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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Presidential Poll Numbers; Car Blast in Beirut Kills Top Official; Last Laughs Before Final Debate; Pakistani Schoolgirl Shot By Taliban Shows Progress; Court Hearing For George Zimmerman; Spirit Day: Celebrities Stand Up Against Bullying; Fair Warning Or Dirty Politics?

Aired October 19, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a brand-new CNN poll from the critically important swing state of Florida. It's the most important state as far as electoral votes that are still up for grabs. Stand by. We're about to release the number.

Also, after a night of trading some lighthearted one-liners, President Obama tosses a new and very barbed laugh line at Mitt Romney.

And a car bomb shakes Beirut's fragile peace, kills one of Lebanon's top critics of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

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

With just 18 days to go until the presidential election, we begin this hour with important information just into THE SITUATION ROOM from the state of Florida. Our brand-new CNN/ORC poll shows the state remains up for grabs. Mitt Romney's 49 percent to 48 percent lead over President Obama is within the poll's plus or minus four-point sampling error.

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, is standing by to take a closer look.

Florida, Florida, as they used to say. It's still Florida, Florida, Florida.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's still Florida, Florida, Florida. A dead heat. But that is actually momentum for Mitt Romney.

If you look back two months ago when we polled among likely voters, the president had a four-point lead, right at the margin of error. Governor Romney now with a one-point lead.

Let's take a closer look. The Romney campaign is increasingly confident about the state of Florida and the Obama campaign concedes things are trending his way. The question is will the Obama campaign to keep spending? They have been spending almost twice as much as Governor Romney on television, $5 million just last week to keep the race close. Why is it like it is now?

Look at this, a big generational gap in Florida. Voters under the age of 50 a huge advantage for President Obama, 20 points, 56-36. But in a sign those Medicare attacks on the Republicans are not working so well, 56-43 percent Romney advantage among voters 50 and older. That's a big plus for the Romney campaign in the state of Florida.

Let's move this aside and take another look. I talked about a generational gap. There's also an income gap. Look at this. The president with a big advantage among those making under $50,000 a year. But among those that make $50,000 a year or more, the Republican ticket has the advantage there by about the same amount. A generational gap and an income gap.

When you are talking about a big battleground state you always talk say, how are they doing among independents, how are they doing in the suburbs? Why this poll is so close is because among independents and in the suburbs, look at this, a dead heat. Tied among independents and tied among suburban voters. Again, though, the Romney campaign says it has a bit of a bigger lead than our poll would show. The Obama campaign does not dispute that.

What happens then is they make these key calculations. With time running short in the race, imagine if this one is trending Governor Romney's way. This is where we stand coming into the day. I would say just for the sake of this argument the Democrats aren't ready to concede this but they're starting to think they might have to concede the state of Florida.

We're already seeing evidence that North Carolina is moving Governor Romney's way. If these two things happen, you get parity, 237-235. You would have then seven leftover tossup states and that would become the big calculation. If Florida keeps trending Romney's way and he can hold that, if North Carolina is as solid as they think it is, then you have quite the fight in the final two weeks.

BLITZER: They think North Carolina is pretty solid for the Republican?

KING: They think North Carolina is moving that way. And the Obama campaign doesn't dispute that. He has a great ground operation and says things can change in two weeks. But the thing to watch here is no campaign is going to say we concede Florida, we concede North Carolina, but watch the TV ad spending.

Again the president in Florida last week spent $5 million, almost twice as much as Governor Romney's campaign just to hold things. They have to make a calculation is it worth spending so much just to try to hold the race close or should we cut that money maybe in half and spend it in Ohio, Nevada, Colorado?

BLITZER: With 18 days to go, Gloria Borger in Florida, it's critically important the debate there in Boca Raton, Florida, South Florida, Monday night.

You have been taking a closer look at how important Florida is.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, Florida's always an important battleground state. I think the difference between the two campaigns is that Mitt Romney's campaign really needs to win Florida if it's going to win the election.

The Obama campaign can lose Florida and still find a path in the Electoral College as John was just showing. And in talking to Democrats, I'm getting the same sense that John is getting which is that the Democrats are not feeling very optimistic about winning the state of Florida. Republicans are more optimistic.

