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THE SITUATION ROOM
Democrats Ask Pentagon for GOP Info; Banning Islamic Law in Oklahoma?
Aired October 28, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: With Election Day right around the corner, Democrats are trying to get the drop on a potential, several potential 2012 presidential challengers to President Obama. Why have they already asked the Pentagon, though, for information on some top Republicans?
And she's been a lightning rod for criticism. She may be only days away from losing her leadership role. So, why does the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, seem so positive right now?
And one of this year's stranger ballot propositions would ban Islamic law in Oklahoma courts. Is a local lawmaker really afraid his state could become another Saudi Arabia?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
With just five days to go until the midterm election, Democratic operatives already are looking ahead to 2012. They recently asked the Pentagon for information about nine key Republicans who might pose a challenge to President Obama.
Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. He has been looking into this story for us.
What do we know, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, information is putting it lightly, Wolf. And I will tell you what I mean by that in just a second, but, yes, the Democratic National Committee has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Army asking for any and all letters, memos, communication between these potential candidates and the Army.
Now, some of them have run before. Their names will be familiar, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Others are currently in office now, Senator John Thune, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Now, an internal Army memo says the DNC wants this info by tomorrow, which may be tough. A defense official told me when he reads all communication, he takes that very seriously. This -- he said, this could include records going back to say Newt Gingrich writing a letter to the Army back when he was in office in the '80s, all the way to say Sarah Palin visiting Fort Richardson in Alaska back when she was governor there.
Right now what the Army is doing is doing a word search to try to find these records, because the DNC is not just asking for records pertaining to these candidates' current or most prominent position, but it's going all the way back to say when Sarah Palin was just on the city council there in Wasilla, Alaska, so a lot to get through.
I am told this latest FOIA request was update to an earlier one, but this one added more names, expanded the search, you know, nothing nefarious about FOIA. It is perfectly above board. It's a regular practice. CNN, we use them all the time to get information. The public can use them. Both parties, Republican and Democrat, use this all the time to get research on their opponent.
But it definitely gives you a good idea of who the Democrats are already targeting two years down the road, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, thanks very much for that, Chris.
The Minnesota governor, by the way, Tim Pawlenty, says he will file his FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, request with federal agencies about the Democratic National Committee's role in promoting what he calls a federal takeover of health care. Pawlenty suggests Democrats have given up on the midterm fight and are focusing in on 2012. Pawlenty's political action committee will submit request for any documents related to the DNC's communications with federal officials about the health care overhaul.
One former Republican presidential candidate jokes that he is flattered by the Democrats' attention. Listen to this from the former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If five days before the election they are already looking at 2012, they know what we are saying is true. They know they are going to be wiped out next Tuesday. This talk about they are going to win, they would not be looking on down the road in two years if they thought that they really had any shot at winning these races next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Candy Crowley. She's the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," which airs Sunday mornings.
Why are Democrats you think, Candy, doing this right now?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because it is never too late to think -- too early to think about the next election.
I think it's really as simple as that. This is the non-ending election cycle. There is no break in it. We all joked about it. I was asked today, when does the race for 2012 begin? Does it begin on Wednesday? And I said, no, it began last week. Well, for people at the DNC, for the real political operatives -- and that include those at the RNC -- the race for 2012 began a long time ago and this is a continuation of that.
BLITZER: And you have got to remember that the day after this election on Tuesday, it will be only a little bit more than a year until the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the South Carolina primary.
CROWLEY: You are going to start to scare people now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. So it is -- people are moving ahead and there are going to be a lot of Republicans out there running for president. And I guess it is part of the game that Democratic opposition research experts are beginning to look for some opposition dirt, if you will.
But it does seem a little unseemly to go to the Pentagon this early. I guess people who are not familiar with the ways of Washington politics might think that they are looking to dig up dirt.
CROWLEY: Well, they are.
I mean, the DNC certainly is. And the Pentagon has absolutely no alternative but to do it. It is a Freedom of Information Act. It's a part of the law. People can go and say I request this, this and the other thing.
I think what is interesting is it does make you feel kind of funky that people take up the work of people at the Pentagon, who one assumes might be able to do something a little more productive, that are looking around for any kind of communication that might involve any of these nine Republicans.
