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Palin Sits Down for Interview; McCain Accuses Obama of Pandering Between World Series Teams; Possible Problems In The Senate

Aired October 21, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Rick. Happening now, Sarah Palin one on one in her first CNN interview. The vice presidential nominee confronts the controversy surrounding her from her remarks about patriotism to her charge that Barack Obama is pedalling socialism. That interview coming up.
Plus, John McCain is accusing Barack Obama of major league pandering. The republican is on a must win mission in Pennsylvania while Obama is trying to prove his economic know how in Florida.

And a republican nightmare that could come true. The GOP's growing fears of a blood bath in the U.S. Senate exactly two weeks from today.

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

Whether you love her or hate her or fall somewhere in between, few people would argue that Sarah Palin is a one woman political phenomena. Exactly two weeks before America votes, the republican vice presidential nominee is now settling into her role as both lightning rod and attack dog, or as she might say, pit bull. She's granted a long-awaited interview now to CNN.

Let's go to Drew Griffin. He's joining us now in Nevada. He conducted the interview just moments ago with Sarah Palin. All right. Let's talk a little bit, Drew, about what the governor had to say in your interview.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wide ranging interview. Everything from the economy to socialism. Joe the plumber. Her vice presidential contender Joe Biden. A very candid interview. But really, Wolf, the one question I wanted to know is what happens on day one if, in fact, McCain-Palin actually win this race.


GRIFFIN: What is your role going to be as vice president?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we've talked a lot about that, John McCain and I have, about the missions that I'll get to embark on if we are so blessed to be hired by the American people to work for them. It's going to be government reform, because that is what I've been able to do as a mayor and as a governor. You take on the special interests and the self-dealings. Yes,, you ruffle feathers and you have the scars to prove it afterwards. But you have to take that on to give the American people that faith back in their own government.

This is their government. And we've got to put it back on their side. So government reform and energy independence. Can't wait to work on that. That's been my forte as a governor of an energy producing state and as a former chair of the energy regulator entity up there in Alaska. So look forward to that. And that's a matter of national security and - and our economic prosperity opportunities.

That, though, too, the other mission that John and I are anxious for me to lead on is helping our families who have children with special needs, ushering in that spirit to Washington, D.C. where we say we're going to give every child a chance and a good educational opportunity will be provided. That's going to be a matter, too, of prioritizing the federal dollars that are already there and making sure that every child is given opportunity.


GRIFFIN: How they would do that and how they would do that, Wolf, with a democratic Congress and do it quickly, another part of the interview which we'll have later in your program.

BLITZER: And I know you asked her flatly if she thought that the Barack Obama was a socialist, and her answer was intriguing. But that's going to be coming up. Drew, stand by, we're coming back to you. Drew Griffin in the CNN's first interview with Governor Palin. We're going to check in as I say with much more of this conversation.

In fact, the first half of the interview will be coming up in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The second part of the interview, the second half of the interview will be coming up in the 6:00 p.m. hour. We're going to check back with Drew for more at the bottom of this hour.

We're also be getting immediate response after the interview airs from a senior adviser in the Obama campaign, the senior adviser being Robert Gibbs. He's going to be standing by live for that. So much more of this interview with Governor Palin coming up throughout the course of these three hours in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, both John McCain and Barack Obama are gearing up for live campaign events in the next hour. Senator McCain is in Pennsylvania, a battleground state he needs to win now more than ever. And Obama is in Florida where for all we know a presidential bid can be made or broken.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in Pennsylvania. She's standing by.

But before we do that we'll go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Florida covering Obama. 14 days. Two weeks exactly until the election, Suzanne. And we heard already from Senator Obama. Give us the latest.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they call it a job summit, Wolf. It happened earlier today. It involved four governors, three of republican leaning states, one of a swing state. Also involved a former Federal Reserve chair as well as the head of Google.

It was designed they say really to address the hardships of the voters, the American people, also promote Barack Obama's own economic plan. And it happened really here in the critical state of Florida. This is where 44,000 homes are in foreclosure and is second only to California. And this is a state that Barack Obama wants to win.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Obama doesn't need Joe the Plumber to talk shop.

VICTORIA, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I'm not Joe the plumber, and I'm not Victoria of Victoria Secret.

MALVEAUX: She's Victoria, a small business owner from Florida who says times are tough to stay afloat. She along with the small panel of high-profile democrats were assembled to show their support for Barack Obama's economic plan. Governors from republican leaning or swing states spoke with one voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are hurting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lost 400,000 jobs.

