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NAACP Links Tea Party to Racists; "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" Under Fire; New Polls in Battle for Senate; President Obama in the Danger Zone; Can President Really Help Dems?;

Aired October 20, 2010 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now -- a new attempt to link the Tea Party movement to racists. Tea Party leaders say it's a liberal smear tactic less than two weeks before election day.

Also, the oily danger that's been lurking underneath Brooklyn. Residents say it's a breeding ground for cancer that should have been cleaned up decades ago.

And a bizarre flashback to the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing and Anita Hill's charge of sexual harassment -- why did Thomas' wife demand an apology from Hill almost 20 years later?

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

It's a familiar, but still disturbing charge leveled against the political movement that may define this midterm election -- a new report accusing the Tea Party of embracing racist supporters. The NAACP going public with its findings just 13 days before America votes.

Is there a substance to the report or is it simply a political stunt?

Kate Bolduan has been looking into this for us -- Kate, what are you finding out?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the NAACP is calling once again that the Tea Party repudiate racism that the civil rights organization says they have evidence still exists among the ranks.

The Tea Party says this is much more stunt than substance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(VIDEO CLIP OF PROTEST)

BOLDUAN: (voice-over): A new report backed by the NAACP details what it calls ongoing links between some members of the Tea Party movement and various hate groups in the United States -- serious charges NAACP president, Benjamin Jealous, says should give every American pause.

BENJAMIN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: On one side, you have people, represented by Freedom Works and Dick Armey, who tend to talk mostly about small government, fiscal issues, so forth. On the other, you have people who have their roots in very violent groups in this country, who really are -- are xenophobic in pushing against the trend in this country of greater and greater diversity.

BOLDUAN: The 90 plus page report the authors say took a year to research looks at six of the most popular Tea Party groups. It profiles Tea Party leaders they claim have direct ties to white supremacist organizations like the KKK, also anti-immigrant groups and independent militias. But the report doesn't necessarily break new ground. For example, it includes highly publicized incidents like this one during the health care debate. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver allegedly being spit on. Some conservative activists say it never happened.

And many Tea Party activists the NAACP connects to hate groups aren't among the Tea Party's current national leaders. Ben Jealous himself acknowledged the Tea Party movement as a whole cannot be condemned.

JEALOUS: We have never called the Tea Party racist. We are not attacking the Tea Party. We are calling on the Tea Party to repudiate the racists in their ranks.

BOLDUAN: Tea Party leaders called the report "a liberal smear tactic." Tea Party Express chairman, Amy Kremer, calls it "ridiculous."

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: This is a tactic that the -- the Democratic Party is using to stir up their base and to get us off message. Aim, we're not going to fall for it. We are here to focus on the fiscal issues -- fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets. That is what we're going to focus on. This is completely bogus.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BOLDUAN: The NAACP and the report's authors were careful to note that they aren't trying to charge the entire Tea Party movement as racist, but rather point out that Tea Party leaders need to take additional steps to distance themselves from the fringe.

But with less than two weeks to election day, it leaves election watchers to wonder, Wolf, how much of this is political.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure that that's the accusation there's going to be out there 13 days before election day.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kate.

Let's go to the White House right now, where President Obama is taking dramatic action that could outrage the gay community and many supporters. Today, the Justice Department filed an emergency request with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop an order allowing gay troops to serve openly in the military.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is monitoring all of this for us -- Suzanne, a lot of people are understandably confused. The president wants to do away with the policy of "don't ask/don't tell." But today, he's going to court, through the Justice Department, saying keep it in place for now.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Wolf.

And I want to explain this, because what the president believes is that "don't ask/don't tell" will die. And the only way that it is truly going to die, however, is if the law has changed. The only folks that can change the law is Congress. So that is why the president is saying he will work with members of Congress. In this case, it's the Senate, because the House has already agreed to repeal "don't ask/don't tell." But he's going to work with the Senate after the midterm elections to try to repeal this law.

Now, there are two tricky things about this, Wolf, as you know. First of all, he has got to get them engaged, after the midterm election, during that lame duck session before January, because January is when the new Congress comes in -- very likely to have more Republicans and make it more difficult for him to repeal "don't ask/don't tell".

