Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Both Sides Claim Debate Victory; Libya Attack Controversy; Fourteen Dead, 184 Infected in Meningitis Epidemic; Medicare Math: Does It Add Up?
Aired October 12, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, both campaigns are saying they won last night's vice presidential debate.
But how will that slugging match affect the campaign going forward?
There's now a criminal investigation into a Republican-financed voter registration effort in Florida.
But is the contractor still working for the GOP in other states?
And while Paul Ryan's performance was impressive last night, his statements on a subject close to his heart fell flat with undecided voters.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Both sides are claiming victory and acting like winners out on the -- out on the campaign trail today, after last night's hard-fought vice presidential debate. The Obama camp feels Joe Biden reenergized the Democratic base after the president's own lackluster debate performance.
Biden took that energy to Paul Ryan's backyard today.
Let's begin our coverage this hour with our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, that backyard is Lacrosse, Wisconsin. As you know, the campaign sees Vice President Biden as an effective attack dog. And he was in that mode again today.
He started off his remarks by saying some kind things about Congressman Ryan, saying that he's a decent guy, that he respected him. But then he made that sharp turn, saying that he hardly agrees with anything that he says. The vice president accusing the GOP ticket of misleading voters, hitting them on taxes, on Bain, on Afghanistan, on women's rights.
He was really building on that narrative that we heard during the debate last night, but was especially aggressive and sharp when he talked about the 47 percent.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the folks who talk about 47 percent of the American people being unwilling to take responsibility.
BIDEN: And by the way, the congressman from Wisconsin, in his speech to "The Spectator," said that 30 percent of the American people are takers. I don't know who these guys are talking about. I don't know who the -- these people are like my mom and dad were, the people in the neighborhoods I grew up in. Eighty-two percent of them pay their payroll taxes and other taxes, and at an effective rate higher than Romney pays his taxes.
Over 10 percent of them are senior citizens on Social Security.
BIDEN: The rest are disabled vets and veterans fighting and military personnel fighting now. That's the 47 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now, Wolf, one thing that we did note is missing from his remarks, Libya. No mention of Libya. And, of course, that's the big controversy today, because last night, during the debate, the vice president said that he did not know about this request for additional security in Benghazi.
Well, today, Mitt Romney, on the campaign trail in Richmond, Virginia, leveled this criticism against him, saying that he's, quote, "doubling down on denial."
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Dan Lothian at the White House.
Let's go a little bit further right now on Libya and what's going on. It's a controversy that is clearly still swirling after the debate. And it concerns the Obama administration's handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Paul Ryan was quick to pounce on that in the debate. Vice President Biden didn't provide very clear responses.
Let's turn to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, who's taking a much closer look.
What are you seeing -- Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, it was the very first, right off the bat, the very first question at that debate, what exactly happened in Benghazi?
There are three investigations underway. And at this point, there is a lot that is still unclear.
So here's our fact check on a few key issues.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): It's one of the most serious charges Congressman Paul Ryan leveled at Vice President Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There were requests for extra security. Those requests were not honored.
DOUGHERTY: Extra security for U.S. diplomats in Libya.
But Biden claims the White House didn't know about security requests.
BIDEN: We weren't told they wanted -- wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.
DOUGHERTY: But the former regional security officer in Libya told a Congressional committee that he asked for additional security for Benghazi months before the attack and was denied. It's not known, for now, how high up in the administration his request got.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was speaking directly for himself and for the president. He meant the White House. These are issues, appropriately, that are handled by security professionals at the State Department. And that's -- that's what he was talking about.
DOUGHERTY: The president's spokesman is right. Typically, the State Department deals with security for its personnel on its own. So we rate this unclear.
The vice president claims that House Republicans cut funding for embassy security.
BIDEN: I will be very specific. Number one, the -- this lecture on embassy security. The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.
DOUGHERTY: Figures from the Democratic House Oversight Committee back that up. And the Republican House Appropriations Committee confirms it.
But after the Senate added more money, the final bill was about $270 million less than the administration requested. So Biden's claim is true.
Congressman Ryan says the State Department should have called in the Marines to protect the ambassador to Libya.
RYAN: Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him.
Shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an an Al Qaeda cell with arms?
DOUGHERTY: But that's not the job of the Marines, says the State Department.
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: They are not mandated and chartered...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in other words...
NULAND: -- to perform -- can I finish my sentence?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
NULAND: To perform a bodyguard function.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
DOUGHERTY: The Marines' job, according to its Web site, is to protect classified information in embassies and consulates. Benghazi was a temporary mission, with no classified documents or equipment. So Ryan's claim is false.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DOUGHERTY: Now, Benghazi is turning out to be a major campaign issue. But this debate is being waged in -- in -- carried out before the final results and reports are coming out from those three investigations. And that is, the FBI, Congress and also the State Department itself. So a lot of this who knew what, when, may not be clear until after the election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: After these investigations are wrapped up.
Jill, thanks very much.
John King has been looking into this, as well.
This is becoming a big issue out there on the campaign -- John, isn't it?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there are significant policy questions. We'll get to the campaign in a second.
There are huge policy questions. When the vice president said we did not know, Jay Carney says it was a personal "we" -- the president and vice president did not know.
What the Romney campaign says is this is a pattern. They say whenever there's something damaging in the administration, the adminis -- the White House washes its hands and says somewhere in the bureaucracy, someone else is responsible for that. And they say the president of the United States is in charge of that bureaucracy, he should take responsibility for it.
The policy questions are very important. Congress wants answers, Democrats and Republicans, as to why those security requests didn't make their way up the food chain fast enough.
Governor Romney thinks, Wolf, this is an opening to question the president's leadership and his management, that he's in charge of the enterprise, therefore, he's responsible.
And has he led properly?
Has he asked the right questions, when you have a dicey situation like Libya?
We'll see how this plays out in the next presidential -- and then the third presidential debate is on security issues.
BLITZER: Yes, on national security and foreign policy...
BLITZER: -- the whole thing is going to be on that.
And the key question is, this was the 11th anniversary of 9/11. There had been significant threats in Benghazi against the United States ambassador and other Americans. And you know, on the anniversary of 9/11, something might happen. But they really didn't take steps to beef up security in advance. And that's a key unanswered question right now.
KING: They didn't take the right steps. And then, after this horrible tragic event happened, the ambassador and the others being killed, their story didn't match up. What they said initially did not match up. They changed it the next day. They changed it the day after that. And in some ways, they're still changing it now.
Now, you and I have both covered the government in evolving situations like that. You -- we do live television and breaking news situations.
Often, almost always, what is first said is not exactly right in the end. But the administration is going to have to piece this together, A, for its own documentation, B, for the Congressional investigations. And then we'll see how this plays out in the campaign. BLITZER: Is it your sense -- because we watched the debate together -- that when Biden said we didn't know, was he unfamiliar with what the State Department officials had testified that week before Congress, under oath, or he was simply saying that we, you know, we -- nobody brought this to our attention as president and vice president?
KING: Well, we can't read minds. But the one thing you do know from covering politics for 30 years is that he made an immediate pivot. It was clear he did not want to talk about it. When Martha Raddatz asked that question, he gave a sentence or two answer. We did not know, we're trying to get to the bottom of this, we did not know.
And then he criticized Mitt Romney's position on Iraq. The question was about Benghazi and the attacks in Libya and he immediately pivoted to question Mitt Romney's positions on Iraq, Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials.
In politics, when you get a question you don't like and you don't want to answer it, you pivot. That's what Joe Biden...
KING: -- did last night.
BLITZER: -- and the whole notion of throwing the intelligence community under the bus, saying, you know, that's what they were telling us, we were only reporting what they were telling us, which is awkward for a vice president to do that.
KING: It's awkward for anybody. And if you talk to people in the intelligence community, and now at the State Department, they're not happy. They're not happy. The leaders of the administration, in their view, Jay Carney speaks for the president. So that's the vice president of the United States. The vice president last night, on stage last night, essentially publicly scolding, publicly blaming others for what happened in the administration.
Those people don't like that. And, Wolf, you've been in Washington a long time. There's a history of this. If you go back, during the whole Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction, what happened in the intelligence breakdown. When any official in the government publicly criticizes the intelligence community in a way like that, you tend, over the next two, three, four, five, six months, to have not so nice stories about you.
