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THE SITUATION ROOM

Voters Didn't "Fall in Love" with GOP; President: Take Voters' Message "To Heart." Money Can't Buy Me An Office

Aired November 4, 2010 - 17:00   ET

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


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLGIST: Five to 10 inches rain expected even without wind.

BALDWIN: Even five.

MYERS: Yes.

BALDWIN: That's bad news for Haiti.

Chad, thank you.

Keep your eye on that.

Meantime, send it up to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, in Washington with SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.

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

Happening now, GOP leaders make it clear they'll use their new power in Congress to go after President Obama and make sure he doesn't get reelected. Some Republicans, though, are grumbling they'd have more muscle -- even more muscle if they hadn't been saddled with some controversial Tea Party candidates.

Brace yourself for 2012 and a slew of Republicans eager to take on the president. Stand by to see how Sarah Palin stacks up against some possible GOP rivals and against President Obama. We have new poll numbers.

And a potential disaster in the sky -- a passenger jet's engine fails in flight. Now, an entire fleet is grounded and investigators are scrambling to try to figure out what went wrong.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The top Senate Republican is essentially rubbing the Democrats' election losses in President Obama's face today. The minority leader, Mitch McConnell, says voters didn't suddenly fall in love with the Republicans on Tuesday. He says they fell out of love with the president of the United States and his Democratic Party.

Both sides are trying to stake out their positions for the new political world in which Republicans have more power and the Tea Party movement is a wildcard.

Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's taking a closer look at all of this -- the Republicans, Dana, they're reflecting on what happened on Tuesday. They have to make some major decisions of their own.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. No, make -- make no mistake about it, Wolf, Republicans here on the Hill are elated about their victories on Tuesday. But when it comes to the Senate, there is a tinge of regret.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): An unapologetic Mitch McConnell defended and repeated his goal -- deny President Obama a second term.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It would be foolish to expect that Republicans will be able to completely reverse the damage Democrats have done as long as a Democrat holds the veto pen.

BASH: Still, many Republicans say McConnell would have more power now if the GOP had not fielded Tea Party candidates who couldn't win. So far, Republicans have gained six Senate seats, bringing them to 47. That's a healthy gain, yet many GOP strategists say three that stayed in Democrats' hands could have gone Republican, too -- Nevada, Colorado and Delaware -- states where Tea Party-backed candidates won GOP primaries, knocking out Republican candidates GOP leaders thought had a better shot at beating Democrats.

McConnell downplayed those losses.

MCCONNELL: You can go back and second-guess about whether you could have had a better candidate here or there, but the primaries decided those outcomes.

BASH: But GOP strategists say it matters.

RON BONJEAN, FORMER SENIOR GOP SENATE AIDE: Well, we were very glad to get the gains we did. But could have had more. There is a huge difference between 47 and 48 Republicans, because every vote counts in -- in major pieces of legislation that's being put on the Senate floor, there are careful negotiations where just one vote can tip the balance.

RAND PAUL (R-KY), SENATOR-ELECT: Tonight, there's a Tea Party tidal wave.

BASH: Tea Party-backed candidates like Rand Paul in traditionally Republican Kentucky did win. So did some in swing states -- Marco Rubio in Florida, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Senator Jim DeMint, who backed Tea Party candidates, says his fellow Republicans should stop grumbling about Senate losses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "JOHN KING USA") SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Anyone who says that the Tea Party was detrimental is so completely out of touch that they represent problem in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Sarah Palin made a video to congratulate and take credit for those Tea Party candidates she backed who won.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We're going to stand up and we're going to speak out. And it may take some renegades going rogue to get us there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, it's an internal wrestling match between what you could call die-hard conservatives, who say sticking to those principles is what really matters, more than winning, and those who call themselves more pragmatic Republicans, who say it doesn't matter if you are not in power, you cannot achieve those conservative goals if you're not.

