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THE SITUATION ROOM
Battle Over Welfare; Clearest Pictures Yet from Mars Rover; FBI: Temple Gunman Killed Himself; Neo-Nazis Versus Al Qaeda; Swing State Polls Highlight Tight Race; More Or Less Confidence In U.S. Economy?; Fly Now, Have Bags Delivered Later
Aired August 8, 2012 - 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: The presidential campaigns wage a nasty battle over welfare. Mitt Romney takes heat for his claims against President Obama. But he's stepping up the attack.
It turns out the Sikh temple gunman actually killed himself after being shot by police. We have all the late-breaking details.
And we will show you the latest extraordinary pictures from NASA's Mars rover and the mockup of the vehicle that scientists are using here on earth.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mitt Romney is using ads, Web videos, speeches to hammer away at President Obama on welfare. Romney is taking a lot of heat though over his claims about the administration's policies, but with support from an unlikely ally, he's raising the stakes today.
Here's our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney is not backing away from his accusation that President Obama is trying to make it easier for the poor to receive welfare checks. And to help make his case, he's getting some help from an old rival.
NARRATOR: They just send you your welfare check.
ACOSTA: Even though his ad accusing the president of weakening work requirements for welfare recipients got a pants-on-fire from PolitiFact and four Pinocchios from "The Washington Post," Mitt Romney is doubling down on the claim with a new Web video.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This bill will help people go to work so they can stop drawing a welfare check and start drawing a paycheck.
ACOSTA: The new video not only touts President Clinton, who signed welfare reform back in the '90s, but also features a young state Senator Barack Obama speaking out against it.
BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: I was not a huge supporter of the federal plan that was signed in 1996.
ACOSTA: In Iowa, Romney said that only bolsters his claim that this memo issued by the Obama administration last month guts the work requirements in Clinton's law by offering waivers to states implementing the program.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now he's president. And just a few days ago, he put that original intent in place. With a very careful executive action, he removed the requirement of work from welfare.
ACOSTA: But that accusation drew a harsh rebuke from Clinton himself, who said in a statement: "Romney's original ad is not true."
When asked about Clinton's comments, Romney declined to respond.
QUESTION: Sir, what do you think of President Clinton calling one of your ads misleading?
ACOSTA: But Ron Haskins, a former Republican congressional staffer who helped draft welfare reform, says Romney's wrong about the waivers.
RON HASKINS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The purpose of the waiver is to help more people get off welfare by getting employment or to help people get better jobs.
ACOSTA: Romney is getting support from one of his old rivals, Newt Gingrich, who sounded a similar theme during the primaries when he called Mr. Obama a food stamp president.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's not just that Obama's a radical, but the people he appoints are even more radical. And I don't think they thought it would be a big deal.
ACOSTA: The welfare offensive comes as a new poll shows most Americans still don't have a favorable view of Romney. Ron Haskins says the president's advisers should have seen the attack a mile away.
HASKINS: If I were a political adviser to the president, I would say you better not do this now, because Republicans are going to claim that you're trying to undermine the welfare reform legislation. And that's exactly what Republicans are doing.
ACOSTA (on camera): And it's not just Romney and Gingrich who are making these claims. Other Republicans in Congress and even the party itself have picked up this banner, a sign that this issue could be here to stay -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
In the next hour, I will be speaking live with Newt Gingrich. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. With the Republican Convention only a few weeks away, the clock is certainly ticking on Mitt Romney's search for a running mate. Campaigning for Romney today, one of the presumed favorites, the former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, said Romney has a crop of unbelievably talented, wonderful people. That's a direct quote.
As to who Romney will choose, Pawlenty says, and I'm quoting him once again, "We will know soon enough."
Joining us now, CNN contributor Ryan Lizza. He's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.
What are the pros and cons of Pawlenty, for example, getting this pick?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think Pawlenty of the three that everyone's talking about right now -- and we should say sometimes the people we talk about are not the ones that are being talked about in Boston -- he represents outside Washington.
