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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Collision Course in Iraq; Pentagon Planning to Increase Iraqi Forces; North Korea Agrees to Return to Nuke Talks

Aired October 31, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, radical Islamist terrorist groups forcing the Iraqi government to cancel a major security operation to search for a missing American soldier. Is the United States losing control altogether of the war in Iraq?
We'll have that special report for you tonight from Baghdad.

And outrage tonight after Senator John Kerry says students should think about getting stuck in Iraq if they don't work hard at school. President Bush is demanding an immediate apology from the senator. What is the impact on Democrats and these midterm elections?

We'll have that special report and a great deal more, straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, October 31st.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The United States and Iraq tonight appear to be on a collision course over strategy to defeat the insurgency. The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, today abandoned a big security operation searching for a missing American soldier in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the White House is celebrating what it calls a major foreign policy success in Asia. North Korea says it will return to six-country talks on its nuclear weapons program.

Arwa Damon reports tonight from Baghdad on the widening policy split between the United States and Iraq.

Jamie McIntyre tonight reports from the Pentagon on U.S. plans for a significant increase in the size of Iraq's security forces.

And Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House on the North Korean decision to resume nuclear negotiation.

We turn first to Arwa Damon in Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears increasingly caught between the United States and radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, between the American military and Sadr's Mehdi militia. Today Sadr supporters celebrated what they perceived to be a victory over the United States.


DAMON (voice-over): On Tuesday, the normally bustling slum of Sadr City looked nearly deserted. Most residents following a call for civil disobedience coming from radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's office. Most shops, schools and government buildings were closed. All in protest of what residents are calling a siege of Sadr City.

For the last week, as part of a hunt for an American soldier kidnapped last Monday, U.S. soldiers had taken up positions at checkpoints around Sadr City, usually only manned by Iraqi security forces, and conducted raids into the area, a Mehdi militia stronghold. Then Monday, a bomb in Sadr City killed at least 26 workers. Many residents blamed U.S. troops, whose presence caused the Mehdi militia, which provides security here, to lie low.

After a week of pressure from Sadr City residents and Muqtada al- Sadr, the Iraqi government issued an order to remove all checkpoints and reopen all entrances into Sadr City. For the militia and residents, that was considered a victory and it set off celebrations in the district. People chanting pro-Sadr slogans.


DAMON: The U.S. military says it is still keeping troops in the area but no longer searching vehicles or people entering and leaving Sadr City -- Lou.

DOBBS: Arwa Damon from Baghdad.

The United States tonight is planning to significantly increase the size of the Iraqi military and police. The proposal comes as Iraq's security forces struggle to field enough trained units to fight the insurgency and the Pentagon looks for ways in which to reduce the number of our troops in Iraq.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as it's closing in on its stated goal of training and equipping 325,000 Iraqi security forces, the U.S. is moving the goal posts. U.S. commanders are proposing a boost in the ranks of Iraqi army and police of at least 10 percent. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is ready to sign off on the plan.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Iraqi government and General Casey have made their recommendations, and General Dempsey, and -- that I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed.

MCINTYRE: With more than 100 American military deaths in Iraq in October, the highest monthly total in nearly two years, and with 310,000 Iraqis now standing up, nearly all of the total of 325,000 that were thought required, it's increasingly clear it's not enough to allow U.S. troops to start standing down.

Last week, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said he needs at least 30,000 more troops just to cover Iraqi soldiers who are on vacation.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: The problem is, on one part, under-manning. And the second part is the leave policy of the Iraqi armed forces that puts about a quarter of the unit on leave at any one time.

MCINTYRE: While the additional Iraqi troops will require more training, the Pentagon insists that doesn't mean more U.S. trainers will have to be sense or that the overall number of U.S. troops, now roughly 150,000, will have to increase.


MCINTYRE: What it does mean is that any significant reduction in U.S. troops will be on hold indefinitely. And it's likely that some number of U.S. troops will see their tours of duty extended beyond one year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Not good news. Thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Insurgents in Iraq have killed two more of our troops. The soldiers were killed in the Baghdad area. One hundred three of our troops have been killed this month.

2,816 of our troops killed since this war began, 21,419 of our troops wounded. Of those, 9,737 seriously wounded.

The Bush administration tonight is playing down its military and political problems in Iraq and focusing instead on what it says is a real step forward in the nuclear crisis with North Korea. Pyongyang today agreed to return to the six-country talks after its first-ever nuclear weapons test.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush is touting much needed good news seven days before the midterm elections, saying North Korea will now return to the negotiating table with the U.S. and its allies to consider scrapping its nuclear weapons program.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is an agreement to restart the six-party talks concerning North Korea. I am pleased.

