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THE SITUATION ROOM

Inside Scene of a Massacre; Vice Presidential Short List; Obama, Romney Decry Attack Ads; Former Skinhead Finds Life After Hate; Plane Crash Caught on Video

Aired August 9, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And remarkable video from inside the cockpit of a plane as it's crashing.

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

We begin with a CNN exclusive. Police in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, allowed members of the Sikh community back into their temple just minutes ago to begin cleaning up from Sunday's massacre, where a white supremacist gunman killed six people before killing himself.

CNN's Ted Rowlands and his crew went along today for an exclusive look inside the temple. Ted is joining us now.

Tell us what you saw, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was emotional, that's for sure.

The temple is now in the hands of the members and a lot of them have shown up to help clean up, as you mentioned. They are painting in there, they fixed some windows that were broken. They left one bullet hole at the entrance of their main prayer area. And they say they are going to leave that forever. They have patched up all of the other bullet holes. And they say there were a number of them throughout the temple.

We were able to see where the women and the children hid, in a very small pantry. We were able to see the prayer area where the only woman that died, died in the corner. Her son was there helping to clean up. At one point, though, he collapsed on top of the area where his mother died.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was also there, praying with people. It was amazingly upbeat atmosphere though, Wolf, I must tell you. And their hope is that this will be taken as a lesson to stop hatred and to stop the violence which afflicted them so deeply.

Most of the family members were there that lost loved ones. They wanted to be part of this reuniting with their temple. They are cleaning it up for tomorrow. Of course, there's a public prayer service here where all of the bodies will be laid out, all six of them, for members of the public to come in and pay respects. And then following that public ceremony, there will be a private ceremony here at the temple. So they are working diligently to try to clean up and get back to normal, as they say, as soon as possible, although they know things will never be normal again inside.

And that is why they are leaving that one bullet hole in front of the main prayer area, so that they do never forget and they never forget the lives that were lost, and they don't want those lives to be lost in vain. They really are hoping that the nation, the world will take away something from this and that something is that people will think twice about hatred in their own minds and violence as well. It was a very emotional scene in there, as you might imagine.

BLITZER: So, you're saying this memorial service will take place tomorrow, Friday. But will the temple have regular services this coming Sunday?

ROWLANDS: Absolutely. That is part of what they are trying to do, is get back into the normal flow. They will also have a special service tomorrow following the public service. It's a two-hour public service from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. here at a local high school in the Milwaukee area in Oak Creek.

They are asking anybody in the Midwest who wants to come to come and the bodies will be displayed there and then following that the temple will have a private service. And then on Sunday, they will have their normal service and they're trying to get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

BLITZER: I assume they will have beefed-up security, at least for the time being? Is that what you are hearing? What are you hearing about that, Ted?

ROWLANDS: Absolutely.

And there's heavy security now, too, outside the entrance of the temple. You have to drive up a fairly long driveway. And in order to get in, you have to get by a sheriff's deputy or two, and then near -- at the actual entrance to the temple itself, there's security. They plan to have security high for as long as it takes.

They haven't had any specific threats. However, as you can imagine, and you predicted, they don't want to take any chances, so they are beefing up security, not only here at the temple, but at the public event that is happening tomorrow at the high school as well.

BLITZER: Well, we wish them only the best. Ted, thanks very much for that report.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama inching further ahead of Mitt Romney in our polling, less than three months until Election Day.

In our latest CNN/ORC survey just out today, it shows that President Obama is the choice of 52 percent of registered voters nationwide, while 45 percent choose Mitt Romney for president. That's a small, but significant increase from last month for the president, when the same poll had him only three points ahead of Mitt Romney.

President Obama's returning to the White House this evening from Colorado, where he has been rallying some of his strongest supporters, yesterday, women, today, Latinos.

Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is in Colorado Springs. She is traveling with the president.

What was the president's basic message to Hispanic voters today, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I will tell you it was not as tailored as we saw yesterday when he talking to women.

It was basically his standard stump speech, where he was talking about fighting for the middle class, but particularly during his first stop today, which was in Pueblo, Colorado, he talked about immigration, really riling up the crowd and targeting a part of the state that has a large population of Hispanic voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama woke up in pueblo, Colorado, and had breakfast, but his normal egg order gave way to Texas-Mex.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, what do you recommend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enchiladas tejanas.

