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Monster Storms Hit Midwest & South; McCain: Big Gun or Faded Star?; Dem to President: "Shove It"

Aired October 26, 2010 - 17:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I think from what I understand some of that they -- they will be playing tonight on "JOY BEHAR" on HLN.


BALDWIN: Kareen Wynter live for us in LA.

Stay on the story. Keep us posted later on this week.

Thank you for watching.

I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's send it up to Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, breaking news -- the Midwest and parts of the South blown away. Near hurricorn -- hurricane force winds are tearing across hundreds and hundreds of miles. There's a tornado on the ground right now. We're tracking the damage and the danger. Stand by.

And John McCain versus Michelle Obama -- both parties have big guns on the campaign trail one week before the election.

But does Senator McCain still have rock star status among Republicans?

And a CNN exclusive -- a former girlfriend's shocking claims about the Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, involving pornography and drinking. She reveals why she believes the sexual harassment allegations against Thomas by Anita Hill almost two decades ago were true.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We'll get to all the politics one week before the election, in a moment.

But let's go right to breaking news -- terrifying scenes of storm destruction like this one in Indiana, repeated over and over again today. An 800 mile stretch of severe weather moving across the Midwest and South Central states. We're getting reports of tornadoes, including one on the ground right now; tens of thousands of people without power; roofs blown off; buildings collapsed; flights grounded.

Let's go straight to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

He's working the story for us.

Hurricane force winds in the middle of the country -- Chad?


If you -- if go to your barometer on the wall and you look at 28.4, that's where the barometer is in Northern Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin. That is lower pressure than the storm that sunk the Edmond Fitzgerald and it's the same pressure that a category three hurricane would have in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Atlantic Ocean. Tremendous winds across parts of the Midwest. And then farther to the south, as you're just saying, tornadoes still on the ground. And one that we know of not that far from Huntsville, Alabama, where that lightning strike was right there. This is Madison County in Northern Alabama. And this storm could be near Newmark. And Newmark had had a tornado about an hour and a half ago. So storms on top of storms.

What's changing now, Wolf, compared to what we had earlier, look how he's a storm there and then one there and then there. And they're small for now. But that's different than what we had earlier in the day, when all of the storms, especially -- and they're still this way -- across parts of the Upper Midwest were all in a line.

When you get a line of weather, all of that weather just wants to plow ahead and make wind damage. You don't technically get a lot of tornadoes when you get a squall line like that. But when the storms begin to break up, they get more energy around them. They can use all of the humidity, all of the heat. And they can become the big dog, we call those, a -- a mesocyclone or a super cell. You've heard that -- that term.

Super cells are now developing on the southern part of this tail, where squall lines with wind damage are occurring through parts of Ohio into Pennsylvania and West Virginia, through the Carolinas, as well, later on tonight, probably even through D.C. and New York late tonight as it continues to move there. But that's hours away.

And then, believe it or not, on the other side, that's snow. Minot, North Dakota, winds right now gusting to 54 miles per hour with snow in the air. So a blizzard like condition up here, very windy through the Midwest and then that squall line of severe weather plowing spring like storms in the fall right now.

Now this happens because, in the spring, warm air wants to push up against the cold air. Cold air is already in place. It's winter. Spring is trying to push warm air in. The opposite happens in the fall. The warm air is here and the cold air says, hey, it's time for winter, get out of the way. Well, if you wake up or you woke up today all the way up and down the East Coast, this humidity was back in the air. It felt like spring. And that's why there are spring storms tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of the breaking news with you, Chad.

Don't go too far away.

MYERS: Thank you.

BLITZER: That storm is moving toward New York and Washington and Boston.

Let answer get to politics right now. One week to go before the election, six days of campaigning left. And they're out there -- all the big guns are campaigning in these, the desperate days and hours for so many candidates around the country.

John McCain is campaigning now for Republicans. He doesn't have to worry about getting reelected in Arizona. He's got a huge lead right now. Dana Bash is working the story for us -- Dana, John McCain, who is he helping?

Why is he doing this?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, John McCain doesn't get the crowds or the publicity of his former running mate, Sarah Palin. But he has had a pretty busy schedule over the past couple of weeks, stumping for Republican candidates.

