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Hillary Clinton's 'View' of Women; The Republican Wing of GOP; Turkey: New Front for Anger

Aired October 15, 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: Happening now, Hillary Clinton stops to see "The View". The Democrat vying to be the first woman president is stepping up her pitch to female voters. How much more convincing do they need?
Plus, a new feud for the heart and soul of the GOP. Mitt Romney is saying he comes from the Republican wing of the Republican Party. Find out what his presidential rivals are saying about that.

Plus, look who's also blasting Mitt Romney -- scandal-plagued Senator Larry Craig. The Republican is launching a new legal and P.R. appeal in connection with his bathroom bust.

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

She's the only woman in the presidential race, but that doesn't give Hillary Clinton necessarily a lock on the women's vote, and she knows it. So today the Democrat is pulling out the stops in her campaign for the female voter. And she may be taking a cue from her husband, who broke political ground by making some unconventional TV appearances.

Let's go right to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching the story for us.

So how did Senator Clinton do on "The View" earlier today, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was almost as if she was mixing politics with a personal touch. It's all part of the campaign's stepped-up effort to reach out to women voters. And it kicked off today here in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): Call it the female part. Senator Hillary Clinton is playing it to win women voters, taking her Democratic presidential campaign center stage on ABC's "The View".

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that there still is, you know, probably a tougher standard for women, especially running for president.

SNOW: Sitting on the couch with the all-female hosts, she showed some of her softer side while still staying tough.

CLINTON: You know, we've got to figure out how we're going to work with China, but we also can't be patsies.

SNOW: It's just one of a number events to be held this week in which she's appealing directly to women. Political observers say it marks a change in approach.

JENNIFER DONAHUE, N.H. INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: I think over the course of the campaign the campaign has been very careful not to make Hillary Clinton a female candidate. They've had her first as a commander in chief, someone who could look presidential.

SNOW: Senator Clinton has made it clear it's her credentials, not he gender, that qualify her for the White House.

CLINTON: And I want to tell you that, as excited as I am to be running a woman, I'm not running because I'm a woman. I'm running because I believe I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running in January 2009.

SNOW: But the Clinton campaign says women can play a pivotal role in this election and they're counting on them to give her the edge.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Our last national poll in September, for example, showed her winning 53 percent of all Democratic women, and about 48 percent of all Democratic men. So she's doing well among both men and women when it comes to the Democratic Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: But the big question is, can that popularity among women translate into the general election?

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Mary, very much.

Let's get to the Republican race right now and a new smackdown over who best represents conservatives within the GOP. It began with a provocative statement by the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

He told an audience in Nevada last week -- and I'm quoting now -- "... conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party."

Romney was trying to draw some distinctions between himself and the GOP frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, but it may have backfired. Some other Republican presidential hopefuls are now jumping at the opportunity to portray Romney as a Johnny-come-lately to conservative values.

Listen to Senator John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that it's appropriate to say, as Governor Romney did, that he's the only person that represents the Republican Party. In fact, he certainly doesn't represent the Republican Party that he characterized himself as such some years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right, John, so what's this debate really all about?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If it was a game show, Wolf, it would be, will the real Republican standup?

What is it all about? We're 81 or 83 days away from the Iowa caucuses, depending on when they lock in the date. And the Republican race is wide open. So each of the candidates at the top of the pack is trying to say, "I'm the conservative, vote for me."

Romney feels he has a bit of momentum right now. He is a candidate who used to be pro-choice on abortion, and he's changed his mind on that. So there's a risk in standing up and saying, I represent the Republican wing of the party.

But they believe it is an issue he has to deal with, so that is why he is stepping out front, essentially trying to make himself the target to say, I'm the frontrunner in this race right now. He was criticizing Rudy Giuliani, John McCain jumps in, but it is all reflective of the fact that with about 80 days left until the first votes are cast, the Republican race is still wide open because both social conservatives and fiscal conservatives are not happy with this field, have not settled on one candidate.

BLITZER: And John McCain really stepped in. He saw an opening and he pounced, which is not normally what he does, or at least likes to do as far as fellow Republicans are concerned.

KING: And some of that is personal and some of it's political. Personally because he feels he's the Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan Republican, the guy who's been in the Senate for all this time, a very good rating when it comes to voting on abortion, a very good rating when it comes to voting on spending.

