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Obama and Clinton Joint Appearance in Florida; McCain's "Socialism" Charge; North Carolina and Florida Key

Aired October 20, 2008 - 17:00   ET


TATTON: That's an ad from a group called I talked to them today. They won't reveal their ad buys in California, But they say for the next two weeks they're going to be going head-to- head still with their opponents -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Abbi.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening right now, a presidential race that may be growing a little bit tighter right now. It has the candidates focusing in on the battleground states. We're standing by to hear from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They're on stage together in Florida. We'll go there live.

Is "Saturday Night Live's" fake Sarah Palin hurting the Republican running mate's chances?

Could the hit appearance of the real Sarah Palin turn things around?

We'll talk about that and more with Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. They're standing by live, as well.

And in battleground Virginia, a huge turnout is expected -- why some fear that could create some huge problems on election day.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


And in this presidential race that may be growing tighter, those toss-up states are taking on added importance right now. We have reporters standing by in key battleground states across the country. Voters are already casting ballots in Florida and that's the focus today for Barack Obama.

Let's go straight to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

She's in Orlando, getting ready for a rally down there.

Set the scene, first of all -- Candy.

What's about to happen where you are? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're about to see both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama up here on this stage. It happens in the early evening. A hugely important day as far as the Obama campaign is concerned. And it's one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton will be here with Barack Obama, because it is the first day of early voting. And they're depending heavily on that early vote to get it out. So they've brought in Hillary Clinton -- of course, one of their powerhouse surrogates.

This is now a state that has a slight edge for Barack Obama.

John McCain used to be on top of the polls and then the economy imploded. So this is a message that Barack Obama is bringing here to Florida. It is all economy all the time and he's channeling Ronald Reagan.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: Wages are lower than they've been in a decade, at a time when the cost of health care and college have never been higher. It's getting harder and harder to make the mortgage or fill up your gas tank or even keep your electricity on at the end of the month. At this rate, the question isn't are you better off than you were four years ago, it's are you better off than you were four weeks ago?


CROWLEY: It is not lost on the Obama campaign that Florida has one of the highest mortgage foreclosure -- home foreclosure rates in the country and joblessness has gone way up in the state, as well. So they think the economy resonates really well here.

And, Wolf, it's not just Hillary Clinton. Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be here for a second day and Michelle Obama is coming. And Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, is coming here to help Obama court Hispanics in the state.

So a really full court press for two days. This shows you how very important this state is.

BLITZER: And the polls show how critically close that contest in Florida is right now.

Candy, we're going to come back to you.

Stand by down in Florida.

And just weeks after the Bush administration moved to bail out Wall Street, John McCain is pressing a new line of attack against Barack Obama -- accusing the Democrat of pursuing "socialist economic policies." And some Democrats accusing the Republicans of taking a page from a playbook of decades ago.

CNN's Jim Acosta is looking into this -- Jim? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Sarah Palin put it this way over the weekend: "Now is no time to experiment with socialism." So first it was palling around with terrorists, now, according to the McCain campaign, Barack Obama is flirting with socialism.


ACOSTA (voice-over): From the sound of it, John McCain is running against a Euro-style socialist.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He believes in redistributing the wealth. Senator Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of the pie than he is in growing the pie.

ACOSTA: Ever since Barack Obama defended his tax plan to plumber Joe Wurzelbacher...

OBAMA: I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody. But, listen...

ACOSTA: And "Joe the Plumber's" comeback...

JOE WURZELBACHER: I mean that's a very socialist view.

ACOSTA: ...the McCain campaign has accused the decrease nominee of harboring a socialist agenda that would expand the welfare state. From a Sarah Palin rally in New Mexico...

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "Joe the Plumber" and "Ed the Dairyman" -- I believe that they think it sounds more like socialism.


PALIN: Now is no time to experiment with socialism.

ACOSTA: To a Republican rally in Florida, where Senator Mel Martinez likened Obama's economic plan to that of Castro's Cuba.

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: That's called socialism. That's called communism. That's not what Americanism is about.

ACOSTA: It's red meat aimed at firing up red state voters. When the Illinois senator stopped at a barbecue restaurant in North Carolina...


ACOSTA: ...he was branded a socialist by one protester. It's a label Obama says won't stick.

OBAMA: Lately, he and Governor Palin have actually accused me of socialism. It's kind of hard to figure how Warren Buffett endorsed me. Colin Powell endorses me.


OBAMA: And John McCain thinks I'm practicing socialism.

