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Republicans At War in Delaware; Rangel Fights for Survival; Dems Huddle on Election Strategy

Aired September 14, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, the last big round of primary contests -- a closing statement by voters before decision day in November. We'll tell you why today's races matter so much for the potential balance of power in the Congress and for all of us.

And Republican ad wizards find a new way to try to make the House speaker look bad. This hour, how Nancy Pelosi is responding to her harshest critics and the fear of losing control of the House of Representatives.

And you may soon need a prescription -- yes, a prescription -- for some of the most popular over the counter cough medicines. There's growing concern that popular brands are being abused with deadly results.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It's a big curtain call for a dramatic primary season -- seven states and the District of Columbia are voting right now. The results will set the tone heading into the midterm election. That could be a game changer for the entire country.

Check out the top races and the campaign trends being put to the test on this day.

In the Delaware GOP Senate race, it's moderate Congressman Mike Castle versus Tea Party candidate, Christine O'Donnell. The Tea Party couldn't -- could deliver one of its most devastating blows yet to the Republican political establishment.

In New York, the veteran Democratic Congressman, Charlie Rangel, faces five primary challengers. We'll see if this legendary power broker survives the stain of ethics charges.

And here in the District of Columbia, the first term mayor, Adrian Fenty, is fighting a very tough Democratic primary challenge. If he loses, politicians across the country may shy away from the kind of aggressive education reform that's been Fenty's trademark.

Let's go first to the Senate slugfest in Delaware right now.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is standing by.

She's in Dover, Delaware -- there are national ramifications of what happens over the next few hours, Jessica, in Delaware.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There really are, Wolf. Top Republicans believed, first, Christine O'Donnell, that Tea Party candidate, could turn an upset today and win this primary. Now, top Republican officials also believe that she cannot win a general election here in Delaware. And so, this seat would then go to a Democrat. And that seat alone, they're concerned, could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

So, amazingly, a small turnout here -- fewer than maybe 50,000 voters, potentially, could indirectly decide which party gets control of the U.S. Senate in November. A big race here today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are Republicans, in general, saying about this contest in Delaware?

YELLIN: It is a nasty internal war in the Republican Party. They are saying a lot. With the establishment -- the state Republican Party doing an unusual thing today. They have launched a robo-call against Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Tea Party candidate. It features a woman who was, for a brief time, the campaign manager for her in her 2008 Senate bid. And this call went out to likely Republican voters.

I want to play just a little bit of it for you now, so our viewers can hear.


KRISTIN MURRAY, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER TO CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I was shocked to learn that Christie O'Donnell is no conservative. You see, this is her third Senate race in five years. As O'Donnell's manager, I found out that she was living on campaign donations, using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt. She wasn't concerned about conservative causes. O'Donnell just wanted to make a buck.


YELLIN: Wolf, and that's not all. The O'Donnell campaign is in a war of words with "The Weekly Standard" magazine, that conservative magazine edited by Bill Kristol. Well, they have said that Bill Kristol is going after Christine O'Donnell and in doing that, he's crossing Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin endorsed her. Bill Kristol gave us a statement, saying, well, I know Sarah Palin, I like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell, she's no Sarah Palin.

Things here are pretty rough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What does Mike Castle, the established -- establishment Republican candidate -- saying -- saying about all of this?

YELLIN: Well, Mike Castle is taking it all in stride, says he's still reasonably confident he will win today. But he says he resents, essentially, Sarah Palin getting into this race in a do -- endorsing his opponent. And he believes it has national implications.

This was him earlier today.


REP. MIKE CASTLE (R), DELAWARE: On a personal level, obviously, I do not appreciate it. I really don't know what she is up to, if she is trying to build some sort of a conservative movement to run for president or just trying to keep her name in front of the -- the public. This particular campaign has become a bit of a test of can, you know, the -- the very conservative elements of the Republican Party take out an incumbent with which -- with whom they do not always agree?


