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The Situation Room
New Forecast for Tropical Storm Isaac; Obama Slams Romney on Education; Syria's Bloody Conflict Is Spreading; Welfare Reform; Interview with Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu; Michelle Obama in Florida
Aired August 22, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the latest forecast is just in for Tropical Storm Isaac, already lashing the Caribbean. But Isaac could soon be a hurricane. And that's raising big concerns at the site of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We're going to show you why.
Also, Republicans hammering President Obama on welfare reform, but do they have their facts straight?
I'll talk about that and more with -- and a new campaign ad -- with Romney adviser, John Sununu.
Also, found in a dusty attic, a long lost recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. You're going to hear what he has to -- what he was saying about the civil rights movement years before his "I Have A Dream" speech.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The latest forecast is in for Tropical Storm Isaac.
Isaac is kicking up trouble right now in the Caribbean, but projected paths show it could also spell big trouble for the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa.
Let's go straight to our meteorologist and severe weather expert, Chad Myers.
He's in the CNN Weather Center.
You're taking a closest -- a closer look at the forecast that just came out.
Share with our viewers.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, Wolf, headline news was in my ear talking to me when you were tossing to me and I have no idea what you just asked me.
But I'm going to -- I'm going to start from here and we'll just go from scratch.
You know, we have a lot of networks trying to get all of this information, as well.
The Leeward Islands are right there. That's where the storm is, not that far to the southwest -- southeast, rather -- of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And then this Category 1 hurricane, tomorrow and into Friday, will run right over Haiti. I'm very concerned of the people there. Haiti is a deforested country. Plus, now you have 400,000 people living in shelters because they didn't ever get a house rebuilt after the earthquake.
Then this thing makes a run up at the US. It's either going to be all the way into the Bahamas or far south here over, and even to the west of Havana. That's the cone of error.
I want to stress, you cannot look at the middle of this line even though that's where the dots are always plotted -- that's where the Hurricane Center plots them -- the forecast is literally this wide. The forecast is not here. The forecast is this.
And so the cone of error, by the time we get all the way up toward Tampa, believe it or not, Wolf, from here to here, that's the cone of error, all the way out to here and as far north as Pensacola, and even farther north than -- 275 miles in all directions. That's where this storm could be five days from now -- 270 miles. And it could be here. It could be here or here.
All we need to realize is that almost everything you see there, it has Florida in its sights. If it's to the east, then we could even be running this up at the Carolinas, with a miss of Florida in that very warm water. Remember what Irene did to the Carolinas. That's the same type of plan if it was over here. In the Gulf of Mexico, this would also be very warm water. That would be where Katrina made all of its big energy exchange.
Now I'm not calling for New Orleans, we're not calling for Tampa, we're not calling for anywhere in Florida for this point right this, but we will eventually see this thing make a run at the U.S. somewhere -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, we -- we do know that, what, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, they are in trouble right now, is that true?
MYERS: That is absolutely true. Let me get that back for you, because of where this plot is coming from, where it is, running right across Haiti and the D.R. New hurricane warnings from the little national park there on the southeastern tip of the D.R. Not quite to Punta Cana, but all the way over to the Haitian border now, hurricane warnings for this area, as an 80 mile per hour storm is forecast to arrive there on Friday.
Look at these times. I know it says it's going to be there at 2:00. Understand, these are very large storms. They arrive -- the first parts of this arrive tens of hours before the eye. The time is the eye. The eye is bad, of course, but there is a lot worse stuff and other stuff -- tornadoes and all the like -- on the outside of this eye. This thing right now is about 600 miles wide and it's about to get bigger.
BLITZER: And the key question is -- another key question is this, is it -- no matter where it touches, no matter where it makes landfall, are we only expecting -- only, I used that word, but I guess we -- we -- it could be worse -- a hurricane, a Category 1, is that right?
Or could it go up to a two, three or beyond?
MYERS: Let me explain that. That's an excellent question, Wolf.
The storm is forecast to be a hurricane and then to die off to only a tropical storm, tropical storm, and then reform and become a hurricane again, only a Category 1 there somewhere in here.
