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Ohio Ground War; Powell May Back Obama; Candidates Show Love; Cindy McCain Reveals More Than $4 Million in Income; Obama's Uncharted Territory; Colin Powell Surprise?

Aired October 17, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama on uncharted territory. He's going for a win in traditionally Republican Virginia and he's getting endorsements that no Democrat has ever received before. The best political team on television is standing by.

John McCain scrambles to keep more red states from turning blue and he's invoking the name of his new favorite plumber along the way.

And Wall Street fat cats, they may be losing their shirts in the markets, but is the party over? We have a CNN special investigation.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama is fighting to gain more ground out there on the electoral map, and, today, he is positioning himself for a possible, possible win in Virginia, which, by CNN's estimate, is now leaning his way.

Virginia once seemed far out of reach for Democratic presidential candidates. But, as we have seen, in this campaign, anything can happen. And there are only 18 days left to go.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.


Barack Obama used a new line today. He said that John McCain does not look like President Bush, he doesn't share his same Texas accent, but that they do share the same policies. This is a message that he certainly hopes will resonate with Virginia voters to turn this red state blue.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sure Virginia's ready for change.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Virginia hasn't put a Democrat in the White House in more than four decades, but Barack Obama says yes, he can.

OBAMA: Thank you, Roanoke.

MALVEAUX: The once solidly Republican state is up for grabs. Southwest Virginia is John McCain country. The northern part of the state Obama land. The key to an Obama win here will be voter turnout. OBAMA: I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors. And if you will work with me and organize with me, we will not just win Virginia, we'll win this general election.

MALVEAUX: State officials say nearly 500,000 new voters have registered, many drafted by Obama's army of volunteers. Fifty field offices blanket the state, and Obama is nearly outspending McCain three to one in advertising.

This is Obama's seventh trip to Virginia since the primary, but his first time to Roanoke, located in a conservative part of the state Obama is trying to cut into.

OBAMA: I said you might want to try the Democrats for a change.

MALVEAUX: On this day, Obama took on McCain over his health care plan.

OBAMA: It's like those ads for prescription drugs. You know, they start off everybody's running in the fields and everybody's happy. Then there's a little fine print that says, you know, Side- effects may include...

MALVEAUX: Obama specifically addressed the needs of seniors, who make up 15 percent of Roanoke County voters.

OBAMA: It turns out Senator McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare, $882 billion worth. I don't think that's right. In fact, it ain't right.

MALVEAUX: A McCain spokesman responded saying, "John McCain's plans for health care do not punish struggling businesses with fines and taxes, and they certainly do not cut a single benefit for Medicare or Medicaid. Obama is simply lying."


MALVEAUX: An Obama spokesperson says that McCain needs to explain how he is going to cut out nearly $1 trillion in Medicare without impacting services. John McCain is going to make his case here tomorrow when he comes to Virginia and obviously to try to cut into Barack Obama's lead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks. He will be going to Virginia, after a swing through Florida today. That is what John McCain has been doing. He doesn't want to let go of traditionally Republican turf or for that matter his favorite new campaign talking point as well.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's down in Florida, Melbourne, Florida, watching all of this unfold.

What is the latest on this day? More Joe the plumber stuff coming up, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Definitely more Joe the plumber stuff, for sure. In fact, John McCain just wrapped up his speech here, Wolf, and he spoke for five minutes straight out of his 25-minute speech about Joe the plumber. In fact, he said that he spoke to him for the first time by phone this morning.

Clearly, the McCain campaign is now banking on this story to help McCain win red states like this one, Florida, where he lost his lead, and really needs it to win the White House.


BASH (voice-over): Embarking on a tour of red states he's desperately trying to keep from turning blue, John McCain is still channeling Joe the Plumber.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says that he wanted to spread your wealth around. All he had to do to say to Joe the Plumber and millions of small business people around this country, I won't raise your taxes. But he couldn't do that because he's going to raise your taxes.

BASH: McCain is not only using the plumber story to warn voters to watch their wallet with Obama, he's also now lashing out at his Democratic rivals for what McCain aides call disparaging comments about Joe Wurzelbacher.

From The Tonight Show ...

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're kind of worried about, you know, Joe the fireman, Joe the policeman, Joe the real plumber with a license.

BASH: ... to the stump.

OBAMA: He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for. How many plumbers do know making a quarter million dollars a year?