And they also want to know if -- the Democrats want to know if there is any other Freedom of Information Act requests for any of these people. So it does seem as though you are drawing the Pentagon into a political race, but the truth is this is what all of these agencies have to comply with and that is the Freedom of Information Act. and neither you nor I would ever argue against that Freedom of Information Act.
BLITZER: And as all of those who have filed FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, requests know, it could take months, sometimes even years, for government bureaucrats to find the information that the public has a right to know.
CROWLEY: Exactly. I thought it was interesting that at least in one of the reports it said that the DNC put a deadline on it. And I thought, boy, they have never filed a FOIA before, then, because it can take a very long time. It will be interesting if the Pentagon meets that deadline.
BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. We will see you on "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday morning.
CROWLEY: All right.
BLITZER: It was the comedian vs. commander in chief, as Jon Stewart hosted President Obama on "The Daily Show" last night. Now Jon Stewart is getting ready for his big rally in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall this weekend.
Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. He's taking a closer look at this upcoming rally.
Is it just satire, something more? You are already getting ready for it yourself, Brian. You're there.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf.
We are down here by the podium. You can see they have put up one banner over here, getting ready to put up another over on the right side. They have made a lot of progress here in the last few hours.
Jon Stewart has said this is not a political rally, that it's pure satire, pure comedy. But a lot of people in this town are just not buying into the idea that Jon Stewart's presence here this week is not political.
TODD: Jon Stewart has said it repeatedly: His rally on Saturday is not an anti-Glenn Beck event.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": It is in fact not a political rally.
TODD: But Stewart also says the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is for people tired of being depicted as a divided electorate.
I ran some of this by people in line to see his comedy show.
(on camera): He says the rally on Sunday is not political. Do you believe him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, probably not.
TODD: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think usually when you are watching his show, you can detect at least the sense of partisanship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it will have a little political spin to it, but I think it will be great and a kind of moderate thing.
TODD (voice-over): Heather Smith of Rock the Vote believes the event is political at least as far as its target demographic.
(on camera): Will this event really galvanize young people to come to the voting booth and kind of get beyond social media and actually take part?
HEATHER SMITH, ROCK THE VOTE: Yes, this is to me is like the country's largest PSA, largest public service announcement, just days before the election, where millions of young people are watching. It's in their voice. It's targeting them. It's incredible messengers that they listen to. And it's an opportunity to say, if you care about restoring sanity in our country these, if you care about these issues in your life, go vote November 2.
TODD (voice-over): Many believe President Obama had the opportunity to galvanize that vote on Stewart's show Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Larry Summers did a heck of a job trying to figure out how to...
STEWART: You don't want to use that phrase, dude.
OBAMA: That's right. I was...
OBAMA: Pun intended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" says this was not a political score for the president.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It seemed like he was uncomfortable, defensive, basically as you would expect the president to be on the eve of a very difficult election, but I think if he wants to capture those -- the youthful energy, he has got to pick it up a bit.
TODD (on camera): But that is tough forum to be both kind of engaging, funny, and politically kind of hitting home the points. That is a difficult thing to do.
MILBANK: Well, that may be the reason why this is the first time a sitting president has appeared on "The Daily Show." Comedy is a very dangerous game.
TODD (voice-over): At least outwardly, an opposite take at the White House, where officials say the president thought it was a good opportunity to walk through his accomplishments.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was very pleased, the president was pleased with how it worked out.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: And you are looking right now at a shot at the Washington Monument west toward the Lincoln Memorial, a beautiful night here, and it's supposed to be good weather here on Saturday, where the rally will be held right at this spot.
You know, the president and other Democrats are hoping that most of those who will go to this rally on Saturday also go to the polls on Tuesday, but it is going to be a tough challenge for the Democrats to mobilize the young electorate like they did in 2008, when an increase of roughly 2 percent in the youth vote meant an additional two million voters going to the polls, of course, the vast majority of them going for the Democrats -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do Jon Stewart or his people suggest that they are targeting young voters to come to the rally this weekend in D.C.?
TODD: Well, one of Stewart's people told me a short time ago that they are -- quote -- "not messaging that idea."
But look, Jon Stewart and his staff, they know who their audience is. I think when all is said and done, when you look at this rally on Saturday, it will at least look like a rally to galvanize young voters.
