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THE SITUATION ROOM

Presidential Candidates Prepare for Second Debate; Campaigns Fear Debate Moderator?; Getting Aggressive in a Town Hall; Flags at Half Staff for Specter; Candidates' Wives Doing TV Talk Shows; Salahi Says Yes to Journey Guitarist; Rolling Stones to Play London, Newark; Jumping into a New Era

Aired October 15, 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: On this, the eve of what could be a make-or-break debate for President Obama, Mitt Romney's campaign announces a huge fund-raising haul.

Also, a controversy of sorts over debate questions. Are both campaigns afraid of the moderator, our own Candy Crowley?

And how do you top the record-setting jump from the edge of space? A closer look at what's next in the high-altitude exploration.

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

BLITZER: It's hard to believe, but only 22 days left until the election and just over 24 hours to the second presidential debate. For President Obama, the stakes could hardly be higher.

The slight lead in the polls he had going into the first debate has evaporated in these days since his lackluster performance. Right now, both he and Mitt Romney, they are preparing intensively for another face-off, this time at New York's Hofstra University, a face-off that could help decide the White House race.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us from Boston right now, where Romney is preparing.

What's the latest on Romney's preparation? What do we know, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, debate prep has seemed like debate seclusion over the last 24 hours. President Obama and Mitt Romney have rarely ventured out into public. It is a reminder of just how high the stakes will be tomorrow night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello! Hello! Hello! I brought some food.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA (voice-over): After joking that his debate prep was a drag last time around, President Obama assured supporters at a campaign office over the weekend in Virginia he's hitting the books. Mitt Romney was only seen briefly during his preparations heading in and out of church on Sunday.

In Romney's sparring sessions, Ohio Senator Rob Portman is once again playing the president, while adviser Peter Flaherty has the role of moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley. As Portman indicated Sunday, the campaign is getting ready to rumble.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I think President Obama is going to come out swinging. I think he's going to have to compensate for a poor first debate and I think that'll be consistent with what they have been doing this whole campaign.

ACOSTA: Over at Obama debate prep, the president's longtime adviser Anita Dunn is playing Crowley, while Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is once again standing in for Romney. The president's team vows he will amp up his performance.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I think he's going to be aggressive in making the case for his view of where we should go as a country.

ACOSTA: That could be a risky move and perhaps alienate some in the audience in this debate's town hall style format, perhaps explaining why an Obama aide now says the president will be firm, but respectful. Advisers say they're prepared for all variables.

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The president can change his style, he can change his tactics. He can't change his record.

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think Mitt Romney's performance was, indeed, magical and theatrical.

ACOSTA: It's a hire-wire act for both candidates with the latest CNN poll of polls showing the race is neck and neck, not just nationally, but in the three key swing states of Florida, where Romney may have a slight edge, Ohio, where the president may be inches ahead, and Virginia, where it's almost a tie. A dead even battleground map puts a premium on traditionally Democratic states like Wisconsin, home turf of Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We haven't dedicated our electoral votes since 1984 to the Republican nominee. It is time we change that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Earlier this afternoon, the Romney campaign put out new fund- raising numbers for the month of September. The campaign disclosed that it raised $170 million in the month of September.

That's $10 million short of what the president hauled in, but still an impressive figure for the Romney campaign, keeping in mind, Wolf, that that was before the GOP nominee had that breakout performance at the debate in Denver. And this information on fund-raising from the Romney campaign comes just as top fund-raising officials with the campaign are hosting a three-day gala in New York City. One of the big events of that gala is tonight on the USS Intrepid featuring Paul Ryan, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Three weeks to go, but they're still raising tons and tons of money. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

The moderator of tomorrow night's huge debate is our own chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Candy, I want to first get to what President Obama, you believe, needs to do tomorrow night to prevent a repeat of his first presidential debate.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the criticisms that you have heard both from Democrats and Republicans of President Obama's first appearance was that he didn't seem into it, frankly, that there wasn't any passion there. There was a listlessness there, kind of a disconnection.

And people thought, boy, and even Democrats were saying, gee, does he really want this job? So there has to be passion there. There has to be a real vigorous standing up for what he believes in.

