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CNN ELECTION CENTER

Obama Answers Bush Criticisms; Interview With Virginia Congressman Tom Davis; Politics of Polar Bears; Obama Speaks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Aired May 16, 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: Hi, everyone.
To paraphrase, today is the first day of the rest of the campaign, with John McCain, the White House and other Republicans launching their first major assault on Barack Obama. It was a test. And they were looking for weak spots in Obama's armor on two fronts, national security and social issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): As Obama entered a town hall in rural South Dakota, on his mind was the stinging attack President Bush launched yesterday on his visit to Israel.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: he accused me and other Democrats of wanting to negotiate with terrorists and said we were "appeasers," no different from people who appeased Adolf Hitler.

Now, that's exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and that alienates us from the world.

BROWN: But while Obama was defending himself from the president's charge that he's weak on terrorism, a political firing fire squad of Republican all-stars paraded before the National Rifle Association's convention taking their best shots at Obama, led by John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies. But that's not the world we live in.

And, until Senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment, and determination to keep us safe.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: You have Barack Obama, who wants to sit down personally, if he's the president of the United States, with some of the world's worst actors, Kim Jong Il, Ahmadinejad, Castro.

BROWN: President Bush's former political mastermind, Karl Rove, was there, too, attacking Obama on another front, social and cultural values. KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: According to Barack Obama, gun stores are dangerous within five miles of a school or a park, but a nudie show isn't if it's within 1,000 feet of a school or park. This guy has got his priorities all upside down.

BROWN: As it turns out, it was Obama himself that provided them with ammunition. They seized on his now infamous comment, saying that economically disadvantaged Americans get bitter and cling to guns and religion.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: But, let me tell you, I'm proud to be with a bunch of bitter people clinging to guns and God, because I don't know of two things I would rather cling to than God and my gun.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: The piling on, though, may have actually crossed the line of good taste. Listen to what happened when former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was interrupted by a crashing noise off stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: But the reality is -- and I'm worried, because, frankly, within the -- that was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair.

(LAUGHTER)

HUCKABEE: He's getting ready to speak, and somebody aimed a gun at him, and he -- he dove for the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So what do you think? Was that too much?

Well, minutes ago, Huckabee put out this written statement, saying -- quote -- "I made an offhand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Senator Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive. That was never my intention."

Let's get our panel's reaction now, CNN political analyst Roland Martin, who is the host of his own radio talk show and a syndicated columnist, Kevin Madden, a Republican analyst who served as national press secretary for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, let me just get your reaction first to Huckabee's comments there. Do you think he's in a little bit of trouble?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, obviously he knew that he was, or he wouldn't have issued that apology. It's one of those times when somebody says something really dumb. And he probably knew it minute he said it he shouldn't have said it. And he apologized.

BROWN: Right.

More generally, though, was today -- there was some tough stuff today. Was this a welcome to the general election campaign, Barack Obama, kind of day?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: You bet. It's very clear that the Republicans understand that Barack Obama is really likely to be the presidential nominee. And they were attacking him, as you pointed out in your piece earlier, on all fronts, both the cultural front and on national security.

The Republicans clearly believe that the one terrain that they have left in which they do a little bit better than the Democrats is that national security issue. And they're going to use it against him.

BROWN: It's not just national security, though, Roland. Obama's bitter comments, they're still haunting him. We heard a number of Republicans refer to them today. Could his own words be his worst enemy here?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, obviously, they're going to use those words against him, just like the Democrats are going to use the words of John McCain against him.

But here's what struck me. You have got like Karl Rove standing there with an American flag lapel pin. You know what? John McCain wasn't wearing one. So, that's really an issue. Where was John McCain's pin?

But you know what? What also gets me is, I look at how these guys stand there and talking about, oh, being a true American. Yet, when Karl Rove was sitting in the White House, how Scooter Libby got hooked up, got pardoned by the president. They play these silly games that mean nothing. They do not talk about anything of substance that is affecting the people.

