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Huckabee Surging; Oprah Draws Large Crowds For Obama Campaign

Aired December 10, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Republican Mike Huckabee throws another curveball into this presidential contest. We have some brand-new national poll numbers that show the 20087 campaign is getting even closer and even more unpredictable.

One of Huckabee's GOP rivals has a new strategy to try to bring him down. We're going to let you in on that issue that is key to Mitt Romney's hopes for bouncing back.

Plus, Al Gore drops new hints about his political future. Does the Nobel Peace Prize winner still have a presidential campaign in him after all? The best political team on television standing by to take on that issue and lots more.

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

Right now, another huge leap for Republican Mike Huckabee in his meteoric rise from single-digit candidate to a presidential front- runner. Our brand-new poll shows Huckabee now in a virtual tie with Rudy Giuliani as the top choice of GOP voters nationwide. The Democratic race is also tightening a little over three weeks before the first contest in Iowa.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us now from Iowa. He's with the CNN Election Express. He's watching this story for us.

What's the message that's coming out from this latest CNN poll?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Front-runners, beware. Someone is gaining on you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice over): Big shakeup in the Republican race. Last month, Rudy Giuliani was the clear Republican front-runner. Fred Thompson second, John McCain third.

But look at the race now. Mike Huckabee is breathing down Giuliani's neck, a statistical dead heat. Huckabee's support has more than doubled in the last month. Mitt Romney is now running third. He too has picked up support. It looks like his speech on faith and politics just before this poll was taken earned him some gains, but not with evangelicals, where Romney is still running fifth. The big loser? Fred Thompson, down to fifth place.

Huckabee now leads among conservatives and evangelical Republican voters. His support has nearly tripled among women. Huckabee scores well on likability and on representing Republican values. But Giuliani is still seen as having the best chance of beating the Democrat.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every poll shows that I would be by far the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton.

And the Democrats? Shakeup there, too.

Last month, Hillary Clinton was 19 points ahead of Barack Obama. Now her lead has shrunk to 10 points.

Clinton is still way ahead among women, but Barack Obama has made big gains with men, where he now leads Clinton. Last month, Clinton was leading Obama by 2 to 1 among liberals. Now Obama is 10 points ahead.

Democrats say Obama is most likable and least like a typical politician. But when asked who has the best chance of beating the Republican, Democrats say Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been standing against the Republicans, George Bush, and Dick Cheney, and I will continue to do so. And I think Democrats know that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Same thing is happening in both parties. Candidates are emerging who are likable and who appeal to the party's base. But Clinton and Giuliani are still seen as the strongest nominees -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating new numbers, Bill. Thanks very much.

Bill is out in Des Moines.

Now that Mike Huckabee is looking more and more like the Republican to beat, he's certainly getting the kind of intense scrutiny reserved normally for front-runners.

Our Dana Bash has the latest on Huckabee under the microscope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the issue now dogging Mike Huckabee from his past is a survey he filled out running for Senate in Arkansas in 1992, controversial comments about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.

(voice over): Fifteen years ago, Mike Huckabee called homosexuality an aberrant, unnatural, sinful lifestyle. Does he still believe that?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I do. I believe that -- let's understand what sin means. Sin means missing the mark.

BASH: He makes no apologies for his staunch belief then and now that marriage, any relationship, should be between a man and a woman, period.

HUCKABEE: If we didn't have that as the ideal, we wouldn't have a civilization that was able to perpetuate. So rather than read into something incredibly out of line, just read into the fact that I believe that the ideal relationship is one man, one woman for life. I believe in traditional marriage, and I believe in the family.

BASH: That kind of stance is endearing Huckabee to socially conservative voters who are helping propel his rise in the GOP polls.

It is harder for Huckabee to explain what he told The Associated Press in 1992 about AIDS patients, that he wanted to isolate the carriers of this plague.

HUCKABEE: My position then was that in the world of public health, the public health protocols call for isolating carriers of epidemics. And I did not suggest that we should do it. I'm just saying that it was an unusual approach that we had taken.

BASH: Yet, Huckabee expressed that view six years after the surgeon general made clear you could not get AIDS through casual contact and two years after this appeal from the Republican president...

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is only one way to deal with an individual who is sick -- with dignity, with compassion, care and confidentiality. And without discrimination.

