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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Battle for the White House

Aired September 14, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER (voice-over): Hurricane Ike smashes through Texas.

UNKNOWN: It looks like a war zone.

BLITZER: Leaving behind billions of dollars in damage and millions of people without power. We'll get an update from FEMA head David Paulison and we'll check in with CNN reporters in the hurricane zone.

The battle for the White House heats up.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: They will spend any amount of money and use any tactic out there.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Senator Obama was wrong about Iran, he was wrong about Iraq, he was wrong about Russia.

BLITZER: We'll talk the issues with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

UNKNOWN: I like her spirit and I like her no-nonsense attitude.

BLITZER: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has energized Republicans.

UNKNOWN: I'm simply here today with a short break in my moose hunting to say let's get to the facts.

BLITZER: But with an investigation under way back home, will she become a liability? We'll talk about that and much more with representatives of both campaigns.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I predict that Senator Obama will win and will win big. BLITZER: Bill and Hillary Clinton enter the fray. Four of the best political team on television weighs in on that and much more. LATE EDITION's line-up begins right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 10 a.m. in Houston and 6 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for LATE EDITION. We'll get an update on the situation in Texas from the FEMA Administrator David Paulison in just a moment.

But first, let's go to Galveston right now on the Gulf Coast. There is a disaster unfolding. CNN's Rob Marciano is inspecting all the damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Update our viewer, Rob, on what we know, what you're seeing right now.

MARCIANO: Seemingly every time we turn the corner, Wolf, there's another speck of damage. And if you want to call this a speck, well, that's an understatement. Look at the -- almost a mile. It's probably about 400 or 500 yards of nothing but debris on this stretch of the sea wall. This admittedly is mostly came from the other side of the sea wall, up here filled with shops and restaurants and nightclubs stretching back over 80 years.

It's all been piled up here, destroyed by Hurricane Ike. A lot of this survived Hurricane Alicia and Hurricane Carla, which means this is the worst storm that hit Galveston since the storm of 1900. Right now, the mayor is saying that the city, the island is closed for business. You can get out, but they're not letting anybody in. Obviously no power, no water, no word on when that will be restored.

And still search and rescue missions continue today. We talk with some crews last night and they continued to go out on missions. They'll do it again today. And they still have a good stretch of the island, Wolf, that needs to be examined. They have to assess it. They have to go door to door and see who is in the house, how are they, and if they're in there, get them out. So about two-thirds of the western end of the island is still underwater. They have to wait for some of those waters to recede before they can get into those homes and they will do that today.

And to add insult to injury, Wolf, we've been experiencing some rain, some heavy at times, in the last couple of hours. So the weather not exactly cooperating with their recovery efforts today.

BLITZER: You've covered a lot of hurricanes over the years, Rob. Give us a sense how this compares to some of the others that you've covered.

MARCIANO: Well, I suppose that the large scope of this one, the wind field was huge, the surge was big, although it wasn't as big as we feared, which is good. The surge here got to about 11, 12, maybe 13 feet. As you know, the sea wall, which was built after the 1900 hurricane is 16, 17 feet. As a matter of fact, these are the pillars that kind of commemorate that sea wall, and then eerily enough all the pier work and all the restaurants and stores that were on that pier is now gone.

So the sea wall can only protect the people behind it, obviously what's in front. It cannot protect and what's on the sides it cannot protect either. So I suppose what makes this city so vulnerable is what makes this hurricane so unique, Wolf. It's that, you know, it can get you from either side. The bay side got it bad. The west side got it bad and also Bolivar Peninsula on the east side got it pretty bad as well. But downtown Galveston, it's bad, but it could have been a lot worse if we got a surge of 15 to 20 feet in here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rob, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. Hurricane Ike, by the way, has now been downgraded to a tropical depression, but it's still bringing lots of rain, possible flooding out in the Midwest.

And as it passed, Ike caused deaths and massive destruction across a large area of the U.S. Gulf Coast, especially in Texas. Let's get a status report right now on the recovery. We go to the FEMA administrator, David Paulison. He's joining us from FEMA headquarters here in Washington. Mr. Paulison, thanks very much for coming in. How would you compare, Ike, for example, to Katrina?

PAULISON: Well, it's hard to compare hurricanes. You know, Ike came in pushing a lot of water in front of it. The winds are what we expected. We got a little bit less tidal surge than we thought. But you saw the damage that it caused to Galveston, Orange County, downtown Houston and others.

