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Preview of Republican National Convention in New York City

Aired August 29, 2004 - 22:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Here are the headlines.
France has sent its foreign minister to the Middle East in an effort to gain the release of two French journalists. Pictures of the two men missing in Iraq for over a week surfaced on al Jazeera television. The network says the kidnappers are the same group that claimed to have kidnapped and killed an Italian journalist.

And two Turkish hostages were freed today by Iraqi militants. The men were kidnapped from a construction site in Baghdad. They were released after their company said they would halt all business in Iraq.

And the fireworks have finished. The medals have all been awarded. And athletes from 202 countries are packing up to go home. The 2004 Olympic Summer Games are over. The final tally? Here it is. The United States took home 103 medals, the most overall. Russia had 92. And China had 63. But perhaps the most important number is 0. No terrorist attacks.

And Tropical Storm Gaston has weakened into a tropical depression. But this morning, it swept ashore in South Carolina with near hurricane force winds. It knocked out power for thousands of customers and caused a lot of flooding. Nearly 10 inches of rain fell in some inland areas. And flash flood warnings are in effect, but obviously the water rising in some places. So far, there has only been a few injuries reported.

Those are the headlines this hour. Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

ANNOUNCER: America Votes 2004. This is CNN's live coverage of the Republican National Convention.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Good evening from New York City, the Big Apple and Madison Square Garden. For the next four days, this is the center of the universe, at least for the Republican Party. Tomorrow, this red, white and blue arena will be bursting with thousands of delegates. They've been arriving here all day long, checking into hotels, taking their first quick look at this very famous skyline, getting ready for non-stop politics. That's exactly why we're here as well.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from ringside here together with colleagues, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield.

Judy, you've been getting a sense where these Republicans are coming from, at least in their attitude arriving here in New York.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, this has been a nail biter of a campaign year for these Republicans, mainly because of the Iraq War. They've had a lot to worry about, to worry about whether this president is going to be re-elected.

Just lately, though, they've gotten some good news from the polls. They feel the wind is at their back a little bit. They want this convention to go perfectly. They want it to go smoothly because they want to go into the fall, the next 65, 66 days without a hitch. And they're hoping this convention is going to give them that kind of a life.

BLITZER: And historically speaking, will they - are they likely to get it?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, history says that you come out of the convention, you know, in good shape, unless like 1968 in Chicago or 1972 in Miami for the Democrats. But you know, they're in an arena where the last two Democratic presidents were nominated by the Democratic party in a town that's never seen a Republican convention.

If they want to take some historical encouragement, they're about six blocks from the birthplace of the first great New York Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. Was born literally about a five minute walk from here. They have come to one of the Democratic cities in America, partly because of what happened here September 11th three years ago, and partly to take what happened here and turn that into one single argument that there is no more important issue this year than who can conduct the war on terror. And they think when they come out of this convention, doubting Thomases among the voters are going to say, oh yes, I guess the president's the right guy to keep in charge.

BLITZER: OK, we'll be hearing a lot about that war on terrorism over the next four days. Tomorrow night, this arena will be full of convention delegates. Tonight, the workers still applying somewhat of a final touch throughout the building.

We're going to begin our coverage by checking in with our senior White House correspondent John King. He'll be stationed all week long over at the center of the action. That would be the convention podium - John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, it is from this podium that the president, the vice president, and all of their surrogates will make the case for four more years for the Republican ticket. Mr. Bush will speak on Thursday night here in accepting nomination for a second term. Today, he was campaigning in West Virginia, one of a handful of the November showdown states where the president is testing themes as he makes his way here to his New York convention. The president campaigning in the state that was critical to him in the last campaign, a traditionally Democratic state he very much wants to hold.

Again this time, already here in New York is the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. He will speak on Wednesday. And he came into the Garden Hall today to test out the microphone, to get comfortable with the podium, reading from the teleprompter a bit of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Now that is not the speech, of course, he will deliver Wednesday night. What you will hear from both the vice president and the president is a strong defense of their leadership in the war on terrorism. They will say perhaps you don't agree with every decision, but that they believe they have provided decisive leadership. And that Senator Kerry, his Democratic opponent, would provide anything but that. They also will try to flush out a domestic agenda for a second term. Look for the president to promise to keep taxes low and make them more simple and suggest his opponent would raise them.

Also, to try to address Democratic criticism by saying he has a better plan to make health care more accessible and more affordable. And from here, the president will go immediately back out on the road. Wolf, 60 days to Election Day when he leaves here, this of course, the big defining event still to come. And the next big event in this campaign after this convention will be the presidential debates - Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, it'll be a sprint until November. John, thanks very much.