YELLIN: So, Wolf, a fierce battle within the state Republican Party. And we won't know which way it goes for quite some hours now. Polls close here at 8:00 p.m. local -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, this is Delaware and the seat vacated by Joe Biden when he became vice president of the United States.

YELLIN: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jessica.

We'll stay in close touch.

Let's go to New York right now and the veteran lawmaker who has been an embarrassment to a lot of Democrats who vowed to clean up Congress. We're talking about Charlie Rangel, who's fighting right now to survive an ethics scandal and his own political career.

Our Joe Johns is in Rangel's home base in New York City, in Harlem.

Set the scene for us -- Joe.

What's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 80 years old, 20 terms in the Congress, well-known as the first African-American to chair the House Ways and Means Committee -- of course, as you said, Charlie Rangel is now fighting for his political life. He's being held up by many Republicans as one of the reasons why Democrats should not control the United States Congress.

Nonetheless, he's very popular here in his hometown, his home area, in New York City.

Just take a look what happened this morning when Charlie Rangel showed up at 7:30 a.m. to go and vote for himself. REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I am saying that you're wrong.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need Charlie to go back to Washington to work with President Obama to say yes. Charlie Rangel has always been there for us. I urge you now to be there for him in this Tuesday's Democratic primary.


JOHNS: So -- so it's a big day here, of course, for Charlie Rangel. He's got a number of challengers in the field, including the son of Adam Clayton Powell, the man he actually beat to get this seat in the first place, back in 1971. He's raised a whole lot of money. Of course, we haven't seen much of him. We're told he spent the day with his wife. A big day for Charlie Rangel. And Democrats watching this very closely in New York City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that was the -- the former president, Bill Clinton. He did that robo-call -- the shout out in favor of Charlie Rangel, promoting Charlie Rangel and telling folks in Harlem, where the former president has his office, to go ahead and support Charlie Rangel.

I -- I -- I think that's going to have an impact in Harlem, don't you think?

JOHNS: Yes, well, there's certainly a possibility of it because Bill Clinton is well liked. And, as you said, his office is right here in Harlem, right around the corner from where I'm standing, as a matter of fact. He did a robo-call. The former mayor, David Dinkins, did a robo-call. Bloomberg did one. We're told, you know, about 90,000 people they're reaching out to at a cost of five cents apiece. It adds up.

Rangel has been able to raise a lot of money here in New York, despite the fact he's had all these ethics charges, which probably won't even get decided until after the election. So this is a leap of faith for some voters in New York City. But when you talk to people in Harlem, all that matters is that Charlie Rangel is on the ticket.

BLITZER: Yes. And if Charlie Rangel wins this Democratic primary in the 15th District in New York, he's almost certainly going to win the general election on November 2.

Joe Johns, we'll -- we'll stay in close touch with you, as well.

And stay with CNN for up to the minute voting results throughout the evening. Here, polls in most of the states holding primaries close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, less than three hours from now. Wisconsin and New York, by the way, close at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. More contests up there.

Both Republicans and Democrats are going to new lengths to try to demonize the House leader from the other party. Stand by here and see some of the commercials for yourself.

And the latest on the scare in Paris -- the Eiffel Tower has been evacuated.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here and he has The Cafferty File -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, our lawmakers ought to be ashamed of themselves. They have yet to pass a federal budget for this year. But some people in Congress still think it's a good idea to leave town early -- go home and campaign for the upcoming midterm elections -- you know, go home and tell the folks what a great job they're doing.

The new fiscal year begins October 1. There are no signs -- none whatsoever -- that Congress will have a budget in place by then.

And this is inexcusable. Our national debt now tops $13 trillion, annual deficits running at more than $1 trillion. And without a budget, it is literally impossible to have any idea what the hell the government is doing with our money -- our money.

In place of a budget, Congress usually passes what are called continuing resolutions for a month or two at a clip. This prevents the federal government from shutting down. At this rate, Congress might not finalize a budget until after January, when the new Congress is sworn in, five months from now.

So far, neither the House nor the Senate has even bothered with a formal budget resolution -- and that usually happens in the spring -- as in last spring.

