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THE SITUATION ROOM

Presidential Candidates Prepare to Debate; Interview With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Changing the Court with Four More Years; New Romney Ad Shows Representative Pelosi; Romney Pounces on Biden Remark; Will Democrats Take Back the House?; How Can Romney Win Debate?

Aired October 2, 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: A new poll has bad news for Mitt Romney when it comes to one of the country's most important groups of voters.

Tomorrow night won't be the first time Romney and the president have come face-to-face, but you may be surprised at how seldom they have actually met.

And the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM live this hour. I will ask her about the Democrats' chances of taking back control of the House of Representatives.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Your in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're down to just 35 days until the actual presidential election, exactly five weeks from today. And here's where the race may be decided. We're getting our first look inside the debate hall over at the University of Denver.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, they are getting ready to face off tomorrow night.

And as CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, discovered, it will be one of the very two times the two men have actually met in person.

Jim is joining us now live from Littleton, Colorado.

What's the latest on this particular score, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you right now that Ann Romney is about to take the stage behind me. She's going to be holding an event here in Littleton, Colorado, in a few moments from now.

And, as you know, she's been one of this campaign's most effective surrogates and has been very busy doing just that while her husband, Mitt Romney, has been doing debate preparations just a short distance away in Denver. And it will be fascinating, Wolf, to watch the body language between Mitt Romney and President Obama tomorrow night when they meet face-to-face.

As the Obama campaign revealed to CNN, the two men have only met a few times in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Flash back to 2008 and there they are, then- Senator Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sharing a few moments on stage after back-to-back Democratic and Republican presidential debates in New Hampshire.

They also ran into each other at a Labor Day parade in 2007. A campaign source cataloging the meetings tells CNN these are just two of the three times the candidates have ever seen each other in person. Flash forward to 2012, one day before the debate. Romney briefly stopped for lunch, grabbing burritos at a Chipotle with his sparring partner, Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People want to know who's going to win. Who's going to score the punches?

ACOSTA: At a pre-debate rally in Denver, Romney seemed to downplay reports that his campaign has prepped him with zingers to go after the president.

ROMNEY: It's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, the president and myself. It's about something bigger than that. It will be a conversation with the American people that will span almost an entire month.

ACOSTA: Romney aides say the GOP nominee is adjusting his debate tactics away from what worked with a handful of opponents on stage to a more one-on-one approach.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's only one person on stage. It's done three nationally televised head-to-head debates in a general election format. That's been President Obama. Governor Romney hasn't.

ACOSTA: During the primaries, Romney demonstrated he can stumble, as he did trying to bet Rick Perry big money at one debate.

ROMNEY: Rick, I will tell you what, $10,000, $10,000 bet?

ACOSTA: But Romney is no debate lightweight, here taking down Newt Gingrich's idea for a moon colony in Florida.

ROMNEY: If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I would say, you're fired.

ACOSTA: While Romney stays behind closed doors, he's fine-tuning his message, softening his position on immigration. He told "The Denver Post" he will honor the president's recent stopgap measure allowing the children of undocumented workers to stay in the country until immigration reform is passed.

He's also out with a tough new ad linking President Obama to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. NARRATOR: Who will raise taxes on the middle class? Barack Obama and the liberals already have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And in just last couple of hours, Vice President Joe Biden may have handed the Romney campaign some fresh ammunition for tomorrow night's debate.

Apparently, at an event earlier today in Charlotte, North Carolina, Wolf, Biden said, how can the Romney campaign justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried in his words, buried, the last four years. Paul Ryan at a campaign event in Iowa just a few moments ago seized on those comments and said Vice President Biden said that the middle class has been buried. We agree.

He goes onto say that means we need to stop digging by electing Mitt Romney the next president of the United States, Wolf.

I have a strong sense this will be brought up at tomorrow night's debate, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will have a lot more on what Joe Biden has just said and the very tough reaction coming in from the Romney campaign. Gloria Borger is standing by on that front.

Both of these campaigns, they are bringing major surrogates to Denver to appear in the so-called spin room after the debate tomorrow night. What are you learning about the Romney campaign's people who are coming in?

ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, it's probably no surprise Rob Portman, Mitt Romney's chief sparring partner, playing the role of Barack Obama during the debate prep, he will be in the spin room tomorrow night.

