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THE SITUATION ROOM

Number One Senate Democrat in Danger; President Faces the Toll of Afghan War; Protesting Gays at Military Funerals; Message to Voters: We're Like You; Senate Showdown Snapshots; Missouri State Showdown; What Went Wrong for President Obama; Hillary Clinton Debunks V.P. Rumors

Aired October 6, 2010 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, there's new reason for Senate Democrats to worry that their majority leader's days are numbered. Stand by. We're rolling out new polls from some of the hottest races and most important battlegrounds in the nation.

And could Joe Biden be out in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in as President Obama's running mate?

You've heard the speculation, now hear what Secretary Clinton herself has to say.

And a toxic flood of -- of deadly red mud. We're going to take you to the scene of this stunning disaster and walk you through the worst of the sludge and the danger right now.

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

But we begin with the battle for control of the United States Senate. And it could hinge on a handful of states in critical areas.

Right now, we're releasing new poll numbers from four of the hottest battlegrounds. The numbers from Nevada may be the most disturbing for Democrats. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is fighting for his political life against Republican, Sharron Angle, who has the support of the Tea Party movement.

Our new CNN/"Time" magazine/Opinion Research poll shows they're neck and neck right now, with Sharron Angle actually holding a 2 point advantage.

One of the other marquis match-ups we're following is in Connecticut, the attorney general there versus the wrestling magnate. Our poll shows Democrat, Richard Blumenthal, is now 13 points ahead of Republican, Linda McMahon, in the battle to replace the retiring Democrat, Chris Dodd.

A lot more races and poll numbers to bring you. That's coming up this hour.

But first, let's focus in on the very, very close Reid versus Angle race in Nevada. Every seat counts in the fight for the U.S. Senate. But in this one, it's the chamber's number one Democrat who could go down in flames.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here.

She's working the story for us.

Take us behind these numbers -- Diana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, you just gave the likely numbers. And I want to show you why this is trouble for Harry Reid, the same way it is for many other Democrats. And it is about, Wolf, the enthusiasm gap for Democrats.

Check this out. Registered voters, he's actually doing well -- 43 percent to Angle's 32 percent. But it is the people who say they are going to go vote, likely voters, that is where this poll shows trouble for him. That is where Harry Reid only has 40 percent and Angle has 42 percent.

And, interestingly, if you look in -- within this poll, Wolf, there are groups that he is having trouble with. That is also raising some alarms. Independents, he's down 10 points with these likely various. And he's also having trouble with people who are highly educated. He needs them to vote. And also with seniors.

Wolf, you know that Harry Reid is running a pretty hard campaign against Sharron Angle, saying that she wants to end Social Security. And he still is losing to her among 65 and over.

BLITZER: And the likely voters is much more -- much more important than registered voters...

BASH: Of course.

BLITZER: -- because a lot of registered voters are simply going to sit on their hands and not show up and vote.

A lot of Democrats were pretty happy when she got the Republican nomination because of her supposedly, quote, "extreme views." It hasn't exactly worked out that -- that well for the Democrats, at least not yet.

BASH: Not yet. But it's not for lack of trying.

In fact, on that point, Harry Reid actually has -- and his campaign has a new Web video out today. Pretty intense.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM REID FOR SENATE WEB VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Introducing Sharron Angle's crazy juice, made with real DeMint. It will rev you up for Second Amendment remedies before militia practice. All our crazy juice is made with non- fluoridated water so you know it's safe from socialism. So, so, so, so, so extreme.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now that's kind of a -- a fun, if you want to use that word, way to show what Harry Reid and the Democrats are saying, that that is the case with -- with Sharron Angle out there.

But the question is, then why is Harry Reid not doing as well as he should?

Let me just show you a number that could help illustrate that. It -- it is how the atmosphere is in Nevada. Things are awful. Check this out. The unemployment rate is 14.4 percent. That is higher than any other state in the country and a lot higher than the national average, which is 9.6 percent. And not just that, Wolf. Housing -- it is the highest foreclosure rate -- four times higher than the -- than the national average. So the atmosphere is just terrible in this -- in that state.