MALVEAUX: It was more than a year ago when North Korea abandoned the talks. But since it conducted its first nuclear weapons test three weeks ago, the regime has been faced with sweeping U.N. sanctions and fierce condemnation from its neighbors, most notably from its closest ally and financial lifeline, China.

JON WOLFSTHAL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Korea is very much like a child who has misbehaved, and China is going to punish them for it, and North Korea is going to try to duck and avoid getting smacked.

MALVEAUX: U.S. officials say the breakthrough followed seven hours of secret negotiations held Tuesday in Beijing between U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and his counterparts from China and North Korea. The Bush administration says China floated the idea of three- way talks when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently visited the region. But the deal to return to the full party of six was reached when the U.S. agreed to address the financial sanctions it imposed on North Korea a year ago for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering, a concession Pyongyang had pushed for.

With Iraq on the brink of civil war, and Iran defiant over abandoning its nuclear program, the Bush administration is eager to use this apparent breakthrough with the third member of its axis of evil to slam critics who called on Mr. Bush to hold direct talks with North Korea.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you've got here with the North Koreans agreeing to turn to the six-party talks is a vindication of the strategy the president has adopted.


MALVEAUX: But Lou, of course there's a great deal of skepticism as well, not only from some political analysts who look at this, but also from some inside of the White House, whether or not this deal is even going to happen. They've been in this situation before where North Korea makes promises and then breaks them.

One spokesman from the White House saying, "trust but verify." Another one saying, "We're not yet ready to pull out the cigars and the champagne" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Indeed. Thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

Still ahead here tonight, the illegal alien lobby and the ACLU making a last-minute effort trying to stop one community from taking action to deal with this nation's illegal immigration crisis.

We'll have the latest for you on what a court is saying in that case tonight.

And one week before Election Day, new evidence of the grave risk to our democracy posed by e-voting machines.

We'll have that report.

And Republicans blasting Senator Kerry, who said students who don't work hard could "get stuck in Iraq." What did the senator mean? What will the senator's remarks do to the Democrats in these midterm elections, if anything?

We'll have complete coverage.

All of that and a great deal more, straight ahead.


DOBBS: The ACLU tonight has succeeded in blocking a tough new anti-illegal alien ordinance from taking effect tomorrow in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. And law enforcement officials have shut down a massive family-run illegal alien smuggling operation that went undetected for more than a decade in this country.

Lisa Sylvester reports on the new setback to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and its efforts to fight illegal immigration.

And Casey Wian reports on one of the most significant illegal alien smuggling busts in the country this year.

We begin with Lisa Sylvester -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Pennsylvania Judge James Monley's (ph) ruling came down within just the last 30 minutes. He will allow a legal challenge to Hazleton's tough new immigration laws to proceed.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Hazleton intended to start November 1st registering anyone who rents in the city, but the plan was blocked by a Pennsylvania judge who granted a 10-day restraining order. The district court judge also put on hold a related ordinance that would have allowed the city to suspend the business licenses of companies that hire illegal aliens and impose a $1,000 fine on landlords who rent to them.

MAYOR LOUIS BARLETTA, HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: It's just one step to where we have to go with this, and I'm sure both sides are prepared. The line has been drawn here in the city of Hazleton and both sides are prepared to go the distance.

SYLVESTER: The city council originally approved the anti-illegal immigration measures in July. The language was rewritten last month so it could withstand legal challenges. The ACLU and Hispanic organizations filed a lawsuit Monday.

JONATHAN BLAZER, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: It is not up to individual municipalities to set immigration policy for this country. This country needs to have a unified immigration policy so that when people come here, they know what to expect from township to township, to state to state.

SYLVESTER: The case is being watched closely around the country. Other jurisdictions and localities have either passed or are considering legislation modeled after Hazleton. Even though the law has not taken effect there, it's already having an impact. On Wyoming Street, an area populated with the city's legal Hispanics and illegal aliens, there has been an exodus.


SYLVESTER: And the judge agreed to schedule a preliminary injunction hearing on the Hazleton laws and at that time will decide whether or not to continue keeping the city from enforcing its own laws. A date for that hearing has not been set -- Lou.

DOBBS: You know, the gentleman -- I was taken by his comment about a unified policy on immigrants throughout the country. We do have that unified policy. We do have laws on the books.

The issue is not what Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is doing and other communities, but rather what the federal government is not doing.