It's not too hard to figure out why there's no budget. Congress doesn't want to vote on a budget that could mean tough spending cuts right before an election. Heaven forbid. In other words, these people are cowards.

But no matter, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the so-called House leaders are thinking of adjourning October the 1st -- a week earlier than scheduled -- so they can campaign for reelection. It is just disgraceful.

Here's the question -- should Congress consider adjourning early to campaign when they haven't bothered to pass a federal budget?

Go to and vent your spleen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And folks will, Jack...

CAFFERTY: Yes, they will.

BLITZER: It's the kind of question that people like to comment on.

CAFFERTY: They've already have started and it's not pretty.

BLITZER: I'm sure it isn't.

All right, Jack.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: See you later.

BLITZER: In the battle for Congress, Republicans are getting more creative and campy in their attacks on the house speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Her opponent out in California is out with a new Web video that borrows a page from "The Wizard of Oz" and casts Pelosi in the role of the wicked witch.

Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, my pretty. I will save you from those evil Republicans. But first, pay $18,000 for my downtown office. And then go into massive debt for Wall Street bailouts. And here are my monkeys to make you pay for it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step back, everyone.



BLITZER: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says that Web video is silly, deserves a silly response like this: "lions and tigers," the campaign ad says, "lions, tigers and bears, oh my."

Pelosi isn't really in any danger of losing her seat in California, but she is in danger of losing her speaker's job.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash is standing by -- Dana, what are Pelosi and top Democrats doing right now?


Well, they are about to have a meeting in Nancy Pelosi's office behind me. We are awaiting for her to return to the Capitol. Her top deputies are already meeting and they're already waiting in her office. And she's returning to the reality, as you said, that 49 days away from the election, she is going to see and know very well back here in Washington that it's entirely possible that she will lose her speaker's gavel.

So, the question that they are all talking about is how can they best use these three weeks that they're in Washington to try to beat that potential wave back. And I got to tell you, to be frank, Jack's question raised an important point, there are a lot of rank and file Democrats, especially those who are in very tough re-election campaigns. Forgive me, Wolf, but there's a speaker right here, madam speaker? You just saw it live.

Madam speaker just came -- Speaker Pelosi just walked in as we were speaking there, but she's on her way to this -- this meeting, Wolf, to discuss how she keeps her gavel. And there are a lot of Democrats here who simply do not want to be here right now because they want to be campaigning at home. This is Washington. Washington is what voters are very much against.

BLITZER: They got to make a major decision in the House and the Senate very soon, whether to leave all of the tax rates the way they are right now because they expire at the end of the year, whether to go forward and keep the tax rates for those families making under $250,000 a year, raise taxes for people making more than $250,000 a year. Where does that stand in the House and the Senate?

BASH: That is going to be one of the big conversations that the speaker here, you just saw, is going to have with her deputies. It's been part of the topic that's been going on all day long among Democrats in the Senate and the House. and what the Democrats -- Democratic leaders in the House are planning to do is meet with their rank and file in just under two hours and make the case that they do want to have a vote just to extend taxes for middle class and not those who are the wealthiest Americans as Republicans want.

But, look, bottom line is there is still a major divide among Democrats here, Wolf. Many of whom say that they're from conservative districts back home. If they're going to have anything, that they want a vote on extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts. And I had a moment of candor here earlier. I bumped into rank and file Democrat, Laura Richardson. She is somebody who agrees with the Democratic leadership, agrees with the president, middle class tax cuts only. But she sees the political reality and that is that maybe there shouldn't be a vote on this at all before the election. Take a listen.


REP. LAURA RICHARDSON, (D) CALIFORNIA: If you would ask me my gut check, I would not suspect that we would have a vote before we leave for the election.

BASH: So, it's too controversial in the tough election year, is that the bottom line, for Democrats to come together on something like this?

RICHARDSON: Honestly, yes.


