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60 Days to Election Day; Hanna Charges towards the Carolinas; Sarah Palin Up Close; Evangelical Voters

Aired September 5, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of "Breaking News' in the hour ahead. Right now the outer bands of tropical storm Hanna are pounding South Carolina's coast; there's a live picture right there. The storm is just below hurricane strength. It is getting close. This is the same storm that killed 137 people in Haiti.
Coming up, we're going to check in with our reporters on the ground along the South Carolina coast. We'll also check in with Chad Myers to get the latest on Hanna on the storm track and also hurricane Ike, which is now a Category 3 storm in the Atlantic; hundreds of miles from ashore. It's already causing a lot of concern; we'll have a look at that ahead in this hour.

We begin though, with the final sprint for the White House. It really began today as also a whole new race, both sides campaigning hard.

The race has been transformed, you could say electrified, even practically overnight. The spark, well, Sarah Palin, John McCain's unexpected running mate is creating major buzz for his campaign at a crucial time which is 60 days to go. Both tickets began a swing state blitz today.

McCain and Palin have to trail together in Cedarburg, Wisconsin and Sterling Heights, Michigan, just as the latest jobs report came out showing unemployment rate at a five-year high. It's a stark reminder of the number issue for Americans, the economy. Here's what Senator McCain said today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: These are tough times. Today, the jobs report is another reminder. These are tough times. There are tough times in Wisconsin or tough times in Ohio, tough times all over America.

You're worried about keeping your jobs and finding a new one. Struggling to put food on the table and stay in your home. All you ever asked of government is to stand on your side, not in your way. And that's what I intend to do. Stand on your side and fight for your future.


COOPER: Senator Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, split up and campaigned in three different cities across Pennsylvania and other key battle ground states. Obama used the new jobs report to try hammer his opponent.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You would think that George Bush and his potential Republican successor, John McCain, would be spending a lot of time worrying about the economy and all these jobs that are being lost on their watch. But if you watched the Republican National Convention over the last three days, you wouldn't know that we have the highest unemployment rate in five years because they didn't say a thing about what is going on with the middle class.


COOPER: As we said, Sarah Palin has joined the Republican ticket at a pivotal time. Going into the convention McCain needed to rev up his party's base and he has certainly succeeded with that. Whether the excitement over the self-described hockey mom will translate into actual votes is anyone's guess. We're going to have to wait and see in 60 days.

But there are reasons for the Obama campaign to be very worried about this unexpected wild card.

"360's" Tom Foreman has tonight's "Raw Politics."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are three reasons Democrats have to take Sarah Palin seriously.

First, Evangelical Christians, political analysts say this corner stone of the Republican Party has not put its full weight into electing John McCain. James Dobson, the head of the influential "Focus on the Family" was not supporting McCain. But now with Palin, a staunch conservative onboard, he is.

If Evangelicals in battle ground states follow, they could fire up phone trees and start pumping out emails for McCain, just like they did for George Bush.

BRIAN DUBOSE, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: When you look at sort of your Evangelical ministerial crowd, when you look at your conservative groups, and the constituencies they represent, she's already energized them, they're already onboard with her.

FOREMAN: The impact, however, is uncertain.

A new survey by the Pew Forum found that a slim majority of Americans now believe religious institutions should keep out of politics, reversing a ten-year trend. And notably, Pew found that this change is being driven by conservatives.

Second, Palin could help the GOP with the blue collar vote. Her small-town roots, her family and her status as a Washington outsider could prove a natural draw, making it even harder for Obama to tap into this group that he's had trouble with any way. And third, the women's vote. Many Republicans hope Palin will draw in uncommitted female voters, who will likely decide this election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like her because of what she stands for.

FOREMAN: The problem is, some other women see Palin as a crass ploy to grab Hillary Clinton's disillusioned supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean the fact that they think they can just hijack Hillary Clinton and insert Sarah.

FOREMAN: Do you think that's what this is all about?


STEVE ELMENDORF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that the people who were for Hillary Clinton were for Hillary Clinton for a reason. They were for Hillary Clinton because of what she stands for and I don't think Sarah Palin stands for the same things.

FOREMAN: Maybe. But strategists in both parties are watching voters closely right now, trying to figure out what they really think of Sarah Palin.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Let's talk strategy now. Joining me are CNN's senior political analyst and former presidential adviser, David Gergen; CNN senior political contributor and Republican strategist, Ed Rollins; CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen; and conservative political analyst Tara Wall. I think we have all our bases covered.

