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The August Jobs Report was Release; The Fighting in Syria Continues; Both, Republicans and Democrats are Campaigning for Women Votes

Aired September 8, 2012 - 18:00   ET



Those new unemployment numbers and the race for the White House. What the latest jobless report will mean for President Obama.

Also, what to expect between now and November as the campaign enters its final grueling phase.

And an ancient city ripped apart by civil war. We have an exclusive look inside Syria's commercial capital.

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

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

We begin with the dramatic highs and lows in the race for the White House. Now in full swing with the conventions over in both campaigns laser focused on November. The spotlight had barely cooled for President Obama's big night when the latest unemployment report cast a shadow over the Democrats' post-convention glow.

Mitt Romney called it the hangover to the party in Charlotte. The labor department says U.S. employers added only 96,000 jobs in August, fewer than expected, although the jobless rate did fall to 8.1 percent.

Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is joining us now to take a closer look inside the numbers.

Ali, the unemployment rate went down, but that's not necessarily a positive development. Explain what's going on.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, I've said for years that it's just easier to look at the number of jobs created or lost as opposed to the unemployment rate. And I'll explain that to you in a second.

But the number of jobs added in August was 96,000. Now, if you look at the pattern of jobs that have been added over the last several months, you can see that on the right, the 96,000. We were hoping for 120. There were some estimates upward of 140,000. But the good news is that it's added and not subtracted. The good news is that the private sector in the United States has added jobs for 30 months in a row. And that's what you'll hear from the White House. Here's the bad news. It's just not enough.

And you're talking about those -- that unemployment rate. Here's what happened. A number of people left the workforce. So the unemployment rate, the 8.1 percent, it was 8.3, it's now 8.1 percent, because 368,000 people dropped out of the workforce. So the number of people unemployed is now a percentage of a smaller number.

Here's another way to look at that. The labor participation rate is 63.5 percent. That means of the people in America who are eligible to work, 63.5 percent are working. That is the lowest labor participation rate since 1981.

And another problematic area is you and I have talked about this a lot, Wolf, manufacturing jobs were cut, 15,000 of them. A lot of them were in the auto parts industry. We've been sort of stabilizing and adding manufacturing jobs for the last couple of years, so that was a little bit worrisome.

So, all in all, I'm generally a glass half full guy and I'm happy it was added jobs as opposed to lost jobs. Not anywhere where we needed to be, Wolf.

BLITZER: And that 15,000 loss in actual manufacturing jobs, to me, that's pretty depressing when you think about it, because the auto industry, for example, that was coming back big time. Is there an explanation of why that happened?

VELSHI: Well, we've got a lot of problems in Europe. Europe is one of our biggest customers. And so part of what's going on in the economy, and this figures into the politics, might be things that are going on in Washington and the intractability of congress. A lot of it is storm clouds from Europe blowing on to our shores. They're buying fewer things that we manufacture.

Look, long-term, the estimates are that the U.S. auto industry is going to employ a lot of people over the next ten years. So while I wouldn't worry about that in the long-term, in the short-term, that's what we're worried about. We need to be adding more jobs than we saw here.

BLITZER: Absolutely. Ali, thanks very, very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. Joining us, Neera Tanden. She is the president of the center for American progress and Stephen Moore of the "Wall Street Journal."

Neera, I'll play a clip. This is what Mitt Romney said reacting to these latest numbers and then we'll discuss.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a tough time for the middle class in America. There's almost nothing the president's done in the last 3 1/2, 4 years that gives the American people confidence that he knows what he's doing when it comes to jobs and the economy.


BLITZER: The numbers were not necessarily very good, as you just heard Ali report.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: You know, I actually thought Mitt's statement -- Mitt Romney's statement, Governor Romney's statement was fascinating. Because if you see the whole statement, he actually -- he criticized the president, that he again didn't really lay out any ideas on what he would do. His statement was purely negative. And you know, I think the big question about this election is really, you know, who's going to deliver results? And what are the ideas to actually improve the situation?

BLITZER: But were you satisfied with what the president said in his acceptance speech on what he would do? Because there were a lot of goals that he laid out, but he didn't get into specifics on how we would achieve those goals?

TANDEN: Well, I mean, he did talk about very specific ideas. Hiring teachers, that's a situation right there, which is a great example of what's happening in Washington. One of the problems we have in our economy is that we've lost 700,000 public sector jobs. That's a big drag. We should actually be hiring teachers. That was the specific idea that the president laid out.

