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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Interview With Delaware Senator Joseph Biden; Iraq and the Midterm Elections

Aired October 25, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. From Paul Begala's partner, they are the words that elected a president, four simple words that changed history. Remember?
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Stay focused. Talk about things that matter to the people, you know? It's the economy, stupid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING (voice-over): The elephant in the room, adviser Carville ropes it, and candidate Clinton rides it all the way to Washington. That was then, 1992. This is now.

CARVILLE: It's Iraq. There are other things that people are frustrated about, but this is the big one.

KING: Now Republican candidates are saying the darndest things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

REP. MARK KENNEDY (R-MN), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: And we have made some mistakes in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And the president is reshaping the message.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq.

KING: Tonight, fair or not, just 13 days until the election, it's all about the war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: More from Mr. Carville in a moment -- more, too, of that remarkable campaign and which, in a way, is our touchstone for the night, a candidate trying to get his arms around the painful subject of Iraq.

As you will hear James Carville tell it, the Iraq story has become so central to voters, you simply can't talk about the other issues until you first deal with the war. That's coming up.

But we begin at the White House, where the president himself is grappling with Iraq and what to say about it.

Here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there was a message today, it was: I get it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied either.

MALVEAUX: But, of course, there was another message, and it was a familiar one: Reelect the Republicans.

BUSH: ... who best to protect this country and who best to keep taxes low. That's what the referendum's about.

MALVEAUX: But with October the deadliest month for American troops this year, and increasing pressure from Democrats and Republicans for change in Iraq, Mr. Bush is trying to show he's flexible and resolute.

BUSH: And my point to the American people is, is that we're constantly adjusting our tactics to achieve victory.

MALVEAUX: After three years of resisting timetables for troop withdrawal called for by some Democrats, Mr. Bush said the administration now is working with the Iraqis on benchmarks for taking over their own security.

BUSH: The benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

MALVEAUX: The president also tried to reassure the American public there would be an end in sight to the war in Iraq.

BUSH: We are pressing Iraqi's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patience is not unlimited.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Polls show America's patience has already begun to wear out, with two-thirds now opposing the Iraq war, and nearly a quarter of Republicans also against it. That's why Mr. Bush framed the Iraq war in terms Republicans respond to: national security.

BUSH: If I did not think our mission in Iraq was vital to America's security, I would bring our troops home tomorrow.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Mr. Bush deflected criticism away from his secretary of defense and from Republicans in Congress for failures in Iraq. Instead, he took responsibility himself, a move that doesn't cost the president against politically, because he's not on the ballot.

BUSH: If you're asking about accountability, it rests right here. That's what the 2004 campaign was about, you know. If people are unhappy about it, look right to the president.

MALVEAUX: That's the problem many Republican candidates face. They don't want to be seen with the president. Mr. Bush brushed that aside and warned Democrats, the game is not over.

BUSH: As I said, they're dancing in the end zone. They just hadn't scored the touchdown, Mark (ph). You know, there's -- there's a lot to -- a lot of time left.

MALVEAUX: But the truth is, there isn't. Elections are less than two weeks away, and the administration is still trying to figure out how to keep Republicans in control of Congress.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: More than safe to say the president's message on Iraq has been evolving lately.

Also safe to Delaware Senator Joe Biden has long been a tough and consistent critic. He's the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And Senator Biden spoke with us earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Senator Biden, the president held court in the East Room today. He went on for more than an hour, almost exclusively about Iraq -- a few other questions. And the president goes before the American people less than two weeks before the midterm elections, when -- read any public opinion poll -- the American people don't think the United States is winning, and they're not sure this president has a plan.

He said flatly today that he does have a plan; the United States is winning.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We're winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle, right now, is Iraq. And, as I said in my statement, I understand how tough it is, really tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Really tough, Senator Biden, but he says the United States is winning. Do you agree? SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: No, if he means that we're -- we're making progress in Iraq. And I have been there seven times, as recently as this summer. I don't know any generals that are saying that. No one said that to me on the ground. They said there's a need for radical change in the political climate there.

KING: One of the things he also said is that he trusts the Maliki government. But are you confident in the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki and his ability to improve the security situation?

BIDEN: No, I'm not. And I met with him. I told him I wasn't.

I asked him what he was going to do about the distribution of revenues to get the Sunnis to buy into a united government. He said there was no need to do anything. I asked what -- because he said it was -- quote -- "already in the constitution," which it's not.

And I asked him what he was going to do about the whole notion of federalism, and -- which is in the constitution -- and he said: Well, we don't need any constitutional amendments.

I asked him what he was going to do about dealing with the militia, and he said what he said publicly later. He said: We're not going to deal with them this year, with the death squads.

In the meantime, our guys and women are in the middle, getting killed.

KING: The president was talking about the political debate about Iraq, and who should be held accountable. And he patted his chest and he said that he should be held accountable in the end.

