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CNN ELECTION CENTER

New Details Emerge on Polygamy Raid; McCain Makeover?

Aired April 10, 2008 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to try something new tonight, everybody.
We want to start the ELECTION CENTER with a way you will know right off the top what's going on with the campaign and the candidates today. It is the "View From 30,000 Feet."

And let's start in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton is campaigning there with that primary less than two weeks away now. After two stops in the western part of the state, she's set to give a speech in just a few minutes Pittsburgh, although we are getting word she's running a little bit late. We're going to keep our eyes on that.

Barack Obama is looking further ahead. He's campaigning in Indiana today. That primary is on May 6. He's been in Gary, South Bend and Lafayette. As for John McCain, he was here in New York City today, and then flew to Texas for a fund-raiser. You might call the next few days the reinventing McCain tour. And we're going to explain what's going on with that coming up in just a moment.

But before we get to politics, we have got new developments tonight in a story the whole country is talking about, the raid on that Texas compound belonging to a breakaway Mormon sect, where older men were paired up with teenage girls.

And they were actually sleeping with them on the upper floor of the compound's huge temple, up until the place was raided.

Joining us now, CNN's David Mattingly. He's got new details on a secret law enforcement informant who was inside the compound. And Gary Tuchman is at a community in northern Arizona where polygamy's been an open secret for decades.

And, David, let's start with you. Bring us up to speed, these new developments. What do you know?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This confidential informant that Texas authorities had, they have had him for the last four years. He's been providing information off and on, telling them what to expect, what's been going on inside that compound.

But the information he was providing was never enough for them to build a case to go in there and actually investigate cases of child sexual abuse. That's what authorities here are saying. They never had that call they need, that cry for help that they didn't get, until that single phone call from that one girl that they still haven't found. But that is what they finally needed to go in there. When they finally went into the ranch, we're finding out that that confidential informer gave them some very valuable information, which led them to the temple, and that temple is where they found, in the upper floor, these beds, these beds that were used for sex, where adult men would marry underage girls, girls age 16, possibly as young as 13 or 14.

They would marry them, and then they would consummate their marriage right there in the temple. We are also finding out today that the residents here at the ranch, what's left of them, we're told there's only 50 or so men and women left inside the gates here -- we're told that they are now free to come and go. But, as you can see, it's very quiet out here. And it's been like that pretty much all day -- Campbell.

BROWN: And, Gary, let me go to you. I know you know about what authorities have been investigating. They are apparently on the trail of the suspect, Dale Barlow. What can you tell us about that?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Campbell.

There's a strange and confusing development in this case. Dale Barlow is said to be about a few blocks where I'm standing right now in Colorado City, Arizona. He's been on probation for the last eight months, because he was found guilty of a conspiracy charge to have sex with a minor last year. So, he's been on probation.

His probation officers here in Arizona say they have visited him several times a month, say they just saw him two days ago in his home here in Colorado City, say they talked to him on the telephone today, and say they think it's very improbable -- they think it's possible, but very improbable, that he was even in that ranch, at that ranch in Texas.

So, at this point, you wonder, OK, why don't they arrest him, if Texas authorities say he's the suspect? Well, Arizona authorities say they haven't gotten an arrest warrant. They say, if they have an arrest warrant, they will arrest him. But Texas authorities haven't sent it. Why haven't Texas authorities sent it? It's not clear.

But we can tell you that investigative sources here in Arizona think it's very possible -- they don't doubt the allegations at the ranch, but they think it's very possible that Texas authorities messed up. Barlow is a very common name in this sect. They think they have the wrong Barlow. They think that's a strong possibility.

BROWN: Still a lot of confusion.

OK, David and Gary, appreciate it, guys.

You can't help but wonder, how can a scandal like Eldorado continue out in the open and for so long in this country? So, we asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to come on to talk to us about it. We also asked Texas Senators Hutchison, Cornyn, and Congressman Conason, who represents that district.

All of them declined our request.

But after decades of illegal polygamy in Utah, that state did successfully prosecute Warren Jeffs. He's the leader of the FLDS sect and among the polygamist community, he is still called "The Prophet."

Earlier, I spoke with the man who put Jeffs in prison, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: You prosecuted Warren Jeffs, who is the leader of FLDS. He's now in jail. We know that. But the group lives on in your own state of Utah, also in Arizona, in Colorado, and now we know in Texas.

If we know exactly where these communities are, and the illegal activities that as are going on there, why is it so hard to investigate and to prosecute these cases?

MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it is hard to investigate and prosecute because, in every single case -- and that will be true in this case as well -- you have to have the victim. You have to have someone willing to come forward, make a statement, trust you to help them, and then stick with the story, and -- and remain safe and remain with the story until you can get them to trial.