The Romney campaign believes there's more of a margin than our poll shows on their behalf, but they need Florida. And when you see that in the Midwest the Obama campaign is making some leeway, they need Florida even more.

BLITZER: Some other swing states, new polling numbers that are out in Iowa right now. This is the NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll, Obama is ahead 51 percent, 43 percent. Wisconsin, same poll. Obama ahead 51-45.

These states obviously pretty important to a path of victory as well.

KING: That's alarming to the Romney campaign, an eight-point lead in one state, a six-point lead in another state.

These are taken right after the debate where the president had a lot more energy. Let's see if the president's bounce holds. That's the big question when you rise up. But let me walk back over, Wolf, to show you. Again, in this calculation if I gave Florida to Romney and North Carolina to Romney, if those Iowa and Wisconsin numbers hold and you say the president were to get these two states in the Midwest, what happens then?

The president then is at 253, Governor Romney at 235. And this is the calculation, this is the big fight in the campaign. If the president's doing better in Iowa, doing better in Wisconsin, what else is jumping out at you in the Midwest? I just got off a plane an hour ago from the state of Ohio.

That's a state, Wolf, where if you look at the map right now, Ohio right now -- and I will come back over to join the conversation -- Ohio, the president's up two, maybe three, nobody disputes that. The president's campaign says it's a little more. The Romney campaign says it's a little less. The feeling on the ground is the president's still ahead. If he can lock up those Midwestern states, he's reelected.

BLITZER: You're looking closer inside these numbers. What else are you seeing?

BORGER: Well, if you look particularly at the Iowa and Wisconsin numbers, take a look, women voters. We have heard a lot about women voters. There's been a lot of talk about women voters. If you look at the president's strength, you see right now it's with women.

Wisconsin likely voters you see that 57 percent, 39 percent among women for the president. Look at Iowa among women, almost identically 57 percent, 38 percent. So if the Obama campaign can widen this gender gap, which you know different polls this election have shown different things. But they believe -- the people in the Obama campaign believe that this gender gap is the key to their victory and that it will remain the way it is particularly after the last debate.

KING: The advertising has shifted to reinforce that point.

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: You see the president doing more and more ads about contraception, about women's rights. Governor Romney with a new ad saying about I would work with Democrats. That's aimed -- it doesn't seem right on the surface -- that's aimed at women and suburbanites that want government to work.

BORGER: You had the Gallup poll yesterday showing social issues particularly abortion was top on women's list. That's why those ads look the way they do.

KING: Romney has an ad saying he does support exceptions to abortion, rape, incest, and the life of the mother. That was a pretty surprising ad. But obviously, as Gloria says, that women vote -- women vote in bigger percentages than men. So it's obviously very critical.

BORGER: Right, but women -- from the Romney campaign point of view women vote on the economy. And that's what's going to be what they're going to be hammering home to try and get these women voters.

BLITZER: We have got a lot more coming up on this.

Guys, thanks very much.

With Monday's debate just around the corner, both vice presidential candidates, they are campaigning today in Florida.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has more on the battle for Florida and this year's other swing states.

What else are you picking up, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as that CNN/ORC poll demonstrated, Florida's still the ultimate swing state. We are in the ultimate swing area of Florida, the I-4 Corridor, as in Interstate 4, stretching from Tampa to Daytona Beach, Florida, where we're standing right now and where Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be taking the stage later on this evening.

Even though it's early you can hear the makings of closing arguments from both campaigns, from Mitt Romney saying the president doesn't have a plan and from the president saying Romney doesn't have a core.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): While Mitt Romney prepared for his final debate with President Obama, his running mate, Paul Ryan, traveled across Florida testing out the campaign's message for the next battle to come, for swing state voters. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is not telling you what his second term plan would be. He's not saying that he's offering anything new. All he's offering is four more years of the same.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to work on a collaborative basis.

ACOSTA: Another part of that swing state pitch can be found in this new Romney campaign ad that casts the GOP nominee as a bipartisan problem solver.

ROMNEY: But we need to have leadership, leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if it's a Republican or a Democrat.