Some would say he didn't back the Bush tax cuts at the beginning; McCain says he wanted a balanced budget, he wanted more fiscal restraint, but he also sees a slight uptick in the polls, both in Iowa and New Hampshire. So he sees a political opening to get into the mix. Some are still doubtful he can come all the way back, but he's at least stabilized himself and is rebuilding somewhat. So he's jumping in to the mix.

BLITZER: Now, some are suggesting that Fred Thompson, the other Republican presidential candidate, is sort of MIA in this whole debate. KING: He certainly was over the weekend in the "Who's the real Republican?" debate. But lo and behold, tonight, Wolf, where else of all places, New York, Rudy Giuliani's home base. Fred Thompson will be speaking to the conservative party of New York and he will say this: "Some think the way to beat the Democrats in November is to be more like them. I could not disagree more. I believe that conservatives beat liberals only when we challenge their outdated positions, not embrace them."

Now, he's not naming names, but what you have there is a candidate, Fred Thompson, who will go on to say, I'm a consistent conservative. What he's saying is Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion, Rudy Giuliani march in gay rights parades and has a very pro-gay rights position, that he's more like the Democrats.

I'm a conservative, vote for me. So, it is now the defining debate, if you will, in the Republican Party. Who is more conservative?

Many find it not terribly inspiring. It's not a message for the general election. It's a very tactical, internal Republican debate, but again, it's reflective of the fact that this is a wide-open race. And for 80 days.

BLITZER: Pretty unusual for him to cancel those appearances in New Hampshire over the weekend. What was going on? Do we know?

KING: Many are quite curious as to why Senator Thompson is not out there more. His campaign says right now they're focusing on fund- raising, on building their organization. They say in time they will be fine, but you can bet you call into the other campaign and even many Thompson supporters in those States, and they are saying, why is he not out here campaigning more?

BLITZER: All right. We'll get some more on the story later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John, thanks very much.

John King and Mary Snow, both are part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. And remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out our political ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Closing in on a year before America votes for a new commander in chief, President Bush sounds OK with the fact he his days in the White House are running out. At an event earlier today in Arkansas, Mr. Bush was asked if he would run for a third term if he legally could. He can't, by the way.

Here is how he answered that question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for new blood. After 15 more months, I'm going to sprint to the finish. You don't have to worry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, sir.

BUSH: I'm going to give it my all. And there's nothing better for a democracy than to renew itself by elections and new leadership.

So, anyway, thanks for saying it. Plus I would be single.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Laura Bush presumably wouldn't be all that happy.

All right. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's watching a lot of stuff in New York for us with "The Cafferty File".

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Laura Bush wouldn't be the only one.

Leave it to our Congress to potentially make the mess in Iraq worse than it already is. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she plans to go ahead with this vote on the controversial resolution that labels the deaths of more than a million Armenians during World War I, 90 years ago, as "genocide". A House committee approved that resolution last week, you'll recall.

Pelosi says there's never been a good time to do this because of international politics. And she says the timing is important now because a lot of the survivors are very old.

The Bush administration and some Republicans have made it clear they think this is a terrible idea. Turkey's top general is warning of irreversible damage to ties with the United States if Pelosi goes ahead with this and the House passes the resolution.

Turkey has already recalled its ambassador to Washington, warned there could be a cut in logistical support to the United States. And when it comes to the war in Iraq, that support is huge.

Consider this -- 70 percent of all U.S. air cargo bound for Iraq goes through Turkey, along with one third of all the fuel used by U.S. forces. Turkish truckers bring water, other supplies to all our military bases inside Iraq.

Another complication is this: this comes as Turkey's government is seeking approval from its parliament for a military operation against Kurdish rebels inside northern Iraq. There are reports that Turkey has already massed 60,000 troops along the border.

And they say the genocide resolution -- Turkey is saying this -- could make it less likely for them to listen to any U.S. opposition to their potential military activity inside northern Iraq. What a mess.

Here's the question: Is now the time for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives to be taking up this Armenian genocide resolution? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

There's a new question being asked on the presidential campaign trail. Where is Fred Thompson? He's only making a fraction of the stops that the other candidates are making.

Coming up, I'll speak live with Thompson's spokeswoman. We'll ask what's going on.

Also, Senator Larry Craig still fighting to keep his job and get out from under the cloud of scandal. Now he's lashing out at a fellow Republican.