But he was also asked whether he had confidence, as a man who has said he would have accountability in his government, in the secretary of defense.

Listen to what the president said about Donald Rumsfeld.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: And I'm satisfied of how he's done all his jobs. He is a smart, tough, capable administrator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Biden, should the president be satisfied? And is Don Rumsfeld a tough, capable administrator?

BIDEN: He should not be satisfied.

I don't know one single piece of significant advice that Secretary Rumsfeld has given the president that has turned out to be correct, from the fact we didn't need more troops when we went in -- and we did need them -- from the fact that there wasn't a real insurgency -- they're a bunch of dead-enders -- from the fact that, in fact, we would have enough oil to pay for this war, which we don't. And I don't -- he's a fine man. He's a decent, honorable, patriotic man, but he has been dead wrong, in my view, on every major element of Iraqis -- the U.S. policy towards the war in Iraq.

KING: Do you think, after the election, the president will be open to a much more significant change of course than what we are -- have heard in the past few days? Or do you think he will have to be bullied into it?

BIDEN: I think that the Republicans in the United States Senate and Congress will demand Rumsfeld's resignation privately. I think the president will realize, if he wants to get anything done, he's going to have to accommodate the overwhelming concern among Republicans, who, understandably, in the next 13 days, or 12 days, whatever it is, are not going to say much.

I'm not criticizing them for not doing that. It's an election year. But I think you're going to see a fundamental change in heart -- or in -- in -- in -- in voice, after this election is over, assuming the Democrats make significant gains. If they don't, I think our Republican colleagues will read this as the president's policy being reaffirmed, and I think we're in for two very bad years.

KING: Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee...

BIDEN: Thank you.

KING: ... a man thinking about running for president himself -- Senator, thank you very much.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And now James Carville. He and Republican candidate Mark Kennedy truly inspired this hour, Mr. Kennedy's remarkable ad and Mr. Carville's remarkable way with a phrase, 14 years ago, and tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: James Carville, you coined the slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," that became the trademark of the 1992 presidential campaign and Bill Clinton's victory.

Is there any doubt about what is the leading issue in this year's campaign?

CARVILLE: Not with anybody I talk to, and not anybody that any pollster talks to.

It's Iraq. And -- and it's clearly the -- driving people's attitudes toward -- toward the country. It's clearly driving the wrong-track number in the country. And -- and people are clearly frustrated about it. I mean, there are other things that people are frustrated about, but this is the big one. There's -- there's no doubt about that.

KING: Well, you -- when you used the term, it's the economy, stupid, why did you frame it that way? It was just to keep yourself -- to remind yourself every single day that was the issue? Do Democrats need to think, it's Iraq, stupid?

CARVILLE: Well, to answer the first one, it's precisely, that we should not be too clever here. This is what is on people's mind, in 1992, that the people had the sense that the economy wasn't working for them, that the policy we had wasn't working, that we needed new policies.

I think now that it's -- it's a little bit different, that Iraq is one -- is -- is one of the things that causes people to -- to have a negative lens upon which they look at the country. Through that lens, they see a do-nothing Congress. They see escalating health care costs. They see a collapsed energy policy.

So, I think it's slightly people, that -- and people are not enamored with the fact that we are stuck in a -- in a foreign war, and, as of now, not doing particularly well in it.

KING: How big of an issue will Iraq be in the next presidential campaign? Will it be as big an issue as it is in this midterm campaign?

CARVILLE: You know, I hope not. I mean, there's a real human cost here. I mean, we're not just talking about a campaign issue.

And there's a real -- and -- and not as important, but there's a also real financial cost. I think where Senator Biden is pretty wise here is that they don't want to have to run on it, and we don't have to want to govern on it.

Hopefully, between now and -- and the time that the next president takes office in January 21, 2009, somebody will have thought of something. Until this date, this administration has had one disaster after another. And I think what Senator Biden says is -- is -- is wise, and also true, but I don't know if it's going to come to pass, that -- that -- that we will be out of there by 2009.

I think a lot of people are fearful we will be there for another 10 years.

KING: James Carville, thank you very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And now David Gergen joins us once again. He worked for Mr. Carville's old boss, Bill Clinton, and several other additional commanders in chief before that.

Welcome back to David Gergen. David, the president went into the East Room today. The White House said it would be a significant announcement about Iraq. Was there a significant announcement, a policy announcement, or was the significance in the fact that the president had to go into the East Room, less than two weeks before the election, and say what he said?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It beats me.

You know, usually, John, the president comes in with a well- crafted message that you understand what the headline is supposed to be after it's over. This time, he seemed to be flailing. There was no particular message. It was mushy. And -- and he said several things that fly in the face of what most people believe.

He said, we're clearly winning in Iraq.

