Return to Transcripts main page


Israel's Red Line; New Jobs Numbers; Obama A Job Creator, After All?; Surprising Political Trend on Facebook; Filmmaker Arrested for Terror Hoax; Netanyahu: "Who Would Be Safe"; Ad Runs Romney "47 Percent" Comments; Romney: "I Got Everybody Insured"; Romney's "I Dig It" Trust

Aired September 27, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: an extraordinary moment at the United Nations. Israel's prime minister literally draws a red line in a dramatic fashion on Iran's nuclear program. But will the U.S. do the same?

The presidential candidates make simultaneous stops in the same state and even target the same set of voters.

Plus, the Obama campaign combines Mitt Romney's words with some potentially devastating pictures.

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

As of today, we're just 40 days away until the presidential election. And for the second day in a row, both Mitt Romney and President Obama have been campaigning in the same battleground state. This time, it's Virginia, where both men targeted the same group of voters.

Let's walk over to CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, who's been out on the campaign trail watching what's going on.

Another dramatic day. Virginia, Virginia, Virginia, pretty important place.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A rare visit to Washington for me. But it's good to be home, Wolf.

All politics is local. So it was no surprise to hear both candidates hit on national security themes today in their speeches in Virginia. But the state is much bigger than that. It's really a Republican firewall for Mitt Romney.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In battleground Virginia, both President Obama and Mitt Romney pulled out the heavy artillery. Before a group of veterans, Romney slammed the president for the massive defense cuts that are part of the fiscal cliff coming at the end of the year.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is still a troubled and dangerous world. And the idea of cutting our military commitment by a trillion dollars over this decade is unthinkable and devastating. And when I become president of the United States, we will stop it. I will not cut our commitment to our military.


ACOSTA: The president once again blasted Romney's hidden camera comments on the 47 percent of Americans he dubbed victims of government dependence.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims who never take responsibility for their own lives.

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what who are dependent upon government.

ACOSTA: The Obama campaign turned Romney's secretly recorded remarks into a devastating new ad, playing the GOP nominee's words under the faces of families and veterans.

ROMNEY: And they will vote for this president no matter what. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I will never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

ACOSTA: Romney, who has courted veterans two days in a row, is out to link national security to the nation's sluggish recovery. He's seizing on new economic data showing the Commerce Department revised down the country's GDP in the second quarter of the year from 1.7 percent to 1.3.

ROMNEY: This is not just one quarter. This has been going on now for years. China's growing much faster than we. Russia's growing faster than we. Our economy needs to be reinvigorated.

ACOSTA: But not all of the numbers paint a gloomy picture. The Labor Department announced it undercounted nearly 400,000 jobs in 2011, meaning that 4.4 million jobs have been created since the president's inauguration, slightly more than the number lost in that same period.

But the president said there's still measuring work to do.

OBAMA: We're not where we need to be. Not yet. We have got a lot more folks who have to get back to work. We have got a lot more work to do to make the middle class secure again. But the question is, whose plan is better for you?

ACOSTA: An Obama win in Republican-leaning Virginia could deal Romney a crushing blow. The president won here four years ago, becoming the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson.

But in this state, the military vote is not the only game in town. Football fans are everywhere. So it's no surprise a reporter asked Romney about the deal to end the dispute between the NFL and its referees, a question Romney appeared to fumble.

QUESTION: So what do you think about the NFL refs...


ROMNEY: I sure hope they do.


ACOSTA: Well, the refs will be back and they will be back tonight playing in Baltimore.

But Romney continues his push on national security issues at an event at a military college in Pennsylvania tomorrow. That is a state where he is trailing the president according to recent polls. But it's one the campaign thinks it could put into play, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why do they think that? Because the polls have been very lopsided in Pennsylvania for not just recently, but for weeks and weeks.

ACOSTA: They have looked at that state for some time. They think it's something they could put in play. Obviously, they know it would be an uphill battle because obviously in recent elections that state has been pretty solidly blue.

But, Wolf, I have to tell you even though these recent battleground polls have shown Romney falling behind in places like Ohio and Florida, if you look at the posture, if you look at attitude of the campaign, they are showing no worry, no concern. They are very confident at this point that they will start to make up some ground during these debates and that this will still be a tight election come Election Day.