Not far from where John King is right now up in the podium, take a look at this. There he is, Rudy Giuliani. He's testing the microphones. He's checking out the location. Wants to make sure that when he delivers his primetime speech tomorrow night, everything is very, very comfortable for him. This is his hometown, New York City. This is, of course, almost three years since 9/11 when he gained national and indeed international prominence.

Rudy Giuliani, like so many of the other speakers, checking out Madison Square Garden for this Republican convention.

We have new poll numbers to report tonight from three of the so- called battleground states, where George W. Bush and John Kerry are focusing much of their time, energy, and campaign cash.

According to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, Kerry leads Bush among likely voters in Iowa by 51 percent to 45 percent. Ralph Nader has 2 percent. His name will appear on the Iowa ballot.

In Wisconsin, Bush leads Kerry 48 percent to 45 percent. It's not clear yet if Nader will be on the ballot there.

And in Pennsylvania, look at this, it's a dead heat. 47 percent each. Nader right now gets 2 percent. He has turned in enough signatures to be on the Pennsylvania ballot. But those petitions are still being processed.

And remember, all three of these states narrowly went to Al Gore in 2000.

The delegates from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania can expect to get a lot of attention during this convention. Our floor reporters are keeping watch on all three state delegations. Dana Bash has the latest on the battle for Pennsylvania. Candy Crowley is keeping an eye on Wisconsin. Dan Lothian standing by with the latest on Iowa.

Dana, let's begin with you. Tell us a little bit about this battle for Pennsylvania.

DANA BASH: Well, Wolf, just the fact that there's a dead heat in the polls is very significant because John Kerry's campaign felt that they were doing better in Pennsylvania after his convention. Their internal polls, aides to Senator Kerry said that they showed them up a little bit in this state.

Now if you want to know just how important the 21 electoral votes from this state are to President Bush, just look at his travels. He's been to Pennsylvania 32 times since he's been in office more than any other state besides his home state of Texas. And he's going twice this week. He's actually sleeping in the state of Pennsylvania the very night he gives his speech here in Madison Square Garden.

Now a problem for the president in 2000, he lost, of course, Pennsylvania by about four percentage points to Al Gore. A problem with it, he didn't win a lot of his own Republicans - moderate Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs. They desperately know that they have to win them back. A problem for the president perhaps is the war in Iraq and concerns among moderate Republicans in that area. So they are trying to get some of the conservatives out, a lot of grassroots activists who are delegates here, much more than in years past, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Pennsylvania.

Candy Crowley, following Wisconsin, at least right now. This is a very important state for these politicians, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. In 2000, Wolf, no one really knew that Wisconsin was a battleground state until the last week, when both campaigns, Gore and Bush, began to look at those polls. And pretty soon, Wisconsin became this major thoroughfare. Al Gore won by 6,000 points - I'm sorry by 6,000 votes.

Now comes 2004. From the get-go, they've known this is a battleground state. So both sides say that they have unprecedented get out the vote efforts. A Republican in the state told me that last week alone, they made 80,000 voter contacts, more than they ever did in 2000.

So this is a very, very tightly contested race. They also say that Nader could be a very big factor here. He only needs 2000 signatures to get on the ballot. Democrats will be scrutinizing those Nader signatures very, very closely.

As for the Republicans, they say this is not only about the swing voters. It is also about those voters who didn't vote last time, among them, about 200,000 Christian evangelicals - Wolf?

BLITZER: From Wisconsin, Candy, thanks very much.

Let's go to Iowa. Dan Lothian monitoring the situation there - Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And based on those numbers, the president does have some ground to make up in Iowa, if you do believe those numbers. The president lost to Al Gore in Iowa by just the slim margin, less than one percent of the vote there. The president will be campaigning in Iowa this week on Tuesday, along with Senator John McCain, as he tries to reach out to those moderate voters, those undecided voters in Iowa.

He will also be returning, we understand, to the state later in the week. Some 32 delegates, 7 electoral votes here in Iowa. And Iowa voters here no doubt will be focusing on what the president has to say about the economy, but also what he has to say about winning the war on terrorism and you know, fixing the situation in Iraq - Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Dan Lothian in Iowa for us. Thanks to all of our floor reporters.

So what are these poll numbers really mean for President Bush on the eve of this Republican convention? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is here to break down the numbers for us - Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, Wolf, this is certainly not good news for Democrats. All of these states were carried by Gore. Kerry has to keep them in the Democratic column if he's going to win next year. But he's not safely headed in any of them, including Iowa, where his six point lead is within the margin of error.

Why isn't Kerry doing better? Well, it's not the economy, stupid. About every - about 60 percent of the voters in every one of these states say their state's economy is not in good shape. But in each state, at least half the voters say the U.S. did the right thing in sending troops to Iraq.

