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Election Preview

Aired November 2, 2008 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this special "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from the CNN Election Center here in New York.
Over the next three hours, we'll be covering every angle of this historic presidential campaign, now in its final two days.

We'll also hear from top supporters of Barack Obama and John McCain, and we'll get live updates on the candidates; plus, insight and analysis from the best political team on television, Howard Kurtz of CNN's "Reliable Sources" -- he's standing by, live. He'll be here with a critical look at the media.

And, as many of you know, last Sunday, here on "Late Edition," we had an interview with senator John McCain. I interviewed him in New Hampshire. Today you'll be seeing my interview with Senator Barack Obama. I interviewed him on Friday in Iowa.

All that, plus our final CNN poll numbers, the final numbers before Election Day, here in the United States.

But first, joining us now, the Virginia governor Tim Kaine. He's the national co-chairman of the Obama campaign. And the South Carolina governor, Mark Stanford -- he's a top backer of John McCain.

Governors, to both of you, thanks very much for coming in.

KAINE: You bet, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'll start, Governor Kaine, with you, in Virginia. Who would have thought that Virginia would be such a battleground state, only a few days before this election?

We have our last poll of polls that has just come out in Virginia, averaging the major polls in Virginia. Right now, we have Obama at 51 percent, McCain at 45 percent, "unsure," in Virginia, still at 4 percent.

It seems to be little bit of a tightening, there, in Virginia. How confident, Governor Kaine, are you that Senator Obama can carry your state?

KAINE: Well, Wolf, he can definitely carry Virginia. But we haven't done it since 1964. So what I've been saying to everybody is, we're the underdog until we're the victor. We've got to just act like the underdog and win it. But we feel pretty comfortable about the polls. We feel good about the organizational strength of the Obama campaign. And we feel very, very good about the enthusiasm, as we're seeing in Virginia.

The Obama supporters are really optimistic. And we're seeing a little bit of a grim determination on the other side. And usually, the optimistic and enthusiastic team wins. But we're taking nothing for granted, from here to Tuesday night.

BLITZER: Governor Kaine, there have been some reports, suggestions, that these long lines, massive turnouts in Virginia are going to cause some headaches on Election Day, Tuesday. And there was a lawsuit that the NAACP even filed. They were concerned that there could be delays, especially in African-American areas of your state.

Have you worked all that out, or there still a potential nightmare scenario unfolding?

KAINE: Wolf, we feel pretty good. I mean, my state board of elections, the chair is an African-American former legislator. The secretary of our state board is a Latina. And the third member, a Republican, is Korean-American. So they take minority voting rights very seriously.

We had a really high turnout, record turnout, in 2004, in that presidential race. We ran a clean election, with no problems that year, on 5,900 voting machines statewide. This year we'll have 10,600 voting machines.

We had 19,000 precinct workers helping workers in '04. This year we'll have 30,000. So we are expecting a bigger turnout, but the combination of more resources in the precincts and then double the amount of absentee from about 225,000 voters in '04 to probably 500,000 or more this year, we think we're going it be OK.

There will be, you know, some lines, but we think we're going to be in good shape Tuesday.

BLITZER: What about in South Carolina, governor Sanford?

We know that South Carolina, by almost all accounts, is clearly in Senator McCain's camp, right now. It doesn't look like it's going to even be very close, but what about voter problems?

Any suggestion that there could be some long lines and serious problems in your state?

SANFORD: I think there will be long lines, for the very reason that Tim was just suggesting, which is there's genuine enthusiasm, on this race, from both sides of the aisle.

So I think there will be long lines. We don't have early voting in our state. Absentee is probably the best proxy, on that front, and absentee votes are up.

BLITZER: Here's what Senator Obama said, and I want to throw this sound bite, Governor Sanford, to you. Because, in these final days, they're making their closing arguments. And this is one of the main themes he's been saying against the McCain campaign. Listen to this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: When it comes to the economy; when it comes to the issue that's most important in this election, the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this president, every step of the way. He has not been a maverick. He has been a sidekick.


BLITZER: All right. That's been a pretty effective line that Senator Obama has. How do you respond to that?

SANFORD: Well, effective doesn't make it real. Because, in fact, if you were to look at, for instance, the energy bill that the president supported, or look at the ag bill that the president supported, it was Obama who supported both of those bills. It was John McCain who was the dissenting vote who voted against those bills.

So, if you actually look at their records, there's a real disconnect between what Obama's talking about and what he's done while sitting as a United States senator.

I think what's also interesting, though, is, when you look at the notion of remedy, I keep going back to that cumulative total of where Obama has stood, and being ranked as one of the most liberal senators in the entire United States Senate -- I mean, even to the left of Bernie Sanders, who's an avowed Socialist, sets it -- again, there's a disconnect in -- in the totality of what he's voted for, so much so that he's been rated where he's been rated.

The bottom line is that, then...


SANFORD: I'm sorry, go ahead.

BLITZER: No, no, no, I was going to let Governor Kaine respond to this notion that he's the most liberal senator in the United States Senate. Go ahead, Governor Kaine.

KAINE: Well, people throw labels around if they want to duck talking about issues. Let's talk about issues. On the economy, there's a sharp difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain.

Senator McCain thinks that you should do tax cuts for the wealthiest and the largest businesses, and that you grow an economy by deregulating it. That's been the -- President Bush's strategy. And if it was working, we'd be in a different place, right now.

Senator Obama says you measure success of the economy by how the middle class does and how small businesses do. And that's why his tax policies target middle-class tax relief and then very critical tax reductions for small businesses: no capital gains tax, tax credits if you buy health insurance for your employees.

And then most small businesses make less than $250,000 in that income, and so they would either be not paying more; in some instances, getting a tax cut.

That's how you measure success. BLITZER: Governor Sanford, what's wrong with that?

SANFORD: Well, I just think that it's eerily similar to what Bill Clinton said prior to going into office, which is he promised a middle-class tax cut and then, in fact, raised taxes on the middle class.

I think it's interesting to look at the slippery slope that's been occurring over the last couple of weeks, where, first, it was a tax cut -- nobody above $250,000. Then it was $200,000. Then Joe Biden says $150,000. Most recently, Governor Bill Richardson says about $120,000.

So, I don't know exactly what defines the middle class.

And, two, I would say there is a stark difference on where they've stood on taxes and spending, again, during their time as a United States senator.

I think you've got to look at past as prologue. And if he has not supported cutting taxes, in the past, and if he's not supported cutting spending -- because he's had chances on those very Bush appropriate bills that he's critical of. If he's not done in the past, why is he going to do it as president?

BLITZER: All right. Governor Kaine, what is the number that will prevent you from getting a tax increase?

KAINE: yes, very simple, Wolf. If you make less than $250,000, you will not get any increase in taxes. If you make less than $200,000 you get a tax cut. And that's the number. And it's been the number since...

BLITZER: So why is Senator Joe Biden using a different number, and, as you just heard, Governor Richardson using an even lower number?

KAINE: Well, I didn't hear Bill Richardson's comment, but I did hear Joe Biden's. He said, if you're making $150,000, you get a tax cut, which is true. You are. Anything less than $200,000, you get a tax cut; $200,000 to $250,000 your taxes stay the same.

And that is this targeted effort to make sure that we start to grow the economy again by directing our attention at middle-class folks and, again, small businesses.

I'm, kind of, a small-business guy. My dad ran an ironworking and welding shop with five employees. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. And the tax relief for businesses should be directed at them. BLITZER: Governor Kaine, Senator McCain makes an argument that, if the Democrats have an expanded majority in the House and the Senate and they control the White House, who knows what the Democrats and the liberals are going to do?

Listen to Senator McCain. I'll play this clip.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We're getting only a glimpse of what one-party rule would look like under Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Apparently, it starts with lowering our defenses and raising our taxes.

Our national security is dependent on our economic security, and the plans of a Democratic-dominated Washington would harm both.


BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond to Senator McCain?

KAINE: Sure. Yes, absolutely, Wolf. First, Senator Obama has talked about the need to increase both the size of the Army and the Marines. That's something he's been very clear about.

But the bigger issue about -- look, if the American people think the biggest problem with Washington is action, that's one thing. But I think most Americans feel that the biggest problem with Washington is inaction, inaction on energy policy and climate change; inaction on health care; inaction on the right strategies to get the economy growing.

And it's been gridlock and division that has led to inaction. If Senator Obama becomes president and we have Democratic House and Senate, it's accountability time, baby.

They've got to produce, because they're facing the voters again in two years. And I think that will produce action. And action is what the American people want.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Governor Sanford.

SANFORD: Well, I had the pleasure, if you want to call it that, of testifying before the Ways and Means Committee of the United States Congress, this week.

John McCain is absolutely right on the train just leaving the station, with regard to increased taxes, increased spending, if you end up with three-party rule in terms of House, Senate, and executive branch all controlled by Democrats.

SANFORD: I, myself, as a Republican, have become a big fan of divided government because somebody has got to be a check upon the other.

What Charlie was talking about in that Ways and Means Committee scared me from the standpoint of another $300 billion bailout, in this case, a bailout for states, some states had spent well beyond the growth rate of federal government but we were going to be bailing out states.


BLITZER: You're talking about Charlie Rangel...

SANFORD: I don't know who bails out the bailouter (ph), Charlie Rangel, the head of the Ways and Means Committee.

BLITZER: You're talking about Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

All right. Go ahead, Governor Kaine, what do you say about that?

KAINE: Well, again, I'm just going to go back to it. The American people I think look at Washington and they see the biggest danger is inaction. We're in the time of crisis right now. Most say it's the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and divided government where everybody has an excuse for doing nothing and they blame the other guy, is not the way to improve the quality of this nation.

We have to have action on health care. Everybody talks about health care every cycle. We don't do anything about it. And so there will be accountability with a President Obama and Democratic House and Senate. And, look, they have got to produce because in two years the Congress will be right back looking at the American public in the eye, and if they don't produce, then there will be a consequence to that. And I think that's a good thing.

BLITZER: Governor Kaine, Governor Sanford, we have got to leave it right there. Thanks to both of you for joining us only two days before this election.

And just ahead, is the news media fair to both candidates? The host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Howard Kurtz, he's standing by live with his panel to tackle that question.

And later, my special interview with Senator Barack Obama. Much more LATE EDITION when we come back.


BLITZER: We're here at the CNN Election Center in New York. Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

We're going to be seeing where the electoral map stands with only two days to go in this campaign. Our own John King is standing by at the magic map. That's coming up. But right now let's check in with my colleague, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Howard Kurtz -- Howie.

KURTZ: Thanks, Wolf. It has been hard to deny for two years now that Barack Obama has gotten an easier ride in the media than any other presidential candidate. And a new report this week makes clear that John McCain is getting hosed in the coverage, throw in the pundits and the electoral map projections and the media are clearly pointing to an Obama victory on Tuesday.


CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a lot easier to get Obama to 375 electoral votes than it is to get McCain to 270.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look -- if we gave McCain all of the toss-ups left, look what we have, Obama is still winning the presidency.

BOB BECKEL, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Barring some huge event, this race is over.


KURTZ: So, is this a case study in liberal bias? Joining us now from Washington, John Harris, editor-in-chief of the Politico. And with me here in New York, David Folkenflik, media reporter for National Public Radio. And Gloria Borger, CNN senior political analyst.

John Harris, you write rather candidly that McCain's coverage has been heavily negative, and you even got a letter of complaint from your mom. From your mom. You say the reason is not ideological. So what is it?

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, POLITICO.COM: I think your intro there highlighted it, one of the strongest biases in the media is in favor of momentum. When things are going well with the candidate, we play up that candidate and that person can do no wrong. When the game shifts and it starts to go the other direction, the candidates really get clobbered in the press.

I don't think it's an ideological bias, but I do think it is -- reflects the political press's fascination with tactics and strategy and our tendency to exaggerate and amplify existing trends, make them -- making them even larger than they seem.

KURTZ: David Folkenflik, are you buying the notion that all of this can be ascribed to basically horse race journalism?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think a great deal of it. I think there's the question in addition that a lot of the political press corps has been dismayed not to find the friendly, inviting John McCain of 2000, which they sort of were enraptured with eight years ago.

KURTZ: So they're like spurned lovers? They're sulking, is that it? FOLKENFLIK: A little bit. A little bit. Less sulking and less access, too. I think, more to the point is the question of momentum and the question of our focus day in and day out, particularly in broadcast and cable outlets, on the polls on how this -- what color those states are.

When you focus so relentlessly on that, you can't help but say, McCain down, Obama up.

KURTZ: Gloria Borger, let's be blunt. There is a certain getting swept away among journalists of the historic, groundbreaking nature of Barack Obama's candidacy. If you flip these polls, if John McCain was ahead in all of those the battleground states, do you really think the coverage would be negative against Obama by three to one, as it is for McCain?

BORGER: Well, yes. I mean, I'm going to defend the press here. I'm going to say, John McCain has been around an awful long time. When you've been around a long time and you've been one candidate in 2000, you seem to be very different in 2008, the press are going to say that.

When they look at the numbers in the states, they're going to report the numbers. So, I'm going to say that the press is reporting a campaign that seems to go from tactic to tactic versus a campaign that had a grand strategic theme and stuck to it.

Now, whether that's positive coverage or just coverage, come on, you know?

KURTZ: John Harris, let me look at Politico for the month of October, 110 stories more favorable to Obama, 69 more favorable to McCain. That's your own count. That's your own self-analysis. So, who cares what your motivation is, you are putting your thumb on the scale and so are a lot of people.

HARRIS: No. I mean, we're trying to depict the reality of what we see happening based on our reporting and based on events as to how this campaign is going. So if we were to impose an artificial bias, I think that would be putting our thumb on the scale.

FOLKENFLIK: I think two other things to note. One of which is there is actually a phenomenon with Barack Obama. I mean, he is able to draw extraordinary crowds, excite -- generate unusual excitement that we haven't seen in a generation.

And the second thing I think is when you look at the emergence of things like Politico, which I read every morning, you know, it is a national but very niche political publication. It's not grounded in a certain community.

You know, if you looked at The Dallas Morning News or The Concord Monitor, you would more likely see a lot of intense coverage of issues rooted in a community and a region that will reflect differently on the candidates themselves. KURTZ: But look at these numbers, Project for Excellence in Journalism study: MSNBC, 73 percent of the stories about McCain negative, 14 percent positive; CNN and FOX were about 40 percent negative on McCain. Newspapers, front page stories, an 11 to one imbalance. Listen to these numbers...