KEILAR: He ended up getting breakfast enchiladas.

Across town, traditional Mexican dancers entertained Obama supporters, and one of the most prominent Hispanic members of his Cabinet, Interior Secretary and former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, addressed the crowd and a Latina supporter, Crystal Meyez (ph), introduced President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're lucky to have this president.

KEILAR: Even though the Obama campaigned billed this as an event about Obama's support for a wind energy tax credit that Mitt Romney does not support, the visuals made clear this trip is about the Hispanic vote.

OBAMA: I think we did the right thing to say that a young person who comes to America, is brought here, is raised here, is friends with our kids, is going to school with our kids, is American in every single way, except for a piece of paper, should have a chance to be a part of the American family.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) KEILAR: A new poll by Quinnipiac University, CBS News and "The New York Times" shows Obama trailing Romney in Colorado by five points, but with Hispanics, he leads by 40.

Colorado is 21 percent Hispanic and growing, but Pueblo County is more than twice that. Hispanics, coupled with women, who the president focused on Wednesday, are the key to the Centennial State's nine electoral votes.

The Obama campaign is not reinventing the wheel on how to win here; they are borrowing the playbook of Senator Michael Bennet, who spoke at two of the president's events on his Colorado campaign swing.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: We know how to win tough races in Colorado. We to have win Colorado for Barack Obama. We have to win it for us. Our nine electoral votes could make the difference, it will make the difference, and every vote will make the difference in Colorado, take it from me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And he should know, Wolf.

Senator Bennet won a tough battle in 2010. And he did so by building a coalition of voters that included Hispanics and women, both of which President Obama was targeting on this trip. And he really needs them, especially when you look at how he is doing with men.

Back in 2008 in Colorado, he lost men by just one point to John McCain, according to our exit polls. That latest Quinnipiac University/CBS News/"New York Times" poll shows him down 17 points to Mitt Romney when it comes to men, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He needs that huge turnout, as he had four years ago as well, not just enough to get a big gap in the vote, but he needs them to show up, women, Hispanics and others.

All right, Brianna, thanks very, very much.

He is the potential Romney running mate who could help deliver a critical state. We're talking about Ohio. We are about to take a closer look at the vice presidential short list.

And at 40 past the hour, a former skinhead reflects on the Wisconsin temple massacre and the life he left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worst thing you did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have beaten people and left them for dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney will be announcing his vice presidential running mate any day now, but Republican voters are already telling us who they want. Take a look at this new CNN/ORC poll.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a clear favorite at 28 percent, 12 points ahead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal comes in at 8 percent, followed by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Ohio Senator Rob Portman at 6 percent each and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at 4 percent.

Our chief national correspondent John King has been taking a closer look at all the vice presidential contenders for us.

John, what are we learning about today?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You just mentioned Senator Portman there, relatively low numbers in our poll, Wolf. You know, Rob Portman has had a behind-the-scenes role in presidential and vice presidential debates going back nearly 20 years.

The big question this year, will he get a big debate of his own?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Rob Portman is at the Alt farm for a first- hand look at a punishing drought. On the one hand, Politics 101, a freshman senator checking in on a big issue back home. But there's something bigger at play here, and Phyllis Alt gets right to the point.

PHYLLIS ALT, FARM OWNER: I really want to ask you about being vice president.

KING (voice-over): If Senator Portman shares the GOP ticket, the history of his home state will be a driving force.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: The road to the White House goes through Ohio.

KING (voice-over): It is a must-win for Mitt Romney, and so Ohio roots a are major Portman plus. Others, a former Budget director who knows every nook of the federal bureaucracy, foreign policy experience from his days as U.S. trade representative and his Senate committee work.

And Portman is a pragmatic conservative respected by Democratic colleagues. Sources tell CNN the former vice president, Dick Cheney, has told Romney he views Portman as the best choice. Former House colleague and Portman friend, Rick Lazio, shares that view.

RICK LAZIO (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: If you want controversy, go watch "Jersey Shore." If you want to solve the problems that are facing America, pick a competent vice president to run with a competent president.

