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Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama; Obama Leaves Campaign Trail to Visit Sick Grandmother

Aired October 20, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news from the campaign trail.
Just a short time ago, Barack Obama's campaign said the senator will take a short break, starting Thursday afternoon, to visit his 85- year-old grandmother, who is seriously ill. Madelyn Dunham lives in Hawaii and helped raise Obama. Michelle Obama will fill in for her husband at her scheduled campaign events in Ohio on Friday.

And Senator Obama expects to return to campaigning on Saturday. Obama's family emergency comes at a critical time in the race, just as the final sprint has come, just two weeks and a day go.

CNN's Candy Crowley joins me now for the breaking news.

Was this a tough decision for the Obama campaign?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think, on a personal level, it was at all, Anderson.

I -- I don't know if you recall, but, in his convention speech, Obama talked about his grandmother, talked about how she sacrificed, not buying a new car, not buying a new dress, to give him the things that he needed.

He said, listen, this night belongs as much to her as to him. So, personally, this certainly was something he felt he needed to do as her condition deteriorates. And, honestly, if you take a look at some of these -- some of the polling in Iowa, where he was scheduled to go, and Wisconsin, frankly, where he was scheduled to go, frankly, those are states that look pretty solidly at this point for Obama.

But I don't think this had to do with looking at those states. I think this had to do with a matter of timing, and the campaign was trying to figure out when -- when he should go. And I think it had a lot more to do with her health than anything else.

For now, of course, Obama continues to campaign. And that includes two days here in Florida.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Together again. Not for nothing did Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama join up for the first time since early summer. October 20 is the first day of voting in Florida, a state she won in the primary. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I am asking you to work as hard for Barack as you worked for me.

If you made phone calls for me, make them for Barack. If you walked streets for me, make them for Barack. If you talked to your friends and your neighbors, do it again for Barack.

CROWLEY: Florida is critical for Obama, which is to say it was a get-out-the-vote mutual admiration event.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Hillary shattered barriers. She inspired millions. Because of what she accomplished, my daughters, Malia and Sasha, all our daughters, are dreaming a little bit bigger.

CROWLEY: Obama spent his day in Tampa and Orlando, both ends of the I-4 Corridor, a pivotal swing area in a swing state.

OBAMA: We want everybody to go to the polls now, go early. We're going to make sure your vote is counted.

CROWLEY: That is Democratic speak for, remember 2000. And Obama added a warning, telling his audiences to beware of say-anything, do- anything politics in the final days.

OBAMA: It's getting so bad that Senator McCain's running mate denounced his tactics last night.


OBAMA: Now, you have to work really hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.


OBAMA: That's a hard thing to do.

CROWLEY: He holds a small edge in Florida now. John McCain was on top before the economy imploded. The jobless rate is higher here than the national average, and the foreclosure rate one of the highest in the country.

The Democratic presidential candidate is channeling Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

OBAMA: The question isn't going to be, are you better off than you were four years ago? The question is, are you better off than you were four weeks ago?

CROWLEY: Obama is spending two days in Florida. That's a lot of time in the final days of a campaign. And he's brought in some muscle, not just Clinton, but Michelle Obama, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who will reach out to the Latino vote. The campaign hopes to rack up the score in early voting in a way McCain is not as well equipped to do. Obama has spent about $15 million more than McCain here. And the Obama staff is much larger. And maybe there's a little mileage in that platinum endorsement.

OBAMA: We were thrilled yesterday when a great American statesman, General Colin Powell, joined our cause.


CROWLEY: A high-profile supporter of Obama's predicts, Powell's endorsement may -- quote -- "help on the edge with those who still wonder about Obama's foreign policy experience."

John McCain noted that he has the endorsement of four former secretaries of state.


COOPER: Candy, is it possible that Obama will campaign with Colin Powell?

CROWLEY: Colin Powell has told Barack Obama that he is not a politician, and, therefore, will not be out on the campaign trail with him.

That, as you saw and heard, was not -- does not mean that Barack Obama can't mention it. And they do think that there is some luster that comes with this, particularly, again, as I said, because of those who may still doubt whether Barack Obama has the experience to be commander in chief.

But, by and large, these endorsements are worth a couple of days, Colin Powell sort of more high-profile than others. But they understand, at this -- at this point in any race, Anderson, this has to do with the ordinary people who are out there knocking on doors and making phone calls and distributing leaflets. And they understand that.

COOPER: So, he's going to be gone to visit his grandmother, what, starting some time Thursday, until when?

CROWLEY: Thursday and -- he's going to miss Thursday and Friday on the trail, and be back Saturday, some place in the West, they think. And that would make sense, coming back from Hawaii, for him to stop off some place in the West.

COOPER: OK. Candy, thanks.

We're going to have more on the breaking news about Barack Obama taking time off to visit his grandmother, but, first, new poll numbers.

