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Twenty-Fourth Miner Is Out; Delaware Senate Debate Tonight; Talk of NJ Governor Running in 2012 Presidential Election

Aired October 13, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And there you see Jose Henriquez, 54 years old. He just came out -- 69 days stuck in that mine. It was virtually, though -- these mines in Chile -- a second home for Henriquez. He had 33 years of experience working in the mine.

We want to welcome our viewers watching us here in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Another emotional, emotional scene -- the 24th miner has now been freed. He is above ground -- 33 altogether. Nine more to go. They're coming out a little bit more quickly now. Another moving moment. We've been watching this. You can't get enough of this. We're covering this major story throughout this hour and the next hour. We'll be watching all of this very, very closely.

Our hearts go out to the families and the friends as we watch this moment. We can only imagine how he feels.

Henriquez, by the way, had warned that something was wrong with the mine only days before he went down there inside the mine. We're told he served as a type of religious leader for the trapped miners. He loves music, plays the guitar and the accordion. He'll have plenty of time for now, as he is reunited with his friends, his colleagues, his family. He'll go and be checked thoroughly, as the other miners are being checked right now.

Even though they -- they come out and a burst of adrenaline certainly is there, there is some concern there could be some -- some long-term, short-term problems. They want to make sure that they give them only the best medical treatment -- the treatment they certainly deserve, as they go forward with their lives. No doubt the 69 days they were stuck inside have changed them and it will affect the rest of their lives.

And, once again, he's now on the gurney. He's going to be taken in, as the other 23 miners who have brought out one by one by one over these past -- I guess it's about 18, 20 hours, almost so far. The process continues.

Nine more miners will be brought out. And then the five rescuers who were sent down to help in this process, they will be brought out, as well. This process has gone about as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for, anyone could have imagined. The whole world, obviously, has been watching, as -- as well.

The 25th miner, who will be next, is Renan Avalos. He's 29 years old. Once the Fenix capsule goes back down, it takes it about 10 or 15 minutes for it to go back down. After they fix it up, they clean it up. They lubricate it a little bit and make sure that everything is smooth. They check it.

It goes back down. He'll be brought up. It takes about 15 minutes for the 25th miner, Renan Avalos, to come up, as well.

Now you see that the wheel is beginning to turn, once again, as this process continues. It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience for the whole world to watch. And, indeed, I must say, the whole world is watching right now.

We're going to certainly stay on top of this story for our -- for our viewers. We're going to watch everything that's going on.

Gary Tuchman is on the scene for us.

I want Gary to come in -- Gary, if you can hear me right now, you've been watching this for the past several days. You've been down there. You've seen all these miners come out.

Give us an update on -- on what officials there are saying about this process.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, firstly, Wolf, this has been one of the great reporting assignments of all time. It's so rare that we cover breaking news that is such good and inspirational and wonderful news. And that's what we've had -- have happened here.

The last time we talked yesterday, we were excited about this beginning, hopeful that the miners would come up safely. But there was a lot of tension. And it was almost feels like when the first miner came out at 12:10 in the morning, local time, early this morning, it was almost like watching Apollo 11 and Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touching the lunar surface for the first time. You didn't know if they would be safe, but once they did, it was just an exciting moment.

And that's way we felt here. And, ironically, this device that you see looks like a rocket. It shoots up, a half a mile down, through a ceiling, comes up. It almost looks like a toy rocket. But it's saving lives and it's amazing.

And that wheel that you just mentioned behind me, Wolf, we're calling that the wheel of good fortune. When it turns counter- clockwise, it's going into the earth to pick up a miner. When it turns clockwise, it's coming up. And you're right, it's taking 15 minutes each time for each miner to come up. Twenty-four miners up. Nine still to go. The pace is quickening. We do expect that all 33 miners should be out by about 12:00 or 1:00 Eastern time tonight, early tomorrow morning. And then, of course, they have to bring up the five mine rescue experts, who also went down there. And then no one will ever be down there again. Everyone will be safe. That's the way we're hoping it ends.

But a very interesting couple of people brought up today. A guy by the name of Daniel Herrera. Daniel Herrera, we met his mother. And his mother said -- she was here for weeks. And she said, I'm not leaving the campsite until my son is safe. And she was there, right behind us, when her son came out. And it was a great, emotional moment. And then there was Edison Pena. And he seems to be known as the Elvis Presley aficionado, plays the music down there every day. And today, he got a great offer -- not a surprising offer, but a great offer from Graceland, and that's in Tennessee -- come to Graceland, all expenses paid, trip for two. And I guarantee you that Mr. Pena will be in Memphis, Tennessee very shortly, the Elvis aficionado that he is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A whole lot of rocking going on. These pictures, by the way, Gary, that we're showing our viewers on the other part of the screen, these are live pictures from underneath, about half a mile underneath. The -- these where the remaining nine miners are, the five rescue workers. There's -- these are live pictures that our viewers are seeing.