KING (voice-over): Some potential Portman downsides? Bush baggage. He served a president who left office very unpopular among independents. That experience many value translates into Washington insider to others.

And a low-key style some call bland, even boring.

(on camera): When some of your friends say, you know, Portman, good guy but he would be a safe pick, be bold, Governor, be bold. What goes through your mind?

PORTMAN: That's fine. I mean, I am a guy who has worked across the aisle to get stuff done. I'm someone who believes that, when you get elected to office, you're hired to actually achieve a result.

KING (voice-over): Republicans across Ohio say Portman would give Romney a boost in the must-win state, but Democrats, like Hamilton County party chairman Tim Burke -- that's Portman's old House district -- aren't so sure.

TIM BURKE, CHAIRMAN, HAMILTON COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Like so many Republicans, he has been driven so far to the right, right now and he is a Bush Republican, who helped give us the economy that we are still trying to recover from right now. I don't think he gives them the state of Ohio.

KING: Senator Portman is a case study in campaigning for the V.P. slot. Rule number one, insist you're happy right where you are.

Rule number two, rebut the critics.

PORTMAN: I'm proud of my service in the Bush administration. I was there as the Budget director for just over a year. And during that time period, we were able to put all earmarks online. I was also able to propose a balanced budget over a five-year period. Imagine that today.

You know, my dad did that for me.

KING: He insists he can rev up a room but also says the incumbent is proof pizzazz is overrated.

PORTMAN: Looking back to 2008, you know, we hired somebody to be president who made a lot of commitments, a lot of promises but, in a sense, it was a celebrity pick. And unfortunately, he didn't have the experience or the record or the policies to be able to do what has to be done to move our country forward.

KING: Portman's unique niche in GOP politics, going back to the Bob Dole 1996 campaign, is serving as a debate standard, Al Gore for George W. Bush, a famous woman in his friend Lazio's failed Senate campaign.

(on camera): How is his Hillary Clinton?

LAZIO: His Hillary Clinton is pretty good; you know, obviously not good enough.

KING (voice-over): So will Portman be preparing for his own big debate this time?

(on camera): Are you ready for this decision to be made? Are you tired of the questions?

PORTMAN: I'm ready for it to be made, you know? I am.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Wolf, you could hear that exasperation, a little bit of a sigh there at the end there, I'm ready for it to be made, yes, I am.

Senator Portman is not the only one. If you are on the short list, you are getting asked this question just about every day. All of them, Senator Portman included, waiting, waiting for Governor Romney.

BLITZER: Yes, and a lot of people don't know -- outside of Ohio don't know him, so that is an issue. But I know that the first criteria is, from Romney's perspective, is he qualified to be President of the United States? They have concluded he is.

Is he an effective debater? They think he could be pretty good.

But I will ask you, how would he do against Joe Biden if he is, in fact, the vice presidential running mate?

KING: Well, that is a great question because, behind the scenes, anyone who has had Rob Portman in the room, if you ask George W. Bush, if you ask Dick Cheney, if you ask, as I did the other day, Rick Lazio, what is it like? They say Portman is a very good debater. They say he studies the body language of the person he is impersonating, if you will, and he tries get under your skin.

Back in 2000, for example, he walked over to George W. Bush during the debate press and warned him Al Gore might do the same, get in his face, if you will. If you remember, Wolf, back in the 2000 debates, Al Gore did just that. President Bush told Rob Portman after, thanks, that helped me a lot.

BLITZER: It certainly did. All right. Well, thank you very much. We are going to continue our look at all these vice presidential contenders tomorrow with John.

The man "The Wall Street Journal" now wants to see as Romney's running mate, the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan. We will focus in on him tomorrow and, once again, we're expecting, any day now, Mitt Romney to make the announcement. We will watch it closely.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and our recent poll, I was just reminding myself of the numbers, 72 percent of Americans did not have an impression of Rob Portman.

BLITZER: Because they don't know who he is. BOLDUAN: They don't know who he is. So a lot to learn.

BLITZER: If he gets the nomination, if he gets to be the vice president, they will know pretty quickly.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes, a lot to learn on that front.