Having said that, I think Jim is exactly right what he said in his spot, is that this is a town hall meeting. You are not that far from folks that asking you questions. And let's remember that President Obama is not Joe Biden. He's not as hot, if you will, on camera, not as passionate.

So you -- this still has to be President Obama. And he still has to show passion, but he can't go over the top. So I think that's what they're looking for. I mean, that's certainly what we're hearing in the folks around President Obama talking about what they think we will see tomorrow night.

BLITZER: All right. As you know, Candy, there's a little dust-up going on today. The campaigns, both the campaigns agreeing on one thing. They're saying that they expect the questions to come only from the audience. What exactly is the format of tomorrow night's debate?

CROWLEY: It's a town hall meeting. There will be questioners to the right and left of me and in front of the candidates. And they will have the questions. And as was the case in the Charlie Gibson town hall meeting and the Tom Brokaw town hall meeting in presidential campaigns past, there is a time after that for follow-up and for furthering the discussion.

BLITZER: Facilitating the conversation, as it were. So how are you preparing for this...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Whatever you want to call it, yes.

BLITZER: How are you preparing?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, lots of things.

First of all, I will try to get a good night's sleep because it's a very long day because we get the questions tomorrow morning from the town hall folks. Remember there's I think between 80 and 100 of them coming. So not everyone's going to get to ask a question. We have to cull through those and figure it out.

But more than that, Wolf, as you know, it's like preparing almost for any interview, except for on a bigger stage and with so many issues. I'm trying to just know what the facts are, what the positions are, so that when something comes up that maybe could use a little further explanation, it might be as simple as, but the question, sir, was oranges and you said apples. Could you answer oranges? Or it might be as simple as, but, gee, how does that fit with the following thing?

So you try to know and study up on as much as there is out there, knowing that hopefully you're getting close to, you know, 90 percent of the knowledge you need, knowing that you're only going to use 1 percent. But you don't know which 1 percent you're going to need.

BLITZER: And you make the decision, Candy, correct me if I'm wrong, which questions, which people will be allowed to stand up and ask these two candidates a question.

CROWLEY: Right.

It's more -- it's less about which people as it is about which question. Certainly, we expect that a lot of these folks will bring in the same question, but you want to have a variety, you want to try to cull some new ground out there, and you want to really get a reflection of what these people want to know about, as well as what is out there for folks that haven't quite figured it out yet, like, what are their questions remaining? You want it to be reflective of that.

So, yes, I have a small team of folks that are going to help me. We're the only ones that know what the totality of the questions and we're going to try to figure out as broad of a range we can get to tomorrow night.

BLITZER: I have no doubt you will do an excellent, excellent job, Candy. Good luck and we're all with you obviously 100 percent of the way. Appreciate it very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: Our special coverage of the next presidential debate begins tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific right here on CNN.

BLITZER: Blunt advice for President Obama from two top Democratic strategists -- details of what they say he has to do to beat Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Two Democratic strategists have some blunt advice for President Obama as he prepares for tomorrow night's rematch against Mitt Romney.

James Carville and Stan Greenberg laid it all out in a Democracy Corps memo, reading -- and I'm quoting now -- "The campaign has reached a tipping point where we believe the president has to offer a bold narrative, policies and choice if he is to win reelection and get to a substantial enough victory that enables him to govern and face the great challenges ahead."

Let's talk a little bit more about that with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of "The National Journal."

Ron, thanks for coming in.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Obama campaign 's slogan is forward, but it sounds like this Carville-Greenberg memo out today says he's actually not focusing in enough on the future. Do they have a point?

BROWNSTEIN: That puts it very well.

And I think they do have a point. You know, there are a lot of things that the president didn't do in that first debate. But maybe the most glaring of all was that he really offered voters very little sense of what he would do if they gave him another four years. He displayed passion at one point in the debate about blocking the Romney/Ryan agenda on taxes and Medicare and the budget, but really gave very little indication of his own plans and what this memo argues from Carville and Greenberg from focus groups and polling is that that is a very dangerous position to be in because voters do not want continuity, they want change.

And the president needs to kind of frame this about whose change do you want over the next four years.

BLITZER: Can he do that tomorrow night in a town hall format?

BROWNSTEIN: Town hall format is tough to do the contrast.