The second thing that he has to do is he has to allow for the military to weigh in on this. They have a report that's due in January -- rather, December -- December 1. He says he's got to have this done in an orderly fashion and, therefore, the military has got to issue this report explaining how they're going to make this transition to allow gays to openly serve in the military -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But, as you know, Suzanne, as the -- in the aftermath of this most recent decision, the U.S. military yesterday said that they would start recruiting openly gay men and women to serve in the military, like Lieutenant Dan Choi, the West Point grad, the Vietnam -- the Iraq War veteran.

What happens to people who are now being recruited to come into the military?

MALVEAUX: Wolf, this is where it gets kind of confusing here, obviously, because you have people like Dan Choi, who's trying to reenlist. Now, this is perfectly acceptable legally right now. But this could change in the courts day to day as you have different types of things that happen through the courts.

That is why the president and the Obama administration say the only way that you're going to have this law repealed and to have it stick, to have it die completely, is if you actually change the law. And that's why they're focusing on this, because people like Dan -- his fate can change from day to day depending on how this plays out in the courts. That's why they're focusing now on the law -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of gay activists, Suzanne, say the president could simply sign, as commander-in-chief, an executive order that would do away with this policy, sort of like what President Truman did in the -- after World War II, doing away with a segregated U.S. military, integrating the military.

A lot of gay activists want him to do that.

Why doesn't he?

MALVEAUX: There are a couple of things here.

First of all, the Obama administration the president himself said at that forum with BET and MTV that that's actually not true, that he cannot issue an executive order because the law itself, in "don't ask/don't tell," specifically says that the president doesn't have that option. So I there is not that -- the -- the same case as what Truman was facing back when he was integrating the military.

What the president can do is some changes along the fringes, the edges here, and limit the number of gays who are being prosecuted or kicked out of the military at this time. But the two things he can't do is issue this executive order to make it go away. And he cannot change the policy without actually having Congress change the law -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you point out, the next Congress probably will make that even more difficult than this one, given the number of conservatives and Republicans who almost certainly will be elected.

Suzanne, thanks very much.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

BLITZER: Now this just coming into CNN -- our brand new poll numbers from two critical races in the battle for control of U.S. Senate.

Let's bring in Michael Scherer of "Time Magazine" -- "Time" magazine being our polling partner -- along with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Let's go through some of these.

Michael, let me start with you.

In Alaska right now, look at this three person race -- Lisa Murkowski, the write-in candidate, 37 percent; Joe Miller, he's the Republican candidate, 37 percent; Scott McAdams, 23 percent. He's the Democrat.

It's been a long time since a write-in candidate won a seat in the United States Senate.

MICHAEL SCHERER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Since 1964, Strom Thurman in South Carolina. I think the big question here is whether the write-in -- the writing in actually affects it. If we go down to election day with a dead heat race, 1 or 2 percent get confused when they get to the polls --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Can you spell Murkowski?

SCHERER: Yes. Or where do you put --

BORGER: Right?

SCHERER: -- where do you put it on the paper or something like that or they just get -- they just decide that it's easier to check a box when they get to the polls, that could swing this race, if it stays this close.

BLITZER: Because we asked another question in Alaska -- likely Murkowski voters, "Are you confident that you know the correct procedure for write-in votes?"

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Ninety-three percent said yes. Six percent said no. They have to write, basically --

BORGER: And, you know --

BLITZER: -- Murkowski, although they don't necessarily -- correct me if I'm wrong --

BORGER: They don't.

BLITZER: -- have to spell it correctly.

BORGER: They don't have to spell it correctly. But, you know, 2 or 3 percentage points can really make a huge difference here in the -- in the turnout. And we were talking before about this race, you know, because Murkowski has aligned herself with Ted Stevens -- the late Ted Stevens and -- even in an ad. She's the one who said, I can bring home the money to the state of Alaska. And Alaska depends a lot on that money, right?

SCHERER: It's the -- it's the state of bacon.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHERER: For decades, it's been that way.

BLITZER: And they vote late there. We're going to be up late there on November 2 --

SCHERER: That's right.

BLITZER: -- waiting for this --

SCHERER: And they take a while -- BLITZER: -- the results and they'll --

SCHERER: -- to count their votes.