So, we are watching several trending stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, especially this very troubling, troubling story, allegations of abuse that are truly hard to comprehend. An 11- year-old says her father, a doctor, water-boarded her. The rest of our list is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Here's a look at some of the stories trending right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A Delaware doctor and his wife were arrested this week after their daughter told authorities she was punished by water boarding. Pediatrician Melvin Morse specializes in children's near-death experiences. Listen to what a reporter from affiliate WBOC told me earlier about the allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORRINA PYSA, WBOC REPORTER: She told detectives that he would actually hold her head under the faucet while it was running. It would go up her nose. The water would go all over her face.

And now we are learning even more details on this alleged punishment, based on court documents. According to the court documents, the girl also told detectives that her father said that she could go five minutes without brain damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Morse is in jail while his wife is free on bail. They have both been told, obviously, to have no contact with their 11-year- old daughter or her 5-year-old sister.

And a plane lands in Christchurch, New Zealand, returning today from risky lifesaving mission to dark winter-bound Antarctica. An Australian responding to a distress call had a narrow window of twilight to land on an icy runway at McMurdo research facility to pick up a person in need of medical attention. The person is believed to be an American citizen.

And the latest rover pictures from Mars include a 360-degree color panorama of the planet's surface. Engineers say they boosted the image's brightness to compensate for the dimness of the Martian afternoon, but the colors are untouched.

NASA says the rover is performing flawlessly. Keep those pictures coming.

BLITZER: Love those pictures. Love the rover. How cool is that?

BOLDUAN: A great thing. I think it is fun.

BLITZER: Manipulating it from here. Thank you.

There are wild claims and name-calling that is going on. Presidential attack ads, they seem to be getting nastier and nastier. Some say they are already over the top. So, what happened to all the key issues? We are going to debate it. That's coming up at the half- hour, next.

And at 50 past the hour, a front-row seat as a plane goes down. We have the dramatic moments all on video.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: name-calling, exaggerated attack ads. Why is the presidential campaign getting so ugly?

Passengers keep their cameras rolling as their plane crashes in the Idaho woods.

And fast fingers. Meet America's new texting champion.

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

They're exaggerated and misleading at best. They certainly don't address the very serious problems facing the United States. We're talking about the increasingly ugly attack ads both presidential campaigns and their surrogates are using, even though both candidates decry them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): I'm seeing some of the ads out there. I don't know whatever happened to a campaign of hope and change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ROMNEY: I thought he was a new kind of politician. But instead, his campaign and the people working with him have focused almost exclusively on personal attacks and not at all on the issues of the day.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These super PACs, these guys are writing $10 million checks, giving them to Mr. Romney's supporters, and basically, they all have just the same argument. They all say the same thing. They say the economy's bad, and it's Obama's fault. Every -- every time -- every ad's the same argument. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now with former Democratic congressman, Robert Wexler of Florida. He's now president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Also joining us, Republican strategist Barbara Comstock. She's an adviser to the Romney campaign.

And Robert, let me just let you respond, first of all, to what we heard. It's really getting ugly out there. You decry all of these false ads from either side, right?

ROBERT WEXLER, PRESIDENT, S. DANIEL ABRAHAM CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE: Sure. False ads on either side are not appropriate.

BLITZER: So, this pro-Obama super PAC ad which effectively suggests that Mitt Romney was at least indirectly responsible for the death of a woman because his company, Bain Capital, shut down a steel plant, that's over the limit. That's over the -- beyond the pale, if you will.

WEXLER: I would disagree, respectfully, Wolf with the -- with the predicate. Nobody's suggesting that Governor Romney is a killer or responsible for someone's death.

BLITZER: Have you seen the ad?

WEXLER: Yes. What -- what the ad portrays is a situation where a plant closed down, and Governor Romney's whole entire predicate for his presidential campaign is his ability as a businessman to create jobs. And the fact his work at Bain has not been so profitable for the people in many of these towns where he, in fact, bought business and ran...

BLITZER: The whole purpose of the ad shows that this woman died, and the implication is because Bain Capital, which he was the CEO of, shut down this plant.

WEXLER: When a plant shuts down, people lose their health care. And when they lose their health care, oftentimes they don't have the ability to buy the COBRA or whatever it may be.

