some time. Watch the lines on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: It wasn't just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn't just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my mom is my role model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Let me ask you about that. When he started talking about his mother and her struggles and family struggles to make things better, the women in this group by and large said good thing, positive thing. Why do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because there's a lot of single moms out there that are going through that same thing, and they lead -- they give a good example and we try to instill that in our kids as we're raising them. And that he respects her so much.
FOREMAN: Yes. Let me bring in Alex Castellanos here.
Alex, come in this way if you will for just a moment. I want to ask you something about it. Alex, come right over here.
When you listen to and you watch what went on here tonight particularly with the response and the differences between the women in this group and the men in this group, what do you think worked and what didn't?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I want to ask these people here tonight if I raise my voice a little bit, did you think this guy was a reasonable guy or did you guys think he was a scary, too extreme guy? So raise your hands first for reasonable. Tell me why. Tell me why.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was calm, he was well spoken, and he made some very good points. I did not know a lot about him, but he impressed me.
CASTELLANOS: He didn't scare you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all.
CASTELLANOS: What about you? Who did he scare? Too extreme, too conservatives? Any hands?
FOREMAN: Nobody coming. What does that tell you, though, when you look at that?
CASTELLANOS: Well, that's usually one of the reasons you see a split in male-female things. But we saw it on government spending and we saw it on a couple of other issues where men diverge from women tonight.
FOREMAN: So in general, though, by the end once the women came up, and let me ask you about this. When the women came up on this thing, on that issue of his mother and struggling along, they stayed up. That was interesting. Because after that, for quite some time. Did that represent any kind of turning point for you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I like that he respected what his mother did to help set him up and what she did for her family. And I felt more included when he recognized her that way.
FOREMAN: Interesting. And what about you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I likewise feel the same way. I had a favorable response because he was giving honor and respect to his mother and for the work that she has done. And I think that -- that's one thing that the politicians really need to pay attention and realize that women are -- do carry the burden in the household and they do have a big say so in the -- in politics.
FOREMAN: All right. We're going to be back with more from our group here and Alex as we go on. An awful lot. Fascinating results here, Wolf, from this group and their reaction and everything. We want to talk to a lot more of them later on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going -- only starting getting reaction to Paul Ryan's speech. We're going to speak to some family members. There you see some members of his own family. Who knows Paul Ryan better than members of his own family?
When we come back, you'll hear what they have to say. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The Tampa Bay Times Forum is emptying out right now. A lot of folks are leaving. Buses are standing by. They're going to go home pretty soon or go to their hotels at a minimum.
Jim Acosta is out on the floor with some family members from Paul Ryan.
Jim, tell us what they're saying. Let's hear from them.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's hear from them, Wolf. I'm joined now by Stan Ryan, Tobin Ryan and Janet Ryan, two brothers and one sister of Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee, and their respective wives and husbands and kids.
And Stan Ryan, you were just telling me a few moments ago. What was going through your find when you saw your brother up on stage there?
STAN RYAN, RYAN PAUL'S BROTHER: Well, it was Paul, if you will. You know, what I mean? I describe Paul, he's just so natural at what he does. And he's just so all in committed. You know all in committed to the cause. All in committed to what he's doing. You know, he believes, we believe. And he's going to follow through.
ACOSTA: OK. And Janet, let me ask you. Because I understand, you're the oldest, is that right? And I -- they told me that, I know -- I didn't guess that. I'm just saying.
ACOSTA: Janet, tell me, was Paul Ryan always this way as a youngster? Was he just as incorrigible as he is now?
JANET ROCK, PAUL RYAN'S SISTER: He was. But he's always done what he thought needed to be done. He's kind of -- he's led by his convictions. He's continued that today.
ACOSTA: And did you think one day, my little brother is going to be vice president of the United States?
ROCK: No, I never did.
ACOSTA: This is a shocker for you?
ROCK: It was a surprise.
ACOSTA: Was he good at ordering the rest of you around the house? What signs did you see at an early age that perhaps led to this moment?
ROCK: We know he was good at negotiating.
ROCK: He never ordered, he simply negotiated his way to what he thought he wanted so.
ACOSTA: And he got on the ticket so --
ROCK: He did.
ACOSTA: Not too bad as a negotiator.
And Tobin, what's -- I mean, what is it about your brother that you think brought him to this moment?
