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The Situation Room

Fighting Over 9/11: McCain vs. Giuliani; Hillary Clinton-Omics; New Hampshire Battleground; Behind Huckabee's Surge

Aired November 19, 2007 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Mitt Romney's rise and Rudy Giuliani's slide. We have a new poll from the leadoff primary state of New Hampshire, and campaign insiders sniping about the Iowa versus New Hampshire rivalry.
We'll get to that.

John McCain steals some of Giuliani's thunder in the fight against terror. He scored the endorsement of a 9/11 Commission co- chairman. But is it enough to give McCain some new and badly needed momentum?

And Hillary Clinton borrows a page from her husband's playbook. She's zeroing in like a laser beam, she says, right now on the economy, and she's questioning whether Barack Obama has enough experience to cash in.

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

But up first this hour, a campaign tug of war over 9/11. John McCain is touting a brand-new endorsement today that gives him new bragging rights about the anti-terror credentials he wants. He won the backing of 9/11 Commission co-chairman and former New Jersey governor Tom Kean. It's a fresh example of Republican rivals trying to deflate Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 hero status.

Just a short while ago, I asked Governor Kean why he chose McCain over Giuliani.


TOM KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CO-CHAIRMAN: Nobody, in my mind, has done anything more to keep the American safer than John McCain. John McCain was the one who got the 9/11 Commission going, John McCain was the one who supported our recommendations. He took on everybody from leaders of his own party to the White House itself.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more of the interview, the full interview of Governor Kean. That's coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But right now, let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. So how significant is this endorsement for McCain? And is it, in effect, a slap at Giuliani?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Implicitly, it sure is a slap at Giuliani, whose campaign is based on leadership and tested, is what he said -- the title of one of his early ads. Look, Tom Kean does not have a political organization in place, he's been out of elected politics for some time, but he does have the stature, the American people remember him.

This even was done in Boston, Wolf, by no accident. John McCain hoping the Boston television stations would give him coverage up in New Hampshire. And this goes to the central premise of McCain's candidacy. It will be interesting to see if the contrast becomes more pointed.

Rudy Giuliani is saying he has been tested, he has a new ad on the air right now in New Hampshire that went up today that starts with this line: "I believe I've had the most leadership experience of anyone that's running."

That's what Rudy Giuliani is saying. And this is John McCain saying, with all due respect, Mr. Mayor, no, I have more experience than you in the Navy, in the Senate, in getting legislation through, and Tom Kean's endorsement certainly will help in that regard. He doesn't have a political organization on the ground, but he does have moral stature, if you will, in the argument over terrorism.

BLITZER: McCain's campaign seems to be getting a second life, if you will, at least of sorts right now.

KING: They are getting a bit of a second life, or a chance at a second life. They had stabilized in New Hampshire, moved up a little bit in most polls. They're still on the hunt, and they say improving in South Carolina.

Iowa remains a struggle. Senator McCain said at that news conference he's still going to compete in Iowa. Privately, though, behind the scenes, his campaign aides tell you he will go out there from time to time, he will do the debates and big events out there. But their emphasis right now, they know they need to win New Hampshire and try to bounce into South Carolina. So they'll play in Iowa.

New Hampshire is the big challenge. And it's very interesting, Wolf. Even there, his aides will tell you immigration is the issue that is hurting him, even in a 99 percent non-border state -- 99 percent white non-border state like New Hampshire.

BLITZER: All right, John. Thanks very much.

John is going to be with us later in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour for our roundtable as well. We'll discuss this and a lot more.

And once again, more of the interview with the former New Jersey governor and 9/11 commissioner co-chairman, Tom Kean. That will air also in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hillary Clinton says when it comes to the U.S. economy, it takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush. The Democratic presidential front-runner is focusing in today on the same issue that helped get her husband elected to the White House.

Our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is watching this story for us.

She's taking something out of her husband's playbook, and in the process taking a direct shot at her rival, Barack Obama -- Jessica.


Senator Clinton has previously accused Senator Barack Obama of being a rookie on foreign policy matters. Well, now she says her opponents also lack her experience when it comes to the economy.

In a speech today in Iowa, she said, "We can't afford on-the-job training for our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history." Well, she made that broadside during a policy address in which she also criticized President Bush's economic policies and outlined her ideas to make immediate improvements in the housing crisis and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

But, Wolf, bottom line, it is no surprise that she's intensifying her criticism of her Democrats rivals right now, because she, Obama and Edwards are in a dead heat in Iowa. With just over six weeks to go from the all-important Iowa caucuses, the fighting is getting fierce.