BLITZER: -- certainly a long time.

BORGER: But per capita, they get more per person in that state -- I think it's $500 -- compared to Arizona, you get $17 a person.

BLITZER: How do you say thank you, Ted Stevens?

BORGER: Thank you, Ted Stevens.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, let's go to --

BORGER: So that's what she's saying, right?

BLITZER: Let's go to Florida, Michael, right now. In -- among likely voters, our new CNN/"Time" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Marco Rubio, the Republican, 46 percent; Charlie Crist, the former Republican, now Independent, 32 percent; Kendrick Meek, the Democrat, 20 percent.

This is consistent with all of the polls we've seen lately. He seems to be pulling ahead, Marco Rubio, pretty impressively.

SCHERER: If anything, he's pulling ahead. And -- and Charlie Crist is -- is caught right now in an impossible position -- an angry electorate. People tend to go to the edges. They go to the ideological fringes. Crist is saying I'm the guy in the middle, but he can't really define himself, because if he goes left, he loses the right. If he goes right, he loses the left. And -- and, you know, he's really stuck right now.

BORGER: But he -- he's like the middle child --

SCHERER: Right.

BORGER: -- you know, trying to kind of please everybody. And he really can't do it. Threading the needle is very difficult in this election. People are voting yes or no. They want you to take sides. They don't want maybes.

SCHERER: I think the other thing is that Marco Rubio, if you remember, months ago, he was sort of thought of as a Tea Party candidate, but much more so than other Tea Party candidates. He's really acquitted himself well. He comes across really well now. I don't think there's much question --

BORGER: Well --

SCHERER: -- of whether he's -- he's going to be a zany --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's also speaker of the -- BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- of the state assembly --

BORGER: So --

BLITZER: -- the state's Senate over there.

BORGER: You know, the -- this where his experience actually, as a political candidate, comes in handy. We've seen the problems that a Christine O'Donnell has had or a Sharron Angle has had. He actually has had to run and get elected to office before.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this.

Don't go too far away, guys. We're going to continue. We've got more politics.

The President and Mrs. Obama, they're trying to get you fired up. But are they wasting time appealing to voters in a danger -- in a danger zone for Democrats?

And 100 gays outed in print and especially -- essentially put on a public hit list. What's going on? We'll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This hour President Obama is heading out west for his longest campaign tour this year. He'll stop in Oregon tonight, then head to Washington state, California, Nevada, and wrap it up in Minnesota on Saturday. The vice president, Joe Biden, also on a western swing including stops in Nevada, California, and Washington state. And Michelle Obama, the first lady, is following their footsteps, heading to Washington state and California next week.

The Democrats' biggest guns are pulling out all of the stops to help struggling incumbent senators, including Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, and the majority leader, Harry Reid.

The first couple also teamed up on an brand new on-line video to try to rally Democrats around the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. It's Barack and Michelle.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Election day is almost here and people are getting fired up.

B. OBAMA: And we need you to stay fired up all the way to November 2cd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger once again.

The West potentially could be a danger zone for the Democrats, so they're not taking any chances.

BORGER: No, they're not. It's really interesting that the White House has decided they want to send the president to places that he can actually help and not do any harm. And when you have to send your president to a state like California, always reliably Democratic, Washington state, always reliably Democratic, it means you have problems there.

And as you pointed out, Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, two incumbent senators, has some close races there and they actually believe that Barack Obama can help them in those races not only raise money, but help them get out the voters.

You know, there are a lot of states where privately members of Congress and senators will tell you, you know, we're happy to have the president raise some money for us. But honestly, let's not have them appear in the state with us, because we don't want to have to make that decision of whether we appear on the podium next to him.

BLITZER: It was underscored in our brand new CNN/"Time" magazine poll right now which has the disapproval among likely voters. For example, in Ohio, 53 percent disapprove of the job he's doing; 63 percent in Arkansas disapprove of the job; 55 percent in Florida you see right there as well.

BORGER: Yes, you know, that's not going to help. That 63 percent is not going to help Blanche Lincoln much in Arkansas. You know, Wolf, she's been having who out there? Bill Clinton, right, not Barack Obama.

