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THE SITUATION ROOM
Preview of Election '06
Aired November 6, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of "America Votes".
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Just hours ago before a potentially historic midterm election, the stakes and the suspense sky high right now. All eyes are on the cliffhanger battle for the United States Senate where Democrats need gain six seats to reclaim majority control. The contest is coming down to a handful of battlegrounds.
In Ohio, polls suggest Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown has a clear lead over Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. A similar scenario in Pennsylvania where Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr. has the polling advantage over GOP Senator Rick Santorum.
In Missouri Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill has a slight advantage over Republican incumbent Jim Talent in new Gallup and Mason Dixon polls. In Montana one poll shows Republican incumbent Conrad Burns running dead-even with Democratic challenger Jon Tester, but another poll shows Tester is up by nine points.
A split decision in Rhode Island, one poll shows Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee a tick ahead. The other shows Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse with a slim lead.
Same goes in Virginia where one survey has Republican Senator George Allen narrowly ahead. The other shows Democratic challenger Jim Webb with a one-point edge.
And in the open Senate seat in Tennessee some possible tightening today. Republican Bob Corker now has just a three-point advantage over Democrat Harold Ford in the new Gallup Poll.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN Election Headquarters in New York. My colleague Lou Dobbs is standing by as our special coverage continues -- Lou.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. Thank you very much.
Tonight our correspondents are standing by following the very closest Senate races throughout the country. These are the election sites that will be critical in deciding which party ultimately takes control of the U.S. Senate and we're asking the question -- how is Iraq playing in those make or break battlegrounds.
Ed Henry is in Virginia. Chris Lawrence is in Montana and Joe Johns is in Tennessee tonight. First to you Joe, how is the Iraq factor playing in that battleground state? JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou the candidates agree on some things here in Tennessee. They agree that you can't withdraw the troops immediately. But they disagree on what should be done in Iraq. There's been a lot of talk about Iraq particularly in the debates between these closely matched candidates.
Frankly the Republican Bob Corker has been put on the defensive because early on he was repeating the administration mantra that we needed to stay the course in Iraq. He, like some other Republican candidates around the country, discovered that language wasn't working very well. And he had to change it partly because the Democrat Harold Ford called him out on it, so there's that. Not a whole lot in their ads, but some outside group here in Tennessee have been running ads on both sides talking about Iraq and the stakes, so clearly a factor here in Tennessee, Lou.
DOBBS: Joe, thank you very much. Joe Johns. Well now we're going to go to Montana where incumbent Senator Conrad Burns is fighting for his political survival. Our Chris Lawrence is there. Chris, just how is the Iraq war playing into that race?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, some people feel that Tester and Burns started to separate in the polls because of that very question on Iraq. It was during one of their debates when Jon Tester was hammering Burns about the war in Iraq. He said we're in a quagmire here. We've got no plan to get out.
Burns shot back that President Bush does have a plan. It's a secret plan. We just can't tell you everything. That response may have hurt Burns in the short term, especially here in Montana. It's a state with not a lot of people, but Montana sends a very, very high percentage of their people into the military service. But both candidates say Iraq is a major issue. But it's not the issue driving the campaign here.
DOBBS: Chris, thank you very much. Chris Lawrence. Now to the Iraq factor in the Virginia Senate race. Our Ed Henry is in Richmond. Ed, how is Iraq affecting that turbulent Senate race there?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Major, major issue. It has put the incumbent George Allen on the defensive. He just wrapped up a rally here at the Richmond International Airport. A very small room, maybe about 250 people here. Meanwhile, Democrat Jim Webb across on the other side of the state was having a rally with former President Bill Clinton. They had a few thousand people there, much more people.
Part of that enthusiasm coming from the issue of Iraq. Jim Webb on the campaign trail wears the combat boots of his son, who's currently serving in Iraq. And he is -- George Allen appearing to get the message that he's been on the defensive. He has stopped using stay the course.
He is also now asserting that there's not been enough progress in Iraq as well. Later tonight, George Allen will take to the air waves in an extraordinary move at the last minute here, buying two minutes of TV time to directly address the voters of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He will say that mistakes have been made in Iraq, but he wants six more years to help fix it and move forward. Very interesting, I talked to a very senior Republican involved in this campaign tonight, he told me this campaign is going to bed tonight, having no idea whether or not they're going to win -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much. Ed Henry. With a host of important issues to voters all across the country, it is clear the principle among them is the war in Iraq. To help us measure that war's impact we're going to be turning to a number of our correspondents and guests throughout the next hour. And we're going to go first to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much
Iraq by all accounts the number one issue hovering over all these elections in so many districts in the House as well as the United States Senate.
