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Existing Home Sales Rise; Women Battle to Lead New Mexico; What Early Voting Tells Us; Is Celebrity Hurting President Obama?; Swimmer's Death Sparks Concern

Aired October 25, 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, President Obama is on the home tour for the ticked off Democrat who told him to take his endorsement -- and I'm quoting him now -- "and shove it." This hour, the campaigner-in-chief in a sticky situation in the final big push before election day.

Also, what would it take to elect Sarah Palin as president?

One journalist has come up with a dramatic scenario for what might happen, could happen, potentially, in 2012.

And there are a lot of questions about an America swimming star's final fatal race.

Will an autopsy prove that the problem was with him or with the water?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

When president landed in Rhode Island just a little while ago, it may have felt like another planet. Eight days before the mid-term election, he's desperately trying to drum up support for Democrats. But the Rhode Island governor's race is another story.

The president has very conspicuously failed to endorse the Democratic candidate, Frank Caprio. That's because Mr. Obama was endorsed in 2008 by Caprio's opponent, the former Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee, who's now running as an Independent. A Republican candidate, John Robitaille, is also in this very heated race.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

He's joining us from Rhode Island -- Dan, very interesting, just before this event, there was a chair there -- and we had a picture of the general treasurer, Frank Caprio. He's the Democratic nominee. He's the Democratic candidate.

What is going on?

Is Frank Caprio there? DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is not here. And as you saw that shot -- that video that was shot by Tim Garrity (ph), one of our shot photographers who saw that. A short time after he shot that videotape, that placard on the seat disappeared. Mr. Caprio was supposed to be here at this plant where President Obama is highlighting what his administration has been doing to help small businesses. But he's not here. We reached out to his spokesman, who said that he decided not to attend but instead went to some seven other businesses in the area.

As you pointed out, this is quite controversial here because President Obama has decided to stay out of this race. According to a White House aide, he did so out of respect for his good friend, Mr. Chafee.

But this morning is when Frank Caprio sort of took this to the next level, when he made strong comments about President Obama on a radio show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK CAPRIO: I never asked for President Obama's endorsement. You know, he could take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I'm concerned. The reality here is that Rhode Island's -- Rhode Islanders are hurting. Right, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We had one of the worst floods in the history of the United States a few months back and President Obama didn't even do a flyover of Rhode Island, like President Bush did when New Orleans had their problems. He -- he ignored us and now he's coming into Rhode Island treating us like an ATM machine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now, a political analyst here on the ground told me that he -- she believes, rather -- that he was acting out of two things; first of all, frustration, that he's been very competitive in this race but he's gotten no attention from the White House.

The second thing is that he's trying to appeal to Republicans with this rhetoric, believing that if he can pick up between 5 percent to 10 percent of Republicans, then perhaps he can win this race.

As for the White House, a top aide telling reporters that the president is very comfortable with how he has been handling this particular race and that, quote, "while he's doing everything to get Democrats elected, this is obviously an exception to that" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the folks there on the ground telling you about the way they think the president has handled this delicate situation?

LOTHIAN: Well, first of all, Wolf, where this -- when this whole thing broke this morning, what you're hearing out there from people on the ground or the buzz out there on blogs, as well, is that there's embarrassment. They believe that at least someone who wants to be the governor of the state should not be using that kind of language. And one person pointed out that for those who are still on the fences, those voters who might still be on the fence, that they could be swayed, this could backfire. They could be swayed in the other direction, again, believing that this kind of language is not something that one should be using, even if you don't agree with the president's politics.

BLITZER: And it's a pretty close race according to the polls, right?

LOTHIAN: It is a very close race. And, again, that's what -- that's -- that is why Frank Caprio is somewhat frustrated, at least according to some of the analysts we've been talking to, because he has even been leading at points during the race, the polls showing him up at some points. And so he believes that he should get some of the attention that some of the other Democrats have been getting across the country. He has not been not getting that and so he's frustrated.

