Return to Transcripts main page


Political Races Heating Up; Sarah Palin For President?

Aired October 25, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: One correction to a story we brought you earlier here on the New Mexico governor's race. New Mexico isn't the only state with two women running for governor. Oklahoma has two women candidates as well. Jari Askins is running on the Democratic side, Mary Fallin is the Republican.

The body of a U.S. swimming star who died during a marathon competition in The United Arab Emirates is expected to be turned over to U.S. authorities today. His shocking death is raising a number of concerns about the safety of the race. Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: 26-year-old Fran Cripen was as fit as a fiddle before he swam this race this weekend. That's according to his former coach who also says that the water was 87 degrees. Now, we reached out to an extreme sports expert and asked is it dangerous to swim a long race in water that's that temperature? And he said it's possible that it could be a problem. He said that whether you're running or swimming when you're creating that much heat and expending that much energy, you need to get rid of that heat. And if the air outside is hot, that can be a problem for a runner.

If the water is hot, that can be a problem for a swimmer and could possibly lead to organ failure. The club at the United Arab Emirates who organized the swimming event denied that the water temperature played a role in Crippen's death -- back to you.



Happening now: just over a week until Election Day, at stake, the balance of power across the country. The gloves are off in a key race for governor. We're counting down to tonight's Florida debate. You will see it live right here on CNN.

Sarah Palin's not running, but she's the big star of the midterm campaigns. Can she win the presidency in 2012?

And Delaware's Christine O'Donnell says there's a double standard against conservative Christian women. And in a fascinating interview, she suggests God right now is on her side.

Plus, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, confirms he's received cash from Iran. What's he offering in return?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos straight ahead.

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

Just eight days until the midterm elections here in the United States, and the White House is rolling out its big guns for an all-out offensive. President Obama tours a factory, raises money in Rhode Island, but takes heat for not endorsing the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Frank Caprio, who is opposed by former Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent who supported candidate Obama in 2008.

The first lady, Michelle Obama, is out West. She gave a boost today to Senator Patty Murray in Seattle, Washington, appears shortly in San Francisco on behalf of Senator Barbara Boxer.

And the vice president, Joe Biden, began a week of road trips with a speech in Florida this morning, before moving to a rally in New Hampshire billed as his 100th event for this, the 2010 Democratic candidates.

And after slamming Republicans in Minnesota last night, former President Bill Clinton is now in Texas in support of local Democrats -- lots of politics happening now right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But let's begin in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, crucial to Republicans' hopes of gaining control of the Senate. Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak has closed the gap against Republican former Republican Congressman Pat Toomey. Polls now show their Senate race effectively, effectively a dead heat.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's working this story for us in Philadelphia.

Set the stage for us because this is turning out to be a bitter and very close race.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It's gotten very personal in the last couple of weeks of this campaign. And, as you mentioned, it's going to be very hard for the Republicans to seize power in the Senate unless they somehow capture Pennsylvania.

In the last few months or so, Pat Toomey, the Republican in this race, a former congressman, has had a sizable side over his opponent, Democrat Joe Sestak. But in just the last week, Sestak has closed that gap and as you mentioned, Wolf, this race is almost too close to call.

And so the contrast in the last couple of days of this campaign has been all about comparisons. Well, what does that mean? Well, they're both trying to tie the other to unpopular figures within their parties. Consider what Joe Sestak is trying to do right now. Keep in mind we're in Philadelphia. Just across the river from us is Delaware, where Christine O'Donnell is running for the Senate. She's a favorite of the Tea Party movement, and so is Pat Toomey. So Sestak is trying to call Toomey just another Christine O'Donnell. Here's Toomey's response.


ACOSTA: Isn't it true that you are also a favorite of the Tea Party movement? They like you.

PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I am delighted to have the support I have across a very, very wide range of folks. There are Tea Party people who believe in limited government, fiscal discipline, and they're supporting my campaign.

ACOSTA: Would you be a Tea Party senator if you get into the Senate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, last question.

TOOMEY: And I'm delighted to have their support.


