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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
America's Weather: What's Going On?; New Tornado Warnings
Aired June 12, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a tornado rampages through a boy scout camp, killing four children, scarring families and friends forever.
Twisters take the lives of two more in Kansas. Floods cripple Cedar Rapids. Curfews are in effect and more rain is coming.
What's going on with America's weather?
Plus, Republicans aren't decided on John McCain. Democrats haven't settled on Barack Obama.
Could voters turn this election upside down?
All next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Last night's powerful tornado ripped through the Little Sioux Scout ranch in a rural part of Iowa, killing four boy scouts -- John Fennen, 13; Sam Thomsen, 13; Ben Petrzikla 14 -- all of Omaha -- and Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa.
The twister hurt at least 40 others. Some have spinal cord injuries and cracked skulls.
We'll get an update now on this deadly weather. We'll start with Dan Simon. He's in Blencoe, Iowa, a CNN correspondent, of course, close to the boy scout camp.
What's the situation there How is everyone holding up -- Dan?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, they are mourning the loss of four young boy scouts, Larry. Obviously, a major tragedy. This came just basically out of nowhere at 6:30 last night. It was still light out, but people I talked to described it as whiteout conditions, the storm came in so fast.
As you mentioned, four people dead, more than 40 people injured and that camp totally gone.
KING: Dan will be hanging with us through the early parts of this program. We'll be going back to him.
Let's go to Cedar Rapids and Gary Tuchman, CNN national correspondent, covering the floods.
What's the situation there, Gary? How widespread is this?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very widespread, Larry.
This behind me is from the Cedar River, which is six blocks away but is now throughout Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And you have a situation here where thousands of homes have been evacuated. There's a mandatory evacuation order that takes place within an hour. And there's a lot of tension in this neighborhood, because right now it's pouring rain. It's still thundering and lightning.
This road was completely dry just a few hours ago. We came here. We parked our car right here. Now, it's about two-and-a-half feet of water and the problem is that many houses two blocks away are now underwater and the people here, these are the lucky people.
The light just went off because there's a power failure in this area, so I don't know if you can see me right now. But these are lucky people because their houses don't have the water yet. But it's expected maybe within the next hour or so that these people lose their houses like their neighbors down the street.
KING: Gary, are you sure you're safe?
TUCHMAN: Yes. You know, Larry, we are in a good place. We're near some people's homes that will let us in when we need to get inside. So, a lot of nice people here despite what's going on right now.
KING: All right. We'll be checking because with you.
Let's go to Chapman, Kansas. Kim Hynes is with KWCH, affiliate reporter covering the tornadoes.
Let's turn to that aspect -- and what can you tell us, Kim, about the two people who were killed?
KIM HYNES, REPORTER, KWCH-TV, WICHITA: Well, right now, they are not releasing the names of those two people. One was killed here in the town of Chapman. We do know that it was a 21-year-old girl, but they have not released her name yet. The other person was killed last night in Soldier, Kansas, also in the northeast part of the state. But as of right now, they are not releasing that information, either, pending notification of the family.
KING: Chad Myers, our CNN meteorologist at the CNN Weather Center, give us the overall picture here -- Chad.
First, what's going on?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We still have tornadoes tonight, Larry. We have cold air behind this and very warm air. I don't have to tell you how hot it's been in the East. Everybody has been feeling this sweltering, muggy weather. Well, that muggy weather is bumping into the cold air. They don't like the clash. They don't like to get along. When you get warm and cold coming together, the air goes up. Storms all the way from Green Bay right on down into Kansas. A tornado watch now, just a brand new one issued until 2:00 in the morning. This is going to be another long night -- Larry.
KING: We'll be checking back with you, Chad -- of course.
Back to Kim Hynes. The tornadoes killed two people. the names not announced yet. What can you tell us about the devastation in Chapman?
HYNES: Well, I can tell you, I actually had a chance to go up in the air today and had a bird's eye view. And the path of destruction is -- there is a lot of it. And you can see it very clearly.
It knocked out about 65 buildings. Most of those are homes -- and also both schools buildings in the town are both totally destroyed. The roof caved in. The walls caved in. It's a big mess out here.
People were kept out of the town for most of the day. And it was just in the last couple of hours that they've opened up the roads and let people who live here get back in and try and sort through their belongings.
