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Middle East Peace Conference Begins; Florida Key For Giuliani Campaign?

Aired November 27, 2007 - 18:00   ET


Happening now here in THE SITUATION ROOM: hopes of ending years of bloodshed and conflict, with President Bush right in the middle. Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreeing to work towards a peace treaty before the end of next year. What is different about these assurances?

Also, Florida shines for Rudy Giuliani. Could he win there but lose in the other early contests and still win the Republican presidential nomination?

And the Reverend Jesse Jackson says all but one of the Democratic presidential candidates are actually ignoring African-Americans, even the only black candidate who's running. I will ask Democratic candidate Chris Dodd what he thinks about all of this.

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

A major step in the effort toward Middle East peace. A beaming President Bush announcing Israel and the Palestinians will resume talks on a comprehensive peace agreement. Among the goals, a separate independent Palestinian state. It's the first time in seven years the two sides have agreed to formal peace talks. And they're hoping to try to reach an agreement by the end of next year; 40 nations are at the conference that's taking place in Annapolis, Maryland.

That's where our White House correspondent Ed Henry is watching all of this unfold as well.

Ed, update us on what happened today.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is hailing this as a positive step, but all sides agree that success will not be determined by what happened today. It's about what happens tomorrow, next week and beyond.


HENRY (voice-over): Against the odds, President Bush brokered this handshake with a written, joint understanding. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders vowing to reach a Mideast peace accord by the end of Mr. Bush's time in office. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make ever effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.

HENRY: The first serious stab at Mideast peace in seven years. And yet, this is really just an agreement to agree. Not peace itself.

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER U.S. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: The real question is, will this process have legs? Three months from now will, in fact, we be looking at a situation which has been transformed?

HENRY: The parties acknowledge they did not address any of the divisive issues that have killed so many deals before.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (voice over): With great hope, but it is accompanied with great worry that this new opportunity might be lost.

HENRY: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared any final agreement should make east Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state. A possible deal-breaker for Israel. While Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert wants his nation recognized as a Jewish state, a potential stumbling block for the Palestinians.

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The time has come to end the boycott, the alienation, and the obliviousness towards the state of Israel.

HENRY: And protests all the way from the West Bank to outside the gates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis show it will be difficult for both sides to make tough compromises. But the talks could gain strength from over 40 nations being at the table. Especially Saudi Arabia and Syria. And the parties now have an American President pledging full engagement, though even Mr. Bush offered a dose of reality.

BUSH: America will do everything in our power to support their quest for peace, but we cannot achieve it for them.


HENRY: The tough work begins Wednesday at the White House. Mr. Bush holding meetings with the Israelis and Palestinian leaders. Then Olmert and Abbas are going to start holding intense biweekly meetings to try and get this done -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry in Annapolis for us, thank you.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians, supporters of Hamas rallied in Gaza today. They chanted death to America, death to Israel. And they called the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, a collaborator. There were also demonstrations in Abbas' stronghold over on the West Bank. Palestinian police broke up demonstrations in Ramallah as well as in Hebron where one protester is reported killed.

Middle East issues will loom large for the next occupant of the White House, but to get there, the candidates will likely need the state of Florida. Right now, a brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests Florida shines for Rudy Giuliani when it comes to the Republican candidate.

He comes out on top among likely primary voters, holding steady his lead in other recent polls. Giuliani has a sizable lead over the closest Republican competitors. Florida could be a make or break state, in fact, for Giuliani.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is watching all of this in Saint Petersburg.

What is the latest? What are we seeing as far as Florida and Giuliani in this really rather risky strategy he's taken?


Giuliani even jokes that this strategy in Florida gives his aides ulcers because it is so risky. But jokes aside, for Rudy Giuliani, the Sunshine State is a must-win.


BASH (voice over): The Villages, Florida's largest retirement community where golf carts dominate the streets and many transplants from New York have an affinity for a certain mayor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best choice right now to me and a lot of people here will be Giuliani. He's strong. I think he can help us.

BASH: Giuliani is trailing in other early primaries states but dominating here, where Republicans appear more tolerant of his stance on social issues like abortion rights. In a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, only 19 percent of Florida Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that Florida is going to determine the Republican nominee for President.