Now here's the big test. If you think the economy is bad, but Iraq was the right thing to do, how do you vote? And the answer is Bush by about 60 percent in every one of these three states. International affairs trumps the economy. And it's paying off for President Bush.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider with the latest insight into these important poll numbers in these three battleground states. Our GOP convention preview just getting started. Much more coming up. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Madison Square Garden. The Republican selection of New York is strategic, as well as symbolic. It's been almost three years since this city was struck by terrorists.

CNN'S Aaron Brown takes a look now at how New York has changed, and what that could mean for this convention.


AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republicans will find a ground zero far different from the one the president saw just days after the attack. Then, it was a horrible graveyard, a smoldering mass of mangled steel and concrete.

Today, it looks like what it has become, a huge construction site changing, growing by the day. But if the site has changed, and it has, memories have not.

EVELYN ROBB, OWNER EVELYN'S CHOCOLATES: It was horrible. People were just rushing in because they wanted to get off the street.

BROWN: Evelyn Robb has owned this chocolate shop one block from where the towers fell for nearly 40 years. Her shop reopened two months after the attack. Her business has yet to recover.

ROBB: The people are not here. You know, and even the different companies that we used to deal with, they've relocated.

BROWN: Three thousand lives gone. Tens of thousands of jobs lost. A city under perpetual orange alert. It's something New Yorkers think about practically every day in ways large and small.

Companies in Manhattan have spent tens of millions of dollars upgrading security. Lobbies are now filled with security guards. Employees carry electronic ID cards. Hidden cameras keep an eye on all the doors.

GREGG POPKIN, VP CB RICHARD ELLIS: I think it's really prudent to be well protected, to be thinking about this. You can't protect a building against an airplane flying into it. But what you can do is train people to react properly afterwards, and mitigate the losses.

BROWN: Greg Popkin's firm manages more than 100 office buildings in the metropolitan area. And like so many New Yorkers, he knew people who died on 9/11.

What seemed a crazy worry three years ago doesn't seem so crazy today. Some of his tenants have emergency masks at their desks.

POPKIN: Basically, I just don't want it on my head that, God forbid, something happens in one of my buildings and my people are not prepared.

BROWN: National Guard troops patrol Penn Station right below Madison Square Garden. Police occupy key intersections, a show of force meant to be a deterrent.

And there is counterterrorism activity that is not visible, but is there every hour, every day.

RAYMOND KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: Obviously, we're doing some increased security, taking increased security measures surrounding the convention. But certainly after the convention, we will remain at a heightened state of readiness.

BROWN: The firehouses which suffered more casualties on 9/11 than any other first responders honor their dead on their front doors. Planes that used to fly over Manhattan don't fly over Manhattan any more. Homeland Security helicopters do.

It is for New Yorkers the new normal. Most Republican delegates shuttling from their hotels to Madison Square Garden and to Manhattan sites and night life, likely won't see the crowded lively sections of Brooklyn's and Queens that are homes to tens of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, immigrants who still feel unease and who all seem to have a story about a friend or a relative caught up in the fear after 9/11.

WALLAA MAHREN, VIDEO STORE CLERK: You couldn't even go out of home, you know, especially people who like wearing - yes, like me, we couldn't go out for a while, women, because people was bothering them so bad.

ABDUL KUMANDAN, RESTAURANT MANAGER: ...repeat over and over, day after day, the word terrorist and fear mongering. It doesn't help us.

BROWN: To the outsider, perhaps New York is the same old place. The bright lights of Broadway shine. New buildings reach to the sky. The bustle of what New Yorkers think of as the world's capitol city.

But New York is not the same, not at ground zero, as cleaned up as it is, not at the firehouses even with the flowers long gone, not in the office buildings fearing the next attack. We were all changed by 9/11, but none as painfully and maybe even as permanently as the city of New York.

Aaron Brown, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And that increased security that Aaron just noted in that piece will not only be intense, it also will be state of the art. As CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports, the best minds and the best technology available are focused on keeping New York safe.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some officers on the streets of New York this week will have extra eyes built into their helmets.

ERIC JOHNSON, FEDERAL PROTECTION SERVICE: You have the camera in the front. There's a transmitter in the back. And it's all battery - it runs off battery.

MESERVE: And all transmitted wirelessly back to the Federal Protective Service command center.

RON LIBBY, FEDERAL PROTECTIVE SERVICE: So if someone says this demonstration's getting out of hand and I hear those reports, I can switch to a helmet cam and see if projectiles are being thrown or if people are chanting. I can see if objects are being shoved or pushed around, or if it's just jostling by the crowd.

MESERVE: Helmet cams are among hundreds of cameras providing real time information to the 24/7 multi agency command center at police headquarters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In here, we have over 66 different agencies represented.

