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THE SITUATION ROOM
Run-Up to the Mid-Term Elections; Interview with Tim Kaine; The Democrats Biggest Worry; Cargo Security on Alert; President Obama's Popularity Drops
Aired November 1, 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: Thanks very much for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the CNN Election Center.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is the United States Congress right now. The balance of power is at stake on the election tomorrow at the House of Representatives.
Let's walk over to the House of Representatives. Four hundred thirty- five seats in the House of Representatives. All of them up for grabs. The Republicans need a net gain of 39 in order to become the majority. Then John Boehner would become the speaker of the House. A lot of pundits think that is certainly possible. In the Senate, there are 100 senators, 37 seats up for grabs on election day. The Republicans need a net gain of 10 to become the majority. That's a more formidable challenge for the Republicans right now. A lot of the experts, the head counters, think they could pick up six or eight. But picking up 10 would be a huge, huge challenge for the Republicans. We'll, of course, see what they can do.
On this day, it's been very, very busy. On this campaign, as this last day of campaigning continues, there are rallies. We're standing by for Bill Clinton. He's with the Kentucky Senate candidate, the Democrat, Jack Conway. Other big names on the campaign trail in the coming hours, we're watching closely the vice president, Joe Biden; the House Republican leader, and, as I said, the would-be speaker, John Boehner, he's campaigning; the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, he's trying to help Republicans; and the first lady, Michelle Obama, she's very popular with Democrats. She's trying to do her best to help out.
Our correspondents are in place for all the hot races that will decide whether or not the Democrats become the majority in the House and the Senate and the re--- whether the Republicans become the majority in the House and the Senate. We're watching all of these races very, very closely.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in Nevada, where there's a huge contest underway.
We just heard from the first lady a little while ago. She's campaigning for the Democrat, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, in Las Vegas. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And I know that for a lot of folks change has not come fast enough. But believe me, it hasn't come fast enough for Barack or for Harry, either. Not -- not when so many families are still looking for work and struggling to pay the bills and worrying about how they're going to provide for their kids. No. It hasn't come fast enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin is in Las Vegas right now. It -- it seems incredibly close, this contest in Nevada, with huge ramifications nationwide could go, Jessica, either way.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's what officials with both the Democrat and Republican Parties say, too, Wolf. They're just so nervous about this race. Neither knows who is going to win.
Today, the two candidates, who couldn't be further apart politically, are stumping on opposite sides of the state. Sharron Angle, the Republican Tea Party darling, who hopes to take the throne here, she is in Reno, her base of support. Her closing message, Wolf, is that the jobs picture, the housing picture in this state is a mess and all under Harry Reid's watch. She vows that when she goes to Washington, she will she'll hold the line on spending and promises, in her words, quote, "shock and awe."
Down here in Las Vegas -- that's where Harry Reid finds his base of support. And that's where he was today, stumping with Michelle Obama. His message is that Sharron Angle is simply too extreme for this state, that she would change the way people get Social Security, change veterans benefits, that people can't gamble on her in a time like this.
And, Wolf, I will tell you, it's an unusual state in that 65 percent of all voters who will vote have already voted by now, through something called early voting. And each campaign is spinning the numbers, saying they bode well for their side. So far, more Democrats than Republicans have turned out. But we'll have to see how many turn out tomorrow. It's going to be a late night here in Nevada, as people watch this one go down to the wire -- -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in very close touch with you, Jessica.
Thanks very, very much.
Let's go to Alaska right now. The officials campaigning -- the campaigning in Alaska right now. The candidates are making a desperate, desperate plea. It's a three person contest.
CNN's Drew Griffin is reporting from Anchorage.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now, Lisa Murkowski says she is ready to surprise Alaska, much the same way as she was surprised when she lost to Tea Party candidate, Republican Joe Miller, in the primary, that forced her on to this write-in candidacy to try to retain her seat.