Combine that with the personal. The personal is that Harry Reid is the top Democrat the Senate. He is the ultimate insider at a time where it is a very anti-Washington, anti-incumbent environment nationally, and especially in Nevada.

But it's also really personal when it comes to Reid in that he is somebody who is actually quite well-known. And you talk to people who have done polling in the state internally, he's well-known and he's not very well liked. So that is something that really hurts in there.

However, I will tell you, I talked to several of his top advisers today. They insist their internal polling shows that he's in pretty good shape and that they say that he has an incredible ground game. He has organizers that really know how to get out the vote. He's going to need it, because if that -- if our poll is any indication, that difference between the likely voters and the registered voters, that's a big alarm.

BLITZER: Yes. I forget about the registered voters. It's the likely voters that are obviously much more important in a midterm election.

Dana, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Stand by for more of our brand new poll numbers, including snapshots from New York State and Missouri. You're going to find out how President Obama's approval numbers are figuring into this midterm mix. Much more from our CNN/"Time" magazine polls coming up later this hour.

In Pakistan today, another fiery strike against a NATO convoy carrying fuel to neighboring Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for several similar attacks in recent days.

The violence and the chaos in the region are adding to the burden on President Obama, as he deals with the deadly consequence of war. Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's got more on this part of the story -- Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, that attack is just yet another example of the difficulty of going after the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. This is something that the White House is clearly focused on. A new report coming out and showing that the Paki -- the Pakistani government is not making lasting gains against the insurgency.

This obviously comes at a very difficult time because the U.S. really needs Pakistan to make significant gains in neighboring Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Behind every decision President Obama makes in Afghanistan is the human cost. And this battlefield casualty in 2008, before he took office, is a reminder. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Miller, a Green Beret, now honored with the Medal of Honor posthumously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MAY 12)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had been hit, but still, he kept calling out enemy positions. Still, he kept firing. Still, he kept throwing his grenades. And then they heard it. Rob's weapon felt silent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: As U.S. and coalition forces continue to die in that war, there's real concern that a key player in the fight against extremism, Pakistan, is falling short, despite the Obama administration's often optimistic tone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MAY 12)

OBAMA: I am actually encouraged by what I've seen from the Pakistani government over the last several months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: That's in stark contrast to tough new language in a private White House review to Congress, which suggests Pakistan is avoiding direct military engagement with Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The report claims it is "as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under resourced military prioritizing its targets."

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs downplayed the report's blunt assessment, saying, quote, "I don't think this comes as a surprise."

It could, however, be more ammunition for fellow Democrats, who have been pressuring the White House to get tougher on Pakistan, a key U.S. partner in the effort to wipe out a haven for extremists -- a fight that took the life of Sergeant Miller. MAUREEN MILLER, MOTHER OF CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: We want everyone to know he loved what he was doing. He was good at what he was doing and he believed he was working for a good cause.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Now, Gibbs acknowledged that the report did find some challenges, but that progress was being made, that the Pakistani troops have sacrificed thousands in order to take on terror -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are officials at the White House, Dan, saying about these reports that Hamid Karzai is now in talks with the Taliban to work out some sort of deal?

LOTHIAN: Well, first of all, the White House saying that this would be something for the Afghan government to discuss decide, but they would be supportive of this, as long as there was some kind of conditions that were laid down, that the Taliban would have to renounce any ties to violence and to Al Qaeda in some sort of a deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they saying the Taliban would also have to respect the rights of women?

Because we all remember how women were treated during the rule of Taliban before 2001.

LOTHIAN: Exactly. And that would about on a long list of things that they would have to agree on. But again, the bottom line is that the administration would be supportive of something like this, because many see this as -- as one possible way to end the violence in this war that's been going on for almost 10 years now.

BLITZER: All right, Dan.

Thanks very much.

Dan Lothian over at the White House.

They protested outside a Marine's funeral. Today, they picketed the United States Supreme Court. Just ahead, the court hears the disturbing case pitting free speech rights against a grieving family's privacy.

And a train derailed by a tornado?