That all changes if this hurricane's eye does not stay over land, does not stay over Haiti or does not stay over Cuba. If that happens, if this thing stays in the warm water, either this side or on this side, it easily, without a question, could be a major Category 3 or higher hurricane, because it won't have that land. It won't have the mountains of Cuba to tear it up. It's a completely different story if this does not go over Cuba.
BLITZER: Yes. It's Wednesday now. We're going to wait over the next three, four or five days. Obviously, we'll see what happens.
Chad, thanks very, very much.
MYERS: You're welcome.
BLITZER: If Isaac finds its way into low lying Tampa as a hurricane, it would bring major, major flooding. And that's causing major safety concerns just ahead of the Republican National Convention, which is set to open up on Monday.
Brian Todd has been taking a closer look at this worst case scenario for Tampa and the immediate area.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be right in the way, Wolf. You know, the way the Tampa Bay Area is laid out, it is vulnerable to severe hurricane damage. And a tropical storm could do significant harm, as one did not long ago.
TODD: (voice-over): This was only about eight weeks ago in Tampa -- Bay Shore Boulevard, a main drag underwater. This was no hurricane, but Tropical Storm Debby, which delivered significant flooding to downtown Tampa just a few blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the Republican National Convention will be held.
If Tropical Storm Isaac turns into a hurricane, as projected, Tampa could find itself in its crosshairs in the coming days.
BRAIN LAMARRE, METEOROLOGIST, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: With a Category 1 storm that could come our way, the hurricane Category 1, anywhere from three to fix feet of flooding could impact this area.
TODD: Brian LaMarre, chief meteorologist with the National Weather Service's branch in Tampa, says that city is right at sea level in some places, just above it in others.
Tampa's mayor says if the storm comes that way, public safety trumps politics.
MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN (D), TAMPA: If we had to make that decision to cancel or to postpone or to move the convention, we will do that knowing full well that my obligation and the city's obligation is to move people out of harm's way.
TODD: It would be the second straight Republican Convention affected by a big storm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, all the -- of the program tonight has been canceled.
TODD: In 2008, much of the first night of the GOP convention was tossed out. That event was in St. Paul -- nowhere near the storm zone. But officials didn't like the optics of opening a glitzy event while Hurricane Gustav raged down in Louisiana.
(on camera): A worst case scenario for Tampa, according to LaMarre and other experts, that a strong hurricane, around Category 3 strength, comes ashore right around here, just north of Tampa.
Now, because hurricanes churn in a counterclockwise motion in the Northern Hemisphere, they say that that could drive water from the Gulf of Mexico up Tampa Bay, trap the water in Tampa Bay, flood this area near Tampa, in downtown Tampa near the Convention Center. Then it would push water over this way, making this area, St. Petersburg, into an island.
(voice-over): That has happened, but not for more than 90 years. In October, 1921, a Category 3 hurricane slammed right into that point north of Tampa. Back then, this region was a lot less populated.
Isaac is not projected to be that strong and may not even hit Tampa. But if it does, LaMarre says, storm surge is the number one killer.
LAMARRE: A lot of people live and work right along the water. And so a lot of people make su -- need to make sure they get out in time, before the hurricane comes their way.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now, Tampa city officials insist they are ready with solid evacuation routes planned. But a challenge next week will be the 50,000 or so added people in the downtown Tampa area, most of them from out of town. So getting them evacuated may be problematic -- Wolf, you'll be there. Just -- I know you'll keep an eye out.
BLITZER: We'll be on...
TODD: You'll be one of those people.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens.
BLITZER: I've heard it said, Brian, that -- some people say that sometimes, a tropical storm...
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: -- could even be more devastating than an actual hurricane.
TODD: It -- it wouldn't seem to make sense, but it actually does. Tropical storms, even though they're not as strong, they tend to move slower, according to the experts. So they hover over areas longer. That means they dump more rainfall and more flooding.
That's what happened in Tropical Storm Debby two months ago down in Tampa. So that could happen. You know, the hurricanes are stronger, but they tend to move faster.