KING: Back to Dan Simon in Blencoe, Iowa, with 75 to 80 percent of the community damaged, a hundred homes have been destroyed, uprooted trees.
How are displaced people being handled?
SIMON: Well, we know that some people are going to stay with friends or family. But, you know, I should tell you a bit more about that situation with that boy scout camp, Larry.
This was a leadership training academy, if you will. They had gone there for a week. It was cut short a few days because of the storm. But, you know, these people were also very equipped -- the boy scouts were very well-equipped to deal with the tornado because they had CPR training, they had first aid training. So, in a sense, they were much better equipped to deal with this type of crisis than most people.
KING: Well said.
Gary Tuchman, how are the folks in Cedar Rapids dealing with this, especially with more rain falling?
TUCHMAN: They're dazed and there's a lot of tension because people don't know how this day will end up. The people on this street, within the next few hours they may have feet of water inside their house. Larry, three blocks to my south in this direction, as we speak right now, a boat passed me a while ago going down the street. Three men in a boat. They say they are going to rescue a man who was sitting on top of his roof because the floodwaters have climbed midway through his house with his cats and dogs. He says he refuses to leave unless someone helps to rescue his cats and dogs. So he's an older man sitting on his roof and they're hoping to get his cats and dogs and him on their boat.
KING: Chad Myers, what's the immediate forecast for this area?
MYERS: You know what, Larry?
I just got a brand new tornado warning. And the forecast for Gary is that weather is just going to -- it's going to rain there for the next couple of hours. But the floodwaters there, you've got to get a hold of this. The record level for the river that he's standing in, basically, is 20 feet. That's the highest it's ever been -- 1851.
Larry, it's going to 32 feet. It's going to be 12 feet over the oldest record we can find on the books. This is going to be one for the record books for a long time. This may be a 500-year flood for Gary there and the people there in Cedar Rapids. They are going to feel it everywhere.
Also, Iowa City in big time trouble. You're going to have 10 feet of water in the university, at least some of the lower parts of the university -- 10 feet of water in those buildings. It's going to take forever to clean all that up. It's going to take forever for that water to go back down.
Also, one more thing I wanted to talk about is Johnson and Leavenworth and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas, you just got a new tornado warning. Trained weather spotters reported a tornado near Linwood, Kansas. That storm is on the ground -- a tornado on the ground, moving east at 30 miles per hour. And that's not that far from Kansas City proper.
We'll keep you advised.
KING: This is getting near beyond belief.
Two men who chased this storm and caught it on tape will join us after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado. Our ears are...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE in Blencoe, Iowa, two gutsy guys, Kenny Allen and Kory Hartman. They are storm chasers. They sustained a direct hit from last night's tornado while streaming live video.
Let's take a look at what they caught on the ChaseCam Network when they found themselves in the direct path.
Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that SRV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the rotation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're going to tape this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bit...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our ears are popping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My ears are popping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our ears are popping. The tornado is right over us right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy smokes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting hit by a tornado right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the tornado. We are in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you still hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just went over us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tornado went...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...went right over us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went right over the top of us. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the tornado -- we are in the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's debris damage everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Kenny Allen, why on earth do you do this?
KENNY ALLEN, STORM CHASER, TAPED TORNADO: Larry, we're out there to help inform and warn the public in a more effective fashion. A few years ago, we started devising ways to stream live video from the storm, along with audio, so that we could help the warning process and bring more ground truth to what we were seeing out when storm chasing.
So not only can the National Weather Service now look at radar, they can look at our live pictures and they actually know that we have a tornado on the ground or a severe thunderstorm or a severe situation developing in our area.
KING: Kory, what kind of vehicle were you in?
KORY HARTMAN, STORM CHASER, TAPED TORNADO: Larry, it was not really designed to take a direct hit. We lost a window. We lost a side panel. But, amazingly, it didn't flip over and we didn't land in the ditch. So we're very fortunate tonight.
KING: Kory, after 10 years of doing work like this, is this the worst you've seen?
HARTMAN: This is the worst. You can't get any closer than being in the tornado. It was not something we planned on. We had old radar data that we were using. The storm -- the tornado was completely wrapped in rain, so it was almost impossible to see where the storm was. And we ended up turning and driving right into the tornado.
KING: Kenny, why are you alive?
ALLEN: We're alive maybe because God spared us tonight, Larry -- last night, I should say. It's been a long 36 hours for us. We still have yet to go to bed. But our hearts and -- our hearts are somber tonight. We're just sick about what happened.