MCCAIN: And Americans ought to be able to ask Senator Obama tough questions without being smeared and targeted with political attacks.

BASH: Meanwhile, McCain's campaign is also stepping up its attempts to link Obama to ACORN, a community organizing group now under federal investigation for alleged voter fraud in several battleground states.

Sarah Palin in Ohio...

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And John and I are calling on the Obama campaign to release communications it has had with this group, and to do so immediately.

BASH: On a conference call with reporters, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis went even further, saying that because camp Obama won't come clean with connections to ACORN, a cloud of suspicion is hanging over the election.


BASH: Now, a spokesman for Obama says that the campaign did give some money to an ACORN affiliate during the Democratic primary, and that was just to help get out the vote. But they insist inside the Obama campaign that they have not dealt with ACORN since then in the general election. And, specifically, they say that they have never dealt with them on the issue that they are being investigated for, Wolf, and that is voter registration.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

Dana is with Senator McCain down in Melbourne, Florida. Stand by.

Meanwhile, there is new a study out just today. And it warns that many states are simply not ready for the problems that are almost certain to arise. Some of those states could be crucial to the outcome of the election as well. We are talking about voter problems.

Brian Todd has been looking into all of this.

What's the nature of these problems, Brian, and the potential consequences?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the problems stem from the possibility of voting machines breaking down without adequate backup systems in place, the potential consequences, long lines and voters bailing out.


TODD (voice-over): It is November 4. You are anxious to cast your ballot, maybe in a state where it is supposed to be close. You are in line. The voting machine breaks down, and they are not prepared the deal with it. A new report card from three vote monitoring groups says that could be the situation in 10 states.

LAWRENCE NORDEN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: And the worst-case scenario there is that people are forced to wait in line for four or five hours, and they can't do it, and they give up on voting.

TODD: Out of the 10 states given the worst ratings for preparedness, three could be battlegrounds. Our map has Louisiana leaning toward John McCain, Virginia leaning toward Barack Obama, and Colorado a tossup.

The most common problem cited, the states either have no paper system in place for auditing vote totals, like handing out receipts, they don't have enough safeguards to make sure memory cards and other vote counting tools are not lost, or they don't have good enough requirements in place for emergency paper ballots to be distributed if voting machines fail. NORDEN: And these machines are not perfect. The people that are pointing them in place are not perfect. Sometimes, things go wrong. And what we're saying is, you need to have some really good contingency plans in place.

TODD: South Carolina is one of the both bottom 10 states criticized for a rule that no paper ballots are given out at a polling place unless all the machines break down there.

NORDEN: I don't think that is a good idea, frankly. If you have got five electronic voting machines in a polling place, and four of them break down, you are going to start getting long lines.


TODD: We called election officials in all 10 states rated as poorly prepared, got responses from eight of them. They rejected the findings, said their states are very prepared if machines break down.

Some of them also say the study was biased in favor of paper ballots. One of the authors disputed that. But one of them said they do have that agenda. They say the best records are kept with paper ballots, that machines are simply not reliable enough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, which states actually received good marks for preparedness?

TODD: Six of them scored pretty highly, Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oregon. These monitoring groups say they all rate well because they have extensive paper systems in place as backups for electronic machines.

So many questions out there, Wolf, on these machines, just two weeks left.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian is going to work this story for the duration.

Barack Obama's running mate, meanwhile, is fired up over something Governor Sarah Palin said.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are all patriotic. We all love our country in every part of this nation. And I am tired, I am tired, tired, tired, tired, of the implications about patriotism.


BLITZER: So, what exactly did Sarah Palin say to set Senator Biden off? Stand by for that.

And Sarah Palin does something she rarely does. She is answering reporters' questions. She's asked if she thinks Barack Obama's love for America matches hers. You're going to hear what she just said. Stand by.

And financial crisis, you might think, "What crisis?" when you see a bunch of the Wall Street types partying the night away, even while the stock market dies.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, seized today on some remarks, controversial remarks, by his rival, Governor Sarah Palin, about what she called pro-America areas of the country.

Listen to the Democratic vice presidential nominee speaking just a little while ago in New Mexico.


BIDEN: I hope it was just a slip on her part and she doesn't really mean it.

But she said -- it was reported she said that she likes to visit -- quote -- "pro-American parts of the country."


BIDEN: Ladies and gentlemen, I, like your senator and governor, have been all over this great land. I have never been to a state, I have never been to a state that has not sent its sons and daughters to serve and die for this country.