You notice how they skip over the economy that's really driving people home. So, sure, they don't want to discuss the economy because they know John McCain is weak in that particular area.

BROWN: Well, Kevin, McCain said he was going to run a different kind of campaign. And maybe his rhetoric will ultimately stay above the fray.

But you do have Rove out there, Romney, Huckabee making it clear from based on what they said today and what they have said previously that they're ready to play pretty hard here. Do you think these kind of negative attacks could drag McCain down?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think we're overusing the word attack here. I think that these are very substantive exchanges on big issues. There are a lot of people out there in Middle America who really care about the Second Amendment rights and they also care about how faith is played in our public forum.

And those are Barack Obama's comments on that helped crystallize the differences between the two parties. And, quite frankly, in this case, it's going to help crystallize the differences between the two candidates.

So, I would disagree with Roland that people are glossing over things and not talking about the issues. Instead, this is a very substantive debate about the difference between the two parties and the candidates.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: And you know what, Kevin? I'm a Christian.

BROWN: Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: Kevin, I'm a Christian, but guess what? Guess what? If I'm broke and I'm losing my house, some of the stuff you're talking about means absolutely nothing to me.

If I'm sitting here, and can't afford to send my kids to school, that's probably what I'm focusing on, as opposed to some of the trivial stuff, as opposed to what is on my lapel.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Kevin does have a fair point. There are people out there who do pay attention to his position on these social issues, and as you know his bitter comments did hurt with Democratic voters in places like West Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Of course. But, again...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I think the big problem

MARTIN: ... I'm a person of faith.

MADDEN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Go ahead, Kevin.

MADDEN: Roland, I think the big problem is that -- and this is one of perception that Barack Obama is going to have to deal with. And I do believe it's an accurate sentiment of where he stands. He seemed to assign blame on those two issues, on guns and on how people perceive their faith, to economic woes. And I think, when you do that, it probably -- it tends to really hurt him when trying to explain those type of issues. And it's something that Republicans can rightly seize upon in a public debate.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Well, it was a dumb comment, yes.

BORGER: Roland, Roland, if you both step back for a minute, I think the larger point here that McCain was really making, the words he used were strength and judgment about Barack Obama.

Those are the two areas in which they are really going to attack. And they're say he doesn't have the experience and they're going to say that he is not a strong leader.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Those are two areas in which McCain makes his case that he is.

BROWN: OK. Hold it right there, because we're going to talk more about that coming up. I want to get to the question of who the voters trust to deal with terrorism and whether Obama has what it takes to win against a war hero.

We will talk about that when we come back.

And, then, later, what do polar bears have to do with politics? A lot. We're going to explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama would meet unconditionally with some of the world's worst dictators and state sponsors of terrorists. I would not add to the prestige of those who support violent extremists or seek to destroy our allies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Candidate John McCain on national security. That was earlier today.

Republicans have always considered -- have been considered to be the party that will keep you safe whenever there is the threat of a global menace. Be it communism or terrorisms -- terrorism, rather, Republicans campaign on it. And it worked for President Bush in 2004. Will it work for John McCain this time around?

I want to bring back some of the sharpest observers of the American political scene, Roland Martin, Kevin Madden, and Gloria Borger. And, Roland, I want to go to a point that we ended on a moment ago with Gloria. John McCain knows national security Islamist Democrats' weak spot. In a poll this week, McCain beat Obama on the question of who do you trust to deal with terrorism 55 percent to 34 percent. How does Obama begin to make up that gap, when he's running against a war hero?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, what he is going to do is, he is going to say, OK, John McCain, you're a war hero. You served. But you also voted for the war that's led to the death of 4,000 Americans. We have spent billions of dollars and, frankly, it's not stabilized it in the least.

He's going to say, you aligned with the Bush administration, who went before Congress and who said, hey, our gas prices are going to go down because of the war in Iraq. We're not going to spend as much money.

He's going to put the cost of the war and how it has not done what it was supposed to on his back and say, you know what? Explain that, Mr. War Hero.

BROWN: Well, Roland, how do you explain these poll numbers? Clearly, people are against the war.

