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Obama's Six-Day Offensive; McCain's Latest Attack; Obama Leads in Key Red States

Aired October 29, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama's huge double play. He's spending millions to promote himself in prime time tonight, and he's getting priceless help out there on the campaign trail from Bill Clinton.
John McCain is mocking Obama's costly infomercial set to air tonight, and he's trying to launch an attack on another front with a little help from Sarah Palin.

Plus, stand by for a big shift in the CNN electoral map. You're going to see which states are changing colors right now, only six days before America chooses a new commander in chief.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, Barack Obama and John McCain, they're fighting to the finish in the states synonymous with squeaker elections. Both presidential candidates are gearing up for events in Florida, but this is a particularly big day and night for Barack Obama. He's set to make his first joint campaign appearance with none other than Bill Clinton, and he's running a half-hour campaign ad on a number of TV networks later tonight, a buy estimated to cost at least $3.5 million, maybe more.

Our Dana Bash is standing by. She's covering the McCain campaign.

But let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin first. She's in Sunrise, Florida. Lots of activity in Florida today, Jessica, only six days before this election. Are you sensing there's a bit of a change in Barack Obama's tone?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama's adopted an aggressive, almost mocking, tone when he talks about John McCain. Today, belittling John McCain's suggestion that Obama's economic plans amount to a form of socialism.

Let's listen.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lately, he's called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.


YELLIN: A little bit of a sense of humor there. Another sign of his aggressiveness is a new ad he's out with. It features John McCain's own words suggesting John McCain is not very strong on the economy.

It quotes John McCain saying, "It's really not his strong suit. He might rely on his vice president for economic advice." And then it cuts to an image of Sarah Palin winking. Yes.

Wolf, really, you're seeing Barack Obama on the offense. Even his choice of location.

This morning, he was in Raleigh, North Carolina, a place that went for Bush twice. Today, he is in Broward County, Florida, where I am, also went for Bush twice. This is also one of the epicenters of the Florida recount. Al Gore lost in this town by just fewer than 600 votes.

So Barack Obama is fighting hard in some of these red areas and, of course, that 30-minute ad tonight the biggest push of all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica. Stand by. We'll be getting back to you.

We thought you should know that the Obama campaign asked CNN to air its 30-minute ad tonight, but this network said no. In a statement, CNN said it did not want to preempt its programming lineup, preferring to use our air time to cover the campaign from all points of view.

And this note to you. I'll go one-on-one with Senator Obama on Friday. And you can play a part in the interview. Submit your video questions at We'll try to use some of the best questions and get answers from Senator Obama. My interview with him coming up on Friday.

John McCain is trying to make the most of his limited time and resources in hopes of chipping away at Obama's momentum. Along those lines, he's unveiling a new line of attack trying to link Obama to a Palestinian professor.

CNN's Dana Bash is in Ohio, where Sarah Palin has been campaigning. Dana, we know it's a big day today for Obama with his 30- minute commercial tonight, but what about Senator McCain?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when you're trying to come from behind and you have only a week left, every day is a big day. And obviously John McCain doesn't have a big headliner like Bill Clinton, he doesn't have an infomercial, but is trying to counterprogram.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): John McCain knows he can't compete with Barack Obama's blockbuster bank account that bought 30 minutes of primetime TV, but he can mock it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In his first address to the nation, an infomercial -- and by the way, I will never delay the start of the World Series for an infomercial.

BASH: And McCain's advisers admit he can't match the enormous Florida crowds Obama will draw. So he didn't try. Instead, small targeted events, a modest Miami rally with a message for the critical Cuban community.

MCCAIN: I'll sit down and talk with one of the Castro brothers. I'll sit down with them right after they empty the political prison.

BASH: A national security meeting in veteran-rich Tampa with a warning.

MCCAIN: When you cast your vote, my fellow citizens, let there be no confusion about the threats we face and the costs of failing to meet them.

BASH: But McCain's big push for attention was suddenly bringing up a six--month-old article describing a 2003 dinner Obama attended with friend and Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi. McCain says 1960s radical William Ayers was there, too. The "L.A. Times" has a tape of the dinner, but says releasing it would violate a source agreement.

