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Obama Campaign Prepares to Air Network Infomercial; Pentagon Advocates Talks With Taliban

Aired October 29, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening now, a show-stopping night for Barack Obama. With a half-hour campaign commercial, and Bill Clinton at his side, what can John McCain do to compete? The best political team on television is standing by.
Also, Obama gaining new ground in our CNN electoral map, the surprising states that could help him win the keys to the White House.

And talking to the Taliban, the Pentagon now thinks it is a good idea. What are McCain and Obama saying?

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

Tonight, Barack Obama is outdoing himself with a big money ad extravaganza and a campaign appearance with a Democrat who matches him in star power. That would be the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Only six days before America votes, Obama is clearly on the offensive and showing even more attitude toward his Republican rival.

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To North Carolina, another Republican state south of the Mason-Dixon where Obama hopes to break a decades-long hold on much of the region, he rides the economy to the finish line.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need another president who fights for Washington lobbyists and Wall Street. We need a president who stands up for hardworking Americans on Main Street, and that is what I intend to be.


CROWLEY: In tandem, the campaign is up with a tough, stark new ad attacking McCain with one- to two-year-old quotes and making fun of his number two.

He does mostly local interviews now, reads off a teleprompter, and stays far away from the traveling press, a mistake-free zone. His running mate is there, too. Free-wheeling, free-speaking Joe Biden is hooked up to a teleprompter, also free from reporter questions, and sticking with the program this longtime party man hitting the McCain/Palin team.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, no, no, they are good folk. They are good folk.

But here is the part I love. Hey, maverick. I'm a maverick. You're a maverick. We are the maverick team, right?

You know, Brett and Bart Maverick. They are the mavericks, right?

CROWLEY: Obama will spend most, if not all of the next days in the red states, but the thousands who show up in North Carolina and later in Florida are small potatoes compared to this evening's Barack blitzkrieg, a 30-minute political infomercial across multiple networks. A campaign source says real Americans taking their problems will take up some of the time, and then Barack Obama in a presidential-looking setting talking about his campaign experiences and his plans.

He will also appear live from Florida during the time he is scheduled to be at a rally with Biden. Estimated cost for the half- hour Obama fest, anywhere from $3.5 to $5 million. Obama's campaign time may be finite. His money doesn't seem to be.


CROWLEY: The Obama campaign along with the press corps has now flown from Raleigh, North Carolina, here in Sunrise, Florida now, where we have just arrive. In fact, this is the place where he and Joe Biden will appear on this stage and do what we believe will be the final phase of that 30-minute telecast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stand by for that.

Candy Crowley reporting for us -- thank you, Candy.

And this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, now speaking out openly about her intentions in 2012, if -- if she and John McCain were to lose this contest next Tuesday.

In an interview with ABC News, Sarah Palin is now saying, she would be interested in remaining a serious national political figure, going ahead to 2012. She was asked: "What happens in 2012 if you lose on Tuesday? Would you simply go back to Alaska?" Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News asked her.

And Palin said this. And I will read it to you verbatim, according to an ABC News transcript.

"Absolutely not," Sarah Palin says. "I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we have taken, that that would bring this whole -- and I'm not doing this for naught."

That is a direct quote from Sarah Palin, clearly leaving open the possibility that she would be interested in leading the Republican Party in 2012 if she and John McCain were to lose this presidential contest right now.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She is covering the McCain campaign for us.

You are in Ohio, a key battleground state.

Any reaction yet, Dana, to this rather blunt statement from Sarah Palin that she would in fact be interested in leading the Republican Party going forward after Tuesday if they lose?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I just got off of the phone, Wolf, with a senior McCain adviser. And I read this person the quote. And I think it is fair to say that this person was speechless. There was a long pause, and I just heard a "huh" on the other end of the phone.

This is certainly not a surprise to anybody who has watched Sarah Palin that she is interested in potentially a future national run. Certainly, she is being urged to by a lot of people inside the Republican Party if they do lose. But it is an if. And people inside the McCain campaign, they do not want any discussion that has an if in front of it six days before the election. They don't want any discussion at all, any kind of hypothetical talk about running for the next time around.

So, certainly, this is not at least initially being received well inside of the McCain campaign. I can you tell that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I am not surprised. I am not surprised at all. It is one of those, wow, she is openly talking about 2012 if they lose. That is not something to be something that you say. You are supposed to say, well, I am not looking ahead. I'm looking only ahead to Tuesday.

