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Interview With Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; Battleground Blitz

Aired October 21, 2008 - 18:00   ET


Happening now: our new Sarah Palin interview. She is speaking out about the kind of vice president she would be and whether critics who call her incompetent -- or worse -- are drowning out her message. Stand by.

Plus, why John McCain wants to win Pennsylvania more than ever, and why Barack Obama says that Florida is hearing his economic pitch loud and clear. The states and the strategy with only two weeks to go.

And what Obama's unprecedented mountain of campaign cash can and can't buy. The best political team on television is ready to go.

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


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why would you say that, that, mark my words, this nation will undergo international crisis if you elect Barack Obama? If I would have said that, you guys would have clobbered me.


BLITZER: Governor Sarah Palin seizing on a remark by her Democratic rival, Joe Biden, that she has been using as a line of attack, the Republican vice presidential nominee's first CNN interview is coming up. You heard part one in the last hour. Right now, you are about to hear part two, the complete interview unedited. That's coming up.

Exactly two weeks before America votes, Barack Obama is trying to fend off attacks when necessary, while staying focused on the issue that helped get him where he is today. That would be the economy.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux traveled with Senator Obama to the battleground state of Florida.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Obama doesn't need Joe the Plumber to talk shop.

VICTORIA VILLALBA, BUSINESS OWNER: I'm not Joe the Plumber, and I'm not...


VILLALBA: I must also tell you, I'm not Victoria of Victoria's Secret.

MALVEAUX: She' Victoria Villalba, a small-business owner from Florida who says times are tough to stay afloat. She, along with a 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.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: People are hurting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lost 400,000 jobs.

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

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Florida has 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, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I just wonder why I'm here. You give my speech much more effectively than I can give the speech.


OBAMA: That's because I have 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 handout.

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

MALVEAUX (on camera): Volcker says the problem is the lack of confidence and trust in the markets, the fact that big banks don't trust each other. He says the biggest problem is that voters, Americans, just don't trust their government, that they have to be able to rely on their government. That is why Volcker says he believes Barack Obama is the better candidate, because he believes, ultimately, he can bring about that trust -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Suzanne -- Suzanne Malveaux reporting.

Let's get to part two now of the Sarah Palin interview. The Republican vice presidential nominee has been mocked as a lightweight and praised as the best thing to happen to John McCain's campaign. Now she is confronting the criticism, including questions about her qualifications.

She sat down just a little while ago in Nevada with CNN's Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: What is your role going to be as vice president?

PALIN: Well, we have talked a lot about that, John McCain and I have, about the missions that I will 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 have 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 have 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 the 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 -- 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: Governor, you have been mocked in the press. The press has been pretty hard on you. The Democrats have been pretty hard on you, but also some conservatives have been pretty hard on you as well.

"The National Review" had a story saying that, you know, "I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above." [Correction: The author of the "National Review" article cited here was misquoted. He was referring to comments in the media about Palin's qualifications for national office, not expressing his own opinion. These were not the "National Review's" or the author's comments about Palin.]

PALIN: Who wrote that one?

GRIFFIN: That -- that was in "The National Review." I don't have the author.

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


GRIFFIN: But they were talking about the fact that your experience as governor is not getting out. Do you feel trapped in this campaign, that your message is not getting out? And, if so, who do you blame?

PALIN: No, I am getting my message right now out, through you, with you, Drew, to the American people who are watching CNN. And I appreciate this opportunity.

No, you know that I am, obviously, an outsider of the Washington elite and of the conventional, I think, media targets or media characters that have been a part of this for years. And I think that is final -- that it's good for the American electorate to understand, they have a choice here in our ticket of having the experience and the reputation that comes with John McCain as being the patriot and the maverick in the Senate. You have that. And you combine it with a team member who is new and fresh, with new ideas, new vision, new energy that needs to be infused into Washington, D.C., with that commitment to clean it up in D.C., put government on the side of the people, and fight hard for Americans.

You have that, that combination. And I think that some in the media, maybe in "The National Review," they don't know what to make of that. They are like, geez, she is -- you know, where did she come from? Surely, you know, it should be our job, I think they assume, is to pick and be negative and find things to mock.