Calling Khalidi a PLO spokesman, McCain went on Miami radio to demand the tape be made public.

MCCAIN: I guarantee you if there was a tape of me and Sarah Palin and some Neo Nazi, or one of those, do you think that that tape wouldn't be made public?

BASH: And in Ohio, Palin joined in saying guests at that dinner were critical of Israel.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism instead of the victim. What we don't know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he now professes to support.


BASH: Now, Khalidi has denied that he was a PLO spokesman. And back in May, Obama told a group of jooub Jewish voters that yes, the two are friends. He understands that he disagrees with some of Israel's policies, but that Khalidi is not an adviser of his.

And Wolf, today the Obama campaign called this nothing more than a manufactured controversy. And I should say, I asked a McCain aide why they're bringing this up now, and this aide responded to me, "Because Obama may be elected president in one week." -- Wolf. BLITZER: Dana, thanks for that.

And this programming note to our viewers. Larry King sits down for a one-on-one interview tonight with Senator McCain. That interview will air at 9:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

Another talking point for Sarah Palin today. She said the United States needs a clean break from the Bush administration's approach to energy. Delivering her third policy speech since getting the vice presidential nod, Palin tried to distance the Republican ticket from the president, even though McCain's energy plan mirrors Mr. Bush's priorities to a large degree.


PALIN: Achieving this objective will require a clean break not just from the energy policies of the current administration, but we've got to go back and realize that it's been 30 years' worth of failed energy policies in Washington.


BLITZER: We're going to have a full report coming up on Governor Palin's day today in Ohio, including more on her policy speech on energy.

In the meantime, let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, of all the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain -- and there are many -- here's one that could really make a difference down the home stretch. One has a president to help him, and the other one doesn't. And at first glance, it's not what you might think.

After his appearance later tonight, Barack Obama attending a rally in Kissimmee, Florida. Former president Bill Clinton plans to crisscross the country on behalf of Obama in the closing days of the campaign. Tonight will mark President Clinton's first joint appearance with Obama on the campaign trail.

Despite his lukewarm support at first, President Clinton, as well as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, will campaign hard over the next few days to help Obama close the deal. But what about John McCain? He has a sitting president, a member of his own party. President Bush has been dubbed "the invisible man" when it comes to campaigning for his dear friend and fellow Republican, John McCain.

So here's the question: President Clinton's campaigning for Barack Obama. Why isn't President Bush campaigning for John McCain?

Go to and knock yourselves out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they will.

CAFFERTY: And they will. BLITZER: No doubt about that, Jack. Thank you.

Only six days to go, and CNN's electoral map is only a few minutes away from a significant transformation. Stand by to find out where the presidential candidates are gaining and losing ground.

Plus, three words the McCain camp is using to raise fears about Barack Obama: "Spread the wealth." We're checking the facts on Obama's record and McCain's charge that it smacks of socialism.

And in Florida, a unique way to get young people to the polls. Bus them.

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


BLITZER: Some major political developments are just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Barack Obama appears to be expanding his lead. So much so, we're about to change our CNN electoral map estimate.

Take a look at this. Based on several factors, we're now moving Colorado from a tossup state to one that's leaning toward Obama.

And look at this. Indiana is no longer leaning toward McCain on our map, but it's now a tossup state. That's significant, because both Colorado and Indiana voted Republican the past three presidential campaigns.

Meanwhile, we're also moving Washington State from leaning toward Obama to safe for Obama.

These changes are partly due to movement in individual state polls. We have some fresh CNN/"TIME" Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers from five key battleground states.

Let's go straight to CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider. He's in Kansas City watching what's going on. Bill, all right, what's happening in these supposedly red states?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I have shocking news. There is swinging going on in the nation's suburbs.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Winter is coming, and the red states are turning blue, or at least purple. Colorado shows the biggest change. Barack Obama's lead has doubled from four points to eight, propelled by an amazing 15-point Democratic lead in Colorado's fast-growing suburbs.

Florida, still tight. Obama up by four. Obama has a three-point lead in the Florida suburbs.

Georgia, John McCain's still ahead, but his lead has narrowed from eight points to five. The Georgia suburbs are holding for McCain. Narrowly.

