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Mitt Romney Delivers Foreign Policy Address; Obama Camp Fires Back at Romney; Meningitis Death Toll Rises; Romney Rips Obama On Foreign Policy; Romney Camp Reacts To New Poll; Romney Rally In Virginia; Practice Before Historic Jump

Aired October 8, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Mitt Romney rips apart President Obama's foreign policy and takes the lead in a brand-new poll that is being released right now.

Also, more than 100 cases of meningitis now reported in an outbreak caused by a tainted steroid. The death toll is climbing as well.

Plus, behind the scenes of a death-defying record attempt, a supersonic jump from the edge of space.

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

This just coming in: a major shake-up in the polls only 29 days before the presidential election, Mitt Romney clearly riding very high since his strong showing in the first presidential debate. And now he has taken the lead in a closely watched and highly respected poll. Take a look at these numbers just released by the Pew Research Center, Mitt Romney now four points ahead of President Obama among likely voters nationwide, erasing the president's eight-point lead before the first debate.

Let's go deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's joining us.

Gloria, it's clear that that debate has really, really helped Mitt Romney.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't think the Romney campaign could have wanted to do any more with this debate than they did.

If you look across the board at these numbers, Wolf, Romney has made gains in almost every area, including somebody who's better able to improve the jobs situation. He leads -- Romney leads Obama by eight points on that. So whether it's on the economy, whether it's on leadership, he's now tied with the president as far as leadership ability is concerned. So I think Romney got everything out of that debate and more.

BLITZER: He certainly did.

And if you take a look at -- let me put the numbers back on the screen one more time. Earlier this month before the debate, Romney was behind the president, the president 51 percent, Romney 43 percent, eight-point difference, now 49 percent for Romney, 45 percent for Obama, a four-point spread.

That's a 12-point spread in only, what, three weeks, shall we say? And clearly the major development was his strong performance at that debate.

BORGER: You know, Wolf, it just shows you that voters are still really weighing the pluses and minuses of these two candidates.

What I really need to see, though, to make any judgment about how this is going to really affect the election or how it has affected voters is I need to look in the battleground states, don't you think? You need to look at the battleground state of Ohio. You need to look at Wisconsin. You need to look at Iowa. You need to look at Virginia, Florida, and see whether in fact the race has tightened, particularly in a state like Ohio, Wolf, where the president had a commanding lead by five or six points.

Let's see if in that state, which the Republican campaign has to win, I believe, if Mitt Romney's to become president, let's see if the poll numbers in that state of Ohio which we're going to see as this week proceeds, let's see if those numbers have tightened there because that's going to be a key number for us.

BLITZER: It certainly must be a huge wakeup call for the Obama campaign, these Pew Research poll numbers that have just come out.


BLITZER: So what do they do now? They have got a debate, a vice presidential debate coming up Thursday night.

BORGER: Well, I think they have got to have a couple of good presidential debates and they all believe that the president can do it, and clearly the president himself understands that he didn't perform the way he would have hoped in the first debate.

I do think that this puts a little bit of pressure on Joe Biden to perform well. Having talked to my sources in the Biden camp, they say they're sticking with their game plan, that is to draw contrasts with Paul Ryan, that they intend to do that, that they intend to talk about foreign policy as well as domestic policy, and that they want to continue to draw the contrasts with the Romney campaign because they believe Romney has been kind of soft in telling us where he's going to go on foreign policy in his speech today as well as on domestic policy, how would he reduce that deficit.

So they still think they have got openings here, Wolf. And they do. Anything can happen. Overnight's a lifetime in politics, particularly when it comes to a close presidential race like this.

BLITZER: And all those folks thought that President Obama had it wrapped up only a few days ago, guess what, not wrapped up by any means yet.


BLITZER: All right, Gloria, I want you to stand by. Mitt Romney was clearly hammering away at the president's foreign policy before a military audience today and sketched out a stronger, bolder response by a Romney administration.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has more on that -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after millions of Americans watched Mitt Romney go toe to toe with President Obama at their first debate, the GOP nominee now wants voters to see him as commander in chief. And he's done just that in a series of foreign policy speeches, including one here at the Virginia Military Institute, where he accused the president of allowing the Middle East to drift closer to war.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Telling a crowd of cadets and supporters at the Virginia Military Institute that hope is not a strategy on foreign policy, Mitt Romney wasted no time in building his case that the Middle East has grown more dangerous under President Obama's watch.