And as Jack mentioned, the tensions with Turkey building. New military action in Iraq and a key congressional vote. What will happen if the House condemns a key U.S. ally? We'll hear from a former congressman, a former senator and a former secretary of defense. That would be William Cohen. He's standing by live.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More evidence today that a usually reliable U.S. ally is angry, very angry, and on the brink of potentially hostile action. The Turkish government says it wants parliamentary approval for a military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. Turkish cabinet ministers are also expected to debate retaliatory measures against Washington. That's if the Congress goes ahead and passes a controversial resolution labeling World War I-era killings of Armenians as "genocide".

Joining us now, the former congressman, the former senator, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's in the international business consulting firm business right now, The Cohen Group.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.

Why is -- based on all your understanding, why is Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, right now so determined to push this resolution through, knowing the potential fallout on the U.S.-Turkish relationship?

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I really can't explain this -- for this vote to come up or at any time, frankly. It's just something that the government of Turkey is going to have to come to a reconciliation with to resolve this for their own people and others.

But, you know, one of the biggest complaints we have against the United States is that we manage to alienate our friends and embolden our enemies. This is a case, clearly, we know what the consequences are going to be. We are going to alienate Turkey, which is a vital U.S. ally, a member of NATO, a country that has given us enormous support in the past and is currently doing so not only in Afghanistan, in Iraq, also contributing to the Balkans. This vote, if it comes to a vote on the House floor, is going to succeed in diminishing support for us. It will impede our ability to have any influence with Turkey as it debates whether it's going to pass a resolution calling for military action going into northern Iraq.

I don't see any positive benefit coming out of this. I think there are other ways to express legitimate concern about the atrocities that were committed, the killing that took place during the fall of the -- the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But to pass this resolution, I think it has consequences that are going to be very bad for our soldiers and for the United States.

BLITZER: I'm heard Tom Lantos, who backs this resolution, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, and others who support the resolution, say, you know what? Turkey needs the United States a lot more than the United States needs Turkey.

COHEN: Well, we'll wait and see. France also passed a resolution about a year or so ago on this, and they've severed all military relations with France.

Here we have a situation where the United States has been the biggest proponent of Turkey, being embraced and called into the EU. We are their biggest supporters on this account. But this is a modern, moderate Muslim country, and I don't want to see us drive them into the arms of something far more conservative or even radical than currently. This is a very modern country, and we ought to embrace them rather than alienate them.

BLITZER: Well, what would be the political fallout if the House goes ahead and passes this resolution, just as the House Foreign Affairs Committee did last week?

COHEN: What could happen, Turkey could start shutting down our operations out of Incirlik Air Force Base. That would certainly be vital to our forces inside of Iraq and Afghanistan. It could start shutting down supplies going across the border from Turkey.

A number of incidents could take place which would have a major impact upon our military operations. So the consequences and the fallout I think are fairly significant.

BLITZER: She's been urged from the president and the vice president, the speaker of the House, that -- the Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been urged by a lot of people, you know what? Don't bring this up for a vote right now. It's just too sensitive a time.

Her rebuttal is, you know, I've been thinking about this for 20, 30 years, it's always a sensitive time. Now is the moment to do it.

COHEN: Well, there have been eight former secretaries of state, three former secretaries of defense, myself included, who have urged Speaker Pelosi not to do this. It's not a question of when is the right time or the wrong time. It's a question of whether in the United States Congress should be in a position to now condemn what took place during the end of that period, 1915 and 1923, when we know what the consequences are going to be in terms of jeopardizing our relationship with a key ally.

So you weigh the benefit and then you weigh the consequences, and it seems to me pretty clear cut we ought to not go forward.

BLITZER: You're pretty strong on this issue. Have you picked up the phone and called the speaker? Or if you did, if you haven't yet, what would you say to her?

COHEN: I have written with her. I have joined with former secretary of defense Frank Carlucci and former secretary of defense Bill Perry.

Again, this is not a partisan issue. If you look at the secretaries of state from Secretary Albright, Baker, Powell and others on down the line, eight of them have said this is a mistake to go forward with this.

So what we would say is basically what we've said in the letter, there are ways to certainly honor the sacrifices and call attention to the killings that took place, massive killings that took place during that period from 1915 to 1923, but place that in the context of what it means in terms of going forward into the future from today, in terms of what it will do to our troops. The consequences are too severe, I think, for this.

BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, thanks for coming in.

COHEN: A pleasure.

BLITZER: In the battle for the conservative vote, is Rudy Giuliani being written out of? A surprising vote of confidence for the former New York mayor. We're going to throw that and other issues out to Donna Brazile and John Feehery. They're standing by live for our "Strategy Session".