Those are the talking points that she's supposed to be saying, but she is obviously blunt and she is looking ahead if something were to happen on Tuesday that she would not be happy with.

Let's talk about Senator McCain right now. He is in Ohio. He's been speaking rather bluntly, unveiling his initiatives as he goes forward and going right after Barack. What is the latest, Dana?

BASH: Well, the latest is that, obviously, at this point in time, John McCain realizes he doesn't have a lot of time and he doesn't have a big infomercial, he doesn't have a big headliner like Bill Clinton tonight, so he is trying to counterprogram.


BASH (voice-over): John McCain knows he can't compete with Barack Obama's blockbuster bank account that bought 30 minutes of prime-time 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 will sit down and talk with one of the Castro brothers. I will 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, in that "L.A. Times" article, it says that Barack Obama talked about the idea of finding common ground on this issue.

And, Wolf, back in May, Obama was asked about by -- while speaking to Jewish voters in Florida and he said that he is friends with Khalidi, but he is not an adviser. And, also, today, an Obama spokesman said that McCain is simply trying to manufacture a controversy.

I actually asked a McCain aide why they are bringing this up now, and the response was pretty blunt. It was, because Obama may be elected president in one week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's been a professor at the University of Chicago on Middle Eastern studies. He is now a professor at Columbia University. And Barack Obama has not hidden the fact that at one point they friends, although, as you point out, he insists that he was never an adviser to his presidential campaign.

All right, Dana, thanks very much.

We want to get back to this other story we are following, some blunt comments from Sarah Palin just a little while ago, telling ABC News that she would in fact be interested in running again in 2012 if she and John McCain were to lose this race on Tuesday, pretty extraordinary comments only six days before an election.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She is in Ohio. She's working the Sarah Palin story for us.

Earlier in the day, she delivered what her campaign described as a policy speech on energy issues ,the third such policy speech, as opposed to stump speeches, that she has delivered.

Mary, tell our viewers the thrust of what she was saying.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is really seen as an effort try to shift away from some of the recent controversies, focus on something that is in her comfort zone. Yes, it may help her with some independents, say strategists, but they doubt it's going to make any major difference at this point.


SNOW (voice-over): Stumping in the must-win state for Republicans, Sarah Palin shifted the focus to her signature issue, energy independence. She called for a clean break from Bush administration and said relying on foreign oil poses a security risk.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Across the world, these pipelines, refineries, transit routes and terminals for the oil that we rely on. And al Qaeda terrorists, they know where those are.

SNOW: Palin toured a solar panel facility in Toledo. She mentioned solar energy, but stressed the need for nuclear energy and more drilling. She didn't mention Alaska's National Wildlife, where she supports drilling and John McCain doesn't.

Some politics observers say it is a little late for this kind of policy speech as candidates give closing arguments.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What it does do and where I think there is some wisdom to it is that she needed to bolster her intellectual credentials, the sense that she knows something about substance, because she has been so ridiculed on so many other fronts.

SNOW: Fronts like the focus on Palin's wardrobe and apparent rifts within the McCain campaign about Palin's performance.

In Ohio, where polls show McCain behind, political observers say Palin still plays well to Republican audiences, but her favorable ratings have fallen as she has gone on the attack.

PAUL BECK, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: So, I think that independents in particular don't want to hear these partisan themes. It really turns them off in a campaign.

SNOW: And while Palin started her day on policy, the political attacks picked up soon after, as Joe the plumber joined her on the campaign trail.

PALIN: Because of an encounter with Senator Obama, what Joe the plumber and the rest of us finally found out is that Obama says now he wants to spread the wealth.


SNOW: Well, Wolf, Palin has been hammering home the theme that Obama equals socialism. While she is continuing to do that on the campaign trail, she will shift some of her focus to a national security roundtable tomorrow, some strategists saying this is something that should have been done weeks ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in the battleground state of Ohio for us -- Mary, working the story, thanks very much.

Bill Clinton has just started speaking out in Western Pennsylvania. We're going to go there live and hear what he has to say. That is coming up. Stand by. He is just getting through the introductory remarks right now.

John McCain is asked something that many people want answered. Is racism a factor in this race? You're going to hear what Senator McCain told our own Larry King in a one-on-one interview.

And stunning political developments -- we're changing our estimate of who would win the election if it were held today. One side will certainly be encouraged. The other will be troubled.