Tonight, CNN's latest poll of polls, which is a survey of a number of polls, shows Obama is inching up a point, giving him a seven-point lead over McCain, 51 percent to 44 percent, 5 percent still unsure. Some other polls, though, show the race tightening a bit. A hundred thousand people turned out to see Obama in Missouri this weekend, his biggest domestic crowd yet in one of the key states that John McCain is fighting hard to keep red. Now, today, in Missouri, McCain drew a much smaller crowd in the same suburb Obama visited this weekend, but his attacks on Obama's tax plan were tougher than ever.

In recent days, McCain and running mate, Sarah Palin, have raised the S-word, socialism.

CNN's Dana Bash is on the trail.



DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri is a state John McCain's advisers told CNN just six weeks ago they hoped to secure and move on. Now it's neck-and-neck, and he's back.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With your help, we're going to win Missouri and bring real change to Washington, D.C.

BASH: Several thousand people came to see McCain in this Saint Louis suburb two days after Barack Obama drew this unprecedented crowd downtown. But McCain aides are taking heart in several national polls showing Obama's wide lead narrowing a bit, which advisers attribute to McCain's relentless use of Joe the plumber to hit Obama's tax plan.

MCCAIN: Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it's not a tax cut. It's just another government giveaway that the liberals have been trying to push on America for a long time.

BASH: And even sharper rhetoric -- talk of socialism, especially from Sarah Palin, who hammers it now in practically every speech.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Joe the plumber said it sounded to him like socialism.


PALIN: And now is not the time to experiment with that.


BASH: Still, McCain's urgent challenge is not getting drowned out by Obama and his mind-blowing amount of campaign cash.


NARRATOR: You did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time.


BASH: Here in Missouri, Obama is outspending McCain on TV ads 2- 1, in other states, much more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's talk a little bit about your campaign here in Virginia.

BASH: To try to compete, McCain aides say they have doubled the number of his local interviews in critical markets. And they're jumping on any opening from camp Obama, like Joe Biden warning donors at a weekend fund-raiser that America's enemies will quickly test a President Obama.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's going to have to make some really tough -- I don't know what the decision is going to be, but I promise you it will occur.

MCCAIN: We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis...


MCCAIN: ... and Americans are already fighting in two wars.

BASH (on camera): And McCain may close out his campaign talking about something he long ago called out of bounds, and vowed not to touch, Obama's relationship with controversial Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

A lot of Republicans inside and outside McCain's campaign say, Wright should be fair game. And now McCain's campaign manager is telling a conservative radio show that they're -- quote, unquote -- "rethinking their strategy," suggesting McCain may bring up Wright after all.

Dana Bash, CNN, Belton, Missouri.


COOPER: We will have more about that rethinking of their strategy. We will actually play the -- the sound bite from that radio show Dana Bash was just talking about.

Barack Obama's sudden decision now to take time off the trail to visit his seriously ill grandmother is our breaking news tonight. As we said, Madelyn Dunham is 85 years old. She's played a central role in her grandson's life.

Candy Crowley mentioned the remarks Obama made about his grandmother at the Democratic Convention. Here are some of them.


OBAMA: She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.



COOPER: Now, this comes, obviously, at a critical time in the campaign.

Let's talk strategy, David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to Democratic and Republican presidents. Also joining me, radio talk show host Joe Madison and Gloria Borger, CNN senior political analyst and columnist for "U.S. News & World Report."

David, what kind of an impact do you think this could have on the race?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Obama taking a couple days off to go to Hawaii, I think, will not have much -- much impact on his side of the race, Anderson.

I think most people will respect him for going to see a very seriously ill grandmother who has meant so much to him and his upbringing. It does give an opening to John McCain to dominate the news for a couple of days. And that could be precious with just a couple of weeks left.

That's very helpful to McCain. If he uses it constructively, it could give him a slight advantage. I don't think it hurts Obama, but I think it gives an opening to McCain.

COOPER: We're going to have more on this with our panel in a moment, also weighing in on Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama and Joe Biden's kind of bizarre comments about his running mate, telling voters to gird their loins. Our panel is going to weigh in on that and more, and try to explain what exactly that means.

If I can remember my password to log on, I will be blogging throughout the hour. To join the conversation, go Also, check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break. It's already just begin.

Also ahead tonight, Sarah Palin and Tina Fey face to face for about a second, anyway, on the same stage. Palin was a good sport on "Saturday Night Live," but will her cameo help or hurt the McCain campaign. We will also look at conservatives who said Palin was a mistake.

And naming names -- who is to blame for the financial fiasco? Tonight, another culprit is added to our 10-most wanted list. Who is he? How much did he cost you?

Find out -- tonight on 360.



OBAMA: And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work.