We're going to bring you up to the minute on the dangerous weather situation in the Southwest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Health care and the midterm elections are on Jack Cafferty's mind this hour.

Let's go to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Much like the Democrats themselves, President Obama's signature issue of health care reform could get quite a beating in the midterm elections.

For starters, three more states are going to vote on proposed Constitutional amendments that would let them opt out of key provisions in the newly passed health care law. Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma all hoping to follow the lead of Missouri, which has already passed a similar initiative with a whopping 71 percent of the vote. The idea of these measures is to ban the federal government from forcing people to buy health insurance. Supporters say that's simply unconstitutional.

Whether it is or not, there's a lot of opposition to this law, which was cobbled together, you'll remember, out of public view, contains no public option, and so far, hasn't done a single thing to bring down health care costs.

A lot of Republicans are latching onto the discontent over this issue, pledging to undo the health care law if they win control of Congress.

Democrats who voted against the bill are also making sure their constituents know how they voted. And a lot of those who voted for the bill, well, they're just keeping quiet.

It is unknown at this point whether Republicans would be able to undo the law while President Obama is still in office. And it's very much an unknown if moderate Republicans and Independents will support efforts to undo the health care law. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 47 percent of those surveyed want Congress to repeal and replace the health care law. And fewer than one in five -- less than 20 percent -- think the new law will personally help them or their families.

So here's the question -- would a promise to undo health care reform be enough to get you to vote for a Republican?

Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

Let's go over to the Supreme Court right now, where a bitter, bitter fight is brewing between a father whose son died in the Iraq War and those who believe it's their right to use his funeral as a platform to protest homosexuality.

Let's bring in our Kate Bolduan.

She was over at the court earlier in the day.

How did it go?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a tough case and a case that people have very strong opinions about on both sides. It is also a major test of two ideals Americans hold so dear -- free speech and their right to privacy.

The justices seemed to really struggle with the dilemma.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SINGING)

BOLDUAN: (voice-over): Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Church protested outside the Supreme Court today. But it's the protest at this 2006 funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder that is at the heart of this emotional legal battle.

(SINGING)

BOLDUAN: The church, led by Fred Phelps, picketed outside Snyder's funeral, as they've done at hundreds of military funerals across the country. They believe soldiers are dying because God is punishing the country for, quote, "the sin of homosexuality."

Matthew Snyder was not gay. His father, Albert Snyder sued.

Inside, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summed up the dilemma facing the court, where to draw the line between free speech and privacy. Justice Ginsburg asked Synder's attorney, quote, "Why does he have a claim? The protest was at a considerable distance. There was no importuning anyone from going to the funeral."

But Ginsburg also asked Margie Phelps, a Westboro Church member who personally argued the case, quote, "Why should the first amendment tolerate exploiting this Marine's family when you have so many other forums for getting across your message?"

CROWD SINGING: God hates America -

BOLDUAN: Outside, Phelps maintained their angry picketing isn't personal, instead public issue religious speech.

MARGIE PHELPS, ATTORNEY FOR WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: I think the church of the Lord Jesus Christ got to stand in the highest court in the world and say the soldiers are dying for your sins, and you're committed to the proposition that Americans can say that and not be penalized.

BOLDUAN: Snyder's attorney says protests at a private funeral crossed the line.

SEAN SUMMERS, ATTORNEY FOR ALBERT SNYDER: And I believe that the justices heard that, and I hope that they realize that this isn't just a case about speech. It's about harassment.

BOLDUAN: Snyder was originally awarded $5 million for invasion of privacy, but he says the battle isn't about money, and isn't even about his family anymore.

ALBERT SNYDER, FATHER OF FALLEN MARINE: My son and hundreds of thousands of other men and women did not put their lives on the line for this country so that somebody could abuse the first amendment like this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: The Phelpses have the support of free speech advocates and some media groups. Snyder has the backing of 48 states and members of Congress. The questioning in court seemed to really suggest that the justices may take a narrow approach in their ruling rather than one, Wolf, that would offer a more sweeping implication that do sometimes happen.

