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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Urges Senate Republicans to Pass Immigration Reform Legislation; Romney Becomes GOP Frontrunner in New Hampshire

Aired June 12, 2007 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, presidential arm twisting on immigration reform. The president personally tells Senate Republicans to get it done.
But can he muster the votes?

Also this hour, a new GOP frontrunner in New Hampshire.

Did his performance in our debate do the trick?

We'll tell you who's leading the pack in our brand new poll and how would-be candidate Fred Thompson figures in.

And a new uproar over congressional spending and budget add-ons.

Have Democratic leaders broken their promise to trim the fat and be more open about pet projects?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first this hour, President Bush tells wary fellow Republicans that now is the time to pass immigration reform. He went to Capitol Hill today to personally lobby for Senate passage of a bipartisan compromise piece of legislation.

But will lunch and face time with the president be enough to pull the bill out of limbo?

Our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by.

She's up on Capitol Hill right now.

The president certainly has his work cut out for him.

Did he manage to do the job today?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's unclear right now, Wolf. But he certainly did understand the uphill climb he had when he went behind closed doors with Republicans, trying to convince them to revive immigration, because -- because according to several Republican Senators in that meeting, he did something that he's accused of not doing very often at all here on Capitol Hill -- he listened. He listened to the concerns, to the questions and the ideas of Republicans on this divisive issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It was a short motorcade ride to the Capitol for a tall order -- convincing skeptical fellow Republicans to help rescue a top domestic priority that many GOP senators oppose -- immigration reform.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some members in there believe that we need to move a comprehensive bill. Some don't. I understand that. This is a highly emotional issue.

BASH: And it was that kind of conciliatory tone, not his vintage swagger, the president used with Republicans behind closed doors, according to several senators in the meeting, announcing off the bat he came to listen to Republican concerns about immigration, not twist arms.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: He took a lot of questions and he listened. And I thought that was very important, because he was beginning to get the feel for the concerns that have been raised.

BASH: GOP senators told the president about the pummeling they're getting from constituents who just don't trust the government to make good on the immigration bill's promise to secure the border. Georgia's two Republican senators asked Mr. Bush to show conservatives he's committed to border security by paying for it now.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: A number of our members have suggested that the president actually send up a supplemental request, an appropriation supplemental request for border security, much like he does for the Iraq War.

BASH: A key challenge for the president is convincing Senate majority leader Harry Reid to bring immigration back to the Senate floor.

BUSH: I would hope that the Senate majority leader has that same sense of desire to move the product as I do.

BASH: Reid tried to turn the tables on the president.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We've done our job. It's not a question of Democrats doing anything. It's a question of Republicans supporting their own president.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: The bottom line question, of course, is did the president change any Republican minds with this visit here?

Asked those staunch opponents of the president and of this issue, like Senator Jeff Sessions, who earlier today said the president should back off -- the answer to that is no. But several of the authors of this immigration compromise, Republicans even, Wolf, told us that they think that at least -- the idea that at least the president came here, sat and listened, had an exchange with these Republicans who are hearing so much from their constituents back home about their concerns about this -- they hope at least it will help to give this a jump start -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The last time there was comprehensive immigration reform in Congress was during the Reagan administration back in, what, in the 1980s?

BASH: Right.

BLITZER: I'm told the president heard some specifics about the mistakes many of the critics feel were made then.

BASH: You're exactly right, 1986. That is the thing, we are told by several senators in the meeting, that, really, the senators tried to hit home with the president, on this idea of trust. That what they are hearing from their constituents, from, frankly, mostly the conservative base, is that they just don't trust the government to do what this immigration bill says it's going to do, which is secure the border, because they say that in 1986, as you said, Ronald Reagan was president, they promised and it didn't happen.

BLITZER: The president yesterday said he'll see us all at the signing ceremony. We'll see if there is a signing ceremony.

Thanks, Dana, very much.

We're going to have a lot more on this immigrant fight coming up.

One of the opponents of the bill, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, he'll be joining us this hour.

And a supporter of the plan, the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow -- he was at that meeting up on Capitol Hill earlier today -- he'll be joining us, as well.

Both supporter and opponent coming up.

But let's get to our brand new poll on the Republican presidential race in New Hampshire. There is new movement to report on the heels of our debate in the lead-off primary state, and with Fred Thompson waiting in the wings.

Let's immediately go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

He's watching this very, very closely, the new poll.