But I spoke to a senior advisor. He said, look, there are a few things it president can do. Obviously, as we were talking about, he can raise money. He can raise enthusiasm. He can bring out those younger voters, bring out African-American voters.

And they also believe that he can help shape the debate, Wolf, because he is talking about the choice -- the choice between taking the country forward, as he says he will do, or taking it backward, which is what he said the Republicans will do, take it back to the days of George W. Bush.

But the senior adviser also said to me, look, Gloria, just remember, the president himself is still polling better than Republicans are polling. That's kind of damning with same praise, but he is.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. All right, thanks very much, Gloria, for that.

President Obama is in Oregon today to campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. The race is statistically up in the air, a position that Republican Chris Dudley should be used to. Dudley played, for example, in the NBA, played center in the NBA for 16 seasons, the latest former NBA player to make the jump to politics.

Former New York Knick Bill Bradley ran for president of the United States back in 2000. He was a U.S. senator from New Jersey, as you remember, before that.

Sacramento's current mayor is a former NBA all-star, Kevin Johnson. Hall of famer Dave Bing is now the mayor of Detroit. And former Maryland Congressman Tom McMillan played for multiple teams before retiring to pursue a successful political career.

By the way, the NBA legend, friend of our show, Charles Barkley, has long discussed running for governor of Alabama, but has never made a formal announcement. But with Charles, Sir Charles, as we like to say, you never know.

It's a sound that makes you cringe.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's whooping cough. And now the state of California is suffering its worst outbreak in decades. We're going to tell you what officials are urging people to do right now.

Plus, check this out -- this chimpanzee is on the loose and he managed to terrify one neighborhood. We'll give you the details. All that and more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The new health scare in California. Kate Bolduan monitoring some of that story and other stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on?

BOLDUAN: Just in time for flu season, Wolf, we're now talking about whooping cough.

California is reporting the most whopping cough cases in 60 years. The state's department of health says there have been almost 6,000 confirmed, probable, or suspect cases of the disease. Officials are urging people to make sure their family's immunizations are up to date, because you can start to lose immunity after five years.

And another health story to tell you about, get ready for your health insurance costs to rise. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports employees' shares of premiums for a family plan is up on average to 14 percent to about $4,000. And it's not just premiums going up in 2011, there will also likely be higher deductibles, out of pocket maximums, and more expensive doctor visits and drugs.

And some shocking revelations in a new book by a retired Secret Service agent. Darryl Blane (ph) said he almost shot Lyndon Johnson accidentally just hours after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Blane says he pulled his gun on LBJ who he thought was an intruder approaching Johnson's home that very night. He also dismisses rumors that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe saying he saw Monroe leave the president's infamous birthday party with other guests.

And check out this video -- a chimpanzee on the loose in Kansas City. The chimp terrorized people in this neighborhood jumping on cars -- you see him walking in the neighborhood right there -- knocking on windows and pushing trash cans through the streets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONYA JENNINGS, WITNESS: Stayed out there for a little bit and then came back and looked -- I pulled my visor down and he was looking in the vehicle getting ready to hit it again. He punched the hood of the car. Got down, went to the passenger side and he opened up my door. And that's when I opened my driver's side door and ran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Not surprisingly.

It turns out this isn't the first time the chimp, Sue, has gotten loose. In 2003, truckers called police after seeing Sue in the cab. One trucker tells KNBC, Sue's owner has had her since she was a baby and that she's ridden shotgun cross-country. The owner has been in legal trouble before over Sue's escapades.

BLITZER: I assume the owner will be in legal trouble right now.

BOLDUAN: Hope they don't sue Sue.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Sue doesn't have to worry about that. Thank you.

A firewall for democrats may be in peril. Governor's races now could make or break the reelection for President Obama in 2012. Stand by, we'll explain.

And dozens of gays in one country now actually have to fear for their lives after a shocking tabloid report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now -- a TSA official now under fire. We're digging deeper on allegations he stole money from non-English-speaking passengers.

A massive oil spill lurking underneath New York City for years. Now there are fears it's putting residents at risk.

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

Gay people in Uganda are fearing for their lives this hour after a newspaper splashed dozens of names on its front page. The eye- popping hit list which is calling for those in the group to be targeted and arrested is sparking an international firestorm.