But we have also learned, Wolf, that Marco Rubio, the rising star, senator from Florida who had a prominent role at the Republican Convention, he will also be in the spin room. It's interesting to note this comes just as Mitt Romney's making some new gestures in some outreach, you could say, to the Latino community. So notable that he will be there as well.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Thanks very, very much, Jim Acosta in Littleton, Colorado.

All right, this just coming in to CNN, the results of our brand-new poll among Latinos all over the United States, certainly one of the country's fastest growing and increasingly important groups of voters.

Look at this. It shows overwhelming support for President Obama. He leads Mitt Romney 70 percent to 26 percent among likely Latino voters.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's joining us from Denver, the site of the debate tomorrow night.

John, you have taken a close look at these numbers. Are there any nuggets in there that may be good for the Romney campaign? Because 70 percent of Latinos voting saying they're likely to vote for the president of the United States, that's pretty bad for Romney.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have scrubbed the numbers, looked at all the sort of cross-tabs, and in a word, no, there is nothing, nothing encouraging for the Romney campaign in the poll of likely Latino voters.

One way you judge an incumbent president, President Obama is on the ballot, and one way you judge his political standing is you ask people what do you think of his job performance?

We know among all Americans, they are split. All Americans likely voters are split on that question. Do they approve or disapprove of the president's job performance? But look at these numbers among Latinos, and nearly seven in 10, 68 percent, say they approve of the president's job performance. Only 28 percent disapprove.

Look at this. Again, you look across and looking in here to try to find some nugget of hope for Governor Romney. Among Latinos who describe themselves as moderates, 76 percent say they plan on voting for President Obama. Among those who describe themselves as conservatives, conservative Latino voters, you would think that would be Governor Romney's base, 55 percent, a majority of conservative Latinos, say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate for president.

You look throughout these numbers and you know Latino voters, a swing population here in Colorado, in Nevada, in the state of Florida, other battleground states, very bleak news for Governor Romney, as Jim Acosta just noted. He's trying to accelerate his outreach. He's got a lot of work to do.

BLITZER: Yes, he certainly does, because I checked with the exit polls four years ago and I think they showed that at that time in the race against John McCain, then Senator, now President Obama, what, did he get, 67, 68 percent or so of Latino voters. He seems to be doing even better right now among Latino voters.

Here's the question, John, for you. Are these guaranteed votes that the president can put in the bank right now five weeks to the day before the election?

KING: Again, in a word, the answer is no, or not quite.

Because this is such an important constituency, part of our reporting here in Colorado, Wolf, we went to an Obama campaign local headquarters last night just outside of Denver in the beginning of the suburban stretch and they were making phone calls to Latino voters because they know this in the Obama campaign.

It's not just the percentage you get on Election Day. It's how many turn out. And there is deep concern. While we were there at the phone bank we spoke to several people in the room that say when they call the Latino voters, they are hearing more and more unlike four years ago people saying he's been president four years and where are the jobs? Or he's just another politician. Or this is the choice of the lesser of two evils, Romney and Obama.

One woman who worked the phones in 2008 with the Latino vote who was there last night said that there's not as much hope and not as much hype as four years ago. They believe that when they do reach Latinos who say for the president their numbers match up to our polling numbers. They think they will get the overwhelming percentage of the Latino vote.

The question is, will turnout dip from 2008? And if that's the case, and this election is close, Governor Romney is hoping the Republican base turns out. That could be the big factor. The Obama campaign is working this constituency very, very hard. One thing they will do here in Colorado, Wolf, and in other states, try to get them to turn out. The early voting window opens here in Colorado in about 11 days.

They hope to get as many voters as possible to vote early so they can make sure, go back and double and triple check their list that they actually voted. That's the big worry, a drop in turnout.

BLITZER: Yes, turnout is critical. Thanks very much, John. John's in Denver for us.

And as Jim Acosta just mentioned a few moments ago, the Romney campaign is now pouncing on a remark that the vice president made earlier today while campaigning in North Carolina, another key battleground state.

Listen to what the vice president said in Charlotte.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Romney/Ryan tax plan will raise taxes on middle-class families with a child, one or more children, by an additional $2,000 a year.