So even if it's tropical storm strength, by the time it hits Tampa, if it does, next week, you could see some significant flooding there.
BLITZER: Yes. And you -- they also, as you say, could create some tornadoes, too, in the process...
TODD: That's right. It's a big danger.
TODD: That's right.
Brian, thanks very, very much.
BLITZER: Out on the campaign trail, President Obama is again sounding dire warnings about what a Mitt Romney presidency would mean for education in the United States. President Obama talks about massive spending cuts and teacher layoffs.
Is he right, though?
CNN's Athena Jones is traveling with the president.
She's out in Las Vegas right now -- Athena, what's going on?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, we decided we'd take a closer look at the charges the president is making to try to answer the question of whether he is, in fact, right.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got a question for Governor Romney.
How man -- how many teachers' jobs are worth another tax cut for millionaires and billionaires?
JONES (voice-over): President Obama spent a second day hitting the Republican ticket on education -- a pocketbook issue important to middle class voters. Speaking at a high school in the crucial swing state of Nevada, he said a Romney/Ryan victory would mean deep cuts to education programs and larger class sizes.
OBAMA: Cutting back on teachers is the last thing we should be doing as a country.
JONES: An argument echoed in a new TV spot set to air Thursday in Virginia and Ohio, two key battleground states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)
KEVIN: Some of our -- our children's greatest experiences have been in the smaller classrooms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Mitt Romney says class sizes don't matter. And he supports Paul Ryan's budget, which could cut education by 20 percent.
CAROLINE: These are all issues that, really, he personally cannot relate to.
JONES: The Romney campaign's response to all this?
Not so fast. A spokesperson calling the Obama campaign's attacks "misleading and hypocritical," and saying in a statement, "President Obama's latest ad puts him directly at odds with his own Education secretary, who has promoted teacher quality, not class size, as the most important factor in a good education."
Aides say Romney has not spelled out cuts he'd make to education and that 20 percent figure, it's based on an assumption the proposed reductions in government spending in Congressman Ryan's budget would be applied to all non-defense programs across the board.
The problem, Romney folks say, is that assumption is just not accurate.
What is clear, the Republican contender wants to make changes.
Listen to his response on Monday to a question about what he'd do with skyrocketing student debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I know it's very tempting, as a politician, to go out and say, you know what, I'll just give you some money. I'll just take some -- the government is just going to give you some money and pay back your loans for you.
I'm not going to tell you something that's not the truth, because you know what, that's just taking money from your other pocket and giving it to the other pocket. I want to make sure that we're...
ROMNEY: -- I'm not going to go out and promise all sorts of free stuff that I know you're going to end up paying for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JONES: Now, what still isn't clear, Wolf, is what the changes that Romney wants to see on education will mean for education funding. And that's really the central problem here, this lack of specifics. The two campaigns are being vague on purpose and it makes it more difficult to really examine the counters and the countercharges both sides are making on a whole slew of issues -- Wolf.
Athena, thanks very much.
Education, obviously, a critically important issue in this country.
Other news we're following including Syria's brutal civil war. It's spreading beyond its borders. Our own Arwa Damon will tell us about the shattering impact on Syria's neighbors.
Plus, a new poll shows Mitt Romney with virtually no support from African-American voters.
Should he be worried?
I'll ask the Romney campaign adviser, John Sununu.
And a volcano spews lava and ash near the capital of Ecuador, forcing evacuations. You're going to see more of these extraordinary pictures.
BLITZER: Syria's civil war grows more savage by the day. Dozens of people reported killed today, many of them in the Damascus area. The United Nations Humanitarian Chief today said the conflict has taken a particularly brutal and violent character. That conflict is now spilling across Syria's borders. And Arwa Damon is joining us from Beirut right now. Arwa, we're getting reports that the violence in Syria really spreading already deeply into Lebanon. What's going on?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly has, Wolf. And this was the inevitable spillover that so many were really concerned about, and we're seeing it manifesting itself along just one of many fault lines, really, up in the northern city of Tripoli where clashes broke out on Monday evening between a Sunni and an Alowite neighborhood that are separated by a street ironically called Syria street.
