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President Bush Sends $2.9 Trillion Spending Plan to Congress; Giuliani Takes One More Step Toward Presidential Run

Aired February 5, 2007 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And happening right now, what can you get for a few trillion dollars?
President Bush has his wish list. He sent it to Congress. His $2.9 trillion spending plan covering items like tax cuts and health insurance. But it's getting a chilly reception from some in Congress, with one Democrat saying it's "filled with debt and deception." The budget also requests billions more for the war in Iraq.

But money and the military might have not yet been able to stop Iraq from exploding with violence. Right now, Iraqi and U.S. military officials are stepping up their plan to try to stop that bloodshed, at least in Baghdad.

And an explorer takes yet another step toward a presidential run. Rudy Giuliani -- we're going to tell you just what he's doing right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


$2.9 trillion from you, with Congress' approval, of course. Today, the president unveiled his $2.9 trillion spending plan for the fiscal year 2008. It covers spending on items like health care, education, tax cuts, the war -- money that would come from the pockets of American taxpayers.

We've measured this current budget against previous government budgets and even when adjusted for the value of the dollar in the year 2000, it's the biggest budget request ever.

By comparison, in 1978, the government spent just over $1 trillion. In 1988, it spent over $1.4 trillion, and in 1998, the government spent over $1.7 trillion. Again, those dollars adjusted for the year 2000.

Joining us now for more on this presidential budget request, our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned, of course, this is our money that the government is talking about spending. And it really is hard to imagine what this figure means. But if you crunch all the numbers today looking at the budget, there is really one number that stands out, and that is $800 billion, the total estimated cost of the wars in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. It will reach that level within two years or so.

Now, today, we've heard from the president. He justified the cost of the war, saying, indeed, that the country can afford these increases while, at the same time, balancing the budget.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we submitted a budget to the United States Congress which shows we can balancing the budget in five years without raising taxes. Our economy is strong because of good policy and because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong. By keeping taxes down, we actually generate strong revenues to the treasury.

And I appreciate Director Portman helping us devise a plan that sets priorities and, at the same time emphasizes fiscal restraint.


MALVEAUX: Now, how is he going to do all of this, Wolf?

Well, the president, as well as his top economic advisers, laying out a plan here, saying that what they're going to do is really look for savings in the tune of $95 billion over the next five years or so. They are going to together more than 140 government programs to either reduce or eliminate and they are also going to together Medicaid and Medicare.

As you know, Wolf, this is a very controversial budget, a very controversial proposal and so far the Democrats have dismissed this. We know that this battle over the budget has really just begun -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some suggesting it's dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, but we'll see what happens in the course of the legislative process.

Suzanne, thank you.

Some members of Congress, as Suzanne says, are either skeptical or outright blasting the president's budget and its priorities.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says she wants more details.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We'll have to take a look at what's in the budget, as we have discussed before. We'll put it to some scrutiny and see what it is. The day of the blank check for the president in the war is over.


BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is not holding his tongue. Today he said -- and let me quote right now -- he said: "The budget uses deception to hide a massive increase in debt and its priorities are disconnected from the needs of middle class Americans." Meanwhile, there are new developments happening right now regarding a proposed resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase in Iraq.

Let's get the very latest from our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana, what is the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is intense debate going on right now on the floor of the United States Senate on Iraq. But it's not on the substance of the war, it's not over the president's plan there. Instead, it's over process, whether and how specific Iraq resolutions are even going to come up for a vote.

Now, what's going on is Republican senators, even those who oppose the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, have united in order to make it clear that they will not vote for that unless two other Republican measures are given votes by Democrats.

Now, Democrats are getting their first real taste of what it's like to be in the majority there, with a razor thin majority. Meanwhile, they are calling this obstructionism. Republicans say it's a matter of fairness.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Their actions aren't driven by getting votes on Republican proposals. They're not being driven by votes on Republican proposals. They're driven by a desire to provide political cover.

The minority can't rubber stamp the president's policies on Iraq anymore, so they've decided to stamp out debate and let the president's actions in Iraq proceed unchecked.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: This vote this afternoon should not be misunderstood. This is a fairness vote. This vote this afternoon is a vote to insist that the minority have a fair process in going forward to this very important debate.


BASH: Now, it sounds like a lot of parliamentary maneuvering. But, Wolf, as you know, in the Senate, politics equals process -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's driving these Senate Republicans right now in this debate?

BASH: Well, what's driving them, the bottom line is they're trying to prevent an embarrassing vote that repudiates the president on the war. And here's how they're doing it. Take a look. There are three resolutions that are in play right now.