Right here in New Mexico right now, there are 1,400 Mexican sons and daughters -- New Mexico sons and daughters -- deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq -- 36 of them have already given their lives for this country.

Folks, it doesn't matter where you live. We all love this country. And I hope it gets through. We all love this country.


BIDEN: Folks, one of the reasons why Barack and I are running is that we know how damaging the politics of division that continues to be practiced by the McCain campaign, how damaging this policy of division has been for Americans over the last decade or more.

It is time to put this behind us. Folks, it is not a corny thing. It is real. We are one nation under God, indivisible.

We are all patriotic. We all love our country in every part of this nation. And I am tired, I am tired, tired, tired, tired, of the implications about patriotism.


BLITZER: Governor Palin made the comment, the controversial comment in question, last night at a closed fund-raiser in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Her spokesperson says the Alaskan governor was making a point that the best of America can be found in places outside of Washington, D.C. Let me read to you exactly what she said.

She said: "We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hardworking, very patriotic Americans, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

All right. That is what she said last night and that is what stirred up, stirred up Senator Biden.

She is speaking now in Indiana. Let's listen in.




PALIN: It is in the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday people who run our factories and grow our food and teach our children and fight our wars. Those who protect us and protect the virtues of freedom, it's right here.


PALIN: We believe in the promise of this country, in all the opportunities that we wish for ourselves and for each other and for our sons and our daughters. And we believe that America is not the problem. America is the solution.



PALIN: We still believe that America is that shining city on a hill, and we believe that, though we are not a perfect nation, we learn from our mistakes, but we are that beacon of hope for others who seek equality and freedom.

We believe in that flag.


PALIN: Country first. We still believe in America. And I thank God that we have a man who is ready and worthy, willing to lead this great nation these next four years, someone who inspires us with worthy and trustworthy deeds, and not just words.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) PALIN: Now, Indiana, from now until Election Day, you are going to hear our opponents go on and on about how they will claim to be able to fight for you.

And, since my running mate is not here to say it for himself, but he sends his very best, I am going to say it for him. There is only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you.


BLITZER: Governor Sarah Palin speaking in Indiana right now. That is one of those key battleground states. The fact that she has to be speaking in Indiana, a traditionally Republican state in these presidential contests this late in the campaign speaks -- speaks loudly about what is going on right now. We are going to have more on this coming up.

The winner of the presidential race will largely depend on who can get supporters to actually vote. There is an organizational ground war under way, especially in Ohio. We are going to go there. We will go there live. You are going to see what is going on.

Also, an air of mystery and suspense surrounding General Colin Powell. He is expected to make a huge announcement this weekend. Is Secretary of State Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, is he getting ready to endorse Barack Obama?

And other groups are already backing Obama. He has just racked up a string of newspaper endorsements. Is your newspaper one of them?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Wow, Wall Street closed another volatile week with another up-and-down dramatic session today. The Dow Jones industrials ended the day down 127 points. The Dow is down more than 18 percent over the past few weeks alone.

But investors did get some upbeat news today, new signs that the credit crunch maybe is easing a little bit.

President Bush, meanwhile, warned that the frozen credit markets may soon take -- may take some time to fully thaw. He is preparing for weekend talks, important talks, on the economy with the French president, Sarkozy, and other European officials.

Let's go to the White House. Elaine Quijano is standing by.

Elaine, what can we expect over the course of the weekend? Because a lot of individuals, they're worried about these bread-and- butter issues.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. Well, officials here at the White House are saying, look, don't expect any kind of announcements out of this weekend's meeting at Camp David. It will take place tomorrow afternoon and evening, but it clearly comes at a time when European leaders are anxious to overhaul the world's financial system.


QUIJANO (voice-over): At a weekend meeting at Camp David, President Bush will sit down with the presidents of France and the European Commission, tackling not only the immediate financial crisis, but looking at how to prevent another one.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we work to resolve the current crisis, we must also work to ensure that this situation never happens again.

QUIJANO: Aides say, top Bush administration officials will be on hand for the talks, including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

BUSH: Our European partners are taking bold steps. They show the world that we are determined to overcome this challenge together.

QUIJANO: Some European leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have signaled they want major reforms of the global financial system, points Sarkozy will likely raise at the Camp David meeting.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we will do is accept for consideration all recommendations and all good ideas that come to us. And then it won't be just the United States and it won't just be Europe.