ACOSTA: It's a change in tone for a candidate who once called himself a severely conservative governor during the primaries, prompting the president to accuse Romney of Etch-a-Sketching his past.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have got to name this condition he's going through. I think it's called Romnesia.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ACOSTA: The president is getting a boost from new state unemployment numbers showing the jobless rate dropping in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin. Romney had a joke for the improving economy at a benefit dinner in New York where he and the president exchanged punchlines.

ROMNEY: You're better off now than you were four weeks ago.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: Friday's map reads like a calendar, the more candidates and surrogates flooding into battlegrounds, the closer the election.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people are so much better, so much stronger, takes so much more responsibility neither Congressman Ryan nor Governor Romney give them credit for.

ACOSTA: Newspaper endorsements are also starting to come in. After picking President Obama four years ago, "The Orlando Sentinel" chose Romney saying "We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years."

But "The Denver Post" stayed with the president saying, "The economy has made demonstrable though hardly remarkable progress." Soon, the race coming down to a handful of swing states won't be a laughing matter. OBAMA: In less than three weeks, voters in states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida will decide this incredibly important election, which begs the question, what are we doing here?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for that one-liner from the president on the GOP nominee suffering from what he called Romnesia, I have a response from the Romney campaign -- quote -- "President Obama can't get serious on the campaign trail. He's conducting a small campaign that fails to rise up to the big challenges the country is facing."

And, Wolf, getting back to that swing state calendar, after the debate on Monday, their final debate on Monday, Romney and Ryan are heading to Colorado. The president will be right here in Florida, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They're going to spend a lot of time in Florida, all of these presidential and vice presidential candidates. As we mentioned, the vice president, Joe Biden, he's campaigning in Florida right now. In fact, he's at a rally in Fort Pierce, and that's north of West Palm Beach.

Let's listen in.

BIDEN: It's a bad disease. And it's contagious, because all of a sudden Paul Ryan, the budget hawk, the guy who introduced a whole budget plan that actually already passed -- it already passed the House of Representatives -- all of a sudden he doesn't remember it. He doesn't remember it. He doesn't remember what it actually does to the vital programs that mean so much to ordinary people.

He says it doesn't cut, it just slows growth.

Folks, you know, Ryan saying his budget doesn't decimate Medicare and Medicaid, eviscerate education is a little like Mitt Romney standing in an unemployment line in Florida and turning to the guy and saying, look, I didn't outsource your job, I offshored it.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: When I criticized him for being this great outsourcer, I talk about Bain Capital, remember I was doing that a couple months ago and pointing out the truth about how many jobs he sent overseas, spokesman for Romney said the problem is Vice President Biden doesn't understanding the difference between outsourcing and offshoring.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Tell that to the guy who lost his job because it went overseas. Ladies and gentlemen, as the president said the day after the debate, Romney's plans the president said are awful sketchy.

Now, I'm reluctant -- I'm reluctant to correct the president, but -- but, they weren't sketchy. They are Etch-a-Sketchy. They have got this Etch-a-Sketch out shaking that baby up.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: It's like you hardly recognize them. Were it not for the same tie, I wouldn't recognize them, man.

Look, it's time for people -- so much is at stake in this election, and it's time for people who want to lead this country to stand up and say what they believe and make the case for what they believe. Say what they're for. Stand by what they say. And stop trying to hide the ball on the American people.

You know, they say, they say they value the middle class. I found the most fascinating thing about their convention was they stood up there and it's like they looked out and said, oh, my God, there's a middle class. Remember, they talk more about the middle class at their convention than they did the previous two years. All of a sudden, as my mom would say, their heart was bleeding for the middle class.

And they say they value the middle class and they value middle class values. My dad used to have an expression. My dad's name was Joe as well. And someone would come up to him and say, Joe, let me tell you what I value. And my dad would look at them and say, Charlie, don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value. Show me your budget, I will tell you what you value.

BLITZER: All right, so the president -- the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, at that rally in Fort Pierce, Florida. They're going to be spending a lot of time in Florida. He's going after Mitt Romney big-time right now. We will monitor what he's saying. Stand by for more.

So what's going on with this? New billboards are going up with a stern warning out there about something the government says isn't really much of a problem.