BORGER: But what's negative, Howie? What's negative?

KURTZ: All right. Negative is anything from "the guy is floundering, he has no message, he is losing," or "he's not running a very good campaign" or "he's on the attack and he's being unfair to his opponent."

BORGER: Well, look, I mean, you do, you know, the deconstructing of the political ads. We deconstruct the political ads. If a negative story is that so-and-so's campaign is having a bunch of trouble in this battleground state or that they seem to move from strategy to -- tactic to tactic, I don't consider those negative stories. I would...

KURTZ: You consider those reality-based stories.

BORGER: I consider those what on-the-ground reporters are reporting. If they're going to say that Obama's crowds are larger than McCain's crowds, is that a negative story or just an on-the- ground story?

KURTZ: Let me throw a couple of headlines at John Harris. "Newsweek" out today has a story, headline "What Michelle Obama Can Teach Us." "New York Times," front page story about Obama inspired black voters. There are all these pieces about who is going to be in the Obama administration. We are telegraphing through our body language that this thing is over.

HARRIS: That's correct. And we're not simply making that up, that this is the trajectory, but, you know, I think you're quite right that it's possible to take this phenomenon to excess. And although I personally discount ideological biases as a big motivating factor for reporters, the fact is, you know, I think in our own interactions, we know that reporters heavily would and expect to be voting for Obama. So I think what responsible editors have to do is recognize that, recognize the tendency to -- for, you know, hyping of a historic moment, recognize at least the possibility of some ideological bias and make sure that we're taking steps to counter that and be detached, which is, in fact, that detachment is our responsibility as journalists.

FOLKENFLIK: I do think that both sides in a sense have a point. I do think that there's a reality to what Gloria is talking about. You know, you don't want to put your thumb on the scale and go the other direction, as Adam Nagourney at "The Times" pointed out, somehow indicating...

KURTZ: You don't want to pretend there's a balance...

FOLKENFLIK: Pretend that there's not... KURTZ: ... if one guy is ahead.

FOLKENFLIK: Exactly right. I do think a lot of the polls are based on assumptions that we don't know how they're going to play out, and I think that simply to think that they're going to go the way a given news organization has indicated, that prediction becomes destiny is a really dangerous thing...

KURTZ: Especially since sometimes the polls are wrong, and we have learned that.

FOLKENFLIK: Particularly this year. Particularly this year, I think.

KURTZ: I want to play a sound bite for Gloria Borger. Sarah Palin in a radio interview this week said something that I consider to be jaw-dropping. Let's take a listen.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, R-ALASKA: If they convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.


KURTZ: Fear of attacks by the mainstream media. I thought the First Amendment meant that politicians could say anything they want, and we could criticize them.

BORGER: Right. Which is exactly what's occurred. And people ask questions. Some people believe that it was quite legitimate to raise William Ayers, and that John McCain, in fact, would have been wiser to raise Reverend Wright again. He decided not to raise Reverend Wright and to raise William Ayers, and I think that's something that becomes part of the discussion.

KURTZ: But do you think this is more of the McCain campaign pushing back against the press every single day?

BORGER: Yes, it is. And you know, running against the press is not a new trick, and it works, by the way. Which is why they're doing it. I mean, it's a legitimate campaign tactic.

KURTZ: John Harris, I have got 20 seconds. Does it work, or does McCain suffer from the fact that he's now kind of stiffing the press and not talking to reporters on the plane and all that?

HARRIS: No, I think the question of access is probably really at the margins. I do think that there's been an extreme sensitivity on the part of the press, that any kind of criticism this year, we've been looking hard for is there a racial subtext to this, is this out of bounds? I haven't seen anything that's out of bounds, but there's definitely been a kind of a hair-trigger sensitivity to this issue. KURTZ: Well, a lot of people think we need to be more sensitive to our own shortcomings and flaws, so thanks for discussing us with that -- that with us this morning. John Harris, David Folkenflik, Gloria Borger. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Howie, stand by, because we're going to be coming back to you with more of a critical look at the media, what's going on.

Also, what are the paths to victory for Senators McCain and Obama? Our own John King is standing by live over at the magic wall. We're going to go there. He has got some new analysis for us. Also, we have a brand new poll coming up to CNN in the next hour. This will be the last CNN poll before election day. I think you're going to be interested in these new numbers that are about to be released. Much more of our special "Late Edition" right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition." My interview with Barack Obama, that's coming up. But first, how is the electoral map looking for Obama and John McCain right now? John King is here over at the magic wall. You have been doing a lot of juggling. What is going on, the latest assessment?

KING: Wolf, right now we're going to make yet another change to our electoral map, and yet again it is a change that favors Barack Obama.

Here's where began the morning -- Obama at 291. Takes 270 electoral votes to win. Senator McCain behind.

Here are the changes we're making this morning. No. 1, we decided, based on polling and conversations with people involved in the campaign in the state, we're moving Montana from a lean McCain to a toss-up state. So you see, John McCain loses those three electoral votes from our projection.

We're also going to make Iowa not lean Obama, but safe Obama. That, again, based on our calculations in the state.

So if you look at where we are now, heading into the final two days of campaigning, 291 electoral votes, more than enough to win for Obama. Senator McCain trailing.

I want to lay out for you, Obama, if he just holds what he has, he is the next president of the United States. So I want to do the flip side of that, how can McCain pull this off in the final hours? Let me show you the scenario for the McCain campaign.

No. 1, you see these seven gold states? They're the toss-up states. Senator McCain must win them all. Florida, 27 electoral votes; North Carolina is 15; Ohio is 20, a critical battleground there; Indiana, usually a red state, 11 there; Missouri, another one, 11 in there. And then the smaller ones up here in the mountain West -- North Dakota 3 and Montana 3. Now, even if McCain runs the board and closes by winning all of those states -- and they're all Bush states, Wolf, so it's not out of the realm of possibility -- look what you have there. He's still down there. So as we've been talking in recent weeks, the McCain campaign has targeted Pennsylvania as a Democratic state it wants to turn blue. So let's say Senator McCain can come back there. He has closed the gap. Let's say he can do that in the final days. Even if we make this red, Barack Obama narrowly wins the presidency.

So John McCain needs to find something else blue on this map, after winning all the toss-ups and coming back in Pennsylvania, he would still need drama somewhere else. Where would that be? Where is he today? He is targeting the state of New Hampshire, 4 electoral votes there. If he did everything else and could turn New Hampshire, that would be enough.

Many Republicans in New Hampshire we've spoken to think that is unlikely. So if he can't get New Hampshire, Wolf, where else? John McCain will be back in Nevada before the election is over. That is a Bush state narrowly last time. If he can get those 5, he can do it. And if he can't get either of those, it gets pretty bleak. Virginia would be an option. Double-digit Obama lead at the moment. Most of these states relatively safe Obama leads.

So trying to highlight the point, it's not impossible for Senator McCain, but he essentially needs a perfect 48 hours.

BLITZER: And there is one scenario that includes the state of Maine, because in Maine they divide up their electoral votes, and if he were to get one of them, what would happen?

KING: Well, if he gets one and you have a tie, then it goes to the United States Congress.

BLITZER: The 269-269...

KING: A 269-269 scenario. You know, we always talk about the brokered convention. I guess that is the dream scenario for the Electoral College. Then the decision goes to the United States Congress, which, of course, is controlled by the Democrats right now.

But unlikely as we watch this scene now play out, but that is something to watch, both in Maine and in the state of Nebraska. They do split their electoral votes because of congressional districts. If the race is tight on Election Day, you be we'll be watching those districts.

BLITZER: And that scenario, 269 to 269, we're going to have more on "THE SITUATION ROOM" on that scenario tomorrow. All right. John, thanks very much. John is going to be with us throughout this special LATE EDITION.

Barack Obama outlines his top priorities if elected president in my one-on-one interview, our special LATE EDITION from the CNN Election Center, here in New York, continues right after this.


BLITZER: Last week I sat down with John McCain in New Hampshire. That state kick-started his run for the republican presidential nomination. You saw that interview here on LATE EDITION.

This week I had a chance to speak with Senator Barack Obama in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that gave him his first win in his improbable historic run for the Democratic presidential nomination.


BLITZER: Senator Obama, thanks very much for joining us.

OBAMA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty exciting to come back to Iowa because a lot of people think this is where it all started for you.

OBAMA: Well, especially when it's 70 degrees outside in late October. I'm really happy to come back to Iowa.

BLITZER: It's warmer here than it is back in New York and Washington.

OBAMA: But, no, it felt really good, to see all of these familiar faces, there were bunch of people out here who signed up for our campaign when we had almost no money, very few endorsements, the polls weren't good for us. And a lot of these people took a chance. You know, they came up and volunteered, put their names on my campaign...

BLITZER: It showed -- Iowa showed that a black man can really get a lot of white people's support.

OBAMA: Well, I think that's part of what it showed, but what it also showed, I think you'll remember, because you were watching, a lot of people were skeptical about young people coming out, about people who traditionally haven't participated in caucuses getting involved.

And here's where we, I think, proved that we can get people much more engaged in the political process than they had been before.

BLITZER: Let's go through a whole bunch of substantive economic issues, foreign policy issues. I'm going to give you quick questions, if you can give me quick answers I think we'll get through a lot. We have got limited time, as you know.

You want universal health care or something approaching universal health care. That is a top priority. Where is the money going to come from?

OBAMA: Well, we're going to have to cut back on some things that don't make sense right now. We're spending $15 billion a year, for example, under the Medicare program to subsidize insurance companies. We're going to have to cut some programs that don't work in order to provide health care. And as I've said before, we're going to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, people making over $250,000 a year, especially millionaires and billionaires who have been making much more than that.

BLITZER: So in effect that will pay for the health care?

OBAMA: That will pay for the health care.

BLITZER: What about the war in Iraq? You're going to want to stop that war as well, right?

OBAMA: The war in Iraq, we can achieve some significant savings. It's not going to come immediately. I have said I want a responsible drawdown. We're still going to have to reset our military. We're still going to have to deal with rising veterans' costs. Post- traumatic stress disorder, for example, I think has been under- diagnosed. We've got to make sure treatment is...

BLITZER: So the $12 billion the United States is spending a month right now on Iraq, that's going to go on at least for what, a year, a year-and-a-half?

OBAMA: My hope is, is that we draw down that money over time, it's drastically reduced. But the point is, is that we're not going to be able to take that $12 billion and suddenly automatically apply it all to domestic stuff.

We've got to take care of our troops. And we're still going to have expenditures in Afghanistan because we need to hunt down bin Laden and al Qaeda and put them finally out of business.

BLITZER: Senator McCain says, if he's president, he will veto every piece of legislation that has pork barrel spending or earmarks. Will you make that same commitment?

OBAMA: You know, here is what I tell you. We're going to have to fundamentally change how our appropriations process works. And I want to sit down with members of Congress, should I be elected, even before I am sworn in and explain to them that some of these projects may be worthy projects in their home state, home district, but right now we can only do those things that are absolutely necessarily.

And if we're going to have a project, I think it has to be not just a whim of a particular local community, it has got to be something that serves to help build the overall economy and move us in a better direction.

BLITZER: At a time of economic crisis, as it is right now, the worst since the Great Depression, people want to know who you'll be surrounded with on these important decisions.

Who do you think will be your secretary of the treasury?


OBAMA: Well, I am not going to make that kind of news, because I...


BLITZER: Give me an example of the folks that you're thinking about.

OBAMA: I haven't won yet. But I will tell you who is already part of my senior economic advisory group, because you've seen them. Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Board chairman; Larry Summers, former treasury of the -- secretary of the treasury; Warren Buffett, who has been a great friend and a great adviser and talked to me a lot during this recent economic crisis. Those are the kinds of people that I expect will surround me, will help me make decisions. But it's getting ahead of ourselves for me to identify particular cabinet posts.

BLITZER: Will you raise the capital gains tax, the tax when people sell stocks or mutual funds, their 401(k)s?

OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: Will you raise it from 15 percent, that capital gains tax?

OBAMA: I have said early in this campaign that it makes sense for us to go from 15 to 20 percent. Now, frankly, people aren't experiencing a lot of capital gains right now. People are having a lot of capital losses.

But, you know, I've talked to people like Warren Buffett and asked him, you know, will that modest increase in the capital gains tax have an impact on the real economy, on investment, on business growth?

And he assures me that's not going to be an impediment to capital formation and us being able to move forward on the economy. That's...

BLITZER: Will a middle class family be exempted from that increase in capital gains tax?

OBAMA: Well, what I've said is small businesses are going to be exempted and anybody who is making less than $250,000 a year. I've said they're not going to get their capital gains taxes increased. They're not going to get...

BLITZER: So they will be exempt?

OBAMA: They will be exempted from that, as well as any income tax increase, any payroll tax increase. My attitude is, is that middle class families need a tax cut. And 95 percent of American families and workers are going to get reduced taxes.

In fact, you know, we -- there was an article today in The New York Times that laid out in very stark terms the fact that I give much more tax relief to middle class families than John McCain does.

BLITZER: At a time of economic distress, is it wise to increase the corporate -- the corporate tax rate?

OBAMA: Well, we're not increasing the corporate tax rate.

BLITZER: I know. But there's some talk that you want to increase it. What, it's 35 percent right now. And you've talked about --

OBAMA: Where is that --


OBAMA: Where is that talk coming from?

BLITZER: I don't know.


BLITZER: I mean, you tell me.

OBAMA: I have --

BLITZER: You want to keep it at 35 percent?

OBAMA: I have no plans for increasing the corporate tax rate. And, in fact, you can make an argument for lowering the corporate tax rate, but only if you, at the same time, close all of the corporate loopholes. The problem we have right now is on paper, we've got a high corporate tax rate. In actual terms, corporations aren't paying their fair share. We've got some of the laws --

BLITZER: Exxon Mobil will stay pay 35 percent, is that right?

OBAMA: Exxon Mobil will still pay 35 percent, although I've talked about previously the idea that we should have windfall profits tax similar to the one that Sarah Palin imposed on oil companies to benefit Alaska.


BLITZER: All right, that was part one of my interview with Senator Barack Obama. We have much more of that interview coming up later here on our special LATE EDITION. We'll have more of the interview and we'll go in depth on Senator Obama's plans to try to revive the ailing if -- and it's still a huge if -- if he becomes the next president of the United States. Stand by for that. Since she became John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin has been taking the media by storm. Howard Kurtz and company, they're standing by to weigh in on that and much more. LATE EDITION continues from the CNN Election Center, right after this.


