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Hastert Testifies In Mark Foley Scandal; Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick Faces Tough Race; Democrats Have Tough Times Trying to Win Elections; Electronic Voting Worries; Conrad Burns Campaigning Fiercely To Try Senate Seat; Mike DeWine In Uphill Reelection Battle

Aired October 24, 2006 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, guys.
And we'll continue to monitor this news conference.

To our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now: the House Speaker testifies in the Mark Foley scandal. Dennis Hastert, right now telling ethics investigators what he knew and when he knew it. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, where the Foley factor is weighing heavily on the battle for Congress.

Also this hour, the time for a timetable in Iraq. It's midnight in Baghdad, where U.S. officials announce a framework for the Iraqi government, a step up to the plate. Will it help Republicans fighting uphill campaign battles? The strategy is shifting and the clock is ticking. It's exactly two weeks before America votes.

Plus, are Republicans playing the race card against Democrat Harold Ford, Jr.? I'll ask the Tennessee Congressman turned Senate candidate about a new ad attacking him. Both Ford and his GOP rival, Bob Corker, they are here in the SITUATION ROOM today. It's one of the critical races that could tilt control the Senate one way or another.

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

It could prove to be a major turning point in the Mark Foley scandal and it's happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill right now. The number one Republican of the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Dennis Hastert, answering questions from the ethics panel members.

They're trying to pin down when he and his staff learned about Foley's sexually-charged messages to former pages. And they're no doubt asking Hastert to explain conflicting accounts about early warnings given to his office. Another leading Republican, Congressman Tom Reynolds, gave his testimony earlier today.

Our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel is following this developing story. She's joining us from Capitol Hill -- Andrea. ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Speaker Hastert's arrival on the Hill was a secret, as was his decision today to show up and testify before the House Ethics Committee. He is, by far, the most senior member of the House leadership to go before the House Ethics Committee.

And the question at the center of this investigation is, which Republican leaders, if any, including Speaker Hastert, might have been involved in some kind of a cover-up in the Foley scandal? Speaker Hastert, in the immediate wake of the story, had come under pressure from a couple of newspapers to resign his speakership. He has so far weathered the storm.

He has maintained that he first learned about the Foley e-mails when most of us did, and that was at the end of last month. He says he does not recall being told about this by a couple of his Republican colleagues, Wolf. He has been behind closed doors now for just about two and a half hours. We have no idea how much longer his testimony will last. We know that his chief of staff was behind closed doors last night for six and a half hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we know, Andrea, if the Speaker, Congressman Reynolds, others who come before the House Ethics Committee, are forced to testify under oath?

KOPPEL: It's our understanding, Wolf, that so long as there -- and it's a four-member bipartisan Ethics Committee. So long as there is one Democrat and one Republican present, they are supposed to be under oath and we know earlier today, of course, Tom Reynolds was behind closed doors testifying for about three hours.

He is one of two top Republicans joined by House Majority Leader John Boehner, who claimed that they told Speaker Hastert about the Foley inappropriate exchanges with these young pages last spring. That is months before Speaker Hastert says that he first learned about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea Koppel on the Hill. We'll continue to watch this story. Let us know when the Speaker emerges from that room, the House Ethics Committee hearing that's under way right now.

And in the wake of the Foley scandal, our new poll shows most Americans, 52 percent, say Republicans do not have high ethical standards. But they're not impressed by the other party either. Forty-six percent of those surveyed don't think Democrats have high ethical standards.

We're going to have more on this poll, that's coming up in our -- Candy Crowley will look at whether the Democrats can overcome recent history and pull off a victory on election day two weeks from today.

Let's move on now to the Bush administration's course correction in Iraq only two weeks before the elections. U.S. officials today unveiled a broad timeframe for Iraqis to take greater control of their own security and ease the out of control violence as best as they can. The top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad both say Iraqi leaders have agreed to move faster to try to bring some sense of stability to their country. And in a shift for the Bush administration, General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad referred to the -- it's called the "t word", timetable.

Listen to this.


ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: My message today is straight forward. Despite the difficult challenges we face, success in Iraq is possible and can be achieved on a realistic timetable.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, IRAQ MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE CMDR.: It's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so to until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security.


BLITZER: The announcement comes on another bloody day in Iraq. The U.S. military death toll surged today to 2,804. Ninety-one American troops have been killed in October alone, the deadliest month this year.

