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State of the Union

Interview With Admiral Allen; Interview With Governor Crist

Aired June 06, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: When a time-deprived president visits the same area twice in a week, it says two things, the place is in trouble, and so is the president. A week ago Friday, President Obama went to Louisiana and spent two hours talking to local officials. He was criticized for not making time for the residents, the fishermen, the business people whose lives have been turned upside-down by an oil gusher deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Two days ago the president returned to Louisiana and got a slice of life as it is these days. That he taped his Saturday radio address from a bait shop says it all, almost.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I was here at Camerdelle's Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners. Their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. It is wrong. And what I have told these men and women and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster is that I am going to stand with the people in the Gulf Coast until they are made whole.


CROWLEY: BP is not the only one tending to public image.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, we begin with trial and error in the Gulf. The latest from the president's point man in this catastrophe, Thad Allen, and the view from Florida with Governor Charlie Crist.

Then, the Democratic Senate runoff in Arkansas. Twelve-year Senate veteran Blanche Lincoln...

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: The people of Arkansas just voted.

CROWLEY: ... running about even with her challenger, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.

LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D-ARK), SENATE CANDIDATE: Today Arkansans had their say. CROWLEY: And a preview of this Tuesday's big election slate across the country with Jackie Calmes of The New York Times and Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times. I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY: From the beginning, BP has been the company the public loves it hate. Early last month, pollsters asked, do you approve or disapprove of BP's handling of the oil crisis? Overwhelmingly, the public disapproved. That has stayed the case for the last six weeks.

Americans were also asked whether they approve or disapprove of the Obama administration's handling of the crisis? Two weeks after the spill, only a bare majority approved. It has been downhill from there, especially in the last two weeks. Now, just 38 percent approve of what the administration has done.

Joining us now, the administration's man overseeing the operation, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. thank you so much, Admiral, for being here.

ALLEN: Good morning.

CROWLEY: I want to start right out with CNN's lead today out of Pensacola. It quotes BP senior vice president, Bob Fryar, a man I assume you know, talking about being able to get some of the oil from spewing into the Gulf and on to a ship, about 30, 31 percent. And the quote from Mr. Fryar was "that operation has gone extremely well, we are very pleased."

Has it gone extremely well? Are you very pleased?

ALLEN: Well, we are making the right progress. I don't think anybody should be pleased as long as there is oil in the water. What they have been able to do is put a containment cap over the leak site, start to bring oil to the surface and produce it, and slowly start turning off those vents that are venting the oil.

So I would say progress has been made, but nobody should be pleased until the relief well is done.

CROWLEY: And this is really why people have a problem with BP, isn't it?

ALLEN: Well, you know, they are making progress. And I think that they need to understand that they have set out goals and they're meeting them, and that's good. But we all need to know that it is the relief wells, capping this well, killing this well is what's important.

CROWLEY: Is that is that been a source of frustration for you? Because they get out there and say, oh, it's going well, we really how it's going, and people are -- oil is washing up on the beach in Pensacola. ALLEN: Well, my job is to state the facts. And the facts are, there is oil on the beach, as you've said. So we need to keep focusing on that and the response. You know, this is an insidious enemy that's attacking all our shores. It's holding the Gulf hostage, basically.

CROWLEY: So let me talk to you a little bit about what I think is a huge disconnect. We had BP, on the one hand, they put out ads. Every time you talk to them, they say, we are responsible, we are going to pay for this, we'll see that everybody is recompensed for whatever they are losing in businesses.

And then we hear something like this. And this is from Mayor Tom (sic) Kennon of Orange Beach, Alabama, at a press conference. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR TONY KENNON, ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA: We had a large amount of oil coming in off the beach. We spotted it through aerial reconnaissance. We got it boomed up. Could not get a skimmer here in time before it made landfall. That's inexcusable. I don't care how much money BP has to spend, i want the resources here to handle any situation. I don't care what it is. That is their job. They are not doing us a favor by cleaning this mess up. That is the least I expect from BP.


CROWLEY: I don't think people get it. We are six weeks into this and we are hearing mayors going, where is BP? Who is in charge of this operation? Who is supposed to make sure those booms are there? Who is supposed to be making sure that these skimmers are out there to keep it from coming on to his beach in Alabama?

