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THE SITUATION ROOM

Analysis of Democratic Debate in Iowa; The Mitchell Report

Aired December 13, 2007 - 15:25   ET

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


BLITZER: And so there it is, the Democratic presidential candidates, six of them. They've just wrapped up their final debate before the Iowa caucuses.
Welcome to this expanded edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, along with the best political team on television.

We're going to have complete analysis of what's going on on this presidential -- in this presidential race. Also, the latest on the baseball steroid scandal. Much on that more coming up momentarily.

But let's get some immediate reaction to what we've just heard, the Democrats' last chance to debate before the January 3rd caucuses. The best political team on television covering all of the angles. Gloria Borger, John King, Jessica Yellin. First, though, to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, I want to play this little clip and then we'll talk about it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will review every trade agreement. I'm going to ask for revisions that I think will actually benefit our country, particularly our workers, our exporters. And I'm going to go to the international community and get the kind of enforceable agreements and standards on labor and environment that we have been seeking as Democrats. Because we need to make it clear to the rest of the world that we are an open society, we believe in trade, but we don't want to be the trade patsies of the world. We want to have an equivocal, balanced relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: By raising questions about NAFTA, among other things, which of course her husband and Al Gore, who was then vice president, helped push through the Congress. This was an interesting tone that the -- arguably the front-runner -- took.

Candy, hold on a second. Because we're having a little trouble with your audio. I'm going to come back to you in a moment. Gloria what do you think? Gloria Borger she's our senior political analyst. There was a very polite tone throughout these 90 minutes of this debate. I'm not sure there were a whole lot of bombshells or anything that came forward, but we did get a little bit additional insight into these six Democratic presidential candidates. GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well first of all, all of them delivered at the end of this debate, Wolf, this ode to Iowa, saying that Iowa deserves to be first because the voters there take what they're doing very seriously and they don't believe in front-runners and don't like the national media, and that's all fine with all of these candidates. But I think you did see Hillary Clinton in that clip really differentiate herself a little bit from her husband on the free trade agreement. She didn't say that it needed to be repealed. She said that it needed to be revised. She didn't go that far.

But one thing you didn't hear from Hillary Clinton a lot was all of this talk about experience. I'm the most experienced candidate. Today what she really told us was, in fact, that she's the candidate that works the hardest for you. And that's why you have vote for her. So a little bit of a subtle change in her message there.

BLITZER: And then all of them being very, very -- as I say -- polite. No real digs, no real feuding going on, at least during these nearly 90 minutes. Stand by, Gloria.

John King, our chief national correspondent, he watched, he listened, he's on the ground in Iowa. John, listen to this other clip we selected from what Hillary Clinton spoke about, involving change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Everyone wants change. Well everybody on this stage has an idea about how to get change. Some believe you get it by demanding it, some believe you get it by hoping for it. I believe you get it by working hard for change. That's what I've done my entire life. That's what I will do as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, John you're just in New York now, just got back from Iowa. Change, that's the real motto, though, if you will of the Barack Obama campaign which he's ridden really successfully.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the Edwards campaign Wolf. And what you saw there was, you're right, this was an incredibly jovial and friendly discussion between the Democrats. But that was about as pointed as it got. Some candidates hope for change, Senator Clinton means Senator Obama. Some candidates demand change, Senator Clinton means Senator Edwards. What she's trying to do is say she can work for change, that she has the experience to get change, not just talk about change. And that is her problem in the race right now.

Voters want something new, they want something different, they want change. And increasingly in part because of the critiques of her rivals, she is identified with the past. At times she benefits from nostalgia from the Clinton administration. But at times it hurts her, because voters do want something new and different. So she was trying to make the point that she can deliver change. Back to Gloria's point about saying that she works for you, she said it again in that snipet there. Wolf, that is a trademark line from Bill Clinton. Whenever he was in trouble, he looked the voters in the eye and said they are coming after me because I want to help you. It's a Clinton campaign tactic. We'll see if it works in the final three weeks in Iowa.

BLITZER: John, I want to bring Jessica Yellin -- she is in Iowa right now, she was watching and listening to this very carefully. What did you think about this whole focus in on the word change?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is a challenging issue for Senator Clinton because this campaign and this race in general have been about change, change from President Bush who is so unpopular and what the Democrats can do to be the real change candidate.

The problem, as John and Gloria have pointed out, is that Senator Clinton has a dual message that seems to conflict with itself. One is that she's the person with the most experience because she's been a Washington insider and yet she's the outsider who can make some change. It's a very hard argument for her to make. And what we saw her try to do today was to say that because she has all this experience, she can be the one to really transform Washington.