And we also have the latest on who may have been the target of a deadly car bombing today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A mother's anguish on the streets of Beirut in Lebanon moments after a deadly car blast. At least three people were killed, more than 100 others wounded. I think the number probably, at least eight or nine people killed. The Lebanese government calling it a cowardly terrorist attack.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's live from Beirut for us.

What's the latest on the death count as a result of this car bombing, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do still appear to be at three dead, dozens injured. The key of those three dead, though, a top intelligence official, Wissam al-Hassan, a line to the pro-Western government coalition here spearheading many controversial investigations here, consequently having many enemies. His death is causing great fear here that the sectarian divisions have rocked this country for a decade during its civil war, and play now in the civil war across the border in Syria may finally have drifted across the border causing violence here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): It's what all Lebanon prayed would not happen. A car bomb in its commercial heart, a huge explosion tearing through cars like paper. Felt across the city once torn apart, hoping it would never again see the kind of maelstrom swallowing Syria. Around, political offices are targets or even shoppers. But in the end, a top intelligence official said to have been killed.

(on camera): As you can see from the pandemonium around me, people in the center of Beirut here rocked by this explosion perhaps their worst fears awakened by this blast, the fear that really that the violence swelling across the border for months may finally have manifested itself here.

(voice-over): The target: Wissam al-Hassan, from the internal security, aligned with the pro-Western coalition here. His unrecognizable body and personal effects found at the scene we're told.

One leading anti-Syrian politician blamed Damascus for the blast. Syria condemned the bomb. The injured like Lebanon struggling to comprehend what happened and bearing their worst fears.

"I came home," he says, "and there was nothing. "Suddenly, as I was eating a loud noise went off. My ears went deaf. Glass came into my food and I couldn't eat anymore."

But it is in the days ahead as the dead are buried and the injured healed that Lebanon's fragile society will learn whether this blast drags it back into the shadows.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Wolf, this really was a remarkably precise killing here targeting a man who should have been as a top intelligence official here very able to keep himself deeply secure. So the questions are: who would have been capable of such a strike?

The Hezbollah group here saying they're condemning it entirely. The Syrian government themselves accused by many of Mr. Al-Hassan's allies of perhaps being behind this have also condemned it. But in this flurry of denial, people still trying to point the finger the greatest being we're finally seeing these explosions in what should be the safest commercial heart of the capital here, rocking the Lebanese people and making them absolutely terrified of dark days ahead, remembering the 1980s and how sectarian strike tore this place apart.

BLITZER: I remember those days vividly. I was in Beirut in the early '80s. Obviously, the deepest concern right now is that the war, the struggle, the slaughter that's going on in Syria. There's great fear it could spread not only to Lebanon but to Turkey, other places as well.

Nick, let me read to you and our viewers a statement at least that the White House has just released among other things.

The White House saying, "The United States condemns in the strongest terms terrorist attack in Beirut that killed Lebanese internal security forces information bureau director, Wissam al-Hassan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in this heinous attack, and with the Lebanese people who have sacrificed greatly to overcome war and violence. Lebanon's security and stability are vital both for the Lebanese people and their neighbors. There is no justification for using assassination as a political tool."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

As Lebanon reels from today's bombing, a new international push to stop the fighting in Syria is just getting underway.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A move to end the slaughter in Syria. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

U.N. and Arab League secretaries general are calling for ceasefire in Syria's civil war by the Muslim religious holiday next Thursday. Today, an envoy arrived in Damascus to appeal to the Syrian government as war planes pounded rebels. Opposition groups say at least 110 people were killed. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict now in its 19th month.

And India, well, it got its first Starbucks today. Most Indians started their day with a steaming cup of milky Chai tea. But the appetite for coffee is apparently growing. Experts estimate the market in the world's second most populous country could double in the next five years to more than $500 million. The new Mumbai store puts Starbucks in its 61st country.

And a fork in the road is usually a metaphor for a decisive moment in life. But in the coastal California town of Carlsbad, an artist took that saying literally. Take a look here. He created a whimsical statue and placed it where two roads actually branched.

OK, the city however not too pleased. Yesterday, it ripped out the fork calling it neither safe nor legal. Officials did add though they appreciate the creativity.

All of his hard work just like that, Wolf, gone.