Those clashes have left dozens of people killed and wounded, and they have managed to finally broker something of a temporary ceasefire.
But of course, there are great concerns that it's not going to hold and that the effect of the Syrian civil war is going to spark up along some other fault line, because there are so many that do exist in Lebanon when it comes to Syria. The very issue of Syria in and of itself has always deeply divided this country.
BLITZER: Syria borders Lebanon. It also borders Iraq. Is that violence spilling over into Iraq as well?
DAMON: There have been a number of clashes right along the Iraqi border. According to Iraqi officials, members of the Syrian army and the rebel fighting force, the free Syrian army, were clashing fiercely there as they were trying to gain control over a major air base in an area that's called Bukama (ph). This is right across from the province in Iraq that's called Al Anbar province.
This is a predominantly Sunni area. Back in 2005-2006, it was an al Qaeda stronghold. The fighting has caused at least two dozen people to flee into Iraq to try to get treatment, but this is a very barren desert landscape. So, those individuals are struggling to find the adequate medical care.
Add to that, there have been up to date at least 4,000 Syrians who are fleeing into Iraq. Plus, thousands of Iraqis who have been forced to return to their homeland that they fled from back in the days of the Iraqi civil war.
BLITZER: It's amazing what's going on. And the number of refugees, I've seen all sorts of estimates, internally displaced refugees, refugees who have been forced to flee from Syria, hundreds of thousands, at least. What's the latest on the refugee problem, especially as it impacts Jordan, another country that borders Syria?
DAMON: You know, what's interesting is that the official number of refugees registered in Jordan, according to UNHCR, is around 40,000. The unofficial estimate, Wolf, goes up to 150,000. The Jordanians only recently built these massive, sprawling refugee camps, huge tent cities to try to accommodate the influx, the growing influx of refugees. But they're really buckling under the strain of all of this. Not to mention the dire conditions that the refugees themselves are having to live in. Plus, a few days ago, there were at least four shells that fell into a Jordanian town very close to the border there. Syrian shells, according to the Jordanian government, that ended up wounding a little girl.
So, all of these countries that border Syria know fully well that they are not immune to the Syria impact, each nation trying in its own way to mitigate the consequences of the Syria spillover. But everyone, of course, very concerned about what is going to happen in the future as the violence in Syria becomes even more extreme.
Are we going to see more reflections of that in its neighbors?
BLITZER: Arwa Damon covering this important story for us. Arwa, thanks as usual.
Other stories we're following, including refuting the report on Penn State University. Attorneys for the former university president are now speaking out on the child sex abuse scandal.
And Americans are wasting a staggering amount of food. Why so much gets thrown out?
BLITZER: Attorneys for the ousted Penn State University president now disputing allegations he covered up reports of child sex abuse. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Lisa? What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, attorneys for Graham Spanier are hitting back against the university's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. A report last month blames Spanier, football coach, Joe Paterno, and others for covering up the alleged child sex abuse.
Spanier has not been charged in the case, and he says he was led to believe Sandusky was involved in nothing more than horseplay.
And incredible pictures from Ecuador where a volcano has erupted near the capital, Quito. It's been spewing molten rock and lava since the weekend, covering villages with ash and forcing evacuations. This volcano has been active since 1999.
And, did you know you may be throwing away almost half of the food that you bring home from the grocery store? According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, Americans are wasting 40 percent of food. That's about $165 billion a year in waste. Fruits and vegetables get tossed out the most followed by seafood, grain products, meat, and milk.
And you can blame portion sizes. Our dinner plates are about 36 percent bigger than they were decades ago. And anyone who's been to a grocery store, Wolf, will tell you that it's not just the dinner plates that have gotten bigger, but also the portion sizes of what they sell at grocery stores. It's not just a little bagel. It's a huge bagel.
SYLVESTER: It's not just a small bag of lettuce. It's a huge bag of lettuce. I think that probably contributes in some way, too.