Of course, we'll not know until the justices speak, and we should find out in a few months.

BLITZER: We'll go in depth with Jeff Toobin in our next hour and continue this conversation. Thanks very much, Kate.

We're watching other top stories, including the FBI announcing just a little while ago the largest police corruption bust in its history.

Ahead, what led to the arrests of more than 100 people in Puerto Rico.

And it's already killed four people. Now, a desperate effort underway to save two major rivers from poisonous mud.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate's back. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including, Kate, some vicious tornadoes in Arizona.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Wolf. Seven people have been injured in the wake of at least two tornadoes that have touched down near Flagstaff, Arizona. Powerful winds damaged more than 100 homes and derailed 28 train cars. Authorities say none of the injuries is believed to be serious, thankfully.

The FBI has announced its biggest crackdown ever on police corruption. One hundred and thirty-three people in Puerto Rico have been charged following a two-year investigation into police-related drug deals totaling a half a million dollars.

Puerto Rico is a major drug shipping point between the East Coast and South - and South American countries. If convicted, some suspects could face life in prison.

And four people, including two children, have died in Western Hungary after a broken reservoir flooded their villages with toxic sludge. Rescuers are searching for several missing people following Monday's accident and many others have been injured.

The flood, which is a waste product from aluminum production, is now threatening two rivers. Environmental experts are working to protect them.

And finally, "Sesame Street", well, it's headed for Nigeria. One of America's most popular children's TV shows will soon premiere in the West African country under the title "Sesame Square."

The program will address some of Nigeria's most contentious social issues, like AIDS, and will even feature an HIV-positive muppet. Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind "Sesame Street", received a USAID grant to produce the show for five years while taking on some very serious issues.

BLITZER: Good. Big Bird in - Big Bird in Africa. That'll be great.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. He'll fit in.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure they'll love it.

BOLDUAN: He'll love it there.

BLITZER: There he is. Big Bird, right there behind you.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Sure.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE). Yes. Thank you.

Less than four weeks before America votes. Some Republicans are going to new lengths to try to prove they're not part of the political establishment.

And Hillary Clinton is speaking out about the speculation that she might - might be on the ticket with President Obama in 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: -- the hotel. But it also was good for his -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, it's the largest infrastructure project in the country, with the potential to create thousands of new jobs. Why this tunnel, though, linking New Jersey and New York City, is in jeopardy right now.

Plus, he's the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in the United States, but his trial has already hit a potential snag. We're there.

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

Their faces are practically plastered on TV screens across the nation. With just under four weeks to go before the midterm elections, candidates in both parties are churning out ads and trying to define themselves to voters. Right now, some Republicans are making a big attempt to prove they're a lot like most Americans.

One controversial candidate, though, has a steeper challenge, trying to convince voters that she's not as scary as some think.

Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar - Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an effort by Republicans to paint Democrats as out of touch with everyday Americans and portray Republicans as listening to the concerns of voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Watch the ads Republican candidates are running, and you'll notice a trend. They're portraying themselves as regular, everyday Americans.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, DELAWARE: I'll go to Washington and do what you'd do.

KEILAR: After admitting she dabbled in witchcraft in high school, Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is using the tactic for damage control.

O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you.

KEILAR: Other fresh GOP faces are taking a similar approach.

KELLY AYOTTE (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, NEW HAMPSHIRE: I'm a prosecutor, not a politician.

RON JOHNSON (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, WISCONSIN: I'm not a politician. I'm an accountant and a manufacturer. I know how to balance a budget, and I do know how to create jobs.

KEILAR: Kelly Ayotte is running for the open Senate seat in New Hampshire. Ron Johnson is looking to replace three-term Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.

Even Republicans who have spent years in Washington say they're just like you and me. John Boehner, poised to be Speaker of the House should Republicans take over, calls himself -

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I'm a regular guy with a big job. I've got two brother-in-laws that are unemployed. I understand what's going on out in America.