Soon, probably within the next 10 minutes, 15 minutes or -- or so, we'll see that capsule -- that Fenix capsule come back down and the 25th miner, Renan Avalos, will go in there, the 29-year-old miner. He will go in there and he will be rescued as the other 24 already have been.

It's been a meticulous process. And it's amazing, these pictures, Gary, as we see these pictures. These are live pictures. The -- I think the whole world has been totally impressed, Gary, by the transparency, the opportunities that the Chilean authorities have given everyone to see everything that's going on on live television.

Talk a little bit about this decision that they made. They didn't necessarily have to do it, but they wanted the whole world to see it happen as it occurred.

TUCHMAN: Well, it's truly remarkable, Wolf. Never have we seen not only live video, but live audio from half a mile below the Earth. I mean it's just incredible pictures. And no one gave any of the news media a heads-up this would happen. Once again, these are not our cameras. We don't operate these cameras. The Chilean government operates these cameras. So they have the cameras close up at the site right behind me. So you can see these close shots -- what looks like a sewer cap and then this rocket coming through and a miner coming off and this delirious reception with family members and emotional.

And then you have cameras inside the reunion center. It's a building set up a short distance from here, where the families meet each other, kiss, hug. And then great pictures.

But I will tell you, In -- in all honesty, the transparency is wonderful. But if this was a situation where they didn't know what they were dealing with -- and they may have been dealing with fatalities and there was a likely outcome that it be bad results, I don't know if we'd see such transparency. BLITZER: Gary, I want you to stand by. We're going to get back to you. We're going to have extensive coverage over the -- this hour and the next hour on what's going on in -- in Chile right now.

We're going to watch every one of these miners rescued. We're not going to leave this story.

But there's another story we're working on, as well, right now and it's why I'm here on the campus of the University of Delaware. A big debate tonight between the Republican Senate candidate, Christine O'Donnell, and the Democratic Senate candidate, Chris Coons. They'll be debating behind me at Mitchell Hall here on the campus of the University of Delaware. That debate will begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. You'll see it live here on CNN.

Gloria Borger is our senior political analyst.

She's here with me, as well.

Set the stage a little bit for us on what these two candidates need to do tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the stakes couldn't be higher, first of all, Wolf, because the control of the Senate may very well be at stake here. This is a very important seat for the Republicans to win.

As you know, Christine O'Donnell had kind of an unorthodox introduction to the voters in the state of Delaware. She had to have an ad proclaiming she's not a witch, that she's just like the people of Delaware.

And what she has to do tonight, Wolf, is to show that she's confident, rational, thoughtful, that she's an acceptable candidate to be a senator from this state.

Chris Coons is somebody who's been a county executive in New Castle, not very well-known; not a career politician. But he has to introduce himself to the people of this state, as well, because they don't know a lot about him.

As you know, this is an anti-incumbent year -- some would say anti-Democratic incumbent. So it's hard for a Democrat this year. But, clearly, Chris Coons has a -- has a leg up.

BLITZER: And we're releasing, this hour, Gloria, our brand new CNN/"Time Magazine"/Opinion Research Corporation poll. I want to put it up on the screen.


BLITZER: Because it shows that Chris Coons, right now, is way, way ahead --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- of Christine O'Donnell, by 19 points. It's consistent with some other polls we've seen --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Look at this -- 57 percent for Chris Coons, 38 percent for Christine O'Donnell.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: It doesn't mean she can't come back, almost three weeks to go. But this is a formidable uphill struggle she has right now.

BORGER: You know, this is a state in which a moderate Republican was expected to win this year, Wolf, Mike Castle, multi-term incumbent Congressman. And so, you know, it's clearly a state that could have gone Republican.

What she's got to do right now is change the narrative in this debate. It can't just be about who she is. It has to be about what she can do for the state of Delaware if she were to become a United States senator. And looking at that poll, Wolf, I would say that she's got a tough job ahead of her tonight, particularly if you ask some tough questions --

BLITZER: We will.

BORGER: -- which I bet you will.