He has this outside Washington quality. We would have two governors on the ticket. He's competent. He had a relatively successful tenure as governor. And he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's a pretty on-message guy.
BLITZER: I have heard from some of Romney's folks that one of the problems with Pawlenty is when he accused him of having Obamneycare, remember? He backed away from it later, but that's a sound bite that could come back to haunt a potential vice presidential running mate.
LIZZA: I tend to think the criticism these guys make before they're chosen melts away.
You have the old sound bite vs. the guy standing now right next to Romney supporting him, just like the Bill Clinton thing with Obama that we just saw. You have Bill Clinton's old comments, but you also have his current comments supporting Obama.
I think that tends to fade away. The big picture on the V.P. I think is it's not so much about the candidate or the running mate. It's what it tells us about the guy on the top. Nobody voted in 2008 for Joe Biden. They vote for Barack Obama. And if they voted at all based on his V.P. pick, they thought about, what did it tell us about Obama?
BLITZER: You believe -- and so do I -- that Pawlenty is one of the final three.
But Paul Ryan, the impressive Republican congressman from Wisconsin, you have a whole piece about him in "The New Yorker" magazine, among other things, and you think he's one of the final three, as do I.
Romney -- you quote him as saying this -- "Romney's already endorsed these things," referring to what he is proposing. "I want a full- throated defense for an alternative agenda that fixes the country's problems. I want to show the country that we have a solution to get us out of the ditch we're in and to be proud about it."
It sort of sounds a little bit like Paul Ryan could be challenging Mitt Romney a little bit. Could he upstage him, if you will, if he were the running mate, given the clout that he has on the Hill?
LIZZA: Yes. And that was the context of it. He wants Romney to basically run on what -- the Ryan budget, which is a pretty controversial budget, but one that passed the House of Representatives with almost every Republican there voting for it.
I think Pawlenty and Ryan are the two polls here. And depending on what Romney's theory of this election is, he would go with someone like Pawlenty or someone with Ryan. If his theory is that the economy is terrible, Barack Obama -- this is going to be a referendum on Obama and he just has to be the sort of default Republican standing there once the country sours on Obama, I think he goes with someone safe like Pawlenty.
If he thinks things are a little getting better, he needs something big and bold, maybe high risk, but also high reward, he goes with someone like Ryan, tries to make it much more of an ideological debate and emphasize the differences between him and Obama.
BLITZER: I still think -- and I have thought this now for a while -- that Ohio Senator Rob Portman -- I think he's one of the top -- he's in the final three as well -- I still think he has the best shot. But that's just me. I have no inside information. It's just the gut.
LIZZA: He's the one that a lot of Republican establishment types in town really seem to like. Very smart. Long resume. Been around a while. Doesn't make mistakes.
The downside is his association with the Bush administration. Barack Obama wants to tie Romney to the Bush years. And Portman would let him do that, to a certain extent.
BLITZER: But -- and the other names that have been out there, whether Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Thune, you think those have all been pushed to the sidelines?
LIZZA: I wouldn't say that.
I think that this has been such a black box -- what is going on in Boston in these deliberations among Romney and his top aides have been so difficult to penetrate that I think there's just as good a chance that it's going to be someone that we're not actually talking about today, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I know there was a lot of pressure for Romney to make the selection before he begins his bus trip next week, although I'm hearing maybe that's going to be delayed until mid-next week.
BLITZER: But you got any idea about the timing?
LIZZA: We just don't know at this point.
BLITZER: Well, we will wait and see.
LIZZA: We didn't know -- Sarah Palin was not on our lips at this moment in 2008. I don't think Joe Biden was the leading contender as well. So I think we should be ready for surprise.
BLITZER: Right. A surprise would be good, you know?
LIZZA: I like surprises.
BLITZER: I like surprises in our business. That's always exciting.
Hey, thanks very much, Ryan. Thanks for coming in. Good article in "The New Yorker" magazine. I recommend it to our viewers.
LIZZA: Appreciate it.
