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GOP's Edge in Senate Squeakers; Immigration Sways California Polls; Tea Party Impact in Colorado

Aired October 27, 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, new polls from the hottest Senate races in the country and a staggering new estimate of campaign spending. We're about to unveil numbers just in to CNN that could shake the outcome on election night in America.

Also, a past lie exposed in the Alaska Senate race. This hour, the bombshell revelation about Republican and Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller. Now incumbent turned write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski is pouncing.

And round two of a powerful storm system unleashing heavy rains, strong winds and tornados. Right now, much of the nation is either taking cover or cleaning up from this onslaught of severe weather.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're in place for an election that could drastically change the balance of power in Congress and the statehouses across the nation at the same time. It will all play out right here only six days from now.

Just in this hour, our brand new CNN/"Time" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll from some of the closest and most critical Senate races in the country.

Let's go over to our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our good friend, Joe Klein, of "Time Magazine" to assess what's going on.

Let's take a look at some of these numbers and then we'll discuss.

In Nevada right now, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, our brand new poll has Sharon Angle, the Republican and Tea Party favorite, with 49 percent among likely voters; Harry Reid, 45 percent; a the third party candidate, Scott Ashjian, 2 percent; none of the above, 3 percent. It's close, but she's slightly ahead.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: She is slightly ahead and if I were Harry Reid, I'd be concentrating on my get out the vote effort with Hispanic voters, with minority voters. But, look, this election in that state is a referendum on Harry Reid, not Sharron Angle. And given the economy in that state, given, what, a 14 percent unemployment rate, he's got real problems that he's got to try and make up by getting out those -- that Democratic base.

BLITZER: It's the highest unemployment rate in the country and foreclosure is out of control, as well.

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Nevada is a mess. And the key thing here is that if Harry Reid thought that by exposing how extreme Sharron Angle was, she'd go away, he has now lost that bet. Two important points, though -- two important statistics.

Number one, 50 percent is really the bright line in these races.

BORGER: Right.

KLEIN: And -- and she's not there yet.

And the other important thing is 3.5 percent margin of error in the polls, which means that this could be a dead heat.

BLITZER: It could be a dead heat. Let's take a look at Kentucky right now, another Tea Party favorite. Rand Paul, 50 percent among likely voters. Jack Conway, the Democratic candidate, 43 percent. Joe points out, a 3.5 percent margin of error. But that looks like a significant lead.

When you get to 50 percent, that's real.

BORGER: Yes. And, you know, what's interesting about Kentucky is that this was a -- a race in which the Democrat, Jack Conway, threw kind of a -- a long ball. And he ran a really, really negative ad against Rand Paul, accusing him of worshipping a false idol when he was at Baylor University. And you know what?

That ad, I believe, backfired. And people went, wait a minute, this guy was in college, da, da, da. And they -- and they took a look at Rand Paul during the debate and they kind of liked what they saw.

Let's go to Colorado for a moment, as well. Look at how extremely close this contest is. Another Tea Party favorite, the Republican, Ken Buck, with 47 percent; Michael Bennett, the incumbent Democrat, 46 percent. That's a tie.

KLEIN: It's a -- it's a toss-up. But Bennett has been the one who's been moving up over the last week or so. It was up by about five or six or seven points in the earlier polling. So there is some movement there. But it's impossible to tell how that's going to come out.

BLITZER: And Cal...

BORGER: Yes...

BLITZER: And Pennsylvania right now... BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- look at this, Gloria, Pat Toomey, the Republican former Congressman, 49 percent. The incumbent Congressman who wants to be senator, Joe Sestak, he beat Arlen Specter for Democratic nomination...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- 45 percent. Toomey slightly ahead.

BORGER: Yes. And this is, of course, a blue, blue state of Pennsylvania. If this were kind of a normal year, you'd figure that Pennsylvania would go Democratic. But a Republican pollster I spoke with today reminded me that in the greatest Republican year in 100 years, in 1994, Rick Santorum won. But he beat the incumbent, Harris Wofford, only 51-49. So Pennsylvania is going to be close one way or another.

BLITZER: If the Democrats can't hold Pennsylvania, it certainly portends bad news for the president's reelection.

KLEIN: Especially, I mean Pennsylvania likes moderate Republicans. And Toomey is not a moderate Republican. He's, you know, pretty -- he was the head of Club for Growth, which is an extreme pro-business, anti-tax group. And -- but Sestak is a good closer. I mean in his two races, for Congress and then in the primary, against Arlen Specter, Spec -- Sestak closed at the last minute.