BLITZER: We will be asking some tough questions -- all the substantive issues, we're going to get through -- domestic issues, national security issues.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: We'll get through that. That debate begins 7:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Gloria is going to be here with me, as well. We're going to have extensive, extensive, extensive coverage, as well.

We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, we'll go back to Chile. There are dramatic developments unfolding right now. Twenty-four miners have been rescued. Nine more still must be rescued. And then they have to bring up the five rescuers, including some medical personnel who went down there to help.

Our coverage will continue.

Oh, by the way, let's continue right now. We see the -- the module the capsule coming down right now. This is the Phoena cap -- Fenix capsule. It's empty right now. But the -- the next miner who is about to be rescued will go inside. His name is Renan Avalos. He's 29 years old. And I want to stick with this picture right now. These are live pictures that we're seeing from half a mile underneath the surface of the Earth right now. They're going to open up this door and then they're going to put Renan Avalos inside. His brother, Florencio Avalos, was the first miner to be pulled to the service -- to the surface. Avalos himself has a son waiting at the top for him. We'll see him once that capsule reaches the top. That should take about 15 minutes. The brothers -- by the way, both of these brothers traveled to the mine four months ago, after leaving the grape harvesting industry. Avalos was on the team that handles supplies sent down through the bore hole.

As you can see, these live pictures. There he is, 29 years old. And so far, thank god, things have been going exceedingly well for these miners. You have to give the Chilean authorities and all the outside experts who came in a tremendous amount of confidence -- a vote of confidence for the word they have done. We're watching it closely.

We'll continue our coverage of this dramatic story right after this.


BLITZER: That was certainly a very, very dramatic moment last night. Florencio Avalos, he was the first, the first of the 33 miners to be rescued. If you were watching CNN last night around 11:00 p.m. Eastern, you saw it live. He worked as the group's cameraman during the isolation, filming videos of the miners that were later sent up to rescuers and relatives at the surface.

His brother, by the way, Renan Avalos is miner number 25. He was about to be rescued. He was just put inside that capsule. He's going to be slowly but surely brought to the top over the next few moments. We'll watch that live, you'll see it live once he emerges.

Much more of that coming up, but I want to check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's thinking ahead to the presidential election, and Jack is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We are talking rare here. Rare -- like monsoons in the Sahara, one-eyed snakes, Blitzer beardless -- you get the drift.

We're talking about a politician who gets elected by telling the voters one thing and then when he gets in the office doing that exact same thing. This is something almost never happens. In the process, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie is putting a lie to the traditional idea that the political success has to be accompanied by squandering the taxpayers' money on all matter of foolishness and extravagance.

In fact, Christie is now increasingly being talked about as possible presidential material. Christie was elected governor of New Jersey with marching orders to stop spending money and low and behold, that's what he's doing.

For example, last week he pulled the plug on the largest public transit project in the century, a commuter tunnel running under the Hudson River into Manhattan. Christie said New Jersey couldn't afford its share of the cost overruns. Imagine that? Christie also has taken on the teachers, public workers' unions and their expensive contracts. And he's dramatically cut spending, including for education and aid to towns and cities.

In all, Governor Christie closed a $2 billion-plus budget deficit last year and $11 billion budget deficit this year. Of course, it's totally ruffling the feathers of the status quo, the you scratch my back with the taxpayers back scratcher crowd whose used to their politicians handing over handing over the public's money in exchange for their political support, and that's just a wonderful thing.

Imagine what a guy like this could do in Washington where Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can't even be bothered to get a budget passed, let alone exercise any fiscal restraint. The possibilities seem positively breathtaking.

Of course, it will be a little tough to convert the country to socialism if the government money well dries up, but then that's the point, isn't it?

Here's the question -- "Would you support New Jersey Governor Chris Christie if he ran for president? Go to, post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

Meanwhile, new red flags for Democrats in the battle for the United States Senate. Less than three weeks before election day, we have some more of our new CNN/"Time" magazine opinion research corporation polls to unveil.

Right now, let's bring in "Time" magazine's White House correspondent Michael Scherer. Michael, thanks very much for coming in and let's go to West Virginia. Very interesting race, a popular governor, Joe Manchin, running for the Senate seat, 44 percent. John Raese is challenger, the Republican, 44 percent. Obviously, it doesn't get much closer than this.

Why is it this close if Manchin is so popular?

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME" MAGAZINE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The other number that we also got in that poll a little further down is the presidential approval. Barack Obama is underwater by 30 points in West Virginia, which means Manchin is actually polling a good 12 points above the president and that's really his big issue. He's a very popular governor, people like him. He's running ads trying to separate himself from the president.