Missouri is still close. McCain up by two. But Obama edges out McCain in the Missouri suburbs.

Virginia is still solid for Obama, with the suburbs leading the way.

The nation's economy has faltered, and so has Republican support in the suburbs. For nearly 30 years, the cornerstone of the Reagan coalition.

LAWRENCE LEVY, HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY: You have suburbanites are being affected by this recession in a particularly painful way. We've seen the highest drop in housing values in the suburbs. We've seen the biggest drop among people with their 401(k)s.

We've seen people starting to realize that they're not going to be able to hang on to their businesses, and they've seen their neighbors go out of business. We reported almost 40 percent of our respondents living paycheck to paycheck.

SCHNEIDER: A new poll of the national suburban vote shows a striking change over the past month. In September, McCain led Obama by six points in the suburbs. Now, Obama leads by eight.

Last month, suburban voters who felt economically stressed gave Obama a 10-point lead. Now, the Democrat is leading by 30 points among suburban voters with financial problems.


SCHNEIDER: In the past, Republicans held the suburban vote with a pledge to keep taxes low. And McCain is hoping the tax issue will work for him this time, as well. But taxes are not the top concern to suburban voters right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider is with the CNN Election Expresses in Liberty, Missouri, not in Kansas City, as I said earlier. Liberty, a lovely place indeed.

Thanks very much, Bill, for that.

All of this suggests that John McCain has a very uphill climb in this race during these remaining days. Let's assess.

Joining us now is Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins. Ed, you look at these changes, what does it mean for McCain right now?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It means it's a real uphill battle. We're fighting for our own turf.

We're losing our base. The suburbs have always been our base voters. Obama has got the money, he has the intensity. Obviously the economy is not our issue.

And so it's bleak. I think it's real bleak.

BLITZER: Some people say -- you know, some Republicans have suggested he needs really something extraordinary to happen over these remaining six days, you know, along the lines of what happened in 2004, for example, if there were a new videotape from Osama bin Laden, for example, right now, which occurred only a few days before the election in 2004. What would that do, if anything?

ROLLINS: You know, it may shake it up. The problem when you do something late in the campaign, you lose the believability. And so unless it's something totally outside any control of the campaign, I just don't see it changing.

I think people are now getting more comfortable with the idea that Barack Obama is going to be the next president. And so I think some of these swing voters in the end sort of fall into play as sort of wanting to be with the winner. And I think that's tough for McCain.

BLITZER: You've worked on a lot of Republican campaigns, including Ronald Reagan's campaign, going way back then. Bill McInturff, a man you probably know, he's the lead pollster for the McCain campaign, he issued a memo yesterday, among other things, saying this: "As other public polls begin to show Senator Obama dropping below 50 percent and the margin over McCain beginning to approach margin of error with a week left, all signs say we are headed toward an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."

ROLLINS: I have great respect for Bill, but sometimes what happens when you're in there, and since polling is a science, you adjust the poll to give yourself the best benefit. And that's not being delusionary, but you want to have some hope.

I would argue, if they have polls that show they can win in Pennsylvania, bring in some trusted reporters and show them. I mean, the problem today is they're going against these numbers of outside polls that all have big, big gaps, and the momentum's always going the other way.

BLITZER: Because you hear from some McCain supporters that their internal confidential numbers show it much closer than these public numbers, these Poll of Polls that we keep talking about.

ROLLINS: Well, once again, it's an adjustment. It's who you figure out is going to vote, and no one has an exact figure on that, because obviously we have a totally changed electorate, and a lot more voters than we've ever had before, and eight or nine points can mean a 19-million vote margin. I mean, it's a very significant margin across the country.

I think that what discourages me is I see state by state, just as you lay out here, going the other way. And so I think it just becomes harder and harder. National polls really mean very little.

BLITZER: And do you think the polls are as reliable this time as they might have been in years past, given the fact that a lot of young people we think are going to vote, and they may not be factored in, a huge African-American turnout, for example, that we anticipate? The voter intensity could change some of those statistical models.

ROLLINS: It could. And cell phones. I mean, a lot of these are landline, even though they try to make an adjustment for cell phones.