So where do the Republican candidates stand now -- Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, New Hampshire Republicans had a debate and now they have a new frontrunner.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) SCHNEIDER (voice-over): In early April, there were two frontrunners in the New Hampshire Republican primary -- John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Now, after the debate, things have changed. Mitt Romney's the new frontrunner by a narrow margin.

Fred Thompson did not participate in the debate. He has not officially declared yet. But Thompson also made gains.

New Hampshire Republicans are certainly familiar with Romney. He was governor of neighboring Massachusetts for four years. But Romney did not start out as the frontrunner. Maybe it's his optimistic vision.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a party of the future and we have to stop worrying about the problems and thinking we can't deal with those. We have to focus on the future.

SCHNEIDER: Romney was rated most likable by New Hampshire Republicans.

McCain may have won the New Hampshire primary in 2000, but Republicans there don't seem to find him very likable anymore.

Do they think Romney is the most electable?

That distinction goes narrowly to Giuliani, who proposes to rerun the 2004 campaign.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Being on offense against terrorism, unlike the Democrats, who are on defensive against terrorism.

SCHNEIDER: Romney's goal is to rally conservatives.

ROMNEY: They know that I've got conservative credentials, and that's one of the things that brings me to this race.

SCHNEIDER: It's working. Romney has a strong lead among conservative Republicans. He does less well with moderates, where McCain and Giuliani do better. Conservatives are fuelling the Romney surge.

But notice that undeclared candidate Fred Thompson also does better with conservatives. Once Thompson becomes an active candidate, we could see a real battle with Romney for the conservative vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The New Hampshire primary is crucial for both Romney and McCain. Romney is from a neighboring state. McCain won the New Hampshire primary once before. Only one of them is likely to come out of New Hampshire alive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In this new poll, did McCain win on any issue, on anything? SCHNEIDER: Well, he did. He was considered most willing to take a unpopular position because it's something that he believes in. He talked to a woman who lost her brother, we all remember, in Iraq and he told her that because of mismanagement of the war, there were unnecessary losses in that war, a very difficult thing to say.

He talked about immigration reform, which a lot of Republicans do not agree with. He gave Republicans what they expect from him -- straight talk.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bill Schneider.

We're going to follow up on these poll numbers later in our Strategy Session, as well.

Bill Schneider and Dana Bash, as you know, are both part of the best political team on television.

And remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our political ticker at cnn.com/ticker.

Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What was that noise in the background?

BLITZER: That's a little dramatic music to set the stage for you.

CAFFERTY: You know what it sounded like?

It sounded like one of the carnival shooting galleries.

Call it "The FBI Meets the Friendly Skies." The "Washington Post" reporting a $40 million Gulfstream 5 jet the FBI has called an essential tool for fighting terrorism is "routinely used to take the FBI director, Robert Mueller, to speeches, public appearances and field office visits."

It turns out Mueller's travel accounts for about one fourth of the jet's flight time. FBI officials say that Mueller's security advisers have urged him to use the plane, that he's not the one deciding what he flies around in.

Assistant Director John Miller tells "The Post": "Mueller is the CEO of the FBI's part in the war on terror. That means every trip he makes, whether to rally the troops in the field offices, to negotiate agreements with partners overseas or to explain to the public the changing threats and solutions, furthers the operational mission of the bureau."

There's a bureaucratic press release.

Not everybody is buying this, though. Republican Senator Charles Grassley said he's concerned that the jet's been used for Mueller's routine trips instead of counter-terrorism operations. He said he never got an answer from the FBI when he asked last December what the plane was being used for.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who flew on commercial planes or on a smaller Cessna Citation jet, convinced Congress in the late '90s to give them the Gulfstream 5 jet. It was originally meant to transport terror suspects back to the U.S. for interrogation.

So here's the question -- do you see anything wrong with FBI Director Robert Mueller using a $40 million Gulfstream jet meant for counter-terrorism in order to fly off to give speeches, make public appearances and visit field offices?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Coming up, they're on opposing sides in the battle over immigration reform. I'll speak about it with a leading Republican opponent of the compromise bill, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

And later, the White House press secretary, Tony Snow -- he'll join us live from the White House. He'll defend the bill and the president's push for it.

Also coming up, there's new evidence emerging that White House contender Hillary Clinton is scoring critical points with a large and influential group of voters.

And presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani makes a commitment -- 12 of them to be exact. We'll tell you what it's all about.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: More now on our top story, the divide over immigration reform.