BASH: There's the opinion of one potentially candidate rank and file Democrats. The Democratic leadership, and the House, and the Senate still say that they're determined to have some kind of vote. What kind of vote it's going be, whether there's going be a compromise, that is still to be determined. There is a lot still unknown, a lot of discussion, lot unsaid.

BLITZER: If you hear what's happening with Pelosi and the Democrats in the room behind you, let us know, Dana.

BASH: I will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

There's another key element in the Democrat's strategy in the run-up to November 2. They're reminding voters that the alternatives to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be the Speaker John Boehner. The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad attack on Boehner following up on the president's harsh criticism of the House Minority Leader. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This November, John Boehner wants to welcome you to Boehnerland. Get in the door for $37,000, jet across the country with lobbyists, pass out campaign checks from big tobacco on the House floor, team up with Wall Street to block reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have a lot of relationships in this city? Yes, absolutely.


BLITZER: Boehner's spokesman is dismissing that ad calling it an attempt by the Democrats to shift the conversation away from the economy.

There's a developing story in Paris right now. An evacuation over the Eiffel Tower. We're going there live to see what's happening. Thousands of people have been evacuated.


BLITZER: A developing story in Paris that we're monitoring right now over at the Eiffel Tower. A couple of thousand people we're told have been evacuated. They've shut it down because of a bomb scare, a threat, and perhaps it's spreading (ph). Jim Bittermann, our man in Paris is working this story for us. We're going to check in with him momentarily.

Let's check in with Kate Bolduan, though, right now. She's monitoring some of the top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. This is the story we've all been following for quite some time now. An American hiker jailed in Iran for 14 months is now free. Sarah Shourd has been reunited with her mother in Oman. President Obama is thanking everyone who brought about the reunion. Iranian state run media report bail of $500,000 was posted. The U.S. state department said it didn't pay anything for her release. Shourd's fiance and another friend, though, still remain jailed in Iran. And professional football star, Reggie Bush, well, he is forfeiting his Heisman trophy. The New Orleans Saint won the esteemed award when he was at the University of Southern California in 2005. He was being investigated by the NCAA over alleged gifts his family received. And now, he simply says, he doesn't want persistent media speculation over the allegations to reflect on the dignity of the trophy.

And here's an interesting one to think about, when it comes to certain aspects of hygiene, it seems women are doing a better job than men. No, I didn't write this myself, everyone. A new study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute reveal that 77 percent of males have washed their hands in public bathrooms. That's compared to 88 percent of females. Data was gathered in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

Wolf, I hope this was not written to send a message to a certain someone.

BLITZER: No. But it should be 100 percent of males and females that --

BOLDUAN: I agree.

BLITZER: It's disgusting when people walk out without washing their hands when use public bathrooms.

BOLDUAN: Please wash your hands if you're going to be in the SITUATION ROOM. That's the message.

BLITZER: Of course. Thanks very much for that.

President Obama is out talking about education today. But is he abandoning one of these key allies in the fight for education reform? I'll ask the Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He's here in the SITUATION ROOM.

And a soldier's homecoming turns into a police incident.


BLITZER: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, it's a potentially ominous discovery under the water. Researchers now think they know what happened to all of that oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Brian Todd is investigating. Stand by for his report.

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, he's here in the SITUATION ROOM. Does he have second thoughts about going to war with Iraq?

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

President Obama is putting students front and center on this day in the second back-to-school address. He's pushing the nation's kids to work hard and stay focused on their education even when it gets tough. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And my grades were slipping. I hadn't started my college applications. I was acting, as my mother put it, sort of casual about my future. I was doing good enough, you know. I was smart enough that I could kind of get by. But I wasn't really applying myself, and so, I suspect there's a conversation that will sound familiar to some students and some parents here today. She decided to sit me down and said I had to change my attitude.

My attitude was what I imagine every teenager's attitude is when your parents have this conversation with you like that. I was like, you know, I don't need to hear all of this. I'm doing OK. I'm not flunking out. So, I started to say that, and she just cut me right off. She said, you can't just sit around waiting for luck to see you through. She said, you can get into any school that you want in the country if you just put in a little bit effort. She gave me a hard look, and she said, you remember what that's like, effort?