Now this is a GOP struggle, Wolf, that is going to continue, surely, and even be amplified as we get into the race for Republican -- the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential race against President Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

A good report.

Thank you.

We still don't know the final balance of power in the U.S. Senate. The race in Washington State is still undecided, although the Democratic incumbent senator, Patty Murray, continues to have a narrow lead over her Republican challenger, Dino Rossi.

Washington State's mail in balloting system is slowing the vote count. We're watching Washington State closely.

We know a Republican will win Alaska's Senate seat, but we don't know if it will be the party's nominee, the Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller, or the incumbent, the write-in candidate, the Republican, Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski and dozens of other write-ins have gotten the most votes as a group. Now the state needs to break down, open up all those envelopes and determine which write-in candidate got the most votes and whether that candidate gets more than Miller.

Miller tells CNN he's upset by the way that the date to start counting write-in ballots has been moved up to next Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: We aren't asking it to be pushed, we're asking that the original date be honored. We think that it's improper to suddenly foist upon the Alaskans this idea that we're going to move it up by a week. It obviously is going to require a lot of volunteers on the ground -- 81,000 ballots. And that they all do have to be examined. Whether I'm there or not, each one of those ballots has to be examined to make sure we know who's on that write-in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Democratic Senate candidate in Alaska, by the way, Scott McAdams, has conceded.

President Obama sat down with his cabinet today over at the White House and told them to take the message from disgruntled voters to heart. He announced plans to meet with Congressional leaders from both parties two weeks from today, promising it will be a move toward bipartisanship, not just another photo opportunity.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is over at the white House working this part of the story for us -- Jill, what are they saying over there?

What does the president, in practical terms, hope to accomplish by inviting the Republican and Democratic leadership over on November 18th?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's -- there is an agenda. And we can get into that, Wolf. But, essentially, what he's saying is, look, there's been a message from the American people -- and we heard it from Robert Gibbs here at the briefing today over and over -- Democrats and Republicans have to work together.

Here's how the president put it this morning at that meeting with his cabinet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford two years of just squabbling. What we need to do is make sure that everybody is pulling together, Democrats and Republicans and Independents, folks at the federal level and the state levels, the private sector with the public sector, to make sure that America retains its competitiveness, retains its leadership in the world. And that's something that I'm very much looking forward to helping to be a part of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: OK, so what is that agenda?

Well, number one, tax cuts -- Bush era tax cuts. The president says that -- or, actually, Robert Gibbs says that the president believes that middle class tax cuts should continue. The tax cuts for upper income Americans should not. They also say education will be at the top of the list for what they want to accomplish and energy. And then, finally, on this idea by some Republicans about rolling back health care reform, the spokesman was asked today at the briefing about whether that means they're reopening health care, Wolf. And he said, no, they are not doing that. However, they are open to, as he put it, new ideas.

BLITZER: I think they served Slurpees over there at that little summit they're getting ready for in two weeks?

DOUGHERTY: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you, I may be one of the only Americans who has never had a Slurpee. But we -- we went out and got one, you know, for scientific research. Here it is. This is what they're going to be drinking. I -- I have my doubts. I don't know. I think maybe a -- another beer summit or a Martini summit, something like that, might be more in order.

BLITZER: How did you like that Slurpee, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: I will take the Fifth Amendment on that.

BLITZER: Take a sip. We want to see you a drink a little bit.

DOUGHERTY: Oh, all right. You know, they're complicated, too. You have to kind of, you know...

BLITZER: All right, we'll...

DOUGHERTY: -- be experienced in this.

BLITZER: -- we'll let you do that. When I -- I know you well, because we spent four years together covering the White House. I never saw you have a Slurpee.

DOUGHERTY: I was going to say, you never saw it.

BLITZER: Yes. I never saw it.

DOUGHERTY: OK.

BLITZER: But I'd love to see you have a Slurpee the next time around. They're delicious.

DOUGHERTY: The next time. The next time.

BLITZER: Not healthy, but delicious.