The bill currently in limbo in Congress would immediately give some 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States legal status, provide them with an eventual pathway toward citizenship if they meet certain conditions and would tighten border security.

And now that President Bush has made that rare appearance on Capitol Hill to try and revive the bill, how are some members of his own party responding?

And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, one of the opponents of this comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The president says he's going to see us all at the signing ceremony, Senator DeMint.

Did he convince you?

Are you ready to go ahead and sign on the dotted line?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No, I'm not convinced. And I don't think there's going to be a signing ceremony any time soon.

The president did a good job. He was very warm. He told a lot of us who are critics that he didn't see it as anything personal, that he just wanted to get this bill done. He heard it from a lot of senators, even senators who have been supporting the bill, who said that we should take this a little slower and prove to the American people that we're going to enforce the border security laws that we've already passed.

BLITZER: Did you give him a piece of your mind, Senator DeMint?

DEMINT: No. I had planned to say some things. But since supporters of the bill were actually counseling him to take it slower, send some money over for the border security, I didn't feel like I needed to say anything.

But the president and I spoke. He was very friendly and so was I. So I still support him in a lot of ways. But on this issue, I don't think the bill is the right bill for the country. That's what the American people have told me. And that's what the senators told the president today.

BLITZER: Well, there are some Republican senators, including Jon Kyl of Arizona; your colleague from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham; John McCain; who are fiercely in support of the president's stance on this issue. This is really splitting the base, the Republican Party.

I assume you agree on that?

DEMINT: Well, the base is very united, but we've got, certainly, some senators on the Republican side who are supporting this. And I admire them for wanting to solve the problem. But, unfortunately, they're trying to take too big a bite at this apple. We need to take some steps and prove to the American people that this government can be trusted to enforce our immigration laws before we give amnesty to millions of folks who came here illegally.

So I think some of my friends are on the wrong track here. They've got the best intentions and so does the president. But this is not a good bill and we need to step back and start over.

BLITZER: Why is Lindsey Graham wrong and you're right?

DEMINT: Well, I'm sure he would tell you he's right and I'm wrong. But on this issue, it's just irrational for the American people to believe that the government is going to enforce the border provisions in this bill when we passed one a year ago to begin fencing and barriers that has not been done. And so there are a lot of things that we can do that are already in law that would show the American people we're serious, but we're not doing it. And I think that's why the American people don't trust us to get this thing done.

BLITZER: Are you worried, Senator DeMint, that if this collapses right now, it will really undermine the president's credibility for the remainder of his -- of his term in office, it will sort of highlight he's become a lame duck, given all the effort he's put into this?

DEMINT: I don't think so. I think it could actually work in the opposite direction. If he continues to push this bill in spite of the way the American people feel about it, I think that's more likely to undermine him than to say we've listened, we're going to take this step by step and maybe come back next year and look at how to deal with the 12 million who are here, after we've proved that we're going to move ahead with real enforcement measures.

BLITZER: The president and others say if you do nothing right now, which is what you want, it's de facto amnesty. It's just going to allow more and more illegal immigrants to come into this country and start working.

What do you say to that argument?

I'm sure the president made that argument at lunch today.

DEMINT: Well, I'm not for doing nothing. I'm for doing what we've said we were going to do. We've already passed border security. We've passed a Secure I.D. Program that the states are supposed to continue to expand and implement. There are a lot of things that are already in law that we're not doing. And that's what's signaling to the American people that we can't be trusted to do what this bill says it's going to do, except to give amnesty for 12 million people who came here illegally.

BLITZER: If the president is right and you're wrong and he does sign this legislation into law, what will happen?

DEMINT: Well, obviously, I'll be disappointed if we do this. If it's signed into law, we'll have to continue to make sure things are enforced. But, frankly, I don't think it will be. I think I'll continue to battle to make sure it's given the debate time and the consideration that it should. And that means stepping back, enforcing the border, getting a worker I.D. Program and then moving ahead with the provisions that we need to how we're going to deal with those who are here illegally.

BLITZER: Senator DeMint, thanks very much for coming in.

DEMINT: All right, thank you.