BLITZER: Education is certainly a major priority for the Obama administration. A $117 billion already been spent, invested in programs under the American recovery and reinvestment act. And there's a big focus on early education and holding teachers accountable. Accountability is undergoing a critical test today right here in the president's backyard where the incumbent mayor is fighting for his political life.

And joining us now from the White House, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The education policy is that the current mayor in Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty, and his education chief, Michelle Rhee, they tried to do the best they can. They were implementing policies that you and the president support. The president is obviously very much onboard. Why didn't the president endorse the incumbent mayor?

DUNCAN: Well, I think the president had elections all over the country, and I don't know if he can endorse in every situation. But speaking personally, we've been extraordinarily pleased with the progress here in DC. As you know so well, Wolf, for probably decades, the school system here on the nation's capital was frankly an embarrassment, horrendous results for children. And over the past three years, we've seen remarkable progress. And I give the mayor and the chancellor -- chancellor re tremendous credit for having the courage to move the system in the right direction.

BLITZER: Listen to what our education contributor, Steve Perry, said earlier today here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: I am disappointed that the president has not come out in favor of Mayor Fenty as well as Michelle Rhee. She was someone who he used as a point of credibility for his own plans. Now that the house is on fire, he's not there to speak loudly or throw a bucket of water on the fire.

BLITZER: You know Steve Perry. He's really disappointed in the president because Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee are about to lose, if you believe the polls. And the president, if he had gotten involved, presumably could have helped them.

DUNCAN: I don't know the politics. I don't know what will happen today. But, again, the courage showed by Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee have been fantastic. Their reforms have to continue here. D.C.'s made tremendous progress. Clearly has a long way to go. And that progress cannot afford to stop. There's no reason this school system should be one of the worst in the country. It has the chance to be one of the best. We want to work very, very hard. As you know, D.C. is one of the winners of the race to the top competition in the second round, one of the 11 winners, we're investing $75 million in the district because we believe so strongly in the direction it's going and the reforms have to continue.

BLITZER: If they lose, if Mayor Fenty loses and as education policies go down, won't that send a disturbing signal to other mayors, other education chiefs around the country -- you know what? You better not tamper with the status quo because you could be going down? The powerful special interests might take you down?

DUNCAN: I don't think so. There's been tremendous interest shown here. What you've seen Mayor Daley do in Chicago since 1995, what you see Mayor Bloomberg doing in New York. And stepping up saying we can't have a great city if we don't have a great public education system. Continuing to drive education reform is hugely important. School systems can't do it by themselves. Everyone has to rally behind that effort. The business community, the philanthropic community, the not for profit, the social services agencies, everybody has to work together to give our children the chance they need to fulfill the academic and social potential.

BLITZER: Let me read to you a line for that foundation for public education report that came out not that long ago. "The American educational system is systematically failing black males. Out of the 48 states reporting, black males are the least likely to graduate from high school in 33 states and black and Latino males are tied with the least likely in four states." Why have we failed the black young man in the country?

DUNCAN: I think there's a multitude of reasons why. I think we have to start much earlier, great early childhood programs, making sure that students enter kindergarten, ready to learn, ready to read. The young black boys who don't have a strong father figure at home need a mentor or role model at an early age to support them. Give them a vision of what success looks like. What's possible? For all of the devastating statistics nationally, we have more and more high poverty, high performing schools where 99 percent of black males are graduating, going to college. We have to build upon the successes. Finally, Wolf, one of the challenges is across the country now, less than 2 percent, less than 1 in 50 of our teachers is an African- American male. Something is wrong with that picture. We want to help recruit that next generation of black male leaders to come to the classroom and make a difference in the life of our children.

BLITZER: This other line jumped out at me, I'll read it to you. "The great variation of the factors among districts and states indicates it drivers are not individual students but the adults responsible for the policies and practices of the educational systems in which they study." You agree, the adults are to blame, not the kids.