MARTIN: It's natural.

BROWN: But at the same time they're clearly siding with McCain on these national security issues.

MARTIN: Campbell, Campbell, here's the deal. The American public will side with Republicans on national security issues. They will side with Democrats on the economy.

What's going to happen is, when you go the polls, you are going to make a determination, what is more important to me? And, so, you can look at any number of issues and say where Democrats are strong, where they're weak, where Republicans are strong and where they're weak, and simply how this is going to fall out.

BROWN: Well, Kevin, he has a point there. This isn't a year when national security is at the top of the voters' agenda.

Does McCain risk looking out of touch by focusing on foreign policy?

MADDEN: No. I think that both of those issues, the economy and national security, are going to be a very important part of how voters decide during this election who they want to lead the country into the future.

But I was very struck by how Barack Obama immediately reacted to President Bush's remarks at the Knesset, even though he was never mentioned. There's an old saying in politics that, if you throw a rock over the fence, if you throw a rock over the fence, the dog that barks is the one that you hit. (CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Kevin, he was clearly talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Gloria, Gloria, address that, because this -- in fairness, let's give people context. This discussion started when the president made his speech in Israel saying there is no room for appeasement. And, of course, as Kevin pointed out, the White House is today saying that they don't know what this fuss is all about, that the president wasn't even talking about Obama.

You buying it?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Oh, so cute.

BORGER: Oh, of course not. Of course not.

There is not one word in a president's speech that isn't carefully considered. And they were talking about old Democrats, perhaps, who are now led by Barack Obama, who is the likely presidential nominee. And so, of course they were talking about Barack Obama.

But to get back to our previous discussion, Obama says this election is about change. In fact, everybody says this election is about change. But it's also about risk. It's also about your safety. And it is also about balancing that change that people in this country seem to want against the risk that they're willing to take to get it.

So, that's what this terrorism debate is about. It's about risk. But, also, it's about risk of you own personal livelihood and how insecure you feel about that and who's going to make you feel secure again on the domestic front, as well as on the foreign policy side.

MADDEN: Gloria is absolutely right on this.

It really does go to the heart of the question, which is, which candidate inspires confidence, both in the economy and national security? Who is the candidate that has the experience and is ready to lead this country in a very, very difficult time? And I think that's where John McCain wins that debate.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Yes, go ahead quickly, Roland.

MARTIN: I will tell you what is not secure. The dollar across the world is not secure. I'll tell you what. Rising college tuition, that's not secure. People are going to care about that stuff as well, because their jobs are not secure.

BROWN: All right, guys, hang on. I'm going to get back to you a little bit later.

But, first, we want to look beyond the presidential race. This veteran Republican lawmaker has written a 20-page warning call to Republicans, saying, essentially, that the party is going to crash and burn unless it does something dramatic. And, in a moment, he's going to be here with us.

And then a little bit later, a species in peril -- we're going to explain why polar bears have become a hot political issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, as you can see, the presidential candidates are all multimillionaires. But, when it comes to ideas, there is talk the Republican Party may be bankrupt.

A seven-term Republican congressman is sounded that dire alarm. And he believes his party is in peril and that Republicans in Congress will be falling like flies this November if the GOP doesn't fix its problems now. He says the Republicans have no unified message, that they are led by an unpopular president, and that their party is short on cash.

And the man who is saying this is Virginia Representative Tom Davis. He's joining us now.

Welcome to you.

Congressman Davis, you wrote a memo to your colleagues outlining the problems that your party faces right now. And you said it pretty bluntly, that -- quote -- "The Republican brand is in the trash can. If we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

What exactly is your party's problem right now? Is it President Bush?

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Well, it is. I mean, the congressional Republicans are tied to President Bush. We're seen as an appendage to President Bush.

And between an unpopular war, you take a look at the gas prices, the housing costs and everything, we are being tied to that. The Democrats are half of government, but they're not being held accountable at all.