All right, Jill, thanks.

She's a very healthy person.

DOUGHERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: From the Slurpee summit to a near -- to a new beer summit -- the winner of the Illinois Senate race, Republican Mark Kirk, sat down with his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, last night at Chicago's legendary Billy Goat Tavern. During the heat of the campaign, they talked about the possibility of sharing a brew when the election was over to make sure it stayed friendly. They agreed to a one beer limit.

So what's next on the presidential election calendar?

Jack Cafferty is here.

He's got "The Cafferty File" for us -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: While her party was being tarred and feathered at the polls on Tuesday, secretary of State and former first lady and former senator and former presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, was 9,000 miles away on the other side of the world.

How convenient.

Yesterday, she attended a women's empowerment conference in New Guinea.

Now, Mrs. Clinton knows a thing or two about empowerment.

Meanwhile, back in the States -- from that old song -- her husband, the former president, was campaigning like a mad man -- more than 100 appearances around the country on behalf of Democrats leading into the mid-term election.

Why?

Surely he could read the polls as well as anybody. Democrats got the beating that everybody knew they were going to get.

So why was the former president racing around in a losing cause?

Was it was a payback for the IOUs collected when Hillary was running for president two years ago?

Or was it perhaps creating some new IOUs of his own on behalf of his wife?

It's an intriguing question. And there's certainly some appetite within the Democratic Party for a primary challenger for President Obama in 2012. Some polls suggest as many as half the Democrats want to see that happen. And unless the economy turns around and there are jobs to be had had, President Obama could be had in 2012.

What a rematch that would be -- think Ali/Frazer, toe to toe, 15 rounds until they're both too tired to stand.

Hey, we can dream, right?

And if you want to get real silly, consider this -- what if the Republicans nominated Sarah Palin?

So here's the question -- should Hillary Clinton challenge Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012?

Go to the blog and weigh in.

BLITZER: You're going to get a ton of e-mail right now.

You know that, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I probably will.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a question that will generate a lot of commotion.

Thanks very much.

Money couldn't buy some wealthy candidates a political office. Stand by to hear how much Republican Meg Whitman, out in California, spent per vote for the California governor's race. Guess what?

She lost.

And George W. Bush is making it very clear he did, in fact, approve -- personally -- the controversial interrogation procedure known as waterboarding. The former president reveals whether he'd do it again.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some wealthy candidates spent a fortune on their campaigns and have nothing show for it today. Republican and former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, spent -- get this -- $142 million of her own money on her losing bid to become California's next governor. That's believed to be the most personal cash spent by any candidate in this country ever. In the end, Whitman spent just under $47 per vote, only to lose to Democrat Jerry Brown, whose campaign spent about $7 per vote.

In Connecticut, Republican and World Wrestling executive Linda McMahon wound up spending more per vote than any other candidate. The over $46 million she pumped into her failed Senate bid amounted to just over $100 per vote.

By comparison, Republican Carly Fiorina's losing Senate battle -- campaign battle in California was a bargain. The former Hewlett- Packard chief spent $5.5 million of her own money -- less than $2 a vote.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst David Gergen, watching all of this for us.

David, I guess one of the lessons we can learn from all of this is that money does not necessarily talk when it comes to ensuring elections.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does not, Wolf, and we have learned this in the past, you can't buy an election usually in this country.

It does help had you get your message out. It does -- it does strengthen your campaign, there's no question about that, but when we sort out this campaign -- and some $4 billion apparently was spent, the biggest midterm we have had caused by some distance -- I think we are going to see much the same pattern and that is money does not buy the election victories.

Ironically, it appears that on the House side, for example, House of Representatives, Democratic candidates actually outspent Republican candidates, but the Republicans won. And vice versa in the Senate, the Republican candidates outspent the House, but Republicans then fell short of their dreams.

BLITZER: Why was California so clearly different than so many other parts of the country? You had two liberal, well-known liberals, Democrats, Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown, they beat sort of moderate conservatives, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, even though they spent their own money.