BLITZER: Yes, but the notion that we're throwing away so much good food when there are so many people hungry out there, it make me sick to even think about that. I hate throwing away good food.
SYLVESTER: Yes. It's a sad thing to think about, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.
A new Romney campaign ad slams President Obama on welfare reform, but is there any truth in it? We're going to have a serious fact check.
Also, you'll hear a never before recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lost for decades in a dusty attic.
BLITZER: The Romney campaign is hammering President Obama on welfare with another ad accusing him of stripping the work requirement from welfare reform. Republicans are also likely to attack President Obama on this point at next week's convention in Tampa. But is it true, this claim?
We're going to talk to the former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, a campaign supporter, in just a moment, but first, here's CNN's Tom Foreman with a fact check.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Join me as I sign the Welfare Reform Bill.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welfare reform was a big bipartisan success story in the mid-1990s. Signed by Bill Clinton, it fulfilled promises by the Democratic president and the Republican Congress to push welfare recipients to work in exchange for their benefits to end welfare as we know it. So, the idea of another Democratic president, Barack Obama, taking the work requirement off of the table is political dynamite. Right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On July 12th, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform. One of the most respected newspapers in America called it nuts.
FOREMAN: Problem is, President Obama calls this claim nuts.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single person here who's looked at it says it's patently false.
FOREMAN (on camera): So where did this come from, this notion of a giant change in welfare rules? Oddly enough, it did not originate here in Washington, but rather out in the country.
(voice-over): Several states, including some with Republican governors, asked the federal government for more flexibility in how they hand out welfare dollars. Specifically they want to spend less time on federal paperwork and more time experimenting with what they hope will be better ways of getting people connected to jobs. So the administration has granted waivers from some of the existing rules.
OBAMA: Given them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rules as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.
FOREMAN: That might, in a small way, change precisely how work is calculated. But the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work remains in place. That's pretty much it. This is clearly not an effort by the president to kill off the welfare work requirement. That's why even some Republicans have backed away. Governor Romney's claim doesn't work and we rate it false.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: All right, so let's run this by a key Romney campaign adviser. Joining us now from Tampa, the former New Hampshire governor, John Sununu. Are you ready to apologize for the campaign for running this ad, Governor?
JOHN SUNUNU, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: No and the problem is, is when somebody like the gentleman that just did the fact check, if they don't know what they're looking for, they don't find the problem. Let me remind you how that law was passed. It was a negotiation between the Gingrich Congress and President Clinton. Twice President Clinton vetoed it because he didn't like how tight the work provisions were. Among them is the fact that you cannot grant waivers to the work provision.
It was in a separate section away from the waiver section. So finally on the third time, the Congress prevailed and the president signed it. Governors have asked for waivers not to waive the work requirement, but to address other waivers and some of the paperwork that's involved. In granting the request, the HHS memo goes well beyond what governors asked for and in fact, invites them to offer alternatives to the traditional work requirement.
That's the issue that's here. And the alternatives that had been discussed as possible substitutes are things such as self-training in the home, reading books that motivate you to work and so on. The hard core work requirement should not be substituted for with soft requirements, even if you play the game of asking that a larger percentage fall under the soft requirements. BLITZER: Well I'll read to you, Governor, the precise language from the Health and Human Services memo outlining what the states who seek this flexibility and you were once a governor --
BLITZER: -- and I'll read to you what it says. It says the "Department of Health and Human Services will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work of the temporary assistance for needy families program. The secretary will not approve a waiver for an initiative that appears substantially likely to reduce access to assistance or employment for needy families." So they're not going to approve --
SUNUNU: (INAUDIBLE) correct.
BLITZER: They're not going to approve anything unless it leads to greater opportunities for moving people from welfare to work.
SUNUNU: Look, to quote the president that signed the bill, it depends on what your definition of access is and what your definition of expands is and what the background discussions were. And the background discussions talked about broadening it to the point where you soften the hard reality of the work requirement. And people have to understand that that really does open the door. And if the president doesn't like it, all he has to do is go back and instruct HHS to undo that. HHS claimed that they were responding to requests from the governor of Nevada and the governor of Utah and when those governors were asked what their request entailed, it had nothing to do with taking that work requirement that way.