ALLEN: It's the incident command in Mobile. It's Captain Steve Poulin, I was with him yesterday. And I also briefed Governor Riley. That particular incident, the boom became disconnected and failed before the skimmer could get there. It was actually a mechanical failure. But there are skimmers offshore. They need to be there. We need to be responsible.

CROWLEY: So it is you all are in charge?

ALLEN: The Coast Guard is the federal on-scene coordinator for this response. BP is the responsible party. We are the ones accountable to make sure BP does the job.

CROWLEY: So they need to call you and then you either order up the equipment or you get BP to do it.

ALLEN: Well, there are some command and control issues. I thank you for asking the question, because I think it's good to discuss this. We empower our folks on the scene. If there is oil out there, they need to call in skimming equipment. We don't want them to go two or three levels up to higher authority be able to do that.

I have given direct orders to all of my field commanders out there that when they see oil and they have the capability to respond, they are to do it. There is no reason to check with anybody, even higher levels of authority.

CROWLEY: All right. So it is the U.S. government, really, that needs to be doing this? Don't call BP, because they are not in charge of this? So it's on you.

ALLEN: They are required under the law to have contractors available to do that. That is their responsibility under the current regulations for oil spill response. As far as the prioritization and directing of our response, it is the federal on-scene coordinator of the United States Coast Guard. CROWLEY: OK. Now, a letter has been written to the U.S. Congress saying, you need to let let loose of some of this oil trust fund that is for things such as this. Why? I thought BP was writing checks for this. Why do we have to ask Congress for money in a trust fund?

ALLEN: There are two sources of funding. BP can fund response actions directly. But after the Exxon Valdez, they established the oil spill liability trust fund. So if there was no responsible party, we had oil on the beach, we didn't know the source, the -- either EPA or the Coast Guard could respond either inland or in the maritime environment and clean it up and have a funding source to do that.

But it has to be appropriated each year into the emergency response fund. The principal fund has over $1 billion. And we want to move money from the principal fund into the response fund so we can spend it.

CROWLEY: Does BP pay that back?

ALLEN: They do, but it goes back to the principal, and it has to be appropriated to the Coast Guard.

CROWLEY: I see. Let me ask you a couple of personal questions in our closing minutes. We are hearing stories that people are falling ill because of their exposure to this, some of them clean-up workers, some of them fishermen trying to get in a last minute catch. Have you been well? You have been out there as much as anybody. I mean, is it making people sick? Have you seen workers sick? Have you been sick?

ALLEN: I have not been sick. Tired sometimes, but not sick. When I was flying out to the rigs a couple of days ago, we got about 10 or 15 miles away from the oil head site, and you could start smelling the vapors. And these are what we call volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

And while I was out there, they actually brought an offshore supply vessel in, it started spraying water around the Discover Enterprise (ph), which is the processing ship above the well, to lay down those vapors so they wouldn't be a threat to the people on board.

these things evaporate. There is proper protective equipment. If it is not a safe place to work, we should pull our people back. I have been in touch with the Department of Labor and OSHA. We are working together with them and addressing the issues. Any place where there is a work force safety issues or an environmental issue, we should pull people back.

CROWLEY: And quickly, if I could, the president says he is furious about this. What is Admiral Allen about this?

ALLEN: Well, I think everybody is anguished over this. You know, I have been working on the water for 39 years. This is just completely distressing. And it is very frustrating because this spill has dissipated across southern Louisiana, clear to Port St. Joe, Florida. And it is like an insidious enemy that just keeps attacking in different places. And it's going to be there for a while.

And -- but we have to redouble our efforts. We have to be right on the game. And we have to support the local folks there. I've been dealing with the governors, the mayors, the parish presidents. You know, we all understand how frustrating this is. We just have to stay on that.

CROWLEY: You are in it for the duration?

ALLEN: I am in it until the president says otherwise.

CROWLEY: Admiral Thad Allen, you've got a big job, thank you so much for joining us.

ALLEN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, we will hear from Florida Governor Charlie Crist, where oil is already washing up on the beaches of his state.


CROWLEY: BP is now saying the containment cap is collecting the, quote, "the majority of oil from the well." But as you can see in this live picture, there is still a steady flow of oil coming out of the blow-out preventer and now washing up on the shores of the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle. Joining us now is the governor of Florida, Charlie Crist.