TOBIN RYAN, PAUL RYAN'S BROTHER: You know, Paul is a guy who is an eternal optimist. There is no challenge, I think, that keeps him down that he doesn't think he can overcome. And that kind of leadership, I think, is probably what Mitt Romney saw in Paul. And together I think -- combined is the kind of leadership I think that's really going to help this nation.
ACOSTA: OK. And Mack Ryan is here with us. This is Paul Ryan's nephew.
MACK RYAN, PAUL RYAN'S NEPHEW: Yes.
ACOSTA: Is this inspiring you perhaps one day to get into politics? Is this what you want to do?
M. RYAN: You know, it really is. It's just fantastic here. And there's lots of energy going around. It's just a great place to be. You learn a lot of stuff from this. And it's just lots of fun being with my family and just having a great time.
ACOSTA: Are you proud of your uncle?
M. RYAN: I'm very, very proud of my uncle. He's going to put America right on the right track.
ACOSTA: All right. OK. This is a family, a Ryan family here, Wolf, that is beaming with smiles and pride tonight. And for good reason -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta. Jim Acosta on the floor.
We're going to be getting a lot more reaction from various folks down on the floor. We'll get some reaction from Democrats as well.
But John, you know, as you and I well know, the Democrats and certainly the Obama campaign, they were watching this speech. They were going through it line by line and you are getting and so I am, every journalist is getting, a lot of e-mail right now pointing out to what they claim are falsehoods, misleading statements, lies, if you will, that were made by Paul Ryan.
And I guess those fact checking is only about -- just getting ready to begin.
KING: Yes, the fact checking is beginning. Our team at CNN is at it, Wolf, already. Other news organizations will do it as well. And you can be certain that's how it goes in campaigns. The Democrats will go through it line by line. Some of it will be clearly you will say that was a stretch. Other things will be debatable in politics.
And one thing Paul Ryan talked about was that GM plant that closed in Janesville. That plant was shut down under the Bush administration. That happens to be a fact. Now he mentioned President Obama came to Wisconsin and thought maybe it would be reopened if the auto industry were revived. That may well be a fact as well but the plant did close in the Bush administration. That's one.
There's a huge debate issue, though, about Obama-care. The president's health care plan. It does get savings from Medicare and use them for the health care plan. There's a big debate about whether those savings come from the program, the administration says no, that they come from payments that would go out to doctors and other things. So you're taking money, but that again would be debated in the campaign.
Let's continue the conversation with David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Ari Fleischer and James Carville. Please.
BORGER: Can I just add to your Medicare point?
BORGER: Which is that the Ryan budget actually also assumed --
KING: It adopts the president's -- right.
BORGER: -- the same $716 billion in Medicare savings, not for -- of course, the president's health care reform plan but assume those savings for something else. Another thing with Paul Ryan and he talked about the bipartisan debt commission. Of course, he was a member of the bipartisan debt commission. He voted against the product there, yet tonight he chided the president for doing nothing about it, saying they came back with an urgent report. He thanked them. Well the they, part of the they was Paul Ryan who didn't sign on to it.
KING: Wouldn't sign on because they would require higher taxes.
KING: As part of the Simpson-Bowles commission.
KING: If you're watching at home and you remember that debate. It's a fascinating moment because he is the vice presidential candidate.
So, Erin, you wanted to make a point? Jump in.
BURNETT: I had a chance to talk to Paul Ryan the day his budget came out and asked him why -- you know, why did you vote against Simpson-Bowles on that crucial commission Gloria is referring to. His reason at the time was, well, I didn't like how it was dealing with health care and health entitlements. So that's why he said he didn't support Simpson-Bowles, which of course highlights the irony that Gloria rightly pointed out, which is that same -- $716 billion that the president would cut, so would Paul Ryan. Their plans much more similar in that sense than they -- than they are different.
KING: And it highlights the choice of the next president. Whether President Obama is re-elected or Mitt Romney wins the election, you will have this debt and deficit crisis to deal with. And will we have what we've had the last four years which is a Democratic Party that says you must get some increased taxes from the wealthy and a Republican Party that says absolutely not.
