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U.S.: ISIS Now Has 10,000 Fighters; Pentagon: 90 U.S. Advisers Arrive in Iraq; Dems Could Influence Mississippi Senate Run-Off; Democrat Wendy Davis Faces Uphill Battle in Texas; New Doubts about Flight 370 Radar Data

Aired June 24, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Now, 10,000 insurgents -- their numbers are soaring with their success on the battlefield, as ISIS threatens another key target.

Can 90 newly arrived American advisers really make much of a difference?

Baghdad exposed -- while Iraqi troops claim some successes, we'll take you beyond the outskirts of the capital, where defenders are hard to find.

And a big night for the Tea Party -- an ugly, very important battle underway for the GOP in Mississippi.

Why are Democrats voting for a Republican?.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Right now, there's a closed door briefing on Iraq for all members of the United States Senate. They may be finding it pretty disturbing. U.S. officials now put the number of ISIS insurgents inside Iraq and Syria as high as 10,000. Their number is growing with each stunning and savage success on the battlefield.

At the same time, the Pentagon now says new U.S. troops have just arrived in Iraq. Their mission -- to try to help Iraq's military counter this ISIS terrorist threat.

The latest battle is for control of Iraq's biggest refinery. And it's not clear at all if Iraqi air strikes will really make much of a difference.

CNN's Nic Robertson and Arwa Damon, they're both standing by in Iraq.

I'll also speak with a key Iraqi insider.

But let's begin with our coverage this hour with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you learning -- Barbara? BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest is the Pentagon, a short time ago, announced U.S. military advisers are back on the ground inside Iraq. About 130 of them now near the embassy in Baghdad and working to set up a joint operations center in the Baghdad region with the Iraqis. That's 130 advisers there and another 50 on the way in the coming days, all part of the president's plan to send up to 300 military advisers into Iraq.

Their first job, they're going to stick around the Baghdad area for a while. They will assess, we are told, what the state of Iraqi forces are, what the state of ISIS forces are.

Iraqi forces, as we know, up in the north and the west, in some sense of disarray after ISIS has come through.

What is the ISIS state of play?

ISIS, the latest estimate, there may be up to 10,000 insurgents in this region between Syria and Iraq. The border having virtually disappeared, people moving back and forth, weapons moving back and forth, ISIS on the march, living off of its extortion schemes, we are told, bringing in millions of dollars. Even as those ISIS forces are stretched over a very long distance and their supply lines are stretched, they are bringing in the money to keep themselves going.

So if -- if President Obama were to order air strikes against these ISIS fighters, what might it look like?

Let's go to a map, Wolf. There are now seven U.S. Navy warships in the Gulf, aircraft on board, Tomahawk missiles, 1,000 Marines in the region, some on those ships, some already ashore.

And perhaps the most interesting thing, about 308 U.S. military missions over Iraq every day now, both manned aircraft and drones, collecting intelligence about where ISIS is on the ground. Thirty U.S. military flights over Iraq every day. It has not been like this since 2011, when U.S. troops left -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Getting a lot of reconnaissance, getting a lot of surveillance, checking out what's going on.

Barbara, stand by.

I want to go to Iraq right now.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is joining us.

I understand there's a lot of activity around the U.S. Embassy in that so-called Green Zone in Baghdad -- Nic.

What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, throughout today, we have seen a number of helicopters that are normally associated with the U.S. Embassy here, flying in and out of it, appearing to come from the direction of the international airport. And then this evening, after dark, helicopters taking off from the vicinity where we believe is the U.S. Embassy, taking off from there. And then when they're getting a little up in the air, dropping off flares before flying off again.

We're not getting any indication on the ground where they're going or precisely who's on board, but it certainly does seem to come at a time when we know that these additional 90 advisers have landed in the country at the moment.