Governor, thank you for being here. I want to put something up for our viewers to see. And you probably have seen it too. It is from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. And it is their best guesstimate as to where this oil is going to go. And, basically, it is going to go down the western coast of Florida and then back up the eastern coast of Florida, up the Atlantic Seaboard and then out into the Atlantic. Are you ready?

CRIST: Well, as ready as we can be. And we have done a lot in order to be ready. I signed an executive order declaring a state of disaster weeks ago, Candy. That initially included the six counties in the panhandle area of Florida. When we started hearing about the potential of the oil getting into the loop current, I extended it down as far south as Sarasota County, just south of Tampa Bay.

And then we heard about, you know, the fact that it could get in the loop, go around the straits, as you just illustrated, and possibly up the East Coast. So we extended that state of emergency declaration up through Monroe, which is the Keys. Monroe County, Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.

Because we want to have all our assets at the ready, everything possible, available in order to protect our beaches, our marshes, and all of our waterways as much as we possibly can.

CROWLEY: So does that mean -- does that mean we will not -- I mean, we know that we are seeing tar oils -- balls now showing up on the beach in the Pensacola area. But if you are ready, does that mean we are not going to see more of that? Does that mean we will not see oil in the way it has been showing up in Louisiana?

CRIST: Well, hopefully not in the way it has been showing up in Louisiana. One of the things that we are trying to preclude by having boom already established. We have got about 250,000 feet of boom throughout the Panhandle that is deployed, an additional almost 250,000 to be able to close some of the bays off and other estuaries that are so sensitive. People don't like to hear this, but the beaches are some of the best boom that can be available. That coming from our secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Mike Sole. It is easier to clean up off the beaches, as we were able to do this past weekend in Pensacola.

I mean, we were, you know, disappointed that it came on the beach at all, but then able to clean it up fairly rapidly. And the crews are working very hard to do just that. Where it is much more difficult is what we have seen in Louisiana. When it gets into those marshes and those estuaries, once it gets in there, it is very difficult to clean up.

So we are just trying to do the very best we can with the resources that we have.

CROWLEY: I want to see your understanding of what Admiral Allen had to say. And that is when you see an area that needs extra help or the boom doesn't work or you don't see a skimmer, you then go to whom? Who do you expect help from?

CRIST: Well, I've been in direct contact with Admiral Allen. And he has been very responsive to Florida. Whenever we have made an ask, it has been answered. And we hope and pray that that will continue to be the case. We also understand that it is not just Florida, but all of the Gulf states that are affected by this, and there is a certain inventory of resources that are available to all of us.

As a result, we are trying to make sure that we have every available asset to Florida as we possibly can. My first and foremost responsibility is to protect my state. I love Florida. And I want to do everything I possibly can, along with our federal officials, all other state agencies that are involved in this. Our Department of Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Protection, and our local officials.

I want to emphasize that, because I visited these emergency operations centers throughout the Panhandle. And they are on-task and ready for this, and, really, the first responders to it. And they do an extraordinary job. They are our eyes and ears. We have set up a command post in the Panhandle too through our Department of Environmental Protection.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about those who are directly affected. I was struck by something that your chief financial officer, Alex Sink, said this morning. She told The New York Times some businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy because of the way BP is handling things, this is just not working. What is your understanding of the process of getting money from BP to people whose businesses are being hurt? Is that lacking in Florida?

CRIST: Well, it is lacking. I mean, I think they are trying to do the best they can. But they can always do better. And we are urging them to do better. We are more than urging them, we are demanding that they do better. And what I mean by that is that the attorney general, Bill McCollum and I, have asked former attorneys general Bob Butterworth and Jim Smith to set up a task force of lawyers in order to be prepared for additional compensation when that becomes necessary. And we are pretty certain that it will.

We have some of the best attorneys in the country here in Florida. And they have dealt with issues like this in the past, some other maritime issues that we have had to be faced with. So we are putting that together.

But in the near term -- in the short-term, if you will, we want these claims to be responded to much more quickly. BP is setting up claims offices throughout the state. But we want them to answer those claims more rapidly, because these people need help. And we have to be there to try to make them as whole as we can during this very difficult process.

There are a lot of businesses impacted by it. It is not just restaurateurs and the hoteliers, it's fisherman -- it's oyster fisherman. And a lot of people along the coast who really depend on the Gulf of Mexico for their very livelihood.

I plan to visit some more of them tomorrow down in the Tampa Bay area, because the impact is felt across the state.