BORGER: Right. And don't forget, they're having the big guns out there in Pennsylvania.

KLEIN: Right.

BORGER: So, you know, you're having Obama, you're having Biden...

KLEIN: And they still have machines in Pennsylvania. They...

BORGER: And get out the vote.

KLEIN: You know, they have the last...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They still have the governor, Ed Rendell...

KLEIN: Right.

BLITZER: -- who's a Democrat in Pennsylvania.

Look at this. In California, Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democrat, 50 percent; Carly Fiorina, who's now coming out of the hospital...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- with 45 percent. This poll was taken before she was taken to the hospital with an infection as a result of her breast cancer surgery.

She's going to be out of the hospital, though. She's going to be able to campaign over the next six days. But this is still very close out in California.

BORGER: Oh, absolutely. As Joe was talking about, if you believe that this is a 50 percent line, which is the magic number, then it's very, very good for Barbara Boxer. In a normal year, again, the Democrats -- this is California we're talking about. The Democrat would be way ahead. Carly Fiorina has tried to moderate herself to a certain degree, so she is where she is.

KLEIN: This...

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE)...

KLEIN: -- this race has been pretty stable for the last two or three weeks...

BORGER: Yes.

KLEIN: -- showing, you know, a four or five point Boxer lead in a number of different polls. But still, it's going to be a matter of turnout and, you know, whether the Republican intensity will make this closer or even turn it around.

BLITZER: Joe Klein from "Time Magazine," Gloria from CNN. Thanks, guys.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: There's another important race out in California that we're watching, as well, in our brand new CNN/"Time Magazine" poll, the choice for governor. Take a look at this. Jerry Brown with 51 percent. Meg Whitman, the Republican, 44 percent. The Latino vote in California is clearly critical.

Our special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien, takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEG WHITMAN (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: It's nice to see you guys. I appreciate that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican

Meg Whitman has invested $140 million of her own money on the California governor's race. It's more than any candidate for any public office in U.S. history. And early this fall, it seemed to be having an impact.

For now, the California election seems to be turning on an issue dear to the state's Latino voters -- immigration. A "Los Angeles Times"/University of Southern California poll says Democrat Jerry Brown leads Whitman by 36 percentage points among Latino voters.

What made the difference?

One reason could be Whitman's version of Nannygate.

NICKY DIAZ SANTILLAN, WHITMAN'S FORMER HOUSEKEEPER: I felt like she was throwing me away like a piece of garbage.

O'BRIEN: Whitman's former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, said Whitman knew she was here illegally for nine years, but only fired her when she ran for governor.

WHITMAN: It's not, you know, an obligation of the employer to -- to turn in illegal employees. And I, you know, just said, I'm not going to make an example of Nicky. Go back to your country and figure out how to come here legally.

O'BRIEN: Before Ms. Diaz came forward and earlier, "L.A. Times" polls showed Brown leading Whitman by 19 percent among the Latino voters. That lead has nearly doubled.

Republicans have seen this before.

DAVID LUBLIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You know, there was a governor of California, Pete Wilson.

O'BRIEN (on camera): I lived in California then.

LUBLIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: And you're talking about Prop. 187.

LUBLIN: It helped rally voters to him one more time. It also succeeded in making Latinos in California very solidly Democratic.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Proposition 187 was an attempt in 1994 to deny education and other public services to illegal immigrants, including children. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials, NALEO, studied how Prop. 187 influenced Latino voters.

(on camera): What was the implication and the impact after that?

GLORIA MONTANO GREENE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ELECTED OFFICIALS: Many believe that in California, the Republican Party hasn't fully recovered from what happened in that anti-immigrant swing.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Whitman was against Prop. 187 and is against legislation in Arizona which would enable local law enforcement to detain suspected illegal immigrants. Both were proposed by Republican governors. But the party leadership says it's OK for candidates to take different positions.

(on camera): How does the Republican Party say Hispanics are important and then you approve a law in Arizona that's against immigrants?

MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The thing is, the Republican governor in that state, responding to the people and the needs of that state, would be very different from the Republican governor in Texas or the Republican governor in -- in Maryland.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): In one survey, more than a third of Latino voters in California said a candidate's stance on immigration would change their vote. That message seems to have reached the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NBC BAY AREA)

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: These are real people. These are mothers and dads and kids. And -- and they have this fear. It is the fear that -- that her housekeeper had.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: I'm going to bring Soledad in right now. But I just want to point out to our viewers, in our CNN/"Time Magazine" poll that's just being released this hour, Jerry Brown, 51 percent; Meg Whitman, the Republican, 44 percent.

But take a look at this as we dig deeper. On the Latino vote in California in our new poll, 59 percent of Latinos supporting Jerry Brown; 29 percent supporting Meg Whitman. It seems pretty decisive, Soledad, at least among Latinos.

O'BRIEN: Yes, immigration clearly having an impact. But if you look at the Democrats, as well, they have their own challenges when it comes to immigration. And that's sort of the challenge of broken promises. When we talked to the party chairman, Tom Kaine, he said that there's a lot of work to be done on the Democratic side and that they are sure that it's costing them the Latino support that they haven't had immigration reform as yet.

BLITZER: So that vote will be critical not only in California, in Arizona, in New Mexico, a lot of states out West, as well. Soledad will be with us, part of the best team on television on election night.

Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is part of that team, as well.

And he's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Indeed, Wolf. We all know the drill by now. If it's election time, then it's time for accusations of fraud, voting irregularity. And with six days left until the primary election, we bring you the following.

In Nevada, my home state, there are reports in some counties that the voting machines are automatically checking Harry Reid's name on the ballot. You don't even have to bother to go. You just walk in the booth and it's already there. It's all being done for you.

It's worth noting that the voting machine technicians in one of these counties are members of the Service Employees International Union. It's a group that's planning to give tens of millions of dollars in this election, most of it to the Democrats. And Harry Reid is a Democrat.

In North Caro -- we're not suggesting anything.

In North Carolina, a voter says said he tried to vote a straight Republican ticket. His choices showed up on the machine as Democrat four times. In Illinois, the first election where any registered voter can cast their ballot by mail, one official says as many as hundreds of thousands of voters who were planning to get a ballot in Illinois could be disenfranchised.

Also in Illinois, 36 counties missed the deadline to send ballots overseas to members of the military and other voters.

In Pennsylvania, some residents, along with the county Republican committee, claim the Democratic congressman is trying to flood the voter registration office with fraudulent absentee ballot applications.

And then there's Florida. There would be no election drama complete without a mention of Florida. The Daytoni -- Daytona Beach city commissioner and his campaign manager just arrested, a little while ago, and charged with committing absentee ballot fraud.

And the election is not for another week -- well, six days.

Here's the question -- how much faith do you have that our elections are honest?

CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: I'm worried about all the potential out there -- I know you are -- about irregularities, shall we say?

CAFFERTY: Remember hanging chads?

BLITZER: How could we forget?

CAFFERTY: Remember the machine -- the Diebold machines in Ohio?

BLITZER: How can we forget?

CAFFERTY: I mean and -- and -- and we're still -- I mean and we're still reading this garbage in this day and age.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe, with all the technology, there's not a simple way to do it.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Well, some of the technology here doesn't work, either. So I guess it's a universal thing, you know?

BLITZER: It's live -- live television.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: The stakes here aren't as important as there are on election day.

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, to some of us they are.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Democrats in some of the closest Senate races may feel like President Obama is dragging them down. We have some new presidential approval numbers to show you.

Also, an arrest in an alleged plot to bomb Metro stations in the nation's capital.

And a deadly new warning that's said to be from Osama bin Laden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A dramatic scene in Indiana as a ferocious tornado tears a barn to pieces. It's part of a monstrous weather system battering the eastern parts of the country for the second straight day.

(WEATHER REPORT)

BLITZER: We're monitoring other top stories as well, including a major arrest in what authorities are now calling a thwarted terror plot against the Washington, D.C. Metro system. New information coming in right now into THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A Virginia man is now in federal custody for being indicted for allegedly trying to plan terror attacks on the public transportation system in Washington, D.C. Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.

Well, Farouk Ahmed is accused of providing photographs and surveillance information about Metrorail stations in Arlington, Virginia to people who he thought were members of al Qaeda. According to a grand jury indictment, he believed he was telling to plan a series of bombings which were to take place next year. If convicted, he could face 50 years in prison. In a statement, the Justice Department says the public was never in danger during the investigation.