BLITZER: The Obama campaign, I take it they didn't waste any time?

YELLIN: No, they did not. Barack Obama hit back and he did not take it like a rookie. He repeated his message that Clinton is basically a Washington insider with familiar Washington ideas.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My understanding was that she wasn't treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. This sort of general notion of experience based on longevity Washington, I don't think is sufficient to make the case to the voters of Iowa or the American people.


YELLIN: Now, that all plays to Obama's message that he's the candidate of change. His campaign insists that Clinton's attack is a sign that she's panicked about the tight race in Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I just want to also point out, this is taking place within the context of a very controversial column that Robert Novak wrote suggesting that Clinton's so-called agents had some dirt on Barack Obama. It's created all sorts of back and forth between these two campaigns.

What's the latest on that?

YELLIN: Yes, Wolf, it's gotten personal.

Well, Obama's campaign pounced in response to this Robert Novak column, saying that the Clinton campaign must not engage in the politics of slime, denouncing any move they might make to release any bad information on him. And he personally, Barack Obama, said that he will not be swift-boated.

Well, the Clinton campaign has responded in kind. They say that Barack Obama is essentially inexperienced, falling for Republican tactics to try to divide the Democrats, and they add they have no idea what Novak is talking about -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a lot of people are very, very suspicious right now as well. They don't know what he's talking about either.

All right. Thanks very much.

Jessica Yellin reporting for us.

Jessica Yellin and John King, all of our viewers know they're both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. And remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can check out our political ticker at

Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" in New York -- Jack.


Boston police launching a new program to try to get guns off the streets. They're going to start asking parents in Boston in high- crime areas to allow detectives to come into their homes without a warrant to search their kids' bedrooms looking for guns.

It's called the Safe Homes Program. It's based on the idea that parents are so worried about their teens getting caught up in gun violence, that they'll let the police into their homes to look for firearms. If police say now -- or if the parents say no, rather, the cops then would just leave.

The program is raising questions about civil liberties, not unexpectedly. Critics are calling it an end run around the Constitution because no warrant would be obtained. Others say people may be too intimidated to say no to the police or may not understand the consequences if they say yes.

And it's questionable how many guns the program would actually get off the streets. It seems the bad guys can always find a way to get another gun.

Boston police though insist that a similar program in St. Louis, Missouri, has been quite successful. In the first year of that five- year program, cops say they were allowed into 98 percent of the homes where they asked to be admitted and seized guns in half of them. They insist the programs does not aim to incarcerate people. They won't search the homes of people who are already the subject of a criminal investigation, and the police say should they come across small amounts of drugs like marijuana, they would simply be confiscated, no arrests.

So the question is this: Should Boston police be able to enter private homes without a warrant to search for guns?

E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks. Good question.

Jack will be joining us during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern roundtable as well.

Meanwhile, new ups and downs in New Hampshire. You're going to find out which Republican is fading fast in the leadoff primary state. We have some brand-new poll numbers we'll share with you.

And Mike Huckabee apparently catching fire in Iowa by preaching the conservative gospel, but will a surge in the polls translate into real votes?

And the president's top adviser on terrorism calling it quits. Fran Townsend is not -- repeat, not -- using the usual spin to explain while she's leaving.

She'll be joining us live, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There is new movement in the Republican presidential race as this, the primary season, closes in. We're releasing some brand new poll numbers from New Hampshire right now.

Let's turn to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's getting these poll numbers for us.

Any good news for any of the Republican candidates in the latest polls in New Hampshire, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, but the big news is the bad news in New Hampshire.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Where does the Republican race stand in New Hampshire? Our new poll shows Mitt Romney still leads. In fact, Romney's support has increased. Only two other Republicans are in double digits in New Hampshire -- John McCain, whose support has been steady, and Rudy Giuliani, who's been losing strength.

New Hampshire voters demand a lot of attention, and they may not feel Giuliani has given them enough. The big shock is Fred Thompson. He's getting nowhere in New Hampshire. He's now fallen behind Ron Paul.

New Hampshire Republicans are beginning to see a two-man race for the nomination -- Romney versus Giuliani. Only 8 percent believe McCain is a likely national winner. That could be holding his numbers down in New Hampshire, a state he has to win.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can win in New Hampshire as I did in 2000.