BLITZER: While Mitt Romney's busy slamming Obama's record, the president today is going after the record of his Republican predecessor and touting his own accomplishments. Listen to this from a campaign speech earlier in the day in Denver.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to the economy it's bad enough that our opponents want to take us back to the same policies of the last decade, the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place, the same policies that saw jobs going overseas and ended up seeing people's wages and incomes going down, even as the cost of everything from health care to college were going up, policies that culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and that we have spent now 3.5 years trying to recover from.
That's bad enough. But when it comes to a woman's right to make her own health care choices, they want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And, Colorado, you got to make sure it does not happen.
Four years ago, I delivered on my promise to pass health reform before the end of my first term. That's what we did, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I actually like the name, because I do care.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the political scene coming up later.
But we're also getting new information on just how the Sikh temple gunman died. Brian Todd is standing by. He will have details from Wisconsin. That's coming up at the half-hour.
And NASA's rover raises its mast to take a stunning panorama of the Martian surface. We will have the latest images for you.
Plus, a way to get you out of the airport a lot faster without even worrying about your checked bags, all, of course, for a price.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, less than three months to go now before the election, and Americans are becoming less confident in the economy. That's not good news for the president.
According to Gallup's economic confidence index, July was the second monthly decline in a row, this after economic confidence actually improved during the first five months of the year.
This index measures the current economic conditions and the country's economic outlook. Americans were more pessimistic about both of those things during July.
Fifty-nine percent say the economy is getting worse. That's the lowest rating of 2012 so far. Americans' declining economic confidence due to several factors including weaker jobs reports, last month's report notwithstanding, lower than expected GDP growth, and Europe's ongoing economic trouble.
Meanwhile, a new report suggests the shaky economy is hitting baby boomers especially hard. A survey by AARP, the Association of Retired Persons, shows high economic anxiety extending far beyond the issue of jobs for pre-retirement boomers between the ages of 50 and 64. No surprise a lot worry about retirement. Only one-third of these baby boomers are hopeful or confident that they'll reach their financial goals. A third, almost three-fourths think they'll have to put off retirement and over half think they'll never be able to retire. Sad.
Many baby boomers are left with smaller pensions than they expected, more expensive health care, and the stress and costs of caring for other family members. The AARP also recently reported that more than 3 million older Americans over the age of 50 are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure due to the housing crisis.
So, here's the question: as the election gets closer, are you more or less confident in the U.S. economy?
You can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment there. Or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You remember, Jack, that question Ronald Reagan asked in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was the incumbent, are you better off now than four years ago? A lot of people said no. That's why Reagan presumably was elected as you well remember.
CAFFERTY: Although if you ask that question today, looking back at the financial crisis of 2008, a lot of people might answer that question differently this time around because we were -- we were at the edge of an abyss four years ago.
BLITZER: Right. Dow Jones was below 7,000. It's above 13,000 right now. So, people who at least invest in the stocks, they are better of than they were four years ago. But you know what -- what goes up can still go down.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Other news we're following: NASA's engineers just switched on better cameras aboard the new Mars rover Curiosity, giving us the clearest views yet of the Martian surface.
CNN's John Zarrella is at the jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the lander is being controlled. These are amazing pictures. It's amazing to think how they can control that rover from where you are.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. And some of those images that came down today, you have the mosaic -- the full frame mosaic that shows literally the Gale Crater wall in the distance. In the forefront you can see part of the rover itself sitting there, and also, the first little thumbnails of a panorama that they're going to be putting together. And a lot of those came from a mass cam.
Where I'm standing now, a lot of people call this, Wolf, the sand box. And what you see behind me is an absolute duplicate of the rover Curiosity. It's the engineering model. And it shadows Curiosity. Everything that Curiosity does on Mars, this vehicle will do.
And Vandi Tompkins is joining me.
And, Vandi, you helped develop Curiosity, develop rover, and now, you are a rover driver. And everybody always says, a rover driver, well, that's cool. But nobody really understands what it means to drive the rover on Mars.
Tell us how you do it.