BLITZER: Well -- I don't know, Governor, if you've actually read the letters from the governors' offices from Utah and Nevada which I have here in front of me.
SUNUNU: I only heard their comments. I have not read their letters.
BLITZER: Well I think you should --
SUNUNU: I have read the --
BLITZER: I think you should read -- you should read the letters because I've read them in depth. They were written -- the letter from Brian Sandoval (ph), the governor of Nevada, was written on August 2nd, 2011. The letter from Gary Herbert (ph), the governor of Utah, both Republicans, written on August 1st, 2011. And I'll read to you what they say.
Let me read Governor Sandoval, what his office says in making this request. He says, "Governor Sandoval has been very supportive of the concept of collaborative efforts among Nevada state agencies and recently included funding for an employer incentive program targeted to create jobs for the temporary -- the program, the welfare program -- the TANF recipients in his proposed executive budget." And in seeking a waiver, the governor from Utah, his office wrote "we are very interested in being of assistance in the work of providing flexibility within and among funding sources for more effective outcomes". So when these five governors --
SUNUNU: Right --
BLITZER: -- asked for flexibility, Governor, the Department of Health and Human Services responded by saying we'll give you flexibility, but only, only if you continue to make sure people go from welfare to work and you increase the work capabilities rather than reduce them. We'll give you some flexibility.
SUNUNU: Not quite. Not quite, Wolf. Go back and read what you just read me. That letter says that they want programs in conjunction with employers and they want flexibility. What that was intended to do was to give flexibility on how they reported and to permit cooperative efforts with employers. Nobody has any objection to programs that deal with employers. But you should not, in responding to that, include in the HHS memo broad enough language that allows it to include aspects that are not employer training, real training, or employer related. And what you want to avoid is language that encourages or permits people to do those soft self-studies that a lot of people have been talking about that people ought to do, be able to look for work on the Internet instead of going to an employer.
BLITZER: I'm going to -- because the Internet can really help people improve their skills, as you well know. There are universities out there on the Internet. But I want to move on to something else. But I'm going to just wrap it up and give you a chance to respond to this. You say that they couldn't even give the states the waiver under the original law, if you will that President Clinton signed into law. The House speaker at that time was Newt Gingrich. If they can't give waivers why would these five Republicans be seeking flexibility, would be seeking waivers in these formal letters, including two Republican governors from the administration, the Obama administration?
SUNUNU: I can't -- I can't tell you what was in their mind, but I tell you what I do suggest. The gentleman that wrote that language is Robert Rector (ph). You ought to get Rector (ph) on your show and he'll take you through it line by line, comma by comma, and issue by issue.
BLITZER: He's at a think tank in Washington.
BLITZER: I think he's at the Heritage Foundation.
SUNUNU: That's right.
BLITZER: He's a scholar here in Washington.
SUNUNU: That's correct and Robert --
BLITZER: I know you're basing -- you're basing your analysis on what he has written and we'll talk to him.
SUNUNU: That's correct.
BLITZER: We have spoken to him over the years. He's obviously a highly respected person. He knows what he's talking about. But we've done -- we've done the research. Not only us, but every major fact checker has done the research and the president wants to make sure that in this particular case, that work requirement is maintained even as he gives the states, and normally Republican governors want the states, to have flexibility. Not just allow the federal government to run rough shod over them. This is a case where you don't want states to have flexibility --
SUNUNU: All they need to do --
BLITZER: We'll make sure -- we'll make sure we're precise, but on this one, Governor --
SUNUNU: Wolf, all they need to do --
BLITZER: -- on this -- hold on a second.
SUNUNU: All they need --
BLITZER: Hold on one second. On this one it's not just CNN. It's every major fact checking organization out there --
BLITZER: -- says he has not -- has not gutted, has not gutted by any means the work requirements.
