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Message to Voters: We're Like You; Four Weeks To Go Frenzy; Negative Ad Tsunami; Interview with Jim Huffman

Aired October 5, 2010 - 17:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Patrick Oppman, thank you so much.

Apologies. Got to go. Got SITUATION here in just about 20 seconds.

But just to finish -- 35 men, they're going to have to give them shots, sedatives. Imagine going up in that teeny, tiny capsule. Of course, we will be there. We'll be live when they do that.

Meantime, THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- having a big job. I've got two brother- in-laws that are unemployed. I understand what's going on out in America.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's the thing with this strategy -- you can't have it both ways. Sharon Angle, who has positioned herself as the ultimate outsider in her race against the ultimate insider, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in Nevada, was caught on tape bragging about her Washington connections as she (AUDIO GAP).


SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: That's really all I can offer to you is whatever juice I have, you have as well. You want to see DeMint, I have juice with DeMint. I go to Washington, D.C. and I say I want to see Jim DeMint, he's right there for me.


KEILAR: Some pretty serious name dropping there, Wolf. And the lesson here -- you can't be the outsider and the insider at the same time.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And we had audio problems. I want to apologize for that.

Brianna, thanks very much.

We have reaction to Christine O'Donnell's new ad from the man who made her past remarks about dabbling in witchcraft public. That would be the comedian, the political satirist, Bill Maher. He was just wrapping up an interview with CNN's John King last night when we first learned details about O'Donnell's new ad.

Here's what Bill Maher had to say.


BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: I think when you have to start your campaign ad with, "I'm not a witch," the battle has been lost. I think she would have been much smarter to ignore that. But, you know, being much smarter is not her strong suit.


BLITZER: O'Donnell was a guest on Maher's old show, "Politically Incorrect," back in 1999, when she talked about dabbling in witchcraft when she was young.

Now to the Democrats and the tsunami of campaign ads hitting the airwaves right now.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are we hearing, Gloria, from the Democrats?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it won't surprise you, Wolf, they they're trying to individualize these races. Republicans are trying to nationalize it. Democrats are saying this is between one candidate and another candidate. So their opposition research people have been working overtime, looking at Republican candidates.

And what we are starting to see now -- and for the next few weeks, we're going to se a slew of negative advertising from Democrats against their Republican opponents.

Take a listen to a few of the greatest hits we kind of picked out today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He invested over $1 million in the oil companies that received billions in tax breaks, even companies involved in the BP oil disaster.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sued by customers for fraudulent and deceptive practices. Two Fs from the Better Business Bureau.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He even evicted a homeowner on the verge of saving his house just to make a buck.


BORGER: You know, Wolf, it's a long way from the party of hope and change to these kinds of ads. They're also not talking about health care. They're not talking about financial reform. They're not talking about the stimulus package -- all the things that they passed -- because they know that folks right now are not really pro- government. So instead, they're trying to say, look, you may be anti- incumbent, but look at the person who's running against me and you may just decide to vote for me instead.

BLITZER: Well, Republicans are going negative, too.

BORGER: Sure they are. But with their negative ads, they're trying to make the larger points -- the larger points about government, the larger points about Barack Obama.

Take a listen to some of these.


BEN QUAYLE (R), ARIZONA HOUSE CANDIDATE: Barack Obama is the worst president in history. And my generation will inherit a weakened country, drug cartels in Mexico, tax cartels in DC.

What's happened to America?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the worst economy in decades and the folks in Washington are living it, spending our tax dollars like there's no tomorrow. Leading this big song and dance, Obama, of course, and Nancy Pelosi.


BORGER: Well, Nancy Pelosi, as you know, is a real favorite in these ads. I should say that that last advertisement was paid for by a third party group. And you can't underestimate the impact that those third party groups are going to have in this election. The Democrats claim that Republican third party groups have spent $66 million versus about $13 million for the Democrats. That could really end up being a game changer in this election.

BLITZER: Could all of this negativity turn off Independent voters?

BORGER: You know, that's the -- that's the big question mark, because Independent voters have made it very clear so far that they're -- that they like what Republicans have to say more than Democrats. But they've also made it clear in a couple of recent polls that they have no long-term allegiance to the Republican Party. So the question is, once they start seeing these ads, do they just decide to sit at home?

If they decide to sit at home, that could help the Democrats this time.

BLITZER: We'll see.

Thanks very much, Gloria, for that.