And I just want to clarify one thing on manufacturing, because I do think this is an important point. Manufacturing is a critical component of economic recovery. I don't think we should look at August, necessarily, because as a stand-alone or some indication, because that's a time where every year plants tend to shut down. So that is, I think, more of a blip than something we should look at as a long-term trend.

BLITZER: He has been criticized, including from the editorial writers of the "Wall Street Journal," we're talking about Mitt Romney, that he hasn't really laid out a lot of the specifics on how he would turn this economy around.

STEPHEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: Let me say something about this jobs report first. I mean, Ali said that he's a glass half full guy, I am too, but it's hard to see the glass half full with this report. I mean, this is a pretty lousy number. Its way, way below where we should be. And it fits a pattern of this recovery, which is, it's been the weakest recovery since the great depression.

BLITZER: But having said that, 96,000 jobs created, new jobs, is better than losing 700,000 jobs or 800,000 jobs, which was occurring at the tail end of the Bush administration.

MOORE: And we have created, you know, the president said last month, we created about four million jobs in his presidency. The problem is, if you compare this with the average recovery, of the post world war II recoveries, if we had the average growth rate that we've had --

BLITZER: But do you accept that this one, the collapse of the economy, at the end of the Bush administration, was the worst since the great depression?

MOORE: No, I think actually what Reagan inherited was worse. That's when I graduated --

TANDEN: What are you saying, we had 800,000 jobs --


MOORE: Because we had 14 percent inflation. You're probably too young to remember this. We had 14 percent inflation, 20 percent mortgage interest rates and the American economy was de- industrializing and the stock market had been on a 12-year decline. But that said, we should be doing a lot better. And it's not just me, Wolf, who's saying this.

BLITZER: What about Romney? Romney didn't really get into specifics in his acceptance speech.

MOORE: Yes. And I thought that was a weakness of his speech. I think the American people do want more specifics. But you know, you read his plan. I mean, he does talk about how he wants to cut taxes, Obama wants to raise them. He talks about how he wants deregulation, Mr. Obama wants more regulation. He wants to cut spending. President Barack Obama, has you said, wants more stimulus spending. So I think there's a pretty big clash between what these two candidates are talking about.

TANDEN: And you know, unfortunately, I don't think that Romney has said anything beyond what you have just said. I mean, that we are talking, I mean, he has given a sentence what he do around the grievous economic challenges we're facing, he's not actually providing significant new ideas or very much specificity.

MOORE: Well, he wants to lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. He want to overhaul the tax system, which is something we've been trying to do for a long time.

TANDEN: And he has these major tax cuts, he didn't talk about them last weekend. (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: He was over the tax system, but not saying which deductions or loopholes he would eliminate.

MOORE: If he said, you know, we have got to get rid of the mortgage deduction or the charitable deduction or this deduction or that deduction, you know, you in the media would be taking that plan apart. I mean, you've got to do this in the context of a broad reform where you're lowering rates and getting rid of as many deduction as you can.

BLITZER: Here's what the president said in his acceptance speech. I'll play this little clip.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have cut taxes for those who need it. Middle class families, small businesses. But I don't believe that a another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores or pay down our deficit.


BLITZER: You believe another round of tax cuts for millionaires --

MOORE: I think the fact we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world is a very significant depressant to the economy.

BLITZER: What about raising the highest income tax rate from 35 to 39.6 percent.

MOORE: That's a horrible idea. And by the way, we're not talking about cutting tax rates. We are simply talking about getting them back to work, you know, to where they have been. If you do that, if you raise those tax rates, the people that get hit the hardest by that raising of taxes are small business owners.

TANDEN: Just to be clear about where Mitt Romney stands. He wants to actually lower the individual rate 20 percent across the board, which is lowering the individual rate --

MOORE: -- which is tax reform.

TANDEN: Yes, but it's lowering taxes for the highest income Americans, OK? So it's not just status quo. And the fact is that in 1993, we raised taxes, President Clinton raised taxes on high test income Americans and we had eight years of job growth, fantastic job growth, and actually we went to surpluses.

MOORE: The problem with that is --

TANDEN: -- the solution is there's no evidence to that.

