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Third Quarter Fund-Raising Slows for Presidential Candidates; Obama Takes on the Clintons; Christian Right's Dire Threat

Aired October 1, 2007 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Show us the money. The presidential candidates are slow to reveal their latest fund-raising totals. We're going to tell you what we know and what's fueling the suspense.
Also this hour, Barack Obama says, give us a break. He says Americans want something different than a Clinton dynasty. Will he -- will his sharper criticism of the Democratic frontrunner help him or will it backfire?

And keeping faith. John McCain tries to explain why he thinks a Christian should be in the White House.

And powerful voices from the religious right threatening right now to embrace a third party should he (sic) get the Republican nomination.

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

That would be should Rudy Giuliani get the Republican nomination.

This hour, Senator Obama is touting another quarter of what his campaign is calling historic grassroots support. That's the Democrat's spin on his $20 million fund-raising haul over the past three months. And John Edwards just announced $7 million raised during that period. On this, the first day of the new quarter, presidential campaign watchers are zeroing in on the candidates' bottom lines.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is watching all of this unfold.

Are the third quarter numbers that are coming in right now, are they very surprising? What's going on, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, they're coming in very slowly. And that is part of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice over): After the first and second quarters, campaigns were quick to come out with their fund-raising totals. Why? Because the numbers were huge.

So what are we hearing about third quarter totals? Not so much.

Summer's a tough time to raise money. Many early donors are tapped out.

Barack Obama reports raising $20 million this quarter. Impressive, if not quite the more than $30 million he raised last quarter.

Can Hillary Clinton match him?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It is going to be neck and neck from what we're hearing early on.

SCHNEIDER: John Edwards now says he will accept public financing and spending limits for the primaries. He raised $7 million this quarter, part of which the government will match.

PRESTON: He will receive matching funds up to $250 of every donation he receives from people.

SCHNEIDER: Mitt Romney topped first quarter Republican fund- raising and Giuliani won the second quarter. The race is on, with each estimating a third quarter take of about $10 million.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it will end up that we have a very good quarter, probably one of the best of the Republicans.

SCHNEIDER: John McCain needs to show his campaign is turning around. Will an expected haul of about $5 million do that? He has long said money is not his biggest priority.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never was going to rely on money to win this campaign. I'm not a very good fund-raiser.

SCHNEIDER: Big things were expected of Fred Thompson. Some may see his expected haul as disappointing.

PRESTON: Eight million dollars, while respectable, probably will be viewed with some skepticism.

SCHNEIDER: Though maybe not by him.

FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't feel compelled to raise $100 million this year, which they said was openers for -- to run for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Then there are candidates who hope their numbers will show they can run with the big dogs, like Republican Mike huckabee and Democrat Bill Richardson. Richardson raised $5.2 million this quarter. And guess what? He was one of the first candidates to report his total -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the Democrats overall, Bill, compared to the Republicans? What is this telling us? SCHNEIDER: The thing that the first two quarters told us, that the Democrats overall are raising a lot more money than the Republicans overall. It's been a very, very big fund-raising year for Democrats. Republicans have done very well, but not as well as Democrats.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider looking at all the numbers.

Thank you very much.

Republican Newt Gingrich is taking a pass on a presidential bid, but he's not letting up on his warnings about a possible Hillary Clinton presidency. The former House speaker opted out of the race this weekend after determining he could not legally explore a bid and stay on as the head of a tax-exempt political organization. In a Sunday talk show appearance, Gingrich said his party needs to brace itself for a tough fight against the woman he expects to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I think Senator Clinton in the end is such a polarizing figure, that while I think she's the most likely winner, I don't think she's likely to be a landslide winner.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Yes, you were saying just before you went on the air that you thought she had an 80 percent chance of being president.

GINGRICH: I said that publicly. I believe she is very professional. think the Clinton machine is the most powerful political machine in modern America.

I think her husband is the smartest politician in our generation. That's a formidable gathering.

