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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

McCain Picks Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as Running Mate; Obama Winning over Clinton Supporters; Gulf Coast Braces for Hurricane Gustav; Three Years after Katrina

Aired August 29, 2008 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Up next, the pick that is rocking the political world; more on the repercussions from a breaking story, John McCain's new running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.

Also tonight, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: 38 million people saw the speech. The question now, how many of them liked what they saw and what impact it's going to have on the Democrats and the Republicans. New insight on that and more from New Orleans when "360" continues live over the next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And good evening again, live from New Orleans exactly three years after hurricane Katrina and possibly three days away from hurricane Gustav. Let's hope not.

But they are getting ready here. The National Guard is on the ground, but concern is in the air about how well these levees and this city will stand up if Gustav hits and hits hard. We're going to be looking at that tonight, "Keeping them Honest".

We begin though with the big political story today, "Breaking News" with a stunner over John McCain's pick for his running mate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My friends, and fellow Americans, I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States, Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senator McCain, Governor Palin had a massive rally in Dayton, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I know that when Senator McCain gave me this opportunity, he had a short list of highly qualified men and women. And to have made that list at all it was a privilege. And to have been chosen brings a great challenge. I know that it will demand the best that I have to give and I promise nothing less.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Governor Palin beating out several better known names. Renegade former Democrat Joe Lieberman was reputed to be Senator McCain's favorite but unacceptable to die-hard Republicans. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, also a front runner. Allegedly Mitt Romney was a brand name with serious appeal in Michigan where he grew up. But in the end, John McCain came up with a shocker, a woman he had only met once before this week.

"Up Close" now let's take a look with "360's" David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Standing in a park, overlooking the city of Anchorage Governor Sarah Palin talked to me just three weeks ago sounding like a long shot.

GOV. PALIN: I'm a hockey mom from Alaska. I'm not one of those movers and shakers within the Republican Party that I think conventionally you would think would be tapped into.

MATTINGLY: And that could be what made her so appealing to John McCain. At 44, she is the youngest governor Alaska has ever had and the only woman to hold the Office.

She pushed for a strong ethics law for public officials and took on members of her own party to do it. She also challenged oil companies over pipelines and leases. Palin also pushed back at government spending, killing the so-called "bridge to nowhere," a pork barrel project guided by fellow Alaskan, Republican Senator Ted Stevens.

GOV. PALIN: We're constantly battling, kind of the political factions within the legislature and the political machinery within my own party still. But it's what Alaskans have wanted and I believe again nationwide this is what Americans want.

MATTINGLY: Palin has been governor less than two years but is already the state's most popular politician. Before that, she was a small- town mayor. She was then appointed to chairman of the powerful State Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. All the while crafting her own message of change.

GOV. PALIN: A change that is craved I believe by Alaskans and by Americans is getting away with the obsessive partisanship, the partisanship that just gets in the way of doing what's right.

MATTINGLY: But Palin herself is under investigation by the state legislature. The probe grew out of allegations she fired her public safety commissioner for refusing to sack her ex-brother-in-law from the state police. Palin says she never authorized a staffer who was caught on tape pressuring state police to act.

LARRY PERSILY, FORMER ALASKA JOURNALIST: There's nothing yet that shows the governor pressured directly the public safety commissioner but her husband had contacts with the public safety commissioner, her chief of staff and members of the governor's office staff had discussions with the public safety commissioner. Expressing the governors' displeasure with this troop of --

MATTINGLY: Palin is a mother of five. She has an infant with Down Syndrome and one son in the army about to be deployed she says to Iraq. Her parents worked in public schools, she was once second runner-up in Ms. Alaska.

A journalism graduate, she also tried her hand at sports casting. She is the anti-Washington Republican Conservative. Pro-gun, anti- abortion, with a political record as far outside the Beltway as anyone can get.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The vital question now for John McCain, will voters around the country respond to her particular brand of outside the Beltway politics and what are the pros and cons, on the McCain/Palin ticket?

We want to look at that. We have the "Raw Politics" from Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the end, John McCain decided to roll the dice.

MCCAIN: I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States, Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

HENRY: With McCain unexpectedly dead even in the polls with Barack Obama, some Republicans wanted him to go safe with Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. But McCain is gambling a maverick play is the best way to break ahead of Obama in a tough year for the Republican brand.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) TEXAS: I think that it shows that he is bold and independent. I think they're going to challenge the Obama campaign's change mantra and I think that must have been the deciding factor.