BLITZER: You're watching a special LATE EDITION from the CNN Election Center here in New York. Much more of our stories coming up. But let's go back to CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" host Howard Kurtz. He's watching the media in this campaign. Howie? KURTZ: Thanks, Wolf. In the end, the conventional wisdom goes, people vote for the top of the ticket, but Sarah Palin continues to draw an enormous amount of media coverage especially the past week, when the pundits pounced on reports of internal strife between the McCain camp and Palin and her pals. And that included plenty of name calling from unnamed Republican sources.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're calling their VP nominee a diva and a whack job.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: A whack job. Not just a diva.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's just start with the word diva. It is, obviously, a sexist slight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has gone from rogue to diva.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Today the term was whack job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saying she is a diva and a whack job.

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR: People are calling her a whack job.


KURTZ: Is it fair to keep endlessly repeating this? Joining us now, Rachel Sklar, media editor for the "Huffington Post" and John Fund, columnist for the "Wall Street Journal's" and author of the book "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy." Rachel, this is a slur against Palin by an unnamed, anonymous McCain adviser to Mike Allen of the "Politico." We don't know who the source is and yet it hits the echo chamber.

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTON POST: I think they're obviously trying to do damage control because the campaign is in sort of a freefall right now.

KURTZ: Why should journalists aid and abet this when nobody has the guts to have their names attached?

SKLAR: Well this isn't the first time that an anonymous campaign source, a top aide has been cited in newspaper copy. I think that, you know, it's germane. It's germane to the ticket. It's germane to how the campaign is played out in these final days and, really, the question is why is this top aide saying that?

KURTZ: What if I was doing a story on the "Wall Street Journal" and I said unnamed people at the "Journal" say John Fund is a whack job and that would be pretty unfair, wouldn't it? If nobody wants to put their name on the record.

JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that it should be reported, but perhaps not the actual terms whack job and diva because those are so pejorative, you probably should attach a name to that. I think you can say people are critical of the candidate, but not go to that level.

SKLAR: I think it's totally germane. These are top McCain aides.

KURTZ: But you're ignoring the journalism issue here which is we're not supposed to allow people to attack each other anonymously. Somebody wants to say it on the record, I'm all for it.

SKLAR: I think it's actually very germane to the larger story of what is happening to the McCain campaign.

KURTZ: It doesn't bother you at all that an unnamed adviser can take a whack at a vice presidential nominee and not be held accountable because they hide behind a curtain of anonymity.

SKLAR: I think that's not the issue here.

FUND: Howard, I know Democratic operatives who have been very critical of Joe Biden's gaffes and I haven't seen those reported and they have uncomplimentary language as well.

KURTZ: And speaking of Joe Biden's gaffes, with all of this attention in the media on Governor Palin, why is there not anything approaching this level of scrutiny for Senator Biden?

FUND: Well, I heard at a Democratic panel convention of the media that what we all know Joe Biden. He's always been like this. I think part of it is the sense that Sarah Palin was brand new. She deserved all this extra scrutiny and Joe Biden was the familiar.

KURTZ: Of course, it's not just the left wing conspiracy, it's some of your fellow conservative columnists like David Brooks, Kathleen Parker and Chris Buckley, who are beating up on Sarah Palin.

FUND: Exactly. Look, I think if you compare the investigative journalism resources that have been devoted to Wasilla, Alaska, the last eight weeks, and compare that to the amount of investigative sources devoted to Richard Daley of Chicago where Barack Obama began and formed his political career, you would see a dramatic disparity.

SKLAR: Whoa, whoa, whoa, there's so much to get to here. First about, what about Joe Biden do we not know? What things has he said? What gaffes has he made that have not been drawn to our attention? FUND: Not nearly as much coverage as Sarah Palin's gaffes. Especially his gaffe regarding foreign policy.

SKLAR: We have to talk degree here. There's balance and then there's according things the attention that they deserve.

KURTZ: If Sarah Palin had talked about FDR going on television in 1929 when there was no television and he wasn't even president, it would have been a three-day story. But let me move on.

"The Los Angeles Times" as you both know six months ago broke a story about Barack Obama praising a Palestinian rights activist named Rashid Khalidi at a banquet five years ago. The paper has now been hammered by the McCain campaign and conservative bloggers because it has refused to release a videotape of that dinner, a videotape that the paper says it was given by a source on a condition that it not make it public. What do you make of the "Times?"

SKLAR: It's the same issue. It really goes back to the question of the media's use of anonymous sources. I think that what I've seen is the conservative side and the McCain side wants this revealed so you can see the extent of the link between Obama and Khalidi. I actually don't really see a problem with there being a link between Obama and Khalidi. All that means is that he's talking to an expert on the Middle East.

FUND: Then the compromise is if you can't release the tape, there was no agreement that I understand to release a transcript. So release the transcript.

KURTZ: But they did obviously have the quotes. We know what was said. We just...

FUND: The full transcript.

SKLAR: If there is a condition for having the information and being able to put it out there, then -- and that's agreed to, then, you know, they have to abide by that.

KURTZ: I don't understand why these papers enter into those kind of agreements. AP reports on Friday that Barack Obama's aunt is living in public housing in Boston, apparently she is here illegally as somebody from Kenya. Drudge has been pounding this. Sean Hannity has been pounding. Is it a legitimate story? Is it an important story?

SKLAR: Again, I think that news should be brought to light, however, I think that the emphasis that is being placed on this is a little bit ridiculous at this point. I mean, November surprise, it's two days to the election.

FUND: Look, I think John McCain should be rightfully criticized for not releasing more of his tax returns. However, Barack Obama refused to release the names of all of his donors under $200, as John McCain has done, and one of the reasons is, his aunt, who is here illegally, as a foreign national contributed...

KURTZ: Two hundred sixty-five dollars.

FUND: But it's illegal.


FUND: It's illegal and there may be a lot more. The FEC has thousands of these names.

SKLAR: Do we really want to send all of those resources on looking at every single donor in every single...

FUND: The FEC has 11,000 suspect names of people from foreign addresses that may have contributed illegally.

SKLAR: There are a lot more important things to worry about right now...

FUND: Eleven thousand illegal donations? (CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: We have about a minute left. If Obama wins on Tuesday, as everybody's magic wall seems to be suggesting, insinuating, or outright predicting, will the media be praising him to the skies as a historic and very cool figure? Do you see any possibility of going overboard here?

SKLAR: Well, I don't know, Howie, it depends what he does. What news breaks every day. I think that that's...

KURTZ: Let's say he wins 300 electoral votes.

SKLAR: I think everyone will be pretty excited and say, hey, this is a historic presidency and then, you know, there will be the day after and the day after and the first 100 days and people will be looking and saying, what is he doing? How is he doing? Who is he appointing? I think that's OK.

FUND: It will be a dramatic moment of racial reconciliation and healing. It should be celebrated in some way. However, I think the real media downfall here has been this substitute for polls for thought and real coverage. We had 740 polls this year. Four years ago we only had 239.

The polls have literally become the entire campaign coverage for many organizations. It is a shame because it's a substitute for thought and coverage.

KURTZ: I just want to say for the record, nobody at this table in is whack job territory. John Fund, Rachel Sklar, thanks for joining us. Let's toss it back to Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Howie, thanks very much. Remember, "RELIABLE SOURCES" airs every Sunday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Up next, political messages from the pulpit. We'll have a live report from a Virginia church. What's going on today?

And in just a few minutes, we're going to be releasing CNN's final national poll before Election Day. Stay with us, you're watching a special LATE EDITION. We're here at the CNN Election Center.


BLITZER: And welcome back to our special LATE EDITION. Americans may be hearing a political message as well as a religious one when they go to church this morning. Our Dan Lothian in the battleground state of Virginia.

I know you went to church. What did you find out when you went there today, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We are at the First Baptist Church here in Richmond, Virginia. We did get a chance to attend the early service 8:30 this morning. The pastor says that he is not very political, but he has been urging parishioners to go out and vote.

And in fact, that was part of one of the prayers this morning that parishioners, church-goers should carry out their faithful duty of voting. And also in that prayer, the person up on the pulpit said that, you know, no matter who wins that she hoped that God would, quote, "make that person a blessing to the nation."

Now, before folks had a chance to go into the service, we did talk to them. We heard a lot of different issues come up. One of them, one lady telling us that, you know, whoever wins on Election Day that she felt that the nation would have to go through a healing process because this has been an election, a campaign where there have been strong, emotional feelings on both sides.

Another man told us that he's really tired of this long campaign and all the negative ads.


BOB HIGGINS, PARISHIONER, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: I mean, we get to the point on the evening news, we pretty much cut the sound off because of the commercials that just keep coming at us, and especially those that have a negative approach. I just don't like it. I'm tired of it.


LOTHIAN: Now, Wolf, you know how important the evangelical vote was in 2004 helping to re-elect George Bush. We were talking to one church-goer this morning, he pointed out that unlike in 2004, you can't really paint all evangelicals with the same brush. He says back then they all seemed to be mostly conservative but now it's really a mix of those who are conservative but are also more moderate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dan, thanks very much. Dan Lothian, reporting for us from Virginia.

Throughout this campaign, we have been sifting through all of the candidate spin, trying to examine their claims. CNN's Josh Levs is standing by. He is part of our "Truth Squad" at the CNN Center.

Josh, what are you picking up today?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Wolf, at the "Truth Squad" we look carefully at the exact wording of every attack. And as you know, we then give a ruling on each one.

Let's start with something that John McCain said just the other day when he was comparing his vice presidential pick to both men on the opposite ticket. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: She has ignited people across America. She has got more experience than Senator Biden and Obama put together.


LEVS: And we ruled that one misleading. Now if he had said executive experience, that would have been a different story. But when you look at their experience in general in elected public office, Obama and Palin are pretty close. Biden has a lot more, but actually, so does McCain, for that matter.

Now, here's an attack from Obama against McCain.


OBAMA: The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's whether you believe we should only reward wealth or whether we should also reward work and the workers who created it.


LEVS: And on that one, we ruled it false. Now, we have a few facts and a graphic for you here that will help explain why. Let's take a look at that. McCain offers across-the-board tax cuts to all income groups according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. He offers larger cuts to higher income levels while Obama offers larger cuts to middle- and lower-income people.

Now Obama says he will raise taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year, and individuals making more than $200,000. Both men have put forward plans to help workers. For example, we have one there.

McCain says he would cut the corporate tax rate. He says that would help small businesses, which he certainly views, Wolf, as helping workers. And obviously you can get a lot more details on this at Just go to our main page right here on the screen behind me.

You can click on this button right here, "fact check," bring you to all of the fact checks we've done throughout the whole election. Obviously we want people to see what we've examined. So when you go vote, you're voting based on the facts and not the rhetoric -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Great idea, Josh. Josh Levs, thanks very much.

LEVS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're watching a special LATE EDITION. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center in New York. My interview with Senator Barack Obama, that's coming up this hour. But first, we're getting brand-new poll numbers. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is looking at the latest, the latest poll. This is the last poll that CNN will be doing before the election on Tuesday.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And it shows that not very much has changed among likely voters. When asked would you vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, the result is, Barack Obama 53 percent, John McCain 46. That's a seven-point lead which is about where it's been for the last month.

Now, in some states, you have third party candidates on the ballot, two or three of them sometimes. So we also asked it a second way by including the names of Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney. Does that make a difference? Not really. Obama's lead is about the same. It's an eight-point lead if you include the other candidates, all of whom get a total of 4 percent on the ballot.

Now, we also ask people what will happen in four years if each candidate is elected. Will we still be involved in a war in Iraq or will the war in Iraq be over? Two-thirds say it's likely the war in Iraq will be over if Obama's elected. By two to one they say it will be over. In McCain's case, they're really split over whether the war will be over. That is a very sharp difference. One of the biggest differences between the candidates.

Interestingly, people are pretty optimistic in four years the economy will be better, although they say that is more likely if Obama's elected than if McCain is elected and here's something interesting. Will your taxes be lower? It's been a big issue in the campaign -- 52 percent say if Obama's elected, no, their taxes will not be lower. You know what the number is for McCain if he's elected? Sixty-two percent say their taxes will not be lower. People are optimistic about the economy and kind of pessimistic about the taxes.

One more thing. Sarah Palin, we looked at her favorability during the course of this campaign and what you can see now is her unfavorable. This is a negative opinion. Negative opinion of Sarah Palin has steadily been climbing. Now nearly half the electorate has a negative opinion of the Republican vice presidential nominee. BLITZER: I have Keating Holland, our pollster as you know, or expert on these polls do some checking for me, Bill, to compare this final poll, the national poll, likely voters, 53, 46, Obama over McCain compared to 2004 and 2000.

The last poll we conducted before that election two days before the election. Very interesting. Back in 2000 in our final CNN then Gallup poll we had Bush at 47 percent, Gore at 45 percent in that final poll two days before the election. And in 2004 in our last CNN/Gallup poll we had Bush at 49 percent, John Kerry at 47 percent.

So, just to give us perspective on these numbers that are coming out just now and numbers four years ago and eight years ago. It's interesting to see what's going on.

SCHNEIDER: Right. Both of those results were pretty close. Bush won by three points. Our polls showed him winning by two. And of course in 2000, well there is still a debate over what happened.

BLITZER: We know the popular vote, Kerry got about half a million more votes than Bush. Excuse me, Gore got half a million more votes. But some interesting numbers, and they're just numbers and just a snapshot, doesn't predict what is going to happen on Tuesday. Shows where we think this contest is right now.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. It's a snapshot of right now. We still have another day to go.

BLITZER: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

SCHNEIDER: Let's turn now to CNN's Brian Todd. He's following this race in the battleground state of Pennsylvania right now. Lots of excitement going on there right now. Brian, what's happening today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of excitement here, Wolf. John McCain and Sarah Palin coming here for the ninth out of the past 14 days that they have been in Pennsylvania. And there's good reason for that. The race is tightening here. The latest CNN poll of polls shows that McCain trails Barack Obama by seven percentage points. That is a tightening. In recent days, it has been double digits.

And the McCain/Palin blitz of the state seem to be having an effect. Very enthusiastic crowds wherever they've gone. Again, as I said, they been here nine out of the past 14 days.

John McCain did one rally here yesterday. He is doing two in Pennsylvania today. He is coming back to Pennsylvania tomorrow. He is really pushing for this state.