BLITZER: Still plenty of time to go. Three debates. A lot can clearly happen. I haven't seen the Romney folks though put a lot of money in advertising in Pennsylvania. That's a sure sign that they're maybe not convinced it's really in play.

ACOSTA: We will see if that changes.

BLITZER: Yes. That could change. You're right. Thank you very much.

Today is the first day votes can be cast in one of the battleground states that will help decide the 2012 presidential election.

Our chief national correspondent John King is in Iowa right now where in-person absentee voting actually started today.

It's pretty early, but they're voting not only in Iowa, but in other parts of the country as well, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 35 states plus the District of Columbia allow some form of in-person early voting. As you noted, the Iowa voting kicked off today. We're here in Iowa City. We saw a pretty healthy line. Mostly students, mostly Obama supporters at public library here.

Floyd Yarmouth, one of our photojournalists, is in Des Moines. he saw a line there before he drove out to join us here, again mostly Obama supporters on day one. Now, Republicans say that's overblown. They say if you have made up your mind to vote even before the debates, you are going to be for one candidate or the other no matter what and you are going to vote.

So if you're voting early, voting later, it doesn't matter. But one of the places the Obama campaign thinks it helps and the reason I'm on the University of Iowa campus is they had a big swell in the youth vote last time. They had the support in the polls of the youth vote, but, Wolf, frankly they think turnout could be down this time. It's not history making. Youth unemployment is pretty high.

Sometimes college students get a bit distracted. One of the things, Kathy Valde is the president of the University of Iowa Democrats, her job is to tell all of her friends, all of the fellow students vote now.


KATHERINE VALDE, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA DEMOCRATS: Things come up. You can have an exam. You can wait until Election Day and realize you don't know where your precinct is. A lot of student haves to go to elementary schools around town, they don't have cars, they don't really know where it is. Any extra obstacle can keep students home on voting day. With early voting, it just gives us 40 more chances to catch people.


KING: Now, Republicans traditionally don't invest as much time in early voting. But, Wolf, as you know, this comes as a time, this is one of the battleground states, Iowa is, that's gone from a tie to breaking at least breaking a few points in the president's favor.

And that has some Republicans here and elsewhere in the country a bit nervous. They're worried now about congressional races and other races. They think if things don't turn around soon, Governor Romney could be a drag on the ticket. I talked to Steve Grubbs. He's a veteran Iowa organizer, a veteran Republican, former state party chairman, and he says, yes, people are voicing those worries, but he also says be calm, that Governor Romney has time.


STEVE GRUBBS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Clearly if a candidate loses by more than five, it starts to affect down ballot. That's a big issue for Republicans. But the way I look at it, we're starting the fourth quarter, we have a strong quarterback.

And anybody that knows football knows that fourth quarter's when most of the action happens. So October will be big. And if Romney has a good start to the month, we will be fine.


KING: You hear him say there October will be big. That starts the month. That would be the first debate, Wolf, on October 3.

And, again, the Republicans say this is overblown. If you identify your voters, doesn't matter if they vote early or on Election Day. But look at just the request for early mail-in the Democrats have a 5- 1 advantage. In the county I'm in, more than half the votes were cast early last election. That's where most of the students are.

It will be fascinating to watch. One thing Republicans are worried about as this early voting opens, the president has momentum at the moment. They say it's critical that Governor Romney switch that momentum as that voting continues, Wolf, 40 days right up to Election Day.

BLITZER: Everyone agrees, John, Iowa very much in play right now, right?

KING: Yes.

It's one of the states that's -- we have nine states we call tossups. This is one of them. Seven of those nine states allow some form of in-person early voting.

Iowa is still in play, but Iowa is one of those states that have drifted a bit in the president's favor. And, again, this is a state where Republicans did very well in 2010. They believe they have some energy on the ground.

But they have watched the last 10 days, Wolf. If you talk to them privately, they're not happy with the Romney strategy. They're not happy with the Romney advertisements. And they think first and foremost he must have a very, very strong debate on the question of which candidate can better handle the economy. They say he must do that in that first week of October to turn the tide here.