First of all, one that Democrats and some Republicans support, which says explicitly the Senate disagrees with this plan to send more troops to Iraq. There's one Republican measure that supports the plan, but says that there should be benchmarks for Iraqis and another Republican measure that makes clear that funding for troops won't be cut.

So what GOP leaders want is a 60 vote threshold on all three of those measures. What the -- what's at play there behind-the-scenes is that they are doing the math and they think, really, the only thing that would pass is something that senators are loathe to vote for, and that is a cut for -- for funding for -- cutting funding for troops in Iraq.

So Democrats are saying what Republicans are trying to do is demand a filibuster. And what they also say is that Republicans are simply trying to run out the clock because, Wolf, there's a limited amount of time that they can talk about this on the floor, because there's something else that's very important that's coming, and that is the Congress, the United States Senate, has to pass a resolution that continues to fund the government. That's left over from the last Congress.

BLITZER: All right, the rules of the Senate pretty complex. We're not going to get into all of them.

Dana will be watching this story for us.

Dana Bash and Suzanne Malveaux are part of the best political team on television.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker at

Another week. Jack Cafferty standing by with The Cafferty File -- Jack, the rules in the Senate, as you well know, and a lot of our viewers know, they are mind numbing.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this whole thing is just stupid. And I'm going to talk about it, I think, in the next hour. But in the meantime the American public made their feelings on this war pretty clear in November and these morons in the Congress so far seem to be tone deaf to what was registered at the ballot box a month or two ago.

John Edwards wants universal health care for every American, but to do it, he's calling for a tax increase. The Democratic presidential candidate is out with the first detailed health care plan offered up by a Democrat running for the White House.

Other candidates are expected to come out with their own ideas about to help solve the health care crisis in this country.

Edwards' plan, which does address the 47 million uninsured Americans, aims for universal health care coverage by 2012. It's a combination of things, his program, including requiring all businesses to provide insurance.

Edwards says he'd free up $120 billion a year to pay for his plan by abolishing President Bush's tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year and by having the government collect more back taxes.

So the question is this -- can John Edwards be elected president by advocating raising taxes?

E-mail your thoughts on that to or go to

It's all in the semantics, I suppose, Wolf, but canceling tax cuts for people who have been living with tax cuts is a tax increase for those people. So that's the way we worded it.

BLITZER: And he's about acknowledging that himself. And we're going to be speaking with him about this and the war in Iraq in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's down in North Carolina. But he'll be explaining his stands on all of these issues.

Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty.

Coming up, the man known as America's mayor takes another step toward running for the White House. We're going to tell you what Rudy Giuliani did today, in the past few hours. That's coming up.

Also, a very deadly day in Iraq following a horrific weekend of violence. Our Arwa Damon has a report from Baghdad. That's coming up next.

And much more on the battle in Congress over the war in Iraq. The number two Republican in the Senate, Trent Lott of Mississippi, he's standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It's a badly needed boost that's coming not a moment too soon. The plan to secure Baghdad expected, expected to intensify in the coming days. U.S. military officials say they're ramping up their efforts to stop the killings and the chaos. A drumbeat of violence that unfortunately continues today.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad with more -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the span of just five hours in the capital, Baghdad, more than two dozen Iraqis were killed, more than 100 wounded in a number of attacks, ranging from car bombs placed outside of automobile repair shops, car bombs once again placed on busy, crowded commercial streets and, disturbingly, even a car bomb placed near to a children's hospital.

Mortar attacks in a number of neighborhoods in the capital, some even landing next to Baghdad University. And small arms fire and drive-by shootings also targeting mainly Iraqi civilians.

All of this coming ATN is still trying to recovery from the weekend's devastating bombing, the single deadliest bombing to take place in the country since this war began, that killed over 120 Iraqis when a suicide truck bomber plowed into a busy central Baghdad marketplace. Many Iraqis amongst the civilian population and amongst the Iraqi government now increasingly critical of this new Baghdad security plan put forward by the Iraqi government, even criticizing the U.S. administration for not sending American troops to this capital faster -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon in Baghdad for us.

Arwa, thank you.

Meanwhile, in the race for 2008, one explorer takes yet another step in the direction of the White House. That would be Rudy Giuliani.

Today, the former mayor of New York filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. That, according to a Giuliani spokeswoman. Giuliani already has filed paperwork for an exploratory committee. He did that back in November.