I also think the Republicans have got to get out from under Washington. And if we nominate somebody who is a continuation of where we are right now, we're going to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In the Democratic race, Barack Obama, meanwhile, is trying to draw some sharper distinctions between himself and Senator Hillary Clinton. Obama is turning up the heat on the front-runner and on her husband as well. But as you would expect, the Clintons are fighting right back.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

Gloria, I want you to listen, first of all, to what -- I guess this is what Obama is saying -- actually, Bill Clinton is saying about Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the time I ran, I was -- in terms of experience, was close are to Senator Obama, I suppose, in 1988, when I came within a day of announcing, and I really didn't think I knew enough and had served enough and done enough to run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was back in 1988 when he was thinking about running, before he ran in '92 and eventually won. And he's suggesting Barack Obama might be at that earlier stage.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, very nicely suggesting that. He's saying that Barack Obama doesn't have the experience to be president of the United States, Wolf. And this is something that's very easy for the Clinton campaign to have him say as a former president rather than have Hillary Clinton have to say it herself. After all, he's a pretty effective surrogate.

He then went on in that same interview, Wolf, to talk about how Hillary Clinton has spent her entire Senate term on the Senate Armed Services Committee and she has the credentials, of course, on national security to run the country.

BLITZER: All right. Here is what Obama is doing in answering that question, noting that he was against the Iraq war even long before she was ever against the Iraq war. In fact, he put it this way -- he says, "On the single most important foreign policy issue of our time, I got it right," meaning she got it wrong.

BORGER: You think? Yes, absolutely.

He is going to come out and say that what's really important is not necessarily your experience, but your judgment, Wolf. Your judgment is what counts.

And tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the day that he actually announced that he was against the war in Iraq. He's going to be giving a big foreign policy speech just to remind the voters that he was there first before Hillary Clinton, and he made the right judgment as far as Democratic voters are concerned, and she made the wrong judgment by voting for the war in the Senate.

BLITZER: Still, when all is said and done, he's held back. He hasn't really attacked her, gone after her in a very forceful way, perhaps even like John Edwards has done. And some of his supporters say, you know what? That's not Barack Obama.

BORGER: And Barack Obama does have a catch 22 here, Wolf, because he says he's going to run a different kind of campaign. If he's going to run a different kind of campaign, he doesn't want to really get sort of stuck in the muck. So he has to operate on a different level.

I think when you talk to people inside the campaign, there are some of them now saying to me, you know, maybe he needs to try and take her on in a little bit of a different way. And I think you're going to see that starting.

BLITZER: And the Clinton people know for a long time, because, you know, we've covered them for a long time, that when they are attacked, they will not wait, they will not turn the other cheek, they will respond in kind.

BORGER: And she will attack him when she has to do it, as she's done in the past. So he needs to figure out a way to fight back without looking like just another politician.

BLITZER: And f she doesn't personally, a lot of her supporters will and a lot of her staff people will.

Gloria...

BORGER: And her husband.

BLITZER: ... stand by, because you're going to be coming back.

Thanks very much.

Senator John McCain is getting some heat today for suggesting a Christian should be serving in the White House. We're going to look at the fallout from that and what the Republican presidential hopeful was trying to say and do.

Plus, the political fight for Latino voters. Are both parties giving it all they've got? We're going to take a closer look at outreach efforts on both sides and how a debate snub may figure in.

And a politically charged case before the court, the U.S. Supreme Court, as it begins a new term today. Are lethal injections for death row inmates constitutional?

We're going to hear from a man who helped make this form of capital punishment a reality.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Something new for Republicans to worry about right now. Some powerful Christian conservatives are so uneasy about the current crop of GOP candidates that they're now making a dire threat to possibly -- possibly back a third party candidate.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's on this story.

Is this a really serious threat, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. It's not the first time these conservatives have talked about this possibility, and some say over the next several weeks perhaps it will fade. But conservatives, especially social conservatives, have been frustrated for months. And because of the continued strength of one particular candidate among the Republicans, that frustration has reached a boiling point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice over): Conservative icon Richard Viguerie calls it a warning shot not only to Rudy Giuliani, but the entire Republican Party.

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: If they go third party, this will, I guarantee you, not be a one-time effort. It will be that we have determined that the Republican Party is beyond salvation, that they have lied and betrayed the conservative voters one time too many, and that this will be a major effort that will go far beyond the '08 election.

KING: The tough talk follows a weekend meetings that including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Viguerie, and others. Social conservatives for months have complained about what they call lip service from the Bush White House, congressional Republicans, and the leading GOP presidential hopefuls.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: To the degree that the party moves away from those principal issues, social conservatives, evangelicals will move away from the party.