Let's go to Baghdad right now. Our correspondent Michael Ware is standing by. Michael is there a sense in Iraq right now that history could unfold in the United States tomorrow with a direct impact on the lives of so many Iraqis.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that operates on a number of levels, Wolf. At the senior echelons of the Iraqi government, yes, they're very sensitive to the shifting moods within America domestic politics. They're well aware of the possible consequences of the midterm elections. However, in the streets in Iraq, people are barely aware that the poll is taking place. They certainly lack any real understanding.
CNN bouncing to one fellow yesterday, he said he hoped John Kerry would win. Certainly most people seem to think that somehow or another President Bush is running in this election. Either way, people still know that if the election is taking place, somehow, it's going to be impacting on the war here on the ground in Iraq. They're just not sure how.
But for the average American soldier, who tonight staring down the barrel of his M-4 rifle, looking at an Iraqi straight, waiting for any kind of attack, and we have been hearing gun fire here now at 3:00 a.m. The election obviously means something. But right now it's what in front of them that counts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What about, Michael, the verdict yesterday of Saddam Hussein getting the death sentence? How is that impacting in terms of the violence right now in the short term? In other words, how are the Saddam loyalists, the Sunnis by and large, reacting?
WARE: Well, right now, significant parts on of the country remain under this extremely tight curfew that befell the capital Baghdad and two provinces largely Sunni-dominated on the eve of the announcement of the verdict. That curfew, again vehicles and pedestrians, is due to lift in just a few hours.
Pedestrians first emerged just after dark -- dusk. Vehicles should be back on the road tomorrow. That's kept a lid on things, Wolf. However, we did see in Saddam's former power base of Tikrit 2,000 people took to streets to demonstrate against the verdict. But the number of people who actually support Saddam now even in the Sunni community is very, very small. Most of them are not sad to have seen him gone. But they will continue to fight against America for other reasons. Wolf?
BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad. Michael thanks very much. Be careful over there. Lou, he does an incredible job for us. Our entire team in Iraq, these are courageous journalists. They're risking their lives on daily basis to bring us the news.
DOBBS: Absolutely. (INAUDIBLE) John Roberts, Michael Ware, just doing outstanding work. Thank you very much.
Jack Cafferty now has his want, has a few thoughts and joins us here in New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Lou. It has nothing to do with oil. It has literally nothing to do with oil. That was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Everyone in the Bush administration at the time dismissed the idea that this war was about the oil, remember.
It was all about stopping Saddam from getting WMD. When that didn't work out, it became about bringing democracy to Iraq. When that didn't work out, it became a struggle between good and evil. Well now guess what? It's about the oil.
This might be the most truthful this administration has ever been. In campaign speeches, President Bush says oil is a reason to stay in Iraq. He says if the U.S. pulled its troops out too soon, we would be handing over Iraq's oil reserves to the terrorists. He claims they could then drive the price of a barrel of crude as high as three or $400 by holding Iraqi oil off the market.
However, Iraq only exports 1.6 million barrels of oil per day out of the total worldwide production of 85 million barrels and some experts say that the president is exaggerating the impact of Iraqi oil on world markets. Here's the question this hour.
When it comes to Iraq, how much does the oil matter? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. One more thing this evening, at 4:00 on THE SITUATION ROOM I said some unflattering things about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in conjunction with some other unflattering things that were said about him in an editorial in the "Military Times" newspapers.
At one point, I referred to Rumsfeld as a war criminal and I stepped over the line. However, on the eve of tomorrow's election, it's worth remembering that it was President Bush who raised the issue of Rumsfeld and the kind of job he's doing last week. The president said he wanted Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to remain with him for the duration of his administration. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much for that. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File".
Still to come -- a split from President Bush within Republican ranks over the U.S. presence in Iraq. Our own Brian Todd is standing by to examine the new conservative camp better known to a lot of people as the neo-cons.
Also, a popular man of God scandalized. How the downfall of evangelist Ted Haggard might impact the elections tomorrow.
And Vice President Dick Cheney will trade his suit and a speech folder for a shotgun and the great outdoors on Election Day.
CNN's Jeanne Moos will take an irony check a little bit later in the hour -- much more of our special coverage from CNN Election Headquarters here in New York.