I mean David, at some point, I mean right now it's all about Sarah Palin. How long does that excitement last? I mean at some point, does that fade and does she sort of fade into the background or do you see her kind of growing on the trail?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, how long do you think it will take before the Democrats starts putting out the ads, attacking celebrities and politics? And maybe having pictures of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, what do you think?

Anderson, I think this is uncertain. She is getting huge crowds now and they could grow. But reporters are pesky people and they're going down a lot of trails right now they're going to insist on some interviews. I just was reading the "AC360" blog site. There are tons of people writing in saying they think she ought to have interviews with the press.

And we'll have to see. When people get a better sense of what she believes. I mean she left out abortion in her speech the other tonight, her views on abortion, on creationism, on whether global warming is man made, a lot of other things that are very controversial.

And so I think we've got to -- and she's got a big debate coming up. There are a lot of things that could happen that could change coloration. But for now, there's no question she's brought enormous enthusiasm and momentum, which is very, very important with 60 days to go. She's brought momentum to John McCain.

COOPER: It's interesting that earlier Paul Begala was saying don't go after Sarah Palin. If you're Barack Obama or David Gergen was saying this as well, Barack Obama should be discussing John McCain. If they don't sort of try to fill in some of the blanks on Sarah Palin, then her power remains, no?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, you know, it's only eight weeks, so I don't think her celebrity is going die down in eight weeks. Let's face it. That's why he picked her, and it has -- it's going to work. She's going to get lots of attention.

I think Democrats need to keep the focus on John McCain. But, you know, we need to back fill on some of the points David just made, which is this woman is really out of step with the main stream of America in her views, out of the main stream of American women on her views.

And people haven't seen that yet. And you've got to try and get people to understand that. You've got to try and hit the right spokespeople to do that, and Barack Obama has to do a tougher job on John McCain to make him more accountable for the policy positions that they're espousing.

COOPER: Tara, Tara, I mean Hilary was saying she's out of step with main stream in her views. In terms of her story, her family, she is right in the main stream.

TARA WALL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and I think that's why she's very effective. I think that she represents in some ways when you talk about conservatives, everything in some people's minds that John McCain isn't. And John McCain represents in some people's minds everything that she may not be or she doesn't fill the gaps.

But she certainly, regardless of whether you agree with her views or not, she's very hard to dislike. She's very engaging. She's like everyone's mom. She's like, you know, your next door neighbor. What I think the campaign has to do is to make sure they're not over, you know, making her appear to be a lot more than what she is, over- scripting her in some ways.

She gave, for example, the explanation about her family situation; I think it was good to give the explanation. But when she used the word saying she was excited about being a grandmother, I think quite frankly, most 44-year-old mothers with a four-month old are not excited to be a grandmother.

Let her be who she is. People understand where she's coming from. When she can speak and be herself, do not over-script this woman. And that's the challenge that the campaign is going to have to balance.

ROSEN: And also the more aggressive she is in using her own family to tell her story, --

WALL: Absolutely.

ROSEN: -- the more she opens up her family and her life to the kind of scrutiny that they're trying to say is off-limits. And I think they can get caught with that double standard.

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The reality is this quickly gets back to McCain and Obama, as it should. And both Biden, who was the story of the week a week ago and she, will go play the traditional audience.

COOPER: Doesn't a week ago seem like forever ago?

ROLLINS: It is forever ago.

And when she was named a week ago Saturday, everyone said my God what is Joe Biden going to do during the debate? Now Biden is basically saying, she's the great debater; I go in as the underdog.

I promise you one thing, that debate will be extremely well watched because people have a great interest. She'll be doing party stuff and plenty of things. They'll put her on a separate plane, as they always do the vice president and she'll go do her thing. And if she makes news it won't be a good thing for anybody else.

COOPER: But Ed, do you think this boils down to -- I mean is this going to boil down to personality? To whether you like Barack Obama more or you like or feel more comfortable with Barack Obama or feel comfortable with John McCain?

ROLLINS: If it's about personality, Barack Obama wins. If it's about who is a more effective leader, who is the commander-in-chief who can protect the country, John McCain wins.

COOPER: David Gergen, do you agree with that?

GERGEN: No, I don't. I think if it is about commander-in -chief, John McCain wins.

ROLLINS: That's what I said David.

GERGEN: If it's largely about personality including the commander-in- chief overall, I think that John McCain now has a more compelling story in biography that he can tell and he seemed more likable the other day.

But you know Barack Obama cannot afford to let this not be about issues. That's what bothering voters. And he's got to get it back on the issues because we to want hear more about the issues.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to have more from our panel just on the other side of this break. I should also just point out I'm blogging throughout this hour. You can join -- actually I haven't started yet. But Erica has been blogging, you can join, sorry I've been writing stuff. You can join the conversation; go to our new Website I'm not that great of a multi-tasker.