And exhibit A. was last month's attack that left a U.S. ambassador dead at the American Consulate in Libya.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They're expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East. And I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed our fellow Americans.

ACOSTA: Romney then seized on the recently violence in Syria and the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon to issue a dire warning, that war in the region could be on the horizon.

ROMNEY: It's clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office.

ACOSTA: The GOP nominee pledged to get tough by reversing looming defense cuts coming at the end of the year, threatening to impose possible new sanctions on Iran and by looking for ways to arm the rebels in Syria.

Romney also said he would pursue a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, a concept he seemed to diminish at a fund- raiser that was secretly recorded and leaked to "mother Jones" magazine.

ROMNEY: I look at the Palestinians not wanting to seek peace anyway for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel and these thorny issues, and I say, there's just no way.

NARRATOR: Reckless, amateurish. ACOSTA: The Obama campaign tried to get the jump on Romney's speech, releasing a new ad, reminding voters of the Republican candidate's gaffe-plagued foreign trip over the summer.

Romney, Obama aides say, is no Ronald Reagan, more like Chevy Chase. Combating that image, Romney met with a group of retired generals after a speech. His campaign argued on a conference call the Romney approach would be both more muscular and bipartisan.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: If you look at Harry Truman and John Kennedy and the use of power by Bill Clinton in his second term, that is a much different approach than Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

ACOSTA: To put his vision into action, Romney will have to win first, which explains why he made an impromptu stop at a nearby elementary school.

At this stage of the race, the pictures can matter almost as much as the policies.


ACOSTA: Romney did mention the Obama campaign's trump card on foreign policy, the killing of Osama bin Laden, but he seemed to give the credit to what he called -- quote -- "military and intelligence professionals."

Romney will now shift back to the economy with campaign events coming up here in Virginia and also in Iowa and Ohio -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's go back to Gloria Borger.

Gloria, what was Mitt Romney trying to accomplish with this major foreign policy speech today?

BORGER: Well, I think he was trying to do a bunch of things, Wolf, first of all, on the leadership question, trying to establish his credentials. On foreign policy, as you know, he's made some mistakes when he's been off the cuff on foreign policy, particularly after the ambassador was killed in Libya, also when he took his overseas trip to Britain during the Olympics, also in talking about Russia.

So he had to kind of try and reset, if you will, establish his credentials there as a strong leader and a commander in chief. Also, I think, Wolf, if you look at this speech, in talking to some Democrats about it today, one thing they were saying is they thought it was a clear move to kind of reset to the center.

There are lots of foreign policy fights going on within the Republican Party. And this seemed to be a move to the center without much detail. And Democrats are complaining about the detail in it. But you recall during all of those primary debates, when it came to foreign policy, Republicans tended to be much more isolationist in their views.

And I think that is not what we heard from Mitt Romney today. And conservatives are saying, you know what, we may disagree with Mitt Romney on a bunch of this stuff, but guess what, we're not going to fight with him now. We're going to wait until after the election if he wins.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much. Good analysis.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is going after Mitt Romney's speech and they're using a big diplomatic name to do it. We're going to be live with the president out there on the campaign trail.

Plus, gas prices nearing $5 a gallon, the emergency measures now being taken in one state.


BLITZER: President Obama's in California attending fund-raisers and honoring the late labor and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. But his campaign is very buys also firing back at Mitt Romney, who went on the attack against the president's foreign policy earlier in the day.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, he is traveling with the president right now.

So, what's the latest reaction coming from the Obama campaign, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the president himself has not reacted to that speech by Mitt Romney.

But last night at a major fund-raiser in Los Angeles, he was flexing his foreign policy muscles. Right off the top of his remarks, he was talking about how he ended the war in Iraq, how he's winding down the war in Afghanistan, how he's gone after terrorists, how he got Osama bin Laden.