Also this evening, another development on the state television. The Iraqi Army or Air Force, at least, shown landing helicopters at that that oil refinery, Baiji, the largest oil refinery in the country. It produces much of the country's gas for the cars here and also cooking gas. So the government clearly trying to show that it is back in control of some, if not all, of that oil refinery. The government is really trying to get back on the front foot here and show that it's making gains -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, I understand you also made a dangerous trip outside of Baghdad today.

What did you see?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, what we wanted to do was get to the west of Baghdad. We know that the army has essentially drawn a line in the sand to stop the ISIS advance coming in from the west, from Al Anbar Province. You know how they're using those gains, the highways they've got control of now, linking to their safe havens in Syria.

You are not -- we're not able to get all the way out to the front lines there. Their security checkpoints become quite frequent, become quite frequent. And we were told that it was too dangerous to go any further on.

But what we are seeing, surprisingly, is not a lot of tanks, not a lot of heavy armor when you get out toward the west of the city. There are checkpoints, but even they seemed relatively thinly manned and not a lot of heavy military equipment, which kind of raises the question, if ISIS fighters push through whatever there is beyond that, further out on the edge of the city, it seems that they wouldn't meet a whole lot of resistance. We're talking about, we were beyond the city limits today, wouldn't meet a lot of resistance right at the city limits -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad for us.

Thank you.

We'll check back with you a little bit later.

The extent of the disaster in the Iraq can be measured by the refugee crisis. It's a huge refugee crisis right now. The terrorist onslaught sent half a million people fleeing from the major city of Mosul alone, pushing the total of displaced Iraqis to more than a million.

Let's go live to senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon.

She's in the northern Iraqi city off Erbil -- Arwa, tell us what you're seeing.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, earlier in the day, we went to one of these refugee camps that has sprung up following this ISIS offensive. It's about, say, 45 minutes, a half hour drive, maybe, north of Mosul, in the relatively safe autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. And a lot of the families there, Wolf, had been displaced more than once.


DAMON (voice-over): A tattered doll their mother picked out of the trash and other bits and pieces she scavenged are all the kids have for toys. "It doesn't seem real. It's like a dream," Wisak (ph) says of the home they left behind.

"It's all gone."

The family fled Mosul in the middle of the night. But still, Wisak and her husband couldn't spare their children the horrors. "We saw ISIS and a car with three bodies and one had no arm," 7-year-old Yaksin (ph) says. "One had his arm cut off and two didn't have legs," her younger sister adds.

The girls didn't sleep for days.

It's all too much for Wisak, haunted by the fear of the present and scars of the past. Twice over the last 10 years, her husband had a gun pointed to his head. They wanted to kill him because of his ID. Wisak can't hold back her tears -- because of his sect. The second time was when they were in a market, Wisak pregnant with one of the girls.

(on camera): The family is mixed. They're both Sunni and Shia. And they used to live in Baghdad, but they had to flee the sectarian violence there. That's how they ended up in Mosul.

For more than a decade now, Iraqis have been trying to keep themselves safe. This most recent ISIS offensive has caused what aid organizations are calling the single largest mass movement of people in such a short period of time in recent history.

(voice-over): Around half a million people fled Mosul alone over the span of just a few days, dispersed throughout Iraqi Kurdistan in areas like this one. But others are stuck in more remote parts of Iraq help can't reach. Aid agencies already buckling under the Syrian refugee crisis had to divert emergency supplies and desperately need more.

Warning, Iraq and Syria's flow of refugees will impact the region in ways we haven't seen. Tears pouring down her face, Wisak can't understand how she ended up like this.

"I swear my heart is burning. The lowlifes ruined our country and from where did they come? From here," she says. "Iraqis betrayed themselves."


DAMON: Wolf, when you think about what this country has been through over the last 10 plus years, it's really difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend the U.S.-led invasion, the sectarian civil war that broke out here, dealing with the various insurgent groups and now ISIS. So many people that we're meeting in these refugee camps are so desperate that the first question that they're asking us is, can we get asylum anywhere outside of here?