CROWLEY: Governor, let me turn your attention quickly, because politics still goes on. You are running for U.S. Senate as an independent. A friend of yours, someone that you helped put in as head of the Republican Party in Florida, as you know, has been charged with fraud and money-laundering having to do with some of the finances inside the state Republican Party.

And it revolves around something called Victory Strategies, a fund that state investigators say was said was used to sort of -- used to pocket money. What do you know about that entity, about Victory Strategies?

CRIST: Well, what I know about it is only what I have read in the newspaper. You know, it is an unfortunate situation. It is very disappointing and sometimes people disappoint you. And that's what has happened here.

CROWLEY: If I could just interrupt, because the attorney for Jim Greer, who is the former RNC chief, is quoted as saying: "The governor knew about Victory Strategies from the very beginning, they all worked on it together." Is that true?

CRIST: Absolutely untrue. You know, sometimes desperate people say desperate things. And it's very sad.

CROWLEY: All right. Governor Crist, a busy day ahead of you, a busy couple of weeks, I must imagine, also, as you are running. So good luck on both those endeavors. Thanks very much.

CRIST: Thank you. Great to be with you, Candy. CROWLEY: Ahead, we will turn to politics. It is not even November yet and already two Senate incumbents have been knocked off. We will talk with an incumbent who is on the ropes and the challenger who put her there.


CROWLEY: Up next, the candidates in Arkansas's Democratic Senate primary, a tight race and the purest test yet of anti-establishment, anti-Washington fever.

Want to know how seriously current Senator Blanche Lincoln and her challenger, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, takes the country's cranky mood? Take a listen to their ads.


LINCOLN: I know you're angry at Washington. Believe me, I heard you on May 18th. (Inaudible) because I'd rather lose this election fighting for what's right than win by turning my back on Arkansas.


HALTER: You're not going to be able to change Washington unless you change the people that you send there.


CROWLEY: Tuesday caps a bitter 14-week battle between the two Democrats. Lincoln once held a double-digit lead. But when voters first went to the polls May 18th, she didn't get the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid this Tuesday's runoff. The latest polls show Halter with a slight lead.

Halter has the support of unions. Senator Lincoln, seen as the more moderate of the two, is backed by some Democratic heavy hitters, including this Arkansas native.


FORMER PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON: If you want to be Arkansas's advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you, vote for Blanche Lincoln. (APPLAUSE)


CROWLEY: Former President Bill Clinton didn't just cut an ad for Lincoln. He campaigned for her. Footnote: Bill Halter held two different positions in the Clinton administration. It's quite the race down there. We'll find out more after this.


CROWLEY: Joining us now is the challenge in the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.

Thanks for being here. Just right off the bat, Bill Clinton wanted you in two different positions in his administration, but he wants Blanche Lincoln to be the U.S. senator, continue being it. Why is that?

HALTER: Well, President Clinton had endorsed Senator Lincoln before I got in the race. I understand standing with commitments. He has also said some nice things about me and I'm grateful for that.

CROWLEY: Let me talk to you a little bit about the unions, who are playing such a big part. Because the former president and Senator Lincoln have both said that the unions are using you to manipulate voters in Arkansas to vote against their own self-interest. It's not a huge union state, and yet you have had millions and millions of dollars poured into your race by these unions.

HALTER: I understand the point that's being made, but frankly, I think it's a diversion from the real issue. The real issue here in this race is who is going to stand up for middle-class Arkansas families.

CROWLEY: But isn't that the point of their criticism, I guess is what I'm saying.

HALTER: No, no...


CROWLEY: They say the unions and average Americans in Arkansas don't have the same interests.

HALTER: Well, let me finish the point, Candy. The fact is that Senator Lincoln has received over $1 million in contributions from Wall Street executives, hundreds of thousands of dollars from health insurance company executives. She's the leading recipient of campaign contributions from oil and natural gas companies.

And on vote after vote, she has put special interest groups that are opposed to the interests of middle-class Arkansans first. And that's not what we need out of a senator here.

And as I've said over and over again, if you send the same people to Washington, you're guaranteed to get the same results.

Now, I know that the national media wants to put this into a left-right framework because that's a very simple thing to pull down. But, really, what's going on in the state is very different than that.

You know, I ran for lieutenant governor four years ago and won that general election by 15 points. I did it by being a pragmatic, very focused Democrat that is focused on the real-life issues confronting Arkansans, like how do we improve the affordability of college for middle-class families?