BLITZER: Republicans are eager to pick up any and every Senate seat they -- they certainly can get.

Do they have any real hope, though, in the state of Oregon for an upset?

Stand by. My interview with the GOP challenger, Jim Huffman. That's coming up.

Does he really expect to ride on the sea of the Tea Party movement, the Sarah Palin bandwagon?

Stand by for the interview.

And Newt Gingrich's provocative plan for Republican victories. He says this election comes down to a choice between a choice between paychecks and food stamps.


BLITZER: The co-hosts of CNN's new prime time program, "PARKER SPITZER," are out of the gates swinging. And they're holding Democrats and Republicans accountable. In case you missed last night's first show, this was Eliot Spitzer's opening argument for President Obama.


ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": Mr. President, I'm a fan, a big supporter. I promise. I really am. But do yourself a favor, do us all a favor, fire Tim Geithner. You need a clean sweep in your economic team. Larry Summers is gone. Finish the job. Fire Tim. They haven't done the one thing people care about -- producing jobs. That's what we need -- jobs and more jobs. They took care of Wall Street, but not Main Street.

You know what, Mr. President, the reason we have a Tea Party is because your team took care of the same insiders as the last administration. We brought our hopes and aspirations to Washington with you and we've been disappointed. Please give us a Treasury secretary who understands Main Street. I've got some names. Give me a call.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, Kathleen Parker had her own message for Sarah Palin, telling the GOP lightning rod it's time to decide whether or not she's going to run for president in 2012.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": It may be that Palin is waiting for a thunderbolt or a voice from beyond to instruct her next move. In the meantime, she's teaming with RNC chairman, Michael Steele, to raise money.

Come on, Sarah, drop the tease and just tell the American people you're not running. As consolation, maybe you and Michael Steele can turn your road show into a money making gig for real -- a TV show, perhaps. You could call it "Steel Magnolia."



JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: -- than to be caught on tape in some "gotcha" political moment. Observers are -- are stunned at the lengths to which some of these candidates are going, like refusing to release public schedules to local reporters or running away from the cameras and shouted questions. Some wonder if, going forward, candidates in state races will be tightly guarded as presidential candidates.

And then again, you can't really blame the politicians completely when you take into account the rise of what's called "the tracker" culture. Opponents send staffers with camcorders to their events to record every single word a candidate utters. Make a mistake, you turn up in the opponent's campaign ad -- to be seen over and over and over again.

So here's the question -- is it better for a candidate to stay off the campaign trail or risk making a mistake?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Let's zero in now on the battle for the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to reclaim the control of the chamber. With every race important -- and even Oregon -- the state of Oregon is now on the radar for some Republicans.

The Democrat incumbent, Ron Wyden, has been in the Senate since 1996. He won his most recent term by a wide margin. But the anti- incumbent mood across the nation could leave him more vulnerable than expected against his Republican challenger, Jim Huffman.

And joining us now from Portland, Oregon, Jim Huffman. He's the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He's challenging the incumbent, Ron Wyden, the Democrat. Mr. Huffman, thanks very much for coming in.

JIM HUFFMAN (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you part of the Tea Party movement?

HUFFMAN: I wouldn't say I'm part of it, although I've spoken at numerous Tea Party rallies and I think they're an important part of -- of the -- the base that I need to have support me in this election.

BLITZER: Are they involved?

Are they helping you right now?

HUFFMAN: Well, I think they're helping. I think they're -- they -- they believe that my stands on fiscal responsibility are exactly what they're concerned about. So I think they're being very supportive.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about some of the key issues, Social Security, for example.

Do you favor privatizing Social Security?

HUFFMAN: I favor giving young people an op -- an option of -- of putting some of their money into a private account. At the same time, I'm very concerned to preserve the benefits that people have invested in for -- those who are already retired and those near retirement.

BLITZER: But you believe Social Security is constitutional, right?

HUFFMAN: That it's constitutional?


BLITZER: All right. Because there are some Republican candidates out there who question the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare, but you're not one of them?

HUFFMAN: I'm not one of them. There's a -- I've run into people questioning the constitutionality of all kinds of things. But I've taught constitutional law for 37 years and I'd say Social Security is constitutional.

BLITZER: And Medicare, as well?

HUFFMAN: And Medicare, as well, yes.

BLITZER: What would you do in -- in those entitlement programs, to save money?

You're worried, obviously, about the deficit. It's growing by the trillions all the time.

How would do you reduce the deficit?