BASH: Yet, Huckabee insists there was still uncertainty about AIDS in 1992 and equates it with last year's tuberculosis scare.

HUCKABEE: People from the left and right were just outraged that he might have infected them. Now, we know that this particular type of it probably was not that contagious and infectious to other people, but at the time there was this incredible concern. That was my point.

BASH (on camera): In that 1992 survey, Huckabee opposed spending more federal dollars for AIDS research, saying Hollywood AIDS activists should reach into their own pockets to help find a cure. On that, he has changed. Huckabee reiterated to us today here in Florida that he wants to boost federal spending to help find an AIDS vaccine -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We're going have a lot more on this phenomenon, Mike Huckabee. That's coming up later this hour. Let's take a look at the Democrats. When Oprah Winfrey talk, millions of people listen, they buy, they read. But will her fans also listen to her urging people to support Barack Obama for president? Right now, that's what many people are wondering after Oprah and Obama's speech-filled, crowd-pleasing weekend.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oprah.

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": Backstage, somebody said, are you nervous? I go, you're damn right I'm nervous.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have some had big crowds here in Iowa. We have not had this big crowd in Iowa.

CROWLEY: Oh, my. It was a dazzling weekend, a big O-blitz across three key states and every bit as much strategy as showtime, a political one-two step. She brought them out.

(on camera): But you really came for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oprah.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: He reeled them in.

OBAMA: Iowa, I need you to stand up, so that our children have the same chances somebody gave me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: More than half the Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa are female. Seven of 10 are 45 or older. This was about them. And she was about him.

WINFREY: I'm here to tell you, Iowa, he is the one.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: He is the one. Barack Obama!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: In South Carolina.

WINFREY: You know, Dr. King dreamed the dream, but we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. We get to vote that dream into reality.

CROWLEY: Almost half the Democratic primary voters in South Carolina are black.

OBAMA: The fire hoses came out, the dogs came out, but they kept on standing up. Because a few stood up, a few thousand stood up, and then a few million stood up, standing up with courage and conviction. They changed the world.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: South Carolina, we can change the world.

CROWLEY: And then New Hampshire.

WINFREY: He can bring us all together as one United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: As a United States, not the red states and the blue states and the left and the right.

CROWLEY: In New Hampshire, half the voters in the '04 Democratic primaries identified themselves as independents.

OBAMA: I want to summon the entire nation around a higher purpose, rally us around a higher destiny. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.

CROWLEY: Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Barack Obama hit the trifecta this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came for Oprah, hoping to hear something good from Barack Obama. And I think I did.

CROWLEY: Bingo.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He watched that piece with us.

You know, if Oprah ever wants to run for office, I suspect she would do incredibly well.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm sure she would.

Can you imagine if Hillary happened to be clicking around with the remote and came across that? I bet she was throwing things at her TV set.

(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: Israel, Wolf, is not buying into the new U.S. intelligence report on Iran, you know, the one that says they gave up their nuclear weapons program back in 2003.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the conclusion that Iran has given up its program will not change's Israel's view that Iran is still trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Olmert apparently told a closed meeting of his security cabinet that Israel has no reason to change what it's believed all along, that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, is developing weapons and rockets, and enriching uranium.

For years, Israel has been calling on the international community to act to stop Iran's nuclear program. And this has led some to believe that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities on its own.

Keep in mind, although Iran insists its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, the president there, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called several times for Israel to be wiped off the map. Olmert says Israel would work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to expose Iran's plan to develop nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, is in Israel for talks with leaders there. And, gee, guess what. No surprise. Iran is among the subjects expected to be discussed.

So, here's the question. When it comes to Iran's nuclear program, whom do you believe, Israel or the United States? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or you can post a comment on my new blog. All you have to do is go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf. Look for that smiling face. Click on comments, and then shoot your stick. You will find "Cafferty File" commentaries and video clips there as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Get ready for a lot of e-mail, Jack.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. See you in a few moments.

Jack will be with the beset political team on television. That's coming up shortly as well.

One CIA secret is out. But who knew about it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did they tell you at the time that they were thinking of destroys these videotapes?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: There wouldn't be any other reason to put that in my letter.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Congresswoman Jane Harman, a senior House Democrat, she's now talking about those destroyed CIA secret videotapes of terror detainee interrogations. What did the congresswoman know? When did she know it? Our interview, that's coming up.

