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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bitter Race Could End in Surprise; Critics; Moderates Unwanted in GOP; Parents in Britain Deciding if Child Dies
Aired November 2, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: something else for President Obama to worry about in Afghanistan -- this hour, deep concerns about Hamid Karzai's leadership and legitimacy, now that the presidential runoff election there has been scrapped.
Plus, the political stars come out in a special election soap opera. It's a major test for the Obama administration and for the Republican right, after one candidate's dramatic exit. And it happens just hours from now.
And my exclusive interview with three members of President Obama's exclusive inner circle -- David Axelrod, Anita Dunn, and Robert Gibbs, they open up about team Obama's biggest mistakes since the election.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, President Obama appears to be stuck with Hamid Karzai as his partner in Afghanistan, whether he likes it or not. Mr. Karzai now is officially the winner of this -- of his country's fraud-marred election, after his chief rival dropped out of the planned runoff.
The White House is trying to put the best face on this new twist, in the midst of Mr. Obama's major review of his war strategy.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's working this story for us.
The president just a little while ago reacted to the drama in Kabul.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And he said that, earlier this afternoon, he spoke to Hamid Karzai. He congratulated him for winning a second term as president of Afghanistan.
But I can tell you, you know, this is a White House that is not celebrating at all. This administration had been pushing very hard for this runoff election, believing that it would add more credibility to the process over there. That, of course, did not happen.
But at least there is a leader in place, removing one major unknown. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Although the process was messy, I'm pleased to say that the final outcome was determined in accordance with Afghan law, which I think is very important not only for the international community that has so much invested in Afghan success, but most important is important for the Afghan people that the results were in accordance with an followed the rules laid down by the Afghan constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: President Obama and his comments also putting pressure on President Karzai, saying that now is a time to really start focusing on addressing -- addressing the issue of corruption, the president saying that now is not the time just for words, but for deeds -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Does the administration, Dan, think the new government -- actually, it's the same as the old government -- will...
BLITZER: ... be a credible government?
LOTHIAN: Well, Wolf, you know, that is a very important questions -- and -- and the White House saying that, really, credibility can't just happen by one election, and they never expected it to happen with just an election or a decision, that this is a process, and that now begins that hard, long process of restoring credibility.
And that begins, they say, by President Karzai addressing the issue of corruption, and also getting his own forces, his Afghan forces, ready, in order to handle their own security -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How does this all affect the president's decision- making strategy? He's got to announce whether he's going to send more troops.
LOTHIAN: That's right.
And we had heard from this administration just a short time ago that this decision was critical for the president to make that -- that announcement, that decision on sending more troops perhaps into Afghanistan, but the White House today saying that that decision is still weeks away, and that this was just one key issue that had to be addressed.
There's still other things that are going on behind closed doors that the president is still considering as he decides whether or not to send in additional troops to Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian is our man at the White House.
Thanks, Dan. Now to those U.S. troops in the trenches in Afghanistan -- they have a lot of questions about the future of their mission and whether reinforcements are on the way.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's joining us now from near Kandahar.
Chris, you have been embedded with U.S. troops and got a -- a good sense of what they are thinking about right now. Update our viewers.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, been embedded with the 82nd Airborne, but been meeting a lot of different units as well.
And the areas that we have been traveling in, some of these troops are under almost constant threat of either Taliban attack or roadside bombs, and a lot of them are asking us, when is help on the way?
LAWRENCE (voice-over): No runoff election. It still means no rest for the soldiers in the small outposts well outside Kandahar. Now they are wondering, when will President Obama decide whether to send more troops?
CPL. JIMMY PARKER, 1ST BATTALION, 17TH INFANTRY: We need the help down here, even though we're handling our own, but we need more forces down here. This area is too big for just one company to be here.
LAWRENCE: The company is Bravo. The area is the Arghandab River Valley, part desert, part irrigated orchards, and heavily saturated with Taliban fighters.
SPC. BRIAN SCHOENBECK, 1ST BATTALION, 17TH INFANTRY: Get another battalion or brigade out here to help us out.
LAWRENCE: Specialist Brian Schoenbeck says, there's too many Afghans spread out over too much ground to know them personally, which is crucial for gathering intelligence.
SCHOENBECK: Well, if we have a smaller area as a result of having more troops here, it -- it does allow us to get to know the people better.
LAWRENCE (on camera): One of the reasons for adding more troops is to add more trainers, who could then beef up the number of Afghan national police in villages like this.
(voice-over): U.S. commanders say they can push the Taliban from town to town here, but that's all.