BLITZER: Very quickly, what's your biggest takeaway from the debate last night?
KING: Both bases seem energized. I was calling around the country today, e-mailing around the country today, liberals are ecstatic, because they thought the president was essentially absent in the first debate. They got a good energy boost. But conservatives are equally happy.
So what does it do? We're getting closer to the election. Part of this is natural anyway. But the performance of both number twos last night added more energy in a highly competitive election. We're going into crunch time.
BLITZER: Yes. Big time, indeed.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are appearing this hour together in a critical battleground state. We're talking about Ohio.
We're going there live. We'll take you there live.
And as the death toll grows from a meningitis outbreak tied to tainted medications, CNN is now learning this is not -- repeat, not the first time the company in question has been linked to a deadly infection.
BLITZER: There are now 184 reported cases and 12 state -- Texas being affected by that horrific meningitis outbreak here in the United States. This comes as -- as what's believed to be the first lawsuit has been filed against the Massachusetts facility behind the scare.
Now, with at least 14 people dead, CNN is learning this isn't the first time the company has been linked to a deadly infection.
Our Brian Todd has the story.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): CNN has learned the fatalities linked to the current meningitis outbreak are not the first deaths alleged to be caused by drugs made by the New England Compounding Center. Ten years ago, a man from Upstate New York, named William Koch, got an injection of the steroid Depo Medrol. That's according to documents from a lawsuit filed by Koch's family, documents CNN has obtained.
The complaint says the drug was made by NECC, which is identified in the papers as New England Compounding Pharmacy. The suit, seeking $2.5 million from the company, says the Depo Medrol Koch received was contaminated, that he got bacterial meningitis from it and that he died from that. Koch passed away in February of 2004. The suit was later settled out of court, because of confidentiality agreement we do not know if the company admitted wrongdoing. Still, some experts have questions about NECC's practices.
STEPHEN HOAG, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF PHARMACY: It raises issues with their quality systems. TODD: Stephen Hoag is an expert on compounding drugs and the manufacture of them at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He says compounding pharmacies are traditionally supposed to work with doctors to make specific drugs for individual patients, but some compounding facilities like NECC crossed over.
HOAG: You can obviously see when they're doing tens of thousands of units that they've crossed over from an individual prescription and individual pharmacist and patient to manufacturing where they're distributing that widely to all these different states.
TODD: At that point, Hoag says those facilities are supposed to be regulated by the FDA. But NECC never got federal approval to manufacture those drugs.
(on-camera) That provokes some important questions. After William Koch's (ph) death, couldn't regulators have stepped in, investigated NECC, and shut it down at least temporarily? If regulators had done that, could the deaths in the current meningitis outbreak, including at least one here in Maryland, have been prevented?
(voice-over) The FDA doesn't have jurisdiction over compounding pharmacies until there's a problem. FDA officials say they've been fighting to change that. An official with the health department of Massachusetts where NECC is based tells us that after complaints about injections received on the same day Koch got his shot, the state health department and the FDA did a joint investigation of NECC.
It's not clear if those agencies were made aware of Koch's specific case. They didn't shut down the company, but the official says after an investigation of more than three years, they gave NECC a list of several things it needed to fix, put the company on probation for a year, but suspended that probation, he says, because the company did fix the problems. In Hoag's view, it never should have gotten that far.
Could it all have been prevented?
HOAG: I feel that they should have stuck to their original business of compounding, and they should have not crossed the line.
TODD (on-camera): We couldn't get an NECC representative to comment directly on that. Asked about the Koch case, the company declined to comment citing confidentiality provisions, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Congress is now looking into all of this?
TODD: That's right. The House Energy and Commerce Committee wants briefings from the CDC, from the FDA, and from the Massachusetts Department of Health. They want to know more about that investigation that those two agencies undertook of that company. They want to know more about what the company did in the wake of it. So, congress now getting involved in this and tracing the pathology of this whole thing.
BLITZER: I hope they do a thorough, thorough job, everyone who's investigating, so we learn from this so it doesn't happen again.