HENRY: It's an "in your face" move just days after Obama passed over Hillary Clinton as his running mate. And Sarah Palin was blunt about trying to reel in female voters.

PALIN: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women ,of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

HENRY: But Palin opposes abortion rights, making it unlikely hordes of Clinton supporters will flock to the Republican ticket.

Palin also has far less experience than Hillary Clinton, so this choice coming on John McCain's 72nd birthday could backfire.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If you reach out to Sarah Palin who has no national security experience, no national security exposure, and say you're my stand by and I'm 72 years old, I've had some bouts with melanoma, I think that's a very large gamble.

HENRY: The McCain campaign will showcase images like this during Palin's visit last year with Alaskan National Guard troops in Kuwait. And they're touting her executive experience including tough stands against fellow Republicans like powerful Senator Ted Stevens to prove she can shake up Washington.

PALIN: In fact, I told Congress thanks but no thanks on that "bridge to nowhere."

HENRY: Still, her record is pretty thin, despite this promise from McCain back in April.

MCCAIN: I think about whether that person who I select would be most prepared to take my place, and that would be the key criteria.

HENRY: Now McCain is taking a big leap of faith on someone who, prior to a long secret meeting this week, he had met only once.

Ed Henry, CNN, Dayton, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A reaction from Barack Obama campaign today in western Pennsylvania. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I haven't met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story. Personal story.

And, you know, I'm sure that she will help make the case for the Republicans. Unfortunately the case is more of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A totally different response, of course, from conservative activists and jubilation among pro-life Republicans.

"Digging Deeper" now with CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, independent conservative and CNN contributor Amy Holmes, "360's" Joe Johns, also Paul Begala, a democratic strategist and CNN political contributor. Amy, why Palin? Is it a political decision or is it really about governance? All along John McCain is saying, number one criteria is, who could lead the country, who could govern. Is she really the most competent person?

AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND INDEPENDENT CONSERVATIVE: I think it's a little bit of both, Anderson. That with her reformer reputation, her reformer record vote helps him on the campaign trail.

Remember, Congress has a lower approval rating than George Bush. So to bring her on to the ticket, he can campaign against a do-nothing Congress that's not popular with the American people and then once he's in Office, he has someone who has that record of reform.

You know, in all these decisions, these politicians; they also have to pick someone who they feel comfortable with, someone they want down the hall.

And when Barack Obama was looking at his slate, his selection, a lot of people said he wouldn't pick Hillary Clinton because he wouldn't really be comfortable with her where he'd be commander-in-chief and she were her Vice President.

COOPER: And Paul Begala, a lot of Democrats are now saying, well, look, what does this say about John McCain, who all along has been attacking Barack Obama for lack of experience and not being ready to be commander-in-chief? Does that mean that that argument was just about politics?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND DEMOCRAT POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think this whole thing for McCain is about politics. And I say that really with some surprise. It is in a sense this is going to upset McCain, he's exactly like George W. Bush, utterly political to his core.

COOPER: I mean what you hear the Democrat say that, Paul.

BEGALA: Let me make the case. Bush is a moron but he trusts his gut, not his head. He's impulsive, he's impetuous, he's he's rash, he's reckless. And that's exactly what McCain has done here.

He's picked someone; maybe he has a comfort level with her. He's met her once before. I wouldn't go to dinner with someone I only met once. He's going to entrust the national security of the nation.

The question is the way he put it in the interview, what would happen, God forbid, if you died. That's how Bill Clinton chose Al Gore. He told me I was there in the room, I wanted Dick Ephart, I wanted Harris Wolford, they had more important qualifications than Gore, they were clients of mine, right.

But Clinton chose Gore who added nothing politically because he was the same region, same religion, same age, same ideology and he said four words to me, he said Pauley, I might die. And that's what he based that choice on. McCain follows his gut and follow his political instincts just like Bush. COOPER: David, what does this say about John McCain and about the whole race?

GERGEN: Well, you know, I think we're learning more and more that John McCain's years as a pilot when he sort of flew solo and made his own decision are very much the way he operates in politics. His decision making process is one in which he relies heavily on his own instincts.