MAJ. SCOTT BRANNAN, TASK FORCE FURY: Right now it's hard to saturate and have boots on the ground because the battle space is so large. It's -- it's -- you know, Afghanistan is much larger than Iraq.
LAWRENCE: But some say there's nowhere near enough infrastructure for 20,000 to 40,000 more soldiers and Marines.
SPC. LUKE ADLER, 82ND AIRBORNE: Logistically, I mean, Afghanistan is not ready for all the troops.
LAWRENCE: Specialist Luke Adler says, supplies still don't flow into Afghanistan as fast as they do in Iraq. It's better now than on his first tour here, but that's not saying much.
ADLER: We had nothing last winter. We had, you know (INAUDIBLE) mounted in our trucks.
LAWRENCE: Adler has come to believe the Taliban can't be wiped out, not in their own country, even with more troops.
ADLER: All the politicians, you know, civilians, they just think, we will just send them over here.
No matter how many troops you throw at it, you can't throw a mass of people here. It's not going to work. It's not a war. You know, it's an insurgency.
LAWRENCE: To be fair, most of the troops we spoke with say they would like to see a large number of troops added to the fight.
And, Wolf, I have got to tell you, just from traveling around, it's not so much just the distance that is involved in covering these areas, but the terrain. You know, it can be steep. It can be, you know, sandy. Sometimes, we're only traveling maybe, you know, five miles an hour. So, even if it's just a shorter distance, it can take hours to go from place to place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, based on what you saw and heard from the troops, how is their morale?
LAWRENCE: Morale is still up.
I mean, you're always going to get a few gripes. That's just part of being in the army. But, overall, they feel like they can still succeed. They feel like the Afghan army is at a good point. The Afghan police still has quite a ways to go.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence embedded with U.S. forces in Kandahar -- we will check back with Chris. Chris is our Pentagon correspondent.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's going real well over there, isn't it?
BLITZER: It doesn't look like it's going that great. CAFFERTY: What a -- what a sad state of affairs, the -- the -- no runoff election. These troops have been saying, we need some help.
I mean, when do you think Washington might make a decision on sending more troops over there? Any word on that?
BLITZER: No word. Weeks.
All right. Terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay will soon be offered the swine flu vaccine. While millions of Americans can't get their hands on the stuff, the 200-plus detainees at Gitmo will have the option of being vaccinated against H1N1.
The Pentagon says it's because people held in detention facilities are at higher risk for the pandemic. The soldiers at Gitmo will be offered the shots before the detainees and others on the base. Similar plans reportedly are under way to vaccinate inmates in the federal prisons.
You could make a pretty good argument that people ought to be a little outraged by this. Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak is calling on the Pentagon to reconsider its decision, saying detainees should not get preferential treatment.
Meanwhile, people in this country are waiting in line for hours to get themselves and their kids vaccinated. The CDC had hoped to have 40 million doses of swine flu vaccine available by the end of October. That was, what, two days ago. Manufacturing delays have forced them to revise that number down to 28 million doses.
And, meantime, the virus is just wreaking havoc. It's spreading all across the country, particularly hitting children, teens, pregnant women. Another 19 kids died in the last week.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned on this broadcast how one of the largest pediatrician's offices in New York City could not say when or if the swine flu vaccine would be available for a co-worker's toddler. Well, still nothing there at the doctor's office. We checked this morning.
There's such a limited supply, that they are only offering it for a few select kids who have underlying conditions. But, Gitmo detainees, they are going to get it.
Here's the question. If there's a shortage of the swine flu vaccine, should terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay get it? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Mr. Blitzer.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much for that.
President Obama only hours away from being tested in the elections that start tomorrow, including in one unlikely place. That would be a -- a congressional district in Upstate New York. Depending on what happens tomorrow, it could be the launchpad for a conservative revolution.
Plus: an exclusive interview with the vice president, Joe Biden, about the day he asked himself why he really needed to call the president. Stand by for details.
And another incident where a plane and its passengers are put at risk because of bird strikes.
BLITZER: Attention, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney, Vice President Joe Biden talks about your political views being -- and I'm quoting him now -- "alien" -- tough words from the vice president as he visits an area in Upstate New York where political bombshells are dropping.
More on why Joe Biden was criticizing conservatives and his challenge to some Republicans, that's coming up in a few minutes. But blunt talk is set to be among the reasons Biden enjoys such close counsel with President Obama.
Their relationship is something he talked about exclusively with our White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one year ago this week, the Obama/Biden ticket was victorious, but these two former rivals didn't really know each other that well. They are from different generations, and some Biden gaffes got them off to a rough start.