It's a pretty difficult storm. What we don't have is the standing water like we had in Katrina. Katrina, where the dikes broke, the water flooded the city of New Orleans and just stayed there for weeks on end until they could pump it out. This, the water will be draining back out, but we do have a lot of tidal surge damage particularly in those areas that you guys down on the ground you see yourself.

Total destruction of some of those buildings, a lot of rescues still going on, but not the type of rescues we had with Katrina where we had thousands of people trapped on roofs. Here it's to onesies and twosies and things like that. We're now going door to door working with the Texas Task Force Ike and the National Guard and the Coast Guard making sure we do a very thorough search of all the areas where people still could be trapped.

BLITZER: So the search and rescue operations, they're under way right now. How much longer do you think that phase, this phase of the operation is going to continue?

PAULISON: Well, we'd like to wrap it up today. It will go on until we searched every house. We're doing the same thing in Louisiana, launch those urban search and rescue teams this morning to go into those areas that are flooded in western Louisiana. The Galveston area is probably the last, and we'll do Orange City. But I think hopefully we'll get those things done either today or tomorrow. And then look at the debris removal, getting people back in homes as quickly as we can. BLITZER: We know there's about 4 million people who live in the greater Houston metropolitan areas and the pictures are really devastating of what's happening there downtown, those high-rise office buildings, other buildings, all the windows basically shattered. How much longer do you think before those millions of people are able to get back at least their power?

PAULISON: Wolf, that call will be done by the county judges. They'll have to make that decision, when it's safe to go into each county and we'll do it county by county and we'll assist them with that. But they have to make that call. When is it safe to come back in? We're asking people just to be patient. Don't be in a hurry. If you're in a safe place, whether you're at a shelter or hotel or motel or staying with friends and family, just stay right there. There are a lot of places - most places don't have electricity. No water, no sewage. Gas stations aren't open. Grocery stores aren't open. So wait for that county judge to say it's safe to come back in. We're getting power back up. Just do a very calm, phased approach of moving back into these areas.

BLITZER: I assume you agree with local authorities who are imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew, for example, in Houston in the greater area. That's a good idea, right?

PAULISON: I think it's a great idea. There's a lot of debris on the red. The streetlights are out and it's dark and dangerous. You know, just like I do going through these hurricanes, most people who are injured are killed after the storm and not during the storm. So if you're in a safe place, just stay right where you are and be patient.

BLITZER: And you think that's going to last at least a week, maybe longer?

PAULISON: Again, it could be that long. It could be a couple days in some areas. Some areas may not get power back for two or three weeks. The energy companies formed a consortium and the state is organizing that, putting priorities on what we need to get back up and running, focusing on hospitals on water plants, on sewer plants, get that infrastructure back up and running. Then we can move people back in.

BLITZER: FEMA, do you have all the water, the medicine, the food, the trailers, everything you need to help these folks in place ready to move in anytime soon?

PAULISON: We do. We've pre-staged millions of liters of water, millions of MREs. The Red Cross is doing half a million hot meals a day. So we're working together to make sure we have it in place, so when people move back in, there's enough food and water to sustain them. But what we'd really like is for them to not to move in until the grocery stores are open.

BLITZER: And what about those folks who didn't leave? Even when they were warned they possibly could face in the words of the National Weather Service certain death, a lot of them decided they didn't leave. It looks like the numbers of dead, thank god, are a lot lower than many of us anticipated.

PAULISON: You know, it's really -- we see it a lot in storms where people refuse to leave. What they do is they put themselves and their families at risk, and now we have to put first responders at risk. The firefighters, the police officers, paramedics, have to now go out and rescue people. It puts them at risk also. I'm hoping the people learned a lesson and the next time a storm comes through, which it will eventually, that they will evacuate and not put themselves or families and the rescues all in harm's way.

BLITZER: That's good advice.

BLITZER: David Paulison is the administrator of FEMA. Good luck to everyone under your jurisdiction. Good luck to everyone involved in this recovery operation right now. Thanks for joining us.

PAULISON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more coverage on Hurricane Ike as it continues its path of destruction over the next two hours. But up next, we'll turn to politics and the race for the White House. Two governors from two closely contested states, Minnesota and New Mexico, they're standing by live to join us. Tim Pawlenty and Bill Richardson right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up later, by the way on LATE EDITION, we're going to discuss charges of sexism on the campaign trail with Linda Douglass and Nancy Pfotenhauer, key members of the presidential campaigns. That's coming up a little bit later.