This is the same tornado that you're seeing on our video that went through the boy scout camp. And those young men who lost their lives last night, we're really sick about it.
But I want to stress that everybody did everything right. The National Weather Service fired the tornado warning 10 minutes before it went over the boy scout camp. They fired it 14 minutes before it hit our area, as were chasing.
The boy scout camp did have a NOAA weather radio and I understand there are sirens at that camp, as well.
So everybody did everything right. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time, Larry.
KING: Do you ever think, Kory, that you're a bit foolish?
HARTMAN: Not really. Usually we are the safe chasers. We stay a couple miles south or west or whatever away from the storm. We normally don't put ourselves in a situation like that.
But with the amount of rain that was coming down, again, it was just impossible to see where we were.
But what we're doing out there is trying to get that information. And you can hear on the video we're talking on our cell phones to the National Weather Service and to local media, trying to tell them that there's a tornado on the ground and it's still heading away from us and people downstream need to take cover.
KING: Kenny, you guys are experts at this. What advice do you give to people who have a tornado coming right at them?
ALLEN: Well, last night when we were in a smaller community -- I'm not going to name that community because I don't want to point fingers tonight, Larry. But we went through a community that had a tornado warning and there were people standing outside in the street trying to see where the tornado was and they were not taking shelter, even though the tornado sirens were going off in their community.
We have to stress, in this year, when we've had so many tornado deaths, people need to make sure they know where their proper shelter is. They need to have a NOAA weather radio. And they need to adhere to the sirens in their own communities and take shelter when necessary.
It is absolutely in the hands of a person, most of the time, if they are going to take shelter or not. So, like we said, the guys up in the boy scout ranch did everything right and they were unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But when we see people standing out trying to see the storms and they're not trained, we do not recommend that. If you are not a trained spotter or a chaser, you should not be trying to find a tornado.
KING: Kory, is the best shelter underground, if you can get underground?
HARTMAN: Always the best shelter is underground. And if you can't, just try to put as many layers between you and the storm as possible. Try to get inside a bathroom -- something without windows -- and cover yourself up with padded material, such as a mattress or something.
KING: And pay attention to warnings.
HARTMAN: Pay attention.
ALLEN: Always pay attention.
KING: Are you guys going to go out in this again?
ALLEN: We feel what we're doing is very significant. At SevereStudios.com, we have over 120 chasers that have decided to stream video through our service. And the National Weather Service gets that service first. And then we help our local media outlets and the greater public see what we're seeing in these storms. So we think the service of actually being able to see what's in a storm is valuable and hopefully that will keep more people in their homes and maybe in their basements, rather than trying to see the storm themselves.
KING: All right...
ALLEN: We just -- we feel it really adds to the warning process.
KING: I salute you both, Kenny Allen and Kory Hartman in Blencoe, Iowa, storm chasers who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Let's go back to Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.
More warnings popping up -- Chad?
MYERS: More warnings right now just for the western suburbs of Kansas City. And this is now near Piper, the town of Piper, Kansas. And there has been reports of damage with this cell. And it is moving into the western suburbs. Look at all the lightning. You can hardly see the radar. The lightning just flashing one second at a time.
And then into Kansas City proper, might -- maybe in the next 15 or 20 minutes, Larry. We will keep watching it for you.
We do know that a tornado was on the ground. I don't know -- I can't confirm that it still is, but it is very dangerous.
And talking about those two men that you just talked to, I was watching their video all night last night, because I wanted to know where the storms were, too, not just the Weather Service. So anybody can watch it. It's a free service. You can just watch it right on the Internet.
We knew those guys were going the wrong way. I talked to my guys here. I said, hey, those guys need to turn around. They're going the wrong way. They don't have the live Doppler radar like I do here in their car and they didn't know that they were going right into that tornado. It was very dangerous for those guys.
KING: Thanks. We'll be checking back with you frequently -- Chad Myers.
We'd like to honor the memory of the boys who died by hearing about them from those who knew them, next.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: We'll be meeting folks in the aftermath of the tragedy who knew the boys who tragically passed away.
In Omaha now is Dr. Jim White. He was Sam Thomsen's pastor. He's pastor of the Southwest Church of Christ, where the Thomsens are life- long members. He said Sam was a very vibrant kid.