Those are just some examples, says his campaign, of strong leadership.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): As President Obama honored civil rights icon Cesar Chavez by dedication a new national monument...

OBAMA: The movement he helped to lead was sustained by a generation of organizers who stood up and spoke out and urged others to do the same.

LOTHIAN: ... his campaign worked to shred GOP nominee Mitt Romney's foreign policy chops, rolling out this hard-hitting Web ad reminding voters of what they called stumbles on the world stage.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Governor Romney not too long ago said, the Russian Federation is our "number one geostrategic threat." Come on, think. That isn't the case.

LOTHIAN: And this TV ad now running in the important battleground state of Virginia.

NARRATOR: When our U.S. diplomats were attacked in Libya, "The New York Times" said Romney's knee-jerk response showed an extraordinary lack of presidential character.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): The campaign concludes Governor Romney has failed the commander-in-chief test. To reinforce that message, a conference call with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He's changed his mind on a number of issues, in terms of Libya, for instance. I mean, at first, he was for the intervention. Now he's against it. It's unclear where he is on Syria.

BEN LABOLT, PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA FOR AMERICA: Behind the tough talk, he's been erratic, unsteady and irresponsible in his audition on the world stage.

LOTHIAN: From his views on Iraq to Libya to the Middle East, the Obama campaign says Governor Romney's foreign policy speech was, quote, "full of platitudes and free of substance."

The recent unrest in Egypt and Libya has given the GOP nominee an opportunity to question the president's policies and draw a contrast for voters on those issues along with the economy. But experts observed taking on an incumbent president comes with fundamental disadvantages.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The president has been doing this day in and day out, getting the intelligence briefings, working with all the cabinet secretaries, working with his staff. For Romney, he has to learn this every day and it all seems a little bit abstract for the president. It might have been abstract four years ago. Sure isn't abstract now.


LOTHIAN: Now, the economy still remains issue number one for voters. But both of those campaigns are going at each other, showing who would be best to handle foreign policy. The president has a slight edge over Mitt Romney. But he's seen his number, Mitt Romney has, over the last few weeks, he's seen those numbers go up ever so slightly, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And those foreign policy numbers were before the debate.

You've seen this new Pew Research Center poll that now shows Romney ahead slightly 49 percent/45 percent over the president. That's a dramatic shift from only a few weeks ago when the president was ahead 51 percent/43 percent.

Are you getting any reaction from the Obama folks about this?

LOTHIAN: Wolf, you're right. It is a dramatic shift. No immediate reaction from the Obama campaign. But I can tell you that we'll most likely hear that they don't watch those number that go up and down, that they're focused on the long term, as they take this sort of final stretch to Election Day. They always like to say that they run as if they are five points now and now they're keeping their foot on the pedal, Wolf, as they head to Election Day.

BLITZER: Yes, politicians always saying they don't pay attention to polls, that's like TV executives, Dan, always say they don't pay attention to ratings.

LOTHIAN: Right, right.

BLITZER: It's the same kind of thing as we all know.

Thanks, Dan Lothian, very much for that.

Let's go to a story you saw first here on CNN -- a national platform for two GOP rising stars.

Lisa Sylvester has that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on?


Well, we have learned Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are set to lead the Republican Governors Association through the next two election cycles. The tentative replacement would make Jindal the chairman in 2013 with Christie taking over in 2014, and if he wins reelection. That could give both men a national platform to seek the presidency if Mitt Romney is not elected this November.

And in Philadelphia, a brawl between separate wedding parties at the Society Hill hotel has left a man death and another charged with assaulting a police officer. Take a look at this video. The fight was caught on tape, spilled into the streets and police arrested three people. Authorities say a 57-year-old man believed to be an uncle of the bride suffered a heart attack and died a short time later.

And a state Senate race in Maine has turned into a battle over a candidate's passion for online gaming. Democrat Colleen Lachowicz is challenging GOP incumbent Senator Tom Martin. Now, Republicans accused her of living in the fantasy world of a popular "World of Warcraft,"| saying she posted crude, violent comments. Lachowicz says the GOP is focusing on her hobby instead of policy issues.

I have to admit, Wolf, I don't know a whole lot about the "World of Warcraft." But apparently, it's quite popular.