HUFFMAN: Well, I think we have to reign in spending across the board, get more efficiency in government. But you're correct to suggest that a lot of the problem is with entitlements. And I think what we have to do is look at future -- those in the future who are going to be entitled to these various programs and start extending the age of entitlement and Social Security, for example, and controlling future benefits.

BLITZER: In other words, raising the age from 67 or whatever to 70 or beyond?

HUFFMAN: I think -- for people who are just entering into social security. I don't want any changes for people who are currently on it or will be in the next 10 or 15 years.

BLITZER: You want to extend the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 for everyone, even though that's going to wind up costing over the next 10 years nearly $4 trillion, right?

HUFFMAN: Well, I would prefer not to think of it as costing the government anything if we don't extend it, it costs the taxpayers.

And the reason I would extend those tax rates for everybody is because in this state, about half of small business would be affected if we didn't extend it for people making over $250,000 a year.

BLITZER: So you want a permanent extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax rates. You want that to go on indefinitely?

HUFFMAN: I do. Although I would like in the long run some fundamental tax reform in the direction of a flatter tax system.

BLITZER: And the tax -- the tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 a year, which the -- the Democrats at least a lot of the Democrats and the president -- they wanted to go back to the rates that existed during the Clinton administration. You don't want that. You want it to continue as-is even for the wealthiest Americans?

HUFFMAN: Absolutely because when we - in that category of the wealthiest Americans, as I say, they're included half of the small businesses in the state of Oregon.

BLITZER: Do you support abortion rights for women?


BLITZER: You do support abortion rights for women. Do you believe that President Obama is a Christian?


BLITZER: Do you believe he was born in the United States?

HUFFMAN: I do. I have -- I see no evidence to the contrary.

BLITZER: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president of the United States?

HUFFMAN: You know, I don't know about that. I admire her. T he impact that she's had on politics, that she's rallied a lot of people to politics who haven't been involved in politics before. Whether or not she's qualified, I think she's -- her experience is probably no less than the current president's.

BLITZER: Is there a republican out there right now you think who is most qualified to be the next president of the United States? Someone you already like?

HUFFMAN: Well, I'm a supporter of Steve Forbes many years ago. I don't think he's running any longer. I am an admirer of John Thune from South Dakota. I think he's a very able and strong politician and I think he's a good candidate.

BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with Ron Widen, the incumbent?

HUFFMAN: Well, the biggest problem I have specifically with him aside from his general position and his voting 97 percent of the time with the Democratic leadership was his vote on the health care bill.

He had a much better idea. He knew it was a better idea. He said that competition was essential in health care to get costs down and then he voted for a bill that does nothing to increase competition.

BLITZER: And you want to repeal the Obama health care legislation?

HUFFMAN: I would support repeal of it. I think there's a serious problem in health care, which is high costs and I think that the Obama care legislation does nothing to reduce costs.

In fact, it's increasing costs. We're seeing it all around us today.

BLITZER: The fact, though, that tens of millions of Americans will eventually be eligible for health insurance and pre-existing conditions will no longer be a factor, doesn't that motivate you a little bit?

HUFFMAN: It motivates me to get better reform than we got in this thing. I think this bill that we enacted, that Congress enacted, as I say, increased costs and it does nothing to bring competition.

If we want to provide better service to those who are uninsured, those who aren't getting health care and aren't getting health care, we need competition, which will bring costs down and increase quality. That's what happens in the every other service and product in our economy.

BLITZER: Jim Huffmann is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Oregon. You're behind in the polls. You got four weeks. Can you do it? HUFFMAN: I think we can do it. We look at the election here two years ago. Senator Gordon Smith was up by about 10 points at this point in the election and he lost to Jeff Merkley.

Scott Brown was down 26 points with a month to go so absolutely. I think we can do it. It's a question of getting our name familiar out and our message out and I think we're doing that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

HUFFMAN: Thank you very much, Wolf. It was a pleasure.

BLITZER: We asked Senator Widen to join us for an interview as well. So far, he has declined. We'll keep asking to see if he changes his mind.

Let's get to our strategy session right now. Joining us, our CNN politic contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. You heard this Republican challenger to Ron Widen. If Ron Widen is in trouble in Oregon, you know there's a wave that the Democrats potentially could lose the United States Senate majority.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, this is the first time I've heard of this candidate. I know Ron Widen had an opponent.