Plus, Republicans heading for the exits on Capitol Hill, and Democrats are cheering. Has the next fight for the control of the Congress already been decided?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: A disgraced U.S. senator throwing a fresh punch in the fight to clear his name. Larry Craig has a new legal maneuver, and in a surprise move he's reportedly blasting a fellow Republican for what he calls throwing him under the bus. And Republicans are hungry to throw Democrats out of power in the House of Representatives, but it could be a major uphill battle. Their efforts are now even more complicated.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, some reportedly want to assassinate him, but the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says that won't stop him from traveling to Iran. He is, though, delaying his trip. We're going to tell you why.

In Iraq, might some be ready to declare a mission impossible -- excuse me -- mission accomplished against al Qaeda? That's what a newspaper is now suggesting, but what are the facts on the ground actually saying?

We'll update you on that.

And how to react when a loved one says he or she is gay, or how to tell someone you're gay. Important advice from the former House majority leader, Dick Gephardt, and his lesbian daughter Chrissy. They'll by here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

The disgraced U.S. senator busted in a sex sting in a men's room is not backing down at all. You might remember a judge recently denied Senator Larry Craig's request to withdraw his guilty plea to the charges in the case. Just a short while ago, Senator Craig appealed that ruling. This coming as Craig is now making a fresh push to tell all of us his side of the story.

Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching all of this. She's covered this story from the beginning.

He's still got the appeal. Let's start with that. It's an uphill struggle for him, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is an uphill struggle for him, Wolf.

You know, last week, 10 days ago, when a Minnesota judge denied Craig's motion to withdraw that guilty plea, the judge did so in a very detailed, pretty lengthy ruling, knocking down Craig's attorney's arguments point after point. And so right now, actually, even Senator Craig himself, he's admitting that it's going to be pretty hard to go through this appeals process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: It is my right to do what I'm doing. I've already provided for Idaho certainty that I think Idaho needed. I'm not running for reelection. That's already started, the next political cycle in Idaho. So I'm no longer in the way. I'm no longer blocking the political process of Idaho. But I am pursuing my constitutional rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, he said also in that interview which is airing in Idaho tomorrow, honestly the appeals court tends to defend the courts below him. But it is important to note that whether or not Senator Craig is successful in this appeals process, that has no bearing at this point on Senator Craig's political future.

When he reversed his decision to resign from his seat in the U.S. Senate, he did so regardless of what happens at this point in the legal process. So he is now staying in the Senate, according to the last statement that the senator made. But this does continue the political headache, Wolf, for the Republican leadership in this party, especially here in the U.S. Senate, because we talked to a court spokesman in Minnesota, and this process could be quite lengthy. At a minimum, it could take six to seven months, maximum up to 14 months. That gets us to the point of Election Day 2008, and even perhaps as close to the time when Senator Craig could be leaving office.

BLITZER: Did he say it was his intent not to seek reelection, or did he flatly say he's not going to seek reelection?

BASH: Well, he's left every impression that he is not going to seek reelection, that he is flatly not going to seek reelection.

But I can tell you, Wolf, that the man in charge of getting Republicans elected, Senator John Ensign in Nevada, the day that this was announced, he was pretty angry. And he said, I don't believe anything Senator Craig says at this point.

So, certainly, that is Senator Craig's intention not to seek reelection, but it's unclear at this point whether or not his colleagues believe him.

BLITZER: And the other point is, in addition to the legal appeal, he's launching -- and we saw that clip -- a make public relations push as well.

BASH: He sure is. You know, every picture that we have seen of Senator Craig over the past months or so, he's been running from cameras, racing through the hallways in the Senate as reporters have been trying to ask him questions.

Now he is on a P.R. campaign to stop, to sit down with his wife, have a conversation. He's doing that in a pair of interviews. And, in it, he is discussing more what happened to him, the political problem that he suffered at the hands of really his own Republicans right after this scandal broke.

You remember, one of his major problems was the fact that his colleagues abandoned him so fast. And in one of the interviews with NBC, he really goes after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney was somebody who Senator Craig endorsed. He was Mitt Romney's liaison here in the Senate.

Here's what Senator Craig said about Mitt Romney: "He not only threw me under his campaign bus. He backed up and ran over me again" -- pretty strong words. You can tell Senator Craig is certainly stinging from the treatment that he got from Mitt Romney. I can tell you that he probably could potentially say the same thing about some of his colleagues he had worked with for years and years in the Republican Party here in the Senate.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana is watching the story for us.