The killing and the chaos in Iraq, certainly the dominant issue in quite a few House and Senate races right now. One of them is in the 8th Congressional District in eastern Pennsylvania.

Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is just back from this political battlefield. She's joining us on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we spent a couple of days in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It's one of those conservative suburbs that Republicans have really built their majority here in Congress on. And if Democrats want to take control in two weeks, of course, two weeks from today, they're going to have to change their luck in places like suburban Philadelphia. And more than ever, they're using Iraq as their political trump card.


BASH (voice-over): Walk the annual Quaker Town Halloween Parade with Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

BASH: ... and witness a Republican in trouble playing to his strengths deep connections to the community.

MIKE FITZPATRICK (R-PA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: And I'm very perceptive and I work hard. And they know I truly represent their interests in the United States Capitol. BASH: It's a trademark for Republicans in tough races. Focus on issues close to home. In this conservative Philadelphia suburb, that's taxes, education, not easy when the headline in the local paper two weeks before election day is about record U.S. casualties in Iraq, and your Democratic opponent, also walking the parade route, is introducing himself this way.

PATRICK MURPHY, (D-PA) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm an Iraq war veteran and a former professor at West Point.

BASH: Patrick Murphy, a Democrat and Iraq war veteran, playing to his strengths, too.

MURPHY: I'm a former captain in the 82nd Airborne Division over in Baghdad.


BASH: Murphy is running on a plan to bring U.S. troops, his former comrades, home.

MURPHY: We're there for three-and-a-half years now. I believe we need to give them a 12 month timeline, say we're not going to be there forever, in 12 months we're coming home.

BASH: Fitzgerald calls that extreme, but he is also one of several Republicans now demanding a new Iraq strategy from the White House.

FITZGERALD: Stay of course is not a plan, either.

BASH: Though the one-term Republican has been a war supporter, he now says he would have voted against authorizing force in Iraq.

FITZGERALD: I have to say that I would not have made the decision for the use of force at the time it was made.

BASH: Fitzgerald's problems, some voters see his shifting stance as pure politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to stay the course with Bush before, now he is saying, I got to distance myself, I'm gong to lose my job if I don't. This is -- I won't vote for him. I can't.

BASH: It is talk like that that has Democrats here and elsewhere thinking Iraq is a big reason voters want change, and that Fitzgerald and other endangered Republicans will pay the price for an unpopular war.


BASH: The White House's shifting rhetoric away from the president using the term "stay the course" is aimed squarely at Republicans like Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, and so is what appears to be the White House's trial balloon over the weekend that there is going to be a shift in strategy when it comes to Iraq. Asked about what all of that, what Fitzpatrick told us he's happy the White House is, quote, "listening to the will of the people" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Dana Bash, reporting for us. And we're going to have much more on Iraq and how it may prove to be a noose around some candidates' necks. Our own Joe Johns will report on the Ohio Senate race and a Republican incumbent in political peril.

Right now, President Bush is in Florida trying to bolster his party's chances in a state the GOP had hoped to have a lock on this November. He stumped for House candidate Vern Buchanan, running for the seat now held by GOP Senate hopeful Catherine Harris. He'll also attend a private Republican fund raising dinner later.

Back at the White House today, another attempt to try to rally the Republican base. Radio talk show hosts, most of them conservative, got the VIP treatment and some important face time with top Bush administration officials.

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has the latest -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what you're seeing here at the White House really is a transparent attempt by the White House to really rally the Republican base two weeks before the midterm elections. There were about 38 radio talk show hosts -- overwhelmingly conservative, just a few of them liberal -- who basically were under the white tent.

White House officials, National Security, Homeland Security officials are trying to sell their message essentially to -- not only to the listeners of talk radio but also to some of these hosts themselves. They have been very frustrated with this White House over the Iraq war, over issues like immigration and big spending, so it is just as important for the White House to woo them as it is their listeners. We got a chance to catch up with a few of them to hear their concerns.


MARK DAVIS, THE MARK DAVIS SHOW: These are guys who know that the political waters are tough. They know the war is not particularly popular, they know the president is not particularly popular. But they are on a mission. They have to stay on message. They know what they've got to do. They know they do not have the option of taking a look at the poll numbers and saying well, the war is not popular, I guess we should give up on it.



NEAL BOORTZ, WSB ATLANTA: It's easy for me to be behind a microphone, mouthing on what should and should not be done. It's much more difficult to be the person that actually makes the decision, We're going to go in that direction, We're going to go in this direction. That's a job -- I'd rather just run my mouth. This is a job I wouldn't want to have.