BLITZER: Brian Todd already on the National Mall, thanks very much.
Incumbents are likely to feel the wrath of unhappy voters. And polls show the Democrats could suffer huge losses on Tuesday. A "New York Times"/CBS News poll makes that very, very point.
Here's quote from that: "Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls."
Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is here. He has been looking throughout this week at some of those angry voters out there.
What else are you finding?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Well, Wolf, some of them are former factory workers, which as you know of course they tend to vote Democratic, but there are fewer and fewer of them as a result of the recession. And of course the country keeps on losing manufacturing jobs.
One of those out of work is Tony Perrucci. He's a former GM assembly line worker. He has very strong opinions on the president's job performance. We visited the site of his former factory in Linden, New Jersey.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TONY PERRUCCI, FORMER GM AUTOWORKER: There's a lot of memories that go through my head.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Tony Perrucci looks at the empty lot that housed the GM assembly plant where he worked for 33 years and sees all that is wrong with American politics today.
PERRUCCI: I see a lot of failed policy is what I see. I see a lot of failed policy. I see things that could have been different.
CHERNOFF: Not enough commitment to protecting and creating jobs, says Perrucci, not enough bipartisanship.
PERRUCCI: This is gridlock right here. You talk about the word, but this is it. When you look at it, this is it. This is people not agreeing on things.
CHERNOFF: Perrucci, a Republican, voted for Barack Obama two years ago, but says he intends to return to the Republican column on Election Day, even though the Obama administration bailed out GM.
(on camera): Are you satisfied with what you are seeing in Washington right now?
PERRUCCI: No, I am not. And I don't think a lot of the country is not satisfied what they see in Washington. I think the mood of the country is uneasy.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Uneasy because Perrucci feels the president's economic stimulus plan has failed to deliver much benefit, though the administration claims it has saved or created more than three million jobs.
Voters like Perrucci could deliver a blow to Democrats on Election Day. More than seven of 10 whites who describe themselves as blue-collar plan to vote Republican, according to CNN/Opinion Research polling.
Instead of working projects around the house, Tony Perrucci says he'd still be working at the GM factory if politicians, Democrats and Republicans, had protected American jobs. Today, though, as a retired 58-year-old, Perrucci has a message for politicians that he believes many voters share: Washington must do more to put Americans back to work.
CHERNOFF: Perrucci also worries about the debate on tax policy that is scheduled to occur in Congress after Election Day. He believes this is absolutely no time to be raising taxes, even for the wealthy, as the president has proposed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thanks very much for that report.
Fears of Islamic law in America's heartland, it is prompting one of the more unusual ballot measures voters will decide on next week. We will have details of an effort under way in Oklahoma to ban Muslim justice. What is going on?
And before the Gulf oil disaster, what did BP know about its well and the cement casing inside? We are looking at some troubling new information.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And the breaking news involves those very disturbing shooting incidents at U.S. military facilities outside of Washington, D.C.
Let's bring back our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.
What are you learning, Chris?
LAWRENCE: Well, Wolf, we have now confirmed with the FBI that it was the same gun that was used in all three of these shootings, which now suggests there is a pattern of someone going to different military facilities here in the D.C. area and taking shots at them.
Let's back up just a quick second and tell you exactly what we are talking about again. About two weeks ago, someone started taking shots at the Marine Corps Museum. Two days after that, someone took shots here right here at the Pentagon. And then, right on Tuesday, someone did the same thing at a Marine Corps recruiting depot.
Now, all of these are within 20, 30 miles of each other. All were done overnight in the dark. No one was injured. No one was really there at the time, but, again, what investigators are finding, all done with the same weapon. Earlier, we were told that was most likely a high-powered rifle. So, again, it brings up the fact that right now there seems to be a person or persons going around at night and taking shots at different military facilities here in the D.C. area.
Of course, coming up this weekend, big weekend, the Marine Corps Marathon, 30,000 runners, thousands of friends, family, fans going to be out there watching. We are told that they have increased security now because of these shootings, Wolf.
BLITZER: And as they should. All right. We will stay on top of this together with you, Chris. Thanks very much, a very disturbing development.