But he's got this problem where West Virginia voters don't want to elect another Democrat who is going to support a very unpopular agenda in West Virginia.

BLITZER: Look at these numbers in the state Wisconsin right now, Michael. Russ Feingold, he's the incumbent, he's served several terms, only 44 percent. His challenger, Ron Johnson, a rich guy in Wisconsin, 52 percent. This is consistent with some other polls we see. Is it the same reason? Feingold, only a few weeks ago, was probably the frontrunner.

SCHERER: Yes. No, Feingold hasn't really had a very good poll for a number of weeks now. He's been behind consistently.

And what's interesting about the Wisconsin poll is that if you compare it with presidential approval, it's exactly the same. In other words, Feingold is getting exactly the same percent in that state as Barack Obama is on approval level.

The problem -- we know Russ Feingold is a progressive, as someone who criticized health care reform from the left, as someone who voted against Wall Street reform from the left. He's running in a year when progressives in Wisconsin don't really hold the upper hand.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at Washington state, Democrats are doing a little bit better in Washington state. The incumbent Senator Patty Murray with 51 percent in our brand new poll. Dino Rossi, the Republican challenger, 43 percent.

I guess maybe Democrats are doing better on the West Coast, cause in California, Barbara Boxer seems to be doing a little better out there. What's going on in Washington state?

SCHERER: The big story in that race is the women vote. Patty Murray is above 30 points among women in that state, which makes her margin right now. She's been running a pretty negative fierce campaign against Rossi. One of the recent campaign ads says can we trust -- do we want a man whose going to turn back the clock for women?

Those are the big issues. You know, Murray is running as a pro- choice candidate, Rossi is running as pro-life. If men were voting in that state, if men were the electorate in a few weeks, Patty Murray wouldn't have much of a shot, but she's really riding the woman's vote right now.

BLITZER: A lot of the states, the Republicans are doing better when President Obama is not doing that well and from Washington state, he seems to be doing a little bit better. Maybe that helps her in Washington state.

Mike Scherer of "Time" magazine, thanks very much. Next Wednesday, we'll have more new polls coming out, CNN/"Time" Opinion Research Corporation.

We're here on the campus of the University of Delaware getting ready for tonight's big debate between Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons. I'll be co-moderating that debate. You see supporters for these candidates, some of the students and others already gathering getting ready for this debate.

Also, we're not going far away from Chile where we're waiting for the rescue of the next miner to come up. That would be miner number 25, Renan Avalos. He's in that capsule right now. He's going up and meeting his family. We'll watch that, you'll see it live here on THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That's Renan Avalos, miner number 25 as he's called right now. He's 29 years old. He just came up on this capsule, he has now been rescued and you can see the emotion.

Let's listen in and just watch for a moment.

It's a scene we've seen -- it's a scene we've seen now 25 times, a miner comes up after 69 days underground and finally, finally, reunited with his loved ones, with his family, with his friends.

You see he's wearing the sunglasses, specially designed sunglasses. They've been underground 69 days and as a result, as a result they have to be really careful to protect the retina. That's why they're wearing the glasses.

Gary Tuchman has seen this. He's up close, he's on the scene for us.

Gary, no matter how many times we seen this, it still brings a real emotional moment for all of us watching.

TUCHMAN: These pictures, Wolf, have just been incredible. Every since 12:10 local time this morning, which Chile is an hour in front of Eastern time, four house in front of Pacific time, we've just been watching each and every reunion. And you would think by this time, by the 25th man being pulled up, you would get used to it. We're getting used to the fact that perhaps there's not as much worry that there's going to be a problem, but we're not used to the emotion.

Each time, I'm standing around with other journalists watching it on a TV set a few minutes away from here, close up. And it's just amazing, we're just all quiet and we're in awe of this moment. I mean, you rarely see special moments, unscripted moments like this. And the fact is, it's just wonderful covering a news story where you get the opportunity.

I don't know if you pointed this out, Wolf, you may have, but it's worth pointing out twice. The man who just pulled up is the brother of the first man brought up, Florencio Avalos. Florencio Avalos was the pioneer of this method. It had never been done before at this particular venue. They checked it out the day before to see if this capsule would go down the shaft without dislodging any rocks or without encountering any problems, but they had never did without a human being. So at 12:10 this morning when they did with the first time they did it with a human being.