And that is just, I guess, part of the political game, I guess. But we are very, very committed and focused and moving forward between now and November 4, getting that message out to the American people that our plan to get this economy back on the right track and to win the wars, put government on the side of the people, it is the right thing to do.

And I think we have the right message, despite a mocking that comes our way.

GRIFFIN: Governor, our time is very short. And I must ask you just two questions. One is on the Trooper Wooten. If there is one thing that has followed you negatively...

PALIN: Tasergate, right, right.

GRIFFIN: You call it Tasergate.

PALIN: We sure do.

GRIFFIN: Troopergate, whatever. The Branchflower report said you were perfectly in your right to fire Monegan...

PALIN: Right. Right.

GRIFFIN: ... but also found out that you violated the ethics.

Was it a mistake to allow your husband to use your office to try to pressure the Troopers to fire Mr. Wooten?

PALIN: Not at all, because, A, the -- the trooper who had Tasered his kid and had made death threats against my family and said he was going to bring the governor down and all that, my husband did exactly, I think, what any sensible, reasonable father, husband would do who was concerned about their family's safety. He...

GRIFFIN: But was it a mistake to allow him to use the governor's office to that extent?

PALIN: Not when you look at other governor's track records when they have their spouse, as, for instance, Governor Murkowski had his spouse as his top adviser. And she was in meetings. She was in the office -- so, kind of a double standard here.

But what Todd did was what any reasonable husband and father would do. He followed the instruction of the Department of Public Safety's own personal security detail, that is our personal protection. They asked, Todd, you have a problem with this state trooper. He is a threat. You need to take that to the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Todd did exactly that. And then, of course, he got clobbered for it now in the media, because there's a misunderstanding of what he has done. Our Department of Law in Alaska has right there on its Web site -- it says, if you have a problem with an Alaska State Trooper, the paragraph says, you go to the commissioner of Department of Public Safety and you share that concern with him.

That is what Todd did. So, no, I don't think that it was an abuse of power of my office at all. And I was very thankful that that report cleared me of any illegal dealings or anything else. I replaced the commissioner because he was not doing the job that I expect of my cabinet members -- that is, you serve the Alaskan population up there -- and, of course, he's a cabinet member who was assigned to do that -- to the best of the team's ability.

And you have a lot of energy. You fulfill the vision that we have laid out for you. And he was not doing that. And that is why he was replaced.


BLITZER: It ignited a controversy, Governor Sarah Palin saying parts of the United States are more pro-America than other parts of the country. Drew Griffin asks her to explain in part two of her first CNN interview. You are going to hear her answer.

So, what does the Obama campaign think of Governor Palin's comments in this interview? A senior Obama adviser, Robert Gibbs, he is standing by live to join us. We will get immediate reaction to the interview and more.

And Senator McCain's campaign says it must win one huge battleground state. Find out which state that is.

A lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get to the final part of our new interview with Governor Sarah Palin.

With all the questions about whether she is ready to be vice president, would she actually consider running for the top job?

CNN's Drew Griffin went one-on-one with Governor Palin in Nevada today.


GRIFFIN: Governor, if in two weeks, you are not elected...


GRIFFIN: ... do you come back at the top of the ticket in 2012?

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: Have you guys been briefed on any scenario like this?

PALIN: On the four or five scenarios that...


PALIN: Well, who knows what Joe Biden was talking about?

All you have to do is, though, is look back at Obama's foreign policy agenda, and you can assume what some of those scenarios may be, as he considers sitting down and talking to Ahmadinejad or Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il, some of these dictators, without preconditions being met, essentially validating some of what those dictators have been engaged in, that.

That could be one of the scenarios that Joe Biden is talking about, is, as a result of that, that proclamation that he would meet without preconditions being met first, that could be a scenario that results in a testing of our country. And the four or five other scenarios that he is talking about, I don't know. I hope that Joe Biden will explain it.

GRIFFIN: Does Joe Biden get a pass?

PALIN: Ask -- Drew, you need to ask your colleagues and I guess your bosses or whoever is -- whoever is in charge of all of this, why does Joe Biden get a pass on such a thing.?

Can you imagine if I would have said such a thing? No, I think that we would be hounded and held accountable for, what in the world did you mean by that, V.P., presidential candidate? Why would you say that, that, mark my words, this nation will undergo international crisis if you elect Barack Obama? If I would have said that, you guys would have clobbered me.