TODD: Right. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
All right. If you thought last night's vice presidential debate was fiery, you haven't seen anything yet. Just ahead, you're going to go see a political debate that got so nasty, yes, so nasty law enforcement had to step in.
BLITZER: An explosion levels a home in Colorado. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. A woman and four children were reportedly watching TV in the same room when that house exploded.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The children were able to crawl out of the house. Firefighters were able to get the mother out. Amazingly, though, they did not have any life threatening injuries. Authorities say it was caused by natural gas. Neighbors reported smelling it before that blast.
And as you saw last night heated political debates are nothing new, but this one almost got physical in California.
They got into a heated exchange over the correct author of the immigration legislation known as the Dream Act. Now, at one point, two men stood nose-to-nose. Law enforcement stepped in afterward. The debate continued without incident.
And more fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. The International Olympic Committee is considering whether to strip the cyclist of his bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney games. The IOC says it's reviewing the evidence by the U.S. anti-doping agency which accuses Armstrong of being at the center of a sophisticated doping scheme. Armstrong has long denied these allegations.
And this next story is no laughing matter. A Florida man is trying now to figure out what to do with all of these clowns. Richard Levine (ph) inherited the 13,000-piece clown collection when his father-in-law died two years ago. He plans to sell some of the items and use the money to open a museum.
He also wants to follow in the family's big red shoes and -- no surprise here, he wants to become a clown. Someone suggestions, Wolf, some people said maybe donate some of them to maybe a children's hospital. So, lots of neat ideas of what to do when you have the problem of 13,000 clowns.
BLITZER: That could make a lot of young kids pretty happy to see all those clowns walking around the museum. It's a good idea. They should take advantage of that.
SYLVESTER (on-camera): Yes. I think so too, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.
It was Paul Ryan's low point in the debate. His comments about a subject close to his heart fell flat with our group of undecided voters who were watching in Virginia. We're taking a closer look. That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."
BLITZER: Let's go back to last night's vice presidential debate. One of the moments where passions flared was the heated exchange over Medicare, subject close to so many people's hearts. Joe Biden said the Republican plan to partially privatize Medicare would raise costs for seniors. Paul Ryan took sharp exception to that. CNN's Tom Foreman has a reality check.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. As you know, Medicare is a government health insurance program mostly for people over the age of 65 and 50 million Americans rely on this and its long- term financial help is not very promising right now. Here's the really scary part, though. Each campaign says the other side's plans for dealing with that are terrible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare to spend on Obamacare.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All you seniors out there, have you been denied choices? Have you lost Medicare advantage?
RYAN: They haven't put a credible solution on the table.
BIDEN: Their ideas are old, and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: This is their essential claim that my opponent will destroy Medicare, but is that really true? Let's take a look at some of the facts and consider it. I'll bring in some tools here and look at the White House plan to begin with. This is the landscape they're dealing with. The cost of Medicare is going to generally increase over the next ten years until it reaches about a trillion dollars annually.
They want to reduce that by about 10 percent. That's the orange part here. That's the part they're cutting out. Now, their opponents look at that and say that's real care for real people that you're getting rid of, and you just can't do that, but the White House says hold on, no, it's not. That's a reduction in the amount of money that we're paying to the administrative costs of hospitals and to insurance programs.
In a word, they say, that is waste. We can get rid of it, and we should get rid of it. That's the White House take on things. Now, if you bring in the Romney/Ryan plan, you'll see the landscape is just the same, they have the same increase. They also want to reduce it by about 10 percent, but they want to rely on the private sector, not government, to get that done.
In a word, they're going for vouchers. Now, they don't like calling it vouchers, but that's really what it is. Right now, if you're on Medicare, what happens is the government pays Medicare. Medicare pays the hospital. The hospital takes care of you. Under this plan, the government would pay you, and you would decide if you wanted to buy into Medicare or into private insurance.
That will create competition between the two, and their theory, and that is how you get at that very same waste that the White House wants to get at. These are two very complicated, huge programs. There are critics on both sides who say this plan won't work or that plan won't work, or this plan will leave people stranded or that plan will leave people stranded.