But right now, we're joined by two governors intensely involved in this year's race. New Mexico's Democratic Governor Bill Richardson is joining us from Las Vegas and Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota is joining us from Minneapolis. Governor, thanks to both of you for coming in.

PAWLENTY: Glad to be with you, Wolf.

RICHARDSON: Thanks very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Governor Richardson, I'll start with you. And I'm going to play a McCain campaign ad that was released this week. It underscores how tough this race is getting right now. A virtual dead heat in the national polls, perhaps even more important in several of the key battleground states, a virtual dead heat. Here's this ad, and then we'll discuss. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He was the world's biggest celebrity, but his star faded. So they lashed out at Sarah Palin, dismissed her as good- looking. That back fired, so they said she was doing what she was told, then desperately called Sarah Palin a liar. How disrespectful. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that's a pretty tough ad against Barack Obama. What do you think? What's your reaction when you see an ad like that?

RICHARDSON: Well, it just makes me mad. It's just distortions baloney really, because here we have a situation where I'm in Las Vegas, Nevada, a battleground state, home foreclosures are the highest in the city's history. Tourism is down, a lot of job losses in one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

This election should be about the economy. What we have here is a Bush administration and John McCain who has voted with them 95 percent of the time continuing these policies that are really hurting the country. Now they're trying to turn it around on Governor Palin. You know, here's the issue with Governor Palin. She's a governor like Tim and I are. That's good executive experience. She's telegenic, she's smart, but there are just a lot of distortions about her record coming out.

I just learned on national security grounds that she said she had been to Ireland in her travels as a governor. You know, the fact is, it was a refueling stop in Ireland. That she went to Iraq? She was on the border of Kuwait and Iraq. A lot of distortions about the national security record.

It is clear that she doesn't pass the test as a national security candidate. So they throw back these distortions and these ads about, you know, who called who what. The policy, the debate should be on the economy with Bush and McCain it's more of the same. With Barack Obama it's change and moving in the right direction internationally. And rebuilding our economies in cities like Las Vegas, who are starting to hurt.

BLITZER: Lots of material there, Governor Pawlenty. The McCain campaign by the ways says that when she was visiting with troops from the Alaskan National Guard in Kuwait, she do go about a mile or so into Iraq across a northern Kuwaiti border. But go ahead and respond to what we just heard, because a lot of serious stuff there.

PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, Wolf, remember when Senator McCain invited Senator Obama to have a series of town hall meetings across the country? At first, Senator Obama said that sounds like a great idea, focused on the issues, the tone and tenor of the debate may change. Senator Obama changed his mind and went in a different direction, and his campaign has gone increasingly in a different direction as his star has faded. He was ahead pretty substantially in the spring and early summer. Now he's not even in a place like Minnesota. The polls out this morning show the race tied.

So he's getting somewhat desperate or hysterical. And when Governor Palin was first announced as a running mate, the emphasis was on things like her 17-year-old daughter. So it wasn't the McCain campaign that started to focus on things unrelated to the economy, unrelated to the issues of our time. It was other folks including Senator Obama's campaign or his surrogates that were bringing these issues forward. So I think it's unfair to say now as Senator McCain's campaign is defending Governor Palin that somehow that's inappropriate.

BLITZER: What about the point that Governor Richardson made that she really doesn't have much national security experience. And visited Kuwait, visited Germany to meet with troops from the Alaskan National Guard. Was on a vacation in Canada and in Mexico had a refueling stop in Ireland, but really hasn't had much experience and she told Charlie Gibson on ABC she really has never met with any world leaders.

PAWLENTY: The facts are she has traveled internationally somewhat as you have just described, but more importantly she's running for vice president and has as much or more executive experience and leadership experience as Barack Obama does, and he's running for president. She's run a state. She's been the commander- in-chief of a national guard. She's been a leader on one of the most internationally and national security sensitive issues of our time, and that is energy.

Barack Obama has not had that kind of executive or leadership experience. So if we want to have a contest about who has had more leadership executive experience or opportunities to exercise their judgment in ways that, you know, relate to defining issues or leadership or executive experience, she far exceeds Barack Obama.