How -- no, no, all kidding aside, with all the boos, we can stop all that malarkey. Look, guys, this is deadly earnest, man. This is deadly earnest. How they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years, how in lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A tweet from Mitt Romney says this: "Agreed with @JoeBiden, the middle class has been buried last four years, which is why we need a change in November."

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, channel in Vice President Joe Biden right now. What was he trying to say Obviously didn't come across as well as he would have liked.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what he was clearly trying to say, and the Obama campaign was very quick to point this out, is that what he was trying to say is that the middle class was buried under George W. Bush, and that that's what started the problems for the middle class and that the Obama administration has started to pull it out by its bootstraps.

And so the Obama campaign just in case we didn't get that has a statement that says that: "The Romney campaign is taking this entirely out of context. It's obvious in looking at the full transcript that Joe Biden was talking about the fact that the middle class was buried under failed Bush policies."

And, of course, they say Romney/Ryan would change all that. However, this is an opportunity, which the Romney campaign is taking, to say, you know what, yes, we agree with you. The middle class has been buried and we're going to change that. Imagine this as kind of the dry season in the West in the summer. And any match or any lightning strike is going to start a huge fire. And that's what's going on here the closer we get to the election.

BLITZER: This is coming a day before the debate. How detrimental could this be for the Obama campaign?

BORGER: I'm sure the Obama campaign is thinking this is a headache they don't need. As you know in the past, Joe Biden has given them a bunch of headaches. They like Joe Biden very much, but they would prefer that he wouldn't make this kind of a mistake.

People make mistakes. The president has made his own mistakes. Mitt Romney has made his own mistakes. This will probably be another line that Mitt Romney carries in his back pocket to use in the presidential debate saying, oh, by the way, your own vice president said that the middle class was buried for the last four years, so what about that?

It's clearly fodder, just as the 47 percent is fodder. I think we're going to hear all about this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What the vice president should have said is that the middle class was buried for the last four years because of the policies of the Bush administration. But he didn't say that.

BORGER: He didn't.

And you're all -- I don't want to make excuses here. You're out on the campaign trail. You're giving speech after speech after speech. Biden's in debate prep. He made a mistake. It's going to be used against him. It's going to be used against the president.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.

Please be sure to join us tomorrow for the first presidential debate. We're marshalling the full resources of CNN to analyze the candidates' performance. We will fact-check their answers. We will follow the reaction of the undecided voters in the host state of Colorado. Debate night in America begins tomorrow 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. If President Obama wins reelection, it potentially sets up a huge battle. We're taking a closer look at what may happen if he gets to replace one of the conservatives on the United States Supreme Court.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's looking ahead to tomorrow's presidential debate. Jack's joining us now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Chris Christie says that Mitt Romney is going to kick President Obama's butt in tomorrow night's debate. Hey, that's the way the New Jersey governor talks.

Christie thinks Romney will turn the election upside down, his words, and that it will be a brand new race after the showdown in Denver. No surprise Romney's people ran right away from Christie's comments pretty quickly. They're trying to lower expectations, which is how candidates normally approach these things.

But let's suppose for a minute that Christie's right. What would it take for Mitt Romney to win the debate and change the storyline of this election? Fifty million people are expected to tune in. Many think tomorrow night is Romney's last best chance to turn things around. He's been practicing for the debate for months on top of the practice he got in the almost two dozen primary debates.

But here's the challenge, Romney has to come off as likable, authentic and show that he can connect with the voters. We've been hearing that for months, haven't we? Apparently, it's still a challenge for him.

A piece in "The Daily Beast" suggests the only thing Romney can do to change the race in a meaningful way is to get specific about his ideas. So far neither Romney nor Obama has been willing to do that. The voters have been left to simply wonder what's up.

Others say Romney needs to make President Obama come of as condescending. Back when he told Hillary Clinton that she was likable enough, remember in 2008 during their debate? He's reportedly been practicing some zingers to use against the president. And while powerful sound bites get lots of plays in the days after the debate, remember where the beef commercial, stuff like that. It's questionable if a few good one-liners will be enough to put Mitt Romney in the White House.

Here's the question, what can Mitt Romney do to win the first debate? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thank you.