BLITZER: Let's let Barbara respond to that.

BOLDUAN: Barbara, I want you, obviously, to respond. And the Romney campaign clearly decrying this ad, as many people are saying, that it is -- that it does appears deceptive.

But one thing that I found interesting that came through just late this afternoon is they may not like the ad, but the Romney campaign is fundraising off of it. We just got -- an e-mail came through that said, "We're not going to whine about this ad because politics is a rough spot," but goes on to then ask to donate $5 or more to defeat Barack Obama. I mean, is this a new low?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Not at all. Well, the Obama ad is definitely a new low. The Obama campaign has now been proven that they were lying yesterday about knowing the story of this gentleman. The ad has been disproven right here on CNN as well as MSNBC and "Washington Post" and all the fact checkers. It's been -- it's desperate.

But I think that the whole thing is because they don't want to talk about the economy and the 8.3 percent unemployment and the 42 months of unemployment over 8 percent. And the fact Obama isn't working. His economic policies aren't working. He think it's great.

Today, he said he wants to -- he wants to go in and do what he did, I guess, with health care and the auto industry. He wants to take over a whole bunch more industries, and he wants another $1 trillion spending spree. We cannot afford this kind of out-of-control spending. And this is why they don't want to talk about it they're trying to change the subject. And they're desperate and they're willing to lie because they can't talk about economics.

BOLDUAN: But fundraising off of something that they decry and you say is probably...

COMSTOCK: Well, because it's false. When people are...

BOLDUAN: Is that just lowering the level of where these campaigns are?

COMSTOCK: No, no. Not at all. What we're doing is pointing out we know we've reached the point where the Obama campaign will not talk about the economy and jobs, which is what the American people want to talk about.

I was in Virginia all day today campaigning all around the state. And I can tell you, No. 1, two and three issue, jobs and the economy. And they don't talk about that. Four hundred and one thousand women have been...

BLITZER: I want you to respond, Robert, but I'm frankly surprised that you are associating yourself and defending this rather controversial ad with this dead woman.

WEXLER: Well, I'm not associating myself.

BLITZER: You're defending it.

WEXLER: And nor am I defending it.

BLITZER: You're not?

BOLDUAN: Why can't you just come out and say it was a bad ad?

BLITZER: It was false.

BOLDUAN: It was false.

WEXLER: It certainly is false if it conveys that Mitt Romney is a killer. But I don't think it conveys that. Mitt Romney is not a killer.

BLITZER: It doesn't say he's a killer, but it suggests that what he did contributed to the death of this woman.

WEXLER: Well, it shouldn't suggest the death of any woman is his responsibility.

BLITZER: But that's what it says.

WEXLER: It shouldn't. But the bigger point is that Governor Romney has a set of policies and a set of experiences that do not favor the working group of people in the plants that we're talking about in that commercial. And President Obama, in fact, has talked about the economy ad nauseam.

COMSTOCK: He had nothing to do with that plant and had been gone for years.

WEXLER: President Obama has gone on tour after tour talking about his tax policies, which correctly impact in a very positive way the middle class versus Governor Romney's plan which, of course is a plan that favors the most affluent among us.

And your own poll, Wolf, today that you just talked about conveys the point that most Americans...

BLITZER: All right.

WEXLER: ... are actually getting the message that Governor Romney is not supportive of the working and middle class of America.

BLITZER: Listen. I want you to listen to how a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, Andrea Saul, whom I presume you know, how she responded to this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA SAUL, SPOKESWOMAN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: To that point, you know, if -- you know, if people had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney's health-care plan, they would have had health care. There are a lot of people losing their jobs and losing their health care in President Obama's economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, there are some Romney supporters, Ann Coulter, presumably. She says Andrea Saul should be fired for even raising the issue of Romney care in Massachusetts right now.

COMSTOCK: Well, listen, the point we're making is when you get Governor Romney in there, he's got a record of creating jobs. You're going to put people back to work. And when you have a job, you have health care. Good, high-paying jobs, which are the kind of things we've been doing in Virginia and Governor Romney is talking about when he goes around the states. He wants to get jobs, private-sector health care, not to have to have this big behemoth... BLITZER: Wait, did she misspeak, Andrea Saul? What do you think?