MALVEAUX: It was billed as a growing America jobs summit, hosted in the state Obama is fiercely fighting to win.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Florida is actually over the last several months lost more jobs even than Ohio and Michigan. So Florida is really getting hammered. This is not unique just to the Midwest.

MALVEAUX: At times it appeared to be a forum designed to showcase Obama's know how.

OBAMA: I just want everybody to understand what this means.

MALVEAUX: At one point Obama's economic adviser on the panel, former Fed Reserve chair Paul Volcker asked the obvious.

PAUL VOLCKER, FMR. FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR: I wonder why I'm here. You give my speech much more effectively than I give the speech.

OBAMA: That's because I've been listening to you.

MALVEAUX: Obama used the platform to go after John McCain who says Obama's economic plan is nothing but a big government hand out.

OBAMA: These folks are working. This isn't some give away to people on welfare.


MALVEAUX: And Wolf, Volcker says the real problem is the lack of confidence in the markets, the lack of confidence between big banks, but he says most importantly it's the lack of confidence that voters have in the government. That is why he believes that ultimately Barack Obama is the one who's going to be able to fix this financial mess -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Suzanne in Lake Worth, Florida, that's right there in Palm Beach County.

Let's go to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Dana Bash is standing by. Pennsylvania despite the poll numbers is a state that Senator McCain desperately needs and that he's not giving up on, at least not yet.

DANA BASH, CNN CORREPONDENT: That's right. You know, last week there was a rumor, Wolf, that he was going to pull out of the state of Pennsylvania. But the fact he has three stops here today proves that he's not. There's really a simple reason for that. Aides are looking at the map and they realized that despite the tough odds here in Pennsylvania for John McCain, he needs to compete here to win.


BASH (voice-over): John McCain came back to Pennsylvania with a timely twist on his warnings about Barack Obama. He made it about baseball.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states.

BASH: Saying he's detected a pattern.

MCCAIN: When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he works for the Phillies. And when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, shows love to the Rays. Kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts.

BASH: Obama did appear in Tampa Bay with several players, saying he'd show them some love. Not that he's rooting for them. But McCain is seizing on anything he can to move voter here.

MCCAIN: We need to win in Pennsylvania on November the 4th.

BASH: McCain sources say winning Pennsylvania is a must, because of alarming trends elsewhere. It looks increasingly tough for McCain in three recently republican states. Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa. Together, those add up to 21 electoral votes. To make up for any losses there, he would have to win the 21 electoral votes that Pennsylvania delivers. A huge challenge, considering a republican hasn't won the state in 20 years. And an average of polls show McCain trailing Obama by 13 points.

MCCAIN: As he told Joe, he wants to, "spread the wealth around."

BASH: Aides insist the tax message he's pounding Obama with is resonating and he's hitting his new theme, too. That Joe Biden told donors America's enemies would try to test Obama's response to a crisis.

MCCAIN: We know Senator Obama won't have the right response. We've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign.

BASH: The crowd in critical suburban Philadelphia was boisterous, but there was plenty of extra space in the back. His challenge on display.


BASH: Now, there was a full house for McCain here in Harrisburg, which is his second stop of the day. And you know, aside from this one, McCain is spending his time trying to really get out the vote in areas where Barack Obama lost during the democratic primary. Wolf, take a look at the map and I'll show you. I'll give you some examples. First of all, he started the day in Bensalem. That is in Bucks County just outside of Philadelphia. That is an area that during the democratic primary, Hillary Clinton won by 63 percent.

Now, he's right now on his way towards Pittsburgh. In fact, he's going to be in Moon Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh. That's an area that Hillary Clinton won by 54 percent of the vote. And it's very clear, very clear Wolf that the McCain campaign understands that because of the demographics in this state, they are still trying. And really the only way to win this state is to pull those Hillary Clinton voters over to his side. Up until a couple months ago it looked like he could get a large percentage. Unclear how much he could get at this point.

BLITZER: I've seen poll numbers that say maybe 80 percent, 85 percent of those Hillary Clinton supporters now say they're going to vote for Barack Obama. So that's an uphill struggle for Senator McCain. Thanks, Dana. We'll get back to you.