KING: An approach that Giuliani is of most urgent concern. He supports abortion rights, including taxpayer-funded abortions as New York mayor. Giuliani also marched in gay rights parades and called the city's domestic partners benefits a model for the nation.

PERKINS: These are fundamental issues. These are black-and- white issues. These are issues that there's just no room for negotiation.

KING: Should he win the GOP nomination, social conservative leaders vow to oppose him, and more and more view a third party effort as preferable to just urging conservatives to stay home. Giuliani's camp plays down the threat, noting polls showing strong support among church-going Evangelicals than Catholics.

Asked Monday about the conservative opposition, the mayor played what he views as a trump card with conservatives who might disagree with him on abortion or any other issue.

GIULIANI: Every poll shows I would be by far the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That electability argument is helping Giuliani among conservative voters in the key early primary states, but, Wolf, many say if he did win the nomination and this third party candidacy was mounted by anti-abortion social activists, that it would be a nightmare for the Republican Party.

Look at Ohio. President Bush carried it with about 52 percent of the vote. Colorado, the home of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the president got 51.7 percent of the vote, I think. So if a pro-life anti-abortion candidate even got two or three percent in some of the key battleground states, it could easily tip the scales.

BLITZER: But is Giuliani right when he says that the polls show that he would be the strongest Republican against Hillary Clinton if she got the Democratic nomination?.

KING: Consistently yes. Most of the polls have shown that he is the best Republican candidate over the past six or eight months. In all those head-to-head polls, he is the best Republican candidate.

All of the Republicans struggle. Some have shown her beating her, some have shown him just very competitive with her. But many Republicans say that is still based on his 9/11 name I.D.

All of the campaigns, Wolf, now -- it's about 100 days until the Iowa caucuses. The campaigns are preparing their negative ads. The other campaigns still insist many conservatives don't know about the mayor's position on social issues. They're about to find out.

BLITZER: Well, and some could argue that moderates like his position on social issues. A lot of women presumably would like his position on abortion rights for women as well.

KING: No question about it, but the history of the Republican primaries, at least since Ronald Reagan, is that a candidate with Giuliani's views can't win. If he does, he will be rewriting the rules of the Republican Party.

BLITZER: John King here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks.

The former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is putting his family at the center of his presidential campaign and he's using the Internet to do so. He's launched now a new Web site introducing his wife Ann to voters.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching this.

Abbi, why is he doing this?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the Romney campaign says this is a chance for voters to learn more about Ann Romney's causes. And take a look at the Web site just launched today. It seems that the main cause for Ann Romney is that of multiple sclerosis, the neurological disease that she was diagnosed with nearly 10 years ago.

But the Romney campaign is all about the governor's family. If you -- nowhere more evident than online in terms of online campaigning.

Look at their blog that they have on the site -- five brothers run by Romney's five sons, and the sons, along with their mother, often go campaigning on the Mitt Mobile, which travels to the crucial early states. And Romney now does have her official Web site, but she's not the first potential spouse to be promoted online.

Look at the e-mails we (ph) were getting before that crucial deadline that happened yesterday from Bill Clinton there, Michelle Obama, as well, and, of course, Elizabeth Edwards, who is often front and center of her husband's campaign.

BLITZER: The spouses clearly important for all of these campaigns.

Abbi, thank you.

Wall Street on a new high today after a record day for stock prices. We're going to tell us what's driving this new surge.

And as new fund-raising numbers continue to come in to THE SITUATION ROOM, which presidential hopeful has the cash advantage? And who might fear the well is running dry?

Donna Brazile and J.C. Watts, they're standing by live for our "Strategy Session".

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Presidential candidate John McCain is talking about religion, but some people out there who are listening say they're offended. It's a story involving politics, involving members of the Muslim, Jewish communities, other religious communities as well.

Our Mary Snow is in New York. She's watching this story for us.

He's drawing some fire. Give our viewers the background. What is going on, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this afternoon, Senator John McCain is answering some of his critics. The Anti- Defamation League was one of the latest groups to call on Senator McCain to withdraw some of the statements he made about religion and the race for the White House. It was just the latest criticism since an interview with the Republican presidential candidate was posted on the Internet this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): Yes, John McCain says, he would vote for a Muslim candidate. He clarified that after causing controversy by indicating he'd prefer a Christian president. But it's not the only comment during an interview with the Web site beliefnet that's drawn fire.

MCCAIN: I would probably have to say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that, again, in the broadest sense, that the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, "I only welcome Christians."