Meanwhile, President Obama has already made his mark on the United States Supreme Court and it looks different now than it did when he was elected with two new justices that he nominated. But how could it change in four more years if he is re-elected?

Let's bring in our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns. He's been looking at this story.

Yesterday, Joe, you did a whole piece on how the Supreme Court might be affected if Mitt Romney were elected. Today, you're taking a look at how the Supreme Court could be affected if the president is re- elected.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. If the president is re-elected, we already have a pretty good road map to the kind of person he thinks would make a good Supreme Court justice. After all he's already picked a couple and he's taught constitutional law. He said over and over again that for him this is all about what's in a judge's heart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): When he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, President Obama laid out his criteria for justices -- chief among them empathy.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, and understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.

JOHNS: It's a trait President Obama probably wishes more justices shared when they decided Citizens United, the case that largely removed independent corporate spending limits on federal political campaigns.

He called out the high court during his 2010 State of the Union address.

OBAMA: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests.

JOHNS: Four months later, the president made sure to highlight similar themes when he nominated the second female justice in two years, Elena Kagan.

OBAMA: During her time in this office, she's repeatedly defended the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. In a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

JOHNS: On the campaign trail, you won't hear the president talk much about the court other than a quick mention of the decision that upheld his health care plan.

OBAMA: His law is here to stay. The Supreme Court has spoken.

JOHNS: Though the court is part of an attack line for Vice President Biden.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Close your eyes and imagine, imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency. Imagine what it would mean for civil rights and voting rights and so much more.

JOHNS: But if the president is re-elected, what effect would it have on the court?

ELIZABETH WYDRA, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER: Well, President Obama could have big impact on the court is if one of the more conservative justices, like swing vote Anthony Kennedy or Justice Antonin Scalia who are both in their mid-70s, if they retired, then President Obama could replace a conservative or a right-leaning moderate.

JOHNS: Here's who could make the nominee list if President Obama wins a second term. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is getting a lot of buzz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The California attorney general has political experience, which is really missing on the court right now.

JOHNS: Another name circulating is Jacqueline Nguyen (ph). If she's nominated, the California-based federal appeals judge would make history as the court's first Asian-American justice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: But that's no guarantee. And for example if Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the only justice to retire, the liberal side of the court would not get any bigger. Just a little younger.

BLITZER: And as you know, there's been a lot of speculation about whom Romney might nominate.

JOHNS: Right. Among them, Paul Clement is one name we've heard, the former solicitor general, arguing big cases right now. Diane Sykes, appeals judge out of Midwest; Brett Kavanaugh, an appeals judge right here in Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: Love to speculate.

JOHNS: Fantastic.

BLITZER: Probably names we've never even heard of.

JOHNS: Happens a lot. I know.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Joe Johns, reporting.

We're going to have a quick check of some of the day's top stories.

Then the former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, now the minority leader in the House of Representatives, she's standing by to join us live. She says she insists I should say that Democrats have a real shot at winning back the majority in the House. Is the math on her side? We'll discuss that and a lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With only 35 days until the election, a pair of Republicans want the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to testify next week about the deadly attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It's the only Congressional hearing on any matter scheduled between now and election day, November 6th.

In their letter to the secretary today, the House Oversight Committee chairman, Darrell Issa, and the Utah Republican, Jason Chaffetz, revealed new information about the attack. And I'm quoting from the letter now: "Multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that prior to the sum -- September 11th attack, the U.S. mission in Libya had made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi."

The letter then continues: "The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington."

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get to some of the news and let's get your reaction right now to what Chairman Issa and Congressman Chaffetz are saying.

What do you make of this?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CA, MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think it's important to note that Congress does have a right to know. But the secretary and the Department of State have to have the information.

There is an investigation by the FBI as to what happened in Benghazi and there also is an accountability review as to how it -- answering some of the questions that are asked.

But how can you ask the secretary to come before the information is known?

Not that it's also important to note that the Republican appropriation in Congress gave the administration $300 million less than it asked for for the State Department, including funding for security.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting that there was a financial aspect to what happened in Benghazi, Libya...

PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: -- that the U.S. didn't have enough money to protect American diplomats?