BLITZER: Because a lot of young people don't even have landlines.

ROLLINS: They don't even have landlines. I mean, I think pollsters are driving themselves crazy this time, and then the fact there are so many more polls than there have ever been before.

BLITZER: So the notion of a huge surprise, Dewey beats Truman, for example, you think that's unlikely?

ROLLINS: I think that's very unlikely. I mean, if there was one or two polls, you know, maybe they could be wrong, but when there's 10, 12 a day that all basically show a pretty good gap, including your Poll of Polls, you know, it's awful hard to overcome.

BLITZER: Is a huge turnout -- we assume it's going to be good for Obama. Do you assume that?

ROLLINS: I assume that because they've had a tremendous registration program. We don't have the organization we've had before. Karl Rove built a very effective registration program and a very effective get out the vote. It was built around the Christian coalition. McCain has done very little with the Christian coalition.

BLITZER: Ed Rollins, thanks very much.

ROLLINS: My pleasure. Thank you.

BLITZER: Some Florida high school students are taking an unusual field trip of sorts. They're going to school buses and they're going to the polls. We're tagging along. You'll want to see the story.

And Pakistan pushing back at the United States. The fight against al Qaeda hanging in the balance right now.

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



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

Happening now, the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, brings a new tone and some new substance to her stump speech. But is this the right time to be making changes?

Also, as the candidates fight for votes, some would-be voters are fighting for their right to cast a ballot. Dan Simon investigating reports of names being erased from voter registration rolls in Colorado. What's going on?

And the third party effect. In 2000, Green Party candidate at that time Ralph Nader probably helped swing Florida and the election to George W. Bush. Could Libertarian candidate Bob Barr do something similar in this year's election?

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

It's only six days until Election Day, and John McCain stepping up one key attack against Barack Obama. McCain accusing Obama of wanting to redistribute wealth in the United States. So is that a fair characterization of Obama's plans?

Our Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff is looking at this story for us. You've been checking the facts, Allan. What are you finding out?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this dispute really is all about tax policy. Barack Obama says that he would raise taxes on wealthier Americans, and John McCain says he would not.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): When "Joe the Plumber" complained to Barack Obama --

JOE WURZELBACHER, "JOE THE PLUMBER": Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?

CHERNOFF: Part of Obama's response was --

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

CHERNOFF: Now John McCain is arguing that Senator Obama presents a threat to well-off Americans, a potential Robin Hood in the White House.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama believes in redistributing wealth not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs.

CHERNOFF: McCain points to a radio interview Obama did in 2001 before he was a U.S. senator in which he said the civil rights movement had won only partial victories before the Supreme Court.

OBAMA: The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

CHERNOFF: So, McCain warns, hold on to your wallet if Barack Obama is elected.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist in chief. I'm running to be commander in chief. Senator Obama is running to punish the successful. BILL BURTON, OBAMA SPOKESMAN: Nothing could be further from the truth. What Senator Obama would be is a president who looks out for all of Americans.

CHERNOFF: Obama does want to raise taxes on American families earning more than $250,000 and cut taxes for the middle class.

OBAMA: We need a president who stands up for hardworking Americans on Main Street.


OBAMA: And that's what I intend to be.

CHERNOFF: McCain would retain current tax rates and phase out the alternative minimum tax that forces many middle-class families to pay more to the government.

Obama also wants to raise the capital gains tax, which affects wealthy Americans far more than the middle class, while McCain would retain the current low rate for capital gains.


CHERNOFF: So, the Barack Obama plan is a redistribution of the tax burden. Yes, wealthier Americans would pay more under the Obama plan, while the middle class would pay less. But, Wolf, Barack Obama is not Robin Hood.

BLITZER: Yes, OK. Thanks very much, Allan, for that fact-check for us.

Meanwhile, some high school students in Florida are eager to make their voices heard six days from now, and they will have a very unique way of doing it.

Let's go to CNN's Sean Callebs. He's reporting from Miami. What is going on, Sean?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're talking about a group that is well-versed on the issues, and they know the candidates. They're also willing to spend a long time in line to cast their ballot.