And Al Gore is making some Democrats anxious. He's making some other people nervous. It involves his surprise answer when asked if he will run for president. You're going to want to hear what he had to say.

And days after President Bush pens a personal letter to North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, there's now a new overture to that secretive country. We will tell you what is going on.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back in 2003, only a handful of members of Congress apparently knew about those CIA interrogation videotapes that were later destroyed and are now under investigation.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

HARMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Now, you wrote a letter that's I know highly classified still until this day, but it's now been publicized, saying don't destroy these videotapes, once you became the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. The question is this: what did you hear that made you say to the CIA in 2003, a year after the interrogation, don't destroy these tapes?

HARMAN: Well, as you know, all these meetings are highly classified, and we sign oaths both when we're members of the Intelligence Committee and members of Congress not to disclose, and I take that very seriously. I became the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee in 2003.

BLITZER: Right. The tapes were made in 2002.

HARMAN: Yes. Briefings on this subject apparently started in 2002. I was not in those briefings. As a rookie ranking member two weeks in, I was briefed on interrogation matters. I was concerned enough about some of the things raised in the briefing that I wrote a highly classified letter, which I have asked be declassified, but it hasn't been declassified. But Director Hayden basically raised the subject last week, so I can say that in my letter, I say that any planned effort to destroy videotapes would be ill-advised.

BLITZER: Well, did they tell you at the time that they were thinking of destroys these videotapes?

HARMAN: There wouldn't be any other reason to put that in my letter.

BLITZER: So that's why you wrote the letter. And they ignored your advice later in 2005 and they went ahead and destroyed these tapes.

HARMAN: Yes. In 2005, I was still the ranking member. Our committee was investigating interrogation practices at the CIA. No one notified the committee that they planned to destroy the tapes or that they did destroy the tapes.

BLITZER: Well, that's a total contradiction to what General Hayden said in his letter to CIA employees last week when he said, the decision to destroy the tapes was made within the CIA itself. The leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago. That's true, you say that. And of the agency's intention to dispose of the material.

That's where you're saying that is a lie?

HARMAN: Well, I'm not saying it was a lie. I'm saying information I heard in a classified briefing in 2003 made me concerned and I wrote a letter saying don't do this. Two years later, when they did do it, they did not notify me, as ranking member, or Pete Hoekstra, who was then chairman, who has spoken out this weekend saying he didn't know anything...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, in other words, when he then goes on to say, General Hayden, Our oversight committees -- meaning the House and Senate intelligence committees -- also have been told that the videos were in fact destroyed, you're saying you personally were never told back in 2005 that those videos were destroyed.

HARMAN: I was never told that they were destroyed. The committee apparently was notified sometime this year. I'm no longer a member of the committee. I learned about it first from the media in the last several weeks.

BLITZER: Here's the explanation that General Hayden, who himself was not the CIA director in 2005 when the tapes were destroyed -- it was Porter Goss who was then the CIA director, a former congressman, a colleague of yours -- he gives this explanation why lower-level officials at the CIA destroyed the tapes.

Were they ever to leak, he writes to employees at the CIA, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al Qaeda and its sympathizers.

Does that sound right to you?

HARMAN: It doesn't sound adequate. Why did they make the tapes in the first place? Apparently, it was to be some kind of spot check to be sure they were following procedure. Why did they make them and then say that they would expose people and had to destroy them?

I also don't think it's credible that lower-level people made decisions about this program. I think there were directions from higher-level people.

BLITZER: Outside of the CIA as well?

HARMAN: I don't know, but I doubt it is the case, and we will find out. Congress fortunately starts investigating tomorrow.

BLITZER: Tomorrow there will be closed-door hearings, but do you trust the new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, to get the job done over the weekend? He announced there will be a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes.

HARMAN: Well, I think it's an early test of him, but I don't think the executive branch should investigate himself. That's been the problem, the M.O. of this administration for seven years.

BLITZER: But you agree with Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate...

HARMAN: No.

BLITZER: ... that there should be a special counsel?

HARMAN: Maybe we will come to that, but I actually agree with Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Congress should have a shot at doing this ourselves. After all, we were ignored in 2005.