Why is California, in other words, so different this time around than so many other parts of the country?

GERGEN: It is an interesting question, Wolf, that a lot of Republicans have been scratching their heads about. They thought these two candidates, Whitman and Fiorina, they had a chance to crack it and came away discouraged.

California, at one point, as you know, was an extremely competitive state. Ronald Reagan came from California and won the state, but in recent years, especially since the Clinton years, Clinton, as you know, went out and spent a ton of time, you covered him out there and spent a ton of time in California and helped to turn that. Very blue is the state and remained blue since, a very big Democratic stronghold.

But Wolf, I want to come back to one thing on the money if I could, please, and that is while money does not buy elections, the harder question, the bigger question is how much influence does it buy.

We have been talking about self-financed candidates. Well, an awful lot that won were not self-financed, they had money coming in. And I think that what has been troublesome about this election is how much money flowed into it from anonymous donors, and we don't know who is beholden to whom when it comes to voting in Congress in this next year.

BLITZER: And, David, as we take a look at all of this, the immediate lesson for Democrats is what?

GERGEN: The immediate lesson for Democrats is spending a lot of money on television advertisement when the advertisement and the message isn't good is not going to win. You know, James Carville has been making the argument for some time now that the messaging in the campaign on the Democratic side was weak, didn't really drive moment points.

So you could spend a ton of money on bad advertising and it doesn't resonate. So it is really, really important to get the substance right and your message right and then go get the money and try to get the message out.

BLITZER: All right, David, thanks very much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

BLITZER: It's taken a couple of days, but CNN can project a winner in the Illinois gubernatorial race. The Democratic incumbent Governor Pat Quinn wins beating the Republican challenger Bill Brady.

Gloria Borger is here. Let's talk about this a little bit, David Gergen still with us as well.

Gloria, this was really important for the president of the United States, his home state of Illinois, already lost the Senate race, Mark Kirk the Republican beat Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat, but it is important, at least they get a little semblance of victory in Illinois for the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, Pat Quinn, really, the lieutenant governor -- the governor who had been lieutenant governor under Rod Blagojevich, had sort of a cloud over his head. He really wasn't expected to win. Democrats had not been doing well in the Midwest. As you point out, the Senate seat was lost. So this is a very, very big win for the Democrats.

In a way, Wolf, the race mired the national debate. This is a state with a $13 billion budget deficit and the question was how do you get out of it? And Governor Quinn was portrayed as a tax-and- spend Democrat because he had said that he wanted to raise the state income tax a few percentage points in order to get out of the deficit.

He said that his opponent was somebody who was an extremist on social issues, they had a debate and he said to Bill Brady, OK, how would you get us out of this budget deficit? He didn't have specific answers and it's very clear that that debate had a large impact on the final vote because people understood and cared about the fact that this state is flowing in the red ink.

BLITZER: You know, they may have won, the Democrats, David Gergen, Illinois, but all the states around Illinois went Republican as far as governor races are concerned in Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin and some of the other states. So, it's -- but it is at least some good news for this president and for the Democrats.

GERGEN: Symbolically, very important, Wolf. And actually it'll be helpful in the general election in 2012 to have a Democrat sitting in the state house there in Springfield for the president -- for President Obama.

But Wolf, the larger point is absolutely right about the loss, especially the upper Midwest, for Democrats in this election. That is threatening to their prospects for keeping the White House 2012.

We just talked about California, how important it is. The Democrats were relied upon having a coastal strategy, California, Oregon, Washington, and East Coast strategy, especially from New Jersey up or New York up, but then the upper Midwest has been the extra element that has given them electoral victories. And to have the upper Midwest crumble in this election is something they will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they can reverse it.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

David Gergen, Gloria Borger. Gloria will be right back.

A big day on Wall Street as stocks surged to two-year highs. We're going to tell you what is driving this rally.

