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Tea Party Primary Win Throws GOP Into Disarray; Interview with Michael Moore

Aired September 15, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a stunning Tea Party primary win throws Republicans into disarray and leaves Democrats cheering their improved chances for keeping control of the Senate. We're taking a closer look at the Delaware outsider to took on the GOP establishment.

And, Michael Moore says Democrats are wimps and may pay a price in November for being too nice. I'll go one-on-one with the outspoken activist and filmmaker.

And young girls for sale: CNN's Amber Lyon profiles woman who lost her daughter to child sex trafficking. We're going to show you the dramatic rescue.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

An extraordinary round of primary results leaves Republicans divided and Democrats applauding. A Tea Party victory, outsider Christine O'Donnell is celebrating a stunning win in the Delaware Republican Senate primary.

But just hours ago the Tea Party movement came up short in New Hampshire, where the mainstream Republican, Kelly Ayotte was declared the winner.

Overall, the Tea Party movement has backed at least 12 Senate candidates with eight of them winning their primaries, and that includes some high-profile wins by Sharon Angle in Nevada and Joe Miller in Alaska, and Marco Rubio in Florida.

Right now it's the Tea Party victory in Delaware that has Republicans reeling and Democrats feeling a bit better about their chances to hold on to the U.S. Senate. Brian Todd is following this story for us.

Brian, what are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one political analyst says the Democrats haven't gotten news this good for months. After being on the ropes in Delaware they now believe they've got the upper hand because of the upset victory of a candidate who some key figures inside the Republican Party say is flawed.


TODD (voice over): She could savor it for a few moments. No sooner had Christine O'Donnell celebrated victory in Delaware's Republican primary than she had to defend herself to her own party.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, (R) DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I know that we can win this even if the establishment doesn't get behind me.

TODD: O'Donnell calls it a shame that her primary opponent, Mike Castle, won't endorse her. She says the same thing about remarks from some party heavyweights outside Delaware, like former Bush strategist Karl Rove. He says he's met O'Donnell, is not impressed. And says there's a host of personal questions she hasn't answered.

Quote, "How does she make her living? Why did she mislead voters about her college education? How come it took nearly two decades to pay her college bills, so she could get her college degree?"

O'Donnell's staff says she's made her living as an account executive. She's denied charged that she falsely claimed earning a master's degree. GOP strategist Rich Galen says the internal Republican warfare over O'Donnell goes beyond personal concerns.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The people of her own party didn't want her to win.

TODD (On camera): Why not, though?

GALEN: Because they wanted Castle to win. The party regulars were invested in Mike Castle. And for very good reason-decent guy, probably deserved it. Probably has spent-not probably-has spent his entire life in public service. And so they were angry about the fact that this woman kind of swept in, in the last 10 days and upset their guy.

TODD (voice over): The national Republican leadership now says it supports O'Donnell and is steering some money her way. But before the primary vote, I asked O'Donnell about worries inside the GOP about what a victory for her might mean.

(On camera): What about the concern that this race, this primary race be splitting the GOP in the state to an extent that the GOP won't win that seat?

O'DONNELL: My positions are based on the Republican platform. And I believe that the Republican platform of limited government, low taxation, and free market solutions to our economic crisis is a winning message.

TODD (voice over): But after O'Donnell's win, non-partisan handicapper, Stu Rothenberg not longer favors the Republicans to capture Joe Biden's old Senate seat. On the broader implication-

(On camera): Is this going to be the state race that denies the Republicans the Senate majority? STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: If you take Delaware out of the mix they really do have to run the table. They have to win Washington, Wisconsin, California, all states that are doable, but difficult states. So, it could be, it is possible.


TODD: And despite the formal show of support from the Republican National Committee, whether O'Donnell gets more money from the party is an open question. The party's group that helps elect senators has pledged $42,000. It could give her more in what is called an independent expenditure. But the indications we are getting from party big wigs is that Christine O'Donnell will have to really catch fire with Delaware voters for that to happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are you hearing from the Democrats? I know you have spoken with them, especially Chris Coons, who is the Democratic Senate candidate.

TODD: Well, we asked Coons' campaign official a short time ago, how they're going to go after O'Donnell? He says they plan to make this about Coons' Democratic values. But he says flat out, they have to draw distinctions on experience. Coons' record as a county executive versus her lack of experience. When I asked if her personal character would be an issue. This aide simply said, you saw how that backfired yesterday.