The polls do show that she is very strong. She's running a very aggressive write-in campaign, very well-funded. In fact, she took out a front page ad on the "Anchorage Daily News" today, again, telling voters, write in my name, fill in that blank.
Really, I think this race is going to come down to two things.
Can the strength of the Tea Party and, in fact, the Republican Party get enough people out to vote behind Joe Miller, even though his candidacy has stumbled in the last two weeks?
Or can Lisa Murkowski convince enough Alaskans, both Republican, Democrat and the Independents, to come out and actually fill in her name on that ballot?
Remember, she's not on this ballot. You have to write in her name. So it's going to be the strength of her Alaskan political dynasty type name against Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate. Scott McAdams is the Democrat running in this race. We talked to him yesterday. He thinks he does have a chance. The polls do not seem to indicate this at that point.
So I think tomorrow, we'll be looking at a pretty close race between Joe Miller, the Tea Party Republican candidate, and Lisa Murkowski, now Independent, trying to retain her Republican seat -- -- Wolf.
All right, Drew.
Thanks very much.
The former president, Bill Clinton, making several stops, including in West Virginia, where the governor, Joe Manchin, is fighting to hold onto that Senate seat long held, indeed for decades, by the late Robert Byrd.
Listen to the former president, what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told Joe on the way in, I can't figure out why the Tea Party hadn't endorsed him.
I mean, what do they want?
Listen to what they want. They want lots of jobs, small government, low taxes and balanced budgets. I give you Exhibit A.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's in West Virginia watching this story for us -- all the polls, Brianna, say it's very, very tight between Joe Manchin and John Raese, the Republican candidate.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very tight. That's why Bill Clinton was coming in here today, Wolf, trying to be the closer for Governor Manchin. And Democrats, though, I have to tell you, they're feeling pretty good here in West Virginia. Three weeks ago, when Bill Clinton came and, for the first time, stumped for Manchin, it was a neck and neck race between Manchin and John Raese, a businessman, and the Republican candidate here in West Virginia. And now what you have is Democrats being cautiously optimistic that this could go their way tomorrow. And you also have Republicans quietly admitting that maybe they will not be able to pull this off. This has been such an intriguing race, because the Democrat here, Governor Manchin, is very popular. And when you talk with some voters, though, they say, yes, we like him, but we don't want to send him to Washington. We're concerned that he will be a Democratic vote that President Obama can count on. And so we want to keep him here in West Virginia. And John Raese has very much been able to capitalize on that saying, that Manchin would be a rubber stamp for President Obama.
On the other hand, you have Manchin, who has really been trying to distance himself from Ken -- from Democratic leaders in Washington. But at this point, Democrats hopeful that they will be able to hold onto this Senate seat that, as you said, Senator Robert Byrd held for decades before he passed away earlier this year -- -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A very close race in West Virginia, as in Nevada.
Brianna, we'll stay in close touch with you, as well.
Let's bring in Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: What a difference two years makes. In 2008, we all remember, President Obama rode into the White House on a wave of broad voter enthusiasm the likes of which hadn't been seen in this country in decades.
Fast forward two years. The president's party is expected to get crushed in tomorrow's midterm elections. The latest "USA Today"/Gallup Poll shows the largest Republican margin in House voting in several generations. And regardless of the turnout, it's looking more and more now like Republicans are going to win easily, more than the 39 seats they need to get control of the House. Experts in both parties now revising their estimates upwards. Many now believe the Democrats could lose 50 seats. Some are even estimating as many as 70.
Meanwhile, critics are heaping a lot of the blame on the president himself. A piece in the London "Telegraph" suggests that by abandoning his own talk of bipartisanship, President Obama divided the country and set his party up for defeat. The piece points out how Bill Clinton has held more than 100 events around the country, while President Obama is mostly limiting himself to the friendly blue states.
The irony in all of this being that Barack Obama rose to fame as a state senator by shooting down the notion of a red America and a blue America. Many also think the president didn't use his office to address the most pressing issue, which was the economy. Instead, he focused on grand issues like health care reform.