BLITZER: And Senator DeMint is among the most prominent Senate opponents of the immigration compromise, along with fellow GOP conservatives Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Coburn declared the bill would undermine the rule of law by benefiting illegal immigrants over the needs of the American people. A dozen senators of both parties were instrumental in crafting the immigration compromise and in trying to sell it to skeptics. The most prominent include Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mel Martinez of Florida and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Top Democrats include Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Ken Salazar of Colorado and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Even advocates of the bill, though, acknowledge, it's imperfect, but they do see it as the best possible chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Right now, as we know, President Bush is stepping up his role as supporter-in-chief of the bill, as we reported. Unless Mr. Bush, though, can persuade 15 more Republicans in the Senate to support the measure, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has indicated he won't bring the compromise back to the floor for a vote.

We'll watch this story closely.

Still they ahead, the new GOP frontrunner in New Hampshire.

Will Mitt Romney's lead in our new poll hold?

Paul Begala and Rich Galen -- they're standing by for our Strategy Session.

And coming up next, a dire new warning of an all out war in the already volatile Middle East.

What's going on?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring the wires. She's keeping an eye on all the video feeds coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world.

She's joining us now with a closer look at some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM making news.

What's going on -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Hello to all of you.

For the third time in as many days, militants have targeted another bridge in Iraq. Insurgents detonated a bomb on the Al-Masoud Bridge south of Baghdad today in Babil Province. No one was killed or wounded, but part of the bridge was damaged. Three U.S. soldiers were killed on Sunday and six other wounded when a suicide bomb collapsed a highway overpass also in Babil Province. The very next day, another suicide bomb exploded on a bridge overpass in Diyala Province.

Amid the violence in Iraq and in Gonzales, a grim warning comes from the United Nations. A U.N. envoy says the Middle East could see full scale war unless something is done soon to contain the violence and bring peace. The U.N. envoy says the Arab/Israeli conflict was the main dispute in the region until a few years ago. Now, he says, issues involving Iraq, Iran, Syrian and Lebanon are at the heart of other emerging key conflicts.

Police say many of them were Latin Kings, Bloods and other gang members. Today, officials said over 200 people were arrested at Sunday's at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. An official says 198 of those arrested were members of those gangs and that police feared gang confrontations. Those arrested were allegedly were involved in a variety of illegal activities.

And it's not a matter of if but when -- a hurricane possibly packing 130 mile per hour winds flooding New York subways in all of its five boroughs. Experts say a hurricane will hit New York City at some point. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff warns that New York should be prepared. A hurricane could devastate the city, possibly causing $100 billion in economic losses and forcing some three million people to flee.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thank you.

Up next, Rudy Giuliani adds a 12-step program of sorts to his presidential campaign -- 12 commitments he's vowing to keep if he's president.

And Hillary Clinton nabs a new endorsement.

Why could one fellow senator's support matter so much?

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Happening now, fears of an all out civil war. The Palestinian-on-Palestinian bloodshed escalating right now in Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be considering what he's calling a surprising option. One senior Palestinian official appeals to other Palestinians that the violence "will burn all of us." We're watching this story.

A U.S. ally in the war on terror faces a political challenge from reformers in his country -- Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

How might his problems at home affect what happens in the U.S. fight against terror?

We'll have a full report on that. That's coming up, as well.

And the man behind the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" turns his lens to the nation's health care system. Michael Moore is up to something today in California that may anger some people, just as his new film "Sicko" suggests the health care industry is driven by greed.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A big pick up today for Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential frontrunner landed a major endorsement from her colleague, Bob Menendez.

Our Mary Snow is covering this story for us.

How important is Senator Menendez's endorsement of Senator Clinton?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's significant for a couple of reasons. First, Senator Menendez is from New Jersey and Clinton already has the endorsement of the state's governor. So adding Menendez helps in New Jersey, which has moved up its primary.

But that's not the only reason today's endorsement is important.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: While we have many fine and worthy candidates for president, Senator Clinton stands out for the richness of her experience, the depth of her intelligence and the strength of her ideals.

SNOW (voice-over): Bob Menendez officially endorsing fellow Senate Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: The support from Latino Americans is especially important to me.

SNOW: Menendez isn't the first top Latino politician to voice support for the senator from New York. Two weeks ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed Clinton, as did California's assembly speaker, Fabian Nunez.

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": At this point, she is doing very well among Latinos. And I think it's important to note that she's doing well in spite of the fact that you have the first serious Latino candidate for president, in Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

SNOW: Richardson formally announced his candidacy for president in Los Angeles, flanked by a number of Latino politicians. He was born to a Mexican mother and speaks Spanish fluently. So does Senator Chris Dodd, who learned the language while serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

The two are the only presidential hopefuls to say yes to Univision. The largest Spanish-language network in the country want to host debates in Spanish in Florida this September. Recent census estimates show Hispanics are the largest minority in the country and the fastest-growing minority.