Let's get some analysis now on what's going on from our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

He filed the initial paperwork back in November. He didn't really do much immediately thereafter. But in the last two weeks, there's been a spurt of Giuliani activity. He's been to Iowa -- excuse me -- New Hampshire, South Carolina.

What's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, he is the master of the micro step, as you know. The mayor is pretty good at moving along at a very slow pace. And so what this does is it keeps us talking. I mean even the campaign itself says this is adjusting the paperwork.

What Giuliani has done is what everybody else has already done, which is mostly when you file your exploratory papers, you also file your statement of candidacy.

So what Giuliani is doing at this point is now keeping it -- catching up with the paperwork of the others, but he's also keeping his name out there. As you know, there have been a spate of stories about is he serious, is he not serious. And these now new stories say he's doing this and he's doing that. And so he's keeping his place on the page.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at some of the latest numbers, the poll numbers, involving Rudy Giuliani. In our most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, just like a lot of other polls, national polls, registered Republicans, Giuliani comes out with 32 percent, John McCain at 26 percent. Everybody else in single digits.

But let's take a look at some other recent polls in Iowa, in New Hampshire, among registered Republicans. Giuliani in Iowa is ahead of McCain 27 to 22 percent; Newt Gingrich down at 16 percent. And in New Hampshire, in this ARG poll, McCain has got -- he's slightly ahead, 27 percent. Romney and Giuliani basically tied, both at 20 percent. Gingrich down at 11 percent.

It's very early in the process. Name recognition is always a key factor. But he does remarkably well, Rudy Giuliani, among these registered Republicans.

CROWLEY: He really does. And you wonder once he gets out there and they begin to look at his record exactly how these Republicans will feel. I don't think it's all that surprising that he would trail in New Hampshire, the one place where Giuliani seems to be trailing McCain, because McCain has a history of being very popular in New Hampshire. Obviously, he won that over George Bush in 2000.

So, I mean what's been happening here is that people like the Giuliani name. You know, it has a cachet. He was Mr. 9/11. He was the tough mayor of New York.

Now, here's the question. Are these social conservatives, most of whom vote in the primaries, going to take a gun who is pro-gun licensing, who is pro-choice, although he says he's personally against abortion, and who is pro-Gingrich?

I mean this is the huge question here.

But as you know, Wolf, in the end, what it all gets down to is who Republicans and, for that matter, who Democrats think is actually going to win. And if they believe Rudy Giuliani is the guy that's going to beat whoever the Democratic candidate is, that's who they'll go for.

BLITZER: He may be personally against abortion as an issue, but he's always supported a woman's right in the United States to have an abortion.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's what he says. He's been down South explaining that presentation, trying to sort of draw the sting.

But obviously, South Carolina a really important primary. And that's where these social issues come to bear the most.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, we'll watch Rudy Giuliani and all of the other presidential candidates -- and there's a lot of them out there -- with you.

CROWLEY: There are.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Still ahead, we'll have much more on Rudy Giuliani. If he officially jumps in, will his past baggage actually hurt him?

James Carville and Terry Jeffrey -- they're standing by live for today's Strategy Session.

Plus, it's the trial that could rock the White House.

Will new audiotapes of "Scooter" Libby actually help or hurt his defense?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all of the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.

She's joining us now from New York with a closer look at some other important stories making news right now -- Carol, I understand that just within the past few minutes, there has been some developments on that kidnapping case out in Missouri.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was just a news conference held and prosecutors in St. Louis County, Missouri now have filed 71 more charges against kidnapping suspect Michael Devlin. They include kidnapping and forcible sodomy. He already faces kidnapping charges for allegedly abducting two young boys, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, and has pleaded not guilty. Both youngsters were found and reunited with their families last month. Hornbeck had been missing four years.

Prosecutors, as I said, held a news conference just about an hour ago.


ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: A little while ago, we filed a total of 71 counts against Michael Devlin. The first 18 counts involve one count of kidnapping and 17 counts of forcible sodomy relating to an abduction that occurred in January of this year.


BLITZER: Devlin could get life in prison if he is convicted.

The court-martial of an Army officer who refused to deploy to Iraq is underway at Fort Lewis, Washington. First Lieutenant Ehren Watada could get five years in jail if he's convicted. He says he refused to ship out because the Iraq War is illegal and immoral. An Army prosecutor says he betrayed his fellow soldiers. We'll have much more on this story in THE SITUATION ROOM in our 5:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

If you've been outside today, oh, man, is it cold, really cold. From the Northern Plains to the Northeast, a bone chilling Arctic blast has closed hundreds of schools. The mercury plunging to 38 below zero in Hallock, Minnesota. Whoo. And along with frigid temperatures, Upstate New York got two feet of snow. Amtrak had to shut down passenger train service in some areas.