Lisa, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Law enforcement officials tonight continuing to hunt down members of a massive illegal alien smuggling ring. More than 40 members of the sophisticated operation are already under arrest, including its ringleaders. Family call it -- police call it one of the most violent and ruthless human smuggling rings they have ever seen.

Casey Wian has the report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About 60 miles north of the Mexican border is Bowie, Arizona. Until this week, the tiny town was the center of a giant illegal alien smuggling ring.

ALONZO PENA, ICE SPECIAL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: It's one of the most ruthless and longstanding smuggling organizations operated in eastern Arizona.

WIAN: Nine federal, state and local law enforcement agencies raided dozens of area buildings, using a Black Hawk helicopter and 175 agents on the ground. They nabbed 44 suspected members of the Juarez alien smuggling ring named after the family authorities say ran the violent operation for three generations, terrorizing the local community.

SHERIFF LARRY DEVER, COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA: We have numerous reports of beatings, physical assaults, shootings, as well as homicides that we have not been able to solve because of the fear.

WIAN: Authorities say the 728-count indictment is unique because it charges alleged smuggling ring operatives from top to bottom, including leaders, enforcers, guides, drivers and money handlers. Eleven fugitives remain at large, including at least five Mexican nationals. But most alleged ring members are U.S. citizens.

JOHN LEWIS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: The organization also recruited and paid young women who were legal residents or legal residents to smuggle the infants of illegal aliens through the ports of entry while their mothers and/or fathers were smuggled on foot through the desert.

WIAN: Authorities say smugglers often held children for ransom until debts were paid, and they say the smuggling ring made money from nearly every U.S. state. Most of the illegal aliens came from Mexico, others from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. But the FBI says alien smuggling groups like the Juarez ring present many issues, including clandestine terrorist travel.


WIAN: Now, suspects face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of alien smuggling.

Meanwhile, ICE says to expect more of these types of multi-agency operations. They say the welfare of our communities and the security of our country are at stake -- Lou.

DOBBS: They've gotten away with it for three generations in that community.

WIAN: Well, they have gotten away with it. And that points to how difficult some of these smuggling rings are to bust. The sheriff, Larry Dever, Cochise County, Arizona, says when he was first starting out as sheriff he was chasing some of these family members decades ago. And they've finally gotten help from the federal government to bust this ring -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian.

Still ahead here tonight, electronic voting machines already causing chaos in early voting this year. We'll have our special report on what we can expect in our upcoming midterm election November 7th.

And Senator John Kerry, he's refusing to apologize for his latest comments on our troops in Iraq. Will the senator hurt the Democrats at the polls next week? What did he mean?

We'll have complete coverage and analysis.

And things turning ugly on the campaign trail. We'll show you what happened in Virginia today at a campaign stop for incumbent Senator George Allen.

All of that and more still ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Florida the scene of one of this country's worst election breakdowns ever. Already a series of e-voting glitches have plagued early voting in the state of Florida. It could be a debacle there all over again.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Voter activists are warning there have been problems with electronic machines in Florida in early voting. They are worried about Election Day.

Some of the most populous counties, Broward, Pinellas and Volusia counties, have reported serious problems. In Pinellas County the machines malfunctioned. In seven percent of precincts, the number of votes didn't match the tally of registered voters.

PAMELA HAENGEL, VOTING INTEGRITY ALLIANCE: In Pinellas County in the primaries we found over 150 calibration errors from precinct workers' logs. That's when a voter goes to touch the screen and it hops to a candidate that they didn't necessarily vote for.

PILGRIM: Today, Governor Jeb Bush gave his full vote of confidence to the machine.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: We're a model for the reset of the country and we're a model on how we certify equipment as well.

PILGRIM: The Florida hanging chad debacle of 2000 is what really launched the Help America Vote Act and the funding for most of the country to switch to electronic voting. But even now, Florida does not have a voter-verified paper trail.

REGINALD MITCHELL, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Despite all the problems that are going on all over the country and all of the reports and all the tests verifying that it's possible to rig a system, we have nothing in place for a paper trail in Florida.

PILGRIM: Volusia County has 300,000 registered voters. Last Saturday during early voting, seven churches mobilized buses to take voters to the polls.

SUSAN PYNCHON, FLORIDA ELECTION COALITION: The voting started at 8:00. At five minutes before 10:00, the power failed. It's probably coincidental, but one of the surefire ways to disenfranchise voters with electronic voting machines is a power failure.

PILGRIM: That power outage kept the electronic voting machines down for hours and hundreds of voters were turned away.