But top White House aides now say that this partnership has grown to the point that Biden is one of the president's most influential advisers on everything from the economy to Afghanistan.
HENRY: How are you, sir? It's been a long time.
(voice-over): After nine months as vice president, Joe Biden still has the DNA of a back slapping senator, getting in your face and jabbing a finger in your chest to make his points.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The one adjustment that I needed to make, I have been my own man for 36 years as United States senator, I have never had a boss.
HENRY: Now he does and Biden confesses sometimes it's difficult to remember that he's no longer a free agent. Like when Biden called an aide with the news that Delaware's governor had decided on a replacement for his old Senate seat.
BIDEN: He said yes, did you call the president? I said, why in the hell should I call the president? It's my instincts. I said, it's my state. why should I call the president? HENRY: The aide explained he should not blindside the president, which happened too often in the early days, such as an awkward joke about Chief Justice John Roberts.
BIDEN: My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts'.
BIDEN: Chief Justice Roberts'.
HENRY: The president publicly corrected his number two, and later poked fun about the gaffes after getting a new dog.
OBAMA: You just have to keep him on a tight leash. Every once in a while he goes charging off in the wrong direction and gets himself in trouble -- but enough about Joe Biden.
HENRY: But top White House aides tells CNN Biden spends a minimum of two hours with the president each day, sometimes up to five hours.
BIDEN: I'm not trying to set up a separate center of power over here. It only -- it works best when there's a single center of power.
HENRY: He says that's a sharp break from Dick Cheney's approach, and has no patience for his predecessor's charge that Mr. Obama is dithering over his Afghanistan decision.
BIDEN: I like Dick Cheney personally, but I really don't care what Dick Cheney thinks. And I'm not sure a lot of Americans do.
Look at the policy they left us. Look at the policy of neglect they left us in Afghanistan.
HENRY: He is also consciously trying to catch himself before he slips up, even on a minor point about the Taliban.
BIDEN: Look, everything has changed, Ed -- not everything. Let me be precise. There's been a significant change in the last four months.
HENRY: While Biden insists the president never told him to tone it down, he's proud of his ability to dial it back on his own.
(on-camera): "Saturday Night Live" had a little fun with you about gaffes.
HENRY: Has the president ever had to say...
BIDEN: Fortunately, not lately. I'm -- listen, you know, I -- I -- I'm sort of a gaffe-free zone right now, you know? HENRY: Top White House officials tell me that while Biden's instinct of speaking bluntly in public can get him in trouble sometimes, that same quality, ironically, helps him get more influence in private because the president believes he's getting the unvarnished truth -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry is over at the White House.
Thanks, Ed, for that report.
Several people who regularly speak to the president are exclusively speaking to us, as well. In addition to the vice president, three people from President Obama's tight-knit inner circle, they are standing by to join us, the senior adviser, David Axelrod, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and the communications director, Anita Dunn. My interview with them later here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- part one today, part two tomorrow.
It's a heartbreaking notion for both parents. Their child is suffering, unable to breathe since just after its birth, but the question they are grappling has dramatically put the couple at odds. Should the baby be allowed to die, or should the baby be kept alive?
BLITZER: The violence in nuclear-armed Pakistan is getting bloodier. Dozens more are dead or wounded in suicide bomb attacks today. At least 17 people were injured in an explosion at a police checkpoint in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The other attack happened in the closely guarded city of Rawalpindi, home of the country's military headquarters. At least 35 people were killed outside a busy bank.
Let's go to CNN's Ivan Watson.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are some of the victims of this bombing that took place outside a small branch of Pakistan's national bank. All the men here, thankfully, survived this attack.
They are all military or members of the security forces that were lining up to receive their pensions, their monthly salaries at the beginning of the month, amounts of less than $100, when a suicide bomber rolled up to this line and self-detonated -- most of the victims, again, members of the security forces, who seem to be targets in this escalating conflict between the Pakistani military and forces of the Taliban.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Rawalpindi, in Pakistan.
BLITZER: Brooke Baldwin is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Brooke, what's going on?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when you're a pilot, you may not think about it, but you have got to watch out for the birds. A bird strike forced a Delta plane to make an emergency landing today. Talking about Flight 1232, which was heading for Salt Lake City. It had to return safely to Phoenix with damage to the windshield and the front of the plane -- fortunately, no injuries to report there.
And not licensed to operate in the state of Georgia, that is precisely how the Georgia Public Service Commission describes a company whose bus crashed over the weekend, injuring 13 members of the Morehouse College marching band. The bus, by the way, one of three carrying members of the band to a football game, skidded off the highway some 50 feet, flipped over twice. None of those injuries was life-threatening.