Just ahead, the long view on strategy now that Sarah Palin's has shaken up the race. Our panel has a lot more to say about that. Plus how does Palin's record as Alaska's governor stack up to what we heard?

Just ahead, an "Up Close" look at Palin's leadership style and reputation; the statements and the facts.

Also, has Palin sealed the Evangelical vote for John McCain? She's a staunch opponent of abortion and gay marriage is that enough to tip the scale?

And plus, the latest on Hanna, the powerful tropical storm barreling toward South Carolina's coast. And also hurricane Ike, a Cat 3 storm, making a lot of folks nervous tonight. That's ahead.

Stay tuned.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When they say this isn't about issues, it's about personalities. What they're really saying is we're going to scare people about Barack. So we're going to say that, you know, maybe he's got Muslim connections or we're going to say that, you know, he hangs out with radicals or he's not patriotic; just making stuff up.


COOPER: That was Barack Obama campaigning today in Pennsylvania on day one of a new stage of the presidential race. The race that looks very different than it did just a week ago.

Sarah Palin has changed the equation heading into the final stretch. Let's talk more about what it means for each side. Our panel is back, David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Hilary Rosen and Tara Wall.

Ed, you were just pointing out during the commercial break the favorable rating for Sarah Palin, I mean she out rates --

ROLLINS: It's now higher than either Obama or McCain and this is a woman who was barely known a week ago outside of Alaska. It's just -- it's amazing what's happened but it's very polarizing.

COOPER: It's likely though, as she becomes more well-known, people like -- she's like more people and more just like me.

ROSEN: Well, and we keep saying is this has to go back to Obama and John McCain. But all anybody keeps doing then is talking about Sarah Palin in which, somebody has made a really interesting point today, which is that on September 11th, when George Bush was sequestered and being flown all over in his airplane, it was Dick Cheney in the situation room who was on the phone, the only one on the phone with the president, seeking authority to shoot down any aircraft that flies into U.S. Air space.

Now, imagine Sarah Palin in that seat. Imagine Joe Biden in that seat.

ROLLINS: We would have had Bin Laden in the first 24 hours. She would have hunted him down herself.

ROSEN: I don't know, I don't know about that.

ROLLINS: Shot him with her AK-47.

ROSEN: That's right, it's that in that people are going to start to focus on more, I think.

COOPER: So you're saying people will start to focus more on her record and therefore she will become less of a player?

ROSEN: No, she'll be a player because she's a celebrity now. But I think what will happen is people have to focus more on what she'll do, what she thinks, how she's going to act and what she's capable of.

COOPER: David, I mean no one I guess saw this coming but do you think the Obama campaign has reacted well since her announcement?

GERGEN: I think they're stunned by it. But I have to tell you, Anderson, I've been around this game a long time. I've seen meteors come flying across the sky, just opening up and they're fiery bright in the night and some of those meteors burn out. It's hard to stay up there as a celebrity very long. You make a couple mistakes and people say, oh, we misjudged that.

So this -- we're very early. And the interesting question is, can she last for 60 days and keep this kind of -- this aura about her and this glow about her? I'm not at all clear yet, I think its way too early to tell that.

I think the Obama camp, they do need to sort of ignore her and get back to the issues. The person, the candidate who can convince the American people that he's got a plan for the economy that's compelling, and that he will have a team that's new, that's fresh, that will change things, not just to talk change but show people how you're going to change things is the candidate likely to win this election.

And that could be the McCain or Obama. Obama now has coming out of this convention, this conventions are real opening on health care. The Republicans just sort of dismiss, they walked away from that issue during this convention. Obama ought to own that issue.

John McCain has got some real opportunities in the national security area. Obama has got to show John McCain may be knowledgeable but hey, you know guys, he can be a little trigger-happy sometimes too. He's got to make that kind of argument, it may not stick but I think that's where he's got to go.

COOPER: Tara Wall, can Sarah Palin get away with though the next 60 days not doing substantive interviews?

WALL: Oh, I think she can, I think this is funny we're having this conversation. Because this all the talk of celebrity and her getting the attention. This is the problem.

Remember the McCain campaign had with Obama last week, and actually when he made his tour around Europe, he was the celebrity and getting all these attention.

So I mean everyone is going to get there dues, she's new just like he was new. She was going to get the attention; I think eventually she will do an interview. I would happen to agree with Ed Rollins I don't think you necessarily need to put her out there right away.