Oklahoma -- an Oklahoma lawmaker right now is afraid his state could become supposedly like Saudi Arabia. One of this year's stranger ballot initiatives would ban Islamic law in Oklahoma courts.
Our State Department correspondent, Jill Dougherty, reports -- Jill.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a hot-button issue on the Web and in the blogosphere, but in Oklahoma City, I found a lot of voters who don't know anything about it.
(voice-over): Oklahoma City, oil rigs, cowboys, churches and Islamic law?
ANTHONY SYKES (R), OKLAHOMA STATE SENATOR: It has already happened here in America and we want to make sure it does not happen in Oklahoma.
DOUGHERTY: State Senator Anthony Sykes says Islamic Sharia law is a threat. Sharia is part law based on the Koran and part tradition. Muslims interpret it in different ways. But Sykes says it would undermine American justice.
He is co-sponsoring a proposition on the Oklahoma ballot banning any use of Sharia here.
SYKES: I say that that fear is real if you have got a judge who would even consider using Sharia law in a state court.
DOUGHERTY (on camera): This controversy did not begin here in Oklahoma City. It began in New Jersey, when a Muslim woman went to a family court asking for a restraining order against her husband, claiming he had raped her. The judge wouldn't issue that order because he said the man was simply following his Muslim beliefs. Now, that decision was later thrown out by another court, but it sparked a firestorm.
Gentlemen, excuse me. Could I ask you a quick question?
(voice-over): But, at Broadway and Main, most people we talked to had never heard of the New Jersey case or the Oklahoma ballot question.
(on camera): Have you have about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I have not heard about that one.
DOUGHERTY: Oh. Has anyone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
There are approximately 5,000 Muslims in Oklahoma city. And we came here to the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma to find out what they think about this.
(voice-over): As children recite the Koran, Saleem Quraishi tells me most of the mosque's members are highly educated professionals who respect state law. So, why the ballot question?
SALEEM QURAISHI, AMERICAN MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF OKLAHOMA CITY: Just fear-mongering. It's nothing. What Sharia has to do in Oklahoma? What Sharia has to do in Oklahoma?
DOUGHERTY: Some Oklahomans want the ban. DIANA ANDERSON, LEGAL ASSISTANT: If there is something that comes up that has to do with Islamic or treating women that way, I don't want them to be treated badly.
DOUGHERTY: Others are suspicious.
MARK LOVELACE, ATTORNEY: I did get a call at home a couple of nights ago from somebody...
DOUGHERTY (on camera): Robocall?
LOVELACE: Probably. And, frankly, it made me wonder, well, who is behind the ballot in the first place?
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Act for America, a conservative issues advocacy organization, is spending $45,000 on radio ads and robocalls recorded by former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Let's protect all Oklahomans, Muslims and non-Muslim alike, from the tyranny of Sharia.
DOUGHERTY: But some voters aren't sure what all the fuss is about.
BILL PRICE, ATTORNEY: I don't think there is much of a chance of Sharia law becoming any kind of law in Oklahoma.
DOUGHERTY (on camera): But why is it on the ballot then?
PRICE: I don't know.
DOUGHERTY: There are 11 questions on the ballot in Oklahoma. And Senator Sykes admits this Sharia question is not a top concern of voters . He also says Sharia law is not a problem in Oklahoma so far. And he wants to keep that it way -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jill, thank you -- Jill Dougherty reporting.
Is it time to add Southern Democrats to the endangered species list? We are taking a closer look at the party's rapidly declining fortunes in a former stronghold.
And everyone thought Oliver was the most popular name for baby boys in one country. It turns out it's something very different and very telling.
BLITZER: She may be days away from losing her speakership, so why is Nancy Pelosi so seemingly upbeat? Is she in denial? Stand by. Dana Bash has our report.
And just ahead of the election, the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, reacts to allegations of an alleged DUI incident two decades ago.
BLITZER: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is certainly a lightning rod for criticism that the Democrats are getting. Tuesday may even signal the end of her speakership.
But look at this, a pumped-up Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week with Michelle Obama, the first lady. When we do see the speaker in public these last days of this election cycle, that has been her demeanor, always positive, always upbeat.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here watching this story for us.