Many times, we have had witnesses who have come out, and then they get cold feet or someone talks them out of it. So, it's tough, because, Campbell, these girls are taught from the cradle not to trust anybody on the outside.

In particular, not the government. We're the beast, so to speak. And they will not talk to us. And, so, it's hard to get them to start trusting us to say, OK, I can trust in someone who will come in and actually protect me.

BROWN: But this has been going on for years, and in this specific case, we are hearing from law enforcement in Texas that they had an informant within this compound for four years, I mean, four years. Is it fair to say that there really is, in terms of the big picture, no political will to shut these places down?

SHURTLEFF: No, not at all. We wouldn't even have Texas if we didn't have the political will in Utah to start going after these folks, ending up with the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of Warren Jeffs and several others.

So, knowing that we are cracking down on them here, they could no longer with impunity hurt young children and perform these child bride marriages, they moved to Texas, where they felt like the laws were more lax and they could get away with it.

BROWN: You have heard rumors, I know, that this missing 16-year- old victim, whose phone call led to the raid, may actually be in your state or maybe in Arizona.

SHURTLEFF: Yes. BROWN: What can you tell us about this, and do you know what is being done to try to find her?

SHURTLEFF: All I can say is that Utah authorities and Arizona authorities are all standing ready to help, and to assist in locating her, absolutely. Great concern about where she is and if she's safe.

BROWN: You talked about how hard it is to prosecute. So, now, given what's happened, are you planning to sort of reexamine what may be going on in these FLDS communities in your state, trying to be more proactive? Can you go after them?

SHURTLEFF: I don't know how more proactive we can be. We have ongoing investigations. We have got Warren Jeffs in prison. The state of Utah terminated their United Effort Plan trust fund, which gave them the financial power to destroy people's lives.

We have put in place a safety net committee that's staffed by lots of professionals who have convinced polygamists, not just in the FLDS community, but throughout the state of Utah and the throughout the Intermountain West, for that matter, that we're here to serve, and that, if you do have problems, you know of abuse, you know of violence or crimes, then come to us and let us help protect those women and children or boys.

So, we have made a lot of progress in that regard. And we're going to continue as we always have on a case by case basis. And if we have a witness come forward, we're going to go in there and protect them.

BROWN: All right, well, Attorney General Shurtleff, we appreciate your time, your insight. Thanks very much.

SHURTLEFF: Thank you, Campbell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: If you think polygamy is just something that happens in remote corners of the country, that it doesn't affect you, well, you are wrong. It is a pocketbook issue. The high cost of polygamy for all of us -- coming up in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Authorities say underage girls were forced to marry and have sex with much older men inside this temple in Eldorado, Texas. It's not only causing national outrage. It's also costing you money.

With me now, attorney Lisa Bloom, who is the anchor of "In Session" on truTV, on how polygamy, which is illegal, has been allowed to continue, and also CNN's Randi Kaye. She's investigated the money trail and knows how members of this breakaway sect beat the system to fleece taxpayers.

Lisa, let me start with you, though. I know you heard the attorney general just a moment talking, saying essentially that their hands are tied to prosecute these cases, unless somebody comes forward. Do you buy that?

LISA BLOOM, TRUTV ANCHOR: Absolutely untrue. You do not need a child witness to come forward and complain of sexual abuse. If you have probable cause to believe that a child is being sexually assaulted, say, for example, they're in a sect, as these young girls have been, run by Warren Jeffs, who's already been convicted of conspiracy to rape a girl, right -- we know what goes on in this sect.

We know that there are 14, 15, 16-year-old girls who are pregnant. You get the baby. You do a DNA test. You find out who the parents are. If it's a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old man, you have enough to convict.

BROWN: So, why aren't they doing more?

BLOOM: They're not doing more because there's too much difference to these religious extremists. This is America, Campbell. No one is exempt from our laws.

It doesn't matter what your religion is. And the fact that these young girls have to escape on their own with their babies, with their lives literally being threatened -- and we have heard stories like that -- people have written books -- there have been movies about it -- and it is still going on, and the authorities are saying they have to complain?

It's appalling. One of the big problems is, these girls are taken out of cool at a very young age. And they just basically do housework from 12 years old and up. They don't know what their rights are as American citizens. They are never told they have the right not to have sex, not to get married, the right to use birth control. They don't learn any of that. So of course they don't complain.

BROWN: So, Randi, not only are these crimes going unpunished, but the real outrage here, we're paying for it.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You bet we are.

BROWN: How so?

KAYE: Absolutely. These are some pretty savvy business people. But I have been following the money now of this sect for two years, and everything is not on the up and up. Both investigators and former church members tell me that they are beating the welfare system, bleeding the beast, if you will, so the money is coming out of our pocket to pay for this lifestyle.

BROWN: How do they do it?