QUIJANO: Even as his administration carries out unprecedented government intervention, President Bush insists, any reforms must preserve the free market system.

BUSH: Despite corrections in the marketplace and incidents of abuse, democratic capitalism remains the greatest system ever devised.


QUIJANO: Now, the Camp David meeting comes just days after leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations agreed to meet some time in the near future to discuss the financial crisis. As you know, Wolf, so far, no date has been set -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, thanks. We will watch what happens over the weekend, lots at stake.

If you read two of the nation's top newspapers today, you might be a little bit confused. Is Barack Obama, for example, an agent of change or is he a threat to the economy? The best political team on television is standing by. Plus, the ground war in Ohio, both the McCain and Obama camps have their foot soldiers working overtime.

And comic relief from the presidential candidates.


OBAMA: OBAMA: Contrary to the rumors that you have heard, I was not born in a manger.


OBAMA: I was -- I was actually born on Krypton....


OBAMA: ... and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth.




BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Ohio likes to say it is at the heart of it all. We have got special coverage of the presidential race in Ohio, as the ground war heats up for its 20 electoral votes.

Colin Powell, he is getting ready to make a major announcement this weekend -- speculation mounting that the former secretary of state will endorse a presidential candidate. Would it be Barack Obama? We are taking a close look at what is going on. Would it make a huge difference?

And comic relief in the middle of a heated campaign -- the presidential candidates get some big laughs at the Al Smith dinner in New York. But what was the surprising message beyond the punchlines?

All of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

It is a possible fault line on the electoral map, Ohio, a close and contentious battleground state, where the stakes right now will be sky-high on Election Day. Our latest Ohio poll of polls shows the race remains very close, with Barack Obama holding a two-point edge over John McCain.

Let's go to that battleground state. Our battleground correspondent Mary Snow is in Ohio -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are in suburban Cincinnati, in Hamilton County, a county that is seen as key to what happens in Ohio. Both campaigns are intensifying their ground battles, whether it means making more calls, knocking on more doors, or their get-out-the-vote efforts in some unconventional places.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. My name is Sophie (ph). And I'm a volunteer calling on behalf of the Ohio Republican Party.

SNOW (voice-over): They are the foot soldiers on the John McCain side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Behalf of John McCain (INAUDIBLE) Palin, and the entire Republican team, we are asking for your vote.

SNOW: And, on the Barack Obama side, the Obama team is hitting the ground with a novel approach. It's enlisted help from barbershop owners like Larry Joiner.

LARRY JOINER, BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTER: Any information that you want to get crossed -- across to people abundantly in masses, the barbershop and the beauty salons in the black community is an excellent place.

SNOW: Obama supporter Eric Kearney says the emphasis is on broad reach.

ERIC KEARNEY (D), OHIO STATE SENATE: Talking to them where the voters are, again, places like grocery stores, car washes -- anywhere where people are, you've got to go out and reach them.

SNOW: Republicans have a different approach.


SNOW: McCain supporter Greg Hartmann told college Republicans the focus is to zero in on specific issues with targeted voters.

HARTMANN: We can have somebody deliver a message to one person at one household and move to the next household and talk to them about different issues.

SNOW: And what happens on this particular battlefield could be very telling.

PROF. ERIC RADEMACHER, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI: Hamilton County is a real important county to watch on election day, simply because it's an urban area in the middle of what John McCain would consider his home territory here in Southwest Ohio.

SNOW: Hamilton includes Cincinnati, an urban area where Obama is expected to do very well. It's surrounded by suburban areas that have deep Republican pockets. But the GOP says that's no guarantee.

HARTMANN: We've had a rough two weeks, for sure. The numbers have slid since then. But, you know, I will tell you that Ohio is very winnable and Hamilton County is very winnable.

SNOW: The Obama team is trying to chip away at the Republican margins, targeting Independents, senior citizens and sees African- American voters in Cincinnati and young voters as its key to victory.

KEARNEY: It's very pragmatic. It's very focused. And it's the strategy, it's like follow the playbook, get it done and reach as many people as you can.


SNOW: The Obama team is hoping high turnout will turn this county blue. That's something that's happened only once in a presidential election since 1940.

Republicans, meantime, are counting on their street and their money. This is an ATM machine for a Republican candidate. The Center for Responsive Politics says this county is the number one producer in the state and McCain has out raised Obama here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in Ohio for us.