BLITZER: With just hours to go until Election Day Iraq remains the dominant issue nation wide. Now are some key supporters of the war actually splitting with the president? For a closer look at what's being called the neo-con controversy, let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd in Washington. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some of these gentlemen were among those who pushed hardest for the U.S. to invade Iraq. Now some are quoted in a major national magazine leveling brutal attacks on the president and his cabinet.
TODD (voice-over): He's already had plenty of moderate Republicans break with him over the Iraq war. But with "Vanity Fair" magazine now reporting cracks among President Bush's ideological brethren, the so-called neo-conservatives who had pushed for the invasion, a political and media controversy has erupted just before the Election Day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would argue that "Vanity Fair, David Rose cherry-picked the quotes.
TODD: The Bush administration sent the Pentagon's Michael Rubin to Iraq to advise the coalition authorities, which is why he made waves when "Vanity Fair" reported that Rubin said President Bush has betrayed Iraqi reformers. Rubin says he didn't go that far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I criticized the White House for being on the verge for basically going wobbly for being on the verge of betraying the Iraqi liberals.
TODD: In an excerpt from an upcoming issue, "Vanity Fair" also reports Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, believes total U.S. defeat in Iraq is becoming more likely.
Quote -- "At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible. I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration and the disloyalty."
Perle says "Vanity Fair" took him out of context and posted this on the online version of "National Review". Quote -- "We are on the right path in Iraq."
David Rose, the "Vanity Fair" correspondent who interviewed these men, defends his reporting.
DAVID ROSE, "VANITY FAIR": I don't think it's misleading. The thing is I mean I was -- I'm slightly surprised by they're saying that. Because I actually went back to the transcripts and I read again what they told me. And the truth is that the full context of those interviews, the full substance of what they said is if anything more critical of the administration.
TODD: Another point of contention, one of the neo- conservatives, Frank Gaffney, tells me it was his understanding that these quotes wouldn't be published until after Election Day. A "Vanity Fair" spokeswoman says there was no formal agreement to hold off publication. She gave a statement saying at a time when the vice president says the administration is going full speed ahead with its Iraq policy and when the president is saying Donald Rumsfeld's job is secure, the magazine felt it was in the public's interest to hear what these men are saying about the war before the election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting from Washington.
Still to come tonight -- the Reverend Ted Haggard made some surprising comments about sex before the gay sex scandal involving him and a former male prostitute. We're going to tell you what Haggard said in a documentary.
We're live from CNN's Election Headquarters in New York. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Only hours away from Election Day, but could there be some more fallout in a gay sex scandal that involves the Reverend Ted Haggard and whether or not his transgressions could impact tomorrow's elections.
Our Sean Callebs is joining us now from Colorado with some very surprising comments caught on tape -- Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf. Colorado is a so-called red state that could turn blue tomorrow. A lot of political analysts are looking at the state to see if Haggard's comments or actions have any effect at the polls. I want you to listen to what Haggard had to say to HBO in an upcoming documentary. He talked about marriage, sex and lying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We say marriage is better than no marriage. We say moral purity is better than immorality. We say telling the truth is better than telling a lie. You know all of surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh come on.
CALLEBS (voice-over): Disgraced evangelical Ted Haggard talking to HBO for a documentary "Friends of God" set to air in January. Now listen to Haggard's words read by the Reverend Larry Stockstill as Haggard falls on his sword telling the congregation he's guilty of betrayal and more.
REV. LARRY STOCKSTILL: The fact is I am guilty of sexual immortality and I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if you remember last week when we did...
CALLEBS: Haggard did not admit having a homosexual affair to his congregation or to the oversight committee that removed him from the pulpit of The New Life Church and the man who made the allegations, the gay former escort, Mike Jones, failed a lie detector test when asked if he had sex with Haggard. But Jones is sticking to his story and says he went public just days before the midterm election chiefly because there's a gay marriage measure on the Colorado ballot and evangelicals including Haggard have campaigned against gay marriage.
MIKE JONES: Hypocrisy -- the hypocrisy it needed to be shown. And people have said you did it for politics and I said you bet I did.
CALLEBS: But Jones' political strategy may have backfired. Many at Sunday service vowed to turn out Tuesday to vote on the same-sex marriage measure and say they won't be swayed by the scandal.
I think it's (INAUDIBLE) people to go to the poll and I certainly hope that's true.
CALLEBS: In the last couple of hours we have had a chance to speak with people at "Focus on the Family", a powerful conservative religious organization in Colorado Springs, as well as retiring Congressman Joel Hefley and both think that the scandal will not have an impact at the polls Tuesday, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sean Callebs reporting for us from Colorado Springs. Sean thanks very much Lou, what a story that is.