But the truth is, it is complicated. It's hard to deal wit all of that. So, if you go to this basic claim that both sides raise here that somehow this is all about destroying Medicare, that is simply false. That is a scare tactic no matter which side is saying it. So, why are they saying it so much? All you have to do is look at the map, and you know.
Across the country, the baby boomers are getting older. They're becoming a bigger percentage of the voting population fast. All those dark states is where the percentage is highest. And look at Florida down here, battle ground state, more than 17 percent of the population there is over the age of 65. These are engaged voters.
They are voters who show up when it's time to vote, and, they're very concerned about Medicare, even though both sides say neither plan is going to affect people over the age of 65 right now. They're engaged on this issue, and whichever side wins the Medicare debate will probably win a lot of senior votes.
BLITZER: Good point, Tom Foreman. Thanks very much.
There's a criminal investigation into a Republican financed voter registration effort in Florida. We're digging deeper.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: This week's protest in Greece underscored the fact that the European Union is facing the worst crisis since it was founded. Devastating debt, violent disruption and possible disintegration. But the 17-nation EU today got a huge boost in the form of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The chairman of the Nobel Committee calls it a message that Europe must do everything it can to move forward.
And Jonathan Mann is joining us now from the CNN center. He's been covering these prizes for many years.
I don't know about you, Jon, but I was pretty surprised back in 2009 when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. And I was pretty surprised today with the EU winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Were you surprised?
JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I was really moved. And I'll tell you why, Wolf. You know your history. And you're very well traveled. For anyone who's been to Western Europe and walked through the battlefields or seen the military cemeteries where millions of young men lost their lives and lie there still to this day, Europe was a slaughterhouse for centuries.
People take peace there for granted. And one of the reasons they're able today to take peace for granted is because of the ambition, the ideal of a unified Europe, unified by what we know today as the European Union. It has succeeded. It has worked. Europe is at peace. It's not an accident. And the Nobel Committee recognized that enormous achievement with the Peace Prize.
BLITZER: Who is on this Nobel Committee? And how do they make their decision?
MANN: There are five people on the committee. They're all Norwegians. They are chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. They tend to be people in public life, retired figures. The former prime minister of Norway is in fact the chairman of the committee. And they make their decisions essentially by consensus.
There's a lovely old school quality to it. They receive nominations by mail every year. This year they got 231. And they mull them over. And they have researchers look into the most serious ones. They are themselves entitled to add their own nominations. But at a certain point they just start talking and voting. They try and reach consensus. This year's decision as in many years was said to have been unanimous.
BLITZER: There are a lot of people who think that the committee is becoming too political, shall we say, the critics. What do you think?
MANN: You know, is peace political? Is war political? Fundamentally when you're talking about recognizing the work of people who are trying to advance the cause of peace, you're inevitably going to be talking about people who are trying to resolve disputes, who are addressing disputes, who are sometimes taking sides in disputes. So the whole project laid out in Alfred Nobel's will of recognizing people who have done the most for the work of peace worldwide, it's inevitably political.
It was this year. And they're saluting the politics of peace as really exemplified by the European Union. Five hundred million people living together in peace in a place that was for centuries the scene of unspeakable carnage.
BLITZER: There have been some controversial Nobel Peace Prize winners over the years. Does the Nobel Peace Prize still this day make a real difference?
MANN: You know, the most eloquent answer would come from Liu Xiaobo, who was the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate two years ago. He couldn't receive his prize because he's behind bars. He was then, he is now. I don't know that it's contributed enormously to his cause. Maybe some day we'll find out that it helped keep him alive.
I can tell you that Aun San Suu Kyi, who was the Laureate in 1991 and who was finally able to visit the United States this year, said that she was heartened when she heard about the prize because it meant that even in house arrest the world had not forgotten about her.
And so maybe that's the most the Nobel can do. It can show the world and it can show brave people who are making a difference for the world that the rest of us haven't forgotten about them. We salute their achievement and then we honor their effort if it's ongoing. And that's worthy. That's something.
BLITZER: Jonathan Mann, as usual, thanks very much.