It's hard to do, I think, kind of go back -- the other part of what Democrats want to see him do more of, which is kind of frame the case they have been trying to make against Romney since the spring, that he is a plutocrat, in effect, he cares more about the few than the many. That side is harder.

But on this front, I think the town hall is conducive to trying to make the case about where you want to take the country. The problem, Wolf, is that he really hasn't given us a lot of details on this all year, whether it was a State of the Union, his acceptance speech, this first debate.

And what the Carville-Greenberg memo argues is that that has allowed Romney to in effect position himself as the voice of change, which is, again, a very dangerous position for the president at a time when still most Americans are saying we're on the wrong track.

BLITZER: Gallup has a new tracking poll out of what they call 12 swing states, battleground states, and it shows -- this just came out, -- Romney 51 percent in these 12 states, these are likely voters, Obama 46 percent, sampling error 4 percent to 6 percent margin of error.

So it's obviously within the margin of error. But looks sort of -- if you take a look at these battleground states, it looks sort of encouraging right now for Romney.

BROWNSTEIN: Clearly is.

Now, just be clear, this Gallup poll is not a new stand alone poll. This is kind of a roll-up, accumulation of the results of their nightly tracking poll over that period in these battleground states. But what it shows you in particular is Romney doing better among women.

We've talked about this before, Wolf. The part of Obama's -- President Obama's margin of comfort in September was showing among working class white women, what some people call the waitress moms who normally are pretty tough on Democrats, but were moving toward him especially in battleground state out of a sense that Romney did not understand or care about their lives. And that, I think, is what Romney was able to change above all in that first debate, give those voters who are not fully satisfied with Obama a greater sense that he is a viable alternative. And I think those are the voters most loosely attached to the Obama coalition. It's not surprising to seeing them moving away. But it is still dangerous for the president to have that going on.

BLITZER: Ohio, obviously, the key state right now. This is what Rob Portman said over the weekend, the senator from Ohio, he plays the president in the debate preparations for Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Look, you can probably win the presidency without Ohio, but I wouldn't want to take the risk. No Republican has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Right. No Republican has won the presidency without Ohio. In our latest CNN poll of polls, the average of the major polls in recent days, 50 percent say they will go with the president, 47 percent say they will go with Romney. That's way too close for the Democrats, I suspect.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, they've been ahead by more earlier in the year. You know, I've been saying that when the Obama folks can't sleep, I kind of thought they'd get up in the middle of the night and check the polling averages in Ohio and puts them to sleep for a few hours, kind of like warm milk.

But look, there are 18 states that have voted Democratic in every race since 1992. They have 242 Electoral College votes, there are more encouraging polls for Romney in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But if he can't crack that wall that's 242, if you add Ohio to that plus New Mexico, which no one really sees is in dispute anymore, the president would be at 265, and in position to go over the top with anything else, including Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, et cetera.

So, you know, preventing Obama from winning Ohio is absolutely critical for Romney. And until he shows he can get over the top in Ohio, he is still the underdog. But having said that, if we're seeing movement among these blue-collar white women in particular, Ohio is going to get closer and tougher for the president.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Much more on the race for the White House coming up, including a lot more on the debate tomorrow night.

Also, other news we're following, the U.S. does not have a monopoly on drones by any means in the Middle East. Israel's demonstrating how it's capable of high-tech warfare, as well. We have an inside look. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hezbollah now says it has drone technology, but Israeli military officials don't seem overwhelmingly concerned. That's because Israel has its own high-tech system. And officials say it's much more advanced.

CNN's senior international correspondent Sara Sidner shows us how it works.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A week after a drone from its sworn enemy Hezbollah made it deep inside Israel's air space before being blown to bits. Israel showed of its latest drone, the Israeli-made Heron 1. It is fitted with the most advanced radar system, two cameras, night vision, laser and satellite technology. All of which can beam back stunningly sharp images in real time to anywhere in the world.

And the unmanned aerial vehicle can take off and land automatically even in bad weather, stay in the air for up to 24 hours and scan up to 90 miles away.

In this test, we watched the drone leave northern Israel, minutes later it's flying over a ship off Israel's coast and beaming back images from thousands of feet in the air. Images so sharp, you can read the name of the ship and dozens of other details. LT. COL. DANNY BICHMAN (RET.), ISRAEL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRIES: Once you try to use a drone, you don't know how you lived without it before. Like our cell phones. These days we're saying, how did you manage without cell phones, 15, 20 years ago? The same with drones.

