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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Joe Lockhart, Marc Racicot; Interview With Bill Owens, Ed Rendell

Aired October 24, 2004 - 12:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in New York, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 p.m. in Baghdad, 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll look ahead to this final week of a very tight U.S. presidential race with Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot and Kerry campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart. That's coming up in just a few minutes.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More details now on our top story, a horrific story. Forty-eight Iraqis, most of them unarmed soldiers, simply slaughtered today in an ambush. A U.S. security official, a State Department official, also killed today in a separate mortar attack.

CNN'S Karl Penhaul is joining us now live from Baghdad.

Karl, a gruesome incident indeed. Share with our viewers around the world what happened.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a massacre. Forty-eight people, 44 of them Iraqi soldiers and four of them drivers, were killed by armed insurgents. Heavily armed insurgents intercepted the three minibuses that these three soldiers were traveling home for a bit of R&R on. They were heading south. They had recently graduated from boot camp.

They were unarmed. They were in civilian clothes, looking forward to a well-earned rest with friends and family. The gunmen intercepted them at the end of the afternoon yesterday. These people were made to lie face-down in the dirt, and they were shot from close range in the back of the head.

Throughout the day, members of the Iraqi National Guard have been gathering up those bodies, laying them out, and we've seen horrendous pictures there of the remains of these people and how they were treated.

But all this, unfortunately, fits into a pattern that the insurgents have established, that is, of attacking the fledgling Iraqi security forces. The insurgents tend to see these Iraqi security forces as softer targets than the better-armed, better-trained, better-equipped coalition forces.

Here in Baghdad, also, an incident, a mortar attack on one of the largest U.S. bases here in the capital, Camp Victory. Those mortars rained down on one part of the camp, killing a U.S. diplomatic security agent. He was sleeping at the time.

U.S. Embassy officials are telling us that this is the first full-time State Department official killed in Iraq.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Karl Penhaul with horrible news coming out of Baghdad.

Karl, thanks very much. We'll check back with you this hour, indeed the hours to come.

Let's turn now to the U.S. presidential campaign. With the election just nine days away, President Bush and the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, are keeping up an intense schedule. Both men focusing in on only a few states that could clearly decide the outcome on November 2nd.

CNN'S Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now live from the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas. She's following the Bush campaign.

Suzanne, what's the latest there?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly they're concentrating on a half-dozen battleground states. It is all about the get-out-the-vote effort at this time.

President Bush later today is going to be traveling to New Mexico. That is where specifically he is going to be targeting the Hispanic vote.

Now, you may recall back in 2000, Gore won New Mexico by just 366 votes. The Bush campaign believes they can turn that around. They garnered about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote last time, 9 percent of the black vote. They think they can double that and do better with Hispanics.

Now, that group's not only important in New Mexico but also Florida. And that is where the president went yesterday, attended four very big rallies, crisscrossing across the state.

The president really displayed quite a bit of fanfare, as well as theatrics in the campaign. Marine One landing in a ballpark in Fort Myers. A lot of enthusiasm from the crowd. The president travelling with the first lady, as well as his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. It was all about energizing the base.

Now, earlier today I spoke with Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, who says of course that is part of the strategy, to reach out to the party faithful, also to try to convince those very few, and they believe very few, undecided voters.

Today he talked about strategy, specifically when it comes to the ethnic vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, we're seeing it across the board, particularly Hispanics, Hispanic- Americans. They see the record that President Bush has had on education and the type of immigration reform policies that he's advocating for as president, his economic growth policies that are centered around growing small businesses, and winning the war on terror.

All Americans, whether you're African-American, Hispanic, or not, all want to live in a safe country. And they believe and have trust in President Bush's stewardship in the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And also, Wolf, an important development when it comes to Ohio. No Republican has actually won the White House with first winning Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch, a conservative paper there, reluctantly endorsing the president, saying they weren't completely happy but it was the best of the two alternatives.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas, thank you very much.

Let's move on now to Senator Kerry. The Democratic nominee spending today in the battleground state of Florida, and he's getting some help this week from some of the Democratic Party's biggest guns.

CNN's Ed Henry joining us now live from Fort Lauderdale.

Ed, what's the latest there?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Wolf.

Right at this hour, John Kerry attending services at the black church behind me in Fort Lauderdale. There is so little time left. Only 11 battleground states, as you mentioned, left to go.

And time is so short that John Kerry is going to need a little help from his friends in order to hit all of those key states. Specifically, yesterday Senator Hillary Clinton was here in Florida. Today and tomorrow, former Vice President Al Gore also here in Florida.

But perhaps the biggest gun of all will be rolled out tomorrow in Philadelphia. Former President Bill Clinton, still recovering from heart surgery, will be campaigning with John Kerry in Pennsylvania, then will go on to Florida and New Mexico on his own.

Now, John Kerry himself was in New Mexico last night, and he laid out what he believes is at stake in these final nine days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ten days from now, and even now because of your early voting, you get to make a difference in the lives of everybody standing around you, beside you and people who aren't even here. What's on the ballot this year is not just a war against terror, but it's how you make America strong here at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: John Kerry hitting eight out of those 11 battleground states himself in the next 48 hours alone, as he tries to race from coast to coast across this country.

He also had got some good news this morning here in the state of Florida. The Orlando Sentinel endorsing the Kerry-Edwards ticket, the first time in 40 years that that paper has endorsed a Democrat for president.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed Henry, reporting for us from Fort Lauderdale, thank you very much.

Joining us now from Washington, two top players from both the Bush and Kerry camps. Marc Racicot is the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, the former governor of Montana. And Joe Lockhart is a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign. He also served as White House press secretary during the Clinton administration.

Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for joining us.

We'll get to the latest poll numbers and politics in just a moment, but I want your thoughts on this slaughter that we saw unfold in Iraq today.

Joe Lockhart, first to you. What lesson does Senator Kerry learn from this execution-style massacre of nearly 50 Iraqis, most of them soldiers cooperating with the U.S. and coalition forces?

JOE LOCKHART, KERRY SR. ADVISER: Well, that we have to respond in kind and deal toughly and aggressively with the insurgency.

But I think it also reminds us that the situation on the ground is getting worse, and that we can't afford to have a policy that's more of the same.

There was a series -- if you look at the generals and the senior military advisers, there was a series of miscalculations made: disbanding the Iraqi army, not having enough troops to go in and secure the borders, to go in and guard the ammo dumps. These are weapons now that were taken from those dumps and are being used on other Iraqis and on American and coalition forces.

LOCKHART: So there were a series of miscalculations.

I mean, we have a situation in Iraq now where the president talks about it being the central front in the war on terror. Well, we didn't have a serious terrorism problem in Iraq before the invasion. We do now.

But we have to deal with it. It's because of the president's -- what he calls "catastrophic success" that we have these problems.

But the bottom line is we're there. And John Kerry's committed to winning this war, as well as the broader war of capturing and killing terrorists around the world.

BLITZER: Governor Racicot, you want to weigh in on this?

MARC RACICOT, CHAIRMAN, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, I don't think Joe can't rewrite history. The fact of the matter is that John Kerry referred to Saddam Hussein as a terrorist, said that we should go, in aggressive language, into Iraq and address the issues of terrorism there. He's always considered Iraq to be inextricably interwoven into the fabric of terrorism around the planet. Then you just simply can't reinvent that.

But I think what we learned today is, again, these atrocious crimes against humanity are an effort to try and break the will of the American people and of decent, civilized people virtually everyplace around the planet. That's really the test of our time. It's a test of a generation, and it will impact this world for the next 100 years.

BLITZER: Let's get to some of the poll numbers. We took a poll of polls, the average among most of the national polls right now. And it shows Bush at 49 percent, Kerry at 46 percent, three-point spread. This is a national poll.

What do you make of this? Joe Lockhart, to you.

LOCKHART: Well, I don't make too much of that. I think the national polls are close, you know, probably neck and neck.

The bottom line, though, is this in many ways will not be a national election nine days from now. It's going to be a series of elections in states that are battleground states.