We're awaiting right now to hear from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They're about to speak at a rally in Ohio. When it happens, we'll go there live. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: As we await Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, let's get to our strategy session. Joining us now two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and the former Bush speechwriter David Frum.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
You know, we had a focus group, undecided voters, watching in Virginia at the debate last night. And the low point, the low point for Paul Ryan happened when he was talking about abortion. Let me play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the low point for him. And among those focus groups in the dial test today @Barack Obama, the president's Web site, Twitter site, I should say, tweeted -- I'll put it up on the screen, Wolfblitzer: Congressman Ryan's low point happened near the end of the debate when he was asked about abortion. And I was referring to that focus group.
How much of a problem is the difference between the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket with female voters out there when it comes to the issue of abortion?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you know, women are more pro-life than men. That is -- that is something we do tend to forget. Republicans have a problem with women voters not because of the abortion issue but because Republicans are too individualistic on economics. They're not seen to be supportive enough of some kind of government safety network. And that is the thing that Republicans have to reassure women about.
If -- if they do, then they can certainly survive being a pro- choice -- being or a pro-life party with a sex that is, you know, more pro-life than men are.
Paul Ryan's problem, though, was that he kept biting at issues like that. That is the core challenges of the Republicans in this campaign. Talk about jobs and income growth. Don't talk about anything else. The Democratic goal is to get you to talk with other things. Don't cooperate.
BLITZER: Because the Obama-Biden campaign thinks this is a winning issue for them.
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. And I agree with them. And I think the problem with the Republicans is even though lots of women are pro-life, I don't think that they want to see nor do the majority of the American people want to see abortion rights taken away. And that is the problem. Because the Romney-Ryan ticket has really opened the door to that.
And you also mentioned something which I think has been a huge dichotomy between what the Republicans say their importance on individual freedom, individual freedom is a sacred tenet in the Republican Party except I guess when it comes to women voters because they actually want to be able to decide for women what to do with their bodies. And that really turns women off.
BLITZER: You heard Biden say something -- a lot of things that the president didn't say in his first debate, but he also mentioned the Supreme Court and he pointed out that maybe one, maybe two justices could be nominated by the next president over the next four years.
FRUM: Biden's goal in this debate, he, unlike the president, did arrive with a plan for the debate. The president, I think, was just trying to catch up on his rest. Biden's plan was talk about anything except jobs and income growth. Talk about Medicare. Talk about Medicaid. Talk about the Supreme Court. Anything. Because even when you're on the wrong side of public opinion, you're in less trouble on the wrong side of public opinion on those issues than you are on the core issue of -- of this election, which is where's the plan to create jobs?
BLITZER: Maria, they both wanted to talk about their roots, middle class roots or whatever. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: Talking about places the I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe and I are from similar towns. He's from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm from Janesville, Wisconsin.
BIDEN: These people are my mom and dad, the people I grew up with, my neighbors, they pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax.
RYAN: One of my best friends in Janesville, a reservist, is at a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So they're obviously trying to play up their middle class roots, their real people if you will. Who got the better?
CARDONA: I actually think it was Joe Biden although I will say that Paul Ryan was right in talking up his middle class roots because that is still an area where the Romney-Ryan ticket is wanting. And it is clearly a focus. I actually think at the end of the day this election will be decided on which ticket convinces American voters who is going to be the best fighter for middle class families.
And I think throughout the debate Paul Ryan really had an issue in talking about the specifics of a plan that would help the middle class, specifically his economic plan.
BLITZER: You think their roots, Americans really care -- American voters really care about their roots whether in Scranton or Janesville, Wisconsin?
FRUM: I think everything counts. But I think Biden -- Joe Biden proved something else. Joe Biden used the words, the phrase, middle class three times as often, as Paul Ryan did. Yes, I did count. And he didn't often have anything to say, he just said the phrase middle class, middle class, middle class. Because he had taken note of the debating lesson, the thing you say is the thing that people think you talk about. You can care about. So the Republicans should have come to that stage and said the word jobs, jobs, jobs. Income growth, income growth, income growth. Medicare, abortion, all distractions. This election's about jobs and income growth. And --
BLITZER: Well, Medicare is a pretty important issue.