I want to show our viewers the map that we have showing where he's been. He's campaigned from California, for his former campaign adviser, Carly Fiorina, to New Mexico to Illinois to Vermont. And today, he was in West Virginia, campaigning for GOP Senate candidate John Raese. Now West Virginia, Wolf, is a state where John McCain actually won. He beat Barack Obama in 2008. So Republicans think he can make an impact there.

Here's a taste of his message today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Unemployment, 9.6 percent; towns underwater; all of the things that are the legacy of this president. And I think it will be a strong repudiation with the election of John Raese.


BASH: Another interesting thing, Wolf, that McCain is saying is that he is concerned Republicans, in general, are being overconfident right now.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, the -- the senator recently has gotten very, very tough and pointed in some of his comments, specifically against Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democrat in California. He says working with her on defense issues is an unpleasant experience. So he's making it clear, he doesn't like her very much.

BASH: That's right. And it's not just her. It's very interesting to watch McCain, Wolf, even in today's brutally partisan world, when it comes to sitting U.S. senators, there still tends to be an unspoken code not to get that pointed. But McCain really has been going for the jugular in his campaign swings. He did a conference call for Washington Republican Senate candidate Dino Rossi yesterday and he really went after Democratic Senator Patty Murray on earmarks.

He said, quote: "I know it's a corrupt practice. She engages in that corrupt practice."

He walked right up the line -- up to the line of calling Murray corrupt. And today, Wolf, he defended and even, in a way, reiterated that.


MCCAIN: I have been on the floor for 20 years saying that earmarking was a corrupt practice. So why should I be not -- why should be I be reluctant to say it when one of the most ardent practitioners of it continue -- will continue on that path?


BASH: Now, Wolf, Murray's campaign says their focus is her opponent, not John McCain. And as for McCain, he is pretty much done with this cross-country swing. He's heading back to Arizona. As you mentioned, he is on the ballot, too. He survived a tough primary. It looks like he's pretty clear to win a fifth term in the Senate. But he's making sure that he is giving some money and giving some help to some Republicans that are out there.

BLITZER: He's getting ready for another six years in Washington.

All right, Dana, thanks very much.

And with only one week to go before election day, Republican Senate candidate, Carly Fiorina, is in a California hospital. She's being treated for an infection related to the reconstructive surgery she had after successfully battling breast cancer. Fiorina's campaign says she's expected to make what they call "a quick and full recovery and be back campaigning soon." Fiorina is challenging Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer's campaign says it wishes her a speedy recovery.

Next Tuesday's elections are certainly on Jack Cafferty's mind.

And Jack is back.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Just seven days to go now until the midterm elections.

But who's counting? Well, we are. President Obama has a quiet day at the White House -- maybe too quiet. On his schedule, not a lot -- meetings with advisers, cabinet members. No campaign rallies, no fundraisers.

Howard Kurtz writes for "The Daily Beast" that heading into the midterms, the White House feels so beat up by the press and unable to push their own narrative that they've gone into bunker mode. Quote: "What's fascinating is the belief that the bully pulpit has been permanently downsized, forcing the leader of the free world to shout for attention in a cacophonous world," unquote.

And it's not just President Obama who seems to be feeling the pain here. Bill, Clinton, the former president, spoke at a campaign event the other day in a high school gym in Detroit that was almost two-thirds empty.

When was the last time Bill Clinton spoke to an empty house?

Even some Democrats are voicing their frustration. You heard this -- Frank Caprio, running for governor of Rhode Island, says President Obama can "take his endorsement and shove it." That's a quote.

Just lovely.

This after the president didn't endorse him.

There's plenty of reason for all this angst among the Democratic Party. The conventional wisdom is they're going to get a real beating next Tuesday. There's a new "USA Today"/Gallup Poll out that shows Democrats face a record enthusiasm gap. Only 37 percent of Democrats say they're more enthusiastic about voting this year than usual. That compares to a whopping 63 percent of Republicans.

Polls also show Congressional Republicans are holding their lead in the so-called generic ballot match-ups against the Democrats.

So here's the question: Is the election already over for the Democrats?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Not over yet. They still have a week to go.