And it's a medical test that's been around for decades, but now researchers say it there could be a major new tool in cancer detection and it could save thousands of lives every year.

Lots of news happening, including a lot of political fallout from the elections this week. Stick around, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Medical researchers say they may have found a major new tool in fighting lung cancer. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that and some of the other top stories THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what a going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Potentially good news. New research he showing annual CT scans in heavy smokers reduced the risk they will die from lung cancer by 20 percent. The results of the government-financed study are being touted a major advance in cancer detection that could save thousands of lives annually.

Lung cancer kills about 160,000 people every year. The disease is often detected too late for effective treatment, 85 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer die from it.

And U.S. stocks rallied sharply today with all three major indices finishing at a two-year high. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and broader S&P 500 surged almost 2 percent while the Nasdaq rose about 1.5 percent. Analysts say investors were encouraged by news that the Federal Reserve would buy $600 billion in U.S. treasuries by the middle of next year.

And former teen heartthrob David Cassidy is facing charges in Florida of driving under the influence. Police in Saint Lucie county say he was arrested after driving his Mercedes off a road last night. Cassidy starred in the hit television series "The Partridge Family" in the '70s and then went on to have success as a pop singer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred, for that. Passengers say they heard one loud bang and then another. What they were hearing was an engine blowing in flight. Investigators are now trying to figure out if it could happen again. Stand by, new information coming in.

And the president vows to move forward with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But critics fear that after had his election shellacking, that's his word, he may have missed his chance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's every air travelers' worst nightmare, a Quantas jet lost part of its engine after taking off in Singapore today. Passengers say they heard a loud boom and the captain came on the PA system with this announcement.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUANTAS PILOT: I do apologize, I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our number two engine. We have dealt with the situation. The aircraft is secure at this stage. We're going to have to hold for some time, whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel and a number of checklists we have to perform, much and as you can, I'm sure you are aware, not proceeding to Sydney at this stage, making a left turn now to track back toward Singapore. And as we progress with this we'll keep you informed. But at this stage, everything is secure, the aircraft is flying safety and we will get back to you very shortly with further information. Thank you for your patience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now from the airport in Singapore, our own Zain Verjee. Zain, you spoke to one of the passengers on board that Qantas flight. What did they say? What was it like?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I did, Wolf. You know, every passenger dreads being on a plane and hearing loud bang. That is exactly what it was like for so many of the people that came out here at the Singapore airport. I spoke to one passenger, Wolf, who told me this, he said, "I heard a loud bang, a jolt and then a flash." He said it was kind of like being struck by lightning. He said that when he looked over at the wing he saw four holes, there was one large one and three smaller ones. I asked him what it was like in that critical moment and he said all the passengers at that time seemed pretty calm, only heard a few people crying but it was definitely a dramatic experience for passengers. You travel a lot, I travel a lot and you can only imagine something like that happening. It would be so easy to put ourselves in the place of those passengers. Wolf.

BLITZER: I know they found some pieces of the plane on the ground there. What did they see?

VERJEE: The pieces of plane they there were about three or four shards of metal. There were witnesses on the ground in the island in Indonesia when it came down. Some of the debris hit a car, some of it ended up in an open field. What is going on right now is the focus is going to be on the investigation of that debris, how did that happen? They are going to look at the parameters of the engine. They are going to be looking at things like the speed, the temperature. They'll take a look at the black box and see what some of the last communications were before that engine failed. Wolf?

BLITZER: Tell us about this Airbus 380. It's the largest passenger plane in the world, right?

VERJEE: It is. It's the largest passenger plane in the world. It's known as the super jumbo. There are only a handful of airlines around the world that use it; Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Lufthansa, KLM and Emirates. What happened, Qantas grounded indefinitely six of its a-380 airbuses. Singapore Airlines here is holding that flight to check out the engines, Lufthansa doing the same. So it is going to mean passenger delays, I'm sure, many passengers are saying they get it, they would rather wait, have it checked out properly and then get on board, but those airlines are sure to take a big economic hit as well. Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm sure. It's a double-decker aircraft as well. Thank you very much for that report.