DOBBS: Amazing. Thank you very much.
Still ahead -- down to the wire for the battle to control Congress. Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile join us live with a look at who's up, who's down, who's likely to be up and down and what's driving voters to the polls. President Bush trying to make certain Republicans get out to vote for Republicans. We'll tell you where the president was rallying them today and why the presidential travels may be critical to the outcome of tomorrow's election.
BLITZER: Welcome back. In the battle for Congress we have a new poll, a new poll number showing that there's some pivotal, pivotal races out there. We're going to get to those races in a moment. But let's check in with a former Republican leader in the House of Representatives, the former House Majority leader, Dick Armey. He's joining us now from Washington.
Congressman thanks very much for coming in. Before we get to some of the substantive issues, give us your bottom line assessment. What do you sense -- because you're a good politician -- what do you sense is going to happen in the House and the Senate tomorrow?
DICK ARMEY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: My guess is right now, if I had to put money on something, take a sharp guess, the Republican majority in the Senate will survive by one or two seats maximum and the Democrats will mostly likely take the House. I would like to see a sudden surge you know in the favor of Republicans. I think realistically you have to predict that the Democrats will probably take the House by a few seats, at least no more than five or six.
BLITZER: Let me read to you from that controversial editorial in "The Army Times" that ran over the weekend about the defense secretary. Donald Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed and his ability to lead is compromised. The editorial concludes Donald Rumsfeld must go.
What do you make of this enormous criticism he's facing right now?
ARMEY: Well, it's pretty hard for me to make too much of it. It's a little bit of a confusing thing to me. The president of the United States is the commander in chief. The secretary of defense is an administrative position. Policy decisions are made by the president. Now are they criticizing Rumsfeld for having been too much of an adviser to the president? But you cannot say Donald Rumsfeld made a decision with respect to going into Iraq. He didn't. The president of the United States made that decision.
BLITZER: And what do you think of this other controversy that's erupting right now? This article in "Vanity Fair" that quotes several of the so-called neo-cons, the neo-conservatives those who supported the initial invasion of Iraq back in 2003. In their quotes, some of them disputed somewhat that this war has turned out in effect to be a disaster, in part for various reasons, but one of those neo- conservatives, Ken Adelman, is quoted in "Vanity Fair" as saying this.
"I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post war era. Not only did each of them individually have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional." That's a powerful statement.
ARMEY: Well, it is. But I think the neo-cons as near as I can understand who the neo-cons are and what they stand for. They've got the wrong model. If in fact, I mean the United States should always be the world's first best example of democracy and we should trust the world to see how well freedom works and want it for themselves.
My understanding the neo-cons says we need to go into displace a government and supplant it with a democratic form of government. My own view is I think they have taken a model that's virtually an impossible dream, an impossible task, and now they're saying, gee, it didn't work out all that well. It is not we had the wrong model. It's that we just had the wrong people trying to implement the model. My own view is I think they had the wrong model.
BLITZER: And you were never a neo-conservative. You were always much more of a traditional conservative. Is that right?
ARMEY: Well, I believe so. I'm not quite sure I know what is a neo-conservative is. I've tried to study on this, it's all very confusing, but I've always believed that freedom is first, highest value in governance and public policy, and that, in fact, small government is always better than big government. And time you expand the power of the state in order to force conforming behavior with respect to questions of righteousness on the behalf of population, I think you're moving away from freedom and towards tyranny.
BLITZER: Dick Armey, the former House Majority Leader, thanks very much for coming in.
ARMEY: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more of our coverage coming up, including this: what message will voters send the White House when it comes to Iraq?
And if Democrats win control of the House, will President Bush be forced to change his plans?
We'll discuss that and more with Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett, Lou Dobbs. They're all standing by.
And later, Vice President Dick Cheney plans to bag something other than votes for the GOP tomorrow. We're going to tell you why his plans are tickling some funny bones, including the one belonging to our own Jeanne Moos.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Tonight in the battle for Congress, our new polls suggest Democrats have an overall advantage with voters heading into tomorrow's pivotal election. Democrats have a 20 point edge over Republicans among likely voters asked to name their choice for Congress. Democrats have a 15 point lead among registered voters, that in our CNN poll. We averaged, though, together, six of the latest polls of likely voters that asked the same question. In that so-called poll of polls, Democrats have a 12 point advantage over Republicans.
President Bush is spending this election eve trying to shore up Republican support in Florida, Arkansas and Texas, red states he's trying to keep in the Republicans' corner.