But, again, very difficult. And it has been a winning issue for Obama, because he's the one that voters have received as the one who is most capable of being a true, fresh outsider. And it seems that Senator Clinton is still struggling with how to hone this message so that it really works for her.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jessica.

I'm going to get back to you.

Candy Crowley is with us in Iowa, as well. We see a lot of reporters behind you.

I want to play you a little clip of what Senator Barack Obama, Candy, said about this whole notion of change. We heard from Hillary Clinton.

Let's listen to Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can only do it if we have the courage to change. If we can bring the country together, if we can push back against the special interests and if we level with the American people about how we're going to solve our problems. That's the kind of campaign I've tried to run. And that's the kind of president I intend to be. And I ask that all of you caucus for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you think?

What do you think about this theme we've been talking about?

Or give us some other reaction, some other thoughts that jumped at you during the course of this Democratic presidential debate.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, actually, that the themes of this campaign have not changed very much until recently. It has always been Barack Obama or John Edwards talking about the changing the ways in Washington, Barack Obama talking about changing the players in Washington, passing the baton to the next generation.

Hillary Clinton has talked about change plus experience. They have always believed that, you know, her simple presence is change. She would have been the first -- she would be the first female president. So that has worked very well for them.

What's happened over the past couple of weeks is, as she has gone increasingly negative, as those polls begin to go even in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton has gone out and started to attack some of her opponents. And what this has done is remind people of some of the negative things they feel about Hillary Clinton. So it's when she sort of got off message that those poll numbers began to come down. And I think you saw today -- though there was a subtle hit at both Barack Obama and John Edwards -- that this was a very pleasant, a back to the positive, you know, presidential looking Hillary Clinton. And that's what they're try to go do as they go forward in this next three weeks.

BLITZER: John King, three weeks to go, exactly, until the January 3rd Iowa caucuses. That's a long time, given the fact that a lot of Democratic likely caucus goers -- they say they're inclined to vote one way, but they're not necessarily all that committed.

KING: Well, Wolf, we've seen this in past campaigns. Iowa voters say it -- roughly half, sometimes 40 percent, but somewhere in that ballpark -- they make up their mind in the last week. And they're even, they would say now, in the polls that they might support Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, Governor Richardson, but they're open to changing their minds. That's why these debates are important. And that's also why, looking forward -- again, a very jovial presentation by the Democrats today.

The question now is in a climate where people are getting ready for the holidays, in a state where they traditionally say they do not like negative campaigning, what will the tone of this campaign be over the next three weeks?

It's an interesting question because if you're looking for space, if you're Senator Clinton and you're trying to get momentum back, do you go negative? Do you try positive?

We're seeing it on the Republican side, as well.

It's a very interesting and unpredictable political climate right now in a state that always is the surprise of presidential politics. BLITZER: Gloria has covered a few of these campaigns out there.

What do you expect -- what do you think we should be looking for among the Democrats over the next three weeks, going into the Iowa caucuses?

BORGER: Well, I think we have to look for what John was just talking about, which is this sort of metamorphosis of Hillary Clinton from somebody who spoke about experience so much that her problem became that she looked more and more like an incumbent. And an incumbent is not what people are looking for in an election that's about the word we've been talking about -- which is about change.

So she's trying to reposition herself and, also, in a way, to humanize herself. An ad out today using her mother, talking about her daughter being in the audience, even talking about, gee, trying to lose weight as a New Year's resolution. This is going to be a different kind of Hillary Clinton. We'll have to see if she continues to attack and how Obama reacts to this new Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by for a movement.

I want to go back out to Iowa right now.

This, the last Democratic presidential debate before the first major presidential contest. It just wrapped up only a few minutes ago, as you saw live here on CNN. The candidates had their say. It's time for voters to have their say. It's time now for voters to have their say.

In our Political Ticker, we're gauging reaction to key moments with the help of some electronic meters. When lines go up on the meter, it means a positive reaction to something the candidates said. When the lines go down, it means a negative reaction.

Mary Snow is following all of this -- the feedback -- with a select group of undecided Democratic voters.

Once again, she's in Johnston, Iowa.

All right, give us some of the immediate reaction of what you saw during the course of this hour-and-a-half debate -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, well this was a very -- considered a very tame debate among the candidates, this is also one -- several people in this room here today, after the debate ended, said could help them make a choice for whom they will caucus for in three weeks.

Let's look at some of the moments where we saw a definite reaction. One came from Senator Obama. He was talking about Medicare and saving money. Watch the line as he continues to talk, saying that things need to be changed in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We are not going to make some of these changes unless we change how business is done in Washington. The reason that we can't negotiate for prescription drugs under the Medicare prescription drug plan is because the drug companies specifically sought and obtained a provision in that bill that prevented us from doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: That was obviously one moment that got a strong response. Also, when the candidates were talking about education, that really resonated with the people here in this room -- 23 registered Democrats who are undecided.