But Ron Widen like many other Senate Democrats have been out there for months laying the groundwork for a successful campaign. It's a terrific organization. Oregon is a vote by mail state and I think Ron Widen is one of the safe Democrats.

BLITZER: Do you think he's safe?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, FORMER ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: I don't think anybody's safe this year who's an established Democrat in Washington. If you made Washington bigger instead of really change Washington, you could be in big trouble this year.

I've talked to Republican pollsters, they're getting numbers back in some of the states and congressional districts that are surprising. They're weighting their numbers more conservatively to historical models because sometimes the data looks just too good.

BLITZER: So in other words, you think that Widen is safer, for example, than Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, the long-time incumbent in Wisconsin who's facing a stiff challenge as well from a Republican.

BRAZILE: Well, much of the weight has been -- the focus has been on likely voters, not registered voters. In a state like Oregon, where you have a candidate like Ron Widen who's familiar with the issues, know the voters. He's been out there campaigning hard. He's raised money. I think he will do quite well. CASTELLANOS: But this year, the elections aren't about the candidates. You may have -- we've seen Democratic candidates this year with high favorable ratings. People actually like them.

But they say, look, something's got to change in Washington. We can't keep going in the same direction. When you have one party controlling everything, the White House, the House, and the Senate, it's like a car with no brake pedal. Good guy, sorry to see you go. Things have to change.

BRAZILE: But, Alex, as you all know, that's the Republican story this year where we've seen the Tea Party, you know, take out Republican establishment candidates like Mr. Bennett and towards some other places.

So I don't think on the Democratic side we've seen that kind of turmoil, but look Democrats are prepared for this Republicans on slot.

Republicans have been busy measuring the drake flow. Democrats are out there talking to voters, closing the enthusiasm gap and I think you'll see, you'll be very surprised on the election.

BLITZER: Well, one thing that is happening, the president of the United States, he's still very popular with a lot of people out there.

He's going to do one of these town hall meetings, one hour, no commercial town hall. It will air on MTV, BET, CMT. He's going to go out there and try to mobilize younger people to actually go out and vote.

Because, Alex, you know that when it comes to these midterm elections, generally speaking, older voters get out and vote. Younger voters, they don't necessarily show up.

How important is this outreach by the president to so many young people that supported him in 2008?

CASTELLANOS: Well, it's actually important, but it's a double- edged sword. You know, as long as he doesn't play the saxophone I think or dress like Lady Gaga, he'll be fine, but he's trying to motivate his base.

They don't come out, you're right, Wolf, in off election years like this one. But here's the problem. The message younger voters want to hear, they like health care reform that the president did.

They want to hear about the carbon tax. Those are things that the president can't talk about to everybody else. They're not popular topics. So, does he motivate his base?

If so, what he's doing is alienating independents. That's the trap for the Democrats this year. There's no good solution for them.

BLITZER: Do you remember when another incumbent president went before an MTV town hall meeting back in 1994. This was the exchange. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, the world's dying to know, is it boxers or briefs?



BLITZER: Yes, he goes on to say I can't believe she did that. In other words, asked that question -- Bill Clinton was very good in those kinds of events. I assume Barack Obama will be good in that kind of an MTV-BET-CMT town hall meeting.

BRAZILE: You know, if CNN has any additional time available right now, President Obama I'm sure will come on the air waves and fill the hours as well.

BLITZER: Is that like an informercial for the president? That kind of event?

CASTELLANOS: That's the advantage you get when you win the bully pulpit. That's one of the perks of power. You get to command the stage and decide where you want to go.

BRAZILE: More the better. Wolf, this is a very important period of the election season. We're in the home stretch. The president is trying to close that enthusiasm gap with young people.

If they turn out in record numbers, we can stop the tide that's taking place on the Republican side because the Republicans have stalled.

CASTELLANOS: The problem for the Democrats is, motivating their base -- that makes a difference in liberal districts. In states like Oregon, places like that, but in the swing congressional districts in the House, the liberal base is not that big, it's not really helping them there.

BRAZILE: Our base is much larger than just liberals, Alex. We also have independents and moderates and in many close -- in many --

CASTELLANOS: Two-to-one Republican this is year.

BRAZILE: Well, that's this week because next week, they'll change their mind once they figure out what the Republicans truly stand for, which is more --


BRAZILE: You finally got two words that mean something to me.

BLITZER: Good discussion, guys. Don't go too far away. We might need you back here. We always need you guy else. Thanks very much. We're monitoring other stories as well, including sentencing day for the man behind that failed bomb plot in New York's Time Square. You're going to want to hear why he's telling Americans, and I'm quoting him now. Brace yourself.