The history is showing that it may be a pretty good gamble on his part because Democratic candidates here, John Kerry in 2004, Al Gore in 2000 have not shown up as well on Election Day in the polls as they did in pre-election polls. Their actual results were thinner than they were in pre-election polls. McCain campaign banking on that history, banking on the culturally conservative middle of the state to really bring them home here in Pennsylvania. But they're countering a very strong Obama ground game here.

Barack Obama has 81 campaign offices across the state. Many of them in areas who have not seen a Democratic presidential campaign set up there before. They have 57,000 volunteers canvassing this state over the weekend and tomorrow and since June, they've made about 5 million personal phone calls to voters. They've knocked on 2.5 million doors. They have a very strong ground game here in Pennsylvania. So you get a sense that there is critical mass right here. This could be Ground Zero where the race could be tightest on Tuesday, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Democrats are bringing in, as you know, Brian, a real political power. That would the former president, Bill Clinton. He's going to be going out to western Pennsylvania tomorrow with Congressman John Murtha, who is facing his own difficult battle right now to get himself re-elected.

TODD: That's right. Bill Clinton has been here, he's coming back here. Hillary Clinton has also been here. But you're right, that John Murtha race, very interesting in southwestern Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. That's where his district is.

John Murtha with a series of public kind of perceived missteps and statements. His statement about his area being a racist area. He had called his constituents red necks. He said they were red necks years ago. He tried to put it in context, he and apologized for some of those remarks. But that race that John Murtha is in is very tight now. Democrats worried about it enough that they're bringing in Bill Clinton, the biggest of the big guns here to campaign for John Murtha. I'm sure Bill Clinton will say a few words about Barack Obama as well.

BLITZER: I'm sure he will. All right, Brian is going to be in Pennsylvania for the duration of this campaign. Brian, thanks very much.

I'm joined now by an important figure in the race for the White House in Pennsylvania, a strong supporter of John McCain. And that would be Republican Senator Arlen Specter. He is joining us from Philadelphia. Senator Specter, thanks for coming in.

SPECTER: Nice to be with you, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: In our latest CNN poll of polls, this is the average of all the major polls in your state, the most recent ones right now these are the numbers we have. Obama 51 percent in Pennsylvania among likely voters, 44 percent for McCain, 5 percent unsure.

But if you take a look over the past month or so, it shows that there's been a tightening of sorts back in early October it was about a ten-point lead for Obama in Pennsylvania and mid-October, October 16th. If you take a look, it went up to 13 points ahead for Obama. Right now it's down to seven points. Still a significant lead, 51 percent. That's a majority right there.

Can, this is a big question to you. I want you to be honest Senator Specter because you know your state as well as anyone, can McCain still carry Pennsylvania?

SPECTER: Well, Wolf, first of all, I'm always honest with you. And the answer to your question is, is yes. There are two imponderables in those figures. One is how many people polling one way will vote differently within the secrecy of ballot booth and the second factor is the enthusiasm of the base for Governor Palin. I was at a rally in north Bucks Country yesterday. I'm heading out a little later today to Delaware County. I've been at other rallies and the base is very, very enthusiastic. So that when you have the surge and you have these two other factors, I think John McCain will win. Will he? Well, it's an open question.

BLITZER: Are you saying, let's just be blunt about this Senator Specter, there is what they call a Bradley effect, potentially under way in your state whereby people go in and say they're going to vote for Obama but in the privacy of the voting booth, they won't vote for a black man?

SPECTER: Well, I don't like the Bradley effect categorization and I don't like the suggestion of racism. People are just different on polling and voting. We had a man, Frank Rizzo, who was the mayor here. There was no racial question. He polled a lot better than he voted and I think that could happen this time with that respect to race.

BLITZER: Because as you know John Murtha, the congressman from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, out in the western part of the state, he was very controversial, only a week or so ago when he said this. I'm going to play a little clip of what he said of an attitude that exists in the western part of Pennsylvania.


REP. JOHN P. MURTHA, D-PA.: Well, he'll have a tough time. There's no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area. When I say racist area, the older people are hesitant. You know, they're slow in seeing change, real change.


BLITZER: There's no question he said that western Pennsylvania is a racist area. Is he right?

SPECTER: No. I know western Pennsylvania like I know the back of my hand and there are some people who are against the idea of an African-American in the White House. There are a lot of people who don't want Jews in public office or even some Catholics. But I think that kind of a blanket smear on western Pennsylvania is unfounded, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's a sound bite, and I'm going to play it for you, Senator Specter, from Senator Obama at a rally with Clinton in Florida on Wednesday. Listen to this.


OBAMA: After 21 months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing that he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy.


BLITZER: All right, go ahead and answer that -- that criticism from Senator Obama.

SPECTER: Well, one thing that Senator McCain has emphasized is lowering taxes with emphasis on small business to stimulate the economy.

I think that John McCain, independent maverick that he is, will be very tough on those who have abused Wall Street with the sophisticated kind of commercial transactions.

John McCain is an independent guy who will step out on -- on those lines. BLITZER: Senator Specter, I want you to hold on for a moment. We just got Senator Bob Casey, your Democratic colleague from Pennsylvania, on the phone. He's joining us, right now.

It looks like there's been a little tightening of the contest in Pennsylvania in our last CNN poll of polls, Senator Casey. It's a 7- point advantage for Obama, right now, as opposed to -- 51-44, as opposed to a 13-point advantage in mid-October. What's going on?

CASEY: Well, Wolf, great to be with you. I wish the difficulties on the television weren't preventing us from being with you by way of television.

But, look, I've been I was saying, for weeks, that the history of Pennsylvania shows that we have very tight elections. No Democrat has gotten more than 51 percent, running for president, in 50 years.

The last Democrat to get above 51 percent was Lyndon Johnson. Before that, it was Franklin Roosevelt. So if Senator Obama were to win Pennsylvania and get about 51 percent of the vote, he would set a record, almost a 50-year record.

So I assume it's going to be close. But everywhere where I go, Wolf, in this state, and especially in the small towns that I've been to, the last couple days, there's enthusiasm for Senator Obama. They know that he's on the side of the middle class.

It's very clear now that there's only one candidate in the race who's going to got cut taxes for the middle class, and that's Barack Obama. BLITZER: Well, not if you listen to Governor Palin. I'll play a little clip for you, Senator Casey. Hear what she says about Senator Obama and the whole issue of taxes.


GOV. SARAH H. PALIN, R-ALASKA: His whole tax plan, really, it is -- it's so phony that it's already starting to unravel. And we're going to call it the way that we see it. It seems like, every few days, we're getting a new definition, now, of "middle class," according to their plan, whose taxes he says he won't raise on the middle class.


BLITZER: All right. She was speaking in York, Pennsylvania, an area you know quite well. Go ahead and respond to Governor Palin.

CASEY: Well, Wolf, she doesn't know what she's talking about, bluntly. Senator Obama has said, over and over again -- and his tax plan proves this -- that he's going to provide tax relief to working families who have incomes less than $250,000 a year.

It's about time that the families in Pennsylvania, the middle class, get a break instead of just very wealthy individuals and corporations. There's a very clear choice, and every expert that's looked at that says that Senator Obama gives three times the tax relief the middle class, as recently as yesterday when Time Magazine had a similar analysis. The tax policy center says that. And it's very clear the people of our state need it.

We've had tremendous job loss. And one of the ways to dig ourselves out of the ditch that the Bush-Cheney-McCain economy has put us in is to cut taxes for the middle class, at long last.

BLITZER: Well, let me let Senator Specter respond to that.

Obviously, Senator McCain wants to keep all the Bush tax cuts, including on the very wealthy. You just heard Senator Casey make the case that Senator Obama would lower middle-class tax structure for working families out there.

You want to respond?

SPECTER: Well, the tax cuts stimulate the economy, generally. And a tax cut doesn't know whether -- whom it's directed at, specifically. So I think the tax cuts do stimulate the economy.

But there's a big difference between campaign rhetoric and what's going to happen next year. Whoever is elected president, we're facing very, very severe deficits. The national debt is going up.

We've got to have some fiscal responsibility on spending. And spending is directly related to taxes. So let's wait to see whether this rhetoric can be really carried into effect.

My experience in the Senate shows that a lot of this campaign talk, on both sides, fades away when you face the reality of the fiscal needs of the country and the big deficit.

BLITZER: I think that's a fair point. Senator Specter, we have to leave it right there.

Senator Casey, sorry for the technical problems. Glad we got to you on the phone.

We'll all be watching Pennsylvania. We'll be watching all 50 states and the District of Columbia, here at the CNN Election Center.

Thanks to both of your for coming in.

SPECTER: Good to be with you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And in just a moment, our special "Late Edition" will continue with a breakdown of the final strategies, as the presidential candidates scramble for votes in the tightening race.

Is it, though, really tightening, with only two days to go? We'll go to our CNN truth squad for the real story on some of the latest political commercials you'll be seeing in these last hours before Election Day.

Much more of my special interview with Barack Obama, coming up this hour, as well. "Late Edition" continues in just a moment.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from the CNN Election Center here in New York.

Only two days to go, so what are the last-minute strategies that these candidates desperately need?

Joining us now, five CNN contributors. They're all part of the best political team on television. Democratic strategist James Carville -- he's joining us from beautiful New Orleans. Paul Begala -- he's joining us from our Washington bureau. In Boston, David Gergen, a senior adviser to four presidents of the United States, of both parties. And with me, here at the CNN Election Center, Republican strategists Leslie Sanchez and Alex Castellanos.

Guys, thanks very much. I want everyone to come up with some closing arguments, what they think both of these candidates need to say and do, over the next 48 hours.

James Carville, let me begin with you.

CARVILLE: Well, Senator McCain has got to come across as an underdog, not a loser. America hates losers, loves underdogs. He's got to say -- show that he's got the enthusiasm. He's got to make his case that America's coming back, John McCain's coming back, and just try to rally that home and do as well as he can in his closing part of the campaign.

BLITZER Leslie Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: I think, very much, he's moving on the message of taxes. You're starting to see that close the gap, a little bit. It's been a staple for Republicans for the last 50 years.

He's going to say, we're defiant; we're strong; we're winning; we're closing that gap.

And he's also giving an inference about vulnerability, that Barack Obama does not have the leadership or the skills to be ready in a crisis.

BLITZER: That's for McCain. What about Obama?

SANCHEZ: Obama needs to say I'm breaking the status quo. We've got to change, it's a different time for America. We want new ideas and visions for health care. We want to get out of Iraq. It's our time and it's now.

BLITZER: More of the same from him. Paul Begala, what do you think?

BEGALA: Yeah, I think Senator McCain needs to get better, not bitter. In other words, to focus on the patriotism, the optimism, the heroism that got him through Vietnam can perhaps get him through here instead of the bitterness and divisiveness and it's sort of almost defeatist attitude that he's exemplified in the last few days.

Senator Obama, he needs to press, not stall. He was sometimes a slow closer in the primaries. He is closing very strong here. The Dick Cheney endorsement, for example, he jumped on it immediately. He was funny about it. He is keeping Bush and Cheney in the frame, as well as McCain and that's doomsday for McCain.

BLITZER: Alex Castellanos?

CASTELLANOS: John McCain needs to share his courage with the American people. Enough talk about himself but say, look, there's nothing wrong with America. America is not broken, Washington is. Stand up and do something about it. We can make this country great again. Renew our faith in it.

And Barack Obama? He's, he's got it going on all engines now. Stick with what he's doing. He's raising the noise level so McCain can't penetrate with the message. He's on offense in states where he needs to be. Go back to that primary message of hope and change and that's what got him here and that might be what gets him across the finish line.

BLITZER: what do you think, David Gergen?

GERGEN: You can't change your message in the last 48 hours. You just have to drill down on what you've got. For McCain, that clearly is as Leslie Sanchez said, means drilling down on taxes and on spending. I think Paul Begala is right, he has got to do it with more of a smile and more sense of optimism.

If you turn off the sound on John McCain's speeches and just watch him, there's an anger level and there's just sort of a pounding lectern level that I think does not help him as much as a greater sense of optimism would.

On Barack Obama, keep pressing down on change. But get to as many states as possible and don't get in the way of your ground game. He has got the best ground game out there, the best one I think we've ever seen in Democratic politics.

BLITZER: James Carville, how important is the likability factor in all of this that Americans want to be able to like their president?

CARVILLE: I think in good times it probably is more important than in times like this. I don't think either one of these guys is particularly unlikable people. I think McCain is coming across as a little more bitter than he normally is, but that's what happened when you get behind.

I think people are looking for something different. I think being different trumps likability now more than any other time. But again, it's this ridiculous thing about who you want to have a beer with.

I think it matters very little now, I think people are looking for change and looking for something different. They have a sense that we're going in the wrong direction and they're going to change and they're not going to be talked out of it.

BLITZER: Because if you watched "Saturday Night Live" last night, Leslie. We're going to show some clips later here on LATE EDITION, John McCain was there. He was live, he said it all. He came across as very likable. Self-deprecating, but nice. Is it too late, though? Is it too late in the game for that image to really come through?

SANCHEZ: Not so. I think he's building off that from the Republican Convention. It was a different side of him to see. People have -- likability is important but right now to James' point, there is a bigger issue. It's going to be leadership. It's going to be who can actually articulate what they're talking about and who can get something done?

BLITZER: Let me let Paul Begala weigh in. Go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: Yes, I thought Senator McCain, he does have a very good sense of humor. He hasn't displayed it very much on the campaign trail. When David said we should just turn off the sound and watch these two, I thought that was a great idea and I think McCain's aides need to do that for him. He has the capacity for greatness, he's just hidden it for this whole campaign. It's been a terrible campaign, a terrible performance by John McCain.

BLITZER: You think, Alex?

CASTELLANOS: Humor is a mark of confidence and when you do that, it speaks to your faith that you can win this thing. So, yes, absolutely it's important but also it's a bonding mechanism. You know, when we laugh at the same things, it means we look at the world the same way. But right now a lot of Republicans would like to have a beer, James, so don't take that away from us.

BLITZER: David, David, you have been watching John McCain for a long time and some have suggested, some of his critics, you know there are two John McCains. The nice, self-deprecating, friendly John McCain, the hero and then some have pointed out the bitter, angry John McCain. What do you think about this analysis?