ACOSTA: Powell took issue with the charge, pointing out that taxing the rich does not equal socialism.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them in roads and airports, hospitals and schools.

ACOSTA: But political analyst Larry Sabato says there's just one big $700 billion problem for McCain.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: The fly in the ointment for this socialism argument is the recent Wall Street bailout. That's the most egregious example of socialism, probably, in all of American history.


ACOSTA: McCain and surrogates are warning voters Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans is just that -- a plan. They say with a Democratic Congress, there would be no stopping Obama from raising taxes on everybody else -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

In the last hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you heard Mitt Romney say he wouldn't call Barack Obama a socialist -- that's not a word he would use for Senator Obama.

For Senator McCain, North Carolina could certainly prove to be pivotal in these, the final days before the presidential election. With its precious electoral votes, the Republican candidate would be hard-pressed to win the White House without North Carolina.

Let's go to Charlotte.

John King is standing by -- and, John, all right, what's the situation on the ground, as far as the presidential contest is concerned?


If you talk to any McCain strategist, they have no scenario to get to 270 electoral votes without winning this state of North Carolina. And yet it is a toss-up at the moment. And that tells you about the national dynamic in this election.

This very conservative Southern state, Barack Obama has the edge if you're here looking just at the ground war and the air war at this moment. Organizers on the ground -- Obama has more of them because he has more money. Turn on your television here in North Carolina, consider these numbers. Barack Obama has outspent John McCain on television here by more than three to one -- $2.6 million in ad spending for John McCain in North Carolina; nearly $8 million -- $7.82 million spent on television by Barack Obama.

Worth noting, though, in the last week, the past seven days, they have been roughly even -- $1.2 million for Obama; $1. Million for John McCain, as the McCain campaign begins to invest more heavily in this state, because they know, Wolf, they simply cannot afford to lose it. Republicans say, in the end, they think this state will come out for them, but they do acknowledge with the African-American community, the research and the more highly educated Democrats that have supported Obama in the past, they do believe it is much more competitive than it has been in elections past. And like I said, if you ask McCain people, if they don't win here, they can't get to 270 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, give me the big picture right, now looking at the so-called red states -- the states that John McCain desperately needs to hold onto.

KING: Well, with two weeks left, Wolf, they are making the tough decisions inside the McCain camp and they are beginning to look at some states that they thought they could win, some states they even thought they had to win and beginning to think that they are drifting away.

Now, let me tell you this right off the bat, most people at the top of the McCain campaign now believe New Mexico and Iowa are gone -- that Barack Obama will win New Mexico and Iowa. They are now off the dream list of the McCain campaign.

More interestingly, most top people inside the McCain campaign now think Colorado is gone, that that is now beyond their reach. Colorado, a red state twice for George W. Bush, most likely will go Obama, they think, at the top of the McCain campaign.

So they are now finishing with a very risky strategy -- win Florida, you just talked to Candy down there. Win Nevada -- that is a state that is now critical to the McCain math, even though it's only five electoral votes.

And here is the biggest risk of all. They say, yes, they have to win North Carolina; yes, they have to win Ohio; yes, they have to win Virginia -- trailing or dead even in all of those states right now. But they are betting, Wolf, on coming back and taking the State of Pennsylvania. It has become the critical state now in the McCain electoral scenario. And they are down 10, 12 -- even 14 points in some polls there.

But they say as Colorado, Iowa and other states drift away, they think they have to take a big state -- 21 electoral votes in Pennsylvania, Wolf. Watch that state over the next few weeks.

There's still some debate within the McCain campaign over this strategy, but they have decided to pull some resources from other states and invest them heavily in a blue state, Pennsylvania, where right now they are way behind.

BLITZER: Yes. That's amazing. And Ohio, that's obviously going to be critical for them, as well.

KING: Absolutely. Absolutely, Wolf. And, again, Obama has a small lead, a modest lead in most of the polls there. That's about dead even. What they are hoping is in states where they're dead even, they believe they resort generally to their DNA on election day.

But this is the story we will keep watching over the last two weeks -- the enormous resource advantage, not only on television, on the ground.

When you travel in states like this -- I was in Ohio very recently. You go into these small communities, Republican communities where you would never see a Democratic office or Democratic canvassers knocking on doors two weeks out from election day.

Guess what?

The Obama campaign is everywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So it's amazing when you think about it, John that they now are suggesting that Colorado, which, you know, has often gone Republican in these contests, Colorado could be given up -- they could concede that, is that what you're hearing?