And if we don't change significantly -- six months is a long time. We have that opportunity. But somebody had to tell it the way it was. And as someone who chaired the Campaign Committee in 2000 and 2002, I thought I ought to put it to them bluntly and document it.

BROWN: But what specifically do you think that candidates, congressional candidates and Republicans should be doing?

DAVIS: Well, John McCain is running well ahead of the Republican brand name at this point. He has his own branding. And he has done this in many ways by displaying independence, by taking a look at some of the issues, and separating himself from the administration. Congressional Republicans individually or collectively have that opportunity if they will take it.

And we have six months at this point to try to fix it. It's not just President Bush. It's trying to show the voters that we have solutions to rising energy prices, the war, of course, the housing crisis, the economy, health care, immigration.

And it mystifies me why the Democrats, who are half of government, are off Scot-free, have no solutions of their own, but have just turned all of their guns on the president, and we're taking the hit.

BROWN: Well, I don't have to tell you, President Bush's negatives and disapproval ratings are at historic highs. And you said -- in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal," you said that, of President Bush: "He can't articulate. The only asset we have now is the big microphone, and he swallowed it."

I think part of the problem is, for better or worse, he is still the leader of your party, at least for a few more months. So, how tough is it really going to be for Republicans to turn their backs on him? Can they?

DAVIS: Of course.

I mean, some individuals have already separated themselves on individual votes, whether it's stem cell, SCHIP, the war, whatever. We get a new face of the party with the nomination of John McCain. It's up to us, I think, at that point to take advantage of that and to reposition ourselves.

There are a number of things we do. The president is not wrong on everything. But I don't think he's using the big microphone effectively to articulate his positions. The Democrats are doing a pretty good job right now. They're blowing themselves up in the presidential level, but in terms of the party branding at this point, we seem to be paying the price.

BROWN: So, you mentioned this earlier, but, as a GOP leader, what do you think McCain has to do to win the presidency? Which issues should he be running on? There seems to be this internal debate about whether he should be the maverick, the independent, as you seem to think he should be, or should he be spending more time going after the conservative base that's going to be essential if he's going to win?

DAVIS: It's all about the independents at this point. There just are not enough Republicans to elect him, if everybody shows up who declares himself a Republican and votes for him.

Republican self-identification right now is at a 13-point disadvantage vis-a-vis Democrats. This race is all about the independents. And that's where he has to focus his message if he has any prayer of winning.

BROWN: So, just final question, Congressman Davis. Do you think anybody is listening to you?

DAVIS: I think they are. Member after member has come up to me and said, somebody had to say it. We're glad you do it.

And I think it will shake it up a little bit. We will see how the leadership reacts to this.

I would just note one other thing. I heard your previous panel talk about the foreign policy/security issues vs. economic issues. The underlying issues in American politics continue to be cultural. People are voting culturals. And that will be the underpinnings of this election is more -- the economy could pick up in the next six months.

And national security could rise to the front, depending on events on the ground. We don't know what the issue matrix will be in November. But Republicans have to be prepared with solutions in each case. And you can't wait for President Bush. If he won't get out and articulate it, Senator McCain or the congressional Republicans are going to have to do their own...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Congressman Tom Davis, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being with us.

DAVIS: Thank you. My pleasure.

BROWN: So, in just a moment, we're going to get to the specifics, the leading up to this Republican panic.

And then a little bit later, why saving the polar bears is generating some hot politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: You are looking at a victory celebration in Mississippi that has got Republicans in a bit of a panic. It followed Tuesday's election of a Democrat, the one you see there -- that's Travis Childers -- to a congressional seat that has been a look for the GOP for years.

Only a week or so ago, all the smart money was on a devastating split in the Democratic Party. Well, today, the tables have turned. The Childers election is the third major congressional loss for the GOP this year. Does it sound like a party in peril?

Well, I think we need to bring back our panel to chew this over.

We have got CNN political analyst Roland Martin, Kevin Madden, Republican political analyst and former national press secretary to Mitt Romney, and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Welcome back, everybody.