This important note to our viewers. Tomorrow I'll be sitting down with Senator McCain for an extended interview. You can be part of it. Go to to submit your video questions for Senator McCain. We'll pick some of those questions. I'll play them for him. And we'll get his response. The interview with Senator McCain tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, though, we have great news to report to all of our viewers. Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, I can't tell you how many e-mails we received. How many questions. "Where's Jack? Where's Jack?" They love you out there, Jack, and the want you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did you miss me, too?

BLITZER: Of course, I did.

CAFFERTY: I had an unanticipated encounter with a surgeon's scalpel. That's all over now and we're on the mend. For those of you who noticed I was missing and cared, thank you.

Senator John McCain says it over and over and over again. When it comes to foreign policy, he's light years ahead of Barack Obama. Just ask him. Over and over again he insists Obama doesn't have the experience to conduct business with foreign countries on behalf of the United States. So how do you explain this?

Citizens of dozens of foreign countries prefer Barack Obama over John McCain as our next president by a margin of almost 4 to 1 according to a massive poll that was done by the Gallup organization. Thirty percent of those surveyed prefer Obama. Eight percent favor McCain.

This was no daily tracking poll, either. Gallup polled people in 70 countries. Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America representing nearly half of the world's population. The polling was done between May and September of this year. Citizens of the Philippines and Georgia, the country, not the state, were the only ones who preferred McCain over Obama. Not exactly the superpowers we're looking to mend fences with.

So here's the question: Why do citizens in 70 foreign countries prefer Barack Obama to John McCain by a margin of nearly 4 to 1? Simply stunning numbers.

Go to file. You can post a comment on my blog. That's pretty overwhelming stuff. John McCain was saying during the last debate he's not George Bush. The perception that he's an awful lot like him apparently is very well entrenched in a lot of places outside our borders.

BLITZER: Yes. I think you're probably right, Jack. Good to have you back. You're back where you belong, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And we'll see you in a few moments. Jack Cafferty.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Glad to see he's OK.

The song talks about West Virginia being almost heaven. But it may not necessarily look that way to republicans right now. We're going to have a battleground report from a usually reliable red state. But now very much in play. And a tossup in Nevada. Why do undecided voters in that critical battleground state, what do they want?

And the Republican in charge of his party's battle for the U.S. senate. He's not sounding very optimistic right now. The election forecast and how it could change the way the Senate does business.

All that, plus CNN's first interview with Sarah Palin. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Nevada hasn't voted democratic since Bill Clinton back in 1996. But Nevada could be changing. CNN's latest poll of polls for that state shows Obama ahead of McCain by four points. That's partly why Sarah Palin campaigned out there today.

Let's go to CNN's Dan Simon. He's one of our battleground reporters covering the state for us until election day. Joining us from Reno, what's going on?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when you think about Nevada, you want to think of it in three sections. Las Vegas, Clark County, it will go for Obama n a huge way. Then you have the rural, small towns. They'll go for McCain That leaves Washoe county, the Reno area where I am. It had traditionally gone Republican. But now it's up for grabs. Take a look.


SIMON (voice-over): What do beer and voting have in common? Absolutely nothing unless you live in Nevada. This state offers early voting in public places like grocery stores and libraries. So far turnout has been high. Not surprising given that analysts say that Nevada's second most populated area Washoe County will likely decide which way the state goes. And the McCain campaign wants to keep Nevada red.

PROF. ERIC HERZIK, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA-RENO: McCain needs to make sure that the rural solid base not only votes for him, but turns out at the numbers that they traditionally have. He has to ensure that the urban north, that's Reno, stays on the republican side.

SIMON: That's a tall order in Washoe given that democrats now have more registered voters on their rolls than republicans. Something that hasn't happened for 30 years. When you talk to folks, make that voters in the supermarket, you get a feel for the tightness in this crucial part of the state. Bridget Mutchler is an independent and voted for Obama.

BRIDGET MUTCHLER, OBAMA SUPPORTER: It's hard to know which way the county's going talking to different people. Because our neighbors are voting for McCain. And, you know, they're like we can't believe we're living next to you. So it seems like there's a - it'll be interesting. It might be down to the wire as to which way it goes.

SIMON: Mutchler says Governor Palin was the decisive factor that made her choose Obama.

MUTCHLER: I hate the Joe Six Pack and you know and all that stuff. It just rubbed me the wrong way. It's just a gut thing.

SIMON: But a few aisles over, Republican Paula Williams cited the Alaska governor as one of the top reasons she voted for McCain.

PAULA WILLIAMS, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: Something young and fresh with something - someone who has a lot of experience.