DUNCAN: Absolutely. Poverty is not destiny. Social challenges in the community are not destiny. We can take you to school after school in some of the toughest neighborhoods in urban areas around the country where, again, every single student is graduating from high school and the overwhelming majority is going to college. We, as adults, have to lift our game. If we don't do it, we perpetuate poverty and social failure. It's incumbent upon us to give our students the opportunities they need to fulfill their god-given potential.

BLITZER: The education secretary. Good luck, we're counting on you, Mr. Secretary.

Thank you for the opportunity. Have a good afternoon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sarah Palin has managed to make a few enemies within her own party. Wait until you hear who's ticked off with her now.

And why a soldier should have thought twice about his surprise homecoming.


BLITZER: Serious scare in Paris over the last few hours involving the Eiffel tower, an evacuation there. Jim Bittermann is our man in Paris. Jim tell our viewers what's going on right now. A lot of folks were nervous.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the situation is now over as far as we can tell. The police have said that employees can go back in the Eiffel tower. They evacuated the Eiffel tower about two hours this evening. A little over two hours this evening. They received an anonymous phone threat around 8:20 local time. It's now after 11:00 here. That phone threat was serious enough that they decided to evacuate the Eiffel tower and about 2,000 people in the tower but also people in buildings surrounding the tower were evacuated. I was over there just a short while ago. They are now pretty much calmly and routinely going about drawing back the perimeters, the police perimeters that were set up. So I think the situation is turning back -- returning to normal now. But for a while there, there was -- there was a great deal of interest in exactly what's happening because of the symbolism there. Wondering the world's most important symbols and the most important tourist places. BLITZER: There have been reports in the last half-hour about train stations and metro stops being evacuated as well because of other threats.

BITTERMAN: In fact that all happened simultaneously with the evacuation of the Eiffel tower. While that was going on, police were also evacuating a commuter rail station about two miles away or so. And that situation lasted about 15, 20 minutes as they went through the train station and declared an all-clear. That returned to normal quite quickly. The tower, of course, is another story. We have quite a bit of steel to inspect.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stay in close touch with you, Jim. Thanks very much. If you get some more information, you'll let us know. Jim Bittermann is in Paris.

With a dramatic primary season now drawing to a close, the tea party movement has dealt a major blow to the Republican establishment across the country. Let's discuss with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. So what's happening here, Gloria, to the GOP?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I think you would have to say this is not a great year for having a great resume, a long political resume. Back in 2008, when Republicans were recruiting their candidates, they were trying to prove they had a political pulse after Barack Obama won. So what did they do? They recruited a lot of establishment, well-known Republican candidates. They were feeling very good about the incumbents for re-election. Take a look at this, Bob Bennett of Utah who was beaten by a tea party candidate, Mike Lee in a state Republican convention, Lisa Murkowski just lost in Alaska to another tea party candidate. Trey Grayson from Kentucky was beaten by Rand Paul, of course, and we've got Governor Charlie Crist of Florida who was afraid of being beaten in a Republican primary by Marco Rubio. He switched parties and became an independent.

BLITZER: In Delaware tonight we're going to get results pretty soon that would have potentially national ramifications.

BORGER: Absolutely. Lots of folks are saying that those voters in Delaware can determine whether Republicans are going to take over the Senate. But the lesson here from Mike Castle is that campaigns matter. And I spoke to a senior Republican strategist today, very involved in this campaign, who said, look, they learned the lesson from Senator Murkowski. Senator Murkowski lost. She lost by 1600 votes. She had a million dollars in the bank. She didn't go on the attack the way she should have. And what you're seeing play out in Delaware as Jessica Yellin has been reporting all day today, is that Mike Castle is leaving no stone unturned. They're unleashing a lot of the vitriol against the tea party candidate. They do not intend to lose.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in the next couple of hours. Thanks very much. Gloria will be here as well.

The former British prime minister, Tony Blair, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll ask if he has any regrets about going to war against Saddam Hussein. Plus, new concerns about popular cough medicines, why they could no longer be available over the counter.