Kevin, we just heard a moment ago from Tom Davis, and he laid out a pretty dim picture of the future of the Republican Party. You were a top aide on the Hill to Republican leaders. Where do they even begin to rebuild?

MADDEN: Well, the good news is that, in order for a ball to bounce, it has to hit the bottom. So, I think we have hit bottom now. We have nowhere else to go but up.

The fundamental thing that Republicans have to ask themselves is, when we in go out there and we engage voters, are we answering the question, why us, why us on health care, why us on energy, why us on the economy and national security? And we haven't to this point done that.

So, we have to articulate a vision. We have to offer a very solution-oriented approach on the big issues that are causing a lot of anxiety for Americans who sit at their kitchen tables right now and worry about the costs of higher education. They worry about energy costs. They worry about all these things.

Right now, we don't have the answer to that. And we have only to be -- we have only got six months. We have to get right to work and answer that question.

BROWN: Gloria, were you as surprised as I was about how harsh the language was that Tom Davis was using with regard to President Bush?

BORGER: Tom Davis just said publicly what everybody has been saying privately.

And Republicans, they're quite used to kind of having somebody in the White House that they can run with and hide behind and run on their coattails. Well, that is -- you know, that's really gone.

I am old enough to remember the days when the Republicans took over the Congress and Newt Gingrich had his Contract With America. Whatever you thought of the Contract With America, it had ideas in it. And the Republicans were the revolutionaries. They were the insurgents. They were very popular because of that.

Then they became the entrenched power brokers, which is the way they are seen by the American public. That's why they run differently from John McCain, because he's seen as the maverick, and they're seen as the guys smoking the cigars in the backroom. And that doesn't work for them.

BROWN: Is that the answer, the one he was advocating, abandon Bush and everybody get on the John McCain coattails and get on them fast?

BORGER: Well, they better try. I think it's a good idea.

MADDEN: Well, I would disagree with that, just for...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Right. Of course, Campbell, the...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Kevin, go ahead.

And then I will go to you, Roland.

MARTIN: Just -- yes, just very quickly, I would be against anybody who says we need to run away from somebody or run against somebody.

We have to run for something.

BROWN: But -- but...

MADDEN: Republicans have to go out there and put out solutions on all these big issues that the American public care about.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Roland, go ahead.

MARTIN: Kevin, Kevin, here's the thing.

MADDEN: Yes.

MADDEN: You said, we have six months. You had six years, dude. I mean, come on. It's a little hard to, all of a sudden...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Roland, Roland...

MARTIN: Kevin, Kevin, it's a little hard...

MADDEN: The Democrats are in charge right now in Washington.

MARTIN: Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, one second. Kevin, one second.

It's a little hard to go to the American people and say, oh, trust us, when we had the White House, the House, and the Senate, and we did nothing on those issues.

Now, here's the other issue, Campbell. Democrats are energized in these Republican districts. The issue for John McCain is if you have Democrats saying, wait a minute, we can even take Republican districts, that's going to bring out even more Democrats to their side, which also helps them up the ticket as well. The focus is always down ticket. That's a serious issue for Republicans if you have an energized Democratic base even on the congressional level.

BORGER: Can I just make one point here, though, about this Democrat that won in Mississippi? This Democrat who won in Mississippi sounds a lot like most Republicans in Congress. This Democrat --

BROWN: That's a fair point that Gloria is making.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Very conservative.

BROWN: They serve the Democrats.

MARTIN: It's called Mississippi. It's Mississippi.

BORGER: Right, but you're --

MARTIN: Just like his --

BORGER: He's very conservative. So, you know, on the issue side, it's not a free ride for the Democrats either.

MADDEN: And the Democrats are still in charge in Washington. And right now, people are very angry with the status quo of Washington.

So, Roland, I don't think the Democrats can actually rest on their laurels on this one. There's still going to be a vigorous debate in this election.

MARTIN: I'm not saying rest. I'm not saying rest, but when you still have the high gas prices and they connect that $125 a barrel with the war --

MADDEN: Well, what have the Democrats done on gas prices? What have the Democrats done on your questions? What have they done on health care?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Everybody -- hold on guys -- Kevin, Kevin --

MARTIN: The oil was around their neck.