SIMON: But Williams says conservatives like herself may have to live with Nevada turning blue.

WILLIAMS: Whoever it turns out to be, I hope that they actually honor their, you know, platform and their promises and change actually happens.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SIMON: Both campaigns pouring a lot of resources into Washoe County. And if you're wondering about the early voting in grocery stores, that's something I've never seen before. That's been happening for a few years here in Nevada. The state thought it would be a convenient and easy way to allow people to vote.

BLITZER: It probably is. Very creative, Dan. Thanks very much.

And as you know, Dan Simon is one of our battleground coverage reporters. He and several others are now dedicated in heavily contested states all the way through election day. Stay tuned for more of their reports on all of the issues important to you and to these states that they are in.

What we just said about Nevada, the same is absolutely true right now about West Virginia. It also hasn't voted for a democrat since Bill Clinton got elected back in 1996. Reelected that year. But could West Virginia's five electoral votes change color this time?

Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is in Ripley, West Virginia, right now with the CNN Election Express. You're on the move. Is West Virginia realistically, Bill, in play right now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, somebody must think so. Sarah Palin was here in West Virginia this month, and Joe Biden is coming on Friday.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): West Virginians are proud of their state's many scenic overlooks. But they're not so proud of being politically overlooked.

KENNY BASS, POLITICAL ANALYST: West Virginia for so many years has been overlooked by so many.

SCHNEIDER: That may be changing. West Virginia is believed to be pretty reliably republican these days. It voted for George W. Bush twice. Last time by a margin of 13 points.

In 2000, it didn't matter what Florida did. If Al Gore would have won West Virginia, game over. Bush wouldn't be our president right now.

But Republicans seem to be a little worried about West Virginia. Sarah Palin showed up in the state this month. Democrats see a target of opportunity. Joe Biden's coming on Friday. A poll in West Virginia last week showed McCain only six points ahead of Obama, with 12 percent undecided.

Do the Democrats have a chance in West Virginia? West Virginia voters are 3 to 1 Democratic. But they're conservative democrats. They're attracted to the Democrats on economic issues. And repelled by the democrats on social issues.

BASS: Family values, moral values play a pretty big role in people's decision about who they're going to vote for. And that tends to tilt toward McCain.


SCHNEIDER: But doesn't the economy trump all the other issues this year? Here's a surprise. The economy here in West Virginia isn't that bad. Unemployment is low at 3.7 percent. The coal industry is doing very well. And they never really had a housing boom here, so there was no housing crash. On the other hand, the voters here know what's happening all over the country. And they're very anxious, one voter told us, that the economic downturn could hit West Virginia.

Now, Barack Obama is perceived as a very liberal Democrat. If Obama is competitive here in West Virginia, it could mean the country really is moving beyond the old red state, blue state divide -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill. Bill's with the CNN Election Express in Ripley, West Virginia.

Imagine you go to vote for Barack Obama or John McCain and the machine taking your vote changes it to the other person. That's what's happened in one important state. Voters are very angry.

And Sarah Palin one on one in her first CNN interview. She continues to attack Barack Obama. But will she go so far as to call him a socialist? You're going to want to hear her provocative response.

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


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

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a Navy report says the worst fire on board an aircraft carrier in 40 years was entirely preventable. The report says the fire on the "USS George Washington" was started by a cigarette butt in a nonsmoking area that ignited improperly stored flammable liquids. The Pacific fleet commander that fired the ship's captain and executive officer and more than 20 sailors were also reprimanded for lack of safety and procedural standards.

Financer Kerkorian is selling millions of his shares in Ford Motor Company. And may eventually sell all of them. His firm's selling more than seven million shares at a fraction of the purchase price. Kerkorian is the primary shareholder of casino operator MGM Grand. He says he's selling his Ford shares because he sees a unique value in the gaming, and hospitality and oil and gas industry.

Prosecutors say Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska surrounded himself with wealthy friends who could be counted on to give him gifts and keep quiet about it. Prosecutors ridiculed his explanation for thousands of dollars in gifts in home renovations. The month-long trial has kept Stevens in a Washington courtroom while he faces a tough re-election battle back home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks. We'll get back to you shortly.

Governor Sarah Palin knows her experience and readiness right now under fire. But she's fighting back.


GRIFFIN: I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above?

PALIN: Who wrote that one?

GRIFFIN: That was in the "National Review" --

PALIN: Who wrote it? I'd like to talk to that person.