BLITZER: Literally a fork in the road.

SYLVESTER: It's a fork in the road. I kind of like it, though.

BLITZER: Very artistic. I could have put it on the side maybe.

SYLVESTER: I think yes, but it might have been defeated his whole concept, his artistic vision, if you will.

BLITZER: He's an artist. Thank you.

The presidential candidates are done with the jokes. Now, they're turning a bit serious. Once again ahead of Monday's final debate, our special panel will discuss.

And we're just getting our hands on new pictures of the Benghazi compound before, yes, before last month's attack. And it's raising serious new questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Things may have gotten pretty tense during Tuesday's presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, but when they got together again last night, it was all about making you laugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In the spirit of Sesame Street, the president's remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter O and the number $16 trillion.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I was attacked like a celebrity because of our allies overseas. I'm impressed how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.

ROMNEY: With everyone in white tie and finery, you have to wonder what he is thinking, so little time, so much to redistribute.

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: How many times a week does Biden show up in a wet bathing suit to a meeting, just the ballpark figure?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I had to put up a presidential restriction on that.

STEWART: You got to put towels down.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I got to say though, he looked pretty good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get straight to Sirius XM radio host Pete Dominick with our excellent panel -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much, Wolf Blitzer. It's great to be here on a Friday in THE SITUATION ROOM and our female-dominated panel, very excited. I've got my pink shirt on. It's still breast cancer awareness in October. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.

DOMINICK: Guys, let's talk about last night. How important is comedy? I gave this advice a couple of weeks ago, they should use more comedy, the Al Smith dinner. Does it make a difference? Did anything happen last night? Did anybody get an advantage? Did anybody move up in any polls because of good jokes?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Nobody moved up, but I think the process moved up. You know, we've had a very contentious testy debate a couple nights before and I think it shows what we are in America.

We can be fighting one night. We can be laughing the next. I think it's a good thing for our country to see this snip-it, this oasis in comedy in a very long desert of fighting.

ADRIAN FENTY (D), FORMER MAYOR, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Then today you see the Romnesia. Trying to be funny, but I think the humor also helps to put things in perspective. Not just like what the country is based on but the campaign itself. I think Obama's doing a better job of framing the issues by kind of being lighter about them.

NAVARRO: That's funny. I don't find this Romnesia thing as funny as you do.

DOMINICK: Wait to show the flip-flop.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It works because it falls right into a narrative that people already believe and it does it in a funny way. It wouldn't work if people didn't actually believe it a little bit. And the fact that President Obama enjoys it so much when he's out there on the road --

FENTY: Exactly. I'm glad to see him laughing.

NAVARRO: He didn't enjoy the first debate.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We all know humor cuts through. Humor is how you can make a point. You can underscore it. It gets people engaged. Ordinary people going about their daily lives that are heavy and monotonous and get to see humor and it clicks.

Maybe it reinforces a narrative. One of my unsolicited advice last week was that Romney should consider going on "Saturday Night Live." He's one of these guys when he shows up and makes fun of himself, you're the professional comic, so I'll let you opine, but it does make him more human.

DOMINICK: I'll tell you what. Last night Romney had the better writers. Obama gave the better performance. President Obama seasoned and he thrives in those situations. Mitt Romney is a little more nervous.

Tagg Romney accidentally his son said he's terrified before these debates and then walked it back. But Romney gets a little nervous so you've got to have your writers and "Saturday Night Live" writers are not in the tank for Mitt Romney. He should definitely not go on SNL.

NAVARRO: Let's be clear --

DOMINICK: It wouldn't be a complex negotiation and the SNL writers might not be on board.

ROSEN: There's a big history obviously in politics. For the last two weeks candidates changing it up a little bit, trying to bring humor into it.

Even Sarah Palin went on "Saturday Night Live." I think that helped her in terms of loosening her up a little bit. But, you know, the risk for a guy who just doesn't have the comfort zone there is too great.

NAVARRO: Let's be clear about something, neither of these two guys is funny. Being funny is when people who are not on your payroll are not your blood relatives think your funny.

ROSEN: I don't know. I think Obama's got kind of a natural drive with it.

NAVARRO: You think he's funny?