SNOW: In New Hampshire Sunday, McCain explained.

MCCAIN: We are a nation that was based on Judeo-Christian values, and that means respect for all of human rights and dignity.

SNOW: A McCain campaign statement said, "... America is a Christian nation, and it's hardly a controversial claim."

However, the Constitution does not state the U.S. is a Christian nation, and in fact advocates the separation of church and state.

The National Jewish Democratic Council slammed McCain, saying, "Former maverick John McCain's statements were repugnant. It's been sad watching him transform from political maverick to religious right mouthpiece." Not surprising criticism of the Arizona senator by a Democratic organization.

While McCain may be drawing fire from some quarters, political observers say his comments may gain favor with the religious right.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Thirty-five to 40 percent of the people who vote in the key primaries and caucuses on the Republican side are fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. This kind of statement is designed to appeal to them.

SNOW: In the past, McCain has not been a favorite son of the religious right. In 2000, he described the Reverend Jerry Falwell as an agent of intolerance. Last year, in what was viewed as an attempt to repair the damage, McCain spoke at Falwell's Liberty University.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, the McCain campaign just recently released a letter that Senator McCain sent to the Anti-Defamation League. It says that the ADL had misconstrued his interviews. He says he made repeated references to Judeo-Christian values that, in his words, "informed our founding fathers' respect for human rights" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

Mary Snow watching the story. We'll continue to monitor the fallout.

Meanwhile, today the Dow wowed investors. Markets have just closed after a stock surge. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting an all-time high.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

BLITZER: They're growing in number and in clout, Latino voters, that is. The presidential candidates are fighting for support from the nation's fastest-growing minority, but which party is winning?

I'll ask one of the most recognized voices in the Latino community, Maria Elena Salinas of Univision. She's standing by live. And the most wanted "bad guys". There's a new list of terrorists that the U.S. military considers very dangerous. We're going to tell you who is on it and where they might be right now.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, tense military actions between the U.S. and Russia. Russian bombers coming alarmingly close to the U.S. coastline. And we have some exclusive video of U.S. warplanes scrambling to respond.

New developments in the probe of that controversial Blackwater shooting in Iraq. Iraqi police reportedly believe they can show that Blackwater's guards opened fire without reason, killing civilians. We're seeing new video obtained by "Newsweek" magazine said to show the moments just after the shooting.

And it's a TV show called "Aliens in America". It looks at U.S.- Muslim relations, and its creators want you to laugh. But we're going to tell you why many people are not laughing.

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

They're some of most sought-after and fought-over voters in the United States. We're talking about America's Hispanic electorate.

Let's go right to CNN's Rick Sanchez. He's following this political story for us.

Latino voters, they're clearly in demand right now, Rick. What's going on.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And probably growing in the future as the assimilation process continues, Wolf.

A recent debate in Florida is really just a sign of how powerful Hispanic and Latino voters are in the race for this White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice over): Seven of the eight major Democratic presidential candidates went to Miami to take part in a debate hosted by Univision, the nation's largest Spanish language network. Hispanics make up 15 percent of the country's population, and while they're only nine percent of all eligible voters, they're the nation's fastest-growing minority.

Both political parties want a piece of that action.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (SPEAKING SPANISH) SANCHEZ: Republicans made major gains with Hispanic voters, grabbing 44 percent of their vote in the last presidential contest. But that dropped to 30 percent in last year's congressional elections.

The increasingly unpopular war in Iraq and the Republicans' tough stance against a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants contributed to the drop.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: People feel that it's not a rejection of illegal -- illegal immigration. They feel it's a rejection of Hispanics in America.

SANCHEZ: And the Republicans did not do themselves any favors by not taking part in the Univision debates. John McCain was the only GOP presidential candidate who agreed to show up. The rest of the field cited scheduling issues.

And, because of that, the debate was indefinitely postponed. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is the only Latino White House hopeful, but among Hispanics, he trails Hillary Clinton in the polls.

LOPEZ: He's trying to show people that he is Hispanic, because a lot of people, with the name Bill Richardson, don't assume that he is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: So, Hispanics could have a really big impact on the presidential primaries and the politics of our nation. They're a sizable chunk of the population in such important early voting states as Nevada, Florida, California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.