BASH: Giuliani long ago singled out Florida as his firewall. He trails in the first key nominating contests -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and is banking on a big win here on January 29 to reset the race and propel him into a crowded Super Tuesday and includes mega-states from New York to California.

Giuliani's Florida chairman concedes it's risky.

BILL MCCOLLUM, GIULIANI FLORIDA PARTY CHAIRMAN: If he doesn't win in Florida, the prospects for his being the nominee for the Republican Party are much less.

BASH: All the more dicey because in the new poll, only three in 10 say they definitely made up their minds, and early wins usually ignite momentum. DARRYL PAULSON, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Over the last 20, 25 years, Florida has sort of reaffirmed the pattern of Iowa and New Hampshire. In that respect, it could be a problem for Giuliani.

BASH: Giuliani thinks this time is different. Florida's vote is earlier and his pitch is crime-fighting 9/11 mayor (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was there day and night. He was always there and got everything going.

BASH: Especially with those former New Yorkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote for Rudy. Don't forget.


BASH: Now, another reason Giuliani does so well here is his perceived electability. Six in 10 Republican Florida voters say they think he really has the best shot at winning the White House next November, but, Wolf, if Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, that might not happen because our new poll also shows that Florida voters by a nine-vote margin pick Hillary over Rudy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by. You are going to be in our roundtable later this hour with Jack Cafferty. That's coming up.

Also, Florida, even more important perhaps in this election because it's moved up its primary. At the same time, though, Florida along with four other states that have done the same thing is being punished. The Republican Party has stripped them of half of their delegates to the next summer national convention. That means whichever candidate wins Florida's primary, that candidate will get only 57 of the state's 114 total delegates.

And because Florida is so large, that is a bigger delegate loss than the other states. To win the Republican nomination, a candidate will need a majority of the total delegates over at the convention next summer.

Meanwhile, Florida, as all of you must know by now, is the scene of tomorrow's showdown between the Republican presidential candidates, our CNN/YouTube presidential debate. Tomorrow evening 8:00 p.m. in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

But if you would like to see questions sent in for the debate, by the way, nearly 5,000 of them, you can check out You will also get the latest from the campaign trail, our Political Ticker and a lot, lot more.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" in New York.

You have heard about the debate, the YouTube, CNN/YouTube debate, Jack? Have you heard about it?


CAFFERTY: I have heard about it.

BLITZER: All right. Good.

CAFFERTY: And you know what? A lot of those questions are terrific, but some of those people, a small percentage of those people, should be under care.



CAFFERTY: In confinement somewhere. You know what I'm saying?

BLITZER: I understand.

CAFFERTY: Yes, restraining garments and nothing more than warm broth.

Al Qaeda does a better job than the United States of communicating its message overseas. Guess who said that? Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And he's calling for a dramatic increase in the U.S. budget for diplomacy and foreign aid. Gates thinks that we need to commit more money and effort to so-called soft power tools, because the military, he says, alone can't defend U.N. interests around the world.

He noted that military spending, not including the hundreds of billions of dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without those included, military spending totals almost half-a-trillion dollars a year and that compares with the State Department budget of just $36 billion.

Gates joked that some at the Pentagon might consider it blasphemy to have their top guy trying to get money for a competing agency. But he wasn't joking about this -- quoting here -- "We're miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals. It is just plain embarrassing that al Qaeda's better at communicating its message on the Internet than America" -- unquote.

So, here's the question. Should the U.S. be spending more money on diplomacy? E-mail or go to You could make the argument, Wolf, that we increase the budget for diplomacy, that would be a good idea, provided we stop invading other countries.

BLITZER: You know, they say, if you got a good message to send, it's easier to do good diplomacy, as opposed to the opposite.

CAFFERTY: Sure. There you go.

BLITZER: All right, Jack is going to be with our roundtable. That's coming up later this hour. Stand by, Jack.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starting at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget about that.

Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Bush administration pushing for Middle East peace. Some Democrats, however, say seven years too late. That from presidential candidate Chris Dodd. We will talk about what he means.

And will Middle Eastern sheikhs be holding your home mortgage? An Arab group takes a major stake in the nation's largest bank. We will update you on what's going on.

And who needs Oprah? That is what Hillary Clinton's campaign is likely asking. They're sending out their big gun, Bill Clinton, to beat back any political threat posed by an Oprah/Obama alliance.