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

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


BLITZER: Former President Bill Clinton is now speaking in Western Pennsylvania, out on the campaign trail for Barack Obama.

Let's listen in.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Election Day, you make the hiring decision. You're the boss.

So, you have to decide what is the job. Before you can figure out who to hire, what are they supposed to do? I think there's two things the next president has to do. We have got to turn this economy turn around and make it work for ordinary people again. And we have got to restore America's standing in the world for peace and prosperity.


CLINTON: Now, once you to define the job, it gets a lot easier to make the hire.

There are four reasons I think that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and this part of Pennsylvania that has been so good to me and my wife and our family should choose Barack Obama and Joe Biden, four. And these are the things that it takes to be a good president. You got to have the right philosophy. You got to have the right policies. You got to be able to make good decisions and execute, execute.

OK. So, let's just run through them. Barack Obama has got the right philosophy. He knows that America only works best from the ground up, not from the top down. We have had eight years of top down, thank you very much, and it did not work.


CLINTON: And don't you kid yourself. That is why you went from 22.7 million to four million jobs. That is why we went from family incomes going up $7,500 a year across racial and regional lines to family incomes going down $2,000 after inflation.

That is why we are in trouble, because it was a top-down country for the last eight years. Ninety percent of the benefits of this decade went to the top 10 percent, over 40 percent to the top 1 percent.

Look, I am not against rich people. I am one of them.


CLINTON: And I love saying this, because I never had a nickel to my name, but I want to tell you something. Anybody that is in our income group ought to be willing to pay our fair share of taxes and ought to want the tax relief and the education funds and the health care funds to go to the people that need it to build a middle-class country.

And anybody who doesn't hasn't been thinking straight. This is a bottom-up society. So, check the box for Obama. He has got the right philosophy.

Number two, policies. I have read them all. You remember how people used to make fun of me for being a policy wonk? Oh, that Clinton is so boring. He is off there talking about the details. Next thing I know, he will be telling me how my car works.

Let me tell you something, folks. You want somebody that knows something about policy now, don't you?


CLINTON: It is not some esoteric, boring subject anymore, is it?

OK. So, you heard these debates. I'm telling you, I have read all the policy positions. The Obama policies on the economy, on energy, on education, and on health care are better. On health care, they are light years better.


CLINTON: You know, he has got a policy that is going to make health care affordable to everybody and will actually bring the costs down over the next few years, and get out of some of this nightmare.

This is disgraceful. Last week -- story -- one in eight American cancer patients can't afford their medicine anymore. America falls to 29th in infant mortality. Story today in "USA Today," all these states are having to cut back on their health care programs for children.

It is a disgrace, folks. We are spending 16.5 percent of our income on health care. Nobody else is spending more than 11 percent, and we can't figure out how to provide basic care? I will tell you why. Because the special interests have taken it over, and it has been made worse in the last year -- eight years.

The Congress --


CLINTON: The Republican Congress passed a bill that the president wanted to say that the U.S. government was the only large purchaser of medicine in the country that couldn't bargain for discount prices for the medicine they bought in high volumes for seniors.

This Medicare Advantage program, oh, it does give about $550 more of services. The problem is, you, the taxpayers, pay the insurance companies $1,100 more to get the $550.

Is there anybody here who would not do any job for a 100 percent markup? I'm telling you, you are being ripped off to a fare-thee- well. If you want a decent health care policy, you have got to be for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.


BLITZER: The former President of the United States Bill Clinton, he's in Western Pennsylvania right now, out on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. And he said, "Hillary sent me." That is his message to the folks there, later tonight, the first time together with Barack Obama out on the campaign trail. We will continue to watch this story for you. In the meantime, some major political developments now coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Barack Obama appears to be expanding his lead, so much so, we are changing our CNN electoral map. Look at this. Based on several factors, we are moving Colorado from a tossup state to one that is leaning toward Obama.

And also this, Indiana, Indiana is no longer leaning toward McCain on our map, but now a tossup. And that is significant because both Colorado and Indiana voted Republican the past three presidential campaigns.

Meanwhile, we are also moving Washington state from leaning toward Obama to safe for Obama, significant changes.

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

Let's go straight to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He's in Liberty, Missouri -- Bill.


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

(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 have 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.

(on camera): 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 with the CNN Election Express.

All of this certainly suggests that John McCain has a very uphill climb to fight. Let's talk about that with our chief national correspondent, John King. How difficult is this right now for John McCain?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I flew back from Nevada today. That's one of our tossup states still on the map. And I talked to a McCain strategist on the way, who said it is bleak and getting worse.