DOMINICK: I spent 15 years and still spend a lot of time doing stand- up comedy. We can sit here and decide what we think is funny and argue about that for a long time.

NAVARRO: People pay to see you be funny. There must be something to it.

FENTY: You're judging by politician, not professional. He goes on "The Daily Show." He's made a practice of it. I think it shows he's willing to laugh at himself. He made a good joke about his first debate performance.

And incidentally I want to say I think Obama has bounced back from that first debate performance. He's willing to go up there. Romney may not be willing to do the same thing.

NAVARRO: That's the purpose of being at those dinners.

FENTY: Also he did a great job with humor and other things bouncing back from the first debate because it was pretty bad and now he seems to have hit his stride. I think Monday he can really close it.

DOMINICK: Next week it's the final debate, a foreign policy debate. Is there anything that can be said in this debate that changes the course of the remaining 18 days in this campaign?

ROSEN: No. We can pretend that Americans look out beyond our borders and focus on it a lot, but they don't.

DOMINICK: They should.

ROSEN: But we don't. HOOVER: I disagree.

ROSEN: In fact, in so many ways if we did, we wouldn't have gotten as far down in the war with Iraq and other places we did, but we wouldn't have handed those decisions over to leaders.

And there's pretty much nothing foreign policy wise that I think is going to change the narrative. People know the president strong on terrorism, got Osama Bin Laden and our allies like us better.

The only thing that's going to change the outcome of this race is what the voter turnout numbers are in the battleground states and who gets out to vote.

HOOVER: Ana may agree with me, the reason Democrats think foreign policy will have nothing to do with the final say in this election is that there's a sincere and serious vulnerability on foreign policy with President Obama in terms of --

DOMINICK: Versus Romney?

HOOVER: -- how the administration has handled the most recent conflict in foreign policy.

DOMINICK: You really think people care about that?

HOOVER: If Mitt Romney can make the case that it fits into a larger narrative of an unravelling of control over his own administration, in other words, secretary of energy who can't control gas prices, an attorney general who's held in contempt of Congress and doesn't know what happened over the past period something --

ROSEN: I don't know how you can say that with a straight face and keep going. Because there's just no scenario where, you know, a fight over he said/she said in a Rose Garden really has an impact.

FENTY: Obama was willing to stand and look into the cameras and say, listen, I'm the president. Hold me responsible. They tried to defer it to the secretary of state, he said, no, it's my government. It's my country. I think regular people like to see elected officials --

NAVARRO: How many days did that take, Mr. Mayor?

FENTY: No, he did it -- and Romney found out the day of it.

DOMINICK: No. No, how many days. No, did he say terror. Hold on. We got to take a break.

NAVARRO: Any time you've got 70 million people watching and 90 minutes of these guys speaking, yes, there is an opportunity for there to be gaffes or problems.

DOMINICK: We'll wait and see next week. We'll come back here and we'll give everybody our unsolicited advice right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOMINICK: Welcome back to wolf's THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Pete Dominick. I have stolen it with my awesome panel of brilliant commentaries here and we are now going to give our unsolicited advice to some unsuspected target -- Margaret Hoover.

HOOVER: My unsuspected target is Mark Sullivan, the head of the Secret Service. And my unsolicited advice to him is to go pick up a copy of a fantastic book. It's called "Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture."

Here's the problem. ING, Inspector General's Office come out with a report that suggests maybe the culture of impropriety is actually really rampant in the Secret Service rather than just having a few one-off bad incidents as service members soliciting prostitutes in Colombia.

Apparently, this may be far more widespread perhaps endemic within the Secret Service. Massive cultural overhaul is probably needed. Hopefully Mark Sullivan has not perjured himself in the Senator Foreign Affairs Committee when he testified on this several months ago.

FENTY: What's the name of this book again?

DOMINICK: "Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture."

ROSEN: I'm pretty sure --

DOMINICK: More organizations that want to read that.

ROSEN: I'm pretty sure the Secret Service are the only business guys who go on a trip and use prostitutes.

HOOVER: They are representing the United States of America and compromising national security.

DOMINICK: On the public dime.

HOOVER: On the public dime. I'm not saying it's OK.