Our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president. She's reporting for us now from Dallas with the latest -- Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Wolf.
Well, President Bush is here in his home state of Texas to deliver the final GOP rallying cry before tomorrow's election. The goal, of course, to get the party faithful out and vote. But, of course, polls are predicting that Republicans will lose at least the House and possibly the Senate. Nevertheless, Mr. Bush, trying to remain upbeat on the campaign trail.
The president's approval ratings, however, and the unpopularity of the Iraq War, reflected in his campaign itinerary. The president's campaigning in primarily red areas.
And more evidence of the political reality, today in Pensacola, Florida, at rally in that state, Republican Charles Crist opting not to appear on stage with President Bush. Charlie Crist, running, of course, to succeed the Jeb Bush, the president's brother, as governor. Instead, Charlie Crist chose to attend a rally and campaigned with Senator John McCain in Jacksonville, Florida. Now, the Crist campaign says that it felt confident it has in fact secured that area of Pensacola.
Senior Bush administration officials tried to downplay the absence of Crist at that Pensacola rally. But the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, expressed some frustration over Crist's decision, saying quote, "Let's see how many people show up in Palm Beach on 24 hours' notice, versus eight or nine thousand people in Pensacola." The president's top political adviser expressing that frustration.
Nevertheless, here in Dallas, Texas, we're expecting President Bush shortly to rally this crowd. Some 10,000 people expected here in Dallas, Texas. And then, of course, Wolf, he will head home tonight to Crawford, Texas and vote tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elaine Quijano on the campaign trail for us tonight. Elaine, thank you.
Amid all the political calculus, there's this equation. How much will the war in Iraq figure into the vote tomorrow.
Joining us tomorrow, Democratic strategist and CNN political analyst Donna Brazile and CNN contributor, the host of the radio program "Morning in America", Bill Bennett, himself a proud neocon, as they say, a neo-conservative, proud of it. We'll get to that in a moment.
But is it surprising that the president goes to state like Florida, wants to campaign for the Republican candidate for governor, a seat that his brother has held, he's giving up, obviously, this year, and the guy who wants to be the Republican governor doesn't even show up with the president.
BILL BENNETT, HOST, "MORNING IN AMERICA": It's not so unusual in America politics. I recall not too many years ago, when candidate Gore was not going to be in Bill Clinton's presence. You remember that? This happens. President Bush is not popular. They're looking at the poll ratings. I think Karl Rove is right. At a huge rally, I think Crist should have been there. But that's his decision. The president's not popular, the war is not popular. That's for sure.
BLITZER: In Florida, what do you make of this decision by Crist?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Pensacola, Florida is one of the reddest part of that state. And for the president not to be joined by the gubernatorial candidate, once again, speaks volumes of his inability to connect not just with certain Republican voters, but independents and of course, soft Democrats.
This has been an incredible campaign year because more often than not, the president has chosen to go to the states where he is, quote unquote, more favorable than states that are considered swing states.
BLITZER: He wants Republicans to win., so he's got a calculus there.
BENNETT: But he has been busy and he has been welcome in many places, and many candidates have stayed with the president. And that needs to be taken into account, too. But when you're running for office, you make this calculation. And his judgment is, in a close race, it may make a difference of two or three votes.
BLITZER: Yes, but you don't see him spending a lot of time with a Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, for example, or a Mike DeWine in Ohio.
BENNETT: Very tough states.
BRAZILE: And what's interesting is that Rick Santorum but an ad featuring, of all people, Hillary Clinton, saying that he works very well with Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This year, Republicans have run as independents, not as Republicans, and George Bush has had a hard time finding so-called battleground states to campaign in.
BLITZER: When we wake up Wednesday morning, and we look at the results, what do you sense will have been the statement that the America public makes on Iraq?
BENNETT: It's rarely that clear. Sometimes it is. My guess is it'll be a mixed message. I think you're going to have a few surprises. I've been saying all day, I think Michael Steele in Maryland could surprise us...
BLITZER: Your Republican Lieutenant Governor?
BENNETT: Yes. And I think that would get a lot of attention. I think the Republicans will hold the Senate, by what margin, I don't know. But I think the story will probably be, it is a sixth year, normally in the sixth year, the party that's out of power gains power, and normally, what, 20, to 25 state seats. And that could be it.
But I don't think this will be some overwhelming tide. Now, we'll see Wednesday morning. And I guess I have to be available Wednesday morning. So I'll -- you know, we'll show up.