KEILAR: Here's the thing with this strategy - you can't have it both ways. Sharron 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 tried to convince the third-party candidate to get out of the race.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, NEVADA: 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Some pretty serious name-dropping there for an every woman, so obviously, Wolf, the lesson here, you can't be the outsider and the insider at the same time.

BLITZER: No matter how much you might want to try.

All right. Thanks, Brianna, for that.

Let's bring you some more of our brand-new polls out this hour from four states with very important races playing out right now. We're joined by Michael Crowley. He's the deputy Washington bureau chief for "Time," magazine, our sister publication, our polling partner.

Every Wednesday, we release these statewide polls, and we've got some new ones right now. Earlier, we did Nevada.

Let's talk a little bit about Missouri right now, Roy Blunt running for the U.S. Senate against Robin Carnahan, two famous people in that state. Among likely voters, our new poll has Blunt at 53 percent, Carnahan at 40 percent. Is Blunt a shoe-in?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I think at this point it's too early to say anyone is a shoo-in. We still have almost a month until Election Day. And I should say the Democrats protest that their internal polls show this race to be a little bit closer.

However, I do think this is a state where President Obama is not popular and it's really dragging down the Democratic nominee. Obama is not seen favorably at all in Missouri. It's a really tough state.

They're - they're trying to come back with some pretty harsh attacks on Blunt. There's one out that calls him Mr. Bailout, ties him to his support for the bank bailouts, and pinning him as a Washington insider, so pretty touch comebacks, but it's definitely uphill for Carnahan.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to talk about the president's role in these four states in a moment. Let's go to New York State right now, a contest for the governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, right now among likely voters in our brand-new poll, 55 percent. Carl Palladino, 41 percent, another big margin for the Democrat.

CROWLEY: One place it is looking good for Democrats right now in this election is the northeast, Connecticut is looking a little brighter for them, and New York State is looking good. Cuomo is holding his own against Palladino, who has been very colorful, had some high- profile outbursts that I believe are holding him back. There was another poll recently which 61 percent I believe thought that Palladino was a loose cannon who is not prepared to run the state. So I think his temperament and the coverage about some of his outbursts is holding him back, making it looking like easy sliding for Cuomo.

BLITZER: If the Democrats are having trouble in New York and Connecticut, you know they're have been trouble in other states. They've got to do well in some of these northeastern states. Look at this. The president's job approval numbers in these four states, I'm going to put them. You see the numbers right behind you. Among all adults, his job approval numbers in New York, 56 percent, Connecticut 52 percent, those are in the northeast. You move out west, Nevada 45 percent, Missouri 37 percent. That's among all adults. When we asked likely voters how the president is doing his job approval numbers, look at these numbers. He goes down to 45 percent in New York, 46 percent in Connecticut, 39 percent in Nevada, and only 34 percent approve of the job President Obama is doing in Missouri. That helps explain why Roy Blunt is doing that well.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think it tells you two important things about the election right now. There's an enthusiasm we've heard so much about. The voters who are likely to turn out are much more conservative, much more Republican. A lot of Democrat voters disillusioned, frustrated, likely to stay home. Also you're seeing a correlation. The states where Obama's approval numbers are higher look like the Democrats will be holding ground. In the northeast for instance in some of these states where people are unhappy, the Democratic candidates are struggling. There's an anchor around their neck they may end up drowning them on Election Day.

BLITZER: Michael of Time Magazine our sister publication, you'll be back next Wednesday.

CROWLEY: Thank you. Yes.

BLITZER: We'll have more numbers as we get closer and closer to November 2. Thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by as we take you to into the Senate battleground. That would be Connecticut. Jessica Yellin is there talking to the candidates. We'll see if she's getting any reaction to the brand new poll numbers.