He was then ranking member on his committee, as I was of the House committee. We were told nothing. And I think we should have a shot at seeing whether, in the face of our investigation, we were denied information by the CIA. If there are issues involving court cases, then I think the Justice Department has to investigate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jane Harman speaking with me earlier.

Coming up, Mike Huckabee, he's certainly rising in the polls right now. And he's getting a lot of new attention. And, apparently, one of his Republican rivals is not very happy. That would be Mitt Romney. He's out now with a brand-new ad that directly attacks Huckabee's record. It's over an issue Romney thinks could really hurt Huckabee's rise. We're watching the story.

And out in Colorado, there's chilling new information regarding that deadly weekend pair of shootings, two religious institutions, that have left five people dead. We have the latest.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things, Wolf.

Colorado police reportedly say the suspected gunman in yesterday's deadly shootings at a mega-church at a missionary training school was thrown out of the school three years ago. Police say the gunman had been sending hate mail to the school, a source telling CNN the suspect has been identified as Matthew Murray. Four people were killed in yesterday's attacks before a church security guard shot and killed the gunman.

The Supreme Court is upholding more lenient sentences in crack cocaine cases. They ruled today that federal judges have leeway to give shorter prison terms than those recommended under the U.S. sentencing guidelines. This comes as the Sentencing Commission is set to vote tomorrow on cutting prison time for nearly 20,000 inmates convicted of crack cocaine crimes.

And a moment of harmony between the U.S. and North Korea. The New York Philharmonic is expected to announce tomorrow that it will perform in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on February 26. The U.S. and North Korea have said they would increase cultural exchanges as part of the agreement to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear program.

So, Wolf, it's music to everyone's ears.

BLITZER: First a personal letter from the president to Kim Jong Il. Now the symphony is going over there. Who knows what is going to happen next.

Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Now that Al Gore has the Nobel Peace Prize, his thoughts may -- repeat, may -- be turning perhaps to the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't ruled out the idea of getting back into the political process at some point in the future. Don't expect to, but, if I did get back, it would be as a candidate for president, not in any other position. But I don't expect to ever get back into the political...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow. Is Al Gore dropping hints that he may want to get back into the political game? And are Democrats still interested?

Also, will the uproar over those destroyed CIA videotapes only get the spy agency's chief into trouble when he appears before Congress tomorrow? We're watching this story. And Mike Huckabee's stunning rise in our brand-new poll. Can his GOP rivals stop him?

Stay right here, the best political team on television standing by live to discussion that and a lot more.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: no comment -- the White House clamming up on the subject of those interrogation videotapes destroyed by the CIA. We're going to show why it's a tactic that now looks very familiar.

Also, new polls are delivering a warning to the White House hopefuls loud and clear. Front-runners, watch out. We're going to show you who is hot on their heels.

Plus, Al Gore picks up his Nobel Peace Prize and drops a hint, perhaps a powerful hint, about his political future -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

The White House is putting up a wall of silence around the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing harsh terror interrogations, refusing to comment, even as calls grow louder and louder for answers.

Let's turn to our White House correspondent, Ed henry. He's watching this story for us.

All right, so, there was some talk the other day, but now the White House says, no comment. What's going on?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Officials say they have to keep quiet because of all these investigations swirling around. But this is a convenient scenario for the White House that we have seen play out before.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Now that there are open investigations of the CIA's destruction of videotapes, President Bush isn't commenting, not even through his press secretary.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ins term of -- I can't talk about that particular -- I can't characterize the president's thinking on it.

HENRY: The White House counsel has ordered staffers to preserve all records relevant to the preliminary joint investigation launched Saturday by the CIA and the Justice Department.

And Perino says she's been told not to answer specific questions.

PERINO: To avoid any appearance of trying to prejudice that inquiry, it's appropriate and better for us not to comment.

HENRY: Administration officials did comment anonymously on Friday night to provide information that may help them, claiming former White House aide Harriet Miers told the CIA not to destroy the tapes. That begs the question of why Myers did not inform the president. But she is not commenting and neither is Perino.

PERINO: No, no. It's going to unfortunately be one of those briefings. I'm not able to comment on anything regarding that.

HENRY: The White House employed a similar strategy with former aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- eventually convicted of lying and obstruction in another CIA case.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And I can't get into discussing ongoing legal proceedings and that's a question relating to the ongoing legal proceeding.