KING: They will not publicly say that, Wolf. Colorado was carried once by Bill Clinton back with the help of Ross Perot back in the '90s. But most people at the top of the McCain campaign are watching the polling out there. That is a state where the Latino population will likely crack 10 percent of the electorate this time. That could be a swing constituency. That has been trending against him out there.

I was out there a few weeks back and the McCain campaign said it was still fighting for Colorado, although that's when it started to swing, especially the suburban areas around Denver and Boulder. Obama has a huge lead in those communities.

They will not say so publicly and there's still some dispute within the McCain campaign, but more and more we are hearing from those at the top who will make the big decisions about where the ad money goes and where the ground money goes in these final two weeks, saying that Colorado, along with Iowa and the State of New Mexico, are slipping to where many believe are now beyond reach.

BLITZER: John King is our chief national correspondent.

John, thanks very much.

If somebody would have asked me, Colorado or Pennsylvania, where does McCain have a better chance, I would have said Colorado. But they're here. They're going to fight desperately for Pennsylvania and may be giving up on Colorado.

Stand by. We're going to continue to work this story.

And this important note to viewers -- I'll have a special one-on- one interview with the Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. He'll be my guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Wednesday. And here's what you can do, if you want. You can submit your I-Report questions at We'll try to get some of your questions to Senator McCain on Wednesday. My interview with him, 4:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Twenty years ago, Senator Joe Biden could have lost his life to an aneurysm. Today the Democrat who wants to be vice president opened up his medical file. We'll get an assessment from our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's standing by.

And he endorsed Barack Obama. Now former Secretary of State Colin Powell is dishing up some tough criticism to the other side. His dramatic statement to reporters after he endorsed Barack Obama -- we're going to share what he said to reporters after he formally endorsed Barack Obama. That exchange coming up, raw and unedited.

And Governor Sarah Palin visits "Saturday Night Live".

It was a ratings knockout, but does her stab at satire help or hurt the GOP ticket?

There she is.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: So here's another important question -- Florida, is it now the key to John McCain's presidential hopes and is Governor Charlie Crist holding that key?

Let's go to CNN's Sean Callebs.

He's down there working this battleground state for us.

What are you hearing, what are you seeing down in Florida -- Sean?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a certain degree of finger pointing, Wolf, now that John McCain is trailing Barack Obama in the polls here. We flew around the state with Governor Crist today and he told us what he believes McCain needs to do to win Florida and win the White House.


CALLEBS (voice-over): There's an overwhelming feeling among Republicans here that John McCain cannot win the White House without winning Florida.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: I imagine mathematically it's possible, but I think -- I don't want to test it. I want to make sure that Senator McCain and Governor Palin win Florida. CALLEBS: Even though Florida Governor Charlie Crist is campaigning hard at the eleventh hour, he's been criticized for alleged tepid support and not doing more to help McCain -- allegations Crist says just aren't true.

CRIST: I have committed to do everything I can to help him win, because I think it's that important to our country and because he's my friend.

CALLEBS: McCain had a lead here all summer. But when the economy soured, his numbers turned south.

So what does McCain need to do here to win?

Long time Florida pollster Jim Kane says usual hot button issues, like national defense, the war and education, aren't even on the radar right now.

JIM KANE, "THE FLORIDA VOTER": Well, there's only one way to go. I mean he has to come up with a plan that's understandable, not complex, about how to solve the everyday problems of voters economically.

CALLEBS: A tough order -- tackle foreclosures, keep money flowing into the stock market and saving jobs. Al Cardenas has been instrumental in assisting presidential campaigns in Florida for nearly 30 years. He's watched Barack Obama amass a staff of about 450 in Florida, compared to about 100 for McCain. And Obama has outspent McCain in TV advertising by a three to one margin.

AL CARDENAS: And it's the first time in recent memory that Republicans in Florida have had less resources than Democrats. And, frankly, it doesn't feel good. We've been spoiled by always having a resources advantage.

CALLEBS: So can McCain come back?

KANE: History is not kind to people who are this far behind this late in the game. He's running out of asphalt on this highway.


CALLEBS: And GOP leaders tell me there are three must haves that McCain needs to win this state. He needs to win the conservative upstate by a significant margin, carry the I-4 Corridor from Tampa, Orlando, onto Daytona Beach. And Wolf, in their words, they need to limit the damage in the heavily Democratic south part of the state, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sean Callebs in Melbourne, Florida for us.