SUNUNU: All they need to do is have HHS send out a hard letter making sure that the only things that will qualify under the work requirement is hard training and the -- and the cooperative programs with employers and define it in such a way that what was allowed before is all that's allowed in the future.
BLITZER: All right.
SUNUNU: That's all that's required.
BLITZER: OK, a recommendation from the former governor of New Hampshire and I know when you were governor of New Hampshire you wanted things done in your state the way you wanted. You didn't want the federal government dictating these kinds of requirements to you.
BLITZER: Although in this particular case there's a reversal.
SUNUNU: But I did -- but I and Republican governors and Democrat governors lobbied hard to get the work requirement into welfare and finally with the support -- bipartisan support of those governors, it came in with the Gingrich/Clinton agreement. BLITZER: Absolutely and I remember. I was the White House correspondent at that time and the president at that time, President Clinton, he was criticized by a lot of liberals who didn't like that welfare to work regulation in this new law. All right Governor --
SUNUNU: Including the current president.
BLITZER: Right. At that time, you're absolutely right. He was then a young legislator. He wasn't happy with it at that time either. All right, stand by. We're going to continue our conversation. You're in Tampa. We have a lot more to talk about including some -- the latest polls that are showing a major gap in Mitt Romney's support. Our conversation with John Sununu continues in a moment.
BLITZER: We're back with the former New Hampshire governor, John Sununu. He's an adviser to the Romney campaign. He's joining us once again from Tampa. Governor, have you ever seen a situation like what's happening in Missouri right now where you have the Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin rejecting what every major Republican is saying, what Tea Party leaders are saying, more moderate Republicans are saying, including the leader of the Republican Party right now, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and basically he's snubbing his nose at all of them, refusing to leave this race for the Senate? Have you ever seen anything like this before?
SUNUNU: No and it's been unusual. You know that was -- he was the candidate that the Democrats spent $1.5 million in advertising trying to help in the primary. And now Senator McCaskill is drooling at the thought of running against him, so he's taking her advice and ignoring the Republican advice. I have hopes that over time and there's a short window here, that sanity will prevail and Akin will see that he put his foot and probably three-quarters of his leg in his mouth and said something disgraceful, horrible, and stupid and that's quite a combination in a campaign.
SUNUNU: And that without support from Republicans, he's not going to get anywhere.
BLITZER: Because yesterday Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party --
SUNUNU: He ought to withdraw --
BLITZER: -- he was here. He was very firm he's got to get out and he said they're not going to give him any money.
SUNUNU: He has to get out.
BLITZER: The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, John Cornyn (ph) and the senator from (INAUDIBLE) they're not going to give him any money. The Super PACs, the Republican Super PACs, Karl Rove's Super Pac, they're not going to give him any money. SUNUNU: All of them.
BLITZER: So here's the question. Do you think knowing Missouri, knowing the rest of the country as you do that he could go ahead and raise a significant sum of money to go head to head against Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent?
SUNUNU: Not enough to make it a worthwhile race. Look, he can't be that dumb. He's got to sit down and analyze it both in terms of his party and his country and his state. And, frankly, in terms of the issues that he says he believes in and if he wants those issues dealt with he ought not to sacrifice a Senate seat to ego. He ought to get out and he ought to understand he demonstrated a lack of carefulness in his process that was so over the top that it caused this problem.
BLITZER: I earlier interviewed Ben Labolt (ph), the Obama campaign's press secretary and he said this about Mitt Romney's position on abortion. I'll play the clip and get your reaction.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we don't have it, but I'll read it to you. This is what Ben Labolt (ph) said. He said, he referring to the governor, he said he'd get rid of Planned Parenthood, strip back funding for it, limit access for preventive screening for women for things like breast cancer and cervical cancer. These have implications across the board and I think this is a debate we expect to hear in the 1950's, not one you'd expect to hear in 2012. You want to respond to Ben Labolt (ph)?
SUNUNU: Sure. Labolt (ph), as has been Ms. Cutter (ph) and others of the campaign, is lying through his teeth when he talks about getting rid of cervical screening and precancerous screening and stretching the pro-life position of the Romney/Ryan ticket to encompass all those things. That is absolutely, unequivocally not true.