Our battleground coverage will continue from there.

Meanwhile, there are lots of whispers right now, lots of buzz going on that Barack Obama could get a huge endorsement in the coming days from general Colin Powell, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration.

Let's discuss this and more.

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post;" our political contributor, Tara Wall of "The Washington Times;" and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Need I say, they are all part of the best political team on television.

Dana, would this be a big deal, a little deal?

What do you think?

First of all, do you think he will go forward and endorse Barack Obama?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST" STAFF WRITER AND AUTHOR: Well, it's hard to imagine that he'd be willing to get on a major Sunday talk show before the election and that a major Sunday talk show would be eager to have him before the election if he weren't going to make an endorsement. And, yes, it would be huge. I think the only person huger than him, with the possible exception of Wolf Blitzer, would be Oprah Winfrey...


MILBANK: ...who has already endorsed Barack Obama.

BLITZER: She's already endorsed, yes.


MILBANK: He's seen as a larger than life figure, so, obviously, this would be very big.

BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of speculation that Colin Powell is going to endorse Barack Obama -- not a whole lot of speculation that he's going to endorse John McCain, with whom he's had a very close relationship over these many years.

TARA WALL, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, DHS GULF COAST *REBUILDING EFFORTS, FORMER RNC PRESS SECRETARY FOR OUTREACH: Well, and I think the fact that he has said that he hasn't made up his mind is significant in and of itself. This is, you know, really uncharacteristic for Colin Powell. I think it could -- you know, it could potentially be a blow to the Republican Party and those -- you know, most of the black conservatives, not just blacks, but many black conservatives are voting for McCain.

But then there are those who are on the fence who can, you know, relate to a Colin Powell. And for him to come out -- if he were to come out and do this -- it would signal to them as something pretty significant, especially when, you know, it was Republicans that had hoped, many of them, that he would be their nominee for president.

And this would send a signal to some, maybe, to say well, listen, I'm voting for him. I'm voting for Barack Obama. You can, too...

BLITZER: Because...

WALL: ...and this is the next best thing than Colin Powell.

BLITZER: Because this has been sort of a soft area for Barack Obama, in terms of national security, the war on terrorism...

WALL: Right.

BLITZER: ...the foreign policy credentials. To get that endorsement from someone like Colin Powell, among the undecided -- remaining undecided voters, that could close the deal for a lot of them.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. If you're one of those who say, oh, but he just doesn't have the experience. That really worries me, the experience. For Colin Powell, who is, you know, a war hero in and of his own right, to say he's OK with me would be big. I think John McCain says I totally respect this man and the people will decide.

MILBANK: We should say, it's not without risk for Colin Powell. Part of the reason he has 75 percent approval in this country is because he's above politics. As soon as you get in that mosh pit, it's a different story.

BLITZER: I mean I think that given, you know, his credentials out there, it would -- you know, I don't know, Condoleezza Rice, she isn't endorsing anyone right now because she's a sitting secretary of state. But if she were to endorse, for example, Colin Powell, that would be a huge story in and of itself right now, given her Republican credentials, working in the Bush administration over these past eight years, right?

WALL: I don't think she would do that, though. I think she would be the exception.

BLITZER: I don't think she would do it. I don't think -- I think she's desperately anxious to stay out of this contest...

WALL: Absolutely...

BLITZER: much as possible.

WALL: And I would say one other aspect that Colin Powell could bring in regards to experience, not just foreign experience, but now as he spent his time out of office, he's done a lot with education. As you know, he has a -- he has an organization that is committed to education, which is something that Barack Obama has expressed he'd like to delve into a bit more and expand a bit more, actually.

BLITZER: Now, in the "Wall Street Journal" today, there was this, "A Liberal Super Majority." That was the title of an editorial. "The current financial panic may give today's left another pretext to return to those heydays of welfare state liberalism. Americans voting for change should know they may get far more than they ever imagined."

A lot of conservatives are deeply worried a majority -- maybe a super majority in the House and the Senate for the Democrats, with a Democrat in the White House, they're worried what's going to happen.

MILBANK: Yes. And it's sort of a backdoor way of motivating the troops there. If they're not going to be terribly fired up about John McCain, be fired up about what else to fear. And it's a heck of a lot better than rallying people at rallies about Obama's patriotism and the (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Has "The Washington Times" endorsed -- formally endorsed anybody yet?

