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The Situation Room

President Bush Campaigning In Montana and Nevada; Some Asking Who's Accountable For Iraq's Problems; Senator Jim Talent Interview; Tony Snow Interview

Aired November 02, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And 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 commander-in-chief and the war in Iraq -- five days before a critical election, President Bush campaigns hard for Republicans and defends the issue that's number one for many Americans. This hour, I'll speak live with the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, about the Iraq violence and the votes.

It's 4:00 p.m. near Chicago, where one candidate wants you to know she's now your ordinary Democrat. She's a veteran who Democrats hope will help them win back the U.S. Congress.

And a kidnapped American soldier. It's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq, where an all out search for an American is underway. And now, for the first time, we're learning his identity.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

From the CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Five days, debatable odds and two important questions.

On Tuesday, will voters cut and run-from a Republican controlled Congress or stay the course and keep Republicans in charge?

First on voters' minds, what's happening right now in Iraq.

Over the past 24 hours, at least 30 people were killed in various shootings, bombings and other incidents. Meanwhile, a kidnapped American soldier remains missing. And, for the first time, we're now learning his name and seeing what he looks like.

We have several reports.

Our Barbara Starr has more on that missing soldier.

Brian Todd is standing by with a closer look at Iraq and the so- called political blame game.

But let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today President Bush is campaigning in the red states of Montana and Nevada. That is where Republicans are struggling. And the big challenge this president has is to make sure that the Iraq war is not a drag on his party.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): It's the elephant in every room.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish I could report to you that there wasn't a war, but there is.

MALVEAUX: The Iraq war -- now the number one issue for voters in the U.S. Congressional elections. The war, like the president, is highly unpopular. So Mr. Bush is trying to put the onus on the Democrats to come up with a solution to fix the problems in Iraq.

BUSH: The Democrats have no plan for victory. They have no idea how to win. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory.

MALVEAUX: The president's strategy is to convince Americans first he gets it.

BUSH: No question about it, the fighting in Iraq is tough.

MALVEAUX: Second, to present a strategy for success.

BUSH: We have a plan for victory in Iraq. I'm not going to leave our troops there unless I can tell you we're going to win.

MALVEAUX: As election day nears, the president's rhetoric has sharpened. He now describes the stakes as do or die.

BUSH: The only way we can fail is if we leave before the job is done. And that's exactly what the Democrats want to do.

MALVEAUX: The president recently ditched his rallying cry to stay the course in Iraq. But Wednesday, he sent a clear signal to his Republican base that he would not veer far, announcing that the architects of his Iraq policy, his secretary of defense and vice president, would serve out the remainder of his term.

Some political analysts say this election is not just about who controls Congress, but who shapes Mr. Bush's legacy.

STEPHEN HESS, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think the absolutely most important thing he's trying to accomplish is to sell his policy to the American people, his policy on Iraq, which is the foundation of his administration.

MALVEAUX: The president has carefully selected his campaign stops in his sprint to the finish line, stumping where he believes he'll help, not hurt, his party.

HESS: It's a campaign designed to get the most out of what you've got.


MALVEAUX: And President Bush now speaking live in Nevada at a Republican rally. The president, of course, then heading to the battle state ground of Missouri. That, of course, is a very important place for the election. And then he will go next week -- that's where he'll be voting, in Texas. And then back to the White House, where he will be looking at the results, seeing them come in.

Clearly, as you know, Wolf, a very important election for this president, which will largely determine whether or not he gets much done in the next two years.

BLITZER: He'll be on the road between now and Tuesday.

He's not coming back to the White House in between, is that right?

MALVEAUX: That's right. The next time you see him at the White House will be -- once the election happens, he'll be watching those races very carefully, very closely, and then we'll see him here.

BLITZER: Suzanne is at the White House.

Thanks, Suzanne, very much.

As commander-in-chief, President Bush is ultimately the main person who will either get the credit for success in Iraq or most of the blame for failure there. And right now some are asking who's accountable for some of Iraq's problems.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

He's joining us in Washington with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in this election cycle, those questions are inevitable. But recently, they've been directed toward the men waging this war on the ground.


TODD (voice-over): The number one issue in this election and the political blame game now extends to the commanders. Just after President Bush reinforces his loyalty to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, this exchange between Wolf Blitzer and House Majority Leader John Boehner.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.

BLITZER: But he's in charge of the military.

BOEHNER: But the fact is the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president.