GRIFFIN: You are right.


GRIFFIN: You are right.

Can I ask one more question?

PALIN: Sure.

GRIFFIN: You have said -- you have talked about America and certain parts of America...

PALIN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

GRIFFIN: ... that are maybe more American than other parts of America?

PALIN: I don't want that misunderstood.

GRIFFIN: Are there?

PALIN: No, I do not want that misunderstood.

When I go to these rallies, and we see the patriotism just shining through these people's faces and the Vietnam veterans wearing their hats so proudly, and they have tears in their eyes as we sing our national anthem, and it is so inspiring. And I say that this is true America. You get it. You understand how important it is that, in the next four years, we have a leader who will fight for you.

I certainly don't want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another. If that is the way it has come across, I apologize.


BLITZER: All right.

Let's get some immediate reaction to what Governor Palin just told Drew Griffin.

Joining us now is Robert Gibbs. He is a senior adviser for the Obama campaign. He's in Miami.

Robert, thanks very much for coming in.

Explain what Joe Biden was saying when he said that Barack Obama, if elected president, would almost certainly be tested on an international crisis within the first six months.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, look, Wolf, we all understand that any president, whoever is elected in two weeks, is going to be tested. We have got a global financial crisis that has not just impacted Wall Street, but impacted Main Street.

We are waging two wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is on the loose. So, anybody that takes over this position and is elected in two weeks is going to have a tough job ahead of them. And they are going to be tested from day one. That is what Joe Biden was talking about.

The difference is, Barack Obama wants to take this country in a different direction that John McCain and George Bush have taken it over the past eight years. That is the key difference in this election.

BLITZER: Her other major -- or at least one of her other criticisms was that maybe Senator Obama is not a socialist, but the policies he is advancing right now are in effect socialist kinds of policies.

Can you reassure the American public that the man speaking actually right behind you right now is not a socialist?


GIBBS: Well, let me assure the people that are listening, because all the people listening here just heard Barack Obama say, I don't think that he would have the support of somebody like Warren Buffett, who understands our economy, or somebody like Colin Powell, who understands our foreign policy, if he didn't have the best views of the American public, working for the middle class, in mind.

And that is what is important for people to remember.

BLITZER: Here is what she said about Barack Obama's lack of experience and her experience as an executive. Listen to this little clip, Robert. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama does. He had served for his 300 days before he became a presidential candidate. And that was not an executive office, of course.


BLITZER: All right. So, the point about executive experience, I want to give you a chance to respond to that as well.

GIBBS: Well, look, I think, if America is looking for 26 years of experience in Washington, then John McCain and Sarah Palin is the ticket for them.

But, if they are looking for change to be brought to Washington, to kick out the special interests, to bring Democrats and Republicans together to fight for the middle class, Barack Obama and Joe Biden is the ticket that are really going to change America, and I think that is what has excited voters. And that is what will excite them in two weeks to bring change, not just to America, but to Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: I know that Senator Obama is going to take a couple days off and visit his grandmother in Hawaii on Thursday and Friday.

There's 14 days left in this race. And obviously what he is doing is critically important, very important for him. And she has been a driving force throughout his life. But how worried are you, as a strategist, that he's going to give two days, basically, to Senator McCain?

GIBBS: No, we are not worried at all, Wolf.

It was a very easy decision for Senator Obama to make. As you said, his grandmother has really been a rock in his life. She has poured everything she had into him. A lot of the reason that he is standing where he is today and the person that he is, is because of what she gave to him. And he thinks it is important, because she is very seriously ill, that he wants to go spend some time with her.

And I think it is tremendously important that he does that. He will be back on the campaign trail early on Saturday morning. But it is truly important that he goes and sees his grandmother right now.

BLITZER: Well, we are praying for her and we are wishing her only, only the best. Robert, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

GIBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

Two weeks to go for the candidates. There are states they must to win the White House. The best political team on television is standing by.

Are early voters facing early voting problems, voting machines that seems to have some minds of their own. We are with voters who say their choices were simply switched.

And the worst fire aboard a Navy ship in four decades, you won't believe how it started.

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


BLITZER: All right. You are looking at Barack Obama. He is speaking in Miami. Let's listen in.