Plus, a grim new warning about the alien state of the U.S. economy. Why some are predicting high unemployment will last much longer than the White House says it will.


BLITZER: President Obama used the summit on community colleges today to launch a fresh attack on Republicans and their policies. He argues that the GOP economic plan would lead to risky cuts in education. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I so strongly disagree with the economic plan that was released last week by the Republican leaders in Congress, which would actually cut education by 20 percent, would reduce or eliminate financial aid for 8 million college students and it would leave community colleges without the resources they need to meet the goals we've talked about today.

Instead, this money would help pay for a $700 billion tax cut that only 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans would ever see, an average of $100,000 for every millionaire and billionaire in the country. That doesn't make sense -- not for students, not for our economy.

Think about it. China isn't slashing education by 20 percent right now. India is not slashing education by 20 percent. We are in a fight for the future, a fight that depends on education.

Cutting aid for eight million students or scaling back our commitment to community colleges, that's like unilaterally disarming our troops right as they head to the frontlines.


BLITZER: Some Republicans are firing right back. They've accused the president to resorting to scare tactics and they're running up federal spending.

The White House is gearing up for an environmental makeover of sorts. Not long from now it will be powered, at least, in part, by solar energy. Let's bring in our Kate Bolduan, she's over at the White House. She has the details -- Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. We have the Obama administration announcing today that the White House is planning to turn a little green. Plans are in place to install solar panels as well as a solar hot water heater to the roof of the White House residence by spring of next year. Administration officials are making the announcement today saying this decision underscores the president's commitment to renewable energy, energy use in the U.S. as well as kind of setting the example of if we can do it, well, so can you, leading by example here in the White House. But this isn't the first time the White House has tried to go green. You may remember this --


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the year 2000, the solar water heater behind me which is being dedicated today will still be here, supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.


BOLDUAN: So President Jimmy Carter may have been well ahead of his time installing solar panels on the top of the west wing in 1979, but those were removed during roof repairs during the Reagan administration. Interestingly enough, just last month, an environmental group brought one of the Carter solar panels down from Maine to Washington to lobby the White House to reinstall the solar panel and really make solar energy and clean energy and renewable energy more of a priority of the president, the administration, though, says that this decision today -- the announcement today, had nothing to do with any outside groups, Wolf?

BLITZER: Kate, Jimmy Carter was not the only president to try to tap in to solar energy, was he?

BOLDUAN: He wasn't. It was interesting to look back at all of this. Because President George W. Bush also tapped solar energy, solar technologies to help power a maintenance facility as well as at least in part keep the White House swimming pool here. And those two systems, we're told, are still in use. In terms of the new system that's being installed, Wolf, the department of energy is going to start a competitive bidding process to figure out which company is going to install the system. No word yet, no comment on estimations of how much the new project is expected to cost.

BLITZER: Or save, is that right, too, how much it will save in the long term? An estimate of that?

BOLDUAN: I did get a little bit of an estimate. I'm told that the two systems together, the water heating as well as the solar panels as well in terms of the electricity, those two systems together could save upwards of up to $3,000 a year on an average utility bill for a typical American house hold. That, of course, we'll have to check back and see what that means for the White House here.

BLITZER: $3,000 is $3,000. All right. Thanks very much for that Kate. Don't go too far away either.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, some called it the dream ticket that never happened in 2008. But "Washington Post" reporter and author Bob Woodward tells CNN's John King that the pairing is "on the table," on the table, his words for 2012. Under the scenario vice president Joe Biden and secretary of state Hillary Clinton would simply switch jobs. And he adds that some of Clinton's advisors see it as a real possibility.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm guessing you don't design the cover of your book but you have Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton side-by-side on the cover at the bottom of your name. You know the talk in town. A lot of people think the president is a little weak going to 2012, he'll have to do a switch and run with Hillary Clinton as his running mate. In all of the political conversations and the asides you're doing serious research, sometimes you have political asides. Things like that come up?

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "OBAMA'S WARS": It's on the table. Some of Hillary Clinton's advisors see it as a real possibility in 2012. President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well in the 2008 primaries. So they switched jobs and not out of the question, the other interesting question is Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016. And the younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected president. You talk to Hillary Clinton advisors and say no, no, there's never a political consideration here. The answer is, when you point out to them that her clout around the world, when she goes to Europe, Asia, when she goes anywhere, is in part not just because she's secretary of state or married to Bill Clinton, that people see a potential future president in her.