MESERVE: The big dog in this federal, state, local security effort is the New York City Police Department. Though the Secret Service is in charge, it has just over 3,000 agents nationwide, compared to the NYPD's 37,000 officers. The department is almost as big as the entire U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is here in force, patrolling the waterways around Manhattan. Every train coming into New York is being searched. And special teams are deployed to detect and respond to weapons of mass destruction.

With so much security concentrated in New York, the Department of Homeland Security in Washington is trying to monitor the big national picture.

BOB STEPHAN, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: We don't' know when and where exactly these guys might strike, if they do in fact plan to strike against us.


MESERVE: Well, with the president and so many other governmental officials coming here, the convention is a prime target. It's estimated the city alone is spending $60 to $70 million in extra security - Wolf?

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve on the streets of New York City. Jeanne, thanks very much.

We're going to continue our preview of the Republican National Convention. Much more coming up. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: Back here in an empty Madison Square Garden, just for tonight, many of this week's primetime convention speakers are among the most recognizable names in American politics. But their views on a number of issues notably out of line with both the president and the recently adopted Republican party platform.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, McCain, the faces of this week's gathering at the Garden, beloved among the most coveted voters, Independents and Moderates, but largely at odds with the conservative core of the Republican party. And on some of the most contentious social issues, largely at odds with George W. Bush.

The GOP is showcasing the moderate trinity this week, but Bush needs to do more than bring in wavering Independents. He must also nurture and expand his base of social conservatives. And on some of the most polarizing social issues, these hard-liners are worlds apart from other voters.

Take abortion, for instance. 53 percent of voters who describe themselves very conservative say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. But just 17 percent of the rest of the electorate agrees, demonstrating the ideological chasm Bush is struggling to straddle.

Houston, 1992, Republicans made a hard charge to the right.

MARILYN QUAYLE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT'S WIFE: Most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women.

WOODRUFF: Alienating huge swathes of moderates in the process. Pat Buchanan thundered against radical feminists and denounced gay marriage as amoral.

PAT BUCHANAN (R),FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a religious war going on in this country.

WOODRUFF: George W. Bush won't allow us versus them language on social issues at his convention. But he's found other ways to telegraph to his core supporters that he's one of them, referring to Christianity as his life's guiding principle.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democratic society should welcome, not fear, the participation of the faithful.

WOODRUFF: Infusing the Republican platform with language defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, supporting a constitutional amendment to do the same.

BUSH: The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution.

WOODRUFF: But in that speech, Bush never disparaged homosexuality. In fact, he never even used the words "gay" or "lesbian" or morality.

And as the president stakes out a clear position on same sex marriage.


WOODRUFF: The vice president signals the Republican party is big enough to accommodate other views.

CHENEY: Freedom means freedom for everyone. WOODRUFF: And so, the ticket straddles the gap between this week's trio of primetime speakers and the social conservatives already in the fold.


WOODRUFF: In fairness, there is a debate about how John McCain fits into this portrait of the moderates. The Arizona senator does agree with most conservatives on abortion and gun rights, but he disagrees on a gay marriage amendment. What everybody can call him is a maverick.

Well, with me now, political strategist Ralph Reed, a regional chairman for the Bush campaign. And Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor.

Ralph Reed, a man active with the log cabin Republicans, a gay rights group this week, said during the platform deliberations you can't put lipstick on a pig. Is that what the Republican party's trying to do with this?

RALPH REED, BUSH CAMPAIGN REGIONAL CHMN.: No, I think what you're seeing here, Judy, is a party that is a majority party in the country. We've got a majority of the House, majority of the Senate, president of the United States, majority governors, majority state legislators. And you would expect that party, when it gathers every four years, to reflect the full diversity and the breadth and depth not only of our party, but of the country.

And I will just tell you, I'm proud of that. And not only am I proud of it, I think it's a sign of the strength of our party. You know, the media seems to be almost criticizing the fact that we have diversity, not only from the podium, but on the floor of the convention. If you take the 44 percent of the delegates that are women, you take the 17 percent that are African-American, Asian, or Hispanic, and you take the 18 percent that are veterans, this is the most diverse convention we've ever had. So I think it's a strength, not a weakness.

WOODRUFF: Not criticizing diversity, noting some of the contradictions. Donna, is that how you see it, that this - Republicans are simply the big tent and there is going to be some diversity here?

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's a big tent with a narrow door, Judy. Many people feel - many Americans feel unwelcome in the Republican party. I mean, Ralph described what appears to be a Democratic party convention. And I'm looking forward to seeing what diversity, if at all, exists in the Republican party.