And a new audiotape said to be from Osama bin Laden contains a dire warning for France. The speaker makes reference to France's recently passed ban on women covering their faces in public and say the only way the country will be secure is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The speaker says, quote, "As you kill, you will be killed." The tape was aired on Al Jazeera television; CNN could not independently confirm the voice is Osama bin Laden's.

Also, the death toll is rising in Indonesia, unfortunately, which was hit by an earthquake, tsunami and volcanic eruptions all this week. Authorities say at least 311 people died in Monday's magnitude 7.7 quake and subsequent tsunami, another 29 people were killed when a volcano erupted yesterday; hundreds more are injured or missing, and tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

And to Haiti now where medical teams are working around the clock to try to contain a major cholera outbreak. Almost 300 people are dead from the disease and there are 4,000 confirmed cases. One U.N. official says the outbreak could spread to tens of thousands of people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story that is.

Kate, thank you.

Some people call it a Christmas tree, others a holiday tree. You're going to find out why that and religion are now issues for at least one leading Senate candidate.

And wait until you hear how much money is being poured into the campaigns this is year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now -- a Tea Party favorite hits political turmoil only days before the midterm elections. Could admissions of lying and ethics violations derail Joe Miller's bid for the U.S. Senate from Alaska?

Plus, it's a first for a sitting U.S. President. Will today's appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" help President Obama win over young voters? He needs them.

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

Take a closer look now at one of the tightest and most expensive Senate races in the country. We're talking about Colorado. The Republican and Tea Party favorite Ken Buck now is just a point ahead of the Democratic incumbent Michael Bennett in our brand new poll.

Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is in Colorado for us. Just as Buck has lost some ground, he's trying to explain his views on religion as well. What's going on?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Republican Senate here, Ken Buck, has come under fire for comments that have been controversial about social issues including homosexuality and rape.

Well now there's new video posted on a liberal leaning web site in which he challenges the concept of separation of church and state. I'll quote what he says. These are Ken Buck's word, quote, "I disagree strongly with the separation of church and state. It was not written in the Constitution."

So I pressed him to ask what he meant and if he still stands by those words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN BUCK (R), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: You're taking it out of context. Again, for the third time, you're taking that out of context.

I have said that I agree with the establishment clause, that I agree with the idea that there's a separation of church and state, that teachers should not be leading prayer in a particular kind of prayer in classrooms.

What I've said is that I think that the federal government and we as a society, have gone too far in trying to separate good organizations that perform good functions for people just based on the fact that one has a religious association and the other doesn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Again, Wolf, that's what he says. Now, a year ago, he did say I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state.

The reason this is relevant, his opponent in this race has charged him with being, quote, "too extreme" for Colorado. But Ken Buck insists that social issues don't matter to voters in this state, jobs and economic issues are what matters, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's a question some are asking, the president is campaigning across the country, but hasn't necessarily been to Colorado to help out Michael Bennett, the incumbent Democratic senator. Why not?

YELLIN: That's right, Wolf, and keep in mind that President Obama was here to help Michael Bennett during the primary campaign and he did a telephone call right before the primary election, but he has not been back.

I asked Bennett why that's the case. He said, you know, right now he's trying to focus on the disinformation out there. He's trying to target independents, and that's part of the reason.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL BENNETT (D), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: The personal reaction by the independent voters you described based on the political rhetoric that's going back and forth might not make it helpful. The president should be in places around the country where it will be helpful. And we are running this race on the facts on the ground in Colorado, what people are really interested in working on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Translation -- President Obama is not so popular among independents in this state. That's the key swing block that Bennett has to win if he's going to retain his seat. So he's doing this one on his own. You can see it's a very, very tight race. No one -- they think it could be decided by as few as 1,000 votes, Wolf.

BLITZER: The new CNN/"Time" magazine poll right now among likely voters, Ken Buck, 47 percent. Michael Bennett, 46 percent. 3.5 percent sampling error. It's about as close as it gets right now. Thanks very much Jessica.

An astounding amount of money is being spent across the country in this campaign cycle. In this hour, we're getting amazing numbers. Our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here. You've been going through these numbers. It's amazing how big the number is.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, spending this year in this year's election is going to shatter records. And this report does show just how much.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Sure, there's a lot of money flowing in this year's election, but exactly how much being spent is mind blowing -- $4 billion.