COOPER: Barack Obama talking about his grandmother in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. That is her there. The story just broke a short time ago.

Madelyn Dunham helped raise Obama. She's 85 years old, seriously oil.

A short time ago, the Obama campaign announced, the senator will leave the trail Thursday afternoon to travel to Hawaii to visit her, a family emergency that comes in the final weeks of the presidential race.

Let's continue our "Strategy Session" with our panel, David Gergen, Joe Madison, and Gloria Borger.

Gloria, what do you think of the breaking news. David Gergen says it may provide an opening for -- for McCain and Palin.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it could. But, on the other hand, John McCain would have to be very careful about the tone of his campaign, as Obama goes to his very ill grandmother's bedside.

And -- and I think, also, to what Candy said, Obama has given interviews during this campaign in which he said that one of the great regrets of his life was not visiting his mother's bedside before she died.

And I think this is something -- this is a woman, as you played those clips, Obama cares great deal about. I think, if McCain is out there attacking him while he visits her, it -- it doesn't set the right tone.

COOPER: Let's move on.

Joe, Colin Powell endorsing Obama this weekend. Newt Gingrich believes Powell's endorsement -- and I quote -- "eliminates the experience argument." Democrats certainly hope that's the case. Do you think it carries that much weight?

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, I think it carries a lot of weight. It gives him credibility.

I don't know if it means that he will gain any number of votes from independents or his base. He seems to have the base locked up. But Colin Powell, I had to deal with him and his staff when we were dealing with the Sudan crisis and trying to get the Bush administration to declare genocide in Darfur. He's a very thoughtful person. And I don't think that he took this endorsement lightly. And I would like to say, about grandparents, I was reared by Betty Stone (ph) and Jim Stone (ph), my grandparents. And Barack Obama has no choice. He has to go to his grandmother's side.


MADISON: And I think it's a smart thing to do. If he didn't, he would probably regret it the rest of his life. But Colin Powell gives -- gives Obama credibility. That's a credibility endorsement.

COOPER: What about that? Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan argued race was a major factor in the decision.

I want to play for our viewers something that Rush Limbaugh had to say. Let's listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This was all about Powell and race, nothing about the nation and its welfare. He said it's not about race. And I say, OK, show me all of the inexperienced white liberals you have endorsed, if it's not about race.


COOPER: David, do you believe it was about race?


And I also believe that, when a white person endorses a white candidate, we don't say, that's racial.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: I don't know why should then raise it about a black endorsing a black.

MADISON: Oh, thank you, David. Thank you.

GERGEN: Isn't there a double standard there?

MADISON: You know, David is such -- you know, I talked about this on my radio show. Who -- who died and made Rush Limbaugh the authority on black people?

You couldn't have two more establishment type of black folk in America than Colin Powell and Barack Obama. But I got to tell you, what McCain has going for him is this kind of talk radio. And don't underestimate it.

BORGER: But -- And if it was just about him being black, why wouldn't Colin Powell have done it weeks ago? Why would he have done it now? And he -- you know, his -- his endorsement was an indictment of McCain's campaign and where the Republican Party is right now. COOPER: Well, Gloria, were you surprised to hear McCain's campaign...

GERGEN: Yes, Anderson...

COOPER: Oh, sorry. David, go ahead.

GERGEN: I was going to say, I think, in fairness, we should point out that John McCain does have the endorsements of four other secretaries of state...


GERGEN: ... and dozens upon dozens of admirals and generals. And I think he's got a point there that shouldn't be lost in the discussion.

Just to add to that, though, Peter Hart, one of the country's best pollsters believe that, if you look at the undecideds now in the race, they tend to look a little bit more like Obama voters than McCain voters. And a Colin Powell endorsement is just going to help in bringing them in.

COOPER: Well, the -- the other wild card now that seems to be added, McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, said that they're rethinking whether or not the Reverend Wright issue should be fair game.

I want to play what he said on, I think, it was Hugh Hewitt's radio show.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I must say, when Congressman Lewis calls John McCain and Sarah Palin and his entire group of supporters, fifty million people strong around this country, that we're all racists, and we should be compared to George Wallace and the kind of horrible segregation and evil, you know, and horrible politics that was played at that time, you know that you have got to rethink all these things.


COOPER: David, would it be a mistake now for the McCain campaign to bring up Reverend Wright, especially after John McCain said he wouldn't?

GERGEN: Well, the McCain people will say, look, you people in the liberal media elite, as they call us, are not holding Barack Obama to his promise about not taking private funding and breaking out of public funding. Why should you hold us to our promise about not bringing Reverend Wright up?

So, I think, on that basis, they are going to have an argument. But I have to tell you, from a public -- larger public point of view, I think it's going to be seen as just one more desperate effort... BORGER: Yes.