FRUM: It's an important issue that you don't have -- the Republican answer to that should be -- and this is -- I was not an advocate of putting Paul Ryan on the ticket because you join a distraction. The Republican answer should be Medicare is a pressing problem. And once the economy returns to normal, it must be solved. There will be plenty of time after the election of 2016 to deal with that problem.
Today's crisis is putting people back to work, getting the economy moving again. And don't let the Obama administration off the hook for its failure to do that.
BLITZER: Maria, I was curious on this because I was paying close attention like all of you were how they addressed each other during the course of the debate. We put together this -- this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: My friend, my friend. To my friend --
RYAN: Joe and I are from similar towns.
BIDEN: I love my friend here.
RYAN: I appreciate that, Joe.
BIDEN: My friend.
RYAN: Joe --
BIDEN: His college year would not --
RYAN: You know it hits a million -- this tax hits a million people.
BIDEN: Let me tell you what my friend said. My friend. What would my friend do differently? My friends, I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.
RYAN: I want to thank you, Joe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now was that appropriate for the congressman to call the sitting vice president of the United States Joe?
CARDONA: I actually don't think that's a big deal. I mean, Sarah Palin asked if she could call him Joe and Joe said yes. So I don't think it's a big deal. I think what that demonstrated is that in fact Paul Ryan is probably not Joe Biden's friend. But, you know, going back to something that my friend David Frum said is that Joe Biden kept talking about the middle class, but it was because he was able to connect the dots about what the Obama's policies has been and will be to expand the middle class. And that's a lot of what the middle class wants to hear and didn't hear from Ryan last night.
BLITZER: So let's ask our friend.
Is it appropriate for the congressman to call the vice president Joe? Or Mr. Vice President?
FRUM: I would recommend Mr. Vice President. I would also recommend that the vice president refer to a member of Congress and the vice presidential nominee as congressman.
FRUM: My -- his use of the word "my friend" reminded me of something they say in university common rooms, that when the discussion begins to get ugly, the professors begin to address each other as professor.
And that's when you know they're really mad.
CARDONA: Absolutely. (INAUDIBLE), right?
FRUM: And so there was something dismissive, condescending and insulting about the way Vice President Biden referred to Congressman Ryan. It's not surprising that Congressman Ryan didn't repay respect where he was not getting respect.
BLITZER: I -- maybe I'm old school, but Mr. Vice President, Congressman, that's the way I would go.
CARDONA: I agree. But I don't think it was a big deal. I think the policies were more what voters were looking at.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.
FRUM: Thank you.
CARDONA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck in some critical battleground states right now including new polls just coming in from Florida and from New Hampshire. The latest ARG poll of likely voters shows Mitt Romney at 49 percent and President Obama at 46 percent. That's in Florida right now. That's within the sampling error. Meanwhile, with just 25 days to go before Election Day there are some serious concerns about a Republican financed voter registration effort in the state.
CNN's crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is joining us now with the latest on a criminal investigation making waves right here in Washington.
Joe, what's going on?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is a veteran GOP operative who just doesn't seem to go away. A few weeks ago away. A bad publicity hit Arizona Republican, Nathan Sproul, whose specialty is registering voters. He was even disavowed by the Republican National Committee. But tonight, some Democrats have criticized his tactics saying they're worried Sproul may still be operating in several key battleground states under a different company name.
JOHNS (voice-over): It all started with veteran GOP consultant Nathan Sproul and his Strategic Allied Consulting Company. They came under criminal investigation in Florida for allegedly false voter registration information to the Palm Beach County Election Office. The Republican Party at both the state and national level responded by, in Sproul's words, throwing him under the bus even though he denies wrongdoing.
By that time the Republican Party had already given Sproul $3 million for voter registration efforts, but they publicly announced they were severing ties with Sproul.
But it's not the end of the story. Now the top Democrat on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee is asking questions including whether Sproul has managed to keep doing business under a different company name.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Then we want to look at the various contracts. I want to see the contracts that he has with these various entities and what he is contracted to do.