BLITZER: You'll be there. What do you think the statement that will be evident -- if there will be a statement on Iraq, will be after this election?
BRAZILE: There's no question that Iraq is the driving issue in tomorrow's election, and therefore, I think voters are going to send a clear message to Washington, D.C. that it's time for change, time for a new mission, not time for a new strategy.
BENNETT: The interesting thing is, if the Democrats come in, the one opportunity that I do welcome if they take the majority is, what are they going to do? Just exactly what will they do? Will they pass a budget resolution that will withhold funding for the troops in Iraq? Will they say, we're cutting off all support areas for the war? No, Mr. President, you can't go anymore? I don't think they will. They will be in a position then of being accountable for decisions of having power with that accountability. I don't think they're going to do much.
BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?
BRAZILE: Well, clearly the Iraqi Study Group headed by former Secretary of State Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, former House member, will come up with their recommendations. I'm sure the Democrats will endorse those recommendations and send them on to president and therefore call for a change in course in Iraq.
BENNETT: Wait a minute. The Democrats will endorse the Baker recommendation?
BRAZILE: The Baker/Hamilton recommendations.
BENNETT: I understand. But you know what they are?
BRAZILE: I've heard of some of them, but I can tell you, this thing, it's not stay the course, and Democrats won't endorse that.
BENNETT: No. I mean, I don't want to be cute about it. Jim Baker leading a commission makes me nervous. I didn't like the last time he was handling Iraq. But, if it's a recommendation that says withdraw from Iraq and Democrats endorse it, then I'll be willing to criticize Jim Baker as well as the Democrats.
BLITZER: You didn't like him before the first Gulf War, it that what you're saying?
BENNETT: That's correct.
BLITZER: Because they didn't finish the job and get rid of Saddam Hussein then?
BENNETT: That's correct. And also, representations, too, you remember, too, the Iraqis that we would support them. And we did not support.
BLITZER: The Shia in the south, the Kurds in the north.
Let me read what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said on ABC over the weekend.
"I think the elections will have some effect, perhaps, in the Congress, but the President has made clear what his objective is, it's victory in Iraq. And full speed ahead on that basis and that's exactly what we're going to do."
In other words, he's suggesting, you know what, it doesn't make a difference what the polls say, it doesn't make a difference what the election results are, the president's focused and he's going to continue to try to achieve a victory in Iraq.
BRAZILE: Well, there's going to be a new team on Wednesday, hopefully -- I believe there will be a new team in town, and they're not going to allow the president or Dick Cheney to continue to plot a strategy that will not work.
So what will happen come next week is that Democrats are going to force this administration to begin the change of strategy. Look, at some point if the administration won't listen to the generals, if they won't fire Rumsfeld, a new Democratic Congress will surely put this to George Bush to decide.
BENNETT: Well, one great test of leadership is whether you listen to the polls or not, and our greatest presidents did not listen to the polls, particularly in wartime. FDR...
BLITZER: Another way of phrasing it, though, is listening to the American people.
BENNETT: Well, again, if you could have taken polls -- as David McCullough has said, if you had taken polls and had the media that we had today during those wars, we probably wouldn't have won them. So the president has to withstand more, Bernard Lewis was the saying the other day, much more than FDR did by way of criticism. I think -- Look, he is stubborn. And I know that drives Democrats crazy, and that's been used... (CROSSTALK)
BENNETT: No matter what happens, he's still the president of the United States.
BLITZER: We got to end it right now. But you guys will be back. Thanks very much, Donna and Bill. Appreciate it very much.
Coming up, going hunting. Yes, hunting. The vice president takes a break on election day. Get ready.
Plus, when it comes to Iraq, how much does the oil matter? Jack Cafferty, taking your e-mail. We'll be right back.
This is a CNN Election Special. We're live from CNN Election Headquarters.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. Here's he with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
In campaign speeches, President Bush is now saying that oil is the reason to stay in Iraq. My, how times have changed. He says if United States pulls its troops out too soon, we'll be handing over Iraq's oil reserves to the terrorists. A little fear there, perhaps. The question is, when it comes to Iraq, how much does the oil matter?
Beverly writes: "The small amount of oil that Iraq produces means absolutely nothing when compared to the lives of the young American men and women whose lives are at risk everyday in that country."
Neil writes in Iowa: "If the Middle East didn't have oil, we would sit back and watch as they killed each other just as we do in Africa."
Gavin writes: "I was surprised and am continuously dumbfounded at the fact that more people in this country didn't understand from the beginning that oil was the only reason for invading Iraq in the first place."