The Republican party that represents the majority in this country is an extreme right wing party. Most Americans out of sync with this party on many social value issues. And I think what you'll see this week is the Republican party trying to reposition itself, redefine a reincarnation of what it's been over the last four years in Washington, D.C. and all over the country. WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield has a question.

GREENFIELD: Steady leadership at a time of change, that's one of the big themes here.

REED: Right.

GREENFIELD: And it occurred to me former Marine Corps General Zinny wants Rumsfeld fired for his screwing up Iraq. Lee Iacocca endorsed your guy four years ago. He's gut mad for John Kerry.

First Secretary of the Treasury said he was clueless of the economy. And the former Air Force chief of staff who endorsed Bush is endorsing Kerry.

The question is that's defections from your team. Is that not a target of opportunity for the Democrats to say, look, he tried, but his own team says leadership wasn't there?

REED: No, I don't think so, Jeff, not when you have somewhere between the high 50s to low 60 percent of the American people saying that they believe the president has the right leadership in the war on terrorism, not when you see "The L.A. Times" poll showing the president with a net gain on the ballot of five points since the Democratic convention. You've now got the president's job approval in both the Gallup poll and "The L.A. Times" poll over 50. No president in modern times has lost a reelection when his job approval is over 50.

So you know, look, the American people are behind this president. And I would just point out, by the way, that Tommy Franks, who led the effort in Iraq, even though he has not taken a formal political position, has made it very clear that the president's policy was sound, it was solid, it was commonsense, and it's winning the war on terror.

WOODRUFF: Donna, a word in edgewise here?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, again, this is going to be a week of reincarnation and redefinition of what moderate - this is a party that is governing in the extreme. And Ralph understands that the president has used most of his political capital rallying his right wing base.

And this week, what you'll see is Republican trying to, you know, reach out to the congregation, those persuadable voters that are out there, that are looking for leadership and feel that the president has let them down on the economy, on health care, and on many other important domestic issues.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Donna Brazile, visiting the Republican convention.

BRAZILE: First Republican...

WOODRUFF: Ralph Reed at home at a Republican convention.

REED: Right.

WOODRUFF: Thank you both. We'll see you both during the week.

REED: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Wolf is down on the floor. Wolf, what have you got for us next?

BLITZER: When we come back, Judy, I'm going to take all of our viewers on a special tour of this convention floor at Madison Square Garden. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The Republican delegates certainly aren't the only people visiting New York City. There were literally tens of thousands of demonstrators who showed up from all parts of the country to make their voices heard today.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick, she's out on the streets. She's been reporting all day on what happened.

Deborah, fill in our viewers.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crowds kept coming and coming and coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me what democracy looks like.

CROWD: This is what democracy looks like.

FEYERICK: A march so large, so dense, so unified, it covered two city miles. And those at the end didn't even cross the starting line until three hours after the march began.

CROWD: Bush and Cheney talk the talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we know they're chicken hawks.

FEYERICK: The chats were strong. The slogans even stronger. And the mood...

JODIE EVANS, CODE PINK: It's so celebratory. It's people exercising their patriotic duty, which is to protest when America's being violated.

FEYERICK: There were suburban moms and military veterans. Some like Marine Sergeant William Hunt recently back from Iraq.

SGT. WILLIAM HUNT, MARINE: My friends lost their lives - I had 18 friends that lost their lives because of his mistakes, because he rushed into a war.

FEYERICK: There were children and churchgoers. There were those like Molly Altman, who have seen other wars.

MOLLY ALTMAN, PROTESTER: I'm a grandmother. I have grandchildren of draft age. I don't want them fighting this nonsensical war. Let him send his children.

FEYERICK: And those like Jennifer Baker for whom the Iraq War is the first.

JENNIFER BAKER, RECENT NEW YORK UNIV. GRADUATE: And for people who are saying that, you know, they're chastising America's youth for being uninvolved and uninterested, we're an example that we are interested, and that we're not interested in Bush.

FEYERICK: They came to New York from around the country to send a message to the president.

LESLIE CAGAN, UNITED FOR PEACE & JUSTICE: We will say no to the Bush agenda. We call for the immediate end of the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

FEYERICK: Even a smattering of registered Republicans join the march.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: We're tied up in Iraq. It was a mistake. And they lied. So I think if you believe in national security, you have to vote for Kerry.

FEYERICK: A small handful of Bush supporters did try getting out their own message.

CROWD: Four more years! Four more years!

FEYERICK: And towards the end of the peaceful march, there were a few small pockets of violence from agitators.


FEYERICK: Now protest organizers say the crowd reached 400,000, but police can't confirm because they say they don't give numbers. And some of the crowd says it doesn't really matter anyway because they always feel that the numbers are too low. But whatever the figures, those who did march strongly believe that they will make a difference on Election Day - Wolf?