OBAMA: ... attacks on my character because, they said, "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." And that's a promise John McCain has kept. He's been on the attack. That's what you do when you are out of ideas, out of touch, and running out of time.

Well, I can take a few more weeks of John McCain's attacks, but the American people can't take four more years of the same failed policies and the same failed politics.

It's time to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street before Main Street but ended up hurting both. We need policies that grow our economy from the bottom-up, so that every American, everywhere, has the chance to get ahead. Not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on its floor. Because if we've learned anything from this economic crisis, it's that we're all connected; we're all in this together; and we will rise or fall as one nation - as one people.

The rescue plan that passed Congress was a necessary first step to easing this credit crisis, but if we're going to rebuild this economy from the bottom up, we need an immediate rescue plan for the middle-class - and that's what I will offer as president of the United States.


BLITZER: All right, Senator Obama is speaking in Miami. There's a huge, huge crowd there. You can't really tell from that picture, but it is massive in Miami. He has to win Miami-Dade and Broward County, Palm Beach County with incredible numbers if he is going to carry this state, Florida, the big prize among the battleground states right now. We will continue to monitor Senator Obama, go back there live, as necessary.

Meanwhile, the presidential race in Pennsylvania may be closer than some people think, why the state could make or break for John McCain. We will assess.

And what was Joe Biden thinking? The best political team on television dissects his remark about an international crisis that could break out and could test Barack Obama as president. And an early voting nightmare that could be magnified on Election Day, machines that simply seem to have minds of their own. This is really disturbing stuff. We will show it to you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now: exactly two weeks until Americans head to the polls, and the candidates are pulling out all the stops in the states they simply must win to capture the White House.

Also, a brand-new snapshot of the race, our new poll of polls, and you're going to find out who is ahead by how much and what difference campaign cash is making right now.

Plus, Sarah Palin going after Joe Biden for a comment she claims she would be slammed over if she were the one who had made it -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Heading into the final days of this presidential race, John McCain is trying to prove once again that he is a fighter by making a big play for Pennsylvania.

Let's go there. Dana Bash is covering the McCain campaign for us. Dana, the senator has an uphill struggle in Pennsylvania, but he is not giving up.


Last week, there was a rumor he was going to pull out of Pennsylvania, but his three stops here today prove that he is not. And there is really a simple reason for that, Wolf. And that is, aides look at the map and realize that he pretty much has to compete, even win here, to win the White House.


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 am not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states.


BASH: ... saying he has detected a pattern.

MCCAIN: When he is campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies. Then, when he is campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays.

OBAMA: Give it up for the Rays.

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

MCCAIN: We need to win 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 showing McCain trailing Obama by 13 points.

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

BASH: Aides insist that tax message he's been pounding Obama with is resonating. And he's hitting the new theme, too, about Joe Biden telling donors that America's enemy would try to test Obama, like JFK during the Cuban missile crisis. McCain recalled sitting in his war plane on a Navy ship during that very crisis.

MCCAIN: I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war. America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I've been tested, my friends.


BASH: Now, McCain aides insist that their data shows that Pennsylvania is tighter than what public polling shows, that there are a good number of Democrats who simply won't say who they're voting for and that that bodes well for McCain.

Now, Wolf, you'll remember that Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, he said that McCain could do well here because voters here are racist. Well just tonight, speaking in Western Pennsylvania, McCain tried to condemn that and he accidentally said that he couldn't agree with Murtha more, but then very quickly corrected himself. And he said he couldn't disagree with that more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Well, he's speaking tomorrow, Dana. I'll have a special interview with Senator McCain tomorrow and we'll have it right here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks, Dana, for that.

Let's discuss all of this -- the must-win states for both of these candidates.

Joining us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, John King; and CNN political contributor, Dana Milbank, of "The Washington Post." They're all part of the best political team on television.

John, let me start with you, because Pennsylvania -- you the news yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM that, for all practical purposes, Senator McCain was giving up on, what, Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa and he's going to put a lot of eggs in the Pennsylvania basket, even though the polls show he's a huge, huge uphill fight. It's not going to be easy for him.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not easy at all, Wolf. I would not use the words giving up when it comes to Colorado. They're still spending advertising money there and they're still campaigning there. But they're making an honest assessment and they're looking at the registration data and they're looking at the ground operations. And many in the campaign -- not all, but many high in the campaign think they cannot win and they will not win, that that state will break away from them, even as they continue to push for it.