Prosecutors have scored several victories in former White House aide Louis "Scooter" Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial. The judge says jurists can see newspaper articles on the fallout over the leaking of a CIA officer's identity. Despite defense objections, the judge also said grand jury tapes of Libby testifying about when he learned of Valerie Plame's identity will be made public after the jury hears them. Prosecutors could wrap up their case tomorrow.

Take a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to watch this week. It's an important week in that trial.

Thank you, Carol.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by.

She's got some more details on the audiotapes of "Scooter" Libby's grand jury testimony -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the jury in this trial has just started listening to those audiotapes just in the last hour following this morning's ruling. And they haven't been released to the public just yet. They will be.

Right now, it's the bloggers who have been credentialed for this trial who are rapidly, on their Web sites, trying to keep up of just what the jury is hearing.

After the jury has heard what could be several hours, up to eight hours of this grand jury testimony recordings, they will be available for download on this, the Web site of the office of the special counsel. And this is where we've been seeing all kinds of trial exhibits appearing, from documents to video, as well. And this is where we are going to be seeing those audiotapes posted after the jury is through hearing them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll be watching together with you.

Thank you.

Up next, the Republicans' number two man in the United States Senate, Trent Lott.

What does he think about the president's plan to send more forces into Iraq.

And as the Senate debates a resolution on Iraq, what's the GOP's strategy?

Senator Trent Lott standing by live to join us next in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, the Rudy Giuliani factor.

Is he running for the White House? And how does a moderate Republican from the Northeast win the hearts and minds of conservative GOP voters?

That's coming up in our Strategy Session.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Happening right now, Rudy Giuliani takes a key step toward a run for the White House. The former New York mayor filed a statement of candidacy, as it's called, with the Federal Election Commission just a little while ago. But he could face conservative opposition over his pro-abortion and gay rights stands.

Britain tells its citizens don't panic. The country's largest poultry producer is destroying thousands of turkeys to stop Europe's biggest outbreak yet of the deadly bird flu virus.

And tough words from Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a newly released audio -- set of audiotapes, the California governor calls the Democratic assembly speaker a passionless political operator. He also suggests Republican lawmakers were unrealistic about past pushing through a public works package.

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

Let's get some more now on one of our top stories, a Senate resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase plan for Iraq.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is the Senate minority whip, the number two Republican in the Senate, Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY WHIP: Glad to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you have concerns about this troop increase going forward in Iraq. But I just want you to spell out what your concerns are.

LOTT: The vote this afternoon in the Senate is just a procedural vote that will set up a process that determines how we go forward and have a full debate on this issue. And hopefully we'll have a series of votes, three or four votes, on different options, because different senators have different ideas about how we should go into the future.

Here's my concern.

First of all, these are non-binding resolutions so they don't mean anything. When we get through, we will not have bound anybody to do anything.

BLITZER: They may not mean anything, Senator, but they do send a powerful message to constituents.

And, as you know, there are 20 Republican senators who are up for reelection in 2008. And a lot of them really don't want to be on the record voting on one of these resolutions, the so-called Levin-Warner, or Warner-Levin, resolution, which opposes a troop increase.

LOTT: It also sends messages to our allies around the world and our enemies about what the United States is prepared to do here.

I have some concerns about how we're going to go forward. But here is the point. We have to change the status quo in Iraq. We can't just summarily pull out. Nobody wants that. We have to support our troops that are there or are headed there. I think, broadly, people support that.

Then, the question is: What do we do? You know, the president has a proposal, a plan. Maybe it's not, you know, a perfect plan. I don't deny that. But he -- he has made some recommendations. And we should look at that. I think we should give it a chance.

I realize it's -- it's a leap to expect things to really turn around there. But we have to move forward in a positive way. And I think this is the beginning of that process.

BLITZER: Is it -- is it -- the bottom -- the bottom line is this. Given the -- the arcane, very complex procedures in the United States Senate, what you're trying to do -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is to avoid a formal vote, up-or-down vote, on the -- on the Warner-Levin resolution, which opposes this so-called surge the president has put forward?

LOTT: In the Senate, rightly or wrongly, over the years, it takes 60 votes out of 100, not 50, to take an action, because any one senator can stand up and say: I don't agree with this, and I'm going to filibuster it.

Then, you have to get 60 votes to cut off that senator or group of senators. So, that is the process that is under way. What will the votes be on? And, of course, any of them would probably have to have 60 votes, unless there was prior unanimous consent agreement not to do that. But it all gets too procedural.