BLITZER: On that point, Governor Richardson, there have been other presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates for that matter who didn't have a whole lot of national security experience, including then the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, when he was elected president in 1992. He had traveled around the world including when he was a student, a Rhodes scholar but he hadn't really engaged in lots of national security experience like you have, for example.

RICHARDSON: Well, look, Barack Obama is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's traveled extensively, he's met foreign leaders, he's worked in a bipartisan way with Senator Lugar to pass nuclear proliferation legislation. He has had international experience as a human being with his background. There's no comparison. But the point with Governor Palin as a vice president is a heartbeat away from the presidency. When I saw her with the interview on ABC on national security, she didn't know what the Bush doctrine was, which is a foundation of our foreign policy. She was confused about going into al Qaeda and terrorist cells. She claimed that no vice presidential candidate in the past or vice president had met foreign leaders.

RICHARDSON: I mean, almost all of them had -- Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Richard Nixon. I mean, just the facts are so blatantly wrong that they should just admit, all right, she doesn't have this foreign policy experience, but she has executive experience.

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Pawlenty respond to the specific points that Governor Richardson made on the interview with ABC News.

Go ahead, Governor Pawlenty.

PAWLENTY: Well, just quickly, on that issue with working with Senator Lugar on rounding up loose nuclear weapons, Barack Obama has cited that as one of his bold and courageous gestures of working across part lines. My goodness, Wolf, who's against rounding up loose nuclear weapons. We're all for that. If passed on a voice vote, I think, unanimously or nearly so, so that's not an example of some big bipartisan, courageous, bold leadership on his part.

But, more to the point, Governor Palin is somebody who has got the judgment and executive experience to exercise, as issues come forward in her state or on behalf of the nation as vice president; if need be, as president.

Her experience and Barack Obama's experience are different. There's no question about that. But you can see, in her experience, she's led something; she's run something; she's done something; she's accomplished something.

As it relates to Senator Obama, I'd have two questions. What has he run, in terms of executive experience? The answer is nothing.

And the answer is, what, also, has he done -- or another question, what has he done; what has he accomplished? And his record in that regard is very thin.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Governor.

RICHARDSON: Well, my response is, what has Senator McCain run? He's run nothing.

I mean, he has been a senator, a patriot. He is -- he's spent 30 years in the Senate. He is pursuing the same policies as President Bush, no change in the war. In fact, he wants to continue this war for many, many more years. On the economy, more tax cuts for the wealthy, no incentives for small business.

On the environment, he's now switched on global warming. He's switched on immigration to toe the Republican line.

And, you know, so the comparison about executive experience, I think, Tim and I at least can say we have run things; we've run our states, but to say that Senator McCain has executive experience and that he's actually been a CEO, that's just not the case.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by for a moment. I want to pick up this conversation. We have much more to discuss, including the assertion that Governor -- that Senator McCain, for that part, has no executive experience. We'll pick up on that.

We'll also go back to Texas, where first responders are still attempting to find out the extent of the enormous damage left by Hurricane Ike. Much more coming up, right here on "Late Edition."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking about the race for the White House with two influential governors, Democrat Bill Richardson, a strong supporter of Barack Obama, and Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, an equally strong supporter of John McCain. The notion that he had no executive experience -- we're talking about Senator McCain, Governor Richardson -- what about the years he commanded men and women in the U.S. Navy?

RICHARDSON: Well, look, that is commendable. He's a patriot. He's a war hero. But executive experience, in terms of running a government, running a company -- you know, when you're in the United States Senate for many years, you're voting. You're taking important decisions, but you're not like a governor who is directly affecting the lives of people, like Tim and myself are.

The point is this, look. John McCain is qualified to be president, but so is Barack Obama. And I think what Barack Obama brings is dramatic change. He can bring people together. He can restore our prestige overseas. And what senator McCain is pushing in his policies on foreign policy and domestic policy is more of the same, more of the Bush policies. And that's why the country needs, desperately, a change.

BLITZER: Here's an ad the Obama campaign released this week, Governor Pawlenty, a pretty tough ad. I'll play a clip for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: In 1982, John McCain goes to Washington. Things have changed in the last 26 years. But McCain hasn't. He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy, and favors $200 billion in new tax cuts for corporations but almost nothing for the middle class. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's focus in on the last part, $200 billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but nothing for the middle class.

What do you say?

PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, Senator McCain's tax proposal has a lot for the middle class. For example, he's offering a tax credit for individuals who can't afford purchasing their own insurance. So that would be tax relief for people to help them get health insurance.