GERGEN: ... to say -- to do whatever it takes to try to bring this over. And I don't think that's helping John McCain. I think John McCain ought to be about big ideas about the future, and not about this kind of stuff.

MADISON: Reverend Wright didn't cause foreclosures. Reverend Wright didn't cause Wall Street.

So, bring it up if you want to. It's not going to make a difference.

BORGER: It's an argument that has already been litigated in the primaries.

COOPER: We are going to leave it there.

Gloria Borger, Joe Madison, David Gergen, thank you.

Still ahead: the Palin factor. Her die-hard fans treat her like a rock star, but is she also dividing her party? Some prominent conservatives are speaking out tonight.

Palin was back on the trail today, after showing up on "Saturday Night Live" and even briefly sharing the stage with Tina Fey. We will show you how she did, and what impact, if any, good or bad, it may have.

And a big bounce for the Dow, closed above 9,000 today. What was behind the rally?

And whose name are we adding to the 10 most-wanted list tonight? Find out ahead.


COOPER: Breaking news: We are watching Asian and Pacific markets, which closed higher across the board today. Tonight, Japan's Nikkei has already gained about 3 percent in early trading, immediately following a major rally today on Wall Street.

We will have more on the troubled economy and who is to blame for it when we add another name tonight to our 10 most-wanted list, the culprits of the collapse. That's coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, another arrest in the case of a kidnapped 6-year-old in Nevada. Police picked up a boyfriend of the girl's grandfather, who is facing a material witness charge. Investigators are looking into whether the grandfather stole millions of dollars from a Mexico drug cartel. The boy, Cole Puffinburger, was found alive on Saturday.

The jury in the corruption trial of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is expected to begin deliberations tomorrow. Prosecutors wrapped up their case today, asking Stevens about gifts he received and whether he reported them, as required.

And a rally on Wall Street today helping the markets to recapture some $500 billion in value. The Dow added 411 points, to close at 9265. Both the Nasdaq and the support also posting substantial gains -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erica, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo: Senator Obama holding a pair of Mickey Mouse ears with his name embroidered on them on his way to a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, today.

Here's the caption from Cate on our staff: "I will wear these the next time my opponent brings up earmarks."

COOPER: Hey, I like that one.

HILL: Ka-ching.

COOPER: That was good.

HILL: Very clever.

COOPER: Think you can do better, go to Click on the "Beat 360" link. Send us your entree, or your entry, and we will announce the winner at the program. The winner, of course, get the "Beats 360" T-shirt.

So, still to come, our 10 most-wanted culprits of the class. Find out whose name we're adding tonight. Here's a hint. This guy's company was one of the ones that triggered the Wall Street meltdown.

And, later, up close: Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live," millions watched, but did it help or hurt her among undecided voters?

And with little more than two weeks to go, the McCain campaign says it may move Reverend Wright from off-limits to in play. So, what changed? And how would they use Wright? We're digging deeper.



AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS (singing): All the mavericks in the house, put your hands up. All the mavericks in the house, put your hands up. All the plumbers in the house, pull your pants up. All the plumbers in the house, pull your pants up.

When I say Obama, you say Ayers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing): Ayers!

POEHLER: Obama. UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing): Ayers!

POEHLER (singing): I built me a bridge. It ain't going nowhere.


POEHLER (singing): Oh!



COOPER: All right, Amy Poehler is a genius.

Sarah Palin popped up on "Saturday Night Live" sitting at the weekend update desk. The governor rocked out as cast members lampooned her and her husband, Todd, with a rap parity. And there's the moose.

Her cameo was a hit for the show, but what about for the McCain/Palin campaign? Is it possible her comedic turn helped or even hurt the GOPs' chances, especially among undecided voters?

Erica Hill takes a look, up close.


HILL (voice-over): The most anticipated lineup of the season, Sarah Palin...


TINA FEY, ACTRESS: The real one?



HILL: ... and Sarah Palin.




HILL: The real one taking over for Tina Fey at the fake news conference.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm not going to take any of your questions.


PALIN: But I do want to take this opportunity to say, live from New York, it's Saturday night!



HILL: And what a night it was, from jokes about Palin's appearance...


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: You can't let Tina go out there with that woman.


BALDWIN: She goes against everything we stand for. I mean, good lord, Lorne.


BALDWIN: They call her -- what's that name they call her? Cari -- Cari -- what do they call her again, Tina?

FEY: That would be caribou Barbie.

BALDWIN: Caribou Barbie. Thank you, Tina.


HILL: ... to her hunting...



POEHLER (singing): Now you're dead. Now you're dead, because I'm an animal, and I'm bigger than you.


HILL: ... even Joe the plumber.


POEHLER (singing): All the mavericks in the house, put your hands up. All the plumbers in the house, pull your pants up. All the...