BLITZER: Go deeper on what's going on in Delaware on this day. We'll bring in our strategy session. Joining us are two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Mary Matalin. I'm curious to get your reaction. Charles Krauthammer, a lot of our viewers will know his name. He says this -- as far as what's going on in Delaware, "The Palin endorsement, I think, is disruptive and capricious. In Delaware, O'Donnell, the tea party favorite, will lose. That could be the difference between the Republican and Democratic control." Mary, what do you think's going on over there in Delaware?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there's only one man in the country as far as Charles and that is Rush Limbaugh. He's got his finger on the pulse. This is not about Sarah Palin versus the establishment Republicans. There's only one Sarah Palin. She's indisputably the most effective Republican in the country today. But it's about the role and scope and size of government. And it's a 70/30 issue. And in that 70 percent, our Democrats, independents are coming down on the side of affordable, limited reform, conservative, constitutional government. The argument against O'Donnell is she can't win. On what evidence? She's 11 points down in the blue state. She has to make up 5 1/2, not 11 points. She only has to make up half that distance. If you want to talk about college, her opponent, the Democrat, wrote a paper in college called it "the making of a bearded Marxist." Hardly what you want to run on if you want to look backwards. So she has under two months and she has two monster messages. She could potentially be the 51st Senate vote and she would be a reliable, fiscal conservative Senate vote. The argument against her that some are making that she can't win is unknown.

BLITZER: Let me ask Donna. Donna, who would you rather have the Democratic candidate in Delaware run against, the tea party favorite or the establishment Republican candidate, Congressman Mike Castle?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No question that the tea party has brewed a lot of division in the Republican Party while they provided a lot of initial on the outset of this election. We've seen several Republican candidates go down in defeat in the Senate primaries because quite honestly what Mary described as the so-called principles is dividing even the Republicans. A moderate Republican, Mr. Castle, who is now, you know, have to defend his record against a very extremist candidate in Miss O'Donnell. She is also, as we speak, Wolf, there are robo calls now that are being -- being, you know, put out all over there.

BLITZER: You would rather face her, though, than face Mike Castle as a Democrat. Is that right?

BRAZILE: No question. We like some of the tea party candidates. It's very easy to go up and tell the elective, look, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin hand-picked candidate. You want this person to go to Washington, D.C.? No.

BLITZER: Look at the poll numbers in Nevada right now. Mary, Harry Reid, Sharron Angle, she's the tea party favorite Republican candidate, 46 percent for Harry Reid, 44 percent for Sharron Angle, well within the sampling error. A lot of folks thought if there had been a more establishment Republican candidate, that candidate would have destroyed Harry Reid by now.

MATALIN: You know, it's counterfactual. It's unknowable. And everything that Donna just said about the candidate in Delaware is what Harry Reid spent $10 million saying about Sharron Angle and they said about Paul Rand. One thing we heard is causing people fringe and flake is not bringing them down, demeaning the opposition is not doing it. People would rather vote for a bona fide conservative, even if there's some attacks on this like this than known liberal profligate spenders. That's the nature of this spike cycle.

BLITZER: Donna here's some numbers that should make you worry in Connecticut, New England. A new poll has Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate, with 51 percent. Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate, former wrestling czar, 45 percent, sampling error margin, 3.3 percent. It's a very close race in Connecticut but really should it be that close?

BRAZILE: We didn't put the country on the brink of an economic depression. I think these polls are irrelevant at this time. They should guide the strategists on where to target the resources in the final weeks of the campaign. The truth is, this is going to come out to turnout. And if you see these tight races -- these races tighten up across the country, what Democrats should take from the script is they have to go out there and rally their base and reach out to as many independents as possible. The Republicans are charged up. They want to come back and take the country back to where we've been in the last eight years. Democrats have to go out there and say, these candidates are hand picked by Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, you want this person in Washington, D.C.? I guarantee the answer will be hell no.