Marilee writes"The oil is everything. Why do you think we are still bogged down in a war that we should not have gotten involved in to begin with? It is our dependency on foreign oil that is keeping us there."
And Rick in Leewood, Kansas: "Once again, President Bush is attempting to use the fear of Iraqi oil loss and the inflated impact it would have on our economy as a reason to stay in Iraq. At least the administration is being honest. This war has always been about oil. The sooner the price breaks $100, the sooner this country's brain trust can start seriously working on a viable alternative. Then we can quit funding terrorism vis-a-vis our insatiable thirst for the one commodity terrorist countries own in abundance." -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tomorrow night you're going to be with us throughout our election coverage. You're going to be asking our viewers to tell us what's going on in their minds as the results begin to become known.
CAFFERTY: Well, the question I'm interested in tomorrow night is, if the Democrats seize control of either one or -- well, seize is probably not a good word, we do have elections here -- gain control of either one or both houses of Congress, what sort of an agenda will have they? And what do the viewers who watch us think they should be focusing on?
There's a school of thought that says they might be looking to launch investigations of the administration. They'll have subpoena power, hold people to account for some of the things that are perceived as wrongdoing. Other people say that would be a distraction for the country, we have other issues on the front burner that ought to be attended to, things like health care and Social Security and immigration reform, the war in Iraq.
So, I'll be interested to see how the viewers feel if, if the polls are right and the Democrats win one or both chambers of Congress.
BLITZER: I think most people do support the notion of checks and balances. It's good to have oversight from the legislative branch of the government on the executive branch of the government.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's be a welcome change since we haven't had any for six years.
BLITZER: And I suppose that if the Democrats were at least the majority in the House, which looks like it's very, very likely, they would be able to do that.
CAFFERTY: Well, they would at least provide some sort of a disincentive for the White House or the administration to feel like it can just jam through any old thing it feels like doing on a whim. With Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, that's been no problem. I mean, all they have to do is pick up the phone and it's done. At least that would be a change.
BLITZER: Might be a change with Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker. I don't think she's...
CAFFERTY: Well, there's a downside to everything, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. You're going to be busy. We're all going to be busy tomorrow. Thanks very much.
Up next, while candidates hunt for that one last vote, Vice President Dick Cheney's making plans. Well, he's going to go hunting. Jeanne Moos will be along in a couple of minutes to remind us why that gives so many people the giggles. Only here, Jeanne Moos. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: On Election Day, guess where the vice president, Dick Cheney, will be? Here's a clue -- it involves chasing down and taking out some very cunning rivals. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If it's humor you're hunting, Dick Cheney just gave comedians plenty of ammo.
(on camera): Dick Cheney, they announced today that Dick Cheney was going to spend Election Day hunting for the first time since...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no.
MOOS (voice-over): Yes, for the first time since the vice president accidentally shot his friend in the face, he's scheduled to go hunting.
(on camera): So the question is, would you go hunting with Dick Cheney?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I would send Rumsfeld.
MOOS (voice-over): Actually, the vice president is going to be accompanied by his daughter Mary and his political director.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have no problem going hunting with Dick Cheney. Anybody could make a mistake in a hunting accident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because I think he's not a straight shooter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a ridiculous question first of all, and he's ridiculous.
MOOS: The image of Dick Cheney out hunting on Election Day is sure to reopen old wounds, the kind comedians like to rub salt in.
ROB CORDDRY, COMEDY CENTRAL: To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.
MOOS: Nothing, not even the White House Easter Bunny, was sacred. At least the vice president won't be hunting bunnies on a private ranch in South Dakota.
The news comes as journalists gear up for Election Day.
(on camera): So, Wolf, would you go hunting with Dick Cheney?
(voice-over): Given all the jokes, we wondered what the strategy behind such an Election Day hunting trip might be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real guy, red meat, NRA.
MOOS: But the vice president's hunting mishap is also red meat for those with enough time on their hands to alter a quail hunting scene from the movie "Wedding Crashers."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something not right about these guys.
MOOS: Adding the vice president's head. The real movie...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't do anything crazy.
MOOS: The remake.
Will the vice president's Election Day hunting trip be a political shot in the arm, or will he be shooting himself in the foot?
(on camera): The question is, would you go hunting with Dick Cheney?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hunting for Dick Cheney.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Only Jeanne Moos can do that.
You're watching CNN's special coverage of "America Votes 2006."
Tonight, on the eve of the midterm elections, America's voters are angry, and Iraq is the main reason why. So we're focusing the next hour of our special coverage on the war and its impact.