SIDNER: Israel has been using drones for years, especially over Gaza. This is the kind of upgraded technology militaries all over the world are after, said this retired Israel air force captain who didn't want his face shown for security reasons.

RETIRED CAPTAIN, ISRAELI AIR FORCE: I think all over the world, you will find countries that try to develop UAV, every country tried. And I think UAV, it's a threat. It's a threat everywhere.

SIDNER: One of those countries vying for drones is Israel's nemesis, Iran, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militants in neighboring Lebanon.

Hezbollah's leadership bragged about the recent long-range drone it sent over Israel and promised it would not be the last it sends. Payback, it says for the times Israel has sent war planes over Lebanon.

SAYYED HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH SECRETARY GENERAL (through translator): The resistance in Lebanon sent an advanced surveillance drone from the Lebanese territories towards the sea and through this drone from hundreds of kilometers over the sea. Then the drone penetrated the enemy's defense procedures and entered the occupied southern Palestine and flew over critical and important bases and installations until it was discovered by the enemy near the area of Dimona.

SIDNER: Dimona is of particular concern because of the nuclear reactor concerned to Israel and its enemies because of a nuclear reactor and suspected weapons program near that town in the Negev desert. While Israel has not revealed exactly where the drone went and why it wasn't shot down before it was far inside Israeli air space, Iran publicly boasted about its role in the drone mission and took a jab at Israel's defense capabilities.

Sunday, a member of Iran's parliament and national security and foreign policy commission, Mohammad Sali Shukar (ph) told Iran's semi- official news agency Fars the most important message of the Hezbollah drone's penetration into the occupied territories was that the Zionists on attacking Iran are unfounded, since the regime is not able to defend itself against Iran's missile capabilities.

(on camera): A senior Israeli official scoffed at the idea saying Israel has no illusions about the capabilities or intentions of Iran or the subsidiary Hezbollah.

(voice-over): What is clear is the future of warfare is here and this is it. What is less clear is what Israel plans to do without a provocation by its number one concern, Iran.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: One expert, by the way, tells CNN the drones used by Hezbollah are extremely crude, saying and I'm quoting now, to call them rinky-dink would be polite.

The Pakistani schoolgirl nearly killed by the Taliban is safe in a British hospital today. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. There's high interest in this story.

Hospital officials say Malala Yousufzai faces weeks if not months of treatment. Malala, who's 14 years old, gained renowned in Pakistan and around the globe for her efforts defending the rights of girls to attend school. Taliban gunman ambushed her school's van last week and shot her. We will have a full report in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

The U.S. government raising concerns about drugs from the Massachusetts firm whose steroids are suspected in a nationwide outbreak of meningitis. Today, the Food and Drug Administration warns that patients who underwent eye surgery and received injections of New England Compounding Center's drugs may be at risk for infection. The government also confirmed nine more cases of meningitis, that's bringing the total to 214, 15 people have died.

A judge today began hearing evidence against the captain of the cruise ship that capsized off Italy back in January. He faces allegations of manslaughter, causing a ship wreck abandoning ship, failing to report an accident and destroying a natural habitat. Thirty-two people died in that shipwreck and some of the survivors are in the courtroom for the closed door hearing.

And take a look at this, maybe just a little too much reality TV n this Norwegian TV show. The metal stand a parachute jumper was using to propel himself off a cliff, collapsed sending him over the edge. Good news, at least his parachute worked. The man not only managed to avoid hitting the cliff on his way down, the falling stand missed him by just a few yards.

Oh, my word. Take a look at that. Good news, though, for everybody concerned as we see him go, go down is that he is fine. But look at that. Good thing that his parachute opened up.

And you see in the picture, Wolf, you see looks like he barely missed the side of that cliff. Amazing stuff there.

BLITZER: I'm glad he was fine. He's also nuts. That's another --

SYLVESTER: That's base jumping for you.

BLITZER: Thank God he's OK. That is crazy.