And how's this for symbolism -- on the eve of the midterm elections, President Obama, the leader of the Democratic Party, has no public events on his calendar. In Cleveland yesterday, the president spoke to an indoor arena that was nearly half empty.
So here's the question -- if the Democrats get crushed tomorrow, how much blame does President Obama deserve?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Will do, Jack.
And remember, this is the place to be election night tomorrow. Join me and the best political team on television for up to the minute results, analysis of the outcome and what happens next. Special coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.
A lot of Democrats have a lot to worry about tomorrow. I'll speak with the party chairman, Tim Kaine, and I'll ask him to name the race that may keep him up late tonight.
Also, the hunt for the alleged cargo bomb makers. And we investigate gaps in security for shipped packages.
And thoughts on Christine O'Donnell's future after election day from the man who exposed her famous witch remark. The comedian, Bill Maher, he's here live this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A final snapshot of the Republican advantage going into the battle for Congress tomorrow.
Our brand new CNN poll of polls, averaging six national surveys, shows the GOP with an 8 point lead over Democrats in the so-called generic ballot, would you rather support a Republican as opposed to a Democrat?
Joining us now, the Democratic National Committee chairman, the former Virginia governor, Tim Kaine.
Governor, thanks for coming in.
TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: You bet, Wolf.
Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Which race is keeping you up tonight the longest?
Which race are you most worried about?
KAINE: Well, you know, rather than say that, well, Wolf, here's -- here's the way I answer that one. Having served as a governor and been out on the trail a lot, I've gotten pretty close to some of these candidates. So here are two races -- one governor's race and one Senate race. In Ohio, Ted Strickland was down in the Quinnipiac Poll by 17 points before Labor Day. He has brought that race now to a dead heat.
I was with him yesterday in Cleveland, and the momentum on his team has been very, very strong. And fact that they closed that gap means that's a race I'm definitely going to be watching.
And then there's been a very similar move in the Pennsylvania Senate race with Joe Sestak. Again, double digits down around Labor Day, brought that race to nearly a dead heat. A lot of activity on the ground in those states. So those are two races I'm going to watch maybe particularly closely.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We should know early in the evening whether Sestak wins in Pennsylvania, Strickland wins in Ohio. What about Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader in Nevada? We won't know for a few hours after that. In the most recent polls Sharron Angle, the Tea Party Republican seems slightly ahead of him.
KAINE: I've seen her ahead in some polls, but I'll tell you this. I've been out to Nevada probably three times in the last 30 days, and the field operation that Senator Reid has is enormously strong.
With investments from the DNC and so many others, the Nevada State party strong. They know how to do field campaigning there. You're right. It's almost like every time zone has its own most closely watched races.
We'll know a little about those races in Ohio and Pennsylvania then take a breather and two hours later know a lot more about Nevada.
BLITZER: The Cook Report, Charlie Cook, Stewart Rothenberg, are highly respected. They're both suggesting not only the 39-net gain for Republicans in the House, but maybe 50 or 60 seats could go to the Republicans in net gain. That would be a huge disaster in terms of what you're looking at down the road.
KAINE: Well, it would be tough. Four months ago, the Republicans were saying they were going to win both the Senate and the House. Now they seem to be backing away from their claims about the Senate. We're not taking any Senate race for granted.
You know, we believe we'll hold on to both houses. They think they'll take both houses. Maybe they're backing away from the Senate, but we're seeing some of those tough predictions.
But, Wolf, the other thing we're seeing is there are predictions, but then there's also early voting. We're doing analysis of the early votes as they are cast and we see Democrats do very, very well in most of our jurisdictions.
Outperforming Republicans, outperforming 2006 early voting turnout and also outperforming our own models so there may well be some surprises based upon not polling, but the actual turnout we're seeing thus far.