BLITZER: A dicey situation.

All right. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Let's take a closer look now at the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, because a lot is at stake. I want to walk over to CNN's Tom Foreman.

You're -- you're here looking at the current situation. There are 59 Democrats, at least in the Democratic Caucus; 57 plus two Independents who caucus with them; 41 Republicans. They need 10 if they want to be in the majority, because if it's 50-50, the vice president, the president of the Senate, breaks the tie.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

That's exactly right, Wolf.

And you can look at these numbers -- 59 and 41. And you can easily say, gosh, that's hard fought them to make up the difference. But important to remember, always important to remember, remember, every time they lose one over here, they gain one over here. So each loss represents a movement on both sides.

This is where it looks -- how it looks right now. We're going to move forward, though, to the "what if" scenario. If you take some of those that seem likely to turn over -- Indiana, Arkansas, North Dakota -- if you said those were to turn over, for example, and become Republican, then what it comes down to, Wolf, is these nine that are flapping out here. And that's where all the focus is.

What's going to happen?

For example, out in Colorado out here, what if you were able to say that Ken Buck out here were able to turn things over, over Mr. Bennet there, and that turned red. And then you had a Pennsylvania turn over to Pat Toomey here over Joe Sestak, a tight, tight race there. And then some other place, like, say, Nevada out here -- if you were able to say in this state -- actually, let me get that one to clear off there so I can see it. Here in Nevada, if you had Sharron Angle, who's been giving Harry Reid fits out there, if she were able to turn it over, then, now look at the number, 47-47, just like that, with just those three extra ones picking up.

More importantly, though, Wolf -- and you know this -- part of the strategy here that's always worth bearing in mind, there are tight races, for example, in California, where Barbara Boxer, who's in a state that's long been considered completely state for Democrats, she's been considered completely safe, is getting really a tight run from Carly Fiorina.

As the Republicans pour money into this campaign, they know that the effect is it forces Democrats to put effort into protecting something they didn't want to have to protect.

And where did we see that last?

In President Obama's campaign. He did the same thing to John McCain. He did the same thing to Hillary Clinton -- forced them to defend states they shouldn't have had to defend and that allowed him to continue building up a lead.

That's what you're seeing right now as this goes on. And you can see, it doesn't take that many more people before you potentially have a big change happening out there in the file. And it's all based on this "what if" scenario of about nine seats, Wolf. So that's what everybody is going to be watching very, very closely in a week.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of to pundits think the Republicans will pick up six or seven, but it -- it's going to be really hard for them to pick up 10.

FOREMAN: In any event, it's very hard to pick up 10, as you said. And that still just puts them just on the brink there. But, as you also noted, if they pick up five, six or seven, it makes every move in the Senate even harder than it's already been for the administration.

BLITZER: Certainly. But if they lose the House, then it becomes a real nightmare for the -- for the president.

FOREMAN: It gets very hard.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that, Tom Foreman.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: The old definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, remember?

We're on the verge of giving control of at least one house of Congress back to Republicans.

Gee, that worked pretty well the last time, didn't it? And the Democrats, who have had the Congressional ball since 2006, have done what, exactly?

End the wars?

No.

Fix the economy?

No.

Run up the national debt?

Oh, hell, yes.

Speaking of the Democrats, while party leaders insist they will keep control of the House, most experts will tell you otherwise. But either way, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could lose her job.

How sad. If the Democrats lose control of the House, Pelosi is toast. But perhaps more interesting is even if the Democrats manage to keep control with a very slim margin -- and that's the best hope for them -- Pelosi could still be ousted as speaker. Several Democrats have already said they intend to vote against her.

In any case, it is quite possible that a week from tomorrow, the voters will bring some big changes to the political landscape in Washington -- or will they?

At the end of the day, we just keep electing a different version of the same losing proposition. It's like deciding whether to hit yourself in the head with a hammer or a baseball bat -- the results are pretty much the same, aren't they?

