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CNN The Situation Room - Transcript

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

Now to one race that could impact the balance of power in the United States Senate. We're talking about the battle in Ohio between the Republican incumbent Mike DeWine and the Democratic challenger, Congressman Sherrod Brown.

A Bloomberg/"L.A. Times" poll just out today shows an 8 point difference between DeWine and Brown.

And joining us now from Columbus, Ohio, Republican Senator Mike DeWine.

Senator, you're fighting for your political life right now.

Let's talk a little bit about Iraq, which is clearly hovering over a lot of these battleground races right now.

Do you agree with President Bush, as he said today, when he said the United States is winning the war in Iraq right now?

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: I don't think that you can say that. You know, this war has hit Ohio very hard. As I travel around the state, Ohioans want our troops home just as soon as they can. But they also want us to leave in the right way. And they are concerned about what the aftermath would be.

And so, you know, we have to train the Iraqis. We have to get them better equipment. Frankly, we're not giving them the equipment that we should be giving them. And we have to set some time lines in regards to their progress and push them toward that progress...

BLITZER: So you would...

DEWINE: ... so that we can get our troops home.

BLITZER: You disagree with the president when he says flatly "we're winning?"

DEWINE: Well, you know, as long as you've got U.S. troops who are being killed, which is -- can happen in a guerrilla operation against them, you know, this is tough for the United States. And I don't think anyone -- you can describe it as winning.

Certainly there are parts of Iraq that are moving along as well as they should. But frankly, until the Iraqis get their act together, things are not going to be the way they should be. And ultimately this is not our battle, this is the Iraqis' battle. And they're going to have to deal with the problem between the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds and the other factionalism that you're seeing in Iraq.


DEWINE: They've got to deal with it.

BLITZER: Your opponent, Sherrod Brown, says you're partially responsible for this mess in Iraq because, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you were flatly, he says, negligent.


BLITZER: He says: "People who sit on the Intelligence Committee like Mike DeWine simply haven't done their jobs. They've not demanded accountability. They didn't demand that the president come up with a plan to win, a plan to reconstruct Iraq and rebuild Iraq."

Looking back, were you negligent as a member of that committee in not asking the right questions before going into this war?

DEWINE: No, we all asked tough questions. You know it's ironic for Sherrod Brown to talk about intelligence. This is a man who voted 10 different times in the 1990's to slash our intelligence. He was in the minority even of his own party. Then after September 11th when we all came together, Democrats and Republicans alike and we passed the patriot act 98 to one in the Senate. Sherrod Brown was one of 66 House members to vote no. And just recently he voted no again on the patriot act. He has a pre-9/11 mentality about terrorism and about intelligence.

BLITZER: But what about you? What about you looking in those months before the war, do you wish you would have asked some additional questions that might have gotten a better response? Especially on the issue of the weapons of mass destruction which the president now flatly says the U.S. has found no stockpiles?

DEWINE: Wolf, there is clearly a problem with -- intelligence committee made the wrong assessment. But if you look at what everyone saw, we all were seeing the same information. Bill Clinton saw it in 1998 when he made his famous speech talking about how dangerous Saddam was. We saw it with people like Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller. You know, whatever they thought about going into Iraq, we all had the same intelligence in regard to the weapons of mass destruction. So it's, revision of history for Sherrod Brown to go back and say oh, Mike DeWine made a mistake on this. Everyone had the same intelligence.

BLITZER: He also says, and the Democrats are running an ad, that sort of paints you in the same corner as the president. Let me run a little of the clip of this ad. Listen to this.


SINGING: The more we work together, together, together the more we work together the happier we'll be.


BLITZER: Basically, he suggests this election in Ohio is a referendum on the president. And because you've been such a close partner of the president, you should pay the price.

DEWINE: Yeah, you know I've worked in a bi-partisan way in the Senate to get things done whether it is working to clean up the Great Lakes or get better medicines for kids. And I've done it with Democrats. I'm doing what the Ohio people want me to do. And that is not to be Partisan, but to be bipartisan and work together and I've done it. And for Sherrod Brown to bring this up, he's trying to disguise his horrible record of 14 years and only passing four bills. You know what the four bills are, Wolf? Four bills. Three bills having to do with helping Taiwan attend a conference in Switzerland. One bill to rename a federal building. If I had that sorry a record, I suppose I would try to divert attention to guilt by association as he is doing.

BLITZER: Are you embarrassed to be seen with the president now in these final weeks before the election?


BLITZER: Because he's been to Ohio several times and I haven't seen him out campaigning with you.

DEWINE: He's come here three different times to do fundraisers for me and I've been seen with him. That picture that Sherrod Brown just showed was me with the president. But look, when I disagree with the president, I say so. I was sent to Washington by the people of the state of Ohio. We have a diverse state. I am advocate and a fighter for this state. And if the president agrees with us, fine. If he does not agree, then I go a different way. I do what I think is best for our state. Sherrod Brown, on the other hand, has been labeled by "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" as an extreme partisan, "National Journal" put him on the fringe of his own party. And when he disagrees, Wolf, with his party, he goes far left. As he did in regard to intelligence. And he's done it time and time again. He is an extremist on the far left of his own party. And is not, does not fit Ohio. BLITZER: All right. Senator DeWine, unfortunately we have to leave it there because we are out of time. But thanks very much for joining us.

DEWINE: Thank you very much, Wolf.


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