GERGEN: Well, I think it's right. And I think when we look back, one of the big, big questions is, should he have put himself into the hands of essentially the Bush team, which likes to run a very negative and sort of angry kind of campaign because it put him in the context of becoming angrier himself.

We've seen him at moments at Saddleback with Rick Warren, we saw him in the Larry King interview this week. We saw him at the Al Smith dinner, "Saturday Night Live." We have seen moments when the worth of John McCain, the natural humor of John McCain, the sort of -- he was a cut up most of his life. That is part of his maverick and he was a wonderful friend for a lot of people. And to see this other side of him come out, I think, has not been helpful.

I think, frankly, we'll look back and say, did he sell himself to these Bush people because he thought that was only way to win and will he regret that.

BLITZER: We're going to have the best political team on television stand by. We have much more to talk about, including their predictions, what they think is going to happen on Tuesday. Stand by for that.

Also coming up, more on my one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama. I asked him what he would do, it's still is a big if, if he becomes president of the United States, what his top priorities would be. LATE EDITION continues right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. Let's talk about Tuesday. Predictions from all of you. James Carville, the electoral college, 270 the magic number needed to be elected president of the United States. What do you think is going to happen on Tuesday?

CARVILLE: I think Obama's going to get 357 electoral votes and the Democrats will hit nine Senate seats and 27 House seats.

BLITZER: Wow. Leslie Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: I think we're talking Senate too?

BLITZER: Talking about the Electoral College first.

SANCHEZ: Electoral College, it's too hard to say I say because McCain has to hold those Bush states. But he's putting all his weight into Pennsylvania. It's the only counterpunch he has, it's either brilliant or ignorant, one of the two. BLITZER; So do you think he'll get McCain, the man he likes and will he get 270 electoral votes?

SANCHEZ: I think it's a narrow path, but it's still possible.

BLITZER: Slight but possible.

SANCHEZ: Slight by possible.

BLITZER: All right, Paul Begala we heard a specific number from your friend James Carville. What do you think?

BEGALA: I am being very cautious and conservative, and I think Obama gets a minimum of 325 and that's without Florida, North Carolina or Indiana. He goes those three and he's back right James has him. Actually I have him at 378. Minimum of 325. CASTELLANOS: Well, we're going to vote anyway, regardless of what I say, so we're still going it have an election but I think right now if you look at the map, it looks like 318. The reason is --

BLITZER: For Obama?

CASTELLANOS: For Obama. Big Democratic year, but Barack Obama still underperforms what's out there right now. Why? Because he's so far left of center. And it's not going well here for him at the end. Some Reagan Democrats and Independents, he's losing in states like Pennsylvania. But he carries Pennsylvania, he does not carry Ohio. He carries Virginia, he does not carry North Carolina. He does pick up Colorado and New Mexico and Nevada and he does take Florida.


CASTELLANOS: So right now that's the way it looks.

BLITZER: Three-eighteen.

SANCHEZ: Well, we really have to say, you are going to know a lot from the polls that come out on Sunday, because Sunday is going to be the last big...


SANCHEZ: Yes, the ones that are in the field tonight coming out tomorrow. If he's still within 4 points, then it is going to be very tight. And there is a possibility, if he's not, if it's larger than that, than it's going to...


BLITZER: David Gergen, the electoral colors, what do you see?

GERGEN: Well, Wolf, to me, John McCain, yes, he can still win. But the big news from this weekend so far is that there is no news. That Barack Obama still has a significant and stable lead, over 6 percent nationwide poll of polls. So, I would say, I think he has a path to 338 in the Electoral College, give or take 20.

BLITZER: Well, still 20. Even if it was 308, he would still win decisively. Let me go back to James Carville, talk about the Senate, 51, the Democrats, if you include the two independents, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, they have a 51-49 majority in the Senate right now. What will be the balance of power when we wake up on Wednesday?

CARVILLE: I think the Democrats get to nine. Also, I think the best debate...

BLITZER: They get to what?

CARVILLE: I think they're going to get to 60.

BLITZER: You do. CARVILLE: But I think the best debate of the entire cycle is going to be tonight in Minnesota. There is one debate left in Minnesota and Coleman is caught up in some kind of a scandal and they're going back and forth on that. I don't know if that is going to be on television anywhere, but that is going to be better than any of the presidential debates and that is a very key Senate race. And, Wolf, by the way, I want to up my projection to 365.

BLITZER: Three-sixty-five.

CARVILLE: I think I was a little low. After listening to Alex and Leslie, I think I will jack it up a little bit.

BLITZER: All right. Yes, he is talking about the race in Minnesota between Norm Coleman, the incumbent, and Al Franken, the Democratic challenger.

Alex, what do you think, in the Senate?

CASTELLANOS: Well, here's why James is wrong about the Senate, and this is going to hurt, James. Yes, it could be 59 seats, because we have three Republicans retiring, five other seats that don't look very good for Republicans. We're not going it win those seats, but we're going to take Louisiana. Mary Landrieu is going to lose in a close race.

Why that state is different, the composition of that state a lot more Republican than it used to be. Bobby Jindal, the popular Republican governor, has endorsed John Kennedy -- a different John Kennedy, but a new Republican candidate down there. So that is a Republican pickup, it will be one of the bright spots for Republicans.

BLITZER: Well, let me just go quickly back quickly to James. You're in Louisiana right now.

CARVILLE: Well, actually, Alex, I'm a betting man. So if you would like to engage in a little wager...

CASTELLANOS: I'm in, I'm in.

CARVILLE: My macro prediction...

BLITZER: All right. Let's make the bet right now between Alex and James. We're talking dinner at The Palm on 19th Street in Washington, D.C. Is that a deal?

CASTELLANOS: For the largest political team on television, everybody.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, go ahead.

BEGALA: Well, yes, Alex can afford to take us all to dinner because he's a rich Republican. I think that -- again, I tend to be a little...

CASTELLANOS: I thought Obama had all of the money. (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I tend to be a little more cautious than James. You know, for 25 years we've been in business, I've always said that everybody knows James is not playing with a full deck, but I'm the only one who knows which cards are missing.


BEGALA: I think Democrats wind up seven or eight Senate seats, not quite to that magic number of 60. And also that gives them the freedom to kick Joe Lieberman out of their caucus.


BEGALA: I can't wait for that to happen.

SANCHEZ: That's exactly right, they're not going to get the supermajority. They're not going to get the nine I think because of the fact they're relying very much on a left-wing comedian to win in the state that basically supported a governor -- I mean, a wrestler for governor. You never know with Minnesota.

BLITZER: Minnesota is an interesting place. All right. David, you got the last word, go ahead.

GERGEN: Yes, OK. I think the Democrats pick up around eight in the Senate, that leaves them a little shy of 60, one shy. But they'll have a working majority and that's very important, because they do -- to govern in the right way, they do need to bring some Republicans into their voting. And so, I think 59 is just fine for the country.

On the House projections, listen, I'll take whatever Charlie Cook says.

BLITZER: Hey, Charlie Cook knows the House of Representatives, and I don't know exactly what he says as of today, but he says the Democrats are going to pick up a significant number.

SANCHEZ: Twenty to 25 is what...


CARVILLE: Another Louisianan, I might add, a Shreveport guy.

BLITZER: Yes, well, that's -- we love Louisiana. All right, guys. Thanks very much. James Carville, Paul Begala, David Gergen, and Leslie Sanchez, and Alex Castellanos, they're here with me at the CNN Election Center. They're all going to be with us throughout Tuesday. Stay with us for the best political team on television.

Coming up, I just want to also promote what's going to be happening later tonight. We are going to have a special two-hour program. "THE NEXT PRESIDENT," two days to go. It starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. I'll be anchoring that program for you. Straight ahead, Josh Levs with the latest from the CNN "Truth Squad," he's keeping them honest on the campaign trail and much more of my interview with Senator Obama. All that coming up right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. This is a special LATE EDITION as we preview the election with only two days to go to Election Day. Let's go back to the CNN Center, Josh Levs is joining us with more on what he's picking up. He's part of the CNN "Truth Squad" -- Josh.

LEVS: Hey there, Wolf. This is what I'm going to do now. I'm going to show you the absolute latest from the "Truth Squad." First, we're looking at this assertion that is inside an Obama ad attacking McCain.


UNKNOWN: He wants $4 billion in new tax breaks for big oil and would tax your health care benefits for the first time ever. Look behind you. We can't afford more of the same.


LEVS: All right. Now we've looked previously at that $4 billion for oil companies. We found that technically true. If you look at his corporate tax cut in general for businesses, and then you just isolate big oil. Well, the line now about health benefits, we're calling that, as you saw, true but incomplete.

Let me give some facts on this. We have a graphic here. McCain would start taxing premiums paid for employer-provided insurance. And that would be new. But what the ad does not mention is that he would also give everyone a tax credit, $2,500 for individuals, $5,000 for families.

All right. Now here is our latest attack from McCain against Obama.


MCCAIN: We'll invest in all energy alternatives, wind, solar, tide, and safe nuclear power. You know, Senator Obama doesn't think that nuclear power is safe.


LEVS: That's not exactly what he thinks. We give that one a false. Obama says he supports nuclear power. You can actually read about it in his energy plan on his Web site. I want to zoom in on it for just a second. You can just see the key words here, "safe and secure nuclear energy."

He says the country should not expand nuclear facilities until safety issues are resolved. But he believes it is possible. And he does not say that nuclear power is intrinsically unsafe. You can get more details, of course, at, just go to our main page, click on "fact check" right there at the very top, want you to get all of the information before you vote.

And, Wolf, I'll tell you, we've had millions of visitors already and we could have millions more by Tuesday.

BLITZER: I'm sure we will, Josh. Thanks for the good work. Thanks very much.

LEVS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, our own John King, he is standing by live. He's going to be joining us over at the magic wall with the latest on how this presidential campaign is playing out in these very, very final days.

And straight ahead, more of my one-on-one interview with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Last week I had a chance to interview Senator John McCain in Manchester, New Hampshire. You saw the interview here on "Late Edition."

This week I sat down with Senator Barack Obama in Des Moines, Iowa.

In part two of that interview, I asked him about his plans, if -- and it's still a big "if" -- if he wins on Tuesday.


BLITZER: If you're elected president -- still a big "if," right now -- when would you shut down Gitmo, the Guantanamo naval base, or the detention center for suspected terrorists.

OBAMA: I want to close Gitmo as quickly as we can do it.

BLITZER: What does that mean? How quickly?

OBAMA: As quickly as we can do prudently. And I am not going to give a time certain, because I think what we have to do is evaluate all those who are still being held at Gitmo.

We have to put in place appropriate plans to make sure that they are tried, convicted and punished to the full extent of the law. And that's going to require, I think, a review of the existing cases, which I have not had the opportunity to do.

BLITZER: Senator McCain says that, if he's elected president, Iran will not become a nuclear power. Can you make that same commitment? OBAMA: Well, I've said I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. I think it would be a game-changer. It would not be acceptable. It would be a threat to our strongest ally in the region, Israel.

But it would also potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. And we have to both apply much tougher diplomacy -- and sanctions, potentially, if they do not move in a better direction.

We have to give them some inducements to walk away from their nuclear program. And we should never take a military option off the table.

BLITZER: If you're elected president, would you support direct talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan?

OBAMA: You know, I know that General Petraeus has discussed the possibility of trying to peel away more moderate factions within the Taliban.

And I think that, talking to our commanders on the ground, and based on sound intelligence, if we can peel off some support from the hardcore militants that are aligned with Al Qaida, that would be beneficial.

I don't think that we necessarily are the best intermediary in that kind of discussion. And I'd want to see some proof, some evidence that, in fact, there are aspects of the Taliban that are -- that are susceptible to reasonable dialogue. But I...

BLITZER: Because, as you know, this is the group that gave aid and comfort to Al Qaida.

OBAMA: Well, and that's exactly my point. If -- my general attitude is that we have to snuff out Al Qaida; we have to capture or kill bin Laden. And, in order for us to do that, we're going to have to have cooperation from Afghans and Pakistanis.

But, you know, it may get murky, in terms of who are potential allies, who are enemies, in that situation.

I want to work with our commanders to do whatever, practically, we can do in order to make sure that the overall goal of eliminating Al Qaeda as a threat is accomplished.

BLITZER: The model that General Petraeus used in Iraq...


BLITZER: ... to wean away Iraqi insurgents...

OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: ... from Al Qaida -- it seems to have worked in the Al Anbar province and elsewhere.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Is that model applicable in weaning away Taliban elements from Al Qaida in Afghanistan?

OBAMA: I think it is important to understand that these countries are all different. That's one of the mistakes we made, going into Iraq.

We have to, I think, analyze very specifically what the situation is there before we make any moves. And I will expect, if I'm the president-elect, to have some very rapid discussions with General Petraeus, who I think has done a very good job in Iraq.

I want to get his assessment, and I would want to see some evidence that, in fact, the possibility of that model working existed in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: As you know, he was charged today, even as we're speaking, of the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees that entire region. You have confidence in him and you want him to stay?

OBAMA: I do have confidence in him. I think he did ant outstanding job in Iraq, as our military generally done outstanding work.

What they need is a commander in chief who is thinking more strategically about how we deploy our resources to make America more secure.

And I look forward to working alongside our commanders and our troops on the ground, in order to make sure that we are going after Al Qaida; we're getting bin Laden, that we stabilize Iraq, that we create a situation in Afghanistan where this ongoing threat is not constantly coming back at us.

BLITZER: Senator McCain says he knows how to capture bin Laden. And he says, "I'll get him," if he's elected president. Do you know how to capture bin Laden?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I am reminded of -- he said this during the debate, and I think the next -- that night, maybe, I think, Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central said, you know, why have you been holding out on us for the last six years?


I mean, the fact is that, along with George Bush, John McCain championed a strategy that distracted us from capturing bin Laden, that focused on Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11.

And so, clearly, Senator McCain doesn't know how to capture bin Laden because he was supportive of a huge strategic blunder when it came to accomplishing the task.

I will focus on what Secretary Gates and others have indicated is our number one security threat, and that is bin Laden and Al Qaida and bin Laden. We will go after him. We will kill him or we will capture him, try him, apply the death penalty to him, whereas necessary.

But that is the threat that we should have stayed focused on. That's the threat that I will focus on when I'm president.

BLITZER: How worried are you about the stability of the Pakistani government?

Because it looks like Al Qaida is going after the new leadership, post-Musharraf, in Islamabad. OBAMA: Well, I'm concerned about it. This is one of the problems with our previous strategy. There was a lot of resentment that built up as a consequence of our support of President Musharraf, there, who had squelched democracy.