Here's the question, then -- how will things in Washington be different after the midterms?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: It's a good question, Jack.

Thank you.

CNN is the best place to be on election night. Join me and the best political team on television for up to the minute vote results, analysis of the outcome, what happens next. That's November 2. You'll want to watch right here on CNN.

No what -- no matter what happens on election day, New Mexico will have its first woman governor. But one candidate's victory will be a bit more historic than the other. We'll explain.

And it sounds like good news about the troubled housing market, until you read the fine print. You've always got to read the fine print.

And is it possible to die from being in hot water?

The unanswered questions in the death of an American swimming star.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New hope that a potential housing recovery could be underway. It's hope right now. The National Association of Realtors reports that existing home sales climbed for the second straight month in September, to 10 percent. That's a stronger performance than many analysts expected.

CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow is joining us now with more -- Poppy, is this a true sign that the housing market is, in fact, recovering?

POPPY HARLOW, ANCHOR, CNNMONEY.COM: I really don't think it is. I mean this is the second month in a row that we got a relatively good number on housing, but let's dig deeper and look at -- at the reality facing so many Americans right now.

Thirty-five percent of those homes that were sold out last month, Wolf, were homes that were in foreclosure -- much cheaper than they should have been, pushing them off the market. Also, we have this issue of these moratoriums on foreclosures. What that could likely mean is that this month, it's going to be hard to push some of that inventory off the market. That's going to hurt us.

Also, relatively speaking, we're not in good shape. Twenty-two percent of -- home sales are 22 percent below the peak we saw in April and the only reason we had a peak was that big $8,000 first time homebuyer tax credit. And the real kicker here, prices are still falling. A lot of Americans sitting on the sidelines, Wolf, waiting for better deals to come.

Now, I will say, there are a few positive signs -- two in particular that we should point out here. First of all, there are historically low mortgage rates -- about 4.2 percent for the average American right now. That's pushing some buyers into this marketplace. And you also have slightly -- we found out today -- the inventories coming down. A little less competition in the housing markets. Still, though, a record high inventory when you look at all the homes for sales across America.

So, Wolf, as you can see, a lot more negatives in this report, even though the headline is a relatively strong number -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about, Poppy, all the government's efforts to try to help the homeowners out there?

HARLOW: Yes. Well, that's interesting, because the Obama administration, especially eight days ahead of this midterm election, they have been very criticized for how they've handled the foreclosure crisis in this country. They came out with a report today and said, look, the administration, through HAMPs, the homeowner assistance program, that actually has helped saved 500,000 homes, 28,000 saved last year. But I talked earlier today exclusively to Neil Barofsky. He oversees the TARP program. And in fact, billions of dollars of TARP money was supposed to go help home owners. Here's what he said for how the administration has done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL BAROFSKY, TARP SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, they say, for example, that they've helped 1.3 million people through mortgage modifications, but more than half of those have failed. They failed. They're trial modifications that failed. And then they go and say, Well, each one of those had a significant benefit for the -- for the home owner. And that's just not true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: So there you have it, a government watchdog, Wolf, saying, Look, the administration has not pulled through here. I will say there's $45 billion more of TARP money yet to be spent to aid the housing market. We'll see if that does anything. Tomorrow, we get a good reading on home prices across the country. On Wednesday, we get a very important report, the new home sales report. We'll see if that can keep up at all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: New home sales, as opposed to existing sales.

HARLOW: Right.

BLITZER: And existing sales, it shouldn't be a surprise if a house was selling a year or two ago, or three years ago, for $400,000, went into foreclosure and now is selling for $200,000 or $150,000, which is the case in parts of the country right now -- no wonder that house is going to sell because it's worth only a fraction of what it was...

HARLOW: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... only a few years ago.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BLITZER: So that's why you point out correctly that number could be very, very misleading when existing home sales go up.

HARLOW: Yes.