GERGEN: Yes, John, I just want to say, I think these factual checks are really important. They should be held accountable and I do think there were some misstatements of facts. But let's not forget. This was a speech about big ideas. And we haven't had that very much in this campaign. And that's what I thought was helpful about it. He's throwing down the gauntlet, he's inviting major conversation in the debates ahead about very conflicting views --
KING: I want to --
KING: I want to get up as you make that point. So I want to bring Ari and James into the conversation. Excuse me for walking across the camera. But this is the best Paul Ryan is making. This is the 2008 map for president right here. I want to let the camera come around. I just want to show the wall. I'll give the time for the camera to come around and get this shot on our air.
This is the 2008 map for president. I want to make a point. Look at this part of the country right here. Mitt Romney was born in Michigan. Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin. I know Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts. This is 2008. This is 2010. These are the Senate races. These are the governorships. Illinois has held on.
What they are counting on in this pick is that this part of the country is willing to take the big issues you talked about. It's not just about geography. It is about the size of government, the role of government, whether these decisions should be made in Washington or by your governor.
Ari, Fleischer, 2010 was the midterm elections, it is not a presidential election. They are apples and oranges, if you will. Not apples and apples. Is that a -- is that a safe bet or is it the only bet Republicans can make?
FLEISCHER: No, John, you just nailed it. This is the huge issue. And what style election is this, who's turning out to vote? Is it going to be a 2010 model? A 2008 model? Or a 2012 model?
A lot of the polling is based on a 2008 model which boggles my mind. They oversampled Democrats in some of these polls, and still it is a 50/50, dead even race. If this race is between the 2004 and 2008 presidential races, which it probably will be, Bush won in '04, big Republican turnout. Obama, huge Democrat turnout in '08. Chances are Mitt Romney wins and the Midwest is going to be that huge area to fight.
Michigan is in play, which amazes me, it hasn't been for generations for Republicans. And Wisconsin was a battleground before Paul Ryan. It's a -- it's a real battleground now.
KING: Wolf, come back here to the conversation.
BLITZER: You know, one thing he did make a big point and it's an accurate statement. Under the Obama administration, the national debt did increase by $5 or $6 trillion over these past nearly four years. What he didn't say is the national debt doubled during the eight years of the Bush administration from $5 trillion to $10 trillion.
And he also didn't point out that he as a member of Congress voted for some of the biggest expenditures, some of biggest expansions of the federal government over those years including a prescription drug benefit for seniors, including all the trillions of dollars spent in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all those Defense Department spending as well.
So this debate is only just beginning right now on all of these issues. And there's no doubt that next week at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, we're going to hear a fierce response going after these Republicans.
BORGER: But, you know, it's interesting. One thing I didn't hear from Paul Ryan was a huge call for tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Paul Ryan is somebody who is really a fiscal conservative who likes to cut taxes. But we didn't hear that a lot to the audience tonight, Wolf, because he was talking much more about his differences with President Obama.
But I think that's going to become a big issue. When you have somebody who says we've got to get control of that debt. You have a debt clock up there. What do you do about repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy?
KING: The big speech comes tomorrow night, of course. That will be when Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination. But Paul Ryan setting the stage tonight. David Gergen calls it a big debate about the role of government.
When we come back, more from those voters Tom Foreman and Alex spent the time with. You see Florida, that's where we are for this convention. It's a tossup state. More views from undecideds from this key battleground when our coverage continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: All right. This place is emptying out very, very quickly. The Tampa Bay Times Forum. This is the scene of the Republican National Convention. Tomorrow night the big speech by the Republican president nominee, Mitt Romney.
Tom Foreman has been with a group of undecided voters over at the CNN Grill.
Tom, what I really liked about the Paul Ryan speech tonight is at least it dealt with the most important issues of the day. The substantive economic issues, jobs, health care, Medicare. He didn't skirt those issues. Yes, there will be a serious debate. But at least the focus was on the issues, the number one issues facing the American voter right now.
FOREMAN: And we asked this group ahead of time with these dial test units from Southern Methodist University. They told us absolutely, Wolf, the economy is the big issue here. And watch how the men and women reacted to another one of the big moments in the speech tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P. RYAN: I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That's what we do in this country. That's the American dream. That's freedom and I'll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Alex, one of the things that excited you about this tonight was the reaction of this crowd to the idea that was also in the speech of, will you be better off in four years or is it going to be the same? Why?
CASTELLANOS: Yes, it's funny. This crowd seemed to react the same way people did when Ronald Reagan asked the country, are you better off than you were four years ago? Saw a lot of this. I'm wondering what do they actually think when they heard that Paul Ryan say, why are the next four years going to be any better than the last.