And in those states, we think we're doing well. We think we're in the lead. States like Ohio, that have lost 230,000 jobs, states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida -- we think that the president has a problem there. He's at around, you know, 45 or 46 percent in the polls; can't seem to get over that. And it's because the public has looked at his record and decided that it is a record of failure.

BLITZER: Well, Governor Racicot, let's take a look at some of those battleground-state polls. Because I think, Joe, and I'm sure you will agree, is right. The national numbers, while they're important and they're impressive, certainly show trends that are not as important as what's happening in some of these key battleground states. Let's take a look at Florida, for example. Right now, look at this: a dead-heat, 46-46, 1 percent for Ralph Nader.

Let's go to Ohio. There's two recent polls in that battleground state. We'll put those numbers up. Among likely voters right now, the Ohio University poll: Kerry at 50 percent, Bush at 46 percent. And the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, a little bit closer: 48 percent for Kerry, 47 percent for Bush.

In Pennsylvania, Kerry slightly ahead. The last poll we have from there: 48 percent for Kerry, Bush for 46 percent.

If it stays like that, Governor Racicot, and Kerry takes all three of those states, it's over for you, isn't it?

RACICOT: Well, we don't anticipate that that's what's going to happen, obviously.

We do concede, and have from the very beginning, this is a very close race. And I think that Joe is right in the sense that there are unique states with unique approaches and unique results that could be provided.

But if you took a look at the map from 2000 and froze that in your mind, I think that's where we are, and those are the battleground states. And we look at Ohio and we look at Wisconsin and we look at Iowa, we look at New Mexico, and we see extraordinarily good opportunities for us.

But the bottom line is the same, Wolf, and that is this is a very close election and it's not going to be decided until Tuesday.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton, Joe Lockhart, your former boss, is going to be campaigning tomorrow in Pennsylvania. Al Gore is heading down to Florida.

Some suggest this may be a mixed blessing for the Democrats, that, yes, that both will energize the base, but might not convince those undecided swing voters in the middle who were concerned about elements that happened during the Clinton administration.

How energized will these two politicians, how energized will they get that base going?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think the former president has always been very popular among Democrats. And I'm sure that there are some people on the conservative right in this country who will jump up and down tomorrow. I'm sure talk radio will be abuzz tomorrow.

Listen, I don't think it's about either side. I think when you look at the former president, it's about the people in the middle. It's about those few people, whether it's 5 percent or 8 percent, that are undecided.

And I think it will be a very healthy reminder of just four or five years ago where this country was, having created 23 million new jobs, having had income levels on all levels rise, not just for the top 1 percent of the country but for people, you know, millions of people moving out of poverty, millions of people getting ahead, millions of people getting health insurance, all of which have been reversed over the last four years. And a country at peace, a country that was strong and a country at peace.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Racicot, I saw one estimate that about 60 to 65 percent of the undecided vote right now remains women. That explains why both of these candidates are courting women.

And the most recent poll that we had, though, Kerry clearly ahead of Bush when it comes to women voters, although not by the margin that Gore carried the women vote over Bush in the election of 2000.

If, in fact, 60 or 65 percent of the undecided are women, that's good news for John Kerry, isn't it?

RACICOT: Well, we believe, of course, that the race is much, much tighter than that.

And the issues of security particularly are manners of grave importance to young mothers all across this country, because they know, if we don't deal with the issue now of terrorism globally and if don't do it in Baghdad rather than in Boston, that their babies, their children, are going to have to do that when it's exponentially more difficult to address.

So we're approaching this from a number of different perspectives, not only from the terrorism issue but from security, retirement, values, education, all of those issues critically important to male and female voters.

And we believe, of course, the race is much tighter than the numbers that you just indicated.

BLITZER: Are your numbers, Joe Lockhart, when it comes to the women who are voting, showing a slight downturn from the number of women who voted for Gore as opposed to Kerry this time around, your internal numbers?

LOCKHART: I think it's a lot closer to where Gore was than a lot of the national polls. But, listen, we still have work to do, and we're going to continue doing that.

But I think there's two issues here if you look at undecided voters, particularly women. They want a president that can do several things at one time. They want a president that can defend the country, that can be strong, but can also fight for the middle class.

I think the president now is increasingly making the case that providing security is the single job and everything else has to wait. I think undecided voters disproportionately are looking at the economy, jobs and health care as things they want to hear from the candidates.

The second point is, I think you can really see the difference between these two campaigns as we get down to the wire in what they have control over, particularly the advertising.

You know, we released our final advertisements yesterday. They are all positive. They're John Kerry talking into the camera, talking about hope, talking about being optimistic about the future.

The Republicans released an ad on Friday, which they bragged about, focus-group testing, and it had a bunch of wolves. And I think, you know, if you have to go into a focus group and say, "What's the most scary animal you can have, you know, is it a tiger, is it a wolf?" -- their strategy is simple. They can't really talk about the record. They can't get specific about their proposals for the future because they don't know how to pay them, so they want to scare people.

And I think women, in particular, are going to reject the approach of just trying to scare people.

BLITZER: Governor Racicot, I'm going to let you respond to that. We'll talk about that wolves commercial. We'll talk about a lot more, but we have to take a quick break.

When we return, more with Marc Racicot and Joe Lockhart about Bush versus Kerry, the final days of this hard-fought presidential campaign here in the United States.

Then, which state will clinch victory for either candidate? We'll talk swing-state strategy with Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

And later, could this election actually be a repeat of the 2000 contest? We'll talk about the legal implications with two former White House counsels.

"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "LATE EDITION's" Web question of the week: Should international observers monitor the U.S. presidential election? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in this program.

Up next, more with Bush and Kerry campaign insiders, Marc Racicot, Joe Lockhart. They're standing by.

You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, Marc Racicot, and Kerry campaign senior adviser Joe Lockhart.

Governor Racicot, Joe just brought up this wolves commercial that the Bush-Cheney campaign is running. Let's run a bit of that right now, show our viewers what we're all talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence operations by $6 billion -- cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defenses.

And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats suggesting this is simply the politics of fear on your part and is going to alienate a lot of those still-undecided women voters. What do you say?

RACICOT: Well, I would say that it obviously displays the surreptitious and evil nature of terrorism and, as a matter of fact, how it creeps and infiltrates society and then, as we watched over the course of the last 20 years, how it deals a devastating blow to our citizens here in our country. That's what it's meant to convey.

And John Kerry has been on the wrong side of all of these issues over a period of 20 years and still is on the wrong side today. I mean, how could you set about during the Cold War to eliminate the intelligence systems and weapons systems that were in place that brought the Cold War to an end? How could you vote against the first invasion into Iraq when you had Saddam Hussein sitting in Kuwait? How could you be against a preemptive self-defense, as John Kerry on more than one occasion has said he is? On and on and on. And then not have a position on Iraq that is even close to being decipherable.

So that bottom line is what that the commercial is all about.

BLITZER: Joe Lockhart, why don't you respond to that?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think when you have to resort to the politics of fear, it says a couple things. One is that you don't have a positive record to run on, and two is you feel like you're in pretty bad shape, because this is a risky strategy.

And I don't think we need visual images that represent terrorism. All we need to see is a picture of Ground Zero and a picture of Osama bin Laden. We know who the enemy is. We don't need animals running around.

The other part here is that these are really serious issues, and we ought to take them seriously, and we ought to stop distorting the record.

The intelligence votes that they talk about in that commercial are very interesting. John Kerry did propose cutting part of the National Reconnaissance Office budget because it was seen as a very ineffective and wasteful program by Democrats and Republicans.

But what they don't tell you is there was a proposal put forward very aggressively to slash the human intelligence budget, the actual people on the ground. And that wasn't John Kerry's proposal. He wasn't for that. It was Porter Goss of Florida, a Republican, who just so happens to be the president's choice to run the CIA right now.

So we're in a post-9/11 world, and by playing by their rules and how you can just take a vote and make it mean what you want, Porter Goss, the new head of the CIA, didn't think human intelligence was important enough.

On the defense cuts...

BLITZER: Hold on a second, Joe. Hold on one second, because I want Governor Racicot to respond.

It wasn't just Porter Goss. There were plenty of other Republican members of the Intelligence Committee -- Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Gerald Solomon of New York state. There weren't just Democrats like Senator Kerry opposing those cuts in intelligence. There were solid Republicans opposing it, as well.