And, while Hispanic voters may not have a major impact on the early Democratic primary states, outside of Nevada, they could play a large role in Florida and the states that follow.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: California, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, and New York all have primaries on February 5, and all have significant Hispanic populations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Hispanics could also play a crucial role in the general election. Republicans made gains among Hispanic and Latino voters earlier this decade, but they saw those gains erased in last year's midterm elections -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary -- Mary Snow reporting for us.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is summing up his agenda in a broad 12-point plan of commitments that he unveiled earlier today. Among other things, the former New York mayor is vowing to cut taxes, make Washington more accountable, and lead the nation toward energy independence.

He laid out his plan, by the way, in New Hampshire.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a sign in front of my desk, so, let's pretend it's here right now. I had it there when I was the mayor. I keep it with me now. I will put it there when I become president.

It says, "I'm responsible." And I want you to look at these commitments that way. I want you to look at these commitments as, I'm responsible for getting these things accomplished. And this is the way I want to be judged. If I'm going to judge other people in being accountable, then you judge me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. No surprise that number one on his commitment list is to keep America on offense. As he says, "I will keep America on offense in the terrorists' war on us."

This is his big issue. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the number-one issue. And they say, of the 12, this is the first of the 12.

And what they're talking about is not just sustaining the war in Iraq, but they're also talking about things like making sure that our intelligence is a step ahead of the terrorists. They say the shoe bomber is a good example. You know, there's always somebody thinking up something new.

And they think that intelligence -- the Patriot Act ought to be maintained. That sort of thing, they see as keeping on offense.

BLITZER: Another commitment he makes: I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders, identify every noncitizen in our nation.

This has become a hot-button issue.

CROWLEY: It has.

He's talk -- what Giuliani is talking about, he believes the fence should go forward, but he also thinks there should be a virtual fence, using drones, perhaps, unmanned drones, along the border. He also talks a lot about giving a biometric card to anyone that comes in that can be identified as someone who is a non-U.S. citizen, so that you can keep track of not only who's coming into the country, but who's going out of the country.

BLITZER: I will cut taxes, he says, and reform the tax code.

I take it he's not going to increase taxes?

CROWLEY: Not going to increase taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: He think this stands in sharp contrast to the Democrats, obviously, cutting taxes part of his sort of socially -- rather, fiscally conservative platform that he wants to run on.

BLITZER: And I thought it was interesting, this point he makes: I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, they could -- they could say something very similar.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

And this is -- as you know, abortion has been a sticking point for Rudy Giuliani among social conservatives in the Republican Party. They think that he does very well when he talks about reducing abortions. They point to his record in New York City, saying, listen, he reduced abortions there by over 100 percent by allowing -- giving more education to young mothers, telling them what their choices are, and pushing for adoption.

I have to tell you that these things that they talk about, they are going to go through piecemeal and flesh out some of the details. They consider this to be the vision thing.

BLITZER: So, I guess we can expect 12 speeches.

CROWLEY: Yes.

BLITZER: OK.

CROWLEY: Or some such.

BLITZER: Twelve commitments, 12 speeches.

CROWLEY: Yes, right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Candy Crowley and Mary Snow are both part of the best political team on television. And you know why.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

Coming up: pet projects on Capitol Hill. Are Democrats failing to live up to their promise to cut out budget extras?

And we're following the money. From your neighbors to the presidential candidates, you, too, can track the cash online. We will tell you how.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They're called earmarks, but some have another less flattering name for them. They are those funds set aside for lawmakers' pet projects. A lot of people call them simply pork.

Let's bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's watching this story for us.

There's some movement under way in getting some more light, shall we say, on this kind of appropriation, isn't there, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is. But not everyone is happy about it, Wolf. When Democrats came to power in this last election, they promised earmark reform. But now Republicans and even nonpartisan advocate groups say they have fallen short.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Earmarks, federal money for projects like building highways and even the infamous bridge to nowhere in Alaska, are known by pork by critics, or, in the words of Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is legislatively directed spending.

KEILAR: Whatever you call them, they're causing a stir on Capitol Hill. When Democrats took control of Congress, they promised to make lawmakers go public with their requests for funding. They delivered on that, but Republicans are lambasting them for putting off that disclosure until it's too late for projects to be challenged on the House floor.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: They promised us a more transparent process. They promised us a process that was -- had greater accountability. And, in fact, what we are getting is something completely the opposite.