PELOSI: No, what I'm saying is, Congress has the right of oversight, but it also has the power of the purse. So as it looks to what the fundamentals are here, we have to know -- and nobody is going to know by next week, but we have to have a full investigation and accountability for it.

But we also have to look to ourselves in terms of that funding question -- $300 million less than the administration asked for.

BLITZER: And the -- and we know that the State Department, the secretary has asked the retired U.S. ambassador, Thomas Pickering, to launch this full scale investigation internally in the State Department. But you acknowledge that Congress has an oversight role, to make sure that these -- these are legitimate questions that these -- these Congressmen are asking.

PELOSI: But as you indicate, they have had no hearings on any subject. Today, we had to have a rump hearing -- Democrats only, unfortunately, Republicans would not participate -- on Medicare and how Medicare is affected by the Ryan-Romney budget to sever the Medicare guarantee.

They didn't want to participate in that. They don't want to call Con -- we're supposed to be in session this week, but they've canceled it rather than passing a middle income tax cut, passing a jobs bill, passing the Violence Against Women Act, passing the farm bill, any of those things, but yet they have time to say we want information when they know it's premature.

BLITZER: So are you saying this is political, from their perspective?

PELOSI: One might suspect that.

BLITZER: That's what I hear you saying.

PELOSI: One might suspect that.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about some other political stuff that's going on, a new Romney campaign ad.

I'm going to play a little clip of it, because you're prominently featured in this ad.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who will raise taxes on the middle class?

Barack Obama and the liberals already have. To pay for government-run health care, you'll pay higher taxes and more for your medicine. And their plan includes a trillion dollars in higher taxes, even on the middle class.

Mitt Romney and commonsense conservatives will cut taxes on the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, you see an ad like that, how does that make you feel?

PELOSI: It makes me feel sad for them, that the true -- they have no fidelity to the truth. The fact is, President Obama and the Democratic Congress were cutting middle -- taxes for the middle class from day one. One week and one day after the president's inaugural address, we passed a recovery package which had a tax cut for the middle class.

Approximately 30 percent of that legislation was a tax cut for the middle class.

I mean, these are the same Republicans who have held the middle income tax cut hostage to their giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country.

It -- I've never seen a campaign -- and I've seen a lot of them -- where there has been such a -- a lack of faithfulness to the truth...

BLITZER: I think what they're referring to is that the middle class taxes going up as a result of the Affordable Care Act. There are all sorts of new taxes in there. The Supreme Court deemed them as taxes. They'll be run by the IRS. And the middle class will have to pay these new taxes to comply with what's called ObamaCare.

PELOSI: Well, the fact is, is that this is -- what we're talking about is the well being of the middle class and the the Affordable Care Act reduces costs to the consumer for care and saves the taxpayers a hundred billion dollars over the first 10 years, a trillion dollars over the -- over 20 years.

So this is -- what they've said about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare is another place where they -- I don't know how they can tell the American people something that simply is not true.

What we did there was take over -- what would be increased payment to a -- from health care providers, use it to give increased benefits to seniors and extend the life of Medicare by 10 years.

BLITZER: Sure.

PELOSI: And they are misrepresenting that, as well.

BLITZER: But the Supreme Court and others have deemed it to be a tax and it would affect primarily the middle class. So that's what -- I assume that that's what this Romney ad is -- is referring to.

PELOSI: Well, I think you can assume that it's a very -- it's a misrepresentation.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's talk a little bit about Joe Biden for a minute.

Did you hear the news today that -- I -- I don't know what he was saying. I know what he was suggesting, but it certainly came across poorly when he said the middle class has been buried over the past four years.

Did you hear that earlier today? PELOSI: Well, I heard when I came in that -- I didn't see the context of what it was. But the fact is, is that if the Republicans had not stood in the way of President Obama's initiatives on job creation and tax cuts to the middle class, the middle class would certainly be better off.

It was interesting to see an article the other day that talked about the high end, the Forbes 400. And it said in one year, that the -- those in the Forbes -- that list...

BLITZER: The wealthiest...

PELOSI: The wealthiest Americans gained $200 billion more in wealth while the middle class stagnated.

BLITZER: Yes. The stock market, the Dow Jones has done from 7000 to 13500...

PELOSI: Yes.