We'll see what happens.

CNN, by the way, is the place to be on election night, next Tuesday. Join me and the best political team on television for up to the minute vote results, analysis of the outcome and what happens next.

Our special coverage will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM. That's next Tuesday, one week from today. One Democrat told the president to take his endorsement -- and you just heard Jack talk about it -- and really shove it. That's the quote.

Now more backlash over Mr. Obama's handling of the Rhode Island governor's race. The top executive of the Democratic Governors Association tells me members of the Democratic Party are not happy with the way the White House has handled Rhode Island.

And we'll meet the man responsible for some of the most provocative Republican campaign commercials, including -- you remember this one -- Christine O'Donnell's famous "I'm not a witch ad."

And a mother says she barely recognizes her own son after he was part of a rogue U.S. Army platoon accused of killing for sport.


BLITZER: Democrats are really angry at President Obama and the White House for refusing to endorse the Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Frank Caprio. The Independent candidate, the former senator, Lincoln Chafee, he's out with a brand new ad featuring President Obama and suggesting the president wants him to be elected.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Real change isn't voting for George Bush's war in Iraq. I knew what it was. Lincoln Chafee knew what it was.


OBAMA: We were voting for war. That's why I opposed this war. Lincoln opposed this war. And if Lincoln Chafee could stand up...


BLITZER: And joining us now, Nathan Daschle. He's the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.

Your job is to get Democrats elected to governor -- in the governor's contests.

And there's an uproar, as you know, in Rhode Island right now. Frank Caprio is the Democratic candidate whom you support. Your organization has given him money -- given him money. He said this on the eve of the president's arrival in Rhode Island.


FRANK CAPRIO (D), RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: 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.


BLITZER: All right, those are pretty strong words. You could also make the case that the president is snubbing -- is really hitting the Democratic Governors Association, because you've given him money. You've supported him. What's going on here?

NATE DASCHLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR'S ASSOCIATION: Well I found yesterday's events to be surprising and disappointing. This is a very difficult election year, the only way the Democrats get through this is if we stick together. And while I might have chosen different words to express my frustration, clearly Frank Caprio was frustrated here.

I think there's a reasonable expectation on the part of Democratic candidates particularly those who are viable in important races to have the full support of the party and that includes the leadership.

BLITZER: Cause Lincoln Chafee, the independent candidate, the former Republican, he's got an ad out there, as you know, basically saying the president has endorsed him.

DASCHLE: Like I said, this is an unfortunate set of events because we are seven days away from the election and I think what's most important is that we move past this, because there are important issues in this race in the Rhode Island race and important issues around the country. And I think that for the sake of everyone involved, it's important that we just move on and talk about the differences between us and the Republicans.

BLITZER: I want to move on, but I want to play for you what Paul Begala, the democratic strategist, our CNN contributor, said on "AC 360."

Listen to this.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You go to Rhode Island, it's the most Democratic state in the union. The Democratic Governors Association has spent $1.5 million trying to elect Mr. Caprio there, and the president has just completely undercut them.

Barack Obama, still beloved by liberals, he might have cost the Democrats this seat. He may have cost the Democrats the governorship in Rhode Island. And he's, I think still a Democrat, Mr. Obama is. It's unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: He says it's unprecedented. He can't remember a time when a president a week before an election has done this to a Democratic candidate.

DASCHLE: Well and, you know, Paul's probably right. And like I said, that's why I think so many of us were surprised and disappointed that the president wouldn't give Frank Caprio his endorsement.

BLITZER: Have you conveyed that concern to the White House?

DASCHLE: We've had conversations back and forth.

BLITZER: Like with David Axelrod? With who?

DASCHLE: With a number of folks, I don't want to get into private conversations.

BLITZER: Do they have an explanation?

DASCHLE: Well, I think that they have longstanding relationship with Lincoln Chafee and I think they didn't want to do anything to hurt his candidacy, but I think in the end we certainly got a result that doesn't help anyone.

BLITZER: Certainly doesn't help the Democratic candidate right now, right?

DASCHLE: No. It's not the ideal place to be in.