Right now, Republicans have one more thing to worry about. The party is doing everything it can to try to take back the House of Representatives in next year's election, but complicating their efforts, Republicans resigning their seats. Some of those seats were believed to be safe, but could now fall into Democratic hands.

Let's get some analysis from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching the story for us.

A lot of people believe, Bill -- and you know -- you have been studying this -- that Nancy Pelosi can hold on to her speaker's gavel. What's the latest assessment?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could be tough. Republicans need only 17 more seats to retake the majority. Last year, Democrats gained 30, but right now Democrats are not worried.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): When a party wins a big victory in Congress, as the Democrats did in 2006, they usually have trouble holding on to those gains in the next election. Right now Democrats hold 61 House seats in districts that voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Only eight Republicans represent districts that voted for John Kerry.

So, it looks like Democrats have a lot more vulnerable seats, right? Maybe not.

LAUREN WHITTINGTON, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, "ROLL CALL": A lot of those members are veteran, longtime Democrats who have been in those seats and they are not vulnerable.

SCHNEIDER: Like Democrat Ike Skelton of Missouri whose district voted 64 percent for Bush. He's the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, with more than 30 years of seniority.

Republicans may actually have more vulnerable seats. So far 12 Republican representatives have announced they're not running for reelection, like Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce.

REP. DEBORAH PRYCE (R), OHIO: There is no perfect time, there is no good time to leave a job that you really love. SCHNEIDER: Her seat is number one on the list of Democratic targets.

And Minnesota Congressman Jim Ramstad.

REP. JIM RAMSTAD (R), MINNESOTA: I'm burned out. I'm tired.

WHITTINGTON: There was some talk last week that Republican Leader John Boehner had tried to convince Ramstad to reconsider his decision.

SCHNEIDER: In 2006, open House seats were four times as likely to switch parties than seats where an incumbent was seeking reelection. It costs money to defend those seats, money Republicans don't have.

WHITTINGTON: The House Republican Campaign Committee only has very little money, about $2 million in the bank. Democrats have a little more than 10 times that, so money is a huge issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Six of the 12 Republican seats where the incumbent is not running for reelection are in districts that either voted for John Kerry or went for George W. Bush by less than 10 points.

Just two Democratic House members are not running, and both are in districts that John Kerry carried by more than 10 points -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's obviously a lot more fun to be in the majority than it is to be in the minority, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: That's true. One reason is that the minority party in the House really has no power. In the Senate, the minority party does have power, but in the House they are really powerless and they feel oppressed.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Bill and Dana Bash, they are both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Fred Thompson certainly hopes to win some early primary states, so why isn't he campaigning there this week? We're going to ponder that question, a question many people are asking right now.

Also, Hillary Clinton tells a largely African-American audience if she's elected, it will be another Clinton presidency. We are going to talk about that in our "Strategy Session."

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: While his rivals are busy hopscotching from battleground state to battleground state, Fred Thompson's run for the White House is moving at a slower pace.

So far, the Republican's schedule for this week does not include campaign appearances in any earlier primary states. And the former "Law & Order" star canceled an event in New Hampshire over the weekend.

Let's get some analysis of what is going on from Fred Thompson's campaign spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Karen, first of all, is that all true, as I just said?

KAREN HANRETTY, FRED THOMPSON CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Well, that's not quite how I would frame it up. But...

BLITZER: Did they cancel appearances in New Hampshire this weekend?

HANRETTY: He was scheduled to be in New Hampshire last Friday. We did make a decision not to have him go out to New Hampshire. Clearly, he will be in New Hampshire in the future. He is going to be in Florida, which is a really key state for this campaign, starting Saturday. Sunday, he's got a big debate down there with Republicans. And he will be out campaigning Monday and Tuesday in Florida.

He is going to be in other primary states next week as well.

BLITZER: What about this week, as these other candidates -- they are all running around Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

HANRETTY: They're definitely running around.

BLITZER: Right.

HANRETTY: There's no doubt about that.

BLITZER: So, why isn't he showing up in those early states?

HANRETTY: Well, look, I think Fred Thompson -- first of all, I wouldn't use what Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are doing as any necessary benchmark.