But here's where it becomes a little bit different. While they're influencing the United States from a marketing standpoint in terms of big business and certainly in terms of politics, because a lot of people want their votes, there's also a huge, huge controversy here, with many Americans asking, if you're going to be in our country, why can't you speak English?

And that's what we are going to be concentrating as well on tonight, a very special program of "OUT IN THE OPEN," concentrating on the immigration nation and the language issue tonight. We will have that for you, Wolf, right here, "OUT IN THE OPEN."

BLITZER: As you know, Rick, we're spending a lot of time this week taking a closer look at the Latino community, part of our "Uncovering America" series of reports. I know you're going to be a lot of on it tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern as well.

I guess what the Republicans, though, are suggesting is, there may be significant Latino votes in those states you mentioned, but there are not necessarily significant Republican Latino votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, some of those earlier states. And maybe that's why they feel they could avoid some of those debates.

SANCHEZ: But the immigration experts and the Hispanic who I -- Hispanics who I have spoken to, the insiders who watch the politics, are saying they're doing this at their own folly, at a huge risk.

And here's why. They say that the Republicans could certainly agree with many Hispanics in this country, if nothing else, on social issues, and, if they went to that part of the argument, they would probably do well. They say it's a mistake not to show up at the debates, not to address them directly, because it really isn't about going away from their base, as many on the other side of the argument seem to be saying as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Rick, thanks very much.

Let's talk a little bit more about the growing clout of Hispanic voters in the United States.

Joining us, one of the most recognized voices in the Latino community. Maria Elena Salinas is an award-winning anchor for Univision. She's joining us from Miami.

Maria Elena, thanks very much for coming in.

MARIA ELENA SALINAS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Nice talking to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You were one of the anchors of that Univision debate, the scheduled Republican debate. Only John McCain suggested he would be willing to come in.

What was the excuse? What did they say to you, the Republican candidates, for not participating?

SALINAS: Well, the forums -- we had the Democratic forum, as you mentioned. And the forum for the Republicans has been postponed. It has not been canceled.

And Univision is still very actively talking to the different campaigns to try to figure out what the schedule is. So, basically, that's been the reason up to now, that they cannot fit it into their schedule. As we know, there was also the debate on CNN and YouTube that was postponed for a couple of months.

So, we're still hoping that we are going to be able to convince different candidates that have not yet accepted to be part of this forum to join us.

BLITZER: You know, last week, we interviewed Leslie Sanchez. She's a Republican strategist. And I asked her why the Republicans were -- are not participating in that Univision debate. And listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Republican candidates need to be embracing these audiences, despite the fact that Univision has a bias to the left against Republicans in many cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. She's suggesting that Univision has a bias. What do you want to say?

SALINAS: Well, I would like to find out what -- specifically what she's talking about when she says that Univision has a bias.

I don't believe that we do. I think that we are truly fair and balanced, to use a phrase coined by someone else who maybe may not be.

But, yes, we definitely put out there the invitation to both Republicans and Democrats. We actively cover both parties. There's definitely more legislators in Congress that speak Spanish than there are Republicans. And the few that do speak -- Republicans that do speak Spanish are constantly on our network.

So, no, I don't believe that there's a bias for -- for Democrats, as Ms. Sanchez, I believe her last name, said. The invitation has been open to both. And I think it's not only with Univision, but maybe with other minority groups, where Republicans have not accepted to be part of the debates, or, in our case, our forum.

So, I don't believe that that would be the specific reason why they would choose not to do that.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. We have been tracking the support, Hispanic vote, the Latino vote, over the years, for the House of Representatives.

I want to show you a chart. Back in '96, 26 percent were voting for Republicans. It went up to 35, then 37. In 2004, it actually reached 44 percent of the Hispanic community voted Republican. Went down to 30 percent in 2006.

What happened? And, presumably, it's gone down even further since then.

SALINAS: Well, Wolf, that's a perfect example of how the Latino vote is up for grabs, and how the Latino vote really could be swayed if convinced by either party.

So, I think that the Republicans are probably losing out on the opportunity to speak directly to the fastest growing electorate in the country by not participating in a forum. As you mentioned, they went from, in 1996, 21 percent to 40, between 40 and 44 percent in 2004.

BLITZER: In '96, they were at 26 percent, went up to 44 percent, yes.

SALINAS: More or less. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SALINAS: It's hard to speak specific numbers, because it's all averages.