BLITZER: All right. You're going to hear what she really thinks about some people in her own party. That would be the Republican party, who are wondering out loud if she has what it takes to be vice president of the United States. We'll have the full interview, her first interview with CNN. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And should you get ready to see more money pumped into the economy to help you? Democrats hope so. What does the White House think about a second economic stimulus package?

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


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

Happening now, getting the jump on election day doesn't mean skipping the line. Once again, Florida voters are encountering problems at the polls right now.

The front yard battleground, political signs are disappearing repeatedly. How McCain and Obama supporters are fighting back.

And how a new president can be tested. What history -- with history as a guide, the Pentagon now preparing for a possible transition crisis.

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

Out on the campaign trail in Nevada today, Sarah Palin once again tried to use Joe Biden's words against his running mate, Barack Obama. The Republican vice presidential nominee took time out from campaigning for a one-on-one interview with CNN's Drew Griffin.

Drew joins us once again from Nevada. Did Palin stay on -- on message in her remarks to you, Drew, as far as Senator Biden was concerned? Because they had really been going pretty full-throttle out there against him.

GRIFFIN: Very interesting question I posed to her, whether or not Joe Biden gets a pass when it comes to gaffes with the media. And she leaned way forward in the chair and basically said, yes, that he does. And ask your bosses, Wolf, why that is so. She really became energized at that question.

But, as far as staying on message, the question I had for her was, look, you're on the underdog ticket. It doesn't look good right now, two weeks out. And, yet, you continue to get bigger crowds at your campaign rallies than the top of the ticket, than John McCain does. Does this mean that Sarah Palin is coming back to run for the presidency in 2012?

Here's what she had to say.


PALIN: I'm concerned about and focused on just the next two weeks, Drew, and -- and, again, getting that message out there to the American public.

Thankfully, too, the American public is -- is seeing clearer and clearer what the choices are in these tickets. I think some revelation just -- just occurred, not just with Joe the plumber, but revelation occurred with Joe Biden's comment the other night that he, telling his Democrat financial donors, saying that -- he said: Mark my word. There's going to be economic and -- or international crisis, he said, if Barack Obama is elected, because he will be tested. And he said, there are four or five scenarios that will result in an international crisis with this untested presidential candidate in Barack Obama.

And, first, I think we need to thank Joe for the warning there. But Joe's words there, I think, can shed some light, too, in terms of the contrast you have on the tickets. John McCain is a tested leader. He has gone through great adversity. He has the scars to prove it. He has shown this true leadership. It hasn't just been all talk.

And Joe Biden's comments there about an untested, as he had said in the primary, unprepared candidate to be president, I think, was very telling.


GRIFFIN: Wolf, very quickly, I asked her did she know what Joe Biden was talking about. She says, "Why don't you go ask Joe Biden?" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Drew, stand by -- Drew Griffin out there in Nevada.

And this note: We're going to be bringing you the entire interview with Governor Sarah Palin. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM. You will hear why she is now offering an apology, a precise apology. You will hear her use the words, "I apologize." That's going to be coming up in the interview.

And we will also get immediate response from the Obama campaign. The senior adviser, Robert Gibbs, will be joining us live right after we air the entire interview.

In another story we're following right now, might there soon be more money pumped into the economy to help you? Democrats are pushing for another stimulus package. So, what does the Bush administration think about all of this?

Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent, Elaine Quijano is joining us now. We heard from White House officials some new -- some new guidance, shall we say, Elaine, on where they would go, because Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they want another stimulus package, and Barack Obama does, as well.


Well, we heard from Dana Perino, White House press secretary, today, say is essentially what the White House has been saying in recent weeks. But, of course, the context now is different, coming on the heels of those comments from Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, yesterday -- Dana Perino saying that the White House is not closed to the idea of a second stimulus package. But, she said, the administration right now is focused on the massive $700 billion financial rescue plan, and implementing that.

Now, on the idea of another stimulus bill, Perino made clear today that officials so far here at the White House have not heard anything from Democrats that would be acceptable to the Bush administration. Here, in fact, is how she put it during today's White House press briefing.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are open to good ideas. We will listen to people if they put anything forward that we think would actually stimulate the economy. So far, we have not seen that. We have seen a lot of campaign talking points, but nothing that would actually stimulate the economy.


QUIJANO: Now, what Perino is referring to, specifically, one example, is, for instance, the idea of money going to infrastructure projects, projects that she says might have some merit, but that would not, the administration believes, stimulate or jump-start the economy in the short term.