Thank you, Sean.

After formally publicly endorsing Barack Obama for president on a television show yesterday, the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, met with reporters. And he minced no words in criticizing what he called "the negative tone that John McCain's campaign has taken on in recent weeks." He called some of those attacks on Senator Obama simply nonsense.

Listen to this exchange.


POWELL: We have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with our allies.

And so those are the problems the American people wanted to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who is a Muslim and who's not a Muslim. Those kinds of images going out on Al Jazeera are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are, if you're an American, you're an American.

And this business of, for example, a Congressman from Minnesota, who's going around saying let's examine all Congressmen to see who is pro-American or not pro-America, we have got to stop this kind of nonsense, pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity.

And so that really was me. And to focus on people like Mr. Ayers and these trivial issues for the purpose of suggesting that somehow Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations, I thought that was over the top. It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth. I think it went beyond. And then to sort of throw in this little Muslim connection -- you know, he's a Muslim and, my goodness, he's a terrorist. And it was -- it was taking root. And we can't judge our people and we can't hold our elections on that kind of basis.

And, so, yes, that kind of negativity troubled me and the constant shifting of the argument. I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when, in the middle of the crisis, the campaign said we're going to go negative. And they announced it -- we're going to go negative and attack his character through Bill Ayers.

And now I guess the message this week is we're going to call him a socialist. Mr. Obama is now a socialist because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have.

Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them in roads and airports, hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying less.

And for us to say that that makes you a socialist, I think is an unfortunate -- an unfortunate characterization that isn't accurate.

And -- I don't want my taxes raised. I don't want anybody else's taxes raised. But I also want to see our infrastructure fixed. I don't want to have a $12 trillion national debt. And I don't want to see an annual deficit that's over $500 billion heading toward a trillion.

So how do we deal with all of this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still a Republican?



BLITZER: The former secretary of state, Colin Powell, shortly after he formally endorsed Barack Obama.

Fifteen days until the election and the candidates are stepping it up. We're standing by to hear shortly from Hillary Clinton, from Barack Obama and from John McCain. They're all by live.

Is "Saturday Night Live's" fake Sarah Palin hurting the Republican's chances?

Could the hit appearance of the real Sarah Palin turn things around?

We're going to talk about that and more with Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Zain Verjee is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what's going on?

VERJEE: Wolf, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has thrown his support behind a second economic stimulus package. He told lawmakers that with the economy likely to be weak for several quarters, Congress should look at passing a new fiscal package -- one that includes measures to help improve access to credit. Earlier this year, taxpayers received rebate checks of $600 to $1,200.

NASA has pulled Atlantis off the launch pad. The shuttle is being sent back to the hangar to await a trip to the Hubble space telescope that's now scheduled for next year. Atlantis was scheduled to blast off this month to upgrade the telescope, but Hubble unexpectedly broke down, forcing NASA to delay the mission while the astronauts now train for the new repairs.

And just take a look at this video -- some pretty dramatic footage of this collision between two fire trucks that's surfaced on the Internet. The fire trucks really slammed into each other in North St. Louis about a week ago. That accident was captured by a red light camera and someone just went ahead and posted it on YouTube.

It's pretty unbelievable, Wolf, but of the eight firefighters involved in that ugly crash, only two of them survived minor injuries. There's an investigation into the cause of this crash -- Wolf.



BLITZER: Thank God.


BLITZER: It could have been so much worse.


BLITZER: Amazing pictures, Zain.

Stand by.

We're going to get back to you shortly.

So how negative is too negative?

Take a listen to this.


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


BLITZER: The comment from Governor Palin and what our analysts think about this back and forth. James Carville and Alex Castellanos are coming up next.

Plus, Joe Biden's medical records released today and our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been reviewing them.

And we're waiting for Barack Obama to take the stage with -- with Hillary Clinton. This would be for the first time in months they're together. They just talked on the campaign plane. They're heading for a rally site. Stand by. We've got news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his former rival, Senator Hillary Clinton -- they're together again. We're standing by to hear from both of them in Orlando at a rally. Stand by for that.

Also, Republican candidate John McCain -- he's in Missouri. We're going to be hearing from him live, as well.

Lots coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Voter turnout for the elections could be heavy and more people at the polls could pose special problems. We're going to hash out whether the system can take it.

And live from New York, the candidate and the comedienne -- Sarah Palin and Tina Fey -- they're together on "Saturday Night Live." We'll assess the impact.