I think you know, what is ironic and what is important to note is how she's being used. I think she was used very strategically in Michigan today for example. And number one because it's my hometown but number two because listen this is a union town.

They keep talking about her union credentials, her husband's union credentials it's hockey town where hockey moms are. And quite frankly it is a state where there is another female governor and this female governor is a Democrat who quite frankly has put the economy in the tank. It's been the worst economy than almost any other state in the country.

And the way that they are using her is very strategic. I think that that is resonating with some of the folks that are paying attention. Number one, there's your economic issue, pay attention to the economy. And this woman, who has cut the budget, lowered taxes; that's a message that's going to resonate as she's giving these parties to women in Michigan out tonight as we speak.

I think it's going to resonate. It's a very strategic way to utilize her in an area Midwest right now. Obama is slightly behind marginally, so I think that these are going to definitely be your battle ground states where she'll be used.

COOPER: Right, did you want to try --

ROSEN: Well, I was just going to say fine, keep her in Michigan the whole time. Because Michigan I don't think is in play.

WALL: Ohio, Michigan, there's several.

ROLLINS: She's a very credible teller of his story.

WALL: That's right.

ROLLINS: And she stands up there and tells the McCain story, which he can't do every day, I think it's a very powerful twosome.

COOPER: All right, we got to leave it there. David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Hilary Rosen and Tara Wall, thank you very much, have a great weekend folks.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next on "360," an "Up Close" look at Sarah Palin as governor. We go in-depth to fill you in on the kind of leader John McCain's running mate has been for Alaska; incredibly popular.

This just in, hurricane Ike, forecast to strengthen to a Cat 4; arriving in the eastern Gulf of Mexico by next Wednesday night. Severe weather expert Chad Myers is going to show us the path it's expected to take to get there.


COOPER: More now on our "Breaking News."

Tropical storm Hanna expected to make landfall in the Carolina coast just a few hours. Already huge death toll on it's wake, more than 130 people have been killed in Haiti alone. Storm watches are posted tonight as far north as Massachusetts. The second storm Ike might be causing bigger concerns.

Chad Myers now joins us with the latest on what Hanna and Ike ahead.

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Ike's the big one. Really we have to worry about this is we have to watch this all weekend long. Hanna is going to make some rain, it's going to make some wind gusts to 70 miles-per-hour and we think right now it's probably going to make landfall in about five to six hours before sun rise for sure.

Sometime, some town with Georgetown, Myrtle beach, it really doesn't matter because of the angle of approach there. It's going to move right up and through South Carolina make some flooding rainfalls into North Carolina too.

Probably some beach erosion through Cape Hatteras, maybe Virginia Beach and maybe even some wind through D.C. and up through Philadelphia and New York City. That line goes right through and over Long Island tomorrow as about a 50-mile-per-hour storm.

Now change and turn our attention to something much more serious. This is Ike. This storm here is going to make a run at Cuba and through the Turks and Caicos. Right now a Category 3 but forecast to be a 4, which means over 135 miles-per-hour. It's going to lose a little intensity as it rolls over very close to Cuba. It could be to the right of this line.

Notice Miami and south Florida, you are still in the cone. But so is Havana, and all the way to the left almost to Cancun; still on the left side of the cone. But the big thing at the very end there, that Category 4 speed at 120 hours or five days from now Wednesday, could be Tampa, could be middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It is going to be a big one. There's a lot of energy with this storm, there's a lot of water that's down there. That's very hot and Anderson, we're going to watch it for you. It's going to be a big one, I'm afraid, to someone.

COOPER: All right, Chad thanks very much.

We're going to follow a couple other stories tonight here. Erica Hill joins us with an update of "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, he was once known as a "Mad Dog." That's what President Ronald Reagan called him. Today, though Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi, played host to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tripoli. Rice's trip is the first by a U.S. Secretary of State to the North African country in 55 years. Rice said the meeting proved Washington has no permanent enemies.

More troubling economic news to report tonight, the nation's unemployment rate hit a five-year high last month, 6.1 percent, 605,000 jobs have already been lost this year.

And the oldest gorilla in captivity has died. The 55-year-old female named Jenny had been at the Dallas Zoo for nearly all of her life. Jenny has stopped eating and drinking recently due to inoperable tumor on her stomach; sad.

COOPER: Well, that was sad news indeed.

All right, up next on "360," God and the GOP. What do the Evangelicals Christians have to say about Sarah Palin? Is she the type of vice president they are looking for? And what do they have to say about, well, her policies and everything else? When "360" continues.