There's a huge tactical question today, presidential politics. Just how aggressive should a candidate be during a town hall debate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today's hot question in presidential politics other than who will win concerns the tactics for tomorrow night's presidential debate. Here's a quick snapshot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, ANCHOR, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": A candidate that makes a connection with the person asking the question is also I think making a better connection with the folks back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without a podium and with audience interaction, the candidate's style and body language can take on added weight.

ED GILLESPIE, SENIOR ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: The president can change his style, he can change his tactics, but he can't change his record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The challenge for Romney is going to be that he's gotten very good at the sort of formal debates. Can he step up his game in an informal setting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got to make Barack Obama the negative campaigner. Over the last ten days, Mitt Romney's favorability has gone up significantly and Obama's has stayed where it's been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get straight to CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's assembled an excellent panel.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: An excellent panel, thank you so much, Wolf.

And of course, we're going to be talking about that debate. Now just hot off the presses, a new poll from Pew Research, which tells us about expectations, which says that 41 percent say the president will do better and 37 percent say now Romney's going to do better. What say you, Ross?

ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I say that's fantastic news for Romney. I mean, to go to come out of the debate where, you know, 60, 65 percent of the country thought he won and still have the expectations game in reach for the second debate.

I don't think he could ask for better numbers. I was expecting, you know, 45 percent, 50 percent saying Romney would win. This shows there's still an assumption.

And certainly this is good news for the president, right? There's still an assumption that people's faith in Obama's communication skills is still more or less intact. I think it shows -- I think it's an edge for Romney.

BORGER: You still have faith?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I have faith in the president. You know, I think the Romney bar is higher than it was last time because he said so many things in the last debate that sort of made people wonder who this Mitt Romney was.

And I think the president is going to respectfully, but forcefully force him to own some of the change in position. And so I think actually the expectations for Romney are higher.

You know, the president, though, with the town hall format, look, he ran, you know, encouraging people to be with him. There's nobody really who feels your pain, more engaged, who is more personal than Barack Obama.

BORGER: How about Bill Clinton?

ROSEN: All right, you got me on that. But I think that the format is going to work for the president, and I think that when Mitt Romney has to face people who are saying, wait a second, what about us? I'm not sure he's going to be so successful there.

REPRESENTATIVE DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: I think one of the president's strengths is that he answers questions directly when he's one-on-one with people. And I think that's actually going to come through in this format.

And I think you're right, Hilary, this format really does play to the president's strengths in terms of his ability to connect and have a relationship.

BORGER: But he hasn't done a lot of town halls. Mitt Romney's been out there doing town halls. It's not his natural habitat either.

BRAD DAYSPRING, SENIOR ADVISER, YG ACTION FUND: The town halls the president has been doing are with his supporters. I mean, he is going in front of friendly crowds and answering friendly questions. And I think what Americans saw at the first debate was a president who is uncomfortable being challenged. And that's going to be a challenge for him.

DOUTHAT: And his real strength, I mean, to be clear as we saw in the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama is at his best in front of a huge crowd of, you know, 40,000 ecstatic supporters. And there's no question, no recent presidential candidate has been better in those kind of --

ROSEN: You're saying that because you've never been in a more intimate setting with him, but he's pretty good in smaller groups too.

DOUTHAT: I actually have been in relatively intimate settings with the president and he's a very charming and charismatic man. I shook his hand and I got the thrill running up my leg, whatever else, you know, you're supposed to get in those settings. But the fact remains he isn't a sort of loosy goosy charmer. You don't walk out of the room with President Obama -- EDWARDS: He's going to be engaged on substance and I think that is going to be the difference between this debate and the last one where he really is, I think, going to come hard. And you can do that in an aggressive way and still be very likable and so I think he doesn't run the risk of damaging that part --

BORGER: Wouldn't you argue that they're both kind of a like that way. Neither one of them is sort of I feel your pain kind of politician. Romney's inner businessman came out I would argue in the last debate it worked for him. But I don't know if that would work this time, right? Go ahead.

DAYSPRING: The format is a challenge for both candidates, but one of the things I keep hearing from Democrats is that the president's going to come out aggressively, forcefully, and I think that's a bit dangerous for the sitting president of the United States to come out looking like Joe Biden did last week.

I think independent voters, the people he talks to need to hear from the president a clear vision of what he's going to do in the second term. He'd be better served talking about his own agenda rather than pointing at Mitt Romney for most the night.