MOORE: -- the opposite policies of bill Clinton. He is basically -- on welfare reform, it's just been the opposite. On spending -- I mean, Bill Clinton --

TANDEN: I'll take Bill Clinton's word from Wednesday night over your --

BLITZER: All right --

MOORE: What I'm saying is those policies are different and that's the problem. Bill Clinton isn't on the ticket. Barack Obama is.

TANDEN: But he said, I'm for welfare, for Medicare, on the budget, I agree with Barack Obama, and his policies are the ones to move us forward. I think he is a fantastic validator and we should listen to him.

BLITZER: And we will continue this conversation, guys, down the road. We're only just beginning. We have two months to go until the election.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

MOORE: Thank you.

BLITZER: On the road again, the conventions are behind them and the presidential candidates are racking up the miles in key battleground states.

And what women want from the candidates. Moms talk about what it will take to win the women's vote.


BLITZER: With the conventions behind them, both presidential candidates have been hitting the campaign trail hard. They're zeroing in on key battleground states. For President Obama this weekend, it's been a two-day bus tour of Florida. Mitt Romney has been focusing in on Virginia.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta is standing by. But let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, first.

Jessica, first of all, how did the Democrats feel after their convention this week?


Well, the Democrats have clearly received the news of the jobs numbers as unwelcome news. It put a damper on the convention, and seeing it as a sign that the president has been unable to turn around a persistently weak economy. And they know that won't go over well.

But still, they are cheered by the outcome of the convention. Not only by Mrs. Obama's speech and President Clinton's speeches, which we've focused on, but also on the last night of the convention, which they seem really as a testament to the president's leadership, with the goal being making the president, the man, and the office so synonymous, that voters would not be able to mention anyone else in the oval office.

Clearly, they're hopeful that since the weak economy has persisted and the race has remained tied, that the voters' view of the president as a leader will trump their fears about this economy, Wolf.

BLITZER: So what's their strategy, in general terms, during these final two months before the election?

YELLIN: Well, we're going to see the president traveling to more of these battleground states, Iowa, Florida coming up. We'll go to Florida next, and Charlie Crist, the Republican who appeared with the president - appears for the president to support him is now going to be joining the president.

Next week, we will see the president traveling with Bill Clinton on the road, and so we will see him driving home the message that he is working for the middle class. So, again, on the economic message that he has a vision for the future, and then driving home this message on leadership, and trying to win back some of those 2008 supporters, who are now undecided.

Republicans are trying to convince them to, quote, "fire the president." His goal is to convince them, give me a little more time, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, stand by. Jim Acosta's covering the Romney campaign.

Do they -- have you sensed a change in their strategy, Jim, following this Democratic convention?


I had a chance to talk with the senior Romney adviser, and I asked him, you know, what are you going to be focusing on now that this jobs report has come out? And he said that they're going to be drilling down on the economy, in his words, for the next 60 days.

So from now until the election, they're going to be talking about one thing, and that is the economy. And he had a -- Mitt Romney had a news conference out on the tarmac in Iowa on Friday. And Wolf, he described that jobs report as a hangover. He responded to the president's charge, that he hasn't offered specifying s is saying that he is going to crack down on China as a currency manipulator. That he is going to boost domestic energy exploration. And then when he was asked for his assessment of the president's speech, and why the president seems to be holding steady in the polls, despite these bleak jobs numbers, here's what Mitt Romney had to say about that.


ROMNEY: You know, I'm just going to keep on talking about the things that I believed, describe my vision for the future, and have people get a chance to consider the lack of progress that's been occurring over the last 3 1/2 years. If people -- you know, I think that the message from last night was that the president's plan is four more years of the four last years. And I don't think the American people want four more years of the four last years.


ACOSTA: And Wolf, one other thing that really stood out at that news conference, he went after President Obama, but also talking about President Bush not being able to get the deficit under control. He said he would be a different president when it comes to dealing with the national debt and the deficit, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's shaping up to be critical now, in this very, very close election, those three presidential debates in October. They're coming up pretty quickly, Jim. How is Romney preparing.

ACOSTA: Well, it was interesting to note the contrast between the president during the Republican convention, who was out on the campaign trail, holding some very big rallies, and Mitt Romney. He was basically behind closed doors, doing debate prep with Rob Portman, the Ohio senator, playing the role of President Obama, and I talked to several Romney advisers during that time, when they were up in Vermont. And they said that Mitt Romney is taking these debates very seriously. He knows that this is the next big chance to sort of get the jump on the president. Yes, these jobs numbers did not really go in the president's favor and they're sort of capitalizing on that. But they know that the next big audience that is out there, that is going to be taking a measure of both of these candidates will be during those debates. So they're not taking them lightly at all, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Jessica Yellin, thanks to you as well.