So, as Dana just noted, if you're going to -- if you're subtracting somewhere from your we will win these states list, where do you make it up?

And they're looking at these other blue states. And Pennsylvania, they think, is their best option.

Number one, there are culturally conservative voters there.

Number two, President Bush did try very hard in Pennsylvania twice, so there is a Republican operation and organization that fought in two presidential campaigns.

And, number three, they think they will do better in the suburbs than George W. Bush did around Philadelphia, and that is the critical area, although the polling data at the moment does not support that.

And Dana just hit on number four, and I'll leave it there, this -- the McCain people believe that a number of Hillary Clinton voters and other blue collar Democrats are open to voting against Barack Obama or have reservations about Barack Obama because of his race and they believe that will help them.

BLITZER: I know, Gloria, you've been doing some reports on what's going on in Pennsylvania, as well. What are you hearing?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for all the reasons Dana and John just stated, I spoke with the Democratic governor of the state, Ed Rendell, today. And that's why he's nervous. He says he's still nervous, even though some of the polls publicly show -- ours included -- a double digit lead, that that lead could, in fact, be smaller.

And, in fact, he's written the Obama campaign two memos over the past five days asking for Barack Obama to come back to the state and also asking for Bill and Hillary Clinton to come to the state, because he thinks they could make a large difference in enthusiasm among voters. He feels he really needs to turn out those Democratic voters who are supporting Obama or he won't be comfortable.

BLITZER: Would it be smarter, Dana, for those guys to go to Pennsylvania or to basically go down to Florida, which is the biggest prize in these remaining battleground states? DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think the latter option there, Wolf. I mean I would be so surprised if McCain, in the end, could pull off Pennsylvania, that if you'll have me back on THE SITUATION ROOM, I will eat my weight in cheese steaks.


MILBANK: I think...

BORGER: Oh, no. Please. Please don't do it.

MILBANK: a -- not that I wouldn't enjoy that. But, you know, as John was saying, this is, perhaps, his best option. That doesn't mean it's a good option. He's sort of, you know...

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: ...fighting wherever he can.

KING: That's right.

MILBANK: It's a highly improbable thing. Part of this, though, is the perception game, that if he appears to be fighting on turf that should safely be his, it's seen as a sign of weakness. So he's at least fighting on Obama's turf.

I'd be somewhat surprised if they took it very seriously and got as nervous, as Gloria said, that poor Ed Rendell is.

BLITZER: Give us the...

BORGER: Well, he doesn't want to lose. That's it.

BLITZER: Yes. That's true. Certainly, nobody wants to lose, obviously.

BORGER: It's his state.

BLITZER: But, John, give us the lay of the land in Florida right now.

KING: Well, right now, a very narrow, in most of the polling, lead for Obama. But Republicans there have a highly honed operation. And this is going to be a question of who's right on the big issue of this campaign.

The Republicans say that the Obama campaign is exaggerating how many new voters will actually turn out, how successful they will be in one of their key missions in Florida and many other states finding African-Americans who are already registered to vote but simply don't show up in elections because they think it doesn't matter. They think the politicians don't care about them.

The Obama campaign says the combination of those things -- new voters and finding people who are disaffected, if you will, but already on the polls, will make the difference. And in Florida, they say there are 600,000 African-Americans who didn't vote last time who can vote.

The Republicans say they're exaggerating, they won't get those voters and, in the end, they have a better ground operation. It is quiet. It is less visible. The Republicans say it is still there and still ready.

Anecdotally, everyone tells you it is the Democrats with the energy. But, Wolf, this will be a defining question on election night.

BLITZER: And, Gloria, quickly, what are you hearing?

BORGER: I think it's a very tough state. And I think Hillary Clinton's visit to the State of Florida is going to be really important for Barack Obama. But those unregis -- those registered voters who didn't show up to the polls, those African-Americans, 600,000, those are going to be the key if Obama is going to win the State of Florida.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we have much more to talk about, including our brand new CNN poll of polls. I think you're going to be interested in these numbers that you're about to see.