WALL: Not formally. Not as of yet. We're in the...

MILBANK: And that will be the end of the election.



BLITZER: We're not...

WALL: That says it. When we endorse, that's it -- if we endorse. But I'm not putting anything out there at this point.

BLITZER: How important are all these endorsements, because "The Washington Post" today formally endorsed Barack Obama. We expect, of course, "The New York Times" to follow suit. But "The Chicago Tribune," which I don't think has ever endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, they went ahead and endorsed Barack Obama today, as well.

CROWLEY: They did. And it's an Illinois paper and so there's some of that. But for the "Chicago Trib," which is, by and large, seen as conservative on its editorial pages and endorsements, it means something.

I would say newspaper editorials -- I'm sorry...


CROWLEY: ...don't really tend to move voters one way or the other. I think they take the editorial page for what it is. I think that people endorsing, I generally say that, as well. I think Colin Powell might be a bit of an exception.

WALL: Yes. And I tend to...

MILBANK: Or Wolf Blitzer.

WALL: ...I tend to agree.


WALL: I mean even people don't necessarily move people because of their endorsements -- to endorse a candidate. And many voters, as you've said, have made up their minds at this point. And some of those undecideds, those who are on the fence, who may take another look, potentially, because of the significance of who this person is that may be endorsing.

But I don't think it holds a lot of significance. And, quite frankly, I happen to agree -- I know I'm on an editorial page, but I don't think that carries so much weight for voters who are making decisions either way.

BLITZER: What carries a lot of weight, page three in "The Washington Post" -- Dana Milbank's column in "The Washington Post". That's what everybody is obsessed with.

CROWLEY: Now that...

WALL: No, my column.

MILBANK: Thank you for that pitch.


MILBANK: It is heartwarming to hear people even talking about newspapers mattering these days.

WALL: That's right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Stand by, guys.

They're going from nasty to nice -- the candidates sowing some love out there on the campaign trail.

Is that the way to win votes?

And Cindy McCain -- get this -- she's just released her 2007 tax returns. We're going through those tax returns right now. In fact, Brian Todd is going to have a lot more on this potential first lady and how much money she made in 2007. I think you'll be interested.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want it getting out of this room, but my opponent is an impressive fellow in many ways. Political opponents can have a little trouble seeing the best in each other. But I've had a few glimpses of this man at his best and I admire the great skill, energy and determination. It's not for nothing that he's inspired so many folks in his own party and beyond.

Senator Obama talks about making history and he's made quite a bit of it already. There was a time when the mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today, it's a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time -- and good riddance.

I can't wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.


BLITZER: Strong words from Senator McCain last night.

Candy, you know, if you didn't know the context of what was going on, it almost sounds like an endorsement.


BLITZER: Lovely words from Senator McCain for Barack Obama.

CROWLEY: And Senator Obama had very nice words for John McCain...

BLITZER: He did.

CROWLEY: ...about his, how much service he's given to his country and he knew no one that had, you know, sacrificed as much for his country.

Listen, it's all about the arena. I mean it's all about that they were at a charitable dinner to raise millions for Catholic Charities. And you just don't do the kind of stuff you do on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: I thought he was very generous in those remarks, Senator McCain.

WALL: And it actually the more serious moment of what was clearly a light-hearted...

BLITZER: There were a lot of jokes earlier.

WALL: Right. And he also -- those were actually similar to the remarks he made when he opened his speech at the GOP Convention. And he wanted folks to take a look and stop and think about the historical perspective of all of this.

And I think that's important. And, quite frankly, despite all the negativism and the attacks and all of that that have been going on, I genuinely feel like these two guys actually do respect one another.

BLITZER: And I remember when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, McCain actually put out an ad congratulating him at that time.

CROWLEY: That's right.


BLITZER: And referring to history, as well.

MILBANK: Yes. No, no, I thought that was one of McCain's finest moments during this whole campaign. And, you know, it almost had a sense of a valedictory -- like, well, I can see the handwriting on the wall. I don't know if he intended it that way. But this was the John McCain I remember from the 2000 campaign.

And I guess for him it's a shame, you know, you don't want to lose three debates and then kill him at the Al Smith Dinner, but...


MILBANK: But it was definitely (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Do you think we're going to see more of this John McCain in the last 18 days?



BLITZER: You don't?