BLITZER: Good point. Thanks very much, Brian.

The GOP establishment is scrambling right now to adjust to the new reality in Delaware after this Tea Party victory. CNN's John King is joining us. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA", which airs right at the top of the hour.

You had a chance to speak with the Republican Party chairman Michael Steele today. What did he say?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, JOHN KING USA: It's kiss and make up day in the Republican Party. Michael Steele is not among those who publicly questioned whether Christine O'Donnell could win in November, but he was very stern today in saying, look, give her a chance in Delaware.

And number two, Wolf, Michael Steele is very concerned that if you criticize her, you're criticizing those who voted for her. And there are people like that. Not just in Delaware but in many key battleground states across he country. So I asked Michael Steele about, you know, Michael Castle, the opponent, the Republican congressman. He today said he would not endorse her, she could not win statewide. Many other Republicans have said she cannot win statewide. So, I said to Michael Steele, what is your message to those questioning her?


MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CMTE.: I don't know if she can win until we try. How can you claim defeat before you attempt victory? This makes no sense. It makes no sense, so stop it. Stop it.

KING: That's your message to them? Stop it.

STEEL: That's my message. Stop and let's get behind our nominees. And win the election. Then we can have a meeting and sit down and talk about all that stuff. Let me tell you, victory is going to be a sweet thing. And I don't think you want to have that meeting where you're going to start parsing out who's up, who's down, who wins, who loses.


KING: So he, Michael Steele, says he has asked major party fundraisers to help her out and raise some money for her. The big question, of course, is in a week or 10 days if she hasn't moved the polls, will she get the independent expenditure money. Another person who will help her, Wolf, is Jim DeMint, the conservative senator from South Carolina. He has his own PAC. He also has a network of conservatives activists around the country. He told me today, if the national party won't help her, he will.

BLITZER: And Sarah Palin will certainly help her. And she is, obviously, as we know, a powerful force right now.

KING: If you look at the example of Sharon Angle, when she won the primary out of Nevada, many people said the same thing. She can't win. She is out of the mainstream. Maybe Republicans should look elsewhere. She had a few initial bumps in raising money. And then a lot of people said, hey, look, let's help her out. Harry Reid is still vulnerable. And she has done OK, not great, but she has done OK, fundraising. Christine O'Donnell, many Republicans say, on this first day after is doing better than Sharon Angle did on day one. And they think she'll be OK.

BLITZER: And you are going to have much more coming up at the top of the hour, right?

KING: You bet.

BLITZER: More of the interview with Michael Steele as well?

KING: Michael Steel, Jim DeMint, a great conversation.

BLITZER: Excellent. Thanks very much, John.

Jack Cafferty will be here in just a moment with "The Cafferty File."

Then, CNN's Amber Lyon has some shocking and heartbreaking stories with a stunning ending.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was there with a wig on, she had on a purple negligee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your 12-year-old daughter?



BLITZER: Plus the controversial filmmaker who wants to be, yes the White House chief of staff, Michael Moore. Part two of our interview, he tells me how he would go about helping President Obama.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File. "


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: It's not like the Democrats don't have enough problems going into these midterms in November. Now comes word that number of people in this country who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Obama's watch. It's not to say that it's President Obama's fault, or the Democrats fault, it's likely the product of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

But some political damage will likely accrue to the Democrats anyway. Census figures for 2009 are coming out soon and it is expected the poverty rate will have increased from 13.2 percent to 15 percent of our population. That translates to 45 million people. One in every seven of us is now poor.

It would be the highest increase in poverty since the government began keeping records in 1959. Among working people between the ages of 18 and 64, poverty is expected to have increased from 11.7 to 12.4 percent. It doesn't sound like much, but that would be the highest since 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty. Which greatly expanded the federal government's role in social welfare programs, everything from education to healthcare.

So here's the question, how will record levels of poverty in the United States likely impact the midterm elections? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Pretty serious and depressing numbers there, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Very sad.

BLITZER: Very sad indeed. Thank you.