Let's bring in our colleague Paula Zahn -- Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, thanks so much. And I'm standing here with my colleague Bill Schneider. He's the guy that understands all the numbers here that we're going to analyze tonight, and there are some really interesting numbers out there.
Look at this brand-new CNN opinion research poll. Fully 73 percent of Americans say they're angry. What are they so angry about, Bill?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, here's a clue. Over 90 percent of Democrats, Paula, say that they're angry, but so are a majority of Republicans. Everybody's angry. The war's certainly No. 1 on the list, but Republicans, are they angry about the war, are they angry about the economy? Maybe they're angry about the polls.
ZAHN: Have you ever seen numbers this high?
SCHNEIDER: Never. I've never seen it this high, even in the year of the angry white man in 1994.
ZAHN: And they were really mad back then.
SCHNEIDER: They really were.
ZAHN: Well, let's move on to some economic numbers. Now, there were a lot of people who felt going into this midterm election that the economy would be a much more divisive issue, or if not divisive at least more important.
ZAHN: What do you make of these numbers?
SCHNEIDER: It's about 50//50. The economy is kind of a non- issue, because half the country thinks it's in good shape. After all, the stock market is up, gas prices are down. Half the country thinks it's in poor shape, because their housing prices are in danger of declining, jobs are being lost, wages are stagnant.
This year, all we can say is, it's not the economy, stupid. No offense.
ZAHN: I wasn't taking it personally, Bill. But what they're taking very seriously are these numbers about this war in Iraq. Look at this: 61 percent of those polled are opposing this war. And there's a lot of speculation about just what that means to the Republican Party and what it may cost them tomorrow. How worried should the Bush administration be about these numbers?
SCHNEIDER: I think they should be very worried. You notice that's not 50/50. That's almost 2 to 1. And that is driving the vote, because among those who favor the war, almost 80 percent are voting Republican, and among the majority who oppose the war, almost 80 percent are voting Democratic. So it's shaping the vote.
ZAHN: And one thing that everybody's looking at very closely tonight are the numbers involving likely voters. And check this out. Democrats, 58 percent; Republicans 38 percent. Meaning, that's their choice for Congress. We should make that clear.
SCHNEIDER: This is nationwide. There are three polls. This is our ours. There are three polls, along with ours, that show the lead for the Democrats in double digits. There are three other polls that show the lead narrowing to single digits.
Each poll has its own way of defining what you called correctly, "likely voters." Now, that's a very hard thing to do in polls, because it's hard to estimate turnout. Everybody who's polled says, hey, I'm going to vote, it's the right thing to do. But finding out who's really going to vote, each poll does it their own way, which is why these poll results are so different.
ZAHN: And of course, the Democrats are watching this so closely, because while those numbers look encouraging, it doesn't mean anything unless they gain enough seats to seize control of the House, and then ultimately the Senate.
SCHNEIDER: The question is whether those leads are large enough. All Democratic leads, but are they big enough?
ZAHN: Guess we'll be finding that out tomorrow night. Not during this hour, a little bit later on in the night, Wolf.
BLITZER: All night we'll be finding that out. Guys, thanks very much.
And here at CNN's election headquarters, we're all set to bring you the most immediate, most comprehensive coverage of the election returns. You'll want to be here 24 hours from now for our complete coverage.
At 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, the polls close in 15 states, 15. Some of this year's most important races -- in Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman is running as an independent. Also at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, the polls close in Maryland and New Jersey, the two states where Democrats must hold on to the open seats if they have any hope of taking over the United States Senate. The polls also will be closing, by the way, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Rick Santorum is fighting for his political life. Finally, 8:00 p.m. Eastern is when the polls also close in two of this year's closest, most watched Senate races -- Missouri and Tennessee. It's really, really going to be tight. We're going to watch every step of the way -- Paula.
ZAHN: All right, Wolf, thanks so much.
Right now, we want to check in with John King, who's been out and about around the country, to give us a fix on what both the Republicans and Democrats are up to tonight -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it's interesting, on the last night, everyone's trying to make their last pitches, but I suspect most voters have made up their minds. You saw the president out on the road today. You see the candidates out on the road today.
As Bill was just noting, the polls suggests it is a Democratic year. Republicans are counting on what they call their 72-hour program, which is identify your voters and grab them by the ear if necessary and get them to the polls. They have that mechanical advantage, if you will.
Will it be enough to overcome opposition to the war? Will it be enough to overcome anger at Washington? The polls say no. We're about to find out.
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