HILL: They sketches didn't hold back, poking fun at her lack of interaction with the media.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No recording devices, and don't write anything down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is a press conference.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. All right. All right. It was worth a shot.


HILL: And nailing her stump speech.


POEHLER (singing): When I say Obama, you say Ayers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing): Ayers!

POEHLER (singing): Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing): Ayers!

POEHLER (singing): I built me a bridge. It ain't going nowhere.


POEHLER (singing): Oh!


ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Humor is a powerful political weapon. When we can laugh at something together, it means we see the world the same way. It means we're one. So, it's a little bit of a team-builder.

HILL: Palin's appearance helped "SNL" pulled its highest ratings in 14 years, numbers the GOP wouldn't mind seeing.

So, was the move as good for Palin as it was for the show? That depends on your politics.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Politically, it -- it didn't make a lot of sense. There are serious issues as to whether or not she's qualified enough or knowledgeable enough to be vice president of the United States. It did -- this did absolutely nothing to advance that.

CASTELLANOS: If she can let people know that she can laugh at herself, become a little more human, maybe they will stop looking so much at the caricature, and look at the candidate and the message: Change Washington.

So, I think she helped herself.

HILL: Whether she will see that help on November 4 remains to be seen. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, for her part, on Sunday, Sarah Palin said she would love to come back to "SNL." She said, it was fun, that everybody at "Saturday Night Live" was welcoming and friendly.

And, Anderson, she went on to stress the importance of having a sense of humor in politics.

COOPER: Interesting. In your piece, of course, Republicans are saying, oh, yes, it was good idea -- Democrat James Carville saying, no, not such a good idea.

HILL: Right.

COOPER: Not really a surprise, I guess, there.

She and Tina Fey, did they actually interact at any point? Do we know?

HILL: Not really. I mean, as you say there, they just sort of passed one another, although we are told that backstage they -- they actually hugged. James Carville, by the way, told me earlier. He said, "Look, I really wanted to say something nice. It was funny, but it just didn't work."

COOPER: Erica Hill, thanks. Up close.

We continue to investigate whether -- well, who's responsible, I should say, for the financial fiasco that we're all suffering from. Tonight, a new name added to our Ten Most Wanted List. Here's a hint: this Wall Street honcho left his company in ruins and managed to walk away with millions of dollars. Find out who he is in a moment.

But first, the GOP defectors, those who are saying Palin is a bad choice for VP, how they're -- how they're making an impact on the battle for the White House. We have the "Raw Politics" on that ahead.



GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You have to really listen to Barack Obama's words. You have to hear what he is saying when he talks about his economic plan. And it is not mean- spirited; it is not negative campaigning when you call someone out on their record and on their plans and on their associations.


COOPER: That's Governor Palin holding a rally tonight just a short time ago in Colorado, another key battleground state.

In an interview with FOX News yesterday, John McCain said choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate was the best thing that could have happened to his campaign. Not everyone agrees, especially within her own party. As we've been reporting, well-known conservative commentators have been sharply critical of McCain's pick increasingly. Some of their opinions have been downright brutal.

Others believe Palin is the best choice for McCain as well as the future face for the GOP.

CNN's Ed Henry has all the "Raw Politics."


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the final days out here in battleground states like Colorado, Sarah Palin is treated like a rock star, still drawing much bigger crowds than John McCain.

PALIN: Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth. Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic. Joe the plumber said it sounded to him like socialism. And now is not the time to experiment with that.

HENRY: She's ripping into Barack Obama, and the party faithful is digging her feistiness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she's different. She's not the bureaucracy that we've been putting up with and putting up with and putting up with for so long in Washington. She's change.

HENRY: It's one of the great unknowns about the final two weeks. Can the Palin factor drive enough conservatives to the polls to offset Obama's gains with independent voters?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It may well be there is a -- there are a group of people out there that will find it politically incorrect to be for Sarah Palin in public, but they're going to vote for her in the privacy of the voting booth.

HENRY: Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, is hardly alone among establishment Republicans, however, in believing Palin actually hurts the Republican ticket.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which this is job of the vice president.

HENRY: Conservative "New York Times" columnist David Brooks has called Palin a cancer on the Republican Party, while former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote in the "Wall Street Journal," "There is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for and expects in a holder of high office."

But there may be a disconnect between elite Republicans and the party faithful.

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think Sarah Palin is still very popular among the conservative base. There are other conservatives, the conservative intelligentsia, who have peeled off and think that maybe it was a mistake. HENRY: More so than McCain, she has built a fervent following that may show up on election day for the Republican ticket.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, GOP STRATEGIST, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don't underestimate the Palin voter. They're still out there. They're still intense, a lot of those voters.

PALIN: Live from New York, it's "Saturday Night"!

HENRY: And her solid performance on "Saturday Night Live" suggests that, regardless of what happens on election day, Palin could be a winner. If McCain pulls out a comeback victory, she'll get plenty of credit. If he loses, she could be the heir apparent in 2012.