ACOSTA: Now, in the few seconds after that comment there, Pat Toomey also mentions that he also has the endorsements of Rudy Giuliani and the former governor of this state Tom Ridge.

Now, as for Joe Sestak, we asked Congressman Sestak about a comparison that's being made by Pat Toomey, saying that Joe Sestak is essentially a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi. And here's what Congressman Sestak had to say about that.


REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm smack-dab in the middle of my party in the middle in the last three years. Now, Congressman Toomey has voted 1,400 times with Nancy Pelosi. That's 1,200 more than I did.

ACOSTA: So, you're saying he's more like Nancy Pelosi than you are?


SESTAK: He's such a San Francisco liberal.



ACOSTA: Now, on a serious subject about Nancy Pelosi, I asked Congressman Sestak, who is giving up his seat in the House to run for the Senate, whether or not Nancy Pelosi should stay on as speaker of the House. Sestak took a pass on that, Wolf. He would not answer that question.

I also asked him, well, what if you make it to the Senate? Should Harry Reid be maintained as majority leader if the Democrats retain control of the Senate? He also took a pass on that and said he'd like to look at the slate of candidates that are out there up for contention if he indeed makes it into the Senate and if the Democrats stay in power -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If Sestak is going to win, in Philadelphia, he has got to score really, really big. We will see how the governor, Ed Rendell, does in bringing out the votes for the Democrats.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

While they will certainly be pressing as much flesh and kissing as many babies as possible, candidates are using their final debates to motivate voters. Last night, in Alaska, it was a three-way Senate free-for-all. Republican Lisa Murkowski lost in the primary to Tea Party-backed Joe Miller. He's the Republican nominee right now.

She's running as a write-in candidate against Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams.

Listen to her closing argument.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Scott is not ready to lead. Joe is not fit to lead. I have been leading this state eight years.


MURKOWSKI: And I will continue to do so, bringing the seniority that I have built, the -- the work ethic that I have built, and the passion for a state that I live -- love.



BLITZER: Our most recent poll had her and Miller are in a dead heat.

There's a four-way debate tonight in Massachusetts, where Democratic Governor Deval Patrick tries to hold on against Republican Charles Baker. And, in Kentucky, it's the final showdown in the very nasty race between two Senate wanna-bes, Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway.

Let's focus in on Florida right now. The gloves are certainly off in the race for governor between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott. They will debate live here on CNN right at the top of the hour following THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to CNN's John King. He's getting ready to moderate the debate in Tampa at the University of South Florida.

A lot of our viewers, John, probably haven't paid as much attention to this governor's race in Florida as they should have. Tell us why this is so important.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Well, Wolf, every issue playing out across the country is playing out here in Florida. It's a state of more than 18 million people. It has nearly 12 percent unemployment.

There's a huge fight, as there is many of those races you just mentioned, about whether the Obama health care plan is the right approach. The Republican candidate here, Rick Scott, vows to try to block it, implementation, if he's elected governor. Alex Sink, the Democrat, has said she likes most of it, but has questions about parts of it.

There are 675,000 illegal immigrants in this state. Rick Scott says if he's elected governor -- again, he's the Republican -- he will try to pass an Arizona-style immigration law. The Democrat, Alex Sink, has said that that would be a mistake.

Taxes is a big issue here. Spending is a big issue here. School standards is a big issue here. All of the issues playing out across the country play out right here in Florida. It's the fourth most populous state in the nation. It's always important in our presidential politics, as you know. So whoever wins this race could become a kingmaker of sorts come 2012.

And Florida is one of the states, Wolf, that after the 2010 census is expected to gain two congressional seats. So you already have a Republican legislature. If you get a Republican governor, that gives the Republicans a huge edge in redrawing those lines for the two new congressional seats here in Florida. If a Democrat wins that race, perhaps she can negotiate to try to make that process a little bit more to the benefit of her party.

Many, many more issues. This has been a very nasty race. I just went through the substance facing the next governor of Florida. If you turn on a TV here, it's: He doesn't have the character to be governor. She doesn't have the character to be governor.

It's been a very personal race. We hope to air their differences out on the policy, as you said, at the top of the hour.