And that's why we were scared. We didn't know exactly what happened. We had lumps in our throat as we watched the first mine rescue expert go down, that was the first movement of a human. He went down, once he got to the bottom, everyone clapped and applauded and was thrilled. And then when the man came up, everyone was just waiting and hoping the thing would pop up behind us and show up, and sure enough, it did. And ever since then, we're extremely confident that by the time this is all over, we'll have 33 safe miners on Earth where they belong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Gary, as a lot of our viewers have pointed out over these past few days for, what, 16, 17 days at the beginning, they disappeared, these 33 miners. No one knew if they were alive or dead. The worst fears were they were dead. After 17 days, how could anyone survive in the wake of this collapse, this mine collapse?

But after 17 days, a note was sent up and they found it and all of a sudden, people realized there were 33 miners trapped underground and the process began.

They originally thought it would take until Christmas for them to drill this hole and get these people out, but they've obviously moved so much more quickly and we're seeing it unfold.

Right now, 25 miners have now being rescued and they're getting ready to rescue number 26, Claudio Acuna. He'll be coming out shortly as well.

Patrick Oppmann is over at the hospital on the scene for us. They had a briefing there, Patrick. Tell us what we learned.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are 17 miners behind me in the hospital. Wolf, some very interesting information released by the Chilean health minister. He said that they expect -- officials expect by between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow morning, all of the miners will be above ground. The rescue will be complete and long lasting will be with their families. He also said of the 17 miners they had a chance to examine, they're in surprisingly good condition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They really are in good conditions, emotional conditions, physical conditions. Some of them require more medical care and have to stay in the hospital a little longer. They were really able to survive without any help all this time and come out in the conditions that they came out that tells us they're in good physical condition. Now, from an emotional point of view, I'm very surprised at how well they are.


OPPMANN: Now the men who have to stay a little longer in the hospital, they're suffering from a lot of miner infirmities. Some need dental surgery. Some need slight eye surgery. They have ulcers on their eyes. Small things that will require a slightly longer hospital stay. All in all, in very good shape. The health minister say they expect to see more of the men -- four or five of the men brought in by one of the army helicopters in the next hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Patrick Oppmann, we'll stay in very close touch with you. Thanks for the update and the headline we just heard from Patrick.

By 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. Eastern tonight, they hope all 33 miners will be above ground safe and sound. They have to bring up those five rescuers that went down there. That will continue once the 33 miners are brought to the top. That will be a dramatic moment indeed. We're praying obviously for the remaining miners to be brought to the top.

Chileans around the world are bursting with pride right now as we watch these dramatic rescues unfold. Brian Todd is monitoring that part of the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a big part of the story is about the Chilean national pride and the ability to handle the crises. First, the earthquake, the devastating earthquake earlier this year. Now the mine disaster and how the country has come out of that celebration so far in the Chilean embassy in Washington. They've got a jumbotron up three for people to stop by and see a live feed of the rescues as they occur. There's a little scoreboard right there. Last night, a big celebration as they pulled the first miners out with champagne, cake, dancing. It's a real scene here in Washington.

I'm joined by the Chilean ambassador to the United States, Arturo Fermandois. Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

What does this entire operation say about your government's ability to handle these crises, first the earthquake earlier this year and now this?

ARTURO FERMANDOIS, CHILEAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: It shows a lot of leadership I would say of the ability to put the teams and the professional abilities to overcome the adversity. Also on the leadership of the miners themselves. On those -- both stories in the earthquake and the miners, we have the people of Chile showing a lot of courage and assisting in the adversity.

TODD: You've taken a lot of pride in the fact that Chileans led the rescue effort. Chilean engineers are the ones leading this thing. But you, yourself, were involved in the transferable of a drilling rig that was instrumental in this from Pennsylvania. Talk about that.

FERMANDOIS: I received a letter from the government from Pennsylvania saying they have in Pennsylvania a good machine for the drilling process. It turned out it was a very good machine. We put that machine in a track, we sent it to Miami. With the very generous American company, we sent it for free to Chile like this in 24 hours. This machine supposed to be a plan b just for supporting the whole thing turned out to be the hero. And it reduced the -- the time -- the waiting period by two months.

TODD: Congratulations on that. Congratulations on the operation so far. Thank you very much for joining us. Good of you to talk to us. Thank you.

Wolf, the ambassador says he was advised not to have a public gathering here. Some people told him that it wasn't the diplomatic thing to do. Not the style of a diplomat. He said look this is a big operation. He wanted to open the arms of his embassy to show them what Chileans can do, what they're doing here in this operation. He wanted the world to see it. And we had a big celebration here last night that's ongoing, Wolf?