Craigslist says it has no plans to reactivate its adult services ad section. The Internet advertising site made that announcement made to House members looking into the growing problem of under-aged prostitution online. CNN's Amber Lyon was at today's hearing. She is joining us now from Capitol Hill with more.

I know you have been working hard on this story, Amber. Tell our viewers what has happened.

AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today these representatives in this hearing had a representative of Craigslist there. And they were drilling him, asking him when all this pressure leaves, when all the media leaves and it has kind of fizzles down are you going to reopen this adult services section that you closed down on September 4? And the representative at today's meeting says that they have, quote, "No intention of reopening the adult services section.

After that representatives praised Craigslist for making this decision, saying they can be an example to other similar Internet sites.

Another big question that was raised at today's hearing was why isn't there more research as to the number of U.S. children who are being sex trafficked? Because this research just doesn't exist. It has been something that's been very difficult for us, as journalists, to find out. We have been trying to figure out the numbers here. We hit the streets, Wolf, and we found out that unfortunately this is happening.


LYON (on camera): OK, so where are we headed right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going upstairs to her bedroom. She's a normal 12-year-old.

LYON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hanna Montana, the Jonas Brothers.

LYON: Do you sleep in her bed at night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do. Just so I can still, basically, have that connection.

LYON (voice over): A mother's anguish. Her 12-year-old daughter lured away by a pimp on her way home from school in April. She's then sold for sex on Craigslist before the site closed its adult services section. She is also trafficked on another website,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A friend of mine told me to look on Craigslist. And it almost blew my mind, I really didn't believe what I saw. She was there, with a wig on, she had a purple negligee.

LYON: Your 12-year-old daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And the other one was just her rear end, I mean she was bent over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody wants to know when you look at a website and you see a list of prostitutes, how many of them are children?


LYON: Back in June, we asked Craigslist to estimate the number of potentially under-aged trafficking victims in its adult services ads. Their answer, quote, "Effectively zero".

ALLEN: That's not true. We have been able to find, locate and return home 54 missing kids on Craigslist. Now that is a tiny fraction of what the total scope of the problem is. We found 12 kids on Backpage.

LYON: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children gave us current missing child posters, all being sold for sex. There are 52 missing persons posters behind me representing 52 girls, all under age 18, all missing right now, Christina, Monica, Rachel. And the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says all 52 of these children are being sex trafficked, Erica, Ashley, Nicole. The vast majority of them being sold on the Internet.

We have got white girls here, black girls here, Hispanic girls here, Asian girls. The youngest girl on this wall went missing when she was 13 years old.

A lot of these have something in common. She may be in the company of an adult male. Over here, Christina may be in the company of an adult male. In this case that adult male is most likely the pimp.

A group based in Georgia, called A Future Not A Past, commissioned a study. They were focusing on the men who try to buy sex online with under-aged girls.

KAFFIE MCCOLLOUGH, A FUTURE NOT A PAST: We wanted to know what's the scope of this problem in Georgia. And to me the results were staggering: 7,200 men a month buying sex from adolescent girls. It was like, it just took my breath away.

LYON: There's no legal obligation for websites to report ads that might involve under-aged prostitution. told CNN the site includes links to help users notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children if they identify potential abuses.

And back in 2008, Craigslist promised to, quote, "work tirelessly and in tandem with key non-profits." And agreed to report ads to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, when they seem to involve adolescents. But in a period of 15 months, Craigslist only reported 132 ads. That's 132 out of more than 700,000 adult services ads that it rejected. Ads that could have provided vital leads about children being bought and sold.

And that 12-year-old girl we told you about at the beginning, by chance, she called home just as we were speaking with her mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should be home, with your family, with your friends, with the people that love you.

LYON: It was the first time they had spoken in the two weeks since the little girl had vanished. Police rescued the 12-year-old girl and arrested a 42-year-old man and charged him with human trafficking. One girl rescued out of thousands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? Just please, step away.


LYON: And back here at Capitol Hill, at today's hearing, another big question was raised about Craigslist, about whether they're going to shut down their international section. Because they said they're going to shut down their adult services section here in the U.S. And the representative there says there was no intention to shut down the international site.

Another thing, Wolf, that 12-year-old girl who was in that story is doing OK, now and the guy who's been accused of trafficking her is behind bars.