Now, for his part, President Bush today made no mention of a second stimulus bill. He spoke today at the White House Summit on International Development. The president did talk about the economy in sort of broader terms. He said that the global financial crisis is not a reason for the United States to pull back on things like free trade and developmental aid to foreign countries.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During times of economic crisis, some may be tempted to turn inward, focusing on our problems here at home, while ignoring our interests around the world. This would be a serious mistake.


QUIJANO: Meantime, the White House is still working on details for that international summit that was announced over the weekend on the financial crisis. The president is contacting heads of state, we are told, and figuring out the details of where and when exactly. Officials here at the White House, Wolf, are hoping to provide more details on that later this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Elaine, stand by, because Governor Palin, in her interview with CNN, speaks about where she thinks a second economic stimulus package might come out, whether she likes it or not.

I want you to listen. I want our viewer to listen to that. That's going to be coming up. We're going to be airing the entire interview with Sarah Palin.

It could be a whole new ball game in the United States Senate. It all depends on how many seats Democrats actually win and how many seats Republicans lose. That's on Election Day, two weeks from today. Right now, GOP leaders are very concerned. And many voters are downright angry. Are the presidential candidates tapping into the rage in a constructive way? Stand by for our "Strategy Session."

And the U.S. government is deploying a controversial new technology to its border with Mexico, but critics say it crosses the line. We will explain.

Lots of news happening today -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama getting ready to speak at a rally down in Florida. We're going to go there live and listen to -- listen to what he has to say. That's coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the meantime, let's check some other important developments. What some are calling the other important race that will be decided 14 days from now, that would be who will control the United States Senate.

CNN's Jessica Yellin has been looking into this story for us. You're looking at these races. The Democrats certainly have high, high hopes.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do, Wolf, because, you know, their dream scenario this year is to control 60 votes in the Senate. That would give them the ability to end a filibuster and drive the agenda. Well, right now, Democrats control 51 votes. That's if you include the two independents who usually vote with Democrats.

This year, there are 35 Senate races that Democrats need. And there are 35 Senate races total. And Democrats need to pick up nine Republican seat to get to that 60-vote majority. This year, it could happen.


YELLIN (voice-over): For Republicans running for the U.S. Senate, these are not the best of times.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: It's a tough election atmosphere for Republicans. That's just as honest -- honest as I can put it.

YELLIN: Things are a lot rosier for Democrats, who think they can get close to a filibuster-proof majority.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We're going to bring change. It's going to be mainstream change. It's going to be thoughtful change. But it's certainly going to avoid the gridlock, that every single thing you want to do is filibustered.

YELLIN: The latest polls suggest, Democrats could unseat Republicans in Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Alaska, North Carolina, Oregon. Minnesota is a tossup. And Democrats are closing in on Republicans in longtime red states Mississippi, Georgia, and Kentucky, threatening the seat held there by Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Across the nation, Democratic candidates are blaming Republicans for the financial crisis, for high energy prices, and tying them to President Bush.


NARRATOR: For eight years George Bush has led on the economy. And John Sununu has followed, deregulation, tax cuts for corporations, Wall Street out of control.



NARRATOR: Steve Pearce supports George Bush's economic policies. Steve Pearce wants more tax breaks for the wealthy and special interests, like big oil.


YELLIN: There is a downside for Democrats. Expectations are so high that reaching anything less than 60 votes in the Senate could be seen as a miss.


SCHUMER: Someone in the elevator came up and said to me -- one of your press club members said, "Well, I guess, if you only get six seats, you will be really disappointed."

What? Fifty-seven seats? We haven't had that since 1979.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, I mentioned that there are 35 Senate races. Five of those seats are currently held by retiring Republicans. So, those races are wide open. And Democrats currently lead in three of those races.

And, also, I should mention, another big factor in all of this, Wolf, is Obama's organization. He has managed to register many new Democrat, which helps senators down-ticket as well.

BLITZER: Democratic senators, because there will be coattails, presumably, if he does really, really well.

Good reporting. Jessica Yellin, thanks very much.

In our "Strategy Session": Senator McCain and Senator Obama striking a chord on the economy.


MCCAIN: My friends, Senator Obama wants to raise taxes and restrict trade. The last time America did that in a bad economy, it led to the Great Depression.

OBAMA: Make no mistake about it. After eight years of Bush/McCain economics, the pie is shrinking. It's not growing.