BLITZER: So it's not surprising that they've -- they've made a lot of money. People have invested in these stocks over the past few years.

PELOSI: Well, but that is the point of the article...

BLITZER: Yes.

PELOSI: -- saying that capital gains differential is not necessarily about growth in the economy for everyone.

BLITZER: Here's what -- you've said repeatedly that you think you could become the majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats...

PELOSI: Yes.

BLITZER: -- once again. "The Cook Political Report," highly respected, they came out with this. And I'll -- and I'll read it: "It's often noted House Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to win back the majority. But in actuality, as we've noted all cycle long, Democrats will likely need to pick up between 35 and 40 Republican- held seats because they are likely to lose a few of their own members."

Do you agree with that analysis?

PELOSI: Well, that's -- we've said all along, we have to net 25 seats. We're in a drive for 25 more seats. The -- I don't think it's up to 40, but I think that we probably have to win more than 25 to net 25.

BLITZER: Can you net 25 seats?

PELOSI: Oh, yes. We -- I think we can (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Why -- why do you think so? Most of the analysts don't think you can.

PELOSI: Well, I'm -- because I'm out on the campaign trail. I see the enthusiasm of our candidates. They're absolutely great. Many of them self-recruited. They just came forward and said not on my watch will we let what's happened -- what the Republicans are doing to our country continue.

We have a great leader in Steve Israel, the chairman of our committee, who's very analytical and -- and very strong in the -- and scientific as to how we go forward.

But it's mostly about the vision for our country.

BLITZER: Because I know you...

PELOSI: Bring back the American dream...

BLITZER: -- you -- you believe, correct me if I'm wrong, that Paul Ryan being added to the Republican ticket has helped you in trying to gain seats, is that right?

PELOSI: March your cal -- mark your calendar, August 11th, the day he was chosen gave a clarification to the issue of Medicare. This is a person who has been the destroyer of Medicare guarantee.

BLITZER: He wants to save it...

PELOSI: And he...

BLITZER: -- he says.

PELOSI: -- and his -- no, wither on the vine. He wants it -- he wants it to wither on the vine, which is the language the Republicans use when they're not on TV.

But here's the thing. The -- six times do nothing Republican Congressman, which has refused to pass a jobs bill or -- I've -- I've said some of the other bills earlier, has -- has taken the time for six times to sever the Medicare guarantee.

By naming Ryan in the spotlight move to that. For 18 -- 16 months, we had been saying, previous to then, we had been saying to members, the three most important issues in the campaign, in alphabetical order, are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. It's about our seniors. It's about their families.

And now, they want to take us to a time before Medicare existed, by giving you a voucher to go shopping, which helps -- gives choice to the insurers, diminishes your choice of...

BLITZER: You'll have to...

PELOSI: -- of health care professionals.

BLITZER: -- you'll have to thank him if you become the speaker once again. You'll send him a little note thanking Paul Ryan for helping you if that's the -- that's the way you believe it.

All right, hold on for a moment, Leader Pelosi.

We have much more to talk about.

I want to take a quick break.

We have to take a quick break.

We have much more to discuss, including the former speaker's unique perspective on why she believes the country is better off now than it was four years ago.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Leader Pelosi, you -- you were telling me the other day a really amazing story. We're -- people forget, four years ago, almost exactly to the day, you got a call from the then Treasury secretary, President Bush's Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson.

What did he say to you?

PELOSI: Well, it was actually the reverse, I called him, because I was seeing what was happening with Lehman, Merrill and then AIG that very day. It was September 18th four years ago.

And why that's important is because some people are going around saying, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Well, here's where we were four years ago.

I called Hank Paul -- the -- the secretary -- what's going on, how can we be helpful, can you come to my office tomorrow morning at 9:00?

The secretary says, tomorrow morning will be too late. Tomorrow morning will be too late, then why am I calling you, why aren't you calling me?

I said I will call Ben -- would call the chairman, Bernanke, and ask him to come to our office at 5:00 in the afternoon to brief the leadership on what was going on in the markets.

And so...

BLITZER: You were then the speaker of the House?

PELOSI: I was then the speaker.

And so we'll wait -- I said, why am I calling you?

And the response I -- the impression I received was that the White House did not want Congress to know. They were just trying to wait it out...