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


BLITZER: President Bush calls the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis a launching pad for negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

It could mark a turning point. We all hope for a long-sought peace agreement.

Joining us now to talk about this summit, the prospects for a two-state solution and more, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd. He's been a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for only 26 years.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

Is President Bush doing the right thing by convening these Israelis and Palestinians and so many others in trying to jump-start this peace process?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, we all hope it works. Let me begin there, Wolf, with you.

But, obviously, this is about seven or eight years too late, in many ways here. This should have happened a long, long time ago. The fact that the -- this administration basically almost eliminated the office here that was involved directly in trying to have a continuing effort here to bring about the two-state solution has been a terrible disappointment to many people, not only in this country, but throughout the Middle East.

The opinion of the United States in that part of the world today is the lowest it has been maybe ever. And, so, this is going to be very difficult. I don't think expectations ought to run too high.

BLITZER: But is it -- is it -- is it better late than never? DODD: Well, certainly, it is better late than never.

But I think the idea that you are going to have this wrap up at the end of '08, as this administration leaves town, where were they the last six or seven years to be working on this? And, clearly, there is a correlation here between our ability to influence these events, our continuing military participation in Iraq.

So, these are all very complicated questions. We hope it works. Well, obviously, all of us hope it does.

BLITZER: Is there a downside, Senator?

DODD: Well, there could be.

I think you go through this and -- and raise expectations here, unrealistically. Had their -- this administration begun earlier to go through this process -- to have everything sort of culminate around the election of next year here is going to make it very difficult.

Now, again, let me emphasize, Wolf, I want to see this work. I hope it does. But, being realistic, this administration should have started this a long, long time ago.

BLITZER: The Palestinians, the Israelis are there. The Europeans are there, the U.N., obviously. The Syrians are there. The -- there's -- there's no doubt that the Saudis are there, some key players. But missing from this conference are two other key players, Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Iranians, which, arguably, have a lot more influence in that part of the world than some of the players who are there right now.

Is it a mistake those two elements, Hamas and the Iranians, were not invited?

DODD: No, not necessarily.

Again, Hamas, I don't think, would have -- Hamas would have come anyway. I think it was important that Syria decided to come. And, clearly, the decision that the Israelis agreed with, to put the Golan Heights on the agenda, was a courageous act on the part of the Israelis. And it certainly had a lot to do with the Syrians deciding to participate.

And the fact that the Arab League is -- is deeply involved here and committed as well all raise prospects here. But, you know, you know as well as I do we have been down this road many times over the last quarter-of-a-century that I have been involved in these issues. It takes a lot of ongoing involvement and commitment, continuous involvement here.

This administration has been AOL -- AWOL -- excuse me -- when it comes to the Middle East. And, all of a sudden here, with a year or so to go here, to talk about a solution coming up prior to the elections in '08, again, I think it is awfully unrealistic. And I would be remiss if I didn't say how disappointed I have been that this administration has not been engaged, as it should have been, over the last six or seven years.

BLITZER: I want to give you a chance also to respond to the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He wrote a column in "The Chicago Sun-Times" today with a serious accusation against almost all of the Democratic presidential candidates.

He wrote this. He said: "The Democratic candidates, with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign, have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country."

You are one of those Democratic presidential candidates. Do you want to spend to the Reverend Jackson?

DODD: Well, I -- I work with Reverend Jackson all the time. In fact, I was one of the few who participated last year in his Wall Street summit that he has periodically to talk about these issues here, and certainly been deeply involved in dealing with the predatory lending practices.

I'm sure he has observed that over the last number of months, since I became the chairman of that committee back in January, doing everything we can to get the stakeholders and others to keep people in their homes. So, I care deeply about these issues, not just this year around, but have been deeply involved with them over the last quarter- of-a-century on these questions involving many important issues that affect minority communities and throughout our -- throughout our country in urban areas as well.

So, I welcome his ideas and comments. We have worked very closely over the years. So, he may be talking about others, but our involvement on these issues go back a long time and are consistently there.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, thanks for coming in.

DODD: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: The NFL loses one of its own. Redskin players and fans, a lot of other people, they're mourning the death of the team's safety, 24-year-old Sean Taylor. We are going to have the latest on the hunt for his killer.

And deja vu in France. Riots erupt once again in the suburbs of Paris. Buildings and cars are set on fire. We are going to tell you what's sparking this violence.