BLITZER: If the value is way down, no wonder they're going up.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, Poppy. Thanks very much.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including an apology from NPR's chief executive. What's going on on that Juan Williams front?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of people are talking about this story, and now NPR, as you mentioned -- NPR's apologizing. Vivian Schiller's apologizing to the network's employees for how she handled the firing of news analyst Juan Williams. In a memo distributed yesterday, Schiller said she stands behind the decision but regrets the way it was delivered. Williams's contract was terminated last week after he commented that he gets nervous when he sees people with Muslim garb on planes.

And also, the so-called "hiccup girl" -- do you remember her? Well, she's facing a first degree murder charge now. Nineteen-year- old Jennifer Mee, who made national headlines in 2007 for what you're listening to right there -- for hiccupping, for a case of near non- stop hiccups lasting weeks -- she was arrested Saturday, along with two others. The three are accused of shooting a man during an armed robbery attempt in St. Petersburg, Florida. Police say they've admitted to the crime. Very strange.

And take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a tornado! We are in the tornado!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Just amazing. "We are in the tornado" you hear the poor man yelling. An emergency official captured this video from inside his car as a massive tornado tore through parts of northeast Texas yesterday. The twister, which was packing winds of 125 miles per hour, destroyed homes, knocked train cars off their tracks, and even tore the roof off school. At least four people were injured. It's amazing video. And thank you for sending it to us. But can you imagine being in that car, Wolf?

BLITZER: It's terrifying. I can't imagine it.

BOLDUAN: A hundred and twenty-five miles an hour wind.

BLITZER: Some people chase those tornadoes, too, you know? Not me.

BOLDUAN: Some people also call some people crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Yes, that's right! Thanks.

Independent voters -- they almost certainly will be the key to next Tuesday election results. We'll talk to David Gergen in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go out to New Mexico right now. That's where Democrats may be at risk of losing the governor's office. The lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, is fighting to hold onto the job now held by fellow Democrat Bill Richardson, but polls show Republican district attorney Susana Martinez is leading the race to become New Mexico's first woman governor. If Martinez wins, she'd also be the first Latina governor in the nation.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in New Mexico right now. She's standing by. Potentially could be making history out there. A little bit of the campaign is sort of getting ugly, as well. Let me play some of these ads, some of these snippets, and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martinez gave criminal illegals prison time. Richardson/Denish gave them driver's licenses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, we don't know where these sex offenders are lurking because Susana Martinez didn't do her job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A department in Denish's cabinet gave sanctuary to criminal illegals like child molester Juan Gonzalez (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican Martinez and her Texas backers would let corporations run wild. Martinez would allow 400 percent interest on loans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess that's pretty nasty stuff we're hearing in those ads. All right, set the scene for us. Tell our viewers what's going on, the latest poll numbers. What do we expect?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the Republican is polling ahead in this race, but it is still a tight one. And I want to give you a sense of why even people outside New Mexico should care about this governor's race.

First of all, Wolf, this is a year, to be honest, in which we've seen a lot of press coverage of women candidates who are gaffe-prone. Here are two women running against each other. Even their critics do not question their credibility.

Also, it is Diane Denish, as you point out, and Susana Martinez. Martinez, if she wins, will not only be the nation's first Latina governor, but she is a conservative pro-life Republican who was endorsed by Sarah Palin, and she is very tough on illegal immigration policies. She could be quite a bright star in the Republican Party if she does win. As you know, the Republicans have been struggling to reach out, to expand their reach to Latinos.

And then, Wolf, there's also this. This is the only governor's race in the nation in which two women are facing each other. And I asked Susana Martinez about this when I had a chance to speak with her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSANA MARTINEZ (R-NM), CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: I didn't run for office thinking I was going to be, you know, one of the only two females in the country doing this. I do it because I'm passionate about the state.