RACICOT: Two distinctly different issues, Wolf.

The first, Senator Kerry proposed across-the-board cuts, and even his Democratic Senate colleagues told him that those cuts were terribly misinformed and would eviscerate the capacity to put together our intelligence function in this country.

Secondly, CIA Director Goss, when he was there in Congress, along with other Republicans, made very targeted recommendations for the improvement of the agency. That's the actual record that's accurate.

LOCKHART: Wolf, in one of his main proposals in his "targeted improvements" was slashing human intelligence. And what we've learned since 9/11, and even before, was there was too much reliance on the technical reconnaissance and intelligence and not enough on human.

And this is the man that George Bush has chosen at the most important time, in a crossroads as far as our intelligence. And that's why they're resorting to putting wild animals on the air and they can't have George Bush look into the camera and say, "This is my plan."

There's a big difference between George Bush and John Kerry, as you watch in the battleground states. Kerry is going to talk to you plainly, straight. And with the Republicans you're going to get scare tactics.

BLITZER: Well, there is a Democratic ad, Joe, that's running that refers to some wild animals as well. We ran the wolves ad. Let's run this one and show our viewers what the Democratic Party is putting out on the screen right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The eagle soars high above the earth. The ostrich buries its head in the sand.

The eagle can see everything for miles around. The ostrich can't see at all. The eagle knows when it's time to change course. The ostrich stands in one place.

Given the choice, in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. I'll let Governor Racicot respond to that. Pretty tough ad right there.

RACICOT: Well, during the '90s, of course, terrorism grew right in front of our nose. During the '90s, the corporate scandals were originated and given birth. During the '90s, we saw the recession start to develop.

This president has been able to do a multitude of different things at the same moment in time. He's the one providing the vigilance and the capacity for us to live in safety and security and, as late as last week, still presiding over a government on domestic affairs with bipartisan efforts to do everything from tax reform to all of the things that he's done in reference to health care and education.

So from my perspective, because there is no indication given, I know who the eagle is and I know who the ostrich is.

BLITZER: All right. Well, very quick last question to both of you, Joe Lockhart first.

You need 270 Electoral College votes to be president of the United States. How many do you predict John Kerry will get?

LOCKHART: Oh, listen, he'll get between 270 and the low 300s, more than enough to be elected.

I don't think this is going to be a litigation election. I think the undecideds have looked at this president. They've made a decision that he hasn't done a good enough job to be rehired as president. They will be moving -- they've already moved over the last two weeks into the camp of John Kerry.

And I think you're going to see a very, very important night, because the choices are meaningful in this election. The direction of this country is at stake.

BLITZER: Governor Racicot, what's your prediction?

RACICOT: I think 100 years from now people are going to look back and see that the American people did the right thing, that they took the man of courage and conviction to lead this nation through very perilous and difficult times.

And my belief, it's obviously going to be close. I don't think it's going to end up in the difficulty we saw in 2000, but I do believe the president will once again be reinvested with the confidence of the American people.

BLITZER: That means he'll get more than 270, according to your prediction. But we'll see. We'll all be watching November 2nd.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

RACICOT: Thank you.

LOCKHART: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, the check of what's making news right now, including the latest on today's U.S. airstrikes targeting insurgents in Fallujah.

Then, with U.S. soldiers still in harm's way in Iraq, will voters be reluctant to turn out a wartime president? We'll ask two leading senators from two swing states.

"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He can run. He can even run in camo. But he cannot hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush on the campaign trail, taking a jab at Senator Kerry's hunting photo opportunity this past week.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Four years ago, President Bush ultimately won Florida by 537 votes, while Al Gore narrowly prevailed in Pennsylvania. Once again, the race extremely close in both states.

Joining us now from Washington, two guests: the retiring Democratic senator from Florida, Bob Graham. He's also the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. He's the chairman of the Senate GOP Conference.

Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much to both of you for joining us.

And I want you both to weigh in. Senator Santorum, I'll go to you first. This massacre that we saw unfold in Iraq today, 48 Iraqis murdered, ambushed, execution-style, if you will. Most of them Iraqi soldiers or police officers cooperating with the U.S.-led military coalition there.

It looks like the situation on the ground is getting worse day by day. Do you accept that, Senator Santorum? SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: No, I don't accept that at all. But I do accept that this is a great struggle and that the Iraqi people are engaged in that struggle. If it shows anything, it's that we are training Iraqis and the people there don't want that to happen.

They're going to resist, with those who would like to not see democracy and liberty prevail in Iraq, are going to do everything they can to stop the Iraqis from having that destiny to themselves.

And they're sacrificing their lives. People are sacrificing their lives for freedom and democracy. And, you know, that's part of this struggle that we're engaged in.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, what's your assessment?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: Well, my assessment is that there is an issue here that hasn't gotten adequate attention. There was a major story in the press this week about the fact that the Saudi Arabians are providing much of the financing for the insurgents in Iraq.

That is a country which was a disingenuous ally during September 11th, has continued to take steps that are adverse to our interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world. And yet, this administration continues to cover up for their activity.

I believe a real test of leadership for President Bush would be to let the American people know what the Saudis are doing and what he intends to do about it if he continues as president.

BLITZER: In that story, Senator Santorum, it suggested that Saudis -- and it didn't necessarily say Saudi government officials, but individual Saudis were funneling lots of money to the insurgents through Syria. I assume you saw that, and I would like to get your reaction to what Senator Graham just said.

SANTORUM: Well, number one, the president signed, as you know, the Syria Accountability Act, something that puts enormous sanctions and puts enormous sanctions on Syria. We've gotten tough on them. They've imposed those sanctions against the recommendations from some of our European allies.

We've gotten tough, and we've tried to dry up and put pressure on Syria, which, as you know from that article, was the place from which these resources flowed.

We've continued to try to put pressure and worked with the Saudi government to try to get the insurgents within Saudi Arabia to, you know, bring them to justice and to be able to make sure that they are not cooperating with Syria or with Iran or some of the other bad actors in the region.

So it's not like we are not on top of it, not like we're not trying. But, again, we've got folks there in the region. The war is real. If there's anything that I think that the other side of the aisle tends to discount is how real this threat, not just to this region of the world but to the United States of America and to freedom-loving countries around the world.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, keeps saying that President Bush missed an opportunity to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. He simply got diverted. His attention got diverted to Iraq. An opportunity was missed.

General Tommy Franks, the retired U.S. commander of the Central Command, says that simply is not the case. They were doing both. They didn't divert any significant resources from Afghanistan, and there was no hard evidence that Osama bin Laden was really in Tora Bora to begin with.

You have a different assessment, and I know you wrote about it in The New York Times today.

GRAHAM: The president, in the clip just before we started, talked about someone who couldn't hide. Well, one person who has been able to hide is Osama bin Laden.

We haven't seen him now in about three or four years, because he was allowed to escape from the noose of Tora Bora probably into a cave in Pakistan, where he has reorganized al Qaeda into a more violent and effective organization than it was before 9/11.

I believe the president of the United States has done a disastrous service, in terms of the war on terror. We have not gotten Osama bin Laden. We have not crushed al Qaeda. We have not moved to the other major terrorist sites such as Syria, where the new camps...

BLITZER: But why do you, Senator Graham...

GRAHAM: ... that are producing terrorists are in full operation.

BLITZER: But why do you disagree with General Tommy Franks? He was the commander who was in charge of that operation.

GRAHAM: Well, the facts are that we have reduced the operation in Afghanistan as the demands of Iraq began to ramp up. And it was in some of the most critical areas, such as the unmanned aircraft, which had played such a critical role in the period immediately after we started into Afghanistan.

BLITZER: You quote in this letter that you wrote to The New York Times, you quote General Franks as your source for that information.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. I had a conference with him at Central Command in February of 2002.

He was not taking a position as to whether it was right or wrong. He was just stating the facts, that we had stopped fighting a war in Afghanistan and were beginning to redeploy critical personnel and equipment from Afghanistan to get ready for a war in Iraq, which at that point was neither authorized or was going to start for 14 months.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, you've looked into this yourself. What do you say? SANTORUM: Well, what I say is that this is a broad war on terror. And the war on terror, war on I call it Islamic fascism, is not the war on one person. It's the war on a broad array of fronts that threatens the stability of that region and threatens the national security of this country. And the president understands that.