To put $4 billion in context, that's enough to send about 80,000 students to Princeton for a year. It could buy every person in America three Big Macs with fries at McDonald's. Four billion dollars is far more than the $2.85 billion in the last midterm election in 2006 and dwarfs the $1.6 million spent more than a decade ago in 1998.

Opensecrets.org compiled these figures in a new reporter.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The stakes are so high this cycle that it's not surprising there's an intensity to the cycle that was perhaps reduced or missing in the last cycles.

BASH: Though much of the four billion is spent by candidates themselves, an eye-popping amount is coming from outside candidates' campaigns, political parties and independent groups. $430 million in overall outside spending, only $31 million was spent in 2002, less than a decade ago.

Despite Democrats' complaints about being outspent when it comes to political parties, Democrats are winning. All told, the Democratic Party has raised $782 million, a lot more than the Republican Party at $515 million. GOP outside groups with ads like this are making up for that gap and then some. Although Democratic groups are catching up, they're being outspent by GOP counterparts, two-to-one. Another fascinating 2010 trend, key industries moving campaign cash from Democrats to Republicans.

Take the health care sector. When the president took office, two thirds of its dollars were going to Democrats. Since health care passed, the industry is giving 60 percent to Republicans. The same goes for money from Wall Street and the energy sector. Just last year both gave mostly to Democrats. Now, 67 percent of Wall Street money goes to Republicans. The energy sector, 74 percent to Republicans.

KRUMHOLZ: Think they've got their finger in their ear. They're looking at the changing poll numbers and seeing that the Republicans have a clear shot at taking the majority particularly in the house.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Did note that while the dollar figures are huge, they're really conservative estimates based on fundraising numbers reported to the Federal Election Commission and they will climb. Going back to that estimate of $4 billion overall in that election, that estimate -- remember, this is a midterm election, but, Wolf, that amount is about the same as what was spent in 2004, just six years ago in the presidential election.

BLITZER: It's an amazing number. You think of the local TV stations, they're happy about it because that money buys the ads on the local TV stations.

BASH: The consultants. Consultants are the big winners to.

BLITZER: Break down those numbers at some point as well. Thanks very much, Dana.

Remember this 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 and analysis on the outcome and what happens next. Our special coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern Tuesday night right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

We have a new check of the housing market coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Stand by to see if sales are picking up or not so.

And the bizarre story of a dead teenager's stolen brain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new report is released on new home sales. Are there signs of a turnaround in the housing market? Kate Bolduan is back. She is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on? BOLDUAN: We'll start with a little bit of good news this time Wolf. New home sales edged up more than 6 percent last month. The commerce department reports 307,000 newly built single family homes were sold compared with 288,000 in August. But analysts of course say the recovery from all-time lows reached this year remains slow still.

And in New Jersey, the New Jersey governor Chris Christie is officially shutting down a multibillion dollar tunnel project to link New Jersey and New York City. The governor originally cancelled the project last month, but agreed to a two-week review at the urging of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The governor's office cites concerns New Jersey taxpayers would bear the brunt of cost overruns. Critics say it's shortsighted and politically motivated, they say.

Also California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is back on the campaign trail after being hospitalized overnight. Her campaign says Fiorina was successfully treated for an infection linked to reconstructive surgery after breast cancer.

A little interesting one for you, an escaped jaguar killed one person in Belize. Local media are reporting that the victim is an American and the U.S. embassy is warning Americans to stay away from forested areas there. The animal escaped when hurricane Richard tore through the area Sunday reportedly after a tree fell on its cage. You know this Wolf. I actually honeymooned in Belize but not after or during a hurricane.

BLITZER: No. It was a lovely time when you were there, I assume.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it was.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Kate.

The California's governor's race gets uglier. Will the GOP candidate agree to her opponent's request that she pull negative campaign ads?

Also, it's a presidential first, an appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Hillary Rosen, the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Hillary's firm is handling media for a number of candidates for the election season. Alex's firm is doing the same for some Republican candidates as well as the American Action Network.

Look at this exchange that they had at the Republican - at the California gubernatorial debate yesterday involving Meg Whitman, the Republican, Jerry Brown, the Democrat, Matt Lauer of NBC News, the moderator. Matt Lauer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the incumbent governor was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: If she takes her negative ads as recently defined, I'll take mine off, no question.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: That's what I'm asking.

BROWN: Do it together. No problem. I pledge that right now.

LAUER: Governor Brown pledges to take his negative ads off of the air. Ms. Whitman, if you'll take your negative ads off of the air. Let's say, what are we on Tuesday? By tomorrow evening.