Let's get back to politics now. The fallout from what happened this week, enormous. The Democrats reeling from their election trouncing, the biggest power shift in the House of Representatives since 1948. The challenges ahead for President Obama are very similar to those faced by former President Bill Clinton after the Republican landslide back in the 1994 midterm election. Listen to President Clinton then and President Obama now on their election defeats and the lessons learned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON: With the Democrats in control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable yesterday and I accept my share of the responsibility and the result of the elections.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I ran for this office to tackle these challenges and give the voice to the concerns of every day people. Over the last two years, we have made progress, but clearly, too many Americans haven't felt that progress yet and they told us that yesterday. And as president, I take responsibility for that.

CLINTON: I also called the leaders of the next Congress, Senator Dole and Congressman Gingrich, to tell them after this hard-fought campaign that we are ready to work together to serve all the American people in a nonpartisan manner.

OBAMA: I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night I'm eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.

CLINTON: To those who would use this election to turn its back, let say this, I will do all in my power to keep anyone from jeopardizing this economic recovery by taking us back to the policies that failed us before.

OBAMA: With so much at stake, what the American people don't want from us, especially here in Washington is to spend the next two years refighting the political battles of the last two.

CLINTON: I pledge today to work with all the members of the Congress especially the new Republican leadership to achieve that goal if they will work with me and they have pledged to do so today and we can make great progress for this country.

OBAMA: What yesterday taught us is that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here, we must find common ground in order to set in order to make progress on uncommonly difficult challenges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I was CNN's senior White House correspondent when Bill Clinton faced those enormous challenges back in 1994 the Republican landslide taking over the House and the Senate. At CNNpolitics.com, over at the CNN political ticker, I have just written a little post about what happened then what's going on now, some of the lessons that President Obama may want to learn from Bill Clinton. You want to go to CNN.com, you can read that over at CNNpolitics.com on our political ticker.

A new defeat, is it a new defeat for President Obama? One new magazine says he is no longer rated the most powerful person in the world. Stand by.

And new discoveries of explosive notice mail. More reason to worry about cargo security right now and moving fast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: U.S. authorities make a major drug bust under the U.S./Mexican border. 30 tons of marijuana being brought into the United States through highly developed drug smuggling tunnels. CNN's Casey Wian is following that for us. You are going to take us inside one of these tunnels in the next hour. Tell us what our viewers have in store.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We will give you an unprecedented look at the underground world of these Mexican drug cartels, these drug smuggling organizations. You can see here we have a closet here in this warehouse, just across the border from Mexico in San Diego. Underneath this closet, you see the opening to this drug smuggler's tunnel. Down inside that opening, I'm going to climb down there, we have cameras all the way through that tunnel, I will show you just how difficult it is to get these drugs through this tunnel and what lengths these drug smugglers will go to to evade U.S. border security efforts. All that coming up next hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We will watch together with you, standing by, we are interested in what is going on.

New reports that the parcel bomb in last week's terrorism scare may have been minutes away from exploding. We are looking at some important new clues.

And Sarah Palin releases a new web video with an interesting new slogan, recycled from a past president. Is she gearing up for a 2012 run? We will discuss that much more, coming up in our strategy session.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Get to our strategy session in a moment, but some other important news; three men convicted of the grisly 1993 murders of three cub scouts in West Memphis will have their cases reviewed to see if they should be granted a new trial. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that, other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What is going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf, hello everyone. The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a hearing to review DNA evidence that was not available at the original trial of the men who are known as the West Memphis three. At the time, prosecutors argued they were part of a satanic cult and committed the grisly murders of the three 8-year-olds as part a ritual sacrifice. DNA from hair discovered near the scene has now been linked to two other men.