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


BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to the THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with this, Wolf.

NFL star Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins died at a Miami hospital this morning after he was shot in the leg during a suspected break-in at his home. The bullet damaged an artery and he suffered from blood loss. Taylor's girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter were also in the house at the time of the shooting. Police say they are searching for an unknown suspect. Sean Taylor was just 24 years old.

And a look around the world -- the nation's largest bank got a vote of confidence today from one of the richest places in the Middle East. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority announced it is investing $7.5 billion in Citigroup. The move helped fuel a rebound on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending the day up more than 200 points. Citigroup has suffered severe losses amid the ongoing crisis in the mortgage market.

Rioters in Paris suburbs upped the ante, firing buckshot at police, with dozens of officers wounded. The French capital is reeling from two nights of violence that erupted after two teenagers died in a crash with a police car.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.

Coming up: Barack Obama's got Oprah Winfrey backing him up, but Hillary Clinton has some help of her own. He's a natural-born politician, happens to be former president of the United States, and he's back on the campaign trail right now.

Also, he's at home in the pulpit, as well as in the political arena. Republican candidate Mike Huckabee is out with a new ad about faith and the White House.

And his family's tragedies are the nation's tragedies. His own life has been a roller coaster of triumphs and failures. Senator Ted Kennedy has now signed a multi-million dollar book deal. We will get the details on what he's prepared to tell us.

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: the ultimate power couple. Bill Clinton is hitting the campaign trail, once again, for his wife. We are going to tell you how the surrogate in chief is packing a political punch right now.

Will the Sunshine State illuminate a White House victory for New York's former mayor? Why Giuliani may be looking at Florida as a must must-win.

And he's an extraordinary life of triumph and tragedy. Now Ted Kennedy is set to write his memoir and he's earning a multimillion- dollar pay day in the process.

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

In presidential politics, Barack Obama may have Oprah Winfrey, but Bill and Hillary Clinton are a very powerful political tag team. And they're showing how two big names can be better than one on the campaign trail.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley is joining us now from DeWitt, Iowa, with more on what is going on as far as the former president is concerned -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have been to Iowa City, followed by Muscatine, and now DeWitt. You are right. This is grassroots politics. And there is no one that likes it any better than Bill Clinton.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Dateline: South Carolina.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to thank the Spartanburg County Democratic Party chair.

CROWLEY: Who said you can't be two places at once?


CROWLEY: Tag team Clinton is in the arena wherever it is. From the dais in Spartanburg to the diners of Iowa City, they're working it.

B. CLINTON: I have been meeting people, talking to them, answering the questions, listening. It's fun.

CROWLEY: Need we say he's a natural-born politician chatting up the locals as easily as he lays out the case for his wife. Monday, in Muscatine, he pushed back on suggestions from Barack Obama that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience comes from talking to her husband.

B. CLINTON: When I became president, she represented America in 82 countries. Last year, I was in a little village in Southeast Asia and a woman came up to me and said, I will never forget that speech your wife gave. It changed life for us here.

CROWLEY: He campaigned in '92, telling audiences, with her, they would get two for the price of one. She doesn't use that line, but she might as well. While he promotes her, she promises him.

H. CLINTON: But, as soon as I'm elected, I am going to be asking distinguished Americans of both parties, people like Colin Powell, for example, and others who can represent our country well, including someone I know very well.



CROWLEY: He says he's mostly not in politics now, but it's a hard sell. They're still working out the schedule, but aides say most of the days between now and the January 3 caucuses, one of the Clintons will be in Iowa. Count on joint appearances as well.


CROWLEY: Now, the full-court Clinton press here in Iowa tells you two things, Wolf. First of all, these caucuses are very important. Second of all, they are very close -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thank you.

Candidates harnessing star power, in our roundtable, that is a key discussion.

Joining us, our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's in Saint Petersburg, Florida, getting ready for tomorrow night's big debate, the CNN/YouTube debate.

Also joining us, Jack Cafferty. His best-selling new book is called, "It's Getting Ugly Out There".

And Jeff Toobin is with us, as well. He's got a best-seller on the U.S. supreme Court called "The Nine".

Jack, what do you think about this battle in Iowa right now, because it's a very, very close race, according to the polls, between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, that the star power -- the star power element is now coming in?