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

In CNN's battleground coverage, a big turnout is expected on Election Day in the critically important state of Virginia and in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Prince William County, that could potentially be some big trouble. CNN's Dan Lothian is joining from us Woodbridge in Virginia outside the nation's capital.

Dan, a big voter turnout is supposed to be a good thing.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It is supposed to be a good thing but it does present some challenges. We are in a swing county in a key battleground state. In fact, Senator John McCain was here just around the corner from where I'm standing over the weekend. Both the campaigns have been pushing very hard in their get out to vote efforts. The big question is how will the county be able to handle it all.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The machines are ready. The poll workers are lined up but Prince William County is bracing for a tidal wave of voters and hoping not to get swamped an expected 90 percent estimated turnout.

(on camera): Is the infrastructure you think designed for 90 percent?

COREY STEWART, PRINCE WILLIAM CO. BOARD: No, I don't think it is. I think it's going to be difficult and we're going to see a lot of lines.

LOTHIAN: Board of supervisors' chairman Corey Stewart says in 2006 when the keep the county had a 60 percent turnout, it wasn't pretty.

STEWART: It was a tough year. We weren't ready for it clearly. The lines were in some cases several hours long.

LOTHIAN: He says there weren't enough polling places and there were problems with new touch screen machines. County registrar Betty Weimer working hard to insure history doesn't repeat itself. For starters, she's recruited more poll workers.

BETTY WEIMER, REGISTRAR, PRINCE WILLIAM CO.: In most general election we run around 600 to 700 officers. Right now we have assigned 1100 people to work. LOTHIAN: To help cut down on crowds, extra days have been added for absentee in person voting. For example in 2004, Saturday voting only took place on the two weekends before Election Day. But Saturday voting has been happening already this month. They've also added Tuesday evenings, convenient for voters.

STEWART: Vote early if possible and if not, be prepared for fairly long lines.

WEIMER: We've asked them to please bring their patience and wear comfortable shoes on Election Day.

LOTHIAN: Testing the limits of this county's ability to deal with voters who are energized and who know how critical their vote will be in this battleground state.

(on camera): Will you be happy when this is all over?



LOTHIAN: Wolf, just to give you a sense how the vote is going is, the registrar told me that in 2004, they had just a little bit more than 10,000 absentee voters and she said they've far exceed that number and still two weeks to go -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Dan, thank you.

In the last presidential election, just under 59 percent of the voting age population cast ballots. That's the highest percentage, by the way, since 1968. Twenty-four states recorded voter turnouts higher than the national average led by Minnesota at more than 76 percent. That was followed by Oregon, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota. Arizona, by the way, had the lowest turnout in the nation at just over 42 percent.

So with big crowds likely to turn out in Virginia and elsewhere, what's going to happen on Election Day? Will it be a big headache? Let's discuss this and more with our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican consult, Alex Castellanos. They're both part of the best political team on television. It goes without saying.

You used to live in Virginia until a few months ago. How worried are you that this huge voter turnout especially in the D.C. suburbs in northern Virginia could pose some significant problems?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's possible. You have the system is going to be vested. There's going to be a big turnout. I think people have to resign themselves to the fact they have to wait in line or they're going to have to adjust their behavior and show up very early in the morning.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's a great problem to have. I wish Republicans had it. But it's a problem for Obama because he's trying to get new voters to the polls. A lot of turnout that hasn't shown up before. Sometimes those enthusiastic boosters, they lose it waiting in line.

BLITZER: The organizational structure might not be ready to handle a huge turnout like that.

CARVILLE: My guess is they're going to have people out encouraging people to stay in line and have donuts or something like that. I wouldn't be surprised.

BLITZER: Donuts are delicious.

CASTELLANOS: And they could show up Wednesday or Thursday. No, I'm just kidding.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want to talk about what John King was reporting earlier, our chief national correspondent. Look at the electoral map. He's hearing and they're not saying this publicly that the McCain campaign may be getting ready to give up on Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa even though they're not saying so publicly so they can focus more of their energy on some of these other states including Pennsylvania. Which the Democrats have carry in recent presidential elections.

All right. James, you're one of the best strategists out there. Forget about the fact that you want Obama to be elected. Is this a smart strategy to put all your eggs in that Pennsylvania basket?

CARVILLE: They got to do something. As I said on the second debate that I basically think this election is pretty much over. But McCain is going to try right to the end and as he should, and conventional strategy is not going to do it for him. They're going to have to pull out some of these. They're not doing that well in the rocky mountain west and they're going to go to some of these industrial states and think they'll have a better time. I don't blame him.