And so this whole left-right framework, candidly, if you walk down the street here in Arkansas and ask folks about it, they're not going to tell you that that's what the race is about.

CROWLEY: Well, let me ask you candidly, because you do have a lot of big union support; it has been helpful to you; and we know how this works. They're supporting you because they believe you will support them. They want card check, which they think would make it easier to unionize in the workplace. They have said it's their number one priority. And you won't say where you stand on it.

Will you tell us whether you would vote -- will you tell the people of Arkansas; it doesn't matter if you tell me. How about the people of Arkansas...


... how you would vote on that?

HALTER: I've said very clearly the principles that I support in this legislation, which is to have Democratic elections, to have them be a secret ballot, to have those elections sped up and to increase the penalties for either side if they attempt to coerce workers.

Card check itself, Candy, if you talk to labor leadership in Washington now, they'll tell you they're not even seeking a vote on that legislation.

CROWLEY: But it will come up. There's six years in a term, should you get it, and I've watched the Senate for a while, and issues just keep coming back when they see a better opportunity.

So would you support the Employee Free Choice Act?

HALTER: I've given you the principles that I will support. And that, Candy, is actually what people are negotiating about now. But the old card check provision is no longer on the table, and I have that directly from the folks who are involved in the negotiations.

Look, let's get back to what's real. What people are concerned about here is how are we going to grow our economy? How are we going to improve the job outlook?

I've told people very directly that what I would do as my first act as senator is to introduce a bill to remove all the tax incentives that currently give American companies an incentive to move jobs overseas and to replace those with incentives to create jobs here at home.

I've talked about higher education and how to expand upon the scholarship program we've developed here so that, with the state and federal programs, any Arkansas student with a 2.5 grade point average would be able to go to any of our public colleges and universities effectively tuition-free.

Those are real issues for Arkansans. Some of these Washington squabbles frankly just go right over the heads of Arkansans because they don't...


CROWLEY: I think unions would argue that it's a Washington squabble about whether you would support card check, but I get that you're not going to answer, like, that specific question.

Let me ask you, on oil drilling, there is currently a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. Everyone we've talked to, whether they are for or against it, have said we need it. Once that moratorium is lifted, do you support deepwater oil drilling?

HALTER: I would support only additional drilling if we can come to the conclusion, based on the examination of this accident, that it's going to continue -- that it will be safe, after whatever fixes that we put in.

But, obviously, we've had one of the worst environmental disasters in the United States history. And until we can conclusively demonstrate to ourselves that this won't be repeated, as a result of new safety provisions that are put in after studying this, I don't think you can make that statement.

CROWLEY: OK. Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, you've got a big couple of days coming up. Thanks so much for joining us.

HALTER: Thank you very much, Candy.

CROWLEY: Next, Senator Blanche Lincoln on how she plans to keep her job.


CROWLEY: We are joined now by Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Senator Lincoln, thanks for being here on a particularly busy two days in your career. Listen, you have had the former president of Arkansas, popular guy down there. You have had the support of President Obama, certainly in some radio ads. You have had more than enough money to put ads up on the air. Why is this so close?

LINCOLN: Well, we've had lots of great support. But to be honest with you, Candy, the D.C. unions have put about $10 million in this race in the last 12 weeks. And that's just on the TV. They have also inundated Arkansas with outside workers that they bussed in to go door to door. They have been doing ugly mailers in the mail, radio, a whole host of other thing. So my opponent has had tremendous support, not to mention the fact that 60 percent of his dollars are coming from The largest contributors to his campaign are residents of California, not Arkansas. So I am up against a lot.

CROWLEY: You are, but it has been my experience in covering politics that unless there is a vulnerability there, it is hard to exploit. What do you think your vulnerability is? Because it does seem, and you have acknowledged, that voters seem to be angry with you. Why is that?

LINCOLN: I think they are angry at Washington. And I think they are frustrated--

CROWLEY: They sort of see you as Washington, right?