BLITZER: All right. At least that's good. Thanks very much, Amber for good reporting for us up on Capitol Hill. She's going to stay on top of this story for us as well.

A check of the day's top stories coming up next, including a new development in that undecided New Hampshire Senate race.

And then we talked to the filmmaker Michael Moore. He reacts to the latest victories for GOP. He has a theory of his own about why President Obama's poll numbers have taken a hit.


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: At least it seems like a small majority of Americans may have forgotten that the mess we're in was not caused by Barack Obama. The mess that we're in was caused by George W. Bush.



BLITZER: Kate Bolduan's got a story that's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Kate?


It's something we have been watching. A Tea Party candidate has officially conceded the Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire. Ovide Lamontagne has announced that he will not ask for a recount and will support former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte led Lamontagne by 1,000, just 1,667 votes. And Lamontagne had until 5:00 p.m. Eastern today just, an hour ago, to ask for a recount. That final vote was certified this afternoon.

In other news, we're watching former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wants his old job back. He's planning to launch a new political party on October 1. Musharraf is optimistic he can draw support from the 60 percent of Pakistanis who don't vote. The former military leader moved to London after being forced to resign in 2008. He says he'll return to his homeland for the next election in 2013.

And two suspected U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed 15 alleged militants. Pakistani officials say several missiles hit the suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan. There have been 11 drone strikes in Pakistan, in September, so far. That is the highest monthly total to date.

And federal authorities have arrested a Long Island man as part of their investigation into a failed bombing attack in Times Square in May. Prosecutors in New York say 44-year-old Mohammad Younis is charged with facilitating an illegal money transfer, which helped fund the botched attack. Authorities do not believe Younis was aware of the intentions of the suspected bomber Faisal Shahzad.

And long-time NBC newsman, Edwin Newman has died. Newman anchored the "Today Show" in the early '60s. And also served as a reporter, political moderator, drama critic and TV host, but he was equally known for his expertise in the English language. And his books on the subject including, "A Civil Tongue." Edwin Newman was 91 years old, Wolf.

BLITZER: I always admired him. I thought he was a terrific journalist. Our deepest condolences to his family.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Kate, thanks very much.

He's disappointed in the Democrats, but Michael Moore tells me he can't bear to think about the alternative.


MOORE: Responsibility now to save the Democrats from themselves. They clearly haven't been able to figure out how to do it. We cannot go back, God forbid, to two years ago with the hell that we just came out of.



BLITZER: The last big flurries of primaries before the midterm elections here in the United States has underscored the anti- incumbent, anti-Washington mood that's been sweeping the entire country. Democrats very much on the defensive, and there are predictions that the GOP could retake both houses of Congress. I spoke about that with a very outspoken political activist and filmmaker.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Michael Moore, he's in Miami.

Michael, do Democrats deserve to lose big-time in November?

MOORE: Oh, my God, no. I mean, I have a lot of problems with what the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress have done in terms of how they didn't go in as forcefully as they should have, and really fought for some things that working people would have been so excited and enthused about this election right now. They would have been out in droves going into every neighborhood knocking on every door and getting people to come out and vote for the Democrats.

They chose to go in weak, which is what Republicans don't do. When Reagan or the Bushes, when they're elected, they come in and they act like, OK, we're in charge. Everybody out of the way. We come in, we're all like "Kumbaya," let's hold hands. I mean, that's a nice thing, it what I think makes us nice people, but it may cost us dearly in November.

BLITZER: What was the problem? Why did the country all of a sudden shift so dramatically over the past year and a half or so, from the Democrats and President Obama to what's going on now, if you believe so many of the public opinion polls?

MOORE: Because we have a short attention span. I mean who won the MTV music awards last night? Do you remember? The other night? See, you forgot already, Wolf.


We just don't -- we forgot already, at least it seems like a small majority of Americans may have forgotten that the mess we're in was not caused by Barack Obama. The mess that we're in was caused by George W. Bush. He invaded a country that was no threat to this country, and put us what will be trillions of dollars in debt eventually. Meaning we have totally screwed the future of our grandchildren. He presided over further deregulation of Wall Street and the banking industry that started under Bill Clinton. And he went -- Bush was like on steroids with letting the banks and Wall Street do whatever they want. He caused a huge crash that we're not out of the woods yet, and frankly, we may even be heading toward another different form of crash.