KEILAR: Asked why Democrats are waiting to reveal the more than 30,000 earmarks in spending bills for next year, David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said there wasn't time, and blamed the last Republican Congress.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: So, we had to clean up your mess on the entire domestic budget. And we had to clean up your mess on Iraq before we could move on to our business. We spent the last five months cleaning up your spilled milk.

KEILAR: Obey says there will still be time to scrutinize the earmarks during Congress' August recess, before the spending bills become final.

But nonpartisan advocacy groups like Public Citizen say, it's not enough.

CRAIG HOLMAN, LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATIVE, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It violates the whole spirit of the reform itself. We really did expect that earmark requests were going to be an open book, so that all of America could sit there and take a look at who is requesting what earmark.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Although lawmakers and the public will have more time to look at and, if they wish, make some noise over some of the pet projects, only a small group of bipartisan congressional leaders will actually have the ability to strip earmarks out of the bills. And critics like Public Citizen call it a backroom deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about looking down the road? Will these earmarks be disclosed earlier?

KEILAR: Well, actually, yes. Obey said that, next year, he expects they will be included in spending bills when they're debated on the House floor. But, this year, he says, there's simply not enough time to put them in.

BLITZER: All right. Brianna, thank you.

Ever wonder which 2008 presidential candidate your neighbor is supporting? Well, there's a new Web site from the Federal Election Commission that lets you map campaign donations by state, city, and zip code.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. Tell us about this new map. What does it show us?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it shows us just where the candidates' support is in terms of campaign cash.

You take Mitt Romney, leading Republicans in terms of first- quarter money, you can see that he's got a strong showing here in California, the biggest donor state overall in first quarter, and, in Massachusetts, where he was governor, and also shown there in Utah, where a majority share Romney's Mormon faith.

For Democrat Hillary Clinton, senator of New York, not surprising, New York state there shows a big haul. But look at where exactly, zip codes concentrated around the Manhattan area, where Senator Clinton almost doubled the haul of Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor.

And, if we're talking about zip codes, what about zip code 90210? Hollywood cash a high target for Democrats -- Barack Obama reaped more dollars from California than from his home state of Illinois.

And you can zoom in here and see just who those Beverly Hills donors are -- all the figures on here from first-quarter reporting. This map's going to be updated when the FEC filings are done for the second quarter, July 15 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

John McCain is out West today. And he tops our look at where the candidates are on the trail. The senator from Arizona's in California, on the hunt for some campaign cash. He has three fund- raisers today. McCain finished behind Giuliani and Mitt Romney in fund-raising for the first quarter of this year. McCain's hoping for better results in the second quarter.

Barack Obama is also out on the West Coast. The senator from Illinois, he's in Los Angeles today, before reaching out to voters in San Francisco later in the day.

And rival Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is in Texas. It's the second stop of his Small Change for Big Change tour. That's what he calls it. The former senator from North Carolina is seeking small donations for his White House run. I assume he would like some large donations as well.

Up next: the immigration reform fight. Democrats say the ball is now in the Republicans' court. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We have done our job. It's not a question of Democrats doing anything. It's a question of Republicans supporting their own president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does President Bush have the clout to change the minds of GOP senators and bring an immigration compromise back to life? Paul Begala and Rich Galen, they're standing by.

Also in our "Strategy Session": the GOP presidential field after our New Hampshire debate. Will Mitt Romney's dramatic gains spread to other battleground states?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have got a new leader of the pack, at least in New Hampshire.

Our brand-new poll shows Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney making a surprising leap. It's part of today's "Strategy Session."

Joining us here, our CNN political analyst, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I will put the numbers up on the screen. You can digest and assess and tell us what you think.

Back in April, Romney was at 17 percent in New Hampshire. He's now up to 28 percent. Giuliani's gone down from 29 to 20. McCain's gone from 29 to 20. Fred Thompson, who is about to announce his formal announcement, has gone up from 3 to 11. He did not participate in our debate.

All right. I will ask you first, Paul, what do you assess Romney's dramatic improvement, at least in New Hampshire?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Pretty impressive.

I think one thing is proximity. He was the neighboring governor in Massachusetts. But I think some of it is also advertising. He's got Alex Castellanos, one of the best in the business, who has been advertising. And he's got endless amounts of money. He's raised a lot. And, as much as he raises, he's got more back in his piggy bank, because he's a wealthy man. And I think those things have helped.