So here he is he's met this woman once, he called her down in the Sedona for that second conversation, but it was really to offer her the vice presidency.

And I think Democrats are going to say, well, look at the decision making process on the Obama side, you know, the vetting of Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder and all the rest and the long, long conversations. And which one do you want making decisions in the Oval Office?

So that, I think that's going to open up questions now.

I have to tell you, Anderson. This woman may be all surprises on the upside. She may play very well in blue collar America. She clearly is exciting the Conservatives. They're going to come in charged up.

But I do think that whether you like her or don't like her, one thing has now apparent about the politics of this and that is a week ago, this was an election about Barack Obama. And Republicans thought they could win that election. And indeed that John McCain was making rapid gains against Barack Obama.

A week later, this is no longer just about Barack Obama. Suddenly now we have the question of a McCain/Palin ticket. And I think that question is going to overhang the Republican convention in the first few days and it may make it more difficult to get their message out because there are going to be these questions about is she up to this or not?

COOPER: We're going to have more from our panel right after this break including Joe Johns who's actually interviewed Governor Palin. We'll talk to him about that.

And as always our blog is up and running. What do you think about this choice? What does it say about the race? And who do you agree with?

To join the conversation, go to our new Website ac360.com. You'll also find a host of new material of what has been happening in New Orleans today and on this, the third anniversary of hurricane Katrina.

We're going to continue the conversation with our panel, talking about the woman conservatives are glowing about tonight, John McCain's running mate, the Governor Palin. Also, the repercussion the pros and cons of his pick.

Also, the preparations for hurricane Gustav now projected to become a Category 4 storm. When "360" live from New Orleans continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Maybe, but not yet. Shattering expectations, you bet. "Digging Deeper," of course, back with our panel David Gergen, Amy Holmes, Joe Johns and Paul Begala.

Joe, you've met Palin, you've interviewed her, from what you learned about her, what is she going to bring to the table?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, I really don't have any idea how she plays to a mass audience, but she makes a very good first impression. I sat down and talked with her actually a couple of times over the past several months. I did ask her if she ever thought she was going to be the vice presidential running mate.

She said absolutely not or she said she really didn't think she was going to be. But I found her to be very funny, very charming. A person you could really talk to, someone who is real. It plays very well in a one on one situation.

Now, how she's going to play to the American mass audience is anybody's guess, Anderson.

COOPER: David Gergen, in our last hour, I think you said something that kind of surprised me. You said this is, and I don't want to get it wrong, so just correct me, but it sounded like this is the biggest political gamble of recent memory or something?

GERGEN: I did. I believe that. I think this is the biggest gamble I've ever seen a presidential candidate take in modern history because John McCain was in a situation where he was closing rapidly. He had some strong arguments against Barack Obama. He was going to go into a convention which he could have come out pretty much dead even and go right to the finish line.

He's shaking up the race in ways that have great upside potential and has some huge downside risks.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, are you, Amy Holmes, really confident with Governor Palin being a heart beat away from the presidency? Would you be fine if she was president of the United States?

HOLMES: Well, I think I have to learn more about her and I have to learn more about her governing philosophy, I have to learn how she personally feels about say the war on terrorism, Islamic Jihad, these things that are of concern to me, the war in Iraq, her judgment. Those are things that the voters and I will be getting to know over time.

But what I do think about this in terms of it being a really big gamble, something we haven't discussed, is that because she's so unknown, if she goes out on to the campaign trail and there's some goof or a gaffe, that could really come to define her because we don't have a lot of information weighing against it.

So we heard James Carville earlier in the show trying to define her as a Pat Buchanan Republican. Well, that's not true. Economics Conservatives are very happy with her, Libertarians are very happy with her. But there is that danger that because she's not well-known that her opponent or a gaffe could define her. She'll have to be careful.

COOPER: Well, Carville was saying that she had supported Pat Buchanan when he ran for president.

HOLMES: Sure, then he said she was a Pat Buchanan Republican. So he was trying to frame her as a far right wing unparalleled type of republican.

COOPER: And Paul Begala is that unfair?

BEGALA: Well, in point of fact, it was reported that she wasn't exactly like a major player. So it was reported when Buchanan went and campaigned in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was the Mayor, she appeared with him wearing a button that said Buchanan for president and I think reasonable people can infer from that that she supported Pat Buchanan, she may have different positions than him on say, trade or something.