KAYE: It is actually pretty simple how it works. What's happening is, they have multiple marriages. The states only recognize one marriage as legal, so, all of these other wives claim to be single mothers trying to take care of a house full of dependents. And that makes them eligible for government aid.

So, they get welfare, lots of it. And it's all legal. In fact, the Utah attorney general, who you spoke with earlier, told me more than 65 percent of sect members in his state collect welfare. They are also getting food stamps, and they are not even using the food that they are getting from the food stamps. They are shipping it around to the compounds around the country and around the world.

And then they are also using companies that are owned by FLDS members, forcing these younger men in this sect, the church members, to work and give their entire paycheck over to Warren Jeffs and the church. They are supposed to give 10 percent, but they are never even seeing a paycheck, I'm told, by some of the mothers of these young men.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Amazing.

And, Lisa, just tell me how you think prosecutors are preparing to prosecute this case, to actually take it to trial. And the reason I say that, I was reading today that no one is cooperating. These women aren't cooperating. They are on their cell phones, calling the men back at the compound and telling them everything that's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: Right, and communicating with the children.

If that's true, they are handling this all wrong. Look, children are going to always recant a story of sexual abuse. That's normal. The children should be separated from the mothers. They should be interrogated separately repeatedly.

The mothers should not be allowed to be making cell phone calls if they're witnesses in the case. I mean, come on. Separate everybody. Get the stories. And with the children, they have got to repeat it. They got to gain the trust over the children over a period of time. It just takes time.

BROWN: OK, Lisa Bloom, Randi Kaye, thanks, guys.

Next, we're going to get back onto the campaign trail and talk about Senator John McCain, his appearance today with the women on "The View" just one step towards his very calculated makeover. We will talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Check it out, a new audience for John McCain today, the women of ABC's "The View."

It was the latest in a series of sort of makeover appearances, the candidate recasting himself and reshaping the message.

That was evident in a speech he gave today on the economy, an about-face on how he would handle the mortgage meltdown.

First, listen to what McCain said two weeks ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not play election-year politics with the housing crisis. I will evaluate everything, in terms of whether it might be harmful or helpful to our effort to deal with the crisis we face now. I have always been committed to the principle that it's not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Now, that didn't go well. He took a beating for it. So, he changed it. And this is what he had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Let me make it clear that, in these challenging times, I am committed to using all the resources of this government and great nation to create opportunity and make sure that every deserving American has a good job and can achieve their American dream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: It sounds like a 180 to us.

So, let's check in now with our political panel and see what they think.

With me now, CNN's Dana Bash, senior political analyst Mark Halperin, who is with "TIME" magazine, "TIME" magazine's editor at large, and Tara Wall, former director of outreach communications for the Republican National Committee and now a deputy editorial page editor at "The Washington Times."

Welcome to everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Dana, you first. I don't have to tell you, he's kind of had trouble finding his voice on the economy. Are we seeing him cave to some pressure there?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, since we're talking about the economy, the best way to define this is a course correction, what he did today.

BROWN: A course correction. There you go.

BASH: There's no question about it. I actually just got off the phone with one of his senior advisers, who admitted, look, I mean, that just illustrated that perfectly, the difference and what happened a couple of weeks ago.

He gave a speech, largely written by his policy advisers, who were trying to make the point that he, philosophically and in terms of his principles, really believes that the government should not get too involved with people who didn't really follow the rules, or follow at least what they should be doing morally. But you know what? They realize, in terms of politics 101, communications 101, it was missing something really important, and that is the empathy factor.

So, that's why they really decided today to supplement what had ban a very well thought out and planned out plan, basically, to talk about the economy much more detailed next week. They added this today, because they realize were, just like you said, getting pounded by the Democrats. And they didn't properly anticipate this from a communications strategy.

BROWN: They needed a little "I feel your pain" in there.

BASH: Yes. Exactly.

BROWN: But, Tara, how is this going to play with conservatives, because, to them, it could be interpreted as he's proposing a bailout, no matter how marrow it may be?

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Yes. You know, and I don't know if I would subscribe to fact that it's a complete 180, a bit of a softer side, if you will, as Dana mentioned.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Wait a minute, because he went from saying hands off to saying, OK, the federal government is going to provide some cash.

WALL: Yes, and you know what? Listen, I think that he was right to begin with. The first part of it, that you played, I mean, it may have not been popular, but it was the right thing to say and the right thing to do.

I think, of all the plans, McCain's is still the one that does reward stupidity. And it shouldn't. First of all, you have two segments here that you are talking about in this housing crisis. We should not be bailing out -- and conservatives -- and most conservatives will say, most conservative economists will argue that a bailout is not the answer.