PILGRIM: Another problem, in some places representatives of the voting machines company are in charge of running the software that tabulates the votes. And that's because not enough election officials could be trained in time -- Lou.

DOBBS: This is one troubling, concerning report on top of another. This country -- we are beginning to behave like a Banana Republic, this great superpower of ours.

PILGRIM: It's unbelievably shocking this close to the election we're dealing with this.

DOBBS: Idiotic. Idiotic. Unbelievable. It's just -- it's incredible.

Thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

And coming up here later, I'll be joined by a private citizen who's taken it upon herself to challenge the integrity of those e- voting machines, and joined with a computer security expert that she consulted. They have a new HBO documentary exposing why e-voting could well place our democracy at risk. They'll be joining me here later.

Time now for your thoughts.

Bill in California wrote in to say, "I think you're doing a great job on the fight for the middle class. We need to stop talking about how great this country is and start doing great things for this country. We are the greatest country in the world. We just need to show it."

You couldn't be more correct.

And James in North Carolina, "I cast my vote early this year. I voted American. I voted against (with the exception of your show) the national news media."

We appreciate the exemption.

Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "War on the Middle Class".

Up next, the battle for control of the Senate coming down to the wire. We'll update key races that could affect the balance of power in Washington.

Also tonight, we'll have White House reaction to remarks by Senator John Kerry, the controversy that could hurt Democrats at the polls.

We'll have a live report and analysis. A GOP fundraiser and Democratic strategists join me to give me their assessments.

And incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen taking on a heckler in the final days of this election. This is becoming a contact sport, campaigning in this country.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator John Kerry tonight is facing a barrage of criticism for having said students who do not work hard could get stuck in Iraq. President Bush said the senators remarks are "insulting and shameful."

Christine Romans is here now. She has a report on what Senator Kerry said originally, what the senator is saying now, what he meant to say, and what did he mean when he said it.

And Elaine Quijano traveling with President Bush in Georgia, reporting on the president's response and reaction.

We turn first to Christine Romans -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Senator John Kerry's comment last night to students in Pasadena, California, spiraling today into a gloves-off campaign fight.


ROMANS (voice-over): Ten seconds that may live in campaign history.

KERRY: Well, you know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard, and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you -- you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

ROMANS: Condemnation from the White House.

SNOW: Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.

ROMANS: And from fellow veteran Senator John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans who are serving in Iraq who answered their country's call because they're patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education.

ROMANS: Kerry refused to apology. "I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium or doughy Rush Limbaugh."

KERRY: If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team.

ROMANS: Kerry insisting he meant to criticize the president's conduct of the war in Iraq.

KERRY: My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops. ROMANS: Kerry's supporters said the Republicans are desperately trying to change the subject seven days before the elections.

ELAINE KAMARCK, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Their attempt to spin this up into one of these ridiculous mini controversies I think is going to just backfire on them, because America has finally caught up with these guys and they know that they've been absolutely incompetent and negligent in the way they've run this war.

ROMANS: But the damage was done.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's a big man. Here's an experienced spokesperson. He's been the Democratic nominee. And so for him to make this kind of mistake is curious, to say the least.


ROMANS: The question is, has this Kerry comment played right into the running joke in Washington? Republicans are in trouble this election. Their last hope now, the Democrats -- Lou.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you.

Over the past hour, President Bush has strongly criticized Senator Kerry's remarks, and he demands that the senator apologize immediately to our troops.

Over the past hour, President Bush has strongly criticized Senator Kerry's remarks and he demands that the senator apologize immediately to our troops. Elaine Quijano is traveling with President Bush in Perry, Georgia tonight and joins us -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the White House clearly saw an opening here. Clearly Senator Kerry's comments a political gift for Republicans. President Bush went on the attack just a short time ago here in Perry, Georgia before a crowd of some 6,300.


G. BUSH: The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful.

The members of the United States military are plenty smart and they are plenty brave and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.


DOBBS: That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you believe John Kerry owes our troops in Iraq an apology? Yes or no. Please cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

Tonight, just a week away from Election Day, the battle for the Senate is red hot. In Tennessee, John King reports now on the race between Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford. Dana Bash tonight in Virginia on the tight race between incumbent George Allen, Democratic challenger, Jim Webb. We begin with John King reporting from Chattanooga, Tennessee. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this is one of the most hotly contested races in the country. Democrats know they need to win this seat if they are to reach their goal of achieving a Senate majority. A CNN poll out just today shows the Republican candidate, though, Bob Corker is leading the Congressman Harold Ford of Memphis.