Only 19 percent of the people in the country believe this, according to a recent poll. He said that the Maliki government has agreed to basically benchmarks for change. And the -- and Prime Minister Maliki, only a few hours before the press conference, said, absolutely, he had not agreed to such a timetable.

And -- and, indeed, he attacked the U.S. for its attempt to pick up a Shiite anti-American leader.

The president said, we have a plan for victory.

Maybe we have a plan, but it's -- you know, it's a little bit secret to most people. We don't -- they don't see where it's going.

So, I found this to be a surprising press conference. It does seem to me that, 13 days before this election, one more day of Iraq in the headlines associated with the president, without a clear message, is not a happy day for Republicans.

KING: Let's do more of the politics in a minute, but I want to touch on the policy...

GERGEN: Yes.

KING: ... point you just made.

A message from Mr. Maliki -- I didn't authorize that raid. You cannot tell the Iraqi people when we have to do things. We don't accept timetables from outside forces -- how much of that, in your impression, is a significant policy divide with the White House? How much of it -- could it be that Mr. Maliki just feels, to play to the domestic audience back home, he needs to, at least rhetorically, have some distance with the White House?

GERGEN: Well, it's certainly -- he's certainly playing to his own home base. But -- and he's caught. He's the man in the middle.

He has got his own base now that the Americans are trying to contain, and many -- because many of them constitute the militias. So, he's caught between the Americans. But, John, what -- what -- what is really striking now is that, in order to succeed in Iraq, we have to put a lot more pressure on the Maliki government. And he's already fighting back.

It really raises the question, can we get this done? Is there even a possibility, if we push too hard, the Shiites are going to ask us to get out of there,and to get out of there fast. I mean, would it not be the ultimate irony if it's the Iraqis who ask us to leave?

KING: If -- if you were Chris Shays in Connecticut, a guy named Mike Fitzpatrick, we're going to see a bit later in the program, a race in the Philadelphia suburbs, Mark Kennedy, who has put this remarkable ad on TV out in Minnesota in his Senate race, if you're a Republican candidate running into a headwind on Iraq, do you want the president in the East Room for a little more than an hour talking about this?

GERGEN: I would argue not.

I think there are some areas of the country where the president can do extraordinarily well. He still has strong, strong bases of support, so that, when he goes to a place like Florida, he goes to North Carolina, he goes into some of these other states, that's where he -- he retains his popularity.

But it's really striking, John, that, in so many of the critical Senate races, you know, which are this -- the -- as the Senate hangs in the balance, it's the Republican candidates and their campaigns who are suggesting maybe the president ought not to come in there.

So, when he goes on national television, he goes into every one of those states, where some of the candidates would just as soon not have him there.

KING: You have worked, David, in Democratic White Houses and in Republican White Houses. You have been brought in to White Houses midstream, usually at times when things are difficult and they need some help.

This president, right now, is obviously in a very difficult moment of his presidency. You saw him today. He's a politician. He loves to be out there campaigning. He kept saying: I would love to be in the campaign. I love the campaign.

But he's in the East Room of the White House, 13 days out, which means he's not welcome out there somewhere. How much of a problem is this for the party? And do you see the impact of that on the president?

GERGEN: I -- well, that's what the surprise about today was.

I would think that -- you know, back in 2002, against a lot of people's advice, the president hit the -- the road, and went out and campaigned for a lot of Republican candidates. And everybody said he was taking a chance. But, in the end, he really helped the Republican candidates. And I do think, as we come down this home stretch, too, that -- that -- that one should remember, he's a pretty darn good politician out on the road. He's a very formidable politician. His policies are a problem. But his -- I mean, as a politician, he's pretty darn good.

So, you know, one should -- to borrow his own phrase, one should not misunderestimate him...

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: ... as a -- as a politician.

And, so, for him to be in the East Room, I don't get it. I don't get what the point was, unless you have got something clear to say that advances people's understanding, and gives them some greater sense of assurance.

For him to wrap himself around Secretary Rumsfeld -- I -- I happen to respect Don Rumsfeld a great deal, but he's a lightning rod right now. I understand why the president wants to defend him. But for himself -- to wrap himself around, as if to say, he's going to be my man right through, when there are a lot of Republicans who, indeed, would like to see a change in that office after this election is over, is just -- it was a mystery to me today.

KING: David Gergen, always -- as always, appreciate your insights.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And we will watch the president for 13 more days, and see if he has been misunderestimated, as he likes to put it.

GERGEN: OK.

KING: Again, David, thank you very much.

GERGEN: Thank you, John.

KING: And, from the president's message today, to the campaign ads that speak volumes, what no Republican has said until now in this campaign -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What are election swat teams and why would they start working after the

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we said at the top of the hour, the war in Iraq is changing the sound of this election, from what voters are telling pollsters, to what the president and candidates are saying, and, in many cases, not saying.