And it looks like a parade -- perhaps, it felt like one as well -- for Bay Area commuters. Talking here about the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge finally reopening today. Six days after 5,000 pounds of steel crashed on to the traffic lanes during Tuesday's rush hour, bridge engineers were working on installing a patch last week, but it failed the test just over this past weekend, so a second repair was completed yesterday.
And this next story might send a chill down Conan O'Brien's spine. Why? Well, Jay Leno has told "Broadcasting & Cable" magazine that he preferred his old time slot, the 11:30 time slot, and would return to that if NBC asked him. But Leno adds hastily that decision would not be up to him. Of course, here is hoping, Wolf, that Conan O'Brien doesn't read the magazine.
BLITZER: Wow. I'm sure he does. That's a huge event.
BALDWIN: I'm sure he does.
BLITZER: For entertainment news, that's big news, potentially, right there.
BALDWIN: Big news if he's moving back to the old time slot, yes.
BLITZER: Oh, yes. That would be huge.
All right, thanks very much...
BALDWIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... for that, Brooke.
What kind of Republican candidates will you see in the near future? Will they be moderates or staunchly conservative candidates? What's happening in one key race is splitting the Republican Party and could dramatically impact the party's direction. Stand by. And regarding swine flu, they are an especially high-risk group. We're talking about pregnant woman. One woman you will meet illustrates the incredible danger that H1N1 poses for expecting moms.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Across the country, polls will open in only a few hours. Voters will decide some local contests with some major national implications. Candy Crowley will be here to break it all down for us.
In Atlanta, the outcome of a six-way race for mayor could well be an historic surprise. Don Lemon is on that story.
And remember the 3:00 a.m. phone call, the ad that questioned candidate Obama's qualifications? Three of his top aides tell me exclusively how President Obama handled his first real 3:00 a.m. phone call.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Countdown to D-Day. In less than 24 hours, voters decide a few key races that the White House Republicans, virtually the entire political world, will be watching rather closely.
Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
A lot of people are rushing to say, this will have some significance, a referendum nationally, these local various contests. What do you think?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We tend to overhype these things sometimes, but there are some things to watch tomorrow, Wolf, that could well be sending a national message.
Let's start in the state of Virginia. We know, for starters, President Obama carried that state with 53 percent, turned it. It had not been since 1964. Let's just give the folks the lay of the land. Here are your two candidates.
The Republican, Bob McDonnell, is winning right now in all the late polls by about 11, 12 points. Creigh Deeds is the Democrat. He has struggled in this race.
Now, why is this important? Number one, the Democratic Party has been ascendant in Virginia. Five of the last seven gubernatorial elections, they have won. Two U.S. senators are Democrats for the first time in nearly 40 years.
The president of the United States has twice gone down to campaign for Creigh Deeds. He's also in a lot of the advertisements. I want to show you one of them. In the closing days, this is proof of the president's investment in this race. Let's listen for just a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CREIGH DEEDS CAMPAIGN AD)
OBAMA: ... a movement...
OBAMA: ... of Americans who believed that their voices could make a difference.
That's what we need to do in this race. That's what Creigh Deeds is committed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "That's what we need to do in this race."
I want to make a point here. Last time, the African-American turnout in the presidential race in the state of Virginia was 20 percent. Was that just about Barack Obama, or did he create a movement that lasts for his party?
The president won 92 percent of those African-American votes in Virginia, Wolf. That's one thing we will look at tomorrow. Are the African-Americans turning out, and are they voting in such a large margin for the Democrats?
Another big question, independents, it was about 25 percent, 28 percent of the vote in Virginia last time. And John McCain and Barack Obama split it. Do the independents roughly split, or are independent voters trying to send a message, not just to the Democrat of Virginia, but maybe to the president as well? We will watch that.
BLITZER: We will watch Virginia. We will also watch New Jersey.
KING: Now, let's go up to New Jersey.
This state even more at stake for the Democrats because of the history. We'll show you the candidates. This one could be a little interesting because of this man, Chris Daggett, six percent in this latest poll. In some polls he's been in double digits. He could have an impact on the race.
The Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine, is very unpopular. The Republican candidate, Chris Christie, probably a bit more conservative than most New Jersey Republicans. The Independent could make a difference here.
Again, Democrats have been dominating this state for some time. No Republican has won statewide since 1997, so if the Republican wins, you have a big deal there.