They'll talk about how much they love their country, but then they'll say to you, our country has been so cruel to us, now we just want to leave -- Wolf.

BLITZER: More than a million refugees in Iraq alone.

All right, Arwa, thanks for that heartbreaking report.

As Arwa just showed us, the refugee crisis in Iraq is exploding. Specifically, there are an estimated 1.1 million displaced people now in Iraq, close to half of them fleeing the ISIS onslaught in the city of Mosul alone.

And Syria's bloody civil war, in which ISIS has also played a key role, has driven many more from their homes. Close to three million people in Syria have left that country, More than six million are displaced and desperate within Syria.

The impact is felt region wide, as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, they're grappling with an influx of hundreds of thousands, indeed, millions of refugees.

Up next, is Iraq destined to simply fall apart?

Can the insurgents be halted?

I'll speak with a key insider insider, the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States.

And a very nasty but very important election in Mississippi underway today. It's another big test for the Tea Party.

Why are Democrats voting for a Republican?


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. ISIS militants battling Iraqi troops for control of the country's largest-refinery. The United States now estimates that ISIS may have as many as 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. This as about 100 or 130 U.S. military advisors are in Iraq right now.

Let's get the very latest on the crisis from a key insider. Joining us, the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaid'ie. He also served as the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. and the Iraqi interior minister.

Mr. Ambassador, once again, welcome back in THE SITUATION ROOM. A hundred or 150 or 200 U.S. military advisors helping the Iraqi militarily realistically, Mr. Ambassador. Is that going to make much of a difference?

SAMIR SUMAID'IE, FORMER IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Not in a military sense, but I think they can start at least by establishing the real situation, get high quality information and as I see from your reports, there is a lot of aerial activity to survey the area and establish what's going on. So once you have facts then you can move to the next stage.

BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. will actually start bombing targets, ISIS targets in Iraq?

SUMAID'IE: The worst thing they can do and the Iraqi military could do is to bomb indiscriminately. Targeting the terrorists is fine. It should be done. They have to be contained. But we have to be careful not to make the populations in those areas suffer even more than they are suffering now. They are absolutely terrified. And as you see from your report, many of them have fled. Those who could have fled.

BLITZER: But these ISIS terrorists, they've infiltrated within populated areas. It's not easy to go after them. You're going to hit civilian casualties. I think there's no doubt about that.

SUMAID'IE: That's right. But here we come back to they're necessary for a political solution. This will not be solved in a military sense no way. The Americans, as I said the last interview, the Americans had 170,000 boots on the ground, and they could not exterminate. You've got to have a political solution. Now is the time to do that.

BLITZER: So it's really up to the Iraqis themselves, the leadership in Baghdad, to get the job done. Listen to what the secretary of state, John Kerry, told our Jim Sciutto today in an interview in Iraq. Listen to this.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Words are cheap. I fully -- I'm not taking anything I hear to the bank and saying, "Wow, it's going to be solved." But I'm hearing things that indicate to me that, if they follow through on the things they're saying, there's a capacity to have a new government that could be a unity government that could reflect a greater capacity for success.


BLITZER: You know, so I mean, you believe that Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, he can really put together a unity government?

SUMAID'IE: Three things characterized his rule over the last eight rules. Sectarianism, corruption, and incompetence.

BLITZER: So the answer is no, he can't put together a unity government?

SUMAID'IE: He is -- he's a part of the problem.

BLITZER: How do you get rid of him?

SUMAID'IE: Well, we have -- we have a political process. I think this shock to the system that ISIS has brought about could be an opportunity, could be a wake-up call.

BLITZER: Don't you think the Iranians, even close to the Iranian leadership in Tehran, they're going to do everything they can to bolster him?

SUMAID'IE: But what interest do the Iranians have in having a civil war raging next door? I'm sure they will begin to see that he is more of a burden than an asset. I believe that the political process now has to be redesigned.