BLITZER: And by and large, Deborah, it was very, very peaceful. Only a few arrests, is that right?

FEYERICK: It was extremely peaceful, especially given the sheer volume of folks who were marching today.

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick. She's out of the streets for us as she has been all day. Deborah, thanks very much.

Still ahead, "THE CAPITAL GANG", all of them, they're here on the convention floor. They'll be showing up. Also, my tour. I'm going to take you around, show you what we can expect this week at Madison Square Garden. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the convention, the Republican convention here at Madison Square Garden. Let me take you around the floor, give you a sense what exactly is going to go on.

By the way, this is - this pit that you see in here, this is really a stage that will come up. The band will be here. They'll be performing all sorts of numbers. A lot of Broadway show tunes. You'll be seeing, of course, expect to come to New York.

You got to go see Broadway. This is the main podium over here, where most of the speakers will be speaking Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But get this. Coming Thursday, this podium, this main stage is going to be brought all the way out. It's coming out center stage here when President Bush delivers his acceptance speech. Thursday night, this podium will have been moved all the way out. He'll be in the center of this vast Madison Square Garden. And he'll be addressing the people in a Oprah like fashion a little bit to make it look a little more friendly, a little warmer.

It's a new look for the Republican convention. They've been testing it. And it looks like it's going to be pretty, pretty cool.

By the way, I want to show our viewers one more thing. If you take a look up there, some of those sky boxes where the major television news organizations have their booths, look up there. You see al Jazeera. You see the sign that says al Jazeera. That was something that didn't exist at the Fleet Center in Boston. Al Jazeera was there, but for some reason, the Democrats didn't let them have their sign. The Republicans have their sign, all of which indicates that maybe the Republicans feel a little bit more confident to let al Jazeera showcase their banner, more confident than the Democrats did then.

One thing that we are going to do here, again, as we did at the Democratic convention in Boston, we've given four delegates, Republican delegates, those mini cams to go out and shoot, give us a little experience what it's like to be a delegate behind the scenes. Right now, here is the first of our delegate diaries.


CATHERINE CAVALERES, DELEGATE: Hi, I'm Catherine Cavaleres and I'm a delegate from the great state of California.

JACK CAPRA, DELEGATE: I'm Jack Capra. I'm a delegate from Jacksonville, Florida.

ANDRES NAVARES, DELEGATE: I am Andres Navares. And I am a delegate from Puerto Rico.

GEORGETTE MOSBACHER, DELEGATE: I'm Georgette Mosbacher, the New York Republican National Committee woman and a delegate here in New York City. I've always been a Republican. And I've always believed in what the Republican party stands for.

That's the Ellis Island medal of honor. This is presented by the president of the United States. This is me dancing at the White House with President Bush 41. That's just a little sampling of memorabilia.

I live here in New York. This is my home. It's been my home for the last 12 years. And I was born and raised in Indiana, but I am a New Yorker now.

CAPRA: I've never been to New York before. Wow, that's a big city. What bridge is that?

I'm going to try to meet as many people as I can and learn as much as I can, try and have a good time. I'm a lawyer, I'm a JAG in my reserve life. And I got mobilized and was sent to Iraq and spent the last seven months over there.

My wife and I have a daughter. She was three months old when I left. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

My job was to help facilitate and get the new Iraqi judicial system up and running. I was injured in an IAD, which is basically a roadside bomb and then was awarded a purple heart. I'm very happy and very proud of the fact that I was able to help out, contribute.

NAVARES: I was a delegate at the Philadelphia Convention. And it was a great learning experience. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. And Puerto Ricans cannot vote for their president. I can be a delegate because the party established their own rules. I have a responsibility to my children and grandchildren to do something for Puerto Rico. And I'm motivated mostly by that. I'm motivated by the fact that this gives me an opportunity to do something at the national level.

CAVALERES: I think it's a dream come true for any political junkie to be a delegate. I have not been a delegate before. I have attended the last two conventions in '96 and in 2000. I met Reagan in 1994 and I wanted to basically thank President Reagan for my life. He inspired me to become involved in politics.

I'm the executive director of the Republican Party of Orange County. It's also known as America's most Republican county. I had the privilege and the honor of attending the Olympic Games. I just had a wonderful time getting in touch with my heritage. And my family, before I headed back to the United States, my adoptive land, even though I was in the height of the Olympics, I couldn't wait to come here to New York and to get involved at the convention and electing the president.


BLITZER: And that was the first of our delegates' diaries. We promise every night primetime, you'll be seeing more from these delegates. In a moment, we're going to turn it over to "THE CAPITAL GANG." All of them, all of five of them. They're right here.


