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The Situation Room

Interview With Donald Trump; Rep. Maxine Waters Interviewed; Mitt Romney Meets with Donald Trump; Senate to Vote as Government Shutdown Looms; Perry's Weakness Against Obama; "Please Raise My Taxes"

Aired September 26, 2011 - 17:00   ET


BALDWIN: We will talk about it again tomorrow. Sonny Hostin on the case.

That's it for me.

Now to Wolf Blitzer.

The SITUATION ROOM starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, a possible way to escape a looming federal government shutdown. There's new hope for compromise right now as senators prepare for a key vote this hour.

It all might hinge on just how fast federal disaster relief funds will run out.

Plus, which Republican has a better shot at defeating President Obama?

Our brand new poll adds a new twist to the showdown between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

And Donald Trump once again, in the presidential race, but this time not directly. I'll ask him about his latest meeting a Republican candidate and what he's trying to accomplish.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


This hour, a new chance for members of Congress to choose between compromise or gridlock. A standoff over disaster relief funding may -- repeat, may be resolved soon. And that could certainly prevent a federal government shutdown this weekend. It's the third time this year that the nation has been on brink of this kind of crisis.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill.

Our Congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan, is standing by.

Is there a breakthrough -- Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We could be seeing a breakthrough very soon, Wolf. And the breakthrough here would be the ability to finally find a way out of this impasse and to avoid this looming government shutdown. And how this could all come out has to do with the big focus on the FEMA funding -- the additional funding for federal disaster relief that both Democrats and Republicans were putting or wanted to put in the short-term spending bill.

FEMA came out today to confirm that five -- that different from their prior predictions, that FEMA may be able to stretch their disaster relief funds, that are much depleted and -- and could run out. But they said that they could stretch the funds through the end of this week. This is different than prior predictions, which had -- which many had said would be depleted by the beginning of this week. In a statement I'll read you, just in part, Wolf. It says -- from FEMA -- quote, "Updated estimates from over the weekend indicate that the disaster relief fund could be fully exhausted by the end of the week."

Why I'm focusing so much on the end of the week, why that is key, is that is the end of the fiscal year, as well. Which means the central obstacle that has been at the center of this harsh battle between Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate could become a moot point. And this is whether or not the disaster relief funds that were to be added just for the rest of this fiscal year, which is just the rest of this week, should be offset, should be paid for.

Republicans stood firmly that they should be paid for. Democrats said they should not.

So this issue might completely go away now that we hear from FEMA that they could stretch their funds in order to stretch them through this week so Congress could just pass, as we like to say, a clean short- term spending bill, Wolf, that then FEMA funds would kick in for the next fiscal year, would take them and kind of push this battle down to the next deadline date, which is November 18. And the government, of course, along with all of this, would get the much needed funding it needs after this Friday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We have a brand new CNN/ORC poll that's out just this hour, Kate.

Let me tell what you it shows. It shows that 47 percent of Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress if there were a government shutdown. Thirty-three percent would blame the president. So it's obviously a significant number there.

But there's a vote scheduled this hour, right?

Tell us what's going to happen there.

BOLDUAN: To not confuse things any more, which I'm sure I will, there is a vote still scheduled for this hour in the Senate. The Senate pushing back its scheduled recess this week in order to be in town to have a key test vote on a measure that was what Demo -- Senate Democrats called a compromise measure. It was kind of a very similar bill to what the House passed in as -- in terms of a short-term spending bill last week. Of course, this might not be such an important issue any more that we now see the possible, you know, emerging way out of this impasse. I'll tell you, while they will be having the test vote and top Democratic leadership, they say they are still working to win support around it, it's unclear if it will gain the support it needs. There is also, I'm told by a top Democratic aid, that there is a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting tentatively scheduled for later this evening where they will be talking about the latest estimates and predictions from FEMA, which could completely change the game here, as we could see a breakthrough soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, they'd better get a breakthrough because no one will be happy if the government shuts down. It will be a plague on both of their houses. There's no doubt about that.

Let's move on to the presidential race right now. There is new fuel today for the rivalry between Republicans Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Perry holds onto his place at the top of the pack in our brand new CNN/ORC Poll of Republicans, with a 7-point lead over Romney. But Perry is five points behind President Obama in a would-be general election match-up. Romney does better against the president in our poll of registered voters, trailing by just one point.

Chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is joining us right now with more with on this story -- Gloria, what are voters actually saying about the candidates' personal qualities?

How important is that compared to some of the other issues?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's -- it's so interesting, Wolf, because here we are in the middle of an economic crisis, facing what possibly could be a double dip recession, two wars currently being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and when we ask people, what's the most important thing for your vote for president, personal qualities versus issues, personal qualities won out, Wolf, 41 to 43 percent, which is stunning.

But when you look at these candidates, do candidates have the personal qualities a president should have?

Bring those candidates back up. You'll see that Romney and Obama are very close, Perry trailing and Sarah Palin down at 30 percent. That means 70 percent of people believe that she does not have the personal qualities a president should have. And that includes, Wolf, things like leadership, stature.

So you -- you can see that there is no stature gap between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: And when it comes to the issues, how do these candidates do?

Forget about the personal qualities for a second.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the substantive issues. BORGER: Well, you want to ask the question of voters, does a candidate care about the issues that you personally care about?

We asked, does a candidate agree with you on the issues that you care about?

And, again, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are tied, 46 to 46.

So, Wolf, what this shows, if you're a Republican primary voter out there and you want to beat Barack Obama more than anything, you're not quite sure about the candidates but you want to make sure you have someone who is electable, at this point, in this field, Mitt Romney stacks up as the most electable candidate against Barack Obama. And that's what he's trying to sell on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: Gloria is in New York because she's nominated for an Emmy.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And you're going to the Emmy Awards presentation tonight.


BLITZER: All of us are hoping you win, Gloria.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: You deserve it.

BORGER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, Emmy nominated, CNN senior political -- chief political analyst.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: Thanks.

BLITZER: President Obama is pressing ahead with his Western swing right now. He took part in a town hall meeting today at the California headquarters of the professional networking Web site, LinkedIn.

One questioner made an unusual appeal, asking the president to please raise his taxes.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in Mountain View, California with more.

I watched a lot of that town hall meeting. It was relatively tame. I didn't hear a lot of headlines, did you -- Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I did not, Wolf. It was a very subdued President Obama who turned up today, quite in distinction from the tone he set at a lot of the fundraisers he's attended here, where's taking a much sharpened tone against Republicans, with some pretty partisan lines.

But at this event, focused largely on the Jobs Act, the American Jobs Act, he answered questions about unemployment and veteran's employment.

And the news actually came from someone in the audience, a former Google executive who is now retired. And he said he's made so much money that he wants the president, as you said, to make him pay more in taxes.

Listen to this question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have a job, but that's because I've been lucky enough to live in Silicon Valley for a while and work for a small startup down the -- down the street here that did quite well. So I'm unemployed by choice.

My question is, would you please raise my taxes?



YELLIN: That small startup is called Google. And the president went on to say, look, I -- I remember back in the days when, essentially, Bill Clinton was president and taxes were much higher and the rich got richer.

So the president also -- he shied away, Wolf, from making the same points he made at a fundraiser, which was if we follow the Republicans' plan, which is to, you know, keep taxes where they are, that could be crippling for the future of the nation.

He did not say that in public here today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's nothing stopping him from giving an extra contribution to the U.S. Treasury. If he wants to write a bigger check, he's free to do it. It's a free country, as a lot of people point out. YELLIN: Good point.

BLITZER: He doesn't need new legislation for that. He can just write a -- write a check.

You're also getting, Jessica, some new information on the president's very active schedule out there on the West Coast fundraising.

YELLIN: That's right. The president has a total of seven fundraising stops here and the campaign is going to rake in a lot of money while he's out here. Democratic sources tell CNN that the campaign has been telling their top bundlers to expect a total of $55 million to be brought in all told this quarter. As you know, the quarter is about to wrap up. Fifty-five million is a lot less than the $86 million that they brought in last time around. And some of the reasons for the drop are partly because it's harder to raise money overall during summer, but also during the debt deal negotiations, it was hard to get fundraising done.