BLITZER: A lot of devoted people for that video.

Thanks very much for that.

The meningitis outbreak is getting worse. New numbers just released by the CDC. We're checking in with our medical team. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The death toll in the United States from the meningitis outbreak is creeping up. Eight people have now died from the rare strain of the disease and health officials are trying to get a handle on the outbreak.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with more.

Elizabeth, what's going on here? How could this happen?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it happened because of what's called compounding pharmacies. A lot of people haven't heard of these, Wolf. What it is, is these are pharmacies that historically have operated on a small scale. You need, for example, a child-size dose of an adult medicine, you can't get it on a regular market. A compounding pharmacy will make it for you. They never intended to be these huge operations that, you know, deliver medicines all around the country, but, you know, this pharmacy in New England that we're talking about, they make all of these medicines.

I mean, this is a list of all the medicines that they make. And these pharmacies, because historically they've been kind of mom and pop shops, they're regulated by the state. And many people say, gee, now that they're getting bigger, the feds ought to step in.

Right now, a lot of complaints that these places are not regulated the way that they ought to be.

BLITZER: Has this happened before, based on what we know?

COHEN: Yes, it has happened before. There have been problems in other compounding pharmacies, Wolf. Last year, you and I talked about nine deaths in Alabama because of a medicine that was made in a compounding pharmacy there. There was also eye infections in Florida because of a medicine that was made at a compounding pharmacy there.

So, this has happened before.

BLITZER: How were each of the folks out there who are watching be right now?

COHEN: You know what? You should only be worried if you've had a steroid injection for back pain. Again, only be worried if you've had a steroid injection for back pain.

And what you should do is you should call your doctor if you've had one of these in the past six months and find out if your medicine was made by the New England Compounding Center. If it was, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should come in for testing. You maybe perfectly fine, but these fungal infections can take months to show up. So you want to talk to your doctor about whether you should get any kind of testing to see if you have it. BLITZER: Good advice, Elizabeth. Thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney's major foreign policy speech is raising some questions today. Our special panel of political experts is getting ready to break it down. That's coming up.

And a daredevil on the verge of skydiving from the edge of space. We're taking you behind the scenes. Our own Brian Todd is there.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour:

Mitt Romney says President Obama's, quote, "leading from behind." Is he right?

Plus, new details on what Joe Biden is doing to prepare for this week's vice presidential debate.

And a new equation is out to help you calculate how much money you'll need to save before retiring.

Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A major foreign policy speech by Mitt Romney today indicting president Obama's handling of the Middle East and attempting to get ahead on the issues before their next debate leading up to the election.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I know the president hopes for a safer, freer and more prosperous Middle East aligned with us. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The Obama campaign not wasting any time responding to Mitt Romney's foreign policy address. In a new television ad --

AD NARRATOR: Reckless, amateurish, that's what news media and fellow Republicans called Mitt Romney's gaffe-filled July tour of England, Israel and Poland.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's too late in the campaign right now, Carol, for Mitt Romney to really make big inroads on the issue of foreign policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voters give the president a seven-point edge on world affairs.


BLITZER: Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's got a special panel with her -- Jessica.


Well, Margaret -- let me go straight to you, Margaret Hoover. I think Mitt Romney smells blood when it comes to foreign policy. But is it really warranted?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he certainly had an opening to talk about it. And frankly they needed to do something, because the first thing you're talking about with Mitt Romney and foreign policy up to now had been this trip to Europe -- Europe, Poland, Israel, the Olympics hadn't gone so well.

So, now, by having a major foreign policy address, now, they have something to talk about. How did it go? I think the main difference and what they strive to do is paint a contrast between them and the Obama administration. Really, the contrast becomes part of their posturing. How are we going to approach foreign policy differently?

The posture is, if you had a tagline for Romney's -- rather, Obama's foreign policy is -- lead from behind.

YELLIN: Right.

HOOVER: I think Mitt Romney is really lean forward.

We're trying to use our influence in the Middle East to -- but really we're trying to use our influence in the region to get the outcomes we want in order to shape the policies that we want, in order to receive the outcomes that we want in the Middle East.