TODD: Boehner then fends off a swarm of criticism from Democrats, later praises U.S. generals for doing a heroic job in Iraq. But one military analyst says the generals should share some of the blame because they have the responsibility and the right to go straight to the president and ask for more troops, if they feel they need them. And the president has publicly said he'll accommodate.

BUSH: I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory.

TODD: So why have the generals held back?

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: My sense is that yes, the generals have a great deal of responsibility here, have a great deal of authority, in terms of setting the right number of forces on the ground in Iraq and have concluded that they do not want, on balance, to have more.

TODD: But two other military analysts we spoke to say even if the generals wanted more troops, they know better than to ask their two civilian commanders.

LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: There's no doubt about the fact that Rumsfeld has created a climate in which people who go against his policies know it's not going to be well received.


TODD: This afternoon, a Pentagon spokesman labeled that charge complete nonsense, an insult to the integrity and an assault on the character of senior military officers. Those generals have also repeatedly denied being reluctant to ask for more troops -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect this debate, Brian, is only getting started.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Brian Todd in Washington.

Meanwhile, for the first time today, we're learning important details about a kidnapped American soldier. And while forces continue their all out search, some suggest they're not doing enough.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today the first real information about this missing American.


STARR (voice-over): The Army has publicly identified the soldier who was allegedly kidnapped some 10 days ago.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: His name is Ahmed Qusai al-Taai. He is 41 years old.

STARR: An Iraqi-American working as a translator, he left his base to visit his Iraqi wife in Baghdad.

CALDWELL: Ahmed was at a relative's home when three cars pulled up to the residence. The hostage takers handcuffed him and forced him into one of their vehicles.

STARR: Three days after the apparent abduction, the military described the search.

CALDWELL: Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces used checkpoints to close down roads and bridges in central Baghdad and are searching vehicles in the area.

STARR: But many of those U.S. checkpoints in Baghdad's Sadr City then were taken down at the orders of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: We have abandoned an American soldier to the Shiite militias in Baghdad.

Where is he? Since when does the commander-in-chief abandon a U.S. soldier to the enemy?

STARR: A U.S. Embassy statement said both sides agreed to make adjustments to checkpoints to address problems with the flow of traffic.

U.S. and Iraqi security forces have stage nearly 40 raids, looking for al-Taai. Caldwell is cryptic, but is clear -- the U.S. believes al-Taai is still alive and talks are underway.

CALDWELL: But it would be inappropriate for me to state with whom or at what level. But there's also a lot of, a tremendous amount of political activity ongoing, too, to help secure the release of our soldier.


STARR: Now, Wolf, the military always says it leave no one behind on the battlefield. But in this case, the unanswered question is whether it would have helped to keep those checkpoints up and running -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And on that specific issue, it, too, it's an outrage, at least to a lot of people out there, that when it comes to searching for an American soldier, you know, the United States simply listened to what the Iraqis demanded.

Is there concern behind-the-scenes over there at the corridors of the Pentagon on this front? STARR: I think the answer is yes. And the reason I say this with some hesitancy is what is it we don't know at this point that we may learn?

One official I spoke to today said it's possible that we got -- he said, in his words, essentially -- that we got everything we could out of the checkpoints, that there was nothing really to be gained by it.

It is possible -- this is very delicate -- that they have some type of information that they're not sharing publicly which gave them reason to believe they could take the checkpoints down. But that's not something we know at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is here.

You did some reporting on this yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: And the information we had yesterday that -- and people were furious, by the way, that the United States appears to have knuckled under to the Iraqi government on this -- the information we had was that Muqtada al-Sadr, the militia guy in charge of Sadr City, told al-Maliki, I want those checkpoints taken down, and if you don't, we'll retaliate, we'll make your life unpleasant. There will be violence.

There were threats made. So al-Maliki said we'll take them down and we're not going to leave them up just because the United States wants them left there, the implication being that now the Iraqi government is telling us what to do when we've got a soldier missing in battle over there. And people are furious about that, and they should be.

In case you didn't know it, Wolf, five days to go until the mid- term elections.

BLITZER: I heard about that.

CAFFERTY: It just seems a lot longer.

So, have you had enough of all of this yet? Enough of the fitly ads and the lies and the posturing and the polls and the endless interviews, the desperation?

And, of course, let's not forget all the morons like me, who think they understand all of this and just can't wait to tell you about it.

I know it's important for everybody to get out and vote. But after being subjected to this nonstop nonsense for days and weeks and months, well, it's easy to understand how you might be tempted to just go to bed, put a pillow over your head and wait until next Wednesday gets here. Here's the question -- what are the signs of election burnout?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

It's all becoming a bit much.