There is going to be a course correction. These things happen, that it was worse during the Depression, as far as foreclosures. You cannot bail out, you know, these horrible lenders that preyed upon folks. You cannot bail out people that made stupid decisions, these flippers, which is a good chunk of these folks, and people who took out second mortgages.

Yes, there should be a provision in there to help folks who were truly preyed upon and -- and did not know what they were signing. That is a very small portion. And that's the part we should be talking about. The rest, no. That's a no go.

BROWN: What is your take, Mark, on how he's playing this?

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": I think this campaign now is a bit of a mess regarding matching up the message with the policy. He came to New York today, but this is still an off- Broadway show. And he's lucky, because you have got Obama and Clinton still fighting, taking the bulk of the attention.

The mistakes he's making now are probably not going to hurt him. But he needs to learn to talk about the economy in a big hurry, and before there's a Democratic nominee, or I think he will have trouble winning the election just on that one issue.

BROWN: I want to ask you about another way which he is sort of remaking himself. He says -- the campaign says he's going to be reaching out to African-American voters now.

But listen to what happened last week when he went down to the Martin Luther King memorial in Memphis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I myself made long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King.

(BOOING)

MCCAIN: I was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you!

MCCAIN: I was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

MCCAIN: I was wrong and eventually realized that in time, in time to give full support, full support for a state holiday in my home state of Arizona.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: OK. So, a tough crowd there.

HALPERIN: Just to guess -- we're not going to see that in a McCain campaign ad.

BROWN: Yes. I don't think so.

BASH: Maybe somebody else's.

BROWN: Is he really trying to win the black vote, or is this more about just sort of casting him as somebody who is a little more open?

HALPERIN: Well, a little of both. But they cannot give up on the African-American vote. They can't give up on the Hispanic vote.

After Katrina, after some of the policies of the Bush administration, in the eyes of some people in the minority community, the Republican brand is a falling brand. He needs to try to revive that, at a minimum, to keep the Democratic nominee on the defensive in some states, even if he doesn't win a greater share than President Bush did.

BROWN: And, Tara, do you agree with that?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Go ahead.

WALL: But his focus needs to be on the black Republicans and Independents who will actually vote for him, not the 90 percent of Democrats that are not going to vote for him. That's the difference here.

BROWN: Right.

WALL: I think, you know, use some common sense. This is something we did when I was at the RNC outreach. It is notable, but there was a lot of criticism that there wasn't enough time spent rallying the base of Republican -- black Republicans, Independents, and conservatives.

You are not going to find Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama at a Values Voter Summit rallying those bases either. It just doesn't work. And it's not feasible.

BROWN: OK.

All right, stay with us. Nobody's going anywhere.

In a moment, McCain takes the makeover tour into neighborhoods rarely visited by traditional Republican candidates. We will ask the panel, what is he thinking?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We're back with our panel. We're talking about the McCain makeover, as he looks ahead to the final big push next week.

McCain takes his campaign into black neighborhoods, not a place you would often find Republicans looking for votes. So, we're going to ask our panel about that.

Dana, you know where he's going. What is on this McCain reinvention tour?

BASH: Well, it's exactly the way you described it. Look, what the campaign insists is that they think they can package their candidate as somebody who is a different kind of Republican. So, he's going on what I like to call a places Republicans don't normally go tour.

He's going to Ohio. He's going to Louisiana. He's going to Alabama, but, specifically, places in those states that are inner cities, that are high -- have a high population of African-Americans.

And, look, this is independents, independents, independents. It's trying to show that, unlike George W. Bush, for example, who, in 2004, really tried to get out the vote by getting out the evangelical base, A, McCain can't do that, and, B, he doesn't want to do that. So, he is really trying to cast himself who is as the kind of person who is a different kind of Republican.

BROWN: Do you guys agree, though, that he can't get off the conservative base? Is this the best use of his time? If that's not an option, shouldn't he be raising money or something?

HALPERIN: I don't think it's either/or. He's got to do it all. He has got a figure out a way to use this time.

I have got a piece in "TIME" magazine out tomorrow talking about the fact that the Democrats are getting a little worried. McCain is basically going to have a three-month or more advantage in the general election. He has got to raise money. He's got to organize. But he's also got to reach out to constituencies.

But most of all, I think he's got to connect these trips, like the biography tour he did last week, to policy. He can't just show up in these neighborhoods. He's got to say, here's what I will do for you in a conservative way, not in an over-activist way. That's hard. It's hard for anybody, particularly hard for him.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Tara, last word.

WALL: Yes. He's got a lot of time on his hands. So, it's not going to hurt him. But you won't find him doing this closer to the election and when the Democrats have a nominee. So, that's why he's doing it now. But stick with his base, conservative blacks, conservative Independents, conservative Republicans that are his base, not a wide swathe of general audiences, or he's going to find himself getting booed, like he did at the MLK event.