But it has gone up tremendously, and it was because of the job that the Republicans did at that time and basically, frankly, Democrats sort of took the Hispanic vote for granted in the last presidential election or the last two presidential elections.

BLITZER: Because President Bush and Karl Rove, they really courted the Latino vote in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Is the decline the result of just opposition to some of the Republican policies, like the war in Iraq? Or is -- was it more specific, the whole immigration debate?

SALINAS: I think it's a combination of both. I think that maybe Hispanics feel abandoned after the -- the Iraq war. A lot of them are against the Iraq war.

But, definitely, I think the immigration issue, and more than anything else, the tone of the debate of the immigration issue has really pushed Latinos away from the Republican Party. It was the person of President Bush. It wasn't so much the Republicans. It was him as a candidate, and also his brother, Jeb Bush, who are -- is fluent in Spanish, that helped to get that 44 percent that you spoke about in 2004.

We have not seen that kind of approach to -- for the Hispanic community in -- in the last midterm election, and in -- recently, from any of the Republicans. So, I think it's a combination of both.

But what you -- what you see now is that not only undocumented immigrants feel insulted by the tone of the debate, but also legal residents and U.S. citizens. And let's remember that about 48 percent of the Hispanic electorate are I guess you can call them naturalized citizens. They're U.S. foreign-born -- they're foreign-born. They're not U.S. citizens, and they tend to vote in higher numbers.

So, that's the people that you want to go after. And those are some of the citizens that are very insulted by this immigration debate.

BLITZER: Maria Elena Salinas -- Maria Elena Salinas, thanks very much, joining us from Univision. A good discussion.

SALINAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court gets back to business with a life-and-death matter on the docket, questions of cruel and unusual punishment. That's coming up.

And on the subject of gay marriage, does John Edwards' daughter agree with him or with his wife?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On this, the first Monday in October, the U.S. Supreme Court is beginning a new term, and facing some controversial and politically charged cases.

On the to-do list right now, a review of whether lethal injection is a form of cruel and unusual punishment for death row inmates, in violation of the United States Constitution.

Let's bring in Carol Costello. She's here watching this.

You actually spoke with the man who -- who invented this lethal injection. So, you got some unique perspective.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. His name is Dr. Jay Crawford (sic). And he finds the review politically motivated by death penalty opponents. I also visited Texas' death row and talked with three men who are set to die by lethal injection. All had filed lawsuits claiming lethal injection was cruel and inhumane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Dr. Jay Chapman might be called the father of lethal injection. The former Oklahoma coroner was asked 30 years ago by state lawmakers to create a more humane way to kill. He was one of the few doctors who agreed to do it.

(on camera): So, you're comfortable being the father of lethal injection?

DR. JAY CHAPMAN, INVENTOR OF LETHAL INJECTION: I'm not comfortable. I'm not uncomfortable. It doesn't bother me.

COSTELLO (voice-over): But his lethal drug cocktail, which many states use entirely or in part, is causing a lot of discomfort now. At least nine states have temporarily halted executions by lethal injection. And the issue has now made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's something Dr. Chapman says is mostly fueled by death penalty opponents.

CHAPMAN: I'm so sick of political correctness. I hardly know what to do. I think political correctness is killing our country, in many ways.

COSTELLO: Here is how most work. The first drug to be injected is sodium thiopental. It makes a person unconscious. The second drug is pancuronium bromide. It paralyzes the muscles and stops breathing. The third drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart, causing death within seven minutes.

But stories of botched executions are growing. On Texas' death row, those allegedly painful deaths were the topic.

MICHAEL JOHNSON, TEXAS DEATH ROW INMATE: To be totally honest with you, I think, if Texas could make it hurt more, they would. And I think, truth be told, they're probably over there mixing things up on their own.

COSTELLO: Convicted murderer Michael Johnson didn't wait to find out. A day before his date with death, in October of 2006, he carried out his own death sentence, using a homemade knife to slit his throat.

We may never know exactly why Johnson killed himself, but prison officials say his fear of Texas mixing up a bad batch of drugs is unfounded.

But there is evidence painful mistakes have been made. In a Florida case last year, those who stuck a syringe into Angel Diaz missed his vein. According to the Florida medical examiner, Dr. William Hamilton, it took 34 minutes for him to die.

CHAPMAN: I didn't, in my wildest imagination, would believe that incompetent people would be carrying out these procedures, because the procedures basically are very simple.