ROSEN: I think the president's going to be plain spoke whether that's considered aggressive or not, I doubt it. He's going to be direct and that's clear.

But you know, nothing will substitute from kind of the plain spoke questions that Candy ends up reading to the candidates, because what actually people think and care about, you know, the president is going to engage in that.

There's not going to be a person in that audience who has paid as low a tax rate as Mitt Romney. I'm just going to, you know, the president should ask maybe.

But there's not going to be a person in that room who hasn't had the kind of -- relates to the experiences that Barack Obama has had versus Mitt Romney when you're talking about what the middle -- what is good for the middle class.

I just don't think Mitt Romney's going to be able to respond substantively to the lifestyle that those people have.

DOUTHAT: Let's be honest here, Barack Obama, you know, had a fascinating remarkable upbringing. But not exactly a sort of, you know, Bill Clinton hope, Arkansas, type of upbringing. He's a product of the American -- he's a Harvard kind of guy.

EDWARDS: He has a middle class upbringing and that's going to be reflected in his --

DOUTHAT: I mean, I don't think we --

ROSEN: -- scholarships --

DOUTHAT: Barack Obama does have more Harvard degrees.

BORGER: One has one degree, one has two.

DOUTHAT: I'm not denying that they've had very different life experiences. I'm just saying Obama has spent the last three decades of his life in the ranks of the American elite. He's a millionaire too. I just think the idea that he has some amazing feel your pain ability that's going to come out in this debate is unlikely.

DAYSPRING: To go back to one of the points you made, Hilary, to talk and say the people in the audience aren't paying what Mitt Romney pays in taxes. I don't think many Americans sit out there and think, he pays less or he pays more than so that's going to determine my vote.

I do bet a lot of people in the audience have been hurting for work for the last several years and they have been looking for President Obama to live up to his promises that he made.

ROSEN: In line with the rest of the people, they feel the economy getting better. Another issue that will be interesting in this audience that has not really come out in the debate much is about women and immigration.

And those two sort of touchstone issues, you know, I think the president has a huge opportunity here to talk about in context. You know, we've talked about this before on this show.

Whether you can actually separate if you're a woman, your health care financial needs from your work financial needs, whether, you know, if you're an immigrant the same thing. And the president has the ability to connect those issues in a way that Mitt Romney --

BORGER: But don't you think it's a general notion --

ROSEN: Significantly.

BORGER: Don't you think it's a general notion of does Mitt Romney understand my problems, my pain because he loses to President Obama three to one on that?

DOUTHAT: He does. But here, I think there is a specific element, though. He has to -- if Social Security comes out, he has to take Social Security, right. It isn't just the general feeling your pain. He has to hit specific openings and I think that's what he really missed last debate.

BORGER: OK, well, stay with us, everyone. Because when we come back, these panelists are going to offer some unsolicited advice. And if I had to guess, it would be to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. So stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: And now back to our panel with their pearls of wisdom or unsolicited advice. Ross? DOUTHAT: So my unsolicited advice is for political journalists, students of political history, liberals who are nostalgic for the moderate Republicans of yore, this mythical breed of compromisers who roam the earth 30 years ago.

They should go and read this great piece that buzzfeed.com put out about George Romney, Mitt Romney's father. And it's all about sort of the myths around George Romney. How he was this great man of principle while his son is this terrible compromiser and so on.

And it turns out that actually George Romney, he didn't actually walk out of the Republican convention in protest of Barry Goldwater, he compromised, he cut deals, he didn't know what he was doing half the time.

And it should be read and it should be kept in mind for the future. Because I know that when Tagg Romney is running for president in 30 years, everybody's going to say why can't he be a man of principle like Mitt Romney?

BORGER: But he was more candid than Mitt Romney. He was. I read a lot about George Romney, and he did say that he was brainwashed by the generals about the Vietnam War. That was pretty candid.

DOUTHAT: That was candid.

BORGER: And it hurt him.

DOUTHAT: That did hurt him.

EDWARDS: Mitt Romney has been a doing a bit of remaking of George Romney.

DOUTHAT: Well, I just think it's more forgivable for a son to romanticize a father than for journalists to romanticize politics.

ROSEN: You know, progressives mythologize about moderate Republicans.

BORGER: Congresswoman.