WALL: I don't think. I mean I think it's a moment to take time out from all the economic hassles that we're going through that are weighing heavily on America's mind, taking a breath away from all the negative attacks, but then getting right back in there and digging right in and campaigning once again. But candidates, through it all, have to be able to laugh at themselves.

BLITZER: All right, we'll leave it right there.

A nice note from these presidential candidates. But as you say, maybe it won't continue. We'll watch very closely.

Wall Street fat cats -- we're going to show you how they are still living the high life even in these lean times.

And Cindy McCain's 2007 tax returns are now released.

How much did she make?

How much tax did she pay?

What about charitable contributions?

Stick around.



BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?


Tonight, we're reporting on the Supreme Court ruling that could, in effect, give Barack Obama the key swing state of Ohio. The high court ruled that Ohio doesn't have to investigate as many as 200,000 potentially irregular voter registrations.

Also tonight, Senator Obama outspending Senator McCain by a margin of at least three to one. But a new Gallup poll shows Obama with a lead of only 2 percent for a second straight day.

Three of the best political analysts join me.

And startling new evidence that corporate America is abusing our visa system, importing cheap overseas labor to compete with our middle class working people.

Please join us for that story, all the day's news and a great deal more, from an Independent perspective, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, see you in a few moments.

Thank you.

And this is just coming into CNN. John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, has now released her most recent tax returns.

Let's get some details from Brian Todd.

He's been going through those papers.

What are you finding -- Brian? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'll love this, Wolf, the document dump on Friday night. But here we have it. Cindy McCain made a little over $4 million in total income last year, almost $4.2 million of that. She paid a little over $1.1 million in taxes. Charitable contributions, interesting here, that part not released. The part of the form that deals with charitable contributions not released.

We do know that Cindy McCain donated about $187,000 to charities the previous year, in 2006.

The bulk of her 2007 income, it says here, came from rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations and trusts, etc. Now that was a -- the bulk of that income, almost $3 million.

The occupation she lists on her form is executive. We know that her family runs a beer distributor there.

Interesting here, she overpaid, it says here, $954,000 in taxes. That's going to be applied to her estimated tax next year. A pretty wealthy woman.

BLITZER: Yes. Indeed, she is.

All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that.

We want to give you right now another look at our CNN electoral map -- estimates of where the vote might be if the election were held today.

Right now, CNN estimates that Barack Obama would have 277 electoral votes to Senator McCain's 174. An earlier map we showed you in THE SITUATION ROOM showed a different number. CNN estimates are based on several factors, including polling and voting trends.

It was -- now let's get to Wall Street. It was a fun ride while it lasted. As the Dow surged ever higher, Wall Street executives took advantage -- buying luxurious homes, clothes, taking vacations.

But now that Wall Street's boom has turned into a bust, is the party really over?

Let's go to CNN's Abbie Boudreau.

She's looking at this story for us -- Abbie, you're working on a special that will air this weekend.

What are you picking up?

ABBIE BOUDREAU, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, our special gives a rare glimpse into the lifestyles of some of America's biggest and richest CEOs. It also explains how some of these big shot Wall Streeters made their millions and how they're spending all that money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAMELA LIEBMAN, CEO, THE CORCORAN GROUP: Well, this unit is going for approximately $11 million. And what you're getting here is the million dollar view.

In New York City, there's nothing better than a Central Park view.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Actually, this two bedroom condominium in what was once New York City's Plaza Hotel is going for nearly $11.5 million. And for many Wall Street executives, that really wasn't a lot of money.

LIEBMAN: I mean it wasn't unusual, in the past two years, to sell apartments $20 million, $30 million, even $40 million or more.

THOMAS GRAF, VICE PRESIDENT, NORTHMARQ CAPITAL: It's like fiddling. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. We're smoking cigars while we're losing our shirts, literally.

BOUDREAU: This is the kind of party that many Wall Streeters used to pour themselves into. And at this one, thrown by a magazine called "The Cigar Report," many still do -- despite a horrible day of trading that saw the market drop 508 points.

(on camera): People are having a great time tonight. You know, they're getting cigars, they're getting manicured, they're getting their haircut. You'd have no idea that there's actually a crisis on Wall Street right now.

Does it bother you when people blame Wall Street for everything that's happening right now?

VIDAK RADONJIC, MANAGING PARTNER, BERYL CONSULTING: Oh, absolutely. When things are great, then everybody is happy to see their 401(k)s. But when things are not good, then everybody's blaming Wall Street. And I don't think that's the right thing to do.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): The motto here, according to nearly everyone with whom we spoke, work hard, play hard.