You have been doing some reporting on this, Dana. Is she as upbeat and as positive in private as she is in public?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I have talked to multiple sources very close to Pelosi about this, and I know it is hard to believe, Wolf, but they all say that she is, that she does not utter a peep about the possibility of handing over her speaker's gavel after Tuesday's election.
But they say, "Look, this is her M.O.," that she does not talk to anybody in her staff about it, and even her closest confidants that she's very focused. She does one step at a time, and the next step is getting through Tuesday's election.
I just got an e-mail from somebody who is inside a private reception which was just a short while ago in California, and she said there, "I came here to do a job, not hold a job."
Now, some people in her world guess -- guess that if she loses the gavel, if they lose a majority, that she might retire, but they're guessing, because she doesn't talk about it. It's fascinating.
BLITZER: She's been relatively low key these past few days. How is she spending most of her time?
BASH: She understands. It's pretty clear that she is a lightning rod, that she is being used all across the country by Republicans as a way to pull Democratic candidates down, and I think we have a piece of tape that illustrates just how she knows that.
She was with the president earlier this week. She went up the stairs, didn't have any picture with him, but she has been working very hard behind the scenes. She's working on people who she is popular with, progressives, to try to get them to go out and vote and close the enthusiasm gap, and she is raising so much money, Wolf. She has raised at least $57 million for Democrats this cycle, and that is a lot of money, especially for a woman that has raised a lot of money in the past, and that's a record for her.
BLITZER: Yes. And in some of these races, that money will be decisive. BASH: And she's still doing it as we speak.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana, for that.
Let's got to Arkansas right now. There's a Senate race involving the incumbent Democrat, Blanche Lincoln. She's in serious danger of losing her job to the Republican challenger, John Boozman. We will bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's joining us from right outside of the Clinton Library in Little Rock.
The whole nature of the southern Democrats right now, that nature (ph) is in deep trouble, isn't it, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really a question worth asking, Wolf, because it's moderate and conservative Democrats who could really suffer the most significant losses last -- next week. And a lot of them are right here in the South. So the question we're asking is could southern Democrats become an endangered species?
KEILAR (voice-over): He's one of the most in-demand politicians this election, but as Bill Clinton stumps for Democrats, his popularity may not be enough to help candidates in his home state of Arkansas, like incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln, who Clinton campaigned for last month.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got a hard race. A race we can win.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
KEILAR: Publicly Lincoln insists that her campaign is going well.
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: I feel good. I feel really good.
KEILAR: After 12 years in the Senate, she's in real danger of losing her seat to Republican challenger John Boozman. Lincoln could be one of many moderate to conservative Democrats likely to exit Congress this election, ousted in favor of conservative Republicans, though she says it won't happen.
LINCOLN: People understand how important it is to have people like me that are moderates. You know, without a doubt, they identify so clearly with the problem that exists in Washington where you've got Democrats in one foxhole and Republicans in another.
KEILAR (on camera): For decades Arkansas has been a state of refuge for politicians like Blanche Lincoln, a white southern Democrat, a throwback to the pre-civil rights era when the south was strongly Democratic.
(voice-over) On the ballot, 62 Democratically-held seats in southern states, and almost half of those are competitive races. One of them right here in Arkansas' second congressional district, which includes Little Rock. Seven-term Democratic congressman Vic Snyder is retiring. His open seat could go to a Republican, but he insists there is no fundamental shift away from the Democratic Party in Arkansas or the South.
REP. VIC SNYDER (D), ARKANSAS: The moderate wing of the Democratic Party is alive and well, and it will be for a long time.
KEILAR (on camera): But it might -- but it might be purged from Congress this election?
KEILAR: You don't think?
SNYDER: No, I don't think so. I think that we will have a lot of moderate Democrats that will be thriving in the House.
KEILAR (voice-over): Max Brantley, the editor of the liberal "Arkansas Times," isn't so sure.
(on camera) Max, do you think this is the death of the southern Democrat?
MAX BRANTLEY, EDITOR, "ARKANSAS TIMES": Well, they may look like they're on life supports after this election. They're going to -- they're going to take some losses, no doubt about it. Are they dead for good in Arkansas? I don't think we'll know that for two more years.
KEILAR: Where Arkansas could make it clear whether they are shifting toward Republicans or holding to the Democratic roots that gave them their most famous son.