We're talking about thousands of Broward County high school students, students that the district is making sure make their way to the polls.


CALLEBS (voice-over): It's not a ride to school, rather, a trip to the polls, a Broward County public school bus taking students to vote, after the district helped register the kids. For some, it's all about the issues.

SIOBHAN MOORE, STUDENT: The health care, I'm really excited about. The gay marriage, of course I'm excited about, because I think everybody should have their own opinion of what they want to do in life.

CALLEBS: But, for many of the 18-year-olds, the presidential race is the draw.

ADRIAN BRACERO, STUDENT: I feel as though we need to make a change in the country, and I feel as though that candidates -- some candidates have qualities that will help that.

CALLEBS: Broward is taking registered seniors from all its high schools. These students are from McArthur High in Hollywood, a mostly minority school.

Assistant principal Julie Biancardi helped register the teens and is pleased with their political knowledge.

JULIE BIANCARDI, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL, MCARTHUR HIGH SCHOOL: They're talking about issues and facts, not emotional issues. And that's what I think I'm impressed with.

CALLEBS: Armed with a sample ballot, these students passed the hour-and-a-half in line like everyone else here, talking candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of them talked to us today. Her -- his mom came.

CALLEBS: It's an important swing state, where candidates have always courted the elderly vote, but the youth vote is important. Broward County School Board member Benjamin Williams says it's all fair and legal, and, as far as he knows, this is the only public school district in the country registering students and taking them to vote.

BENJAMIN WILLIAM, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: This is fantastic, when you can -- we can involve all the young people in this voting process. They have registered over 3,600 students that are involved in this.

CALLEBS: A little sticker and a sense of satisfaction is the payoff.

MOORE: Of course I'm proud. I voted. I'm 18. I get to vote. And I have a voice. I feel like I have a voice in the country.


CALLEBS: You know, it's worth repeating. Broward officials say that they are not violating any laws. They say they're using money set aside for field trips, Wolf, and so far have heard no complaints -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sean, thanks very much. Sean's working the story.

By the way, if you have trouble at the polls, call the CNN voter hot line. You can help us track the problem, and we will report the trouble in real time. Here's the number, 1-877-462-6608. We're keeping them honest all the way through the election and beyond.

It's so rough out there for many Republicans, that one GOP senator is playing up a link to Barack Obama. Is that enough to save Oregon's Gordon Smith from getting the axe on Election Day?

Plus, a startling new twist in Senator Elizabeth Dole's reelection bid. The North Carolina Republican has a new ad suggesting her opponent is -- quote -- "Godless."

And Sarah Palin returns to her comfort zone, talking about energy. But did she leave out some important points? We're watching.

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


BLITZER: Here's a question. Are your bosses going to let you leave work for an hour to go vote on Tuesday? A video by Google featuring dozens of CEOs across the country says they should.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's working this story for us. Why are they doing this, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the top reason people give for not voting is that they're too busy, work commitments, school commitments. But, if you see your boss up here or your boss' boss, you're about to get a little bit of leeway. Just ask Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Election Day, I want everyone in the Trump Organization to stop working for one hour, only one hour. Go out and vote. And, if you have a hard time with that, you have got some problems, because there's nothing more important than voting. The fact is --


TATTON: This is Donald Trump on the Web site the Vote Hour, a Web site from Google featuring CEOs from companies like Sprint and eBay, Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, and also from universities as well, urging employers to give their employees an hour off to vote on Election Day.

For some people, though, that's not enough. Earlier on this week, the Barack Obama campaign put out this YouTube video, urging their supporters to ask for the day off on Election Day. Judging from the -- from the amount of people that have watched this, that's a popular idea -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, what are the laws as far as this is concerned?

TATTON: Wolf, there's no federal law on this, but the majority of states do have laws on time off to vote, often more than an hour, up to two or three hours, in many cases.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much for that.

In the Oregon Senate race, Republican Gordon Smith is on his party's list of endangered incumbents, in a very tight race with his Democratic challenger. Smith has been trying a unique approach. He's been tying himself to Barack Obama.