NAVARRO: There are some bad apples. We also have to recognize there are a lot of brave men willing to take a bullet and we've got to commend the Secret Service.

DOMINICK: My cousin is a Secret Service agent and he's gotten award after award as well as award for being a great father and a great husband. And I know that's not what you are saying, but I think that might be some pretty good advice.

ROSEN: Well, mine's equally serious but off politics. My advice is to parents because today's actually Spirit Day. And I'm not wearing the purple. Ana's wearing the purple. I'm going to point to her purple.

Spirit day is a day to bring attention to LGBT bullying. And it's an important issue. More and more kids are experiencing this rather than fewer and fewer kids.

And it's up to all parents whether you think your kid is involved or not, to make sure you have those conversations because this is -- bullying has become an epidemic among our kids.

HOOVER: What are the resources for parents who have kids getting bullied? Where do you go?

ROSEN: That is a great question. There are all sorts of great websites. There's actually spiritday.org you can go to.

DOMINICK: Cool.

ROSEN: The hrc.org is another one that has good resources as well.

DOMINICK: Ana, who's your advice for?

NAVARRO: I changed my advice after the first panel. My advice is to all Americans. Folks, TGIF, thank God it's Friday. We are very close to the election. Things are getting heated. We're in the weekend. Let's take a break.

Put our partisan knives down. Let's go have a drink with our Democrat friends, with our Republican friends, let's be civil for at least one day before we retake this up again on Monday for the debate. Hilary, see you after this.

ROSEN: We're going drinking.

DOMINICK: Can I come?

NAVARRO: Yes. You're in.

DOMINICK: Mr. Mayor, are you in?

FENTY: Absolutely. And I'll join to follow you. I think to follow the comment about foreign policy and the debate on Monday. I think that Obama has a great opportunity, both to show the strength that he has been able to have with his foreign policy and with his defense.

And then also to kind of put things in perspective, I don't think that's happened enough for Obama. I think he needs to say this is where we were with the war in Iraq. This is where we were with Osama Bin Laden.

Compare it also to domestic problems we were having four years ago. There has been a lot of change. There has been a lot of progress. I see him doing that on Monday night and closing out for the rest of the campaign.

NAVARRO: My hope is that Mitt Romney does completely the opposite.

FENTY: Romney is good --

NAVARRO: Let me tell you what my hope is --

FENTY: He's good at pointing the finger. But he doesn't have any solutions.

NAVARRO: You know what though, the guy who's in charge as you said who took responsibility and I think Benghazi does matter to the American people. You're talking about four Americans in service of the country who got killed.

FENTY: And look at all the other policy successes.

NAVARRO: I hope Mitt Romney really takes the opportunity to really give intense conversation on that. He didn't in the second --

DOMINICK: Yield to me for my unsolicited advice, but I will say on this, they're not really that far apart on foreign policy. Don't let them fool you.

FENTY: As a record.

DOMINICK: True. My unsolicited advice is for men specifically Republican men like Todd Akin and Joe Walsh who don't seem to have any idea how a woman's body works.

Last night Joe Walsh, Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois said abortions are absolutely never necessary, never necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Actually, my good friend who is a health policy expert and a pediatrician has a great blog entry on the incidentaleconomist.com entitled when facts don't meet your world view, stop talking OK.

We shouldn't listen to Todd Akin about how women get pregnant. We shouldn't listen to Congressman Joe Walsh about whether or not women can die if they are pregnant and may need an abortion.

We shouldn't listen to me or the mayor about hair care advice. I will yield to women every time and doctors about how your bodies work. And I will let you decide the choices that you need to make to stay healthy. And men that have no idea should stay out of it or stop talking.

ROSEN: Such a great point. I'll just end that we ought to add the men of the Supreme Court of the United States to that list because those are the scary guys that Mitt Romney will appoint. So you couldn't be more right.

NAVARRO: I'll tell you, let me tell you something, the Democrat Senate candidate from Arizona last night did a very smart -- unpleasant remark about Candy Crowley. It's enough picking on Candy. It's enough picking on women. If you have nothing good to say, don't say it.