CAFFERTY: Well, Edwards better get him somebody, hadn't he?


BLITZER: He needs some star power, too.

CAFFERTY: I mean Obama's got Oprah -- you know, Bill Clinton is, arguably, one of the most charismatic, masterful politicians in the last 50 years, including Ron Reagan. But there is an aroma of a thirst for raw power coming off this tag team act that Hill and Billary are doing -- Bill and Hillary, I mean. Excuse me.

Remember, Monica Lewinsky?

Remember the impeachment?

Remember perjury? I mean that was eight years of our history, too. And as much as people might be tired of the Bush administration, there was a lot about those years that people don't like so much, either. And this just smacks of political ambition in its rawest form to me.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The people voting in Iowa adore Bill Clinton. And one thing you hear when we talk to ordinary people is, you know, it'll be nice to have Bill Clinton keeping an eye on things. He was a very popular president. And I think it's a huge advantage for her that he's campaigning for her. And it's in a completely different category from Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand...

CAFFERTY: Oh, I agree with that.

TOOBIN: ...who endorsed Hillary today, who I don't think will bring one single vote with her.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But to Jack's point -- but to Jack's point, you know, remember, at the beginning of all this, there was a lot of trepidation or a lot of questions about how much Bill Clinton would really get in the ring because of the issues that Jack talked exactly about -- about all the soap operas this is going to dredge up from the time that Bill Clinton was in office. But, you know, you talk to the Clinton campaign and they say basically what Jeff just said, is that look, the bottom line here is -- especially in a place like Iowa, where it is so incredibly tight -- why not use a weapon that they think will help them tremendously when it comes to organization and try to remind voters that Democrats can win. And they say no one really illustrates that more than Bill Clinton.

BLITZER: She's taking off the gloves, Jack, her campaign, and going after Barack Obama and his supposed lack of experience. I'll read to you a quote from her spokesman, Phil Singer. He says this: "With the critical foreign policy challenges America faces in the world today, voters will decide whether Senator Obama, who served in the Illinois state senate just three years ago, and would have less experience than any president since World War II, has the strength and experience to be the next president."

CAFFERTY: Look, we had Dan Quayle, who couldn't spell potato. George Bush had never been outside the United States except to, what, go to Mexico. I mean if you could find anybody with a shallower view of the world than the guy who's been in the Oval Office for the last eight years, I'll put in with you.


CAFFERTY: I just, you know, I just don't think that's a huge factor. The endorsement that mattered most to me today, who, was the Streisand endorsement.


CAFFERTY: I've been waiting to start making up my mind until I saw which way she was going to go.

BLITZER: And now you're going to support Hillary Clinton?

Is that what you're saying, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I mean, come on. Who...


CAFFERTY: ...besides Barbra Streisand, cares?

TOOBIN: The only thing left is to decide who -- learn who Ben Affleck is supporting.


TOOBIN: That guy has been so toxic. Every candidate for president he supports loses.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean, all these Hollywood people...

BASH: You know...

CAFFERTY: Just make your movies and leave the rest of us alone.

BASH: OK. So maybe this is a Denver thing and maybe...

BLITZER: Dana, go ahead, make a point, because then I want to take a break.

Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: Yes, well, this might be, you know, playing the gender card a little bit. I will agree with you, Jack, on Barbra Streisand. But when it comes to Oprah Winfrey, I can tell you that she is somebody who, you know, blows everybody else out of the water in terms of what she is able to do. I mean she talks about any kind of product on her show and you can't find it for weeks, if not months, in the stores. She actually is somebody who has the ability to move mountains and change minds.


BASH: And I can tell you that that is...

CAFFERTY: Jeff, don't you...

BASH: ...a little bit different than Barbra Streisand.

CAFFERTY: Jeff, don't you wish she'd have had both of us to talk about our books?

TOOBIN: Oh, God.




BLITZER: That's right, you've got to be nice to Oprah, because she (INAUDIBLE).

TOOBIN: You bet.

CAFFERTY: I love you, Oprah.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We've got a lot more to talk about, including what's going on in Florida right now.

Also, he's been a witness to some of the biggest historic events of the century. Now he's writing about it. The Kennedy secrets -- what will Senator Ted Kennedy reveal in his new memoir?

And how many presidents can the U.S. have at once?