Tell us about Sam, Dr. White. What was he like? DR. JIM WHITE, KNEW BOY SCOUT, SAM THOMSEN, FAMILY PASTOR: Sam was just an engaging young man. I've known him for the last five years that I've been there. And it's just been a joy to watch him. And he always had a wonderful, engaging smile on his face and a little bit of mischief. But he always -- was always there and I just always enjoyed being with him and my conversations with him.
KING: Was he a very active boy scout?
WHITE: Oh, absolutely. He was active in everything that he did. He didn't ever do anything haphazardly. He was always just full bore at everything he did, whether it be church or boy scouts or sports.
KING: Have you talked to or been with the family?
WHITE: Yes, I've been with the family several times today. And, you know, obviously they're devastated. But they're strong people and their faith is strong and they are -- they're going to be fine.
KING: Isn't that the hardest thing, though, pastor, how do you tend to someone who's lost a child?
WHITE: Absolutely. You know, sometimes you can kind of describe, you know, or explain some things. But this -- this is just one of those kind of things it's almost impossible to explain.
KING: Yes. Thank you, pastor.
Dr. Jim White. He was Sam Thomsen's pastor.
Now we go to Des Moines, Iowa. Colby Gochanour -- is that the correct way to pronounce it, Colby?
COLBY GOCHANOUR, BOY SCOUT, AARON EILERTS WAS HIS BEST FRIEND: It's Gochanour.
KING: Gochanour. Best friends with the late Aaron Eilerts.
What can you tell us about Aaron, Colby?
GOCHANOUR: He was a very -- he was a very musical person. He adored Elvis. He was -- you can't even describe him. He was very kind- hearted. He would do anything that you asked him to do and he just helped people. Like he had things for -- pillows for patients. He was, as people pretty much know, he was in boy scouts. He played football and stuff. And he was just a really good guy.
KING: The boy scout interest, was he a cub scout before that? Was he always into this?
GOCHANOUR: Yes. He was a very -- he always took this very seriously.
KING: Of course, this camp they were at, that was special training.
I guess this was for advanced boy scouts, right?
GOCHANOUR: Yes. He was training to become an Eagle Scout. But, unfortunately, he didn't make it.
KING: How did you hear about it?
GOCHANOUR: One of my friends called me this morning saying that he was one of the four that died. And me -- I was in complete denial. And I started watching the news and his name came up and yes.
KING: So when you heard about the four, did you fear he might be one of them?
GOCHANOUR: I guess I really didn't know he was over there. But I thought he was just at home, but now that morning, when I heard that he was over there, it scared me. And then I learned that he was one of the four.
KING: Have you seen his folks?
GOCHANOUR: Yes, I did. I saw them today. And they were holding pretty strong.
KING: Yes. It had to be terrifying.
Are they dealing with it -- does he have brothers and sisters?
GOCHANOUR: He's an only child.
KING: Oh. That's got to be terrible.
What did he want to be, Colby?
GOCHANOUR: He said to me last July -- I don't know if it ever changed. But he said he wanted to become a chef and he wanted to live in France.
KING: What grade are you guys in?
GOCHANOUR: We would have been freshmen next year.
KING: In high school?
KING: Thanks, Colby. Thanks for your thoughts.
GOCHANOUR: Thank you.
KING: Let's check in with Chad Myers against at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.
Chad, can you tell us what's causing all this?
Is this some sort of a special weather system? Is this an unusual year? Is this warming? What is this? MYERS: It was an unusual year February, March and April. That's when La Nina was in charge, basically, out in the Pacific Ocean -- a cold pool of water in the Pacific Ocean down by South America.
That's now gone, so we can't blame this on La Nina. The early tornadoes we had -- the fatalities we had in February, March and April, we can kind of blame at least some of that.
What we're blaming weather like this on today that's moving into Kansas City right now with tornado warnings is that we have been -- we have very cold air out West. It's been record cold weather all the way through the West in the past couple weeks -- and, for that matter, most of spring.
It's been very warm on the East Coast -- 99 degrees in Newark for two straight days.
You get cold on one side and warm on the other, Larry, and it's going to clash. And that clash has been in the Plains. And it's been in the same place for week after week.
MYERS: And that's why we have so much flooding, because these storms have gone over Iowa and Missouri and Illinois and Indiana.
MYERS: Fifteen hundred tornadoes so far this year.