Here's CNN's Kate Bolduan -- Kate.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith is a moderate Republican in a traditionally Democratic state. This year, Smith's own party, not his opponent, may be his biggest obstacle to reelection. Republican Senator Gordon Smith is fighting strong political headwinds.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: And you all know about strong winds.

BOLDUAN: The two-term senator is neck and neck with Democratic Challenger, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley. And with an unpopular President Bush, and the downturn in the economy on top of voters' minds, Smith is crisscrossing the state campaigning on his bipartisan record.

SMITH: I worked with Barack Obama on -- on fuel efficiency for cars, and John Kerry on housing, and Ted Kennedy on civil rights. And, obviously, when you want to get something done it, takes a commonsense center in the U.S. Senate. That's where I have been, and that's where I will be.

BOLDUAN: With the chance Senate Democrats could win enough seats to reach a filibuster-proof majority, both national parties are pouring millions of dollars into TV ads here.

Running hard toward the center, one ad paid for by Smith's campaign even highlights his work with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.


NARRATOR: Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glad you're here. And you're going to win.


BOLDUAN: Merkley is firing back, criticizing Smith's record, including his initial support of the war in Iraq, although Smith later changed his position and broke with the White House. Merkley is also trying to remind voters at very turn of Smith's party ties.

MERKLEY: So, Gordon Smith, when he's here in Oregon, he talks about bipartisanship. But, when he's in Washington, D.C., he -- D.C. -- he votes like George Bush.


NARRATOR: After 2,846 days together, it's time to replace Gordon Smith, too.


BOLDUAN: Political analysts say, ads like this along, with Merkley's message, seem to be sticking with some voters.

BRITTNEY HAGUE, MERKLEY SUPPORTER: While I do feel that Gordon Smith has a lot to offer and has offered a lot to Oregon, I do believe that it's time for a change.

BOLDUAN (on camera): This race remains a tossup. And, with the state's later time zone, plus this very tight race, that could mean all eyes on Oregon election night, with a potential power shift in Congress hanging in the balance -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Kate, thanks very much -- Kate Bolduan reporting.

Bill Clinton was the last. He wants Barack Obama to be the next -- Democrat, that is -- in the White House. So, Clinton is doing double duty today, campaigning in two states. You are going to hear Bill Clinton live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In a season full of negative attacks, here's one you don't hear all that often. In North Carolina, a Senate rival links her opponent to -- quote -- "Godless Americans."

And a proposition against same-sex marriage is on the ballot in California. If it passes, could it mean the end of gay marriage in the U.S.? We're watching this story and a lot more -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Our own Larry King just sat down with Senator John McCain, and -- and asked this question, among others.

Listen to this.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You're president of the United States. You're flying over the Pacific -- MCCAIN: Yes.

KING: -- between nowhere and nowhere.

MCCAIN: Mm-hmm.

KING: There's an attack on the United States. How much confidence do you have in Vice President Palin?


BLITZER: You're going to find out how Senator McCain responded.

Also, Hilary Rosen and Alex Castellanos, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."

We will be right back.


BLITZER: When Californians go to the polls on Tuesday, they will be asked to voted on an initiative to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Let's discuss this and more in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen -- she's an editor at large at -- and Republican consultant and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Hilary, is this Proposition 8, as it's called, which would ban same-sex marriage in California, is it likely to pass or not pass?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the polls are neck and neck. But it's important to -- for people to understand that the California Supreme Court essentially said that the equal protection clause of that state's constitution protects gays and lesbians, including the right to marry.

So, what this proposition does, it -- it actually amends the state constitution to take gays and lesbians out of the equal protection clause. That's why people are so up in arms about it. It -- it would be the first time you would actually amend the constitution to take rights away from people.

BLITZER: The -- the governor, the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alex, he says he's going to vote against this Proposition 8. He doesn't think -- he doesn't support such a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

What do you think's going to happen?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think -- I think this is a different year. You know, Californians did vote 61 percent against gay marriage.

But, this year, you have got Barack Obama -- not only Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Barack Obama -- who's opposing it, and he is on the ballot this year. And he is right now at 60 percent in the polls in California. So, I think this year may be a different year for that ballot proposition.

BLITZER: We will watch that on Tuesday as well.