We are just as prepared as any male to take on the challenges of running our state, our communities, our cities and the country. We are just as bright, and we can handle the job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, keep in mind, Wolf, even though women candidates have gotten a lot of press attention this year, a study by the non- partisan Eagleton Institute at Rutgers has found that after this election, there will be fewer women in office than before. They say there will be fewer women in Congress than before. That's the first time we'll see a decline in women in Congress in 30 years, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty surprising because, normally, the past 30, 40 years, the numbers have been increasing every election cycle. And for it to go down, that would be surprising. Something unique happened during your interview. What happened?

YELLIN: Yes! OK, well, Susana Martinez has positioned herself as a tough-on-crime district attorney. And she might be personally tough on crime. When our cameraman -- we were miking -- putting on our microphones. And when our cameraman reach in to put the battery pack on her belt, she sort of pulled back and said, Be careful, there's a gun back there. She told us she has a weapon to carry -- a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And she got her first gun -- she first registered for a gun when she was 18 years old.

BLITZER: That's New Mexico, you know?

YELLIN: I got to say, that was a first.

BLITZER: Yes. All right.

YELLIN: A first for me.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with Jessica. She's in New Mexico.

Tonight, by the way, on CNN, a major face-off in one of the closest and most important governor's races in the country. Please join CNN's John king As he moderates the Florida governor's debate between the Democrat, Alex Sink, and Republican, Rick Scott, tonight, 7:00 PM Eastern, right after we go off the air in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Many Americans across the country are already casting ballots. Are they providing us with some clues about the results on election day? We're assessing.

And a new accusation that the Obama White House is being sloppy and unprofessional. More on the president's big mess in tiny Rhode Island.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Tea Party icon Christine O'Donnell opens up about her religion days before learning whether she'll be Delaware's next U.S. senator. You're going to find out why the GOP candidate says the media have a double standard when it comes to covering conservative Christian women.

Also, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, fires back at the United States after being accused of receiving controversial bags of cash from Iran.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Democrats are keeping tabs on early voting across the nation and they're looking for reasons to be optimistic about the results on Election Day. The Democrat who oversees the battle for the Senate says, I'm quoting now, we're not seeing anything resembling a Republican surge. But guess what? Republicans certainly don't see it that way. Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Gloria, what are you hearing about the early voting results?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I'm getting spun from both sides. My head is about ready to explode. There's so much spinning going on on early voting. Republicans say that the number of Republicans who have requested early ballots is greater than it was in 2008. Democrats say the number of Democrats who requested early ballots is greater than Republicans in key states like Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio. Spin aside, Wolf, the truth is, we don't have any baseline here. Early voting is relatively new. So when there's an increase in early voting, be it from a Democrat or a Republican, is that because it's new and people are saying, gee, this may be an easy way for me to vote. Or is it a measure of voter intensity? Even folks on both sides say, you know what? We're not quite sure. As a result, each side is spinning it the way it wants.

BLITZER: So when the experts say the early voting can give us the indication of the enthusiasm factor for example, can it?

BORGER: It can if it were completely lopsided, okay? If no Democrat for early ballots. But let me ask you this question, Wolf. If you're a Democrat and you've asked for an early ballot and you send it back in, does that mean this year in particular that you are necessarily going to vote for a Democrat. No? It might mean that you're an angry Democrat and that you actually want to vote Republican. And what about all of the independent voters out there who are going to be so key in the election? We don't know what their ballots are showing or how many of them are voting because we're not counting them. Again, very easy to spin. Very difficult to tell. I think we're just going to have to wait for when the votes are counted.

BLITZER: We shouldn't be surprised to hear Democrat politicians saying we're going to do great. The Republican politicians saying we're going to do great. They're all going to do great if you listen to them.

BORGER: And first of all, if you want to compare to 2008, Wolf, 2008 was a presidential year. So it's very difficult to compare one year to the other. And early voting, as I say, is new. If there were any baseline, we might be able to draw some real hard conclusion but that's down the road.

BLITZER: Gloria thanks very much.