It's not a limited one cell or one operative. It's a broad front that includes state sponsors of terrorists like we've mentioned today, Syria, like Iran and like others in that region that are very corruptible to support these kinds of organizations.

BLITZER: But the charge that Senator Kerry keeps making, Senator Graham has made for a long time, is the president recklessly diverted resources, military assets from going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for a war in Iraq which was not necessarily all that imminent, the threat was not all that imminent to the United States.

Would you give us a quick response to that?

SANTORUM: My quick response is he voted for the war and he understood how important it was at the time. Now that we have this Monday-morning quarterbacking about the war, we see a lot of different opinions.

But the fact is everyone agreed at the time that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that we were, in fact, and had made substantial progress on al Qaeda. As Tommy Franks said we were aggressively pursuing Osama bin Laden.

We've got a big enough capability with our military to be able to do those two things. And we have done them, and we've worked very effectively in doing them.

BLITZER: Not everyone, Senator Santorum, agreed. Senator Graham opposed that resolution giving the president the authority. He was chairman of the Intelligence Committee for some time.

And he said it was -- well, let me put it in your words. Why don't you just say it yourself. Why did you vote against that resolution, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: I voted against the resolution because I thought the evil in the Middle East -- and there are many evils in the Middle East -- which had the greatest capability of killing Americans was al Qaeda.

And that we should stay on the case against al Qaeda until we had defeated them in Afghanistan. And then, as General Franks suggested, we should move to other areas where there was a substantial al Qaeda presence, such as Somalia and Yemen.

If we had followed General Franks's advice of February of 2002, we would have crushed al Qaeda, we would have killed Osama bin Laden, we would have been standing at the gates of Damascus, where the real terrorists are being trained to fight the next years of war, instead of being bogged down in Iraq.

BLITZER: Senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break because we have to. But when we come back, we'll move into the world of presidential politics. We'll delve more into the neck-and-neck presidential race.

Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, they represent two of those critical battleground states. We'll assess what's going to happen next, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: George Bush likes to talk about how being president is hard work.

Well, Mr. President, I'm very happy to relieve you of the hard work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, taking a verbal swipe at the president on the campaign trail.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're getting perspective on a very tight U.S. presidential race from Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

No state -- probably no state more important right now than Florida. Senator Graham, you're a twice-elected governor of that state, senator from that state. Bush won Florida, as we all know, by 537 votes, 27 electoral votes at stake. The president spent four days in Florida this week. Kerry spent three days there.

What's your bottom-line assessment? Who's going to carry Florida this time around, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Wolf, earlier on the show, you showed a poll which had it 45-45. I think that's exactly right. It's extremely close. Both parties have made a major effort at registering and getting people out to vote.

The issues are sharply drawn. The latest issue that's arisen is this question of privatization of Social Security, which in a state where over 30 percent of the voters will be over the age of 65, that is a very incendiary issue.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Pennsylvania for a second, Senator Santorum, a beautiful state, indeed. Gore won in 2000, 51 to 46 percent, 21 electoral votes at stake. The president was there two days this week. Kerry was there two days this week.

Polls show within the margin of error right now. What's your assessment?

SANTORUM: Well, the president has been to Pennsylvania more times than he's been to his ranch in Crawford. He's really worked Pennsylvania very, very hard, and it's shown.

As you see, we were down five points -- most of the polls that I've seen either have us up one or down one or two -- where, if you compare that with Florida, which was a dead-even race last time -- it's still dead-even -- I think we've made tremendous progress as a result of the president's actions in Pennsylvania and his policies that I think people in Pennsylvania have been supportive of.

I feel very good that this race is going to come down to the wire, and I think we probably have the best organization I've ever seen on our side of the aisle in trying to get our vote out. And I think, in the end, that's going to make the difference.

BLITZER: Forty-one times the president, I believe, has visited Pennsylvania since he took office.

Look at this Annenberg survey, Senator Graham. The question is asked, "Which candidate is more decisive?" Bush gets 57 percent, Kerry 30 percent, 10 percent say equal.

That doesn't necessarily bode well, Kerry, only 30 percent saying he would be more decisive as a presidential candidate. What do you think about that result?

GRAHAM: Well, I think that the fact that you're decisive can also mean that you're decisively wrong, which is what I believe this president has been on health care, on his tax policy and particularly in pursuing the war on terror around the world, which effectively has been an abandoned war as we've refocused our attention on a country that had no terrorists and no relationship to September the 11th, Iraq.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, the same poll asked this question: Which candidate is more knowledgeable? Bush 37 percent, Kerry 48 percent, equal 13 percent.

I guess more Americans think the Democratic challenger is more knowledgeable than the incumbent.

SANTORUM: That's because he can equally articulate both sides of any issue, because he's been on both sides of almost every issue. I mean, you can sound very, very smart, but, you know, being cautious and being in doubt is not a substitute for action if you're the president of the United States.

That's the problem with John Kerry. That's his record over the last 20 years of accomplishing nothing, not leading, not being assertive, not being someone who can take charge and get things done here in the most difficult arena, maybe in the world, Washington, D.C.

We cannot -- I mean, these qualities of presidents are important. Having someone with the courage of their convictions, willing to stand up and say, "This is what I believe and I'm going to stick with my beliefs," and let the people judge at that point whether this is what direction the country wants to go or not.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, Senator Graham, thanks to both of you, as usual, for joining us here on "LATE EDITION." Appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: During this presidential campaign, we've been getting special insight from our political analyst, Carlos Watson. Tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern, Carlos will bring us the inside story on some very high-profile people, not only from the world of politics, but from sports and entertainment as well. His new show is called "Off Topic with Carlos Watson."

Carlos Watson joining us now live with a little bit of a preview.

Carlos, why should our viewers want to stick around, 10 p.m. Eastern tonight, and watch "Off Topic"?

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we've got three really intriguing guests, Wolf. And, interestingly enough, they're not just from one arena, they're from all around.

So, we've got Barack Obama, the aspiring Senate candidate from Illinois. It's probably his first in-depth interview since he gave that fabulous keynote speech at the Democratic Convention.

We later turn to the model Heidi Klum, who, it turns out she's not just another pretty face but a very shrewd global businesswoman.

And then, last but not least, we've got probably the biggest name in sports, Shaquille O'Neill. And he surprised me, Wolf, when he told me he's thinking about running for office. That's right, Shaquille O'Neill in politics.

So we've got three very intriguing guests at 10 p.m. tonight on CNN. And, in fact, I think we've got a clip of Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: You have kind of a very Huxtable, very Cleaver, you know, great wife, two kids. And yet, you yourself don't come from a very kind of conventional family.

BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR THE U.S. SENATE FROM ILLINOIS: No. No. And maybe that's why it's so important to me is because, you know, I had that instability when I was young.

We traveled a lot. My father wasn't in the house. Raised by a single mom for a while. I was born in Hawaii. I lived in Indonesia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Wolf, by the way, you also hear Obama weigh in about some of his thoughts about Supreme Court nominations if in fact he is elected. Remember, he's a constitutional law scholar. He talks about growing up in Indonesia and, interestingly enough, talks a little bit about how Flip Wilson -- that's right, Flip Wilson -- affected his ultimate political career.

BLITZER: We will have to stick around and hear about that. I used to love Flip Wilson.

Carlos Watson premieres his new show tonight here on CNN, 10 p.m. Eastern, "Off Topic with Carlos Watson."

Carlos, we'll all be watching. Thanks very much for joining us.

WATSON: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Up next, the faith factor, the reverends Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson weigh in on the role of religion in this year's presidential campaign.

"LATE EDITION" continues right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We'll speak with the governors of those two key battleground states, potentially pivotal ones in this U.S. presidential election, in just a few minutes.

First though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: More now on today's horrific discovery in Iraq. The bodies of 44 unarmed Iraqi soldiers and four Iraqi drivers, all of them killed in an ambush.