BLITZER: All right. John will be joining us later in THE SITUATION ROOM as well. Thanks, John, very much.

Today, we learned the president plans a Friday phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over at United Nations earlier today, the prime minister literally, literally showed the world where to draw a red line to stop the Iranians from enriching enough uranium to make nuclear weapons.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: If these are the facts, so if these are the facts, and they are, where should a red line be drawn? A red line should be drawn right here, before, before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.


BLITZER: Truly historic and extraordinary moment at the U.N. General Assembly. Let's discuss the political fallout with our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal."

What is the political fallout when the visiting prime minister of Israel shows up at the United Nations General Assembly and he draws a red line and he suggests by next summer, as he said earlier, six or seven months, it will be too late? This is the time. It's got to be done. That puts enormous pressure I assume on the president.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This has been extraordinary watching this over the past few weeks as Prime Minister Netanyahu in a series of media appearance speeches and now this U.N. appearance has really I think tried to maximize the leverage afforded by the U.S. presidential campaign to put the most pressure possible on President Obama to align with him on this idea of establishing a red line that would trigger military action.

The president so far is saying no. Polling this week shows the country divided evenly on who would better handle the challenge, Romney or Obama. But it's also true there's been no appetite I think in the American public for another war in the Mideast. In that sense, I think Netanyahu has kind of an uphill argument here to push.

BLITZER: How important is this issue though out there for those undecided voters specifically the undecided voters in those key battleground states that will determine who gets 270 Electoral College votes? We're talking about Florida, Ohio, Virginia and a few others.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, this is overwhelmingly an economic election. To the extent it isn't, it's really about the role of government. Kind of ideological divergence between Romney and Obama over that.

Those are the two critical issues here. On foreign policy, generally the president has had an advantage. Somewhat unusual for a Democrat. He's been seen as more capable handling foreign policy. His job approval rating on foreign policy have been better than his ratings on domestic policy.

But certainly with Netanyahu raising the question -- with the differences being Netanyahu and Obama being made so visible by Netanyahu's own visibility, the question for the president is whether there is some erosion in Jewish support in a couple places where that could matter, particularly Florida. So far, we haven't seen that much of it, but it's not inconceivable given the extraordinary visibility of these arguments from the Israeli prime minister.

BLITZER: The Israeli prime minister and the American president, they're not going to meet face-to-face. They're both obviously here in the United States. But there will be a phone call tomorrow.

What's the political fallout from this decision that someone made that the president should not get together with Netanyahu during these final weeks of this election?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, relationships are fraught between President Obama and Netanyahu as they were between Clinton and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu in his view of the world and what it takes to make Israel secure is clearly closer to kind of a neocon Republican view of what it takes to achieve security for Israel. There is that inherent tension there. I don't think the president wants there to be the sense of a complete and utter breach politically at least in the U.S. going into the election, nor in fact does he want that in practice.

The underlying relationship is very solid. The immediate relationship between these two current leaders clearly has some differences, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein.

We will be speaking in the next hour with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. We will get some more on this subject, a dramatic moment indeed at the U.N.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Ron, thanks very much.

There's important news out today about jobs. And it may have pulled the rug out from under one of the Republicans' favorite attacks on President Obama. Stand by.


BLITZER: Brand new numbers show President Obama may be a job creator after all -- something that could take away one of the Republicans' most potent attacks on his administration.

Let's bring in our chief business correspondent Ali Velshi to take us through the new numbers that have come out today. What do they show, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we were expecting this to happen before the election. The surprise here is it's based on a recalculation of jobs. So since the day that Barack Obama took office, there have been a net loss in 2009 of 4.3 million jobs. You remember, when he took over, they were losing about 750,000 jobs a month. So, 4.3 million were lost. In 2010 to now, we have now gained 4.4 million jobs.

We thought we were a little short of that, but the Labor Department has gone back and counted. Initially their estimates now based on actual filings for unemployment insurance which gives President Obama a net gain so far of 125,000 jobs.