COSTELLO: Simple, he says, if carried out by properly trained personnel. But death penalty opponents say mistakes happen more often than people think.

JAMIE FELLNER, U.S. PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: You cannot kill a dog the way you kill people in this country, because, when we kill people in this country, nobody makes sure the prisoner is completely anesthetized before the other drugs are administered.

COSTELLO: Chapman agrees, grudgingly admitting maybe it is time his lethal invention be reexamined.

CHAPMAN: If it's going to cause all of these problems, and it is -- if the protocol, as it is, is difficult to train people to give, which I don't see why it should be, then, certainly, it should be revisited.

COSTELLO: As for what happened to death row inmates Johnson and Diaz, Chapman prefers to focus on their victims.

CHAPMAN: How long did it take his victim to die? Did he get a stay -- did he give a stay of execution ever to his victim?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Now, all of the death row inmates I talked with are dead now, two by lethal injection, one by his own hand, as you heard. But now that the Supreme Court is looking into the death penalty, it's likely future executions will be put on hold. In fact, several have been already.

BLITZER: All right, we will continue to watch what the Supreme Court does on this matter. Carol, good reporting for us. Thank you.

The U.S. Supreme Court receives 7,000 to 8,000 appeals each, but it typically reviews only about 70 to 80 cases. So far, this term, the count -- the court has accepted 44 cases for review. The term officially last year round beginning in October. But the justices generally wrap up their business by the end of June.

There's new evidence that Iowa is up for grabs three months before the leadoff contest of the 2008 presidential campaign. We will look at the -- some surprising new poll numbers with our political analysts J.C. Watts and Donna Brazile. They're standing by live.

Also in our "Strategy Session," those third-quarter fund-raising reports now starting to come into THE SITUATION ROOM. Can anyone compete with Barack Obama when it comes to grassroots support?

Stick around. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session": Senator Barack Obama's massive list of individual donors, it trumps the donor list of many of his competitor.s

Joins us now are two CNN political analysts. Donna Brazile is a Democratic strategist, J.C. Watts is a former congressman from Oklahoma.

Guys, thanks for coming in.

It's amazing how well Obama is doing raising money, and how many individuals have come out this year to give him money, $352,000, according to his campaign.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And 93,000 new donors just this quarter alone.

We know, historically, the third quarter is a very slow period of time, but Senator Obama has been able to excite a lot of people, get them signed up. And now he's showing, again, fund-raising strength. And, in some polls, we see some -- some other evidence that Obama is still very much a viable candidate.

BLITZER: Nine million dollars in this quarter for Obama.

And, you know, Newt Gingrich said something interesting over the weekend. And we're checking to see if he's right. In -- in criticizing his fellow Republicans -- he's saying this after he decided not to become a presidential candidate -- he pointed out that Senator Barack Obama has more individual contributors giving his campaign money than all of the Republican campaign -- campaigns combined. That's what Newt Gingrich said. We're checking that.

And we haven't confirmed it, although it's possible, based on our preliminary look at those numbers.

That's a pretty damning indictment of the Republicans, if in fact what Newt Gingrich said is true.

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not good, and it -- but just the total number alone for -- from what Senator Obama has raised, compared to what the Republicans have raised -- and I think he makes a strong argument that he's the king of fund-raising in this election cycle.

There's a new energy there. There's a real attraction with the voters. He's using -- he's playing on the words about, turn the page, you know, new day in America. I think that probably helps him, because Senator Clinton still has yet to -- to get more than four out of 10 Democrats to say they will support her. So, Barack Obama, he's on to something.

BLITZER: He's doing -- he's doing well. And it shows the enthusiasm that the Democrats out there have, at least compared to the Republicans, and -- and some would argue their lack of enthusiasm still at this stage, only have 100 days or so away from the first votes.

Let's look at the "Newsweek" poll that came out over the weekend. Likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, Obama 28 percent, Senator Clinton 24 percent, Edwards 22 percent, 10 percent for Bill Richardson. ARG, the American Research Group, likely Democratic caucus-goers, in other words, has a little bit different, Clinton with 30, Obama 24, Edwards 19, Richardson 10.

It's clearly up for grabs, though, in Iowa.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

Look, we all know that the universe of voters that you're looking at you are likely caucus-goers. It's different from the universe of all registered voters. Senator Obama has an organization. He has 31 statewide offices. Senator Clinton just added some new staffers. This is going to be a race to the finish.