KEILAR: Now, it's not all bad for the Democrats here, Wolf. Mike Beebe, the very popular Democratic governor, is expected to easily win reelection, in a state that went for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 by 20 points, if you can believe that.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much.
And remember, Brianna, and all of our viewers, this is the place to be for complete election coverage. Join me and "The Best Political Team on Television" for "America Votes 2010" this weekend at 6 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, 9 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. We'll have live special reports, looking ahead to the elections on Tuesday, and of course, we'll be here Tuesday night for election night in America. Our special coverage begins at 7 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM.
Big news from the Florida Senate race. A major Democrat asks Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate, to drop out of the race. We have breaking news coming up next.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And the breaking news involves the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and the race for the U.S. Senate in Florida. John King is here. He's ready to break the story with us.
What are we learning?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, this story was first reported by Politico. We should make that clear. We have learned and a President Clinton spokesman is now confirming on the record that the former president of the United States met with Kendrick Meek, the congressman who is the Democratic Senate candidate in the state of Florida, as part of what they thought was an agreement to get Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race and then back Charlie Crist, who is the independent candidate, elected as a Republican governor, now the independent candidate.
Tells you a lot about the cutthroat politics as we get close here, because Bill Clinton has campaigned several times, a handful of times for Kendrick Meek. He is very close to the Meek family. But the Democrats have made the calculation that Marco Rubio, the Republican, is going to win that seat unless they do something dramatic.
And so they're now confirming on the record that Bill Clinton met with him, tried to get him to drop out of the race. Mr. Meek has refused to do that. But Wolf, you can connect the dots here. The reason they're willing to say this publicly, you can only read it one way. It is a signal to Democratic voters that they don't think Meek can win, and it is another nudge at Mr. Meek to try to think once again about this in the campaign's final days.
BLITZER: Any reaction from the Meek campaign yet?
KING: Not as yet. We're reaching out to Congressman Meek. We're reaching out to Charlie Crist and, obviously, to Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate, as well. But again, just consider the moment.
And one thing I want to make clear. The former president's spokesman, Matt McKenna, says there was no job discussion, there was not a discussion that if Kendrick Meek dropped out that President Obama would take care of him in any way. They said it was a simple calculation that President Clinton saying, you know, you can't win this race. We should try to do this to keep that seat in Democratic hands.
It is another piece of evidence that the Democrats are increasingly worried as you move west that they're going to lose some Senate seats. Washington state and Patty Murray now considered a toss-up. As they look at the map, they're trying to find pick ups somewhere, and they want that seat in Florida, so much so that Bill Clinton would go to an African-American Democrat and say, "Please drop out of the race and endorse a man who was elected as the Republican governor."
BLITZER: And one of the questions that everyone will ask, is Bill Clinton doing this on his own or is somebody encouraging him to go to Kendrick Meek and say, "You know what? You're not going to win. You're a distant third in the polls. Marco Rubio is supported by a lot of Tea Party activists. He's going to be the next governor. That's a state that's critical in 2012 in the presidential contest. Is this Bill Clinton acting alone, or is someone encouraging him to do this?
KING: That would -- those are dots we would love to be able to connect. I would say this. The president, the former president said today, who was in Pennsylvania who has done roughly 115 events right now politically. He's not just picking and choosing that on his own. There are conversations among the former Clinton political circle. You know them very well. We covered the Clinton White House together. And the Obama political circle, the Democratic Party political circle, they are coordinating who should go where very carefully in the final weeks.
So would the former president do this all on his own? Possibly. I wish we could connect those dots for you.
BLITZER: Well, we'll start digging and digging and digging. You're going to have a lot more on this story coming up at the top of the hour on JOHN KING USA. John, thanks very much.
As cholera victims die in Haiti, life-saving supplies sit unused, unused in nearby warehouses. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the scene. We're going there.
BLITZER: The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Haiti has reached 305 people with almost 5,000 confirmed cases, and the crisis is spreading across the country, but tons of life-saving medicine is just sitting in a warehouse right now. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in Haiti and joining us now live.