BLITZER: Lots at stake, and we will certainly be watching. We're counting down to the top of the hour. John, thanks very much.

John King and Jim Acosta, as all you know, they're both part of the best political team on television.

This campaign season has seen some incredibly graphic political ads. Some are so disturbing, YouTube won't run them, but they are appearing on TV when your kids may be watching television.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now with more on this story.

This is really a horrific series of ads, but they're being shown on television.


And, Wolf, these are ads showing images of aborted fetuses. And believe it or not, the stations airing these ads have to run them. They have no choice. We want to warn you that some viewers may find the subject matter here very disturbing and it might not be appropriate for children.


TODD (voice-over): A political ad with horrific images of aborted fetuses, an ad that appears even during the day when kids are watching.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was told it's not a baby.

TODD: The pictures so disturbing that we have to blur them significantly. YouTube has yanked the ads off its Web site, but they're running on local broadcast stations in the D.C. market.

The candidate, Republican Missy Reilly Smith, who has virtually no chance of unseating Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton for D.C.'s shadow seat in Congress.

(on camera): Hi, Ms. Smith?


TODD (voice-over): I caught up with Smith at her upscale apartment in Washington where she runs her campaign.

(on camera): What are you thinking putting this kind of an ad up, especially at times when young kids are watching?

SMITH: I guess what I'm really thinking is that we must show that abortion is murder. And just like when Eisenhower marched in and asked the townspeople to come in to the concentration camps and see the dead bodies, and it was -- some of them even killed themselves, they were so horrified. This happens 4,000 times a day.

TODD (voice-over): Smith says she's had two abortions herself and got serious about the anti-abortion movement after the death of her 19-year-old son. She admits she's doing this for the shock value.

Neither the D.C. nor the national Republican Party supports Smith's campaign.

Evan Tracey, CNN's TV ad consultant, says the campaign could be a little more than a front. (on camera): Who is she a vehicle for, if it's not for a campaign?

EVAN TRACEY, CNN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, she's clearly -- this is clearly to get a pro-life voter issue out there, and not a sanitized version either. This is a shock-value pro-life ad.

TODD: And guess what? Smith's campaign manager is none other than Randall Terry, former head of Operation Rescue, a well-known anti-abortion activist.

Terry told me he wrote and produced these ads, said his mission is to drive -- quote -- "child-killing" to the forefront of the electorate. Terry says that includes fielding candidates who will make the issue a priority.

In Smith's office, we got a sense of the brushback that brings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really would like to have a nice, open discourse with you about how this disgusting and vile you are.


TODD: Because Missy Reilly Smith is a qualified candidate for federal office, the local stations airing these ads have no choice but to run them unedited at a time that the candidate chooses. That's under a federal anti-censorship law that broadcast, but not cable, stations have to follow. The stations are running disclaimers before the ad. Evan Tracey says, if this was an issue ad just put out by a group, stations could refuse to air it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, what if a candidate wanted to show some pornographic images or someone getting shot or stabbed? Could they do that?

TODD: I spoke with a broadcast attorney who is involved in this story with one of the stations involved here. He says the laws are very unclear about this.

He says, for violent images, they may have to run those ads because the laws against running violence on TV may not supersede the anti-censorship laws here. For pornographic images, there are anti- obscenity laws. But, again, it's not clear whether those supersede the anti -- the lack of -- the non-censorship clause here.

So, the laws are a little squishy and some of these candidates could take advantage of them.

BLITZER: And, as you point out, this woman has no chance of winning in the District of Columbia.

TODD: Almost zero.

BLITZER: OK. Thanks very much for that.

The nation's money matters certainly on Jack Cafferty's mind. Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: With the national debt nearing $14 trillion and a deficit of $1.3 trillion last year, Washington is sitting around waiting for the recommendations from a toothless bipartisan deficit commission.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports this panel might recommend cutting some key tax breaks, things like deductions on mortgage interest, child tax credits and allowing employees to pay for their health insurance using pretax dollars. The panel is also looking at cutting defense spending and freezing domestic discretionary spending.