EDWARDS: So my unsolicited advice is for former President Bush because he's been banished from the 2012 elections. He's been painting horses and scenery.

DOUTHAT: Lucky man.

EDWARDS: I think he should start painting buckeyes because he won't any longer known as the last Republican to have lost Ohio.

DOUTHAT: He's enjoying the ranch, he's painting dogs, come on, picking on George W.

EDWARDS: You guys really don't want --

BORGER: I don't think he misses it. I don't think he misses it. I don't think he misses the campaign trail. He's done. OK, Brad, DAYSPRING: My unsolicited advice, and I'm sorry to bring up a topic that a lot of Washington insiders are really upset about --

EDWARDS: Are you looking at me?

DAYSPRING: I'm looking at Ross.

DOUTHAT: I'm always hanging out with the president, it's terrible.

DAYSPRING: The Washington Nationals, actually, the last game of the season, they actually let Teddy Roosevelt win, and everybody knows you don't break tradition into the playoffs. Politicians, candidates, sports teams, stick with what works. You can't let teddy win and expect to win. Teddy wins and Nats lose.

DOUTHAT: Teddy Roosevelt, moderate Republican.

ROSEN: There's always next year. My unsolicited advice is Candy Crowley, our own CNN's Candy Crowley because, you know, the Romney campaigns have gotten in the habit over the last couple of weeks.

They did it with Martha Raddatz. They're trying to work the ref. You know, they're going out there, doing the criticism, they're pushing them around. Be a moderator. Don't listen to people, go in there, be a moderator.

The audience wants you to do follow-up. They want to make sure the questions that the audience asked gets answered. And when the candidates are, you know, shifting around, they want somebody smart like candy to get in there and say, wait a second, didn't you used to say "x"? Be a moderator, Candy.

DAYSPRING: It's interesting you say the Romney campaign is doing that. But just out saying that the moderator should be seen and not heard.

ROSEN: Well, you know, there's maybe on this one a little bit of both sides, but clearly there's a bigger push over there from the Romney camp on Martha Raddatz, but in any case, Candy's got a big job to do and I'm all for her doing it.

BORGER: Me too. And that's why you have an experienced journalist who is going to be doing that and knows what to do in those situations and that's Candy.

And my advice is for those candidates. And I would say, could we start talking about the future, please? Instead of talking about the past and re-litigating, which I know is what campaigns do, let's hear about the future from both of these candidates.

From Mitt Romney, let's hear more specifics about his economic plan and from the president, let's hear more about what he would do the next four years. And take it forward.

DAYSPRING: I couldn't agree with you more. And I think the biggest reason president Obama lost the first debate was not because of his lack of aggression. It was because he didn't give voters a reason to choose him.

There was no vision for the next four years. And unless he starts presenting that vision and stop talking about Mitt Romney and all the bad things Mitt Romney's going to do, he's going to have trouble winning this election.

ROSEN: I think that's right and true. And I think the president's been doing it a lot on the campaign trail, didn't do it as well in the debates, but when push comes to shove, this election is a choice.

And it is important for voters to understand that a future under Mitt Romney will look a certain way and the president feels strongly about that. But yet he's got to show Americans he's fighting for them and why he wants this job again.

BORGER: OK, you were laughing when Hillary said it's a choice --

DOUTHAT: No, no -- it's a referendum. No, no -- it was a Romney-esque smirk. But she's absolutely right, the trick for Obama, he has to do both. Both deliver more of a vision for the future than the last debate and continue to persuade Americans that the United States will become a howling, miserable waste land inhabited by barbarian hordes if Mitt Romney is elected.

ROSEN: Elitist anti-women hordes.

BORGER: Not only contrast, but talk about what's going to happen in the next four years.

EDWARDS: The president has the ability to present the contrast in the context of what will happen in the future, and I think it's entirely appropriate for him to say you know what? These guys want to go back, we don't and here's where we want to go.

BORGER: We're going to have to give the congresswoman the last word. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.

So if there isn't already enough pressure for tomorrow night's presidential debate, new poll numbers coming out with some of the battleground states that will decide this election.