HENRY: The White House brushed aside questions about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, saying they did not want to interfere with the investigation. Yet on Monday, when Libby announced he had ended his appeal, the White House still would not shed any light on what the president thinks about Libby disclosing Plame's identity.

PERINO: I did not have a chance to talk to -- a chance to speak to the president after this announcement was made this morning, and so I don't have his immediate reaction.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HENRY: Now, you'll remember, as well, that the president vowed in 2004 that he would fire anyone involved in that CIA leak. That never happened, of course. And that's why the big question hanging over these new set -- this new set of investigations is will anyone, in the end, really be held accountable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry at the White House.

Thank you.

Let's bring in the best political team on television.

Joining us, our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington.

Jack Cafferty is in New York. His best-seller is called "It's Getting Ugly Out There".

And out on the campaign trail in Le Mars, Iowa, our chief national correspondent, John King. It's chilly out there, John. Standby for a moment.

Jack, over the weekend, the Justice Department announced there's going to be a preliminary investigation into this discussion to go ahead and destroy these videotapes. There's a lot of hearings scheduled on the Hill. The CIA director is going to appear tomorrow behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

What do you smell is going on right now?

CAFFERTY: Well, you've got to wear a gas mask to get within 10 miles of this thing. The Congress told the CIA don't erase the tapes. The president's lawyer told the CIA don't erase the tapes. The Justice Department told the CIA don't erase the tapes.

Nobody told the president that the CIA was going erase the tapes, that they even had these?

I mean come on.

We're supposed to believe this?

I was born at night, but it wasn't last night.

Now you've got Michael Mukasey, the new attorney general, he's going to investigate this. He couldn't decide if waterboarding was torture during the hearings. Joe Biden says there ought to be a special prosecutor and he's right. Because if there's no outside independent counsel, they'll cover this thing up like you're burying tulips before springtime.

BLITZER: Well, is that a fair point, Gloria?

Because the White House said the president has no recollection that he ever knew about these videotapes. But Nancy Pelosi, when she was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, she was told about it. We heard Jane Harman. She was told about it.

Is it reasonable to assume that the president wasn't told about it but these Democratic members of Congress were told by the CIA about it?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I don't really know how the answer that question right now. I don't think we know the answer to it.

What's interesting to me is what's going on in Congress and in the presidential campaign. You have a presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who says let's have a special counsel investigate this. But then you have members of Congress who say no, no, no, no, no. We want to do the investigation.

Why do they want to do the investigation?

Well, first of all, they don't want to investigate themselves about what they knew and when they knew it. And, also, they also want to make this a part of the presidential campaign, because if they do this investigation, it plays out in the presidential campaign. If a special counsel investigates, it could take it well beyond the presidential campaign. So I think members of Congress are trying to have it both ways this time (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, I think you've made a good point.

John, you and I -- we've been around these stories for a long time.

What is your take on what's going on?

KING: Well, I think, Wolf, the saddest part of this is that -- and you do hear it playing out in the political campaign. And it has become a football back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans. But the saddest part is it is yet another blow at the credibility of a key institution of the United States government.

And when we travel here in a place like Iowa, people say they don't trust Washington, they don't trust the politicians. They question their credibility.

I was talking to John McCain about this the other day in New Hampshire. And he said if he were president, he would find out what happened. But, again, he said the biggest question for him is not about the investigation, it's not the politics, but the credibility of the Central Intelligence Agency is at stake and under fire yet again, at a time when we're talking about the new NIE about Iran. There's still the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

So there's a bigger question beyond the politics of this, as well.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Well, and it's not just the CIA's credibility. It's the White House.

I mean why do they even bother with these daily briefings?

Now you've got the White House press spokesperson who comes out and says we can't comment, we won't comment, we didn't know, there's an investigation. Next question. I can't talk about that. Check with me Monday. I mean they could cancel these things. There's no information coming out of this, whether it's eavesdropping without warrants, whether it's about secret prisons or abrogating the Geneva Conventions or waterboarding or the CIA tapes or any one of a whole list of other things. This credibility question goes to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the guy who sets the agenda for this country -- the president.

BORGER: But it is not a question of credibility, Jack. It's a question of competency. Take your pick.

CAFFERTY: It's both. Yes, well, or honesty.