SCHNEIDER: Here's some more bad news for McCain. McCain has staked his candidacy on the success of President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.

MCCAIN: I would must rather lose a campaign than lose a war.

SCHNEIDER: New Hampshire Republicans think McCain would be the best candidate to handle Iraq, but Iraq has declined in importance as an issue among New Hampshire Republicans. Growing in importance, illegal immigration. That's Romney's issue, along with taxes and the economy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think my record, as someone who has fought to protect legal immigration, but to stop illegal immigration, stands up against anybody's in the country.

SCHNEIDER: The issue of terrorism is also important to Republicans, but it's an issue McCain has to share with Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am used to having the responsibility of other people's safety and security on my shoulders, millions of others people.


SCHNEIDER: From New Hampshire, there's good news for Romney, not such good news for Thompson and McCain.

And Giuliani? Well, he looks like a big player, but not yet in New Hampshire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I noticed in this new poll we have in New Hampshire, Ron Paul has gone, what, from 4 percent to 8 percent. He's doubled his support. How much of a threat does he represent to some of the candidates out there?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I'd say he represents something of a threat to John McCain, because Ron Paul does better with Independents who can vote in the New Hampshire primary, than he does with registered Republicans. And Independents has always been a group where John McCain does very well. So, if Paul continues to grow, that could take support away from John McCain in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: Interesting.

All right, Bill. Thank you very much.

So which candidate cares most about New Hampshire? Romney and Giuliani campaign insiders are ready to take on that question and a lot more. I'll speak to New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg and former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci They're surrogates for these campaigns. That's coming up this hour.

Let's go to Iowa though right now, where Republican Mike Huckabee is indeed a rising star in the polls. But will this conservative former preacher prove to be a one-state wonder?

Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us now from Iowa.

He has Christian conservatives, I take it, to thank for his surge. And it's been pretty impressive given the limited amount of money that he has.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And you know, two polls in the last week show Mike Huckabee either second or even in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney here. Now, 44 days before the Iowa caucuses, the big question is whether he can build on that support and potentially reshape the Republican race.


BASH (voice over): Each and every Sunday, Pastor Darran Whiting talks to his small yet devout flock about faith and family values. He thinks he's found a candidate for president who practices what he preaches.

PASTOR DARRAN WHITING, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: Governor Huckabee stands on the issues that I stand for -- socially conservative, as far as being pro-life, as far as being pro-family, which is very much why I like to support him personally.

BASH: It's support among evangelicals like Whiting that has propelled Mike Huckabee's surge here in Iowa, where some 40 percent of GOP caucus voters are Christian conservatives and the former Baptist preacher is winning over more and more Iowa leaders with his staunch anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage views.

MATT REISSETTER, PASTORS COALITION, HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN: We don't question where he's at. We don't question what he believes. He's one of us.

BASH (on camera): So this is?


BASH (voice over): But at Huckabee's Iowa campaign headquarters, the huge challenge is turning his popularity into actual votes on Election Day.

WOOLSON: And so it really is a matter of getting the organization to catch up to where the governor is. BASH (on camera): And are you there yet?

WOOLSON: So -- we're not there yet.

BASH (voice over): The campaign staff recently doubled from six to 14 people.

(on camera): This is what success breeds?

WOOLSON: This is what success breeds.

BASH (voice over): And added on to their tiny workspace.

Aides from Arkansas headquarters are now in Iowa.

(on camera): You're not just any staffer?

SARAH HUCKABEE, NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR: Not just any staffer, I guess. My dad is Mike Huckabee.

BASH (voice over): Including daughter Sarah, her father's field director.

And this week Huckabee began airing his first TV ad.

CHUCK NORRIS, ACTOR: Mike's a principled, authentic conservative.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chuck Norris doesn't endorse. He tells Americans how it's going to be.

BASH: Aides, including his daughter, admit they're not issue how that's going to play in Iowa, but say at least Huckabee's getting buzz, a necessity for a still underfunded, understaffed campaign.


BASH: And increased popularity, of course, brings increased scrutiny, and, Wolf, Huckabee's rivals are being a lot more aggressive in criticizing him here in Iowa, especially on issues like taxes and immigration. Those -- on those, his record in Arkansas, they say simply hurts him and will essentially make it hard for him to continue to court an appeal to those conservatives that he is now doing so well with here in Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, what does Huckabee's surge in Iowa mean for Romney?

BASH: You know, that is the big question. You talk to Huckabee staff, and they say that it means a lot for Huckabee. They insist he will do well beyond Iowa if he has a strong showing here.