MALVEAUX: Wolf, they do run their mouths and they run their mouths to a lot of people -- millions of Republicans who tune in and listen to these talk show hosts. The White House realizes -- very eager to try to at least convey in some way and give a fuller picture so that those listeners they will pass along the message, vote Republican in two weeks. Wolf?

BLITZER: I saw some of the video, Suzanne. Karl Rove, the president's architect, the chief political advisor to the president -- did they make him available to these radio talk show hosts as well?

MALVEAUX: They certainly did, Wolf. He was sitting down just with the rest of them, talking underneath that white tent. What's really important here is that the White House officials -- some of the radio talk show hosts, describing a sense of desperation, if you will. The White House officials realizing that they're running out of time. This is a direct way to get to that audience, an audience they hope and believe is a friendly one.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux, Dana Bash, Andrea Koppel -- they are part of the best political team on television.

Remember, for all the latest campaign news at any time, check out the political ticker. Go to

At the top of this program, we told you the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, has been inside the House Ethics Committee, testifying on the Mark Foley scandal, what he knew and when he knew it. Just a moment or so ago, he emerged from that room and said this.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: First of all, I thank the committee for -- I thank the committee for prompt action, for moving forward on this committee -- on this inquiry. They did so. I answered all of the questions they asked and to the best of my ability.

I also said that they needed to move quickly to get to the bottom of this issue, including who knew about the sexually explicit messages and when they knew about it. So they needed to make sure that they asked all of the questions of everybody. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: Dennis Hastert, speaking to reporters only a moment or so ago as he emerged from the House Ethics Committee, wants a quick resolution of this, a quick report. Unclear if these House Ethics Committee members will come up with any report, even an interim report or preliminary report, in advance of the election two weeks from today. But we'll continue to watch the story for you.

Jack Cafferty has the day off. He'll be back with the Cafferty File tomorrow.

Coming up, though, the bitter battle in Tennessee. At stake -- control of the United States Senate. I'll speak with the Democratic candidate, Harold Ford, Jr. I'll also speak with the Republican candidate, Bob Corker. Both of them here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, which party has a better plan to solve the country's problems? Our new poll may surprise you.

And much more on that talk radio summit at the White House. Will today's event help motivate conservatives to go out and vote? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain Verjee for a closer look at some other important stories making news. Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, U.S. military forces continue an all-out search for a U.S. soldier missing in Baghdad. His identity hasn't been released, but the military says he is an Iraqi American who is working as a translator for the army. It's believed he was abducted while visiting a relative's house in Baghdad last night. Troops are using helicopters and they're going door-to-door in their search.

A new proposal may be in the works to sanction Iran for its disputed nuclear program. The U.S., Britain and France purportedly plan to urge the U.N. Security Council to ban the sale of missile and nuclear to Tehran. Diplomats say the draft resolution is essentially aimed at winning the backing of Russia and China. Iran has said imposing sanctions will backfire.

A federal magistrate judge says New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof must reveal the identities of three confidential sources in its connection with articles Kristof wrote about the federal investigation into deadly anthrax attacks in 2001. A former government scientist is suing the New York Times for libel for suggesting federal investigators were interested in him. Stephen Hatfield repeatedly has said he was not involved in the anthrax mailings. The newspaper plans to appeal.

It could be the biggest change to the nation's public schools in 30-plus years. Under new rules being issued by the Education Department, public schools will have a lot more leeway to teach boys and girls separately. Starting November 24th, schools can have the discretion to set up single-sex classes for individual subjects or even entire single-sex schools. Critics say it smacks of segregation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much. We'll get back to you soon.

We're standing by to speak with two candidates for the U.S. Senate: Harold Ford, Jr., the Democratic candidate in Tennessee -- he'll be joining us, as will Bob Corker, his GOP rival. They'll both be here in THE SITUATION ROOM; we'll be having that. That's coming up. One of the most fiercely fought battles for control of the U.S. Senate under way right now.

Also coming up, the clock is certainly ticking. There are just 14 days to go before the midterm elections. Find out which party voters think can best take care of the nation's problems right now -- would it be the Republicans or the Democrats?

And will the GOP lose the battle to keep the control of the Senate? We've got some brand new polls, we're going to tell you what they're saying. Much more of our coverage. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We have some new polls on the battles for the U.S. Congress and how Democrats and Republicans compare some very important areas. Look at this. When asked which party has a clear plan for solving the country's problems, 38 percent say the Democrats do. That's seven-point edge over Republicans.