Could Hillary Clinton be part of a so-called dream team? She's opening up about the rumors that she might be on the Obama presidential ticket in 2012.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama and supporters celebrated his presidential victory only two years ago, but it may seem like a lifetime whose popularity has fallen, and whose party could fall victim to a Republican sweep in November. Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger offers insight into what went wrong for the Democrats, a new piece she wrote for CNN.com. Gloria is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. So what went wrong?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, when you talk to folks all over Washington, they seem to agree on one thing which is that Barack Obama had choices to make when he became president. He could have acted simply on the agenda that he was handed, which was the bad economy, or he could have acted on the agenda that he campaigned on, which was health care and all the rest. Instead, what he did was decided to do both of them, and folks say, look, he tried to do too much too quickly. There's the temptation when you're a new president, you're popular, particularly when you have the majority in both houses, you say thing will never get as good for me as they are right now, so I ought to go for it. But there's that tendency to overreach.

BLITZER: You write in the piece, which is excellent, and of course I read it --

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: They should go to CNN.com/politics to read it. You write the GOP saw a turning point.

BORGER: They did. It was interesting for Republicans. Don't forget, in 2009, people writing cover story, saying is the Republican party extinct? They came back to Washington, Obama had won, and Republican hill staffers were told be careful, you can criticize Barack Obama's policies, but don't criticize the man. They were so afraid of him. Suddenly around July, they began to see that the polls started tanking a bit for Obama, and then came the tea parties. I was talking with one Republican operative who was saying I was sitting in my office, watching CNN, watching Arlen Specter's town hall, remember that town hall where he got shouted down. Of course he was a Republican who became a Democrat, because he thought that would actually help him win in the midterm elections. He got shouted down and Republicans realized, you know what? We're on to something here and we can take him on frontally.

BLITZER: There's always a danger if you're doing well to overread what happened and simply go too far.

BORGER: Yeah. Presidents always overread their mandates. There's always the tendency to believe you can be transform tiff, and in fact your election was not just a reaction to the bad guy people didn't like before, and lots of folks believe that that's exactly what happened to Barack Obama, that he overestimated his capacity to bring the country with him in the direction he wanted to go. One of his main problems, which his own people at mitt, is that he had a lot of big government solutions for problems when the country doesn't think government can solve anything. You know, people believe -- only 20 percent of the people in this country believe that it can solve your problems, and here he was proposing big government solutions that they really weren't ready to accept.

BLITZER: Some of those who complained most about big government love social security and they love Medicare, love the U.S. military, but hate the big government.

BORGER: But there wasn't enough government for his Democratic base, so you couldn't please anybody.

BLITZER: Good point. And good article on CNNpolitics.com. I recommend it. In the Delaware Senate race, CNN has learned that Christine O'Donnell met for the first time with the Republican who oversees the party's battle for the Senate, Jon Cornyn of Texas. They met here in Washington today. This is significant because party officials were not happy that O'Donnell beat the establishment candidate in Delaware, Mike Castle in the Republican primary. You can see the Delaware Senate debate between Christine O'Donnell and the Democrat Chris Coons right here on CNN. I'll co-moderate the 90 minute debate at the University of Delaware on October 13th. Get ready for that.

CNN co-host Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker are jumping in in the political foray over tea party icon Christine O'Donnell's controversial bid for the Delaware Senate seat. Noting that she's just in time for Hollywood, the two traded barbs last night over the dramatic new ad that debunks rumors that she's a witch and tells, quote, vote, I'm you.

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: Here's the line that matters. The line that matters is when she says, I will go to Washington and do what you would do. She's saying to real people I know what you would do to those folks. You can send people with credentials, they have policy points, we're going to take the place apart. Now, here's where I completely part company with her. I think that the tea party, I think that piece of the Republican Party is vapid, it has no ideas. It will lead us down a dangerous road. Remember Herbert Hoover? We don't remember him, presidents during the depression, that's where they're taking us, they're going to destroy our country, but that's an appealing ad.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Notice how I have politely been listening. I understand what you're saying but she's saying she's going to go to Washington and she represents the angry people sick of the elites, what are we going to do now? Start burning elites at the stake?

SPITZER: No, but understand that's the politics of the moment. There's an element of truth. Sheets saying, look, all the people who are so smart, to use their line, this is tough for me, all those people who went to the big universities, Harvard and Princeton and all that stuff, right? Yeah, you're pointing at me. She is saying they haven't done so well. Have they?

PARKER: Yeah, we're talking about you, frankly.