YELLIN: Ross, let me ask you because you're the other Republican on this panel right now. So let's just be honest, posturing is what we've got here. Was his speech heavy on detail or light on detail?

ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I'm stealing this from someone on Twitter who said the difference between Romney and Obama on foreign policy is Romney says speak louder, but carry the same stick.

Sort of Teddy Roosevelt line and no, I mean, basically what's striking in the speech is overall the differences between Romney and Obama on foreign policy are not actually that great.

It's about how do we deal with the Syrian rebels and Romney's more forthright, but still hedging about whether we're going to arm them and where do you draw the red line with Iran.

But you aren't getting a big contrast divisions overall. You're mostly getting a contrast of attitudes. I think it's striking on the two biggest decisions maybe of President Obama's presidency were the surge in Afghanistan and the decision to intervene in Libya. And in both of them, I think there's actually some sort of obvious criticisms to be made, but they aren't hawkish criticisms. And because Romney is taking a very hawkish line in this campaign, he can't really, I think, make the strongest possible criticisms of some of the president's decisions.

So you're left with sort of a kind of attitude. I completely agree with Margaret. It's sort of lean forward, but the goals and strategies are actually relatively similar.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if Ross is a fan of James Brown, but he reminds me. Mitt Romney today reminded me of that song when James Brown, this great hit "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing."

I mean, one year ago, Mitt Romney gave a speech at the Citadel on foreign policy. It was billed and marketed as a huge speech. He will tell us how he would make the world a better place, how he would do things differently.

And you know what? There wasn't a lot of meat there. Once again, Mitt Romney had 23 minutes, he used 23 minutes, I counted them. I didn't read the whole thing, but I counted them and he basically said nothing.

I agree with the president that we -- let's just get tougher with Iran. Well, we need to arm the rebels in Syria, use third parties to help advance our case. He made some mistakes and blunders, of course.

One mistake is that he said this president's done nothing on free trade agreements. I guess South Korea and Panama, Colombia --

HOOVER: Didn't count for him.

BRAZILE: But overall, Mitt Romney is trying to prove -- this is his whole argument, that Republicans are tougher when it comes to foreign policy. You know what? That's the old playbook. There's a new playbook because there's a new sheriff in town and that's Barack Obama.

TOM PERRIELLO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think this was a real step backwards. Last week he created an opening of how serious are you willing to take Mitt Romney?

I think a lot of Americans tuned into that debate and said this guy seems serious. Today reminded people of why they haven't taken them that seriously for the last couple of months.

For a big foreign policy speech, it wasn't that big. It was foreign to the facts on the ground when you say I'm going to arm the Syrian rebels. It shows a dangerous ignorance of exactly how this resistance is happening in Syria, which is a deadly --

DOUTHAT: How would you -- I'll defend Romney now for a minute. How would you go about arming the Syrian rebels without picking and choosing which faction to arm? PERRIELLO: That's the point. When you're in charge, you have to make very difficult decisions and that's the reality on the ground. You can't have this cake and eat it, too, approach that he had last week on taxes.

I'm going to have a huge tax cut for everyone, but I don't really have a tax cut plan. We're going to be able to arm the good guys without the bad guys. That's just not the way the world looks, but I think he looks less serious in a speech when he's trying to talk about a way he would like the world to look --

BRAZILE: Latin America is another example. He had two sentences on Latin America. That was Hugo Chavez. He didn't congratulate him on winning this weekend, but he talked about --

HOOVER: I'm not sure he needed to.

BRAZILE: But two lines, two sentences on Latin America, a great economic power down there, Brazil, a country named after my own family. And no mention of Brazil --

DOUTHAT: Don't you think, Donna, that this is the Romney campaign trying to respond to what has frankly been a mix of sort of incompetence, blunders and inexplicable comments from the White House on Libya, right, the last few weeks and that's why the focus was on Middle East?

BRAZILE: Perhaps on Mitt Romney's failure to establish himself as a world-class leader when you go to Great Britain and basically insult the people there, insult the people in Poland --

DOUTHAT: Right, but what's --

BRAZILE: He did talk about a two-state solution today. He didn't talk about that last time. So Mitt Romney made some advances this time.