Take a look at how they responded when John Edwards was talking about his education plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to radically change No Child Left Behind. And if that doesn't work, we should get rid of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Well, those were two of the strongest moments.

However, we are talking with Mark Holub. Wolf, we spoke with Mark before the debate started. He said he was undecided -- wavering between Senators Clinton and Obama.

Mark, you said that you've made up your mind now, right?

MARK HOLUB, IOWA DEMOCRAT: Absolutely. I decided to go for Senator Clinton.

SNOW: Why?

HOLUB: I thought she was terrific in the debate. I thought she hit some major home runs and I think she was so specific in all of her answers. And I think she really showed she could be a great leader.

SNOW: For you, as an Iowa voter, what were some of the specific things that really resonated with you, that made you decide after seeing this debate?

HOLUB: Well, I think as a Democrat, she talked about some of the core things we care about -- education, you know, the economy, especially. I was so glad they spent so much time on the economy -- about what they're going to do about it -- because it's a disaster.

SNOW: All right.

So, Mark, thank you for participating...

HOLUB: All right. SNOW: As we thank everybody in this room. And, Wolf, right now, we have two professors from Southern Methodist University who are analyzing all the data. We'll have more results on the reaction to this debate from these Iowa residents.

BLITZER: And we're also going to tell our voters -- our viewers, that is -- who these potential voters out there liked and didn't like and who they think won, who they're likely to vote for now, if they've made up their minds.

Mary, a lot more coming up from you, as well.

Our coverage only beginning right now. We're watching several important stories, including the reaction to this Democratic debate.

Also, another huge story we're following -- the former U.S. senator George Mitchell, has issued his much awaited report on performance enhancing drugs in baseball. We're going to have the news on that front.

Also, we're standing by live to speak with Senator Chris Dodd, fresh from the debate stage in Iowa. He was one of the six candidates up on that stage.

What does he make of the new flap between the Clinton and Obama camps over past drug use?

He's standing by. Senator Joe Biden standing by, as well.

And did one Democrat come out a winner today?

Two Democrats, Donna Brazile and Stephanie Cutter -- they're our strategists. They're standing by to give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Lots more coming up.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to have full coverage of the scandal involving alleged steroid use by current and former greats in major League baseball. We're going to be speaking live to former Senator George Mitchell, who headed this investigation over the past couple of years. We're also going to be hearing from Bud Selig, the commissioner of major league baseball. Extensive coverage coming up on this huge story today. Don't go away. We'll bring it to you.

But let's get reaction now to what happened at this nearly 90 minute Democratic presidential debate.

Joining us, one of the six men and women on that stage. That would be Senator Chris Dodd. He's a Democratic presidential candidate, the senator from Connecticut. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

First of all, I want your reaction. It got emotional at times, today. It was a very subdued debate. I thought it was very, very polite. It didn't get bitter at all.

What did you think?

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I think people are -- what I've said all the way along in this campaign, Wolf, and that is that's the last things Americans want to see at this point. We've had a diet of that constantly for the last six or seven years and they're anxious for some adults with some maturity that are going to confront these issues. How hard we're going to fight is not the issue.

Can you get any results done for the American people?

People woke up this morning and did not wonder whether they were a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or liberal. They wondered whether or not they were going to have a job, if they got sick, would their health care be there for them, are their kids safe and getting a good education and can anybody lead this country by bringing us together?

That's what they're anxious for. And I suspect some of the tone to this debate that has -- with some candidates -- has been rather sharp in the past. They're finally getting the message that the Americans don't want to hear that talk. Tell us what you've done. Tell us what you can do. But I need to know about ideas that can produce results.

BLITZER: Even as you were debating on that stage for some 90 minutes, your friend, your former colleague George Mitchell, was releasing this report on alleged steroid use -- links to major league baseball players, current and former greats. I'm sure you haven't had a chance to review it, by any means, since you were up on the stage.

But what does this say -- what does this say about our country right now that this kind of situation can develop with our national pastime?

DODD: Well, first of all, we have a first class individual in George Mitchell. You couldn't ask for a better person to do this review and to head this up. And I'm a fan of Bud Selig. I think Bud Selig is doing a great job in getting his arms around this.

Some want us to just forget about it and move on here. This is not the first time. We've been through these periods in our past with scandals associated with sports. This is one that clearly, by getting in front of, identifying it for what it is and doing everything we can to discourage this kind of usage, not only among athletes today who are professionals, but among young people, is going to help.