Now, the next jobs report is one week from now -- one week from tomorrow on Friday. And then there's one more before the election. And there's some sense that he would be able before the end of the election to say every job lost on my watch has been recovered. We're now several weeks out from the election and he gets to say that.

So every job lost since Barack Obama took the presidency has been recovered. Not one for one, Wolf, as you know. There's lots of arguments that the quality of jobs are lower than what was lost. But the numbers bear out for the president.

BLITZER: People may have jobs but not necessarily the same salary they had before the collapse, if you will.

VELSHI: Right.

BLITZER: So, they're working, they're putting food on the table, but not necessarily at the same ability -- the same salary levels that they had before.

VELSHI: Right. And that's the issue. The Republicans have backed off this whole idea of Obama as a job killer. They used to use that terminology. They tend not to now only because they've seen this coming.

But that would be the strongest argument now that the jobs are not of the same quality. But in terms of numbers, this was a very big argument for the Republicans six months ago and prior to that that more jobs -- in fact, the way they like to say it, Wolf, you've probably heard it many times before, is that there were more people working on the first day of President Obama's presidency than at any other point. That's the way they'd like to say it. But at this point it's all spin, bottom line is it was a small milestone but an important one for the president.

BLITZER: Now, the other number we're looking at is GDP growth in the last quarter. It went up but not by much.

VELSHI: Right. So the way you measure growth in the economy is how much it grew versus the same quarter, the same three months the year before. And the most recent quarter that we have numbers for is the second quarter of this year. We had thought that the economy grew 1.7 percent, which is relatively slow. India's growing about 6 percent, China more than 7 percent.

What we learned today is, again, this is one of those revisions that the government does. We found out that the growth was substantially slower, 1.3 percent. That of course has got the Republicans talking. Mitt Romney put out a statement to say that the Obama economy is stuck in neutral. In fairness, 1.3 percent isn't neutral, but it's not gangbusters. We should be running at 3 percent or higher to be a healthy economy and recover all the jobs that have been lost.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope it gets to that level. A lot of people are counting on it.

Ali, thanks very much.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

BLITZER: With only 40 days to the election, people across the country are focusing in on the presidential race. While we can't keep track of all the water cooler debates, we have some exclusive eye-opening data about political discussions on the world's biggest social network, we're talking about Facebook.

Let's bring in CNN's political director Mark Preston. He's taking a closer look.

Mark, tell our viewers what you're seeing.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, Wolf, over the past 72 hours, we've witnessed a large number of people all across the nation buzzing about Mitt Romney on Facebook. So much so that more people are talking about him than Barack Obama in 41 of 50 of these states.

But do these people who live in these states that will determine the winner of the election, are these the people who matter? Well, not according to this new data provided exclusively to CNN by Facebook, that shows in the past three days President Obama's being mentioned at a greater frequency on Facebook in the nine crucial battleground states.

BLITZER: Do we know why Romney leads in some? Obama leads in some? What's going on here? Can we really tell from this?

PRESTON: Well, you know, Wolf, a senior Obama official explained to me that voter targeting is a top priority and they're focusing their efforts on trying to convince voters in these key toss-up states to support the president. And that includes an emphasis on social media.

BLITZER: Both of the candidates, Mark, were in Virginia today. So they're focusing a lot on this key battleground state. What about the impact of Facebook, social media in Virginia?

PRESTON: Well, you know, Wolf, let's take a quick look and see when the candidates were mentioned on Facebook in Virginia. Fifty-six percent of these mentions were about President Obama while 44 percent were about Mitt Romney according to Facebook insights.

And then take a look at this one public post, Wolf. It's from a Romney supporter in another battleground state of Ohio calling on Virginians to support Romney. John Logan writes, "Come on, Virginia, you made a mistake and voted for Obama last time. Let's correct that and vote this time for Mitt Romney."

But, you know, by and large, Wolf, I want to emphasize we don't know the overall sentiment of all these individual posts. But we do know who America's talking about around the virtual dinner table all across America. And since half of America's on Facebook, this is a very powerful tool to see which candidate is making America curious.