Even if the commission agrees to any of this -- and there's no guarantee they will -- good luck then getting them any of it through Congress. It's also worth pointing out this commission is expected to stay way away from the tough issues, the entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

As for the president, the Associated Press reports that, after the midterms, Mr. Obama plans to put more emphasis on fiscal discipline in his next two years in office.

The president says that if we're going to get serious about the deficit, we'll have to look at everything, including entitlements and defense spending. And he says that will be a -- quote -- "tough conversation."

Meanwhile, as the candidates and lawmakers spew their ideas about cutting the deficits, experts say all the talk is nothing more than what they call fiscal fluff.

They say ideas like eliminating waste, and fraud, and abuse, and earmarks, tax evasion, or returning the unused stimulus funds won't touch our deep-seated fiscal problems.

In the meantime, the government keeps right on spending. Since 2007, when the newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed that there would be -- quote -- "no new deficit spending" -- unquote -- the national debt has increased by $5 trillion.

Here's the question to you: Is it too late to do anything meaningful about the deficit?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: They are going to have to do something, Jack. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren are going to be paying for this for a long time to come.

Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File," thank you.

CAFFERTY: Don't hold your breath.

BLITZER: I know.

She portrays her Senate race as a higher calling. Is the Delaware Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell suggesting that God is on her side?


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign, and I always ask people, please pray for the campaign, please pray for our staff, please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened.


BLITZER: She's got a new interview. We will share it with you.

Also, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, says he's received cash, lots of cash, in bags, from Iran, and he says also from the United States. What's going on?


BLITZER: First to reports that Afghanistan's president received bags and bags of cash from Iran. Now Hamid Karzai makes a stunning admission confirming that he's received sums of money from Iran and he says from other -- quote -- "friendly countries."

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, asked him about that. Listen.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: This is transparent, and this is something that I have -- I have also discussed with -- even when we were in -- at Camp David with President Bush. This is nothing hidden. We are grateful for the Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They are providing cash to some of our offices.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Kabul, our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, are we talking about millions and millions of dollars in these bags, hundreds of thousands of dollars in these bags, euros? What are we talking about? How much money?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he wasn't all that specific, but he did reference, you know, the fact that at least in terms of the Iranians, that it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars potentially.

How long it's been going on, whether that all adds up to millions, I think remains to be seen. And the question again is, you know, at least in terms of the United States, are these bags of cash approved foreign assistance? Is it part of the State Department budget? Who has actually authorized all of this? And who is watching over how the money is spent? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because "The New York Times" said that the bagfuls of money from Iran totaled in the millions.

What are the U.S. officials in Kabul saying about this insistence by Karzai that America, the United States, is giving bagfuls of cash to his officers?

STARR: Well, as we stand here tonight in Kabul, Wolf, the U.S. Embassy is declining comment. We asked right after the press conference several hours ago, and the answer we have gotten back throughout the day is they are diverting all answers about this to the State Department back in Washington, no response yet from the Obama administration to Karzai saying that the U.S. is continuing to do this.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr in Kabul for us -- Barbara, thanks very much.

And we're getting this in. The State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said U.S. officials have turned over large sums of cash to Afghan officials since the 2001 invasion because of the undeveloped state of the country's financial system, the Obama administration skeptical of Iran's moves, given its history of playing a destabilizing role with its neighbors. That's according to P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman.

She's helped turn the Tea Party movement into a national phenomenon. And at rallies, you may hear chants of "Run, Sarah, run." Here's the question. Will she run for the Republican nomination? If she wins that, can she win as president?

Plus, before there was an iPod, there was this. Do you know what it is? Sony is pressing the stop button on it for good.



BLITZER: Sarah Palin is not running for election right now, or is she? When she takes the stage during this year's midterm campaign, is she setting the stage for a presidential run in 2012?

Plus, could a drink known as a blackout in a can be responsible for sending nine college students to the hospital?


BLITZER: Sarah Palin is the superstar of this year's midterm campaigns, at least for a lot of Republicans. When she takes the stage, is she setting the stage for a presidential run in 2012?