You guys will be very busy over these next two months.

So embracing same-sex marriage. President Obama has a change of heart and the Democrats take a firm stand. Could it cost, them, though, some votes in November, or will it rally the base and help the president get re-elected?


BLITZER: At the Democratic convention in Charlotte, it became clear that same-sex marriage once again is an election issue, but this time the Democratic Party and the president, they are coming down firmly on the side of extending marriage rights to gay couples. So what impact will that have come November?

Here's our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this convention, Democrats are wholeheartedly embracing same-sex marriage in the very state that just passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage.

Colorado's Jared Polis, the first openly gay person to be elected to a first term in Congress, spoke Tuesday.

REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: That's why we must continue to bringing people together.

KEILAR: And just take a look at the entertainment lineup. Delta Ray wrote the anthem opposing the same-sex marriage ban that passed here May 8th. It was one day later that President Obama changed his stance on the hot-button issue.

OBAMA: I just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

KEILAR: Four years ago, when he was running for president, Obama held a different view.


OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.

KEILAR: The president's change of heart has energized young voters and his base.

ALISON NIETO, WASHINGTON RESIDENT: It absolutely makes me respect and support him ten times more. That's an issue for the bedroom, not for our courts.

KEILAR: Six out of ten Americans have a family member or close friend who is gay and most Americans now support same-sex marriage. But it's also a divisive issue that could cost the president some votes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Obama. I haven't decided who I'm going to support for president this year. Marriage should definitely be between a man and a woman, and just leave it that way.

KEILAR: Republicans are hoping that ads this way made by a conservative super PAC and running this week in North Carolina will pull voters away from the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is trying to force gay marriage on this country. That's not the change I voted for. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the change I voted for either.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can vote for someone with values.

KEILAR: But the Obama campaign is betting, he gains more votes and campaign donations than he loses over this issue. The day after her big speech, Michelle Obama touted what her husband has done for gay and lesbian voters.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether it's passing hate crimes legislation or speaking out for the rights of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did, and marry the love of our lives.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Charlotte.


BLITZER: So with their conventions now behind them, President Obama and Mitt Romney, they are fine-tuning their strategies for the sprint to November.


BLITZER: During his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, President Obama asked voters for minimum too to achieve his goals, even though he was somewhat vague about what those goals are.


OBAMA: I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.


OBAMA: And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require a common effort and shared responsibility, and the kind of bold persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And, by the way, those of us who carry on his party's legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.

But know this, America, our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place, and I'm asking you to choose that future. I'm asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country. Goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit. Real, achievable plans that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That's what we can do in the next four years and that is why I am running for a second term as president of the United States.


BLITZER: Let's take a closer look at both presidential candidates' strategies from now until November, with "The New York Times'" political correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, as well as "the New Yorker" magazine, Washington correspondent and CNN contributor, Ryan Lizza.

Ryan, were you surprised the president didn't offer more specific details on how to achieve those goals in his acceptance speech?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I was. I mean, he did offer more specificity than Romney's speech, but the way he set up the speech, I think, meant that he deserved -- or that we deserved a little bit more detail. Remember, he said at the beginning of his speech that this was the very -- one of the most important elections of our lives, and there's this clear choice between these two competing visions about the role of government in society. And in that clip that you played, Wolf, he talked about how he's a president who tells you the truth.

And I left the speech, and I read it this morning a couple of times, still wondering on some of the big issues that he's talked about a lot in the last few years, what he's going to do and whether he will pursue them if he's re-elected. For instance, he mentioned climate change, but he didn't really tell us what he would do on that. We don't know on immigration reform, is he going to pursue a comprehensive deal or not?

And on the first and, you know, most fraught issue that he'll face, the fiscal cliff, we don't know exactly what his tax reform plan is. We don't know what he would do on Medicare and Social Security and all those very complicated issues regarding getting a deal to deal with the long-term fiscal situation.

So, I found the policy parts of the speech -- like, they seemed like they were wrung through the pollsters and the campaign strategists a few time times. They seemed a little, small bore to me.

BLITZER: Yes, and I found -- and let me bring Jeff into this conversation.