BLITZER: And they should be celebrating, Brian, right now. They'll be celebrating when all 33 trapped miners and the five rescuers all come to the top. We're waiting for miner number 26. He's still underground, to go inside the capsule once it gets down there. You'll see it unfold here. Claudio Acuna, 34 years old. He's the next miner who will be brought to the top. We'll show it to you live. Stand by, much more from our coverage from Chile coming up.

We'll also have more from the campus of the University of Delaware. We're getting ready for the big debate tonight, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons. I'll be co-moderating the debate. Supporters for both of the candidates, they've already gathered lots of excitement here on the campus. Much more news right after this.


BLITZER: Looking at these live pictures. The capsule is now just returned underground about a half a mile underground here, underground 2500 feet or so. This capsule is now empty. The doors will be opened. And number 26 -- miner 26, Claudio Acuna, 34 years old will go inside. He's the youngest, by the way, of eight brothers. Acuna moved to the mine world ten years ago. He has a 2-year-old daughter with his wife. Claudio Acuna, miner 26, he'll be taken inside the capsule.

You can see the door open right now. You'll be hooked up and go up about 10 or 15 minutes or so. It's been going relatively quickly, though, more quickly than a lot of people thought would happen.

This -- this process as they get this capsule ready for Claudio Acuna. We're going to watch it as it unfolds. I must say this has been amazing teamwork. Not only were the miners there for 69 days. Those that were still remaining are still inside. Those are five rescuers who went down to make sure everything was working smoothly. There were 33 miners to begin with, 25 have been rescued. Eight more to go.

And after Claudio Acuna comes out, there will be seven more to go. We'll stay on top of this story. We won't go very far away. We'll watch the reunion with this family as soon as that capsule reaches the top. And you can't get enough of this.

We're also monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. Kate Bolduan is standing by. Update the viewers on what is going on right now including the nation's mortgage mess.


Those pictures just amazing. Some of the other headlines we're watching today. All 50 states are banding together to investigate improper foreclosures by the nation's largest lenders. But the attorneys general of those states stopped short of calling for a freeze on all foreclosures.

At least six major firms are conducting their own reviews of their loan procedures. The CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase says he says he doesn't think that there are cases where people were evicted from their homes when they shouldn't have been.

And a chilling reminder today of that deadly Fort Hood massacre. Portions of the 911 tape revealing victims' desperate sobs and moans were played during the military hearing for the accused shooter, Major Nidal Hassan. One victim testified how his eyes locked with the suspect moments before being shot in the head. Hassan is charged with murdering 13 people and wounding 32 others in the November attack.

And the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he may be making a little headway in the heated re-election battle in Nevada. A new Suffolk University poll show's he's now three points ahead of his Republican challenger tea party favorite Sharron Angle. A recent CNN/"Time" magazine poll showed Angle ahead by two points. Things are moving around there.

And first lady Michelle Obama made her 2010 campaign debut today in Wisconsin. She stumped for Senator Russ Feingold who's eight points behind his GOP rival in our new poll. Mrs. Obama is scheduled to campaign in as many as seven states between now and the election. With a 65% approval rating, the first lady may even be more help to candidates than her husband who has a 45% approval rating. Wolf, I can just imagine that conversation -- honey, why don't you let me take this one.

BLITZER: Yes. I think that's a good one. Kate, I think that's true. She's very, very popular and she can help these candidates who are in trouble like Russ Feingold in Wisconsin right now. Three weeks to go until Election Day.

We'll see how much you can help because as you pointed out in the brand new CNN "Time" magazine poll, he's down right now to Ron Johnson, his wealthy challenger. We will continue to watch this story.

We're also watching what's happening below the earth right now. Miner number 26, he's now in that capsule, you can see the wheel turning, bringing him to the top. Talking about Claudio Acuna. He's 34 years old. His family is waiting at the top. We'll watch it live unfold.

I guess in about ten minutes you can see his 2-year-old daughter there and his wife. They've been brought over for this emotional reunion. You can't get enough of this. we'll stay on top of this story and the coverage will continue after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: You're looking at some live pictures right now. The family of Claudio Acuna, they're awaiting for his arrival right now. He's in the capsule that's slowly coming up to the top, maybe not so slow. It's about 10, 15 minutes, we saw him go inside that capsule, the phoenix capsule just a little while ago half a mile beneath the surface of the earth. He's now being pulled up to the top. They're getting ready for the excitement. We'll show it to you live as soon as that capsule reaches there. You see his 2-year-old daughter and wife awaiting the emotional return. We'll stay on top of this story. We won't leave it for long.