The campaign ad we're about to show you is turning a lot of heads. In it, Senate candidate Mark Kennedy, a Republican, doesn't ignore the elephant in the room. To the contrary, he looks it straight in the eye.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

REP. MARK KENNEDY (R-MN), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: None of us like war, and we have made some mistakes in Iraq. We're facing an enemy that must be defeated.

Leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America. That's the harsh reality.

My opponents says the answer is diplomacy. But you can't negotiate with people who want to kill you.

I'm Mark Kennedy.

Securing the peace is a lot harder than wishing for it.

I approve this message, even though I know it may not be what you want to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In what is now the deadliest month this year in Iraq, more and more Republican candidates are trying to distance themselves from the increasingly unpopular war, or at least from the president who started it.

So, why this approach from Congressman Kennedy?

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. MARK KENNEDY (R-MN), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you guys. Thanks for being here.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy is lagging 16 points behind in the polls. He needs a breakthrough strategy, and hopes his new TV ad, which plays like a 30-second mea culpa, works.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

KENNEDY: None of us like war. And we have made some mistakes in Iraq. We're facing an enemy that must be defeated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (on camera): Some say that this new campaign ad of yours sounds a bit like a confessional.

KENNEDY: A confessional reflects the fact that you have a -- a faith, a goal, an objective in something. I have a goal. And that is to make sure that America maintains the resolve necessary to win the central challenge facing our generation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

KENNEDY: Leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America. That's the harsh reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE (voice-over): The question is, why, with less than two weeks to go until Election Day, would Kennedy stand before the camera and say this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

KENNEDY: I approve this message, even though I know it may not be what you want to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: How should that be extraordinary? Tell me...

KAYE: Because you're coming out..

KENNEDY: Tell me a bigger issue.

KAYE: ... two weeks before the election, saying, hey...

KENNEDY: Tell me a bigger issue.

KAYE: ... we messed up. I know you're frustrated. I'm frustrated. If you send me to Washington, I can fix it. Whatever you do, don't send my opponent, because she is certainly not going to fix it.

That's extraordinary.

KENNEDY: She -- she hasn't set a desire to win.

KAYE: But that is extraordinary.

KENNEDY: She hasn't stated a -- a focus on what the consequences of losing are.

KAYE: Do you agree...

KENNEDY: That is -- that...

KAYE: ... that's an extraordinary effort, though?

KENNEDY: I -- I don't agree that's extraordinary. I think that it should be the norm.

KAYE (voice-over): With U.S. casualties mounting in Iraq and sectarian violence on the rise, to some, the ad comes across as a last-ditch effort to close the gap. KENNEDY: It's got nothing to do with polls. I mean, this is an issue that 40 percent of the people agree with me. Sixty percent of the people, you know, have a different view. How would that be viewed as an issue that is politically driven?

KAYE (on camera): I'm just trying to understand why, with just two weeks to go, is it now really surfacing in this campaign.

KENNEDY: This is the central issue. You need to address a lot of issues in the campaign.

KAYE: But why not address it six months ago?

KENNEDY: Nothing else matters when you get focused on terrorism. That's where it's appropriate that, when you close the campaign, this would be the focus.

KAYE: Until now, Kennedy and Democratic opponent, Amy Klobuchar, have gone head to head on issues they say are equally important to Minnesotans, gas prices, health care costs, and tax cuts. It wasn't until last week that either mentioned Iraq in a campaign ad.

AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Hi there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Amy.

KLOBUCHAR: Hey. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job?

KLOBUCHAR: Good to see you. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE (voice-over): Democrat Amy Klobuchar would rather stick to the issues than critique her opponent's latest ad.

KLOBUCHAR: I'm not an ad analyst.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOBUCHAR: I am just working for the people of Minnesota here. So...

KAYE: Like most Democratic candidates, there's little need for Klobuchar to talk about Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KLOBUCHAR CAMPAIGN AD)

KLOBUCHAR: It's about affordable health care for our families and college for our kids. It's about homegrown energy for our rural economy and paying down the national debt, so we can protect Social Security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: The issue, by itself, is hurting Republicans all over the country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KAYE: Kennedy, a three-term House member, has voted in favor of the president's positions more than 90 percent of the time. He approved of the Iraq invasion, and, until now, has been firmly aligned with the White House on Iraq.

But he realizes it's time to step out of the shadow of the White House and remind voters who is really on the ballot.

KENNEDY: This race isn't about the White House or the president. The last time I checked, the names on the ballot are Mark Kennedy and Amy Klobuchar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Randi, this has to be tough news for the Republicans. If you could wind the clock back a few months, this is one of the places they had hoped for a surprise. This is a tough year. They know they are going to lose some seats. They had hoped to pick up this seat, which is now held by a Democrat. They must be feeling pretty down.

KAYE: Absolutely.