And police in Greece used controlled explosions to destroy at least two more suspicious packages today. Authorities there is say at least 14 packaging contain explosive devices originating from Greece have been discovered in the past four days. Two suspects are in custody. Authorities say they are members of a Greek terrorist group with no ties to international terrorist organizations.

And Forbes magazine is out with its annual list of the world's most powerful people. Taking the top to the spot is Chinese President Hu Jintao. President Obama slipped to number two on the list. Other notable names in the top ten include Pope Benedict, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg makes the top 50 and al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is also on that list at number 57. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Fred.

Let's get to our strategy session right now. Joining us, our Democratic strategist, the CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and Republican strategist, also CNN political contributor, Mary Matalin. Never too early to talk about 2012, right?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's correct.

BLITZER: It's not that long. November 2012 is a long time from now, but January or February 2012, when the Iowa caucuses are scheduled, they could be moved up. Talking maybe a year, you want to be a serious Republican presidential candidate or a serious Democratic presidential candidate, you got to start raising money, hiring staff, some of those staff people will go in different directions, both of have you worked to on this so you know. We asked this question, among registered voters right now, would you prefer President Obama or Sarah Palin? Look at this. 52 percent right now say President Obama. Sarah Palin gets 44 percent in this poll. We also asked among Republicans' choices for their nominee in 2012. Mike Huckabee 21 percent, Mitt Romney, 20 percent, Palin, 14, Newt Gingrich, 12, Ron Paul, 7 percent, we're not talking Rand, but his dad, Ron Paul. Is it too early to start, if you want to be a Republican presidential nominee, is it too early to start making decisions?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No not the ones that you said need to be done. You need to tell people keep your powder dry, you get a line of money people. It what is the opening bid this year, 35 mill to get in the game? It is not too early to do that a number have told a number of us to keep our powder dry, but these polls at this point are meaningless.

BLITZER: The polls are meaningless, but the fact is they are already seriously thinking about major decisions if they want to run for the Republican nomination.

BRAZILE: Wolf, you know, the big primaries, invisible primary, the candidates go out there and raise money, lock up key supporters like Mary said as well as get more name recognition, more organization put together, I think is important that Republicans, based on the old playbook that we used in 2008 that they go out there and re-establish themselves with voter, this is a different electorate they will be facing come 2012.

BLITZER: Sarah Palin has already come out immediately after the Republican victory of this week with a brand new video, it's about a minute, I'm going to play it right now, a very sophisticated, very impressive, let's watch this.

SARAH PALIN: Across the country, every day Americans are standing up and they are speaking out and based on what I've seen, there is more than enough reason to have faith in America. We are going to get back to the time-tested truths that made this country great. They enabled us to weather tough times before and they will see us through the challenges that we face today. I am confident and I am hopeful because this is our movement, this is our moment, this is our morning in America. We are going to stand up and we are going to speak out and it may take some renegades going out to get us there. It may take them shaking it up to get there. We got to do this together.

BLITZER: Mama grizzly right there at the end. That's not easy to produce a video like that, she had that ready to go. She must have a pretty good staff already?

MATALIN: I don't know her staff, she is exceedingly clever. Is it just me or does she get a tad more coverage than any potentials aspirants? Yeah, she's always ahead of the game.

BLITZER: You think she is going to run? MATALIN: I can only take her what she says. She is putting everything in place and she should. I don't know anybody has made up their mind and I don't know you can make up your mind until you see what this new Congress is going to do, and if they respond to the election, then the attraction to a tea party candidacy will diminish because that will have been met.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani told me here THE SITUATION ROOM, he thinks she is going to run.

BRAZILE: I'm sure he will say that that might help him make up his mind. She said in this video that she is confident. The voters want to know if she is qualified. She said she is prepared but really, is she disciplined? A presidential campaign, Mary knows this, requires a lot of discipline this is -- we are a long way from 2012, but having Palin out there will give us something to talk about every day.

MATALIN: You know discipline, both of us weren't, more than one to occasion.

BLITZER: Your respective candidates disciplined?