BLITZER: Because in Rhode Island, the president is very popular and it's a Democratic state.

These Cooke and Rothenberg political reports, there are 37 gubernatorial contests up for grabs on November 2nd, one week from today. I looked and maybe four or five, maybe six are sort of leaning or safe Democrats; 17, 18, 19 are leaning or safe Republican; the others are sort of toss-ups right now. You're on the verge potentially of a disaster.

DASCHLE: Well that's one way of putting it.

Let's first start with the stakes of this election. It's not every election year that I could tell you that the governors are the main event, but this year truly is the case, and this is why I encourage all of your viewers to pay attention to the governor's race this is year.

We have a confluence of three factors. One is the number of governors races, 37. Two, they're running through critical 2012 battlegrounds. And three, this falls on the eve of congressional redistricting. So it's not a stretch to say the next decade of American politics will be shaped by what happens in the governor's race this year.

BLITZER: Because even Bill Clinton did a fundraising letter for the Democrats Governors Association. Among other things, he said, "If these governors are Republicans, they're predicting a decade long GOP gain of 30 U.S. House seats, which could cripple the Obama administration and reduce our children's chances of a bright future."

That's the stakes as you see it --


BLITZER: -- and at least a week from, a week away from the election the polls aren't necessarily all that good for you.

DASCHLE: I would dispute that. I'm actually feeling better about where we are and I'll give you three reasons.

One, there has been an uptick in Democratic enthusiasm across the board. Two, the polls have actually moved in our favor in virtually every key race we're facing in 2010.

And three, we're still on the verge of picking up some states that currently have Republican governors, some big states like California and Florida. In both of those states I feel very good about our prospects. We also have a shot at Texas, those are the three biggest states the Democrats have a shot of winning this year. If we win, one, two, three of those we will change the story of this election year.

BLITZER: We'd like to have you back after the election and we can digest what's going on.

We should point out we invited the executive director of the Republican Governors Association to join us together, unfortunately he couldn't, but we'll get him on on another occasion.

DASCHLE: Love to be back. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thanks so much, Nathan for coming in.


BLITZER: Much more politics coming up. We're also following other important top stories including the arrest of a U.S. citizen charged with attempting to join a terrorist network in Pakistan. Stand by for details.

And have you seen this creature? Probably not. He's one of 1,200 new species that have just been identified. You'll see more of them ahead.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including, Kate, the arrest of a U.S. citizen on terrorism-related charges? What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a Hawaii man, a very interesting story, Wolf, we wanted to tell you about. The Justice Department has announced a 21-year-old Hawaii man has been charged with making false statements. The man allegedly told investigators he purchased a one-way ticket from New York City to Islamabad, Pakistan to, of all things, attend an engagement party. Then he admitted he was attempting to join a militant group like the Taliban. He was born and raised in New York.

And one of the best known faces of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has been sentenced to die by the country's high court. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was convicted of helping eliminate religious parties during Saddam's reign. His family tells CNN they had no idea he'd be sentenced today and they're shocked by the decision. Aziz's attorney calls the sentence politically motivated and illegal.

This is really interesting, a shocking discovery and more than one. The World Wildlife Fund has identified 1,200 new species in the Amazon rain forest. Among them, seeing a few of them behind me, a pink river dolphin -- no, I'm not making that up -- a pink river dolphin, a similar species was originally spotted in the 1800s. Also, a blue-fanged tarantula, it's all brown except for two blue fangs. Wouldn't you love to come upon that one? And then there's this, this frog, an unusual looking burst of flames on its head. Actually quite beautiful. The report says a new species was identified every three days over at last decade.

I think we've finally found Wolf Blitzer's Halloween costume -- a blue-fanged tarantula.

BLITZER: And what about the frog with that little fiery -- ?

BOLDUAN: You would look good with some flames coming off of you head.

BLITZER: What's that one up there behind you?

BOLDUAN: That's the frog.

Ask me what I'm going to be for Halloween?

BLITZER: What are you going to be for Halloween?

BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Never mind.


BLITZER: The Democrats are facing a big test in the governor's race. President Obama is trying to save Deval Patrick from the trend that swept Republican Scott Brown into the Senate from Massachusetts.