And now you've got a fledgling democratic government. We have to support their efforts to democratize. That means, by the way, not just providing military aid. It means, also, helping them to provide, you know, concrete solutions to the -- the poverty and lack of education that exists in Pakistan.

So I want to increase non-military aid to Pakistan. But we also have to help make the case that the biggest threat to Pakistan, right now, is not India, which has been their historical enemy. It's actually militants within their own borders.

And if we can get them to refocus on that, then that's going to be critical to our success, not just in stabilizing Pakistan, but also in finishing the job in Afghanistan.


BLITZER: And we'll have part three of my interview with Senator Obama coming up in the next hour, here on our special "Late Edition." He tells us what his number one priority would be if he's elected president of the United States.

But up next, on this special "Late Edition," our own John King -- he's crunching the numbers on our magic wall. We're going to tell you what John McCain needs to do to close the gap. That, and a lot more, coming up right after this.


BLITZER: All right. We're just getting this fascinating new element into this campaign coming in. The RNC in coordination with the McCain/Palin campaign is now playing these robo calls in several states. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN: I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC. Listen to what Hillary Clinton had to say about John McCain and Barack Obama.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: In the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training. Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002. I think that is a significant difference.

UNKNOWN: This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee at 866-558-5591 and authorized by McCain/Palin.


BLITZER: All right. You get the point. John King is here. I think Hillary Clinton is not going to be very happy when she discovered that her voice is being used in these RNC robocalls in this, the final 48 hours of this campaign.

KING: I suspect by the time we're done with this conversation, her organization will have called to lodge its protest. But let's show why the McCain campaign would do this at this late hour. He is right now in a tough situation in Ohio, 20 electoral votes. He is right now trailing in Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes. Those are two of the states, Wolf, where is this is being played.

We'll focus on those two to show you the significance. This map is the Democratic primary. The light blue is Hillary Clinton. They are playing this in places critical to John McCain on Tuesday where Hillary Clinton did so well in the primaries.

Look down here in eastern Ohio, the blue-collar, working-class areas up here, rural areas down here. If the Democrat wins down here on Tuesday, John McCain will not win Ohio. He is targeting people who voted for Hillary Clinton.

Let's move to the critical, more critical battleground state even of Pennsylvania. The McCain campaign says if it cannot turn Pennsylvania, it can't come up with a scenario for 270. Look at this light blue. This is Senator Clinton here, out here in the western part of the state, as well. Senator Clinton out here. You're putting these calls into people who voted for Senator Clinton in the primary or who liked her in the primary, essentially taking her argument, Barack Obama is not ready to be president, hoping that it sways votes in these critical blue collar communities where John McCain, right now, is running behind.

BLITZER: If you live in Pennsylvania or Ohio or Florida, for that matter, a few other states, get ready for a lot of those robocalls in these final hours.

KING: I suspect people are stopping answering the phone, maybe, but it will be on the answering machine.

BLITZER: You don't want to hear a robocall? Just don't answer the phone.

KING: Just don't answer it.

BLITZER: All right, we're watching all of this unfold. We've got a lot more coming up, including part three of my one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama. Straight ahead, also, two key supporters of two presidential candidates, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Deval Patrick, they are standing by live. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. You're watching a special LATE EDITION. We're only 48 hours away from this election. Barack Obama and John McCain, they're getting ready to hit the battleground states harder than ever these final two days. We're going to be all over this. We're watching what's going on.

There are live events coming up this hour. Senator McCain is in the battleground state of Pennsylvania getting ready to meet with his supporters there. Senator Biden will be speaking. Senator Obama is speaking, Governor Palin. They've all got rallies going on on this day.

And remember, this important programming note for our viewers in the United States and around the world -- tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, we'll have a special two-hour look ahead to the election. 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern, the next president of the United States. I'll be anchoring our coverage. We'll be watching this story unfold, every aspect.

Also coming up this hour, more of my interview with Senator Barack Obama. I spent some time with him in Iowa this past week. A week earlier I spent some time with Senator McCain in New Hampshire. And we're going to have part three of my interview with Senator Obama. That's coming up. Last Sunday on LATE EDITION, you saw and heard from Senator McCain. Joining us now to assess where this race for the White House stands are two of the candidates' top supporters. In Minneapolis, the governor of Minnesota, Governor Tim Pawlenty. He's strongly supporting John McCain. And in West Palm Beach, Florida, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. He's a major supporter of Barack Obama. Governors, to both of you, thanks very much for coming in.

To Governor Patrick, let me start with you. The news that we just broke here on LATE EDITION just a few moments ago, these new robocalls that are coming in from the RNC backed by the McCain/Palin campaign, using Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton's own words against Barack Obama and trying to generate some last-minute support for Senator McCain. I don't know if we still have that cued up, but if we do, I'm going to play that new robocall for you. We don't have it cued up, but you just heard it.

PATRICK: I've heard it moments ago.

BLITZER: So go ahead. Governor Patrick, what's your reaction to using Hillary Clinton's own words against Senator Obama?

PATRICK: well, it's clever but not important. Look, the country needs change. The voters want change. Barack Obama and Joe Biden offer that change, and John McCain and Sarah Palin don't. It's as simple as that. It's a very, very simple choice that the American people are going to have to make, whether we're going to stay on the path we've been on, which is the path that John McCain and Sarah Palin support and believe in. Or go to a different place where we honor work, we lift up the middle class, and we try to bring ourselves together.

BLITZER: Let me play that little robocall, a little snippet from it, and then I want to continue this part of the conversation. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN: I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC. Listen to what Hillary Clinton had to say about John McCain and Barack Obama.

CLINTON: In the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training. Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002. I think that is a significant difference.

UNKNOWN: This call was paid for by the Republican National --


BLITZER: All right. Governor Pawlenty, some will say that's very clever, as we just heard from Governor Deval Patrick. Others will say it's very effective, but it might be a little bit too little too late. What do you think?

PAWLENTY: Well, in addition to being either clever or cute or whatever, it's also true. I mean, Barack Obama is perhaps the least prepared person in terms of his resume, being so thin of any modern candidate for the presidency. So, that's a factor. It's concerning. And John McCain's, of course, life story and background is quite different, filled with leadership and accomplishment and results.

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond to that, Governor Patrick. PATRICK: Well, I honor John McCain's experience and background. But, look, there is leadership that can be learned in all kinds of quarters, including organizing communities, including in a State Senate, including in the United States Senate.

You just compare the two campaigns, the Obama campaign has been disciplined, focused, on message, purposeful, growing at the grassroots in unprecedented ways. The McCain campaign has zigged and zagged all over the place on a whole host of policy issues and on basic organization. Now, if we're talking about examples of leadership, just look to the campaigns. I think --

PAWLENTY: Wolf, if I may.

BLITZER: Go ahead, governor.

PAWLENTY: I'm sorry. Yeah, Deval, sorry to cut in on you there, he's my buddy.

PATRICK: No worries.

PAWLENTY: It's kind of a circular argument with all due respect to Governor Patrick because you're saying I'm prepared to be president because I've campaigned for president. So, for Senators McCain and Obama, the question should be what have you run, what have you done? And in the case of Senator Obama, he hasn't acted as an executive leader and he can't really point to any big accomplishment that he's done on a matter of national significance.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Governor Patrick.

PATRICK: Well, listen, I think we have a serious difference there. I mean, either you think, as many do who are longtime in politics, that the only experience that counts is having been in Washington, doing the same old thing year after year with the same old folks, that's one view.

But if you think that the change we need is a different perspective on Washington itself and how it behaves, then you vote for Barack Obama. And that's one of the reasons why I'm supporting him.

BLITZER: Governor Pawlenty, what he did do in the last nearly two years is run a very, very successful campaign, has raised $600 million, $700 million, maybe even more when all the dust settles, and he's been -- even his most ardent critics will argue -- very brilliant in organizing this campaign. That shows some executive leadership, doesn't it?

PAWLENTY: Well, in the process, Wolf, what he's done is demolish the public financing or campaign financing system. If Barack Obama were to win and become president, whoever might run against him in the future is going to have to raise a billion dollars. That's going to make the public financing or campaign financing system, I think, irrelevant.

And he committed to abide by that. He committed early on. Then when it was obvious it became an advantage for his campaign to break that promise, he did. So, I think one of the legacies of this so- called brilliant campaign is not only a broken promise about taking public financing or abiding by the financing program but it's also going to be the demolition, probably the end of that system for presidential campaigns. I don't think that's going to be a very positive legacy.

BLITZER: What about that point, Governor Patrick?

PATRICK: Well, with due respect to my friend and colleague, Governor Pawlenty, the average donation has been about 90 bucks. There are people who have participated in this campaign by contributing in an unprecedented way, not just the aggregate volume but the people giving five bucks where they can, 10 bucks where they can, and investing in that way in their own civic future.

That is a profound change in our politics, and precisely the kind of change that will make a difference, not just to the outcome of this election but to the vibrance of our democracy. That's a good thing.

BLITZER: Governor Pawlenty, in our latest poll of polls that has just come out in your state, and it's a beautiful state, the state of Minnesota --

PAWLENTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: I'm going to put the numbers up on the screen right now. Among likely voters, when you average all the major final polls in Minnesota, Obama, 52 percent, McCain, 40 percent, unsure 8 percent. Why do the majority of voters, likely voters in Minnesota, disagree with you?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think Minnesota, of course, is always -- trends a little Democrat or tends to be, so Republicans always have a bit of an uphill advantage, and this is a tough year for Republicans.

I do think the race will be closer than that, Wolf. I think you're going to see Minnesotans appreciate Independents, they appreciate people who can work across party lines. I think Senator McCain has that record. And that will shine through more than the poll of polls that you're suggesting.

But it's always a bit of an uphill climb for Republicans in Minnesota, so it's no surprise that Barack Obama has a bit of an advantage and that Senator McCain is the underdog. But I do believe he's going to do better than you're suggesting.

BLITZER: As you and I have discussed, Governor Pawlenty, you were clearly the first runner-up in the quest to become the vice presidential running mate for Senator McCain. We heard the former governor of Pennsylvania, in recent days, Tom Ridge, say if he would have been selected, McCain would be doing better in Pennsylvania right now. He also suggested if you would have been selected, McCain would be doing better in Minnesota right now. Here's a blunt question, Governor Pawlenty, to you. Sarah Palin, was that a mistake? PAWLENTY: Well, I think Senator McCain realized this was going to be a challenging year and he need to do something to shake it up or take a gamble a bit, but he believes that she has energized the Republican Party and I think she has in terms of the base and she's appealed to people beyond the party. But they'll be debating that question for a long time, I think, Wolf. But clearly, she has, in the eyes of the McCain campaign, brought many, month positive attributes to attributes to the campaign and been a net plus.

BLITZER: Here is an ad, a closing ad from the McCain campaign, Governor Patrick. And I want to play you this little clip for you. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN: Your choice for higher taxes, for working joes, spread your income, keep what's yours. A trillion in new spending, freeze spending, eliminate waste. Pain for small business.


BLITZER: All right, go ahead, Governor Deval Patrick, and respond to that pretty tough commercial saying it's going to be a disaster if Senator Obama is elected president. PATRICK: You know, I guess one of the things we have to change is this whole business of trying to scare people into voting for somebody. You know, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been very clear about 95 percent of working people getting a tax cut under their plans.

If you make $200,000 or less, your income taxes are going down. If you make $250,000 or more, if you're in that upper echelon, then the income tax cut you have been given is going to be rolled back to the 1990s level.

And why not? Why not honor work and support working people? You know, the folks who are making what CEOs are making, Fortune 500 companies, are not worried about paying the rent and the heat in the same month.

Right now, working people are having that trouble, and in a country of conscience like ours, we ought to have the kind of leadership like Barack Obama that calls for that kind of support.

BLITZER: All right. Governor Pawlenty, speaking of scaring voters, here's the final ad from the Obama campaign going after Senator McCain. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN: Wonder where John McCain would take the economy? Look behind you. John McCain wants to continue George Bush's economic policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, a little snippet of that ad. Go ahead and respond because a lot of Americans are obviously fearful, including people in Minnesota, that if you elect John McCain you're going to get four more years of Bush.

PAWLENTY: Well, a few things. This promise that the tax increases Barack Obama's proposing only applies to people over $250,000 has been modified recently. Senator Biden has said and Governor Richardson has said it could be as low as $120,000, so that's being modified. The question rises, what else are they going to modify?

Number two, 40 percent of the people in the country don't pay taxes, so if you're going to reduce taxes for 95 percent of the people, you're really talking about in part creating a new entitlement or welfare program. That's probably not something that many Americans think is a good idea right now.

And then third, when you're trying to grow jobs, you don't want to do things like raise income taxes, raise capital gains taxes, raise dividend taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise health care taxes like Barack Obama wants to do. Most small business would say that's going to disincentive job growth in the country.

BLITZER; We're out of time, but I'm going to let Governor Patrick quickly respond. That was a lot of stuff that was just thrown out there. Go ahead, governor.

PATRICK: I would just challenge my good friend Tim Pawlenty the same way that Barack Obama has challenged John McCain. Name one difference in economic policy between John McCain and George Bush. There isn't one. What John McCain wants to do is continue down that same path and, in fact, speed up down that same path.

PATRICK: The country cannot afford it. We have to go in a different direction.

BLITZER: A challenge to you, one difference, go ahead, Governor Pawlenty.

PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, he disagreed with the president on spending, he disagreed with the president on earmarks, he disagreed with the president on energy policy. Barack Obama voted, by the way, for the energy bill that was sponsored by Vice President Cheney, climate change and many others. So there are three or four for you right there and I could add more if you have more time, Wolf.

BLITZER: We don't have more time, unfortunately. But a quick question to...

PATRICK: You have to have us back, Wolf.

BLITZER: I will have you definitely back. Al Franken or Norm Coleman, who's going to win on Tuesday, Governor Pawlenty?

PAWLENTY: Norm Coleman, Wolf. He's going to be the next re- elected senator from Minnesota.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on Tuesday. Governors, good discussion. Thanks to both of you.

PATRICK: All right. Thank you.

PAWLENTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, what should Barack Obama be doing to hold onto his lead? And what can John McCain be doing in these final two days to try to close the gap? We'll talk strategy with the best political team on television. LATE EDITION continues right after this.