I agree generally with Secretary Kerry that we need a unity government, but we need more than that. We need a salvation, national salvation government. The political process has to be redesigned. It cannot be business as usual.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like the Kurdish population, if you believe the Kurdish president up in Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, he's basically given up. He told Christiane Amanpour, "We cannot remain hostages for the unknown. The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future, and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold."

Looks like the Kurds have already decided there's going to be an independent Kurdistan. They've got Kirkuk, that oil-rich area and control it now. I don't think there's going to be any going back for them.

SUMAID'IE: Well, I saw that interview, and I -- two months ago, I was sitting with President Barzani, and I had that one-on-one with him.

Let's give them the credit that they're harboring hundreds of thousands of people from Mosul, from other areas. They have been trying also to get this political process to be moving, but it cannot unless everybody plays ball. At the moment, we need change in Baghdad.

BLITZER: And you believe that if the U.S. were to launch air strikes, the Iraqi air force is trying to launch some air strikes. And if the U.S. were to do so, it wouldn't be enough just to do it inside Iraq. You have to go after ISIS targets in Syria, as well.

SUMAID'IE: And -- and even if they do that, it's not going to bring about the final solution. It cannot.

BLITZER: And you know that people in Baghdad, this is a city of, what, 7 million people, the capital of Iraq, they are terrified right now that these ISIS elements could come into the Iraqi capital. SUMAID'IE: Absolutely. But not only the people in Baghdad are

terrified. The people who are under ISIS are terrified. Some of them have fled, and some of them don't know where to turn. These ISIS, look, 10,000, you're talking about 10,000.

And you are talking also about 35 percent of the territory of Iraq? This 10,000 cannot administer that -- that territory. It's impossible. So you can imagine the chaos that's about to -- to be set off.

BLITZER: Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in. We'll continue to check in with you.

SUMAID'IE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Samir Sumaid'ie is the former Iraqi ambassador to the United States.

Coming up, other news we're following, including some political news. Election night in America. Why are Democrats turning out to vote for a Republican candidate in a very closely watched Senate runoff?

Plus, sources are revealing new information to CNN about the pilot of that missing Malaysian Airlines plane. We have details of what we're learning about his flight simulator. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Polls close in about 2 1/2 hours, one of the most closely watched races in the country pitting the Tea Party against the Republican establishment in Mississippi's GOP Senate runoff.

Seventeen million dollars already have been spent on this campaign, that according to the Sunlight Foundation. About two-thirds of it by outside groups showing the intense interest.

And in a strange twist, Democrats also playing a key role in this race. How could that be?

Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is in Jackson, Mississippi.

What's the very latest? What is going on, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, traditionally in runoffs, turnout is lower than on primary day or in any other election, but we were at a polling station earlier where it was pretty clear that it was already double. Turnout was double what it was on Republican primary day. And it's not Republicans voting.


BASH (voice-over): It may be a Republican runoff between GOP incumbent Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, but to these Democrats, allowed by law to vote in this GOP race, party doesn't matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Thad Cochran.

BASH (on camera): Have you ever voted in a Republican primary before?


BASH: Who did you vote for?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lifelong Democrat, registered Democrat.

BASH: So why do you like Thad Cochran so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, he's tested. And I just like what he's done for this state.


BASH (voice-over): This is all part of a concerted effort by establishment Republicans to beat back the Tea Party. A pro-Cochran super PAC spending big bucks to get out Democratic votes for Cochran, especially African-Americans.

COCHRAN: I'm really committed to trying to represent the views and interests of all of the people of Mississippi.

BASH: But Republicans nationwide see this not just about Mississippi. It's this year's last big national fight for the heart and soul of the GOP.

(on camera): If you win, the Tea Party movement is going to perhaps be back on its heels. If you don't, then they're going to get a new lease on life. How much do you feel pressure personally about that?

COCHRAN: Well, I feel that a vote for me is a vote for experienced representation in Washington.