But yes, she look, she's a very ardent pro-lifer. This is what makes the social conservatives very happy. I suspect that will limit her appeal with the Hillary Clinton voters. She has some very conservative views about things like sex education, other issues that matter a whole lot to Hillary Clinton voters. I don't think there's going to be a lot of appeal among Clinton voters for Governor Palin.

COOPER: But David Gergen, does it make it harder now for John McCain to argue Barack Obama's inexperience on foreign policy?

GERGEN: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think when people get ready, they'll go and beat up on Barack Obama next week at the Republican convention and we know they will. It's going to sound rather hollow when they say we can't turn national security over to someone who has only been in the senate four years.

And yet they're nominating someone who is 72 years old who's had bouts of cancer, who's going to have someone next door to him in Oval, waiting to be president potentially if God forbid something were to happen, who has no foreign policy experience, has no exposure.

I think it's going to be fair in the next few days and that's why I think there's some suspense now about this convention just for the press to start asking her questions, to sit down on these various -- come on CNN and answer questions about Iraq and Iran and Russia and the financial crisis and environmental warming or global warming, which she's a skeptic, about creationism where she wants to teach creationism in schools.

I think all those questions are now fair game. Amy is absolutely right. She may be brilliant in answering those questions. Joe Johns is right; she seems very, very attractive. She may win the hearts of America. She makes a couple mistakes on those questions at a time of great tension, and her candidacy will crumble.

So that's why there's such a risk here. It's a risk in all sorts of ways. And to go back to this original point, to select somebody for the -- the presidency is the most powerful Office in the world. It's the most complex organization of any government that you have to learn how to run. To ask someone to come in who two years ago was mayor of a town of less than 8,000 people is a risk.

COOPER: Joe Johns, very briefly though, does this really matter? I mean in the history of presidential races we've seen I mean Dan Quayle for instance, was a candidate who many Democrats derided as completely inexperienced, not ready to be president. And yet Americans voted him into Office.

JOHNS: That's right. They made fun of him. They made fun of him again and again. They made fun of him all the way through his four years as vice president. So sometimes it doesn't really matter. Sometimes what you need is somebody who's going to energize the base, certainly here on the Republican side.

They know they need that, because when they look at the Democrats they see a very energized base. Here at this convention, a lot of people who are social conservatives are very excited about this pick, because they think Sarah Palin stands with them on those key critical issues -- Anderson.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Our panel, thank you very much, appreciate it.

Up next, a nation divided. A look across the country, whether with the convention behind them, Hillary Clinton supporters have become fully Barack Obama converts.

And some of the savage political observers on television look ahead to the Republican convention. A look and live at the convention floor in St. Paul, Minnesota and our coverage from New Orleans continues.

We'll also talk to some great American Corps volunteers who are doing a lot of great work here in Louisiana. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNE PRICE-MILLS, CLINTON SUPPORTER: She did everything for Obama that she was supposed to do. Now it's time for him to step up and do what he's supposed to do. Now, you're asking me about my personal vote in November. Obama has two months. I won't vote for McCain. But he has to get me there. And I haven't connected with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was a Clinton supporter. Like many, not at all happy about her candidate's loss. But that was at the beginning of the convention. We haven't actually checked in with that woman to see if after Barack Obama's address on Thursday night she has changed her mind. A lot of Clinton supporters have.

"360"'s Gary Tuchman now takes the pulse of a "Nation Divided."

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We spent the week on the California coast, in the Arizona desert, the Louisiana bayou, watching the Democratic National Convention.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: That is our mission, Democrats. Let's elect --

TUCHMAN: With seniors in the San Diego suburbs. With Latinos in Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a great American story.

TUCHMAN: And with professional women in New Orleans. All groups dominated by Hillary Clinton during the Democrat's nominating process.

Did you want her to be president?

ANN CASSIDY, UNDECIDED VOTER: Yes, I really did.

TUCHMAN: You still wish Hillary was the nominee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still have my sign up at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a very strong supporter of Hillary Clinton.

TUCHMAN: At the Encinitas, California Senior Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really is historic isn't it?

TUCHMAN: Clinton supporter Ann Cassidy originally told us she might vote Republican.