FOREMAN: Let me ask this gentleman right here. When Paul Ryan asked that question, why will the next year, four years be any better? Why would you believe that? What do you think? Was that a fair question to ask? A good question to ask?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a good question to ask. And I believed him. And I don't think they're going to be better without a change.
FOREMAN: What about you? Same feelings?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the same feelings. I think that he thought the question that he's asking us is what have we heard that will make us believe that it will be any different. And so far we haven't heard anything different.
FOREMAN: I move to you with the last one. President Obama did very well with young people. Question is, you're a young person right now looking at this. Do you, when you hear that question from Paul Ryan, will you be better off in four years? What would make you believe any better? Is that a good question, is it a fair question? And how do you feel about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a fair question. I didn't vote for Obama last election, I don't think I'm going to vote for Obama this election so.
FOREMAN: Are you ready to vote for Mitt Romney at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of things that I did hear tonight are swaying me that way. I like a lot of things that getting the country back on track, you shouldn't be punished for being successful. That was appealing to me. I feel like got to have jobs and can't punish those people that make jobs. Especially the small business owners so.
FOREMAN: All right. Alex, one last quick thought here. You watch this group, you saw their reaction. You're in the business of deciding speeches like this had worked. Do you think it worked with these undecided voters?
CASTELLANOS: I think it began to plant a seed. One thing I'd love to ask these guys and we will maybe later is, is he too young or did he speak about the future? Did he say anything about the Republican Party moving forward? But I think -- was there optimism here? Maybe in the beginning.
FOREMAN: I'm going to have you step this way. And before we go back to you, Wolf, let me ask you all. You came in here undecided. How many of you feel that you are closer to a decision after hearing this speech tonight? Well, a pretty good number there. Some still holding out.
And we'll see how it plays out, Wolf. Fascinating, fascinating group here from Southern Methodist University. They put them together. But voters from here around Tampa, undecided voters. This is the gold in this election, Wolf. Whoever can win these voters can win in November.
BLITZER: Over at the CNN Grill, thanks very much. And we're going to do that again next week in Charlotte at the Democratic National Convention.
Erin, we're going to do exactly the same thing. Listen to the speeches. And tomorrow night we'll hear when Mitt Romney speaks. We'll have that focus group of undecided voters. See how they -- see how they go forward as well. Interesting stuff that was going on. And at least he didn't get into all the junk out there, all the stupid issues that politicians like to raise about the opposition.
BURNETT: Right. BLITZER: At least Paul Ryan focused in on the real meat, the real importance of this election.
BURNETT: It was a substantive speech.
BLITZER: Jobs, jobs, jobs. You know, he has different views of course than the Democrats but at least he focused on issue number one.
BURNETT: That's right. And you know what's interesting is you talk about him as a person of substance and he is. And he does love policy. You know a lot of people may look at Paul Ryan and say well -- especially with all the talk that's been out there about his health care views, his views on Medicare. Is he very, very far to the right?
You know, one thing that may surprise a lot of people about Paul Ryan's record in terms of his ability to compromise, his willingness to go to the other side, this is a man who voted for the auto bailout. This is a man who voted for TARP. For TARP. The bank bailout, everybody. And at the time he said I'm doing it to prevent a depression and the evisceration of the free market system.
So he cast both of those votes in that way. And when I spoke to him this spring when he came out with his budget, he made it very clear to me on repeated questions, Wolf, that he would allow taxes on the wealthy to go up. And he told their effective tax rates are going to be higher because I'm not going to let them shelter their income anymore.
If you just take those points that I just made, you'd say, well, gosh, is this -- is this the vice presidential Republicans nominee? But he is. I'm simply making the point this is the person who has shown the ability to compromise.
BLITZER: And whether or not, John King, the critics out there will dispute some of his facts in the speech, there's no doubt he delivered for the Republicans. And it does set a high bar for Mitt Romney tomorrow night. Can Mitt Romney deliver an even more powerful speech as he accepts the Republican presidential nomination?
KING: And that is the defining question of this convention, Wolf. Governor Romney comes in in a position to win this race. It is a dead heat race. A close race. Paul Ryan still introducing himself to the country in many ways. So he is our star attraction tonight. But Americans vote for presidents, not vice presidents.