And so I applaud what George Mitchell and Bud Selig are doing. BLITZER: Your other colleague, Hillary Clinton, she apologized to Barack Obama on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport for what one of her co-chairmen in New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen, suggested to a reporter in the "Washington Post" by saying this -- and I'll read it to you: "It will be -- when was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?"

Referring to the use of drugs, as a teenager, that Barack Obama wrote about in his autobiography years ago. It's -- he's formally apologized now himself, Bill Shaheen, the husband of the former governor of New Hampshire, Jean Shaheen, saying he wasn't authorized -- he wasn't speaking on behalf of the campaign.

But what about the charge, though, that Republicans would use this against Barack Obama if he became the Democratic nominee?

DODD: Well, Republicans are apt to do anything here. This is not new. Just ask John McCain what they're apt to do -- what he went through In South Carolina four years ago. So I -- you're trying to define what some of these people would do. There are no limits, apparently.

But, again, I come back to the point I made earlier, Wolf, and that is this kind of campaigning is what America is sick of. They're nauseated by it. They want to know exactly -- tell me where you've been, what you've done, how can you help us get back on our feet again at home and make a difference to our nation around the world?

If you start dwelling off on these side issues here, I think it's a -- some may think it's great politics. I think it's dangerous politics. I think it will be rejected by the American people.

BLITZER: You suggested -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Senator -- education would be your top priority if you were president of the United States.

Is that right?

DODD: Well, I've been asked over the years what's the single most important issue. It's a tough question to answer. I get asked it all the time. And you can make Iraq or health care or energy policy. But education is central, Wolf, to us here. It's -- our constitution is a document that requires an educated population to support it. Economically, to grow and prosper in the 21st century -- every issue that you can raise with me here, I would point to education -- a good, well-educated population...

BLITZER: Because your critics...

DODD: ...as being critical to its success.

BLITZER: Your critics still say the country is at war right now -- isn't war and peace a higher priority for a new president than education, as important as education is?

DODD: Well, education is the underlying issue. To convince people we need to do something else depends upon an educated population. It's the issue that transcends all other issues, in my view, in this country. Jefferson said it better than I could ever say it 200 years ago. He said: "Any nation that ever expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never possibly can be."

That was in 1804. That was true at the beginning of the 19th century. Think how much more true you can say that it is on the outset of the 21st century.

BLITZER: How well do you have to do in Iowa to keep your campaign going?

DODD: Very well. And -- but what I like about Iowa, Wolf -- and you know this, as well. You've covered this for a long time. Iowans make up their minds late in the process. Tom Harkin this morning -- I was talking to him on the floor of the Senate before we came out for the debate. He said this is wide open. He said anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't know my state, doesn't know Iowans here.

They're sitting back. They're taking a good calculation of where things are. And they're shopping. And they're shopping beyond the so- called two or three leading candidates here. The national media hardly talks about anyone else. Local media and Iowans talk about much deeper candidacies than just those top three.

So I feel very good about where we are. We've got a great staff. We've got 13 offices open. I've got family and friends from Connecticut and across the country out here campaigning for us. We've got a good message that I think resonates with Iowans and I'm very confident we're going to do very well on January 3rd.

BLITZER: All right.

Good luck, Senator.

Thanks very much for coming in.

DODD: You bet.

Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to be speaking with another Democratic presidential candidate in the next hour, Joe Biden. He's standing by live, as well.

So which candidate does this focus group that we assembled out in Iowa think did the best job in the debate?

Mary Snow will have more on who these undecided Democrats were impressed with and who they were not so impressed with.

And some of the biggest names in baseball mentioned in George Mitchell's report on alleged steroid use in baseball.

How widespread of a problem is it?

We have the report and a lot more coming up, including George Mitchell himself, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Much more on the Democratic presidential debate coming up.

But let's get some breaking news right now -- that stunning report on alleged illegal steroid use in major league baseball unveiled just a short time ago. And it named some of the biggest names in the sport.

Let's go right to our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, who's watching the story. Quite a bombshell. Give our viewers who aren't necessarily following this all that closely the basic headlines.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this report that came out this afternoon -- more than 300 pages worth -- is the result of 20 months of investigation by Senator George Mitchell and his colleagues. And it does taint some very big names in the sport of baseball.

We're talking about people who had appeared to be clean. And now we have allegations that they did receive either steroids or human growth hormone.

Among the ball players mentioned in this report, Roger Clemens, the seven time Cy Young winner -- one of the greatest pitchers of all time -- Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees. Also, his friend and colleague Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, another pitcher. They two -- the two of them allegedly received some of these performance enhancing drugs from their trainer -- their personal trainer.