CASSIDY: After listening to their background and how they came literally from nothing and became these wonderful people, I'm really more impressed with Obama now.

TUCHMAN: So you're thinking in just by watching Michelle Obama that you're going to vote for Obama instead of McCain?

CASSIDY: Possibly, yes. TUCHMAN: After watching Joe Biden and Bill Clinton at Phoenix's Wahaca restaurant, this Clinton supporter wasn't a yes possibly, he was a yes definitely.

RICHARD AVALOS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Michelle, Barack, Joe, I feel that they have all been speaking from the heart.

TUCHMAN: First name basis, right?

AVALOS: It's like I know them.

TUCHMAN: But the man who still has the Hillary sign up at his home has a different take.

The first three nights are designed to increase enthusiasm on Barack Obama. Has it increased your enthusiasm about Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet. No I'm not even lukewarm yet.

TUCHMAN: Carlos Calindo Alvira says he needs to see what happens at the GOP convention, particularly now with a woman on the Republican ticket. But on Thursday night, the women at New Orleans Monkey Hill Bar seemed to be impressed.

ERIN BOLLES, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: The amount that he talked about education was very inspiring. The most poignant part is when he was speaking about his grandmother. And how was of the nice of her as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my opinion, if I wasn't moved before, I have been moved today.

TUCHMAN: Even a Republican woman was captivated by what she heard.

AMY ARSENO, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I was impressed by his speech.

TUCHMAN: Did you believe what he said?

ARSENO: No, not really.

TUCHMAN: So Barack Obama should not expect Amy Arseno's vote. But can he count on Democrat Myer Sherman back at the senior center? He says he likes Michelle Obama.

MYER SHERMAN, DEMOCRAT VOTER: She really comes across well. And too bad she's not running for president.

TUCHMAN: As long as she doesn't, that's one more vote for her husband.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I know you were with the seniors the opening night of the Democratic convention. Have you talked with any of them since you saw them about today's selection of GOVERNOR PALIN? TUCHMAN: I talked a short time ago with Ann Cassidy, she was the Clinton supporter who said she was leaning towards Obama. And she said when she heard this today, she was blown off her feet and that's her quote. Although a lot of us feel that way. But she says she liked the fact that Governor Palin is very lively and she says if she sounds smart, Governor Palin at the Republican convention, then maybe she'll consider voting for the McCain ticket.

COOPER: All right, that is certainly what a lot of Republicans are hoping to hear. Gary, thanks.

A lot more on convention politics coming up. David Gergen, Roland Martin and Amy Holmes look back at the Democratic fireworks in Denver and look forward to what's happening on the campaign trail today and all next week as they weigh in on what to expect from Republicans next week.

And we are live tonight from New Orleans. A hurricane now projected to hit Category 4 status at some point is headed this way. As we remember the third anniversary of Katrina, three years ago today. This is "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything I learned in my eight years as president, and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Bill Clinton's endorsement in this week's Democratic convention.

Let's talk strategy now about the Democrats and the upcoming Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Joining me again David Gergen, also CNN political analyst, Roland Martin, and independent Conservative Amy Holmes.

Roland, going into convention, there was all that talk about a lack of details of Obama's plans for change. Did he lay those concerns last night?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do think he did in terms of how he outlined this is who I am; this is where I stand in terms of laying out his values. But I think the most important thing that we are going to see coming out of this is a more assertive Senator Barack Obama, somebody who is going to go after John McCain and not simply allow surrogates to do it.

He's also going to pin point those really bread-and-butter issues which he articulated in that speech last night. I'll be looking for that over the next two weeks. COOPER: David Gergen, often in the immediate moments after a speech, one is sort of caught up in the hoopla. You've had 24 hours to reflect on what he said, how he said it. What does it tell you about Barack Obama?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Roland is right that he came out swinging last night. And showed that a long time ago I think I said on this show, one of the best political heads in this country told Barack Obama before he started the campaign, "Barack, I don't need to know if you can take a punch, I need to know if you can throw a punch."

I think last night we saw that with Obama. But, Anderson, I must say 24 hours later, I think what strikes me most of all is that the Democrats came together and had a much better convention than any of us might have expected. And the early returns, this is not our opinion; it's what the voters think. The early returns on the polling, the Gallup tracking poll which had them tied 45-45, just like CNN had 47-47 going in.