I want to bring in our strategy session though right now. Joining us are two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and the national radio talk show host William Bennett. These are emotional moments, guys. Let me let you both briefly weigh in. A quick thought Paul first from you on what the whole world has been watching for 20 hours. What a great story.

PAUL BEGALA , CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is almost biblical to have these men be lifted up from the depths of hell. Really I'm sorry to be so emotional about it but like every family in America, we've been praying for these guys and to see them come up like that, it's so heartwarming.


BLITZER: I'm always afraid, Bill, to say how great it is. Not everyone is to the top yet. We'll be able to celebrate completely with all 33 miners and the five rescuers who went down there and are brought to the surface. It looks so, so wonderful right now.

BENNETT: Two catholic sensibilities here. Lazarus, resurrection is irresistible. The other thing is things go by so fast, particularly good things. You can savor this one, each one coming up. A lot of the world is watching. May I just say the United States role here -- you know, people love to criticize the U.S. but American guys there, American technology, NASA stuff. Good for us, good for the Chileans, good for us too. We're there when the going gets tough, you know?

BLITZER: To a certain degree, Paul, not only did the United States came in and helped, but experts from around the world, everyone got involved. They originally thought maybe they could get these guys out by Christmas. Some people in the beginning thought there's no way they can get them out given how deep they are. Nothing like this has happened, ever. But the world really did come together, which is such a wonderful thing to see.

BEGALA: It is. I'm reminded of the old line that this guy watched secretariat win the Triple Crown back in the worst of Watergate. He said you know, it restores my faith in humanity. But Bill makes a good point, though, that America should take great and justified pride in our role in America's role, both our government and the private sector there. But to see the whole world come together like this. It's terrific. It's a very divided planet now, probably more so than any other time in the last 20 years. And, yet, to see everybody come together, this is -- this is where TV and frankly CNN, the global village really does a lot of good.

BLITZER: But will it really have an impact, Bill? Will it change anything after a few days? We'll all celebrate. We'll be thrilled by what will happen. But do you think it will change anything?

BENNETT: No, except it's a good reminder. I can always think of the kids -- it's a great lesson about what human beings can do, human beings at their best. A lot of our news is not human beings at their best. So this is when you want to watch and you want the children to watch to see that joy and the joy of the families getting together again. It's a very nice set of lessons, I think.

BLITZER: I just want to quickly pick both of your brains. On one political issue that has come up, you know about the federal judge yesterday deciding that the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" which prevents gays from serving openly in the United States military, this judge saying that it is unconstitutional and it should be lifted right away. Paul, the Obama administration is moving quickly to oppose this judge's decision even though the president of the United States wants to do away with it, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. What is going on here?

BEGALA: Well, he did swear an oath to faithfully execute the laws of the land and this is a law. Many of us feel it's unconstitutional. My old boss Bill Clinton signed it. It doesn't mean that it's constitutional. I think the judge is right but I think the attorney general and the president are right in that they have to defend in court a law that's being challenged. Now where the president is wrong is as commander in chief, he could stop right now the investigations, the persecutions and the discharges of servicemen and women who are gays and lesbians. He could stop this and work with Congress to repeal the law, but I understand as a matter of constitutional law. He has an obligation to defend the statute.

BLITZER: What do you think Bill?

BENNETT: Yes, it is often called the policy. It is a policy but it is more than that. It is a law passed by Congress, and I think the president has rightly said, that we should change it through Congress and through legislation if that is the way he wants to go. I happen to agree with the policy and certainly think it should not be overturned in this way, and they are right to appeal it. But there is an awful lot of concern and worry about this in the military.

BLITZER: And hold on a second, guys, because I just want to interrupt you, Bill, because you are now looking at the live pictures, and this is what we have all been waiting for this. This is Claudio Acuna, 34 years old, and this door is about to open. He is going to be reunited with his 2-year-old daughter, and you know, it is a warm, warm moment that I want all of our viewers to experience to share.

Let's watch it unfold. Let's listen and watch.

All right. There you see Claudio Acuna, 34 years old, and like the other miners rescued, reunited with his family, and a very, very emotional moment, and now put on a gurney and he will be taken for examination and he has the Chilean flag right there.

Gary Tuchman is on the scene for us. Gary, seven more trapped miners to come, and in the last hour, we have seen three miners coming up, and in the next hour three more. There are seven more miners that have to be brought to the top and then the five rescuers have to be brought to the top.