SPITZER: I don't know if it's going to win, but it speaks to the public.

BLITZER: Parker-Spitzer airs every week night only here on 9 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton is she seriously thinking about swapping her current job for the number two spot over at the White House?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have so much to do, and I think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing. BLITZER: Was that a denial? We'll discuss it in our "Strategy Session." That's coming up.

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CLINTON: I think the vice president is doing a wonderful job. He's a great friend of mine. We work together closely. He's an expert on foreign policy. He chaired the foreign relations committee in the Senate for years, and we have a great relationship, and I have absolutely no interest and no reason for doing anything other than just dismissing these stories and moving on, because we have no time. We have so much to do, and I think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing.

BLITZER: The secretary of state Hillary Clinton trying to debug rumors of a potential job swap with the vice president Joe Biden. Joining us now to talk about that in our strategy session, two CNN political contributors, the Republican strategist Mary Matalin and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen. Mary as a Republican, what ticket would you fear more, Obama/Clinton or Obama/Biden?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the problem that Obama has, obviously, which shows in the polls is not political. People like him fine. They don't like hi policies. With Rahm Emanuel leaving, I know conservatives don't believe this, but that takes out a strong, centrist common-sense person in his inner circle. A better idea that would solve the current problem, which would improve his chances, is to make Hillary Clinton the chief of staff. She works hard, knows the hill, that would put great fear in my heart, because I think she would actually talk some sense into the president from that position.

BLITZER: Let me repeat the question, Mary. Which is a stronger Democratic ticket, Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket with the president, or Joe Biden?

MATALIN: Probably her, but I don't think the ticket's going to matter if they don't get anything done in the next two years. If they just deal -- if they treat the incoming Republican majority with elevated numbers, if they are political for the next two years, they will go down in flames. I think she could help them with policy.

BLITZER: Which is a stronger ticket, what do you think, Hilary?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Barack Obama is still the most popular politician in America, and I think Mary is right, we're not looking for likability, but we've got it in this president, and we have it in this vice president. They're a good team action and I was there this morning, Hillary Clinton could not have been more emphatic about supporting the team that's in place, and I just -- I don't know where this is coming from, but it's kind of silly.

BLITZER: You think Biden is a stronger running mate than Hillary Clinton, is that what you're saying?

ROSEN: I'm saying that's the ticket we have, and I think it's a great ticket. I think they're equally strong, but one is there and one is just made-up.

BLITZER: Would it make any difference if Sarah Palin, a woman, is the Republican presidential nominee?

ROSEN: You know, Barack Obama has a lot of strong women in his cabinet, we have a lot of strong women elected in this country. I don't think our problem in the Democratic Party is fighting Republicans to show who has been better in terms of leadership for women. The Democrats are so far ahead that, you know -- that's not Sarah Palin's issue. Sarah Palin's issue is whether she's qualified at all.

BLITZER: That mama grizzly as the presidential nominee, should the president ask Hillary Clinton to be the running mate.

MATALIN: No, that's sort of an archaistic thinking. If you look at the swing voters in this cycle, last cycle and future cycles, it will be unaffiliated voters, independents, and they are responding to their concerns about issues, about the debt, about the future. It just happens to be that women understand this in a very personal way, because they run the family budgets, and they attach policies to their future, to their kids' future. But they're voting on issues, they're not on gender. That's an old template, one I don't think applies in an environment like this where there is such concern, and rightly so, over the problems that this country has.

ROSEN: I agree with Mary. I think that voting on gender has gone significantly by the wayside. But what we know is that over the course of the last few months, with polls of dissatisfaction, there is a huge percentage of dissatisfaction that is related to not enough change happening quickly enough. Not just that people are unhappy with the president. I think we're going to see in these mid terms a lot of surprise sort of over an anti-incumbency feeling generally, but I don't think this will end up being the Democratic sweep that people are talking about, that Mary is saying it's a rejection of Obama's policies. I think it's a rejection that people are not engaged enough and not enough is happening.