BROWN: Real quick -- hold on, guys.

I mean, Kevin, in all fairness, I mean, Democrats may be in charge of Congress, but at least the perception is -- and I think this is what you're fighting to a certain extent -- is that this is Republicans who are really struggling and who are really having the problem and who are really to blame.

MADDEN: That's a good point, Campbell.

BROWN: And you got a perception problem you got to deal with one way or another.

MADDEN: That's a good point. We do have a perception problem. How do we alter that perception? How we remind voters that Nancy Pelosi hasn't done anything to help your gas prices.

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats, if you look, especially Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, whoever is going to be the nominee is offering more government, more taxes and a weaker national security.

BROWN: All right.

BORGER: Well, you have an agenda.

MADDEN: We absolutely have to make the debate.

BORGER: You have to have an agenda.

MADDEN: You're absolutely right.

BORGER: Which is what you haven't had. And that's, you know, that's how you tell voters what you're for.

BROWN: All right, guys. We've got to end it there. To Roland, to Kevin and Gloria, thanks so much.

BORGER: Sure.

BROWN: When we come back, Barack Obama in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He's just taken the stage. We're going to hear what he has to say when we come back right after this.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: And I want to thank Tom Daschle, because Tom Daschle --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Senator Barack Obama is just now beginning a campaign rally in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has a primary in just over two weeks. We are expecting him right now to hit back once again after today's new round of Republican attacks. Senator John McCain, Karl Rove and other Republicans have joined President Bush in labeling Obama soft on terrorism.

Let's listen right now to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: So what's happened is that it's harder and harder just to get by. People struggle at the end of the month trying to make ends meet. You've got 47 million people who don't have health insurance. And if they do have health insurance, if you've got health insurance, then you've seen your costs go up by as much as 78 percent.

A lot of people are trying to make ends meet because they were borrowing against their home. They were borrowing to make sure that they could pay for their child's college education. But now, because of the lack of regulation, the lack of oversight, you're actually seeing home values go down. And so, people are even more desperate.

And the bottom line is that we can't afford to wait to solve those problems because what's happening is the American dream feels like it's slipping out of people's hands. It feels like it's slipping away for too many Americans. That's not who we are. That's not what we believe in.

We don't believe in our children being worse off than we were. We don't believe in some people, a few at the top doing well, and the rest of the people struggling. We don't believe in people homeless. We don't believe in people not having health care or being bankrupt when they get sick. And that's why we can't afford to wait.

We can't wait to fix our schools. We can't wait to fix our health care system. We can't wait to provide good jobs or good wages.

(APPLAUSE)

We can't wait to bring this war in Iraq to a close. We can't wait. And that's why --

(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: Barack Obama speaking in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, talking pocketbook issues to a big crowd there tonight.

Washington is so divided these days, even saving the polar bears is causing an argument. What's to argue about? Stay with us. We'll tell you about it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We want to take you back now to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Barack Obama is speaking right now to a big crowd. This event is live.

Let's listen to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: Now, here's the thing, though. Change is not going to be easy. And I know that there -- change is -- what have we got there?

That's all right. No, no, no, no. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Now, listen. Hold on a second.

One of the things that happened is, you know, we've been campaigning for a long time. And there are Obama supporters and there are Hillary supporters. And I think that's a good thing. It's been a healthy thing for this political process. And this is part of -- this is part of what -- this is part of what is going to be important as we move forward.

This is why change isn't easy because people get bruised feelings. We've had a political contest. But let me tell you something.

Those who are concerned about us being divided in November, let me tell you something. Whatever differences I may have with Senator Clinton, they pale in comparison to the differences we've got with John McCain.

(APPLAUSE)

We may not agree on everything, but Senator Clinton is a smart, capable person, and she believes in universal health care just like I do. She believes in bringing this war to an end, just like I do. And the one thing we know for certain is no matter what else happens, in November, the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot.