Gallup had 45-45 and they're tracking up until the Obama speech. We don't have measurements yet through the Obama speech, showed that Obama had opened up an eight-point lead. Presumably with the speech it will go up a little more.

So I think he's gotten -- it appears that he's gotten a bounce and we'll need to get more information -- we'll have to have a good CNN poll to really measure it. But the early returns suggest that he's gotten a substantial bounce out of this and that's something that the Republicans are going to have to counter next week.

COOPER: And something the Republicans in 2004 nor did John Kerry who actually went down a little bit after his convention.

Amy Holmes, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said this about Obama's speech. He said, "Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama;" and went on to say that Obama is still not ready to be president. Can they successfully continue with that argument given McCain's VP pick today?

AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think what the argument that they're going to make is that here's what Barack Obama says, here's what he's done. He talks about bipartisanship and yet he's rated the most liberal senator in the United States senate. That he talks about reaching across the aisle and yet his pick for VP is someone who is a fairly conventional liberal in a lot of ways.

Whereas John McCain, he has -- they point to John McCain as saying he has a far more impressive and substantive record and bipartisanship. So I think you're going to see that contrast between Barack Obama's words and Barack Obama's deeds.

But I do agree with the other panelists and other folks on this show that by choosing Palin as his VP, he has in some ways undercut that argument against Barack Obama about experience. But I think it's interesting that Barack Obama's spokesperson today said it's not that they wanted to discuss experience and attack her on this. They said now this takes it off the table.

So they're obviously grateful that this is not going to be the line of attack on Barack Obama.

MARTIN: Anderson, we're about to see a shift, I believe, with John McCain. Do not be surprised if the McCain camp all of a sudden becomes the reform party, if you will, in terms of going after Washington. If you look at how they framed her today, it was all about how she went after her own party. I'm expecting her to go to Washington and shake things up.

I think they recognize, they see that you have Obama, they say no experience. Joe Biden, lots of experience, McCain says I have the experience. Now let's bring in somebody who is a reformer. Don't be surprised if that message begins to resonate, attacking Washington and the way they do business in Washington as a part of their overall strategy.

HOLMES: But, Anderson, I wouldn't say that this is a change in this message. I would say that this is now pushing up that message. McCain has been consistently campaigning as the guy who has always been against earmarks, he's never voted for a single one. That he wants real change.

MARTIN: But the primer.

COOPER: David Gergen, how much too does the narrative from John McCain start to talk more about social issues, sort of opening up kind of a culture war argument on the campaign trail?

GERGEN: That's a very good question, Anderson. I'm not sure I know the answer to it. But certainly he has made a commitment to the pro- life community now, which is much, much stronger than they thought they had just a few months ago. And he's thrown down the gauntlet on this abortion issue.

Governor Palin is not just against abortion, she's against abortion in the case of rape and incest. She doesn't have exceptions in her vocabulary. This is a hard right person; that's why the social conservatives are so inspired but it does bring the social issues in.

Can I just add this, though, Anderson? I think Roland is right, that reform has been one of the four main themes of the Republican Convention all along. I think they will push that. But what's getting lost in this argument is the state of the economy.

And it seems to me that's where the critical issue is. I would be surprised for the Republicans to go off and let's re-shake up Washington, people want jobs and they want deals --

HOLMES: Can I address that?

MARTIN: I agree. I agree David.

COOPER: We got to go.

HOLMES: Palin did not mention the word abortion today in her address.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, David Gergen, thank you very much.

We're tracking hurricane Gustav, which is taking aim at the Gulf Coast; could have its sight on New Orleans. The storm tore through Jamaica today causing a lot of damage. A look at where it's headed coming up; now projected to become a category 4, at least at some point.

And we'll be talking to some AmeriCorps volunteers who with me now. They're going to be helping folks try to evacuate in New Orleans if a mandatory evacuation is ordered tomorrow or the next day or in any of the days ahead.

We'll talk to them coming up.

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COOPER: Those are the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, one of our favorite bands in one of our favorite spots in New Orleans, "The Spotted Cat." They said they were going to try and stay open as long as possible as everyone here gets ready for hurricane Gustav. Gustav is now a category 1 storm but within the last hour the National Weather Service said could become a category 4 hurricane as it races across the Gulf of Mexico.