So he's an important part of the ticket. Governor Romney has the bigger challenge tomorrow night.
But we've had this discussion, James Carville, when you worked for Bill Clinton in 1992 and he picked Al Gore, that was part of sending a statement. Not that many voters, I'm sure, voted for Al Gore in the end, but it did send a statement, that the Democrats were going to be different, that they were a new generation, that this was not Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis' party. They were different.
To what degree does Paul Ryan -- does he help Mitt Romney send this signal that this is a new or a different Republican Party?
CARVILLE: Yes, I think he does. And I think that what you've seen in the campaign is that the campaign is basically about activating the base. That they believe that they're sufficient as 50 plus one if they had the turnout they had in 2010. Clearly that was what was at work here. That was about. He does. It sends -- different generation. He looks different.
If you watch him tonight, he's very different looking than anybody we've seen run for national office before. And whether that works or not, we'll see in November. But it is a very close race. I point that out. And people say, are you nervous? Of course I'm nervous. Who wouldn't be nervous in a race if you're two points up? Anybody would. So we're going to have an interesting night tomorrow.
KING: And incredibly likable guy. It's not an endorsement. The policies will be debated in the campaign. The Ryan budget has many things that will be debating points in the campaign. Romney has embraced much of that. It is the Romney budget of course that matters more than the Ryan budget. But your thoughts on just what was he trying to do tonight and did he get there?
GERGEN: I think he tried to set out a bolder, more energetic, and as Ari says, a more optimistic vision of what the country could be. Their theme has all along been we can do better than we've been doing the last four years. And I think he set up an indictment of President Obama and this vision that is a good segue, that is a good platform, a spring board, if you'd like, for Mitt Romney tomorrow night. But Mitt Romney has got to take the dodge.
BORGER: You know, I also think what he did was he made this is generational argument, this issue of Medicare. And he as somebody who's 42 years old said, you know, I want this to be there. And I'm going to guarantee you if we win it's going to be there for my grandchildren. And I think what he did is say, OK, I'm a young person and I want this to be there for my generation. And that's something we haven't heard. Because it's risky. Very risky.
KING: And Wolf, we also learned tonight that, you know, he listens to AC/DC to Zeppelin. And he (INAUDIBLE) a joke about Governor Romney, I guess, listens to elevator music.
BLITZER: I like those elevator music.
BLITZER: Sometimes that elevator music is pretty good. I will say this about this Republican convention, they have a great band here that's going. G.E. Smith. Used to be on "Saturday Night Live." The band here has been fabulous as someone who loves music and all of you know I do. I just think this band has been terrific.
KING: We need -- we need music. It's very important.
BLITZER: Even elevator music from time to time.
BLITZER: All right, guys. With thanks to social media, we're giving you, our viewers, a chance to be part of CNN's convention coverage. Go to Facebook.com/CNN. Answer this question. Does Representative Paul Ryan make you enthusiastic about the GOP ticket?
We're going to give your results, that's coming up. Stand by. But first, this convention flashback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: First and foremost --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was notable about Reagan's speech in 1980 was it was filled with optimism.
REAGAN: An American president told the generation of the depression that it had a rendezvous with destiny. I believe this generation of Americans today also has a rendezvous with destiny.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came across, I think in a way so much less scary than he'd been projected to seeing and full of sun, full of humor, and full of strength.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P. RYAN: Obamacare comes to more than 2,000 pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Erin, I want to get quick reactions from all of our reporters and analysts. Let's go up to the podium. Candy Crowley is there -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Well, you know, you can watch this convention as most conventions do build to the finale and that is tomorrow night and Mitt Romney. I mean, we really have seen two successive days of kind of ratcheting up certainly the excitement level on this floor.
Paul Ryan, I mean, just talking to folks as they're going out they are ecstatic. We saw several top level Romney advisers. And I said, you know, what did you think? What did you think, they said, you know, awesome, great. They are very happy. It may -- obviously if you're not inclined to like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney, you will find lots not to like about this speech. It was not wholly an attack speech that's sort of traditional place for the number two at all.
In fact it had sort of a little bit of everything, but I can tell you that in this hall and on this day, he really did set the table for Mitt Romney. And that's what all this has been building for, after all, is to get their nominee out of here and on the road to what they hope are improved chances of beating President Obama -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. There's no doubt about that. And Erin, I think there's also -- for those who weren't familiar with Paul Ryan, didn't know who this congressman is, and all of us news junkies we obviously know him, especially those of us in Washington. Now a lot of folks out there who were introduced to him tonight, millions of people will appreciate why Mitt Romney selected him to be his running mate.