Republicans thought that -- that they were going to pull off a surprise here. They certainly liked how things were looking earlier in the year. Minnesota is one place where they thought they could take one of those seats away from the Democrats in a year where they expected to lose some seats. They thought they had a good candidate with Mark Kennedy.

Now, if he does not take that seat in the Senate, then, it will certainly bring the Democrats closer to taking the Senate. Now, don't expect him to -- to actually lose this campaign, because this is one state where you can actually register to vote on Election Day. So, people can just pull up to the polls, and -- and vote for the candidate of their choosing, and -- and that can really turn things around, because these are people who aren't showing up in the polling right now.

And I saw it firsthand here when I covered Jesse Ventura's campaign for governor six years ago. He was well behind in the polls before Election Day, and he ended up taking the governorship by 37 percent.

So, John, it worked for Governor Ventura, and it could work for Mark Kennedy and the Republicans again.

KING: Randi Kaye for us.

And we will keep an eye on this race -- Mark Kennedy down about 16 points now. We will see if he can pull it off.

Randi, thank you very much. And straight ahead: a closer look at how the elephant in the room became the elephant in the room -- why taxes and jobs and gas prices all are suddenly overshadowed, and how the candidates are handling the change.

This is 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: No other Republican candidate is throwing a Hail Mary pass quite the way Mark Kennedy has, letting it all hang out on Iraq. In part, that's because not every candidate is 16 points down. All the same, it isn't hard anymore to find Republicans either edging away or taking giant steps from their old positions on the war.

CNN's Tom Foreman tells us why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now it's different. Now it's about Iraq. Up until now, the airwaves in Minnesota have been filled with Mark Kennedy's ads about the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

REP. MARK KENNEDY (R-MN), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Gas prices are at record highs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Fighting crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

KENNEDY: It's a killer drug.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Improving health care, education, his opponent -- everything but Iraq.

So, how did it come to this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)

KENNEDY: None of us like war, and we have made some mistakes in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: At the University of Minnesota, political science professor Kathryn Pearson things she knows.

KATHRYN PEARSON, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Mark Kennedy has no choice. It's a really tough year to be a Republican in Minnesota, especially, but across the country, because, every day, there's more bad news about Iraq.

KENNEDY: We're going to work hard. We're going to have a lot to celebrate on November 7, aren't we?

FOREMAN: Republicans all over are being hit by a trifecta of problems related to Iraq -- first, the polls.

Three years ago, more than half of Americans thought Republicans could best handle Iraq. Now Democrats are favored for the job, with Republicans lagging far behind.

Second, the war itself -- now in its fourth year, the death toll for Americans is approaching 3,000. Violence is growing, and voters are watching. The Republicans must convince them, yet again, that this is a battle for security and success, not just against failure.

Joel Rivlin oversees a national study of political advertising.

JOEL RIVLIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN ADVERTISING PROJECT: If the Republicans feel that they can't switch the Iraq war from being the top issue when people try and vote, they're going to try and change the way that people think about the Iraq war when they go and vote.

FOREMAN: And, last, moderate voters -- with so many liberals and conservatives already decided, winning the moderate middle is key. And political analysts say it can't be done without addressing Iraq. So, Kennedy is, and he's calling it heartfelt sentiment.

KENNEDY: This is not about politics. This is about principle. This is about showing the kind of serious issue that it is and inviting the voters into having a debate.

FOREMAN (on camera): Even with all the worries about Iraq, President Bush is still predicting victory for his party. But he admits many political analysts say, no way.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The race is over as far as a lot of the punditry goes.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Two years ago, fewer than 2 percent of Senate campaign ads nationwide even mentioned Iraq. This year, the number is undoubtedly much higher. And with control of Congress in the balance, so are the stakes.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: In Washington and on the campaign trail, the goal is to stay on message. In Iraq, it's to stay alive. A report from the front lines when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: Securing the peace is a lot harder than wishing for it. I approved this message, even though I know it may not be what you want to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, Senator Mark Kennedy, supporting the war in Iraq. Definitely a calculated move, perhaps also quite a risky one.

Kennedy talks about securing the peace. That means securing Baghdad. And as John Roberts reports, much easier said than done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Al Kelly is the new sheriff in town in Baghdad's Horia (ph) neighborhood.

LT. COL. AL KELLY, U.S. ARMY: Anybody from the outside ever come in and make any threats here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.

ROBERTS: The Stryker Battalion has been in Horia (ph) a week now. The mission: to stop sectarian violence. It has driven many Sunni Iraqis out of what was once a religiously diverse area.

(on camera) How urgent was the need for a unit like yours down here?

KELLY: I think -- I think it was pretty urgent. We got here, I think, about a week or so too late. They had already done a lot of the moving of Sunnis out of this area.