BLITZER: According to our new CNN -- CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 75 percent of Americans are angry -- yes, angry -- about the country's direction. So, which candidate is tapping into that anger best?

And our new interview with Sarah Palin, one on one. This is the first CNN interview with the Republican nominee. You're going to want to hear what she has to say about her husband's involvement in that trooper firing, in her own words.

That's coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: With only 14 days to go until the election, Senator Barack Obama continues to hold a significant lead over John McCain in the national polls.

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our CNN political contributor the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey, the editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service. Terry, in our poll of polls, the one just literally came out within the past hour, the average of the major national polls, likely voters, Obama 51 percent, McCain 42 percent, 7 percent unsure.

Nine points, that's the highest it's been since we have been doing these poll of polls. It's not looking good right now for Senator McCain. What can he do over the next two weeks?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, it's not looking good, Wolf. But I will tell you, I do think he still has a chance.

And one reason I think is because, in the last few days, we have had what I would call veil-dropping moments in the campaign. I think there have been three of them for Obama and his campaign. The first is when he talked about bitter people clinging to guns and religion. A second was when he told Joe the plumber that he wants to spread the wealth around.

And a third was Sunday, when Joe Biden said that he thinks, if Barack Obama is elected president, that there's going to be a challenge to U.S. security that is generated, and that, initially, it won't appear as if Obama has responded properly.

I know Governor Palin was talking about that in her interview with CNN. I think those three things point to areas where voters are nervous about Barack Obama. And John McCain has to explain to people why that nervousness is justified and why he's a better alternative.

BLITZER: All right.

All right, here's another question we had, Donna, in the poll, that may explain why folks aren't necessarily paying all that much attention to the three points that Terry just made, because, on the bread-and-butter, most important issues out there, how are things going in the country right now, only 25 percent said they were going well. Seventy-five percent said they were going badly, Donna.

When -- it's -- it's -- it's hard for McCain to even compete at a time when so many people, 75 percent, think the country's direction is not going in the right direction. And he has to bear that responsibility, because he's a Republican, and Bush was -- is a Republican.


I think the most important thing that Senator McCain must understand is that voters not only want a -- a change in leadership in Washington, D.C. They want a change in tone. Senator Obama has figured that out.

Over the last couple of weeks, since John McCain has launched these negative attacks, most of them untruthful, voters have turned away from listening to John McCain. They don't want to hear the same old mean-spirited, tough talk that we have heard over the last eight years. They're looking for politicians and leaders who can now pull us through this crisis. And that's why Senator Obama is -- is remaining steady.

BLITZER: He -- he really has an uphill struggle, Senator McCain, Terry, because we also asked this question. Are you angry about the way things are going in the country today? Angry is a tough word. Seventy-five percent said they were angry. Twenty-five percent say they're not angry.

You know, it's -- it's hard to compete with -- with that kind of big-picture environment.

JEFFREY: Well, that's true. And those numbers are identical, I suspect, because a lot of it is basically tied into the situation in the economy.

Historically, it's extremely difficult for the party in the White House to retain the White House when you're in economic downturn. People have a right to be angry about what's going on with this financial crisis, a right to be angry about the way the leadership of both parties dealt with it.

And, in fact, as I have said before, John McCain positioned himself wrongly on that issue. But I think, Wolf, it is still remarkable, considering that, that McCain still has a chance of being elected. And I that is more because of uncertainty about Barack Obama and just how radical he is on some issues, than it has to do with anything that John McCain is saying.

You know, if McCain is going to capitalize on that uneasiness about Obama, he has to define it, crystallize it.

BLITZER: All right.

JEFFREY: And he can't go off the offensive. He has to stay on the offensive right, for the next two weeks, through Election Day.

BLITZER: Can he still do that, Donna? And I ask the question in part because, for two days, Thursday and Friday, Senator Obama, unfortunately, has to go out to Hawaii to see his ailing grandmother, who's 85 years old. And she's taken a turn for the worst. We obviously wish her only, only the best.

Those two days that he will be gone from the campaign trail in these final 14 days, as a former campaign manager for Al Gore, how significant of a setback, potentially, could that be for Senator Obama?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, let -- let us all pray for Senator Obama's grandmother. He's very close to her. She has played a large role in his -- in his life. And I'm glad he's taking time out to go and -- and deal with his family, his personal issue.