BLITZER: You don't have it yet, though?

CAFFERTY: Yes, I do.

BLITZER: You do?

CAFFERTY: You bet you, I do.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Up ahead, his tight Senate race now getting national attention thanks to the actor, Michael J. Fox. I'll talk about it with Republican Senator Jim Talent of Missouri. He'll join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, the war in Iraq taking center stage in another tight race, where a Democratic war veteran waging a strong race in Republican territory. We'll take you there live.

Plus, new developments in that California wildfire that killed five firefighters.

We're live from CNN election headquarters in New York and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Before the 2002 election, Democrats controlled the U.S. Senate. Republicans wanted change. That came when Republicans picked up seats, including one in Missouri.

Now, the irony is what happens in Missouri could once again change who's in charge.

Last week, the candidate, Claire McCaskill, was here in the SITUATION ROOM, the Democratic candidate. Now it's her opponent's turn.

Joining us now, Senator James Talent.

He is the incumbent Republican.

You've got a tough race out there, Senator Talent.

Thanks very much for coming in.

Our latest CNN poll has you at 49 percent, your Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill, at 49 percent. And some people are suggesting it's this close, in part, because of Michael J. Fox, the actor.

He's been running an ad in your state going after you on the issue of embryonic stem cell research.

Let me play a little clip of that for you.


MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Unfortunately, Senator James Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope. They say all politics is local, but that's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans, Americans like me.


BLITZER: All right, senator, there's been some confusion precisely where you stand on the issue of embryonic stem cell research.

You -- do you want to criminalize, as he alleges, the science that gives us, in his words, this chance for hope?

SEN. JIM TALENT (R), MISSOURI: Well, no. I mean the allegations in the commercial are false. I'm not saying anything with regard to Mr. Fox's intent.

No, I've supported that research over the years.

Now, I'm not comfortable crossing a line we've never crossed before and funding research -- funding research that involves the destruction of a human embryo.

But, no, I've -- what I don't like is cloning. And that's -- here in Missouri we have a ballot issue which would create a constitutional right to clone the earliest stages of human life, and that I do oppose.

BLITZER: Because a lot of the people who support that initiative say it does not support -- it does not give anyone a right to go ahead and endorse cloning.

TALENT: Well, there's no question that it creates a constitutional right to clone embryos. I mean that's -- it's the same procedure that was used to create Dolly the sheep.

Now, the issue is what moral gravity you want to attach to that, Wolf. And that certainly is something that people disagree about here. I mean I've let people know what my position is, but I've urged everybody to take a look at it and make a judgment on their own.

BLITZER: But you're not, you know, it makes it sound like this initiative would allow the cloning of human beings.

Is that what you're saying it would allow...


BLITZER: Because people are flatly denying that.

TALENT: You know, I've always been very precise. I say it would create a constitutional right to clone the early stages of human life, or a human embryo. Now, it prohibits the implantation of that embryo in a natural womb. But it would create a constitutional right to clone it, which goes too far for me. And I just urged everybody to take a look at it and make their own judgment about it.

In any event, it doesn't have anything to do with prohibiting stem cell research.

BLITZER: The latest CNN poll we have had asked if the American public supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Fifty-four percent say they favor it, 39 percent say they oppose it. This is a big issue out there for a lot of people who have Parkinson's and other ailments because they think it does hold hope out that they could be cured.

TALENT: Sure, and it's an issue in the race. I mean what I've -- what I think the race is about and have urged Missourians to consider, is my record, because I think I've made the system in Washington work for them on behalf of a number of issues -- you know, energy, methamphetamine, lower taxes.

But this is one issue in the race -- in Missouri, it's focused mostly on the ballot issue, which is, you know, raises the whole issue of cloning rather than stem cell research.

Now, Wolf, one of the things I've tried to explain when I have the time to explain it is that until recently, science thought that there was a particular kind of stem cell they could only get by cloning an embryo. And that's the reason for the overlap between the two issues.

The good news is that science is developing other means of getting that stem cell so that we can have a win-win type solution.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq right now.

Your opponent, Claire McCaskill, she was here in THE SITUATION ROOM the other day and she described you as a stay the course senator, totally in line with the Bush administration's stance as far as Iraq is concerned.

Is that true?

TALENT: No, I don't want to stay anything. You know, I want to win. I don't want a stalemate and I don't want to pull out, which really is what she's for. I want to win. And the mission was to remove Saddam, replace him with a government, a democracy that would be able to defend itself and would be an ally in the war on terror. Now, the part of the mission that requires large numbers of troops is training up that Iraqi military, sizing and seasoning it properly so it can defend the country. That's the part where we've been making some progress. And once we get -- once we complete that aspect of the mission, then we won't need large numbers of American troops.