ROBERTS: As Baghdad goes, many military experts believe, so goes much of Iraq. If the capital is lost to civil war, it could take the entire country with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

ROBERTS: Iraqi police, not yet up to the job, have been losing ground in this neighborhood. Privately, some American soldiers wonder if they'll ever be ready for primetime.

But they are the centerpiece of a plan so critical to the future of this country that the American commander, General George Casey, makes a personal visit to the police chief to check in.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, CENTRAL COMMAND: Who is the enemy in this fight?

ROBERTS: The strategy is for the Americans to chase out the militias and restore order to the point the police and Iraqi army can one day take over.

CASEY: It takes time. Don't expect something to happen overnight here. This is a long-term proposition.

ROBERTS: Horia (ph) is but one neighborhood in this cauldron of growing sectarian violence, pitting Sunni against Shiite, even Shiite against Shiite. (on camera) Gaining control of Baghdad's security is an overwhelming task. It is so big, there are so many people, so many weapons and so many competing interests.

It's almost like one of those carnival games. U.S. forces would come in and put down the violence in one area. Suddenly, it would pop up in another. They would tamp it down there. A third area would suddenly become violent. And when they left the first to put that violence down, the first area would pop up yet again.

(voice-over) The task is complicated by Iraq's tangled web of politics. U.S. and Iraqi forces went into Sadr City early in the morning looking for a Mehdi militia member suspected of leading death squads.

After a fierce firefight, in which 10 suspected militia members were killed, Iraq's prime minister denied he gave permission for the raid and said it wouldn't happen again.

And when U.S. troops seized a cache of weapons from a TV station owned by Iraq's largest Shiite political party, the nation's national security advisor forced the military to give them back.

MOWAFFAQ AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Because the forces do not understand the culture of this country, they don't understand the language, they don't understand the religion. They don't understand what goes on.

ROBERTS: More and more Iraqis are embracing private militias as their only source of real security. And U.S. forces believe some militia leaders will kill people in their own religious group just to increase their power.

This deadly car bomb in Horia (ph) looks like a typical insurgent attack. But the Americans, who have been trying to put the local Shiite militia out of business, smell a setup.

CAPT. EDWIN MATTHAIDESS, U.S. ARMY: As we come in to help with security and do some assessment with the Iraqi army, the militia leader and his sheikh brother are right there, and they're the first people to talk to me, and they tell me this is why they need a militia.

ROBERTS (on camera): So you think he was trying to make a point?

MATTHAIDESS: A little too convenient.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Conspiracy theory? Perhaps. But in a city, a nation where so many people are fighting for a piece of the action, the Americans are ruling nothing out.

John Roberts, CNN, Baghdad. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: When it comes to Iraq, you'll hear the president say he's accountable, that there have been setbacks. What you won't hear him say is that he's been wrong. Which is what makes the following admission from a Republican all the more surprising.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: None of us like war. And we've made some mistakes in Iraq. We're facing an enemy that must be defeated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, that ad, our focus tonight, Congressman Mark Kennedy. He's running for the Senate, says mistakes have been made, and he insists the enemy must be defeated. One problem: exactly who is the enemy?

More now from CNN's Michael Ware.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Facing an enemy that must be defeated. But first, you have to know who the enemy is.

Here, a U.S. Bradley armored fighting vehicle, hit by a roadside bomb.

Here, another bomb. This time triggered by remote.

So who is the enemy? Like their bombs, there are many. Nothing unites the insurgents, but they share a common mindset -- a readiness to kill Americans until they leave Iraq.

As U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey says the situation is difficult and complex.

CASEY: And I'm sure for the folks back in the United States, trying to look at this, it looks very confusing and very hard to understand.

WARE: America's enemies in Iraq can be divided into two main groups: Sunni and Shiah. But there are groups within groups, factions within factions.

Shiah militias attack British and American troops, according to coalition intelligence officers, not to defeat them but to keep them in a defensive mode. So they worry about survival instead of the militia's political control and their Iranian backing.

But the insurgents most Americans recognize as the enemy are Iraqi Sunnis. They are mainly former military from Saddam's regime and account for most U.S. casualties. They are divided into two large categories: nationalists and Islamists, each comprised of smaller groups. As the nationalists, their agenda is secular, anti-Iranian and focused on liberating Iraq from foreign occupation.

The Islamists, meanwhile, are more moderate than al Qaeda. They don't call for a religious state. They tolerate other Muslim sects and also vow to fight until U.S. forces leave.

Both of these large insurgent blocks are willing to talk peace with the United States. But there is still those America cannot reach. The darkest heart of the Sunni insurgency, al Qaeda and the many groups aligned with it.

This is the group that sends out suicide bombers and who once cut off westerners' heads. To them, there will be no end until Osama bin Laden's plans for an international Islamic state are fulfilled.