AARON SIGMOND, PUBLISHER, "THE CIGAR REPORT": I think they take their jobs amazingly seriously. But I think everybody is allowed to have a good time. I don't think there's any law against that. It may look a little different to middle America, but the reality is this is where things happen each day.


BOUDREAU: We also talked to experts who break down all of the billions of dollars spent each year by some of these Wall Street titans. And, Wolf, we're talking about huge money here and extravagant lifestyles to show for it.

BLITZER: Did the video we just saw from that party, Abbie, take place before or after that $700 billion bought? BOUDREAU: It was after. It was just last week. As a matter of fact, the market dropped 508 points that day. And we didn't really expect to see too many people at the party, but we were wrong. There were like 600 or 700 people there.

So all this bad news might slow down the party a little bit, but they say the party on Wall Street is not over.

BLITZER: We're going to watch the special, Abbie, tomorrow night. The full special is going to be Abbie Boudreaux, Rick Sanchez. You can catch it right here on CNN Saturday and Sunday nights, 8:00 p.m. eastern. "The Fall of the Fat Cats" -- that's what it's called.

The heated presidential campaign turns a little lighthearted.


MCCAIN: Events are moving fast in my campaign. And, yes, it's true that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named "Joe the Plumber".


BLITZER: All right. Some of the best pictures of the day -- the Hot Shots from around the world.

That's coming up next.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In India, woman and child watch from a window as protesters and government forces clash in the streets.

In Baghdad, a boy peers over a ledge to watch worshippers.

In Utah, a skater from the Netherlands crashes into the wall during a World Cup speed skating race.

And in Germany, a 2-day old baby gorilla held by its mother.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

It's serious business, this election we're in. But as our Kareen Wynter reports, there is always time for a little humor in politics -- Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, both Barack Obama and John McCain got a little comic relief last night away from the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WYNTER (voice-over): Presidential candidates turned comics -- at least for one night.

OBAMA: My greatest strength -- I guess it would be my humility. My greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome.

WYNTER: GOP nominee John McCain and Democratic challenger Barack Obama shared more than just a table, but also a few laughs at this annual white tie charity roast in New York.

Obama poked fun at himself and his rival.

OBAMA: John McCain is onto something. There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd. I've got to be honest, these guys were serious deadbeats. They were low lives. They were unrepentant, no good punks. That's right, I've been a member of the United States Senate.

Come to think of it, John, I swear I saw you at one of our meetings.

WYNTER: McCain also had a few line up his sleeves.

MCCAIN: It began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as "The One." Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one.

WYNTER: A healthy roundup of humor. But earlier in the evening, McCain was in the hot seat on David Letterman's couch.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: What -- now what exactly happened?



WYNTER: After recently canceling an appearance last minute.


MCCAIN: I screwed up.



WYNTER: After grilling McCain, Letterman moved on to another favorite late night target -- McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.


MCCAIN: Absolutely.

LETTERMAN: And what is the process when it comes time to pick that position?

How do you do that?

Is it you and a committee or is it just you going through your phone book?

I mean how do you...


WYNTER: Democratic V.P. nominee Senator Joe Biden was also in the late night mix.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I watched the debate when Barack was speaking and I switched to the Phillies when John was speaking.

JAY LENO, HOST: Oh, I see.


WYNTER: As for Palin, she'll appear on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend.

TED JOHNSON, MANAGING EDITOR, "VARIETY": Her popularity really has plummeted in recent weeks. And this is really an attempt to make humor out of that situation and probably say, hey, you know what, I'm not as bad as some of these people are making me out to be.

WYNTER: After being mocked for weeks on "SNL," it's now Palin's chance to perhaps turn the tables on Tina Fey, who's had quite a ride at her expense.


TINA FEY: Stop trying to impose on my right to shoot wolves from a helicopter.



WYNTER: Fey has spoofed Palin three times already on "SNL" and it's translated into ratings. No word yet on whether Fey will make another appearance on Saturday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Kareen. Thank you.

We'll see you Sunday on "LATE EDITION". Among my guests, Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill.

Let's go to Lou.

He's in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

Tonight, the Supreme Court has made a ruling that could, in effect, give Senator Obama the swing state of Ohio.

We'll have complete coverage of the rising controversy over voter fraud in Ohio and, indeed, around the nation.