CNN's Karl Penhaul joining us now live from Baghdad with more on this horrible story.

Karl?

Unfortunately, we are having to reconnect with Karl Penhaul. We weren't hearing him right now. But let's move on to our guests, and then we'll try to get back to Karl Penhaul in just a few moments.

The best way to see where the front lines are drawn in the final days of the campaign is by checking candidates' itineraries. John Kerry was in Colorado yesterday. George Bush will be there Monday. Both of them will be in Pennsylvania this week.

Joining us now, the leaders of two of those battleground states, Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Ed Rendell and Colorado Republican Governor Bill Owens.

Governors, to both of you, thanks very much for joining us.

And I'll show our viewers the latest Newsweek poll, a national poll that's just come out: Bush at 48 percent, Kerry 46 percent, Nader 1 percent. Sampling error of 4 percent, so clearly well within the margin of error.

I'll start off with you, Governor Rendell. How close is this election?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I can only speak for Pennsylvania, Wolf. And it's close here, but Senator Kerry started to pull away a little bit. Polls have it at two, four and five up. And because of the terrific Democratic registration effort, I'd say we're a point ahead of what the polls show.

So we're starting to show a little distance, but it still depends on turnout. If our folks sit on their rears, the Republicans are better organized in Pennsylvania than they've ever been. President Bush is coming here this week for his 42nd visit.

We're thinking of giving him a voter registration card and charging him taxes.

So it's going to be a battle all the way to the end, but we're doing pretty well.

BLITZER: Governor Owens, what do you make -- why is Colorado at play at this late stage?

Normally Colorado, you would think, would go for the Republican candidate for president, especially incumbent. I'll put up on the screen some of the statistics of Colorado. The last time around, Bush won easily, 50 percent to 42 percent.

Nine electoral votes at stake in Colorado. The president was not there this past week, although he is heading there. Kerry was there twice this past week.

Why is Colorado in play at this late stage in the game?

GOV. BILL OWENS (R), COLORADO: Well, I think that it's because most people forget that Colorado has traditionally been a battleground state. It went for President Clinton in 1992. I'm the first Republican governor in 24 years. It's a state that had Gary Hart and Pat Schroeder and Tim Werth in the Senate and in the House.

This is a state that last time went for President Bush by eight or nine percentage points. This time I think we're going to go for President Bush by five or six percentage points.

As in Pennsylvania, where my good friend Ed Rendell says that John Kerry is starting to put some distance, here in Colorado President Bush is starting to pull away as well. We're up by five or six points in our polling right now. BLITZER: Governor Rendell, the president was in Pennsylvania on Friday, and he's continuing one of his major themes, if not his major theme, that he can protect Americans from terrorism. And on this issue, he does very well, at least according to the pollsters.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The enemies who killed thousands of innocent people are still dangerous and determined to strike us again. The outcome of this election will set the direction of the war against terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That line clearly resonates with a lot of Americans. Why is Senator Kerry, your candidate, weaker on this whole effort, at least according to the polls, in the war on terror?

RENDELL: Well, look, the strongest thing the Bush administration has going for itself is the unspoken. It's been three years since 9/11 and there hasn't been another attack in America. And a lot of people feel that and feel very strongly about that.

We think the facts belie that. We think there's been a whole breakdown on terrorism. You saw the mess with the FBI, cut in port security funding. Now 98 percent of the containers that come through the port of Philadelphia come through undetected. You could actually ship a nuclear device in one of those containers.

But yet, that fact remains, that there hasn't been another terrorist incident, and that weighs on people's minds.

But what I've seen in Pennsylvania in the last 10 days or so is, despite the efforts to just concentrate on that one issue, people are beginning to look at the domestic issues, look at health care, look at the economy, look at the manufacturing jobs we've lost. And that's beginning to resonate.

And if there is a little distance that Senator Kerry is putting away the president, it's because the domestic issues are beginning to start weighing on people's minds.

BLITZER: Governor Owens, clearly Colorado much more isolated than Washington or Pennsylvania or New York, the attacks of 9/11. What issues are resonating most on the minds of individuals, based on what you can tell at this late stage, in Colorado?

OWENS: Well, Wolf, here it is who, among these two candidates, can best protect the United States.

And today, The Denver Post, in fact, endorsed President Bush. It had gone with Al Gore four years ago, but it endorsed President Bush for precisely that reason.

The Denver Post believes, and I think most Coloradans believe, that President Bush is the candidate who is best focused, most focused on protecting the homeland. He's made that very clear. You know exactly where he stands. You know exactly what he's going to do in terms of confronting the forces of terrorism around this world.

And I think that's a huge difference between he and John Kerry, where we frankly don't know where John Kerry stands on many of the key issues of the day.

BLITZER: He does do much better than the president in a lot of the economic issues, health care, some of those bread-and-butter issues, than he does on the war on terror, Governor Owens. The president's got a problem when it comes to these issues.

OWENS: Well, he does, but I think that's largely perceptual. For example, we are gaining jobs dramatically.

A lot of us forget that in the three months after September 11th, this country lost 1 million jobs. That can't be blamed on this president. We saw it in the tourism industry here in Colorado.

What we do know is that the unemployment rate today is lower than it was in the average of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, when my friend Ed Rendell was backing President Clinton even though there was a higher unemployment rate in 1996 when President Clinton was running for reelection than today when President Bush is running for reelection.

BLITZER: Well, though there were 21 million new jobs created during the eight years of the Clinton administration, Governor Owens. This time around, there's been a net loss in the number of jobs that have been created over the past four years, 600,000 or 700,000, something along those lines.

OWENS: Largely because of that September 11th attack. If we take those million jobs out of the equation, we have gained significant jobs, and in fact, in the last one year, we've gained a million jobs. So the trend is clearly in the right direction for this country.

BLITZER: Governor Rendell, you want to respond to that?

RENDELL: Sure, very quickly.

Number one, forget the jobs we lost after September 11th. All of the recoveries that the Bush administration has predicted, the gains in jobs have been far less than they've predicted, including the last two months when we had almost no gain in new jobs.

And the jobs we're producing, Wolf, are $10,000 less in salary and benefits than the jobs we're losing. We're losing hardcore manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, places like that, because we're not fighting back in the World Trade Organization and other places.

We're getting killed, and we need someone to stand up for us. John Kerry has said he's going to reduce those loopholes that reward American companies for taking jobs overseas and use that money to create jobs here. It's a good plan, and it's a plan that people are responding to.

BLITZER: Let me move ahead to the issue of stem-cell research, Governor Owens, and I'll get you to weigh in on this.

Earlier, Nancy Reagan said she would like to greater embryonic stem-cell research. Her son, Ron Reagan, spoke at the Democratic Convention, as you know, in Boston. More recently, the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed greater embryonic stem-cell research. And the widow now of Christopher Reeve, Dana Reeve, introduced Democratic candidate John Kerry on this specific issue the other day.

In Colorado, a state that obviously is close to your heart, is this issue hurting the president, his opposition to greater embryonic stem-cell research than what he's already approved?

OWENS: You know, Wolf, I don't think it is. But I think there has been some misunderstanding.

First of all, this president has, in fact, supported cell research. He does not support the type that leads to the destruction of life, but he's put tens of millions of dollars into cellular research.

And secondly, this is just federal funding. The private sector can and is doing stem-cell research. What is at issue is, should the federal government endorse and fund, on the public side, this sort of research which could lead to the destruction of human life?

So we are doing stem-cell research in the United States. This president supports cellular research. He does not support that narrow niche of research which could lead to the destruction of human life.

BLITZER: Governor Rendell?

RENDELL: I have great respect for Governor Owens. He's one of the flat-out best governors in the country.

But that's a ridiculous argument, and, Bill, you know it.

The embryos that are used for stem-cell research never come to life. They are discarded.

And this is an not an abortion issue. And the Republicans have tried to make this into a pro-life issue. It isn't. Those embryos wind up being discarded.

And if the use of those embryos can -- if there's a slight possibility that they could lead to the cure for Alzheimer's or spinal-cord injuries or diabetes, good Lord, why aren't we doing it?