COOPER: Sarah Palin has gone from obscurity to instant name recognition in the number two spot on the Republican ticket. Two nights ago, on the primetime speech watched by 37 million people, she introduced herself to America and talked a lot about her accomplishments as governor, a the job she's held for a little less than two years.

And from the beginning of the presidential race, we pledged to bring you the facts about the candidates so you can decide for yourself where you stand on the candidates and the issues, who do you want to vote for.

Tonight, as part of that pledge, we're taking an in-depth look at the kind of leader John McCain's running mate has been for Alaska. "Up Close," here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's Alaska's most popular governor and she prides herself on playing tough.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) ALASKA VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull, lipstick.

KAYE: Some Alaskan lawmakers say this hockey mom turned governor is a pit bull; bold, outspoken, gutsy. But critics say she's also stubborn and so aggressive she will step on anyone in her way. Political analysts refer to the body count of Palin's rivals.

Are people afraid of her? Are legislators, lawmakers afraid of her?

LYDA GREEN, (R) PRESIDENT, ALASKA STATE SENATE: I got that feeling that they were somewhat intimidated.

KAYE: Like governor Palin, Alaska's senate president Lyda Green is a Republican. And yet Green decided not to run for another term because of differences with the governor.

KAYE: She admits Palin may be charming but says she governs like a one way street; disagree with her and you're done. She takes it personally.

State Representative Les Gara a Democrat, says Palin sees things in black and white and is more interested in press coverage than policy.

REP. LES GARA, (D) ALASKA STATE HOUSE: She's not that kind of leader who rolls up her sleeves and says these are the policies that matter and this is how it should be crafted. She tends to leave that to other people.

KAYE: Gara believes Palin is exaggerating her accomplishments. At the convention, Palin implied she got construction started on a natural gas pipeline here.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We began a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.


KAYE: In fact, the pipeline has been approved but won't be built until maybe 2018, if ever. Many here do credit Palin for shaking up the entrenched old boy's network and for taking on leaders of her own party over abuse of power.

She passed ethics reform after an FBI fund-raising probe of Alaskan legislators. Although lawmakers from both parties say reform had been in the works long before Palin took office. Is she the one who saved Alaska from corruption?

GARA: That would be a huge stretch.

KAYE: Republican Pollster Marc Hellenthal says Palin has done well for the state.

MARC HELLENTHAL, ALASKA POLLSTER: She's a beacon of ethics, a symbol of ethics in an atmosphere of corruption. She symbolizes hope that our elected officials aren't all on the take.

KAYE: Which may explain her rock star rating.

Sarah Palin's poll numbers are the highest Alaskans have ever seen, nearly 80 percent. Proving nearly two years into her term, the honeymoon is far from over.

Pollsters say it's because she took on the oil industry and revamped the tax code, bringing billions of dollars to Alaska.

The self-proclaimed fiscal conservative is putting money back in Alaskan's pockets. Rich in oil and gas, Alaska is benefiting from the rise in energy prices, and enjoying a $5 billion surplus. So Palin is giving $1,200 back to every resident to help with rising fuel and heating costs. And she's taking on big oil, increasing taxes on oil companies by more than $1 billion.

HELLENTHAL: Up here, from a public perspective, she deserves the nickname St. Sarah.

KAYE: But does she? Palin is under an ethics investigation. Did she abuse power by firing the state's public safety commissioner after he refused to dismiss her former brother-in-law, a state trooper she accused of threatening her family?

Where did she really stand on the infamous bridge to nowhere? A $330 million project, a symbol of Alaska's dependence on federal handouts.


PALIN: I told the congress, thanks but no thanks for that bridge to nowhere. If we wanted to build that bridge, we would do it ourselves.


KAYE: She takes credit for having killed that bridge to nowhere project. Is that fair?

GREEN: That was after she supported it in her campaign.

KAYE: And Green says even though the bridge project was canceled, the federal money was not; but directed to other Alaska projects. Come Election Day, how much will her record matter? Well, here in Alaska, many predict voters will choose style over substance.

Does her style do well among Alaskans? HELLENTHAL: She's a blunt, no nonsense person and that does incredibly well up here.

KAYE: Why? Why does that work in this state?

HELLENTHAL: Because we're a blunt, no nonsense people.


KAYE: Now John McCain has also been touting as one of Sarah Palin's accomplishments as governor that she sold the governor's jet. Even on the campaign trail most recently in Wisconsin, he said she sold the jet on the Internet for a profit.

Well, that's not exactly true. She also talked about that at the convention saying she sold it on eBay. Actually it was sold privately and they lost money on the deal -- Anderson.

COOPER: I think in her speech she said she put it up for sale on eBay. She didn't claim the sale but McCain did later on.