Some part of that, I'm told from sources, was because donors just didn't want to write checks. They were so turned off by what they saw in Washington. Some of it was because the president couldn't leave town to attend fundraisers. And once he proposed the Jobs Act, that Buffett rule, those have helped people start giving money. And nothing helps Democrats start giving like seeing Republicans debate. They say that has started people writing checks, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's very busy out there fundraising, even they he doesn't have a Democratic challenger for the nomination. He's working -- he's working really hard to raise as much money as he can for the general election campaign.


BLITZER: And he'll have a ton of money even if he doesn't get as much this quarter as he would have liked.

Jessica, thanks very much.

Donald Trump once predicted Mitt Romney would lose the presidential race.

Does he still feel that way after meeting with Romney today?

My interview with Donald Trump, that's coming up this hour.

And I'll ask Congresswoman Maxine Waters about her negative reaction to President Obama when he told African-American lawmakers to stop complaining.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: And the flight insurance program is hampering...



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it turns out that Rick Perry might be all hat and no cattle. Opponents lobbed the same criticism at another Texas governor and pretend cowboy. That would be George W. Bush.

Watching Perry's most recent debate performance, it looks like he got his cowboy boots stuck in his mouth. The Texas governor may be fading out of the Republican race as quickly as he shot to the top of the polls last month. The signs of trouble for Perry are stacking up everywhere around him, beginning with Mitt Romney closing the gap in the national polls.

Although Perry is still at the top of the pack, Romney polls stronger against President Obama. And on the state level, Perry is losing one straw poll race after another. In Florida, businessman Herman Cain pulled a surprise landslide victory. Cain's 37 percent win in Florida topped Perry and Romney combined. Perry was expected to win the Florida straw poll at the start of the weekend, but his underwhelming debate performance put him at a distant second.

In Michigan's straw poll, Perry also finishing second, this time to Romney, who is a native of Michigan. And last week Perry placed a distance second to Ron Paul in a California straw poll.

These straw polls don't mean a lot, I guess. They are just mock elections. They don't necessarily reflect how the primaries will go. But if you are the Republican frontrunner, there is an expectation you win some of them. An advisor to Jon Huntsman campaign suggests it's increasingly clear that Perry can't perform, saying he has a case of "electile dysfunction."

Perry's people claim the Florida straw poll is a big loss for Mitt Romney who has been in the campaign for much longer. Anyway, here is the question -- are Rick Perry's 15 minutes up? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM Facebook page. Pretty clever, those, Huntsman people, "electile dysfunction."


CAFFERTY: I don't know and I don't want to know.


BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

President Obama is hoping his time isn't up when it comes to rallying support from a key voting bloc. We're talking about African- Americans. But amidst soaring unemployment and serious poverty across the country, particularly among blacks, that may be easier said than done. Listen to what the president had to say to the Congressional Black Caucus dinner Saturday night.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's talk about that with Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. I think he is complaining about you, among others, right?


BLITZER: Because you've been complaining that he hasn't been doing enough lately. You've been making statements along those lines. Cornell West has, others.

WATERS: No. Wolf, I don't complain. I work. As a matter of fact, the Black Caucus have been hard at work. We travelled to five states. We took up helping people to get jobs.

BLITZER: That was exactly when he was in Iowa meeting with largely white groups, right?

WATERS: That is part of the time.

BLITZER: Do you remember what you said at the time?

WATERS: Yes. What I said was, first of all, the audience in Detroit said to us, why don't you do something? Why don't you make the president do something? They were really at us. And I raised the question, are you ready for a conversation about how you feel?

And we are now into that conversation. Yes, we want to see the president more in African-American communities. But the work that we did is what caused the conversation it take place. We focused on what needs are and the president heard us.

And because the president heard us he was saying "African-American" and "black" for the first time in the speech. When he was talking about complaining, we don't know who he was talking to. He couldn't have been talking to the black caucus. We have been working very hard.

BLITZER: I think he was complaining, what he was talking about corn el west has been talking about him, as you know. And at least remarks that you have made, and other White House officials have said, why is Maxine Waters complaining so much? Doesn't she realize he wants to improve the economy and the job situation for everybody?

WATERS: Maxine Waters does not complain. Maxine Waters does two things -- public policy and organizing. I don't go around complaining, and so I don't think he was talking to us or the people in that room. The people in that room for the most part are people who came out of civil rights movement, who marched and worked hard and have been doing if t for years.

We are pleased the president is now focused and he made a speech, the likes of which he had not made before, where he talked about African- Americans and the fact that blacks were unemployed.