The candidates show their confidence.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's get back to our roundtable.

I want to start with Jack -- Jack, I want to put some numbers up on the screen -- this latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in Florida. If you take a look at Florida, which is an important state, Giuliani is still atop all the Republican presidential candidates. He's got 38 percent; Romney, 17; McCain, 11; Thompson, 11; Mike Huckabee at 9 percent.

But he's got a risky strategy. He's based a lot on winning Florida and some of the other so-called super duper states in early February, but he's not doing necessarily all that well in the earlier states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

CAFFERTY: Well, the thing he has working in his favor, I think, is the compression of the schedule. We talked about the fact that whoever comes out of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- and it won't be Rudy -- with momentum, doesn't have much time to capitalize on that. And I think that's what the Giuliani people are banking on -- a very short window between South Carolina and Florida.

But if Romney would win all three of those and win them decisively, by more than one or two points, that might be enough momentum to overcome whatever lead Giuliani's got in Florida. And there's a whole lot of stuff that, you know, is still very fluid in all of this. But it's, you know, he's taking a gamble. If it works, he could steamroller out of Florida and run the table.

BLITZER: It could be brilliant, Dana, and it could be a disaster, too, for him.

BASH: It could be. You know, and that is why -- even in the past couple of days, Wolf, you saw Giuliani doing a bus tour up in New Hampshire, making clear, you know, he's not necessarily giving up on New Hampshire. And it's because he realizes this has really never been done before. You know, they talk about it -- incessantly about the fact that this is a different year, just as Jack said, that the calendar is compressed. The later states really favor him because they have a lot more moderate Republicans who are more like him in terms of his positions.

But, you know, they're sort of looking at the calendar, looking at where he stands in the polls in the early states and saying, uh-oh, if this doesn't work, we're over.

BLITZER: You know, Jeff, I wanted you to make your point. But think about this, as well, as you do. In this other -- in the same CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll among registered voters -- a hypothetical match-up in Florida between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton -- Hillary Clinton gets 51 percent of the vote in Florida, Giuliani gets 42 percent -- a snapshot right now.

But go ahead and make your point.

TOOBIN: Wouldn't Al Gore have liked some of those votes seven years ago?

CAFFERTY: He might have had some.


TOOBIN: That's true. The great unknown about this campaign is what is the effect of the compressed schedule. I don't think anyone knows for sure. I mean Romney and Giuliani are making precisely the opposite bets. Romney is saying I'm putting everything on Iowa and New Hampshire. Giuliani is saying just the opposite -- I'm pretending they don't exist and hoping that Florida is his springboard to Super Duper Tuesday.

I don't think anyone knows what the compressed schedule means. Those are smart people on both campaigns and they've come to opposite conclusions.

BLITZER: Here's what it means, Jack. It means that all of us, starting in January 3rd and going through February, we're going to be working really, really hard. We're going to be very busy watching the votes come in.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but the story is going to be over by, what, March 1st...


CAFFERTY: ...conceivably.

BLITZER: Well, it might be over by February 5th. CAFFERTY: That's true.

BLITZER: On the Democratic side, they say there is a good chance that it could be over.

Dana, I'll give you the last word.

Go ahead.

BASH: I was just going to say or not. Maybe what this means is that, you know, Romney or somebody else will win the early contests, Giuliani will do well later and maybe we'll have an even better story. Maybe it will take a longer time to get a nominee.

You know, probably not, but one can only hope, right?

TOOBIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Yes, because we'll have nothing to do after February...

TOOBIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: ...until the conventions in August and then the election in November. We could just go on a long vacation.

TOOBIN: As always...

CAFFERTY: You'll go crazy, Wolf.

BASH: Yes, right.


TOOBIN: As always, journalists are rooting for chaos.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, we'll see you back here tomorrow.

Dana is going to be at the debate.

Thanks, Dana.

Jack, you're not going anywhere. We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy is landing what's said to be one of the largest book deals in history.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a closer look at what we can expect.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Senator Ted Kennedy's autobiography has produced a deal reportedly worth more than the $8 million for Hillary Clinton's book. It is a lot of money, but it will buy a priceless insider's view of American politics. The senator says: "I've been fortunate in my life to grow up in an extraordinary family and to have a front row seat at many key events in our nation's history."