BLITZER: The full interview with Bob Woodward will air later tonight on "JOHN KING USA" starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern. Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger and our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. They're both here. Gloria, is that realistic? Biden and Hillary Clinton could switch jobs and she would be on the ticket.

BORGER: First of all let's say it's difficult to disagree with anything that Bob Woodward reports. In talking to a senior Biden advisor, just told me that Woodward has gone to too many Georgetown dinner parties. Of course, this a Biden advisor. When Bob Woodward said it's on the table, the question I have is what table? Whose table is it? The chatter outside of the White House, there's a lot of chatter maybe Hillary and Obama, that would be great. We heard that in the campaign but that didn't happen. The chatter is much more from the outside. When you talk to senior White House advisors, not Biden advisors, but senior White House advisors, they say the president likes it the way it is. Even if you read Bob Woodward's own book, it's clear that these men have a good relationship. Besides, Obama could look just a tad political if he shoved Biden aside.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are two questions to ask. One is would the president want to do that to help himself? If he's in such a bad -- a bad situation, we heard from Democrats again outside of the White House say that he may be so weak that he would need somebody strong like Hillary Clinton. The other question to ask about this potential scenario is would it be something that Hillary Clinton would want or not. Historically, the person who is the vice president has a better shot at being president. It didn't work out so well for Al Gore. But certainly that would potentially be the case. Hillary Clinton herself has been asked about this, you remember, Wolf, and she in general about the idea about running for president. And she said she really wants to retire. She's going to be 69 years old at that time.

BLITZER: At the end of a second term.

BASH: At the end of the second term.

BLITZER: She's 62 -- 63 right now.

BASH: Right. We're talking about if she'll be placed to run for president herself. Regardless, she's made clear that she's had a good run and she's tired -- when somebody says to you -- they're the president of the United States come and be my vice president, that would be a different question. But I think -- I've heard it -- you heard it too.

BLITZER: Most people think the conventional wisdom would be a mo formidable ticket, Obama-Clinton than Obama-Biden. That's just conventional wisdom.

BORGER: You only replace a vice president when the vice president's giving you real problems. Aside from Joe Biden's occasional gaffes, it's clear he's a very important advisor to this president including on foreign policy issues. He's traveling all over the country in this campaign to lots of blue collar areas.

BASH: Campaign, he can do that. He could travel around as secretary of state.

BORGER: It's a parlor game we love to play in Washington, you know? Overnight is a lifetime in politics as Howard Baker used to say. You don't know what it will be like a couple of years from now. If Bob Woodward says it, I guess you have to listen. But right now, not there.

BLITZER: The ladies in red. They're here.

BASH: You didn't get the memo.

BLITZER: Got it.

BORGER: Got the tie.

BLITZER: Both of you look lovely.

BASH: Wow.

BLITZER: Thank you thanks very much.

He's the master mind of Republican campaigning. Now a group formed by Karl Rove is coming under fire with calls for an IRS investigation. We'll have the story and details coming up.


BLITZER: Paul Steinhauser and Mark Preston, they're monitoring some of the other major stories moving right now on the CNN political ticker. Let's go to Paul first. Paul, what do you have?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Let's talk about Michelle Obama, Wolf. You've seen a lot of the president on the campaign trail helping out Democratic candidates. With four weeks to go, you'll see a lot of Michelle Obama, the first lady. Today she put out a fundraising pitch. She teamed up with the Democratic National Committee to put out a fundraising pitch to volunteers and others who worked for her husband in 2008 on that campaign, she's urging them to contribute money to the Democratic Party and to get out there and vote for Democrats in the midterm elections. I'm going to ask our camera man to zoom in here, Dave Jenkins. Brand new on the CNN political ticker. Also, Wolf, tomorrow the first lady will be a featured speaker on a guest call to go out and reach other people, Democrats across the country, to get them motivated, to give money, and to also, of course, go out there and vote on November 2. And, Wolf, starting next week, you're going to see a lot of Michelle Obama on the campaign trail as well. Starting next week and through November 2, she'll be out there campaigning for Democratic candidates and party committees. That's what I have. What do you got?

MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey Wolf. There's been a lot of talk about Democrats shying away from President Obama, they don't want to be on the campaign trail with him, they don't want to be associated with him. As the Republicans are trying to nationalize this election, Democrats are trying to localize it. But not so in California. In fact, Senator Barbara Boxer released a web video just about an hour ago that had all President Obama and it's all President Obama telling his volunteers and his supporters to get out and support Barbara Boxer in November. The video is about a minute and 17 seconds. I spoke to the Boxer campaign. They're not going to release the ad strategy. They're not telling me if it's cut into a 30-second spot. This is very potent footage. If she wanted to do so, she would do that. We saw President Obama earlier this week. He appeared in a television commercial for a gentleman down in New Orleans another seat the Democrats are trying to pick up, the seat once held by William Jefferson. President Obama did appear in a television commercial for him. There are Democrats out there, Wolf, who want to embrace the president.

BLITZER: No doubt about that. Mark Preston, Paul Steinhauser, two of the best members of the best political team on television. That's where you can get your political news. Go to

Brianna Keiler is monitoring other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including the sentencing for the man behind the failed Times Square bomb plot. Brianna, what's going on?

KEILAR: Thirty-one year-old Faisal Shahzad has been sentenced to life in prison for the thwarted attack. The Pakistani American pleaded guilty to all ten counts against him told the courtroom, brace yourself, the war with Muslims has just begun.

The White House issued a statement saying it's pleased with the sentence. Shahzad is accused of trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square last May but it failed to detonate.

An economic panel predicts that high unemployment in the U.S. is going to last far beyond 2014 when the White House is expecting jobs improvement. Analysts at a conference sponsored by a left-leaning think tank agreed that lawmakers have failed to adequately stimulate the economy and they say more needs to be done. Panelists compared the U.S. recovery to the long recession that plagued Japan in the 1990s.

Shoppers here in Washington appear to be getting along fine without their paper or plastic bags. The city says it's collected millions less in revenue from the five-cent tax on disposable bags than they expected they would. And grocery stores report bag use is down 60 percent. The money that's being collected helps cleanup efforts in local impoverished areas. You can see it everywhere. Went out, got my lunch. No bag -- they don't give it to you a lot of times.

BLITZER: If they give you a little bag, they have to charge you five cents.

KEILAR: They do and sometimes you just say I don't need a bag. No thanks.

BLITZER: Walking around with sodas and stuff like that. That's dangerous. All right. Thanks very much Brianna for that.

Jack Cafferty is asking, is it better for a candidate to stay off of the campaign trail or risk making a mistake? We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has the Cafferty File. Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is it better for a candidate to stay off of the campaign trail or risk making a mistake?

Lance in California says: "They're at risk regardless of their decision. If they can't get their message out, they lose. If they make a mistake, they lose. If they allow an opponent to run the race with their unchallenged rhetoric, they lose. The answer is you get out there, deliver the message. Trash the opponent's record and message and take your chances."

Steve in New York writes: "Staying away is the best bet. Hungry journalists and the internet tend to destroy people. I think if we got rid of half the journalists and 75 percent of the news channels, things would be more peaceful in today's society."

Dee writes: "Spare us the agony of political B.S. during the election process is too much. Silence is golden. Too much has already been said by too many. Does it really matter what's said during the elections?"

Mario in Phoenix writes: "In this political environment where idiocy is king, it's better to read the news than make the news."

Ernie in Vermont: "When the late Vermont Senator George Akin ran for last term in 1968 he spent $17.09 on his campaign. He made only a handful of appearances. He won by a landslide."

Paula writes from New Mexico: "Staying off the campaign trail means that candidates might make fewer mistakes. However, it is a clear indication that some candidates are outright cowards. It also means that voters will be buying pigs in pokes, but that is what we have been doing for years, isn't it?"

And Jay in Wisconsin says: "A candidate staying a off of the campaign trail is like a soldier staying awe of the battlefield. It might be better for the soldier, but it's not better for the country."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,

BLITZER: You know, Jack, we've been inviting a lot of these candidates for Senate, for governors races, Republicans and Democrats from all over the country, and appear, and come on the show, and we will talk about different issues such as national security, and jobs and most of the politicians say, not happening.


BLITZER: Not interested in doing a serious substantive interview, and it is not just the conservative Democrats and Republicans, but a lot of them are just scared.

CAFFERTY: Well, I think a lot of the incumbents are terrified and you have the tea party candidates and the far right wing and very conservative parties who are by definition a part of a fringe element in the country, and so they want to stay out of the mainstream spotlight, so what we have is a democracy where the voters will go to the booth relatively uninformed. I don't know if that is a good thing, do you?