BLITZER: To know what?

PELOSI: To know the following.

So then they come that evening. Now we have the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, in the speaker's office. And Secretary Bernanke describes a disaster, a meltdown of our financial situation in our country of horrible magnitude.

So I turned to the chairman, Bernanke, and said, what do you think of this, Mr. Chairman?

And this is the point. The chairman says, if we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday.

BLITZER: This is the -- Ben Bernanke...

PELOSI: Ben Bernanke...

BLITZER: -- the chairman of...

PELOSI: -- if we did not...

BLITZER: -- the Federal Reserve.

PELOSI: -- act immediately.

BLITZER: And this is a Friday, you're saying?

PELOSI: That Thursday night.

BLITZER: This was a Thursday night?

PELOSI: Thursday night.

BLITZER: And he's saying that if you didn't take emergency action...

PELOSI: Immediately. We would not have an economy by Monday.

So when they want to ask...

BLITZER: What does that mean, we would not have an economy by Monday?

PELOSI: No, it's -- it's -- it's a horrible -- it's a horrible prospect. It means everything would disintegrate in terms of financial transactions and the rest.

So we went out and I said time is of the essence, regardless of the fact that there was a presidential election si -- seven weeks away, this was the president -- happened on the president's watch.

He was suggesting a solution. I said we must work together in a bipartisan way to get this done.

But the fact is, is that they knew -- they were withholding the information from Congress because they were hoping to get to the election, in my view.

But the fact is that four years ago, the end of September, if we didn't act immediately, we would not have an economy by Monday. That would have been a disaster for our country.

So while we want to do more to help individual families and the Republicans have obstructed that in the last two years, the fact is, we would not have had an economy on the path that the Bush administration and the Republicans had us on then.

BLITZER: And -- and I know you acted, the Federal Reserve acted and the economy exists today. But you're trying to give that perspective, where the country was exactly four years ago as opposed to right now.

PELOSI: Oh, when I brought it up, except they brought up, are you better off now than you were four years ago?

We certainly are very much better off now then we were four years ago. But we'd be even better off if the Republicans had worked with the president in a cooperative way and not an obstructionist way, to create more jobs.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens over the next five weeks.

Thanks very much, Leader Pelosi, for coming in.

PELOSI: A pleasure.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

PELOSI: Congratulations on your new digs.

BLITZER: Oh, thank you very much.

Nancy Pelosi says Democrats can take back the House. So what do our own political experts think about that? Standby our "Strategy Session" is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.

Ana, you heard Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker. She wants to be speaker again, say they can get a net gain of 25 seats to become a majority in the House of Representatives largely, she says, because Paul Ryan is on the Republican ticket.

And in her words he's the quote, "destroyer of Medicare" and that's going to hurt the Republicans in November, what do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Steny Hoyer is also wanting to be speaker and I think none of the two are going to get the chance. It's looking very good for the Republicans in the House.

There are some seats up for grabs. The Senate looks a lot closer, but I tell you that there is going to be a balance of powers this coming November whether it's President Obama in the White House and Republicans in the House.

Or President Romney in the White House and Democrats in the Senate, it looks to me like we're going to have checks and balances. I don't think Miss Pelosi gets her wish.

BLITZER: You agree with Nancy Pelosi's strong conviction that the Democrats can win the majority in the House?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's tough, Wolf. But we know that the Democrats have had to face a very difficult head wind. But, look, I think the Democrats will pick up seats in California, pick up seats in Illinois. Perhaps pick up seats up in the northeast.

There are 66 vulnerable Republicans out there. If the Democrats run a really aggressive campaign, absolutely tie them to the Paul Ryan budget and the Romney/Ryan 47 percent, I think the Democrats can make a lot of significant head where this falls.

BLITZER: Now the vice president, once again, Joe Biden causing a bit of a stir today with these words. I'll play a clip and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Vice President Biden just today said that the middle class over the last four years has been, quote, "buried." We agree. That means we need to stop digging by electing Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Paul Ryan reacting very quickly. Mitt Romney reacting very quickly to Biden's comments that the middle class over the past four years, four years being the Obama administration, have been quote, "buried."

BRAZILE: First of all, Wolf, the Romney campaign really has nothing to say in 24 hours. This is Paul Ryan who on Fox News on Sunday couldn't explain the Romney/Ryan tax plan.