Ted Kennedy was there every step of the way as his family built a political dynasty. He won the Senate seat his brother John F. Kennedy left when he became president.


FOREMAN: Then he mourned when that brother was assassinated in 1963.


FOREMAN: He mourned again when his brother Bobby was gunned down, too -- five years later.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

FOREMAN: And as other family members have met with trial and tragedy, he's grown ever more the public face of the Kennedys.

T. KENNEDY: I think about my brothers every day.

FOREMAN: At one point, it seemed a certainty that he would pick up the torch for his fallen brothers.

ADAM CLYMER, AUTHOR, "EDWARD M. KENNEDY": On the plane flying back from Los Angeles -- the plane that carried Robert Kennedy's body -- we came up to him and said, "Now you've got to run."

FOREMAN: But in 1969, he drove his car off of a bridge in the island of Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts. A young female aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Ted Kennedy fled the scene.

T. KENNEDY: I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately.

FOREMAN: It could is be the most sensitive incident he will have to explain to his readers.

CLYMER: I think there is no question that they'll turn to the chapter that deals with Chappaquiddick to see if he says anything more or anything differently than he's ever said before.

FOREMAN: Kennedy tried for the presidency -- losing a bid to unseat Jimmy Carter in 1980. But his concession speech still reflected the memories of his brothers.

T. KENNEDY: The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

FOREMAN (on camera): An aide says he may write a memoir, but he has no intention of retiring. He was reelected just last year. And much of the money from this book will go to charity.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show. That's beginning right at the top of the hour.

Lou is standing by in Arkansas to tell us what's going on.

What's going on -- Lou.


Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, we'll be reporting live from Little Rock, Arkansas tonight -- reporting on Arkansas' struggle to protect its citizens from illegal immigration and the impact of illegal immigration, attempting to enforce our laws and to defend itself from well-funded socio-ethnic centric special interests and, of course, dominant business interests in this state. Two important Arkansas lawmakers leading the struggle among my guests here tonight.

Also, more political insults and threats by Mexican political leaders against the United States. Those pro-amnesty Mexican leaders led by none other deported illegal alien Elvira Arellano.

And what is our government doing?

What is the Bush administration doing and saying?

Absolutely nothing, of course. But we'll have a few things to say.

And I'll be telling you about a fascinating ceremony that takes place every day right here in Little Rock -- the ceremony involving a parade of ducks, a red carpet and, for one day only, just an amazing grand marshal of a duck parade.

Please join us for all of that and more, all the day's news, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: I spent three months in Little Rock in '90 -- the end of '92, early '93. It was a wonderful experience, Lou.

DOBBS: Right.

BLITZER: They've got great people there.


We'll see you in a few moments. And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, an odd offer from one of the Bush administration's archenemies. We're going to show you what Iran's president wants to do in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Plus, a surprise move by Florida's governor as his state hosts the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate tomorrow. We'll explain.



BLITZER: Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants to monitor the 2008 presidential election right here in the United States.. On our Political Ticker, the Iranian leader's offer shows some confusion about who's running. According to Britain's "Guardian" newspaper, Ahmadinejad said -- and I'm quoting now -- "If the White House officials allow us to be president, we will see whether people are going to vote for them or not."

I want it go to Annapolis, Maryland right now.

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is briefing reporters on what happened today at the historic Middle East conference.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The conference began with the joint announcement by Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas that they are going to begin negotiations to establish a Palestinian state and to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, with the goal of concluding an agreement by the end of the year 2008.

President Bush has invited them both to the White House tomorrow to inaugurate those negotiations and the two sides have agreed that they will return to the region and meet on December 12th to continue the process. The parties also agreed to immediate implementation of the road map to improve conditions on the ground for both sides and to lay the foundations for a two state solution.

In their negotiations, the parties will address all of the core issues -- including borders, refugees, security, water, settlements and Jerusalem.

This is an incredibly significant achievement for them to agree to do this, because meaningful discussions on core issues have not been held in seven years. To be sure, the issues to be resolved between the parties are very challenging. If they were not, peace would have been made a long time ago. But difficult to resolve does not mean impossible to resolve, especially with constructive engagement from regional states and the international community that we witnessed here today.