DOUTHAT: Excellent, all right.

BRAZILE: He also had a couple of reversals. Whenever you have Mitt, you have to go into reverse just to see if he can go forward. But this was classic Mitt Romney, shallow.

YELLIN: Margaret, let me ask you about the ad the Obama campaign put out today. Before Mitt Romney took the stage, Team Obama was out with an ad attacking Mitt Romney for some of the blunders and gaffes he made before he went -- when he went to the London Olympics, for his attack about the -- response to the Libya attacks. It seemed sort of backward looking.

HOOVER: Well, I think that's exactly why Mitt Romney had to have this foreign policy speech today. He starts talking about what would he do differently?

It means finding the al Qaeda affiliates responsible for assassinating our ambassador. It's working with the Arab league to identify people to help force Assad out of power a year after president Obama said we want Assad out of power.

So I think he actually now has substantive things to talk about on the debate stage when they debate foreign policy in two weeks and that ad is now irrelevant.

DOUTHAT: But don't you, Margaret, that this is a case of him saying, I'll do the things the president is trying to do, but I will do them more effectively?

HOOVER: I think there's a fair case to make and there's an opening for that.

DOUTHAT: I agree. I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

BRAZILE: There's an opening the size of a pin drop and he's going to make a crack so he can get a hole in there so he can close the gap. But look, I don't believe Mitt Romney lay out his strategy for peace in Israel.

He didn't lay out a strategy for peace in Israel. In fact, on Iran, the best he could come up was I'm going to get tougher on Iran because I'm going to have tougher sanctions.

HOOVER: When Barack Obama came to office, he said, I'm not George W. Bush. Therefore, I'm going to be able to negotiate with Iran. I mean, I do think --

BRAZILE: He said he would open up all doors, but he wasn't going to give you a seat at the table unless you wanted to come and talk peace. And Iran was not --

YELLIN: We have unsolicited advice on the other side of the break and that includes some helpful hints for Donald Trump. Stay with us.


YELLIN: This is the time of the day when we give you our unsolicited advice, like it or not, here it comes. Let's start with you, Margaret.

HOOVER: Mine is inspired by the fantastic parody we found on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. It was a fantastic monologue of President Obama. I actually think Mitt Romney should consider, hold out the option for the last week or two of the campaign to forget the parody actually do "Saturday Night Live."

It might be that part of the campaign where you know so much about the candidates, a little bit of personalization, a little bit of Mitt Romney goofiness could really serve him well at the end of the campaign. I think he should consider holding a "Saturday Night Live" appearance.

PERRIELLO: My advice is for state legislators who don't often get as much national media attention to do the numbers on the Romney/Ryan budget. You're looking at billions of dollars and less in investments in the states about $4.5 billion less a year in Ohio and in Virginia alone.

They're going to have to go out to constituents and explain why they're raising taxes or cutting benefits. There are going to be huge implications for state and local budgets based on what's decided this year. And that's often what really hits the kitchen table more.

YELLIN: I see you voted today.

PERRIELLO: I did vote in Virginia today.

DOUTHAT: Who did you vote for? That's the question.

PERRIELLO: For President Obama and for Governor Kaye.

DOUTHAT: I'll take a more apolitical attack. My advice is for Bud Selig and the powers that be in Major League baseball. So last week we had the debut of the one-game wild card playoff. Baseball added an extra wild card this year.

So now the two wildcards meet in the playoff game and the very first game, the Braves versus the Cardinals, ended up being decided by a blown umpire's call in the eighth inning. And fans were throwing garbage on the field and it was a lousy error-ridden game to begin with.

Bud Selig, this is a sign from the baseball gods, the one-game two wild card playoff is a terrible idea. You can't end baseball seasons with one-game playoffs unless the two teams actually have the same record.

Baseball isn't designed that way. I ask them to look at what happened last week, rethink this new strategy and come up with a different playoff format next year. And I'm not even a Braves fan. I'm a completely --

YELLIN: If Bud Selig is watching --

DOUTHAT: Of course, he is watching. He actually watches CNN all day, very strange.