MATALIN: More than us.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. And it requires a lot of sacrifice. That is my last piece of advice for Sarah Palin before she tweets about us and our beautiful colors today.

BLITZER: You like that momma grizzly at the end?

MATALIN: Very Reaganesque.

BLITZER: Morning in America, she used that phrase, too, all the pictures, all those tea party candidates, she was --

MATALIN: We are there. Every generation has to teach freedom.

BRAZILE: Jobs, jobs, jobs, the American people want that as well.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is asking should Hillary Clinton challenge Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012? Jack will be back in a moment with your e-mail.

And just when you may have thought that there wouldn't be another President Bush, guess what, there is new speculation about Jeb Bush's plans for 2012.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Question this hour is should Hillary Clinton challenge Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012?

Brian says, "I think that Obama's heart is in the right place and he talks a good game, but he has been naive and weak. And the Republicans have preyed upon that. Hillary would be a stronger president who is better able to stand up to the Republican bullying."

Michael in Texas, "Yes, Hillary should run so we can have a Republican president again."

Hillary in Texas writes, "Hillary Clinton versus Sarah Palin, really, Jack? In your heart of hearts you know who would win it I don't care how badly tarnished the Democrats are now. Maybe the Clintons are prepared to run against Obama and you guys would love the TV ratings for that and after all, that is all the media cares about."

And David says, "I think the only way to keep the presidency from falling in Republican's hands is if Hillary runs. Obama does not stand a chance unless he starts to perform miracles for the next two years and I don't see that happening."

Jeff in Minnesota, "If she feels she should do to a better job why not challenge him? It happens all of the time in private industry and not illegal and why not?"

Tommy says, "I love Hillary Clinton and she is an amazing leader and I supported her through the whole election and I would still rather have her as commander in chief, but that say, the only way Hillary should run in 2012 is if Obama steps down and decides not to run."

And Tony says, "I hope so, we didn't really know in 2008, but we sure need her now. We need somebody with a backbone in the office. Please, Hillary, run."

And Lene in Illinois writes, "Jack, are you trying to give me nightmares?"

If you want to read more of these, we got a lot of mail, go to the blog CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: Jack thank you, thanks very much.

A Senate Democrat is admitting that the party does not always get it. Stand by for Senator Claire McCaskill's take.

And former George W. Bush has a new mission now about waterboarding.

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BLITZER: Former president George W. Bush is strongly defending waterboarding for terror suspects. In the new book "Decision Point" President Bush acknowledges he knew about and approved waterboarding before it was used. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She has more on the story. What do we know, Mary? MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some legal experts say that the former president is opening up himself for prosecution by admitting his personal involvement in the decision to use waterboarding, but they highly doubt he will face legal consequences. Waterboarding is an interrogation technique that simulates drowning and has since been banned by the Obama administration. In his memoir "Decision Point," former President George W. Bush writes about the moment he was asked about whether to approve the use of waterboarding on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. The president's answer, "Damn right," reports Reuters which obtained a copy of his book. The former president writes that it was used on three detainees defending it by saying it led to intelligence that helped to thwart attacks. The president also says to do whatever it takes to protect the country, and he was asked about that in an interview that aired on NBC's "Today" show.

MATT LAUER, NBC HOST: You could say it took Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and eavesdropping and waterboarding. Did it take too much?

FMR. PRES. GEORGE BUSH: We didn't have an attack. 3,000 people died on September 11th, and I vowed that I would do my duty to protect the American people. And they didn't hit us again. Time dulls memory. And I understand that. But it didn't dull my memory, because I was charged with protecting America. And those decisions that I made were necessary.

SNOW: President Bush was in office and his Attorney General Ashcroft would not define waterboarding as torture. That has since been reversed. Current attorney general Eric Holder says waterboarding does amount to torture. Now legal experts though say it's unlikely the former present would face an investigation in the U.S. however, they say it is not out of the question that another country may try to go after him. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you.

You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.