KAYE: Yes.

COOPER: Anyway, thanks very much Randy. Appreciate it.

Next on "360," is there a double standard in the coverage of Sarah Palin and is sexism at play? What women voters, Republicans and Democrats, have to say about it.


COOPER: Sarah Palin picked up where she left off at the convention today, praising Senator John McCain as a war hero who puts the country first. They were campaigning together today. Since Palin joined the ticket, she's received a lot of coverage and her supporters have been very critical of much of it. Though it was the McCain campaign which released information about Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter.

Many have criticized the media for prying into her family life. Some say there's been a double standard and even sexism at play.

Erica Hill tonight "Uncovering America" went to Michigan, a crucial swing state, to talk to a group of women voters, Republicans and Democrats, about their perceptions.


ERICA HILL: Are some of these questions, difficult as they may seem, especially for women to hear sometimes and we're asking questions about can she do the job? Can she balance her family? Is it a double standard? Are those, though in your mind, questions that you need answered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that her balancing her family is not really my business. Her -- my thing is can she help run the country. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though the media does bring it up, but she brings it up as well. At the back of her mind, is she questioning herself too? Can she juggle five kids, still be a hockey mom, a vice president, mother of an infant, plus a mother of a teenager, plus, you know. That's a lot of hats she has to wear.

CAROLE GRAYSON, SINGLE MOTHER: I feel that when you question her qualifications that people are automatically going to say that it's sexist and we're just questioning, she's just a candidate. And we should be able to question her qualifications for the job without saying you're just saying that because she's a mom or she's a woman and it's not -- that's never like the first thought is she qualified to do the job?

HILL: God forbid anything should happen to John McCain, but he could -- something could happen, God forbid he dies, she could be sworn in. Just by a show of hands, are you comfortable, do you feel safe for yourself and for your families with Sarah Palin as the president of the United States?

So two of you do. What about what you know about her now makes you say she is the woman to lead this country today?

JILL GLEBA, WORKING MOTHER: She seems very organized. A lot of my employees that I hire are moms because they're very well organized, they do the budget in the household, they run things, they run the calendar, well-oiled machine. What the heck. I think there's a lot to be said.

Now, is that the best qualifications for her? Is that why I would vote for her? No. I want to know about her intelligence and things she's done.

AMANDA CLARKE, WORKING MOTHER: She has done a lot of change in Alaska. She's done a lot of things. She's a governor. I mean, I don't mean to sound harsh, but Obama has been a Senator and has spent most of the time as a celebrity senator.

He hasn't really done much. What has he done? She's done a lot more than him and she's only going for vice president.

MICHELLE RUDZINSKI, STAY AT HOME MOTHER: I've always heard the saying if you want something done, you give it to the busiest person. If you have a working mom, that working mom is going to be able to get whatever that job done and it will get the job done.

You ladies know I'm right.

So I think that there is a lot of skills there of being a working mom and having been the Alaskan governor and raising her kids and having a pregnancy and having a small child. There's skills there that I think would work well for her as president. But I still don't know enough about her to feel completely comfortable with her.

HILL: Is it okay then to question those skills and to question how she is doing the juggling, if she's saying this is part to have what makes me a great candidate? Is it still a double standard; is it still sexist or being realistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree, but I think that we eventually have to get past it and get to the bigger issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we asking Barack how he's going to manage being a father and run the country at the same time? Are we asking that? No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But Barack isn't saying I'm a father, you should vote. He didn't say I began my career as a father and PTA mom.

JULIE POWELL, WORKING MOTHER: True. John McCain's own test for vice president was somebody who would be ready to lead on day one. And I think organizational skills are great. I'm not taking anything away from her accomplishments or her organizational skills, but I don't know that the vice president is supposed to -- that's supposed to be the number one characteristic of what makes a good vice president.

POCO KERNSMITH, WORKING MOTHER: It feels like pandering to me. It feels short sighted. It feels like let's shake things up. Let's throw a woman in there.

Like as woman we're not smart enough to think about what the real issues are and what matters and we would just vote for her because she's a woman and we won't.


COOPER: So what would get these women to vote for Sarah Palin in this group of Democrats and Republicans? Part two of Erica's report, next.

And later, faith and politics. Is Palin just what the GOP needs to connect with the Christian right? We're going to hear from evangelical voters when "360" continues.


COOPER: Well, not too long ago few people outside of Alaska ever heard of Sarah Palin. She's now a household name hoping to make history as the first female vice president.