It's an issue that resonates dramatically here in Pennsylvania. Arlen Specter, Wolf, has Michael J. Fox doing stem-cell ads for him on TV here in Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Governor Owens. Go ahead. OWENS: Well, just that what I said was accurate, in fact. The private sector is still able to do it. In the public sector, we're doing cellular research. We are not funding the cellular research that, again, leads to the possible loss of human life.

BLITZER: Adult stem-cell research, as opposed to embryonic stem- cell research.

OWENS: Exactly, exactly.

BLITZER: All right. To both of our governors, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to both of you on November 2nd, as well.

RENDELL: OK. Thanks, Wolf.

OWENS: Thanks, Wolf.

Thanks, Ed.

RENDELL: Good to see you, Bill.

BLITZER: Straight ahead, politics and the pulpit: a conversation with the reverends Jesse Jackson and Jerry Falwell. That's coming up.

Also, are we headed for another election impasse? We'll ask former White House counsels C. Boyden Gray and Jack Quinn about expectations and preparations for the worst-case scenario.

"LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There was a horrific massacre in Iraq today. CNN's Karl Penhaul standing by live in Baghdad with details on what happened.

Karl?

PENHAUL: Wolf, this certainly was a massacre. No other word for that. Forty-four Iraqi soldiers and their four drivers. The Iraqi soldiers fresh out of boot camp. They'd been heading south to go and spend a few days' R&R with loved ones. Heavily armed insurgents forced them out of the minibuses they were travelling on. They forced them to lie down on the ground and shot them in the back of the head.

We've seen pictures now of these bodies being transported by trucks to a nearby Iraqi National Guard compound. These graduates from the army military base were supposed to be the new face of Iraq's security forces, the ones that were going to bring some kind of stability to Iraq. Instead, today we see these faces caked with blood and with mud.

Also in Baghdad, an attack on a military base here, one of the U.S. military bases, and a U.S. diplomatic special agent killed there. He was sleeping when that attack occurred. And we're told by the U.S. Embassy officials that he was the first full-time State Department official to be killed here in Iraq.

Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Karl Penhaul with the latest news from Iraq.

Thank you, Karl, very much.

There's still time for you to vote on our Web question of the week: Should international observers monitor the U.S. presidential election? Go to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll have the results for you. That's coming up later this hour.

Up next, though, preachers and politics. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Jerry Falwell talk about religion and this presidential campaign. We'll speak with them live.

Stay with "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My principles that I make decisions on are a part of me, and religion is a part of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush at the third debate on the importance of religion.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

Two men with wide experience in both religion and politics join us now live. In Sarasota, Florida, although I think it's in Tampa, Florida, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition founder and Kerry supporter, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. And in Lynchburg, Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He's the founder and chancellor of Liberty University. He's a strong supporter of President Bush. Jesse Jackson, of course, a strong supporter of John Kerry.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

Let me begin with you, Reverend Falwell. How energized, based on what you can tell, is the evangelical community out there right now? I assume most of them would be in support of President Bush.

REV. JERRY FALWELL, FOUNDER, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Wolf, I started Moral Majority in 1979. Twenty-five years have passed. The press calls it the "Religious Right." I've never, never sensed higher energy levels, even in '84 in Mr. Reagan's reelection year, than I do right now.

George Bush has won the hearts of people of faith in this country. And I predict that he's going to win by much more than a slim margin on November 2. And I know Jesse's down there in Florida, but Florida's gone, Jesse. You need to go on back home.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let the Reverend Jackson weigh in.

And I'll rephrase the question slightly to you, Reverend Jackson. How energized is the African-American community? More than 90 percent of the voters going for the Democratic candidate Al Gore four years ago.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, very energized and, on the other hand, very threatened.

From a faith perspective, our mission statement followed from Jesus (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to preach good news to the poor and to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free.

And in the last four years, we've had a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush will not fight to raise the minimum wage for the working poor. If you can't work your way out of poverty, then what?

He seeks to not allow overtime pay for overtime work in these last three years.

He refused to meet with our leadership to discuss these matters of economics at home and the war in Iraq. These issues matter.

BLITZER: Well, what about the point that the Reverend Falwell just made, you should get out of Florida because you're going to lose Florida?

JACKSON: Well, he's just saying something to entertain himself.

(LAUGHTER)

We won Florida before. We're going to win Florida again.

The big issue in Florida not whether we vote. The issue is will our vote count, voter suppressing. In Miami-Dade County, there are 23 polling places. In Broward County, they had 13. But in Duvall, the largest county in the state, there's only one polling place, where 27,000 votes were not counted in 2000. And in Seminole county, where Sanford is, the only one voting place and it's at the airport. There's a court case tomorrow where 14,000 people who voted, their vote has been disallowed because of some technicality.

So the big issue for us is not that people will vote -- we will vote -- but our vote this time must count.

BLITZER: We did a Gallup poll -- there was a Gallup poll that came out earlier this year, Reverend Falwell, you may have seen it, which asked the American public if they described themselves as a born-again Christian or evangelical. Forty-two percent said yes; 54 percent said no.

I don't know if those numbers coincide with what you thought, but I was pretty surprised that 42 percent of the American public, at least according to that Gallup poll, thought of themselves as born- again Christians or evangelical.

FALWELL: Wolf, that is about accurate, and that number is growing rapidly.

You know, Billy Graham got the fires burning back 65 years ago and has continued up to this day. Add to that hundreds of Christian television, radio stations.

In the publishing industry, for example, Rick Warren's book, "Purpose-Driven Life," 20 million copies gone. And now, 800,000 a month, number one, New York Times best-seller list. Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series, 55 million hard-back copies.

The Christian contemporary music, the youth music, Christian music, multi-millions. And 225,000 evangelical churches, the largest churches of America.

There's a spiritual explosion. And we're getting -- we're winning our people to Christ. We're baptizing them. We're discipling them. We're then registering them to vote and getting them to the polls. And in a matter of time, there will be 100 million active evangelical voters who will, every year, every election year, decide the pro-life, pro-family candidate's elected.

JACKSON: Wolf...

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, I want you to respond to that. But, listen, look at these numbers, and I'm going to put them up on the screen.

These were put together by the Chicago Tribune. Evangelical voters potentially in several of the battleground states: 30 percent in Iowa, 27 percent in Ohio, 25 percent in Minnesota, 24 percent in Michigan, 23 percent in Florida, 22 percent in Pennsylvania.

I guess the Reverend Falwell makes a point that if President Bush and Karl Rove can energize these potential evangelical voters out there, John Kerry's in deep trouble.

JACKSON: Well, you tell the tree by the fruit it bears.

Our church is measured in some measure by our moral standard. You know, the church can be strong and not necessarily morally right.

They were not on the side of emancipation, but the black church was. They were not on the side to end legal segregation, but the black church was. They were not on the side to end the right to vote, nor to free Mandela.

So we have some moral obligation to do something as basic as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mobilize people to do what? Defend the poor and deliver the needy and set the captive free.

What is the church's position in Appalachia, where Jerry and I have walked together? A coal miner dies every six hours from Black Lung disease. What is the position on that? What about children in Appalachia who drive to school two-and-a-half miles one way each day and cannot get relief for their schools, for their education?

What about a back-door draft where only the poor are going to Iraq and dying? The rich go to big universities and get oil.

What is the church telling on issues that make a difference in people's lives?

BLITZER: All right, let's let Reverend Falwell respond to that.

Go ahead.

FALWELL: Well, first of all, I can say that the evangelical church that I pastor, a church with 24,000 members, and I'm chancellor of a Christian university, Liberty University with 21,000 students, and across the nation, I think I have my finger on the pulse of the evangelical public as much as anybody. Nobody's more involved in mercy ministry and love ministry than evangelicals.

But beyond that, to an even higher level, the evangelical church is pro-life. We believe the last disenfranchised minority in America are the unborn. And unfortunately, Mr. Kerry is on the wrong side of that and Mr. Bush is on the right side of that.

And then marriage: the black church and the white church agree that a family is one man married to one woman. The barnyard has that straight. Mr. Kerry does not. He is not willing to support a federal marriage amendment.

So I can tell you that 80 percent, 80 percent of evangelicals are going to vote for George Bush across the board this time.