A new poll suggested Republicans could be one step closer to taking over the reins of power in Washington at least in one house, the House of Representatives, only eight days from now. Let's talk about that and more with another member of the best political team on television, our senior political analyst, David Gergen. Let me put up these numbers on the new poll that Politico and George Washington University, the battleground poll put out. Among independent voters, David, would you vote for a Republican or Democrat candidate for Congress? Among these independent voters, 44 percent said they would vote for the Republican. 30 percent said they would vote for the Democrat. A 14-point spread. That's a significant number, I suspect, you're going to tell us, David.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. And in some ways, it's one of the untold stories of this election. We've been focusing so much on the tea party, which is an enormous force in this election. But so are the independents and this gigantic shift we're seeing, almost a seismic shift we're seeing of independents who voted heavily for Democrats and four years ago in the midterms and voted heavily for President Obama have shifted in this election. So this -- this Georgetown Politico poll finds them 14 points ahead on the Republican side at a time when the generic difference overall among all voters in that same poll is only five points. So you can see the independents adding a lot of weight. And the independent vote, Wolf, is bigger today than it has been in a number of years. About 10 years ago some 30, 31 percent, 32 percent of Americans tended to say they were independent. Now it's about almost 40 percent of Americans say they are independent.

BLITZER: If we dig deeper on these independents, our recent CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll continuing we asked the independents their views of the tea party movement. Look at this -- of those independents, 43 percent say they support the tea party. 15 percent say they oppose the tea party. 39 percent said they were neutral. But a lot more of these independents like the tea party than don't.

GERGEN: That's right. They agree with them heavily on the issue of spending, anti-spending. And they agree heavily on their views about anti-the health care bill. The independents have come over very strongly on that. But, Wolf, what we're seeing I think more generally is that a lot of Americans are no longer anchored in one party or the other. And they move essentially with the tides of what's going on with public affairs. This election -- this is one of the most interesting things about this election. This election we're going to see more than 20 house seat switch hands. We know that. What is interesting is this is the third straight election in which we've seen 20 house seats switch. That kind of volatility we haven't seen in a long time. This is the first time in over 60 years when we've seen three straight elections for the House of Representatives in which more than 20 seats shift hands. That says a lot about how the independents are not anchored. They're going one way and they're going the other. And if you're the Republicans, you may win them this time, but you could lose them next time, unless you perform while you're in office.

BLITZER: Look how quickly things changed between 2008 and 2010. So they can change again before 2012. Because the American public wants change, but they're not yet getting the change, at least if you believe the polls that they want. David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: YouTube is responding to complaints that its website deserves videos featuring a militant described as Osama Bin Laden of the internet. We'll tell you what's going on.

And there are some campaign ads that are so disturbing, we're hesitant to show them to you. Yet, they're popping up on primetime, even daytime TV. Stand by, Brian Todd has our report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including new pressures on YouTube to remove videos featuring one man that lawmakers call the Bin Laden of the internet. What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is very interesting. YouTube is defending its policies. Why? This follows the surfacing of a new video featuring a cleric. The New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has asked the company to remove all clips featuring the suspected militant from the website. YouTube says it prohibits videos which promotes dangerous or political activities. He's believed to have contacts with the suspects of the Christmas bomb plot and the Ft. Hood shootings.

Now an earthquake to tell you about, the U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 7.7 earthquake has struck off of the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Local estimates put that number slightly lower. A tsunami watch has been canceled. There are no immediate reports of damage or injury, fortunately.

And Swedish police -- they now say the suspect behind two shootings over the weekend could be tied to as many as 19 other cases targeting immigrants. Police are investigating DNA evidence taken from one crime scene as well as cell phone traffic at the time of the incident. The local right wing party is offering a reward for information about the suspected shooter.

This is a really interesting one we've been talking about today. Jurors are being chosen to decide if an off duty federal agent was a hero or murder. Will Clark came to the aid of a neighbor in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2008. The woman was fighting her boyfriend, Clark. He wound up shooting the man five times and killing him. Local prosecutors charged him with second degree murder, but a federal investigation found the shooting was justified. The case prompted the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms to pull its agents of the Virgin Islands. Apparently they pulled them out in 2008 because they were enraged by the prosecution of this man.