CNN's David McKenzie has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What grabs you is a bright yellow banner, "Hang them," it reads. The headline, a call to action, a hit list of what this tabloid calls 100 of Uganda's top homosexuals.

Inside, portraits and home addresses of prominent Ugandans. The editor of "Rolling Stone," no relation to the U.S. magazine, says in this deeply conservative country, his paper is doing a public good.

GILES MUHAME, MANAGING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE": The aim of the newspaper is to expose the evils in society. And like any other newspapers, we are writing about. This is (INAUDIBLE) society and homosexuality is a big issue.

MCKENZIE: Already, gay rights groups say several people on the list have been attacked, some losing their jobs since being outed on the list. Activist Naomi Ruzindana lives in fear.

NAOMI RUZINDANA, HORIZON COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION: Every time I make a stand (ph) like any other citizen of east African countries, I'm implicated. And it's really has a negative impact on my life. Personally, it's a threat over my life.

MCKENZIE: The government said activists are lying. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and frowned upon by many. But a year ago, the Ugandan government went further by pushing for a bill that that would make some homosexual acts punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. After a worldwide outcry, that bill was shelved.

FIKILE VILAKAZI, DIRECTOR, COALITION OF AFRICAN LESBIANS: That's an invasion of that person's privacy. And they're doing it in the context where we know where homosexuality is illegal, you're basically perpetuating hate. You are perpetuating violence, even murder.

MCKENZIE: But activists say that the public space for gays on the continent is shrinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a feeling like somebody is cutting your throat.

MCKENZIE: Activists feel more Ugandans could be targeted because of the newspaper campaign. The media council in Uganda has suspended the paper but only because it wasn't registered. The editor said as soon as it's relaunched, it will continue the campaign against gays.

David McKenzie, CNN, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Here in Washington, President Obama convened a national security team at the White House situation room for a monthly meeting to address U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At the top of the agenda, working with the two-countries to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. The president also emphasized the needs to increase pressure on extremists, safe havens, and Pakistan on the wake of heightened attacks on coalition forces. President Obama later met with members of a high level Pakistani delegation visiting here in Washington to further discuss stability and security cooperation in the region.

Deep inside Afghanistan right now, civilians are struggling daily just to survive. But in many cases children are forced to bear the burden. Our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is there in Afghanistan and she has that part of the story.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in this Kabul neighborhood, the war could not be further away. Here, everyone is just trying to make a living.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Meet the boys of the mechanics yard. Young boys are sent here to work on cars and trucks by families desperate for income. The boys work ten hours a day, six days a week.

Fourteen-year-old Nazr Ahmed has worked here for the last year. He agrees to talk to us, the few words convey a young life of dreams and heart break. I never go out to play, he says, I just work here and don't have time for any fun. His boss pays him less than a dollar a day, the only income for a family of five, his father blinded years ago by a soviet rocket.

Nazr used to go to school, but he just works now. He dreams of going back to school and becoming a teacher. The boys here do have dreams of another life for themselves.

I don't want to be a mechanic. I want to be a doctor, says 12- year-old Azam. His father, Najibullah brings him here to cook lunch for the workers and then he can go to class.

Knowledge is good, education is good, he says, but most of these boys are poor and they just have to work.

As Nazr struggles here, he tells us why he wants to be a teacher. He says it's the best way he can serve Afghanistan. But for now, he and his family often go hungry on his small wages.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: For these boys, life is very hard. They may never get the chance to go to school or play soccer with their friends. And for something as simple as being late for work or not working hard enough during the day, their boss may beat them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr on the scene there. What a story. Thanks very much. Barbara is reporting all week from Afghanistan. Thirty-seven of the most important contests on Election Day may not be getting all of the kind of attention they should and deserve to get. See how they run as well. We're taking a closer look at some of the unique challenges for Asian candidates over the next 13 days until Election Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to one of the most important governor's races in the country. In the battleground state of Ohio, the incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland is locked in a battle with his Republican opponent, the former Congressman John Kasich

. Let's check out our brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, I should say our CNN/"Time" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll. It shows Strickland and Kasich neck and neck right now. Strickland leading by just one point of likely voters well within the margin of error.

Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is here. She's been looking at the poll.

The Ohio race is critical to Democrats and to President Obama. Tell us why.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf because one Democratic strategist after another describes Ohio as President Obama's fire wall, the key for him to win re-election in 2012. And they say in order to win Ohio, what they really need is Ted Strickland, the Democratic incumbent governor to stay in the governor's mansion.

The thinking goes this way. The president, they admit, is likely to lose many of the swing states that turned blue in 2008, a tough environment for a Democrat right now. But that's OK, the president can lose some of the swing states and still win the presidency if he holds on to Ohio because Ohio has so many electoral votes.

I caught up with both of the men running to be Ohio's next governor, Republican John Kasich. He says he sees this election as a wave and it's a banner year for Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ohio is ground zero. Barack Obama has been here 11 times and obviously this is somewhat a referendum on his presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: On the other hand, the Democrat said, if he wins, he can deliver the state to the president again in 2012. But --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: I think it will be very difficult. Because my opponent will obviously use the powers of the governor's office and all that comes with that to promote his candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: I should say I asked him if you don't win -- if the other guy wins, he says he thinks it will be difficult for President Obama to win in this state.

BLITZER: The president has a lot of clout in this election. It's not just the Ohio governor's race that's so critical right now.

YELLIN: That's right. Depending on how you count, there are nine swing states with governor's races this year, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, where Democratic governors are in danger of losing their seats. Those are some of the swing states we were constantly visiting in 2008 saying it would determine the presidency and that's where the governor's race is in dead heats right now.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers nationally why these governors races are so important. So important in individual states to be sure. They could have an enormous effect on the Congress.

YELLIN: They could. This happens every 10 years. Next year, we begin to redistrict. That's when states redraw the boundaries of the Congressional districts. Those boundaries can actually determine which party controls Congress.

The governors have a big say in what that professional map looks like. Governors can veto the plan. So they actually have ability to tilt the balance of power in Congress. By some estimates through redistricting, one party this year or next year, I should say, could lose up to 20 or 30 seats in the house.

BLITZER: That's why these races are so important. You'll be watching them for us. Thanks so much, Jessica.

It's a much closer race in Florida by the way to replace Charlie Crist as the governor of the state. Our brand new poll of likely voters shows Republican businessman Rick Scott just three percentage points ahead of his Democratic opponent, the state's chief financial officer, Alex Sink. The two candidates, by the way, debate tonight. That's within the margin of error, 49 to 46 percent. Bill Clinton campaigns for Alex Sink tomorrow in Miami. We're watching that governor's race as well.

She may only be a 20-year-old college student, but she's now the police chief in one of Mexico's most violent towns. Get ready, you're about to meet her.

And it was the sexual harassment allegation that nearly sank a Supreme Court nomination. Now, almost 20 years later, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas is asking Anita Hill to apologize for it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Typo in that CNN Time Magazine Opinion Research Corporation poll. The numbers were correct. Ted Strickland, the Democratic governor, 48 percent. John Kasich, 47 percent. The typo -- we had them both with Rs. Not a good idea. Strickland, the Democrat, Kasich, the Republican. It's neck and neck. Well within the margin of error.

Let's bring back Kate. She is monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM including the latest on that missing American man in Mexico.

What's going on?

BOLDUAN: Such a sad story.

David Hartley's wife, Tiffany is moving from Texas back to her native Colorado, we've learned. Hartley said her husband was shot to death by Mexican gunmen on Falcon Lake last month and no body has been found yet. Mexican officials recently suspended the search after the lead investigator in the case was beheaded. Tiffany Hartley's mother said the move doesn't mean they're giving up the search.

She's 20 years old and still in college but she's the new police chief of one of Mexico's most violent towns. Marisol Garcia who is studying criminal law was the only person who applied for the job. Police chief will be working on crime prevention programs and improving community relations. Good luck on that.

It's the righting of an ancient wrong. For the first time, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has posthumously admitted an African- American lawyer to the state bar more than 150 years because of he was denied for race. The order confirming the admission was petitioned by his great grandson and great-great grandson and his great-great granddaughter happens to be our Emily Atkinson who happens to be a producer/writer here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: She's an excellent producer, great writer. We're thrilled for the Atkinson family. 150 years late, but good work.