When asked which party can provide strong leadership, a solid majority, 63 percent say Democrats can. That's a 14-point advantage over Republicans.

But on the question who could better protect the United States, Americans rate Republicans and Democrats dead even. Democrats clearly are heading into the Election Day with some advantages. But can they make the most of that? History does offer some clues.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is reporting on some of the suggestions that Democrats have oftentimes themselves to blame. You've got a special coming up tonight on this very problem that the Democrats have. Candy, give us a little preview.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's called embracing their inner defeatists. And certainly Democrats have had tough times trying to win elections in recent and in past history. What we did was take the basic question, what is wrong with Democrats and put it to the prism of one race, the 11th district in North Carolina which pits an eight-term Republican Congressman against a newbie Democrat, Heath Shuler.


CROWLEY: Are you an anti-Pelosi Democrat?

HEATH SHULER (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't like to classify.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Washington liberal does not play well in North Carolina conservative. It is part of why, over the past three decades, southern and rural, mostly white Democrats, have looked inside the national Democratic Party and gone elsewhere.

BRUCE REED, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Our biggest problem is that of late, we've been losing elections. CROWLEY: What is wrong with these people? From Virginia to Montana to Georgia, crack open a Democrat and they'll tell you. It's the wussie factor.

MAX CLELAND (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: You've got to last that bubble. You know, it's been a narrative for Republicans for decades now, kind of an underlying narrative against the Democrats that it's soft on communism and not soft on terrorism.

CROWLEY: It's the culture.

DAVID "MUDCAT" SAUNDERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The culture is the reason the Democrats have been losing election. It has nothing to do with policy. It has to do with culture.

CROWLEY: It's the guns.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: People ask me how many guns I have. I tell them not of your damn business and I tell them not as many as I'd like.

CROWLEY: If his journey is to end in Washington, Heath Schuler needs 11th district Democrats to come home.

SHULER: That's what we have to do a good job of being in a district like this, where they can talk and they can spread the word and say, you know, he's not like some of the national Democrats, you know? He's one of us.


CROWLEY: We talked to a number of Democrats for this program from the left to the right of the party and all of them said one thing and that is if Democrats do happen to win the majority of seats in this election, it will be through no fault of their own. They say this is not about Democrats coming together, it's about Republicans falling apart.

BLITZER: Candy, let's take a look at some polls that have just come in today, some the hottest Senate races unfolding right now. We'll start off in Tennessee, the Republican Bob Corker. He's up by two percentage points right now over the Democratic Congressman Harold Ford. This is a must win for Republicans.

CROWLEY: It absolutely is. It's one of their firewall states. And I think what's interesting is that we're comparing in some ways apples and oranges because there was a "USA Today/Gallup" poll followed by this Mason-Dixon poll. But Ford, in Gallup was up at 50 percent. He's now down at 43 percent. Corker is still around 45 percent so there seems to be some movement. It may be because of that parking lot incident, but in any case, this remains an enormously tight race and an enormously important one.

BLITZER: The margin of error is still four percent. So statistically, it's a dead heat. We're going to be speaking with both of these candidates here in THE SITUATION ROOM today. In Montana, this is another important race. The Democratic challenger John Tester has a three-point lead over the Republican incumbent Conrad Burns.

CROWLEY: This one is interesting to me because the three-point lead is something that everybody sort of looked at Burns and said this race is done. Tester was so far ahead in so many polls that Burns has brought it down to this three-point, is great. The problem is he's at 43 percent for an incumbent. That's a very dangerous number.

BLITZER: So even though it's tightening a little bit, it still looks like he is fighting for his political life.

Let's go to Ohio. It's always a battle-ground state. The Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown now eight points ahead of the incumbent senator, Republican Mike DeWine.

CROWLEY: It looks like Brown is sort of inching down in some of these polls but DeWine just can't seem to get a lot of traction. He is still outside the margin of error. He is in the fight of his life.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Candy, as all of our viewers know, is part of the best political team on television. You're going to want to join her for a CNN special report tonight, it's "Broken Government" series called "Two Left Feet." It airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Candy Crowley presents this special report. You're going to want to see it.

Also this note: join Lou Dobbs tomorrow 7:00 p.m. Eastern for "Broken Borders." Thursday, our John King brings you "Power Play" 8 p.m. Eastern. Friday, don't miss Jeff Greenfield and "Where The Right Went Wrong." All part of our special "Broken Government" series that airs primetime this week.