BLITZER: Nearly three years into his presidency, until now he hasn't addressed concerns of poverty in the African-American community? WATERS: What I'm saying there has been no focus at all.

BLITZER: No focus -- what do you mean by that?

WATERS: You know and radio stations and television stations have been talking about the high unemployment rate, 16.7 percent, 40 to 50 percent of African-American youth. No, we have not heard the president focus on that or talk about that despite the fact it is getting worse and worse. I expect this unemployment may go up as high as 20 percent in the African-American community.

But we will support the American Jobs Act. We'll support this president. We think we help him with this base constituency. We believe that the work that we have done will help him to begin to know how he must target, to those communities most in need, whether it is the urban community or rural community. You have to put the resources where the problems are, where the need is. We think we have gotten him focused to do that.

BLITZER: Finally, after two and half, three years --

WATERS: We finally got him to focus, yes.

BLITZER: So you will take off your slippers and get out there and march with him?

WATERS: I've never owned a pair of bedroom slippers.


WATERS: In fact anybody who knows Maxine Waters knows I'm a fighter. I came to Washington with that identity.

BLITZER: But he brought you into this process, you and others members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to aggressively address these issues?

WATERS: Well, actually we started with the jobs fairs that we were doing. We said basically we can't sit here in Washington, D.C. and simply do one minute and five minutes. We have to get out there, first of all, let the people know that we feel their pain and we understand the desperation in these communities.

And once we were out there into these town hall meetings, they let us know that they truly are in pain. And so we have the job fairs where we connected them with employers from all over the country, and we brought the message back to Washington, D.C. and this president got it. I mean, he was at that Black Caucus talking about African- American unemployment because of the work that we did.

BLITZER: The Cornell West and Ralph Nader throw out the possibility of them running to challenge the president for the Democratic nomination, not necessarily thinking they are going to win, they are not going to win. But to force them to focus more on these issues instead of becoming more moderate it get more in line with the so- called progressive or liberal views. Is that a good idea? WATERS: The Black Caucus doesn't know anything about that. We are involved with the work we do as public policymakers. We are involved with whatever influence we have with focus on the issues of concern to our communities. So we don't know. I haven't heard the discussion. And we support this president. And we want him to get the best out of his constituency, that base constituency, that base constituency that gives him so much support. We think we are helping him with the work that we do.

BLITZER: So you're not complaining, you're not grumbling, you're not crying, he is not talking about you.

WATERS: Maxine Waters doesn't cry. Maxine Waters works.

BLITZER: Keep on working.

WATERS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you so much for coming in.

Amazing new images from the Washington monument just as last month's rare earthquake here in Washington was hitting. We have the video ahead. What officials are now saying about the damage sustained.

Plus -- will Pakistan act against a key terror network the U.S. suspects the country is supporting? We have details of that as well.


BLITZER: You can add Mitt Romney to the list of Republican contenders trying to cozy up to Donald Trump. It is fresh news that TV celebrity is trying to influence the campaign after deciding not to run himself. Stand by for my interview with Donald Trump. That's coming up, including his impression of Romney, the rest of the GOP field, including Rick Perry.

But right now I want bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He is taking a closer look at the candidates. They all seem to be the Republican candidates eager to have that photo op with Donald Trump even though in this particular case there was no photo op.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a combination of the media buzz that they get from these appearances and the possibility of support from the Tea Party constituency that still loves Donald Trump and his message.


TODD: To President Obama he is a carnival barker. To Republicans like Mitt Romney, he is a must-see. Romney is the latest GOP presidential hopeful so seek an audience with Donald Trump. A Trump aide says they got along, talked about jobs, the deficit, China. It was a meeting the Democrats took seriously enough to counter with a web video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what do the American people have to say with those returning to the same failed policies that created our challenges?


TODD: Their connection might seem natural -- both wealthy businessmen who tried to pummel President Obama over the economy. But in the spring Trump wasn't complimentary about Romney's business skills.

TRUMP: He would buy companies, he'd close companies, he'd get rid of jobs. My net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

TODD: That is about the same time Trump predicted Romney would lose this race. It's all under the bridge now, as Romney follows Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, one-time candidate Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin as stars with high profile meetings with Trump.