Sanjay, what is happening there?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, what's sort of surprising here is, despite how much that we've been talking about this, Wolf, now for months when I talked to the representatives of the WHO, they said they were sort of caught blindsided by this most recent cholera epidemic. And I think that's really at the heart of this.
And despite all the discussions about the need for clean water and despite the discussions about the possibility of infectious disease, I think they were caught a little blind-sided, and as a result, supplies did not get out as quickly as they could have. And as we found out, Wolf, that problem is ongoing.
GUPTA (voice-over): How could this have happened? That's what Julie Santos wants to know.
JULIE SANTOS, MEDICAL RELIEF WORKER: You have someone there, someone here. Let's connect the dots.
GUPTA: She's talking about trying to contain the outbreak of cholera. Hundreds have died, thousands still in need of treatment.
(on camera) And this is where you're told to come get supplies. You arrive here, and if there's patients waiting, what happens?
SANTOS: Well, there are patients waiting.
GUPTA: There's patients waiting for these supplies?
SANTOS: We're sending them out to the hospitals out in St. Mark.
GUPTA (voice-over): Where patients are literally begging for hydration, clean water, the cheapest of supplies. And yet medical relief worker Julie Santos still waits for hours for her paperwork to be approved before she can get the supplies.
(on camera) How can that happen, that all that life-saving supplies could be in there and people, so many people, hundreds of people still died?
SANTOS: I don't know. I mean, I don't understand. I'm -- I'm at a loss. Really. I'm trying to figure out why. I can't really get a straight answer.
GUPTA: I wanted to try and understand myself. From this warehouse, a World Health Organization facility has a large stockpile supply here in Haiti.
(on camera) What people have been waiting for, for hours outside and days in hospitals is this. Pallets of I.V. fluids. Literally life-saving stuff to treat these patients of cholera, thousands of them. But it's not just that pallet. You take a look at this whole warehouse, full, despite what's happening here in Haiti.
CHRISTIAN MORALES, PAN AM HEALTH ORGANIZATION/WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: If we send everything that we have here today, tomorrow we cannot answer for 800,000 cases.
GUPTA (voice-over): Christian Morales has the enormous task of helping figure out who gets the supplies and when.
(on camera) Explain to me again how you see supplies here from July of this year, which was before the outbreak?
MORALES: Because, why do you want to send it out before the outbreak?
GUPTA: Why wouldn't you want to send it out after the outbreak?
(voice-over) We never did get a good explanation. What we saw were hydration salts, I.V. fluids still sitting in the warehouse. (on camera) Why didn't it go fast enough?
MORALES: They -- they -- I think in every operation like this, you can do things better. And there's a lot of lessons to be taken from this. And the country needs to be prepared for what is coming, because the likelihood of spreading of this epidemic is very high.
GUPTA (voice-over): That's something we heard over and over. This epidemic is by no means over.
(on camera) The thousands of people who are saved is -- is a great success story. But hundreds of people have died, and they would say, "Look, I don't understand how all these organizations could have supplies, and hundreds of people still died." And you would say what?
MORALES: Well, again, we have given away to everyone who has come here to us for supplies.
GUPTA (voice-over): But not on this day for Julie Santos. Her paperwork was never approved. And no one could ever tell her why not. She leaves the warehouse empty-handed.
GUPTA: So hard to believe, Wolf, that this could happen. One thing I want to point out to you, as well, when you look at the numbers of people with cholera in this country, keep in mind that the vast majority of people who get the infection actually don't get sick, but they are carriers. They can move around the country, and they can move the bacteria around the country with them, and that's why the concern now, Wolf, in the next couple of weeks, is about these outbreaks cropping up in different parts of the country as a result of those carriers, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for doing these reports. Sanjay is back in Haiti. We'll stay in close touch with you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.
When we come back, we have additional information coming in on the breaking news involving -- involving the former president, Bill Clinton, and his efforts to convince Kendrick Meek, the Democratic senatorial candidate in Florida, to drop out of the race to try to help Charlie Crist, the independent candidate facing Marco Rubio. Stand by.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we're getting back to the breaking news. A very dramatic development happening in Florida right now. The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, trying and failing to convince Kendrick Meek, the Democratic Senate candidate, to drop out.