In a fascinating cover story in the new issue of "New York Magazine," John Heilemann suggests how Sarah Palin can actually reach the White House. John is joining us now together with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. John is also the co-author of the best-seller, "Game Change," a terrific book.

Walk us through the scenario. Not only, John, how she could get the Republican nomination -- I think that's fairly realistic -- but how she then wins the presidency.

JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-AUTHOR, "GAME CHANGE": Well, it's a three- part argument, Wolf. And you've got -- you first start with the question of is she running? And I think there's still some doubt about that, but I think increasingly Republican professionals in the business think that she's setting herself up to run. So that's step one.

Step two is how does she win the nomination? I think it looks to a lot of people like the Republican nomination probably will be like an NCAA tournament. There will be an antiestablishment bracket and an establishment bracket. And Sarah Palin is -- if she runs -- is the clear front-runner on the antiestablishment side. And there might just be enough energy with the Tea Party and her strength in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, three of the first four states with big Tea Party presences, for her to win the nomination.

Then there's step three. And that is, again, I think there's a pretty broad consensus among strategists that says if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee and especially if Barack Obama is in a weaker position two years from now or 18 months from now than he is now, that that will likely draw in some independent candidate, third-party candidate, and the likeliest candidate there is Michael Bloomberg.

And if you start to then look at the map, what would Mike Bloomberg with 2 or $3 billion on the table, what are the states that he might be able to take? You look at states like California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, states that Barack Obama needs to win 270 electoral votes. In that circumstance, if no one has a majority of electoral votes, and Bloomberg takes those away from Obama, you'd have the House of Representatives deciding who would be president.

And if the Republicans hold the House -- take the House in this midterm election, they could very easily hand the presidency to Sarah Palin. Now, that's a bunch of steps, but if you put -- each one of them is not implausible.

BLITZER: And it's a lot of...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I love it. Winding up in the House.

BLITZER: It's a lot of "ifs," as you yourself say in the article.

But Gloria, do you think is that possible that Sarah Palin...


BLITZER: ... could be the next president?

BORGER: Well, I -- I think it's more plausible that she would get the Republican nomination than she becomes president, but I love the scenario that -- that John lays out, because it's so exciting.

But I'll tell you what. The -- the big "if" is if Barack Obama doesn't move to the center. If Barack Obama -- say he loses the House of Representatives in this -- in this upcoming election in a week. Does he become like Bill Clinton? Does he move more to the center?

If he moves more to the center, is there as much of a need for someone like Bloomberg to run? After all, Bloomberg thought about running, as you recall, 2008, decided not to because he thought that both Obama and McCain were pretty centrist candidates, right?

So, you know, there's a lot of "ifs" there. But I do believe there's going to be a third party. I'm not sure who would represent it. And also, you know, if there's three candidates, does Obama actually end up winning if he does move to the center?

BLITZER: And that's why the point you make about -- in the article, John, about the president really courting Michael Bloomberg right now, as if he's worried about a third-party challenge, as well. Talk a little bit about that.

HEILEMANN: Well, there's no question, Wolf, that the White House is worried about a third-party candidacy. And they're -- in particular, they're worried about Mike Bloomberg. Because they think that if Bloomberg ran, he would be -- he would create an incredible amount of unpredictability and that he might very well take more away from Obama than he would take away from a Republican candidate.

So you've seen these maneuvers recently, from in the summer, inviting Bloomberg up to Martha's Vineyard to go golfing with the president; sending Joe Biden and Tim Geithner up to have breakfast. Two -- they came up here to New York City, both of them in the same week, to ask his economic advice. There was the flotation of the possibility that Bloomberg could be a replacement for Geithner as treasury secretary. All of this is kind of an effort, and there are people in the mayor's inner circle who think that it's very clearly an effort on the part of the White House to try to keep Bloomberg sweet, to try to keep him on the sidelines, come -- when the general election comes around.

BLITZER: Gloria, what was also fascinating in the article is that, if the House goes Republican, and none of these three candidates, assuming they all run, gets the 270 Electoral College votes, the House of Representatives decides. And if there's a Republican majority in the House, there's a chance that majority would vote for Sarah Palin. She could be president.