KING: The East and the West and the middle pays the price.
MYERS: Right. That's why it's called Tornado Alley.
KING: Thanks, Chad.
An update on those who were injured but survived, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
KING: That, by the way, is exclusive video from an Eagle Scout and volunteer at the camp at the center of the storm last night. The cell phone video was from 20-year-old A.J. Loson.
Joining us now in Omaha is Ethan Hession. He's Conal's 13-year- old son and a boy scout survivor who was part of Troop 374. Conal Hession is, of course, Ethan's father.
They're both joining us right there.
And Father John P. Schlegel is the president of the famed Creighton University. Five of the critically injured boy scouts were transferred to the Medical Center there.
Ethan, where were you? ETHAN HESSION, BOY SCOUT, SURVIVED TORNADO: I was in the red troop shelter, which was the shelter that got hit mostly by the tornado. That was the most damaged shelter.
KING: Did you know any of the boys who didn't survive?
E. HESSION: I knew one that was on staff, but I did not know him personally.
KING: Did you fear for your life?
E. HESSION: Yes, I did. Me and my friends. And I just -- I remember looking up and seeing my friend during the tornado. He just said, "God save us."
KING: Conal, when you heard that four boy scouts were killed, had you been in touch with your son or did you fear that Ethan might have been one of them?
CONAL HESSION, ETHAN'S FATHER: We feared the worst. The first information we had was just on the news, simply saying that the camp had been leveled by the tornado. And shortly thereafter there was word of fatalities as well. My wife and I had to come up with a plan to try to find our son.
KING: With all of the problems in the Midwest, Conal, did you have any fear about sending Ethan to this camp?
C. HESSION: It's funny you say that. I had no fear of sending him to it. He's been to many a boy scout camp. In fact, I've been to that camp with him, and have stayed in that shelter with him a couple years ago, Larry. But my wife was very concerned about the tornadoes. And with the tornadoes that had come through Omaha just a couple days before, was very concerned, and said, I'm not sure about this. In fact, Thursday night was the night he was supposed to go on an extended camp out. So --
KING: Ethan, did you get any warning?
E. HESSION: We got some warning about severe weather. The staff came around and they said, everybody latch down your tents, there will be some severe weather. Then about like ten minutes later, we heard a siren go off, and we all ran to the troop shelter.
KING: Father Schlegel, tell us about the critically injured. I understand five are at the Creighton University Hospital. Did you visit them all today?
SCHLEGEL: I did indeed. I went over right after the noon hour to speak with all five of them and all five of their families. It was just a very inspirational experience. There's a 13-year-old sitting there who looks up at me and says, father, I saw death for the first time. You just get this feeling that this young man is going to mature into a very successful and sure-footed individual. In every room there's a different story. But one of the things that was a common thread, if you will, is that they all talked about how well-prepared they felt, how well- prepared their buddies felt. The one fellow who was hit on the head with a rock from the fireplace woke up in the arms of one of his fellow scouts. Other ones commented on how they first -- when they first fell down, how they were picked up by those around them. The one fellow also had passed out for a second time, and he has a rather severe concussion.
Generally, they were extraordinarily calm and collected, and not -- I wouldn't say tremendously emotional through all of this, but very -- as the parents would say to me, they have changed. This is not the son I sent to camp a couple days ago. I think that indeed will be the case.
KING: Father, are any of them in serious trouble?
SCHLEGEL: No, they're all in stable condition, Larry, thank god.
KING: Ethan, back to you a second. I understand you helped one of the boys?
E. HESSION: Yes, I helped a lot of the boys. What happened was there were a lot of the boys that were under rubble and under just big stones from the fireplace. I just helped people up. I like lifted cinder blocks, and then I did something that most people would not think to do, is I checked for shock, and I made sure that everyone who was out of there was laying down and had their feet propped up and was -- I was very careful to make sure nobody went into shock.
KING: Hey, Conal, you have an unusual boy here.
C. HESSION: I have a very unusual boy here, Larry. I'm very proud of him.
KING: You ought to be. I guess, are you staying with the boy scouts, Ethan?
E. HESSION: Yes, I was.
KING: Are you thinking maybe not staying with the boy scouts? There's a little hesitancy there.
E. HESSION: I'm not going to go on any camp outs for a while, because I'm just -- I'm a little fearful of tornadoes.
KING: Good thinking.