CNN's Chad Myers tracking the storm for them. Chat, what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest is, that it really has an eye now. This thing is really getting going now in the overnight hours down here, the late night hours across the Cayman Islands. This is a problem now because this is very warm and deep water. The moisture and heat content of this will not get any larger; it will stay high all the way up through and into the Gulf of Mexico.

That's when the forecast is for it to be a category 4. When it crosses over Cuba, gets into this area here, which is called the loop current. The loop current is actually water that comes out of the Caribbean down here, comes up between Cancun and Cuba. And it gets up here and it's very warm here. Now it gets cooler as it gets up toward New Orleans. The loop current doesn't get up here.

So it's going to be a 4 here and then it's going to slow down, it's going to only be a 3 as it makes landfall. Now, this is plus or minus 10 or 20 miles per hour, it also is not an exact science, as we know, but getting very close to the Louisiana coast on Monday at 125 miles per hour.

It doesn't matter, Anderson, what side of the eye you're on at 125 miles per hour. This is a major hurricane and it will do major damage. The news right now is that every consecutive model run, the computer models that we try to figure out what is going to happen, they've been pushing this farther and farther to the west. That's good news for New Orleans, bad news for Lafayette. Bad news for Houston and Galveston because if it keeps going this way then all of a sudden we have another very big city in the way of another very large hurricane.

COOPER: So folks who are going to bed tonight, if they wake up tomorrow, will we have new information in the morning?

MYERS: We'll have a new update at 5:00. That will probably be a little bit better than what we have now, because there's a couple of special things within the computers tonight, some special numbers and those numbers are going to tell us a little bit more about the accuracy of all the models.

One more thing I want to get to, this is Hanna, believe it or not, tropical storm Hanna. And right there is Puerto Rico right there. This storm though may do something very funky, it may turn to the left, go across Cuba and back into the Gulf of Mexico the wrong way, from the north to the south and back up again. We could have two storms making landfall in the Gulf of Mexico in less than seven days, Anderson.

COOPER: Back-to-back, not good. Chad, thanks very much.

In a moment, more on the possible evacuations here; we're going to meet some of the AmeriCorps volunteers, the folks who are behind. They've already committed to doing what they can to minimize storm damage if Gustav does hit. We'll talk to them.

Also tonight, remembering Katrina and those searing images that came to symbolize a nation's shame.

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COOPER: Again, we're closely tracking hurricane Gustav; could become a category 4 storm before hitting us, perhaps a category 3 storm. We're going to have an update tomorrow morning, a more accurate update, exactly where the storm is.

A lot of folks here are already talking about possible evacuations. City officials here have talked about perhaps tomorrow or the next day. Again, it all depends on the track of the storm.

But folks who are going to help out in those evacuations, I have some of them here with me, AmeriCorps volunteers. Without a massive effort by volunteers, thousands of them over the last three years, the catastrophe here in New Orleans would have been even worse than it was.

As Gustav takes aim at the Gulf Coast, volunteers are again being employed. I'm joined by two members of AmeriCorps, which is a ten- month program that recruits people to help build communities and develop leaders. Samantha VanDervort and also Brooke Paulus, welcome. Thanks for being with us. And thank all of you for what you're doing.

How has the experience been working here? BROOKE PAULUS, AMERICORPS VOLUNTEER: Incredible. Like life changing. We got down here and we didn't know what to expect.

COOPER: You've been here how long?

PAULUS: About 2 1/2 months. So we were down here for a few months and now we're staying again for Gustav.

COOPER: How concerned are you about the storm coming?

SAMANTHA VANDERVORT, AMERICORPS VOLUNTEER: Well, I don't know what to expect really. All I know is that as AmeriCorps we're going to be here and we're going to do whatever we can to help.

PAULUS: come hell or high water we're going to do what we need to do because that's what AmeriCorps does.

COOPER: This city has seen both hell and high water. So hopefully, we don't see it again. You talk to people here, you've been out, you got paint all over yourselves. What do you hear from people, how concerned are they about the coming storm?

PAULUS: It's been crazy. Traffic is jam packed everywhere. The gas station lines are huge. It's a little eerie to look at it. These people are strong and they kind of know what they're in for so each is doing whatever they feel they need to get ready.

COOPER: Are you guys scared?