MEG WHITMAN: So here's -- so here's what I'll do. I will take down any ads that could even remotely be construed as a personal attack. But I don't think we can take down the ads that talk about where Governor Brown stands on the issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Alex, is this going to hurt her, her answer to that question?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, I don't think so, Wolf. You know, voters have gotten to know both of these candidates. And voters don't mind if you run a tough campaign and if you fight hard. They mind if you fight hard for yourself as a politician and you're not fighting hard for them. They want you to give it all you've got, negative and positive if it's about their future. California has 2 million more Democrats than Republicans. Barack Obama got 61 percent of the vote there. For a Republican to win, he's got to go on offense, or she, and take away votes from the Democrat.

BLITZER: And Hilary, in our new CNN/"Time" magazine Opinion Research Corporation poll, he's ahead right now with six days to go, Brown, 51 percent among likely voters, Whitman, 44 percent. But what's wrong with having negative ads that go after the other candidate's policies as opposed to personal issues?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, that $150 million did not buy Meg Whitman any political skills or human touch here. She's just consistently, I think, in this election shown kind of a lack of sensitivity to hot-button issues. Voters look for candidates who never subject themselves to media requesting like Meg Whitman has. She's stayed back and let her TV campaign speak for her. There's some connection. We understand how we feel. We feel that we're being barraged by your ads. If you can't acknowledge it. If you can't at least say that maybe that people are overdoing it, then you really aren't tapping in to people's frustration with politics. So there really are good ways to answer that question that I think would have gotten her out of having to take all of her ads off of TV. But I don't think she really is in touch with it.

CASTELLANOS: Wolf, as media guy myself, I think there's clearly no such thing as too many ads. We obviously need more ads.

BLITZER: We know you guys have to make a living too.

CASTELLANOS: Yes. But I can tell you from sources inside the Whitman campaign itself, they're tracking the last couple of nights and shown the race tightening. They've put up a new ad in which Meg Whitman refocuses this race on jobs versus sending Jerry Brown to the same old mess in Sacramento. And that seems to be working for him. So this race does seem to be tightening up over the last couple of days.

ROSEN: Perfect example. She could have -- she could have focused on that in her answer and didn't.

BLITZER: Let's go to Kentucky right now. All of us have seen the video that occurred after the debate the Democrat -- the Democrat Jack Conway, the Republican Rand Paul. Afterwards, some of their supporters got into an altercation. And some of Rand Paul's supporters, you can see there, the woman from moveon.org. She had wig taken off and then they stomped on her. There's an interesting thing. Let Alex respond first -- they now want an apology from her. The woman whose head being stomped on because they said she represented a threat to Rand Paul.

CASTELLANOS: I don't know who owes who an apology here. Clearly that should never have happened. No one should have thrown this woman to the ground and stepped on her. I think her head was the thing with the hair on it. I don't think anybody stepped on that. It was her shoulder. Nevertheless, shouldn't have happened. Point of all this is, I've been in campaigns with tense emotionally charged events like this preceding a debate.

When you see somebody running around a car chasing your candidate and coming at him, the lady said she meant him no harm. No one around the candidate knows that. It can be a scary moment.

This lady is a professional political performer, an agitator. She does it for a living. She crossed the boundary and I think in response, those people went way over the line. So I think, you know, you shouldn't be doing things like this in campaigns. The stomping we really care about here, Wolf, is the one Conway is going to get on Tuesday.

BLITZER: We don't have the video, obviously, of what happened before the altercation. But go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: Well, I was just going to say, I think that Rand Paul, again, missed an opportunity here to show some human touch to kind of take the tone down a little bit. His supporters are obviously pretty aggressive and feeling pretty passionate. I'm not saying that Jack Conway's aren't. The attention went to Rand Paul immediately. He didn't take the opportunity to tone down his supporters. I think you should have and it's ridiculous that this guy is justifying that kind of behavior.

BLITZER: In our new poll, by the way, in Kentucky, the CNN/"Time" magazine poll, Rand Paul among 50 percent, likely voters, Jack Conway, 43 percent. Hillary, Alex, thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is asking, how much faith that you have that our elections are honest? Your answers coming up.

A different take on the life of a first lady, Laura Bush suggests it's about bobble heads and picking up towels.