And I won't count out John Edwards. And Bill Richardson, who is showing tremendous strength now, raising an additional $5 million this quarter, I wouldn't even count him out of the race.

BLITZER: On the Republican side, J.C., let's put the numbers up against likely Republican caucus-goers, in Iowa, 45 percent for Romney, according to the "Newsweek" poll, Giuliani 34 point. I think thinks numbers may be -- may be a little bit off.

WATTS: Yes.

BLITZER: It looks like they're -- they're too high.

But, in any case, it shows that Romney is doing very well in Iowa among likely Republican caucus-goers. He's doing well in -- in the ARG group as well. It's a -- it's a contest on both sides.

WATTS: The numbers, Wolf, that I had seen earlier showed Romney up over Thompson by, I think, six points in Iowa, and up over Giuliani in the other poll by -- by one, or maybe even vice-versa.

But the point is this. Anything that has Mitt Romney in New Hampshire or Iowa up by only one to five, six points, probably is not good for him. When you consider the time that he's invested in those states, the money that he's invested in those states, you would think that there would be a little more separation.

But, obviously, as I have said before, I still think the Democrat election is trending towards Senator Clinton, although, as Donna said, I think it's going to be a horse race with Senator Obama. On the Republican side, we're trending. We just don't know where we're tending. So...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ... the race is still fluid on the Republican side.

WATTS: I do. I believe that. I agree with that.

BLITZER: All right. And we are going to get the correct numbers to the "Newsweek" poll. Obviously, the numbers we had ad up to a lot more than 100.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: So, we will correct that. We will get the real numbers up there and bring it to our viewers.

Thanks, guys, very much for coming in.

BRAZILE: It's more like 24, 22.

BLITZER: Yes.

BRAZILE: But Romney still has a slight lead.

BLITZER: Obviously, Romney is doing well in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He would like to be doing better than that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: And we will see what happens.

Is the Bush administration preparing to go to war with Iran? Some suggest the White House is shifting to a new case for war against Tehran.

And one of the most elite law enforcement agencies in the world potentially infiltrated by moles -- you're going to hear about a new report that looks at how easy it might be for double agents -- double agents -- to get into the FBI.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Baghdad, a girl who was victim of sectarian violence tears up as she waits in line to receive food.

In Israel, a boy floats in a pool of tomatoes during an annual festival held during a Jewish holiday.

In India, a cobbler displays a pair of miniature shoes only half- an-inch long, which he claims to be the smallest shoes ever.

And, in THE SITUATION ROOM, the newest addition to our staff, our family, senior producer Rick DiBella and his wife, Whitney (ph), are the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy. That would be Peter Wells (ph) DiBella.

Congratulations to mom and dad and Peter -- pictures here in THE SITUATION ROOM, pictures always worth 1,000 words.

On our "Political Radar" this Monday: a Republican horse race in New Hampshire. A new American Research Group survey of likely GOP primary voters shows Mitt Romney now leading the pack with 24 percent, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain now tied for second with 20 percent each.

Hillary Clinton holds a 19-point lead in New Hampshire in the ARG survey. Barack Obama is a distant second among likely Granite State caucus-goers, with 22 percent support. John Edwards trails with 10 percent.

In Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards got campaign support from "Desperate Housewives" actor James Denton this weekend, but Edwards did not get support from his oldest daughter on a major campaign issue. Cate Edwards says, when it comes to gay marriage, she and her mom think alike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CATE EDWARDS, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN EDWARDS: I'm on my mom's side with this, not my dad's, just so we all are aware.

You will find that he stands -- stands very firmly for gay rights and very firmly for -- for equality between gay couples and -- and straight couples, I guess. But he very much does understand -- he has trouble, I guess, with the term gay marriage. I don't. I'm not going to try to defend him on that, because I don't agree with it.

But that's -- but that's where he stands.

But I don't want it to be understood as not standing for gay rights, because that is certainly not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: exclusive video of a scene reminiscent of the Cold War. Look at this, U.S. jet -- fighter jets intercepting Russian bombers just miles from the American coast. And this is no -- repeat -- no isolated incident.

Also, a controversial death in police custody -- this woman died while being detained by officers at the Phoenix Airport. There's new information coming in.

And new video also coming in of a shooting involving a private American

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