Not because it's complicated, because the math don't add up. And the math actually for the middle class, it hurts the middle class. It digs the middle class deep into the Republican dead of the years 2000 to 2010.

BLITZER: How problematic is the Biden comment?

BRAZILE: You know, the Republicans have nothing else but gaffes. They love when Joe Biden speaks because for some reason they like to take those comments and blow them out of proportion. I just think it's nonsense. If they want to talk about Joe Biden and who will help the middle class, that's an argument I think the Democrats would like to have.

BLITZER: There will be a lot of discussion of Joe Biden's remarks right now.

NAVARRO: Donna's right. We love to talk about Joe Biden because Joe Biden gives us a lot to talk about. In a few weeks, we'd actually miss Joe Biden, the gift that keeps on giving. Only in Washington is a truth called a gaffe when it's not politically convenient.

What he said right now is the truth. It is harmful. It is harmful because it is the truth because it's going to ring true with the middle class, and because it will make a very effective ad.

BLITZER: If the Republican nominee tomorrow night at the debate says to the president even your own Vice President Joe Biden says the middle class has been buried over the past four years, how should the president respond?

BRAZILE: Well, you know, hopefully the president will say, you didn't mention al Qaeda, Afghanistan, you talked about 47 percent of the American people and they're victims.

And you have nerve to talk about what Joe Biden said yesterday? I wouldn't give Mitt Romney the time of the day if he brought that up tomorrow.

BLITZER: You think he should bring it up tomorrow night, the Republican candidate?

NAVARRO: I want to see it in an ad. I want to see it in an ad quickly and I think it will come up tomorrow in the debate. I wouldn't be surprised if you see Barack Obama laugh off what president -- Vice President Joe Biden said.

BLITZER: What do you mean laugh off?

NAVARRO: We are so used to Vice President Biden putting his foot in his mouth that it's almost become laughable. And I think even President Obama would admit that at times.

BRAZILE: Republicans have a hard time trying to point fingers when they know they have stopped everything that President Obama and the vice president's tried to do to help the middle class. Still we have 5.1 million Americans working today --

NAVARRO: Donna, when you have the sitting vice president saying that middle class is buried, those are powerful words.

BLITZER: I'm sure the ads are being created right now by the Romney campaign, the "Super PACs" and all of them. They'll be out there very, very soon.

BRAZILE: Another waste of money. BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

The "Cafferty File" is coming up next. Then right at the top of the hour, leading Republicans slamming the state department over the deaths of four Americans in Libya. Now he's demanding answers to some tough questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack's joining us again with the "Cafferty File," -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Big day tomorrow. The question is what can Mitt Romney do to win that first debate?

Gary writes from California, "I'd like to hear both candidates explain specifically how they would correct our current financial problems. We're staring at a virtual financial Armageddon and nobody seems to want to talk about it. I don't get it."

William writes from Washington, "Every time Romney says in the debate that he's for the 100 percent, the number 47 will flash across most people's minds."

Nora writes from Texas, "He needs to look presidential, act presidential and talk like he believes what he's saying. If he doesn't sound positive and sure of himself, it's all over."

Carol in Massachusetts says, "Mitt should zip the can zingers and try to lay out his vision for the country in plain not Palinesk English. If he can be human and authentic, it could sway some of the undecideds."

Gary writes, "Romney needs to focus on Obama's record, current price of gasoline, his opposition to the oil pipeline from Canada, offshore drilling permit delays, his apologies to foreign nations for America, his failure to acknowledge the $16 trillion debt, $5 trillion of which occurred in the last four years, socialist approach to government, unrelenting unemployment and the looming fiscal cliff over which America is about to fall."

Jenna in California writes, "That's cute, Jack. You think Romney actually has a chance to win the first debate. I think it will be a miracle if Romney can keep his foot out of his mouth."

And Robert writes, "Treat it like a business deal. Subcontract it out to a more qualified stand-in. Don't go with the lowest bidder, you could end up with Rick Perry instead of Ronald Reagan and then you can fire them when they're done."

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. New video appearing to show U.S. journalist who's been missing in Syria. Is it staged though? Standby. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)