But the big question really here is what a strong showing will do for Mitt Romney. Why? Because Mitt Romney's whole strategy is based on a very, very strong showing here in Iowa, then on to Michigan after that, and potentially a pretty strong showing in New Hampshire to give him really the sense of inevitability, to give him momentum.

If Mitt Romney has Mike Huckabee on his heels when it comes to Election Day here in Iowa, it really could dampen that strategy that Mitt Romney has worked so hard on. And he really has worked incredibly hard here, spent a lot of money here, spent a lot of time here to build up an organization to propel him with that momentum. Mike Huckabee has the potential to really stop that and really hurt that strategy.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Des Moines for us.

Dana, thanks.

Mike Huckabee, by the way, is rising in Iowa, even though he's raised far less money nationwide than the other leading Republican presidential contenders. Check this out.

As of October 1st, Rudy Giuliani raised more than $45 million; Mitt Romney more than $44 million; John McCain raised more than $30 million. But Huckabee raised just over $2 million, putting him seventh out of the eight major GOP presidential candidates. Only Duncan Hunter raised less.



BLITZER: Coming up, Mitt Romney says Rudy Giuliani "welcomed illegal aliens," while Giuliani's campaign says illegal immigration skyrocketed when Romney was governor. Both sides ripping at each other as they vie for the presidential nomination. You're going to hear a debate from top supporters from both.

Also, Barack Obama's wife is coming to a TV set near you. She'll be on a very popular program. We're going to tell you which one and why.

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Hugo Chavez, he's saying attack Iran and all of us will pay dearly to heat our homes and fill our vehicles with gas. The Venezuelan and Iranian presidents are both making fresh threats against U.S. economic interests.

That's coming up.

Also, one woman's horrible nightmare. Raped by a gang of men and then blamed -- blamed for the attack, it's a shocking story out of Saudi Arabia.

We'll have the latest. And right now many people could be in prison for absolutely no good reason. For decades, law officials used an FBI-approved technique that is now considered unreliable. Might that mean a number of inmates could be set free?

I'll ask renowned criminal defense attorney Barry Scheck. That's coming up as well.

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

As all of us know, politics can be rough and it can be ugly at times. Right now two presidential candidates are involved in a bare- knuckle brawl. Republican Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are fighting for the presidential nomination by hurling insults at each other. Each side accusing the other of being soft on some key issues. And one campaign even suggests the other is mostly all talk.


BLITZER: And joining us now, two representatives from two important Republican presidential campaigns. Senator Judd Gregg is representing Mitt Romney's presidential bid. He's joining us. And former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci represents the Giuliani campaign. He's joining us as well. Senator Gregg, of course, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.

Thanks, Gentlemen, very much for coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.

BLITZER: Here's what Mitt Romney said the other day about Rudy Giuliani's position on illegal immigration. And I want you to respond, Governor Cellucci.

"He welcomed illegal aliens to the city." Referring to New York City. "That sanctuary state of mind is one of the reasons we have so many illegal immigrants in our country today."

He basically says that Rudy Giuliani is soft on illegal immigration. What say you?

PAUL CELLUCCI (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, that's certainly not true. The illegal -- illegal immigrants were already in New York City when Rudy Giuliani was elected the mayor of that city. And it was also the crime capital of the country.

And Rudy Giuliani worked very hard by putting more police on the streets to bring that crime rate down dramatically, including arresting a lot of illegal immigrants who were committing crime. His priority was fighting crime.

Those of us here in Massachusetts are amazed at the TV ad that Governor Romney is running in New Hampshire, where he says that he put the state police out to enforce the immigration laws. He did that in the 47th month of his four-year term. It was -- it never happened.

He said it, but he did not do it, because Governor Patrick rescinded that order. He also says he will cut funding for sanctuary cities. Yet, there are several here in Massachusetts who saw their local aid go up each year. So, once again, he says it, but doesn't do it.

If you look at New York City, Rudy Giuliani said he would cut the crime rate, and he did it.

BLITZER: All right.

Let me get Senator Gregg to respond. And I'm going to read to you a statement that a Giuliani spokeswoman put out, saying this: "Under Governor Mitt Romney, the number of illegal immigrants skyrocketed, while he recommended millions of dollars in state aid to numerous sanctuary cities and to companies employing illegal immigrants, not to mention the illegals working on his own lawn."