(APPLAUSE)

The name of my cousin, Dick Cheney, will not be on the ballot.

(APPLAUSE)

And so -- so what that means is that we have the opportunity to finally bring an end to policies that have not been good for ordinary Americans. We don't need any more Katrina incompetence. We don't need warrantless wiretaps. We don't need tax cuts for the wealthy.

We have a chance to bring those things to an end. But understand, John McCain is running for George Bush's third term. He wants to continue those policies for the next four years, and that's why we know we're going to be united.

John McCain says that this war in Iraq is a success and that we could keep troops there as long as 100 years. Although -- although, I have to say that I think somebody told him that wasn't polling very well, because yesterday he decided, well, maybe we'll have them home by 2013, although he didn't have a plan for how to do it.

And Democrats, we're going to be united because we recognize that this is a war that has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, and thousands of lives, has distracted us from the war that needs to be won in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who sent out another videotape yesterday. That it has not made us more safe. It has mobilized anti-American sentiment around the world.

And so, because we cannot afford four more years of George Bush foreign policy, we can't afford four more years of John McCain. We will be united to make sure that John McCain is defeated in November.

(APPLAUSE)

The same is true on our domestic policy. The same is true on our domestic policy. Listen.

John McCain wants to perpetuate the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans that never trickle down to you, that aren't helping ordinary families. In fact, he looked at the economic progress that we've made over the last seven years. And John McCain determined that under George Bush, we had made great economic progress. That's what he said.

Now, I don't know who he's talking to. He's obviously not talking to the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs since the beginning of this year. He's not talking to the millions of people whose homes are at threat of foreclosure. He is not obviously talking to the 47 million people without health insurance or the senior citizens who can't afford their prescription drugs.

He's not talking to the people who are trying to figure out how to pay for their gas just to get to work. People in Sioux Falls don't think we've made great economic progress. I don't think we've made great economic progress.

And that's why we can't afford John McCain to make any more progress towards the White House. We are going to be united in November to defeat John McCain and George Bush's policies.

BROWN: Senator Barack Obama at a campaign event in South Dakota hammering Senator John McCain.

Coming up tonight, the stagecraft behind Hillary Clinton's latest campaign events. There is a specific message that she is trying to get across. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We would like to show you the stagecraft that goes on behind the scenes at campaign events, and it doesn't always involve a location like a farm or a forest that guarantees pretty pictures. Sometimes this stagecraft involves the candidates themselves and the image they want to project. And that is a big priority for Hillary Clinton these days.

And Tom Foreman is here to tell us about it.

Tom, what impression is she trying to make with voters these days?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, search up magic on YouTube, and you'll find plenty of people doing all sorts of wild things, which you'll also see Hillary Clinton's stagecraft at work, because right now she is using misdirection to keep her campaign from disappearing.

Step one, keep campaigning. Look at all the different places that she has been in the past 10 days since Indiana. This makes it look like her campaign is going very well, even though the numbers say her chances of winning are very slim. Step two, keep repeating her magic phrase. The race is not over, the race is not over. Because every political operative knows if you say something enough, more people will buy into it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe in quitting. Politics is unpredictable. You go the distance. You don't walk off the court before the buzzer sounds. It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Look at that. She's got humor, bravado, casting herself as the underdog because she knows America really loves a comeback, Campbell.

BROWN: But, Tom, she is the underdog now. In fact, there are a lot of people out there who think this is already over. So how does she truly convey that she's still got game?

FOREMAN: Well, you have to make sure that there are plenty of photos of you out there looking like a lone, brave fighter and they've done that. Look at some of these images up here, being stoic there, standing up strong.

And you have to pick the right enemies. And she has. One of her latest ads is not about Barack Obama or Republicans. It's about something much more frightening and evil for many voters -- us, journalists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: In Washington, they talk about who's up and who's down. In Oregon, we care about what's right and what's wrong. She's the one --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And there she is, standing up to those malicious media people who want to stop the contest. It's all up to stagecraft. It says pay no attention to that growing crowd of delegates behind Obama's curtain.