DOMINICK: You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own science. Speaking of very smart men, let's head back to Wolf Blitzer. After all, it is his situation room. Thanks for letting us borrow it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent unsolicited advice, guys. Thanks very much. Other news we're following including doctors in England putting a new medical update on the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban because she stood up for girls rights to go to school.

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BLITZER: A 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen is making progress. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What are you learning?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, really good news on that front. Medical officials treating Malala Yousufzai in London say she stood for the first time today and is communicating in writing.

She cannot speak yet because of a tube that's protecting her airway. Doctors say the young teenager who defied the Taliban by standing up for education is recovering well, but is not yet out of the woods.

And the man charged in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was back in court today. George Zimmerman's lawyers want to make Martin's school records public.

Martin's family says those records are irrelevant. Zimmerman's trial is set for next June. He says he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old last February.

And something Hilary Rosen just mentioned a few minutes ago, you might have noticed people wearing purple around you today. There's a good reason for that.

In honor of Spirit Day, the White House is joining millions of Americans by standing up against bullying showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people.

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, other celebrities, including Wolf here and including me, we are all dressed in purple to do the part. So love the purple tie. You will see a lot of us wearing purple today.

BLITZER: Lovely purple sweater you're wearing too.

SYLVESTER: Thank you very much. It's for a great cause, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We're starting to see a push to stop voter fraud, but some people say there's an ulterior motive to billboards popping up in two battleground states.

And we're getting our hands on new pictures of the Benghazi compound before last month's attack that's raising new questions.

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BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Minnesota, signs of autumn, take a look at this, beautiful pictures. In Australia meanwhile, a kangaroo hangs out at the fourth hole of the international golf tournament.

In India, tradition drum troop waits to be hired for a festival. In Spain, a man fishes during a heavy rain storm. "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

Political signs and billboards are sprouting up everywhere, but there are strong suspicions some of them aren't connected with candidates or issues but just plain dirty politics.

Our crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is working this story for us. What's going on, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you might think voter fraud is a massive problem given all the attention it's getting this year despite the fact that a Justice Department study said it was an issue in far less than 1 percent of the votes cast between 2002 and 2005.

So are new ads about voter fraud intended to inform voters or intimidate them?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): Voter fraud is a felony. Billboards with this simple and factual message are stirring up controversy in two battleground states. Here's why voting rights activists like Eric Marshal are upset.

ERIC MARSHALL, LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: Yes, voter fraud is a felony. But it's the way they're being displayed and the fact that they're in almost exclusively areas or around areas predominantly African-American or Latino.

JOHNS: The billboards have been popping up in cities in Ohio and Wisconsin, 85 in Milwaukee, 30 in Columbus, another 30 in Cleveland and 31 in Cincinnati. Protests started almost as soon as they went up demanding the signs come down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This billboard is nothing but a symbol of pure unadulterated suppression to target an African-American community.

JOHNS: But the two advertising companies that sold the space, Clear Channel and Norton Outdoor, say the buyer was not out to target minorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no request for any specific demographic target at all. They wanted the best locations they could get for those four weeks leading up to the election.

JOHNS: The big mystery is who's behind them? The billboard itself does not tell. It reads paid for by a private family foundation and neither company will say who that is.

After declining an on camera interview, here's what Clear Channel wrote to CNN. "The advertiser put into the contract to remain anonymous. It is our policy to require advertisers including political advertisers to have disclaimers, which to identify them. Unfortunately, that policy was not followed in this case. He sees that as a warning.

MARSHALL: No one's stepping forward and explaining why, that's part of the problem. If these were (inaudible) then would you say, why would you negotiate in your contract with Clear Channel a confidentiality clause to stay hidden?

JOHNS: But bottom line, Mike Norton, who's family owns Norton Outdoors sees nothing wrong with the content of the ads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The things that stipulate from political advisers and said, A, it's accurate, and B, that they're not attack ads. This fell well within the realm of reason on both of those benchmarks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: These billboards are scheduled to be up through Election Day and neither company has any plans to take them down before then.

Voting rights groups have raised $30,000 to put up their own billboards in Cleveland and Milwaukee encouraging everyone to vote. So looks like it's going to be battle of the billboards in parts of the Midwest -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Looks like it. Joe Johns, thank you.