BLITZER: Because I -- because, yesterday, when I spoke to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, she -- she basically says, you're -- this is obstructor-ism. You're -- you're -- you're preventing the Senate from doing what everybody does in schools and neighborhoods around the country. They debate whether or not this policy the president has put forward is good or bad.

LOTT: Does anybody believe that we're not ready to have a full debate on this you, that you would oppose having a full debate?

The question is, what do you vote on at the end of the debate? We can work this out. And we should work it out. And I assume we will. We are going to have a debate, sooner or later, on this subject, probably more than once. So, the idea that we're trying to delay or obstruct a debate is just not credible.

The -- we do need to get an understanding of what the votes are going to be on. I think a lot of senators want to vote, showing their support for funds or the troops. I think that would have an overwhelming vote. And that is one of the things we have got to make sure we have an opportunity to vote on. BLITZER: So, what you're basically saying is, the Democrats could have their votes, as long as all the resolutions that are out there -- there are three major resolutions -- that all of them are allowed to come up for a vote?

LOTT: Well, as a matter of fact, Mitch McConnell has even agreed to a reduction.

Now, actually, we had some other senators that had some resolutions that had some good aspects to them. We had at least four or five. He has agreed to back that down to three.

Now, if the Democrats want to say, well, we want some balance, we want to add another one, maybe you could do that, too.

But I think that -- that, once again, this is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. We will get some sort of agreement how to proceed, and we will have a full debate.

BLITZER: Do you have all 49 Republicans united on this procedural...

LOTT: Republicans...

BLITZER: ... issue?

LOTT: Republicans united against a procedure that's not fair, that would cut off a legislate alternative being debated and voted on.

That's not to say that they support what the president is planning to do or what he is doing. But they want to make sure that, when we go forward, there is a fair process. How -- everybody is for that. And I think it can be worked out.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there, Senator. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Good luck.

I know you understand the process. A lot of other people don't necessarily...


BLITZER: ... understand it. But you did a good job explaining it.


BLITZER: Thank you.

LOTT: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi. There's a story happening right now.

I want to bring in Carol Costello. She's watching it.

This is what we call good news, Carol.


The Indianapolis Colts have arrived home. They're just getting...


COSTELLO: ... off the plane now.

And you can imagine the reception they're getting, after they just annihilated the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl last night. They won 29-17. They're -- I expected to see jubilation and celebration. But this is a long shot of the airport.

You can see the Indianapolis Colts getting off the plane. I can't see close enough to see if the MVP, Peyton Manning, is getting off the plane right now. But, of course, he was the MVP. He received a call from President Bush earlier this morning congratulating him on a big win.

A parade is set for the city of Indianapolis at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon. And, then, after that, there will be this big celebration with fans in the RCA Dome. And, hopefully, we will have pictures from that and we can show even more celebration in Indianapolis this afternoon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very happy for Peyton Manning and all of the Indianapolis Colts. I know you are as well.

Carol, thank you.

Coming up: We're a year away from Super Tuesday, the day many analysts think the race for the White House actually will be set. Bill Schneider is standing. He will take a closer look at the front- loaded electoral calendar.

And, in our "Strategy Session" today: the Nader factor, among other things. Will Ralph Nader mount a run for the White House again? He had some tough words yesterday for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. We will tell you what he is saying.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Candidates clamoring, contentious contests -- it must be the race for the White House. There's a flurry of activity, as presidential prospects jockey for your attention.

Let's get some more from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, tired already of the 2008 presidential campaign? Here is some good news. Exactly one year from today, this could all be over.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): February 5, 2008, could be even bigger than Super Tuesday. It could be super-duper Tuesday.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You say super-duper?



ALITO: Any sort of categorization like that.

SPECTER: I like that.

ALITO: It sort of reminds me of the size of laundry detergent in the -- in the supermarket.


SCHNEIDER: Look at the nominating calendar, as it currently stands.

January 14, 2008, the Iowa caucuses open the race. Five days later, Nevada Democrats hold their caucuses -- January 22, the New Hampshire primary. January 29, South Carolina Democrats vote, followed by South Carolina Republicans on February 2.

Then, February 5 could be super-duper Tuesday. Right now, eight states are scheduled to hold primaries or caucuses that day. But another 12 states are considering moving their contests to February 5, including big states, like Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, and the biggest one of all, California.