You just outlined the math. And we will start right there. We now have Barack Obama leading in states with a combined 289 electoral votes. So, if he just holds what he has, he is the next president of the United States. That tells you the challenge for McCain with only five days left of campaigning.

Look at the map right now. Every one of these six tossup shows, six because Indiana is now tossup, Colorado has gone leaning Obama, every one of them Bush state. Let's just say John McCain holds on in Florida, a very narrow state, but let's say McCain takes that. Let's also say hypothetically again -- Obama is close and in range in all these states, but let's give them to McCain, North Carolina, 20 over here in Ohio, next door in Indiana, where Bill Schneider just reported from, a very tight race in Missouri.

If John McCain gets all those, it gets him up to 247, still well short. I was just in Nevada, Wolf. And I'm telling you, even Republicans in this state -- I flew back this morning -- think that Obama is going to win this state. But, again, for hypothetical, let's give it to John McCain.

He is still behind. So, he has to change something. This, of course, is where he has been fighting. He will be in Pennsylvania up through the election. If he can swing Pennsylvania, if he can swing it red, then John McCain would win, but that is swinging those.

Let's go back to what I just said. Everyone out here thinks that Obama is going to win. So, if Obama wins Nevada, even if McCain wins Pennsylvania, he still loses a very narrow election.

So, John McCain has to somehow come back in Pennsylvania where he is down eight or 10 points right now, Wolf, and then find something else in this map. Barack Obama has a huge menu. He already now just has to hold what he has. If he could pick up a Florida, if he could pick up a North Carolina, he could pick up an Ohio, any one of those states, I just threw them all over, but the map is just so inviting for him right now, and then throw in the resources, he has the advantage.

BLITZER: How significant in Pennsylvania where he is speaking right now and in Florida later tonight where they will have a joint event, the Bill Clinton factor for Barack Obama in these final days? You know the state of Pennsylvania, you know the state of Florida and you know Bill Clinton.

KING: Well, let's come out to Pennsylvania.

Now, again, John Kerry did win this state last time. Not since 1988 has it gone. But remember the primaries. How significant is Bill Clinton? These are the Democratic primaries. The light blue is Hillary Clinton. These are your more conservative blue-collar voters. Bill Clinton has appeal to them, because he won this state quite handily back -- we will go back as far as 1996 and look at the state. Look at the state.

He just won the state. He swept the state 49-40 over Bob Dole with a little bit of help from Ross Perot in that race. And then you're talking about Florida. Again, this is the state, we're back -- let's go way back. Let's come back to 2004 first.

Look, George W. Bush won this state, because John Kerry wins down here, Democratic area. This is the battleground, where you have the population in the I-4 Corridor. Kerry won in Orlando and out along the coast. But George W. Bush swept in through here.

Let's go back in time. The last Democrat to carry this state, Wolf, you know the name. He is speaking in Pennsylvania right now. But look at the blue from when Bill Clinton carried Florida.

If Barack Obama can do this -- and our latest polls shows he is doing quite well in this community -- if Barack Obama can win down here like both Bill Clinton and John Kerry did, but also put more blue up here -- and I want to show you again '04. Remember all that blue? That is when Bill Clinton last won it. Now we come back to George W. Bush. Look how red it gets. This is the area right through. Bill Clinton helps. Those voters know him. And they remember the Clinton economy.

BLITZER: It is certainly true he is a huge asset for him on this day. Don't go away, because we have got our discussion coming up as well.

Joe Biden is known for speaking his mind, for better or worse, but we have not heard a lot of him from in terms of Q&A lately. Is the Democratic vice presidential candidate being muzzled? The best political team on ready to weigh in.

Plus, a dramatic proposal by the Pentagon to open direct communications with the Taliban. You are going to find out what the presidential candidates have to say about that.

And Senator Elizabeth Dole makes a stunning suggestion about her campaign rival, insisting that she is -- quote -- "Godless." What is going on in North Carolina? We will discuss that and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, the grueling North Carolina Senate race takes a nasty turn. The incumbent Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole, releasing an ad against her challenger, Kay Hagan, suggesting Hagan is "godless." We'll have a live report. That's coming up.