BLITZER: But even though they get mentioned on Facebook, we don't know if those mentions are positive or negative. They just get mentioned a lot.

PRESTON: They just get mentioned a lot. You know, Wolf, going into the story, I thought Obama and his allies were greatly outspending Romney's team on ads in these toss-up states. I was wrong. An analysis just run a short time ago for CNN by Campaign Analysis Group shows that Romney and his outspent Obama in his backers in six of nine of these battleground states.

But, you know, Wolf, as I mentioned earlier, the Obama campaign is spending a lot of its time targeting battleground voters on the web.

BLITZER: It's going to be close in these battleground states, no matter what the polls show now, I suspect it will be very, very close.

Thank you so much, Mark Preston, our political director.

If you want to see all of this exclusive information, log onto insights. You can view all this data yourself.

Last Thursday was not the best day for the Florida department store. We're talking about, we have some new video that is going to prove it to you. Robbers brazenly storm a Saks Fifth Avenue shop.

What happens next? You'll see when we come back.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including yesterday's NFL deal with union refs.

Lisa, what's the latest?


I think a lot of people are happy to hear that a deal was reached. And NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, though, insists that Monday's botched call during the Seahawks-Packers game was not a tipping point for the league's tentative deal reached yesterday with referees. The eight-year pact gives the refs a pay hike and maintains their pension plan for five years. It also suspends a lockout that began more than two months ago, forcing the NFL to use replacement referees. The league acknowledges that the Packers should have won, but let the results of the game stand anyway.

And Los Angeles police are piecing together the circumstances leading to the deaths of actor Johnny Lewis and his landlady. Lewis, a cast member of the FX series "Sons of Anarchy" died after falling or jumping from a roof of a house in an affluent Hollywood neighborhood. Eighty-one-year-old Catherine Davis was found dead inside the home in what police described as a gruesome scene. Autopsies are planned today.

And the FBI has released video from a robbery that happened last Thursday at a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Boca Raton, Florida. The bureau says several robbers stormed the floor, ordered people on the floor and took money from some of the registers. They also knocked over a jewelry case and took a bag full of jewelry. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Five-thousand-dollar reward is now being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction.

And the king of rock and roll has been dethroned, at least when it comes to one of his long, long standing records. "Billboard" magazine says Elvis Presley is no longer the artist with the most billboard hot 100 hits. Guess who that goes to? Well, that title now goes to rapper Lil' Wayne. The mega rapper broke the record with his featured appearance on games celebration that hit the list at number 82. And that gives him Lil Wayne 109 entries. That's one more than Elvis' record of 108. By the way, that record has been Presley's since 1958. So, Lil' Wayne now dethroning --

BLITZER: Keep saying little --


SYLVESTER: Sorry. I'm not as hip as you.

BLITZER: No. You're a rap artist. It's Lil' Wayne. Not little.

SYLVESTER: How do you say?


SYLVESTER: Lil, sorry about that. Sorry, Lil Wayne.

But you know what? Here's the thing, Wolf Blitzer knows who you are. That's pretty impressive.

BLITZER: Congratulations to Lil' Wayne. Thank you.

In today's strategy session, we're going to debate the impact of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu literally drawing a red line on Iran's nuclear program.


BLITZER: A Phoenix filmmaker has been arrested for touching off a terror hoax that triggered a steam of 911 calls and he says put the Phoenix police to the test. Christine Lacraw of our affiliate KTVK reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm an independent filmmaker who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons you will soon understand.

CHRISTINE LACRAW, KTVK REPORTER (voice-over): That filmmaker according to police, Michael Turley, who allegedly dressed his 16- year-old relative in a sheet, gave him a fake rocket propelled grenade launcher and had him walk up and down a busy Phoenix intersection.

JAMES HOLMES, SPOKESMAN, PHOENIX POLICE: Phoenix police officers received several 911 calls from concerned citizens from the area of 33rd Avenue and Bell.

LACRAW: In his film Turley references the Colorado movie massacre and Columbine and says he wants to test police here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To find out how the Phoenix Police Department responds to emergency situations.