BURNETT: I think that's right. I think people who are familiar with him, and you know -- as the chairman of the Budget Committee, and -- I've been following him for years, people are getting a sense of the other side of him. People who knew him as a wonk, seeing his family, seeing his children, I think that that give them a new picture of Paul Ryan, too.
BLITZER: He is a wonk. But he happens --
BURNETT: He is a wonk.
BLITZER: He likes music, though. And he likes to exercise. And he has a beautiful family as you can see right there.
BURNETT: I have to say I love how his daughter had that little sparkly headband on.
BURNETT: She's very excited for her big night. There -- right there, she went and gave a special wave of her own which I thought was rather precious.
BLITZER: And I thought it was really adorable, and I don't know if that's the right word, John King, how his mother was brought into this. She's on Medicare herself. She's got quite a compelling story and he told it. How he lost his dad when he was 16 years old.
KING: And he used his -- the personal stories not only to introduce himself, Wolf, to the American people but to make key points for the Republican argument and to rebut, if you will, or to provide some insulation against the Democratic criticism. This is a guy after all, Paul Ryan, who in some ways is the new Karl Rove. Ari will relate to this, and I'll get to Ari in just a second. But when it rained in the Bush administration, Democrats blamed Karl Rove. If the bus was late in the Bush administration, the Democrats blamed Karl Rove.
And in the last few years -- I'm being a little bit jokey here, folks. But in the last few years, Paul Ryan has been the Democratic synonym for scary. They look at the Paul Ryan budget and they say this guy is scary, what he wants to do is scary. And I think the challenge is, we had that big debate about the ideas. A legitimate and a debate the country needs about the idea that Paul Ryan tonight as a person, Ari, I think it's safe to say, was not scary.
FLEISCHER: No, that's right. And that's one of his greatest strengths. And that's what I love about him. One of the issues that Republicans is they talk too often like accountants. They need to speak like Ronald Reagan with a jolt of economic optimism and adrenaline and confidence in what they do.
And Paul Ryan exudes that, which I want to -- I want to fact check the fact checkers, who began this segment. Because this is from the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," the hometown paper, local paper. September 2011 for politics and Paul Ryan entered the national scene. The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium duty trucks. Paul Ryan was right. The fact checkers are wrong.
KING: All right. Ari Fleischer, we're going to --
KING: Everybody -- everybody --
BORGER: We'll have to get on -- yes. Check it out.
FLEISCHER: I'll just quote the Milwaukee paper. What do I know?
KING: No, no, it's a legitimate point. Everyone, hold your breath. We're going to be right back with tonight's takeaways. We're going to give you a chance to be part of the CNN's convention coverage. Go to Facebook.com/CNN. Answer this question. Does Representative Paul Ryan make you enthusiastic about the GOP ticket? We'll give your results, your take coming up.
BLITZER: Erin, you remember just a little while ago we asked all of our viewers to go to our Facebook page and tell us whether Representative Paul Ryan makes you enthusiastic about the GOP ticket. Here is the -- here are the results.
Fifty-one percent of you say he makes you more enthusiastic, 33 percent say he makes you less enthusiastic, 16 percent says it doesn't change your opinion at all.
Instantaneous reactions courtesy of --
BURNETT: Instantaneous, and you have to say, it seems all in. Probably pretty good for Paul Ryan and the Ryan team when you see those numbers, considering how many people coming into this didn't really know who he was at all.
BLITZER: Whether you agree with him or disagree with him -- and let's go back to John King, he did he deliver a powerful speech that really got this Republican crowd enthused.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The goal, Wolf, as we get toward the denouement, if you will, of this convention, is to have Paul Ryan, not only energize the base, but get some people out there to give him another look. So I think those numbers will be encouraging to the Romney campaign.