Up next, it was the scene unlike any other at the White House today. More than 30 talk show hosts showed up on the North Lawn to quiz senior administration big wigs. Were any big questions answered? And it's an issue that is really personal for the actor Michael J. Fox. Why he's making an urgent appeal to voters. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Two weeks before America votes, there are plenty of trends to track, tea leaves to read, 11th-hour photo-ops to analyze.

For all of that, and a lot more, as we always do, we will bring in our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, thanks very much.

Let's talk a little bit, first of all, these radio talk show hosts that were brought into the White House today to interview major figures in the Bush administration -- most of these talk show hosts -- not all of them, most of them -- conservative.

How significant is this?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, it's clearly an asset for the Republicans, because they get to speak to the conservative base.

You think about 1994, when President Clinton took to the hustings, as we say, to tried to nationalize the campaign, as many opponents heard him on -- on network television as supporters. But, with -- with these talk show hosts, they are, as you pointed, overwhelmingly conservative.

And the Democrats really don't have a tool like that, unless, of course, like some conservatives, you believe that mainstream media is all on the Democrats' side.

Now, as far as the message that these folks are carrying, I think it's pretty clear to conservatives: Look, whatever your disappointment with us on Katrina or Iraq or spending or corruption, you can't stay home, because look who will take power if the Democrats win. The San Francisco, New York, Massachusetts left, the Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Barney Franks of this world.

I think the Republicans, more than anyone else, desperately want this to be a choice election, not a referendum election. They wanted that two years ago, and got it by a narrow margin. I think it's much tougher now. The situation has changed, but that's what I think the message is going to be to the conservative base of the party -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Most of these incumbent Republicans who are in trouble right now, they have been in Congress for a long time. They have brought back to their districts a lot of goodies from Washington. Some would call it pork-barrel politics. They're suggesting, you know what? When all is said and done, politics is local. As Tip O'Neill used to say, all politics is local, for that matter, and that, if you don't reelect me, you're not going to get the bridges, the hospitals, the construction projects that are so vital to your community.

GREENFIELD: Well, I think that all-politics-is-local-line is certainly what endangered Republicans are arguing.

Montana Senator Conrad Burns is saying, my seniority brings a lot of good stuff back.

You look at Kentucky, where Anne Northup is in a tight race, and all of her reelection campaigns have stressed how much bacon, or pork, she has brought back to the district.

But I have to say, as a general rule, this all-politics-is-local notion is one of those silly clever, as George Orwell said, notions. It sounds much more impressive than it is.

There are plenty of times when national issues drive midterm elections. The post-Watergate atmosphere of 1974 caused a rout of Republicans. The national recession in 1982 cost the Republicans some 26 seats in the House. And the disappointment with Clinton and the failed health care plan in 1994, that was a national issue that drove some 52 Democrats out of the House, and gave both houses of Congress to the Republicans.

So, I think that notion is wildly overstated.

BLITZER: What about this notion that there's a huge anti- incumbent mood in the country right now; simply, throw the bums out, throw them all out, Democrat, Republican, and start from fresh? How valid is that?


Well, with all due respect to our esteemed colleague Jack Cafferty, who I believe, at one point, argued that every incumbent should be defeated, I can't find any election that I -- in American history that I can think of where that's true.

What happens is, when the public gets angry, when voters get angry, they get angry at the party in power, so that, for instance, in 1974, when the Republicans were routed, not a single Democratic senator lost to a Republican in the general. A couple lost primaries. And I think four Democrats lost, and 36 Republicans did.

Now, conversely, in 1994, the big Republican victory of 12 years ago, not a single Republican incumbent lost. So, however tempting it may be to say, throw the rascals out, when the public gets angry, they tend to throw the rascals out -- and this makes some sense politically, if you think about it, Wolf -- of the party that has governed and, presumably, has caused their discontent.

BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

And Jeff is going to have a lot more on all of this. He has got a special part of our "Broken Government" series that airs Friday night. "Broken Government," Jeff's report, "Where the Right -- Right Went Wrong," airs Friday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Our viewers are going to want to stick around Friday night and see that as well.

Still to come right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're following the battle involving Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and the challenger, John Spencer. It's getting sort of personal up there. Were some ugly words really said? We're going to have the latest on this developing story. That's coming up in our "Political Radar."