VANDERVORT: I'm not scared. I mean, I know that I'm going to be safe because AmeriCorps and the Red Cross who we're going to be working with are going to take care of us. It's mostly I'm worried about, you know, all the houses that I worked on, the friends that I've made here, their homes, their families, what are they going to do? That's what I'm thinking about.

COOPER: There has been a lot of progress in New Orleans along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a lot of folks have been working hard. We keep coming back and if it wasn't for thousands of young volunteers like you guys and church groups private groups and charities who have come here that the progress that has been made wouldn't nearly be as much.

Does it surprise you, though, how so much more still needs to be done?

PAULUS: Definitely. There are still houses that look like they were hit by a hurricane yesterday and here we are on the third anniversary and it still looks like that. It's unacceptable.

It's good that we're here and there's a lot of movement going on and it's good to see kids getting socially active. And I think every kid should be doing it.

COOPER: What made you want to be here?

VANDERVORT: Well, I had just graduated high school and I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I figured why waste money on school when I can go out and help my country. And one of my favorite things that I love to say is that I'm serving my country right now with a shovel in my hand instead of a gun.

COOPER: I appreciate what you guys have been doing all of you. Thank you very much and good luck in the coming days as this storm approaches. I know you're going to help out a lot of people when they need it. So thank you very much.

We're going to have a lot more about the coming storm and about the third anniversary of Katrina. There's fallout already from Gustav here along the Gulf Coast.

Up next, as residents pack up and get ready to evacuate if the order comes, there is pain at the pump.

And three years after Katrina, the lessons learned from that tragedy could be put to the test. My Reporter's Notebook: A Look Back and a Look Forward when "360" continues.

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COOPER: Hurricane Gustav pointed at the Gulf Coast today, three years to the day since Katrina crashed into New Orleans.

Our "Reporter's Notebook" -- looking back and forward coming up.

First, Gary Tuchman joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

Georgia is cutting diplomatic ties with Russia. Its remaining diplomat is expected to leave their Moscow Embassy tomorrow. The former Soviet republic is upset Russian troops still occupy Georgian territory. Russia says the move will only make things worst.

Here in the U.S., storm fallout. Gasoline prices are on the rise along the Gulf Coast due to hurricane Gustav. Triple A says it will cost you nearly a dime more for a gallon of gas in the coastal cities Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. The Louisiana prices are up three cents a gallon.

On Wall Street, stock prices sink. The Dow down 171 points to close at 11,543; the Nasdaq and S&P with double digit losses -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Gary, thanks.

Up next, searing images of an unforgettable time. I'll share my "Reporter's Notebook" with you as we remember Katrina which came ashore exactly three years ago today.

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COOPER: We just got word that Sunday they are going to shut down the airport here in New Orleans at 6:00 p.m. Again, no word on when exactly mandatory evacuations may begin.

Every since Katrina, elected officials have promised to prevent such devastation from ever happening again. We should say they're anticipating shutting down the airport on Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

Hurricane Gustav may put those promises that we've seen over these last three years since Katrina to the test. The storm can arrive as early as Monday with the shattering fury of Katrina and one of the most shameful chapters in American history that's never too far from anyone's mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Three years since the storm the memories still burn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everywhere we look, absolutely water.

COOPER: The city, this Gulf washed away by the water. In Waveland, homes vanished, tears remain. Rescuers search for survivors. They found bodies instead.

They've left some of windows open so the house at least can air out a little bit but the smell is actually just getting worse and it's spreading around the neighborhood.

In New Orleans, they waited, they waited, lied to, let down, promised help. They lost hope.

These were our neighbor, our countrymen, long ignored and forgotten once again. In water soaked streets, dogs cried for help, bodies lay abandoned.

You do find bodies just floating in the water. There's a man over there who is dead on the top of a car.

Thank goodness for the cops and firemen who stayed and did their job. Thank goodness for the Coast Guard who worked night and day.

The rescuer's going down. We believe there may be at least two more people in the house.

Slowly, the water receded and slowly life returned. They searched for body, they asked for aid, months passed then years. Thank goodness for the volunteers, church groups, charities, students and strangers. We owe them so much.

Three years since the storm. Much work still remains. The city is strong, life has returned, but the past is alive and the memories still burn.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And thanks for joining us for this two-hour edition of "360." That's it from New Orleans.

"Larry King Live" is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)