And most troubling, the longer this war goes, the more Sunni groups drift toward al Qaeda and the more Shiah embrace Iran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Michael, a fascinating look there at the insurgency. Help us understand the point you make in the piece. How willing are some of these guys to talk to the United States?

WARE: Well, John, clearly some of them there's absolutely no chance at all. Certainly with al Qaeda and the groups most closely aligned with Iran.

But those in the middle have shown a willingness to talk to the United States. Indeed, they've been doing so. Or certainly elements of these groups have been doing so for at least a year and a half.

And some of these men who are involved in these talks are former top military officers from the Iraq army under Saddam who were American allies in the '80s during the Iran-Iraq War -- John.

KING: A fascinating look at the challenge facing the United States and the president in this election year. Michael Ware, thank you very much.

A handful of candidates running for Congress know first-hand just how dangerous that enemy is in Iraq. They've fought there. Now they're campaigning on their combat experience. More of that when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This may be the clearest example of how Iraq is making a mark on the midterm elections. Some of the candidates have fought in Iraq. Here's the raw data.

Seven veterans of the current war in Iraq are running for House or Senate seats. Five are Democrats; two are Republicans. One is a woman. Now they're battling for votes. All are touting, of course, their battlefield experience. And in one close race in a conservative suburb just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, those combat credentials have given a Democrat one powerful calling card.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Walk the Quakertown Halloween parade with Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mike.

REP. MIKE FITZPATRICK (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, sir. Thank you. Will do.

BASH: Witness a Republican in a neck-and-neck race playing to his strengths: deep connections to the community.

FITZPATRICK: And I work hard. And I know I truly represent their interests.

BASH: But it's a tough sell when record casualties in Iraq headline the local paper. And his Democratic opponent, also walking the parade route, introduces himself this way.

PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm an Iraq veteran and a former professor at West Point.

BASH: The Democrat is a former Iraq veteran, playing to his strengths, too.

MURPHY: I'm a former captain in the 82nd Airborne Division over in Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, really?

BASH: One race, but a critical snapshot of how Iraq is reshaping the political landscape at a time when fewer Americans than ever -- one in five -- think the U.S. is winning the war.

(on camera) Republicans built their majority in places like Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a conservative suburb. If Democrats want to win control of Congress, they're going to have to change their luck here.

(voice-over) Iraq vet Patrick Murphy is trying to do that by slamming the president's war plan, saying it's time to bring his former comrades home.

MURPHY: We're there for 3 1/2 years now. I believe we need to give them a 12-month time line and say we're not going to be forever. In four months we're coming home.

BASH: Fitzpatrick says the Democrats deadline is extreme, but -- and it's an important but -- he is also one of several endangered Republicans who knows he can't sell the president's approach. He has pressed the White House for a new strategy.

FITZPATRICK: Stay the course is not a plan, either.

BASH: Though the one-term Republican has been a war supporter, he now says he would have voted against authorizing it.

FITZPATRICK: I have to say that I would not have made the decision for the use of force at the time it was made.

BASH: Murphy calls it disingenuous.

MURPHY: In Washington, he was a cheerleader for Bush's failing policies in Iraq and now plays politics with our troops. He has no position at all. That's why it's time for a change.

BASH: There is evidence that some voters agree.

JIM KELLEY, REGISTERED VOTER: He wanted to stay the course with Bush before. Now he's saying, I've got to distance myself because I'm going to lose my job if I don't. This is -- I won't vote for him. I can't.

BASH: It's that kind of talk that gives Democrats like Murphy confidence that their call for change is working and that voters will make Fitzpatrick and other Republicans pay the price for an unpopular war.

Dana Bash, CNN, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Halloween always makes its way into the late campaign.

From the candidates to the campaign ads they're approving, they can be tasteless, shameless, and downright dirty. But are they the truth? Find out next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Advertisers sell products. So do politicians. Their product is themselves. But sometimes the pitch is less than perfect. Or maybe less than honest.

Mark McKinnon is a Republican media strategist and co-founder of the web site HotSoup.com. I asked him to give us his take on some of the ads that are getting our attention.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: I want to begin with a rather remarkable ad, a congressman in Minnesota, Mark Kennedy, a Republican running for the Senate. Thirty seconds straight to camera, talking about how difficult the Iraq war has been for the American people, talking about mistakes made.

But even as he acknowledges mistakes being made, or he says mistakes were made, he also takes a shot at his opponent saying her approach is worse. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: My opponent says the answer is diplomacy. But you can't negotiate with people who want to kill you.

(END VIDEO CLIP0

KING: You can't negotiate with people who want to kill you. I assume it's a pretty direct reference to Democrats' approach is weaker. Why choose that language?

MARK MCKINNON, HOTSOUP.COM: I think it's actually a very effective ad, John. I mean, that is still the bright line in the debate over the war on terror in Iraq.