You know, we heard, you know, Paul Ryan, we heard Joe Biden, we heard the president of the United States. They all went out of their way, raising the whole Simpson-Bowles commission recommendations. But, guess what. They all rejected it when they had an opportunity to promote it. Were you surprised by that, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was a little surprised by that. And I agree with Ryan, there weren't a lot of specifics, especially because this campaign has been promising that he would, you know, their whole slogan is forward. And they were promising that he would give a window into the next four years.

But at the same time, and it was not a state of, you know, the union address, it was an acceptance speech for the party's nomination. And I guess looking at what they were trying to achieve, simply overall was to ask voters for their patience, was to ask for a little more time to get things done. And he was talking to voters who already supported him once, four years ago. That's all he needs.

I mean, he is not trying to necessarily persuade any new voters. He's trying to re-engage and re-energize some voters who may not be quite as sure of him this time. So overall, I don't think it will go down as one of his best speeches. But often speeches in the history of President Obama and even senator Obama, sometimes look better farther down the road than they look in the moment of the speech. I think we've sort of glorified some of his speeches over the years in terms of being so spot-on in the moment. If he wins re-election to a second term in November, I think the speech will be remembered as being just fine.

BLITZER: I think everyone thinks President Clinton -- Ryan, President Clinton, by all accounts, gave a great speech. He certainly did a lot of help for President Obama. He's going out to campaign for him. He's going to raise money for him. How significant is President Clinton's role in trying to get President Obama a second term?

LIZZA: I think it's pretty important. I mean, you know, as the Obama campaign points out, there are only a couple of national politicians who have approval ratings as high as President Clinton. It's basically Clinton and Michelle Obama. You know, once you start getting in the mud of partisan politics, your approval ratings start to drop.

And Clinton's been a little out of the game for the last few years. He's seen as more of a senior statesmen. And there are plenty of Republicans who now have fond look at him fondly. And you know, I also think the fact that Obama and Clinton have this complicated history. They're not the best of friends. I think it makes Clinton a more -- a better validator for Obama.

When you watch them hug on stage the other night, and you know the back story, you know that Bill Clinton didn't always like and respect this guy, it means a little bit more when he goes all-out campaigning for him. So, you know, some people in the campaign call him their secret weapon. And it sounds like he's going to be doing a lot more in the next few weeks.

BLITZER: Yes. And you had a great piece in "the New Yorker" magazine on this relationship.

Jeff, it was interesting, the morning after the Democratic convention, the Romney campaign releases ads in eight, eight battleground states. And I'll put the names up on the screen. Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. I assume those are the key states, the battleground states, that they think they have a good chance of winning. Missing from that list, Wisconsin, Paul Ryan's home state, Michigan. Were you surprised, that, for example, Wisconsin and Michigan were not included?

ZELENY: Wolf, I was not surprised that Michigan was not included. I mean, Governor Romney, I was just thinking back to a conversation they had with him a year ago. And I asked him if Michigan would sort of remain a sentimental favorite. And he said he would look at the map and see.

So, I think that the Romney campaign knows that Michigan is a stretch. Something would have to shift fairly fundamentally in this race with the economy and perhaps other things for Michigan to be in play.

Wisconsin was a bit more of a surprise. Wisconsin is a much more of a classic battleground state. Even though Democrats have won it in the last five presidential elections, it's still been very close in 2000 and 2004. And Paul Ryan comes from a part of the state that is more of a Democratic area. So if he was to sort of win over some of the Democrats in Janesville, in Rock County, where he's from, that could help the Republican ticket.

But the Romney campaign, I think, is going to wait and see what happens with some of the ads that some Republican super PACs are placing in Wisconsin, seeing if it softens things up a little bit before they spend some of their own money there.

North Carolina was also an interesting place. The Romney campaign clearly believes that they still have some work to do and that they have not closed the deal in this state. So -- but you're right. These eight states are a road map and Bill Clinton is going to Ohio and Florida. So there probably are not two more important states, and if we want a third, Virginia. Those three states will be the top states.

BLITZER: Clinton could do great, I'm sure, for the president, especially in Florida. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Ryan Lizza, thanks to you as well.

So how to win the votes of women. We're going to hear from some blogging moms, what the presidential candidates need to do.

But first, a CNN exclusive. We'll take you inside the bloody and brutal fight for the ancient city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital.


BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive. A behind-the-scenes look at the brutal battle for Syria's commercial capital.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes us inside Aleppo where snipers stalk the ancient streets and the civil war is reduced to a bloody stalemate. Here's Nick's report.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The new dead lying next to the old. Aleppo's old city, thousands of years in the making. We're with rebel forces as they push into vital terrain in the fight for Syria's commercial capital towards a key police station. They mass in number and surge forwards, chaos but also bravery. They move to retrieve an injured rebel at the very front.


WALSH: Somehow, the superior regime firepower lets them escape with their wounded. When we rejoin them a few days later, they have fallen back the hundred feet they'd gained. Civilians in uniform. They're taking pot shots at nothing in particular. Goaded their enemy with revolutionary song, even offering them a number to call if they want to defect. But they can't advance again. It's not just the regime's bomber jets that hold them back.

Up on the roof, we see how snipers, deadly accurate here, can freeze the front line.

In this historic part of this city, the rebels are trying to inch forward, but so often pushed back by government forces. In this case, held back by a government sniper positioned in the buildings opposite us.

Even from the rebel's sniper positions, the regime is close, but well dug in. He was a conscript years ago, but is now an electrician. A sniper is shooting at them, and he moves across the road to take him out. But his discipline and marksmanship is the exception. He thinks he got him.

It's the older men here who are in charge. Hakim, a local commander, briefly visits, and tells us his brigade has given up on outside help from the west. This is our final word, he says. We don't want any help from anybody. We're no longer waiting and we have the means to topple the regime. He outlines a plan to the men. Shortly afterwards, this pass appears. One rebel tells us they plan to fill it with explosives and then tie a prisoner's hands to the wheel and force him to die driving the bus bomb at the regime.

But even though we saw the brigade take prisoners earlier, that doesn't happen here, and the bus leaves. A garbage truck arrives instead, which they plan to place down the street, as cover for their gunmen. Preparations for an operation. Handmade grenades, homemade bombs, highly volatile canisters full of fertilizer explosive.

But the men still lack focus. Shooting in the dark. Later that night, we leave, but they drive the truck down street. At dawn, it's in place in their old position.

Overnight, they've tried to gain the advantage by moving that truck about 100 feet down street, past their last position, but still these men who have been unable to advance over this incredibly small amount of terrain.

The regime fires grenades, setting it alight. The rebels decide to fight back. This is an anti-aircraft gun. They seem to prefer noise to accuracy. They run forwards to fire rocket-propelled grenades. There's too much smoke to know what they hit. More a game here than a fight to the death. But this is a city of millions, torn apart by every pitched battle for every hundred feet.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Aleppo.


BLITZER: Horrible, horrible situation. A quick programming note, for our north American viewers, coming up shortly, you can watch Nick's amazing reporting in the special half-hour program entitled "crisis in Syria: inside Aleppo." It airs 7:30 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

There is a gender gap in the presidential race. We're going to hear from some moms about what it will take to win the women's vote.

Plus, the Democrats' youngest star. Why this 3-year-old stole the show at the Democratic convention.


BLITZER: There's a clear gender gap between the two presidential candidates and our latest poll, 54 percent of women surveyed said they were leaning towards or supporting President Obama while only 42 percent said the same of Governor Romney.

Lisa Sylvester's been talking to some women to some women bloggers out there. How are they explaining all this?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. Well, Wolf, if you look at the lineups for the Republican and Democratic national convention, do you know women played prominent roles. Both parties are coveting the women's vote. And we talked to two popular women bloggers, one liberal, one a little more conservative to find out how the two candidates measured up. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Arlington, Virginia mom Nicki Fellenzer came to the United States when she was eight from the former Soviet Union. She says the early memories in the United States helped shape her current views. She believes passionately in her rights and freedoms as an American. Fellenzer served in the U.S. military and now writes a blog called the liberty zone. If politicians want to know a few things about the so-called women's vote, well, they can stop by and ask her.

NICKI FELLENZER, LIBERTY ZONE BLOG: We care about the same issues as men care about. We don't want to be targeted as some kind of special interest group. We are not. We are people. We are Americans. We are people trying to make a living and trying to support our families. That's no different from any man.

SYLVESTER: Fellenzer has followed and blogged about both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. What would it take to get your vote?