LACRAW: In the movie, the narrator claims the response time for police is 14 minutes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is this taking so long for law enforcement to respond? It took 14 minutes and 57 seconds from the time we were sure we were first spotted until the time the Phoenix police actually arrived.

LACRAW: But Phoenix police say their response time was much faster.

HOLMES: Once the call was actually put out by dispatch to the time we got to that home, it was about three and a half minutes.

LACRAW: Turley is a filmmaker. He founded the Phoenix production company, Summit Star Films and Entertainment. According to his Facebook page, he's also a master hypnotist and magician. But his latest project was hardly movie magic according to police.

HOLMES: That's a terrorist incident because we don't use grenade launchers in this country.


BLITZER: That's Christine Lacraw of our Phoenix affiliate KTVK. Michael Turley faces a number of charges including knowingly giving a false impression of a terrorist act. He's free on bond. CNN tried to contact Turley, by the way, for comment, but did not hear back, at least not yet.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is literally drawing a red line on Iran's nuclear program. Our "Strategy Session," Roland Martin and Erick Erickson, they are both standing by live.


BLITZER: All right, let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN political analyst Roland Martin and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, he's editor-in-chief of Guys, thanks for coming in.

If you were watching the United Nations General Assembly, you saw the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, literally draw a red line saying this is how far Iran can go in its nuclear program, but no further. Watch this.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: If these are the facts, if these are the facts, and they are, where should a red line be drawn? A red line should be drawn right here, before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.


BLITZER: And the prime minister says that probably will happen by the summer, this coming summer, the latest six or seven months from now. Let's get reaction. Erick Erickson, what do you think of the presentation that Prime Minister Netanyahu made today? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I thought it was very simple and very effective. I can guarantee you what the headlines are going to be tomorrow on this issue. People are focused on what Netanyahu did.

Interestingly enough I think it's also a kind of -- test on this election a lot of conservatives and Republicans praised him. A lot of Democrats and liberals on Twitter and elsewhere thought it was silly and simplistic.

But the fact of the matter is we don't need to pay attention to his red line, we need to pay attention to Iran's nuclear weapons program, which is what his point was.

BLITZER: When you saw that, Roland, what do you think of that presentation?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Imagery matters. Think about it. To this day, we still remember Nikita with the shoe pounding on the podium at the United Nations. We remember General Collin Powell sitting there as a secretary of state using those to point out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that we have yet to find.

So the imagery matters. That is going to be the front page photo across newspapers worldwide. But here's what's also interesting. On this same day a "New York Times" reporting right now that the foreign ministry right before he spoke released an internal report showing they could stop Iran without a military strike.

So it's very interesting when you have Netanyahu saying this, drawing the red line, but then the Israelis releasing a report saying they could still stop Iran without a military strike.

BLITZER: They say that there could be tougher sanctions that maybe would get the job done. Here's another passage, Erick, of what the prime minister said today directly referring to what's going on right now in the United States.


NETANYAHU: Two days ago from this podium, President Obama reiterated that the threat of a nuclear armed Iran cannot be contained I very much appreciate the president's position as does everyone in my country.

We share the goal of stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program. This goal unites the people of Israel. It unites Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike and it is shared by important leaders throughout the world.


BLITZER: All right, Erick, when you heard that, what did you think?

ERICKSON: Well, I thought he was trying to put the president on the spot on this. The headlines have been around for the last week or so that he hasn't really had a cordial relationship with the prime minister or been willing to take a meeting with the prime minister.

I think the prime minister by drawing the red line and saying what he said just got himself an invitation to the White House or at least a phone call with the president I think that's going to happen tomorrow I read.

MARTIN: Wolf, I got to disagree with that. First of all, they had a one-hour conversation last week. What you saw Netanyahu doing was frankly extending an olive branch because the last thing he needs is for there to be this sense of tension between the U.S. and Israel.

And, again, I go back to their foreign ministry. Very interesting where you have the prime minister making his -- taking his hard line with the foreign ministry of Israel saying something completely different saying, no, we are in lock step with America.

Israel needs to have a strong relationship with America. The last thing they need is for the rest of the world to see those two at odds because we're at odds with each other. He can't get other countries to go along with the sanctions.