Is President Obama afraid to be seen wearing a head cover when he visits India? Next month there is some information coming out the White House. We'll discuss it in the strategy session. Stand by.

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BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us now are two CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist James Carville, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Alex's firm by the way is handling some media for a number of Republican candidates as well as the American Action Network this election season.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. It's 13 days to go until Election Day. James, let me start with you.

It seems to be a little bit of tightening in Pennsylvania. Sestak seems to be moving up a little bit. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin seems to be moving up a little bit. Realistically, with 13 days to go, can these candidates who have consistently been behind their Republican opponent actually win?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Generally the end of the elections, one party turns out a little better than we thought. It happened for us in '98. It happened for the Republicans in 2002. It happened again in '04. We don't know what it is. If the Democrats get a blow at the end, it will take some of them across the finish line. If the Republicans do, it will be what's referred to as a wave election. A lot of people get knocked down. I don't think we'll know that until the very end.

The one point I would make is that you hear people say the Senate looks a little better for the Democrats but the House looks better for the Republicans. I don't know if it's ever happened that the House has changed and the Senate has not changed with it. You know, they generally go in tandem. We'll have to see. Maybe this will be the exception. Maybe it will make for an interesting night.

BLITZER: You've seen plenty of elections, Alex, been consistently behind and all of the sudden in the final two weeks comes from behind to win. And recently in Massachusetts, Scott Brown behind Martha Coakley was behind and even the day before behind in the polls and then he surprised people by winning. So there's certainly plenty of historic precedent for a candidate behind to win on Election Day.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, a lot of the races, Wolf, you are right, that are a little separated now by a half a dozen points might tighten up at the end. For example Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are hugely Democratic states and Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 56 percent, and he carried Pennsylvania 54 percent.

So there are a lot more Democrats there than Republicans and at the end of the day, the voters and especially the undecided voters will vote on who I am and not what the candidates are, and what jersey I wear. So it is not surprising the tightening.

And over to the John McCain was elected as a maverick and it is like one of the aging rock stars, and you look funny on the stage, and in the last two years, he has been voting in lock step with Obama for the deficit and the opposite of how he got elected. So, he has a real problem.

BLITZER: We will see how the states do. And let me shift gears and talk about the story that appeared in "The New York Times." The president after the election is going to India and Indonesia and other countries on the international trip, but in India, there was talk that he would visit the golden temple and the story in "The New York Times" says he probably won't, because the tradition is if you visit the temple, you have to wear a head covering and presumably the story is that he does not want to be photographed to do that because of the commotion of whether he is a Muslim or Christian and I know you saw the story, James.

Let me ask you, and the White House, by the way is not answering the question of what to do there and say the schedule is still being worked out here, but would it be that bad if he went to the golden temple and wore some head covering which is the tradition in India?

CARVILLE: Well, right, now I suspect that the people in the India will read "The New York Times" and it is a huge story, and what the second most populous nation in the world, and the second biggest democracy in the world and complicated correlations with Pakistan to say the least with the nuclear bomb, and the president has to do what is best for the relations with the U.S. and India, and now that -- and I don't know this for a fact, but I surmise and I think that I am probably right, that this is now a huge story over there. So he may end up going regardless of what he has to put on top of his head.

BLITZER: What advice would you give him Alex?

CASTELLANOS: I would say wear a New York Yankees cap, and you will fix the problem that way. The president has a couple of issues here. One is that there are a lot of people who believe that the president is more concerned that he is more of a citizen of the world than president of the United States, and what is he doing the day after the election going to India, and Indonesia anyway.

The voters are sending him a message, this election is about him, and he has spent too much, and gone too far left, and Congress in Washington, and the day after the election, he's going to act like he is a waiter at one of the restaurants that you can't get his attention. He is leaving. That is a huge political mistake for him.

CARVILLE: I have to really disagree with Alex. I think to not respect people in a nation like that, to wear a baseball hat into a sacred place would not be funny.

CASTELLANOS: It was a joke, James.