LINCOLN: Well, yes. And absolutely the fact that you see so much of these resources from other places that are coming in to paint me in a negative way. The fact is, I have been a part of change in Washington. That's why I first went to Washington. I started groups like the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats in the Senate. I am very much a moderate. I was one of the senators that helped to bring down the cost of the stimulus package and so many other things that I felt like were very much in tune with what Arkansas wanted to see. And so, you know, I've worked hard. But the fact is, when people come in with $10 million and busloads of 60 people to go door to door saying ugly things about you, it is hard. People get confused. They are already frustrated. And it's really sad that, you know, that we would allow these special interest groups, and certainly that Bill would allow special interest groups to come into our state like this and really dominate and manipulate the people of Arkansas. CROWLEY: Well, and we've noted you have had some heavy hitters in there. You could probably use the president of the United States at this point. He is a pretty good get-out-the-vote guy. And it has been noted that he has not been in the state for you recently. What do you feel about the White House support, about establishment support at this time? Because it looks a little bit as though they are thinking, she may lose?

LINCOLN: Well, no. We have had great support from the administration. President Obama has done some calls for us, he has done some door knockers and some pamphlets and things. Vice President Biden, is a good friend of mine, has been helpful. Wesley Clark, General Wesley Clark, has been supportive and endorsed me.

CROWLEY: You think any of that may have worked against you, because it is sort of this anti-establishment, anti -- we don't like Washington. And these are a lot of establishment figures, and I'm wondering if there is an overarching thing going on in Arkansas that has a greater meaning across the country. And that is, is this about a Washington taint for someone who's been there for 12 years?

LINCOLN: No, I don't think so at all. I think Arkansas people are very independent-minded. And that's one of the reasons that we won the primary. We did win it. We didn't get 50 percent. And we are going to win on Tuesday.

I've spent the last, oh, gosh, the last week on our countdown to victory tour in 20, 25 county courthouses across the state. You know, Bill hadn't been doing that. He has been letting other people fund his campaign and do his dirty work. But I've been out there with people. And, you know, they understand.

CROWLEY: But union -- having union support, it's a legitimate group. You have union members in the state. Certainly, represents a wing of the Democratic Party. What does it say if you lose about the Democratic Party's tolerance for someone who is more moderate, who maybe didn't like the public option as you didn't in health care? And now, it seems to be the object of those who want to get you out, mostly the unions, as you say?

LINCOLN: Right. Well, I think that, first of all, Arkansans will see through all of that. I think I have heard an awful lot from them as I've traveled the state. As you can tell, I'm about to lose my voice. We have been out at PortFest along the White River, we've been all over the place yesterday.

But the fact is that they understand that all of this negative advertising is not who we are as Arkansans. We don't solve our problems in Arkansas -- we weren't taught to solve our problems with hate and anger. We were taught to solve our problems by coming together.

Yes, people are frustrated in Arkansas with Washington. And I certainly have admitted to them, that I've gotten that message, and more importantly, I understand what they feel. As you've noticed in my caucus, I am pretty much the moderate out there, I'm in the middle here in the Senate. I am not one that goes to the trenches or the foxholes on the left or the foxholes on the right. I am the one in the middle of a battlefield trying to find the common ground, because I think the people of Arkansas and the people of this country want us to solve our problems. They want us to solve these issues, they want us to come together and figure out how do we get results, how do we create jobs, how do we move this economy forward?

That's what I focused on in Washington and that's what I focused on in this campaign. I can talk a lot about that and the positions I've gotten myself into, whether it is chairman of the Agriculture Committee or senior member on the Finance Committee, and people understand that.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Senator Blanche Lincoln. You don't have much time left. We will see you Tuesday night. Thank you.

LINCOLN: You bet.

CROWLEY: When we come back, a look at other key contests to be decided on Tuesday with two top political reporters.


CROWLEY: Before our panel of reporters, a look at politics gone wild. In California, two Republican candidates for governor are spending millions of their own money hoping to inherit Arnold Schwarzenegger's problems, too much spending, not enough money, illegal immigration, traffic jams and a big old fight about legalizing marijuana, for starters.

Being California governor is a job nobody could love and a lot of people want. A California field poll released Friday shows former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman with a double digit lead over state insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner. The winner will face state attorney general, Jerry Brown, which sounds familiar because he's already been California governor in the 70s.

In California's Republican Senate primary, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina leads former Congressman Tom Campbell and State Assemblyman Chuck Devore. The winner takes on 18 years senate veteran, Barbara Boxer.

And a 12-candidate, Republican free-for-all in Nevada's Republican senatorial race for the opportunity to unseat Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid. The former front-runner, Sue Lowden hit a rough patch after suggesting people could barter for doctor's services with chickens. People in chicken suits now show up at her rallies.