That's what I'm for.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld?

TALENT: I've disagreed with him about a lot of things. Heck, I haven't had full confidence in the last four defense secretaries, in part because they're too much transformation people. They're not, you know, they're not -- they don't understand the value of boots on the ground or ships in the sea.

So I have disagreements with him. But there are other areas where I think he's done well.

BLITZER: Would you want him to stay until the president leaves office in January, 2009?

TALENT: Yes, I don't -- I mean he's part of the national chain of command, so I -- I've resisted the temptation -- and sometimes it's been tempting -- to advise the president who to have in that chain of command. I had the same -- I had similar issues with several of President Clinton's secretaries of defense. So what would I do is I raised the issues. I criticized where I think appropriate and I try and be constructive about it.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it right there.

Senator Talent, thanks very much for coming in.


Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, the White House press secretary, Tony Snow. He'll join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about Republican prospects in the election.

We're live from CNN election headquarters in New York and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Let's check in with Zane Verjee once again for a closer look at some other stories making news -- hi, Zane.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Officials in southern California say they're preparing to file murder and arson charges in connection with the Esperanza wildfire. Raymond Lee Oyler was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of another fire last summer. He'll face five counts of murder in the first degree. Five firefighters were killed by the Esperanza blaze, which charred more than 40,000 acres.

Five years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the remains of three more victims have been identified. Forensic authorities in New York say the remains are from a flight attendant and two passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 11. The remains were discovered prior to the closure of the World Trade Center site in early 2004.

And actor Tom Cruise will join with Hollywood giant MGM to rebuild the historic United Artists Studio. The deal, announced just hours ago, will give Cruise and a partner "substantial ownership in the new studio." Paramount Pictures dumped Cruise last summer after complaining that some of his behavior was hurting returns at the box office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Zane.

We'll check back with you soon.

And still to come right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Tammy Duckworth. She's a vet who was seriously wounded in Iraq. She now wants to become a member of the United States Congress.

Guess what issue is most on the minds of Illinois voters?

Also, did Democrat Jim Webb provoke this scuffle following a Republican rally in Virginia?

That's what his opponent, George Allen, wants you to think. The police now investigating. We're going to take a closer look online.

From the CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, it's issue number one for voters in poll after poll -- that would be the war in Iraq. And it's influencing races across the country, and it's certain to be on the minds of millions of Americans when they vote in the mid-term election on Tuesday. Hanging in the balance, control of Congress and how President Bush's final two years will play out.

I'll talk about Iraq, the election and much more with the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Five days until the mid-term election and increasingly, with few exceptions, races across the country are coming down to a single issue -- Iraq.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us now live from Elk Grove, Illinois with more on the story -- Candy.


You know, as you travel around to a lot of places, you hear about a lot of things -- Social Security, gas prices, health care. But almost everywhere, you hear about one thing.


CROWLEY (voice-over): If November 7th is a political explosion that shakes up Washington, the fuse was lit in late summer of 2004. And, for the first time, a majority of Americans turned sour on the war.

That winter, Major Tammy Duckworth of the Army National Guard was in a hospital bed, recovering from the loss of both legs. She had lots of time to think.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: And I did my research and I realized that only two members of the entire Congress had a child serving in Iraq. And I thought these people -- these people are not making the same sacrifice our troops make every single day. And, you know, so here I am. A lot less sleep later, a few more miles on my wheelchair.

CROWLEY (on camera): Still standing, right?

DUCKWORTH: Still standing.



CROWLEY (voice-over): She is the Democratic candidate in Illinois's 6th Congressional District on the outskirts of Chicago. She is one of a half dozen vets who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan recruited by Democrats to run-for office. Her story and her chances brought powerhouses to her side.

She talked Social Security, college costs and health care, but the war permeates the atmosphere here in the 6th. It permeates everywhere.

DAN BALZ, "WASHINGTON POST": With so many National Guard and Reserve troops, this has affected small towns in lots of states. And so I think there's kind of a pervasiveness about its impact that people feel all over the country.

CROWLEY: In the House and the Senate, seats that nine months ago, three months ago looked safer Republican no longer are. Illinois sixth district has been GOPville, sending retiring Republican Henry Hide to Congress for 30 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a real treat to spend some time with you.

CROWLEY: State Senator Peter Roskam often described as a rising Republican star here, may not be able to hold onto the sixth.