More with the best political team on television.

Also, Karl Rove almost caught in handcuffs by a woman accusing him of treason -- details of a mock arrest.

Plus, we want your questions for my interview tomorrow with Senator John McCain. Go to You can submit your video questions. Some of them I'll pose to Senator McCain tomorrow.


BLITZER: A brand new snapshot of the race for the White House -- our brand new CNN poll of polls.

We're back with the best political team on television.

Dana, in our new poll among voters' choice for president, look at this, Obama with 51 percent; McCain, 42 percent; unsure, seven percent. That's a nine point spread. That's the largest spread in this CNN poll of polls.

The number is not going in the direction that John McCain would like.

MILBANK: No. That's got to be fairly dispiriting for the McCain campaign. They had thought they'd begun to a little bit of movement out of that last debate that clearly isn't happening here, even though you would expect this would be the normal time to have a natural tightening in the race. And they've got to be looking at this very daunting situation in which Barack Obama seems to have enough campaign cash to solve the mortgage crisis.


MILBANK: And they're just going to -- they're just not -- not clear how they can make inroads (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Who writes those lines for you, Dana? Who does -- do you have a writer?

MILBANK: Gloria did them.

BORGER: I do. I did that one.

BLITZER: OK. Those are good lines.

All right...

BORGER: You weren't supposed to tell. Don't tell.


BLITZER: Gloria, talk a little bit about not the national polls, as important as they may be, but in these battleground states, the numbers are not necessarily -- in the critical ones -- going in John McCain's favor, either.

BORGER: No. You know, the doors keep closing. And so they have to run -- the McCain campaign has to run to other states -- states that don't look so good for them. So they run, for example, to Pennsylvania, which would be very important to them if Colorado is not available to them, if New Mexico is not available to them, if Iowa is not available to them.

So these are -- these are clearly dispiriting. What's really troubling, though, is the amount of money that Barack Obama has. He raised $150 million last month. Overall, he's probably out spending McCain, some estimates say four to one. Even with Republican National Committee ads thrown in, it's still probably two to one. And that kind of advantage, one Republican said to me today, is like a hammer -- it just kind of comes down on you and it's hard to overcome.

BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing amount of money. And it really, considering the fact that John McCain only has $84 million to spend for his campaign between the time of the convention in St. Paul and November 4th, that's a huge, huge deficit that he's facing -- John.

KING: And remember, Wolf, Barack Obama has bought the national television time, 30 minutes of it, coming up. Just a few hours ago, I just flew here to New York from North Carolina. And you see it there, as well. You see it three to one in television ads. Barack Obama has outspent John McCain in the reliably red -- usually -- State of North Carolina.

It's a toss-up right now. We've got some new polling coming out there and a handful of other key battleground states tomorrow. It will be very interesting to see what's happening there.

But it's not just the TV ads. And most Americans, you know, that's where they get a lot of their information in a presidential campaign. But it's also on the ground. This is the time when you're knocking on doors, especially among Independent voters. Every state, every important state, has an increase in Independent or unaffiliated voters.

So both parties don't know these voters well. So they're trying to reach out and touch them, find out which way they're leading.

Obama has so much more money for phone banks, for foot soldiers to knock on the doors, to touch base with these people, to go back and see them again, to ask them what's the key issue they have and send them the literature on that issue. That is an enormous advantage. And never been in a state like North Carolina -- I just talked to a county Republican chairman. He said in my lifetime never have the Democrats had more boots on the ground than we have had.

BLITZER: And, you know, in these final days of this campaign, Dana, they are -- the McCain campaign -- letting Governor Sarah Palin get out there more, have more exchanges with reporters. She's now given an interview, as you just saw, to CNN. Tomorrow, I'm going to be speaking with Senator McCain.

What, the strategy is get these people and let them make their case in what -- the they used to call free media. Some people still call it free media.

MILBANK: Right. Or earned media, I guess, is the more favorable way of putting it. But yes, they need to do whatever they can to compensate for that financial advantage. They want to say -- the popular way to say it is let McCain be McCain. With somewhat more trepidation, they say let Palin be Palin.