And finally, the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary featuring a circus-like den of sex allegations, blog innuendo and racial slurs; the candidates hope to succeed term-limited governor, Mark Sanford, who recently told reporters, since his divorce, he has been to visit his Argentine mistress.

The "L.A. Times", Doyle McManus and "The New York Times," Jackie Calmes join us next.


CROWLEY: Joining us now: Doyle McManus of the "Los Angeles Times" and Jackie Calmes of the "New York Times". Thank you both for being here.

California, when I was growing up, here's the first political thing I learned. Every trend starts in California and moves east. What's the trend? DOYLE MCMANUS, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, Candy, if you are going to look for a trend in California, it's an old one. It is money talks. The two main candidates in the Republican primary for governor have already spent more than $100 million on that race. That's a record.

It's probably the only economic --

CROWLEY: Their own?

MCMANUS: Their own -- well, most of it, their own money. Meg Whitman, who is going to win that primary, has spent $70 million of her own money. She used to be the head of e-Bay so she's got the money to spend but, you know, that's -- that I'm afraid is the lesson of it.

It is not a great ideological lesson. Instead, in a big state, you can still swamp the airwaves and make money work for you.

CROWLEY: And maybe, at least in the polling and come out with a candidate who doesn't look as though they might be as strong as the one that is going to end up losing, didn't have as much money?

JACKIE CALMES, "NEW YORK TIMES": Right. Right. But they might be happy that considering that Steve Poizner, her opponent is really hitting here in the end on the immigration issue. It is one that resonates but not enough for him for the Republican primary but could really be a problem in the general election in a state where 1 out of 6 voters is expected to be Latino.

CROWLEY: Any surprises in California, you think, coming up?

MCMANUS: The general election campaign in both the governor's race with Jerry Brown running again for governor on the Democratic side is going to be fascinating --

CROWLEY: Which is one of my favorite things -- makes me feel young again.

MCMANUS: The senate race is going to be fascinating because you have two enormously scrappy women running for the Senate, Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, and of course Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO is going to win the Republican nomination. She got a bargain. She only had to spend $6 million of her money.


Nevada, I love have this race simply because all year long, we say Harry Reid, Harry Reid is in trouble. Oh, my gosh, Harry Reid is probably going to go down. And then the sort of baker's dozen Republicans running for the privilege of running against Harry Reid seems like it has imploded. There's stuff like chickens and, you know --

CALMES: And Republicans are finding this across the nation, House races and Senate races like in Nevada where the fact that the political wins are blowing against Democrats has brought out a slew of ambitious Republicans. A lot of them encouraged by the Tea Party Movement as well.

You get, you know, they have had, the 2006 election cycle and the 2008 election cycle were very bad for Republicans. You have had people on the sidelines for several years now. They are out. These races are so full of candidates that they are cutting themselves up. And maybe the best thing Democrats have going for them is the competitiveness from the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Harry Reid is like, yes, you go girl.

MCMANUS: Well, and exactly. Harry Reid earlier this year was pretty much counted as sunk by a lot of the Democratic political professionals. He is looking like a pretty even bet. In a way, Nevada is the opposite of what you are seeing in Arkansas, which you just talked about earlier in the program where two Democrats have been carving each other up.

This is one of the reasons that not just in Nevada but across the country, Democrats this week were a little more optimistic about their chance of not -- not gaining seats certainly, not stanching the losses but at least keeping the losses to something that wouldn't be catastrophic.

CROWLEY: And Nevada is sort of their dream come true, isn't it. It is like you see -- and it's also a signal to other Democrats. Don't be -- you don't have to run away. You can stand up there and talk and be behind the President and what he has done.

CALMES: Well, it's is the ultimate truism of politics. It takes somebody to beat somebody. Is Harry Reid beatable? That's for sure. But it depends who they nominate to go against him.

Just -- if I can inject the point here that this reminds me a lot of 1994 when the Republicans took control of Congress. Early in the year, I thought and a lot of people thought that they were nominating the most extreme -- they were nominating the most extreme Republicans in crowded races that they were hurting themselves for the general election.

It turns out they didn't because the momentum was so much on the Republican side. I sort of wonder in a lot of these races though whether this time the Republicans are going too far go for a general election electorate.