And you know, the question is, what is the Democrats' plan other than to just say, you know, we're unhappy with the war in Iraq? Everybody is unhappy with the war in Iraq, but you've got to have a plan. The fact is that until the Democrats come forward and say exactly what they want to do, it's clear that they don't want to stay the course as we have been until we succeed in Iraq.

KING: One of the most controversial ads this political season is being run by the Republican National Committee against Harold Ford, the Democratic candidate in a very tightly contested Senate race down in Tennessee.

Harold Ford is African-American. There's an ad on the air that is being taken off, we're now being told, because of the controversy in part. But let's listen to a snippet of this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ford's right, I do have too many guns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met Harold at the "Playboy" party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd love to pay higher marriage taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he took money from porn movie producers. I mean, who hasn't?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As you know, many have said there's race baiting in this ad. You have a white woman talking about meeting an African-American candidate at a "Playboy" party. There are some are whoa re saying that is a deliberate attempt to change votes, move votes in rural Tennessee. True?

MCKINNON: Unconscionable and indefensible, John. I think there's a line and this goes way over it. I think the Corker campaign did the right thing by -- for asking for this ad to be pulled down. And I think whoever produced it is doing the right thing by taking it down.

KING: Well, who should be held responsible? This is being funded through a Republican National Committee independent expense?

MCKINNON: Well, that's the problem with campaign finance laws. Now we're holding candidates accountable. We have these 527's out there, and it's impossible to hold them accountable as they should be.

And we had that problem in the 2004 elections, where 527s were out there that we had no control over. It's a problem.

KING: Want to move on to another Senate race, and again another race that could determine which party controls the Senate come January. This is Republican incumbent George Allen, running against former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, who was a Republican, now running as a Democrat. This is another National Republican Senatorial Committee ad being run against Jim Webb. It is a very tough ad. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tailhook '91: 83 women assaulted. Jim Webb, he called the scandal a witch hunt and a feminist plot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You know how the demographics of Virginia have changed to make it a much more competitive state for Democrats. Obviously, this is aimed directly at moderate women voters in northern Virginia. Over the line or fair play?

MCKINNON: I think that's absolutely fair play. That is the record, that is what Jim Webb said. I think it's done very straight up. It's well sourced. And it's true. And I think it could be a very effective ad.

KING: Mark McKinnon, thank you very much for your time.

MCKINNON: You're welcome, John. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And that first ad we showed you in that segment was a Mark Kennedy ad. I believe we put Mark McKinnon's name over it on the screen. Mark McKinnon, our guest there. A bit of confusion we apologize for.

And an update on the second ad we showed you there, the one attacking the Senate candidate in Tennessee, Harold Ford. It featured that white woman telling Ford, who is black, to call her. Critics labeled it racist.

As we noted, the Republican National Committee says it's removing that ad. It insists not because of the controversy. It says the ad simply ran its course. The Republican National Committee, though, is replacing it with one that could cause even more outrage. The new spot claims Ford took money from porn producers and also wants to give the abortion pill to school kids.

Coming up, one of those honest-to-goodness issues that sometimes can get swamped in all the attack ads: the battle over our broken borders. What goes on here now having an impact on congressional races all across the country.

And tonight at the top of the hour, a town hall meeting. CNN's Lou Dobbs and you in San Antonio, Texas.

And ever want to see the family snapshot 10 stories tall? Well, more lasers than Dr. Evil's wildest dreams. Stick around. They're both in "The Shot", and "The Shot" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: An amazing photo album of sorts in a place you'd never expert. We'll take you there live. Our "Shot of the Day" coming up.

First, though, Erica Hill of Headline News joins us with a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILLS, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: John, it's a case that could have big implications come election day. The New Jersey Supreme Court today ruling that gay couples are entitled to the same rights that married couples enjoy.

Now, the court gave state lawmakers until April to decide between same sex marriages and civil unions. Conservative activists, though, have their eyes set on November. They're hoping a ruling will mobilize debate and tip a very close U.S. Senate race in the Garden State.

Meantime on Capitol Hill, more Q&A in the Foley page scandal investigation. Today, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's lawyer went before the House Ethics Committee to explain how his office dealt with complaints about Foley's e-mails to pages.

And in Kingman, Arizona, a verdict in the polygamy trial we're following for you here on 360. A jury finding David Bateman guilty of sexual contact with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He took a 17-year-old girl as one of his two wives.

KING: Thank you, Erica. And time now for "The Shot of the Day". This is how a canyon in New Mexico usually looks.

But tonight through Friday, this is what you find. This is live video, where Yahoo! is showcasing what it says is the largest Internet time capsule of all time. Pictures, videos and various writings from around the world, projected on huge canyon walls. More than 70,000 items collected so far.

Yahoo! plans to seal the digital archive until the company's 25th anniversary. That's in 2020. Let's hope computers of the future will be able to read that data.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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