A double play for Barack Obama -- tonight, he airs a 30 minute video on prime time television -- an unprecedented purchase for a political campaign. And later, he's campaigning in a critical state with Bill Clinton. It's their first joint event. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Barack Obama is less than two hours away from a TV ad blitz -- a half hour campaign commercial airing on a variety of television networks at once. The campaign just released some highlights.

Check it out.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the past 20 months, I've traveled the length of this country. And Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives. Their stories are American stories.

I'd like to introduce you to some of those people tonight. I'll also lay out in specific detail what I'll do as president to restore the long-term health of our economy and our middle class and how I'll make the decisions to get us there.

What struck me most about these stories you'll see tonight is not just the challenges these Americans face, but also their resolve to change this country.


BLITZER: Senator Elizabeth Dole, meanwhile, her Democratic challenger says she's appalled by the North Carolina Republican's new commercial. The spot suggests that Democratic challenger Kay Hagan is godless -- an insinuation "fabricated and pathetic" -- direct quotes from her.

CNN's Ed Henry is out on the campaign trail in Florida.

He's working this story for us.

You've been making calls about this new commercial in North Carolina. It's generating a lot -- a lot of commotion out there -- Ed.

Go ahead and tell us what we know and also give us an excerpt from that commercial.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. It is a major dust-up that really underscores the trouble the Republican Party is facing right now -- not just Senator McCain, whose plane is about to take off behind me, but also Senate Republicans in particular. An awful political climate for them, specifically in North Carolina.

Republican Elizabeth Dole, as you mentioned, facing the challenge of her life from Democrat Kay Hagan. And basically Senator Dole today released just a bare knuckles ad. It's entitled "Godless." And it basically goes after Kay Hagan by suggesting, essentially, she's godless because of her connections to people that -- where she at the ended a fundraiser in Boston recently.

Take a listen to the ad.


NARRATOR: A leader of the Godless Americans Pact recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor. Godless Americans and Kay Hagan -- she hid from cameras, took godless money.

What did Hagan promise in return?



HENRY: Now, Kay Hagan today insisted that she didn't realize that -- that this person who hosted the party had anything to do with the Godless Pact. She said she herself is a Christian. And she's demanding that the ad be taken down, basically a cease and desist order.

But I think the broader question here, it just shows how much trouble Senate Republicans are in right now. Beyond just this North Carolina race, what it's about is whether or not Democrats can reach 60 votes in the Senate. Then they would have a filibuster-proof majority. If Barack Obama -- and that's a big if -- if Barack Obama is elected president and had a 60 vote margin in the Senate, that would be major in terms of him being able to pass his agenda. Enormous ramifications. I can tell you, on that plane behind me, I talked to Republican Senator Mel Martinez of Florida earlier. He's traveling with Senator McCain. And he told me he's very, very nervous right now that Republicans are going to lose a lot of seats in this election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry working the story with a lot of ramifications. Thank you.

Also an important story we're following today in THE SITUATION ROOM, negotiating with the Taliban -- that's a controversial idea, as you no doubt know. But some leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan believe it's perhaps the best chance they have for achieving peace in the region. The U.S. is supporting the plan with one caveat.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie, what are the U.S. military officials saying about this very controversial proposal?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying that they think it's a good idea to talk to the Taliban. But they don't think the U.S. military who ought to be the one doing the talking.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have a standing request for 20,000 additional American troops. But it's clear the new strategy for Afghanistan will put more emphasis on talking to, rather than taking out, the Taliban.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: You can't kill them all. You have to figure out a way to embrace those who are willing, ultimately, to work with the central government.

MCINTYRE: As former Iraq Commander General David Petraeus takes over responsibility for the region that includes Iraq and Afghanistan, he wants to apply some of the same tactics that worked in Iraq -- convincing so-called reconcilables to switch sides.

But there's a difference, in Iraq, the U.S. military paid off Sunni insurgents. U.S. commanders say Afghanistan is far more complicated, with too many tribes and too many rival factions for American troops to intercede. They feel only the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai can effectively engage the enemy.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Those are the Taliban, yes, those who want to come on board, those who want to join the peace process, they're welcome. Those who are part of Al Qaeda and ideologically are against us, that's a different thing. They will never come.

MCINTYRE: And while the Pentagon officials says the U.S. officials will fully support Karzai in his effort to reconcile Afghanistan, they also draw the line at amnesty for top leaders like Mullah Omar. MORRELL: Mullah Omar has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, based upon the support that he provided Osama bin Laden. So we do not reconcile with Al Qaeda.