BLITZER: Because apparently the guy who was shot was coming at him with some sort of weapon.

BOLDUAN: One witness said it was a flashlight. He was a very large man and this agent was defending this woman.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you for that, Kate Bolduan.

A top U.S. swimmer dies in the middle of a major competition. Now there are new concerns about the safety of the race he was competing in.

And the president's a celebrity. Is it hurting him? Why one journalist said being popular could be a double-edged sword.

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BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us are two CNN political contributors, the Republican strategist, Ed Rollins, the Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. Hillary's firm is handling media for a number of candidates this election season. What we want to talk to you despite that, Hilary, because you're a smart lady. Thank you for coming in to both of you. Howie Kurtz, the host of "CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES," who's a Washington bureau chief for the Daily Beast, the website. He has a piece out there now, an intriguing piece. White house goes to bunker mode. It's talking about the president. Both of you have seen the piece. He's basically trying to get his message out. But he can't in part because he's such a celebrity. Ed, you read the piece. What do you think about that argument? He's not succeeding in getting the message out.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he's not getting his message out because it's not a consistent message. He's been all over the place from the car off the road to John Boehner to everything else as opposed to arguing what the merits of his programs have been. At the end of the day, I -- you know, a president's approval rating is a driving force. This president in Gallup has the lowest approval he's ever had, 41 percent as of this morning. That's what it's affecting. One of the dangers of going out campaigning in a very shrill way, these independent voters thought Obama was going to be different. They don't like Democrats or Republicans. They thought he was going to be different. He's out there as the most shrill Democrat of all. That's having an impact.

BLITZER: Howie also suggests that he's a global celebrity. He's shouting for attention right now even though he can get it, it's sort of hurting him, that global celebrity aspect. What do you think, Hilary?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think this is a big communications problem. I think the big problem is that the president inherited a country with staggering unemployment, a huge deficit, and two wars. What he's done since then is stabilize the economy, put 40 million people on health insurance rolls, invest in education. Stop weaning us off of foreign oil. These are big things. It's unsettling for the country.

BLITZER: You say it's not a communications problem. If those things are so good, why is he and the Democrats, why are they getting hammered for doing those things.

ROSEN: When I'm saying it's not a communication problem I'm saying you know everything sort of can't be fixed by good PR. What would help is a little more attention on some of the things that the Republicans are offering as an alternative. What would help, I think, is that if people recognize that there are things more important than the message of the day. I think the white house is doing everything they can to break through some of the noise. I like what was said about a cacophony of noise. On the other hand, you know we're a very fickle public. We want change immediately and we want progress immediately. So I think those are bigger problems.

BLITZER: Is this a matter of communications or substance that it's not a communication issue. It's a matter of the American public isn't happy with what they're seeing.

ROLLINS: They're unhappy with what they're seeing. They've been trying to push the health care for two years. You obviously have great talking points Hilary but at the end of the day, the American public doesn't believe this is going to do all of the things they say it's going to do. They think this administration has spent way too much money. We're deeply in debt. They're worried about the future. You can go out and have all the rhetoric you want about the jobs you've created and it's still 9.5 percent unemployment. Harry Reid in a state like he's in has got 15 percent unemployment. People don't feel like Americans are going back to work or there's a real plan.

BLITZER: Let me switch gears for a moment Hilary and Ed. The president goes to Rhode Island. He doesn't endorse the Democratic candidate for governor, Frank Caprio, because Lincoln Chafee, the independent candidate, former Republican is running? It seems so weird. I can't remember a time when the president goes to a state where there's a Democrat running for governor and he's not supporting endorsing him.