February 5, super duper Tuesday, could become, essentially, a national primary. So, the campaign could start on January 14 and end just over three weeks later, with two-thirds of the Democratic delegates and over 80 percent of the Republican delegates chosen by February 5.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I'm so glad to be here in Manchester in New Hampshire.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I want to start by thanking the people of Iowa.

SCHNEIDER: The big states want a cut of the action. But, to run in those big states, you need big money and national name recognition. Obscure contenders need not apply. But the new calendar could make Iowa and New Hampshire more important. You pull off a surprise win in one of the small states, and the news coverage propels you to victory in the big states. In 1984, Gary Hart upset Walter Mondale in New Hampshire, and then won the Florida primary a week later on sheer momentum, what President Bush's father once called the big mo'.


SCHNEIDER: So, ironically, the best way to win a national primary may be to concentrate on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and just ignore the big states -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And -- and some of those states, though -- correct me if I'm wrong -- do allow early voting.


In California and Florida and several other potential super-duper Tuesday states, people can start voting weeks before the primary. So, a lot of voters in those states could be casting ballots even before Iowa and New Hampshire, and long before the campaign ever gets to their states -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is going to be very, very exciting for all of us. Thanks very much for that.

New numbers in the race for the White House top our "Political Radar" today.

Hillary Clinton comes out on top in a new poll of Iowa voters. Thirty-five percent of Democrats questioned by the American Research Group picked Senator Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee. Eighteen percent are backing former Senator John Edwards. Fourteen percent pick Senator Barack Obama. The Iowa caucuses, of course, kick off the presidential primary season next January.

Senator Clinton also comes out on top in New Hampshire. Thirty- nine percent of the Granite State support Senator Clinton as their presidential nominee in a new American Research Group poll there. Senator Obama stands a distant second, at 19 percent, followed by former Senator Edwards at 13 percent. New Hampshire holds the first- in-the-nation primary.

And Ralph Nader says he is not -- repeat, not -- ruling out another run for the White House. The Green Party candidate told me yesterday, on "LATE EDITION," he will consider another presidential bid later this year. Nader ran for president back in '96, 2000, and 2004. Some Democrats blame Nader's 2000 bid for helping George W. Bush win the presidency over Al Gore.

They say, if Nader hadn't run, Al Gore would have won Florida and taken the White House.

Yesterday, Nader had some tough comments about Senator Clinton -- more on what he said coming up in a few minutes in our "Strategy Session."

And, as Jack Cafferty mentioned earlier this hour, John Edwards is out with a new health care plan. The Democratic presidential candidate is proposing health coverage for all Americans. The 2004 vice presidential nominee says, he would raise taxes on families making more than $200,000 a year to pay for the plan's $120-billion-a- year price tag.

I will be speaking to Senator Edwards about his controversial plan. That's coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, in the next hour. You're going to want to see that.

Let's get some more on what is going on, as far as that plan is concerned.

As with most aspects of presidential campaigns, former Senator Edwards is going online to promote his new health care plan.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has been examining this new proposal.

Jacki, what are you seeing?


The whole thing is online. Edwards is the first Democratic presidential candidate to put a detailed health care plan on his Web site. You can download it, and take a closer look for yourself.

Now, in addition to the tax hike, he is talking about the principle here of shared responsibility. Basically, it would be the responsibility that -- of businesses to either provide health care or help their employees pay for it. It would be the responsibility of the government to make insurance more affordable with things like tax credits, with things like fairer premiums, or an expansion of Medicaid.

And, then, it would be your responsibility, as an individual, to make sure that you have health insurance. The Edwards campaign tells us today that they know all Americans have their own health care stories. And they are planning on discussing these online. People are going to be able to share their stories. And they will help come up with some solutions.

They say they plan on having new health-care related content on their Web site every day this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki Schechner, Bill Schneider, and, you saw earlier, Candy Crowley, they are all part of the best political team on television.

And, for all the latest political news at any time, check out our Political Ticker,

And, remember, CNN is a partner with WMUR Television and "The New Hampshire Union Leader" for the very first presidential debates of the campaign season. They are on April 4 and April 5 of this year. These are the first debates in the leadoff presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

In the next hour: John Edwards says he has a prescription for universal health care coverage in the United States, but also, raising taxes on the rich, good politics or good policy? He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But up next in our "Strategy Session": Is America' mayor in the race for the White House? And, if so, will moderate views on social issues sink him with conservative voters?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Democrats are urging Republicans not to block a vote on -- on the bipartisan resolution criticizing President Bush's plan to send thousands of additional troops to Iraq.

Joining us now to discuss that and other hot political issues in our "Strategy Session," CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist James Carville and Terry Jeffrey. He's the editor at large of "Human Events."