E. HESSION: But, yes, I'm going to stay with the boy scouts. They prepared me for this, and I'm so glad they did.
KING: Father, you must be very proud of these young men.
SCHLEGEL: I am, Larry. I went to see them today, not so much as the president of Creighton University and our medical center, but more as the former president of the mid-America council of the Boy Scouts of America. Scouting is a very important part of my life over the years. So I felt I just had this almost a immediate urge to go over and see what I could do, not in the medical sense, but in being present and just being representative of the broader boy scout movement.
KING: I salute you all. Ethan Hession, Conal Hessian, and Father John P. Schlegel.
We're changing gears and talking politics. Can the candidates count on anyone's vote? After the break.
KING: A lot of people not decided in this election? Are they Democrats thinking of voting Republican? Republicans thinking about voting Democrats? A lot of undecideds. We have a panel to discuss all that. They are, here in Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller, radio host of her own show. She supports Obama. In Washington, Hillary Rosen, political director of "The Huffington Post." She supported Hillary and now endorses Obama. Back in L.A. With Reed Dickens, former White House assistant press secretary for George W. Bush, who supports McCain. And in Washington, Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter TownHall.com, and a conservative commentator as well.
Stephanie, is there a lot of people who you might presume to be in the Obama camp who are wondering maybe not?
STEPHANIE MILLER, TALK RADIO HOST: I have to tell you, we've had a lot of emotion in this Democratic primary. There's a lot of irrational callers to my radio that said Edwards didn't get in, I'm voting for Hitler. So I think there's a little bit of emotion that needs to subside. But I think they'll come to Obama's side. And I think he's been getting record number of Republican and independents. My Republican family, some of them are voting for Obama.
KING: We know many, Reed, on the far right didn't like McCain, didn't trust McCain. Do you sense a lot of people not sure?
REED DICKENS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ASSISTANT PRESS SECRETARY: Absolutely. I think this is a fascinating dynamic. I think McCain has a very clumsy relationship with Evangelicals. He doesn't understand them and they don't particularly like him. That's not the way you want to head into the general with your base. On the Obama side, obviously he doesn't have the base locked down. So you have all this talk in the chattering class about the swing voters and swing constituencies, when neither candidate has their base locked down.
KING: Hillary, what's your read? The story is that while the latest polls show Obama six points ahead with a very unpopular Republican standing, a lot of Senate seats going to be lost, that it should be more than that. Is this one of those elections no one can figure?
HILLARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't know. Coming after a tough primary where there was a very divided Democratic party, I think that Obama's in a pretty good place right now in bringing the party together. It really feels like John McCain has the bigger problem now in coalescing a party around him. Today, he had 14 Republican members of Congress say that they were not going to endorse him. He had another dozen members of Congress who wouldn't even answer the question.
You know, the conservative columnists tonight on air with us, my friend Amanda, won't even say she supports John McCain. I think that John McCain has a much bigger problem, and the ticket has a bigger problem, because, of course, Democrats narrowly won the Congress last time, and Republicans are counting on John McCain not to have a Democratic sweep of Congress this time.
KING: Let's ask Amanda. Are you conflicted?
AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM: Sure, a little bit. Let's first talk about the article that Hillary mentioned. That was published by "The Hill." It detailed 14 members of Congress who said not that they didn't like McCain, but that they didn't feel comfortable publicly endorsing him or going around and being essentially one of his cheerleaders. That's a good position for conservatives to be in. There's a position where you can give the candidate some tough love.
In the end, they're probably going to vote for him. These are guys like Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul, so they're expected to be hard on some issues like energy exploration and immigration. So I don't think there's too much cause for concern here. This will go on. People will fall in line at the end.
KING: What about you?
CARPENTER: Me? I'm in the position right now, where I'm trying to cover the race as best as I can. I would want no one to question my articles and think I'm in the tank in some way for McCain, because there are things that I do think he needs to be questioned on. And I'll continue to do that.
KING: Stephanie, there have to be a lot of Hillary supporters who are not going to come to the Obama camp. The bruising was pretty bad.
MILLER: Again, I think it's early. We have a lot of emotion going on. But I can't believe at the end of the day, Larry, that in terms of the Iraq war, in terms of abortion rights, in terms of a lot of issues that -- really, at the end of the day, they'll pull the lever for McCain. I don't believe that.
KING: Why? Give me history, Reed. Why don't the Evangelicals like McCain?