BLITZER: By the way, forget about the baseball hats. They do not consider baseball caps appropriate when they visit the golden temple.

CASTELLANOS: It was a joke.

CARVILLE: I understand it was a joke. I am coming back and it is very good for U.S. and Indian relations to show respect.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, but James, the problem is not that he is paying respect, but he is going to wrong time. The day after he gets sent a message from the American voters he takes off. This is a president who has not paid attention to the economy for two years.

BLITZER: This visit has been scheduled for months and months and months in advance, guys.

CARVILLE: I don't think we need lectures on the economy from the Republicans. We will let it go.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

He is America's first Vietnamese member of Congress. Will that work for him or against him on November 2? And we'll take you to the place being called ground zero in the foreclosure crisis.

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BLITZER: Different racial and ethnic groups are hoping to make inroads on Election Day, but minority candidates oftentimes face special challenges. Here is CNN's special correspondent Soledad O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Joseph Cao became the first Vietnamese Congressman in 2008, it was not the only thing that made the Louisiana Republican different. I read an article that said you have Democrats who work for you.

REP. JOSEPH CAO (R), LOUISIANA: Most of my district staff are Democrats.

O'BRIEN: His win, against an incumbent facing criminal charges, allowed him to join a record number, more than a dozen Asian Americans in Congress.

CAO: We are becoming more of a voice in the public sector, and it is something that we have to do, because Asian Americans are underrepresented in the Congress, in the federal government.

RESHMA SAUJANI (D), NEW YORK CONG. CANDIDATE: Hello. How are you?

O'BRIEN: Reshma Saujani hoped to raise that number when she ran for Congress in New York's Upper East Side.

SAUJANI: I think that when our parents came, they cared about the foreign policy that was happening back at home, but now, there is like a passion for politics.

Thank you. You take care.

O'BRIEN: That has the political parties chasing the almost 9 million Asian voters. What are the issues that faces the Asian American?

TIM KAINE, DEM. NATL. COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, the Asian American covers a pretty wide swath from the Indian subcontinent out into the pacific, so the issues are very, very different.

O'BRIEN: It makes the Asian American vote elusive even to Asian American candidates.

DAVID LUBLIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, AMER. UNIV.: I think that Asian Americans need to seek office, as with other groups. Unlike Latinos and African Americans, they by and large have to do it with constituencies that are pretty mixed, because there are few majority Asian American constituencies in the country. O'BRIEN: In fact, Asian Americans make up five percent of the population but are the majority in Hawaii's first Congressional district. To win, candidates need to reflect local politics like Representative Cao, Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal or South Carolina's Republican candidate for governor Nikki Haley. She was born into the sec religion, but recently changed her campaign website to emphasize her conversion to Christianity.

I'm wondering in that particular case is it critical that she is Christian and takes her husband's last name?

LUBLIN: I honestly think that Christianity is more crucial, because a large proportion of the Republican Party strongly identifies with Christian conservative.

O'BRIEN: Saujani has this message for up and coming Asian politicians.

SAUJANI: You don't have to change your culture or religion and please don't change your name.

O'BRIEN: For Cao, it is about changing perceptions, because he has had to convince the overwhelming African-American and Democratic district that he can serve them better than his opponent an African- American Democrat.

CAO: My role is not to represent the Republican Party. My role is to make the right decisions is for the people down here based on the issues.

O'BRIEN: The Republican Party chairman says he is OK with that.

Is it helpful for the party if the candidates aren't actually supporting Republican issues?

MICHAEL STEELE, REP. NATL. COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Our job is to set the course, try to move as many of our (INAUDIBLE) if you down that ramp and, yes, you're going to go have some will go in a different direction.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's bring in Soledad right now? What are Joseph Cao's and Nikki Haley's chances, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Well, Nikki Haley has a good lead in the poll. She's expected to win. Cao, though, has a tough battle ahead of him, and it's kind of funny he plays both sides of the aisle a lot. When I talk to him, he would talk about his personal friendship with President Obama. Well, you know, his friend, President Obama has just done his very first taped commercial endorsement, and guess who it was for, it was for Congressman Cao's opponent. So, you know, so much for friendship and politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Friendship and politics (INAUDIBLE). Thanks, Soledad.