BASH (voice-over): Nervous national Republicans from around the country are all in for Cochran. John McCain was a closer.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senator Thad Cochran, a good and decent and honorable servant.

BASH: The Chamber of Commerce airing a "hail Mary" TV ad with former star quarterback and Mississippi native Brett Favre.

BRETT FAVRE, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: I encourage you to stand with a proven and respected leader, Thad Cochran.

BASH: But they're up against genuine anti-Washington sentiment, fueled by a candidate who can articulate grass-roots frustration.

CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), MISSISSIPPI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Cochran has been a liberal Republican for years. He's confirming that now by his actions. He has abandoned conservatives in this state.

BASH: National Tea Party groups already invested millions in McDaniel as their best hope of defeating a Senate GOP incumbent. They've redoubled efforts, even sending in game show host Chuck Woolery.

As for McDaniel, he told CNN Cochran courting Democrats will fire up conservatives against him even more.

MCDANIEL: We are conservatives in this state. And if the Republican Party can't be a party of bold colors and principles and courage, then I question what it's doing at all.


BASH: And this was already the nastiest Republican fight in the country, and it continued even this week, Wolf. Thad Cochran's daughter, Kate Cochran, posted a rant against McDaniel on her Facebook page, saying that he has lack of wisdom, he relies solely on Jesus, the Constitution, and common sense.

And then McDaniel's campaign posted something on his Facebook page with that quote. But then at the end it said, with hash tags "thank you, Kate" and "who's your daddy" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, we'll be checking in with you obviously throughout the night as the results come in. Dana Bash in Jackson, Mississippi.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. Joining us "The New York Times" reporter Ashley Parker and CNN's national political reporter Peter Hamby. This is a big race for the Tea Party, the Republican establishment. A lot's at stake tonight. Give us your early assessment.

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, if you talk to Cochran allies and Cochran's campaign, they report today what Dana is reporting, which is they are seeing an increase in turnout in certain precincts, including African-American precincts. But campaigns kind of always say that on election day. So it's impossible to tell.

Look, if Cochran does win, the outreach that the Cochran campaign made with targeted calls, mail, door to door stuff in African-American communities, will become part of the narrative, and I kind of think that's kind of amazing if African-American voters in Mississippi voted for a Republican in a Republican primary and helped him over the top. I still think you have to think McDaniel has the advantage heading into this evening. I think that's sort of what the betting line is right now.

BLITZER: You're just back, Ashley, from a week in Mississippi doing some serious reporting there. Give us a little flavor. What do you think?

ASHLEY PARKER, "THE NEW YOKR TIMES": To Peter's point, it was interesting when you talked to the African-American voters there. A lot of them, almost everyone in Mississippi universally sort of likes Thad Cochran. They think he's a good guy and a decent guy. But among black voters part of it was a vote for Thad Cochran, and part of it was really a vote against Chris McDaniel. They don't like what he stands or for. They don't like some of his comments and they want to make sure he doesn't win the nomination.

BLITZER: You think if Chris McDonnell were to win, the Tea Party favorite in Mississippi, the Democratic candidate for Senate from Mississippi, Travis Childers, would he realistically have a chance? Because we've seen Tea Party Republicans win in other states, whether in Delaware a few years ago, Nevada, Indiana, then lose to a Democrat, more moderate, mainstream Democrat. Is that realistic at all in Mississippi?

PARKER: I think the Democrats certainly think he would have a better chance. McDaniel was a radio talk show host and some of his comments have come out already. But you can guarantee they're already going back and mining to see what other offensive things he has possibly said. They would love to have an Akin moment.

And even if Childers doesn't necessarily win, they think t would be good for the Democratic brand nationally because they could point to McDaniel and some of the more outlandish things he's said to sort of tarnish the Republican brand.

BLITZER: You know the Democrats are looking for more stuff on McDaniel.

HAMBY: That's right. Mississippi has, I think, the largest African- American voting population in the country.

PARKER: They do.