As we all saw at the convention this week, she had no problem firing up the Republican base. But will she be able to convince the rest of the country that she's the right choice. What about women voters, are they ready to support her?

To find out, Erica Hill spoke to a group of women in the battle ground state of Michigan, Republicans and Democrats. Here's more of her "Uncovering America" report.


CHRISTIANNE SIMS, SINGLE WOMAN: And it's almost like, oh, just because she's a woman do you think I'm going to automatically vote for her? I want to feel that he picked her because she was the best qualified to do this job. But I'll always wonder if he didn't see anything on -- he only saw her resume and not her gender, would she still have been on the short list of pick too?

LUCY TALBOT, TEENAGE DAUGHTER HAS DOWN SYNDROME: It really threw me off having a woman in. I try not to do things with my heart because I'm a mom and because I have a child with special needs. I just can't back somebody and I don't want to vote for someone because they have a child with Down Syndrome. That's not the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We vote on the issues but just the fact that she is a mom, it kind of seals the deal for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because she's a mom, doesn't mean she's a mom like I am.

HILL: If you could ask Sarah Palin any question, what would you ask her today?

GRAYSON: How would she help me as a single working mom living in Michigan and we have the highest unemployment rate in the country and one of my friends just told me today she's getting laid off from her job, how is she going to help me as a working person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Security. Foreign relations and security are my biggest issues.

SIMS: I'm worried that she's too quick to pull out a gun and go after them versus sitting down there and actually having a civilized discussion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think she would be a bully. I don't think women in general are bullies. I think we all do want to discuss -- that she would jump over there and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said in her speech, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, but I don't think that's really -- I don't think as a woman we act that way. I really don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I disagree. I think as a woman we can totally be pit bulls.

HILL: With lipstick.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could be pit bulls, don't get me wrong.

RUDZINSKI: I'm glad to have somebody who I think if needed be could be a pit bull if she needed to be if the situation warranted it.

HILL: Do you think she would be a good role model, not only for your children but also for maybe some families who are struggling as a working mother, who is by all accounts a very successful woman?


HILL: I think you're the only one saying no. Why not? KERNSMITH: I think she showed really poor judgment as a mother putting her pregnant daughter in the limelight like that and putting her through all of that when she's so young.

HILL: What if Bristol Palin though had said, "You know what, mom? I know you're doing this and I give you my full blessing."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's 17 years old. She's not old enough to understand that she's not old enough; she doesn't have the experience to understand what that experience is going to be like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it makes her a bad mother necessarily. If it was my choice to make and I had a 17-year-old daughter in that situation, I think I would have declined the nomination. But --

HILL: Why would you decline the nomination?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family would have to come first. If it's a conflict between one day having to put our country first or family first, how do you resolve that conflict?

HILL: Do you want your leader to always put country first? Always, every situation?

GRAYSON: Yes. That's what they should be able to do that.

TALBOT: I'm hoping that, if she put the country first, she's not going to put her family so far back that it's not in her every thought.

HILL: Can you do both?

TALBOT: Yes, you can do both.

HILL: You can put country first and still keep your family intact?

TALBOT: I think you can.

HILL: Thank you all again for coming and for taking the time to share your thoughts and your opinions. I really appreciate your candor.


COOPER: So have all these women made up their minds about who they're going to vote for?

HILL: Not all of them. I asked that at the end and four of the women said they were voting for Obama, two said they were going to vote for McCain. One is a little bit on the fence, but pretty much leaning towards McCain. Then there was one woman who talked a lot throughout the night about how she really felt it was important to vote on the issues and not to vote with her heart but to vote with her head and she said she's still not ready to tell us who she's voting for.

COOPER: All right. Interesting stuff. Erica Hill. Thanks very much.

Next on "360," another crucial voting bloc in the battle for the White House. Is Sarah Palin winning over Evangelicals who didn't back McCain just a week ago? Faith and politics, next.


COOPER: We're talking about the reasons behind John McCain's choice of running mate. It's clear the Republican senator was counting on Sarah Palin's appeal with the Christian Right, particularly Evangelical voters.

In our "Nation Divided" segment tonight, "360's" Gary Tuchman asked Evangelicals what they think of this hockey mom governor from Alaska.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida is a presidential tossup state.

But the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola is no tossup church.

PALIN: You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

TUCHMAN: It can't be overstated how much John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin and her rousing folksy convention speech energized the seven Conservative Evangelical voters who watched with us.

Before he picked Sarah Palin, how many of you were excited about John McCain? Zero. Now that you've seen her speak, how many of you are excited about John McCain? All of you.

What did you think about the pick when you first heard about it? Sarah Palin?