David Justice is also mentioned, Mo Vaughn and Miguel Tejada, an All Star shortstop.

So some very big names among the dozens of professional major league baseball players mentioned over here.

Now, Senator Mitchell did say that this is by no means a complete report. He said he did not receive all that much cooperation. His primary sources are just a few in number. And said clearly, there are many, many more ball players who have been using performance enhancing drugs. At the same time, he said he does not want to see the professional baseball players punished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE MITCHELL, MLB STEROID INVESTIGATOR, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The commissioner should give the players and everyone else a chance to make a fresh start. We're all human. We all make mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHERNOFF: And the senator is also saying that he wants professional baseball to change the way that it does test for these drugs. He wants a very aggressive, independent, year-long testing program done -- Wolf. BLITZER: Did he give all those players whose names were mentioned in this report with alleged links to steroid use or human growth pills -- did he give all of them a chance to respond before releasing this lengthy report naming all these people?

CHERNOFF: Absolutely. They did try to interview these ball players. And almost all of them declined to be interviewed. We did call Roger Clemens' attorney. We didn't hear back, but our affiliate station in Houston did interview his attorney. And through his attorney, Mr. Clemens is denying these allegations.

BLITZER: All right.

Stand by, Allan, because we're going to have a lot more coverage on this coming up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM. These are truly startling findings that were released today about alleged steroid use in baseball. The former senator, the man who conducted this investigation, George Mitchell. He'll be joining us live in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about it. I'll be asking him some questions. We're also going to bring you a live news conference, coverage by the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig. That's scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Eastern -- a little more than half an hour from now. Lots more coverage coming up on this.

Also coming up, much more on the Democratic presidential debate. They came to Iowa to try to score some political points.

So how did the Democratic candidates do?

Donna Brazile and Stephanie Cutter -- they're standing by to name their winners, their losers.

And later, they were undecided when the debate began.

Are they decided now?

We've been talking to the people whose votes will count on Caucus Day -- only three weeks away from today.

Much more of our coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Six Democratic presidential candidates -- they debated for nearly 90 minutes.

Let's get some immediate reaction.

Two Democratic strategists are here -- Donna Brazile and Stephanie Cutter.

Donna, what did you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I thought this was a great debate because the candidates had an opportunity to give their closing arguments. And the number one thing we heard is that they're going to be the candidate of change. Barack said he's going to be the change you can believe in. Hillary said she will work hard to change the country.

BLITZER: This was the last debate before the January 3rd caucuses -- exactly three weeks from today.

What do you think?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that to the extent that you thought that Hillary Clinton had lost her footing, she got it back today.

BLITZER: How do you explain it?

What did -- what did she do?

CUTTER: I think that any time you talk on substance, Hillary does very well. And she did very well today. She had some good moments about energy independence, about the type of change that she'll achieve. And her closing argument was fantastic.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

BRAZILE: I agree. But, look, the second tier candidates, once again, did a great job. Bill Richardson was on point, talking about education. Joe Biden had some of the best lines in the debate. Chris Dodd was clearly ready and prepare prepared to talk about his experience. But I also thought that John Edwards was another candidate who said I'm going to fight for the middle class. I'm going to make sure change happens, as well.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we're going to have our Strategy Session coming up this hour, as well, Donna and Stephanie.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

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

Happening now, We're going to take a closer look at the brand new approval ratings and whether lawmakers are living up to the do nothing label.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, some of the biggest names in baseball linked to illegal steroids. A stunning report released by former Senator George Mitchell just a short while ago. I'll be speaking live here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Senator Mitchell. And we're going to bring you a news conference shortly by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Lots of news on that front coming up.

Also, the Democrats' last chance to debate in Iowa before the caucuses. Undecided voters tell us if they now have made up their minds.

Plus, Senator Joe Biden -- he's standing by to join us live from the debate, as well.

And it keeps getting worse -- Democratic leaders in Congress preparing to end the year with many lousy reviews. We're going to take a closer look at some brand new approval ratings and whether lawmakers are living up to the do nothing label.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On the debate stage in Iowa today, we saw Democratic presidential candidates trying to run on their records. But that may not necessarily be so easy for the four current members of the U.S. senate. Our brand new poll shows the American people are even more sour on the Democratic-controlled Congress. And right now, leaders on Capitol Hill don't have a strong list of accomplishments to prove them wrong.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is standing by with the new poll numbers.

But let's go to Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill first.

She's watching all of this.

Democrats were rushing back to Washington to participate in some voting, then rushing back to Iowa.

What's the latest -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they sure did rush back, even though it's make or break time.

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