Congressman Ford hoping to become the first African American to be elected to the Senate in the South since reconstruction. Our poll though shows that among likely voters, Mr. Corker, who is the former mayor of Chattanooga, has 52 percent support, Congressman Ford, at the moment 44 percent. Both campaigns say they think the race is actually a bit closer than that.

One of the issues, of course, as it is in so many races across the country, is the Iraq war. Throughout this campaign, Mr. Corker has been siding with the president, saying some mistakes were made but that the president is the one to lead the policy in Iraq. He's consistently said it's up to the president to decide who to secretary of defense should be.

But I interviewed Mr. Corker and you see him now and so many other Republicans around the country beginning to seek more room from the White House, if you will, Mr. Corker suggesting that if he's elected and he goes to Washington as the next Republican senator from Tennessee, he'll suggest to the president he might want a change at the Pentagon.


BOB CORKER, REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe it's time to look at who leads that. I never felt in the first place that we went to Iraq with enough troops on the ground. I didn't feel like we listened as much as we should to the military commanders who were there, who were actually dealing with the issues in Iraq. And maybe with this change, hopefully a change in strategy that will fix our strategy and cause us to really move ahead in causing Iraq to be able to secure itself. Maybe it's time for someone else to lead that effort.


KING: So I asked Congressman Ford today what he thought of that. Mr. Corker now saying perhaps it is time for someone else to lead the Pentagon. Harold Ford saying he views this as a conversion of convenience. He says in his view, more and more Tennesseans are upset with the president's war strategy even if they support the troops and support the war. They're upset with Secretary Rumsfeld. Harold Ford says the election is getting close, his opponent is getting worried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. HAROLD FORD, (D) TN, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent has been one of the staunchest admirers and defenders of Secretary Rumsfeld. And now with less than 200 hours left in the campaign, he has a different opinion on the secretary of defense. I've been saying for sometime not only does Rumsfeld need to go, we need a new strategy, we need a new approach.


KING: Iraq, just one of the many issues here, Lou. There's a gay marriage initiative on the ballots. Both candidates say they believe that the state constitution should be amended to outlaw same sex marriage. That is an issue likely to bring conservatives to the polls. Congressman Ford's challenge is to try to get enough votes, especially in the white rural areas of Tennessee to make history. He says he is confident he can do that, though our poll tonight shows perhaps an uphill challenge in the final few days. Lou?

DOBBS: John, the Senator Kerry remarks today, the demand for an apology from the president, from Senator John McCain, what impact is that having there, if any?

KING: Well, Lou, we're hearing from Democratic strategists and other Democrats around the country in these key races and they are furious about this. All are saying, yes, that people on live events like we are conversing right now make mistakes.

The Senator stumbles as he said, they accept his explanation but they say a national politician with Senator Kerry's experience should have been more careful so close to the election. Democrats are furious. They think the election is running their way. They think on Iraq they are winning the debate. The last thing they wanted was a diversion so close to the election.

As one Democrat put it to me tonight, he said, quote, "Didn't he already cost us one election?" Lou?

DOBBS: John, thank you very much. John King reporting from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In Virginia tonight, the race between incumbent George Allen, Democratic challenger Jim Webb took a new turn. Dana Bash reports from Alexandria, Virginia.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Allen was preparing a 2008 run for the White House. He thought his re-election to the Senate was in the bag. He doesn't anymore.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN, (R) VA: Reach out to people. Reach out and let them know where we stand on issues that matter.

BASH: Just a few months ago, the Virginia Republican held a double digit lead. That has vanished. Now he's at 46 percent. Democrat Jim Webb, 50 percent. A statistical dead heat according to CNN's new poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.

ALLEN: This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is.

BASH: Most trace Allen's plummet in the poll to this moment, what sounded like a racial slur aimed at a Webb aide. There are other reasons, especially Iraq. Allen's opponent Jim Webb is a Republican turned Democrat, Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan whose opposition to the war drove him to run.

JIM WEBB, DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: George Allen is wrong on foreign policy. He's one of the reasons that we are in this disaster in Iraq.

BASH: Now Allen is one of several Republicans in trouble, changing his tune on Iraq.

ALLEN: If we keep doing the same things we're going to get the same results. And the results and the progress in Iraq are insufficient.

BASH: But you have to listen hard for talk about issues.

ANNOUNCER: The same Jim Webb who declared the Naval Academy a "horny woman's dream."

ANNOUNCER: Isn't it time Virginia made George Allen history?