Also, a grim reality today -- October is now the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq this year. How will the war in Iraq play out on a key political battleground state of Ohio? We will go there.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Tuesday, the actor Michael J. Fox now trying to shape the midterm election results. He's featured in ads for three Democratic candidates, as part of his push for embryonic stem cell research.

Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, is seen in the ads visibly shaking with tremors. That has prompted the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to accuse Fox of not taking his medication, or acting, to make the ad ads appear to be more dramatic.

We're going to have a full report on the ads and the controversy. Mary Snow is watching this story for us. That's coming up in the next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A security glitch exposed the personal information of more than a million registered Chicago voters. What are the implications for the upcoming midterm elections?

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is standing by with details -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the good news is, the glitch has been fixed.

But here's what happened. A group called the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, which calls itself a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic organization, says it was able to get Social Security numbers and birth dates of registered voters in Chicago by playing around with the back-end coding on this Web site,

For example, they played around with this field. And, instead of a name, they were able to pull up birth dates, or things like Social Security numbers.

Now, the organization says that not only could this be used by identity thefts, but this could be used to tamper with elections. For example, someone with malicious intent could change a voter's status from active to inactive to discourage them from voting, or could play around with polling locations for certain individuals.

Now, the Chicago Board of Elections tells us the reason why this information was accessible is, because, back in the day, they used to use Social Security numbers and date of birth as voter identification material.

And, when they reset this all up, they didn't completely wipe out that data. They say that, since this was brought to their attention late Friday night, they have done everything to patch up that and to sever all ties with that back-end data. They have brought in an independent security expert to assess the situation. They say that they are changing all the first five digits of all the Social Security numbers that they have on record, so that they won't be accessible anymore.

They say they have also notified the state's attorney's office, Wolf. , and they don't see any evidence that anything has been hacked, other than this little Integrity Project experiment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thanks very much -- a lot of people concerned about this. So, how do you ensure that an all-important, yet low-tech act actually plays out well in a high-tech world? When it comes to casting your vote in the ever-growing electronic age, some are deeply concerned right now about massive errors or even stolen votes.

Zain Verjee is watching this for us. She has more -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, you want your votes to count for something, but it's not a sure bet it actually will be. If you're voting electronically, beware.


VERJEE (voice-over): Hanging chads and a hung election -- the year 2000 and a paper ballot debacle. The disaster triggered a dash to go digital -- electronic voting machines. You touch, you vote, easy, efficient, a paperless route.

But that, it seems, is the problem.

KEVIN ZEESE (I), MARYLAND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You spend $100 million on machines where you can't do an independent audit. There's no way to know if the machine is right. It's pretty embarrassing.

VERJEE: The September Maryland primary was an embarrassment. Systems crashed and had to be rebooted.


VERJEE: An election-day mess. Human error compounded the chaos. Election officials forgot to distribute cards needed to operate the machines. In some precincts, election workers didn't remove memory cards needed to count votes.

Maryland's Governor Robert Ehrlich says, just take it low-tech, back to good old paper.

GOV. ROBERT EHRLICH (R), MARYLAND: Let's err on the side of safety, get an election everybody can count on, and then go higher- tech next time.

VERJEE: Too late -- the election is just around the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just what the hell are people in America doing?

VERJEE: Disputes over e-voting, coast to coast -- Colorado, California, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Illinois. Voters are frustrated, fearful, too, that foul play could steal votes.

Computer scientist Edward Felten at Princeton University says, a bad guy can hack into a Diebold voting machine and rig a real election in under a minute.

EDWARD FELTEN, CENTER FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY POLICY DIRECTOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Once the virus is there, it flips the votes within a few seconds.

VERJEE: There's no way for election observers to know. It all happens in the software. Diebold says glitches have been fixed, and strongly rejects the Princeton study, saying, "By any standard -- academic or common sense -- the study is unrealistic and inaccurate."

Diebold is not the only maker of e-voting machines. But none of the other manufacturers have been independently tested. Scientists say the security of their systems is a complete unknown.

FELTEN: We want elections to be held accurately, so that people's votes count.

VERJEE: So, how you can be sure your vote will be count?

RUBIN: Swallow hard if you don't like the technology that's being used. The one way that you can guarantee your vote won't be counted is not to go cast it.


VERJEE: Experts say, the solution is simple: Get a printer and attach a voter-verified paper trail to each machine. Some states have that, but not all. There isn't a national standard. This election season, eight out of 10 Americans will vote on electronic machines.