BORGER: Absolutely. Yes. And in that scenario, which would be quite dramatic, obviously, it could become Sarah Palin.

But there are a lot of "ifs." You know, the one thing in thinking about whether Sarah Palin's going to run -- and I -- you know, I've been on both sides of that one, because there are times I think, no, she's got -- she's earning too much money. She's too important and too much of a king-maker to run for president at this point.

On the other hand, I think she's sure acting like she's running for president, campaigning for so many -- you know, campaigning for so many candidates. But if she runs, she actually has a lot to lose, don't you think, John?

HEILEMANN: She does. Sure. And it's -- if -- I quote in the piece, I quote Mark McKinnon, who was the media advisor for both John McCain in the early part of his run and also for George W. Bush.

I quote McKinnon saying, "This is a -- a question: which part of her will win? The smart part or the ambitious part?"


HEILEMANN: The smart part would recognize that she has a lot to lose in terms of her status, but the ambitious part seems to be the part that's turning out to be emerging more strongly right now. Everything she's doing right now, as you just said, Gloria, if you looked at it -- and I took Sarah Palin's name off of it and I just told you these are the things that a candidate is doing, you would say this person is running for president.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it there, but it's a fascinating article in the new issue of "New York Magazine." John, thanks very much for coming in. Gloria, thanks to you, as well.

BORGER: Thanks for writing this, John. It was fun.

BLITZER: The power of prayer. Is it enough to put Christine O'Donnell in the United States Senate? She's got some fascinating comments of her own in a brand-new interview. Stand by.

He started in 291 consecutive games, but will an injury put the NFL quarterback Brett Favre on the bench?


BLITZER: The Tea Party favorite, Christine O'Donnell, pulled off a stunning upset in the Delaware Senate primary, but she's way behind -- way behind right now going into next week's election. Does she have the power of prayer on her side, though? She sat down for an interview with David Brody of the Christmas Broadcasting Network. Listen to this.


DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Let me ask you about this kind of beating up of the conservative Christian woman. Do you feel that, or is that an understatement?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't feel it because I don't watch the news.

BRODY: Well, there you go. You wouldn't feel it, would you?

O'DONNELL: No, I do feel it. There's certainly a double standard. You know, and I don't often quote Gloria Steinem, but she says, you know, you can look at a double standard if they wouldn't attack the male opponent that way.

And there's no doubt that they wouldn't say the things they're saying about me, they wouldn't do the things that they're doing if I weren't a woman. I'm not whining, but there certainly is a double standard when it comes to conservative women.

BRODY: How do you see God's role in all of this, because you've had some ups; you've had some downs? Where is God in all of this? How do you see all of that?

O'DONNELL: God is the reason that I'm running. If I didn't believe that there were a cause greater than myself worth fighter for, if I didn't believe that it takes a complete dying of self to make things right in this election cycle, I would not be running. And when you die to yourself, you rely on a power greater than yourself.

So prayer is what's gotten us all through. The day that we saw a spike in the -- in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me that morning for this campaign. So I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign. And I always ask people, please pray for the campaign. Please pray for our staff. Please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened.

BRODY: And win or lose, God is God.

O'DONNELL: Well, I don't even -- you know, I don't even go win or lose. I believe win. I -- you know, I know that God called me to this. We'll -- we'll tackle that last part after November 3.

You know, but I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of declaring, and that's what we're doing. We're praying every day. And we see it working.


BLITZER: And joining us now, David Brody. He's the White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

You had some quality time with Christine O'Donnell. Based on what you heard, what you saw, does she really believe that prayer is going to help her win this election?

BRODY: Oh, 100 percent, Wolf, she believes it. As a matter of fact, you saw a small clip of it there. But, you know, through about the 20-, 22-minute interview or so, she talked quite extensively about prayer. It was a common theme.

So sure, I mean, even she talks about how she saw that uptick in the polls, and she credits it to a prayer meeting that they had that same day.

Look, in evangelical circles, Wolf, this is kind of like nothing to see here; let's move on. I know for some people that might strike them as a little different.