And look at this, if Christine O'Donnell is having seconds thoughts about "I'm not a Witch" ad she has one man she can blame.


Happening now, an ex-girlfriend paints a scathing picture of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in an exclusive CNN interview. Her salacious allegations of binge drinking and excessive pornography use, that's coming up.

And shots fired at a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in the Washington, D.C. area. It's the third such incident in two weeks. Is there a connection? New information coming in.

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

There is a critical gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts, the state's first African-American governor fighting desperately right now to keep his job. There was a debate last night.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us from Boston. Mary, what happened?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a final debate, Wolf. No big sparks, but really now it's up to the undecideds. And this race stands out, Wolf, because Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has close ties with President Obama. In fact, both even ran similar campaigns when they won office.


(voice-over): Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick only has a slim lead over Republican challenger Charlie Baker, but the Democratic incumbent is hanging on to his optimism.

(on camera): There's been a lot of talk about the enthusiasm gap among Democrats. You don't buy it, right?


SNOW: Why?

PATRICK: Just as an example we had a room last week for 7,000 people when the president came to give, to do a rally to support the campaign, and 21,000 people showed up.

OBAMA: Are you fired up?

SNOW: Patrick is both a friend and ally of President Obama. Both won office on a message of hope and change. Now their message is being put to the test in a state that's traditionally blue. But it's the same state where Republican Scott Brown scored an upset by winning the Senate seat vacated by the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. You said recently "one senator wins and we've been acting like Chicken Little all over America."

PATRICK: I love Democrats. I'm proud to be a Democrat but sometimes it sounds like we're the first rattled by the right wing talking points. SNOW: In his campaign, Patrick has touted job creation. The state's unemployment rate is below the national average at 8.4 percent but his challenger says that's actually not a good thing.

CHARLIE BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS GOV. CANDIDATE: Well, our unemployment rate is lower primarily because more and more people have just been discouraged out of the labor market completely.

SNOW: Charlie Baker is a former CEO of a healthcare company. He advocates lower taxes and cutting government spending.


BAKER: Thank you very much.

SNOW: Baker takes aim at cuts Patrick's made in particular more than 3,000 teacher layoffs, but Baker also warns about a looming $2 billion state deficit. Wouldn't it come down to having to cut jobs like teachers?

BAKER: No it won't come down to cutting jobs like teachers but shrinking the size of state government.

SNOW: Baker says state government is too bloated, helping him get out his message this weekend, rising Republican star New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Third party candidates could determine the outcome. There are two on the ticket, and one of them has 8 percent of the vote. Points that matter in a race where Patrick only has a four-point lead which is within the margin of error.


SNOW: And Wolf, if money is any indication, there's plenty of outside interests. The "Boston Globe" tallies more than $5 million is being spent on each candidate by outside groups, and that includes the governors association of each party -- Wolf?

BLITZER: In that poll 8 percent still undecided, those are critical votes right there in a close election. Mary, thanks very much.

It's been a crazy election in so many contests, the ads have been extremely negative, very, very nasty. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin talked to a man behind some of the Republicans most memorable campaign commercials.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell now says she regrets that ad. Fred Davis made it.

FRED DAVIS, REPUBLICAN AD PRODUCER: My goal was to give people the same impression of Christine O'Donnell that I had the first second I met her. She didn't sound crazy. She didn't sound like a witch. She didn't sound like any of those things and I wanted the rest of the world to hear that as well.

YELLIN: And to you, critics that's not smoke in the background.

DAVIS: It's a projector very simple, little projector projecting light on a black background actually.

YELLIN: Davis' ads helped elect all these Republicans and could boost a few more this year.

BEN QUAYLE (R), ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL NOMINIEE: Barack Obama is the worst president in history.

MCCAIN: And complete the dang fence.


YELLIN: Davis lives in Hollywood, California. This is his office. He says ideas often come to him in bed. In the middle of the night?

DAVIS: A lot often in the middle of the night. I sleep with a legal pad, I'm very excited.

YELLIN: The nerd ad helped unknown Rick Snyder win his primary for Michigan governor and came from a first impression.