BLITZER: They're standing by. We'll hear from them about the convention when we come back.


BLITZER: CNN's "THE CAPITAL GANG" standing by to give us an insight into this convention. Mark Shields, Bob Novak, Kate O'Beirne, Al Hunt, and Margaret Carlson.

Mark Shields, take it away.

SHIELDS: Hey, thank you very much, Wolf. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Republican mayor of New York said extremely peaceful today, these demonstrations. Bob, big demonstrations, but peaceful. Disappointment?

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST: No, I'm glad they were peaceful, but they were a bunch of nuts out there. They looked silly. They - what I didn't see, I didn't see a single Kerry sign out there. I saw a lot hate Bush, Republicans go home, rudeness. I would say that it was a downer for the Democratic party, but those aren't really Democrats out there. There are a lot of nuts. And they don't have John Kerry's cause.

SHIELDS: Al, did it really hurt the Democrats, do you think?

AL HUNT, CO-HOST: You can sense the palpable disappointment from Robert D. Novak. It was peaceful. Nobody got hurt. No one was arrested.

Now let me get this straight.

NOVAK: One hundred were arrested.

HUNT: They weren't John Kerry supporters. There were no Kerry buttons, but it hurts Kerry. Sure, Mark.

SHIELDS: Now Kate O'Beirne, the people who run the Republican party of George W. Bush are not being highlighted at this convention. The people are being highlighted at this convention do not run the Republican party of George W. Bush. How do you explain that? Are we in the cross dressing politically I mean with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CO-HOST: We're going to hear some really conservative speeches this week.


O'BEIRNE: We're going to hear a really conservative speech from Vice President Dick Cheney. We're going to hear a very conservative speech from a conservative President George Bush. Because Zell Miller is going to deliver a terrific conservative speech. And as a former Democrat, he knows how to do politics.

NOVAK: He is still a Democrat.

O'BEIRNE: Arnold Schwarzenegger's a Hollywood star. And I think the audience has got to enjoy him. And John McCain, I expect, is going to give a very compelling defense of the war in Iraq and remind an audience of why it was terribly important to go to Iraq.

SHIELDS: But Margaret, where's Tom Delay? Where are the real stalwarts of this administration?

CARLSON: They're in the attic. Remember Ross Perot's aunt, crazy aunt in the attic? Listen Bob, I know you were disappointed by these demonstrators not being identified with Democrats. But listen, it was a very peaceful demonstration. Mayor Bloomberg should be very happy. And yes, they look like demonstrators, but they don't look like the anarchists in Seattle, which is all to the good. And you will blame everything on Democrats when it does go wrong. I'm surprised you didn't say the liberal media wasn't covering it enough. The liberal media was dying for some news today. If there had been any, it would have been covered.

NOVAK: Democrats to me. But anyway, let me...

CARLSON: Because they don't have on three piece suits?

NOVAK: They also look like anarchists.

CARLSON: They don't have on three piece suits.

NOVAK: Let me answer your question.

SHIELDS: I want to hear you, Bob.

NOVAK: That is a phony thing I've been hearing around about the cross dressing.


NOVAK: The reason they're putting Schwarzenegger and Giuliani on, this is the two...

SHIELDS: And McCain.

NOVAK: And McCain.

SHIELDS: Pataki.

NOVAK: They're all very popular. But let me try to explain this to you.


NOVAK: And I'd - listen, this party stands for a couple of things. And that is opposed to abortion and it is for tax cuts. Now John McCain is against tax cuts. He has no future as a - in the Republican party as long as he's against tax cuts. And Rudy Giuliani has got to get straight on the abortion issue, or he's not going to have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Those are the facts of life. They can put these people out as candidates. That's OK, but the Republican party has not changed its position on those two...

HUNT: How about gay rights, Bob? Don't you think some of them may have some problems with gay rights? But you know something? Bob knows cross dressing, so I'm not going to try to quibble with him on this, but I got to tell you something. We talked about his palpable disappointment about the demonstrations not going badly. I'm really crushed that we're not going to hear Rick Santorum in primetime. I think that really would have been great for America.

O'BEIRNE: Well actually it's 8:30. He does have a speech of course at 8:30, which is a desirable time.

HUNT: But that's before the television networks get on there, of course.

O'BEIRNE: Lieutenant governor of Maryland Michael Steele, I think, is going to be a popular personality that's going to be introduced. Very conservative black...

SHIELDS: Is the Barack Obama of this camp?

NOVAK: No, he's the Michael Steele of this...


NOVAK: ...of this convention. You know...

SHIELDS: Is he playing the role...

NOVAK: I know...

SHIELDS: ...of Alan Keyes?

NOVAK: I know people like you hate to see a black person who is a conservative and a Republican, but there are some.