BLITZER: Turn out, turn out, turn out. That is going to be decisive. Thank you, Donna and Mary.

And Jack Cafferty will be right back, and also Bill Clinton responds to a very public criticism of his truthfulness in a strange way.


BLITZER: Over to Jack Cafferty once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Here is the question: Should Congress consider adjourning early to campaign when they haven't bothered to pass a federal budget? Ain't they cute?

Steve writes: "Should pass a budget absolutely, but they won't, because the public would know how they voted. By waiting until after the election they Congress can do whatever they want to regardless of what they say in the campaign."

Don writes: "I think our Congress ought to act more like our state Senate here in Georgia. They by law cannot adjourn until they have a viable budget for the year no matter what the circumstances are."

Curtis writes: "President Clinton's genius was his ability to focus on the most important duty the government has during his administration with four simple words, it's the economy, stupid. The mentally challenged politicians today in Washington would do well to amend that phrase to read it's the deficit, stupid."

Chris in North Carolina: "The current Congress should adjourn forever and then each state should send back a functional representative for replacement in November."

Erin writes: "Absolutely not but I am sure this is still somehow George Bush's fault."

Ken in Maryland says: "You start by saying that the lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves. You're assuming they're capable of feeling shame. I think they've proven otherwise. I don't get to leave work before my job is done. Why should they?"

Jim writes: "The overwhelming number one priority for members of Congress is to campaign and get reelected. It's called taking care of number one. The rest of us as a whole are lucky to break into the top ten. Pass a budget? Don't be absurd."

And Charles writes: "Change we can believe in."

If you want to read more on, this you will find it on my blog at -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. Don't go too far away.

A dramatic reunion between an American hiker and the mother who has tried to free her from Iran in more than a year.


BLITZER: A surprising follow-up to a former spat between former presidential rivals that took on new life this week. Today, Bill Clinton endorsed Jerry Brown for governor of California, this just days after Brown mocked Bill Clinton's involvement in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and then apologized for it. An ad by Brown's Republican opponent harkened back to the 1992 presidential campaign feud between Brown and Clinton. This is 2010 and there is an election in a few weeks. Clinton says that he and Brown put their campaign fight behind them a long time ago.

Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Well, Wolf, a Mexican TV cameraman who had been abducted after reporting on problems in a prison wants to find a safe haven here in the United States. Alejandro Hernandez was one of four journalists kidnapped in July. He escaped or was released and he came to United States illegally on tourism visa, but he wants asylum, because he fears that he will be killed in Mexico.

An FDA advisory panel has ruled against making over-the-counter cough medicines like Nyquil, Robitussin and Tylenol into cough medicines. These medicines contain a powerful ingredient known as Dex that teens are using to get high. When mixed with other prescriptions or illegal drugs, the combination can be deadly, and as one parent knows all too well as she lost her son.

MISTY FETKO, SON DIED FROM COUGH SYRUP ABUSE: It's inexpensive and the fact is that you know the kids don't need a scary drug dealer to obtain it.

BOLDUAN: The president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America though does not see this as a major issue.

STEVE PASIERB, PARTNERSHIP FOR A DRUG-FREE AMERICA: When you have inhalant abuse four times higher and marijuana use many times higher and compared to other drugs of abuse, this is not the most serious threat facing a lot of families.

BOLDUAN: The United States drug enforcement agency says that emergency visits from 2004 to 2008 soared 70 percent due to cough syrup related abuse.

Here is a strange story about a military homecoming you have not heard before. 21-year-old Christopher tried to sneak into his Bloomington, Illinois home hoping to surprise his family, but problem is that someone alerted the police about a suspicious man wearing, of course, camouflage, who was possibly committing a break-in. The soldier and the officer ended up having the last laugh. They called Cunders (sp) mom to check out the break-in subject in the squad car. Very happy reunion and the police then snapped a photo to remember. That's quite a wake-up call, though.

BLITZER: That certainly is. It could have been a whole lot worse.

BOLDUAN: A whole lot worse.

BLITZER: Thank you, Kate.