HAMBY: So this may backfire for the Cochran folks if they end up - or sorry, for Republicans -- if they end up activating and engaging a lot of African-American voters, you know, and then McDaniel wins and all of a sudden these people are engaged in the process and show up in big numbers.

But one of McDaniel's big vulnerabilities is on the race issue given some past comments. He has supporters who have been tied to the KKK and things like that. That's certainly going to be exploited by Democrats.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. Some other politics we're talking about. Bill Clinton giving an interview today and strongly coming to the defense of his wife who said some politically awkward words about their wealth and being broke and all that stuff. Listen to the former president defending Hillary Clinton.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's not out of touch. And she advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life, are and the people asking her questions should put this into some sort of context. You get to decide what's fair. You get to decide. We've got the first amendment. What I'm saying is, the debate is the wrong debate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's obviously a very strong supporter of his wife. She's gotten herself in a little political hot water. I don't know how serious it is. But he's coming to her defense big-time.

HAMBY: He is. And the best part of his answer to David Gregory there was when he said I don't think American voters resent people for being wealthy or successful. And I think he's probably right on that. The problem is that Hillary Clinton you know, fumbled the ball in trying to articulate that and explain her agenda versus her personal wealth. That's where Democrats think they have an advantage.

I think the bigger picture here when you talk about the long-term is not that any of these comments that Hillary Clinton has made during the book tour specifically will hurt her in the general election. It's that the this tour has revealed the distance between the idea of Hillary Clinton as a candidate and the actuality of her as a candidate.

She isn't as good as she's made out to be. She is mistake prone. She isn't as natural campaigner as her husband. And I think you're going to see Republicans and perhaps some other Democrats look at her and say she isn't as invincible as we thought. Remember in 2007, the minute other Democrats sensed blood in the water was that driver's license moment in that debate. And she immediately sank in the polls. Other people started to attack her. I think when she stumbles, other people pounce. And I think we're starting to see a little bit of that.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ashley?

PARKER: I mean, I think wealth is a tricky issue for any candidate. I covered Mitt Romney's presidential bid for a year-and-a-half. So I just saw firsthand how tough it is to articulate. And I do agree with Peter that voters don't actually resent someone's personal success. That's a message you hear on both the Republican and Democratic side. But when you're a candidate, you sort of want to appeal to the average voter, and being wildly wealthy sort of creates a little barrier between you that can be tricky to explain.

HAMBY: It's not just the wealth. It's the bubble. Hillary Clinton said a few months ago she hasn't driven a car since 1996. That more than the wealth perhaps might be the issue, the out of touch question. That's at least going to be part of the narrative.

BLITZER: We know Joe Biden loves driving cars.


HAMBY: Yes. Uncle Joe, he is a real populist.

BLITZER: All right. Peter, thanks very much. Ashley Parker, thanks for coming in as well.

Stay with us. Throughout the night here on CNN, we'll bring you the first results from this closely watched Republican Senate contest in Mississippi. All the other primary races, as well. It's a (INAUDIBLE) in the United States. I'll be working late together with our political team.

Coming up, devastating news for the Flight 370 families. Officials are voicing new doubts about one of the best clues they had to the Malaysian plane's disappearance.

But up next, a year after her extraordinary filibuster, Wendy Davis is now a rising star in Texas. But the Democratic candidate for governor faces an uphill struggle. Gloria Borger was in Texas with Wendy Davis. Gloria's back in Washington. Stand by. She's next.


BLITZER: A year ago, Wendy Davis pulled off an extraordinary one woman filibuster which made her a Democratic star on the rise in Texas. But the candidate for governor faces a tough road ahead. Critics have poked a few holes in her very, very compelling life story.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, just back from Texas. She's got a little profile of what's going on -- Gloria, she's a fascinating woman.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She is. And, you know, it's hard enough being a Democrat in the very red state of Texas, Wolf. But it's been a very long year since Wendy Davis talked herself right onto the national stage.