(on camera) If McCain falls and Republicans loses more ground in Congress, there will be a lot of soul searching. Palin could emerge as the woman who save John McCain and now represents the future of the Republican Party.

Ed Henry, CNN, Grand Junction, Colorado.


COOPER: A lot more politics ahead. Reverend Wright nearly derailed Barack Obama's presidential aspirations back in the primaries. John McCain vowed not to make it an issue. Has the McCain changed its mind? Or are they about to? His campaign manager seems to indicate they're thinking about it. We're digging deeper.

And a different leap of faith. A bridge, a chute and gravity, that's all you need. Take a look. It's called base jumping. Yikes. That's our "Shot of the Day," ahead on 360.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We're seeing it again. Ugly phone calls, misleading ads, misleading TV ads, careless outrageous comments, all aimed at keeping us from working together, all aimed at stopping change. It's getting so bad that even Senator McCain's running mate denounced his tactics last night. You know, you really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.


COOPER: Senator Obama in Tampa today, taking a swipe at Senator McCain and Governor Palin. As we told you, some prominent conservatives have been slamming her. The "New York Times'" David Brooks says she represents a fatal cancer to the Republican Party.

The question is, is she a burden to McCain or the GOP's best bet to save the White House? We're digging deeper tonight. Joining me now, David Brody, a CNN contributor and senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He just interviewed Palin this weekend. Also with us, Bay Buchanan, Republican strategist, former senior adviser to Mitt Romney; and CNN contributor and Republican strategist, Ed Rollins.

Bay, as we just heard, a couple of conservatives are speaking out against Palin. Peggy Noonan wrote a really brutal piece against her. Why are people in your own party criticizing her?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, we've got Lieberman supporting McCain, and nobody is questioning that. He's an old friend. People do things for different reasons.

I do one thing, that politics, you find out who your friends are. When things were going well, I remember Peggy was speaking very highly, if I remember correctly, wrote very highly about Palin. Things are going a little rough. And some of the intellectuals, the elites, they move. They move pretty quickly, as they...

COOPER: So you say this is a division between a handful of sort of intellectual elite and the base?

BUCHANAN: A handful. It is not significant. If you look, the one thing that everyone has to agree, Sarah Palin has pulled the Republican Party together. It has been incredible overnight support. And they have not faltered. They are still with us. And Sarah has higher numbers for a very strong positive than John McCain. She is the key to this party.

COOPER: Ed, is it as simple as that? Is it just a few, you know, pampered intellectuals moving away?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there's a lot of second-guessing of this whole campaign. But I think she's been an extraordinary part of this, a good part.

Since the convention, it's been -- there's been two dominant weeks, and she dominated both of those weeks. I mean, I think she's been a far more effective candidate than John has. She's drawing bigger crowds. She has energized our base.

And this is -- people basically have connected with her. And it's not an intellectual connection. It's an emotional connection, and that's very important. And she is going to be a very significant part of this party when this thing is through, and John McCain may not be.

COOPER: David, there's no doubt that Palin is credited with energizing the Christian conservative base. You just spoke to her about some shots she's been taking about faith and about religion. It's going to run tomorrow on "The 700 Club." Let's play a clip.


PALIN: I think the saddest part of that is that faith, not just my faith, but faith in God in general has been mocked through this campaign. And that breaks my heart. And that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit.

And my faith has always been pretty personal. I haven't really worn it on my sleeve. I haven't been out there preaching it.


COOPER: Who's she talking who's been mocking faith? I mean, it seems like faith has actually played a pretty significant role on all sides in this campaign.

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Well, sure. I think she's talking about, Anderson, there are these -- some of these newspaper editorials where they take shots at her Pentecostal faith. You'll see some -- if you search around on the Internet and you'll see a lot about her speaking in tongues and gifts of the Holy Spirit and, you know, kind of mocking her where the liberal blogosphere, obviously, has taken shots.

And "Saturday Night Live" has made some references to it, as well. So, you know, I think that's a big part of it with Sarah Palin.

But you know, she goes ahead and really knocks the media for this. Because look, I mean, it plays well on the conservative base. But beyond it being a talking point, Anderson, they really believe that the media, if you talk to conservatives all across this country, you know, that there is this media filter, and that this antagonism, if you will, towards people of faith has been out there for quite some time.

COOPER: The Colin Powell endorsement, how serious, how important is it?

ROLLINS: It's a two- or three-day story. I mean, obviously, he's an important individual. He's very important in the Reagan and the Bush administrations. He's a significant person. But I don't think people are going to vote because of that.