And this weekend's high-altitude jump not only produced breathtaking pictures, it marked a success for a new era in science and space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama has ordered a special tribute for the late U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. Lisa Sylvester has the details -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. Well, the president has ordered all U.S. flags to be flown at half staff tomorrow and Vice President Joe Biden will attend Specter's funeral.

Specter died Sunday at the age of 82. He served as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania for 30 years, mostly as a Republican, but at the end as a Democrat because Republican conservatives had abandoned him.

And the presidential candidates' wives will be hitting the daytime talk show circuit. First Lady Michelle Obama will be on "Live" with Kelly and Michael this Friday, although she is actually taping the interview on Wednesday.

And Ann Romney joins the ladies of "The View" on Thursday even though her husband who had been scheduled to appear with her said he had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts.

And OK, this isn't quite the engagement of the century, but "Journey" guitarist, Neal Schon proposed to Michaele Salahi on stage during a concert in Baltimore last night and she said yes. She and her former husband I should say notoriously crashed a White House state dinner back in 2009.

And since we're talking rock bands, the "Rolling Stones" announced they will celebrate their 50th anniversary with two pairs of concerts. Late November in London and in Newark, New Jersey, in mid-December, a new greatest hits compilation also comes out next month for all you fans.

And if that doesn't satisfy you, he's hinting more concerts may come later on. He can certainly keep going and going. It's amazing what Mick Jagger can do -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Remember when he hosted "Saturday Night Live?" How fabulous he was?

SYLVESTER: Funny, funny guy, and by the way, those tickets start at about $98 and run up to about $108 at least for the concert in Newark, New Jersey.

BLITZER: They'll be going for a lot more than that.

SYLVESTER: Yes, I have a feeling no question that concert is going to sell out. A lot of people want those tickets. They go on sale, I think, Friday, actually -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mick Jagger. All right, the pictures are just incredible, but Sunday's record-setting jump from 24 miles high also signals an important change in space exploration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, you've probably heard about Sunday's nail-biting jump from 24 miles high. It marks a breakthrough into a new era. Space exploration is becoming the realm of private businesses rather than the government.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us to take a closer look. Brian, what do you see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some people think that's where it's all heading, Wolf. You know, with companies like Red Bull and Spacex leading the way and NASA taking a break from manned space flight, we could be at a real crossroads.

Are we seeing the beginning of the end of government-sponsored exploration?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Felix Baumgartner talks about the moment that had all of our hearts pounding when he went into a rapid spin that he may not have come out of alive. He said his rotation started off well.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, SKYDIVER: And then it started spinning so violent. Spun me around in different directions, and I was trying to find out how to stop this. Putting one arm out, didn't work, another arm out.

TODD: Baumgartner's feat has experts talking about what's next and asking when the risks are that great, is it better for a privately- sponsored explorer to go on these missions or a government-trained one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's really no reason for a government-trained person to be doing what Baumgartner did.

TODD: John Logsdon of George Washington University who helped investigate the shuttle "Columbia" disaster said Baumgartner's mission doesn't relate as much to space as we might think.

Fifty to 60 miles above the earth, he says, the upper atmosphere is much higher than Baumgartner's 24-mi mile ascent. Laxton says future astronauts will likely be wearing suits much different from Felix Baumgartner wore.

But will private firms like Red Bull lead the way in exploration? Aside from Baumgartner's mission, private firm Spacex contracted with NASA to send an unmanned supply craft to the International Space Station.

This vehicle, Spaceship 1, privately financed went over the border into space in 2004 and returned safely. Richard Branson is trying to develop that into commercial space tourism.

Listen to what the technical project manager of Baumgartner's jump said about their mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's really part of what this program was to achieve was to show high altitude egress passing through mach and a successful re-entry back because our belief is that scientifically, that's going to benefit future private space programs or high-altitude pilots.

TODD (on camera): That's something we used to hear from NASA's mission control. Is this where this is all going? Companies like Red Bull leading us into all aspects of future exploration?

PROFESSOR JOHN LOGSDON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, I don't think so. There is a market for commercial space flight for adventure tourism, for these kinds of high-risk adrenaline producing undertakings like this jump, but it is governments that are going to take us back to the moon to asteroids to Mars.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Why is that? Logsdon says that while there are billionaires who invest in these projects, it takes multiple billions to do space exploration and he says, no individual or company is really rich enough to fund all of that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.