This is moving quickly, Gary. Not quickly enough for some of the family members, but after 69 days they are finally, finally on the surface. Gary, weigh in on what we are seeing.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you would be surprised at the patience of the family members in camp hope to my right. We are having problems with the audio, so let me turn this down a little bit. They are patience. They know that the loved ones have been gone for 70 days now and they're saying to themselves, OK, listen, just do it right. Don't rush it, and don't mess it up. They are patient. They are still celebrating and have been celebrating for three days at camp hope knowing that this is going to begin the rescue effort, and indeed, we're now down to the last seven. We expect if it continues at this pace, it could be over by midnight Eastern time, which is only six hours from now, but you made a good point, Wolf, they still have five mining rescue experts to take out, and let's not forget about them, because there is a certainly n. element of risk for everybody going down and who's coming out. So they actually have 12 people to come out, but the fact is that seven of them have been down there for ten weeks and then the five others have been down there just for a day or two but there's a risk for all of them. So we're going to keep a close eye, but so far so good. It is just a very great feeling of elation here in this area. This area where we allowed us just yesterday for the first time, and we had never been getting an idea of where they are. At camp hope, you could see the cranes, but you could not where the miners were. So yesterday is the first time we saw the area. One little thing and I don't know if I mentioned this yesterday when we spoke, but you see the Chilean flag at the rescue area. It was a very interesting scenario yesterday when they set up the Chilean flag that's about 20 feet tall. They put it right in front of the yellow apparatus, and we could not see. And we were being told that the reason they did it to offer privacy to the families, but it is a joke, because the TV camera is there to show what is going on with the families to millions of people. And they wanted privacy against the 600 of us, so everybody jeered, and they moved the Chilean flag a little bit to the right so we could see it with the rest of the world.

BLITZER: It is interesting, Gary, that the last rescue took only ten minutes for the capsule to go from half a mile underground up to the surface. They seem to be moving more quickly, and they seem to be three in one hour. You know, I think that it is quite impressive what they are doing. You see the wheel turning rather quickly right now.

TUCHMAN: Well, we were told originally that it moves 2.3 feet per second when this all started, and we did the math and it came out to 16 to 17-minute ride, but what we found right away, it was 15- minute ride and now it is quickening up, so the experts have not told us this officially, but what I am deducing is that they have found out that they can move it faster safely, and why it is going quicker. So once again there is no rush whatsoever. They are doing what is safe and get the miners out and start the national celebration. The first miner came out 12:10 a.m. Chilean time on October 13 so don't be surprised to see October 13 someday a national holiday here in Chile. It's that important.

BLITZER: A great day indeed. Don't go too far away Gary. We're going to get back to you. We'll stay on top of this story. You're seeing these live pictures.

I want to bring in Jack though. He's got the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Something considerably more mundane, the question this hour is would you support New Jersey Governor Chris Christie if he decided to run for president? He's getting some buzz because of his budget cutting and money saving efforts in the garden state.

Lance writes from California, "My first reaction is yes. He has certainly kept his word to cut the budget, and he seems to be able to deal with press and the lunatic left. The mere fact that he can stand up and tell the state unions to suck it up and the budget is being cut makes him interesting to conservatives. I would give him a close listen."

T.C. says, "He is the man for the job, Jack. I live in Philadelphia. I have been following him closely. He is what the middle-class needs in the white house."

Judy in California, "How about we send this guy to California before we talk presidency. If he can clean up the mess that the morons out here have made, I would vote for him for president and I'm a Democrat."

Al in New Jersey, "You have to be kidding. Christie still has not come up with a multiyear financial plans, alternative financing and new revenue sources for New Jersey and other concepts he promoted early in his term."

Jim in Florida writes, "Absolutely. He is a breath of fresh air. Christie makes one think of Teddy Roosevelt: a can-do, will-do just get out of the way special interest be damned. I sure like what I hear."

Dan in Kentucky writes, "It certainly is appealing to hear about a man who says what he means and does what he says. However, we Americans are still so naive that we think that we are electing an emperor or a benevolent dictator. How would President Christie persuade Congressional Democrats who can't say no to spending money or Republicans who just say no to everything?"

And Mickey says, "Yes, I would work for him, I would do what I could do to get the votes. A man who could cut spending and the size of government sounds good to me. Do you think he would tax the churches and CNN? Now that would be perfect."

If you want to read more on the subject, got a lot of email on this, go to my blog, Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack thanks very much.

And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, raw, raw emotion and for some families nearly unbearable wait as the mine rescue in Chile unfolds this hour.