VANDI TOMPKINS, ROVER PLANNER, MOBILITY & ROBOTIC SYSTEMS: So, actually we don't command the rover with a joystick or a steering wheel in real time. What we do because of the time delay from Mars, if we were to do that, by the time we would see we were at the edge of a cliff, the rover would have driven off of it. So instead we create an entire sequence of commands that tell the rover go -- say we want to go in a certain direction, we'll say drive one meter this way, turn, take a picture to see if you've gone as far as we wanted you to go, maybe go extra if you haven't, and then once it's done, it might take a picture of its surroundings and e-mail it back to us. Essentially it's sending it back. And then the rover goes to sleep.
And while -- when we get those images like the ones that you're talking about that you saw, we analyze them, look at them and decide where in that image we have something interesting and create the next plan.
ZARRELLA: Based on that you come up with a plan that go, OK -- the scientists say, OK, Vandi, we want you to drive it over there.
TOMPKINS: Well, not just me, but an entire --
ZARRELLA: Well, an entire team.
TOMPKINS: That's right.
ZARRELLA: Show us now, this is camera up in here, right? That's some of the images today?
TOMPKINS: So, the images you saw today we're taken by the mast cam, which is the camera up there on the mast. So, this is the mast that until yesterday was deployed. So this mast was laying back there. If you look at that casing there, it was flat across and that's how it landed. And then one time only we deploy the mast.
ZARRELLA: It will stay up now for the duration of the mission.
TOMPKINS: It will stay up there for the duration of the mission and we took pictures from it. The very first pictures you saw were from the rear. And the second set were from the front haz cam. These are low cameras that allow you to see the terrain right in front and give you a sense of the winds.
ZARRELLA: This here this is actually the drill and everything else. This is the arm here, right? Stowed.
TOMPKINS: This is the robotic arm. And it's stowed. It's stowed like this. This is joint one attached all the way.
So when we unstow the arm, it rotates it off. There's a bunch of hinges in which it's locked. It will rotate and it will come up to this position. We haven't done that yet. We haven't driven --
ZARRELLA: And that's going to be a while before you do that?
ZARRELLA: Yes. But now, it's incredibly complex. For anybody out there who thinks this is a simple machine, Wolf, look at this. I mean, all of this is exactly -- the wiring and everything that's on Curiosity.
One of the things we were talking about is this is exactly how it landed, right? The wheels are in this position?
TOMPKINS: That's correct. So, in order to fit in, wheels are still -- you know, this vehicle is exactly the configuration the wheels are as the real vehicle.
ZARRELLA: Vandi, thanks so much for taking time to be with us.
And, Wolf, again, you can see everything Curiosity does is mimicked by this rover. If in fact they were to get in some trouble on Mars, they can come here, use this rover to try and figure out what they need to do to get out of that problem. So they'll be using this for the entire two years plus that Curiosity will be working on Mars -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They've got a lot to do over the next two years. We're anxious obviously for the results. Thanks so much, John Zarrella, all over this story.
When it comes to the nation's weather, 2012 is going down in the history books. In a minute, we're going to tell you which records have just been broken.
And if you think the Obama/Romney tax fight is a rough one, wait until you hear what may happen to millionaires in France.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, this July wasn't only hotter than usual, it is actually the hottest July since the government started keeping records back in 1895. The darker areas on this map show where July's temperatures were the furthest above average. Basically we're talking the drought-stricken U.S. heartland.
And French millionaires are getting nervous about a tax increase proposed by the country's new socialist president -- 75 percent on incomes of more than a million euros a year. That's about $1.25 million dollars. "The New York Times" reports the big tax would hit a maximum of 30,000 of France's 65 million people. But you can bet those 30,000 people are thinking about moving away.
And China just hit by its third hurricane in a week, they call them typhoons there. The latest hit near Shanghai in a populous region. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to relocate and 500 flights from Shanghai's airports were canceled.
Wow, look at that rain. That is something else, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very much so. All right, Lisa, thank you. Today, the FBI released new details about the Wisconsin temple shooting, including word that the gunman actually killed himself. And we'll discuss the poll numbers showing President Obama with a slight lead in a pair of crucial swing states while Mitt Romney leads in another one.