DICKENS: That's interesting. I could give you a history or I could be more honest and say, I don't really know. There is something about him they don't like.
KING: Did it stem from the campaign of 2000?
DICKENS: Some of it is the Bush/McCain campaign in 2000, but I think more of it is they feel like every chance he had to poke his finger in their eye, he poked his middle finger in their eye, and on some of the issues that they care about, campaign finance and other issues, climate change, other issues like that. But at the end of the day, I travel around the country, speak in churches, talk to conservatives all the time; they can't really articulate it. But there's definitely a misunderstanding there.
KING: Should -- Hillary, should Obama take up the McCain challenge to go around and do these town halls?
ROSEN: Oh, I think he should, and I think he will. I think it's a good forum for him. People -- conventional wisdom is Obama is better in a big hall in a big speech, but I think the issues really favor Obama in these smaller meetings, because frankly that's when the stories about people's individual troubles with the economy and with, you know, their health care, and their high price of gasoline, those are the times when you really get the personal stories, when you see the need that people have in this country for real change.
And I think every time that somebody's complaining about how things are, and you have a 20-year history of John McCain voting to keep things the same, that's going to favor Obama in those forums.
KING: Amanda, you want to respond? Then I have to take a break and we'll come right back when everybody will jump in.
CARPENTER: Sure. I think the town hall is definitely a good idea. But the thing where I think McCain will have the advantage is he's had the benefit of essentially doing these long press conferences, answering lots of questions and being very free-wheeling in a way that people respond to. If you look at the way Obama just responded in the last press conference about his former vetter Johnson, he was flailing all over the place. So on those merits, I think McCain is more equipped.
KING: There's an interesting new political Web site out there. It's one of a kind. And we'll talk about it when LARRY KING LIVE returns.
KING: Before we get to that new Web site, both Reed and Stephanie want to jump in on the town hall idea -- Stephanie.
MILLER: Larry, I cannot wait.
KING: You want them to?
MILLER: Yes, Barack Obama side by side, so we can see the white- hot electricity that is John McCain in front of a crowd. I cannot wait. Somebody told me about his awful speech in front of the green screen, he looked like one of the guys on Indiana Jones that was melting. I think if he wants to play in front of a crowd at all, other than that cast of caccoon that travels with him, he will need to do something with Barack Obama. So this is so good. Go, John McCain!
KING: You want they to do the town hall.
DICKENS: I do. I can't help but agree that the contrast -- obviously Obama is very talented. I can see why they want the contrast. But I think the down side is great for Obama. He has a breathtaking lack of details. He's very abstract. And also, I'm sure Senator McCain thinks he'll have some sort of Colonel Jessup moment. Obama will inevitably talk about him being insensitive to the troops, and I'm sure McCain will respond that he has a son in Iraq and he was a POW, and he doesn't need a lecture from a young professor.
KING: It won't be dull.
MILLER: I can't way for you need me on that wall moment. You want me on that wall.
KING: Hillary, Obama has launched a new Web site, Fight the Smears. It's supposed to deal with negative rumors. Smart or better to ignore it? One of the reasons it was launched, by the way, over a rumor that Michelle Obama had supposedly said "whitey" in church. What do you make about a Web site that deals with rumors. Hillary?
ROSEN: Well, I think it's an important part of what will clearly be the Obama strategy, which is not let any grass grow under any charge. I think the McCain campaign actually made a mistake this week, going after Jim Johnson, Obama's vetter, because, first of all, the facts have now shown that Jim Johnson didn't get any favorable mortgage loans. And so this was really all for naught. And they smeared a good guy for no reason.
People in glass houses should not throw stones. And the Obama technology team will take on the McCain team and I think that they're going to do better. I think that they're going to be faster. I think we'll see rapid response and big aggression. I think John McCain will wish that they doesn't start the politics of personal destruction, because I don't think he'll win this.
KING: Amanda, one of the critics of John Kerry was he didn't respond fast enough to criticism. Obviously, Obama will react differently and set up Web sites. Do you think it's a good idea?
CARPENTER: Sure, it's a good idea in strategy to have a rapid- response team. But I can tell you right now that conservatives on the Internet are saying that he's essentially responding to the smears with the smear Web site. A lot of the things on that Web site blame conservative blogs for perpetuating this rumor about Michelle Obama making this remark, when in actuality it was started by a blogger named Larry Johnson, who was a former Hillary supporter on a blog called No Quarters. Then other people picked it up. But that's where it started.