So, Wolf, we will just have to see what happens.

BLITZER: Let's hope it works out smoothly -- a lot of people very nervous about this, Zain, as you know. Thanks very much for that.

And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to have much more on Iraq and how it may prove to be a noose around some candidates' necks. CNN's Joe Johns is standing by. He will report on the Ohio Senate race and a Republican incumbent right now in deep political peril.

Plus, a timetable for Iraqi leaders -- we will speak with our man in Baghdad, Michael Ware.

That's coming up in the next hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Amara, Iraq, an Iraqi army soldier searches for weapons on the street.

In London, Queen Elizabeth II checks out of the -- checks out the displays at a special science exhibit at Buckingham Palace.

In Los Angeles -- check this out -- the actor Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Borat, arrives at the L.A. premiere of his new film.

And, in Wisconsin, 3-year-old Robert Moore sits trapped inside a stuffed animal vending machine. The fire department had to be called in to rescue him, after he crawled in and got stuck. He's OK -- some of today's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

It's a whole new world for politicians right now. Everything they say, including any gaffes or mistakes, can be caught, and sent to millions of people on the Internet immediately.

CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a closer look at the impact of the YouTube culture, as the midterm election approaches.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Conrad Burns is campaigning fiercely to try to keep his U.S. Senate seat.

SEN. CONRAD BURNS (R), MONTANA: I know how contagious it can be whenever -- whenever everybody gets together.

TUCHMAN: And, when the Montana Republican hits the trail, he is shadowed by this man with a video camera, a man who comes faithfully to Conrad Burns' events, but who does not come with good intentions.

KEVIN O'BRIEN, TESTER CAMPAIGN EMPLOYEE: I definitely want Jon Tester as next senator for Montana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we should talk about taxes a little bit here.

TUCHMAN: Jon Tester is the Democratic challenger. Kevin O'Brien keeps his camera on Conrad Burns, hoping the three-term incumbent says something wrong or embarrassing.

SEN. CONRAD BURNS (R), MONTANA: Oh, Hugo. I will call you back, Hugo.

TUCHMAN: So, he can put it for the world to see on the immensely popular video sharing Web site YouTube. This campaign event took place in Polson, Montana.

BURNS: That's Hugo.


BURNS: Hugo is a nice little Guatemalan man...


BURNS: ... who's doing some painting for me in Virginia.


TUCHMAN: Terrorism was a topic at this picnic in Miles City.

BURNS: To fight this enemy that's a taxicab driver in the daytime, but a killer at night.

TUCHMAN: And more of the same two days later in Butte.

BURNS: Where our kids can go to bed at night, and not worry about the guy that drives a taxicab in the daytime and kills at night.

TUCHMAN: Campaign operatives are taking advantage of this new technology to try to politically harm their candidate's rivals, as Virginia Senator George Allen learned.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name was, he's with my opponent. And he's following us around everywhere.

TUCHMAN: To some, the word macaca is racially insensitive. Allen issued an apology.

Kevin O'Brien is paid by the Tester campaign. He says he's put nearly 17,000 miles on his car in less than half a year following Conrad Burns.

O'BRIEN: Sometimes, I'm stunned and, you know, have to go back to the videos to make sure that my eyes and my ears weren't -- tricking me.

TUCHMAN: His eyes weren't tricking him when Conrad Burns started nodding off in agriculture hearing held in Montana.


TUCHMAN: This clip, with music dubbed in, has been downloaded more than 90,000 times, according to YouTube.

But is this below-the-belt politics?

Jon Tester doesn't think so.

TUCHMAN (on camera): A lot of people fall asleep. I fall asleep. And I'm sure you have fallen asleep before. I mean, is that a little unfair?

JON TESTER (D), MONTANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that meeting was about ag policy. Montana's number one industry is agriculture. I wouldn't be falling asleep when we're talking about ag policy. It's pretty doggoned important to our economy.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Not surprisingly, Burns' campaign workers don't enjoy seeing their candidate ridiculed.

BURNS: It looks like a big lunch.

TUCHMAN: But, at this campaign event at a senior center, the senator and the renegade cameraman take some time to say hi to each other.

BURNS: I'm hungry, dear. I'm hungry. I get over here, and there's calories and cholesterol.


TUCHMAN: Senator Burns, it seems, likes O'Brien.

BURNS: We love him. He's really a nice guy. And we have to feed him at our picnics and our dinners, because I don't think the Democrats pay him very much.