BLITZER: He needs Florida, he needs Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is so intriguing because in most of the polls there, he's down by eight, ten, 12, maybe even 14 points.

CASTELLANOS: Things are tough all over. We can't narrow this thing down so we're just defending Arizona. McCain's problem is not a state by state problem. It's a national problem. He's got to lift the water level up in more than one state. So pulling out of a few states to concentrate on a national effort is probably a better strategy for him.

CARVILLE: Remember, just a huge money disparity. Senator Obama is able to go anywhere that he wants. He can move if he just takes resources that are meaningless to him.

BLITZER: He raised $150 million in September alone.

CASTELLANOS: That's the challenge really. Obama can concentrate on a few states and say unless you beat me here, you can't win. McCain has to change it everywhere.

CARVILLE: Obama's going to come into Georgia big.

BLITZER: You think he's going to win Georgia.

CARVILLE: I think he's going to spend a lot of money on Georgia and make McCain defend it. He's going to be everywhere. He's going to be in North Carolina and Virginia with everything he's got. I expect a lot of.

BLITZER: Because if he does really well in Georgia, that could be problems for incumbent republican Senator Saxby Chambliss who's running for re-election.

CASTELLANOS: In a lot of states you have that situation now states where McCain needs to do well to help Republican senators, Coleman in Minnesota, in North Carolina Libby Dole. So McCain's got to the fight hard.

CARVILLE: Colorado. He pulls out, that's going to demoralize. Republicans don't have a lot to be encouraged that right now.

BLITZER: You alluded to the enthusiasm factor. Let me show you some numbers. In our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll we asked registered voters, are you extremely enthusiastic about voting this year. For the Democrats, it's now 45 percent say they're extremely enthusiastic compared to 30 percent back in august. Among Republicans it's basically stayed the same. Only 24 percent now say they're extremely enthusiastic voting this year. It was 22 percent in August. You're a trained professional when it comes to these matters. That's a big number.

CASTELLANOS: That's a big number but there's another way to look at this. This election has always been about the Democrats. It's always been about Obama and James has said this before.

You know, when you're looking for change, you're looking for the guy who's not the Republican this year. There's intensity for the Democrats but there's also great intensity against them. If you were to ask that same question, how excited are you about voting against the Democrats this year, you'd get a pretty big number from the Republicans.

BLITZER: But not big enough do you think?

CASTELLANOS: Well I think the Republicans have this argument, if you vote for Barack Obama, you'd have a blank check in Washington for taxing, spending. How enthused are you about that?

BLITZER: They've only started making that argument in the last few days.

CARVILLE: It's an argument and it's an argument to be made but basically it's the argument you make when you're out of all other arguments is yes, they're going to win but before you let them win by too much, you ought to think about this. It's not a bad argument but it's the residue of what you have when nothing else works for you.

CASTELLANOS: It happens to be a true one. Americans love divided government. A car with two accelerators and no brake pedal, it's a dangerous thing right now.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by guys because we're going to continue this conversation.

We're calling it the Tina Fey effect. A lot of people are calling it that, as well. Is "Saturday Night Live's" portrayal of Sarah Palin hurting the Republican's chances? Could Palin's own appearance on "Saturday Night Live" actually turn things around?

And with only 15 days to go, the candidates are pulling out all the stops. We're awaiting live coverage of Senators McCain, Obama and Hillary Clinton. They're all coming up live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Senator John McCain. He's out there in the critically important battleground state of Missouri getting ready to respond to some comments that the Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden made controversial comments that the Republicans have been using going after the Democratic ticket.

Let's go out to Missouri and listen to Senator McCain. He's speaking in progress.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This country we believe in spreading opportunity for those who need jobs and those who create them. And that's exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States.

You know, my friends, the next president won't have time to get used to the office. We face many challenges here at home and many enemies abroad in this dangerous world. And by the way, I'll bring our troops home with victory and with honor and not in defeat. Not in defeat.

As Lindsey has just told you, he's always stealing my lines by the way. Just last night, Senator Obama guaranteed, he guaranteed, that if Senator Obama is elected, Senator Biden said we will have an international crisis to test America's new president. We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when you're economy is in crisis. And Americans are already fighting in two wars.