BLITZER: Because he has said he does support exceptions for abortion in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. And now Ryan, who's the number two on the ticket, says he'll go along with Romney's position --
SUNUNU: That's right.
BLITZER: Is that --
SUNUNU: That's the Romney/Ryan position.
BLITZER: Should they have spelled that out in the Republican Party platform?
SUNUNU: Well, that's the Ryan/Romney position. The platform is carrying the language that it has had for the last four or five campaigns. I think there's value to consistency. It is a human life amendment support and I think that's the way to go. BLITZER: John Sununu who supports Governor Romney and Paul Ryan, for that matter. Once again, thanks so much. I'll see you down in Tampa. I'll be coming down over the weekend.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
SUNUNU: We'll be here.
BLITZER: Good. We'll talk next week as well.
Under cover video sparking a government investigation that's coming up in our next hour. What the Agriculture Department says about the treatment of cattle by a major fast food chain supplier.
And the first lady Michelle Obama, she's speaking right now in Florida. We're going to bring you some of that live. Stand by.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And as first lady, one of the things that I have been able to see --
BLITZER: First lady Michelle Obama is speaking down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida right now. Let's listen in briefly.
M. OBAMA: -- up close and personal what would being president really looks like, you know. And I want to share something with you because I think it's important for you to know as you go forward. I have seen how the issues that come across a president's desk are always the hard ones. You know? The problems with no easy solutions. The judgment calls where the states are so high and there is absolutely no margin for error. And I have watched and seen how as president you are going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people.
But let me tell you something, at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as president, truly all you have to guide you are your life experiences. You understand me? All you have to guide you are your values and your vision for this country. Because in the end, it does all boil down to who you are and what you stand for. Know that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
M. OBAMA: And we all know who our husband is, don't we? We all know what Barack Obama stands for, don't we?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
M. OBAMA: And we have seen time and time again just how hard he's willing to fight for us.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) M. OBAMA: Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line? That was the advice he was getting. But fortunately, for us, Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result, today the auto industry is back on its feet again and more importantly people are back at work collecting a paycheck again.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
M. OBAMA: And remember how folks were telling Barack not --
M. OBAMA: It just takes one --
BLITZER: We want to go right back to the first lady of the United States. She's speaking in Ft. Lauderdale.
M. OBAMA: -- forward. We want you to think about bringing in that one more person, because we all know that one person in our lives, we all have them, right? That one person who's not registered to vote, that one person who's not focused, doesn't understand what's going on in the campaign yet, that one person who's never been involved, we all know that one person. So if you're making calls and knocking on doors, bring one friend. You know if you're coming to an event like this bring that new neighbor who's never been involved in an election.
When you vote early, or on Election Day, bring one more new voter with you, just one. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family. They don't even have to leave their House. Send them to BarackObama.com/1 and help them get involved. Our goal is to multiply ourselves because it's like Barack has always said, Barack said it just takes one voice to change a room. And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city, and if it can change a city it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change the nation.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
M. OBAMA: That's the power of one. So think about that, just this room alone, if everybody in this room brings in one more person that can make all the difference. The power of one. Now I'm not going to kid you. This journey is going to be long, even though it's getting shorter every day. And it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.
But what I try to remind myself and others is that's how change always happens in this country. Real change takes time. Takes patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, you know if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there because we always do --
BLITZER: All right, it looks like our local affiliate reporter is stepping in front of the camera right now getting ready for his own live shot. So that's the first lady of the United States. We rarely see her as assertive as she is right there on the campaign stump for her husband, the president of the United States making a very, very determined appeal, especially in the critically important battleground state of Florida for people to go out there, get their friends and show up and vote.
Voter turnout is going to be critical. If the president is going to be re-elected, he's going to need his base out there in big numbers. If Mitt Romney is going to be elected president of the United States, he's going to need his conservative Republican base out there in big numbers. Inspiring these people, getting them out to vote will be critical and we just heard from the first lady of the United States. We'll continue to monitor obviously what's going on, on the campaign trail.