BLITZER: The whole business of the sanctions, the sanctions are tough, Erick. And we did hear the prime minister in his speech today say, yes, the sanctions are having an impact on the economy of Iran and average Iranians.

But he says so far he hasn't seen the sanctions have any impact on the enriching of uranium, the centrifuges, and the move towards some sort of nuclear bomb. That's what the prime minister said today.

And what Roland is referring to is a report that the Israeli Foreign Ministry released suggesting there is still more opportunity to tighten those sanctions and maybe they would have the impact.

ERICKSON: Well, maybe they would and maybe they wouldn't. I would like to hope sanctions would work. But oftentimes democratic nations from the west impose sanctions until the bitter end and we wind up having a war.

I think that's what his point was. We need to move rapidly here to that red line point of drawing the line, imposing all the sanctions we can impose quickly because we're going to run out of time. And no one wants to have a war with Iran over this.

MARTIN: This is good cop/bad cop, Wolf. Netanyahu playing bad cop, foreign ministry playing good cop. You still get what you want in the end and that's the sanctions.

BLITZER: All right, guys, standby for a moment. There's more to discuss. By the way the top of the hour, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, he'll be joining us live. We'll discuss this at length.

Also when we come back another round of the strategy session, we're taking a closer look at the magic number in President Obama's latest campaign ad, 47. Standby. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with today's "Strategy Session." Once again joining us CNN political analyst Roland Martin and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of

A new Obama campaign ad is rather simple. Let me play this chunk and then we'll discuss.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. Who believe they are victims. Who believe the government has a responsibility for them who believe they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

And they will vote for this president no matter what. So my job is not to worry about those people. They should take personal responsibility for their lives.


BLITZER: That ad is playing, by the way, in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia, solely audio with some words written, the audio portion written up on the screen. How much is that 47 percent comment by Mitt Romney, Erick, hurt him?

ERICKSON: You know, I think the way it's been portrayed in the past couple weeks very much has hurt Mitt Romney. Although I don't think it's as bad as a lot of people have thought. I think his troubles in the polling also relate to his Libyan statement.

You know, Romney's going to have to come up with something to combat this with. And thus far his campaign doesn't seem to know what to do.

The shot they're running right now of Mitt Romney in the commercial looking at the camera probably is their most effective ad to combat this, this line the president and I both care about people that my plans will help them. Interesting swing state -- where that ad is running.

BLITZER: What do you think about all of this, Roland?

MARTIN: The problem is not how the ad was portrayed, Erick. The problem is that the words are coming directly out of Mitt Romney's mouth. When he calls folks victims, when he talks about in terms of all they want are free food, housing, things along those lines.

I can tell you right now, if you're an American out there and you're struggling when it comes to your budget and groceries, you are concerned about that. The bottom line is Mitt Romney is not responding specifically to this ad. He tried to double down on it and own it. It hasn't helped him at all.

What it does is it gives the perception that he is simply out of touch with the middle class. And that's the last thing you need when you're trying to pick up one, two, three points that you critically need in those battleground states.

BLITZER: At the same time though, I want you to respond to that, Erick, but at the same time, he did respond to a certain degree in an interview with NBC News yesterday showing that he is compassionate. He is understanding, he's concerned about those people and this is how he defended himself. Watch this.


ROMNEY: Don't forget. I got everybody in my state insured. A 100 percent of the kids in our state have health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.


BLITZER: Were you surprised by him bringing up the Romney health care plan in Massachusetts at this sensitive time?

ERICKSON: No. Sadly it doesn't surprise me. We're going to vote for him, Republicans will, whether we want it or not. Hopefully he'll hold to his word that he will repeal Obama care.

But to Roland's point on the middle class, I think most of the polls even though they may show him behind show him winning the middle class. I agree with Roland he's got to respond more effectively.

But I think they're trying to play the empathy I care card. No one has thought in the 10 years of his electoral career that he's really been a guy who cared. They thought he was a guy who could get something done.

I think he needs to focus on getting things done as opposed to be able to message I care like George H.W. Bush.