JOHNS: If the biggest question is who's paying, the Republican Party apparently is not. Contacted today, Sean Spicer of the Republican National Committee said they're not doing business with Sproul or any of his companies. Democrats pointed to the American Crossroads political organization that has promised to spend millions to help Republicans win elections, but American Crossroads told CNN that it hired one of Sproul's companies in 2010 for door-to-door outreach. But has not worked with Sproul in 2012.
Sproul's lawyer did not return our calls. And he apparently is not talking to Democrats in Congress either. Congressman Cummings asked Sproul to sit for an interview and provide information but Sproul declined through his lawyer in this letter that says Sproul wants to keep this outside of the realm of politics and that Sproul is cooperating with Florida officials in their investigation of irregularities there.
CUMMINGS: It was very upsetting to me and to the members of our committee on the Democratic side. And we're very upset about it.
JOHNS (on camera): Why?
CUMMINGS: It's very unusual for us to have someone we are investigating to say, I am not going to cooperate with you, I am not going to provide documents, I will not appear.
JOHNS (voice-over): Though Sproul has not responded to our request for an interview, he has talked to FOX News where he defended his company's voter registration practices. Here's what he said about the investigations in the Florida case last week.
NATHAN SPROUL, VETERAN GOP CONSULTANT: What they will find is that our company had a systematic effort of quality control that looked for people who try to cheat the system. When we found them, we fired them immediately and we have a long paper trail to demonstrate that the handful of people that we caught cheating the system were fired and turned over to investigators for prosecution.
JOHNS: Democrats have complained about Nathan Sproul as far back as the 2000 election but his attorney has called me on the telephone that his client has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe, thanks very much, and by the way Joe has an excellent new documentary entitled "VOTERS IN AMERICA, WHO COUNTS." It premiers Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. You're going to want to -- we're standing by to hear both of the Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates. They're in Pennsylvania getting ready to address a rally right now.
We will be anxious to hear what they say. There you see live pictures coming in from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We'll have coverage of that when we come back.
Also, other news we're following including this. He's the presidential candidate you probably never heard of, but guess what? He could sway the vote in one key swing state
BLITZER: This is Lancaster, Ohio, not Pennsylvania. I misspoke earlier. Live pictures coming in. Romney and Ryan getting ready to speak there. We'll go there once they do.
Meantime, here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Greece, presidential guards march in front of the Parthenon. In Indonesia, people gather around a peace sign made of candles for a memorial ceremony to remember the victims of a nightclub bombing 10 years ago. In London, a girl flips for the wall -- for fall weather in a park. And on the Pharaoh Islands, a sheep is spotted.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.
The Korean pop star Psy is already an international sensation, now YouTube -- his hit is also taking the word of sports by storm. From a tennis court in China to a baseball field right here in Washington, D.C.
Here's CNN's Mark McKay.
MARK MCKAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By now, you've watched it, sung the song, or even done the dance.
PARK JAE-SANG, KOREAN POP STAR: The style is noble at daytime, and crazy at night. That's "Gangnam Style."
MCKAY: The music video by South Korean pop star Psy has become a worldwide hit. It went viral on YouTube with more than 400 million views. Now the song and dance are making their way into the world of sports.
Last week, tennis star Novak Djokovic busted a move with some fans in Beijing to celebrate his China Open win. Baseball fans in the U.S. had a good laugh as the Washington Nationals team mascots strutted their stuff before the President's Race. The video was among the most viewed clips ever on a President's Race Web site.
In Uruguayan hitman Edinson Cavani jumps on the "Gangnam Style" bandwagon after scoring against Parma.
And then there's the Oregon Duck. Pumping up the school spirit for the University of Oregon with his version of the K-pop song. But Duck is a hit on YouTube, too, with more than five million views. But while everyone knows his song, the Korean pop star says he's still trying to get people to remember his name.
PARK: The video is much more popular. So if people say hey, I'm Psy, and they're like what's Psy, and I say "Gangnam Style"? And then I say like the YouTube video? Things go like this.
MCKAY: Psy is now working with Justin Bieber's producer on his next big hit. In the meantime, sports players, fans and mascots are dancing to the "Gangnam Style" anthem.
Mark McKay, CNN, Atlanta.
BLITZER: Happening now, both campaigns insist its victory for their side. But one issue from the debate is forcing the White House to step in.