And again, President Obama has decided to make be a investment here. Three times campaigned for Governor Corzine, including just Sunday.
One more time back to those numbers.
African-Americans are a smaller percentage of the vote in New Jersey, about 12 percent. But again, the president got 92 percent last time. Do the African-Americans turn out, or was that just for President Obama? And can the Democrats match his numbers? That's a big challenge there.
Independent voters, the president got about 51 percent in New Jersey last time. Again, if you look at all the polling data across the country, Independents don't like the health care debate, they don't like the deficit spending. In their voting pattern, it could be a bit of a message to the president.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly could.
What about the upstate New York election, the congressional election in the 23rd district?
KING: Isn't it funny that a congressional race is dominating a lot of the coverage. You have the big governors' races, but this race is dominating because of this drama.
This was just the other day. The Democratic candidate at 36, the Conservative Party -- New York has a Conservative Party, as you well know -- they have a candidate at 35. This Republican, Dede Scozzafava, no longer in the race. Not only did she drop out, but she endorsed the Democrat.
Why? Because conservatives said she was not a good enough Republican, because she supported abortion rights and gay rights. Sarah Palin and a lot of conservative organizations endorsed Mr. Hoffman, criticized her. She dropped out.
The big drama here is, can the Democrats win this seat? It would be the first time in more than 100 years that the Democrats won this particular congressional district.
One more set of numbers for you.
President Obama did carry that district last time. New York is a Democratic state. The president carried it with 52 percent of the vote, well below the 63 percent, though, Wolf, he received statewide.
The Democrats want to win this seat badly to send a message that moderate Republicans are being attacked by members of their own party because right now, if you're a moderate Republican and you're up in this area, a big area for the Democrats. The Democrats want to send a message saying you're not welcome in your own party, come support us.
BLITZER: I just sent out a tweet to Twitter, and I asked the people out there, my followers, if the Republicans win in both Virginia and New Jersey, and the conservative candidate wins in upstate New York, what will that mean for the Democrats going forward? And I'm anxious to hear what these people think.
KING: And will mean a lot of energy on the right. without a doubt. If nothing else, energy, fund-raising. And the vitality was all on the Democratic side last year. We'll see if it shifts.
BLITZER: So there's a lot at stake tomorrow. We'll be covering it, obviously, very closely.
John, thanks very much.
KING: Thank you.
BLITZER: WolfBlitzerCNN -- you can tweet to me if you want at Twitter.com.
Even Vice President Joe Biden is weighing in on New York's 23rd district race.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's joining us now with more.
What's it looking like, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you just mentioned, this has become the race to watch tomorrow. It's a special congressional election, and it's turned into a race with dramatic twists and turns and a battleground for a revolt within the Republican Party.
DAVID OWEN (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: A lot has happened over the past few days, as I'm sure you all know. But one...
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that's right.
SNOW (voice-over): And what's happened landed the vice president campaigning in an upstate New York congressional race for Democrat Bill Owens. What was a three-way race dwindled when moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava abruptly withdrew from the race this weekend and endorsed her Democratic challenger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
SNOW: That leaves Doug Hoffman, the newest darling of the conservatives, endorsed by Sarah Palin and Dick Armey, a supporter of the Tea Party movement.
Joe Biden seized on the Republican family feud.
BIDEN: You know, they may not have any room for moderate views in the Republican Party upstate anymore, but let me assure you, we have room. We have room.
SNOW: Newt Gingrich was among Republicans who had supported Scozzafava, arguing that the Republicans needed to have a big tent. But critics like Rush Limbaugh say Scozzafava was a Republican in name only. RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: For Dede Scozzafava to endorse the Democrat in New York 23, I know a lot of people got mad about it and said -- no, folks, it's great. Dede Scozzafava is illustrating precisely what moderate Republicans will do and who moderate Republicans are.
SNOW: The conservative, putting the GOP to the test, says he doesn't see a civil war within the Republican Party, but he says he does see candidates like him emerging in future races, expressing concerns voiced at Tea parties and anti-government rallies.
DOUG HOFFMAN, CONSERVATIVE NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think that what you'll see is average people like me, who aren't career politicians and don't have the polish and poise of career politicians, standing up and saying we can do it.
SNOW: And some political watchers say while Republicans deal with the rupture, Democrats see a gain, even if they don't win a congressional seat that's been Republican dating back to the 1800s.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The Democrats are whooping it up because they think this will be further evidence that the Republican Party has become more conservative, more extreme.