BLITZER: I ask these questions, Mike.


BLITZER: Because in your most recent column that you wrote, you say that you are complaining about what is going on, do the Democrats deserve what they're about to get? You ask, and your answer, absolutely. And I was a little confused by what you precisely meant by that.

MOORE: Well, they deserve it only in the sense that they brought a lot of this on themselves. But I also, I believe, went on to say, that we have a responsibility now to save the Democrats from themselves. They clearly haven't been able to figure out how to do it. We cannot go back. God forbid, to two years ago. With what the hell that we just came out of. If you want more of that, if you thought the first decade of this century was just, wow, really something, I guess go ahead and vote for the Republicans.

If you want John Boehner -- let me just pause for a moment, just to kind of visualize that -- as your speaker of the House, go for it. But I got to believe that most Americans, by the time they get in the booth will go, they're going to walk in there and go, "Oh, these damned Democrats. Why don't they have some guts? Why aren't they doing this or that? But whoa, I'm not going back to what we had so I'm voting for the Democrat, damn it."

BLITZER:: Why are so Democrats running away from their vote on health-care reform, and those Democrats who opposed it are sort of proud that they voted against it. You've seen these commercials.

MOORE: Because Democrats are wimps. I don't know. I've said this for a long time. They don't have the courage of their convictions. It's what I've always admired about Republicans. Even when they're so wrong -- I mean, they couldn't be more wrong and sometimes more stupid. They just keep doing the same thing because they believe in it.

They're up at 6 in the morning. They're there at the crack of dawn, just -- just banging away, and you know, the only time our side sees the crack of dawn is when we've been up all night. So we're a little -- we're a little loosey-goosey when it comes to hard-core political action, and we better get it together.

What have we got now, Wolf? We've got some six -- six, some weeks, seven weeks? You know, not long. And these Republicans, look, the best thing we've got going for us is that the Republicans that are running are the Republicans who are running. They're pretty weird and scary to a lot of people.

And I think people of good heart and who've got a good head, maybe they're a little mad that Democrats didn't do that or should have done that, they're going to go, "Whoa, but we don't -- we can't have people who believe that, you know, our children should be taught that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs."

BLITZER: Have you heard these stories that have come out in the last few days, that some of the major health insurers across the country -- and I ask you this question because of your documentary "Sicko" and you're so passionate on this issue -- some of the major insurance companies, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, and others, are about to raise premiums on individuals, citing the Obama health care plan, saying it's going to be more expensive and they've got to raise premiums for a lot of average folks out there? Have you seen those stories.

MOORE: First of all, I don't have to see the story because I run a production company. I'm a small business person. And so I -- I've already seen my premiums be raised with the health care that I provide my employees. And people's health care has already gone up. They jack it up whenever they can. These insurance companies are -- are the epitome of evil. And -- and we will not really correct our health-care problem in this country until we make it illegal, illegal to own or run a health-insurance company, because it's so paradoxical to say that it's for health when it's an insurance company whose main job is to make as much money as possible.

And the best way to make as much money as possible is to deny care to as many people as possible that are part of the health- insurance plan. That's how they make their bucks. That's just a crazy system. That's got to go. Eventually that's got to go.

And that's where the Democrats messed up, because they only went halfway. You don't go halfway. If you're going to end slavery, you end slavery. You don't say, "Well, we're going to end slavery in these two states, and we'll get to those two states." If you're going to give women the vote, you don't say, "Well, we're going to give some of the women the vote this year. We'll try it out. Then next year, we'll try a few more women can vote."

That's not the way we do things. That's not the way this country gets better. And so I'm just -- I don't know what to say.

BLITZER: Let me wind up with a quick thought because in March you wrote a piece at the time. There were suggestions that Rahm Emanuel was going to be leaving the White House chief of staff jobs. You volunteered. You said you'd come in and replace Rahm Emanuel for a dollar a year, sleep on a cot in the White House basement. Well, apparently he's thinking very seriously now of running for mayor of Chicago. You still -- is your offer still on the table to become the next White House chief of staff?