(on camera) Why is he a necessary stop for so many of them? They feel they have to latch on to that tough message against Obama?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, he serves two purposes. One is that he is a very successful businessman, so to have his stamp of approval says something. In addition to that, he has been able to connect with the dissatisfaction with Washington and this frustration with career politicians. So if you are able to align yourself with Donald Trump, Donald Trump gives us his stamp of approval, you're not that career politician.

TODD (voice-over): In interviews and YouTube messages, Trump has been hammering at the themes all year. America is being cheated by the Chinese. The country is in terrible shape and failure of leadership is at the heart of it.

TRUMP: Obama must be defeated.

TODD: That kind of red meat, analysts say, has won Donald Trump a lot of support among Tea Party followers, support that Mitt Romney and his rivals are courting feverishly.


TODD: And it's Romney who may need the Tea Partiers more than any of them right now. Trump's ability also to fundraise and draw media attention is the reason candidates come to his door. At this point he has not tipped his hand on who he might endorse. Someone in Trump's camp told me he will do that probably between now and June. But that person also said Trump may decide if he is not happy with any of the GOP frontrunners to enter the race as third part party candidate, Wolf.

BLITZER: That would certainly worry a lot of Republicans.

TODD: It would. Analysts say the party is worried if Trump jumps in and the race is close, it could be what they call the "Ralph Nader effect." Remember in 2000, Ralph Nader jumped in. Didn't win many votes but he got just enough to take some away from mainstream candidates. Analysts say it probably was Al Gore who suffered the most there. They are worried about that with Donald Trump. BLITZER: Certainly. Thanks very much. We will speak with Donald Trump in just a moment. Stand by for my interview with Trump.

Also we will talk about not only his meeting with Mitt Romney, whether or not they see eye to eye on some of the key issues.

He'll also assess Rick Perry and some of the other candidates. Stand by for the interview.

Plus this: three high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, hitting right at the heart of security. Are they linked? More on that coming up.


BLITZER: We'll get to my interview with Donald Trump in just a few moments. But there was a dramatic day in court for jurors hearing appeals in the trial of Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of murder in Italy.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on there?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, a lawyer for the murder victim in the case showed jurors pictures of her bloody body, urging them not to overturn the 2009 murder convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend. The two were sentenced to 26 and 25 years respectively and are fighting to have their guilty verdicts overturned. Attorneys are making closing arguments this week, and a decision could come as early as next Monday.

The Pakistani army says it has decided not to take action against the terror group believed to be behind a string of recent deadly attacks in Afghanistan. The decision comes just days after the U.S. accused Pakistan's top intelligence agency of supporting the infamous Haqqani network. Pakistan says it's being used as a scapegoat for failed U.S. policies in Afghanistan.

And amazing new video -- take a look at this -- from 500 feet up inside the Washington Monument as last month's magnitude 5.8 earthquake was hitting. Four cracks were discovered in the building shortly after the earthquake, and it's been closed for a comprehensive assessment ever since. Officials have concluded the monument is structurally sound, but they won't say when it will reopen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's pretty scary. You remember. You were hear in the building that day, right?

SYLVESTER: Yes. And could you imagine being at the top of the Washington Monument?

BLITZER: No. I saw it shaking.

SYLVESTER: You saw those people there, where it was -- just imagine what was going on through their minds.

BLITZER: It's bad enough on the eighth floor here at CNN.

SYLVESTER: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: All right. An earthquake in Washington. Who would have thought?

Thanks very much.

Coming up, my interview with Donald Trump. He's going to tell us about his meeting with Mitt Romney and other political news. The interview with Donald Trump, that's next.


BLITZER: We didn't see any photos with Donald Trump's meeting today with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but apparently a lot went on behind closed doors.


BLITZER: And Donald Trump is joining us right now on the phone.

How did that meeting with Mitt Romney go, Donald?

DONALD TRUMP, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Well I think it went really well. We had the meeting at Trump Tower, and I learned a lot about him. I think he learned a lot about me. We had a really great meeting I think, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because, you know, last April -- and we looked it up -- you were not all that positive about his chances. You didn't think necessarily he resonated with voters. But that's changed? Is that what you are saying?