I want to applaud those attendees at today's conference who share their views seriously and soberly -- not always agreeing, but seeking to build understanding through discussion and dialogue. In addition to members of The Quartet, we also heard very important comments today from the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, the current president of the Arab League. He reaffirmed the goal of the Arab League's peace initiative, of reconciliation not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but between Israel and the larger Arab world. And although the focus of today's conference was, of course, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace, there was a discussion of steps that could lead to a comprehensive peace -- including comments by the Syrian and Lebanese representatives.

With Annapolis behind us, we will now focus urgently on the next steps that are necessary from the international community. This will be one of the topics that we will discuss in upcoming meetings with our Quartet partners, the first of which will be held on or around December 17th.

On or around that same day, the French government will host a donor's conference in Paris to support Palestinian reform and institution building. We heard today from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayad and Defense Minister Barak about this important work.

This conference will be an essential opportunity for the international community to pledge tangible and generous assistance to the economic development of Palestinian society and to provide maximal resources for the Palestinian Authority's program of institution building in preparation for statehood. We expect broad international attendance at this meeting. And I want to thank the French government for its willingness to organize the conference.

The Annapolis conference has thus been the beginning -- not the end -- of a new, serious and substantive effort to achieve peace in the Middle East. This work will be hard. It involves risks and sacrifices for all concerned.

But today's events have demonstrated unambiguously that the international community will fully support the path the parties have chosen. President Bush and I have pledged the unwavering support of the United States to realize this goal. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a national interest for the United States. We now have a real opportunity to make progress. Success is vital for securing a future of peace, freedom and opportunity in the Middle East. And no one believes that failure is an option. We must succeed. The parties today show their strong commitment that they intend to do so.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, summing up what happened today at this conference in Annapolis. The Israelis and the Palestinians trying to jump-start peace in the region. We'll see what happens.

Coming up, Jack Cafferty wants to know if the U.S. should be spending more money on diplomacy.

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


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is should the United States be spending more money on diplomacy?

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates thinks we should be.

Matthew, who writes and lists himself as a former Republican, says: "Americans as individuals have been very giving to other nations. And most people don't dislike Americans, they dislike our government. We can advertise all we want, but the proof is what our government does. And that message, under this administration, is not palatable -- even to Americans."

Matthew in New Hampshire writes: "Actions speak louder than word. We can extol the virtues of democracy all we want. But these people just turn on the TV and watch what we actually do. Maybe we should stop treating them like they're stupid."

David in Massachusetts: "The U.S. already does an excellent job at communicating what it's all about -- threatening, arm twisting, invading, occupying, claiming the right to violate others' national borders at will, etc. That sends a strong message that can't be missed."

And in California: "America needs to change its foreign policy rather than spending more on diplomacy."

Dave in Brooklyn: "This is a softball question. It makes me feel like a FEMA official at a press conference. Yes, we are dedicated to the idea of a diplomatic solution to all problems."

Mark in Michigan: "Our global diplomacy track record these past seven years won't improve with increased funding. It just needs different folks writing the checks."

And Roger in New York: "Nah. And give the money to those State Department sissies? Let's buy bombs. Look how well it's worked."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, there's some serious diplomacy we saw today in Annapolis. I don't know if it will lead anywhere, but you just heard the secretary of state announce that they've got a plan now to begin these negotiations and hopefully get some sort of deal.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, nobody hopes that this effort fails. But the history of that region and the relationships that exist among those countries over there suggest that it is, as the Vegas bookies might say, a very, very long shot.

BLITZER: Yes. Those of us who have covered the Middle East peace process, as it's called, over the years, whenever there was a moment it looked like things were going in the right way and we had to write a piece or whatever, the -- we remember the old adage when it comes to the Middle East.

Jack, do you know what that adage is?


BLITZER: Pessimism...

CAFFERTY: Remind me.

BLITZER: Pessimism pays.

CAFFERTY: That's right.

What was it Jeff Toobin said last night on the roundtable -- he's a student of the school that says things can always get worse.

BLITZER: And he's right, they certainly can...

CAFFERTY: It's true.

BLITZER: ...given the fact that there's nuclear weapons in that part of the world, as well.

CAFFERTY: There's so many tribal differences and I mean all kinds of internal politics that we're not even that aware about on the -- on the conscious level. It's a -- it's a touch nut to crack.

BLITZER: Jack, I'll see you back here tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

That's it for us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.