All right. That's a strong statement retorting what Mitt Romney was saying about Giuliani.

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, obviously, the issue of illegal immigration is critical here. And Mitt Romney has been very definitive on it.

He believes that there should be legal immigration, but there shouldn't be illegal immigration. And the place you start is by controlling our borders. And he has a very strong commitment to doing something about that, something that hasn't happened.

New York State is an issue for all of us in this country relative to allowing illegal immigrants in and giving illegal immigrants special rights, whether it's driver's licenses or whether it's the capacity to live in a city that's a sanctuary city.

I'm not going to comment on what Mayor Giuliani did while he was there, but the simple fact is that the track record of New York City and New York on illegal immigration is very weak, whereas I think Mitt Romney has been extremely strong on this issue. And he represents what I think is the right position, which is that you control your borders first and you let legal immigrants into this country, welcome them into this country, but, in the area of illegal immigration, you do everything you can to stop it, slow it down, and make that people aren't getting special rights because they came here illegally.

BLITZER: Governor Cellucci, you want to respond to that?

CELLUCCI: Well, you know, it's funny. The mayor of Somerville here in Massachusetts, one of our so-called sanctuary cities, said, in, Mitt Romney's four years as governor, he never heard from him on this issue; there was never a directive from his office, and the state police never showed up to do anything about it.

So, the fact of the matter is, he says it, but he did not do it. I think the American people want a leader who not only says something, but then accomplishes it.

BLITZER: In Iowa, Senator Gregg, Mike Huckabee is showing some dramatic inroads, even though he has got limited amount of money, certainly nothing compared to your candidate, Mitt Romney.

The latest CBS News/"New York Times" poll has Romney at 27, Huckabee at 21, Giuliani at 15 in Iowa.

How much of a threat, Senator, do you see Mike Huckabee representing to you right now in Iowa?

GREGG: Well, I have always, being from New Hampshire, viewed Iowa as being a place where they pick corn and New Hampshire being the place where we pick presidents. So, quite honestly, I don't focus a whole lot on Iowa.

The fact is that in, New Hampshire -- and I believe In Iowa, there are a lot of people who are very attracted to Mitt Romney's campaign. I suspect it's one of the reasons why he's being attacked now so aggressively by some of our colleagues who are also running in this race, because Mitt Romney's message is resonating. It's resonating because he has got the right message, which is a strong America, strong on defense, strong for families, and understanding that we have got to get things done in Washington, and not just continue to waffle on.

BLITZER: In -- in New Hampshire, Governor Cellucci, Governor Romney is running at 34 percent in this poll. John McCain is tied with Giuliani for second at 16 percent.

How critical is New Hampshire for Rudy Giuliani's campaign?

CELLUCCI: Well, I think the mayor expects to be very competitive in New Hampshire. He's got a very good grassroots organization. He just started running television ads aimed at the New Hampshire voters.

I think the surprise at this stage in the game would be if Mitt Romney were not ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire, given the tremendous amount of money he has spent on television ads in both of those states.

Now it's going to be joined, particularly in New Hampshire, with other candidates going up on TV. And I think it will be competitive, both in Iowa, with Huckabee surging, and certainly with the efforts that the mayor is making in Iowa. And, also, you're going to see Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain. I think it's very competitive in both of those states.

And that's what Rudy wants to do. He wants to be competitive in the early states. He's going to do well in Florida. He's going to do well on February 5, with a lot of big states.

MATTHEWS: Governor Cellucci, Senator Gregg...

GREGG: Well, I think that's -- I think -- excuse me. Can I just respond to that quickly, Wolf? (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Go ahead. Make a -- make a quick point, and then we will wrap it up.

Go ahead.


GREGG: Unfortunately, there's a touch of disdain from the Giuliani campaign towards New Hampshire. They're talking about filing just 12 delegates, because the national party says we are only going to get 12, instead of the 24.

I don't think the -- the Giuliani campaign is really showing New Hampshire a great deal of deference. And he hasn't been there a lot. And, quite honestly, he's not doing a lot of serious campaigning there. And you can't win New Hampshire unless you get on the ground and meet the people, which is exactly what Mitt Romney is doing.

CELLUCCI: Boy, I have been with -- I have been with the mayor several times in New Hampshire myself. That's absolutely not true. He's been there a lot. He will be back. He's got his TV ads. And that's why...

GREGG: How many -- how many delegates are you going to file, Paul? Are you going to file 12 or are you going to file 24?