BROWN: All right, Tara, to Mark and Dana here in New York, thanks to everybody.

We're going to turn to the war now.

For the last two days, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has patiently explained to Congress why he thinks the U.S. cannot leave Iraq any time soon.

So, we asked our Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, to sit in on the hearings, and then to sit down with the general himself.

Michael, what's the headline?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, America's top commander's message is that this long war still has a long way to go.

BROWN: All right, Michael, we're going to be coming back.

He's got questions for the general -- right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: For the top commander in Iraq, it was two days of grilling on Capitol Hill. And today, General David Petraeus sat down with our Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware one on one. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: This war is far from over, isn't it?

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ CMDR: Well, it's tough. And I think that Ambassador Crocker accurately used the word hard. He used it repeatedly, and I think it's a correct description.

WARE: They're not coming home any time soon.

PETRAEUS: It is very complex. I think we will be engaged in Iraq. And again, that is the operative word, I think, engagement rather than perhaps exit, but engagement will continue for some time. The question, of course, is at what level, at what cost, and in what form?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And Michael is joining me now. Michael, if as he said, engage is the operative word, based on what you know, how long do you think that we are -- that U.S. troops are going to be engaged in Iraq?

WARE: Well, I can tell you this for sure, Campbell, that American troops are going to be there for years and years and years and years to come. The only question is, how many. Now, perhaps I can whittle that down to a tokenistic division, although one wonders what would be the point of that.

I guess what America wants to know is how long will America be engaged at the level it is now. Just a shade under 140,000 troops, or even 100,000 troops. How long is it going to take for America to be able to pull out from that level of engagement in Iraq? And sadly, neither the general, David Petraeus, nor the ambassador, Ryan Crocker, have an answer for that.

Indeed, they say it depends on what's happening on the ground. We can't surrender that country to al-Qaeda, nor can we surrender our interests to Iran. So we have to wait for success, but we can't just sit and tell you what the conditions of that success will be. So, the bottom line is, when it comes to success and the time to pull out, we'll know it when we see it, and we can't tell you beforehand -- Campbell. BROWN: Michael, if one of the Democrats is elected president, and troop withdrawals begin, whether Petraeus or Crocker want them to or not, what do you think is the worst-case scenario?

WARE: Well, we can play this out. We can war game this out in many, many ways. But easily the worst-case scenario, and a lot of things can happen to dampen this, but the worst-case scenario is that as the troops begin to pull out, there's a military and political vacuum that you very rapidly see various militias and their foreign sponsors, like Iran on one side with the Shia, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan and others on the Sunni side, stepping to fill.

Now, when they step in like that, there's bound to be clashes. Even senior Democrats, Senator John Kerry told me last week, he expects that with any withdrawal, there will be bloodshed. He says, I expect the bloodshed to rise. The point is trying to minimize it.

BROWN: Right.

WARE: And that's coming from a Democrat. And the worst case is, as this bloodshed ensues, if it happens, two things. One, the Americans are stuck in their bases, completely useless, and looking humiliated and immoral as the blood washes up to the razor wire, and it engages a regional proxy war, as Ambassador Ryan Crocker most fears, involving three of the largest oil reserves in the world, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

You think gas is expensive now? Wait until a proxy war. That's your worst-case scenario -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Michael, thanks very much. And we should say, Michael and his interview, we'll have much more of both on "360" tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

Up next, courting the female vote. John McCain comes calling when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: First it was soccer moms, then it was security moms, then Wal-Mart moms and now to bend a phrase, it's the women, stupid. In this campaign, the candidates are the suitors and women voters are the object of their affection, because they are shaping up to be the key swing vote.

As we saw a little bit ago, John McCain got a real warm reception from the women of "The View" today, following in the footsteps of Senators Clinton and Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, HOST, "THE VIEW": Senator, Obama gave us a hug.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right.

BEHAR: All right, come on. ELISABETH HASSELBECK, HOST, "THE VIEW": I'll take a hug.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: A voting block, women cannot be taken for granted this election year. New polls out of Pennsylvania show Clinton's lead over Obama among women shrinking dramatically over the past month. So why is the women's vote so fluid this year, and what are the candidates doing to try to woo them?

Well, joining us is editor in chief of Salon.com, Joan Walsh, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez out in L.A., and CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, coming to us from Indiana. Welcome, everybody.

Joan, let me start with you. McCain actually hugging the women of "The View?"

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Hugging? Desperate there maybe.

BROWN: What is his challenge, though? This is a challenge for him, isn't it?

WALSH: It is a challenge. I mean, I think -- I don't want to stereotype women and day women are a monolith because they're not. There are women who are going to vote for John McCain. He has Republican women, but he still -- it's a hard sell. Women tend to be skeptical of the war, and women also tend to be a little bit more worried about the economic issues that by his own admission are not his strong suit.