I think we'll have a fight over where the smear came from, probably because he made this Web site that he might not want to talk about.
KING: Stephanie? MILLER: But then what happens is Rush Limbaugh repeats it. See, this is the era we're in, Larry, that you have to have a Web site to refute things that aren't true. I did not have sex with big foot while my wife was calling someone whitey. What? It's a whole Web site based on something that's not even true in the first place. But I think Hillary's right, after the Swift Boating, we have to do it, because people will believe anything.
DICKENS: I think the Obama campaign doesn't need to have any fear of being like the Kerry campaign. One, they have a good candidate. And two, they're much more savvy on the technology. What I would say is this is such an inside the beltway stories. I could take a nap while we're talking about it.
KING: Whitey is not.
DICKENS: No, I'm talking the vetter story, smearing a vetter. Nobody even knows what a vetter is. It's an absurd thing. So I think over the course of this campaign, what you're going to see is a very tough electoral map for Obama. Obviously the climate favors him. He's obviously a talented campaigner, but it's a very tough electoral map.
KING: We'll wrap it up right after this.
KING: Let's get a call in from Hatsburg, Mississippi -- hello.
CALLER: Good evening. My question is, if you live in a non- swing state, where one candidate is going to get -- you know, win your state, and you want to send a message to the Republicans and Democrats that you're not happy with either candidate, would it be legitimate to vote for a libertarian or some other candidate to send a message to the Republicans and Democrats that they need to do better at giving us better choices? Thanks.
DICKENS: That's a great question. I don't think so. I think unless a third-party candidate is on the ballot in key states, you know, in Florida, et cetera, I don't think it makes that big of a difference, nor do I think the campaigns pay that much attention.
MILLER: I disagree, sir. If you are conservative, you need to vote for either Ron Paul or Bob Barr or somebody. You don't need to have the Republicans to disrespect you like that, sir. You need to be free.
KING: Hillary laughs. Is this -- can we say if the Democrats win Ohio, they will win this? If the Republicans win Pennsylvania, Hillary, they will win this?
ROSEN: That's a pretty good summation. I think, you know, there's a lot of talk this year about how we'll change the electoral map. Barack Obama has got his sights said on Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia. John McCain clearly has his sights on Pennsylvania and Michigan. I'm doubtful about those two for him. Ohio, it could all just come down to Ohio again. There's every reason to think so.
KING: Do you agree, Amanda?
CARPENTER: I think after we've seen the ups and downs of this election so far, and watching Hillary pull off New Hampshire by a long shot, I'm reluctant to make any prediction. But that's what the pollsters are saying. That's the direction it's going right now. But obviously we'll have to wait and see.
MILLER: I think it's going to be a whole new year this year. I really do think states, like Hillary said, Colorado, Virginia, and I think he's building a whole new coalition. The youth vote, I think we'll see a whole new electoral map.
DICKENS: You know youth. If there's a Playstation tournament at the dorm, they're not going to show. I wouldn't put too much --
MILLER: Don't you snap on my college students. They're going to bring it.
DICKENS: I do think you'll see a shift in the map. McCain is going after Pennsylvania, West Virginia, some of those states. I do think you'll see some shifting around of the electoral map. The key factor here is Hillary Clinton. She was talking about 14 no-name Congressmen not supporting McCain, not as big of a problem. How visible is Hillary going to be?
KING: Thank you all very much. We end tonight with some happy news and some sad news. I want to send good wishes to the family of CNN's Bob Coleman. Bob was a much loved presence here. He died today. He was only 55 years old. He knew how to do his job with a sense of style and compassion and a class that will be missed. And he knew how to make people laugh. He was a good friend to many at CNN in Atlanta and at all of CNN's news rooms across the globe and to this show.
He leaves a wife and a young daughter and our condolences to Nancy and Adrienne.
And I want to wish the Vick Damone (ph) the very best on his 80th birthday. I can't believe it, Vick, 80-years-old. Vick Damone who Frank Sinatra -- Look at that handsome man. Frank Sinatra once said, I wish I had his pipes. He's a fellow Brooklynite, a fellow graduate of Lafayette. Go on forever, Vick. We love you.
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It's time now for Campbell Brown and "A.C. 360."