MCINTYRE: Now we contacted both the McCain and Obama campaigns. And this is an idea they agree on. From the McCain campaign, a spokesman said: "The United States should work to splinter insurgent groups by identifying and separating reconcilable fighters and factions from the truly irreconcilable fanatics like Al Qaeda."

And from the Barack Obama campaign, we were pointed to a "Time" magazine interview where Barack Obama said: "I think this is one useful lesson that is applicable from Iraq. Whether there are the same opportunities in Afghanistan, I think should be explored."

Now, both candidates were careful to nuance their position to make sure that they weren't dealing with the real terrorists in Afghanistan, but some of the people right in the middle who could possibly help bring peace to the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre working through all those nuances for us, as he always does. Jamie, thank you.

Suddenly, they're sticking to policy issues out there on the campaign trail. But John McCain and Sarah Palin are now taking the high road. Could it lead them to the White House?

And the Obama juggernaut on full display tonight, with a prime time advertising pitch aimed at millions and a joint campaign appearance with Bill Clinton. Does John McCain have any answer to all of that? We're asking the best political team on television right after this.


BLITZER: With certainly less than a week to go, both John McCain and Sarah Palin are focusing in on substantive issues. Could taking the high road lead them to the White House?

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, John King; and Rick Stengel, the managing editor of our sister publication, "Time" magazine -- Gloria, what do you think, this strategy of having Sarah Palin deliver a substantive policy speech on energy today, McCain speaking about national security today?

Is this going to help?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it works for both of them. It's the way they want to conclude their campaign. Sarah Palin is not talking about her wardrobe, she's talking about substance. Some would argue she should have done this earlier on, after she was chosen, in the month of September. But better late than never. And it's the way John McCain wants to end his campaign -- talking about national security, which polls show is still his strong suit.


KING: No question about it. John McCain wants to talk about national security, Wolf, so that voters -- especially if you're a soft Obama supporter, you get a little pause. You pull that curtain behind you and you think is this guy really ready?

There's still 140,000 troops in Iraq, more troops in Afghanistan. Is this guy really ready? That's McCain on national security.

When it comes to Palin, she has helped with the Republican base. But if you look at the polling data or travel through -- and Bill Schneider talked about this in the polls earlier. This ticket is hurting in the suburbs right now. That is why Barack Obama is winning. And affluent suburban voters and Independents don't think Sarah Palin is ready to be president.

BLITZER: Could --

KING: So they want to try to boost her policy points right now.

BLITZER: Given the economic crisis, both of the candidates -- they've been focusing almost exclusively in recent weeks on the economy.

RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, they've got to. And Barack now, when you're winning, you can take the high road. You can -- he doesn't want to coast, but he doesn't have to actually take the low road.

I mean McCain -- I would argue with your premise, that I think there's some subterranean negative campaign going on. On the surface, he's talking about positive things. But, obviously, underneath, he's always attacking Obama. And that's what he's got to do in the final weeks.


STENGEL: I mean he may want for his legacy to be, you know, the old John McCain. But if he really wants to win, he can't do that.

BLITZER: Well, what can he do at this late stage, with only five or six days to go...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: I mean he's got to do something, right?

BORGER: Well, yes. And they believe -- when you talk to folks in the McCain campaign, this is what they will tell you. They will tell you that those undecided voters that we've all been talking so much about are actually soft Republican voters. And that, therefore, they are more inclined to give John McCain the benefit of the doubt, hence the national security talking points.


BORGER: And so that, you know, they believe that, in the end, when these people close the curtain, they want to just say OK, Obama is too much of a risk. And so they're saying that's the margin of difference between them -- and between -- and Barack Obama in all of those battleground states.

BLITZER: Because Barack Obama has so much more money. He's going to be so much more visible out there in these commercials, including later tonight -- this half hour commercial.

What -- it seems that it's a juggernaut, as I said before.

KING: It is, from a financial standpoint, not a fair fight. And life is not fair and politics is not fair. But when you have the money that Barack Obama has, you can both smile and slap. And when I say that, he is smiling. In this presentation tonight, the infomercial, he's going, I have a plan. I want to help you. Listen to these real people. They will tell you my policies will help you.

BORGER: Right.

KING: It's very positive, this is what I will do if you elect me.

If you watch his advertisements during the day, especially in battleground states, they are tough. And this is the Democrats remembering they lost two close elections in 2004 and in 2000. And while Barack Obama is playing high ground in most of his speeches, they are keeping their foot on the throat of John McCain in the television ads.