PETER ROSKAM (R), ILLINOIS CONG. CANDIDATE: You know the people in Washington, D.C. who cooked up my opponent's candidacy sort of got things wrong, didn't they. We don't have candidates imposed on us from Washington. We send our representatives out to Washington, D.C. Isn't that right?

CROWLEY: The race is close enough that Roskam has pulled in some celebs of his own, including the Republican designated hitter, in Illinois today, for Roskam and other Republicans.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Dave McSweeney and Peter Roskam will be champions of the men and women of the United States military. All of us are proud of the men and women who are deployed around the world defending our country.

CROWLEY: Either way you look at it, from wherever you look at it, no matter what else is said, November 7th is about the war, always the war.


CROWLEY: A lot of these races still remain toss-ups. But everyone agrees it is Republicans who are running with the wind in their face -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, good report. Thanks very much for that. Candy Crowley on the campaign trail working hard for us. Let's bring in our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield right now, he has a unique look at the U.S. Senate.

Jeff, first of all tell our viewers what we have here.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: This is a graphic illustration of what the Democrats need to do to win and what the Republicans hope to do to hold. A hundred seats in the U.S. Senate, 67 of them are not in play this year, 40 Republican, 27 Democrats. What we're talking then are 33 seats. We've marked the ones that are held by Republicans in red, the ones held by Democrats in blue. Vermont is an independent seat which votes with the Democrats.

But as you know, Wolf, not all these 33 seats are really competitive. So what we've done for our purposes is taken out the probable Republicans. The Democrats would love to put Arizona back in the competitive one. Taken out the probable Democrats. The Republicans would like to see Michigan in play. And we're left with nine seats that we think are going to control the outcome.

BLITZER: Nine seats. Two of those seats currently held by Democrats. GREENFIELD: That is correct. And for the Democrats to pull off control of the Senate, there are two seats in particular. New Jersey where state Senator Tom Kean is giving Robert Menendez a run for his money. We're assuming, the Democrats are hoping that Menendez will hold that seat. And in Maryland where, I'll do that again, you have to be gentle.

Where Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is giving Congressman Cardin a tough time, he's picked up some support from African-American Democrats. But again Democrats are assuming that they can hold that seat. And now there are seven Republican-held seats. Democrats need to take six of them to win control of the Senate.

BLITZER: Assuming they hold on to their two. They would still need to win six of those Republican seats. Talk a little bit about that.

GREENFIELD: Very quickly the Democrats have high hopes in Pennsylvania. They think they can take that seat away from Rick Santorum. Bob Casey is leading him in the polls. They believe they can take Rhode Island. I'll do that again more gently. Where Lincoln Chafee, the most maverick of all Republicans is still having a problem in this blue state. The Democrats believe that Sheldon Whitehouse is going to take that seat. And in Ohio, a state where Republicans have ruled for 15 years, they are mired in difficulty, Senator Mike DeWine is running behind Congressman Sherrod Brown.

So the Democrats think those are their three easiest ones. They now need, again, to control the Senate, three of the next four. And you know them as well as I do, I'll bet. Pennsylvania should have been given here. So in Missouri where you just heard from Senator Talent, he and Claire McCaskill are very tight.

Democrats think, OK, keep your fingers crossed. They believe that Virginia -- now this is a state where George Allen was supposed to win big, but James Webb is giving him a tough fight. The Democrats think OK, maybe we can get that. Montana, this was supposed to be actually a tough one for Conrad Burns. He was trailing, he seems to be catching up to state Senate President Jon Tester. But the Democrats say if we get that, those 50 seats plus Connecticut.

And the point about Connecticut is whether Lamont or Lieberman win it, let's say Joe Lieberman wins as an independent. He says he's already with the Democrats. That's 51 seats. And then if they manage to pull that off, Tennessee where Harold Ford Junior is running neck and neck with former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, that would be another one that they'd love to get.

So it's very simple, Wolf. The Democrats have to hold New Jersey, they have to hold Maryland and they have to take six of those seven Republican held seats.

BLITZER: Very simple. But for you to say, very hard for the Democrats to accomplish.

GREENFIELD: Hey, I just have to do the graphics. They have to get the votes.

BLITZER: We're going to be playing to this little graphic over here, this video machine all night Tuesday night, you'll be right here.