NOVAK: I wish there were more.

SHIELDS: Bob, I want you to just calm down, all right. Take your medication and answer this question for me. Bob, you've got speaking at this convention, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is for gay marriage and for gay rights; John McCain, who is against the president's constitutional amendment; Rudy Giuliani who's for gun control, gay rights, and gay marriage - what the hell pro-choice?

NOVAK: Oh, you asked me the question. First place, Rudy Giuliani is for tax cuts. And - no wait a minute, wait a minute. And they have their own opinion. They're not Stepford wives like they were at the convention in Boston.

You have - and you have John McCain, who is for - he is pro-life, although he is against tax cuts. These are just...

CARLSON: If I could just go here for a second.

NOVAK: These are just different kinds of people. I know it's hard for you to imagine they have differences of opinion.

SHIELDS: We have to go now. And we've learned tonight that this convention is not Stepford wives and not cross dressing. This Mark Shields saying good night for "THE CAPITAL GANG." Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We always learn something from "THE CAPITAL GANG." Thanks very much, Mark and the entire capital gang.

Coming up in our special convention preview, it's known primarily as a sports arena, but Madison Square Garden also has been a place where political history has been made. We'll take a closer look at the celebrated New York City landmark just ahead.


BLITZER: You're looking at a place where Republican delegates and dignitaries will be gathering this week. Just a block from Madison Square Garden is the Tick Toc Diner, where we've wired it with televisions. We parked the CNN election express outside. Some of your favorite CNN shows like "CROSSFIRE" will be live all week from the Tick Toc Diner. I'll be there as well.

It will be here though in Madison Square Garden where President Bush will formally accept the Republican nomination Thursday night. History has been made many times over in this arena.

CNN's Bruce Morton takes a closer look on a trip down memory lane.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Garden short story writer O'Henry noted is the center of the universe. Well, New Yorkers exaggerate, of course. This was the first built in 1879 near Madison Avenue and Madison Square Park, both named for President Madison. So the Garden bears his name, too.

This was the second same location, probably the most elegant of them all.

JOE GOLDSTEIN, MADISON SQ. GARDEN HISTORIAN: The second Garden looked like al Hambre and Saville. And magnificent building by Stanford...

MORTON: And the scene of the most amazing convention ever. In 1924, before air condition, the Democrats took 17 days and 103 ballots to nominate a candidate for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was sweltering all 17 days were over 90.

MORTON: William Gibbs McAdoo, a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer, led on the first 85 ballots. Can you imagine? Al Smith, who would have been the first Roman Catholic ever nominated, and was four years later, took the lead on the 86 ballot. McAdoo came back on the 94th, Smith on the 100th. But the winner was John W. Davis, whose acceptance speech lasted less than eight minutes. No wonder.

Other events? Well, the first national horse show was at the Garden in 1883. Had to move eventually. Scheduling conflicts. Westminster Kennel Club had its show at the first Garden and has been a regular ever since. Sports, Rocky Marciano knocked out an aging Joe Lewis at the Garden in 1951. Joe Frasier won a decision over Muhammad Ali in 1971.

The Knicks won their only championships here in the fourth Garden. Senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley was on that team.

Music, Barbra Streisand among many others. Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday to a president here.

And roller derby's been. The circus is a regular. The Democrats came in right after it one year. And you could still smell the elephants. Republicans might have liked that better, of course. It's their party animal.

So welcome this time GOP, and remember the song.

It's up to you, "New York, New York."

Bruce Morton, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield is a New Yorker himself. I suppose you spent a few quality hours in this Madison Square Garden?

GREENFIELD: The first Ali/Frasier fight, 1971, the single most exciting sporting event anyone who was there will ever remember. Some of the great music from Elvis was here. Dillon was here. The Grateful Dead here, played a few times. It was a great scene at the end of "On the Waterfront," when Rod Steiger, the wearisome guy who sold out his brother, gets into a taxicab and with his last energy says take me to the Garden. And that's an iconic moment for New Yorkers.

This is ground zero for many of us. Some of our most memorable moments were spent here. And we'll see whether or not Bush and Cheney and company provide us with another one.

BLITZER: What's your bottom-line assessment? Things are shaping up pretty well for the Republicans so far. WOODRUFF: It is. And Wolf, I'm looking to see whether the Garden can make history now of a different kind. The country is so divided right now over this election virtually right down the middle. Are we going to see anything out of this convention this week that begins to bring the country back together? I'm going to be looking for that this week.

BLITZER: All right, well I'll be watching very, very closely. Judy Woodruff, Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

And we'll have extensive live coverage of this Republican convention throughout the week. Stay with CNN for the best coverage any place. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.


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