DAVIS: I shook his hand, hi, Rick, nice to meet you. He says "hey, hi, good to meet you" and your heart sinks.

YELLIN: That's not the voice you want.

DAVIS: That's not the voice you want but I started talking to him and just a really, really bright guy and so I think instead of trying to make him sound differently let's use what is he.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F-c-i-n-o, fiscal conservative in name only? A wolf in sheep's clothing.

YELLIN: In his most famous video, Davis turns a moderate Republican into a wolf in sheep's clothing.

DAVIS: I didn't think five people would ever see it, and millions have seen it and for the rest of my life, I'll be introduced as the demon sheep guy.

YELLIN: Is there an essence to a good political ad, what it needs to have?

DAVIS: Well, to me it has to stand out and you have to talk about it, and the thing that makes you talk about it I think is it being different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's one tough nerd.

YELLIN: Fred Davis, definitely not your typical spin doctor.


YELLIN: Now Wolf, Fred Davis does not shy from controversy. He thinks that a good political ad is basically one that you and I will talk about on TV, and to be memorable, sometimes you have to upset some people, his theory is as long as you don't upset a majority of the voters it's good for his client.

BLITZER: If you start off an ad "I'm not a witch" how good could the ad be even if it's so memorable?

YELLIN: That one would be studied and I imagine advertising classes for many years to come. I think there's a lot of stories to be told about that one, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

YELLIN: After the election.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jessica.

An earthquake and a deadly eruption of fire and water, hundreds of people are dead or missing. Stand by.

And aide to the Senate majority leader Harry Reid calling it quits because of her marriage.


BLITZER: Kate's back. She is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM including yet another reason why we shouldn't smoke.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As if we needed another reason, here it is. A new study shows that smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. In an analysis of more than 20,000 men and women, there was a 157 percent heightened risk of the disease in those who smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day. The study which is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente appears in the "Archives of Internal Medicine."

A staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused of orchestrating a sham marriage no longer works at his office his spokesman says. The employee allegedly accepted money several years ago to marry a Lebanese man who wanted to become a U.S. citizen. Reid's office calls the Republican alleged conduct wrong. The senior Nevada Democrat is he locked in a bitter re-election battle with Sharron Angle.

Actor Charlie Sheen is hospitalized after suffering what his spokesman calls an adverse allergic reaction to medication. New York police say an ambulance carried an "emotionally disturbed person" from a hotel to the hospital but wouldn't identify the individual. Sheen is currently on unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to an assault charge involving his wife. We wish him a speedy recovery but I will tell you and I know you agree, we are all starting to have a little adverse allergic reaction to celebrities who can't keep their noses clean.

BLITZER: That's true. What a story that is. I feel sorry for the guy.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

BLITZER: He's probably got himself to blame for some of those problems.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

The campaigner-in-chief sits down with the Reverend Al Sharpton just a little while ago. How important is it for President Obama to appeal to African-American voters right now?

Plus allegations of cheating at CNN's gubernatorial debate in Florida, will the Democrat candidates suffer on Election Day for violating the debate rules?


BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us, our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the national radio talk show host, Bill Bennett. Speaking of radio, Donna I'll start with you. Just a little while ago the president gave an interview to the Reverend Al Sharpton whose got a syndicated radio show himself. He really wants to get African-Americans to get out there and vote. He wants to energize them. Listen to what he said.


OBAMA: A lot of your listeners may live in places where there's early voting and if you've got early vote, take advantage of it now. The key is to make sure everybody understands this election is important. My name may not be on the ballot but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot and I need everybody to turn out.


BLITZER: Is he succeeding in energizing that African-American base of the Democratic Party?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, President Obama is using that same message no matter where he travels these days but there's no question that the president is trying to reach out to those surge voters, many of whom were African-Americans, young people to encourage them to turn out on Election Day. Wolf the key for Democrats next week is to get a good strong turnout in places where President Obama did well in 2008, where Democrats can expect to have built a firewall. If you get a strong African-American, strong Latino, strong turn out period then we could build a firewall and prevent Bill Bennett colleagues from taking control of the House and Senate.