BLITZER: You know, as the political fallout unfolds, John, let's talk a little bit about these new polls that we have -- national polls which many people say don't even pay attention, because what you have to pay attention to is what you -- where you are, in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

But in these national polls, we see some tightening of this race. Hillary Clinton is still ahead, 40-30 over Obama. Edwards at 14. On the Republican side, Giuliani is still ahead nationally, but barely within the statistical margin of error -- 24. Huckabee rising, 22. Romney at 16. McCain 13. Fred Thompson down at 10.

All right, give us a little take on the national polls, John, versus the polls in Iowa, because it's really close there on both sides, as well.

KING: It is. And the national polls are reflecting what we're seeing in the key states. And that -- national polls aren't all that important except when they do show significant momentum like this. And if you're Mike Huckabee, if you're Barack Obama, you are much closer in the national polls right now.

And why is that?

Because you're much closer in the states, as well, including here in Iowa; including New Hampshire, then on to South Carolina.

And the big question is are they getting closer in the big states that come later?

Because for Barack Obama and somebody like a Mike Huckabee or anybody in the Republican race, the question is can you sustain any momentum from the early states when you move into the big states, where you're going to need a lot of money -- Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, California and beyond?

If you have momentum coming out of the early states, you assume some fundraising money will come in.

But can you build up in the big states, as well?

This race is very fluid on both sides. It is changing dramatically and the new polls reflect that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold your thoughts for a second. We're going to pick up where John just left off.

But we're going to take a quick break.

And we also have a lot of other subjects to discuss with the best political team on television, including a new ad that could stir up some discussion over the immigration debate.

Plus, what would it take -- what would it take for Al Gore to get back into politics?

He talked about it exclusively to CNN when he was picking up his Nobel Peace Prize. We're going to have details of what he said.

And when it comes to Iran's nuclear program, do you believe Israel or do you believe the United States intelligence community?

Your e-mail is Jack -- that's jack's question of the hour on The Cafferty File.

Lots more, as you can see, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New polls are turning up the heat on the frontrunners in the race for the White House.

We're back with the best political team on television.

Jack, there's a new Mason-Dixon poll in Iowa. Among likely Republican caucus goers, it echoes what we've heard in several other polls. Huckabee now ahead in Iowa, 32 percent to Romney, 20 percent. Fred Thompson down at 11 percent. Everybody else in single digits.

What do you make of this Huckabee phenomenon?

CAFFERTY: It's unbelievable. I mean I don't remember seeing anything quite like it. I think Romney is -- you know, you can look at each individual candidate and you can see why reasons, perhaps, that they're -- that they're dipping a little bit.

But Huckabee seems to have zoomed in virtually out of nowhere. I think he did himself proudly in the debate -- the YouTube debate. He came across as a pretty level-headed likeable guy.

So far, some of the stuff they've dug up about him doesn't seem to have stuck. So, you know, they can talk about well he said this about AIDS or he said that about illegal immigrants' kids getting in- state scholarship tuition rates. But so far, he's kind of the Barack Obama, I think, of the Republican Party.

BLITZER: All right...

CAFFERTY: He represents a different vision and a breath of fresh air.

BLITZER: Gloria, you've been doing some reporting. The comments that he's making now about vetoing, if he were president, any lifting of the embargo against Fidel Castro's Cuba.

But what have you learned?

BORGER: Well, that's not exactly what he thought when he was the governor of Arkansas, Wolf. In fact, when he was the governor he wrote a letter to the White House saying that they ought to lift this embargo. He wrote the letter on behalf of the rice growers in his state, Tyson's Chicken. And he was acting like a -- like a good governor acts.

And when he was the governor, the White House then called him back and said look, we think you really ought to understand our point of view about what why we need this embargo against Cuba.

Of course, now he has changed his mind. He now agrees with the White House. And that's because he's getting some key endorsements from Florida state legislators, like Marco Rubio -- which he did today...

BLITZER: All right.

BORGER: ...who is the speaker of the Florida House.

BORGER: So he's changing his mind now that he's a national candidate.

BLITZER: And, John, Mitt Romney is going directly after Huckabee right now on the issue of immigration.