But, you know, she's trying to appeal to that -- not just the independents, which she needs, but also that conservative base, that conservative faith base out there in Delaware. And the prayer talk is genuine, and it will definitely help her at the polls.

BLITZER: And like so many other Tea Party favorites, conservatives out there, she's really going after the mainstream media as being the source of a lot of her problems, especially what she cited as a double standard. If she were a man, she doesn't feel she'd be getting the treatment that she's getting.

BRODY: Well, that's right. And more specifically, she even said -- she talked about being a conservative woman, and then later in the interview she actually talked about being a conservative Christian woman out there.

I mean, Sarah Palin had some of this, as well. And I think she feels, though she didn't invoke Sarah Palin's name, I think she believes that they are one and the same when it comes to the media's treatment of conservative Christian women.

But look, I mean, she talked about, in all those Bill Maher clips we've been seeing about evolution and about abstinence. I mean, stuff that, you know, many biblically-based conservative evangelicals will say, and what's the problem with that? Of course, she's got some convincing to do with independents and others, but she believes that the media is going to take her to task for that.

And not just the media, but her opponent, as well, trying to once again get the focus on social issues rather than her fiscal conservative Tea Party message.

BLITZER: You spent some quality time with Sarah Palin, as well. Some have described Christine O'Donnell as sort of a junior version of Sarah Palin. What are the similarities, the contrasts that you see?

BRODY: Well, there's a -- there's a folksiness to both of them. There's an ease to both of them. That's for sure.

What was interesting about Christine O'Donnell, I mean, and you saw this somewhat there, Wolf, obviously in the debate that you had on CNN. But if you kind of get deep into policy with her -- when I say deep into policy, I mean, against a range of issues. I mean, when you get her down in the 20- to 25-, 30-minute interview, she can talk some -- some policy here.

I mean, so -- so some of the caricature that's out there of her may not be all that it's cracked up to be. I mean, she's someone that can not only put two thoughts together but that just seems like she's got quite a bit more substance there than maybe the media lets on.

BLITZER: David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. David, thanks very much.

BRODY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And remember, CNN is the place to be on election night. Please join me and the best political team on television for up-to- the-minute vote results, analysis of the outcome, what happens next. November 2, our special coverage begins right after THE SITUATION ROOM, 7 p.m. Eastern.

It goes by the nicknames "blackout in a can" and "liquid cocaine." This energy drink may have put college students in the hospital. Information you need to know, coming up.

Plus, inside the heart of a tornado.


BLITZER: Are alcoholic energy drinks to blame for making some college students very sick? Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is pretty wild, what they've found out. We remember this story from a little while ago. Investigators in Rockland, Washington, say they think alcoholic energy drinks caused nine college students to get so sick at a house party they had to be hospitalized.

Cans of the caffeinated malt liquor known as Four Loko were found at the party. Investigators say one 23-1/2-ounce can of Four Loko is comparable to drinking five or six beers. The drink, also known as "blackout in a can" -- could have been an indicator there -- also has high amounts of caffeine and sugar.

The blood alcohol level of the hospitalized students ranged from .12 to .35.

Brett Favre has been in the news a lot recently, but now he is wearing an ankle boot today after fracturing his heel bone during yesterday's match up between the Minnesota Vikings and Favre's former team, the Green Bay Packers. He has two fractures in his ankle. The star quarterback has not been ruled out for next Sunday's game at the New England Patriots, but this could put in jeopardy his streak of starting in, pretty amazingly, 291 consecutive games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a tornado.


BOLDUAN: "We are in a tornado." He's being serious. Really incredible video. This is taken by emergency management coordinator Eric Myers. He was responding to a storm in Reitz, Texas, right when the tornado struck. Myers filmed the debris. You can see it all right the, flying around outside of his window.

The twister destroyed homes, flipped over an 18-wheeler truck, knocked train cars off the tracks, and injured at least four people.

That's pretty amazing. He was going to help, and he found himself in the middle of it.

BLITZER: Yes. Stuff happens.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully not too often.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is asking, 'Is it too late to do anything meaningful about the deficit?"