STENGEL: That's right.

BORGER: So is McCain, though.

BLITZER: All right, guys.


BLITZER: Rick, stand by, because I'm going to pick up with you in a moment. I want to take a quick break.

Even with six days to go, the gaffes and the guffaws -- they keep on happening out there on the campaign trail. Jeanne Moos has the latest edition of her "Moost Unusual" Campaign Follies.

And the Clintons go online with a final week campaign message.


CLINTON: Senator Obama and Senator Biden need your help November 4th. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So please, everybody, get involved. And don't forget to register and don't forget to vote November 4th.



BLITZER: We're back with Rick Stengel, John King and Gloria Borger.

These latest comments in this ABC News interview that Sarah Palin gave Elizabeth Vargas, there's a whole to-do right now. It looked in the excerpts that ABC released -- they haven't released the video yes, as far as I know. But the transcript that they released, basically, she was asked specifically -- Elizabeth Vargas saying, "If it doesn't go your way on Tuesday...2012?" -- meaning would she run for president in 2012.

And she gave answer that, "I'm just thinking it's going to go our way on Tuesday, November 4th. I truly believe that the wisdom of...of the people will be revealed on that day. As they enter that voting booth, they will understand the stark difference between the two tickets..."

Then Vargas presses, follows up: "But the point being that you haven't been so bruised some of the double standard, the sexism on the campaign trail, to say 'I've had it, I'm going back to Alaska.'".

"Absolutely not," Palin says.

"I think that if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that that would bring this whole...I'm not doing this for naught."

As you hear that and read that --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Is there any room for nuance there? Or it is pretty clear she's raising the possibility that she would be available in 2012 to lead the Republicans?

BORGER: Well, there's an ellipses there, Wolf. And, honestly, we don't know what is between -- what is between those two phrases. And I think before we make any judgment, we have to see the entire transcript.

I think everybody assumes that Palin is going to be on the national scene if she doesn't become vice president. But I think we really have to read that whole transcript.

BLITZER: We've got to see the tape. I think it's much more important.

BORGER: Or the tape. BLITZER: And if ABC releases the tape. Rick, what do you think?

STENGEL: And she has -- look, she has a lot of time, if they do not win, to get prepared for 2012. She's been -- rigorously said not to make any mistakes. Now, she doesn't want to make a mistake now and say hey, look, I'm already looking ahead.

BORGER: Right.

STENGEL: She's already been blamed for making some rogue errors. So I would tend to think that this isn't a mistake.

BLITZER: What do you think?

KING: Well, the campaign is pushing back aggressively, saying that the headline writer on that Web story -- on --

BLITZER: And the headline was --

KING: -- just overdid it.

BLITZER: -- "Sarah Palin Vows To Remain Player in 2012."

KING: Right.

BLITZER: "Not doing this for naught."

BORGER: Right.


BLITZER: That was the press release that ABC released.

KING: They are pushing back -- the campaign -- aggressively, saying that's not what she meant, that she was talking about not giving up in this race. She still thinks it's winnable.

Let's watch the videotape. And Rick is dead on saying that we're going to have an election on Tuesday. We will see what happens. Obama is heavily favor, but it's not over. And then if the Republicans lose the election, one of the big questions on Wednesday morning is who leads the party? And you can bet Sarah Palin wants a piece of that. Do you think?

BORGER: Yes, I think she does. I think it remains to be seen how big a piece of it she would get, given her performance in this campaign. But I'm sure she does.

BLITZER: Is she a potential leader of the Republican Party?

STENGEL: Well, for one thing, she could -- if Ted Stevens doesn't win and that whole thing collapses, she could appoint herself senator. She could go to Washington.

BORGER: Yes. STENGEL: She could be -- she could be up butting against Hillary Clinton every day in Washington. I mean, she would then become a de facto leader of the party.

BLITZER: And the likelihood of Ted Stevens winning that race in Alaska is not very great right now. It was very close even before he was convicted on all those counts.

STENGEL: Absolutely. No, I think, look, I mean no matter what happens on Tuesday, we're going to be talking about Sarah Palin a lot for -- in the years to come.


STENGEL: You know, either -- certainly as vice president and certainly as a person who is the sinecure of the party now.

KING: And --

BLITZER: I think you're right. We're going to be talking about her no matter what -- Yes?