BLITZER: Today, we learned Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed six people in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin killed himself just after he was shot by police.
CNN's Brian Todd is in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, following the investigation for us. Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have new information now about a woman in the shooter's life and as you mentioned dramatic new details on his final moments.
TODD (voice-over): In the crucial moments when police were trying to neutralize him, we now learned suspect, Wade Michael Page, was first shot in the stomach by a police officer. Then --
TERESA CARLSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It appears that Page died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
TODD: Officials say they still can't find a motive. No specific clues on why Page went on a shooting rampage killing six worshippers at the Sikh temple of Wisconsin. But they do have an idea of what brought him to the Milwaukee area.
CARLSON: He was probably here because of his relationship with her. I'm not going to get into why they broke up.
TODD: That's Misty Cook, identified as Page's ex-girlfriend. She was arrested this week on an unrelated weapons charge. Law enforcement officials are looking at connections that Cook, like Page, had with white supremacist groups as these pictures provided by the Anti- Defamation League show. But on the Sikh temple shootings --
CARLSON: We do not believe that she had anything to do with it.
TODD: But the hate group connection to this case has police on edge.
(on camera): We went to the home of the police officer who shot Wade Michael Page seeking an interview. He declined. And as we were pulling away from his house, we were quickly surrounded by police vehicles.
They ran background checks as two officers stood by our vehicle hands on holsters. We later learned police are concerned about possible retaliation against that officer from white supremacist groups.
(voice-over): The police tell us they don't have information on any specific threat to that officer. I spoke with the head of Wisconsin's biggest police union.
(on camera): Will this officer have to move? Will he have to change his phone number?
JIM PALMER, WISCONSIN PROFESSIONAL POLICE ASSOCIATION: I'm not aware that anything like that would occur at this time. Obviously, this event is going to continue to unfold and we're going to learn more about Wade Michael Page and the people with whom he was affiliated.
TODD: But how long do you think this officer will have to be protected?
PALMER: That's a good question. The more we know about Wade Michael Page and the more we learn about him and his background, I think that would determine what kind of cautionary measures are taken going forward.
TODD: Now, we felt the concern by police over this officer's safety was an important angle to bring out. But because of the sensitivity of this, we are not identifying that officer nor giving any other specific details about him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a good idea. All right, Brian, can you give us anymore detail though on the arrest of the ex-girlfriend, this Misty Cook?
TODD: Yes, we can. We have learned that they went to talk to her -- officials went to talk to her on Sunday at her place of residence to talk to her about Michael Page.
When they were there they searched her residence and found she possessed a firearm. Because she's a convicted felon, she's not allowed to have a firearm. She was convicted previously on traffic- related charges.
And those charges, of course, unrelated to this case. But because she was a convicted felon and possessed a firearm, they had to arrest her on that charge. They've since released her.
That again has nothing to do with this investigation and they say that they believe now that she had nothing to do with the shootings.
BLITZER: Brian Todd's covering the story for us in Oak Creek. Thanks, Brian, very, very much.
Since 9/11 Americans have been focused on the threat posed by international terror networks, radical Islamists. But does the Wisconsin rampage signal a greater threat by domestic extremists? Listen to this.
BLITZER: And Peter Bergen, our national security analyst is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Peter, you wrote an important article on cnn.com suggesting that these home grown white supremacist or neo- Nazi-type terrorists are more of a danger to the United States than al Qaeda. Explain what you mean.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, pose about roughly the same threat if we look at since 9/11. Obviously 9/11 is a different matter.
But in the decades since 9/11, we've seen eight incidents of lethal terrorist attacks by people motivated by right wing ideology and we've seen four incidents of lethal attacks by people motivated by al Qaeda ideology. The total death toll is not dissimilar.
So in all saying that either of them pose a mortal threat to the United States certainly. I mean, the number of people being killed in these attacks is relatively small.