SNOW: And Wolf, there was a new poll out this morning from Siena College Research Institute. It shows Hoffman, the conservative candidate, leading Democrat Owens 41 to 36 percent. But the number of undecideds is now at 18 percent. That number has doubled since the Republican candidate dropped out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, very interesting editorial today in "The Wall Street Journal," which said, among other things, this: "Democrats did themselves no favors by driving Joe Lieberman out of their party, and conservatives will do their cause no good by forcing GOP candidates in Illinois, California and Connecticut to sound like Tom DeLay. If conservatives now revolt against every GOP candidate who disagreeses with them on trade, immigration or abortion, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will keep their majorities for a very long time."
This coming from a conservative editorial page.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very conservative, not to mention probably helping to keep Barack Obama in the White House.
I've spoken with lots of Republicans today about this, and they say, look, this is a strange situation. This candidate was chosen behind closed doors by the Republican establishment. People don't like that. She was kind of to the left on a lot of cultural and economic issues. However, unless this party gets big tent -- and there's always a fight when you're not in power between the big-tent folks and the purists -- but they say if the party doesn't grow big tent, they are going to lose those Independent voters who are the margin of victory in any presidential race. And as Mary just pointed out, they're also the margin of victory in this congressional race.
BLITZER: So, if the conservative candidate, Hoffman, goes on and wins tomorrow, what that will say about -- how will that impact the GOP?
BORGER: Well, lots of Republicans I talk to say they're going to overreach and over-read the results of this. And what that may mean, for example, you may have a situation in Florida, in the Senate race, where you have John McCain endorsing Governor Charlie Crist, and you may have his former running mate, Sarah Palin, endorsing the more conservative candidate, Marco Rubio.
So, you could see the first McCain versus Palin contest in that Senate race.
BLITZER: And so, if you're a Democrat, you'll want to see this kind of stuff going on.
BORGER: You do want to see this stuff because, you know, you split the Republican Party right down the middle, and you're going to get those Independent voters. So be careful what you wish for in this victory in the 23rd district.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Thank you very much.
It's the first time members of the president's inner circle have given a joint interview since their election a year ago. Stand by for my exclusive chat with David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and Anita Dunn. They are going public about a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call over at the White House.
And a legal battle in Britain's highest court. A mother and father at odds over whether their child lives or dies.
And later, will terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay get swine flu shots before you can? We're digging deeper, sorting the facts from the fear.
BLITZER: It's a choice no parent should have to make, a decision on whether their severely disabled child lives or dies. Add in this painful twist the mother and the father. They are at odds over the son's fate.
CNN's Morgan Neill has more on this heartbreaking legal battle in Britain right now.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The child had the center of this case, known only as "Baby R.B." for legal reasons, cannot be identified, suffers from a rare condition called Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome, a condition that weakens the muscles and the ability to breathe independently.
In the case of "Baby R.B.," the baby has been unable to breathe since just after its birth. It's been on a ventilator since just after its birth, a little more than a year ago.
Now for the two sides in this case, on one side you have the mother of "Baby R.B." and the National Health Service, and what they say is, continuing to keep this child on life support is not in the child's best interest. They describe an existence that is miserable, sad and pathetic, in the words of one lawyer, an existence in which every couple of hours, fluid build up in the child's lungs, giving it a sensation that is like choking. That fluid then has to be suctioned off, which causes additional suffering to the child.
On the other side of the case, the father. And the father and his lawyer say give this child a chance. They say the condition has not affected this child's brain, that it sees, hears, recognizesies its own parents. They plan on showing a video to the court that will make that point, a video in which the child plays with and engages with its own parents.
Now, adding to the complexity of this case, recently there has risen the possibility of performing a tracheostomy on the child, putting a hole in its throat that would allow the delivery of oxygen directly to its lungs. Now, the expert that would have to come in and examine "Baby R.B." and decide whether that's feasible is just now being scheduled.
A lot of what we heard today were scheduling issues about when that could happen. But have no doubt about the impact, the potential impact of this case. If the court were to rule with the NHS and the child's mother, it would be the first time a British court has ruled against the wishes of one parent to remove life support for a patient that was not suffering from brain damage.
Morgan Neill, CNN, London.
BLITZER: An update today on how the swine flu vaccine is affecting some of the most vulnerable patients. Federal health officials say they're finding that a single dose is working well for almost all pregnant women, but they say young children will still need two doses for the best results.
CNN's Kara Finnstrom looks into the threat expectant mothers potentially say they see for themselves.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A year of twists and turns for Nancy Brizendine.
NANCY BRIZENDINE, PREGNANT WITH H1N1: I was like, "What?"