BLITZER: Thank you very much. And remember, tune in to CNN primetime Tuesday, beginning 7:00 p.m. eastern. I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, Lou Dobbs, to lead the best political team on television as your votes are counted. The races, the results, the ramifications. Tuesday night, it all starts right here 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Still to come, the election is turning into a referendum on the war in Iraq. Tony Snow speaks for the commander in chief of that war. The White House press secretary, he's standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And want proof this election is getting nasty? Take a look. Police are now investigating this scuffle. We have the situation online. From the CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Police are now investigating that scuffle in Charlottesville, Virginia between a liberal blogger and supporters of Senator George Allen. And there are now some new photos of the run-in at a campaign stop and they're showing up online. Will this incident have any impact on the tight race between George Allen and his Democratic challenger Jim Webb. Jacki Schechner watching the story unfold. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the altercation between liberal blogger Mike Stark and George Allen supporters did show up online. The local video news footage has been on and is viewed more than 150,000 times. Well now some still images have popped up online that show what took place before that videotaped footage.

They were first published in "The Free Lance-Star" and posted online at, taken by a photographer named Bob Martin. It's a series of 22 photos that you can see for yourself. We're going to show you just two of them. Now the man on the right here, his name is Dan Allen and he's a senior adviser to George Allen, there's actually no relation between them. The man here on the left is Mike Stark. Dan Allen says that Stark shoved him a couple of times.

And Stark says that Allen was actually approaching him and he was just trying to stop him. The photographer Bob Martin says it was more like the two men were jockeying for position through the doorway. And Stark says he's happy that these photographs popped up online. He says, quote, "They exonerate me entirely."

Now the Charlottesville Police Department is investigating. Stark filed an incident report. They say they're reviewing video footage and now these still photographs to find out what exactly happened. And they say there may come a time where they may have to interview Senator George Allen, but it's a little premature to say that yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's quite a story there unfolding in Virginia, Jacki, thank you very much. Lou Dobbs is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, getting ready for his program that begins in a few minutes, right at the top of the hour.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Right at the top of the hour Wolf. Thank you. Coming up tonight at 6:00 p.m. eastern we'll be reporting on new developments in the scandal over taxpayer funded benefits for illegal aliens even though it's against the law to provide those benefits. Outrage is drawing. There are calls tonight for a federal investigation. That special report coming up tonight.

Also, the rising threat to the integrity of our upcoming election. From e-voting machines. Some e-voting machines could actually allow you to vote as many times as you want. You just have to push a button. It doesn't get easier than that, does it?

And the war on the middle class, the big parties ignoring the worsening plight of working Americans. Only a few independent candidates are standing up for our middle class, we'll have that special report. A lot more at the top of the hour. We hope you'll be with us at 6:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand, Lou. And I know you've done a lot of reporting on your program on these e-voting machines. And the problems that have -- what's the big deal about having a paper trail in case there are questions? Why can't they just have a piece of paper that you can go back and do a recount on?

DOBBS: This is the most amazing thing. These election jurisdictions buying with federal money and support, these e-voting machines and willing to let the companies, four basic manufacturers of these machines, tell them who won, and if it's close, let them do the recount. It's insane.

They didn't provide for a paper ballot of any kind or paper trail on just about a third of the machines. And there are states out there. We estimate about 10, in which Tuesday night, you and I and all of our colleagues, we have the potential to have a great trying night. Because we won't know what's going on.

BLITZER: This is simple. It's an outrage, that if there's a recount, you got to be able to check it.

DOBBS: You know the mantra is, you get a receipt at your ATM but not for your vote. It's an absurdity and of course the safest thing that could be done is with touch screen simply take paper ballots and have them screened into it, scanned into it. But no one has -- it seems as if almost no one has been thinking about the implications, the ramifications of this system. Despite four years in which to do so and $2.5 billion spent. BLITZER: I know you are going to have a lot more on this. We are going to have a lot more on it as well, Lou. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, Jack Cafferty is wondering what are the signs of election burn-out? Jack standing by with your e-mail. An important note in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, they are the bedrock of the Republican Party. But are evangelical Christians losing faith in the government they helped put in power?

And then at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, in our second special hour tonight, the number one issue this election, Iraq and your vote. We're going to go in depth throughout that hour. We're live from CNN election headquarters in New York, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Still to come, the White House press secretary Tony Snow, he'll be joining us live this hour from the White House. In the meantime though, let's check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It's been a long, tough campaign. So the question this hour what are the signs of election burn-out?

We get this from John in Jacksonville, Florida, "Weight gain, nausea, dizziness, hair loss, blurred vision, insomnia, diarrhea, dramatic mood swings, facial tics and an underlying feeling of dread coupled with the suspicion that casting a vote is a complete waste of time. Ain't democracy wonderful?"