COMSTOCK: You know, I didn't really pay attention to that. I think the issue here is the Obama campaign...

BLITZER: We just played the clip for you.

COMSTOCK: Yes, but the Obama campaign doesn't want to talk about jobs. And when you have good, high-paying jobs, which is what Governor Romney has a record of doing, when he turned around all kinds of companies, you get health care with those jobs. He did have health care in Massachusetts, but good, high-paying private-sector jobs is what creates -- what creates health care and having it.

BOLDUAN: You're talking about jobs now, but something stuck out to me in the "Wall Street Journal" today when "the Wall Street Journal" was saying Paul Ryan should be the vice-presidential candidate, should be the running mate. This is what part stuck out to me and this is why just what you just said.

It said, "Mr. Romney and the Democrats want to make this a small election over small things: Mitt's taxes, his wealth, Bain Capital." It goes on to say Mr. Romney will lose that kind of election. To win, Mr. Romney and the Republicans have to rise above those smaller issues.

COMSTOCK: And we are. That's why we are taking -- this is -- the Obama campaign doesn't want to talk about the big issues of the economy and how we get it turned around. We need to start -- I hear investors every day...

BOLDUAN: Just came out today, though, Barbara, does not indicate that he's really winning on the economic...

COMSTOCK: I hate to break it to you: CNN's poll in 2008, came in sixth. Rasmussen poll that came out today, which is No. 1 in 2008, has 47-43 Romney. So that's likely voters. Your poll was registered voters. Listen, everyone know it's going to be close.

I think the poll on election day is what we care about. There was a recent poll in Northern Virginia that had Northern Virginia tied, which is pretty incredible if you're talking about Northern Virginia being tied.

I think everyone knows it's going to be a close race, but when you get through this convention, you meet this candidate and find...

BLITZER: Robert, the last word. Go ahead and respond to it.

WEXLER: The Obama administration's record in terms of private- sector growth is extraordinary: almost three years of straight private-sector growth. We're losing, unfortunately, jobs in the public sector, largely because the Congress doesn't implement the president's program. So Americans are beginning to truly understand this is a very difficult situation. But the president's plan will continue us on a very steady and aggressive growth in the private sector. Hopefully, the public sector will even out, but Governor Romney, unfortunately, hasn't offered anything new in this regard.

And in terms of the bold actions that the "Wall Street Journal" was talking about, some of that bold action is vouchering Medicare and doing things with health-care programs, particularly those that are sacred to seniors, that by and large, seniors have rejected.

BLITZER: Wait, we've got...

COMSTOCK: To Virginia on Saturday when Governor Romney is there. You're going to see a lot of bold policies and a lot of supporters there.

BLITZER: In Virginia right now, this Quinnipiac/"New York Times"/CBS poll has the president ahead in Virginia. But I know you're helping Romney in Virginia. You've got a lot of work ahead of you.

I'll take our poll over Rasmussen's poll any day of the week, Barbara.

COMSTOCK: OK.

BLITZER: But that's just me. And a lot of other experts would probably agree with me, as well. But you can disagree. This is a free country.

Robert Wexler, thanks very much for coming in.

Barbara Comstock, thanks to you, as well.

He says he can identify with the gunman who shot six testimony to death at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Up next, the moving story of how this former skinhead turned his life around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNO MICHAELIS, FORMER SKINHEAD: I could have very easily ended up where Wade Page ended up on Sunday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Members of the Sikh temple in Wisconsin where Wade Page shot and killed six people before killing himself are now inside cleaning up the mess they left the -- that was left behind.

The rampage struck a chord with one former skinhead who's now helping others trying to leave hate behind. He talked to CNN's Brian Todd, who's in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for us. Brian, he has a rather compelling story to tell? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly does, Wolf. You know, while law enforcement officials try to ascertain some kind of motive for the shooting, we're getting some idea of the possible mindset, the lifestyle of the suspect, from someone who's been in those shoes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Arno Michaelis never met Wade Michael Page but says he can identify with him.