BLITZER: Bill, you know what they say, an enthusiastic vote is the same as an unenthusiastic vote. They're both votes, and the result is the same.

BENNETT: That's exactly right. But the president's doing what he should be doing. He's going to his base and that's I think that's right. That's important for him to do. Everybody does. What's problematic is for the base is in the African-American community, you've got unemployment at 15 percent, not 10 percent, but 15, 16 percent, so that's a problem. Of course he should go to his base, go on the Al Sharpton show. If I may, I'd like to invite him on my show. That's fine. Sharpton show is fine, Jon Stewart I think he doesn't need to do that. That's political comedy and cynicism, but Sharpton is a serious political show. I think that's good.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some of the polls coming in, Donna. In Ohio, a key battleground state, the Democrats carried it the last time in 2012. If President Obama can't carry it, he's in deep trouble as far as getting a second term is concerned. Right now, John Kasich the former Republican Congressman running for governor, with 49 percent in this new Quinnipiac University poll, Ted Strickland, the incumbent Democrat with 43 percent. Ohio the president has been there, the vice president has been there, the first lady has been there, Bill Clinton has been there, some of them are going back there, they desperately need to win this contest and right now it's looking better for Kasich.

BRAZILE: Well Wolf, if you look at the margin of error is a dead heat and there's no question Mr. Strickland and the other down ballot candidates will have to really turn out the voters in Franklin County, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Columbus, all of those very important cities that will turn out for Democrats if they can reach out to them over the next couple of days. I know organized labor is really rolling up their sleeves, they're knocking on doors, getting people to the polls. I hope the president can make another visit there to Ohio it's a bellwether state, important for 2012. But more importantly, there are so many Congressional Democrats at risk if we don't get a good turnout next Tuesday.

BLITZER: Ohio has a strong Democratic Party get out the vote campaign apparatus together with a lot of the labor unions. Let's go to Connecticut, Bill, and talk about what's happening in Connecticut right now. They're saying Quinnipiac University poll, says Richard Blumenthal the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate with 54 percent, Linda McMahon, the former world wrestling association executive 42 percent, looking good for the Democrat in Connecticut, right now. You think she still has a shot?

BENNETT: I think she still has a shot. It's a blue state, indeed a deep blue state but she's got a shot. As I've been saying for the last six months and will say next week no matter what happens this is not your father's Republican Party, a world wrestling executive female running for senator and it looks like a pretty interesting race. She may close but it's a tough state. The lesson here is stick to your principles, stick to your guns. Don't misrepresent what you believe and obviously prioritize what the issues are and they're serious issues in Connecticut.

BLITZER: You know, Donna, if a Republican can win the Senate race in Massachusetts, neighboring Connecticut, anything is possible in this crazy season. You understand that?

BRAZILE: Dick Blumenthal is running a terrific campaign. He's overcome a lot of odds especially the story we heard earlier this year about his military service but the people of Connecticut are concerned about their future, they're concerned about jobs. They know that Dick Blumenthal will fight for the middle class and come to Washington, D.C., to roll up his sleeves and do what's right for the voters. Linda McMahon has run a great campaign. At the end of the day they want an experienced leader like Dick Blumenthal.

BLITZER: All right guys. We'll see what happens. I know you'll be with us.

BENNETT: We are.

BLITZER: As part of the best political team on television. Get ready, this is exciting.

BENNETT: I got to study my counties like Donna does to rattle off the counties.

BLITZER: Yes, what is that county?

BENNETT: Cuyahoga.

BLITZER: All right. We're there. Stand by guys.

A lot more politics coming up as we get ready for this election.

Also some other stories including the FBI investigating the third shooting at a U.S. military facility in the Washington, D.C., area, in two weeks. Are these shootings connected?

And the past allegedly catching up with the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. An ex-girlfriend opens up about what she says were his drinking and pornography habits when she knew him. This is a CNN exclusive. Stand by.


BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Question this hour is: Is the election already over for the Democrats?

Frank writes: "I hope that the Democrats do better than expected. For the American people to turn so abruptly back to the Republicans is shocking. Even given the fact that President Obama was a bit lackluster to start off with, are we that vulnerable to the Republican smear and slogan that we throw in the towel? I think it would be a disaster to give corporate America another bid to control the country and certainly the country's purse. Let's all hope not."