FINNSTROM: This past spring an unexpected pregnancy for the 42- year-old. Shock turned to celebration. And then just weeks ago, that jubilation turned to fear.
BRIZENDINE: I had, like, a cough, like, sinus infection, infected ear, nausea and fever. And then that's when I went into the urgent care.
FINNSTROM: Nancy tested positive for the H1N1 virus, and the fact that she was pregnant put her right in the middle of a group that experts are most worried about.
DR. ANTHONY DULGEROFF, HIGH DESERT MEDICAL GROUP: Women who are pregnant seem to be somewhat immuno-compromised. And it just turns out that women who get the H1N1 tend to get sicker than the general population.
BRIZENDINE: I couldn't even get out of bed and lift my head because I was just so sick and achy.
FINNSTROM (on camera): It's tough enough to fight the ravages of H1N1 at home, but many pregnant women end up waging a much more serious battle. The Centers for Disease Control says pregnant women are four times more likely than other H1N1 patients to end up hospitalized.
(voice-over): Just last week, an expectant woman from El Monte died from the H1N1 virus. She was 27. Doctors say for some reason, the virus seems to cause the most serious complications in women who are both pregnant and young.
Nancy believes age worked in her favor. She got better with Tamiflu and rest. But Nancy wasn't just worried about one baby on the way. You know, Nancy's 22-year-old daughter Kayla (ph)is also pregnant, and doctors strongly suspect she also caught H1N1.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more time.
FINNSTROM: The difference? Kayla (ph), who had no health problems, ended up with bilateral pneumonia and on oxygen support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, I was hyperventilating because I couldn't breathe.
FINNSTROM (on camera): Was she at risk of dying? I mean, how...
DULGEROFF: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
BRIZENDINE: Honestly, I thought OK -- honestly, I thought, is God giving me this baby because he's going to take my other baby. And I didn't want that to happen, so it was hard. It was real hard.
And that's -- you know, I'm thinking OK, you know, what can I do, being here? You know, I need to go to the hospital. I need to be with my baby. But I couldn't. FINNSTROM (voice-over): Three weeks later, doctors say mother, daughter and both of their unborn girls seem to be doing very well. But still there are fears.
BRIZENDINE: I was just worried, I mean, like what effects is this going to have on my baby? You know, and what effects are the medications going to have or what effects the X-ray is going to have?
DULGEROFF: Since the virus doesn't cross the placenta, probably not too much of a threat that we know of. However, if there are very high fevers in the mother, that could affect the baby.
FINNSTROM: Health officials are urging pregnant women to get the H1N1 vaccination, and Kayla (ph) and Nancy agree.
BRIZENDINE: And you have to realize, it's not just you, it's your baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BRIZENDINE: You know? You have to protect both of you.
FINNSTROM: In Lancaster, California, Kara Finnstrom for CNN.
BLITZER: Across the country, pregnant women and other high-risk groups have been lining up for hours to get their hands on the H1N1 vaccine. Officials promise that another 10 million doses are on the way, but they admit they are still behind schedule.
Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, how far behind schedule are they?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the flu season came early, as we know, but supplies of the H1N1 vaccine did not. And so we are getting used to pictures like this in Los Angeles County last week coming in from all over the country.
If we look at California, they have had 2.7 million doses ordered from the CDC already, but they are saying that by December 1st, they are going to need 10 million doses in order to keep up with demand there.
Across the country, in Maryland, if we look at where they are right now, about 450,000 doses ordered, but health officials there that we spoke to today said they were already expecting double that number. So what that means is, in some counties there, they are now canceling flu shot clinics for the H1N1 vaccine because they just don't have enough supplies.
Now, a CDC official said today in a press conference the numbers, the supplies are increasing, and can you see that from the numbers in the last few days. Twenty-six million doses available on Friday. Already today, that's up to 30 million, with another 10 million more expected on the way here.
But they said expect continued challenges this week because the states, Wolf, they have to order them from this stockpile, then it has to be shipped. So it's not going to be immediate relief. We'll still see more lines.
BLITZER: Because eventually they would like 100 million doses, if not more, for the entire country.
TATTON: Right. It's just taking a while to get through.
And if we look at -- some people were asking today whether this is a little too late, because we've already got this widespread flu activity across the United States. We've got widespread flu activity in 48 states. Only Hawaii and South Carolina without widespread flu activity, so this is still pressing for so many people. They are trying to protect as many people as the vaccine becomes available.
BLITZER: Let's hope that they get it and get it quickly.
Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.