BLITZER: We're here at the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. Joining us now to assess where this race for the White House stands, four guests: Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; Republican strategist Ed Rollins; Hilary Rosen, she is the political director for; and John Fund, he's a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk a little bit where you think, when the dust settles Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, the Electoral College, what will the result be? ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think results will be an overwhelming victory for Obama. That's not my emotional, but that's my analytical...

BLITZER: Not necessarily what you want, it's what you think.

ROLLINS: It's not what I want, it's my analytical. And if those states you just basically rattled off there go, and including Florida and Ohio, where obviously Obama is leading, you're talking about 352 electoral votes.

BLITZER: Wow. That would be pretty much, Hilary, a landslide if that were to happen. Do you think it would?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That would be a landslide. I actually -- I still would give Ohio to John McCain. But I think we're around 330, 335. I give Florida to Senator Obama, all of the Kerry states in 2004. I look at, you know, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa. I think that gets us to 333.

BLITZER: What do you think, John?

FUND: This election has basically become a referendum on Barack Obama because people want change. In the primaries, it was all about, were they comfortable enough with him? In the primaries, he almost always got the same percentage of the final vote as he had in the final poll.

By that standard, if he's at 50 percent, 51 percent, it's going to be a close race. He's still the favorite, but he has to hit that 50 percent because he's basically a quasi-incumbent now.

BLITZER: Do you think he wins?

FUND: Right now he's the favorite, but I think this election is going to be much closer than people expect, because the key is not how much he leads McCain, the key is how close he is to 50 percent. That is what the key was in the primaries.

ROSEN: But several of those states, though, there are third- party candidates that might get 1 or 2 percent. And so I don't...

FUND: Oh, no, no...

ROSEN: ... think that that's really going to be a big issue.

FUND: ... if he is at 50, he is still likely to win. But that still indicates a close race.

BLITZER: How close will it be, Donna Brazile? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, there's no question that in these closing hours of the campaign, it will tighten up in some of the battleground states, but if you look overall at where Senator Obama is right now, he has a solid 291 electoral votes. And this is when you're above the margin of error and looking at some of these statewide polls.

We also know, and John understands this, and Ed, as well, Hilary, I'm sure you do, that you can make up 2 or 3 points on the ground. And if the early voting is any indication, Senator Obama is well ahead, and he can make up to 50 percent and get to 343 electoral votes by election night.

ROLLINS: Our advantage has always -- the Republican advantage has always been, we've had the better ground game, we've always had more money in the end and usually a better candidate. In this particular case, we're failing on all of those counts. And I think to a certain extent, and where I disagree with my good friend here, you can't judge primary polls with general election polls. It's a whole different mix.

And my sense today is that I think the numbers may be even -- there's also a kind of winner factor, there is always 2 or 3 points that want to be with the winner in the end.

FUND: But, Ed, when you ran with Christie Todd Whitman in 1993 in a general election, you told me if Jim Florio was not at 50 percent, he was going to lose. Guess what, he wasn't and he lost.

ROSEN: Well, you know, I talked to...

ROLLINS: That is correct, just that was a little different, he was the incumbent. And we...

FUND: Barack Obama, I think, is the quasi-incumbent.


ROSEN: I talked to a senior Obama...


BLITZER: Wait a minute, how can he be the quasi-incumbent when for eight years there has been a Republican in the White House?

FUND: Because the appetite for change is such, it basically has become a comfort election. Do people trust Barack Obama, who is a relatively untested candidate? And he has now been characterized as the front runner for so long, he has basically led for two months, people have basically adjusted to the fact that he's likely to win.

Now the question is, do they really want to pull that lever? He is a quasi-incumbent.

BLITZER: Do you buy that, Hilary?

ROSEN: No. I think that what has happened is there's a comfort level with Barack Obama that has occurred...

FUND: That's the quasi-incumbent issue.

ROSEN: No, but it's... FUND: It's a referendum on him.

ROSEN: ... not an incumbent issue.

FUND: It has become a referendum on Barack Obama.

BRAZILE: No, John.

ROSEN: It's a comfort level that has been established to -- for change. And that's it. I think voters wanted change and now we know that Barack Obama is the guy who people can accept will bring us the change.

BLITZER: Because in recent days you've heard some suggestions from the McCain campaign, Donna, that if you want more Bush, vote for Obama. They've even made that suggestion.

BRAZILE: Well, they've come up with so many different arguments that I've lost track of what the McCain-Palin ticket really stand for. Wolf, the only way to understand what has happening in this country right now is to look at the early votes. And Ed is absolutely right, Republicans, you know, they've always enjoyed an edge with absentee voters, being able to get out their votes.

And this time, if you look at rural voters, if you look at unmarried college, non-college-educated white women, Barack Obama is either splitting those votes or he has a slight advantage. He is better-positioned than Al Gore or John Kerry respectively in their races, and therefore, he has an edge to capture over 300 electoral votes.


BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second, hold one second. I want to go around with everybody, and give me one surprise that we should potentially be bracing for on Tuesday, something that may not necessarily be in the cards. What do you think, Ed?

ROLLINS: I think Elizabeth Dole losing in North Carolina, even though it's speculated, is going to be a big upset. And I think that's going to surprise a lot of people.

BLITZER: You think Kay Hagan will beat her, the Democratic challenger?

ROLLINS: I think she's going to beat her.

BLITZER: Give me a surprise.

ROSEN: I think that Mitch McConnell is going to go down in Kentucky. BLITZER: Really?

ROSEN: And I think that....

BLITZER: The Senate Republican leader. ROSEN: ... there is enough anti-incumbent feelings in Kentucky that he goes down, too. But when you look at those numbers, we're going to have potentially doubling our majority in the House, and when you think about those increases in the Senate, the big surprise is how much is going to be able to get done even if the Senate doesn't get to 60.

BLITZER: All right. Quickly. Big surprise.

FUND: The biggest surprise will be how close it will be, and the X-factor will be, I agree with Donna, the Democratic ground game is the best ever in American history.

BLITZER: Donna, any surprises?

BRAZILE: Wolf, I'm going to bet that Mary Landrieu will capture her Senate seat, so Alex Castellanos will have to be buying my dinner as well.


BRAZILE: But I also think that we might see some upsets in some other -- Ed mentioned North Carolina. I think Georgia is also going to be a state that we should watch...


BLITZER: You think Saxby Chambliss, the incumbent Republican, goes down?

BRAZILE: If the early voting is any indication, where we've seen a substantial number of African-Americans turn out, I think Jim Martin, his opponent, will have a real shot to keep him under 50 percent.

BLITZER: That's the beauty of videotape. It's all there. We have it.


We'll assess after, what happens.


BLITZER: Some of you guys will be geniuses, others, not necessarily.


Guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, if Barack Obama wins on Tuesday, would he consider his rival, John McCain, for an Obama Cabinet position? You're going to want to hear what the Democratic presidential candidate said. Part three of my special interview with Senator Obama, that's coming up here. Our special "Late Edition," from the CNN Election Center in New York, continues after this.


BLITZER: Last week, I had a chance to interview Senator John McCain in Manchester, New Hampshire. You saw the interview here on "Late Edition."

This week, I sat down with Senator Barack Obama in Des Moines, Iowa. Here's part three of that interview.


BLITZER: Let's talk about -- if you're elected president, you have to make major decisions and you have to make them right away.

OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: Priorities are going to be critical.

I'm going to give you five issues. You tell me which one of these five would be your top priority after you're inaugurated on January 20th, if you're inaugurated: health care reform, energy independence, a new tax code, including tax cuts for middle class, education spending, or comprehensive immigration reform?

OBAMA: Well...

BLITZER: Top priority?

OBAMA: ... top priorities may not be any of those five. It may be continuing to stabilize the financial system. We don't know yet what's going to happen in January.

And none of this can be accomplished if we continue to see a potential meltdown in the banking system or the financial system. So, that's priority number one, making sure that the plumbing works in our capitalist system.

Priority number two of the list that you have -- have put forward, I think, has to be energy independence. We have to seize this moment, because it's not just an energy independence issue; it's also a national security issue, and it's a jobs issue.

And we can create 5 million new green energy jobs with a serious program.

Priority number three would be health care reform. I think the time is right to do it.

Priority number four is making sure that we have tax cuts for the middle class as part of a broader tax reform effort.

Priority number five, I think, would be -- would be making sure that we have an education system that works for all children.

One thing I want to make a point of, though. The tax cut that I talked about may be part of my priority number one, because I think that's going to be part of stabilizing the economy as a whole.

I think we are going to need a second stimulus. One of my commitments is to make sure that that stimulus includes a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans. That may be the first bill that I introduce.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Senator. We asked viewers, in the United States and around the world, to send some questions to you. We got one from Martha Amadano (ph) of Union City, New Jersey.

She says she's an undecided voter who votes mostly Republican, sometimes Democrat. She says she originally supported Hillary Clinton.

UNKNOWN: As a Cuban-American, your plan to redistribute the wealth -- or spread the wealth around, like you've been saying, scares me. It didn't work with Fidel Castro, in my country of Cuba. What makes you think it's going to work in this country?

OBAMA: Well, you know, if she's taking the description John McCain is giving of my plans, then I'd be scared, too.

Understand -- to Maria (sic), what I'll -- I'll repeat what I've said. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you'll see no tax increase. You'll probably see a tax cut under my plan. If you make more than $250,000 a year, all we're talking about is going back to the tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton.

If she was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton's, then she should understand that all I'm talking about is going back to the tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton, during the 1990s, when the economy grew. By the way, that's the same position that Hillary Clinton took.

BLITZER: We have one more question from a viewer, Derek Noyner (ph) of St. Louis. He says this.

UNKNOWN: I know you've pledged to have a bipartisan administration, but I was wondering, does that include John McCain?

After this very vicious campaign, can you consider him a friend, an ally in the Senate, or would you even consider him for a position in your administration?

OBAMA: Well, I'd tell you what. I would certainly consider any position for John McCain where I thought he was going to be the best person for our country.

He and I have had a tough fight, but I think that I certainly have respect for him. I've said that before. He is a leader in his party, the leader of his party, right now.

I think that he has a history of wanting to work together on some things that I care about, like comprehensive immigration reform, and making sure that we are dealing with critical issues like global warming. And, so I hope that we can forge a strong relationship to get some things done, get some things moving.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But, you know, all of us were moved, last weekend, when you went to see your grandmother in Hawaii. I know she watches CNN because she says she watches CNN.

OBAMA: She does. BLITZER: She might be watching right now. And I know how proud she must be that you've reached this level, and on the verge, potentially, of becoming president of the United States.

How emotional is this for you and for her, at this moment?

OBAMA: Well, you know, look, she's my grandma, and she helped raise me. And she put off a lot of things in her own life to make sure that myself and my sister, that we were taken care of.

So a big chunk of whatever success I've achieved is because of her. I love her dearly, and she knows that. And if she is listening, I just want to make sure that she's getting her rest, and hopefully getting better.

BLITZER: And we wish her only the best, and a speedy, speedy recovery...

OBAMA: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... to your grandma.

OBAMA: Great to talk to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

OBAMA: Appreciate it.


BLITZER: And coming up, we're going to go live to the campaign trail. This, only 48 hours before the end of this campaign, the final arguments being made on this -- in this campaign, only two days before Election Day. Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.


BLITZER: All right. We are just getting some new poll numbers coming into the CNN Election Center. These are the final poll of polls, as they say, in three battleground states.

Let's go to Nevada first. Right now in Nevada, Obama with 49 percent, McCain 43 percent. That's a five-point difference, 8 percent still unsure.

Let's go to the next state. North Carolina right now, it's very close there, 49 percent for Obama, 47 percent for McCain, 4 percent still unsure. That's within the margin of error. Finally, in the key battleground state of Ohio right now, the poll of polls very close, 49 percent for Obama, 45 percent for McCain, 6 percent unsure. That's close to the margin of error, as well. Both of these candidates have been busy campaigning in these battleground states. They're making their final arguments only two days until Election Day.

Our correspondents are following every move. Let's go to Dana Bash. She's in New Hampshire right now where Senator McCain is getting ready to speak in a little while. Dana, what's the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest Wolf is that you can't talk to anybody inside the McCain campaign this morning who will not make a point of telling you that the polls are showing that they are tightening. They are saying that that is true of their internal data as well as public polling.

And that is true. However, as you've been reporting all morning, it still is a very, very tough road for John McCain, and he's actually spending a rare couple of hours today in blue states. He's really primarily been defending red turf and he will be doing that pretty intensely over the next 24 hours.

But this morning, he is actually in the state of Pennsylvania. That is a must-win state that has gone Democratic for 20 years. They are showing -- we are seeing the polls tightening there, but, again, according to our poll of polls, it's still a seven-point lead for Barack Obama.

But he is still making the case, like he has been, particularly on the issue of taxes, saying Barack Obama is going to raise your taxes, I will keep them low. Inside the McCain campaign, they say that is getting some traction for them.

And the most interesting event I think of the day will be where I am right now, Wolf. I am in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Everybody who follows politics knows that for John McCain, this is going to be a sentimental journey.

It is a Democratic state and it is one that they were hoping inside the McCain campaign, that they could turn. But it looks like it's very tough for him. So I think primarily what we're going to be seeing from John McCain is he's going to be coming back to a place that he started several of his primary campaigns.

It is a place where he had his 100th town hall meeting during the Republican primary. He is certainly going to be campaigning hard for votes, but he's going to be actually trying to do something else, trying to show voters who he is, the straight talker that he likes to call himself.

He's going to be holding a town hall. Quite unusual at this point in the game, you know, 48 hours left, but he's going to have to be having an open discussion. They say they are not giving tickets to anybody. It's first come, first served. So, as much as the campaign certainly is intense on trying to get out the vote, this is going to be sort of one last moment for John McCain to remind voters of the kind of candidate he is.

And, again, it's going to be possibly quite emotion mall for John McCain to have him come back to the state of New Hampshire. They kind of see him as a native son and it is certainly a place where he's going to try to do well here. But if you look at the polls, nobody inside the McCain campaign or even Republicans locally will tell you that it is going to be really that possible.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Dana. I saw that when I was with him in New Hampshire last week. A thank you trip in effect to the people of New Hampshire who helped propel him to the Republican presidential nomination.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin right now. She's in the battleground state of Ohio. Senator Obama is going to be speaking there in a little while as well. What's the latest in Ohio, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama is campaigning in this state in two Democratic strongholds and then in one other district that George Bush won in 2004, all to try to deny John McCain a victory in a state that has become must win for the Republicans.