ROSEN: I've been looking all day for Republicans to applaud the president for actually showing bipartisanship that they've been complaining that hasn't shown in the last few years. I haven't found it anywhere. The fact is that ...

ROLLINS: When he endorses a Republican we'll say bipartisan.

ROSEN: When he worked with Senator Chafee, he was a Republican. The fact that he's an independent now is matter of his personal politics. Essentially the president is saying I've got loyal friends I work with across the aisle. And that -- you know, this is not a classy act by running for governor in Rhode Island. BLITZER: What surprises me isn't so much that the president has decided not to formally endorse the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island because he personally likes Lincoln Chafee. Lincoln Chafee endorsed him in 2008. But that the president would actually eight days before an election go into Rhode Island, Ed, and make all of us pay attention to this sort of -- this sort of unpolite gesture.

ROLLINS: That's the foolishness of all of this. And it's part of the lack of strategy in this white house. It's been inconsistent, it's been day-to-day, it's been very tactical. They're bouncing all over the place. The message is not consistent. And the message that goes to Democrats -- Democrats are going to have big losses. I don't care what you say Hilary. You're going to get clobbered a week from tomorrow. At the end of the day, you have to ask these Democrats to work for you in addition to the Republicans otherwise you'll get nothing. If you're not supporting Democrats everywhere as the partisan commander in chief that you've been, let me finish, you know, there's a lot of people that will say, hey, I'm not going to walk the plank for him again.

ROSEN: I think the president has crisscrossed the country for Democrats. I think he's shown his mettle and will over the next several days, pulling out the stops. He's raising money in Rhode Island tonight for the Democratic Congressional campaign committee. When will Republicans give this president a little credit for being loyal to a -- an independent? So you can't have it both ways, Ed. Nobody can.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it.

ROLLINS: When a partisan --

BLITZER: The president is in Rhode Island presumably for an independent candidate, not necessarily for the Democratic candidate and that Democratic candidate, Frank Caprio, he told the president what he can do with his endorsement, which you probably heard earlier. Guys, thanks very much.

Imagine you're watching TV with your kids and an ad popped up showing an aborted fetus. It's happening, and many Americans are horrified. Stand by.

The Sarah Palin scenario. A journalist paints a fascinating picture of how Sarah Palin could beat President Obama in 2012.

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BLITZER: Jack is back with "the Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is how will things be different in Washington after the midterms?

Rita in Illinois, "Nothing will be different because it's not really the government that runs this country. It's the billionaires, the banks, oil companies and insurance companies. One way or another, they buy our government. Republican or Democrat, we can go to the polls and vote. But the deals have already been made."

Steve in Florida writes, "The biggest change will be that they'll all be campaigning for 2012 starting November 3rd. Other than that, if the Republicans take the house, let the indictments begin. If they don't take it, it will be OAU, obstruction as usual. In the Senate, they don't do much anyway. It will be business as usual, climate change caused by hot gases leaking into the atmosphere."

Brian in Maryland writes, "The point of not having one party in complete control is to create gridlock. That way only the most overwhelming sensible ideas become law. All the other ideological B.S. dies in the gridlock. This fail-safe was thwarted when the Democrats obtained a supermajority. Now we have Obama care hanging around our necks."

M. in Chicago writes, "You make me sick. We did pass health care reform, better pay for women, financial reform, getting paid from BP just for starters. If the Republicans get back in, nothing at all will happen. Jack, you're part of the problem, not the solution. I don't like you anymore."

Randolph in Massachusetts, "Nothing will ever change until we have publicly-funded elections. Big money has taken over our government and the media, assuring that a misinformed electorate has no choice every year. Have a nice day."

Guy in New Jersey writes, "I think things will change. I really do. More white guys with hair and nice suits. American flags in their lapels. Mistresses and a return to the good old days. When were those days, by the way?"

And Kevin in California writes, "It will just be a different group of crooks."

If you want to read more, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: Good work, Jack. Thank you.

Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. She's raising eyebrows again. She's talking to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Stand by. We have details.

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