But that said when people think of terrorism, they shouldn't automatically think of al Qaeda. They should think of right wing terrorism.
There are also eco-terrorists and animal rights liberation front folks that haven't done lethal terrorist attacks, but they certainly done property damage.
BLITZER: You're trying to keep this into some sort of perspective. Let me read to you from a Department of Homeland Security report that was released in 2009.
Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right wing extremists, DHS, Department of Homeland Security, INA, which is the office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS is concerned that right wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities. Do you agree with that assessment?
BERGEN: I think that's a very legitimate concern. Think about Timothy McVay, an Army veteran who killed 168 Americans in Oklahoma City in '95. Wade Michael Page in Wisconsin on Sunday, a military veteran, I think that's a very legitimate concern.
BLITZER: So this military training, do you think some of these extremists they go into the military to obtain the training and then go out and do what they want to do? Or they're in effect militarized by the military?
BERGEN: You know, I don't want to hazard a guess on that one, Wolf. Obviously, McVay had long left the military when he did Oklahoma City. Wade Michael Page had also long left the military. But having some military training doesn't hurt if you want to go out and kill people.
BLITZER: So the question is, what can be done about all of this? Here's what Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told me in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday.
MARK POTOK, SENIOR FELLOW, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: I really don't see any fault in law enforcement in this. I don't see how they might have prevented it.
You know, there are just a number of people out there and some tiny percentage of them will ultimately act on those beliefs, but when they're lone wolf terrorists like this fellow, Page, it's almost impossible to predict or interdict.
BLITZER: Because law enforcement always worried about first amendment rights. You can say anything you want. The question is, do you cross the line?
BERGEN: Yes. In this case, in the case Wade Michael Page, it looks like he didn't cross the line. In the case of Major Nadal Hasan who, of course, killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas motivated by al Qaeda ideology.
He was in touch with the Yemeni-American cleric in Yemen, Anwar Al- Awlaki asking for, you know, advise about whether it's OK to kill soldiers.
And I think in that case the FBI should have taken the pro-active stance. By the time he was in touch with a known al Qaeda kind of ideologue in asking for this kind of advice. But mistakes are made. Obviously first amendment rights are very important to protect.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, as usual, thanks very much.
BERGEN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Voters in some all-important swing states are sending a mixed message today. More of them think Mitt Romney's better for the economy, but most think President Obama cares more about them. We'll discuss in our "Strategy Session." That's next.
In our next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, he joins me to talk about one of the newest flash points in the presidential campaign, welfare reform.
BLITZER: New polls show President Obama with slight leads in two all- important swing states while Mitt Romney's ahead in another. The Quinnipiac/CBS News/"New York Times" polls show Romney with a five- point lead in Colorado while the president's ahead in Virginia and Wisconsin.
Joining us now, our Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile along with Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro.
Were you surprised, Donna, by these poll numbers that the president's ahead in Wisconsin and Virginia, but behind in Colorado right now?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, Wolf, I'm not surprised. This race is going to be a very close race across the country. Of course, the battleground states, the nine or ten states where they're running millions and millions of dollars in advertisement, that's where all the focus is right now.
These national polls really don't matter. It tells us what the sauce is, but not what the flavor is at the moment. I do suspect that Mitt Romney is doing a little bit better in some of these states given the what I like to consider all of the advertisement they've been running throughout the Olympics.
I try to look at the Olympics every night, but of course, these ads are distracting. So I turn them off and go get something cold to drink.
BLITZER: A lot of people are probably with you on that. Ana, look at these numbers. We're digging deeper into these three important battleground states.
The question is who cares more about your needs and problems? In Colorado, Obama 52, Romney 47. In Virginia, Obama 59, Romney 44. In Wisconsin, Obama 57, Romney 41.
The folks in all three states, they think the president cares a lot more about your needs and problems than Romney. What do you make of that?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they should, Wolf, because there have been millions and millions and millions of dollars running in those swing states against Mitt Romney.