MOORE: The offer is still there. Yes, the offer is still on the table. They don't have to give me that title. They can give it to somebody else. I'm just willing to come in. I'll work there every day. I'll get up with Obama. We'll get up at 6 in the morning. You know, I'll help light a fire under him. We'll get going, we'll get the job that needs to get done. We'll stand up for the American people, stand up for the working people, you know, have some guts. And that's, like, what I think we need.

And so I'm willing to do that. If the president's watching, I'll come -- I'll come help him out. I mean, I'm already down here in Miami now. I'm working out with LeBron. I'm getting him ready for the basketball season. You know, working with him. And -- and he's doing well. Let me say, I think the Heat are looking good this year. But I'm doing my part to help him, you know, have the best season ever.

BLITZER: Yes, well...

MOORE: And by the way, can I just say this about LeBron?


MOORE: That a lot of people have criticized his decision. You know, for the young people watching, and young people do watch your show, right, Wolf? BLITZER: There are some.

MOORE: OK, LeBron James didn't go with the biggest offer of money. He went with what would make him happy. He went where he thought he could win. And he went because he liked to play with his friends. That's a pretty good example to set. So I wish him well down here.

BLITZER: Well, I wish him well except when he plays the Washington Wizards, my team, when the Miami Heat come to Washington. I'm looking forward to him coming, but I'd like to see the Wizards upset the Miami Heat, but I know it's going to be -- it's going to be a challenge.

MOORE: Yes, how about this, too? When the community center is finally built, the Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan, Wolf, you and I do a one-on-one game. I'm a Catholic. You're Jewish. We'll do it in the Muslim center. That's America. What do you say?

BLITZER: Well, basketball was never my strength. I've got to tell you.

MOORE: Don't worry. You'll kick my ass, Wolf. Don't worry.

BLITZER: Michael Moore, thanks as usual for coming in.

MOORE: All right. Thank you.


BLITZER: We're just getting this into THE SITUATION ROOM. We are now hearing that the president will, in fact, go ahead and name Elizabeth Warren to be a special advisor to oversee what's being called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. He's going to do this without having her formally go through Senate confirmation. She's going to be advisor to the president and to the treasury secretary.

It's been controversial. She's a controversial figure. There are some who thought she wouldn't be able to get through Senate confirmation, but she is going to go ahead. The president's going to do it this week, name Elizabeth Warren, in effect, to be -- have the special advisory role overseeing this new agency to protect the finances of American individuals.

All right, we'll stay on top of that story, as well.

Neck and neck in Nevada. We're taking a closer look at some new polls just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM for key Senate races across the country. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There could be some real cliffhangers on election day, November 2. We've just received the latest CNN/"TIME" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation polling on some key Senate races. We're doing this every Wednesday between now and November 2.

Joining us now is Michael Crowley of "TIME" magazine, one of their political reporters.

Let's go to Nevada, Michael, first. You can see up there, Sharron Angle, 42 percent; Harry Reid, the majority leader, 41 percent. These are likely voters.


BLITZER: This is neck and neck.

CROWLEY: Well, and likely voters is key. Because some of the polls that don't take into likely voters don't measure the enthusiasm gap that we're seeing, where Republicans are charged up, and they want to go out and vote. Democrats are a little disaffected. Some of them are disillusioned with President Obama.

The thing I think Democrats really have to worry about here is that with Sharron Angle, they were saying, "Well, it's a Tea Party nominee. She's wacky. She can never be elected." If Sharron Angel is doing that well in Nevada, who knows what could happen in some of these other races like Alaska or Nevada where Democrats are saying there's no way the Tea Party nominee could beat the Democrat. So that is the real -- not just for its implications in Nevada but across the country. A real red flag for Democrats.

BLITZER: It could be a pickup for the Republicans, obviously, if she wins.

Let's go to Ohio right now. It's a key battleground state. The former Republican congressman, Rob Portman, is fighting Lee Fisher. Fifty-two percent for the Republican, 41 percent for Fisher. Remember, these are likely voters. He looks pretty strong right now.

CROWLEY: Yes. You know, Wolf, I was out in Ohio for a week in May, and things were not looking so bad for Fisher at the time. People were saying, you know, Fisher was not what the Washington Democratic establishment thought was a great candidate, but he was sort of over performing. And they were worried that Rob Portman was going to do better.