I do find it, as a Democrat, a little comical, because Republicans across the country excoriated John Kerry, calling him a flip-flopper. And now conservatives especially are flocking to a man who, five minutes ago, was pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights. In fact, he used to attack Ted Kennedy because Teddy wasn't sufficiently pro-gay rights.

He's flip-flopped on those issues, and prospered. So, maybe flip-flopping now works among Republicans.

BLITZER: What do you think, Rich?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the advertising part is probably the central part.

I thought he did OK in the debate. Frankly, I thought all of the front-runners on both sides did what they -- when we talked about it, did what they needed to do.

And, by the way, you did a great job in leading it.

But I think that the advertising -- $700,000, $800,000 in New Hampshire is a lot of money, maybe a couple of million in Iowa. And those things matter. It helps. That's why you do it.

The other ones can't keep up. They can't spend that kind of money this early, because everybody now else, including, I think, Mrs. Clinton, even though she has a ton of money, is conserving cash, because they know they're going to need it immediately after the Christmas buying season's over to advertise for...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And McCain and Giuliani aren't even going to run in that Iowa straw poll...

GALEN: Exactly why.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... in Ames, Iowa, in August.

Let's take a closer look at these numbers. We asked, in our CNN/WMUR poll done by the University of New Hampshire, which candidate is the most believable? McCain comes up at 27 percent, Giuliani at 21 percent, and 19 percent for Romney.

We asked, which candidate is the strongest leader? Giuliani, McCain, Romney all came in 26, 26, 25, basically, all the same. But take a look at this. Which candidate is the most likable? Romney with 32 percent, Giuliani at 28 percent.

John McCain, Paul, only 12 percent of registered Republicans or voters likely to vote Republican in New Hampshire think he's the most likable.

BEGALA: Maybe that's why I'm not a Republican. What's not to like?

I don't support McCain on issues, but he's not only likable. He's admirable. He is an American hero. And I don't know that he wants to stress that too much in the campaign. A lot of heroes don't like talking about their heroism. Bob Dole was that way.

But it's a little striking. And I guess, if I were McCain, I would be a little disappointed, because it seems to me the media certainly loves him. They would revoke my...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The last time he ran in New Hampshire, back in 2000, he was very likable. He was a darling among a lot of Republicans and independents.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... funny. He's smart.

GALEN: He was the darling among a lot of independents eight years ago, more than Republicans.

But, as we were talking in the green room a little bit earlier, when you want to -- when you want to talk about presidential candidates and likability, I have two words: Richard Nixon.

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: He was elected twice, both times with fairly wide margins. So, I'm not sure likability counts nearly as much as leadership skills and some...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He was virtually alone on that stage on the issue of immigration reform. He made a very passionate statement, saying, you have got to pass this legislation.

And maybe Republicans didn't like that.

BEGALA: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They found him believable, but they just don't agree with him, I guess.

BLITZER: Yes.

The president was up on Capitol Hill today, making his case, appealing to his fellow Republicans to come around and give this legislation a shot.

Let me run a little clip of what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of effort. We have got to convince the American people that this bill is the best way to enforce our border. I believe, without the bill, it's going to be harder to enforce the border. The status quo is unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Rich, let me start with you. Can he deliver? Yesterday, he said, I will see you at the signing ceremony, when he signs this legislation into law.

What do you think?

GALEN: Well, as we saw with the Iraq vote, I mean, the -- even a weakened president has enormous political power in modern America. It started with FDR, and it hasn't given up.

On this one, I think what he has got to do -- it really comes down not so much to the president, but to whether or not the Republican leader and the Republican whip, McConnell and Lott, can convince the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, that they can -- that they can control the amendment process.

You know, Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Democrat -- a Republican from Texas, said one of her problems with this bill is that it never even went through a committee. They did it in a room together. And they brought it out to the floor. And they don't -- they don't want to give us a chance to amend it.

And I think she has got a point.

BLITZER: The argument, though, was that, last year, they had months and months of hearings, a lot of committee review of similar legislation.

GALEN: You can't do this in an even-numbered year. It's got to be an odd-numbered year.

BLITZER: And, so, that's why they didn't need all the committee review this time, all the testimony and all that.

BEGALA: But I have never seen an important presidential initiative with a -- a dumber presidential strategy behind it.