BLITZER: You know, we're going to...

JACKSON: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf...

BLITZER Hold on one second. Hold on. Reverend Jackson, hold on one second because we have to take a quick break. But I want to just point out to the Reverend Falwell what he already knows.

The vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, doesn't support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage either.

FALWELL: But he's not the president. He works for the president.

BLITZER: But he is a heartbeat away from the presidency, and you'd be electing him if you vote for him.

FALWELL: No, I wouldn't be electing -- I'm electing George Bush. He's going to make four more years, and then we'll get another good pro-life president.

BLITZER: All right. We'll continue this conversation. We'll get into homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion rights for women, a lot coming up.

The reverends Jerry Falwell, Jesse Jackson, they're sticking around. Please stick around, as well.

We'll also get a quick check of what's making news right now, including the latest on that massacre of Iraqi soldiers.

Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I'm not running to be a Catholic president. I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Democrat John Kerry at the third presidential debate, quoting the late president John F. Kennedy on the place of religion in politics.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

We're talking about the power of religion in this campaign year with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

Before the break, Reverend Jackson, we were speaking about the whole issue of same-sex marriage, homosexuality. It came up, as you well know, at the third debate when John Kerry made this statement and it was followed within hours by angry reaction from the vice president and his family. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry was out of line to even bring my daughter into it. I thought that was totally inappropriate. And, frankly, I was surprised that he would do something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, what did you think?

JACKSON: New York Times, January 25th of 2001, Alan Simpson, Mr. Cheney's partner from Wyoming, at a Republican prayer breakfast said, "Not one of us doesn't have someone close to us who is not gay or lesbian." He then invoked Mrs. Mary Cheney, the daughter of the vice president, who attended the inauguration with her partner.

Mr. Simpson said that after Ms. Cheney said she was a lesbian, her father, Dick Cheney, protected and loved her as his very special, special daughter.

She was the liaison for gay and lesbians for Coors beer company.

So, if Alan Simpson can say it at a prayer breakfast, and Cheney acknowledged it, then what's the point of acting as if it is some strange issue now?

BLITZER: What about that, Reverend Falwell?

FALWELL: Well, first of all, I want to say I admire Dick Cheney and Lynne. I have three children and eight grandchildren. If one of them ever came to me and said, "I'm gay," and so forth, they would still be my daughter, my son, my grandchild. My home would still be their home.

I would love them. I would try to counsel them out of a perverted lifestyle, but lovingly. And would do all -- they would never be rejected. A parent never rejects a child.

So I admire the Cheneys. And they're doing just what I would do under a similar circumstance.

BLITZER: Well, let me, Reverend Falwell, when you say...

JACKSON: But, Wolf, Wolf...

BLITZER: Hold on one second.

Reverend Falwell, when you say "a perverted lifestyle," that's getting very close to what Alan Keyes, the Republican candidate for the Senate from Illinois said. And I'll tell our viewers precisely what he said about Mary Cheney, the daughter of the vice president.

FALWELL: Well, let me say...

BLITZER: He said this, and I'll put it up on the screen: "The essence of family life remains procreation. If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principle excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism."

He was asked if Mary Cheney is a selfish hedonist. He says that goes by definition. Quote, "Of course she is."

Are you agreeing with Alan Keyes on that point?

FALWELL: I'm not saying anything negative about anybody. What I'm saying is that God loves everyone. Christ died for everyone.

Homosexuality, in the Bible -- and I take the Bible seriously, and I know Jesse does, too -- Romans chapter one explains that homosexuality is wrong. It is sin. Now, I'm also a sinner. It is no more sinful than adultery, than living immorally for a heterosexual. And the blood of Jesus Christ, God's son, cleansed us from all sin.

So we're not condemning people. I'm pastor of a church of 24,000 members, and I say, "Come one, come all." But I want to say that the Cheneys are doing just what Jesse Jackson would do, what I would do, with a gay child, loving them all the way to the end.

BLITZER: I'm going to let Reverend Jackson respond to that.

JACKSON: And, Wolf, that's precisely the point, that at a Republican prayer breakfast, Alan Simpson acknowledged that she was lesbian, she was there with her partner, with her parents, and that he loved her.

And so when Kerry said it three years later, he was not, like, outing her to embarrass her. This is was already established. Her job was the liaison for gay and lesbians for the Coors beer company.

What frightens me about this issue is the diversion from the bigger issue. I'll just ask a church congregation in service, how many of your family members have had cancer, wants minimum wage raises, wants overtime pay for overtime work, wants your Medicare or Social Security protected, wants to leave Iraq? They all raise their hands. And how many of you members of your family married to somebody of the same sex? Nobody moved.

So how did this issue get in the middle of the campaign about the war in Iraq and that disaster and the second economy for middle-class people?

BLITZER: All right. Well, those are fair -- Reverend Falwell, I'm going to move on. I want to talk about some other issues.

FALWELL: All right.

BLITZER: But simply answer this question. Do you agree with Alan Keyes that Mary Cheney and other lesbians are, in his words, "selfish hedonists"?

FALWELL: I would never make a critical statement against any sinner, of which I am one. I would simply say, "God loves you. Christ died for you. If you trust in him as your savior, he'll set you free."

BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll have to leave it at that.

Reverend Jackson, let's talk a little bit about another key issue, stem-cell research and abortion rights, in this campaign.

As a minister, what are your thoughts right now on this issue that the Reverend Falwell just raised, that evangelicals around the country are going to vote for President Bush because they are in his words, quote, "pro-life"?

FALWELL: And more than that.

JACKSON: Well, I think stem-cell research, stem-cell research should not be seen as equivalent to abortion. I support stem-cell research as a scientific process. It can save lives. And I support that proposition. I hope all of us can appreciate that level of science.

BLITZER: You're talking about embryonic stem-cell research.

JACKSON: Indeed, that's what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, I respect women's right to self-determinance. And most women choose to have their children. There may be circumstances where they choose not to, and I respect women's rights to make that judgment.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Reverend Falwell.

FALWELL: Wolf, may I say that Jesse Jackson is a great preacher. I'm mediocre, but he's a great preacher. And he has preached for me. He and I are good friends. He just happens to be wrong about everything now.

I have a copy of a printed sermon that Jesse preached, a pro-life sermon, that is as strong as anything I've ever preached. Then he got mixed up with the Democrats. They perverted his theology.

(LAUGHTER)

But Jesse loves people, just like I love people.

But I want to tell you that life begins at conception. And embryonic research on stem cells, very frankly, is wrong, because when the egg is fertilized it becomes a living person. That is the fundamental belief of Christians and, by the way, Pope John Paul II.

I have no problem with John Kerry being Catholic. Pope John Paul II is pro-life, and if John Kerry agreed with his pope and many of his fellow Catholic priests and so forth...

BLITZER: All right.

FALWELL: ... he and I would get along fine. I have no problem with him being Catholic. He's just wrong on the life issue, wrong on stem cell, wrong on...

(CROSSTALK)

FALWELL: ... and shouldn't be president.

JACKSON: Wolf, in the meantime, we have lost 1,000 soldiers in Iraq, 7,000 injured. We're sinking in a hole. And we seem not to -- Bush led us in; he can't get us out.

On the other hand, for the middle class, we've lost -- cut taxes, cut jobs, cut benefits and raised tuition. We need a new economic direction and a new policy for Iraq and the Middle East -- and Sudan and Haiti, I might add.

BLITZER: Well, what about...

FALWELL: Well, let me say...

BLITZER: Hold on one second.

Maybe, Reverend Jackson, you want to respond to the specific charge that was made by Reverend Falwell that you changed your position on abortion rights for women as you became more politically active.

JACKSON: No, I expanded my position to include the reality that women have the right to self-determination. I mean, people who...

FALWELL: I'll put a copy of his sermon on my Web site, if you want to read it.

JACKSON: When you grow, you change. I mean, I grew up with a lot of beliefs that were limited and archaic.

But I submit to you that I respect a woman's right of choice. I've seen women who faced incest, who've faced rape, who have had weak bodies who could not go on. And when those women made the choice to abort, I respected that right. And I stand on that position. I feel very morally secure in it.