DELICIA JACKSON, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN VOTER: I was very excited. I was actually in my car and I think I yelled. I was very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blown away, thought she was fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Loved it. Just loved her, loved her family. Loved her parents, her -- I just thought she's just a great American.

TUCHMAN: Six of the seven people in this group backed Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike the Democratic ticket, Senator McCain and Sarah Palin believe that every human life has intrinsic worth and value --

TUCHMAN: They say Huckabee's values are their values but none of them seem to miss it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she's an extremely righteous person. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love the fact she knew she would have a child born with some complications and where some people would have chosen to abort, she decided to give the baby a chance.

TUCHMAN: Regarding her unmarried teenage daughter's pregnancy.

She favors abstinence with lots of people's children but her own daughter didn't do that well with that education.

JACKSON: I'm sure she did favor it for her child but then again, it was up to her daughter.

TUCHMAN: But that doesn't affect the way you see Sarah Palin?

JACKSON: No, not at all. It does not reflect on her. It really doesn't.

PALIN: I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer.

TUCHMAN: This group had no qualm about her zingers.

When she went on the attack, did you feel like "go get 'em" or did you kind of like maybe it's a little too much?


TUCHMAN: And Sarah Palin, this group believes is qualified to be president if anything happened to John McCain.

RHONDA BREWSTER, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN VOTER: I'm more comfortable with her being in the first chair, not more comfortable than McCain but more comfortable than Obama or Biden should something like that happen.

TUCHMAN: These evangelicals are unequivocal.

Do you think the Republicans will win in November?


TUCHMAN: Did you think that before?


TUCHMAN: John McCain is in their good graces.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Pensacola, Florida.


COOPER: And it's a completely different race.

Next, the shot of the day. Anchor extraordinaire and rock star Wolf Blitzer sharing his musical past, his deep dark secret with me. Next on "360." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right, Erica. Time now for the shot. If you watched the coverage of both conventions, you know that Wolf Blitzer and I kind of joked about his musical background which he revealed during the Democratic convention and his keyboard style and the Buffalo base group called "The Monkeys." He claim heed was part of the original "Monkeys" before "The Monkeys" actually ever came around. I don't think there's any 8-track bootlegs for sale but take a look.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN "SITUATION ROOM" ANCHOR: We want to thank the band. You have to praise this band --

COOPER: I want to thank the band.

BLITZER: Campbell, you loved the band?


BLITZER: It was terrific band, wasn't it?

I was in a band, in "The Monkeys" before the real "Monkeys" hit Buffalo, New York and Wolf Blitzer was doing the keyboard.

COOPER: You were rocking Buffalo, though?

BLITZER: A little bit. I can do a little Louie-Lou-i

COOPER: Bare Naked Ladies.

BLITZER: Bare Naked Ladies, how good were they?

COOPER: They made a song, the Wolf Blitzer song and they sang and that's why -- they were very good.

BLITZER: They were fabulous. They were terrific.

BLITZER: I did play the keyboards. That was a long long time ago.

COOPER: I want to hear you rock out on the keyboard. Wolf was rocking it out at bar mitzvahs back in Buffalo in the day.

BLITZER: Way back. Way, way, way back.


COOPER: Kind of old of school there with Wolf Blitzer. Who knew?

HILL: If TV thing doesn't work out for Wolf, it's nice to know he has something to fall back on, not that I think he's going to need to worry about it.

COOPER: He was like, oh they're playing -- he's obsessed. The man is obsessed. I'd like to see his iPod. HILL: He should compose his own theme song for the "Situation Room."

COOPER: Exactly.

You can see all the most recent shots on our Website You can also check out other segments from the program, read the blog, check out the "Beat 360" picture. There's so much to do;

That does it for us for this edition of "360."

Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, everyone. I'm meteorologist Chad Myers here at and also live on CNN air. We're going to be watching this basically Hanna roll on shore all night long for you here; 70-mile-per-hour storm right there.

The big red box you see, that's in fact a tornado watch. There may be more threats of that than maybe wind damage altogether. Here is the center of the storm, almost now just east of Charleston. It's going to be driving itself to the north.

It may clip the little peninsula right through here, just to the south of Georgetown. I think probably more likely, it's going to go up toward Myrtle Beach. That's the forecast anyway.

That's the middle of the cone. It is going to be a rainmaker for Charleston. It's already been producing some flooding rainfall, 5 inches of rain in some spots already. This thing's just coming onshore now.

But it's going to be a quick mover. That's going to be unlike what Fay did. Fay just sat around for days. This is going to be a very fast moving storm and so therefore we're going to get a lot of rain.