And I think at the end of the day, I think it was a personal choice. I think what he should have done is called his friend, John McCain, and say, you know, "Tomorrow I will go on 'Meet the Press' and endorse somebody else," which he didn't do. But I think at the end of the day, it's not -- people are going to vote for McCain or they're going to vote for Obama.

COOPER: Bay, how do you see the next two weeks, two weeks and a day playing out? Some national polls indicate a slight tightening of the race. This new CNN poll of polls shows a drop in the number of people that think that McCain would mostly carry out Bush's policy. Do you see reason for hope here?

BUCHANAN: I do. Now I'm the eternal optimist, I might add. But I definitely do. You know, it's coming out to be very tough.

I think there's two things he's got to do. One is, he's to make sure the American people get a better feeling of who this guy, Barack Obama, is. And he's going to have to do that with the Wrights and the....

COOPER: So you said they should bring up Reverend Wright?

BUCHANAN: Absolutely. You have to take -- a two-step process. Obama is ahead. You've got to have people move away from Obama, make them hesitate, get them in undecided and then give them reason to come home. If you don't do that, you talk nice, all positive, he will lose this race.

COOPER: You just were talking about Sarah Palin talking about people making fun of religion. Is there concern that they bring up Reverend Wright, is that's attacking Obama's religion?

BRODY: I don't think there's any question about that. There are a lot of dangers down this road, Anderson. There are a couple of things.

One, the McCain campaign may be looking like flip-floppers here, obviously. Obviously, there's negative campaigning involved in Jeremiah Wright.

But here's the big thing, Anderson. If they go with Jeremiah Wright, they might be -- need to be careful with the tone at these rallies. If we thought that the Bill Ayers situation was bad, wait until Jeremiah Wright talk hits these rallies. There could be a whole different complexion at that point, and that's a danger zone, big time, for the McCain camp.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, what about it?

ROLLINS: I seldom disagree with my good friend, Bay. We're long time friends. In this particular case, I think Reverend Wright was a legitimate issue earlier. I think right now it's about the economy. I think we're making some progress on that, on the tax issue and the big spenders. I think we ought to stick to that issue, not distract. It's been a very tactical campaign, and every time we change our tactics, we change our tactics, we look like we're not...

COOPER: Bay, you're basically saying, though, it's got to be kitchen sink. It's got to be everything.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think it's two messages. One is define Barack Obama as who he is, which includes the right (ph) to Ayers, the kind of -- who his associations are, the inability to wear the flag without some kind of explanation. And so you undermine people's trust in him.

And then I do agree with Ed entirely. You've got to come off with the next thing, is in order to bring him over, is that the guy is a socialist. And let me tell you what I'm going to do. There's no taxes on my side, and -- and this guy is spending too much. That kind of thing hit the economy very, very hard, to make them feel comfortable that this is not George Bush. This is a different person, a real maverick, somebody who will stand up and fight for us. I think it has to be both things, though.

COOPER: Bay Buchanan, Ed Rollins, Dave Brody. Thanks very much. Up next, we name another person to our "Ten Most Wanted List, Culprits of the Collapse." Wait until you find out what some say this guy did while his company collapsed.

And breaking news on the campaign trail: Barack Obama taking some time off to visit his ailing grandmother, canceling some events. We'll tell you exactly what's going on when 360 continues.


COOPER: Take a look at our "Ten Most Wanted List, Culprits of the Collapse." We're adding an eighth name to those who helped create the crisis, the corporate and governmental big shots who helped get us into this mess, few of whom are taking any responsibility. As soon as you hear them take responsibility, let us know, because we'll put them on the air. We think that is wrong.

Tonight, we add James Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns, who critics say was playing games, literally, when his company went down in flames. 360's Gary Tuchman is "Keeping Them Honest."


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) nearly a billion dollars when Bear Stearns collapsed. But shareholders and employees who lost their jobs aren't exactly shedding tears for the former CEO, James Cayne, because he's still said to be worth about $600 million.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, DIRECTOR OF EQUITY RESEARCH, FUSION 10: The smart ones take some of their holdings and diversify into bonds, into other assets so even if the plane goes down, they have their parachute.

TUCHMAN: And did Bear Stearns' plane go down. A stock that traded just months before for higher than $134 a share was dealt to JPMorgan Chase at a fire sale for $10 a share.

RITHOLTZ: If the CEO of the company doesn't know that they're about to drive off the cliff and blow up, then who else would have?

TUCHMAN: Blaming James Cayne for the demise of a firm that didn't lay off a single employee during the Great Depression comes from many quarters. Ace Greenberg, the former CEO of Bear Stearns, who was succeeded by Cayne, told the "New York Times," "He was a one- man show. He didn't listen to anybody."

Financial analysts deplored the firm's mentality.

ERIC HALPERIN, CENTER FOR RESPONSIBLE LENDING: Bear Stearns was one of the Wall Street firms that was really at the center of abusive subprime lending.