BLITZER: One quick issue, before I let both of you go.

The Reverend Pat Robertson created some waves this past week. He was interviewed by our Paula Zahn, and he said this about the president. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND PAT ROBERTSON: I was trying to say, Mr. President, you'd better prepare the American people for casualties. "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties." Well, I said, "It's the way it's going to be."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's referring to a conversation he said he had with the president before the war in Iraq, in which the president, he suggests, was living in a dream world.

Who should we believe? The White House flatly denies this, Reverend Falwell.

FALWELL: Well, I don't know who to believe, but I know this, that it was certainly, I think, inappropriate for him here with two weeks to go in the election. He's my good friend, just like Jesse is, but he was wrong on that. He shouldn't have said that. And I want to take the president's word on this one. He says he didn't say it. I think there could have been a misunderstanding. I'm not calling anybody a liar. I'm simply saying that this president, talking about the terrorists and the -- how many we've lost, 1,100 soldiers, that's a terrible price.

But when you consider the barbaric act we just uncovered in the last 24 hours, the Iraqi soldiers murdered, they weren't insurgents. They were barbarians who did that. You don't shoot people in the back of the head and kill people, men, women and children.

And the president's doing the right thing. He's looking for them, he's searching them out. He's killing them when he finds them. And that's the only cure for barbarians.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, I'll give you the last word. Go ahead.

JACKSON: Well, Pat Robertson purports to have connections with a direct higher authority to which Mr. Bush must submit.

FALWELL: So do you, Jesse.

JACKSON: So, Jerry, you should not abandon your friend, Pat Robertson, for the president.

I submit to you today that our going to Iraq was a misadventure. It has put America in isolation. We are losing lives, money and losing our character in that war.

We deserve better leadership. And we need...

FALWELL: I'd rather be killing them over there than fighting them over here, Jesse. And I think you would...

JACKSON: Let's stop the killing and choose peace. Let's choose negotiation over confrontation.

FALWELL: Well, I'm for that too. But you've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.

JACKSON: That does not sound Biblical to me. And that sounds ridiculous.

FALWELL: Well, when they kill my family and blow those towers down -- and right now, who knows between now and November 2? We know what they did in Spain, in Australia. I look for it here.

I'd rather be shooting them over there than shooting them over here.

JACKSON: But those killers came from Afghanistan and bin Laden, who have not been pursued. They did not come from Iraq.

FALWELL: I don't care where they came from. We...

JACKSON: Well, it's important that you do know that bin Laden was the issue, not Saddam Hussein. Reverend Falwell, we're on the wrong agenda. Those who killed us came from Afghanistan. Bin Laden is still on the loose.

FALWELL: Well, I think we were already taking Afghanistan down, and we've elected a president there in the last two weeks.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Gentlemen, unfortunately we're going...

JACKSON: Saddam Hussein is in jail with American bodyguards while Americans are still being killed.

The war in Iraq is morally wrong and politically a disaster.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, guys, we're going to have to leave it right there. Reverend Falwell, Reverend Jackson, a good, serious discussion.

FALWELL: Behave yourself, Jesse.

BLITZER: We will continue this down the road.

And we have a very important program reminder for our viewers. CNN takes an in-depth look at the role of religion in politics and the growing influence of evangelical Christians tonight on "CNN Presents," an all new edition, "The Fight Over Faith." That's airing 8 p.m. Eastern tonight, "The Fight Over Faith," tonight, "CNN Presents," only here on CNN.

Up next, two former White House lawyers, C. Boyden Gray and Jack Quinn, on what happens if once again this election fails to deliver a clear and quick result.

"LATE EDITION" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."

The presidential campaigns may be hoping they can avoid the bitter impasse of four years ago that left the election outcome in doubt for weeks and ended up in the United States Supreme Court. But the lawyers from both sides already standing by to fight on after Election Day, November 2nd, if the results remain in dispute.

Joining us now from Washington to help sort through some of the legal scenarios, two guests: C. Boyden Gray, he served as the White House counsel under the first President Bush, and former Clinton White House counsel, Jack Quinn.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. I'll start with you, Boyden Gray. Look at these numbers. A Time magazine poll asks, "Are you worried that courts will determine the presidential election?" Fifty-eight percent said yes; 40 percent said no; 2 percent said they don't know.

How worried should the American public be that we'll have a repeat performance of 2000?

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think the public is reflecting what a lot of people think here in Washington, that we'll have a repeat because it will be so close in some key battleground states. The temptation on behalf of both parties will be to go in and litigate. And we may not know -- if this is the case, we may not know for weeks.

I think that would be a terrible outcome. And so let's hope that it isn't that close, A, and B, that if it is, that we don't have a replay of 2000.

BLITZER: Jack Quinn, what do you say?

JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think Boyden's right, that the American people understand that they would feel a lot better, and they would feel a lot better, if they know that this election is being decided by real voters casting real ballots and not being decided by lawyers and judges.

On the other hand, I think that you're going to see a break. You're seeing it now, I believe. And I think that Senator Kerry has the momentum behind him. I think there are a number of signs out there that the Bush folks see this thing slipping away. And I predict that you will see a one-sided victory for Senator Kerry, at least in terms of the Electoral College vote.

BLITZER: Well, maybe you have some information we don't have yet, but it looks like still very, very close at this point.

Jack Quinn, the last time around, the election was decided by lawyers and judges, specifically the United States Supreme Court. What lessons have the Democrats learned from what happened four years ago?

QUINN: Well, I think the Democrats have learned to be well- prepared on the legal side. And well-prepared they are.

In fact, I think both sides have done all the work they should be doing in preparation for the legal challenges that we all hope will not happen.

But just to go back to the previous point you and I discussed, I think the fact that states like Florida and Ohio, which were absolutely bedrock to President Bush's victory last time, the fact that those are still up in the air is an indication of significant weakness on the part of the president.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's move on and talk to C. Boyden Gray about the lessons the Republicans learned from the last time around.

If, in fact, Jack Quinn's assessment is correct, that it's trending toward Kerry right now, the Republicans might come in and challenge some of those ballots.

GRAY: I think that's -- if Jack were right, I think he might have a point. But I think the shoe really is on the other foot.

I was asked by a senior Democrat just yesterday, "Have you been assigned your state yet," and I said no. I said I don't know which states are going to be litigated. I suspect the Democrats probably do and they have a plan.

And I think Bush will be on the north side, the better side, of most of these state voting patterns.

And the problem is, I think the Democrats are prepared to fully litigate in every single battleground state, on a recount basis, everything that happens. And I don't think the Republicans are prepared to attack. I think they're prepared to defend, but I don't think they have it in their minds to go in and challenge every state.

QUINN: On the other hand...

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jack.

QUINN: On the other hand, Wolf, we've seen this morning the chairman of the Republican Party and others citing a litany of minor complaints about registration and who's voting and eligible voters and so on.

You wouldn't be spending the weekend before the final weekend of the election season ticking off all these complaints and focusing on the process if you thought that, on the morning of November 3rd, you were going to wake up ahead. I think the Republicans believe they're going to wake up behind and that they're going to need to file legal challenges.

BLITZER: C. Boyden Gray, I'll give you the last word. Go ahead.

GRAY: Well, I think the Democrats have already started the litigation roll-out. They challenged the Ohio decision to limit provisional balloting to people in the precinct where they are supposed to vote. That had to be taken up to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court of appeals threw out the Democratic challenge.

But they've already begun challenges all over the country. So I think we'll see just a continuation of the same after the election. I'm worried that we will.

BLITZER: But you're getting ready. Will you be one of those Republican lawyers that will move to one of those states, at least for the days that follow the election, Boyden Gray, if it comes down to that?

GRAY: It's quite possible, but I certainly hope not.

BLITZER: Jack Quinn, you're a recovering lawyer, right?

QUINN: That's right. My kids say I just play one on TV.

BLITZER: Former White House counsel Jack Quinn, former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, let's hope this thing ends relatively smoothly. Appreciate both of you for joining us.

QUINN: Thank you.

GRAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, we'll tell you the results of our Web question of the week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here are the results of our Web question of the week. Take a look at these numbers. Remember, though, it's not a scientific poll.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

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