Guys, listen to this exchange that Larry King just had a little while ago with Senator McCain. Listen to this.


KING: You're president of the United States. You're flying over the Pacific --


KING: Between nowhere and nowhere.

MCCAIN: Mm-hmm.

KING: There's an attack on the United States. How much confidence do you have in Vice President Palin?

MCCAIN: Total. She has --

KING: Total?

MCCAIN: She has the instincts. She has the -- she shares my world view. Sarah Palin understands these issues. She understands them very well. And, frankly, with a lot of conversations that I have had with her, she's an incredibly quick study.

KING: So, there would be no question in your mind that she could take over?

MCCAIN: She not only would take over. She would inspire Americans.


BLITZER: What you can do of that answer, Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, I just wish I knew if John McCain really believed that, because I don't think a majority of Americans really believe it.

This isn't a fantasy scenario. Of course, people remember that, on 9/11, Vice President Cheney was actually in the Situation Room, giving the -- you know, seeking the order to shoot down any aircraft that entered into U.S. airspace.

I just don't think Sarah Palin has the confidence of the American people to make those kinds of decisions. And I think that the polls right now reflect that. BLITZER: Do you believe, Alex, that Senator McCain really believes, in his heart of hearts, what he just said to Larry?

CASTELLANOS: If he didn't, I don't think he would have picked her.

Look, the presidency and the future of the free world are too serious to think otherwise. And I think it's -- it really besmirches Senator McCain and the -- and the service he's provided for the country to think and say otherwise.

Look, the short -- the problem in Washington is not that we don't have intelligent people and that we don't have experienced people. It's, do we have people who are willing to stand up and do the right things? And that's what hasn't changed in Washington.

Sarah Palin is -- has, I think, been underrated there. Bill Clinton gave the worst speech of any presidential candidate you have ever heard at one Democratic Convention. Four years later, he was president of the United States. Sarah Palin had a bad interview with Katie Couric, one bad interview, and, somehow, she's now not qualified. That's unfair.

BLITZER: It wasn't necessarily such a bad speech. It was just a long speech in 1988 --

CASTELLANOS: He was booed.

BLITZER: That a lot of us remember.


BLITZER: All right.

Let's talk a little bit about the race, Alex, in your home state of North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole, the incumbent Republican, facing a very stiff challenging from Kay Hagan.

Listen to this ad that the Dole campaign has now released.


NARRATOR: A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fund-raiser in Kay Hagan's honor.

Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras, took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?



BLITZER: All right. Now, here's a response from Kay Hagan: "I am absolutely appalled at Elizabeth Dole's vile tactics. This is politics of the worst kind, and I know it has been rejected by North Carolinians at every level. It is so unbecoming of a woman like Elizabeth Dole. This is a fabricated, pathetic ad."

And -- and she went on to point out, she -- she teaches Sunday school. She regularly attends church. She is not Godless.

But go ahead. Talk about this tactic, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Well, when you're making ads that say, there is no God, it usually means your campaign doesn't have much of a prayer.


CASTELLANOS: It's not the best thing to be doing here.

There's a way to make this attack. There's a way to say, look, this lady goes to church, believes in gods, but look who she's taking money from. This is a question of judgment.

There's a fair way to bring up who you're associated with. This seems to cross the line. If this -- this also just hits the ball back over the net to Hagan to put this -- to put this race away.


BLITZER: And, at the very end of that ad, when you hear a woman's voice say, "There is no God," that -- that was a woman that may sound somewhat like Kay Hagan, but it wasn't Kay Hagan.

But it leaves the impression, Hilary, that that was Kay Hagan saying, "There is no God."

ROSEN: And I think that, from Kay Hagan's point of view, that's one of the most offensive parts about the ad is that impression, when that clearly wasn't her, and, in fact, it was sort of fake audio there.

Look, the wheels are coming off of Senator Dole's bus here. There's no question that she has nothing positive to say. She's been in the Senate an awfully long time. And, if this is the best she has to do in an ad, then, you know, no wonder every single major newspaper in North Carolina endorsed Kay Hagan, who has been routinely voted one of the most effective state senators there is.

I think Liddy Dole's abandonment of the state has kind of come home to roost here, and she has just...