Plus, short tempers on the campaign trail. Why the mood is "Most Unusual."

And remember, we're only 10 minutes or so away from the top of the hour. John King's Florida debate, the gubernatorial debate you want to see. That's coming up in ten minutes.


BLITZER: Now Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, is it too late to do anything meaningful about the deficit?

Paul writes, "No, one only has to look at Europe to see what the consequences are of doing nothing. The U.S. is in the same predicament as those European countries, and delaying the inevitable will only make the truly hard choices even harder. The only question is who has the courage to step forward and do what has to be done, regardless of the political consequences. Because if you're really serious about this, it's going to hurt."

Robert writes, "No, it's isn't too late to do something about the deficit. Raise the age for Social Security benefits to 70, and add a dollar of national tax to a gallon of gasoline. It's not going to be popular, but neither is the deficit."

Thom writes, "No, it isn't too late. Get the hell out of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Stop spending money on futile wars. Ban importation of goods produced by American companies offshore. Put hospitals, churches and universities on the tax rolls next year. Close all the loopholes for businesses and anyone, and put a flat tax in place in 2011. And that's just for starters."

And Kevin writes from Dallas, "It's never too late to do something about the deficit. However, anything meaningful is going to hurt a lot of people in the short term, and that's the problem with our system. The people who run the country have to think short-term to keep their jobs. All of our problems are long-term."

You want to read more, check out my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thanks very much. See you tomorrow.

The campaigns are coming down to the wire, and it seems tempers are rising and words are flying. Stand by for that.

Also, remember, at the top of the hour, the gubernatorial debate in Tampa, Florida, with John King. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: It's not easy being even the campaign trail. Jeanne moos serves up mostly testy campaign moments.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rent isn't the only thing.


MOOS: ... that's too damn high. So is the level of testiness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run a race as a man.

MOOS: From a Democrat angry that he didn't get Barack Obama's endorsement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can take his endorsement and really shove it.

MOOS: To a Republican running for governor of Ohio.

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have never seen the kind of negative, smearing, lying stuff that this -- these Democrats have done.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I almost gag when I hear these Republicans.

MOOS: And if it's not these Republicans or these Democrats, it's these reporters. For instance, the one getting an earful from New York's Republican candidate for governor.

CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: You're out of line. You're out of line. You're off the Christmas card list. And you're a terrible journalist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

MOOS: A reporter for the FOX 5 station in Las Vegas says he got shushed by Republican Sharron Angle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sharron, can we talk to you about...

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: Shh. Well, I have to get on the --- But I just want to ask you to get out the vote.

MOOS: The Angle campaign says she didn't shush him. It must have been someone else. But CNBC's second angle sure makes it look like Sharron Angle...


MOOS: ... was the one. (on camera) But maybe some politicians should be shh -- shushing themselves.

(voice-over) This Texas Democrat lost it when a woman in the audience interrupted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, tell the truth, then.

REP. CIRO RODRIGUEZ (D), TEXAS: Ma'am, don't tell accuse me of not telling the truth.

MOOS: When someone else called his conduct inappropriate...


MOOS: The testiest tantrum of them all, the standard by which testy tantrums should be judged, featured an unknown candidate for Stark County, Ohio, treasurer.

PHIL DAVIDSON (R), CANDIDATE FOR STARK COUNTY TREASURER: I have been a Republican in times good, and I have been a Republican in times bad.

MOOS (on camera): This is one of the bad times. Phil Davidson did not get his party's nomination.

DAVIDSON: Albert Einstein issued one of my most favorite quotes. In the middle of opportunity -- excuse me. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

MOOS (voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is enough to make even a presidential impersonator testy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): If Sarah Palin shoots her mouth off one more time, so help me God. The only time I lie is when I say I don't smoke cigarettes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only time he lies is when he says he don't smoke cigarettes. The only time he lies is when he says he doesn't smoke cigarettes.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos...

DAVIDSON: Drastic times require what?


DAVIDSON: Drastic measures, yes! Who said that?

MOOS: New York.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos, thanks very much. That's all the time we have. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up right now, the Florida governor's race, the debate. John King is standing by.