KING: Wolf, a new ad will begin airing here in Iowa tomorrow and it will test the power of advertising and money, and, also, the power of the illegal immigration issue. Iowa Republicans say the immigration issue is their number one issue. The Romney campaign is trying figure out how to stop, if they can, this Huckabee surge. And they have a tough new ad that says both of these men are former governors, both oppose abortion, both oppose same-sex marriage. But it says there's a key difference between them on immigration and it goes on to highlight Governor Huckabee's support, when he was in Arkansas, of tuition benefits and taxpayer funded scholarships for illegal immigrants and their children.

The Romney campaign believes that is the issue -- illegal immigration -- it can use to blunt Governor Huckabee. But this will be a key test, Wolf. Governor Romney has spent $4 million, almost on TV ads here in Iowa; Governor Huckabee $220,000. This is a key test of the potency of the issue and the potency of the checkbook.

CAFFERTY: But Huckabee is...

BLITZER: Jack, on the Democratic...

CAFFERTY: Huckabee has already got an ad up and running on immigration out there, doesn't he?

KING: He started a new one today, Jack, in which he's stressing securing the border. And what the Romney campaign is going to say in public and on its own ads is that essentially he's running away from his record. He had a much more liberal record as governor. But the Huckabee campaign is likely to come back saying there's things in Governor Romney's record, as well.

BLITZER: Gloria, on the Democratic side, Al Gore all of a sudden, once again, in this exclusive interview with CNN, hovering over this campaign. He told our Jonathan Mann in Oslo, Norway this earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't ruled out the idea of getting back into the political process at some point in the future. I don't expect to. But if I did get back, it would be as a candidate for president, not in any other position.

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: But I don't...

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK...

GORE: ...I don't expect to ever get back into this (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, what do you make of this?

BORGER: Let's take him at his word, Wolf.

CAFFERTY: Yes, please.

BORGER: Let's just say Al Gore is not going to run for president. But what's interesting to me is he hasn't endorsed anyone yet in the Democratic race. And I think that's because his advisers are saying to him if you can't endorse Hillary Clinton -- which I don't think he would...

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: ...then just stay out of it for now.

BLITZER: That was -- that's probably pretty good advice for Al Gore. The last time he endorsed Howard Dean it didn't exactly work out.

BORGER: It didn't work.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, thanks very much.

John, thanks to you.

Jack, stand by for The Cafferty File. That's still coming up. And Jack wants to know this -- when it comes to Iran's nuclear program, whom do you believe?

Would it be Israel or the U.S.?

Jack, standing by with your e-mail.

And another volunteer reportedly asked to leave Hillary Clinton's campaign. We're going to show you why.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show, that begins right at the top of the hour.

He's standing by to tell us what he's working on -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN tonight, we'll have all of the day's news and we're reporting on new evidence of the devastating impact of this country's crisis on our middle class. As many as two million families now in danger of losing their homes over the coming months, while banks and financial institutions are rushing to protect their interests.

We'll introduce you tonight to a remarkable man, the Governor Elect, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He'll tell us about his courageous fight to defeat corruption in his state -- considered the most corrupt state in the union. We'll be talking with him about that.

And elected officials across the entire nation should be taking notice. I'll also be joined by author Pat Buchanan, who has written an important new book, "Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology and Greed Are Tearing America Apart".

Join us for all of that and all the day's news at the top of the hour.

Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, it sounds good.

Thanks very much.

We'll see you in a few moments.

Let's get right back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, Israel has said, in effect, it doesn't buy the new NIE estimate on Iranian's nuclear weapons program being suspended back in 2003. They think they're still at it, still working on nuclear weapons.

And so the question we asked is when it comes to Iran's nuclear program, who do you believe -- do you believe Israel or the United States?

Benjamin writes: "At this point, it's hard to trust either side. The U.S. was wrong about the extent of danger posed by Iraq, while Israel would surely like to police the Middle East, regardless of the circumstances. We need to concentrate more now on how we're going to disarm a nuclear Iran peacefully than which sanctions to try to slap them with."

Tom writes: "By selection, CIA agents are skeptical and paranoid, so I trust their assessment. Israel is not able to be objective." Jay in St. Louis: "Israel historically has always had the best intelligence agency, and for good reason -- their survival depends on it. No change in this scenario, where they would obviously have better real time intelligence than the United States."