But the truth is that it's now down to the last waiting and hoping for some surprise and trying whatever they can.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, let McCain be McCain, a lot of people say -- including some of his best friends, Gloria, who have known him forever -- they say this should have been the strategy from the beginning, the McCain that ran, let's say, in 2000, as opposed to the more constrained John McCain we've seen in recent months.

BORGER: Well, you know, there's a real difference between somebody who kind of didn't win his primary fight and somebody who became the nominee of the party. And when you say let McCain be McCain, I'm not quite sure what that is. This is John McCain's campaign. He's the candidate. And it flows from the top down.

So it's sort of unclear what we're seeing now, except that this is a campaign that John McCain is running.

BLITZER: All right, John, go ahead and button it up.

KING: Well, the big question that a lot of Republicans have, Wolf, is that this is a big election, especially since the meltdown on Wall Street. And a lot of Republicans are scratching their head at the William Ayers and even to a bit at "Joe the Plumber," although they think that's the right message, get on the economics. And if you can have a character -- a compelling character to use it, use him, but be bigger than just small narrow arguments. And in letting McCain be McCain, they would like to see McCain say I'm the guy with the record of bipartisanship. I actually can get things done in Washington.

And, yes, he says that sometimes, but it gets lost in all these other -- what many Republicans call scattershot day to day messages of the McCain campaign.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we've got to leave it right there. A good discussion. Than you.

And remember, I'll be sitting down with Senator McCain for an extended interview tomorrow. You can go to to submit your video questions. We'll pick the best ones to play to the senator tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour. What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

We're reporting on the showdown over economic policy on the presidential campaign trail, as top Democratic Congressman Barney Frank talks of new taxes on rich people.

Is Senator Obama pursuing a spread the wealth socialist agenda with the help of Democratic leadership in Congress?

And what is a socialist in 2008 anyway? Three of the best economic thinkers in the country join me.

Also, troubling new concerns about the security and integrity of our voting system, with two weeks to go before election day. We'll have a special report on voting problems in the critical swing state of Ohio.

And ethnocentric special interest groups and the amnesty lobby sparing no effort to influence this outcome of this election and immigration policy. It's an issue the presidential candidates have succeeded in avoiding and the liberal national media is complicit. We'll be talking about that with three of my favorite radio talk show hosts tonight.

Please join us for all of that coming up at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou. Thank you.

Early voting reveals a serious concern in one state, where some Democrats say the machines -- the machines want them to vote Republican. We're investing. Brian Todd is standing by.

Plus, details of the mishap that led to this disturbing scene.

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


BLITZER: Early voting is underway and there are early problems -- voting machines that seem to have minds of their own.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Ripley, West Virginia -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the problems in early voting here in Jackson County and in neighboring Putnam County have to do with a fairly simple problem. Voters coming into a booth with machines identical to this one touching Barack Obama -- at least they're trying to -- and having it register to John McCain. We talked to voters and local officials to get to the root of the problem.


TODD (voice-over): Calvin Thomas has voted in West Virginia since Truman beat Dewey. He's 81 years old now and his eyesight is deteriorating. But when he tried to vote early in his hometown of Ripley and brought his daughter Micki Clendenin into the booth to help him, Thomas' vision wasn't the problem.

CALVIN THOMAS, JACKSON COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA VOTER: I went in there and I pushed the Democrat ticket. And it jumped to the Republican ticket on the president of the United States.

TODD: Micki helped her dad touch the screen a couple of times, but his vote for Barack Obama still clicked on John McCain. Then it happened to Micki. Each time poll workers had them repeat the process.

MICKI CLENDENIN, JACKSON COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA VOTER: The lady came in and she was -- she very nicely, she just said oh -- she said it's just been doing this and so just hit it again. So we hit it again and this time it did go to Obama.

TODD: At least five voters reported the same problem in two West Virginia counties. State and local officials tell us these were isolated cases, that each time poll workers fixed the problem and the correct vote was cast.

The machines, manufactured by a company called ES&S, will be used in several states this year, and were among those that had problems in Ohio in 2004. Company officials tell us they've inspected the machines in West Virginia and nobody has cast an inaccurate vote.

In Ripley, West Virginia, we weren't allowed to film the actual machines that had problems, but Jackson County clerk Jeff Waybright took us through the process with an identical machine and zeroed in on what he thinks happened.