But it was great that he went to "The View." He looked a little bit more comfortable than Barack Obama did. He didn't fidget as much. So, you know, you are going to see venues like this that are getting attention from all three candidates.

BROWN: Right. Leslie, though, you do think there's a demographic among women that he can really target.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. I mean, the women's vote is becoming increasingly fragmented. And if you look at the Republican coalition, they tend to be white women, Hispanic women, but it's also based on married women. Are they working? Highly religious. And the jump ball tends to be these young professional women. Where are they going to go?

The Democratic coalition is traditionally younger, they're single. But what's really interesting, if you look back at 2004, John Kerry won 19 states, and of those, nine were determined by the women's vote. So that gender gap is going to become increasingly critical and Bush was able to close it within three points. If John McCain cannot do that, it's going to be very difficult to win states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

BROWN: Candy, let's talk Democrats. And obviously, women are Hillary's base but Obama is trying to make end roads, and he's got a new ad in Pennsylvania. Let's look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

MAYA SOETORO-NG, BARACK'S SISTER: People recognize themselves in Barack, and they feel understood by him in part, that's because he listens so well.

MADELYN DUNHAM, BARACK'S GRANDMOTHER: Well, I think it's given him a lot of depth and a broadness of view.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK'S WIFE: Barack and I talk all the time about making sure that our girls can imagine any kind of world for themselves with no barriers.

SOETORO-NG: He wants to make sure that everybody's children have the opportunities that his daughters have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And Candy, an obvious appeal to women there. But he's also got to be mindful of the fact that he's running against the first viable female presidential candidate, and that means his approach has to be a little bit different, doesn't it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly has to be careful. I don't know if his approach to them, but it's a whole new thing. You know, it's like having the first African-American candidate. People are sort of like wondering, you know, if I do this, is that going to be offensive.

I think we've had a couple of times, you remember, Campbell, I'm sure, when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate against Rick Lazio, and he sort of moved during a debate over toward her podium, handing her a piece of paper to try to get her to sign it, and it really looked like this kind of threatening move. So, you have to be careful about things like that.

I can think of two times that Barack Obama was seen as crossing the line. One was in that New Hampshire debate, when the moderator wanted to know what Hillary Clinton thought about people who didn't find her likable, and Barack Obama sort of chimed in at one point, said, well you, are likable enough, Hillary. And women saw that as condescending. And as we recall, women turned out in droves for him.

And there was the other time when he mentioned about Hillary Clinton's experience, and he said something like, I don't think going to ambassadors and drinking tea really counts as foreign policy experience, and the Clinton campaign pushed back on that as sexist.

SANCHEZ: You know, Campbell, she raises a really good point. Women voters, and you saw this consistently in 2000, and 2004, are very cynical. They are looking for leadership. They don't want U.S. vulnerabilities exploited. They want to know that people can start on day one and have very good control of our economic and national security, but they want to see people reach across the aisle and work together.

And that partisanship message, extreme bitterness is not going to work. So, you're going to see these softer messages more emotive that show aspiration, but it's going to come down to a question of security, in terms of feeling secure about their leadership.

BROWN: Let me ask Joan one question. At the Elton John concert, he had a big fund-raising concert for Hillary Clinton last night. And he said at his concert -- I just want to mention -- that he was amazed at the misogynistic attitude of some people in this country. Has that been something that the Clinton campaign has played to a little bit, the sexism? Sort of, you know, as a theme in terms of trying to reach out to women?

WALSH: Well, I think that she's got to be very careful because I think that women's support and women's perception that she has faced sexism. And she has. Misogyny is a strong word. We probably wouldn't use it in this country. But she has faced some sexism. I think that helps shore her up absolutely, in New Hampshire.

On the other hand, to be commander in chief, you can't play the victim. You can't whine. You can't be perceived as trying to work the refs.

And so, it's a tough message for her. She herself can't deliver it. But I think there's a reservoir of female goodwill and wanting to defend her when they feel she's being treated unfairly that she can tap into. But she --

BROWN: That would really work for her?

WALSH: It does work.

BROWN: All right. We got to end it there, guys. But to Joan and Leslie and Candy, as always, thanks, everybody.

There is some other news. If you are flying tomorrow, it could be a nightmare. We're going to have the details for you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up at the top of the hour. He's going to have much more on that polygamy compound in Texas. Larry, who do you have with you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, we're going to deal with this bombshell from Texas. Authorities say that they had a confidential informant inside that compound for four years. The latest on that, plus the Pennsylvania primaries is less than two weeks away. Obama is moving up on the polls on Clinton.

Our panel will have a lot to say about that. And, Glenn Beck will be aboard. All that, live at the top of the hour, Campbell. BROWN: All right. Larry, thanks.