What's more troubling is that Senator Obama told their campaign donors that when the crisis hits, they would have to stand with him because it wouldn't be apparent that Senator Obama would have the right response. That's not surprising. Forget apparent. Senator Obama won't have the right response and we know that because we've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign. He opposed the surge strategy that's bringing us victory in Iraq and will bring us victory in Afghanistan. He said he would sit down unconditionally with the world's worst dictators. When Russia invaded Georgia, Senator Obama said the invaded country should show restraint.

We can't spend the next four years as we have spent the last eight, hoping for our luck to change at home and abroad. We have to act. We need a new direction and we have to fight for it, my friends.

BLITZER: All right. So there he is, Senator McCain. He's out there in Missouri and he's speaking, obviously, very critically of the Democratic ticket.

James Carville and Alex Castellanos are still here. You want to react to what we just heard? Let me just put it in perspective exactly what Senator Biden said that caused Senator McCain to respond the way he did. He was pointing out that there could be a testing of a new president within six months or so of a new administration. He said this, the world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year- old senator president of United States of America. Remember I said it standing here. If you don't remember anything else, I said watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the meddle of this guy. What do you think about the response from Senator McCain?

CARVILLE: I think what Senator Biden said was actually a very intelligent thing to say. I suspect a new person comes in. It's -- by the way, it's a crisis in the world every six months anyway. The only thing that would shock anybody is in the first six months if there wasn't a crisis. So I'm a little bit.

BLITZER: I guess the more controversial comments perhaps if you listen to what Senator McCain just said that Senator Biden, he went on to say and looking at the crowd, he said we're going to need you to use your influence, your influence within the community to stand with him if there is such a crisis because it's not going to be apparent initially, it's not going to be apparent that we're right. I guess that's maybe a little bit more controversial if you listen to Senator McCain.

CASTELLANOS: The old Joe Biden is back. I think he got his Democrat talking points and Republican talking points confused this morning and he spoke the truth.

One of the best arguments Republicans have had in this election is that at the most dangerous moment in world history, foreign policy and economic uncertainty, we're nominating probably electing right now it looks like one of the most inexperienced candidates we've ever had in that office. When you put that on a survey it cuts and Joe Biden raised that today, not Republicans. It's a classic Joe Biden gaffe.

BLITZER: Because they made this argument against John F. Kennedy in 1960 as well.

CARVILLE: Every time there's a change candidate, it's always the same thing. You can't change because you just have to stick what have you because that's what you're stuck with. The public is rejecting that. It's completely ludicrous.

And again, what Senator Biden said to me is I would say the same thing. Of course, a new president is going to be tested. There's a crisis in the world every six months anyway.

CASTELLANOS: The thing that gives this saliency now is that Hillary Clinton who's been working so hard for Barack Obama, James you're just saying what 60 appearances, she's the one who raised this issue earlier in the campaign, 3:00 a.m., he's not ready to answer the phone. So this has come from Democrats now.

BLITZER: You had arguably the most experienced presidential candidate back in 1992, George Herbert Walker Bush and his people made that argument against your candidate, a governor of a little small state Arkansas.

CARVILLE: A failed government of a small state has no foreign policy experience, the same argument made against Reagan, the same argument made against John Kennedy. Certainly, Abraham Lincoln was a one-term Congressman. The argument is that you're doomed to stay down the same path because you can't take a chance on something fresh and new. The public is rejecting this argument.

CASTELLANOS: If you're Barack Obama now and you've got a five or six-point or bigger lead, you don't want to hear people defend you by saying take a chance on Barack Obama. Joe Biden within that statement today brought that argument back into play.

BLITZER: Although, he did get help from Colin Powell yesterday on that specific argument.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, he did. The Powell endorsement, you know, he's the security blanket. He makes change safe and that helps Barack Obama.

CARVILLE: Again, just for the life of me what Senator Biden said to me strikes me as profoundly true and profoundly keen observation to make.

BLITZER: Whenever there's a new president, the enemies of the United States say lets test the mettle of that person.

CASTELLANOS: When have you surgery, you want the doctor to have done it before.

CARVILLE: I think they're pretty prepared for it.

BLITZER: Biden, by the way, made these comments in Seattle at a fund-raiser on Sunday. Stand by. All right.

Stand by guys. Good discussion -- James Carville, Alex Castellanos.

Together again, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a joint campaign appearance. Both of them live coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And he had a life-threatening condition two decades ago. How Senator Joe Biden's health right now? We'll bring in our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's been going over the records.