No question though, Democrats are going to lose seats.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to a broader picture now and look at President Obama and his popularity and approval rating. When my kids were young, I used to read this book called "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad". And I feel like this was President Obama and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad week. It just was not good in so many ways.

We are seeing it in the pollings. I want to read you something that Mark McKinnon, who as you all know and you have my piece of paper here. Let me read it off there. Mark McKinnon, a Republican, who has had very nice things to say about President Obama even as a candidate.

He wrote this. "I thought a few months ago that things couldn't get much worse for Obama. They have. A lot. Some of this he couldn't control but some of it he could have and should. In any case Obama needs to quit looking backward, trying to find historical parallels about how things are and get about the job he asked for and the performance he promised."

There is a ring now to it's President Bush's fault, it's BP's fault. In some ways, I think you could argue that BP has shielded the President from even further going down in the polls simply because people dislike BP so much. But he has got a problem.

CALMES: I think the White House rejects this idea that he should be the emoter-in-chief and show a little more anger and emotion. And, you know, they have a point.

But the problem is, we saw this week when he went to the Gulf on Friday -- I was with him in the Gulf a week before that and he had a very long meeting behind closed doors with the people who are actually responding to this, the state officials and the disaster response people.

He met no real people and cleaned no real dirty birds and didn't see any oil to speak of besides quarter-sized tar balls. This week he reacted to the criticism of that and actually did have some very effective meetings and photo-ops with real people.

Next week on Thursday he's going to meet with the survivors of the 11 who were killed in the explosion of the DeepWater Horizon rig, which is overdue, as well. A lot of people are saying in all this attention of the oil, we have forgotten that 11 men lost their lives.

But you see he risked coming late and it looks reactive.

CROWLEY: Yes. It looks like, "I've got to go be -- you know, message I care, that's what sort of comes up. Is it emoting or is it leading? Are people looking at the Gulf and saying what is happening here? Nothing is happening here. Where is the President?

MCMANUS: It is a combination of both and it's also a combination of bad timing. Oddly enough the White House did do things in the first couple weeks of this spill, but the voters weren't paying attention because the spill wasn't big enough.

I call this Obama's terrible, horrible time-release crisis because the biggest problem, I think for President Obama in a sense is that on both the oil spill and on the economy, people want results.

And the scariest thing to the White House this week, I suspect, was that map that you showed earlier in the program that showed the oil slick creeping up the Atlantic coast. They could fix that oil spill now and that is still a problem.

There's an analogy here on the economy, unemployment is going to stay high right up to November.

CROWLEY: Doyle McManus, Jackie Calmes, thank you so much for joining us. Come back.

Next, an update on the arrest of two men on terror-related charges at New York's JFK Airport.


CROWLEY: We have some new details for you on the two New Jersey men arrested on terrorism-related charges; going to CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve for the latest.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Candy, they potentially face life sentences for conspiring to kill, maim and kidnap outside the United States. Mohammad Mahmoud Alessa, 20, a North Bergen, New Jersey and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24 of Elmwood Park, New Jersey were arrested last night at JFK Airport.

They allegedly intended to take separate flights to Egypt and then make their way to Somalia to wage jihad for al-Shabaab, designated terrorist group. Search warrants were also executed in New Jersey in connection with the case.

Court documents say the FBI got a tip about the men in 2006. The criminal complaint quotes extensively from recordings made by an undercover New York police officer. In one excerpt they allegedly talk about shooting and beheading. Alessa saying allegedly, "We'll start doing killing here if I can't do it over there." Alessa is also quoted in the criminal complaint as saying, "freaking Major Nadal shaved-face, Palestinian crazy guy, he's not better than me, I'll do twice what he did."

The pair also allegedly stated that any Muslim who thought the Times Square bombing was wrong, was a non-Muslim. Alessa and Almonte allegedly watched a lot of Jihadi videos, including some of the radical U.S.-born Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. The criminal complaint says they trained for jihad, working out at the gym and simulating combat with paintball guns but there is no indication in these court documents that these men bought real weapons or posed any imminent threat here in the United States -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Jeanne, of course, continuing to cover this story for CNN.

An update next and a reminder of that beauty that so many are fighting to save on the Gulf Coast.


CROWLEY: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

For all of our viewers, "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" will start in a moment. First though, a few moments' reprieve; different kinds of pictures than the ones we have aired and you have seen all week, leaving where we began on the Gulf Coast.