Tom in Norway -- Norway we're getting mail: "Sorry, I believe the IAEA has made it clear -- no nuclear weapons program. Israel and the U.S. have pushed this anti--Iran agenda so far that they are now unwilling to admit they're wrong."

Phil writes: "Both sources are prone to exaggeration, misinformation and outright lies. I can't wait to see the administration spin this. Let's follow Israel into World War III. We've already got two wars going, how bad could a third one be? If Israel wants to attack Iran, let them -- just as soon as our troops are out of the Middle East and out of harm's way."

And Jerry in Pittsburgh writes: "I have to say, I trust neither. Both parties have an agenda. Israel needs to look menacing to Iran and George Bush needs to look menacing to Democrats. I'm saddened to say I've learned to look at all world publics with so much salt that my blood pressure is soaring" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

See you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.

Let's check our Political Ticker right now.

Hillary Clinton's campaign reportedly has dumped a second Iowa volunteer who forwarded a hoax e-mail about Barack Obama. That message falsely accused Obama of being a Muslim possibly intent on destroying the United States. The Clinton camp has called false rumors attempting to tie Obama to the Islamic Jihad offensive and outrageous.

Former White House aide Louis "Scooter" Libby is dropping his appeal in the CIA leak case. His lawyer now says that continuing the litigation was simply too much of a burden on Libby's family. Vice President Dick Cheney's ex-chief of staff was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about his conversations with reporters about the outed CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson. President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence in July.

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

This wasn't your ordinary campaign rally -- not when you've got Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the queen of soul.

CNN's Jeanne Moos standing by.

She take a much closer look.

We'll 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.

In Baghdad, firemen work to put out a fire at an oil refinery. The fire was the result of an industrial accident.

In India, Tibetan children perform at a temple during Human Rights Day.

In Richmond, Virginia, a beagle wears a sign during a protest outside the federal court where Michael Vick was sentenced for his role in the federal dogfighting conspiracy case.

And in Bali, children perform a show outside a climate warming conference.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

It was more like a rock concert than a campaign rally when the Oprah/Obama express rolled into several towns this past weekend.

And CNN's Jeanne Moos has this Moost Unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maybe the votes aren't yet...

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEVIE WONDER: Signed, sealed, delivered -- I'm yours.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MOOS: But the music sure was uplifting.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Because your love...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Your love keeps lifting me...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MOOS: So catchy...

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WONDER: Ooh baby...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MOOS: the crowd even sang along.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Even danced along.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Right there under the B in Obama.

But it was Oprah's O that was in all the headlines. O-mentum, the O Zone, O Factor, the OO Show. The four rallies felt like a concert tour, complete with t-shirts and dancing Oprah.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Dancing Obamas.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Oprah even boogied when there was no music -- boogied to Obama's words.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: At these rallies, two first ladies were introduced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next first lady of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first lady of television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Oprah made her entrance to Aretha -- Aretha Franklin -- while Obama made his entrance to U2. And when someone yelled, "Oprah should be Obama's vice president"...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that would be a demotion, you understand?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: That was in Iowa.

By the time they got South Carolina, both Oprah and Obama spoke with a bit more of a drawl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

WINFREY: I didn't come here to tell you about no books.

OBAMA: She's got a bit church hat on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The accents may have been accentuated, but the music was the same at every stop.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Fingers twitching to attract a fleeting touch from the presidential candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

WINFREY: It's Obama time.

Is he the one?

I believe he is the one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: He's the one candidate who, instead of feeling awkward in the presence of music, barely restrains himself.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Even when Obama got warm and fuzzy about his wife...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

OBAMA: My rock, the love of my life...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: His wife and Oprah celebrated like girlfriends behind his back. Maybe they should package the track to the O-mentum Tour as a C.D.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Though even reviews like this don't guarantee election.

(VIDEO CLIP FROM OBAMA CAMPAIGN RALLY)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: What a tour that was.

This important programming note for our viewers. The "Des Moines Register" is hosting two debates in Iowa this week and you'll see them live here on CNN, along with a special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Wednesday, 2:00 p.m. Eastern for the Republican presidential candidates. Thursday it's the Democratic candidates' turn.

Our special expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM will start right after the debates end, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Two important debates coming up. And now, you can take the best political team with you anywhere, anytime.

Download the best political pod cast at CNNpolitics.com.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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