This is strategic arc of a convention. James Carville, Ari Fleischer, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, he, Paul Ryan, called Mitt Romney the "turn-around man." He said the country has had a lot of talk and now we need a turn-around. The challenge for Mitt Romney now tomorrow, is it to be, I'm "Mr. Nuts and Bolts," or is it to be, "you should like me, you can trust me," more personal.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is to be more soaring and set a vision of where we could go under his leadership that is compelling. If could I use a metaphor, it's like a plane. I think Paul Ryan put one wing on the plane tonight. Ann Romney put another wing on the plane last night. Condi Rice put some fuel in the engine. Now Mitt Romney has got to fly the plane.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, if some voters, those persuadable voters, are thinking about firing the president, they have to look at Mitt Romney tomorrow night as his replacement. You know, you can't fire somebody until you know who is going to take his place. That's what Mitt Romney has to do, is make himself presidential.
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think for Mitt Romney, conventional wisdom about he has got to be more likable, connect with people, actually in this case, conventional wisdom is accurate. He needs to have people click and like him, sort of the way Paul Ryan naturally does.
The moment I'm looking for is that elevator music thing. Paul Ryan set it up. And I can't wait to see if the Romney people respond. He made the joke about his boss listens to elevator music. Mitt Romney tomorrow needs to make a joke back about Paul Ryan and music and elevator music. Humor for Mitt Romney is a big ingredient in making himself likable.
BORGER: But it is and hard for him.
KING: James, you have a unique place in our conversation because you have a unique place in recent political history. You beat an incumbent president. Bill Clinton and George Bush both served two terms. You beat an incumbent president. That's what these guys are trying to do. Are they doing it right?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would rather see him accomplish likability tomorrow night than establish himself as somebody that people say could turn this thing around. Usually the favorables in the end are going to line up with the vote. I think that Romney's challenge tomorrow night is to say, you know what, this guy has it in him to do this. And I think that is going to be more what it is.
Yes, I think they had a nice set-up, the elevator music and that kind of stuff. That your wife endorses you, your mother endorses you, in the end it doesn't really count for a lot. KING: We also heard, it was subtle from Paul Ryan. More direct from Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, earlier in the night, about Mitt Romney's religion. Paul Ryan said, we go to different churches but we share a same moral creed.
Now Mike Huckabee directly addressed it. He said, some evangelicals (INAUDIBLE) might have questions about Mitt Romney's -- he didn't use the word "Mormon," but he said "Mitt Romney's faith." Took it head on, smart?
FLEISCHER: You know, I think coming from Mike Huckabee, it's natural. It's what he would say. But, frankly, when you look at how Mitt Romney is retaining so much of the Republican base and the Republican vote, I don't know that's where this election is going to come down to. This is not George H.W. Bush in 1992, who did have a problem with that group.
Romney has got it because he is running against Barack Obama. And that's the big...
KING: They must have felt -- to do it, to invite it, to have Governor Huckabee -- they vet the speeches. To invite it they must think it was something that they wanted to have done. Is that for this hall or is it for the country at large?
GERGEN: Oh, I think it's for the country at large. And Paul Ryan did it as well, tonight. He talked about their faiths. But I want to go back to James's point, because I think it's central. What he has to do, it has not been done yet, is to lay out a plan for the economy that will actually get us there that is credible.
That's what Ronald Reagan did to take it away from Jimmy Carter. And that's what Bill Clinton did to take it away in '92.
BORGER: But he has to be more than a "Mr. Fix-It" or an efficiency expert. He has to come across as trustworthy, presidential, and plausible as a replacement for President Obama.
FLEISCHER: If people start to believe this is not the new normal, we don't have to accept this, it can get reversed, that's powerful. Because the mood of the country sort of is, nobody can fix it, it is that bad.
If Romney can convince people he can fix it, that is powerful.
CARVILLE: Yes. And if Romney is going to have to also convince -- there is great skepticism whether he can fix it in a way that it can relate to sort of average voters. He has a big job tomorrow night at this convention. And thus far, that has not been accomplished.
Now to be fair to the Republicans, you're not going to accomplish that until the last night.
FLEISCHER: I'm writing that down, "to be fair to the Republicans"...
KING: And, Wolf, as we go back to you, I think Mr. Carville put it just right. Mitt Romney has a big job tomorrow night in a very competitive presidential election. He gets his shot at the American people tomorrow night at this Tampa convention hall.
BLITZER: The pressure is clearly on Mitt Romney for tomorrow night, Erin. You will be here, I'll be here. Our entire team will be here. Looking forward to that. Next week, the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, looking forward to that as well.
For all of us, thanks very much for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" is next.