WENDY DAVIS (D-TX), CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: I could hear, literally, the capitol roar.

BORGER (voice-over): Wendy Davis knew it might be the longest day of her life.

DAVIS: And I intend...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're recognized.

DAVIS: -- to speak for an extended period of time on the bill.

BORGER: What she didn't know was that her fight against an anti- abortion bill would go viral.


BORGER: And make her a Democratic phenom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis almost killed the vote single-handedly.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: A lot of people knew the name, Wendy Davis.

BORGER: Even her pink sneakers would become iconic.

DAVIS: I almost didn't wear them. And at the last minute, I ran back in and grabbed my running shoes.


BORGER: It was war. Davis was the target and opponents maneuvered mightily to shut her down.

(on camera): Were you angry when you saw what was going on?

DAVIS: I started becoming angry, yes. And that -- that anger strengthened my resolve, quite honestly. It helped me to be able to really focus on the issue that we were fighting for.

BORGER: Davis' fight was about stopping a bill that would end late- term abortions and impose stricter guidelines that could close clinics.

She won.

DAVIS: When you brought the house down.


BORGER: The victory was short-lived. Republicans undid it a month later.

But Davis herself had been launched as a potential governor, like another famous Texas Democrat, who took on good old boys, Ann Richards.

Davis has none of Richards' bravado.

ANN RICHARDS: Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

BORGER: Davis is a careful lawyer.

DAVIS: I'll also share observations.

BORGER: But she does share some of Richards' grand ambitions.

DAVIS: I wish she were still with us, because I would have her on speed dial.

BORGER: Because Richards was the last Democratic governor in the state of Texas.

DAVIS: I've yearned for her advice, actually, because I know, obviously, she went through a really tough race. And she was subjected to some very unfair scrutiny. But she survived it.

I am proud to announce my candidacy.

BORGER: Davis' plan? Not running on what made her famous, but on her memorable life story, told by her daughter in this campaign video.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was raised by a single mother with a sixth grade education. She married young and by 19, was divorced and raising me as a single mother.

ROBERT DRAPER, JOURNALIST: Davis and her people had figured that the best way to introduce her was as this sort of quintessential Texas boot-strapping story of a young woman who, by dint of hard work, had moved from the trailer park in Fort Worth all the way up to cum laude of Harvard Law School, while raising two daughters on the side.

BORGER: Journalist Robert Draper is a long-time observer of Texas politics.

DRAPER: All of that happened to be true. It just wasn't the full truth.

BORGER: The "Dallas Morning News" found the errors, raising questions just how much help Davis got in footing the bill for Harvard or the exact age at which she got divorced which was 21.


BORGER (on camera): Would you just say there were mistakes, they were oversight?

DAVIS: Yes, most women, and I've had so many women say this to me, the date of their divorce is the date they ceased to live together as man and wife with their husband. I was a struggling single on my way to being a single mom when I was only 19.

BORGER: What do you say to those who say you were shading the record to play into your overall narrative?

DAVIS: What I say is that I'm proud of my story. My story is my story.

BORGER (voice-over): Another part of the story is the struggle of a young mother whose children were in Fort Worth as she commuted east to law school.

DAVIS: It was very difficult. As I was commuting back and forth from school. There were some pretty tough nights leaving my girls. But I was doing what I felt was best for them and for me.

BORGER (on camera): Is there some undercurrent here about a woman's appropriate role particularly as a mother?

DAVIS: I think were I a man, this would not even be a topic of conversation.

BORGER (voice-over): Davis's battle is uphill. Her opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has a double digit lead in the polls.

DAVIS: Our path to victory.

BORGER: Trying to turn out her voters and turn a bright red state blue makes Wendy Davis a guarded candidate.

(On camera): And she can't be too liberal. She can't be too feminist. She can't be too conservative.

DRAPER: Yes, it's extremely difficult. She must, as well, however, speak to suburban mothers and to single women, and these are people who routinely when they voted have voted Republican.