BRAZILE: Well, Jessica, I know I have a brief amount of time, but I'll make it real quick. Drew Brees, the Saints won, please, whatever his wife cooked the night before, cook it next weekend. That was remarkable.

Number two, the Washington Nationals won their first playoff games. I want to go see the next one. So let's win it again so I can get me a free ticket.

And lastly Donald Trump, Mr. Donald, not monkey business. When you create over 5.2 million jobs for 30 consecutive months, you're not cooking the books. You're really trying to improve things. Besides, if he wanted to cook the books, he would add a little more meat and sauce.

YELLIN: You're talking about the Labor Department -- PERRIELLO: Stronger summer jobs reports than we had thought.

YELLIN: I think we all pretty much established they didn't cook the books on that one. That is it for unsolicited advice. Thanks to you all for being here and Wolf Blitzer, back to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Excellent unsolicited advice, thanks, Jessica. Thanks to the whole panel.

Mitt Romney's campaign has just reacting to our top story this hour, a brand-new poll that puts the Republican nominee in the lead over President Obama.


BLITZER: We're getting reaction just coming in from the Romney campaign to this latest Pew Research Center poll. These are likely voters nationally, right now, Romney at 49 percent, Obama at 45 percent. That's a significant shift from only a few weeks ago.

Same poll, likely voters at Obama 51 percent, Romney, 43 percent. That's a dramatic shift indeed. Let's get the reaction. Jim Acosta is traveling with the Republican presidential nominee. What are they saying, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you right now that Mitt Romney is standing behind me addressing an understandably small crowd of supporters here at Newport News, Virginia. It is raining buckets here, Wolf, but that's not dampening the enthusiasm of the Romney campaign right now.

They are feeling very good about this poll that just came out at the top of the hour from the Pew Research Center and as you said showing a four-point lead among likely voters for Mitt Romney over the president.

That is a kind of poll that they have not seen in some time. So they're very happy about that. I got some instant response from a senior Romney official who told me over an e-mail a few moments ago that they are encouraged by the enthusiasm that they're seeing from supporters who they call energized.

We have been seeing that over the last several days at various campaign events, Wolf. Mitt Romney's been sort of taking a victory lap through center battleground states and talk about how well he did in last week's debate against President Obama.

But they also believe this is the result of undecided voters who are giving the former Massachusetts governor a new look. And they also say that they are still working hard to bring home what they call persuadable voters.

You can see that in the polling, one week President Obama's up. Now Mitt Romney is up. So there is, they think, a chunk of voters who can be turned one way or the other. But let's right now take a listen to what Mitt Romney is saying right now. He's going through a standard part of a stump speech on what he would do to produce more domestic energy in this country. Here's what he is saying right now.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: -- crack down on China if and when they cheat. Number three, I'm going to make sure the training programs work for the workers today. We get our kids the education they need. I'm going to make sure that our parents and our kids and the teachers, they come first and the teachers union will have to come behind.

Number four, I will get us on track to a balanced budget and number five, I will champion small business. I'll make sure our tax policies and our regulatory policies and health care, all these things come together to make it easier for small business to grow and thrive.

We have to do that to get jobs going again because small businesses are where two-thirds of jobs are created. These five things will create 12 million jobs and bring rising take-home pay again. America needs this new direction. We cannot go in the path we've been on.

We must restore America's strength and I will do it with your help. And I want you to know I'm confident this is going to happen. We're going to have good years ahead. The best is not in the past. The best is in the future. It's getting better.

And I've seen that throughout my life. I've had the chance to witness the great qualities of the human spirit that I've seen in my fellow Americans. In early times in my life and later, I was a relatively young man and serving as the pastor of my congregation, a part-time job in my church.

And I happened to visit a family on a regular basis. He's a firefighter from Medford, Massachusetts or was. He's retired now. They're son, age 14, developed leukemia and was very, very ill. It was clear that he was not going to make it.

I used to visit David. Became close to him and on one occasion he brought me into his room. He was on his bed and he said to me, what comes next? And I spoke to him about what I believed comes next.