BLITZERZ: We'll see how that turnout is. The turnout is obviously critical. One final question, if it is a disaster for the Democrats tomorrow and if there -- if they blame -- a lot of folks blame the president and his policies for the first two years, how worried are you that he could face a Democratic challenge with a Democratic presidential nomination in 2012?
KAINE: You know, Wolf, I'm not particularly worried about it. I was with the president yesterday in Cleveland. We came back to Washington together.
I think he has the right attitude about it, which is you've got a historical perspective. You look at these midterms. The midterms are almost always tough for the party with the White House.
Some of greatest American presidents, Truman happens to be a favorite of mine, you know, did so much good work in his first two years then lost both Houses in the midterms, then people counted him out.
Not only did he win election, won both Houses back two years later. There are lessons here. There's always climbing the learning curve for a new president and always ways to do better.
I think the president is proud of the accomplishments of the administration and also, you know, very focused on what things can be done now in the next two years to continue to accelerate the economic recovery. I think he's going to do those things and I think the party will be unified behind him in 2012.
BLITZER: Tim Kaine is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
KAINE: You bet, Wolf.
BLITZER: The Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will be our guest here in the SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. He'll be joining us live.
We're following another important story in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Al Qaeda, was it able to get two bombs on a cargo -- on two separate cargo planes? We're updating the story and what's going on. New information coming in. Stand by.
BLITZER: Get back to the midterm elections shortly, but first an update on another top story we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM.
Authorities in Yemen are intensifying the search for those with alleged ties to explosive packages bound for the United States. Among them, Ibrahim Hassan Al-Asiri, the alleged bomb maker in the failed Christmas terror plot.
The top U.S. counterterrorism official now says these explosives were in fact capable of detonating on their own and at least one bomb is believed to have traveled on passenger planes before being found.
All of this is raising new concerns, very serious concerns about the safety of our entire cargo system. Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is here working this story for us. What exactly are these worries now?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly a lot of concerns that the cargo system is just not as safe as the passenger system. Federal law right now does require all cargo onboard passenger planes to be screened, but there's no such mandate for cargo flights.
Some employees of the industry say after Friday's close call that has to change.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): The UPS met with management Monday afternoon to demand tougher inspection of the cargo their planes transport. The union told CNN, current standards in air cargo screening are inadequate.
The fact that an explosive was shipped via UPS from Yemen bound for Chicago is proof pilots say that cargo planes need security as tight as that for passenger flights. Congressman Ed Markey calls it a security loophole.
REPRESENTATIVE ED MARKEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Air cargo on cargo planes is absolutely much more vulnerable to exploitation by al Qaeda than cargo which is on passenger flights.
CHERNOFF: UPS says its transport system is safe. "We have processes and procedures in place to ensure the safety of shipments and our people" the company told CNN.
Air cargo carriers won't reveal specific details, but say they have multiple layers of security. Their approach includes x-rays, explosive trace detection and physical search of packages. Their tracking systems also keep close tabs on cargo.
FedEx points out the bomb authorities confiscated in Dubai was intercepted before it was ever placed on a FedEx plane, but without a tip off from Saudi intelligence, it likely would have gotten onboard.
As the explosives were reported to be too sophisticated to be detected by x-rays or trained dogs. Smaller shippers say security technology in the cargo industry could be better. For example, there is no technology approved to screen large pallets of cargo.
FERNANDO SOLER, AIR CARGO SECURITY ALLIANCE: As an industry, right, there's some disappointed including myself that things haven't moved faster. The process to get approvals has been significantly delayed. CHERNOFF: The domestic air cargo industry also worries about screening overseas for packages bound for the U.S. illustrated by Friday's events.
BRANDON FRIED, AIRFORWARDERS ASSOCIATION: This really points to the need for global harmonization.
CHERNOFF: In spite of all those worries, the Cargo Airline Association says 100 percent screening of packages is not the solution. The airlines say better intelligence is the best way to fight terrorism. Wolf --
BLITZER: Is this also an issue of money?
CHERNOFF: Well, certainly the employees are claiming, yes, these companies do want to save money, they're trying to do security on the cheap. The airlines are saying absolutely not, security is our primary concern and it's not all about the money.
BLITZER: Allan, thanks very much. We have more on this story coming up later here in the SITUATION ROOM.
An actor smoked apparently marijuana live on his show last Friday to underscore Proposition 19. That's the proposition in California that would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Bill Maher is standing by live. We'll talk about that and politics. Stay with us.
BLITZER: And joining us now Bill Maher. He's the host of "Realtime with Bill Maher" airs Friday night 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN's sister network that would be called HBO.
Bill, thanks very much for coming in.
BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Always glad to be with my sister, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sisters, brothers, something like that. Let's talk a little bit about what's going to happen tomorrow. A lot of Democrats are worried. They're sitting on a potential political disaster tomorrow. Here's the question to you. Why? What happened?
MAHER: Well, I mean, partly it is the Democrats' fault. They don't do very good at bragging about their achievements. This Congress, which I'm sure is going to be tarred as a do-nothing Congress actually was one of the more successful congresses in recent memory, probably not since Lyndon Johnson in 1965 has a congress achieved so much.
You know, somebody here at the office today, they brought in their credit card statement and somebody else brought in a statement they got from their health insurance company. And both of them said, you know, when you get statements in the mail you think, oh, what's the bad news now? Well, actually, when you read the health care statement, yeah, you can keep your kid on the plan until you're 26. They can't throw you off the rolls because they run out of money at the hospital. You know, pre-existing conditions, that's out the window. They can't throw you off for that. These are good things. Same with the credit card things.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it just a matter of communications?
MAHER: Well, that's part of it. Also it's part of -- part of the problem, of course, is your competitor over there at Fox News, filling people with misinformation. Somehow people have not gotten the message, for example, that Obama gave you a tax cut. All they hear is that the stimulus bill was some sort of socialist program to run up the debt. Almost half the stimulus program was tax cuts. And people just don't seem to be able to get this information in their head.
BLITZER: He's such a good communicator, the president.
MAHER: I'm sorry?
BLITZER: I said the president, you know, got into office because he's such a powerful communicator and he delivered a message that clearly resonated back in 2008.
MAHER: Well, he seems to have forgotten some of those communication skills. That's true. We cannot blame it all on Fox News. He should have been out there more telling people, bragging about what he and his administration and the Democratic Congress have done for them. They did things that actually made their lives better. Health care, credit card reform, things like this. The banks can't get in the middle now if you get a student loan. That's $90 billion that was saved. You know, you can go on and on down the list of the way people's lives are practically made better by a Democratic government that actually fights for people as opposed to corporations. Somehow that idea doesn't carry the day. The tea baggers are all carrying the batter really of corporatist America. We talked about it on our show Friday. Somehow their agenda as a populist organization is the exact same agenda as billionaires like Steve Forbes.
BLITZER: Some on the left think the president went to far toward Wall Street, didn't go far enough toward the, what we call these progressive ideas, ideas that you like. Are you among them who thinks the president wasn't progressive enough?
MAHER: Oh, absolutely. And by the way, when we define progressive, please remember that we're defining that by the parameters of 2010. When actually what is centrist, today, really if you look at, like, 1994 when Bob Dole presented his health care plan, okay, that I assume was considered a centrist plan or maybe even a little to the right since it was Bob Dole, the leader of the Republican party. That's essentially the health care plan that we got in 2010 from the Obama administration. But somehow that became socialism.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Christine O'Donnell, a woman you helped make rather famous on "Real-Time with Bill Maher." She's way down on the polls in Delaware as you probably know. If she doesn't win tomorrow, what do you think is next for her? You've known her a lot longer than we have.
MAHER: Unemployment is next for her. She will go from where she came. She didn't have a job before. She probably will not have a job after. Although maybe she'll get a job at Fox News or something like that. No, she will not be dabbling in state craft it looks like because I don't think she's going to win that election. So --
BLITZER: A lot of people think she might have a future -- she might have a future as a TV pundit out there. I wouldn't be surprised if she signs with Fox or some other network. Would you be surprised?
MAHER: I'm surprised that we ascribe the word pundit to someone who knows so little. She couldn't name a Supreme Court case. She was shocked to find out that the first amendment included the first amendment. So, boy, the word pundit --
BLITZER: She did beat Mike Castle, Congressman, former governor of Delaware, someone who had been elected and elected numerous times in the state in a Republican primary. She obviously had something going for her with these Republican voters out there.
MAHER: Yes, Republican voters which is basically the far right. It's a fringe group of people who are very forceful, even though they don't have a lot of numbers because they have enthusiasm. But let's not forget that people like Christine O'Donnell, and there's going to be a lot of these tea baggers who are sweeping into the country, into the state houses, into the Congress, rather, next year. And somehow they sell us on the idea that because they haven't been to Washington before they're pure and they will come into town and change the culture. That's not going to happen. They're not pure. They're just more naive. They're not going to change the way business is done in Washington or change human nature. Deals are still going to be made the way they've always been made. And these people will just have to catch up.
BLITZER: Stand by, Bill. We're going to continue this conversation. I want to pick your brain on what happened on the set of your show Friday night. When an actor took out what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette and lit it up. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're back with Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" that airs on HBO Friday nights 10:00 p.m. eastern. A lot of us were surprised when this happened on the set Friday night. You were with the actor, Zach Galifianakis. Listen to this.
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, ACTOR: Bandwagon because I think that maybe people see it as taboo still. It's a tricky thing politically to jump on that bandwagon because I think that maybe people see it as taboo still. So I --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's why it's a ballot measure, Bill. No politician if they thought it was a good idea -- oh my -- as I was saying.
BLITZER: They said it looked like a joint. It smelled like a joint. Was it marijuana?
MAHER: No. If it was a real joint, Wolf, I would have smoked it, but it was, I think, cloves or something. I mean, you know, Zach's crazy. He's not that crazy. You heard people screaming and applauding with approval. There's a populist movement right there. I was saying on our show about a week ago that this would be a great wedge issue for the Democrats. Republicans have always found great wedge issues like gay marriage and prayer in school and things that got people into the voting booth to vote on that particular issue then stuck around to vote, for example, for George Bush in 2004 when they really went in to vote against gay marriage. Well, this is something that gets young people who don't come out in great numbers into the voting booth. So you know, go Zach.
BLITZER: You're going to vote for proposition 19 which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in California? You live in California.
MAHER: Of course. Just on a practical level of how much money this could save, I think nationally somebody did a study and said something like $17 billion. About half of that coming from taxes and about half of that coming from what we would save by not wasting law enforcement resources going after the people who are giggling.
BLITZER: The other incident on your set Friday night that caused a little buzz out there on the internet was what you said about Islam and a very popular name in Britain right now for little boys being born, specifically Mohamed. I'll play the clip and we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: The most popular name in the United Kingdom, Great Britain, this was in the news this week for babies this week was Mohammed. Am I a racist to feel I'm alarmed by that? Because I am. It's not because of the race; it's because of the religion. I don't have to apologize, do I, for not wanting the western world to be taken over by Islam in 300 years?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You're always known for being politically incorrect. But go ahead and explain what you mean. I assume some Muslims out there weren't necessarily happy with what you said.
MAHER: Well, I mean, I think I -- a lot of it was said there in the clip. I don't feel like I have to apologize for being a proud westerner. When I say a westerner I mean somebody who believes in the values that western people believe in that a lot of the Muslim world does not. Like separation of church and state. Like, you know, equality of the sexes. Like respect for minorities. Free elections. Free speech. Freedom to gather. These things are not just different from cultures that don't have them. Theocracy is not just different from rule of law. It's better. No, I'm not saying every Muslim in society subscribes to all of these, but a lot more than western democracies do. And I would like to keep those values here. And if Muslim people are in these societies having babies at a rate like, you know, I don't know, six or eight times what the other people are having, you know, you can project ahead and say in 200 or 300 years, you know, if Mohammed is the most popular name now I don't want England to lose those values. That, of course, became our values here in America.
BLITZER: All right. Bill Maher, you think if you worked for NPR you would have been fired for saying that?
MAHER: Probably. Why I'm very glad I'm here at the sister network.
BLITZER: Sister network of CNN, HBO. "Real Time with Bill Maher" airs Friday nights. See you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Appreciate it.
A new report suggests the next big task for Republicans is stopping Sarah Palin. What's going on? We'll explain in our strategy session. That's next.
BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session with the best political team on television. Joining us now, Donna Brazile, welcome. Bill Bennett, the former drug czar. I hope you don't light a joint during the course of this strategy session. We're not going to worry about that. Candy Crowley is here. And John Avlon, he's the senior political columnist for "The Daily Beast." I want to give you a few seconds to respond to Bill. Proposition 19 is a serious proposition. A lot of money could come into the state if they legalize marijuana right now. It could deal with the budgetary problems.
BILL BENNETT, NATIONAL TALK RADIO HOST: A lot of money will go out of the state, too. Remember there are more young people in treatment for marijuana than all of the drugs combined, add the cost of accidents, add cost of dropouts, school. This is a disaster. It's a serious issue. It shouldn't be joked about. People should make the arguments on both sides. I think if you see the arguments, talk to people who have had a problem with this drug, with some kid in their family and then cast your vote.
BLITZER: It's going to bring out a lot of younger voters I assume in California. Donna, you're concerned about voter turnout not just in California but all over the country right now. In California all these young people are going to vote, presumably for proposition 19 or at least a lot of them will. Is that going to help the Democratic candidates?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: As you know, we've seen a huge turnout in the early voting in California, absentee ballots as well as those who have been going out and voting. This will produce a large turnout of young people. I want to just tell Bill if he lights up I won't inhale. But the Democrats right now, they're counting on a strong ground game to put them over the top in some of these close races and keep them close in some of the races where perhaps the media has already called the election. We know by canvassing, by making phone calls, by getting people to the polls we can increase turnout by 3 percent to 5 percent. If we increase turnout, we will have a chance, the Democrats will have an opportunity to stem the red wave taking place across the country. In 1994 when the Republicans took over, picked up where it was decided by 4 percent or less. It's very important at this hour that people continue to canvas, phone banks, Republicans shouldn't start popping the champagne too soon and the Democrats know that they have to work until midnight.
BLITZER: All the indications, Candy, and you've studied these poll numbers, enthusiasm, the generic ballot, all of this stuff does not look good for the Democrats.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't. They're using that, as you can see, to try to turn out their vote, going we've got to get out there. It's part of the Democratic turnout to say we're going to get swamped, but you can make a difference. They're playing off it. And, you know, Donna is right. It depends on who shows up. It always depends on who shows up.
BLITZER: Usually in midterm elections, younger people don't show up. Do you see anything different happening tomorrow?
JOHN AVLON, SR. POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: No. That's one of the Democrats' real frustrations. The youth vote, which propelled President Obama into office, they don't come out in midterms. I don't think they need marijuana propositions in California to do that, but everyone has to realize it's their responsibility to show up. That's everyone's responsibility tomorrow.
CROWLEY: I'm not convinced that is really is the youth vote as much as it is the independents. And the independents seem to be the ones that have flocked and made a choice already.
AVLON: And that has been decisive and consistent for almost 18 months now. Independents have been swinging Republicans since the stimulus bill and then health care. It is decisive. It looks like a 15-point swing. People need to deal with that.
BLITZER: Let me get you to weigh in on a story that Politico wrote today that a lot of the establishment Republicans, Bill, are so worried that Sarah Palin could get the Republican nomination and do nationally what Christine O'Donnell has effectively done in Delaware, namely lose that -- effectively -- we expect her to lose.
BENNETT: Can we give this woman a day off or two? She's one of the only people not running tomorrow. Nobody was quoted in that story that I saw by name. I'm not going to comment on it. She's getting a very bad deal. I mean, the -- the way people are piling on her, you know, it's extraordinary. She's very popular. A lot of people don't like her.
BLITZER: Is she the front-runner?
BENNETT: There is no front-runner. The way she's being treated is mean, very mean.
BRAZILE: And I think Bill is absolutely right. I mean, no one was quoted by name. And I agree with Sarah Palin. If you are going to demonize somebody, put your name. It's the Republican establishment running against the only viable person that has reenergized the Republican Party. I disagree with Sarah Palin on the issues, but she is one of the most talented political figures on the Republican side right now. God knows if she decides to run, let her go for it. But it's absolutely wrong for Republicans to beat her up one day before the election.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Don't go too far. We've got a big election coming up tomorrow. We're all going to be here. Thanks.
There's another race that's so close, everyone is getting ready potentially for a recount, even before the polls close. We're going to Colorado. Stand by.
BLITZER: A federal appeals court has just ruled that the don't ask, don't tell policy can, in fact, stay on the books, at least for now. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He has got the details. The Obama administration had asked for this, and they got what they wanted, even though they oppose the policy. Explain.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Bottom line, Wolf, big victory for the government because the justice department had basically filed this -- this suit saying that they want to keep don't ask, don't tell in place while this case works its way through the ninth circuit court of appeals. The losing side, the log cabin Republicans, have two options. This was a three-judge panel that made this decision to let don't ask, don't tell stay in place for now. They can either ask the entire ninth circuit court of appeals to look at it or they can apply for some temporary relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, as this is happening on the legal side, you've also got the legislative side. I'm told there will be a very, very narrow window for don't ask, don't tell to come before Congress in that lame duck session. The man who is going to pull the strings and control what happens with that is Senator Harry Reid. So a lot is going to hinge on this election. Senator reed would still be in office no matter what during lame duck, but his attitude toward certain bills or what's going to come before Congress, we don't know how that will change based on tomorrow's election.
BLITZER: Bottom line, at least for now, the military can continue with the don't ask, don't tell policy based on this latest decision by a federal appeals court. Chris, thanks very much.
Let's bring back Jack. He's got "the Cafferty file." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, if the Democrats get crushed tomorrow, how much blame does President Obama deserve?
Cliff writes from Regal Park, New York, "President Obama is not to blame. The Republicans made a cynical bet that the mess they made could not be reversed in two years and then refused to cooperate on even the most mundane issues. The American people and our instant gratification mentality are doing the rest. Rest uneasy, Republicans. The worm turns in an instant." H. in Georgia, "The Democrats are all to blame. They didn't listen to the people. The people indicated their desires time and time again, but the Democrats just wanted to tell us what we needed instead. Tomorrow, they'll get what they deserve."
Pat from New Jersey, "How can anything get worse? Nothing got done because we have the party of no. We'll have a larger party of no by adding more Republicans to the mix. Obama should have pushed through his policies instead of trying to make nice when he first took office."
Dave says, "As an independent I say no. It lies on the shoulders of this horribly inept and corrupt Congress. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are everything that is wrong with America."
Phil writes, "Unfortunately I don't think it will serve as a wake-up call. The left-wing liberal contingent in this country will likely just blame it on racism. They continue to beat the dead horse that is George W. Bush, hoping they can continue to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. The American people are realizing, though, Obama and company, Reid and Pelosi, are empty suits."
Tim writes, "I'm getting to the polls early to vote Democratic, Jack. I dreamed that I was at the pump paying $5 a gallon for gasoline again."
And Larry in Ohio, "Obama will get some blame, but most of the blame goes to the smug, elite, hard-headed Nancy Pelosi. The real witch in this election is from San Francisco."
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.