Of course, there is other news today. For that, we want to check in now with Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks much, Campbell. Tomorrow will be another wretched day for American Airlines customers. They've just announced the cancellation of approximately 570 more flights. American is has canceled 2,500 flights in the past three days for emergency safety inspections, delaying or stranding 140,000 passengers. Those of you watching in airports, you know who you are. Sorry about that.

You know the old saying what goes around comes around. "Politico" reports the Democrats are planning a $40 million attack job on John McCain, but get this? "Politico" says the guy in charge is none other than David Brock, who came to fame in the 1990s as a right wing anti-Clinton journalist.

Finally, former President Jimmy Carter isn't saying whether he will meet with Hamas officials next week in Syria. Hamas says he will. The Bush administration says he better skip it because Hamas supports terror. Now, back up to New York, and Campbell in the ELECTION CENTER.

BROWN: All right, Tom, thanks very much.

Colin Powell is talking about Barack Obama's minister, and if Obama wins the nomination, watch out. See what may be coming, and what, if anything, Obama can do about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We are trying out a few new ideas for the program tonight like, the view from 30,000 feet that you saw at the opening of the show. Well, now, another new segment we are calling the "War Room." You know, that place where political tacticians concoct the best defense against attack or cook up their opponents worst nightmares.

Well, each night, we'll be exploring shifting political strategies and the constantly morphing images of the three campaigns. Take for example the Pastor Wright controversy that is still dogging Obama. Well, Obama got some help from Colin Powell today. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: I don't know Reverend Wright, but I think that Senator Obama handled the issue well. He went on television, and I thought he gave a very, very thoughtful, direct speech. I admired him for giving it, and I agreed with much of what he said. And he didn't abandon the minister who brought him closer to his faith. But at the same time, he deplored the kinds of statement that the Reverend Wright had made.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Good enough for Obama, but not enough to end the dust-up over the pastor issue. So, try to imagine how Obama's campaign strategist are dealing with it.

In the "War Room" tonight, we have with us two key political gamesmen, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist and former Huckabee national campaign chairman, and CNN contributor Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. Plus, we're bringing in CNN contributor Roland Martin because he always mixes things up and makes it fun.

Roland, good to see you. Welcome to everybody.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Glad to be here.

BROWN: Hank, let me start you. And this is an issue that we said is not going away for Obama. It's still out there. It's part of the conversation that voters are asking about it. And he was asked about it just yesterday. A voter asking about Reverend Wright's ties to Louis Farrakhan. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can praise for any anti-Semitic demagogue be considered a minor difference between you and the reverend?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been very clear about saying that that was wrong, and nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism than I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: How did he do with that answer, Hank?

HANK SHEINKOPF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He did it very well. He's got to hit it head on. He's got to not so much make the separation from Reverend Wright as congregate, but separation from Reverend Wright as human being. And that is doing very well.

Switch the topic. I'd try to be more patriotic, if I were him. I'm talking about the fact that this is an America where differences matter, where people get along in spite of them, and that's what he stands for.

BROWN: Ed, Lanny Davis, who's a big Clinton supporter wrote an op ed in the "Wall Street Journal" and he said that the Wright issue could be a huge problem if Obama is in fact the nominee. He wrote that "if Obama doesn't show a willingness to try to answer all the questions now, John McCain and the Republican attack machine will not waste a minute pressuring him to do so." Does Hillary Clinton's team see an opening here, and are they trying to exploit it?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, they've not utilized it. I think one of the -- certainly, they had an opportunity and they chose not to fire the nuclear bomb here, as we would say. The key thing here -- BROWN: Was that a smart move to choose not to?

ROLLINS: You know, I think when you are in a battle, and you have resources and there's issues, you ought to use everything you can in a very careful way -- obviously, these constituency groups that Clintons have to hang onto.

The key thing here for Obama, he has to realize that as he moves forward towards this nomination, I think he will be the nominee, he's still very undefined, and a lot of people in this country don't know who he is, and they got to want to know who he is. And if you get known by the cast of characters that are around you that aren't as articulate or substantive as he is, then --

BROWN: They define you.

ROLLINS: Then they define you. And a lot of things I've always done in a campaign, I'm sure you have, I always take three or four of my best operatives and I say, go put the best campaign. We'll get all the opposition research on my candidate. Go put the best campaign against me, and let me sit down in a war room like this and basically say, all right, fire away at me and I'm prepared for it. I don't think Obama is prepared for it yet.

BROWN: And Roland, do you think that Lanny Davis had a point in that op ed? And we also heard from Vice president Cheney, who made a point of bring -- or who was asked about it, I shouldn't say made a point of bringing it up, but he was asked about it, and he said, he called the controversy remarkable. He called Reverend Wright's comments appalling. If Obama does become the Democratic nominee, how does he defuse it?