Another occasion, he was in the hospital and he got in touch with me, he said, you have a law degree, right? I said, yes, I do. He said, I'd like to write my will. So I went over to his hospital room and he proceeded to describe where he wanted his fishing rod to go and where he wanted his skateboard to go.

And he wanted to give his rifle to his brother. Throughout all of this, David had courage and strength of character. I'm reminded of that slogan, clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. David didn't make it.

But he did not lose. David is one of my heroes, one of the confidence builders that I have in America's future. I had the chance at the Republican convention in Tampa just a few weeks ago to meet a wonderful person, Jane Horton.

Jane's the wife of a sharpshooter who went to Afghanistan. There was a knock on her door telling her he'd been killed in Afghanistan. This was at a time when misguided people are going to the funerals of our service members and protesting.

She was asked what he thought about that as they were protesting her husband's funeral. And she said this, Chris died so people like him can protest. This is the greatness of the human heart as demonstrated time and again among the American people.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney getting emotional out there. He's been doing this even under drizzling rain that's going on in Virginia right now. We're going to stay on top of this. We'll watch what's going on, bring you more highlights, but we have to take a quick break.

Other news we're following, behind the scenes of a death-defying world record attempt, a supersonic jump from the edge of space.


BLITZER: This is what a skydive from an incredible height looks like, but for daredevil Felix Baumgartner, this one was just a practice. One of the last he took before tomorrow's epic attempt to break a record.

Baumgartner could become the first person to break the sound barrier. CNN's Brian Todd is over at mission control in New Mexico where he got a behind-the-scenes look at the operation. Brian, tell our viewers what you saw.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the hour is almost at hand. Tomorrow morning, Felix Baumgartner will try to set that record for the longest-ever freefall and for the speed record, the speed of sound is what he will try to break. The mission control is right behind me, the command center. We got access to it a short time ago.


TODD (voice-over): Inside mission control, anticipation, raw nerves, intense focus. We get special access as Art Thompson, technical project director for the Red Bull Stratus Project, does his final preparation for a historic jump.

ART THOMPSON, TECHNICAL PROJECT DIRECTOR, RED BULL STRATUS PROJECT: They're thinking it's because it's -- it's pretty exciting. Everybody's in place. We've tested all the equipment. The capsule is ready.

TODD (on camera): It's here where some of the top minds in aerospace will guide Felix Baumgartner during his record setting jump from the edge of space. The lead members of the mission control team sit here in the front row.

They include Joe Kiddinger, the man who is record Felix Baumgartner is going to try to break. He will be in this row talking to Felix Baumgartner from this spot. Everything's going to be on display on these monitors. All the different camera angles of the mission even Felix Baumgartner's vital signs on display up here.

(voice-over): After five years of preparation, two test jumps and various delays, go time on Tuesday morning is at hand. Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, will attempt the longest-ever freefall from 120,000 feet above the earth's surface. Freefall will be for about 115,000 feet.

Then his parachute will deploy about 15,000 feet up. But he will also try to break the speed of sound going more than 690 miles an hour wearing just his pressure suit, a helmet and a parachute. No one's ever done that outside a vehicle.

We've been covering this mission for more than two years. When I spoke to Baumgartner earlier this year, he discussed how focused he'll have to be at all times on his bearings and his instrument.

(on camera): Is that something you'll regret? Not necessarily having a philosophical moment while you're doing it.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, SKYDIVER: Yes. That's so bad, always makes me feel sad because you want to enjoy that moment. But you have to remember all the procedures. Joe Kiddinger down in mission control is talking to you. You know you're in a hostile environment and you cannot think about anything else. You have to be focused. Otherwise, you're going to die.

TODD: I asked Kiddinger whose record of jumping from 102,000 feet has stood for 52 years if he might have a tinged of jealousy?

COL. JOE KITTINGER (RETIRED): I'm delighted he's going to do it. He is advancing science and he'll do a great job.


TODD: And that's key here. The records mean a lot, but what this team really wants to get out of this is the scientific and aerospace advancement. They want to see if that suit that Felix Baumgartner is going to wear is going to be next generation space suit to see if people can survive outside a space vehicle in the event of a malfunction.


BLITZER: What a story, Brian. Thank you.