Here are two candidates who are trying to prove themselves as conservatives, clearly not conservatives. In fact, you had on earlier in your program today a statement that -- excepts from a statement that Fred Thompson will be making to the New York Conservative Party this evening in Rudy Giuliani's own backyard about the fact that this is no time for philosophical flexibility. We don't need candidates who are trying to run like Democrats in this country.

BLITZER: So, he is saying he's the real Republican, he's the real conservative?

(CROSSTALK)

HANRETTY: Not only is Fred Thompson saying he's the real conservative. I think voters out there.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But is he saying that Giuliani and Romney are phonies?

HANRETTY: Well, look. Let's look at the record.

Fred Thompson quarterbacked the nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court -- that's a solid conservative, constructionist judge -- to the Supreme Court. Fred Thompson was called by President Bush to make that happen.

Who did Rudy Giuliani appoint? He appointed liberal Democrats when he was mayor. Who did Mitt Romney appoint? Liberal Democrats when he was governor of Massachusetts. There's a clear distinction and it's not just Fred Thompson saying, look, I'm the clear conservative. It's voters.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Starting tonight, we're going to hear a more assertive, more aggressive Fred Thompson...

HANRETTY: Look, there's a very clear distinction.

BLITZER: ... go out against these Republican presidential candidates?

HANRETTY: In Rudy's own backyard.

BLITZER: Now, how's his health? That's what -- because when I heard he canceled some appearances, I wondered. The man has had cancer. He seems to be robust, seems to be in good shape. But is he OK?

HANRETTY: Yes, Fred Thompson is a very, very robust man.

These had everything to do with some strategic decisions to stay here on the campaign. We did some fund-raising in Tennessee and Texas last week. If you're not raising money, the media's going to say, well, where's the money? And when we are out there raising money and holding some private events, everyone says, well, how come you're not out in public? So, these are some important things that are being done.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Instead of going to New Hampshire over the weekend, and hopscotching these early primary states this week, what is he going to be doing? Or what did he do over the weekend to justify canceling that kind of an appearance?

HANRETTY: Well, look, he's in New York today. He's holding fund-raisers in New York today. He's talking to New York Conservative Club tonight.

BLITZER: Tonight.

HANRETTY: He will be talking to the Republican Jewish Coalition tomorrow. That will be a strong speech in...

BLITZER: In New York as well?

HANRETTY: No, it's here in D.C., yes, in D.C., a very important speech.

And we have got two major speeches coming up. Club for Growth. Fred Thompson has the best record with Club for Growth, a very important, fiscally conservative organization, much stronger records than Rudy and Mitt, to be sure. And then Values Voter Summit is a big deal on Friday and Saturday.

BLITZER: And he will be here for that?

HANRETTY: He will be here for that.

We have seen people like Gary Bauer come out with some -- not an endorsement, but some very strong conservative, socially conservative support for Fred Thompson. There are a lot of major things that are stacking up this week. He's in Florida, South Carolina next week, and he's running first in South Carolina, strong second in Iowa. He's running very strong in these early primary states, despite the tens of millions of dollars his opponents are spending.

BLITZER: Karen Hanretty, you have got a tough job. Thanks for coming in.

HANRETTY: It's a good job.

BLITZER: And there is a strategy behind Senator Thompson's decisions.

HANRETTY: You bet.

BLITZER: That's what you're saying?

HANRETTY: Indeed.

BLITZER: We will watch it unfold with you. Thanks, Karen.

HANRETTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A battle of words among GOP candidates. Who is more Republican?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not call myself a -- quote -- "real Republican." I will say that other Republicans are out there running. I respect them, but we also should examine people's records to whether they are -- quote -- "real Republicans" or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Coming up in our "Strategy Session," McCain's response, Romney's remarks, what the rest of the candidates are saying, a lot more.

And Senator Clinton has a unique pitch to African-American voters. A vote she says is a vote for her husband. Will that strategy work? Donna Brazile and John Feehery, they are standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he's the Republican that staunch Republicans can love. Now some of his opponents are taking that as an obvious swipe.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our political analyst and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist John Feehery.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I will play a little clip on what Mitt Romney is saying. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe that conservatives across the nation, and particularly in states where I have been able to take my message, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan and Florida and Nevada, that the conservatives in these states that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the, if you will, the Republican wing of the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that's opened himself up to some criticism from Giuliani, from McCain, and, as we just heard, from Fred Thompson. He's going to be making a speech about this later tonight. What is going on?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Governor Romney has made -- he's defined what the battlefield is. The problem for him is, he's not the only one who wants the battlefield. Everyone wants to be the real Republican for the Republican primary.