TRUMP: Well, I think he did really well in the debates and he's showing something that's very good. We have to see. It's a long way to go and nobody is endorsing anybody. And we'll have to see how it all really comes out.

But we had a really good meeting and I think we'll have other meetings. We hit it off very well, I will say. I think even better than I had anticipated.

BLITZER: That wasn't the first time you've ever met him, was it?

TRUMP: No, I've met him before.

BLITZER: So what did you talk about specifically?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to get into that too much, but we discussed the basic points. And one of the things that I hit very hard, and I think he is real believer, is that China is taking tremendous advantage of this country, and we can't get in country back on track unless we do something about China and unless we do something about OPEC.

Every time the country starts getting a little more solid, OPEC raises the price of fuel and raises the price of oil. And all of a sudden, we go off and nobody knows why.

But every single time a good report comes out, they raise the price of oil, and it's disgraceful. And we discussed that. And he's a believer. And I think we just agree on certain very important issues.

BLITZER: Was there anything you disagreed with him on?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to comment on that, but certainly we agreed on a lot of things. And I just think it's extremely important for the right candidate.

I mean, if the right candidate doesn't comes along, somebody else is going to come along. I just think it's very, ,very important that right candidate go against President Obama and wins. This election is vital.

BLITZER: Did he ask for your advice, Donald?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to put it that way, but certainly we threw out ideas that I think both of us either agreed on or certainly are subject to agree on. And we had a great talk.

BLITZER: Here is a question that's already come up. There were a lot of camera crews, as you can imagine, waiting outside of Trump Tower. They wanted to get a picture of you and Mitt Romney, but no photo opportunity, no picture and contrast to some of your other meetings with the Republican president candidates.

Was that deliberate or was that just a snafu? What happened?

TRUMP: Well, it was deliberate. And we wanted it keep it as private as we could. We also -- you know, from the standpoint of Mitt, there is no endorsement or anything at this point. It's very early in the process. And I think that I'm not sure that either of us would have felt comfortable at this point with pictures.

BLITZER: Because there were pictures with Rick Perry and Sarah Palin and others, right?

TRUMP: Well, yes, but the cameras are pretty good. I guess maybe we did a better job this time.

BLITZER: What did you think -- who was more impressive, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say. That's an unfair question, I think. I certainly wouldn't say that because I had great meetings with both, and with Michele Bachmann and, frankly, with Sarah Palin.

And I don't know what Sarah is going to be doing. I guess people are waiting and waiting. And really, it's sort of an amazing thing. We just don't know. She is hard to figure. And maybe that's not so bad, that she is hard to figure.

But I don't think it would be a fair question or a fair answer.

BLITZER: You say Mitt Romney has done well in the debates. Rick Perry, everyone seems to agree, hasn't necessarily done all that well. You watched the debates. What did you think?

TRUMP: Well, actually, I was in Australia, and I came back and I watched the debates. And I think press was very, very tough on Rick Perry. But certainly, I would think he would be the first to admit it wasn't his finest hour, or, as the expression goes, two hours.

He didn't do as well as he would have liked, I guess. But I think the press was extremely tough on him. I do think Mitt did very well. And I think he did better than press is reporting, but let's see what happens.

BLITZER: Do you think it's still possible that another candidate could emerge like Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, despite all of his repeated assertions that he's not running?

TRUMP: Well, Chris is a very good friend of mine and I know him very well. And I have been with him for a long time, and I just don't think he's running.

I think he has been a great governor. And I own a lot of property in New Jersey. And I can tell you, he has had a positive impact on New Jersey and values and even the image of New Jersey. But I just don't see him running. I really don't believe he is going to run.

I mean, he has told me the same thing as he has told everybody else. And, you know, I hear all of these reports where he is thinking about it and he is giving it another thought. I just don't see it happening.

BLITZER: Because the last person who seemed to suggest that it's still possible was the former governor, Tom Kean, of New Jersey, quoted as saying that maybe Governor Christie is in fact rethinking his refusal to run. And they go back a long time, as you probably know.

TRUMP: That's true. That's true. I don't think he is. I think he has really made up his mind. But the world and life is full of surprises.

BLITZER: This is still a wide-open race. I wrote about that on my blog, my SITUATION ROOM blog today.

Donald, I'm going to play a little clip. This is a new DNC ad. I don't know if you have seen it yet, but listen to it, and then we'll discuss, because it mentions you.