FELLENZER: It would take for them, for each of them to put forth a balanced budget that cuts spending, that reduces our debt, that reduces our deficit, and that puts our country on a secure economic footing. Without that, it's just more talk.

SYLVESTER: Women matter. They may be what puts President Obama over the top. Fifty four percent of women leaning towards the president, 42 percent to Mitt Romney. Republicans hope to close the gender gap as November approaches. Democrats to expand their leads. The convention speeches reflect that outreach.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: It's the moms who have had to work hard tore make everything right.

MICHELLE OBAMA: At the end of the day, my most important title is still mom in chief.


SYLVESTER: In Chevy Chase, Maryland, Joanne Bamberger has a 12-year- old daughter. She writes a popular blog, Pundit Mom. Yes, she says the economy is front and center on the mind of middle class moms, but there's another issue that has surfaced for her, access to birth control.

JOANNE BAMBERGER, PUNDIT MOM BLOG: There are certain fights I thought women had fought and that we had certain rights that we just didn't have to worry about anymore.

SYLVESTER: Bamberger says if there's one common thread among women bloggers, it's this.

BAMBERGER: What I'm seeing on line is they truly want to know specifics from both sides. Like it's all well and good for you to get up on that stage of both conventions and tell us that you have policies that are going to address unemployment and that are going help our kids be better educated and that will help clean air and clean water. But what specifically are you going to do.

SYLVESTER: Joanne Bamberger and Nicki Fellenzer with different political views, but still looking for the same things, more details from the men battling to lead the country for the next four years.


SYLVESTER: We saw Republicans do a major pitch to try to win over women during the Republican national convention. But you know what? The numbers didn't change when it comes to women. President Obama still maintaining his double digit lead over Governor Romney.

BLITZER: Yes. He's going to need that lead if he going to get himself re-elected. But both sides seem to be depressed that more details on some of these substantive economics issues, jobs issues which affect men and women weren't spelled out.

SYLVESTER: Yes. You know, they were waiting and waiting. So, you had, you know, three days of the Republican, three days of the Democratic conventions and they wanted to get specifics. She, you know, they layout this lofty goals that we are going to reduced unemployment or we are going to get more kids, make college more affordable. But it was the how, how are you going to get there that both women said they did not hear at these conventions and they are still waiting to hear. So something the politicians should keep in mind.

BLITZER: Maybe we'll see at the three debates, if anything, along those lines happen.

Thank you very much for that.

Her dad may be the Democrat's rising star, but she's their youngest star. The 3-year-old who couldn't stop flipping her hair when she realized she was in the convention spotlight.


BLITZER: There's special edition of "hot shots" from the Democratic national convention.

A woman sports a half decked out in festive decorations.

President Obama and Bill Clinton hug after Clinton's speech on Wednesday.

A boy wears a Yamaka and the Obama campaign logo is embroidered on top of it.

And the Obama family is all smiles after the president's speech on the final night of the convention.

"Hot spots" pictures coming in from Charlotte, North Carolina. She was one of the surprise stars at the Democratic national convention. The keynote speaker's young daughter who upstaged her own dad. You'll understand why when you see what she did.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kids at conventions are loose cannons. But when the keynote speaker San Antonio mayor Julian Castro referred to his 3-year-old,


MOOS: The cameras naturally went to her and caught her scratching and sticking out her tongue. Until she suddenly noticed herself on the big screen as if it were a mirror.

CASTRO: I found myself whispering to her, as was once whispered to me,(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), may God bless you.

MOOS: As she flipped her hair, the tweets flew, ready for her close- up. Work it, baby girl. To her father's surprise, delegates were laughing at a part of his speech that wasn't supposed to be funny.

As a reporter tweeted, Carina Victoria Castro for secretary of the adorable. Next thing you know, her hair flipping was on the web with to the pop hit by Will Smith's daughter, Willow.

And thus the little girl doubled little miss hair flip dripped her away into the analyst of cute convention kids. The last time this happened it involved licking rather than flipping.

Who could forget Sarah Palin's daughter, Piper.


MOOS: Licking and slicking her baby brother's hair as momma addressed the 2008 Republican national convention.

Back at the hair flip for the ages, Carina was so mesmerized, she almost forgot to join the standing ovation when her dad finished. And while the applause was music to his ears, she covered hers.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: She can be secretary of the adorable.

Don't forget I'm on twitter. You can follow me @wolfblitzer.

That does it for me. Thanks so much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.