CASTELLANOS: Well, she hasn't abandoned that state.

ROSEN: She has just screwed up.

BLITZER: All right. Alex, how much trouble is she in?

ROSEN: And now has nothing to do but throw mud.

CASTELLANOS: It's a -- it's a tough race.

You know, when John McCain is barely on the winning side of that now -- John McCain does have a chance to carry North Carolina, but Elizabeth Dole is running a couple of points behind him. She's got a much better message to close with.

And that is, hey, do we -- if Barack Obama's president, do we really want a -- a big-spending Democratic Congress up there, without anybody to stop them? She should be talking about taxes and spending and Democrats out of control in Washington, and you need me there now, when the economy's on the edge.


BLITZER: She did -- she did have an ad like that also that she released a few days ago. But this one is particularly negative, as you just heard.

ROSEN: You know, Wolf --

BLITZER: Guys, we -- have got to leave it there, unfortunately. So, hold your fire, because there will be plenty of opportunity between now and Tuesday. Hilary and Alex, thank you.

Bill Clinton fights for Barack Obama. He's campaigning in two states today. You're going to hear what the former president of the United States is saying on Barack Obama's behalf. That's coming up -- live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And everyone hopes Election Day will certainly be peaceful, but what if something tragic happens? You're going to find out how one key state is preparing for the worst.

And with six days before Election Day, John McCain brings out what some are calling a new secret weapon. Wait until you see what that is and who that is.

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


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": There's apparently no place like home for Sarah Palin on Election Day. A campaign adviser tells CNN the Republican vice presidential candidate will return to her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, to cast her vote on November 4.

John McCain is sending a top surrogate to the battleground state of Virginia. That would be his mom, 96-year-old Roberta. We're told she will make 10 stops across Virginia between now and Friday. Our new CNN/"TIME"/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Obama nine points ahead of McCain in Virginia.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush apparently has a sense of humor about the 2000 presidential dispute in his home state that ended up putting his brother in the White House.

Listen to Jeb Bush's punchline while warming up the crowd at a McCain rally in Miami today.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: And I hope, when we finish this meeting, that you get in line and that you vote early. What the heck. We're in Florida. So, vote often.


BLITZER: All right. That's maybe not so funny.

Jack Cafferty is here. Were you laughing, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, it would be funny if they knew how to count the votes when people just voted once, but they -- they don't down there. They have shown that.

The question this hour is: President Clinton's campaigning now for Barack Obama. Why isn't President Bush campaigning for John McCain?

Garth says: "Bush campaigning with McCain and Palin? Are you serious? This would be a real comedy show -- two comics and a sidekick, McCain. Bush couldn't help a class leader get elected with his pitiful record. Isn't it a real pity that a sitting president can't be of any help to the candidate from his own party hoping to succeed him?"

Kathy writes: "John McCain doesn't need President Bush by his side. He has Anchorage Annie as his V.P. pick --"


CAFFERTY: " -- who is even more extremist, and right-wing fringe-minded than Bush. However, it would be a wonderful October surprise if the President would call a prime-time news conference to remind all of us of his endorsement of McShame."

Ian in Fairfax, Virginia: "Jack, simply put, it's Bush. I think the best way Bush can help McCain is to stay out of his campaign."

Derek in Toronto writes: "Bill Clinton did so much good for the economy, secretly wishes he could have run again. George Bush has done so virtually nothing for the economy and secretly wishes he could just run away."

Nora in Corpus Christi, Texas: "I think it is horrible the way George -- John McCain has thrown George Bush under the bus because of this election. I would have been more impressed with McCain if he would have stood up and said: 'Yes, I voted for Bush. I have agreed with him 94 percent of the time, but now I see we have to take the country in a different direction.' Shame on you, McCain. You really are not loyal to anybody right now, are you?"

Cee writes: "President Bush's feelings are still hurt because McCain only agreed 90 percent of the time. He wanted 100."

And Brian in Florida writes: "President Bush campaigning for Senator McCain is like Senator Stevens of Alaska endorsing Sarah Palin for vice president. I would rather get the coal in my Christmas stocking."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog, Look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And , to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.