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BLITZER: Jack is here and he has the Cafferty file -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, this hour, it is how much faith you have that our elections are honest? Several reports of potential skullduggery going on six days before the elections are held.

Margaret in South Carolina, "I want to believe that our voting system is honest, but sometimes there is a nagging feeling that something fishy might go on from time to time. The whole Chad routine in Florida seemed fishy, computers with no paper trail seems risky, voting early options and recounts seem fishy as well. So maybe we should use the dye the thumb when the votes are cast system."

Peg in New York writes, "My faith in an honest election ended in Florida with Bush versus Gore."

Al in New Jersey, "Trust but verify applies to more here than missile control. With a shift towards new voting machines, greater the use of absentee ballots and the like, we may be missing new controls needed to verify accurate results. Elections can be inaccurate without being dishonest."

Renee in Illinois, "Remember the voting irregularities when Bush was elected? That was by independent impartial -- oh, wait, that was his brother. How fair the election is depends on how many people, organizations, et cetera stand to benefit from voter fraud."

Mark says, "About as much faith as I have that kids don't cheat on tests, husbands don't cheat on wives and athletes don't cheat using steroids. Catch my drift?"

Mick in Connecticut writes, "Not since the Supreme Court got involved in 2000 and again this year."

And Craig in Florida, "You're asking me, a Florida resident, if I have confidence in our elected officials to put on an honest election? It took me a quite a while to stop laughing long enough to answer this question, no."

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

BLITZER: It seems we have this problem every two and four years, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Sad.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you. An alleged terror plot against the Washington, D.C. area transit system is thwarted. We have details of a major arrest. That's coming up.

And a parent's unimaginable grief takes a horrific turn. Their child is killed and then they learn his brain was allegedly stolen. This is unbelievable story. Stand by.

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BLITZER: A New York couple grieving over the death of their teenage son, and then the pain only gets worse after an unbelievable discovery at the morgue. Here is our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a high school field trip is the impetus for a fight between a Staten Island family and this city of New York. Here is what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Andre and Korisha Shipley lost their 17 year old son Jesse in a fatal car accident in Staten Island, New York in 2005. Just a few months later, another shock when Jesse's high school classmates visited a local morgue on a field trip.

KORISHA SHIPLEY, JESSE'S MOTHER: They saw this jar with a brain in it saying that it is the labeled Jesse Shipley.

COHEN: What did the kids do when they saw the jar?

ANDRE SHIPLEY, JESSE'S FATHER: Kids started screaming. They knew Jesse and Jesse knew them and they were look at the brain and it was looking at them.

COHEN: This got back to you?

SHIPLEY: Yes, it did.

COHEN: How did you feel about it when it got back to you?

SHIPLEY: Very violated.

COHEN: Several of Jesse's organs including his brain and liver had been taken from his body during the autopsy and were sitting on the shelf in the medical examiner's office where anybody passing by could see them. What did you expect when you said OK to do an autopsy?

SHIPLEY: You look for the causes of death, you check the organs and you put it back in the body. This case, it was more than that.

COHEN: In a statement to CNN, the city's attorney says, "Although they sympathize with the family, it's within the medical examiner's discretion to perform an autopsy, and in appropriate cases, to remove and retain bodily organs for further testing." Dr. Cyril Wecht is a forensic pathologist and attorney who specializes in cases like these. He says to determine the exact cause of death, especially after head trauma, it is necessary to remove the brain.

DR. CYRIL WECHT, MEDICAL EXAMINER: That is the whole purpose of medical legal investigation. If you don't do that, forget about forensic pathology, and forget about doing things in a proper scientific fashion. That is why you would save the brain in such a case.

COHEN: Medical examiners say that brain needs to sit in a formula for at least two weeks before it can be studied and by then the funeral has already taken place. But to many this law is clear.

ART CAPLAN, MEDICAL ETHICIST: In situations of autopsy, when the coroner or the medical examiner is doing a mandatory study of a body, you are supposed to get everything back, no questions asked.

COHEN: The Shipley's are suing the city for the mishandling of their son's remains, and they say they will not forget what they went through following his death.

SHIPLEY: We buried our son, and then two months after, we have parts of him coming back.

I held the organs in my hands, and I almost fell to my knees and now we have to live with that for the rest of our lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Medical examiners tell us that many times families assume they will get the body parts back but they say that often that is not the case, and if you want those parts back, you have to ask for them. The city of New York and the Shipley family have a court date later this week. Wolf?

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.