Chris in Ohio says: "The election was over when the president and Democratic controlled Congress failed to understand the needs of the country. Great minds can debate on how to best handle the great recession, but who would have thought that their number one job was health care reform if you can call it that when Americans want jobs. To add insult to the problem, the president then has the nerve to tell us that we don't understand the mess we are in. Yes, Mr. President, we do, if only you had focused on the economy first rather than trying to make your mark in history."

Dean says: "Now our government and policy is determined by who is enthusiastic, and the media spends so much time to entice watchers and readers and listeners, it doesn't have a clue how people really feel about much of anything, very much like the politicians. We will see you Election Day, and not before. Why don't you try to find something useful to write about?"

Patsy in Texas writes: "President Obama is going to Pennsylvania and Virginia and Ohio this weekend and that is hardly being in bunker mode."

Charles writes: "The Democrats were beaten when they pushed the agenda on us with no debate, when they shoved as much pork as they could fit into a bill and call it a stimulus bill and when they forced universal health care on us with no debate, but the Congress was told to pass it and then you can read it and on and on and on."

And Carla says: "If I could tell a Democrat from a Republican, I'd vote for a Democrat, but there is not much difference these days."

If you want to read more, you will find it on my blog

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Great place to go. Jack has a great blog there.

And an army mom says that her son is a mess after serving in Afghanistan as part of a rogue platoon accused of killing for kicks.


BLITZER: As the U.S. army prepares trials for 12 members of a platoon depicted as going rogue in Afghanistan, one mother is now speaking out emotionally about her son's involvement. CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: This is what Dana Holmes sent to the army, her bright energetic patriotic 18-year-old son. This is what she says she got back. DANA HOLMES, SOLDIER'S MOTHER: The man that came home was not my son. He was very thin. He had lost about 50 pounds.

GRIFFIN: And there was more. Her son, Andrew, charged with murder, drug abuse, and even possession of a war trophy, a human finger. According to the army, Andrew Holmes was a member of a rogue platoon which sought out, murdered and covered up killings of three innocent Afghan men while smoking hash and high on prescription drugs.

HOLMES: If they were smoking that much hashish, you can smell it. Where was the command? Did they just dump all of these boys off and say go forth and conquer?

GRIFFIN: The army insists that the platoon kept secrets and murder, and drugs, and grisly trophy photos and then beat up a fellow solider they considered a snitch, but for Andrew Holmes' attorney Dan Conway, it is extremely hard to believe that a hashish-smoking rogue soldiers could go unnoticed for so long.

DAN CONWAY, ANDREW HOLMES' ATTORNEY: There is no excuse for why the command was so derelict in their ability to supervise these young soldiers.

GRIFFIN: The Pentagon has tried to portray this as just one out of control unit that somehow kept its secrets of drug use and killings for months.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: These remain allegations. They are abhorrent even as allegations but I think they are an aberration in terms of the behavior of our forces, and talk to the army about whether there is a larger effort to look into the chain of command issues.

GRIFFIN: We did just that, took our questions to Army Secretary John McCue, and army chief of staff, General George Casey. The response was a short e-mail, the secretary and the chief are going to decline the opportunity to do the interview. According to the army, Holmes was involved in a killing staged to look like the platoon was engaging the enemy. His attorney Dan Conway says that the charge is simply false. Do you think that these can be quote, unquote at the end of the day good kills?

CONWAY: Well, all I can speak for is the charge that PFC Andrew Holmes is associated with, and I will tell you that there is no proof that PFC Andrew Holmes caused or conspired to cause a death of any human being unlawfully.

GRIFFIN: His mom refuses to accept that her son is anything but a patriotic soldier who followed orders.

HOLMES: My son joined the army, because he wanted to serve the country and now he is a prisoner of war in his own country. I just don't understand how the army cannot have some culpability in all of this.

GRIFFIN: Private Andy Holmes and 11 other soldiers at Fort Lewis, Washington now await court martial proceedings that could send them to prison for decades.

Drew Griffin, CNN --- Weare, New Hampshire.