BORGER: What if you don't win?

DAVIS: I just don't think like that, Gloria. I went into this race believing that I would win it. And I have been accustomed to being counted out before. But I would imagine a lot of folks would have counted me out way back when I was living in that trailer on my own. Wondering how I was going to survive. I'm a fighter.

Thank you for standing up for me truly.


BLITZER: And Gloria, that's an excellent piece. I guess the bottom line question you were just in Texas. You spent some time with her. Got a feeling for what's going on. Can she win? Can she beat Gregg Abbott?

BORGER: It's very tough. You know, it's very tough. She's behind by double digits. The last time there was a Democratic governor in the state was Ann Richards 20 years ago.

What they're trying to do is register voters who will vote Democratic. And it's battleground Texas, taking a page from Barack Obama's book. For example, 60 percent of eligible Hispanic voters are not registered. So they're trying to get them on the rolls, registering African-Americans, registering suburban women. And if they could do that, they can make inroads whether it will be in enough time for 2014 or potentially for 2016 to make Texas in play. We just don't know.

BLITZER: Well, we'll cover it. We'll watch it.

BORGER: Tough.

BLITZER: Already this year we've seen some major surprises.

BORGER: We have.

BLITZER: You can't rule anything out.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Good work.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger just back from Texas.

Up next, we have disturbing new information about the search for Malaysia Flight 370. Plus what our sources are telling us now about the pilot's flight simulator.

And the Secretary of State John Kerry talks about the crisis in Iraq with our Jim Sciutto. As a battle rages for control of one of that country's most important oil refineries.


BLITZER: Crushing news for the families whose loved ones disappeared on Malaysian Flight 370. Officials are now questioning one of the strongest clues they have.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has details.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Faulty radar data may have led search crews hunting for Flight 370 down the wrong path. Malaysian radar showed the missing plane dramatically changed altitudes, flying as high as 45,000 feet and diving as low as 4,000. Turns out, that may have been wrong.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's very unreliable when it comes to altitude. You just can't trust it.

MARSH: If Flight 370 did not fly the erratic pattern some once believed, that critically changes how much fuel it burned and ultimately how far the plane could have flown.

The head of the Australian Safety Board tells CNN, they will not rely on military radar when determining the new search zone.

The hunt for the missing plane will move hundreds of miles south where the Bluefin 21 searched. That's in the direction an independent group of experts call the most favorable.

MICHAEL EXNER, CO-FOUNDER, AMERICAN MOBILE SATELLITE CORPORATION: The most likely scenario is that the airplane continue owned a straight heading at about 470 knot. And that's where you end up.

MARSH: The focus remains along the southern arc in the Indian Ocean where the plane made its final satellite connection. The ability to make those hourly connections meant it is unlikely the plane was badly damaged. It was intact and flying.

GOELZ: If the plane had broken up or was breaking up, the transmissions would have been different. They wouldn't have picked them up.

MARSH: Meanwhile, new media reports suggests a renewed focused on the captain's flight simulator saying he practiced flying to remote parts of the Indian Ocean. But a U.S. official tells CNN the data scrubbed from the hard drive did not show he practiced a particular route.


MARSH: Well, we were originally told to expect the announcement of the new search area tomorrow. But now it's unclear exactly when that will happen. Australians now say they have to first get the green light from the Malaysians.

We do know that they have been reanalyzing the data and it's certainly pointing them in a different direction. Meantime, in a new interview, one of the Malaysian Airlines' executives asked about, you know, the search and how it's moving forward. And he is quoted, reportedly, as saying that he thought this hunt for Flight 370 would go on for decades.

BLITZER: I heard that. Decades.


BLITZER: All right. Rene, thanks very much for that.

Coming up, Iraq under attack. More American advisers have just arrived as the battle against ISIS militants escalates.

Plus, the bite seen around the world. Or was it? We have the details of a World Cup shocker.