MICHAELIS: I can identify with him, because I was there. If it wasn't for things that -- very fortunate things that happened to me along the way and help I got from other people, many of whom I had claimed to hate, I could have very easily ended up where Wade Page ended up on Sunday.

TODD (on camera): You could have done those killings?

MICHAELIS: Well, it's important to understand that Wade Page was living in this reality of terror that he had created.

TODD (voice-over): A similar reality, Michaelis says, that he had created for himself for seven years, as a white supremacist skinhead, remnants of that life inked on his left arm.

MICHAELIS: The ruins below here are north ruins, and it says Raholwa, which is a contraction of "racial holy war."

TODD: Like Page, Michaelis fronted a supremacist band. His was called Centurion.

MICHAELIS (SINGING): We'll drive the Muds out of our lands. We'll crush the Jews back into the sands.

TODD: There wasn't a single episode that drove him into that life, Michaelis says. He says his parents were not racist but that there was alcoholism and verbal abuse in his family, which made him want to lash out.

By age 16, he was moving in skinhead circles in Milwaukee. He estimates he violently attacked people of other races or religions about once a week for four or five years.

(on camera) What was the worst thing you did?

MICHAELIS: I've beaten people and then left them for dead.

TODD (voice-over): Michaelis believes that, if Wade Michael Page was anything like how he was, Page was suffering in his final days.

MICHAELIS: His day-to-day life was nothing but terror. Everywhere he looked in the world around him -- going to work, at work, getting home from work -- everything threatened him. And when you are in that environment, there is no room for happiness. There's no room for joy. TODD: Michaelis says he attempted suicide twice.

(on camera) But in what can only be described as a twist in life, a seed was planted in Arno Michaelis to change. It came in a place he wouldn't have figured from someone he never could have imagined.

(voice-over) He'd started going to McDonald's on pay days. He says he came upon an older, kindly, African-American woman working behind the counter, who greeted him warmly as she took his order.

MICHAELIS: I was really kind of disconcerted. It was -- it was hard when black people were very kind to me when I was trying to hate them.

TODD: Once, after getting a swastika tattooed on his middle finger, Michaelis went back into that McDonald's. He found himself trying to hide the swastika from that lady, but she saw it.

MICHAELIS: She looked me right in the eye, and she said, "I know you're a better person than that. That's not who you are."

And I -- I just said, "Could I please have my Big Mac?" And I got my food, and I went and ate it. I never went back to that McDonald's.

TODD: You never saw her again?

MICHAELIS: Never saw her again, but I've -- 20 years later, I haven't forgotten that moment.

TODD: It led him to eventually move away from those groups and to start his own, an organization called Life After Hate, dedicated to helping people transition out of that existence.

I asked Michaelis what he'd say if a supremacist was sitting across from him now, contemplating a similar, horrific act.

MICHAELIS: I would challenge them to think about what happens after that and to think about someone in their life who they love.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Michaelis says his real slap-in-the-face moment came after a friend of his was murdered in a street fight. He says he is convinced that Sunday's shootings were a slap-in-the-face moment for someone in a hate group somewhere, and he desperately wants to help them. He wants them to go to his Web site -- it's called LifeAfterHate.org -- to try to start to climb out of that hole -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks for that report. Good, useful information for all of us to digest.

Let's check in with Erin Burnett right now to see what she's working on coming up in our next hour. Erin, what's "OUTFRONT" tonight? ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, Wolf, I was listening to that fascinating report, and we do have the latest, sort of a -- maybe a miracle is going to happen, out of the three victims who are still fighting for their lives after the shooting at the Sikh temple on Sunday.

And we're going to be talking about the RNC and the prayer. Will there be a Mormon prayer? This is an important and momentous decision. We're going to explain why.

Plus, hypocrisy, Wolf, in Washington. I know you, say, roll your eyes: "Come on, Erin, that's a lot of that -- there's a lot of it." But we've looked into when someone says, "Look, I really want to care about cutting spending. I want to close loopholes," and then goes and ardently champions their own loopholes. Who are the worst offenders of both parties? Top of the hour.

Back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be looking forward to it, Erin. Thanks very, very much.

BURNETT: All right.