Well, the explorer, another explorer...


BLITZER: ... Rudy Giuliani, he took another step today, a procedural step. But he seems to be stepping up his activity to run for president.

Are you convinced he is in?


Why -- why would he go to all this trouble if he weren't? And what he does is, he does one thing. And, of course, we cover it, because he's an interesting guy and a lot of people are interested in what he does. And he does another thing. And why wouldn't he take as many bites at the apple as we give him?

And I -- I have for reason to believe that he's not in, that he is going to all of this trouble, and forming all these committees, and doing all of these paperworks, and going to all these places just for the fun of it. Yes, I assume that he's in.

BLITZER: Because -- because some analysts were saying that he might be a little coy. But, in the last few weeks, he has really become very active.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, basically, I think he's in, Wolf, because the race is on right now. As your last report indicated, 11 months from now, people are actually going to be going out and voting for the nominees of the party. Twelve months from now, it's likely to be all over. So, this campaign is on right now. And people are in it right now.

BLITZER: Here is the latest national, registered Republicans, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll: Giuliani with 32 percent, McCain at 26 percent.

But, if you take a look at registered Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, Giuliani is ahead in Iowa, 27-22 over McCain. He is behind McCain in New Hampshire, 27-20 percent, tied with Mitt Romney there, the former Massachusetts governor. He is doing very well among registered Republicans, even though, on many of the social issues, he's very moderate.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I -- I know that our network, which I dearly love, spends a lot of money on these polls. I have no idea why, because they're meaningless. And we could go...


BLITZER: They're not meaning -- let me tell you why...


BLITZER: ... they are not meaningless.

CARVILLE: OK. Tell me why.

BLITZER: Because -- you know this better than I do.

When -- when you're fund-raising, and you can point...


BLITZER: ... to polls showing that you're doing really, really well, and you need millions of dollars, doesn't that affect the race?


CARVILLE: He's -- he's going to have -- no.

He is going to have a ton of money. And, then, somebody says: Look, I was at 5 percent in this poll and I was at 10 in the next one. I have doubled it.

It -- it -- it's not going to -- it doesn't mean a lot right now. Obviously, everyone has heard of Rudy Giuliani. There's -- there's hardly anybody in America -- everyone has heard of John McCain. Everyone has heard of Senator Clinton. Everyone has heard of -- of Senator Obama. All right?

So they are, obviously, going to do better, and they're going to suffocate the coverage, which is kind of a difficult thing for -- for -- for these lesser candidates. But these earlier trial heats, I don't think, are going to make a darn, because, once somebody wins Iowa, it -- it switches around. Look what Hillary did in one visit.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Among registered Republicans, he is doing excellent right now, Terry. And I know that a lot of conservative Republicans, social conservatives, are not happy that he supports abortion rights, supports gay rights, gun control, affirmative action, which you would -- which you would regard as very liberal positions.

JEFFREY: Well, there's no question about it, Wolf.

I -- I -- I agree with James, in part. I think Giuliani's numbers are high now because he has national name recognition. Everybody knows who he is. And the basic persona he has is a guy who did a spectacular job on 9/11, when we had the terrorist attacks.

But, you know, there was another interesting poll, "USA Today"/Gallup poll that was released February 1, that showed -- that polled Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. And it showed that 75 percent of the people do not know Giuliani's position on marriage. Sixty-four percent of the Republicans did not know Giuliani's position on abortion.

And when they were told what they were, about 18 percent said they would never vote for him, and 25 percent said they would be less likely to vote for him.

When you narrow that down -- that was a national poll -- you narrow that down to states like Iowa and South Carolina...


JEFFREY: ... I think Giuliani is going to lose a lot of support when people find out where he stands.

CARVILLE: Let me tell why -- how meaningless these polls are.

Senator Clinton was 15 points down in Iowa. She made one visit. Now she is 20 points up. And -- and, I mean, and -- and we would think a lot of people were saying, well, everybody knows everything. These things are in concrete.

The -- the truth of the matter, they are going to shift a lot between now and Election Day.

BLITZER: Yesterday -- yesterday, I interviewed Ralph Nader on "LATE EDITION."


BLITZER: Now, he did not have nice words to say about Senator Clinton.


BLITZER: He also said he is leaving open the possibility he might run again...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: ... this time around.


BLITZER: Listen to what he said.


RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- I don't think she has the fortitude, actually. She's -- she's really a panderer and a flatterer. As she goes around the country, you will see more of that.


BLITZER: And, certainly, if she were...