BASH: It's a campaign certainty, the tighter the race, the closer Election Day, the nastier it all gets.


BASH: And the key for George Allen is to hold on to, even energize the conservative base and also women. Last week, the Allen campaign highlighted some sexually explicit passages in some novels that Jim Webb wrote, military fiction and at stop after stop, Lou, George Allen tried to make the point explicitly that he thinks that Jim Webb is derogatory, demeaning towards women and it really has elicited something bizarre on the campaign trail, Lou.

Yesterday we were with Jim Webb and he has taken to reading his own book reviews in his stump speech, book reviews from 10 or 20 years ago to try to hit back at George Allen, make the point that he is a literary person, someone who writes fiction and that this should not be brought into the campaign -- Lou.

DOBBS: Quite a contest. You've got to love democracy. Thank you very much, Dana, thank you very much.

A rough day, we should point out for a man who wanted to confront Senator Allen today. The man was identified by the Associated Press as Mike Stark, a liberal blogger and first year law student. Stark tried to approach and speak to the senator at a campaign appearance today. And then you're seeing what's happened.

He was grabbed, wrestled away from the senator and slammed to the floor by Allen's staffers. He was then ejected from the building.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you're getting personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't touch anybody.


DOBBS: Personal indeed, that sounds about as personal and looks about as personal as it should get.

Coming up next here tonight, the campaign entering its final week, as if you couldn't tell. Control of Congress at stake, of course. I'll be talking with a top Democratic strategist and a top Republican fundraiser about what's happening and what will happen.

A new documentary tonight exposing the threat that we have reported on on this broadcast for two years. E-voting machines posing a threat to our democracy. I'll be talking with two of the e-voting experts in the documentary. Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting expects the public to be outraged.


BEV HARRIS, FOUNDER, BLACK BOX VOTER: When people see what's really going on, there's no way we will allow this to continue.


DOBBS: Stay with us for all that and a great deal more straight ahead.


DOBBS: The battle for the control of this Congress simply too close to call. The rhetoric is heating up. Polls showing races in key states are within the margin of error. For their political perspective, I'm joined now by Georgette Mosbacher, GOP fundraiser and good friend, Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist and good friend.

Welcome to you both.


DOBBS: Let's start out, Georgette, this looks like a disaster for the Republicans as of two weeks ago. Now it looks like it's going to be a modest victory for the Democrats. What do you say?

GEORGETTE MOSBACHER, REPUBLICAN FUNDRAISER: A modest victory for the Democrats, I prefer that to the disaster line, Lou, to say the least. We have one week left, if we can get a few more John Kerrys in there and his losing it, we may do better than people expect.

DOBBS: Well now, Robert, you guys two weeks ago you had the world by the tail. And right now, you are trying to hold back that gloating. Is it going to be a victory, is it going to be a landslide or will you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

ZIMMERMAN: Lou, I told you two weeks ago. One of the benefits of being a Democrat over these past six years, we don't exactly suffer from overconfidence. So bottom line is, we are well positioned, I think, to win the House. I think we're competitive for the Senate. I see us winning four to six seats. But the point simply is, we have got the most aggressive energized voter and I think very aggressive, energized candidates around the country. I think that is the issue ...

DOBBS: Georgette is nodding her head in agreement here. I think it's agreement.

MOSBACHER: I agree. Unless we can get our base out and our base has been known to sit on their hands in the past to show that they're not happy or they haven't been paid attention to. It will be ...

ZIMMERMAN: Look at the motivating issues this year. The bottom line is Democrats are running on raising the minimum wage. They're running on cleaning up Washington with lobbying and ethics reform. The Republican Congress has had six years, they have been in power for six years and what is the record they're running on. They're running against Michael J. Fox over his disease.

MOSBACHER: I can answer what the record is.


MOSBACHER: Low interest rates, basically very little inflation. Everyone in this country that wants a job has a job. A record number of people own homes. Low taxes. So basically people are -- what they're making, they're taking home. I would say that's a pretty good record.

ZIMMERMAN: But Georgette, while productivity is up, wages are not up to match productivity.

MOSBACHER: That's not true, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: If you look at every poll over the last six months, this country trusts Democrats with the economy more than this president.

MOSBACHER: That's perception over reality. And as we know ...

ZIMMERMAN: That's people dealing with healthcare costs, dealing with tuition, dealing with the cost of college tuition.

DOBBS: Could I ask you both one more question and that is, the idea that John Kerry has chosen not to apologize, Robert, you're pretty good at this. What in the world could this -- do we have any idea -- he says he misspoke. What was he trying to say? Do we know?