Fluffy in Lovelock, Nevada, "If you're unfamiliar with the signs Jack, go stand in front of a full length mirror and take a long look. You Mr. Cafferty are a poster child for election burnout. That curmudgeonly countenance, the irascible, disgruntled demeanor, the endless diatribes of displeasure, disgust and distrust. You have every symptom. Get away from this nonsense before it gets the better of you."

Richard in Portland, Oregon, "My personal indicator of election burnout would be to wish Karl Rove was naked and turning on a spit with an apple in his mouth. At no other time do I have such visions as these."

Ed in Winchester, Kentucky, "When I put a sign on my door that says if you ring my doorbell, I will vote for your opponent. I'm relatively sure I'm suffering from election burnout."

Kirk in Apple Valley, Minnesota, "Watching QVC and the Home Shopping Network because they don't have political ads."

And Ken in Madison, Wisconsin, "When I wake up in the middle of the night swearing I heard Wolf Blitzer say, "Jack Cafferty, part of the best political team on television." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to Do it, we got a ton of very funny stuff. And I could only read a few. But go check the rest of them out on the Web site.

BLITZER: Our viewers are great.

CAFFERTY: They're terrific. Karl Rove, naked turning on a spit with an apple in his mouth.

BLITZER: We'll talk about that. Up next, the midterm elections and by all accounts, at least according to the public opinion surveys, Iraq, the future of the defense secretary, all that and a lot more. Standing by, the press secretary to the president Tony Snow, we'll speak with him live from the White House. From CNN election headquarters in New York, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Five days until the midterm elections, and by all accounts, at least according to the public opinion surveys, Iraq dominating the issues as these final days continue. We want to talk about that and more with the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. He's joining us from the north lawn of the White House. Tony thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Here is the latest, I'm sure you saw it, CBS News/New York Times poll, do you approve or disapprove of the way the president is handling the war in Iraq. It's now a record low in this poll, 29 percent approve, 64 percent disapprove. Why has the American public, at least according to this poll and other polls, lost confidence in the way the president's handling the war in Iraq?

SNOW: I think the public just doesn't like the war, and I don't blame people. We don't like the war either. We wish it weren't necessary to fight, but it is. What's interesting in this political season, Wolf, is you can ask about the president's conduct in the war, but there's also an interesting issue that I think people are going to consider between now and Election Day, which is who is actually talking about winning this war?

Because Democrats took the calculated position going into this campaign that they'd spend their time talking about how much they didn't like George W. Bush. And there's been a concerted effort to go after the president and it has worked. Negative campaigning in that sense does work. But meanwhile, it's been interesting.

Every time the president proposes something, Democrats say no, patriot act, no. How about the terror surveillance program? Where you can surveil a terrorist in the United States communicating with a terror master abroad. Don't like that, say the Democrats. OK, how about the detainee act ...

BLITZER: Tony, let me interrupt and get back to the war in Iraq for a minute and then we'll get into some other issues.

SNOW: I'll finish the point I'm making and I promise not to filibuster. The point is you have a whole series of these things and Democrats have not offered a simple solution. OK, you don't like it. How are you going to win? They've said no to everything, but they haven't said yes to anything. And Americans have to ask themselves if this is the dominant issue, why won't Democrats talk about it, why won't they tell you what their plan is?

BLITZER: I guess their argument is they're not in power right now, it's up to the executive branch of the U.S. government.

SNOW: Whoa ...

BLITZER: I'm not going to speak for the Democrats. But I will express some of the concerns, at least conveyed to me that people out there have as they see what's happening on the ground in Iraq. Not only the violence but this new government of Nouri al-Maliki the prime minister. And the concern that what seems to be emerging almost as opposed to the democracy that that all of us would love to see in Iraq is almost a Shiite-led theocracy.

SNOW: Whoa.

BLITZER: There's a concern out there as you know that this government is moving in that direction, relying on the likes of Muqtada al-Sadr, this young Shiite radical cleric who is calling at least on the surface it seems to a lot of us some of the shots.

SNOW: OK, a couple of things. First, let's talk about Nouri al- Maliki. He's a prime minister who has been in business for five-and- a-half months. What has he done? Number one he has said I need to have more control over the military and he's talked about being nimble and going after forces, including in places like Sadr City. He was unhappy about not being informed of the precise time of a recent raid, but he approved to the raid.