I'm sorry to be disrespectful. But he went out, the president did, two weeks ago to Georgia, and he insulted the Republicans, said they don't want to do what's right for America, the Republicans who oppose his bill. That's no way to get Republican votes.

Then, on Sunday, his press spokesman went on some of the shows and attacked Harry Reid, the Democratic leader. They need Harry Reid to resurrect this bill.

He only has right now, the president, seven Republican senators -- seven. His best chance is to get -- he just needs three votes to pass this, the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. And he ain't going to get any of them. GALEN: Well, I think that, again, if Harry Reid is convinced that the Republicans will limit the amendments, and not just put poison pills in, that this has a -- this has a chance of getting through the Senate. The House, I don't believe it's got a prayer.

BLITZER: Rich Galen, Paul Begala, thanks for coming in.

BEGALA: Thanks.

BLITZER: And still to come: the FBI director flying high aboard a luxury jet. Jack Cafferty standing by with your thoughts, your e- mail on that question.

And later: The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, he's standing by live at the White House. He will be speaking to us about the president's new push to get immigration reform passed. Can Mr. Bush get Republicans to fall in line?

And Michael Moore is taking his latest film -- it's entitled "Sicko" -- into the political arena, along with his criticism of the health care industry. We will have a live report on what he's doing today.

Stick around. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. Check them out.

In Saint Petersburg, Russia, folk dancers perform to mark the Day of Russia holiday.

In Northern Ireland, schoolchildren get caught in severe flooding, as they try to leave a park.

In New York City, brides stuff their faces during a cake-eating contest.

In Singapore, a street performer with a TV on his head travels in a passenger tunnel -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

Fred Thompson tops our "Political Radar" right now. The former senator from Tennessee is not an official candidate for president yet, but he's rising in the polls. Thompson has jumped to second place in a new national survey of Republicans.

The Bloomberg/"L.A. Times" poll has Thompson at 21 percent, trailing only Rudy Giuliani and ahead of John McCain. Thompson has taken the first formal steps toward a White House run, hasn't declared his candidacy yet officially. We expect him to do it early next month.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at CNN.com/ticker.

You hear that music, Jack? That's the music for the Political Ticker. It sounds like an arcade of some gunshots. But that's dramatic music.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's awful.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: It's just -- it's awful music.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: When is John McCain going to figure this out? He's got a guy who is not in the race polling better than he is, right?

BLITZER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: At least in that "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg poll.

CAFFERTY: Well, in any poll. A guy who is not in the race is doing better than you are. Hello?

The question this hour: Did you see anything wrong with FBI Director Robert Mueller using a $40 million Gulfstream jet meant for counterterrorism in order to fly to speeches, public appearances, and field offices?

Al in Lawrence, Kansas: "Apart from the excess greenhouse gases, the use of imported oil, the waste of taxpayer dollars, and the total disregard for the elected officials in Congress, I have no problem with it."

G. writes: "Perhaps a liberal scum like you" -- I love when letters start out that way -- "Perhaps a liberal scum like you should rather be reporting on why Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi considers the same $50 million jet inadequate for her needs, and demands to be carted around in a $100 million Boeing 757 operated by the same special services Air Force squadron as that Gulfstream jet you're so sanctimoniously concerned about."

Richard in Seattle: "Jack, the FBI director's extravagant executive perks are not justified by security concerns, because, after all, commercial air transportation is well-protected against terrorism. Or maybe it isn't, and he's just afraid of flying with the rest of us."

Aaron in San Jose: "Mr. Cafferty, I say absolutely. If the plane is already owned by the government, shouldn't it be in the air, rather than on the ground? Does fuel for the Gulfstream cost more for fuel for the Cessna Citation you mentioned that used to transport a past director? I think you know the answer to these questions."

Alex in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, which is one of my favorite town names: "Who's going to stop him, Jack? Who's going to stop anybody up on Capitol Hill from doing whatever they damn please? They're above the law. They write the laws. They cover each other's backs. Rarely do we see prosecutions for the amount of wrongdoing that is reported on a daily basis."

And Roxie in Moorhead, Minnesota: "Dear Jack, perhaps Robert Mueller could ride chair on Nancy Pelosi's jet. What's next? Am I going to find out the Capitol's head janitor has a government- furnished Gulfstream, too?"

Have you ever been to Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, Wolf?

BLITZER: No, not been there.

CAFFERTY: Me either. We should check it out.

BLITZER: Sounds like a lovely place.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

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