TUCHMAN: Even the presidential candidates who differ on so much had some similar views on this.

OBAMA: CEOs got greedy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Something is seriously wrong when the American people are left to bear the consequences of reckless corporate conduct, while Mr. Cayne of Bear Stearns and Mr. Mozilo of Countrywide and others are packed off with another $40 or $50 million for the road.

TUCHMAN: Many critics said Cayne was often playing bridge or golf and seemed to be somewhat out of touch as Bear Stearns' hedge funds collapsed and chaos ensued.

RITHOLTZ: Watching the Bear Stearns debacle unfold, one certainly gets the sense that Cayne was less involved than he should have been in the final months, and that really goes a long way to explain why so many of the employees are so unhappy.

TUCHMAN: We called James Cayne as his home today. The woman who answered said he could not come to the phone.

Cayne has strongly defended his record. Five months before the collapse, he wrote a memo to employees, insisting that he was intensely focused on the job. Regarding news media criticism of him, he declared, "Don't be distracted by the noise. I am certainly not." And he signed it "Jimmy."

After the collapse, he told "Fortune" magazine a conspiracy of unnamed financial sharks was responsible, and he hoped authorities would nail the guys who did it.

But he was the boss, and the failure of his legendary firm has led to massive heartache, earning James Cayne a place in our list of "Culprits of the Collapse."

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Let's make it official. James Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns, now joins our "Ten Most Wanted Culprits of the Collapse." We began with Joe Cassano from AIG, followed by Richard Fuld from Lehman Brothers; Chris Cox from the SEC; Senator Phil Gramm of Texas; former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan; Ian McCarthy, CEO and president of Beazer Homes USA; and Angelo Mozilo, the founder of Countrywide Financial.

Up next, "The Shot of the Day." Look out below. It's base jumpers on the move. Yikes. A lot more fun to watch than actually doing, I think. Unless you're, I guess, one of them.

And at the top of the hour -- yikes -- breaking news, why Barack Obama has to take a break from campaigning and head to Hawaii.


COOPER: Time now for our "Beat 360" winner. Erica says it's too cold in here. It's our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one that we could come up with for a picture that we post in our blog every day.

Tonight's picture: Obama holding a pair of Mickey Mouse ears with his name embroidered on them on his way to a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida. Kate, our staff winner. Her caption: "I'll wear these the next time my opponent brings up earmarks."


COOPER: Our viewer winner is Ryan from Los Angeles. His caption: "I'm done Mickey Mousing around in the Senate. I'm ready to be the president."


COOPER: Hey, Ryan...

HILL: There you go. Those ears would look really nice with a "Beat 360" T-shirt.

COOPER: Exactly. And you shall have them. Your "Beat 360" T- shirt is on the way. Check out all the entries on the blog. Play along tomorrow at

Time now for "The Shot." And Erica, I don't think you want to try this on a bridge near your home or anywhere else, frankly.

HILL: No. I would never be caught doing that.

COOPER: These are base jumpers at the West Virginia Bridge Jumpers Bridge Bay Festival.

HILL: Whoa.

COOPER: It's a leap equal to an 85-story building. It is the 29th anniversary of the New River George event.

HILL: I could never. I am such a wuss.

COOPER: Freaks me out. All right.

HILL: I'm glad they're all OK.

COOPER: You can see all the most recent "Shots" at our Web site, Did we mention our Web site?

HILL: You can do it all there at

COOPER: Yes, you can. Please, let's move on. That's the address,

And just ahead at the top of the hour, the latest on tonight's breaking story, Barack Obama changing plans. He's taking a break from campaigning to visit his sick grandmother in Hawaii. What it might mean for the presidential race.

Also ahead, tough talk about taxes. McCain dialing up his attacks on Obama's tax plan, and Sarah Palin raising the "S" word, socialism. Will it stick? We'll be right back.


COOPER: We begin with breaking news from the campaign trail. Just a short time ago, Barack Obama's campaign said the senator will take a short break starting Thursday afternoon to visit his 85-year- old grandmother, who's seriously ill.

Madeleine Dunham lives in Hawaii and helped raise Obama. Michelle Obama will fill in for her husband in his scheduled campaign events in Ohio on Friday. And Senator Obama expects to return to campaigning on Saturday.

Obama's family emergency comes at a critical time in the race, just as the final sprint has begun, just two weeks and a day go.

CNN's Candy Crowley joins me now for the breaking news.

Candy, was this a tough decision for the Obama campaign?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think on a personal level it was at all, Anderson. I don't know if you recall, but in his convention speech, Obama talked about his grandmother, talked about how she sacrificed, not buying a new car, not buying a new dress, to give him the things that she needed. He said, "Listen, this night belongs as much to her as much as to him."

So personally, certainly, it was something he felt he needed to do as her condition deteriorates.