The Obama campaign made a strategic decision and for the last three, four months, they have been bombarding us with money and with ads in the swing states. Why? Because Mitt Romney has no money to spend. He spent all his primary money during the primary.
And though he's sitting in a heap of money and the tables are about to turn, he can't start spending his general money until the day he gets nominated.
And so for the last few months and weeks the Obama campaign has been taking advantage of that to define Mitt Romney early. The big question is going to be, is it sustainable? And also, why aren't the numbers better?
We have seen so many ads that are very harsh attacks trying to paint him as the unlikable rich guy who's out of touch, who kills women of cancer. You know, so it's just -- that's the question. Are they going to be able to sustain it?
BLITZER: Let's not forget though that there are a lot of pro-Romney "Super PACs" that are spending millions, tens of millions of dollars trying to help them in those swing states and elsewhere.
But look at these numbers, Donna, because we're also digging deeper. These numbers not necessarily so good for the president. Which of these two candidates' policies will help your financial situation? In Colorado, Obama gets 22 percent, Romney 34 percent. In Virginia, 26 percent for Obama, 28 percent for Romney. In Wisconsin, 22 percent for Obama and 28 percent for Romney. So as far as policies that will help the folks' financial situation in all three states, Romney is doing slightly better than the president, Donna.
BRAZILE: Well, look, Wolf, there's no question that conservative measure the president against their fears, liberals against their hopes and the rest of us against our paychecks.
And President Obama has to continue to convince the American people that over the last three and a half years we've gotten out of the fiscal ditch that the Republicans have put us in. The same ditch they want to bring us back to.
We're on a slow road to recover recovery. The only way to speed it up is to get the Republicans to work with the Democrats to bring about a full recovery for the entire American people.
I just want to respond, look, the reason why Mitt Romney's favorabilities are not high is because he ran a very negative campaign during the primaries. And over the last couple of months he's basically taken his entire bio off the table.
We can't talk about Bain. We can't talk about his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. We can't talk about his faith. We're basically left to just talk about his tenure at the Olympics. And we don't talk a lot about that either.
BLITZER: When do you think, Ana, Romney will name his vice presidential running mate?
NAVARRO: I think it's going to be in the next couple of days. I think it might be as soon as tomorrow or the next day before this weekend. And I think Donna has a point.
And Mitt Romney has some very good opportunities coming up very soon to make the sale, to get himself better known by the American people. We have the convention speech coming up. We have debates coming up.
And we have a period where Mitt Romney's going to be able to spend -- outspend, actually, Barack Obama. He has been able to outfund raise Obama in the last two months and that money is going to get spent.
BRAZILE: It's wasted money. You guys have been spending money for three years saying the same thing and everybody is tuning you out because old song but no music.
NAVARRO: When you had more money, you spent it all. When we have more money, we're going to spend it too.
BRAZILE: Don't throw good money after bad results. I wouldn't spend a dime on Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: Well, they're going to have a lot of money to spend, Donna, as you know right after the Republican convention when Mitt Romney officially gets the nomination. They can unleash tens of millions if not hundreds of millions --
NAVARRO: Hundreds of millions.
BLITZER: -- of dollars. So it's going to be a powerful weapon that he will have in the final two months before the election. Ladies, thanks to both of you for coming in.
Getting to the truth about a harsh attack on Mitt Romney. I'm going to ask the co-founder of a pro-Obama "Super PAC" about the inaccuracies in its latest ad that's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
Bill Burton, the former deputy White House press secretary for the president, he will be joining us live.
Ahead, a way to get out of the airport more quickly without worrying about your checked bags, if, if, you're willing to pay.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is with the election getting closer, are you more or less confident in the U.S. economy?
J.D. in New Hampshire writes, "The economy is improving slowly but steadily. Even the real estate market's getting better. We were on the verge of another great depression in the fall of 2008. And it will take years to recover. Overall though, I'm optimistic."
George in Pennsylvania says, "With uncertainty comes fear. Unless one party controls both the House and Senate after the election, there's little chance for any improvement."