Now, Barack Obama is going to hit on the same economic message we've heard from him consistently with a new twist. It's the theme of an ad he is just going to release, a brand-new ad, tacked on to Cheney's new endorsement of John McCain.

Barack Obama now saying that McCain will not only continue Bush's policies but also those of Cheney's, saying he's earned their respect by voting with them 90 percent of the time, obviously trying to latch him with one of the less popular figures in the Republican Party.

Now, Wolf, all the local news coverage here where I am in Columbus is dominated by a controversy over access to voting. Back in 2004, many Democrats complained that lines were so long to vote on Election Day and that there were so few voting machines that they ultimately were not able to vote.

Well, county officials throughout the state say they've corrected that. But here in Columbus yesterday, an election commission denied a request to extend early voting hours, broke down along partisan lines, and Republicans say it was just an attempt by Democrats to try to get some of these people here from this Obama rally out to vote.

Anyway, so they're going to allow voting here until the normal time, 5 today, and they say things should go smoothly on Election Day, but a lot of nerves over that. Early voting here so far Wolf does seem to favor Barack Obama, 1.3 million people have voted already. A good number of them, the majority, Democrats. But it will also be decided Election Day. Barack Obama to arrive shortly. And later he will be campaigning upstate with none other than Bruce Springsteen. Wolf? BLITZER: We'll watch together with you. Jessica Yellin in Ohio. Up next, John King. He's over at the magic wall getting ready to assess the U.S. Senate. What might it look like after Tuesday's election? Stay with us, we'll be right back.


BLITZER: So, what might the next U.S. Congress look like after Election Day, which is on Tuesday? John King's over at the magic wall mapping the outcome, the race, in effect. John, what are you seeing?

KING: Wolf, we've spent so much time on the presidential race, it is a good time to have a little bit of a reminder that control of Congress, balance of power in Congress, also up for grabs on Tuesday. This is the United States Senate as it now stands, 51 Democrats, 49 Republicans. Two of these Democrats are actually Independents who caucus with the Democrats. But this is how it stands now, and this is what we'll be watching on Tuesday night.

Thirty-five Senate seats up in all, 23 of them being defended by the Republicans. So, the terrain favors the Democrats. Now most, I won't go through them all in our time, but most of these Democratic seats are safe. Jack Reed in Rhode Island expected to win easily, Jay Rockefeller in West Virginia expected to win easily.

The Democrats, in fact, think the only seat they're worried about, and you talked about this earlier with your panel, is this Louisiana seat with John Kennedy, the Republican, versus the incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu. That is the only one the Democrats say they are worried about.

There is a flip side though Wolf, when you look at these red borders, these are Republican seats. Early on in the night, the Democrats think off the bat they will pick up this seat in the state of Virginia. Mark Warner, the Democrat, expected to win there.

One we'll watch very early on is in right here in North Carolina. The incumbent is Republican Elizabeth Dole. Kay Hagan is a state senator running a very competitive race. The Democrats believe if they can pick up this seat and turn another Republican seat Democratic early on, that will be a sign to them, Wolf, that they are in for a big night.

Another race we're watching, we'll have to wait late into the night for this one, this of course Alaska's long-term incumbent, Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the United States Senate, just convicted last week on seven corruption charges. He is fighting to keep his seat. Democrats believe the Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich can pick up that seat.

And if you watch what's happening here, New Hampshire another one. The Democrats think, again, this is a close race, they think they can get this. What's happening, if the Democrats can swing some of these seats, they think at a minimum, Wolf, they'll pick up five, they think nine and their magic number of 60 is within reach. Sixty means they would have enough votes if all the Democrats stayed with the party to avoid any filibusters. One other thing I want to point to you, Wolf. We have this seat in Connecticut down here highlighted in gold. There's no Senate race from Connecticut on the ballot. This is Joe Lieberman. He is the Independent who caucuses with the Democrats right now. But as you know, many Democrats are furious with him because of his support for John McCain and his harsh criticism of Barack Obama in the Democratic campaign.

So, one of the questions after the election, will Joe Lieberman stay blue with the Democratic caucus or might he flip over and go red with the Republican caucus? So as we track these 35 Senate races, we'll also be able to keep an eye on Joe Lieberman at the end of the night to see if he belongs in the red column or the blue column, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch that fascinating little element as well, John. Thank you.

We're joined now by Campbell Brown, the host of CNN's "CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL," airs every weeknight 8 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Campbell, listen to this little clip. This is something you said earlier in the week on your show.


BROWN: In this election, young voters have been the toast of the town. As the pundits have told us, they'll be turning out in record numbers this year. And if Obama wins, it'll be the youth of this country who gave him the presidency.

Or it won't, because early evidence suggests that young voters just might do what they always do -- blow it off, stay home, space out, get a better offer. Down in Florida where early voting has been under way for 11 days now, the "Orlando Sentinel" has been crunching the numbers and guess what they found? That people younger than 35 are so far the worst performing demographic group among the early voters.


BLITZER: We thought this year, Campbell, it was going to be different. The enthusiasm, the excitement. They usually don't vote as the older Americans vote. But what's going on?

BROWN: Well, they still might. I mean, I've heard a couple of political scientists say and a lot of the analysis say that this is typical of young voters. They procrastinate. It's like a final exam. They wait until the very last minute, but on Election Day they will show up. Look, where they have had success is increasing the numbers overall of the electorate. It was 11 percent in 2004. They're up to 14 percent for 2008. And so the Obama campaign will tell you that they are biting their nails over this one. And they do think they're going to show up on Election Day.

But I definitely think the conversation that we've been having over the last, you know, 24 hours, that the polls are tightening a little bit, does help both sides in terms of turnout. It gives the thing yet again a sense of urgency, you know, in the way talks of an Obama landslide would have the opposite effect, dampening that enthusiasm.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Don't go away because we're going to continue this conversation. Campbell is staying with us. Gloria Borger, she is standing by. Howie Kurtz is also getting ready to join us. Remember, you can see Campbell's program, "CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL," weeknights 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. LATE EDITION continues right after this.


BLITZER: Do you believe it, only two more days till the end of this historic presidential campaign. Let's discuss with what's going on. Once again, Campbell Brown, the host of CNN's "CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL" is here. Thank you. Gloria Borger is here, our senior political analyst, and Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." Gloria, look at this endorsement that Senator McCain received very late in the game. Listen to this.


VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I believe the right leader for this moment in history is Senator John McCain. I'm delighted to support John McCain, and I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness, and common sense, our next vice president, in Sarah Palin.


BLITZER: I take it that was not necessarily something the McCain/Palin campaign was so eager to get.

BORGER: No. I mean, obviously, we all knew that Dick Cheney was going to support John McCain, but I don't think a public endorsement from Dick Cheney is just what the McCain people were looking for right now. You have seen George Bush kind of locked up in the White House. You haven't seen him out there campaigning for John McCain because McCain doesn't want him out there. Same thing with Dick Cheney. So I think this is an endorsement they would have just as well kept private.

BLITZER: They whipped up a quick ad, Howie, to highlight this, the Obama campaign.

KURTZ: When the vice president of the president of the United States makes an endorsement and the opposing campaign decides to feature it in an ad, you know that's probably not helpful to the McCain side.

BROWN: But can I say, the fact that the Obama campaign leapt on this is in and of itself a little bit ridiculous. I mean, did anybody for a second think that Cheney might be leading Obama? I think he was doing what they had hoped he would do, which was stay out of the limelight given his own approval ratings and just lay low. It's not like this was a big surprise.

BORGER: No. But they've got a lot of money to burn, obviously, because the fact they can just put this ad out there and not worry about what it costs or ...

KURTZ: I could see the campaign ads and I don't think there's been one Obama commercial in the last two months that hasn't somewhere had a shot somewhere of George W. Bush. That's been part of their theme all along.

BORGER: That's the only place he appears.

KURTZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: In fact, we have the ad. I'm going to play a little clip of that ad that the Obama campaign quickly put together. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN: Barack Obama, endorsed by Warren Buffett and Colin Powell. And John McCain's latest endorsement?

CHENEY: I'm delighted to support John McCain and I'm pleased he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president, Sarah Palin.

UNKNOWN: And boy, did McCain earn it. He voted with Bush and Cheney 90 percent of the time.


BLITZER: You know, the irony for those of us who have covered McCain and Cheney over the years, there's no love lost between the two of them. Cheney was never happy with McCain's position on the war in Iraq, all the criticism of his good friend Donald Rumsfeld. But you know what? Stuff happens.

BROWN: No, you're right. That's a fair point. I mean, they were not the closest of friends by any means, but at the same time again, to act like this is, oh, we've been waiting to hear what Dick Cheney was going to do in this election, which side he was going to be on, is absurd.

BLITZER: All right, we were all waiting for last night though. "Saturday Night Live" had another nice little element there, Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. But you know who played John McCain last night on "Saturday Night Live"?

BORGER: John McCain.

BLITZER: What is correct. We've got a little clip. BORGER: I win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TINA FEY, ACTRESS: OK, listen up, everybody. I'm going rogue right now, so keep your voices down. Available now, we've got a bunch of these -- just try and wait until after Tuesday to wear them, OK?


BLITZER: Howie, what she did, he was standing right next to her, the real John McCain.

KURTZ: This is the John McCain who used to like going on shows like "Saturday Night Live." And I think it helps any candidate to laugh at himself and do that. But on the other kinds of entertainment shows this season, this has been an undue remarked aspect of his campaign, whether it's "David Letterman" going after John McCain, whether it's the ladies on "The View" going after John McCain, Barack Obama has an easy time on these pop culture shows and McCain has not. And those shows reach a lot of people.

BLITZER: But does it really have an effect, do you think, when the dust settles? What the images are from "Saturday Night Live" or "The View" or Jon Stewart?

KURTZ: Oh, absolutely, because they reach different kinds of viewers who aren't necessarily Sunday morning TV addicts and it speaks to the pop culture. And for Obama to be able to get Sarah Palin back in another commercial thanks to Dick Cheney brings up the Palin issue. He's basically stayed away from Governor Palin, hasn't really attacked her directly, but now that we're in the closing days, he wants to remind people she's on the ticket.

BROWN: I think in fairness, though, a lot's been made of Palin, Miss 2012, that she's been pushing this idea, and I just -- I think you've got to give her a little bit of credit for, quote, unquote, going rogue. I mean, she did defer to the McCain campaign in terms of her rollout, in terms of her dealings with the media. You know, until it reached the point where it was very clear to her that this was not working.

KURTZ: But her people are now leaking to the press they're unhappy with the way she's been hailed by the McCain and unnamed McCain advisers are making it clear that they're unhappy with Sarah Palin.

BROWN: But that's my point, that she did defer until it was clear that it was not working for anybody, including John McCain, and then she did decide to take things into her own hands in the way any politician would, frankly, I think at that stage of the game. And for the McCain campaign to react the way they did, with sexist slander, which is calling her diva and all this other stuff, was pretty extreme.

KURTZ: Is whack job a sexist comment, technically speaking? BORGER: Can I just say -- I'm going to settle this argument. I think both sides are right. I think she didn't live up to what they wanted her to be and she was handled badly, period. Both of them -- all right? BLITZER: The point, though, is that, you know, the Katie Couric interview clearly hurt her image. But the wardrobe controversy, the $150,000 that the RNC spent for her wardrobe, that didn't help either.

BORGER: No, it didn't help her, and I think she felt that that story was bad for her, that she didn't know about the clothes and -- you know, we don't know at this point what the real story was.

KURTZ: But one of the reasons that the Katie interview loomed so large and the Charlie Gibson interview before that is because the McCain campaign kept her under wraps so all we got to see of her was those two interviews. They should have let her talk to anybody.

BORGER: But they said they kept her under wraps because she wasn't ready for prime time.

BLITZER: In fairness, they're keeping Joe Biden under wraps, too, because he loves coming on these Sunday shows.

BORGER: Tranquilizer dart.

BLITZER: Have you seen him lately on a Sunday show or any other show for that matter?

BROWN: No, he's been out on the campaign trail joking about the extent which he's now being kept under wraps. Anytime he makes a joke about something, he's like wait a minute, I'm off message, I take that back.

KURTZ: Joe Biden hasn't talked to his traveling press corps since September 10th and I think we should make an issue of that as we made an issue earlier when Sarah Palin seemed to be hiding in some kind of bunker.

BLITZER: And that goes against every instinct he has because he loves talking to the press, but it ain't happening right now. Guys, thanks very much. We've got to leave it there. Up next, faith and politics. We're going to tell you what America's churchgoers are thinking, what they're hearing on this Sunday before a critical election.


BLITZER: Beautiful day to run in New York City. In fact, they are wrapping up the New York City Marathon on this gorgeous day in the Big Apple. We're watching that. We're also watching politics throughout America this morning. Churchgoers are turning their thoughts and their prayers towards the big election, even in the battleground state of Colorado. They're going to church right now. They're watching what's going on. Dan Simon found a lot of people on both sides of the aisle in church and in politics. What did you discover, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, also a beautiful day here in Denver, the weather unseasonably warm this time of year. But we are at the Church of the Risen Christ. This is a Catholic church in Denver. We're talking to Catholic voters about the issues they care about. We should tell you, there are 47 million Catholic voters in this country and their vote is often seen as a good barometer in terms of which way the country will go. In eight out of the last nine elections, Catholic voters have gone with the majority. Republicans have done well in recent years by stressing social issues like abortion, but what we're seeing is that this year, social issues could be trumped by the economy and the war in Iraq. I want you to listen now to two Catholic voters we spoke to just a short while ago.


MAGGIE GEOFFROY, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I can't imagine Catholics, if they believe in their faith, supporting Obama. McCain is pro-life. Obama is not. So, as a Catholic, we should be supporting McCain.

SIMON: Who are you supporting for president and why?

TED SWAN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Barack Obama, because I think he'd be better for most of the people in the United States.

SIMON: And abortion is not a deal breaker for you?

SWAN: There's more than one issue that obviously affects this country.


SIMON: So, that sums up the rift, if you will, among Catholic voters. Real quick, Wolf, the landscape here in Colorado, Obama up by about seven points according to our CNN poll of polls. They've had a record number of early voters and we'll keep an eye on things here in Colorado. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right Dan, thank you. I'll be back at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight, a two-hour special report, looking ahead to the next president. "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" starts right now.