ZIMMERMAN: What he was trying to say and what his staff put out was he was referring to President Bush in his comments, that if you don't focus and you don't do your homework, you mess up, you end up in the White House and you produce a fiasco like Iraq.

DOBBS: He left out a few elements there. You can't help but be struck by the irony that this election, this midterm election may be most strongly influenced by two men who aren't on the ballot, Kerry and Bush.

ZIMMERMAN: I don't agree. I think this election is going to be determined by the issues that really drive the middle class voter of our society. And I don't believe we're going to be distracted. I don't think the electorate are going to be distracted by the swift boat tactics. Whether it is this outrageous attack on John Kerry for misstating a vote or whether it's attacking Michael J. Fox because of his disease.

MOSBACHER: Misstating a joke - Robert?

ZIMMERMAN: Or whether it is attacking Harold Ford because he is a single man for dating women and going to football games.

DOBBS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Harold Ford has the temerity to like women and go to football games.

ZIMMERMAN: As a single man. And that was the subject of a commercial attack or attacking Jim Webb because he's a fiction writer.

MOSBACHER: What about attacking -- look, if any one of us, when our child were out on a playfield and said -- called someone a doughboy. Here we have John Kerry lecturing us about gutter politics and then he insults Rush Limbaugh, he insults Tony Snow in ways that are really, really below the belt, I think.

DOBBS: The other issue here is the way that John King just reported from Chattanooga, Tennessee tonight that the Democratic field operatives are very upset with Kerry, period. Giving the very strong impression they just as soon the senator sit down, shut up and let the candidates run their elections.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. I think Democrats who are out in the field better stop being defensive. That's not the way we're going to win elections. John Kerry still draws great crowds around the country. And I mean this sincerely, Lou. Democrats, if we are going to win and deserve to win, we've got to stop apologizing, being on the defensive. And I think we're seeing Democrats fight back.

MOSBACHER: Robert, that's because you've got so much to apologize and be on the defensive for. Sorry.

ZIMMERMAN: Happy Halloween my dear.


DOBBS: Thank you both for being here. See you, Georgette, Robert. Thank you very much, we will talk soon.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe John Kerry owes our troops in Iraq an apology? We'd love to hear from you. Yes or no. We'll be sharing those results with Ms. Mosbacher and Mr. Zimmerman. Stay with us.

And straight ahead, a powerful new documentary shedding new light on potential security problems with e-voting machines. The documentary focusing on Bev Harris who's turned her concern about these machines into a crusade. She joins us tonight along with Hugh Thompson, a security strategist. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up next on CNN, a special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER at our New York election headquarters. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Lou. And Paula is going to be joining us as well. The campaign to control Congress. One of the hottest races in the country now neck and neck. A dead heat. We're going to take you live to Missouri where voters could swing the balance of power in Washington.

Also John Kerry's war of words with the White House, more on that. We'll find out why he's trading insults with Tony Snow and the president, for that matter, over a comment he says he didn't even mean to make.

And dead men voting, thousands of people registered in New York State even after they passed away. We're going to have more on that story.

And eyeballs on the podium. A Halloween prank interrupts some serious talks about a nuclear North Korea.

Lou, all of that coming up, an expanded two-hour edition of THE SITUATION ROOM right here at CNN election headquarters. Back to you.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf. E-voting machines will count at least three out of every four votes cast in next week's election.

But the e-voting machines may not be reliable, they may not be safe from tampering. If the voting process is not secure, then our very democracy is at risk.

A new documentary, "Hacking Democracy" is set to air on HBO Thursday evening telling the story of writer turned voter activist, Bev Harris, she joins us now and along with Bev, Hugh Thompson, chief security strategist at the firm Security Innovations. Good to have you both here.

Bev, we have been reporting here - I know you've been working on this issue for years. How dire do you think the threat is come Tuesday?

HARRIS: I think Tuesday's going to be pretty rough. It may look okay on Tuesday, but in the 10 days following, I think we're going to find a lot of records that don't match up. And there's going to be a lot of confusion. DOBBS: A lot of confusion. Do you think -- we hear from our viewers all the time concerned in a partisan way about what will happen with these machines manufactured by four basic manufacturers. They view these machines not only suspiciously in terms of the software that they use, the way in which they're designed and operated, but they think there's true partisan influence. Do you agree?

HARRIS: Well, I think on both sides. The problem with the machines is whoever has custody of the machines has a tremendous advantage if they choose to manipulate the election.