But this summer, the economy really sputtered. The arguments about the stimulus didn't really kick in. Unemployment in Ohio is terrible. And Portman is pulling away, and I think Democrats were feeling we might be able to hold Ohio but in this case, may not be the case. It's really starting to slip away from them.

BLITZER: Patty Murray, the incumbent Democrat in Washington state, she is ahead among likely voters in this new CNN/"TIME" magazine poll. Fifty-three percent to 44 percent against Dino Rossi. Is that going to be a lot or it could be a lot closer between now and November?

CROWLEY: I think it could get closer. One thing I know about Washington state that I can tell you is that outside groups are coming in and running ads. It's kind of an X factor there, as it is in a lot of states right now. It's not just the candidates and their campaigns, but it's groups that are based in Washington. They're kind of pouring ads into the airwaves that could really tilt the balance. But right now a bright spot for Democrats when they don't have a lot to cling to, so I think they'll take what they can get right now.

BLITZER: In all of your reporting across the country, are you seeing the same thing, at least anecdotally, that we're seeing, that the enthusiasm level for Republicans, conservatives so much higher than for Democrats?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I go back to that point I made about likely voters in polls, always -- the likely voter polls are always going to show, I think, a more accurate picture of the mood out in the country right now. That Republicans are energized. They want to go out and vote. They're upset. They want to see change. And a lot of Democrats are feeling like they had higher expectations for Obama and this Congress. They're not necessarily seeing them realized. A lot of them may stay home. It's a big problem for Democrats right now.

BLITZER: You new issue of "TIME" magazine is going to be a major political reporting. I guess you're working on it right now. Right?

CROWLEY: I have to get back and finish it. We're going to have a great story on the Tea Parties, and we're going to have a great story that I'm working on, hopefully, about outside groups that I mentioned, including a Washington state money, hundreds of millions of dollars coming in from Washington that could affect the midterm balance.

BLITZER: Michael Crowley is a political reporter for our sister publication, "TIME" magazine. We're going to do this every Wednesday, look at these new polls.

CROWLEY: Looking forward to it.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: A day after releasing one of the detained American hikers, Iran makes an announcement about their trials. We're going to have details along with other top stories right after the break.

And later, a skateboarder steals a Koran from a man threatening to burn it. But it's what he said afterwards that's making -- that's making him an Internet celebrity. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on, Kate? KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, an Iranian prosecutor says the trial for three American hikers will begin soon. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain in prison in Tehran. Sarah Shourd, as we all know, was released yesterday on $500,000 bail, reportedly posted by Omani sources. Shourd is now in Oman, waiting to travel back to the U.S.

The hikers were arrested over a year ago after allegedly straying across the border into Iran.

And a new class of bigger, faster Internet connections called super wi-fi may soon be coming out to a computer near you. The FCC is considering opening up so-called vacant airwaves, which could make a more powerful wi-fi system possible. The system could lead to wireless Internet in rural areas, public wireless, public wireless hot spots and fewer wi-fi dead zones. That's hard to say. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the matter next week.

And the Associated Press reports the Obama administration is cracking down on unused oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. It says new rules issued today will require oil and gas companies to plug about 3,500 inactive oil wells and dismantle 650 abandoned platforms. AP quotes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, saying the changes could prevent catastrophic leaks at the site and make energy production in the Gulf safer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kate, thank you.

Jack Cafferty in "The Cafferty File" coming up next. Later on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour, the Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, reacts to last night's Tea Party win. He tells John his strategy for the fall.

But first, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a skateboarder who prevented a Koran from being burned. He's now a most unusual star. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is how will record levels of poverty in the United States impact the midterm elections?

Virginia writes from Auburn, Maine, "Depends on how smart or stupid people are. If they're smart, the increase in poverty levels will create a corresponding increase in votes for the Democrats. Why anyone poor would vote Republican is beyond me."

Missy writes, "It doesn't matter if Democrats are at fault or not. They're the party in power. Democrats have controlled Congress since 2006. The nation looks to them for solutions, and when they fail to address the very real problems this country has, they deserve all the blame that is heaped upon them." Joe writes, "Hard to say how it will affect the elections. It does indicate, though, how effective the emphasis on preventing the transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor has been. The rich are accumulating all the wealth."

Mike writes, "It's already shown its effect. The only group people can turn to if they are fed up with the status quo is the Tea Party. It's very possible people are voting for the Tea Party candidates simply out of frustration, not knowing what that group really stands for."