Now, John McCain is -- is unsteady. He's run a very erratic campaign. One day, they talk about Joe the plumber. Next day, they're talking about ACORN. It -- it seems -- it seems like John McCain cannot settle on a single argument to launch against Senator -- Senator Obama. So, I think it's -- it's very difficult, in this political environment. As Terry mentioned, voters are angry. They're upset. They are upset with the people in Washington, D.C. But they want steady leadership, someone who could take them through a crisis, and not someone who doesn't appear prepared to even deal with his own campaign.

BLITZER: All right. We have got to leave it there, guys. Donna and Terry, thanks very much.

JEFFREY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: But we will continue. We have got 14 days to go.

Just about everyone, by now, must have heard about Joe the plumber. Think your story is just like his? Then you have a chance to be in a campaign commercial. And you're going to find out how. That's coming up.

And could it be deja vu in Florida? It's their second day of early voting. And, already, there are problems with voting machines. We're going live to the key battleground state.

That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The McCain campaign is using YouTube to capitalize on Joe the Plumber, inviting Americans to share their stories on how they can actually relate to Joe.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. What's the answer, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, just in case there isn't enough Joe the Plumber material out there online already, the McCain campaign is saying to its supporters, please, send us more.

An e-mail to supporters sent out yesterday invites them to make a 30-second ad, saying why they are Joe the plumber. Put it up on to YouTube. The McCain campaign saying that the best one will be aired on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is Will. And you can call me Joe the Plumber, because I, too, will suffer from Barack Obama's tax plan.


TATTON: That's one of the early submissions on YouTube already. But you will find plenty more out there so far, Steve the computer guy, Scott the photographer, people all saying why they support John McCain.

But this is YouTube, and you will also find people out there who take this topic, this whole topic, a little less seriously.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm Joe the Plumber.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Joe the Plumber.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hi. My name's Joe the plumber.


TATTON: McCain's competition goes through Friday. And you can bet that there will be plenty more submissions before then -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thank you.

On our "Political Ticker": Two radio talk show hosts are coming to Joe the plumber's rescue, after revelations that he owes some back taxes to the state of Ohio and that he's not a licensed plumber. The Portland, Oregon, hosts launched a Web site called Save Joe the Plumber. They have raised more than $1,800, enough to cover Joe Wurzelbacher's tax bill and a plumber's license.

Organized labor is behind a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for Democrats beginning today. The AFL-CIO is targeting more than 13 million union voters in presidential battleground states and states with heated Senate and governor's races as well. Two hundred and fifty thousand volunteers are fanning out across the country to increase turnout for Barack Obama.

Let's check back with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I missed these e-mails the last couple of weeks.

The question this hour: Why do citizens in 70 foreign countries prefer Barack Obama to John McCain by a margin of nearly 4-1? A stunning, stunning number.

Justin in North Carolina: "Barack Obama is the candidate of reason. Only a fool would think of supporting the ticket with the oldest presidential nominee and a woefully inept vice presidential candidate is in the best interest of America or the world, especially when the current disaster of a president proves to be more coherent than either one of them." Kevin takes a little different view: "They prefer him because he's a patsy, and they know he's going to pander to them. Kennedy was on medication during his meetings with Khrushchev. Khrushchev called him a pygmy. No fear whatsoever. Good thing Kennedy did stood up to him during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Obama needs some testosterone shots. Putin, Chavez, the Castros, the Girl Scouts of China, anybody could chew him up, push him around, and then spit him out."

F.S. in Rollinsford, New Hampshire: "Just to let you know that, from my wife's and my visit to Europe for three weeks just recently, we couldn't find anyone in four countries that wanted McCain for president. They all think he is warmonger and that Palin is a joke. Do they know something we don't?"

Jackie writes: "To be fair, I think McCain's negativity rests with the R. after his name. He is a decent man who, because of his age and knowing this is his last chance, sold his soul to the Republican National Committee."

Mike writes: "It's simple. It may sound racist, but it's really not. Foreign countries are tired of old white men bossing them around and looking down on them. They finally see someone who will respect and approach them as equals."

And Zach says: "Let's see, Jack, where to begin. They don't want to get bombed? They want to work with a well-spoken, even-keel U.S. president for a change? They're smarter than almost half the people in our own country?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there. We are getting thousands of e-mails.

And a lot of you are saying that you missed me, and you're happy to have me back. And I appreciate that very much -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we do. Everybody missed you, Jack. And they are certainly happy to have you back. And we are especially thrilled.

Stand by. We're going to get back to you in a few moments.