KING: The Republican Party is going through a huge generational change. Even if John McCain finds a way to win the White House -- even if. It's a big if. But even if he does, the Republicans are going to lose seats in the House, lose seats in the Senate. George Bush will leave the scene. The Republican Party has a big question.

If McCain wins, he's obviously the leader. If he loses, Wolf, there is a lot of internal tension in the Republican Party. It will be fascinating after the election.

BORGER: I think --

BLITZER: All right, guys --

BORGER: -- even if he wins --

BLITZER: We've got to leave it, guys.

BORGER: -- there's internal tension.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Hopefully, we'll get that tape from ABC News and we can clarify once and for all what exactly Sarah Palin meant when she said "not doing this for naught." And we'll get that and we'll share it with you when we get it. Stay with us for that.

Also, expect the unexpected on the campaign trail -- whether it's a plumber treated like a rock star or another Joe's ice cream crisis. Jeanne Moos is going to wrap it all together.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," the Clintons are sending a special message to one-time supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's a YouTube video, Bill and Hillary Clinton together, with an Obama-Biden sign hanging between them. Take a listen to what they sent out.


B. CLINTON: We worked awfully hard in this election because you've got a lot at stake. It's still important. It's more important than ever.

H. CLINTON: Boy, is that true. And we're asking everybody to get involved. Get out. Do what you can. Talk to your friends and your neighbors. Make those phone calls. Walk those streets. Get the word out that this election is really important.


TATTON: That's a message from Hillary's political action committee. And e-mails have been sent out in the last couple weeks in support of Democratic candidates. But the message today is the Clintons together in support of Barack Obama -- that coming ahead of a joint appearance between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in Florida later this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

Large animals, fainting spells and the "Moost Unusual" robo-call to date. Jeanne Moos has it all in today's edition of Campaign Follies.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes the elephant in the room really is the elephant in the room -- or at the rally.

PALIN: I won't tell you where the dollars will come from.

MOOS: Though this little Republican needed pacifying.

According to our latest polls, Senator Obama is ahead -- in supporters fainting.

OBAMA: Did somebody fall down? We've got another person who fainted?

MOOS: Two at one rally. The candidate tossed them water.

OBAMA: Eat before you come to these rallies.

MOOS: Don't say that to your running mate. SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I'm Joe. Not the plumber, Joe the Biden.

MOOS: This ice cream shop was the setting for Joe the Biden versus chocolate chip the cone. The senator learned the perils of campaigning with a loaded cone.

BIDEN: I shouldn't have ordered this ice cream. I should have called you. I'm sorry.

MOOS: At least he didn't dump it on anyone.

BIDEN: You all have got to eat this ice cream.

MOOS: He seemed reluctant to give it up, taking one last bite before posing.

BIDEN: Who's got the camera?

MOOS: Who's got the volume?

I can't hear you very well.

PALIN: I'll talk louder. OK.

MOOS: But you could hear when she introduced this guy...

PALIN: "Joe the Plumber."

MOOS: He got a rock star welcome.

PALIN: I knew I'd like him, wearing his Carhartts and steel-toed boots. He's our kind of man.

MOOS: Hand in his jeans pocket...


MOOS: ...he took it out to sign autographs afterward.

(on camera): This election, what the get out the vote messages are getting is funnier.

(voice-over): Feeling pretty good about the polls?

Feeling like you can take it easy?


MOOS: The Obama campaign is trying to ward off complacency with messages like this. At least the presidential campaign hasn't stooped this low.


MOOS: It may sound like phone sex, but it's a robo-call one candidate for Congress used against another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike Thompson has been a bad boy. We all said no to the bailout, but Thompson backed Bush. Vote (INAUDIBLE) for Zane.

MOOS: Zane had to pull his robo-call. He blamed the staffer who read the script for too much enthusiasm. The same might be said of the kitty caucus. An Ohio radio station is using kitty litter boxes as ballot boxes -- counting votes deposited by the cats performing their civic duty.

After a month, Obama is ahead -- just barely. That's enough to make even Senator Biden lose his appetite.

BIDEN: All right. How are you?

MOOS: This is one candidate who doesn't believe in cone of silence.

BIDEN: Sure.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And I'll go one-on-one with Senator Barack Obama on Friday. And you can play a part in the interview. Submit your video questions on We'll try to get some of those questions to Senator Obama and hopefully he'll answer them. That's coming up on Friday.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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