MARTIN: You know what, there was something also that Colin Powell said. He also praised the work that Reverend Wright has done. And so, I think you can't leave that out as well.

First of all, Lanny Davis had to say like he's actually giving positive advice to Obama. We know exactly what that was about. Lanny Davis exactly wanted us to be talking about this today, that's why he actually wrote the piece.

BROWN: That's a fair point.

MARTIN: That's the bottom line. Obama is going to continue to answer the question that way. Look, he has to accept the reality that there are some people out there like the little ball of hate, Sean Hannity, who would never be satisfied with any kind of answer. And so, you could throw out, oh, he has answered every question, they will never be satisfied.

And also, I think what he has to do, he also has to have surrogates who are able to push back a lot more as well. Like for instance, the person, the woman asked that question about praise Farrakhan, well, what is interesting with the surrogates, a lot of folks don't mention the fact that it was Reverend Wright who accompanied Reverend Jackson to get a Navy pilot, Goodman, out of Syria, who also was on that trip with Louis Farrakhan. Reagan praised that mercy mission for getting the pilot back.

We got Ed Rendell, now the governor of Philadelphia, who stood on stage with Farrakhan, praised him in 1997. So it's interesting. And again, this is not a matter totally explain in a way, but there are many other people who are Republicans and Democrats -- Jack Kemp, even Bill Clinton who have had praise for Farrakhan, but a certain standard is being applied to Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He has to have surrogates who are able to push back a lot more diligent.

BROWN: All right. Hank, go ahead.

SHEINKOPF: The real issue here is make the point, say what you got to say about Reverend Wright, switch the topic fast, get to the economy, and run the general election now. If you take the economy argument, you get past McCain pretty quick because he's weak.

BROWN: If you were running McCain's campaign, you've been on the trenches, you know how to do this. And what would you do with this issue?

ROLLINS: First of all, I'd ask, how could you basically have your two children in that pew every week listening to that?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Bringing your children in to hear his sermons.

ROLLINS: And obviously ask him to explain that. It's one thing to say I sat there and I paid no attention to it.

BROWN: That hasn't really come up, has it?

ROLLINS: It does not come up. And I think that's one of the things -- that would be the case that I would make, is, it's a judgment. What you want to do is you want to diminish his judgment. He's not running on experience. He's running on hope and he's running on a different kind of America. And what you want to do is you want to basically knock down his ability to have good judgment.

BROWN: All right. We got to take a break. Obama may be talking about Wright this weekend. You can see it right here. I'm going to tell you more about that, and we'll talk about it with our panel coming back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: This Sunday, Senators Clinton and Obama face the hard questions about faith and politics. They're going to take part in a 90-minute presidential candidate forum. I'm going to be one of the moderators. So join me this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time for our exclusive broadcast on "The Compassion Forum."

And with that in mind, we are back with the "War Room" now, an in-depth look at the shifting strategies of the three presidential campaigns. Ed, Hank and Roland, all with us once again. And let me just quickly get your comments on this. He's going to be speaking, as we said, Sunday night, before a religious audience. This question may well come up, if not from one of us and the audience, would you address it? How would you address it to a religious audience? Is there a way to button this up and put it to rest?

SHEINKOPF: I would not be defending Reverend Wright. I would be doing exactly what he is doing, which is say, look, I deplore some of the statements, but I would insert patriotism in some fashion as argument. The ability to join some kind of patriotic argument with religion and then get to that economy as a justice issue makes the most sense for him. He needs to do it fast.

ROLLINS: The key thing in any campaign is not to take it off message. Reverend Wright is not his message. He wants to basically, especially to religious audience, talk about his personal faith and what it means to him. And that is what I would stay on.

BROWN: Roland, final word.

MARTIN: I think he should get aggressive and say Democrats need to reclaim faith, not be scared of it. Talk about HIV/AIDS, talk about social responsibility, invoking a civil rights movement and say, let's go back to a time when Democrats cared about people of faith. That's what he should do.

BROWN: OK, Hank, you are shaking your head, I got to give you --

SHEINKOPF: I wouldn't be talking a lot about those kinds of issues, but I'd be talking about what we as a man, how this relates, and as a human being, how God relates to this nation, how important it is and why it's important that people pay attention.

MARTIN: That's what the forum is for, Hank, is to talk about those issues.

ROLLINS: And one very important thing is --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: You get the last word, Ed, OK.

ROLLINS: You're talking about Christianity, you should always talk about Judeo-Christian nation because that's what we are.

BROWN: All right, guys. To Ed, to Hank, and to Roland, as always, thanks for all of you joining us tonight in the "War Room."

That is it for now. "LARRY KING LIVE," getting started right now.

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