TUCHMAN (on camera): In the last congressional election year of 2004, YouTube did not exist. So, this is new territory for politicians like Conrad Burns, whose opinions about it may be shaped by whether they win or lose.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Bozeman, Montana.


BLITZER: An update now on a campaign controversy unfolding in California.

"The Los Angeles Times" reports that Republican congressional candidate Tan Nguyen personally bought the list of Hispanic immigrant voters who received letters threatening they could be jailed or deported for voting.

"The Times" quotes the president of the company that sold the list and sources familiar with the still unfolding investigation. Nguyen has acknowledged that his campaign sent the letters, but has denied personally approving the mailing. Nguyen is challenging the Democratic incumbent congresswoman, Loretta Sanchez.

In New Mexico, Republican Heather Wilson is considered one the most vulnerable House incumbents this year. And a new poll of registered voters shows her trailing Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid by three percentage points. Madrid and Wilson will appear in a televised debate tonight.

Senator Hillary Clinton is personally firing back at her Republican opponent, John Spencer, after reports he made disparaging comments about the way she used to look. Senator Clinton is accusing of treading into what she calls -- and I'm quoting now -- "swampy territory."

"The New York Daily News," which broke the story, quotes Clinton as saying, "I thought my high school picture was rather cute." Spencer denies he suggested the senator was once ugly.

And, remember, for the latest campaign news at any time, check out the CNN Political Ticker. Go to

Coming up: the crucial Senate contest in Ohio. It was the state that decided it all back in 2004. Now the Republican incumbent senator is fighting for his political life against a Democratic congresswoman. A new report from our Joe Johns on the Senate campaign trail, that is coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Ohio Senate race is a combustible mix of two of the trends of the 2006 election: an incumbent Republican very much on the ropes right now, and the Iraq war, very much a part of the political equation.

CNN's Joe Johns reports from Ohio in this CNN Election Express report.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In any other year, a senator like Mike DeWine, respected, thoughtful, experienced, would have little trouble getting reelected. But this is not any other year. DeWine is in an uphill reelection battle because of what he and other Republican candidates have taken to calling the environment.

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: That the patience of the American people is running thin.

JOHNS: By that, he means patience with the war in Iraq, and he's talking about the mood of the voters. It's an environment where an incumbent Republican senator in a tight reelection race freely disses the president's top man at the Pentagon.

DEWINE: He would not be my secretary of defense, if -- if I was the president of the United States.


DEWINE: He has, you know, made huge mistakes. And I think history will judge him very harshly.

JOHNS: A sign of the times that a Republican is on defense about the war he voted for, while his Democratic opponent is riding his no- vote to a solid lead in the polls.

REP. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: He voted for the Iraq war. I voted against the Iraq war.


JOHNS: Sherrod Brown, Democratic congressman from the liberal wing of the party, is enjoying a lead of about eight points, according to the polls, which is substantial in this closely divided state. And he's trying to lump the war in with a laundry list of domestic national issues that divide Democrats from Republicans.

BROWN: I think that Republicans in Washington have taken the country in the wrong direction: the Iraq war, a drug bill written for the drug companies, an oil energy bill written by the oil companies. They're responsible for this. And that's why people want a different direction in our country, want a different direction in our state. They want to see change. JOHNS: DeWine's problem is that the winds appear to be running against him.

DEWINE: People are, in Ohio, very concerned about Iraq, as they should be. And, you know, it -- it certainly impacts -- impacts the election. They're also concerned about terrorism. And, you know, in this race, a big difference -- Congressman Brown, 10 times in the 1990s, voted to cut intelligence, then voted several different times against the Patriot Act.

JOHNS: DeWine is pushing what he's doing for the local folks, emphasizing his experience, trying to make the point that he's in a better position to help Ohio.

One influential conservative in the state says DeWine is also fighting off ethics issues that he had nothing to do with, including one scandal involving the state's Republican Governor, Bob Taft.

DAVE ZANOTTI, AMERICAN POLICY ROUNDTABLE: And it's unfortunate for Mike DeWine, because he got caught in a twofold storm. Had he been able just to endure the national questions about Iraq and the administration in the off-election year, he would have weathered that storm very, very well. It's the Taft drain, on top of the other, that he has got to break out from.

JOHNS: A tough political environment for a Republican incumbent, especially in a closely divided state like Ohio.

Joe Johns, CNN, Cleveland.