Jeff in Georgia, "Mr. Cafferty, since left wing economic policy has been and always will be a failure, I'll have confidence in the economy once every liberal is jettisoned this November."
Jeff in Minnesota writes, "Wouldn't take much to send the economy into a tail spin and based on what I'm reading and hearing right now, we might be right on the edge."
David in Virginia says, "I've always had confidence in the U.S. economy. It's a formidable machine for generating jobs, wealth, opportunity and innovation. I get very distressed when our economy's hobbled by uncertainty and political gamesmanship among our leaders, he puts in quotes.
They have no practical vision, which they're willing to share outside of campaign sound bites. Absent that backdrop our economy will drift and has."
And Ed writes from Maryland, "Less, because they usually make it boom leading up to the election so everybody can feel good when they go to vote. If they can't do that, forget about the normal times." If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Things are improving, I think, Wolf, but slowly.
BLITZER: Slowly, keyword slowly, Jack, good point. Thank you.
A major U.S. airline is trying something new to get your business. Up next, how you can skip the baggage carousel and have your luggage delivered right to your door.
And in our next hour, we're going to take you to the heart of the battle for Syria's biggest city.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Bulgaria, a firefighter works to put out one of the many fires that sprung up during a heat wave.
In Afghanistan, a soldier sits and talks with an Afghan boy while on patrol. In England, a woman watches a pro-surfing competition from a rocky area.
And in India, check it out, if we have the picture, a boy makes bright umbrellas. Unfortunately, we don't have that picture. But these are some of the "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world. We'll try to get you those pictures later.
It seems like every time you ahead to the airport there's a new hassle to slow you down. So you may be surprised to find out one airline's doing something to try to make your trip a bit less complicated.
CNN's Sandra Endo is joining us from Reagan National Airport here in Washington. What's going on, Sandra?
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you probably have this feeling more than anybody because a lot of times when you get off the plane, the last thing you want to do is wait for your baggage at a crowded carousel.
Well, now American Airlines thinks it has the solution, but you'll have to pay for it.
ENDO (voice-over): After landing at Reagan National Airport, Dick Sebion isn't waiting for his checked golf bag. He's going straight to a business meeting.
DICK SEBION, AIRLINE PASSENGER: I think it saves me time. Usually like golf clubs are the last thing to come out with the luggage. I would have to stand there and wait for the luggage. It worked out nicely for me.
ENDO: Instead this carrier is picking up the bag for him and delivering it to his final destination, in this case a golf course. It's a new luggage delivery service through American Airlines, which launched this week and it's available in 200 airports across the country. But of course it comes with the price.
SEBION: My feeling was that $30 to get the clubs to the golf course without me having to take them myself was well worth it.
ENDO: That fee is in addition to the airline's normal baggage charge. For the delivery it costs an extra $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two, and $49.95 for three to ten bags.
SEBION: I would think that for busy people with a lot of luggage it makes a lot of sense to do it. I just more than anything want to try it out to see how it worked.
ENDO (on camera): So how has it been working?
SEBION: Well, so far it's fine. I hope the clubs are there when I get there.
SCOTT FASANO, BAGS, INC. CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: We absolutely do full tracking on the baggage from the time we pick it up at the carousel all the way to the time it's been delivered. The customer should be able to see the driver's location on the map, as well as the driver's picture and picture of their vehicle.
ENDO (voice-over): And here comes the courier with golf bag in hand delivering it to the course.
(on camera): Ten miles from the airport in the rain and less than two hours later, Mr. Sebion's bag has arrived. Bags Incorporated is hoping this elective delivery service will be a profitable way to keep these couriers busy since baggage handling at airlines has improved and less luggage is being lost.
(voice-over): But the tests will be if people want to lighten their load or their wallets.
SEBION: Perfect. Thank you.
ENDO: Now, last year, American Airlines raked in nearly $594 million for baggage fees alone and Bags Incorporated says it hopes to provide door-to-door luggage service within six months and hopes to have all airlines on board pretty soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I like the service. I think I'm going to try it myself. Thanks very much, Sandra, for that report.