DOBBS: I cannot imagine how we got to a situation where the federal government is spending billions of dollars to buy machines that can be opened with mini bar keys, that can be tampered with.

HUGH THOMPSON, SECURITY STRATEGIST: It's kind of scary when you take the analogy of electronic voting machines with other machines that have huge consequences of failure that people put their trust in. Like when I get in an elevator to come to this interview, right, or when I go on an airplane, I believe that somebody that knows a lot about airplanes and knows a lot about elevators has checked these things out for safety and security. But the kind of flaws we've found show that that checking really isn't being done.

DOBBS: In the documentary, one example of the way these machines can fail is the case of Susan Bernecker, a Republican candidate from New Orleans as you well know who ran for city council. Let's take a look at what happened.


SUSAN BERNECKER, "HACKING DEMOCRACY": This is where I came the day that the warehouses opened to the candidates to inspect. So I came here with an old college buddy, he grabbed his camera and I asked them to show me how the machine worked. So I just started fooling around with the machine. And it's when I pressed the button next to my name and then I looked down and I see Mr. Gambaluca's (ph) name in the display when I pressed Susan Bernecker.


DOBBS: What do you think?

HARRIS: All too common, unfortunately.

DOBBS: She obviously wasn't too pleased about that. As I can imagine. Yes, as we all can imagine. This is already happening early voting down in Florida as Kitty Pilgrim reported here tonight. How do we get to the point that four basic manufacturers making these machines, using laboratories to test and verify their equipment, that the companies pay rather than independent federal agencies doing so or even state agencies, how did we get here, Hugh?

THOMPSON: It's interesting that the folks that are actually verifying the machines, it's kind of like asking me. So my Ph.D. is in mathematics and like asking me to verify the flight worthiness of a Boeing 737. And I don't know anything about planes or avionics but I can say, well it's got a couple of engines. It's got a big fin on the back. Looks like it's good to go. There's somebody sitting in the front seat.

That's what's happening with voting machines. You have people don't understand software security saying OK, it adds two votes together, let's push it off. So we really need new standards.

DOBBS: And the idea that these companies with their proprietary software -- this is the part I really love -- are basically in control of the election because no one can verify what they're doing, except their own employees. What are we going to do?

HARRIS: Well, one of the things -- it's too late for this election to really do any fundamental changes. So one of the things we need to do is really document the heck out of this situation. And in 2004, we had people telling stories, this time we need to be out there with video cameras and get public records so that we can really tell the story of what happens. Then we're going to need to solve it long term.

DOBBS: Well, the Diebold Corporation is not happy about this documentary.

HARRIS: Really.

DOBBS: And they issued this request to HBO. They said, "The material errors and the material misrepresentations are so egregious that HBO should pull the documentary. Failing that, a pre-airing rebuttal and disclaimer are not only appropriate but also in the best interests of HBO and its subscribers."

We talked with the representatives of HBO earlier and they said they plan to stand by the documentary and they have no plans to withdraw it. I'm sure that pleases you and it does anyone interested in free speech and expanding the public's knowledge and the public's right to know.

They also say that the documentary Diebold refers to isn't the same one that HBO will air. What's going on?

HARRIS: Here's a good thing. If you're going to make a letter like that, it would be good to actually watch the documentary.

THOMPSON: That would be advisable.

HARRIS: That would be a start.

THOMPSON: But the interesting issue is the documentary really isn't about a particular company or a particular voting system. It's more about, we don't have standards to verify these things?

DOBBS: And we should point out we have been doing intensive reporting on this broadcast. We want to point out that Diebold has not ever accepted my invitation to join me here to talk about it, which we find remarkable. We thank you both. We wish you good luck. Bev, Hugh, thank you very much.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much for your coverage.


DOBBS: Thank you.

Still ahead the results of our poll and more of your thoughts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Seventy four percent of you say John Kerry does not owe our troops in Iraq an apology. We have time now to look at some of your other thoughts. Many of you writing in about a broken borders town hall meeting from San Antonio.

Rudy in Illinois said, "Someone should have mentioned to Rosa Rosales on your broken borders special that the undocumented would receive benefits if they were documented."

Bob in Idaho said, "Dear Lou, I think your friend Rosa had her hat on too tight last Wednesday night."

Dan in California. "I have never seen a town meeting like I witnessed in San Antonio. What politician would go into a meeting where the participants are 50 percent for and 50 percent against the issue to be discussed? If only our elected representatives would do the same, it would make politics real instead of staged."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "War on the Middle Class."

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Now a special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER and Paula Zahn in our New York election headquarters.

Wolf, Paula?