Dolores writes from Arizona, "It will probably be bad for the Democrats, and there are so many voters out there with short-term memory loss who don't remember who got us into this. I was not an Obama fan, but whatever he does, it's 100 percent better than what Bush did, and I give him credit. He's trying. You can't clean up an eight-year mess in less than two years."

And Herb writes from Florida, "It won't impact them at all. The Tea Party and Republican voters will just step over and around the poor on their way to the voting booth."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog, It's a delightful address, wouldn't you agree?

BLITZER: Very delightful. We'll do -- do it again tomorrow.


BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: A skateboarder steals a Koran from a radical Christian who was trying to burn it, but it's not what he did that people can't seem to forget. It's what's he said. That most unusual remark just ahead.


BLITZER: Today's "Hot Shots."

In El Salvador, commandos march in an independence day parade.

In Guatemala, students take part in a parade for their country's independence day, which is also today.

In New York City, a model gets ready to walk the runway during Fashion Week.

And at a zoo in Switzerland, check it out. An Indian lion rests his head on a rock.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

A skateboarder is in the spotlight for his most unusual comments at a planned Koran burning. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two words you won't expect to find in the same sentence: "dude" and "Koran." Words uttered by this 23-year-old skateboarder as he snatched the Koran away from a radical Christian threatening to burn it.

JACOB ISOM, SKATEBOARDER: Snuck up behind him and took his Koran. He said something about burning the Koran. I was like, "Dude, you have no Koran," and ran off.

MOOS: Ran off to his skateboard and took off. Now his line has taken off.

ISOM: I was, like, "Dude, you have no Koran."

MOOS: Now Jacob Isom is being "duded" to death. "Dude, you are a hero. You rule, dude. God bless you, dirty hippie."

ISOM (via phone): They agree, like, "Way to go, what you did," and then they make fun of my haircut or stuff like that. It cracks me up.

MOOS: Jacob works at a pizza shop and aspires to host a cooking show.

ISOM (on camera): Jake make cheese steak. Let's go.

MOOS: Jacob went to the "burn a Koran event" in Amarillo, Texas, to protest it. Demonstrators chanted at the guy threatening to burn the Muslim holy book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hate breeds hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hate breeds hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hate breeds hate.

MOOS: Protesters put their hands on the grill to prevent the burning, and Jacob pretended he was one of the burners, standing behind their leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if someone burned the Bible?

DAVID GRISHAM, ORGANIZED ANTI-KORAN EVENT: Let them do it. It's a free country.

MOOS: Seconds later, Jacob snatched the Koran, which had already been doused with lighter fluid. Watch again, behind the organizer's back.

ISOM: It's called the stolen Koran!

GRISHAM: So I'm not afraid of them.

MOOS: Jacob gave the book to a Muslim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some brave young gentleman on a skateboard.

MOOS: Jacob describes himself as agnostic. Some described him as a thief, to which Jacob said...

ISOM (via phone): Somebody's going to, like, purchase all the material to make a bomb, and I'm going to steal it from them before they put their bomb together and blow it up, does that make me a thief?

MOOS (on camera): As for the skateboard on which Jacob made his getaway, guess where that ended up?

(voice-over) Where else? eBay. We're not even sure Jacob uttered the exact words now plastered on a T-shirt. Sounds more like, "It's called the stolen Koran."

ISOM (on camera): It's called the stolen Koran?

MOOS (on camera): Does this whole "Dude, you have no Koran" line remind you of anything? Remember this guy?

ANDREW MEYER, STUDENT: Don't taze me, bro!

MOOS: Jacob wasn't tazed, but he did seem a little dazed.

ISOM (via phone): What radio station is this?

MOOS (on camera): No, it's not the radio. It's CNN.

ISOM: Oh, I'm talking to CNN right now?

MOOS: Yes, Jacob.

ISOM: Wow.

MOOS (voice-over): The Koran didn't ignite, but Jacob sure is burning up the Internet.

ISOM (on camera): Dude, you have no Koran.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

ISOM: Dude, you have no Koran.

MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: Jeanne, thanks very much.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at, @WolfBlitzerCNN. Remember, all one word.

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Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts now.