BLITZER: No. I don't think it is. I would like them to come on the show, and ask them questions.

CAFFERTY: Get in THE SITUATION ROOM and talk to the Wolf man.

BLITZER: That is what I say. Let's see if they listen. All right. Thank you, Jack.

We have a new snapshot of Latina voters coming into THE SITUATION ROOM and how anger over immigration reform in Arizona could play out on Election Day four weeks from today. And another reason to be terrified of lions on the attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Brianna is back and monitoring the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a verdict in that deadly Connecticut home invasion case. What a horrible story that was. Brianna, what have you got?

KEILAR: Well, Wolf, after four hours of deliberations, jurors convicted 47 year old Steven Hayes of capital murder in a Connecticut home invasion that left three family members dead. Hayes and a co- defendant are accused of breaking into the home of the doctor in 2007 and killing his wife and their two daughters. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Hayes. The penalty phase of the case begins this month.

And officials are denying that rescuers are trying to free 33 trapped miners ahead of the Chilean president's planned trip to Europe. The interior minister says the president's visit this month is not connected to the time line of the rescue. The miners have been trapped hundreds of feet underground since August.

And imagine being saved by an heir to the British throne. It happened on Saturday when Prince William performed his first rescue since becoming qualified as a search and rescue pilot last month. He was the co-pilot of the royal air force crew that plucked a seriously ill crewman from an offshore gas rig.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you very much.

A new source of hope for Democrats desperate to avoid an election debacle a month away. The party's support among Latinos seems to be as strong as ever. A new Pew Hispanic Center poll finds 65 percent of registered Latino voters nationwide say they will support the Democratic candidate in their Congressional district. Just 22 percent say they'll vote for the Republicans, but many Latinos don't seem motivated to go to the polls. Only about half of those surveyed say they are certain, certain they will vote in the midterm election, that's compared to 70 percent of all registered voters who say they will turnout in November.

Arizona has the sixth largest Latino population in the nation and it's home to about four percent of all eligible Hispanic voters in the United States. There is a big push to turn out the Latino vote in Arizona because of the controversial immigration crackdown in the state. Young people are leading the way. Here is CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Are we ready to change our Arizona? Like, I have to do this, because if it is not now, when? And if it is not us, who?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are young, motivated and part of a fast-growing electorate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to the state capitol now.

GUTIERREZ: They say they have a score to settle with governor who's running for re-election and the sheriff of Maricopa County.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to find all of those people and give them a voice who are not registered to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you registered to vote?

GUTIERREZ: This group of Latino youth volunteers 300 strong are part of the organization Promise Arizona and since June, teen leaders like Emily Angeles have made it their mission to register 12,000 new voters. Working long hours in the desert heat has not been easy.

EMILY ANGELES, YOUTH VOLUNTEER, PROMISES ARIZONA: I was out doing voter registrations from 9:00 to 9:00, and it was really discouraging today, because it is not my day today and there are a lot of ignorant people not wanting to vote, a not one person say has thanked me, and when they do, it makes my day.

GUTIERREZ: Why did you get involved with this? You are only 14 years old, and you are not old enough to vote.

ANGELES: Well, at first, I am interested in politics.

GUTIERREZ: That is right. She is 14. For Emily and her friends this is the first taste of political activism. They say that the Latino youth galvanized for three major reasons; to protest SB1070, Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration sweeps and to support the dream act to create a path for legalization for undocumented university students and U.S. military hopefuls.

ANGELES: I believe that voting does give people a voice. It just gives one voice can make a difference.

GUTIERREZ: Emily says that everybody talks about the Latino vote and who is at stake and who will get it in the midterm elections.

ANGELES: I am registering people to vote, are you registered yet?


GUTIERREZ: She knows that the first step is registering Latino voters from store parking lots to canvassing neighborhoods to hitting up businesses in the barrio.

GUTIERREZ: This is the first time I have come into the ice cream shop to find a box to drop of the forms.

JOSE DE LOS REYES, OWNER, HAWAIIAN ICE CREAM: You see, what happened is that the businesses have been affected for all of the laws and stuff, and we just have a hard time, so we have to unite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our new grand total --

GUTIERREZ: As these volunteers handed in the last of what they say is a record number of voter registration forms ever collected by a grass roots group in Arizona, Emily says for her and her friends and the thousands of first time Latino voters they've registered this could be the dawn of a new era.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona