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THE SITUATION ROOM

Last-Minute Campaign Push; Terror Probe Intensifies

Aired November 1, 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 it's just hours to go before polls start opening across the country. Both sides are pulling out all the stops, hoping that some star power -- they are hoping that it can make a difference in some of these key battleground races. For the Democrats right now, the first lady, Michelle Obama, she's campaigning for Harry Reid. There you see him right there. He's in the political fight of his life right now in Nevada against Sharron Angle. We will hear -- we will go there in a moment.

The former President Bill Clinton is in West Virginia right now. He's campaigning for Joe Manchin, the governor, who wants to be the next Democratic senator. We will check out to see what's happening there.

And Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, he's been very busy. He's been campaigning today in Vermont, as well as in his home state of Delaware.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Let's go over to CNN's John King. He's at what we call our election Matrix right now.

You're looking at a lot of these House races. There are, what, we believe 100 House races that are competitive out of 435. And, what, 91 of them are held by Democrats.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": And that tells you, Wolf, the steep hill the Democrats face in defending their current House majority.

And in talking to Democrats today, they are all but certain they will lose that majority in the election tomorrow. You're looking here -- as Wolf, just noted, we call this our election CNN Election Matrix.

You see the class of 2006 here. That's the class that made Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House of Representatives. The class of 2008, they came in on Barack Obama's coattails, in those districts alone, some 53 Democrats, Wolf, who are fighting for their incumbency.

And let's look at some of the races that we are likely to watch closely. Here's one right here in New York State. Republicans in New York State have been wiped out in recent years. John Hall won his district. He's a Democrat. He's in trouble right now. Barack Obama just barely carried that district with 51 percent of the vote. That's one of the districts we will watch here in the Northeast as this plays out. Do Republicans get a comeback in the Northeast?

Here's another thing we want to look at here, Pennsylvania '08. The Philadelphia suburbs were so good to President Obama. They have been so good to Democrats in recent years. Patrick Murphy though in a rematch with the man he beat in 2006. Again, look at this here, the president 54 percent in that district just two years ago. Can the Democrats hold on to the Philadelphia suburbs? One of the key tests as we go across the country.

And let's over here and look at some other races. I want to bring this one over as they head to the West. Arizona, there are a handful of congressional seats in Arizona that the Republicans think they might get, including Gabby Giffords. She won her seat in 2006 as well. And again look, this is a John McCain district. One of the top targets for Republicans are districts John McCain carried in 2008, where Democrats still won their House seats, the thinking being Democratic turnout up in a presidential year. In this midterm year, especially with the anger at Washington, Republicans think they have a good chance there in the West.

A couple others we could look at quickly, this is the president's home state of Illinois. And yet, you have a Democrat, Phil Hare, who is in trouble in this state as well in a very close race. And again, look, 56 percent for the president in that district two years ago. If that is a district that ends up swinging Republican, this will be the sign of a massive Republican wave, if those districts where the president was not only 50, but above 55, start to switch.

And you can go across the country, north and south, east and west. You see all these different states listed, Virginia, Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina. This is just 2006 and 2008. If we swing the Matrix around and go back in time, Republicans think their best targets are in those younger classes, the last two cycles in Congress, but also there are vulnerable Democrats targeted, as you see here, 1996, 1998.

Wolf, Republicans head into this, 91 Democrats on our list alone. Even some Democrats conceding today they expect the Democrats to lose not only the 39 seats Republicans need to take the majority. Many Democrats, Wolf -- and remember this is the Democrats saying this tonight -- think the Republicans could gain 50, maybe more.

BLITZER: Well, the Republicans gained 52 as you and I well remember back in '94. We will see what happens tomorrow.

John King is going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING, USA."

John, thanks very much.

Republicans are making a last-minute push in Ohio. John Boehner is getting ready to speak at an event out in Ohio right now. We are going to see what's happening out there. He's trying to help John Kasich become the next governor of Ohio, the Senate candidate Rob Portman as well.

That's Hank Williams Jr. He's performing at this rally, this Republican rally in Ohio right now.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is looking at what John Boehner -- he might be, Dana, the next speaker of the House. And we do know in his prepared remarks, he is going to go after President Obama for saying this the other day in a radio interview on Univision. Let me play what the president said.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Latinos sit out the election, instead of saying we're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us, if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so what is Boehner going to say? Because you've got some advanced word.

BASH: That's right. He's going to directly respond to this when he takes the stage in a little while. And I will put up on the screen the remarks that we got from his office.

He is going to say: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as -- quote -- 'our enemies.' Think about that. He actually used that word."

And then he's going on to say: "Mr. President, there's a word for people who have the audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution and the values of limited government that made our country great. We don't call them enemies. We call them patriots."

Now, he's also going to talk about the fact that when Bill Clinton and both George Bushes used the word enemy, they reserved that for global terrorists and dictators.

Now, I just got more information about what John Boehner is going to say. And, interesting, he is going to -- and this is really his closing argument tonight before everybody goes to the polls around the country. He's going to reiterate, Wolf, some of the main tenets of that Pledge for America that Republicans in the House introduced last month, talking about the big items like reducing spending and repealing the president's health care plan.

But there's a line in there that really struck me. And he's also going to say, "We will not compromise on the will of the people." Now, Democrats are seizing on language like that, saying, aha, putting Republicans in charge is just a recipe for more gridlock. But I talked to a senior House Republican source about what he means by that. And sure, they are going to have a line in the sand on a lot of the big agenda items, but he said that they will work together on some issues.

For example, there are three outstanding trade deals they expect them to be able to work together on. Of course the war in Afghanistan is something that there has been bipartisanship on. And this Republican I talked to and Democrats agree that the world will change and there probably will be some coming-together and compromising on the big thing we're hearing from Americans out there, which is reduce spending and reduce the size of the federal government.

BLITZER: The first thing they're going to have to do, decide what to do about the Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of this year.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: That will be a big issue for the Democrats and the Republicans.

BASH: Right, in the lame-duck.

BLITZER: Yes. Dana, thanks very much.

And Dana will be covering that. She's our senior congressional correspondent.

Another race we're watching is out in Colorado right now. It's a very, very tight race.

Our own Mary Snow is standing by to watch that race.

I want to play some of the sound from the two candidates, first, Michael Bennet, the Democratic incumbent senator, and Ken Buck, the Republican challenger.

Mary, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: I think it's this close because we are living in a really tumultuous time in our economy. And folks are trying to sort that out in their own mind in their lives. And they feel like politics is pretty unresponsive to what's going on in their lives and that the -- what's going on, on the cable at night doesn't have much to do with what they're dealing with.

And what they want to figure out is how we create an economy in this country again where we're actually creating jobs.

KEN BUCK (R), COLORADO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You guys think it's close. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. You don't think it's that close?

BUCK: I think we have got a comfortable lead. I think the voters in Colorado get it. I think they understand that there is a difference in this election. This election is about jobs. It's not about playing in the weeds with the social issues and other issues that they want us to play in the weeds with. So, I think voters here get it. And I think we're going to win comfortably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ken Buck thinks he's going to win comfortably.

What are the experts out there telling you, Mary?

SNOW: Well, election officials here in Colorado, Wolf, are bracing for a very long night.

And, you know, we asked Senator Michael Bennet earlier today how close he thinks it will be. He's saying it could be a few hundred points making the difference. But Ken Buck, as you just heard there, thinks that Republicans have the advantage. Here's why Republicans are sounding more optimistic in Colorado.

Because of early voting, more than 50 percent of the votes have already been cast, and it's showing that Republicans have an advantage. However, Democrats are saying not so fast, that they have seen this trend happen before in past races and Democrats have still been able to win. They're also counting on independents.

But, you know, despite this, Wolf, there is talk of a potential recount. Republicans don't think it's going to happen. Democrats say there is a possibility that it may happen. And the secretary of state here in Colorado has already been in touch with the secretary of state in Minnesota. And if you remember, in 2008, that's when Al Franken challenged Norm Coleman, and which led to that recount.

BLITZER: All right, Mary.

Mary is going to stay in Colorado for us.

Thanks very much.

A really, really close race in Colorado. We will see what happens out there. The Republicans are certainly hoping for a pickup there in Colorado.

Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A candid congressman, that is an endangered species in Washington, D.C., unless they're retiring and they have nothing to lose by being honest.

"The Wall Street Journal" interviewed Congressman Brian Baird. He's a six-term Democrat from Washington State who is going to hang it up at the end of this term.

Baird calls out the Democratic leaders, saying they are authoritarian and closed, his words. He says they have repeated some of the Republicans' errors -- quote -- "We made some of the same damn mistakes, and we're supposed to be better. That's the heartbreak" -- unquote.

We're talking about a loyal Democrat here. Baird voted for all of the Democrats' legislative priorities, stimulus bill, health care reform, cap and trade. But he says that there are serious flaws in all three of those pieces of legislation.

Baird says he was very excited when his party got control of Congress in 2006, but he saw troublesome signs early on. For example, right after the election, he says Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned work on a rules package to make the House more ethical. He says the leaders instead told party members to -- quote -- "trust them" to clean things up.

That worked out pretty well, didn't it? Baird says he was optimistic when President Obama was elected, but the White House's decision not to make job creation its top priority made him lose hope pretty quickly. His advice for the incoming Republican of members of Congress is to -- quote -- "treat the voters like adults" -- unquote.

There's an idea.

Here's the question. One retiring Democratic congressman says the party's leadership has been authoritarian and closed. Is he right?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

We are going to stay on this political story. It's a huge political story.

But we're also getting new information right now from our own Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent. She just sat down with the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano. We get the latest on the terror investigations. What happened over the weekend? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The U.S. is extending an embargo on shipments from Yemen following the discovery of a couple of package bombs sent by cargo planes, at least trying to send them to the United States.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking at the concerns about cargo security, but first new information coming into our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's tracking this story for us.

Jeanne, you just had a chance to sit down with the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

She said the forensics on the bomb are still continuing, but she explained why the U.S. has decided to extend that embargo on all cargo shipments out of Yemen for one more week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are doing it because we wanted to make sure that the American public is safe. We're doing it because we are making sure that cargo out of Yemen is safe. We're doing it because we are undertaking a number of operational things right now. We want to make sure we have time to complete them.

MESERVE: Couldn't somebody who wanted to mail a bomb go next door? For that matter, couldn't they go to Europe and post it there?

NAPOLITANO: Well, there are many different ways of getting material into this country or from within this country. We know that. But that's not the mechanism that was chosen here. And we know that the source -- or this bears all the hallmarks of this being sourced out of AQAP. And so it makes absolute sense for us to do some steps there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Unlike Britain, Napolitano did not announce an embargo on shipments out of Somalia. Neither did she say there would be any restrictions on toner cartridges and how they're transmitted by airlines.

Those are measures that were announced today by the British. Meanwhile, FBI teams are assessing -- assisting with the forensic investigation of the bomb. As of now, Napolitano says they're still trying to determine exactly how it was going to explode and what its intended target was.

She does say it bears all the hallmarks of Ibrahim Hassan al- Asiri. He's the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula bombmaker who said to have made the underwear bomb that did not explode over Detroit on Christmas Day, but she said no definitive links have been established as yet -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: So this investigation clearly is still very much under way. Jeanne, thanks very much.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look at cargo security.

Brian, I know you have been working on this for some time. There's a lot of concern that the security for cargo flights is -- is way different than it is for commercial passenger flights.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And specifically we have been looking at the cargo coming into the U.S. on passenger flights from abroad. We have learned that the system for screening that cargo is not airtight. And that raised some serious concerns last week when this plot was discovered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In the jittery hours after the discovery of the plot, an Emirates Airlines passenger jet escorted by fighter jets touches down at JFK Airport in New York. Nothing dangerous was found in the cargo hold, but officials have said at least one bomb found last week may have traveled on passenger planes.

How safe is your average cargo hold? The TSA says all the cargo on passenger planes on domestic U.S. flights is screened. But not all cargo from overseas is screened, just what's classified as high-risk.

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm told that 80 percent of cargo on passenger planes coming in from overseas is being screened, but we have to ensure that we close that opening as soon as possible.

TODD: The loophole was supposed to be closed by August of this year. Congressman Ed Markey helped pass a law requiring it. Why the delay for international passenger flights?

JOHN PISTOLE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION ADMINISTRATOR: The challenge, as we discussed, becomes in the dependencies in the international arena, especially those countries or aviation authorities that perhaps lack the capabilities because of the funding for some of the latest technology that we use here in the U.S.

TODD: But even when everything is in place to screen all cargo on passenger planes, the system may not be airtight.

(on camera): I have got toner cartridges here similar to the ones that were at play in this incident. One is in foil wrap. One is in bubble wrap. They all get placed in boxes like this when they're shipped. I am going to run it through an X-ray machine similar to the ones that are used in airports. You can see it coming through here on the screen.

And I'm joined by an airline security expert, Peter Goelz, former managing director of the NTSB.

Peter, in Britain, apparently when they were tipped off to this, they brought in human and canine teams and they at first couldn't find it. Why couldn't they find an explosive in a device like this?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, first of all, the dogs are not 100 percent. They're fabulous, they work hard, but they're not 100 percent.

Secondly, if the bombmaker is skilled, if he's putting this bomb together in a clean environment, if it is being sealed in a vacuum- packed environment, it could be very difficult for a dog working a large area of cargo to pick that scent up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Goelz says also that a lot of cargo is in huge pallets and security screeners and dogs might not be able to detect explosive material that's packed well and buried deep inside those pallets. Wolf, that's another big challenge.

BLITZER: It's a huge challenge.

Brian, have TSA officials given any indication of how much longer it will take before all cargo inside passenger planes, inside passenger planes, coming into the United States from abroad is fully screened?

TODD: They did give a hint of that earlier this year, Wolf. The acting TSA administrator was asked that during congressional testimony. He said that beyond that deadline of this past August, it could be a couple more years before they have 100 percent compliance with other countries. So you could be seeing that loophole for at least a couple more years. And that is worrisome.

BLITZER: We are going to have more on this story coming up later this hour.

Thanks very much, Brian, for that report.

When we come back, our own Ali Velshi, he is taking a closer look at some striking brand-new poll numbers on the eve of the midterm elections.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting some brand-new poll numbers coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's bring in CNN's Ali Velshi.

Ali, these numbers do not necessarily bode well for the Democrats.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right.

Listen when you see somebody you haven't seen for a while, you say how are things going? Well, we have asked the same question of voters. How are things going? If you think things are going well, you will associate that possibly with this administration. If you think they're not, you might want change.

Let's take a quick look. We asked the question, how well are things going in this country today, very well, fairly well, pretty badly, or very badly? I just want to show you the people who think that things are going well in this economy. Right now, 25 percent of Americans think things are going well in this economy, 25 percent. I have taken it back a few years to midterm elections in which control of the House changed. Let's go back to 1994 -- to 2006 -- 49 percent of people thought things were going well or very well. Back in 1994, 50 percent of people thought things were going well or very well, and back in 1982, when there was a big change of power, 40 percent.

So we have not seen going back to 1982 a midterm election, Wolf, where people have thought things are going as poorly as they are right now. Only 25 percent of the country thinks things are going well or very well. As you said, that can't bode well for the administration and the party in power right now.

BLITZER: A lot of pollsters think that right track/wrong track is the most important indicator going into an election.

VELSHI: That's it. Right.

BLITZER: Don't go away. We have got more numbers coming up.

Ali is standing by.

Also, the best political team on television is standing by. Our coverage will continue right here in THE SITUATION ROOM after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Huge election here in the United States tomorrow, and we have got new technology that we're showing off.

Ali Velshi is back.

You're looking at some poll numbers, Ali. And I want you to explain the impact that President Obama is having on this race, all these races that will take place tomorrow. But tell us about this technology a little bit.

VELSHI: Well, it's fantastic.

I'm operating it with this iPad right here. And basically what we can do is we can take all of these poll numbers and then starting tomorrow all of the exit poll numbers and I can bring them to you in different ways using a virtual technology.

As you can see by looking at it right here, there's nothing in front of me. But I'm going to ask to your question. What effect is President Obama having on this election? Let me bring it up for you. And I will tell you the poll question that we have asked.

Nationwide, we have asked people, are you more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who opposes President Obama or who supports him? Let's take a look at what these numbers indicate. Right now, 39 percent of respondents say that they would vote for a candidate who supports President Obama -- 50 percent right here, this number here, 50 percent, say they will vote for a candidate who opposes President Obama. That's quite significant, because what I want to take you back to is a year from now, just one year ago, 54 percent said that they would support a candidate or vote for a candidate who supports President Obama. So, we have got 54 percent here and you have 39 percent over here -- the negatives, the people who would support a candidate who opposes him, 50 percent right now, 41 percent, as you can see, a year ago.

So, that's a big difference. In one year, we've seen a remarkable erosion in support for President Obama. And the way this is going to manifest on Tuesday, because you can't vote for President Obama on Tuesday. You may.

Some people may show their -- their anger or their lack of support for President Obama by pressing the lever -- pulling the lever or marking their "x" beside someone who has come out and said that they are going to fight back against the administration. By the way, some of those, as you know, are Democrats.

BLITZER: And some of those voting booths, you can actually touch the screen, too. It's an amazing technology you have. Voters will, at least in some places, will have that as well. Ali, thanks very much.

Let's walk over to some of the other members of "The Best Political Team on Television," Gloria Borger and David Gergen, our senior political analysts. And Mary Matalin, Roland Martin are here, as well, our CNN contributors.

This is a statement, a vote of confidence, if you will, for the president of the United States. I don't think we can see it any other way, the elections tomorrow.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I think the White House is trying to say that this is not a referendum on Barack Obama. Of course this is a referendum on Barack Obama. Every midterm election is about the president who's in office.

If people thought that things were going well, that the economy was on the right track -- over 60 percent of the people believe we're headed in the wrong direction. If they thought things were going well, then they would say, "OK, we'll keep the guys in power who are with Barack Obama," but they don't. They think Barack Obama promised to be a post-partisan president, that he didn't govern as a post- partisan president, and they're angry.

BLITZER: Is it more of a referendum on Barack Obama or on the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a very good question, Wolf. And to some extent, haven't they morphed into one? And isn't that the problem for the president? That he has identified so closely because he turned over so much responsibility to Nancy Pelosi early on. I think it's coming back as a huge miscalculation among many miscalculations. So they're really sort of tied in to each other. I think their fates are inextricably tied now through the course of this election.

BORGER: I don't think you'd have a Tea Party if we didn't have health-care reform.

GERGEN: I agree with that.

BORGER: Honestly.

GERGEN: Well, I'm not sure I agree with that.

BORGER: I don't think so.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I disagree with that. When you look at the issues that they've touted, when you talk about energy, when you talk about deficit and then, of course, you also run on health care. I mean, remember, that was significant frustration on the Republican side. And I see most of the Tea Party folks as Republicans or very conservative Democrats.

They had significant criticism of President George W. Bush, of the Republican-led Congress as related to the spending that took place. And they simply felt it was exacerbated when President Obama came into office with various programs.

BLITZER: If this is a -- a huge win for the Republicans tomorrow, Mary, will this be a vote against the Democrats or a vote of appreciation to the Republicans?

MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the data is showing that it's a split, but really it is an affirmation for a kind of government: less spending, more limited, regulations that are clear and enforceable. And the Tea Party not with health care. That was the...

MARTIN: Started with -- started with Jimmy Carter.

MATALIN: It started with the stimulus package. When we look back at the debt, independents started leaving support for the president.

BORGER: It started with TARP, George W. Bush.

GERGEN: Well, whenever. But I'd say, Mary, I think it's fundamentally a rejection election. I think it's a negative election, not a positive election. And the Republicans still have to earn the trust.

MATALIN: Correct, correct. That is -- Republicans still have a branding problem...

GERGEN: Right.

MATALIN: ... left over from '06. But they're in position to prove themselves. And it is an affirmation for all these Democrats that had to walk the plank, that they were all running on conservative principles, not Democrat or Republican, then they're all going to lose. What's going to be left of the Democratic Party? That's what I want to know?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I think the -- the broader issue that you have to ask yourself is will you see moderate Republicans after tomorrow night? And what will you see in terms of conservative Democrats? I mean, that's the real issue. So the question will be are you going to have people who -- who frankly go to their respective corners and...

BLITZER: This is -- he makes an excellent point. Let me let David Gergen weigh in. Some of the biggest losers on the Democratic side tomorrow will be the moderate or conservative so-called blue-dog Democrats who could wind up losing after many terms in the Congress.

GERGEN: Many of them are people that were dragged kicking and screaming to vote for the stimulus package, the health-care package. And here, they're the ones now that are going to walk the plank.

BLITZER: Even some of them that voted against all that stuff, they'll lose anyway.

BORGER: The ad is Congressman "X" voted with Nancy Pelosi 80 percent of the time. It doesn't matter that they voted against health care or they voted against stimulus. They voted with her on other things, and they're going to lose.

GERGEN: But Roland's right about the hollowing out issue, and the hollowing out of the center as a result of this election and what happens afterwards. When the Democrats lose a lot of their blue dogs, and the Republicans lose, or a lot of people get intimidated to go to the center.

MARTIN: Right, right. When you talked about in terms of those particular votes, also, those same people who felt they were dragged along, they also appreciated being in power as committee chairman and also being subcommittee chair. So they didn't mind that.

The question then becomes if you don't have enough people there in the middle who understand compromise, then what are you left with? Are you truly going to have this whole notion of bipartisanship which sounds great? But is it reasonable when it comes to actual passage of bills?

BORGER: It's up to Barack Obama as much as it's up to the Republicans, because he needs to find a new narrative also, and that...

MATALIN It's way more up to Barack Obama. I love all this chatter. And we say it all the time. Bipartisan, going from the center...

BORGER: It's not just him.

MATALIN: I'm not directing this at anybody. These are 70/30 issues. They're not extremist positions. Seventy/30 issues, cut spending; 70/30, taxes -- cutting taxes. MARTIN: When you say cutting spending, the issue then becomes what are you actually cutting? That's the real issue.

MATALIN: OK. If I may, going to David's point, Republicans can't just say we're for cutting spending, we're for limiting government, as our good friend Pete Wiener says. They have to responsibly step up to the plate. And they have. Paul Ryan and Boehner and those guys have plans to...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Paul Ryan's plan...

MARTIN: Unspecified plans.

BORGER: ... which talks about dealing with Social Security was endorsed by 18 Republicans, Mary. So it's not like they're all jumping on board.

Look, people look at a governing party very differently from the way they look at an opposition party.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: And when the Republicans actually have responsibility to govern, if they're running the House of Representatives, they're going to have to find some middle ground, and it may work for...

BLITZER: by the way...

BORGER: ... for them, and it may work for Obama.

BLITZER: Let me just update our viewers. Earlier we were talking about John Boehner, the would-be speaker of the House criticizing the president for using the word "enemies" in discussing those who were criticizing him on the Republican side.

In a new radio interview -- we just got the transcript -- the president says, yes, he should have used the word "opponents" instead of "enemies." He says, "I probably should have used the word 'opponents' instead of 'enemies.' Now the Republicans say I'm calling them enemies." So he's saying he obviously could have chosen his words better.

MARTIN: I actually heard the interview where he said to Latinos "enemies of your issues." So fine, whatever you want to call it. We all know what in the heck he was talking about. So it's not like -- when you hear Republican...

BLITZER: It's offensive to Republicans.

MATALIN: It's offensive.

MARTIN: Oh, come on. That's not offensive.

MATALIN: It aggregates. Listen, when you go from bitter clingers to people who are scared; that makes them stupid, they're enemies, it all aggregates to is he arrogant? Is he ignorant?

BORGER: Elite.

MATALIN: Does he think we're stupid? Is he elite? Thank you. That's the word I was...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: People on the other side also make it perfectly clear that the most important thing they want to do is to stop you from getting a second term, fine. Call it opponent, call it adversary, call it enemy. The average person out three knows exactly what that means.

GERGEN: I want to get back to this, Wolf, all the lack of confidence now in the leadership. It seems to me the Republicans will get a big victory last night -- tomorrow night. But for all politicians coming back to Washington, in effect they're on probation. I don't think that there's a ringing endorsement for political leadership.

BLITZER: And let's not forget: after a ringing endorsement for the Republicans and Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America in '94, two years later Bill Clinton got himself reelected.

BORGER: They tried to shut down -- they tried to shut down the government.

BLITZER: A lot changed over the past two years, 2008 to 2010. Who knows what will happen between 2010 and 2012?

MARTIN: That's why we have elections.

BLITZER: That's why we love politics.

GERGEN: Get all those things ready out there in the middle of the floor.

MARTIN: Out in two years.

BLITZER: Who knows -- who know what kind of new technology we'll have in 2012?

MARTIN: We may not have to be here next time. We'll just do it from the house.

BLITZER: All right. When we come back, we're moving on. We're talking about the intelligence community, what it really thinks about the terror plot that occurred out of Yemen. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's dig deeper on that parcel bomb plot and the investigation that's under way right now. Joining us, our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, and our CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's a member of the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security external advisory boards.

Fran, the only way they found these two bombs, and they were improvised explosive devices, was because they got lucky. There was a source. The Saudis had a source that tipped them off. But does al Qaeda now have a technology that can go through metal detectors or whatever and get on these cargo planes?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'd be less inclined to give al Qaeda the credit for the technology. And it's really the difficulty in detecting PETN.

BLITZER: Which is the explosive

TOWNSEND: That's right. The explosive component that -- you don't need a lot of it. It's very powerful, and it's very difficult to detect in the usual ways that we use.

BLITZER: It's like a white powder.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: And you can't...

TOWNSEND: It's innocuous.

BLITZER: So -- so just nobody can smell it? Nobody can detect it?

TOWNSEND: Well, I mean, obviously, the real drive has been to create the research and development to have the tools for law enforcement, but it's -- you know, it's not that easy. It really has been a challenge for them.

BLITZER: This is the same explosive, the PETN, that the underwear bomber as he was called used, got through metal detectors and got on that plane and nearly -- nearly had a successful operation over Detroit on Christmas day.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's absolutely right. But this time around, there was multiple times more of this explosive. Today, the British authorities said there would have been enough, probably likely to down these aircraft, these cargo planes going to the United States, Wolf.

BLITZER: Walk us through the scenario, the likely scenario. What do you think al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, whoever was responsible for this, what they were trying to do?

CRUICKSHANK: We don't know the mechanics, but one possibility is that it would sort of be triggered by a cell phone as this plane maybe comes into final descent into the United States. The coverage comes back on the cell phone. Somebody send an SMS, a text message, and this thing could go off. Something like that is at play, possibly, here, Wolf.

BLITZER: What would be the theory of having the addresses of both of these bombs, a synagogue or two synagogues in Chicago?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, two possibilities. It's a second chance if it doesn't explode on the cargo plane. But also it's a way to sort or play to the anti-Semitic base of al Qaeda. They can claim that they were going on this target, Wolf.

BLITZER: This bomb-maker, the suspicion is Hassan al-Asiri, who's sort of well-known in the intelligence community. Talk a little bit about this guy. We believe -- we believe he's in Yemen.

TOWNSEND: It is not clear how he got radicalized, how he learned to become a bomb-maker, but what we know now is he is a world-class, very sophisticated bomb-maker, and he's adapted over time his bomb- making technique.

We also presume, the intelligence community presumes, that he's trained others, which makes him particularly dangerous. We know that he was behind the underwear bomber, as you say. But also behind -- he put a bomb in his brother's body and used and sent his brother to go meet with Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, the head of the Saudi intelligence service, the same prince who passed us the information.

So this is a man who basically provided the instrument by which his brother committed suicide in the assassination attempt, and has been behind multiple attempts to have bombings inside the United States.

BLITZER: We believe he's in Yemen someplace, this bomb maker, right?

CRUICKSHANK: He's still at large. The Yemenis today announced they're now going to go especially after him. They've just announced that. But he's still at large, and while he is still at large, there's a real fear that he's going to load more people up, potentially, with bombs or address more bombs to the United States.

BLITZER: And it was so sophisticated. It was a printer, but inside the printer there was a cartridge toner and all this sophisticated equipment, including the PETN and the phone devices, the -- the explosives were in this toner buried inside the printer.

CRUICKSHANK: And so difficult to find. The Brits took several hours to find it. So you can imagine, if you don't know it's coming, how difficult it is to find this sort of thing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do they still think there may be other parcels roaming around out there right now?

TOWNSEND: We're hearing less of that. In fact, the home secretary today suggested that the threat is past now. They believe that they had -- they got the two devices. They've looked at others that were suspicious. They haven't found anything. But I think understandably, counterterrorism officials are afraid to say definitively that the threat is over.

BLITZER: If their goal was to go after economic -- the economic targets, they've succeeded to a certain degree, because it's going to be more difficult for these UPS, FedEx cargo shippers to go with their work. It's going to become more expensive, more cumbersome. So in that sense, even though they didn't succeed, they succeeded.

MATALIN: That's right.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story with our viewers -- for our viewers.

Sometimes politicians are funny even when they're not trying to be funny. CNN's Jeanne Moos is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, one retiring Democratic congressman says his party's leadership has been authoritarian and closed. We want to know if you think he's right.

Meg writes, "He sounds like an honest guy to me with nothing to lose. I've observed high-handedness and arrogance on both sides of the aisle and from the White House. Treating us voters as adults would go a long way toward healing this country. But based on what I've heard and seen during this shameful campaign, I seriously doubt either party is going to take his advice."

Jim writes, "Nancy and Harry shoved their agenda down the throats of every American, and after it passed, Nancy decided it would be a good time to read it." Talking about the health-care bill. "Most of the country was opposed to the so-called health-care bill that no one in Congress bothered to read first. Now the American people are going to have to pay for it."

Rich in Texas writes, "Look, the Republicans have more than their share of problems, but the Democrats had an opportunity to be the adults, and they screwed up. They didn't even pretend to get the Republicans' input. They passed everything Obama wanted, in spite of what the public was saying. So now it's off with their heads."

Alan in New York says, "Up to your old tricks again, Jack? Trying to create the perception that the Democrats are finished? Obviously, your corporate handlers are telling you what to say or you wouldn't keep harping on this crap over and over again. Let's see what happens after the election on Tuesday. Hopefully, you'll be busy eating crow with Sarah Palin."

I may be eating crow, but it won't be with Sarah Palin.

Joe in Maryland: "The party is too indecisive to be authoritarian, even with a super-majority they couldn't decide which way they wanted to go. As far as closed? Yes, they stopped listening to their base a long time ago."

And Nancy writes, "He's absolutely right! They decided to make backroom deals instead of fighting for the change we wanted! They caved on the public option to appease the insurance companies; they caved on cheaper drugs from Canada to appease Big Pharma; and they caved on revisiting free trade deals to appease the big corporations. But they failed miserably when it came to appeasing the voters. We'll see tomorrow how well their appeasement worked."

You want to read more on this, find it on my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Lots of comments coming in. All right, Jack, see you tomorrow. Thank you.

When we come back, Jeanne Moos, she has a most unusual look at the political follies of this season.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The 2010 campaign is closing on some "Most Unusual" notes. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As tempers fray...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not capable of running this state.

CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: You have a nice day, Kirsten, OK?

MOOS: ... we expect to see candidates walk away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carl Paladino? We'd like you to stay and talk.

MOOS: We don't expect guests to light a joint...

ZACH GALIFIANKIS, ACTOR: Even if they thought it was a good idea.

MOOS: ... in the middle of a discussion about California's proposal to legalize pot. After Zach Galifianakis lit up and passed it on to a conservative panelist. Margaret Hoover sniffed it and gave it back without toking.

You can see lots of weird things on TV as the campaign concludes, like commercials for a former madam running for governor of New York with the tag line...

KIRSTEN DAVIS, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Vote homo, not Cuomo.

MOOS: Kirsten Davis says frontrunner Andrew Cuomo isn't pro-gay marriage enough.

And then there was Bill Clinton speaking for a candidate whose more traditional marriage resulted in his wife going into labor as Clinton spoke. BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His wife's having a baby.

The baby's now being born. You'd be amazed how many times I take a picture with a very pregnant woman, and she immediately gives birth like that.

MOOS: For the baby, there was light at the end of the tunnel, which is exactly the part of Jon Stewart's rally speech that got auto tuned.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land. It's just New Jersey. Just -- just New Jersey.

MOOS: Those who attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear have been posting their favorite signs on YouTube: "More beer nuts, less paranoid nuts," "Down with the zippers," "I'm mad as hell, but mostly in a passive aggressive way." Some only raised questions like, "I mustache you a question."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't get it but I love a mustache joke.

MOOS (on camera): One of the funny things about the signs at the rally was how many of them were about signs. (voice-over) "I have better things to do than carry a sign at a rally," "My arms are tired," "Even my sign chooses not to yell," "If your beliefs fit on a sign, think harder." And "This is a good sign."

The autumn rally saw more than leaves falling off trees. Folks looking for a better perch were cheered as they tried to climb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you can! Yes, you can!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you can! Yes, you can!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you can! Yes, you can!

MOOS: And then one of the climbers made like the foliage and fell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an absolutely terrible idea. Oh! That is terrible! Oh!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you do stupid things, stupid things happen.

MOOS: Even at a sanity rally.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos.

Don't forget, right after THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow, our special coverage, nonstop coverage of the election results will begin. I'll be here together with "The Best Political Team on Television." We'll get you all the results hour after hour after hour. Twenty-four hours from now, the first polls will close. CNN is the place to be for all of the coverage.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.