BLITZER: ... to get that Democratic nomination, I think that...


BLITZER: ... will increase the possibility he might run.

CARVILLE: You know, only the American Green Party could stop Al Gore from being president.


CARVILLE: I mean, you have to sit there and say, here is the Green Party that has stopped the greenest candidate in the history of American politics from being president.

I -- it -- it's almost -- if he wouldn't be -- if the man would not have accomplished so much in his life, if -- if, for the first -- until 2000, one of the most influential -- I think made more contributions to American society than almost any non-president, and he's, like, turned into an old fool. And it -- it's kind of tragic to see it.

I would rather remember that -- the Ralph Nader of the -- the '60s or '70s, even the '80s and '90s, than what you see now.

JEFFREY: You know -- you know what Ralph Nader does that is getting increasingly rare in American politics? He says exactly what he thinks.

And it resonates with people. And, if he gets out there, and he tells the truth about Hillary Clinton, I know James won't like it.


JEFFREY: But -- and some voters may go out and vote for him, because he is speaking his mind about what he believes in.


BLITZER: And you have no doubt that -- he got about 90,000 -- more than 90,000 votes in Florida. Al Gore lost by 500 or so votes.


CARVILLE: That's not -- that's not...


CARVILLE: ... no one -- again, no, that is indisputable.

But it is just so ironic that the Green Party of the United States of America is responsible for defeating Al Gore. I mean, if it wouldn't be so sad, you would just want to bust out laughing at the stupidity of the whole thing.


CARVILLE: I mean, it really is.



BLITZER: And he is thinking -- he is thinking about doing it again. But he says he is going to need more time...


BLITZER: ... before he makes his decision.

We will watch what Ralph Nader does.

Guys, thanks for coming in.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Wolf. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: And still to come in our next hour: the Reverend Al Sharpton. Does he have an eye on a 2008 presidential candidacy, or does he have an eye on not running again? We are going to ask Al Sharpton: Will he be a candidate this time around?

But next: "The Cafferty File." Can John Edwards be elected president by advocating raising taxes? Jack Cafferty has your e-mail.

That's coming up next, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, children trek through flooded streets. Torrential rains and floods in Jakarta have already killed 25 people, left hundreds of thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- homeless.

In New Jersey, an ice-covered firefighter battles a blaze in a two-story condominium building.

In Pakistan, a child holds a toy gun at a rally for Kashmir day.

And, in Michigan, a man exits freezing cold water after taking a plunge during a polar bear challenge -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Let's go to Jack in New York.

These guys who like to jump in that cold water on freezing days, I don't get it.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Do you understand why they would do that? There's some idiots in Brooklyn here that do that, too. They go...

BLITZER: I don't understand it.

CAFFERTY: They go running into the ocean when it's -- you know, when it's barely capable of supporting life outside.


CAFFERTY: You would never do anything like that...


BLITZER: No. And I grew up in Buffalo. And I don't -- I don't like the cold. You know, I go outside now -- it's cold in Washington -- I don't like it.

CAFFERTY: Do the people in Buffalo know what became of you?

BLITZER: Some of them.


CAFFERTY: John Edwards, Wolf, is proposing universal health care for every American by 2012. He says he would free up the $120 billion a year he would need to pay this by abolishing President Bush's tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year.

So, the question is: Can John Edwards be elected president by advocating raising taxes?

Sal in Buffalo: "I don't mind paying more taxes when it's for something that benefits Americans, like universal health care. John Edwards is my front-runner right now."

Pat in Idaho Falls: "What are the other options? One, forget about health care. Two, print more money -- i.e., borrow from China. Or, three, rob Peter to pay Paul -- i.e., juggle the books." Denise in Honolulu: "John Edwards should go back to North Carolina and put a few more additions on his mansion. He has been wrong about everything since he was elected to the Senate. Maybe, if he spent a few years learning, rather than campaigning, he would be ready for prime time."

Ed in New York: "It all depends on who Senator Edwards would like to tax. Everyone thinks universal health care is a good thing. However, if that means a bigger tax bill for the average American, then, I don't think his tax increases will be supported."

David in Ann Arbor, Michigan: "Absolutely. President Bush's tax cuts are the second biggest mistake of his presidency. I hope Edwards isn't the only Democratic hopeful with the chutzpah to go this route."

C. in Coppell, Texas: "These people are all idiots. Raise taxes? How much blood will you take from my body before I die?"

And Adam in Boyds, Maryland: "John Edwards is being very courageous in admitting that he will raise taxes. However, so was Mondale in 1984" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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