GREGG: Your campaign spokesman says you're going to file 12.

CELLUCCI: We're -- we're voting to win -- we're working to win the primary. And the Republican National Committee will -- will sort that stuff out.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen...


GREGG: No, it shouldn't. The Republican National Committee should not control that question. It should be controlled by the states. And New Hampshire has shown itself to be a reasonable place to start a national campaign. And I regret that the Giuliani campaign doesn't view it that way.

CELLUCCI: We -- we agree with that. That's why we're competing.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we have got to leave it right there.

GREGG: All right.

BLITZER: But it looks like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, all these contests are going to be important. And we will watch it every step of the way.

Senator Gregg, Governor Cellucci, thanks to both of you for coming in.

GREGG: Thank you.

CELLUCCI: Thank you, Wolf.

GREGG: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, if it sounded a little bit arcane, Governor Cellucci and Senator Gregg were talking about a punishment the Republican Party has slapped on five states, including New Hampshire. The others are Florida, South Carolina, Michigan, and Wyoming.

They're being penalized for holding their presidential primaries before February 5, in violation of Republican Party rules. Those states will be stripped of half their delegates to the Republican Party's convention next September.

For New Hampshire, that means the state would only be allowed 12 of its 24 delegates at the convention. As for who's up and who's down in New Hampshire, remember, earlier, we told you about our brand-new CNN poll. Again, it shows Mitt Romney in the lead, Rudy Giuliani just behind him.

And we're going to have much more on John McCain's big endorsement today. The former New Jersey Governor, 9/11 Commission co-chairman Tom Kean, who is backing John McCain right now, he will join us in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush's top terrorism adviser is calling it quits. She wants to make it clear, though, she's not leaving to spend more time with her family. You're going to find out why Frances Townsend is now resigning.

And who's afraid of Rudy Giuliani? Not -- repeat, not -- Mike Huckabee. The Republican presidential candidate is surging in the polls in Iowa. Should his rivals be worried he could steal the show?

And many are wondering if countless prison inmates could soon be set free. Some were likely convicted based on a technique that's now considered unreliable. This is a shocking story. You are going to want to see it -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: She's President Bush's top terror adviser, but she's now calling it quits. That would be the White House homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend. You may be surprised why she wants to leave.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

She's making it clear, Suzanne, what fueled her decision. Update our viewers.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I had a chance to talk to her several times today. And she says she's been in law enforcement, in the public sector, for two-and-a-half decades. And she says, really, she wants to go into the private sector now, and it's time for a change.

She laughed at the suggestion -- and when I said, well, perhaps you want to spend more time with your family, she said, no, that old Washington cliche, no one would believe it, that she's probably going to have a private sector consulting job, spend 20 hours-plus a day actually working.

Now, you know she has a critical job. And there were really two things that stood out in our conversation. One, she took on the critics, particularly the Democratic presidential candidates who have said, like, look at Afghanistan, look at Iraq, Pakistan, that Americans are no safer than we were before September 11.

She said, absolutely not, that's not true. She pointed to legislation. She pointed to foiled terrorist attacks. And then she also made a point as well. And that was one regret that she does have is that, on her watch, they did not capture the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.


FRANCES TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Am I frustrated that we haven't bin Laden and Zawahri to justice? Yes, just as I'm frustrated about Mugniyah.

But I'm confident, because of our resolve and our commitment of resources and time and effort, we will ultimately be successful. But I will be disappointed, because that will most likely be when I'm gone.


MALVEAUX: And she also denied that she and the president ever exaggerated any kind of terrorist threat to sell the foreign policy agenda or the Iraq war. She says that that is just not -- simply not true.

She also insists, Wolf, that al Qaeda remains the most important threat to Americans, both here, as well as overseas. And she says Iran's threat to the United States has not diminished -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne is going to be with us in our 6:00 p.m. roundtable as well.

And, in our next hour, I'll be speaking live with Fran Townsend. We will talk about her decision to leave and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In our "Strategy Session": John McCain picks up the endorsement of the man who led the 9/11 Commission.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I especially, as all Americans do, appreciate the magnificent work that Governor Kean did on the 9/11 Commission, which was very important to America.


BLITZER: But why didn't Governor Kean endorse the man known as America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani?

And Mike Huckabee says abortion is a moral issue, not a states- rights issue. Is that kind anti-abortion talk -- it's certainly vaulting him higher in the polls in Iowa, and some polls showing him in second place.