JEFF WAYBRIGHT, CLERK, JACKSON COUNTY: They touched on Barack Obama -- or they thought they were touching, but their finger may have possibly rolled up. Now, if I roll my finger down, you can see that it looks like my finger is definitely on Barack Obama's box. TODD: We asked Waybright about insinuations in local news reports of political manipulation, since he and the neighboring County clerk are Republican and, in most cases, Democratic votes clicked to a GOP candidate.

WAYBRIGHT: If I was going to, you know, try to manipulate the machine, I wouldn't know how to do it to begin with.


TODD: The West Virginia secretary of state's office tells us it believes the problem could have stemmed from the machines not being calibrated properly. Essentially that means the electronic boxes weren't lined up right.

Now, on his end, Jeff Waybright disputes that, saying in his county, he thinks all the machines were calibrated perfectly. He says here, he thinks that most of the problems were just voter error -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Brian is in Ripley, West Virginia.

Let's check in with Zain. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, investors are taking a step back on Wall Street after yesterday's rally. The Dow dropped 231 points on mixed corporate earnings reports. The sell-off wiped out about $400 billion in market value.

And a dramatic moment at the Mortgage Bankers Association in San Francisco. During a lively explaining between former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former Bush chief of staff Karl Rove, a protester tried to slap handcuffs on Rove. Rove flinched back and then, as you can see, the woman was just taken off the stage. Rove had blamed the troubled economy on Democrats.

And, Wolf, take a look at this scene at a Florida parking deck. It's pretty amazing that no one was hurt. Look at that -- an elderly woman just drove her car right through the second floor wall of a parking garage and landed on top of another car. She and her male passenger were rescued and the woman says that what happened was that her brakes failed.

Pretty lucky -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow! An amazing picture. Thank god they're OK. Thanks, Zain.

Two weeks left and it's getting "Moost Unusual." Could "Joe the Plumber" get some competition from Dave the cop? Jeanne Moss has the latest campaign follies. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: With only two weeks to go until election day, it's all politics all the time.

Jeanne Moss has our "Moost Unusual" look at how everyone is getting into the act.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the campaign doesn't end soon, those ladies on "The View" are going to kill each other.



WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": As I made the point...


MOOS: McCain supporter Elizabeth Hasselbeck is even wearing her Americain t-shirt.

And on Ellen, the host joked about how much election coverage she's watching on CNN.


ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: much, I realized the other day I called my den THE SITUATION ROOM and I'm sleeping now in a Larry King sized bed, so...


MOOS: On Monday, V.P. Joe Biden was trying to pick off an actress. It took him six throws to dunk Julia Louis-Dreyfus for breast cancer.


MOOS: Then he apologized in what looked like a prison conjugal visit.

But that pales next to x-rated Sarah Palin look-alike film that "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt has made.


MOOS: A non-x-rated clip has surfaced showing the look-alike entertaining two Russian soldiers whose tank is broken down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put you and I together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I didn't know any better, I'd think you boys were flirting with me. MOOS: And speaking of look-alikes, according to Web site TMZ, the real Sarah Palin supposedly checked into her New York hotel as Tina the night she appeared on "Saturday Night Live."


MOOS: Our Photoshop joke photo of the day is Obama and Palin dancing with the stars. Our poster of the day is attack of the 50-foot Palin.

Meanwhile, conservative blogs are attacking the animated show "Family Guy" for sticking an McCain pin on a character wearing a Nazi uniform.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, there's something on here. Huh, that's weird.


MOOS: The McCain campaign keeps pinning its hopes on a certain Joe.

MCCAIN: "Joe the Plumber."

PALIN: Good old "Joe the Plumber".

MOOS (on camera): Just call me Jeanne the plunger. Actually, a Portland, Oregon radio station plunged in to rescue "Joe the Plumber."

(voice-over): KEX organized a donation drive and listeners contributed $1,800 to more than pay off Joe's overdue tax bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have my deepest gratitude. I really appreciate it.

MOOS: Watch out, "Joe the Plumber" has spawn signs proclaiming...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ed the dairy man, Phil the bricklayer and we have Andy and Gener (ph), Tito the builder.

MOOS: Maybe Dave the cop better start checking I.D.s.

PALIN: John, the only Republican in my high school.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.