Furthermore, he has met with Muqtada al-Sadr, he's also met with Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia leader. In addition he's met with a hundred top tribal leaders, Sunni leaders and he's had a reconciliation conference in Saudi Arabia. He's been working on the economy, he's been working on reconciliation. He's been working on security. And for a guy who has been in for 5 1/2 months, he's making decisions and he's being assertive.

BLITZER: But aren't you concerned Tony about this relationship with Muqtada al-Sadr? Remember the first U.S. military commander in Iraq, General Sanchez saying this guy had American blood on his hands. He was killing Americans. He hates America. And now he controls what 20 or 30 seats in the parliament, which holds the balance for Nouri al-Maliki the prime minister.

SNOW: Here's the interesting thing, Wolf. What you are saying is that Nouri al-Maliki is answerable to Muqtada al-Sadr. It's the other way around. Muqtada al-Sadr, I mean Nouri al-Maliki is the head of a government. And he is somebody who has at his -- he is the commander in chief. Now Muqtada al-Sadr has made a decision, he's going to enter the political process.

Prime Minister Maliki on three occasions in the last week has said we can't have militias, we cannot have separatist elements. We cannot have sectarian violence. It seems to me that that's a pretty clear message. And furthermore what you've seen is successful operations in Baghdad.

This has now been covered. General Bill Caldwell talked about it today. They've succeeded in lowering levels of violence which is an important thing as well. So what you have is an activist government. He has to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr. He has 30 seats in the parliament but on the other hand, al-Sadr has to deal with him as well.

BLITZER: What about this decision, because a lot of people are outraged to shut down those checkpoints. There's a missing American soldier right now. The U.S. military imposed some checkpoints around Sadr City to try to find this American soldier. Muqtada al-Sadr said no way, Nouri al-Maliki agreed and the U.S. military, supposedly, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, backed down.

SNOW: I will correct you, because you are wrong. What happened is the prime minister said, yes, I want to take down some of the checkpoints. And he consulted with General George Casey and Zal Khalilzad our ambassador. They said OK. You see troop movements are still, this is because of the U.N. mandate, they're controlled by the multinational forces in Iraq which are headed by George Casey. He does not have the authority to tell Americans to take down checkpoints.

Now the reason he gave, and it's a pretty sensible one, Wolf, is the people are waiting two to three hours, they're trying to get to work and he was taking political heat for it. It doesn't mean that we have backed off on efforts to find the American soldier. We still have American forces and Iraqi forces busy on the hunt trying to retrieve our countrymen. So what's happened here and I know a lot of times this happens at the distance.

People say ah-ha, it's Muqtada al-Sadr pulling the strings. No, it's Nouri al-Maliki being the smart politician saying you have to help people get to work, after all this is part of it. But, we can continue to help you with personnel and intelligence. Because let's face it, the Iraqis are going to be better gathering intelligence in Sadr City than we are and they're helping us.

BLITZER: I know, but let's talk politics a little bit. We don't have a lot of time left. The president is out there campaigning. But in several of the key battleground states where there are some really close races, he's sort of thunderously missing in action. How does the president feel when some of these Republican candidates especially for the Senate basically say to him you know what, stay away.

SNOW: Well you know what's interesting Wolf, I keep hearing this and yet every district he's in is closely contested. He's out for Conrad Burns today, he's been working for Mike Sodrel in Indiana. He was with Matt Collins in Georgia, he's going to be with Jim Talent tomorrow in Missouri.

I mean, the fact is, the president's going to closely-contested races. He's a big guy, he understands how politics works and he doesn't take this stuff personally. You know what he wants, he wants a Republican House and a Republican Senate and he thinks he's going to get it and so do I.

BLITZER: You do think that Republicans are going to be in the majority, seriously because you used to be a journalist and we've known each other for a long time. You are a straight shooter. Give us your bottom line prediction right now and then we'll talk after Tuesday.

SNOW: OK, I won't give you numbers because, I'm never even close on that. Let me give you my analysis and we can compare notes later. What you have right now is a time when people are going to focus seriously on issues. And I do think there's a big disconnect because the Democratic Party that has literally decided to sit on the sidelines on the key issues, the economy and the war and call the president names.

All right. That may be good at driving the president's negatives up, but on the other hand, is that really, do you really want to say, OK, I've called the president some bad names, so let me lead you. I don't think so. Secondly, there are very, so Republicans in contrast have something to vote for, Democrats get votes ...

BLITZER: You have 10 seconds.

SNOW: And finally, good turn-out efforts, motivated Republican voters. I think it's going to make the difference.

BLITZER: We'll see. Tony Snow from the White House. Always good to have you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SNOW: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thanks very much. We have to leave it right there. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.