BLITZER: A compassionate conservative like George W. Bush projected himself. Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: First of all, the government that George W. Bush was already a true conservative. So frankly, he didn't have to lock that portion of his base up. Wolf, I got to say it.

Trust me, after playing that sound bite on the health care in Massachusetts, you can literally feel Erick cringe as Mitt Romney said that because, again, he says I'm going to repeal Obamacare, but then he comes back later and says I'm going to implement some pieces of the Affordable Care Act.

So, dude, you can't have it both ways. And that's Romney's problem. He is boxed in because he was the one who passed universal health care in Massachusetts. Now we have it nationally. And like I say, guys like Erick who desperately want to see a Republican president are going, my God, here he goes again.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Erick.

ERICKSON: Yes. Well, I keep a little airplane bag in the front pocket in front of me for times like this. I remember a lot of republican candidates saying it's going to be hard for him to make the case on Obama care. We're finding that out.

I still hope he wins. I think he's probably a little behind in the swing states, but I think he can do it. He needs to get over this trying to be liked and focus on getting the job done. People want a solution. They don't like the guy right now.

BLITZER: I'm really looking forward to the presidential debate when they debate the issue of health care. The back and forth between President Obama and Governor Romney on this issue will be I think fascinating. We'll look forward to that.

MARTIN: Yes, Erick's not. Trust me.

BLITZER: I'm looking forward to seeing how they debate. Health care's a very important subject.

ERICKSON: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very, very much. Roland Martin, Erick Erickson, good discussion.

In this sprint to Election Day, another aspect of Mitt Romney's wealth in Texas could become a hot political topic. You're going to find up with his quote I dig it account.


BLITZER: Another example of how the tax system often favors the wealthy. Mitt Romney's taking advantage of something that's perfectly legal, but could become a political liability. Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this. Explain what's going on, Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a story that "Bloomberg" first reported. It's about a trust that offers big benefits for Mitt Romney and his children and his 18 grandchildren.

It's the kind of thing, you know, that lots of high net worth individuals will use to pass on wealth. But the question as you mentioned is, is it becoming a political liability for Romney?


SYLVESTER (voice-over): The Romney family is a tight-knit clan. Mitt and Ann Romney like many wealthy couples are working to make sure their wealth passes to their five sons and grandchildren.

A family trust established as early as 1995 has amassed $100 million according to the Romney campaign. Romney's 2011 tax records show he has set up an Intentionally Defective Granter Trust or IDGT. Also known by its nickname "I dig it trust."

That's where a granter, in this case Romney, pays any income taxes on the assets in that trust.

GARY ALTMAN, ALTMAN AND ASSOCIATES: That is a trust that people create where they give assets for future generations and they continue to pay the income tax on it. So I've given away an asset, but I continue to pay the income tax on it, which allows me to shift more wealth to the next generation.

SYLVESTER: What that means is if an investment in the trust gains in value by $1 million over time, it's Romney who pays the 15 percent capital gains tax of $150,000. Not his children or grandchildren.

In essence, it's like passing on wealth to the next generation without having to pay gift taxes on that amount. And gift taxes have ranged from 35 percent to 55 percent since the 1990s. This is a common estate planning strategy for the wealthy.

DAVID R. SCHOENHAAR, TAX AND ESTATE ATTORNEY: It's 100 percent legal and allowed under our internal revenue code. And it is being -- it's estate planning technique being used by many, many high net worth clients and not people who have $250 million, but even people who have $20 million, $30 million.

SYLVESTER: Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund, a liberal 501c 4 group in a statement saying, quote, "His income tax returns are Exhibit A of why we need to reform a rigged tax system that favors the wealthy at the expense of working Americans."

We contacted the Romney campaign for comment, but they did not return our calls. The Obama administration has proposed revising estate planning rules. And one option would be ending this tax benefit.

SCHOENHAAR: It would affect estate planning as we know it. This is something that is commonly done day in and day out and has been for many years.


SYLVESTER: That liberal group Americans for Tax Fairness Action Fund is now calling on Romney to release his gift tax returns. That will show more details on how much the couple gifted to their children and grandchildren over the years and how much they paid in taxes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.