Things are getting ugly again in the health care debate. A Republican congresswoman says you should be more afraid of the Democrats' health bill than terrorism, and that's causing a stir, getting incredibly swift reaction.
And in a city rich in history, the chance for more tomorrow. Atlanta could see a first in decades after the election, and it involves the issue of race.
BLITZER: Just when you think the political food fight over health care reform couldn't get a lot uglier, it does.
Listen to what Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx said on the House floor today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I believe that the greatest fear that we all should have to our freedom comes from this room, this very room, and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill. I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
I suspect, Dana, that's getting lots of reaction. DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right. I mean, it has the potential to have some huge aftershocks here on Capitol Hill. And almost immediately, the Democratic National Committee released a statement blasting that Republican congresswoman, Virginia Foxx, and I'll read you part of the statement.
It said, "It is outrageous that anyone would compare the action of terrorists to efforts to help American families get secure, stable and affordable health insurance." And this statement also went on to say that, sadly, from the Democrats' perspective, they say that this congresswoman and this sentiment represents what they call the mainstream of the Republican Party.
I can tell you that Congresswoman Foxx's spokesman tells CNN that this is something that she said off the cuff. These were not prepared remarks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, is she getting ready to explain, elaborate, back away? I guess there must be some reaction coming in from the GOP as well.
BASH: That's right. We haven't heard anything from her yet, but in terms of her own Republican leadership, I'll put up on the screen what the House Republican leader, John Boehner, said.
He was at a press conference with reporters, and immediately he said simply, "Members are entitled to their opinions." When he was pressed, "Well, wait a minute, do you believe that this is the right kind of language for this health care debate?" There was a pregnant pause, and then he went like this, Wolf -- he shrugged his shoulders and even made a joke that those of us in the room got the Boehner shrug.
But he wasn't the only one to comment. I also spoke with the House Republican Conference chairman, Mike Pence, who said that he didn't wants to comment on what he called the specific remarks, but he did not back away from them.
This is what he said. He said, "People are very, very concerned about an effort to launch a new government-run insurance plan." And he also went on to say, "It is generating strong emotions. Members of Congress are not immune from those strong emotions, but I have to say that the people's House ought to resonate with what's happening in the hearts and minds of the American people."
So there, Mike Pence was very careful with his words, but also was pretty clear when I talked to him that he believes that this is something that does reflect what's going on out there in the country in terms of the strong sentiment. And it obviously does reflect the incredibly divisive, partisan nature of what's going on here on this issue, particularly in the House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, let us know if Congresswoman Foxx wants to revise or amend her comments, and we'll bring that to our viewers as well.
Thanks very much, Dana, for that. A lot of Americans haven't been able to get a swine flu shot yet, and yet, the administration is planning to give the vaccine to terror suspects. Jack Cafferty has your e-mail.
And my exclusive interview with three members of the president's trusted inner circle. They're talking about some of the bad decisions, the harsh criticism, what happened over this one year since the president was elected.
BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Just quickly, the Republican congresswoman that caused all that uproar in the story right before the break, she's right. There's a $460 billion tax increase buried in the House version of health care reform, and I'll add more on it a little later in this program, ,because we're going to do a question about it.
The question this hour: If there's a shortage of the swine flu vaccine, should terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay get it? They are going to.
Dave writes from Maine, "Should prisoners in any prison get better medical treatment than the law-abiding citizens of the U.S.? The answer is no, but the reality is they do. Prisoners who need organ transplants get moved to the front of the line. The reason being the Constitution. Because of a little known provision that protects people against cruel and unusual punishment, and the modern interpretation of that amendment, we have to give better medical care to people who could be waiting on death row than we do to those Americans who can't afford health insurance."
Leo writes, "Has the government in this country completely gone bonkers? Women and children first. Law-abiding citizens first. Americans first. Stop making us the enemy."
Jim in Nevada writes, "Providing decent medical care to inmates is a tradition in America, and I would argue it's a good one. Treating the inmates at Gitmo like third or fourth class citizens might seem a good idea while you're enraged but loses its appeal once you calm down. When you think about it, those inmates have never had the privilege of a trial, we just assume they are guilty. Is it even remotely possible that in some cases we're wrong?"
Mike in Massachusetts, "Drop off the detainees at a firehouse in New York City. Have the New York Fire Department administer the vaccine. I guarantee they will never need another one."
D. writes, "Probably not, but 200 or so shots are not going to break the vaccine bank. Let's protect the servicemen and women any way we can."
And Steve writes, "Anybody here who recommends that Gitmo prisoners get a swine flu vaccine should be investigated by the FBI. Plus, they should get a kick in the ass."