And call it the Tina Fey effect, is Saturday Night Live's portrayal of Sarah Palin hurting her chances? Could her own appearance turn things around?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: After weeks of rumors, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin finally made a guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live." But did it help or hurt the campaign? CNN's Alina Cho was at the show.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're calling it the Fey effect. There's no denying that Tina Fey's spot on portrayal of Sarah Palin is funny and widely popular, but is it good for Palin? The two look so much alike that many confuse them and when you're trying to win an election, is that really what you want? Some believe the fake Sarah Palin could be hurting the real one.


CHO (voice-over): The fake Sarah Palin.

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: I just want to say how excited I am to be in front of both the liberal elite media as well as the liberal regular media.

CHO: Tina Fey is back, but this time the real Sarah Palin is looking on. Even Alec Baldwin is confused.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: This is the most important election in history and you want her, our Tina, to go out there and stand there with that horrible woman? What do you have to say for yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Governor Palin.


BALDWIN: You are way hotter in person.

CHO: Then the moment of truth.

FEY: The real one? Bye.

PALIN: Live from New York it's Saturday night!

CHO: "Saturday Night Live" saw its best ratings in 14 years thanks to Palin's highly anticipated guest appearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Sarah Palin you all know me, vice presidential candidate of the GOP. CHO: Good for "SNL," but is it good for the governor? To a certain degree, you do influence the way people feel about candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people when they get into the voting booth, there are 100 things on their mind before what they saw on "Saturday Night Live."

CHO: Not so fast. In 1976, Chevy Chase famously played Gerald Ford, a likable guy but a bumbling buffoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Chevy Chase cost Gerald Ford the presidency.

CHO: And Chase and Ford looked nothing alike. Some believe the Fey effect, as it's called, is real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She could be worth 1 million votes or lose 1 million votes for a candidate like Sarah Palin.

CHO: A recent independent study finds Palin's favorability rating drops when viewers watch Fey's parody of her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This can't help. It portrays her as a lightweight at a time when the country doesn't need lightweights.

CHO: Fey's take? She tells TV Guide, if McCain and Palin are elected, "I'm leaving earth."

FEY: You have to be able to goof on the female politicians just as much. Sarah Palin is a tough lady. She kills things. Big -- she kills animals.

CHO: As one pundit says, politics makes for great comedy. And great tragedy, too.

PALIN: I'm Sarah Palin. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.



CHO: What you didn't see on camera is that after the show, Tina Fey and Sarah Palin actually hugged each other. And Palin, always the politician, shook hands with members of the audience on her way out. Many pundits believe that Palin's appearance on "SNL" will help her. The big question is will it help her get votes?

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: She had great moves if you saw her dancing as well, Governor Palin on "Saturday Night Live." Thanks to Alina for that excellent report.

Two weeks to go and the presidential push is on. Old rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are getting ready to take the stage together in Florida. They've just arrived. There you see them. They've just arrived in Orlando. They're walking down. We're going to go there live once they start speaking, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama together right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And you thought voting early would ease the pain of waiting on Election Day, think again. We've got news for you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: He had a life-threatening brain aneurysm 20 years ago, but how is Joe Biden's health now? The Democratic vice presidential nominee opened up his medical records for review by reporters today. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us now with more.

All right. I guess the question is what kind of shape is Senator Biden in right now, Sanjay, based on a review of these records?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sounds like he's in pretty good shape. It was 49 pages of medical records. The most significant thing that people were paying attention to was his history of brain aneurysms, two of them 20 years ago. They were pretty serious at the time. In fact, so serious that one of them ruptured, a priest came in and read him his last rights. They thought he was going to die, but he survived. He had those aneurysms treated. Sounds like he's doing pretty well.

He does have some other relatively minor medical issues. They released some specific numbers, for example, with respect to his cholesterol. You see the numbers there, 173. PSA, that's prostate specific antigen, determining someone's likelihood for developing prostate cancer. That number is normal. And he's had the colonoscopies as well starting at age 50 which besides a benign polyp really didn't show anything else. So overall he's got a good grade. The most significant thing, again, those aneurysms, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know those aneurysms you say are very, very serious. Has he had any related problems stemming from those brain aneurysms?

GUPTA: You know, he hasn't. At least nothing was reported by his medical records or the doctor who looked at his medical records.

What's interesting Wolf, when someone has an aneurysm in the brain, you think of that as a blood blister on a blood vessel and you put a clip across that. The question is could it come back? Typically what will happen is someone will get a follow-up test within a year or two afterward. We couldn't find any documentation that he ever had that done. We asked several questions about that. That remains a big question mark, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for that.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.