Paul Begala and J.C. Watts, they're standing by to discuss that and a lot more -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The Presidential Debate Commission has just announced the sites and dates for the three presidential debates and one debate for the vice presidential nominees.

Here they are. On September 26, 2008, the White House nominees will face off at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. A vice presidential debate will be held October 2 at Washington University in Saint Louis. The second presidential debate will take place on October 7 at Belmont University in Nashville. And the third and final face-off set for October 15 Hofstra University on Long Island in New York.

Let's get some analysis, immediate analysis. Paul Begala, our Democratic strategist, is here, J.C. Watts, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.

What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the campaigns will have to negotiate this out. I admire the men who chair this commission, Frank Fahrenkop, former Republican Party chairman, Paul Kirk from my party, the Democrats.

But the truth is, the two campaign managers of the two nominees will have to get together and negotiate this, or their designees. Here's why, for example, just to pick one. The presidential third debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long island, New York. Well, what if Hillary Clinton is the presidential nominee? That's her home state, and it's at the university where they had a wonderful conference on the Clinton presidency. And I thought it was a wonderful conference.

But maybe a Republican might think that that institution may be a little too Democratic.

Conversely, Ole Miss, University of Mississippi at Oxford, J.C. played some football against them back in the day. You don't want to be a Democrat campaigning in Oxford in September.

BLITZER: So, you're -- what you're saying -- what you're saying, these locations and dates are not set in stone?

BEGALA: They're not even set in sand.


BLITZER: What do you think, J.C.?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're not going to be set in stone, because the candidates are going to want to have some say where they show up, especially as late as September of 2008.

Now, I'm disappointed that the University of Oklahoma is not on the list.


WATTS: And, secondly, my -- my -- you want to know my true feelings about this, Wolf? I'm thinking, more debates? My goodness, we have debated -- we have debated to death.


BLITZER: But not among the presidential nominees yet.


BLITZER: We still don't know who they are, let alone who the vice presidential nominees are.

Let's talk about this new CNN poll in New Hampshire that shows Romney moving from 25 percent to 33 percent, McCain holding at 18 percent, Giuliani from 24 to 16, Ron Paul doubling from 4 percent to 8 point, Fred Thompson down at 4 percent.

What's your assessment, as a Democrat, looking at these Republican candidates?

BEGALA: As a Democrat, it makes J.C. look real smart.

Back when John McCain was at the blip level, J.C. was saying he could be the Republican comeback kid. Watch him come back.

Well, here comes Seabiscuit. You know, maybe McCain -- as a Democrat, I would fear him more than any of the other Republicans, frankly. I think he's the most able candidate they have. And that's good for Republicans, that he's kind of coming back. I don't know if he can make it all the way, though, because the war and his position on immigration weigh him down.

BLITZER: What do you think?

WATTS: Well, I think John McCain, I think what people see as his weakness, I think could end up being his strength.

The fact is that he says, because Paul Begala J.C. Watts disagree with me, that doesn't mean I'm going to change my mind. This is the way I feel.

I think he has said, hey, the American people are against me on immigration. But the war, I'm right. And he was the one that was leading the charge for the surge. We have seen great success there. It could pay off for John McCain in the end.

BLITZER: We will see what happens on that front.

Mike Huckabee, who has got no money, basically, he's doing incredibly well in Iowa, some polls showing he's second, some even showing, statistically, he's tied with Romney in Iowa for first place.

Yesterday, he said this. Abortion -- he's very opposed to abortion. Some of the Republican presidential candidates say, this is an issue the states should deal with. He says, that is not good enough. "If morality is the point here, and if it's right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can't have 50 different versions of what's right and what is wrong."

That clearly will appeal to a major element, a major base in the Republican Party.

BEGALA: It will, but I -- I -- if I were advising him, I would worry that he's going too far.

It's fine to have this principled position that there should be federal uniform outlawing of abortion. But then he goes beyond that, Governor Huckabee does, and compares abortion to slavery.

Well, I think that's a bridge too far. And I think too many Americans -- I think you have to be able to concede that the other side are good Americans, too. Pro-life people need to look at pro- choicers and say, they're good Americans with a different view. Vice versa.

Nobody can be pro-slavery and be good. We fought a civil war over that. Would Governor Huckabee advocate a civil war between the pro-choice states and the pro-abortion-rights -- the pro-life states?

BLITZER: Is he going too far, J.C.?

WATTS: Well, I think that what -- what -- I hadn't seen what Mike Huckabee has said on that issue, other than he has said it should -- you can't allow states -- or it's not right to allow states to make that determination, because, if it's a moral issue, you have 50 different interpretations on it.

And I think he has -- I think he has some merit there. I don't know what he said about slavery. But I said about the issue, when people say that, well, it's OK to commit abortion, but I'm opposed to it, but, if somebody else wants to do it, that's fine, well, I said on this show, what's the difference in saying I'm opposed to slavery, but I don't mind if other people are owning slaves?

So, I think what's the difference?


BEGALA: There a lot -- a lot -- the majority of Americans are pro-choice on the abortion question. They don't want to be compared to Simon Legree or to slave owners.

I think that the -- there ought to be mutual respect on both sides of this issue.


BEGALA: My boss Bill Clinton used to say it should be safe, legal, and rare.

WATTS: It's not saying that somebody is -- saying slavery is OK. It's just saying, that analogy, it's not good to say -- I don't think it's the right analogy to use to say, I'm personally opposed to abortion, but, if someone else wants to do it, that's fine, you can make the same analogy on slavery.

BLITZER: They're going to take their discussion outside.


BLITZER: Go ahead, guys.

J.C., Paul, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Barack Obama's wife wants to woo you. She's going to be on a very popular TV show. We will tell you which one and why.

President Bush's top terror adviser will be here fresh off the news she's leaving the White House. I will be speak about the reasons with Fran Townsend. That's coming up.

And what would happen if terrorists get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons? We are going to tell you how the Pentagon is planning for a worst-case scenario.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker this Monday: Republican Mitt Romney out with a brand-new ad positioning himself as a pro-family conservative. It features the former Massachusetts governor and his wife discussing the importance of giving children a solid moral background. The spot is scheduled to air in the leadoff presidential battlegrounds of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Barack Obama's wife is set to hit the airwaves and reach out to women voters being actively courted by Hillary Clinton -- spokesmen confirming that Michelle Obama will be a guest host on the television talk show "The View." She will join a freewheeling and sometimes controversial panel of women on the December 5 show. And he was briefly a GOP presidential candidate, but now the former Virginia Governor John Gilmore is officially a United States Senate candidate. Gilmore formally announced today he's running for the seat now held by fellow Republican John Warner, who is retiring. This sets the stage for a possible fall matchup with another former Virginia governor, the Democrat Mark Warner -- no relation to John Warner.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File."

They have got a lot of Warners in Virginia, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. They're everywhere.

The question this hour is, should Boston police be able to enter private homes without a warrant to search for guns?

And I apologize. The question, as we worded it, is a bit misleading. You would have to give them permission. It's a voluntary program. That wasn't made clear in the question. And I will deduct eight cents from my check this week.

Nevertheless, we got some interesting mail.

Kit in Seattle: "The very fact you're asking the question shows how far down a slippery slope to a police state the country has already descended."

Michael in North Carolina: "Absolutely no entry without a warrant. The warrant should state probable cause. No fishing expeditions."

Richard in Virginia writes: "Seems to me that concerned parents would welcome this. From a legal standpoint, perhaps a Miranda rights or a quick contract to enter would suffice. Immature kids with guns has to addressed."

Jim in Florida writes: "Since when did Boston secede from the U.S. on constitutional safeguards against illegal searches? Throwing more tea in the harbor won't work this time."

Evan writes: "I think this could work, however, only if they start searching in the most rural areas of the country first. Targeting inner-city youth, the people who actually need firearms to protect themselves, is another backward approach to racial profiling and disarming people of color. It would be nice to stop the McVeighs and the Columbine types early, don't you think?"

Burt writes: "Did someone make Alberto Gonzales the Boston police commissioner?"

(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: "Why would anybody in their right mind invite the police into their home to conduct an illegal search for illegal guns? Only in America."

And John writes: "Sure. And, while they're at it, why don't the cops come in and just make themselves at home? Doughnuts and coffee on the table. Stay a while. Hasn't anybody ever heard of the Fourth Amendment in Boston?"

Again, that was my mistake, Wolf. It's a voluntary program. They do something similar in Saint Louis. The police there claim great success. Ninety-eight percent of the people they ask, "Can we come in, look in your kids' room, and see if there's an illegal gun?" people say, "Sure."

So, my bad. But, hey, it's Monday, and what do you want from me? I'm just part-time help.


BLITZER: And no one is perfect, I can testify to that.


BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.