NARRATOR: Mitt Romney and Donald Trump are meeting today. Well, they do have a lot in common. They both have done well for themselves.

Both support an economic plan that will help out the richest and the big corporations, but not the middle class; that would slash Social Security and Medicare as we know it; cut funds for health care, research and development, and schools; eliminate investments that will create jobs and keep America competitive.

And what do the American people have to say to those who would return to the same failed policies that created our challenges?

TRUMP: If I --

If I --


BLITZER: It ends with a picture of you, sort of -- it's an obvious statement.

What did you think of that?

TRUMP: Well, actually, I got to see that. I saw it on one of the shows this morning, and I thought was amateur night.

The ad was, you know, not a very good one. It was also -- you know, they talk about keeping America competitive. We're not competitive. That's the problem. We're not competitive at all.

The world is laughing at us, Wolf. And so we're certainly not.

And I was very insulted at the airplane they used because my plane is much, much nicer than that, so that was a great insult. And of course I say that with a smile, because somebody will write that Trump was really insulted. That's the way the press does it.

But I thought it was amateur night, personally. I just didn't think it was a very effective commercial. Maybe it is.

I do say this though -- when they talk about America being competitive and effective, we are not competitive right now, we are not a competitive nation any longer. We have lost our competitive zeal and drive. And we need the right leader.

BLITZER: I will leave you with one final question. I don't know if you saw the brand new Forbes 400 list which just came out. A year ago we were in your office when it just came out. Right now you are number 128 with a worth of $2.9 billion.

Is that accurate?

TRUMP: No, it's not. But it's OK. Certainly, I will be able to eat well. But it's not an accurate number at all, no.

BLITZER: So you have more or you've got less?

TRUMP: Well, they don't know -- well, I don't want to even comment, but they don't know my numbers. I'm a private company, and they don't know my numbers. And I think they are very professional, I think they try, but it's not an accurate number, no.

BLITZER: All right. So you won't tell us if it's high or low. I assume you think it's low, but that's just my assumption.

TRUMP: Well, I can say that. Yes, it's low.

BLITZER: It is low. OK. Because last year --

TRUMP: That I can say. It is not accurate.

BLITZER: -- you told me flatly, whatever number they had a year ago, you thought was low also.

TRUMP: I don't even know. What was the number a year ago?

BLITZER: I don't remember what it was, but I remember you said --

TRUMP: Did I go up? I guess I went up.

BLITZER: I think you did go up.

TRUMP: Good. So that means not too many people went up. At least I went up.

BLITZER: It's been a good year for Donald Trump. I'm not surprised.

Hey, Donald, thanks very much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: We did some checking. Last year, his net worth, according to Forbes, was $2.4 billion, now $2.9 billion, so he went up a half billion dollars, according to the Forbes 400 list.

By the way, check out my blog at I write about the Republican field.

It's a wide-open race right now. Anything is still possible in this race for the Republican nomination.

We're going to have more on the new signs that the new Jersey governor, Chris Christie, may -- repeat, may be -- considering jumping into the race for the White House.

Our "Strategy Session" is coming up next.


BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.

I'm looking at these national polls right now.

Donna, take a look at this. Eight years ago, if you take a look at the national polls at this point, September, 2003, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark were doing apparently a little bit better, at least as well as John Kerry, who eventually got the nomination.

And Mary, take a look at this. Four years ago, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson were doing way better than John McCain, even though he eventually got the nomination.

So, Donna, first to you, should we just assume these national polls are irrelevant right now?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, Wolf. Given the volatility in the country, the uncertainty on the Republican side, and the fact that the Tea Party is clearly dominating the coverage, as well as providing the momentum and energy for the Republican Party, there is no way you can read the tea leaves today and come out with a clear front-runner on the Republican side.

BLITZER: Mary, who would be better right now from the Republican perspective to take on the president, the incumbent president?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, various detractors and advocates of the various candidacies are making a worse case/best case argument, but that is spin. There's no way to know.

It is wide open on personalities, but it's very narrow on philosophy and policies. And we now are saying "Tea Party" as if it's a pejorative. The conservative base and Independents who are conservative are very demanding on what they want relative to how we should proceed going into our future.