BLITZER: I know you this that Hillary Clinton would be an excellent white house chief of staff. Would she be an excellent secretary of defense, assuming Robert Gates steps down? She would be the first woman to ever become the secretary of defense.

MATALIN: No. If the problem is the generals, which Obama does have a problem with his generals if Woodward's book or "Rolling Stone" or any number of accounts are to be believed, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the answer over, there and I would say again, she should be chief of staff and I will disagree with my friend Hilary, because it is a specific repudiation of Obama policies, and only the far left thinks that we should be doing more and the rest of the country thinks that we have done way too much and we are indebting our future.

BLITZER: Would she be a great secretary of defense, Hilary Rosen?

ROSEN: Well, one of the things that Secretary Clinton said this morning at this event was that she has been working really hard to move opportunity away from essentially going to war being the only answer. They are working hard to engage in diplomacy. She has now put more civilians in Iraq to help on rebuilding and help on other things than we have started to with soldiers. So I think that this is going to go against where she is in her philosophy, so I don't see that scenario happening at all.

BLITZER: I remember she was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee when she was a U.S. senator and I could easily see that scenario unfolding, but that is just me, another observer watching what is going on. Thanks very much.

MATALIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is asking, would a promise to undo health care reform be enough to get you to vote for a Republican? Jack will be back in a moment.

And he was expelled from second grade for having a toy gun. Yes, a toy gun. Did the school take the zero tolerance policy too far?

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BLITZER: Jack is back with the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is would a promise to undo the health care reform be enough to get you to vote for a Republican?

Jay writes, "Considering that the Republicans want to replace it with, and considering that it is the Republicans who blocked the better reform law, I would say that the threat of repeal would move me to absolutely vote for a Democrat. This law can be improved over time with a Democratic Congress only."

Lisa in Connecticut, "Must admit I voted for Jody Rell in Connecticut, but never will vote for Linda McMahon, almost nothing could get me to vote for a Republican ever again. For those who understand, no explanation is need, and for those who don't understand, no explanation is possible."

June writes, "Yes, yes, yes."

Dee Dee in Tucson, Arizona, "Never, we need health care reform and we got something going on that and why give it up. Maybe it needs to be tweaked, but it is time that pre-existing conditions don't keep you from getting insurance."

Marilyn in Ohio writes, "Nothing could ever get me to vote for a Republican, ever. We had eight years under George Bush's rule, and look at where the country is."

Rich in Texas says, "Yes, the Republicans are getting my vote and I'm a small business owner and employ 100 people, and seems to me between the health care bill and tax increases Obama is telling me to take my company offshore. People can call me wealthy all they want, but what they need to understand is that my competition is in Mexico and China. What choice do I have? If I don't do it, I will go broke."

And James says, "I would vote for anyone who would promise to explain to me what has been passed."

If you want to read more on this, you will find it on my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: A lot of that health care law is not going to take effect for a few years, 2014, and some of the provisions, so the white house says to be patient, because it is going to be great.

CAFFERTY: The white house says a lot of stuff everyday.

BLITZER: So what are you saying, Jack?

CAFFERTY: They say a lot of stuff, and most of it is designed to promote whatever their agenda is on a given issue. Remember the promise they made about how this health care bill would be done out in the open.

BLITZER: I remember that.

CAFFERTY: How did that work out?

BLITZER: Well, not working out as promised.

CAFFERTY: And 70 percent of the public wants a public option. How'd that work out?

Didn't work out.

CAFFERTY: Yeah, so, you know, the white house says a lot of stuff.

CAFFERTY: Not just this white house though, a lot of white houses as you recall.

CAFFERTY: Well, we are talking about this white house.

CAFFERTY: Yes, a lot of white houses.

CAFFERTY: And this health care bill. Well, they are out promoting their own bill, their own kool-aid.

CAFFERTY: That is what politicians, do Jack. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: It is the largest police shakedown in the history of the FBI, the details of more than 100 arrests in Puerto Rico, that's just ahead.

And plus, the largest infrastructure project in the United States with the potential to create thousands of new jobs, so why is the New Jersey governor considering pulling the plug on this tunnel?

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