The question is, is he -- does he have -- when he's the first one that says that, he opens up his record. And everyone is going to attack him. The interesting thing is how passionate is going after Romney. I don't think he likes Romney that much.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I don't think he does either. And he's really going after him.

Is this a smart strategy, though, for Mitt Romney to be saying what he is right now, leaving himself vulnerable? Because he's changed his positions on a lot of the most sensitive issues affecting Republican voters out there.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's going to expose the entire Republican field for their lack of conservative principles.

Look, they're still looking for the next reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. And while Mitt Romney may not be the real Republican, John McCain has problems on immigration, Giuliani on abortion. So, I think this is going to expose all of them and not just put Mr. Romney on the spot.

BLITZER: You know, Bob Novak had a column in "The Chicago Sun Times," published elsewhere as well, in which he said this: "A well- known social conservative who asked that his name not be used, is disturbed by Dr. James Dobson saying he could not vote for Giuliani under any conditions. Apart from being the lesser of two evils against Senator Hillary Clinton, Giuliani seems to be the positive choice of millions of religious Americans."

Is Novak right?

FEEHERY: Dobson has a problem here. He says he speaks for everybody, but does he speak for everybody?

Giuliani is kind of portraying himself as the street-corner conservative. You don't agree with him on abortion, but he's tough enough to take on Hillary. The question is, has Dobson kind of lost touch with his own flock? And I think a lot of conservatives think he has.

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: I think he's campaigning as the most electable Republican against a....

BLITZER: The one that can beat Hillary Clinton?

BRAZILE: If she's the nominee. They all think that she's the nominee. We haven't had one of vote cast in Iowa or New Hampshire.

BLITZER: That's what they keep saying.

BRAZILE: I know, but she's tough, but she still has a contest on her hands.

BLITZER: Speaking of Hillary Clinton, I want to play a little clip of what she said today. She was on "The View," going after obviously women voters out there, launching a new bid. But she's also going after African-American voters as well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW") SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want African-Americans to feel that when I'm president, it's another Clinton presidency and we are going to be doing everything we can to get this country to be on the side of them and people who are working hard and struggling, so that they can have a better chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As you know, Bill Clinton, her husband, very well liked by the African-American community.

BRAZILE: Well, he was commonly referred to as the nation's first black president. Maybe she will be the first sister in chief. We will see.

But, look, Bill Clinton had an extremely good record, record homeownership in the black community, record job creation in the black community. She has a good story to tell.

But this is not about the past. It's about the future and what she plans to do about the high incidence of blacks in prison, what she's going to do on jobs, education. So, she has another story that she needs to tell as well.

BLITZER: She needs the women's vote. She needs the African- American vote, A, to get the Democratic presidential nomination, and then she needs the overwhelming vote among those various, those specific groups to win the White House.

FEEHERY: You know, Donna is very -- listening to you is very interesting, because you don't concede that Hillary has got the nomination. I think a lot of African-American voters don't concede that Hillary has the nomination. And she needs to make the case to them.

Obama, obviously, is African-American. And he can make the case that, you vote for me. This is a key contest for those two. I think right now Hillary is winning it.

BLITZER: Who is getting more support -- I have seen the polls -- among African-American Democrats right now? And some would be surprised that Hillary Clinton does better than Barack Obama.

BRAZILE: She has very strong and significant support from black women. Black women are perhaps one of the largest voting blocs in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Why do they like her more than Obama?

BRAZILE: Because she's a sister. She knows the issues. She can communicate them well. She's a fighter.

As Maya Angelou would say, she's a phenomenal woman. That's why she's tough to beat. BLITZER: She will be a formidable candidate if -- and this is a big if -- if she eventually gets that nomination. That Republicans know it.

FEEHERY: No kidding. That's why Republicans are scared.

She's a very formidable opponent. That is why people are taking a very long look at people like Rudy Giuliani, who they probably wouldn't otherwise. She's tough and people know it. And Republicans especially know it.

BLITZER: Who would be the most formidable Republican presidential nominee, if -- if -- and this is a big if -- if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination?

BRAZILE: I still believe, at the end of the day, that John McCain has incredible life still. He's now picking up in New Hampshire and South Carolina. I still believe, because of his war credentials, he's someone that people shouldn't forget.

BLITZER: What do you think, John?

FEEHERY: Well, it's going to be tough. I think if Fred Thompson got a campaign going, he would be a very tough opponent.

But I think Rudy, because he appeals to independent voters, is the one that probably has got the best crossover, and if the Republican conservatives stay home, which is a big if, because a lot of conservatives don't like him.

BLITZER: What do you think about this Fred Thompson campaign, because he's canceled events in New Hampshire? And he seems to have other issues going on. We heard from his spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty, that he has got some sort of strategy.

But a lot of people, pundits and others, are scratching their heads wondering what is going on.

FEEHERY: First, Karen is terrific. Second of all, the campaign is slow starting, just can't seem to get off the ground, and it really hurts when he cancels events in New Hampshire. It's like he doesn't like New Hampshire and he's already writing it off, which I think is a big mistake.

BRAZILE: He's made a calculation. He's doing better in South Carolina. That is a neighboring state of Tennessee. And he's going to start his campaign there.

BLITZER: Donna, John, thanks very much.

A curious question put to Rudy Giuliani: Is the U.S. ready for attack by aliens from outer space? You're going to hear what Giuliani had to say.

And an emotional piece of advice on a very, very emotional topic -- how to react when a loved one says he or she is gay, and how to tell someone he or she is gay. The former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and his lesbian daughter, Chrissy, they have some important advice. They will be here right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our Political Ticker this Monday, John Edwards today won the endorsement of 10 branches of the influential Service Employees International Union, including in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa.

Edwards' campaign is calling it a big, big victory, but it's not as powerful as winning the backing of the union on a national level. The national SEIU decided not to support a candidate in the primaries, after backing Howard Dean in 2004 failed for them.

Meantime, Barack Obama also getting some SEIU support in the Midwest. He's won the endorsement of the Illinois and Indiana branches.

A new poll shows Hillary Clinton holding double-digit lead over her Democratic rivals in New Hampshire. Less than three months before the Granite State voters cast their primary ballots, Clinton is 20 points ahead of her nearest arrival. That would be Barack Obama.

On the Republican side, the Marist poll shows Mitt Romney narrowly leading the primary field in New Hampshire. The former governor of the neighboring state Massachusetts is only four points ahead of the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani is basing much of his presidential bid on how he would defend the homeland against terrorists. But he was thrown a curveball during a campaign appearance yesterday in New Hampshire.

Listen to this question from a young man with an apparent interest in aliens of the outer space kind and Giuliani's response. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... something living on another planet, and it is bad, and it comes over here, what would you do?

(LAUGHTER)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is the first time I have been asked that question.

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: I'm going to get prepared for outer space (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

GIULIANI: If we're properly prepared for all the different things that can happen to us, we'll be prepared for that as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

Question this hour, Wolf: Is now is the time for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives to be taking up that Armenian genocide resolution?

James writes from Tennessee: "The Armenian genocide -- call it what it was -- happened nearly a century ago. Congress cannot change history and should not waste time attempting to do so. The Congo and Darfur are happening now, but Congress will ignore them, just another example of how useless our elected officials have become."

Judy in California: "As a woman and a lifelong Democrat, I'm ashamed at the utter stupidity and apparent lack of courage of this Congress and its leadership. I doubt Pelosi is even aware of the consequences of her actions. I have never been a fan of the Bush administration or the war in Iraq, but even a moron knows you shouldn't anger an important ally like Turkey over a 100-year-old incident. What is she thinking?"

Gregory in Gloucester Point, Virginia: "No, especially in light of the current sensitivity to the Kurdish-Turkish situation. Doing so will only make our chances of diffusing that smoldering time bomb even slimmer. The genocide issue should have been addressed no later than the end of World War I, when it happened. Before bringing it up now, Congress needs to condemn the U.S. for genocide against its own indigenous populations, the American Indians and African slaves and their descendants, in order to have any credibility whatsoever in the eyes of the world. Put up or shut up, Ms. Pelosi."

Sandra in Texas writes: "This is as good a time as any. There's never been a good time in the past. There will never be a good time in the future. Either we condemn genocide or we overlook it. Let this courageous Congress decide. At least Pelosi is putting it on the table."

Well, that's something.

Ray in Virginia writes: "I must have fallen asleep, woke up to Congress that has taken us out of Iraq, dealt with the immigration issue, completed the fence along the border, appropriated funds for bridges and other infrastructure, yadda, yadda, yadda, and, after finding themselves with nothing else to do, they went back and looked at a 100-year-old issue, so they could waste little time after all that hard work. I love it" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

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

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