So there is not a lot of latitude to that, but there's a lot of personalities. And people want to make sure that it's the right messenger, but the message is solid.

BLITZER: What about somebody still coming in at this late point, Donna? From a strategist's perspective, is it too late to really jump into this race right now?

BRAZILE: You know, I think the one rule of thumb, Wolf, is to look at the filing deadlines in some of the early key states when you have to file delegates and get your name on the ballot. So, from that perspective, no, it's not too late.

But just take a look at Rick Perry and the fact that he came into the race less than a month ago, he's wobbly, his organization is still not tight. We don't know about his money yet.

So, on one hand, I would say if you have a big name, if you're a Sarah Palin, and you can attract the kind of support and money and pull together an organization, absolutely. But if you're Chris Christie, some other unknown quantity in terms of the national audience, you might want to rethink this and take a look at how Perry got in the race less than a month ago and see if you really want to go down this road.

BLITZER: Chris Christie keeps saying no, but you heard Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, an old friend of Chris Christie, saying, well, maybe he would reconsider.

Mary, what are you hearing?

MATALIN: I'm believing what Chris Christie is saying. And he is handling this really well.

When your major donors and party elders come, and their pantyhose are in a knot, then you have to be responsive. But he's been responsive without conveying hubris.

He is citing all of his potential deficits. Donna is right about how difficult it is to get in at this late date. And he's also not being a Hamlet about this. This is not Cuomo, '88, '92, in or out, in or out.

I think there is possibly time. Unlikely, but everybody is playing that kabuki dance right now.

BLITZER: And the president of the United States is beginning to sound off on the Republicans. I'll read to you what he said on Sunday.

He said, "Has anybody been watching" -- he's referring to the Republican debates -- "lately? You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change." That's Rick Perry of Texas. "You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay."

A lot of Democrats want him to become even more outspoken at this point. What do you think Donna? Is that smart strategy on his part?

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely. President Obama now realizes what the Republicans have been telling him for almost two-and-a-half years. There's no such thing as bipartisanship.

The president has to do whatever what's right for the country, right for the American people. He cannot continue to alienate his supporters and Democrats.

So he is pivoting to talking about jobs. He is talking about his Republican opponents and their failed policies. That's the only thing they're offering the American people. And he's getting a lot of energy out there.

BLITZER: Get ready, Mary, because it's going to get exciting. You've got 10 seconds.

MATALIN: To make a political point of the tragedy of 1,600 homes destroyed and countless lives in Texas is despicable even for the worst kind of Democratic demagoguery. BLITZER: On that note, guys, you get a good night's sleep and we'll continue tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Oh, we've got to continue.

BLITZER: A looming government shutdown just four days away. Ahead, flood disaster victims caught in the middle, what they're saying about the political gridlock in Washington.

Plus, an unlikely new weapon in the deadly fight for Afghanistan.


BLITZER: Jack's joining us with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Are Rick Perry's 15 minutes up?

Suzanne writes, "One could hope. If they're not, it begs the question, what does Perry's general lack of intelligence say about the majority of Republicans?"

Joe writes on Facebook, "They were up an hour ago, but somebody forgot to tell the Republicans. Perry never should have been in the presidential race. It's time for Perry to saddle up his mule and go back to Texas."

These are cold.

Burt in Arizona, "I sure hope so. I, for one, have a hard time trying to figure out why he's even running since he wanted to secede from the union and not be a part of the United States at all."

Pete writes in Florida, "Yes, they are. But don't worry. He's too dumb to realize it. He'll continue to stun, amuse and befuddle us for several months to come."

Rich writes from Florida, "I sure hope they are. We were told it would be Bush's third term if McCain got elected. It's Perry who is Bush's brother from another mother, and that's certainly no compliment."

Paul writes, "Rick Perry's 15 minutes were up 14 minutes ago, when he first uttered the words 'Social Security.'"

David in Missouri writes, "Yes, sir, he's toast, and I'm happy for it. Just a flash in the pan. Goodbye, Ricky."

And Doug writes, "Absolutely. And since Perry exposed Romney has being vulnerable within his own party, the leaders of the establishment Republican Party are in panic mode now. Calls are going out to the fat little thug from New Jersey. Perry is toast."

If you want to read more on this, you can to go my blog,, or our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very, very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.