I'm still in this race and even if I lose, Hillary Clinton will still count in American politics. That's the message, Campbell.

BROWN: Well, and that's a fair point. All right, Tom Foreman for us tonight. Tom, thanks.

FOREMAN: Good seeing you.

BROWN: When we come back, the politics of polar bears. The U.S. decides they are officially threatened by global warming. We'll find out why some people are burned up about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In Washington, politics colors everything, even issues you'd think everybody would agree on, like keeping pure white polar bears from becoming extinct.

Well, Joe Johns shows us how even that has turned political.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For an animal that lives most of its life alone in the arctic, the polar bear is anything but out of sight. Polar bears carry a significant political burden these days. The government now says the species is threatened with extinction because ice floes where the bears hunt are melting at an alarming rate due to greenhouse gases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The polar bears' habitat is being lost every day. And so the polar bear really is the first animal that we see as needing to be protected under the Endangered Species Act due to the threat posed by global warming.

JOHNS: Or, if you listen to one of the leading critics of global warming science on Capitol Hill, the polar bear is doing just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worldwide polar bear population numbers are at a near all-time high, especially in comparison to 40 and 50 years ago. I worry that we have spent and will continue to spend too much time and money examining healthy species in manufacturing ways to predict its demise, when there are hundreds of species legitimately on the list that need these scarce department resources.

JOHNS: So who's right? Well, maybe both. Here's why.

The polar bear is caught in the middle of a scientific war of research and predictions. All sides agree the animal's population is up, partly because polar bear hunting is down. But they don't agree about the future. Many predictions are dire.

The United States Geological Survey said rapidly deteriorating sea ice could lead to the loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bears within 42 years. And that's why the Bush administration made the decision this week to list polar bears as threatened with extinction. But there was a big catch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This decision does not suddenly give you a path forward that will grow more ice. That's part of a larger discussion that will take place by the major economies of the world.

JOHNS: Which is something environmental groups really didn't want to hear. Saving the bears, they hoped, meant for one thing the government might have to declare millions of acres of northern ice as critical polar bear habitat and possibly off limits to energy companies. Environmental groups sued to force the government to do something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounded as though it was going to be business as usual up in the arctic especially regarding oil and gas drilling.

JOHNS (on-camera): Some environmentalists also hope that using the Endangered Species Act, the ESA, to save polar bears would also force the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the ice melt.

JOHNS (voice-over): But the Interior Department says, no, not happening either. So the battle over greenhouse gases, oil and gas drilling, and the politics of polar bears is, for now, frozen in place. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, have you ever wondered what's happened to politicians who have gone off the radar? People like former Senator Mike Gravel who also ran in the early Democratic primaries? What's he doing now?

Well, check out this online video where Gravel tries to win over Obama girl. You remember her from last year?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, YOUTUBE)

SENATOR MIKE GRAVEL, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a YouTube celebrity.

OBAMA GIRL, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Do you even sing R&B?

GRAVEL: I'm seeking the presidency. You should drop your --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Yes, well, by the end, Obama girl tells Gravel that she'll think about it, but it looks like she still got her crush on Obama.

I bet you didn't hear what Ohio's governor said after his attorney general resigned this week because of a sex scandal. Well, you will hear that coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: We in the media refer to the little snippets that we play from political speeches and press conferences as sound bites, and sometimes those bites really do have teeth. And I have an example that's too good to miss but it does take a little bit of explaining.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann resigned this week in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Well, Dann was facing impeachment over accusations he had an affair with a subordinate and that he tolerated sexual harassment of others by one of his top aides.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland took questions from reporters after Dann's resignation. And that's where we hear the bite that bites. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What specific qualities are you looking for in the next attorney general?

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Well, maturity. Maturity, experience, management ability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: That's right, maturity. The governor says he hasn't settled on Dann's replacement yet, but ouch.

That does it for me. That is it from ELECTION CENTER. Have a great weekend, everybody.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.