BLITZER: It's a heart-stopping event that no one wants to experience: above the trees one minute, going down the next. You're going to see it as it happens.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's not every day we see video of a plane crash as it happens. But these images are even more remarkable. They were shot from inside the cockpit as the plane was actually going down. The four men lived -- inside the plane, they lived to share the near-death ordeal they all caught on videotape.

CNN's Sandra Endo is here. She's got more on this dramatic video. Give us the story, Sandra, behind the story.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was a group of hikers, just out to enjoy a sunny day in the Idaho mountains. And after their morning hike, they wanted to fly their small single-engine plane to a nearby town for dinner.

Take a look at this dramatic video to see what happened next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (voice-over): It started out all smiles during takeoff. Four men on board a 1947 Stinson single-engine plane, taking a short flight across the picturesque Idaho mountains and capturing nature's beauty with their video cameras.

But just minutes after takeoff, things went terribly wrong. The plane is struggling to climb. Then it drops, flying so low, it started skimming tree tops. Yet, no panic from those on board. Then, the footage goes black. The cameras keep rolling, capturing the aftermath of the crash. All four men survived. Tol Gropp was one of the passengers. His father, Leslie, was piloting. As they were getting into trouble, Tol had confidence in his father, who flew helicopters in Vietnam.

TOL GROPP, SURVIVOR: I still felt, even as I saw us coming closer to the trees, that my dad would pull us out of it and that we'd be OK.

I remember hitting the trees, and it sounded like rapid fire. Gunfire it sounded like. But then we were all upside-down, seat belted in. And you can hear in the video my dad asking if everyone is all right.

ENDO: We showed the remarkable video to some local Washington, D.C., pilots for their take on what went wrong.

JOSH MILAM, CERTIFIED PILOT: The field elevation was very high. The temperature that day was very high. The air just wasn't dense enough for the engine to produce the power that it's rated to produce.

ENDO: Despite the mangled mess, the pilot was the only one seriously injured. His jaw broke in three places. But in the end, nobody's spirits were broken that day. All of them just thankful to be alive.

GROPP: I honestly believe my dad, you know, saved our lives by the way he continued to fly the plane through the trees and making sure that, you know, he didn't give up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GROPP: Luckily, two campers rushed to the crash site within 15 to 20 minutes, and then they went to get help -- Wolf and Kate.

BLITZER: All four of them are OK. Thanks for that gripping, gripping report. Good news at the end. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Amazing video. Thank you so much, Sandra.

It isn't quite the Olympics, but stand by for the fastest thumbs in the country. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's something you don't want to miss. This might make you a little dizzy. I'm just going to warn you. It made me a little dizzy.

It's a swimming pool with a view that's hard to beat. And it's our picture of the day. This is at the Holiday Inn hotel in Shanghai, China. Part of the glass-bottom pool juts out from the building 24 stories up, giving swimmers the illusion of floating in the sky. We are looking up at it right now. Pretty amazing stuff. Also amazing, a teenager from Wisconsin has been named the fastest texter in America for the second year in a row. Seventeen- year-old Austin Wierschke defended his title at the sixth annual LG national texting competition. He texted 149 characters in 39 seconds with capitalization, punctuation, symbols and no errors.

Eleven competitors texted forward, backward and blindfolded. Austin credits abnormally fast thumbs for his victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUSTIN WIERSCHKE, FASTEST TEXTER IN AMERICA: Well, obviously, I text a lot. I text my friends. I text my family. I -- as I'm riding passenger in the car, I text just street signs as we're driving by. I think anything with pretty much words or symbols on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It goes on. He says he'll use his $50,000 prize to help pay for college.

BLITZER: Should we have a little text war ourselves?

BOLDUAN: I'm very bad at spelling, as you've seen in my e-mails.

BLITZER: I used to be a good thumb warrior.

BOLDUAN: You are a warrior; you are a thumb warrior.

BLITZER: Thumb warrior.

BOLDUAN: Yes. He actually just beat someone in the break with his thumb...

BLITZER: Sandra Endo. Not much of a challenge.

BOLDUAN: She gave up.

BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter: @WolfBlitzer, @KateBolduan. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

BURNETT: "OUTFRONT" tonight, mudslinging and mayhem are hurting both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.