We have now been told by authoritative sources that Kendrick Meek will stay in this race. He is not going to drop out. He's made that clear to the former president, Bill Clinton. Also made it clear to Doug Band, the former president's chief of staff, who's in Florida, who's been the go-between largely between President Clinton and Kendrick Meek.
Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is here. We're getting a lot of reaction on this story right now. It's -- I'm told that President Clinton realized that Kendrick Meek, his friend, could not win. That Marco Rubio is going to win -- is going to win the election, unless Kendrick Meek dropped out, threw his support to Charlie Crist, the independent candidate.
But Kendrick Meek is making it clear, he's staying in until the end. You're getting more reaction, as well.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I was told from one Democratic source who's familiar with some of the to-ing and fro- ing, said that Meek himself has been going back and forth, as recently as two days ago, said no to this.
There was some concern, Wolf, about pushback in the African- American community in Florida, if he were to withdraw. And also some concern, I'm told, on the part of the campaign of Alex Sink, Democrat running for governor there, because she didn't want -- her campaign would not want anything to depress the African-American vote in the state of Florida, which would presumably help her campaign.
BLITZER: And sources close to the former president are saying that this was his idea. He was not encouraged to do it by the White House...
BLITZER: ... or the Democratic National Committee, that the former president, who's close to the situation in Florida, said, "You know what, Kendrick Meek, for the good of the party, to try to prevent Marco Rubio from being the next senator from Florida," should -- that Kendrick Meek should drop out.
BORGER: But, you know, I think we ought to assume, Wolf, that the president would not freelance this kind of a thing -- the former president. That, you know, if he were going to be talking to Kendrick Meek, that there would be very high-level discussions with people running campaigns throughout Washington so that, you know, he wasn't going to go and do this on his own unless he had approval.
And John King is going to have a lot more on this coming up at the top of the hour. We'll continue to watch the breaking news. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: A "Most Unusual" feud. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Give me a "B." JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": I called Sharron Angle a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) this week.
MOOS: Give me an "I."
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": You called her a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: Give me a "T"!
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": I'm not sure I want to be your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: But need we spell it out for you? The word rhymes with itch, and Joy Behar kept scratching it on "The View." It started when Behar reacted to Tea Party candidate, Sharron Angle's, ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border.
BEHAR: I'd like her do this ad in the South Bronx. Come here, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Come to New York and do it.
MOOS: Round two.
(SOUND EFFECT: BELL)
MOOS: In answer to the "B" word, Sharron Angle responded with a "B" word of her own: bouquet. A gorgeous bouquet, and a note.
BEHAR: That's a brazier moment. And it says, "Joy, raised $150,000 online yesterday. Thanks for your help. Sincerely, Sharron Angle."
MOOS: The Angle campaign tells CNN they've raised two to three times their usual amount since Tuesday's show. But Behar didn't back down from the "B" word.
BEHAR: But I'd like to point out that those flowers were picked by illegal immigrants, and they're not voting for you, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST, FOX'S "FOX & FRIENDS": Wow.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, CO-HOST, FOX'S "FOX & FRIENDS": Don't you think the rest of those hosts just want to put a huge piece of duct tape over her mouth?
MOOS: But would Behar duct tape her own mouth?
(SOUND EFFECT: BELL)
MOOS: After being praised and pelted online with insults like "nasty beast," Behar seemed to show her softer side. BEHAR: I really shouldn't have called her a (EXPLETIVE DELETED), because to me, that's a term of endearment.
MOOS: It dawns on the audience that this is a joke of an apology.
BEHAR: I reserve that word for people that I know and love, so that was a mistake, and I take it back.
MOOS: When CNN asked about the "apology," the Angle campaign wouldn't respond.
(on camera) Now, we may be wimpy enough to bleep the "B" word, but over at FOX, they're so wimpy, they dare not say the "S" word, and I don't mean the "S" word you're thinking of.
(voice-over) One of the hosts there told Joy Behar.
CARLSON: Just S-H-U-T up.
MOOS: Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin tweeted, "Can't wait until Joy Behar will be forced to call Sharron Angle 'Senator (EXPLETIVE DELETED).'"
The note that Angle wrote was deposited back into Behar's very own "B" word until her cup runneth over.
BEHAR: It's burning me. Holy goodness.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.
BEHAR: You girls are my (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.