He also has said we should eliminate or phase out the alternative minimum tax which is increasingly affecting middle-income individuals. He's also been in favor of other tax credits and deductions for middle-class individuals, including doubling the exemption for people who have dependents from $3,500 to $7,000.

And he's also mindful of the fact that the number one pathway to economic stability or success for people is something called a job.

And so having incentives or tax policies that encourage entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses to invest and to grow, to build buildings, to buy equipment, to add employees is the right direction for the country, which is in contrast to Senator Obama, who wants to heap a bucket load of new tax increases on America's businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.

And they're providing, Wolf, 70 percent of the new jobs in this country. We need to do things to encourage entrepreneurs and small- business owners, not discourage them.

BLITZER: A lot of economists say, Governor Richardson, that increasing taxes at a time of economic recession or economic distress, including for big corporations, is not good for the overall health of the economy.

RICHARDSON: Well, here's a simple fact. Under Barack Obama's tax plan for the American people, 85 percent of working families, of Americans, get a tax cut under Senator Obama's plan, about $1,000, middle-class families.

He also has rebates to help them with high gas prices, about $1,000 per family.

Look, where has Senator McCain been these last 26 years?

Why hasn't he pushed these initiatives in the Senate, that he's now for?

The point is, is that Senator McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, increase the tax cuts, saying that that's what he's going to do to stimulate the economy, while Senator Obama has said he's going to make a major effort to balance the budget. He is going to make a major effort to equalize our tax system. He is going to create jobs by infrastructure, by roads and highways and mass transit, to put people to work right away and find ways that we have a real tax break for the middle class.

You know, the middle class -- Tim and I talk to a lot of our constituents. High gas prices are killing them. You know, in New Mexico, our state fair, which is one of our great, great events, we have some attendance issues because high gas prices; the cost of living has increased dramatically.

RICHARDSON: What is this administration and what has Senator McCain done differently in proposing than President Bush? Nothing. This is why we need a dramatic change and why Barack Obama is really the change candidate.

BLITZER: On the issue of experience and judgment, Senator McCain, Governor Pawlenty, seems to have a different point of view he had now than he had a year ago. I'm going to play two clips. What he said this past week at Columbia University at that service for him, and what he said a year ago at one of the presidential debates. Listen to these two clips.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and frankly be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges that people have. I'm prepared, need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what is it? What do you think? It seems to be a contradiction between what he said a year ago, sort of belittling the importance of being a mayor or a governor for a short period of time as opposed to now when he says those are the leaders who really are close to the people?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think if you look at the totality of Senator McCain's record, you see somebody who clearly is a maverick, clearly has functioned as a change agent in Washington and not just rhetorically, Wolf. You look at the big, major issues of our time where he has parted from President Bush or parted from his own party.

There's a reason why it rings true that he's a maverick or a change agent or a reformer because his record backs it up. As it relates to Senator Obama, I think one of the reasons he's having a challenge right now in this campaign is because the rhetoric and the record don't match up. When he was in the U.S. Senate, he voted 94 times to either increase taxes or to vote against tax reductions. He's voted with his party according to third-party sources like "Congressional Quarterly" almost 100 percent of the time. He's never crossed party lines to take on a big issue or take on his own party to bring his country together as a uniter or a change agent. So the rhetoric and record don't match up. The American people aren't stupid. They're figuring this out. They figure it out.

BLITZER: That's a charge, Governor Richardson, that the McCain supporters, Republicans, make often of Senator Obama, that he really has never gone up against the wishes of the mainstream of the Democratic Party, his own party. Unlike you, for example, who has gone up against the wishes of the Democrats when it comes to gun control, for example. Is there an issue where he has taken on the Democratic Party, his own party, that you know of?

RICHARDSON: Well, here's what Senator Obama -- why I believe he should be president and his strongest asset. He's bipartisan. He wants to bring people together, Democrats, Independents, Republicans. He want to inspire people. He's the first president, if he's elected, that can actually say we need to change our energy policy, and you, the American people, have to be part of the solution. He can inspire the American people to do it.

Why I think he will be most effective is he can get Republicans and Democrats to work together. That's his strongest asset. I can find some votes where he's been, you know, contrary to the Democratic Party dictum in the Senate. He's known as an Independent. He is known as somebody that brings people together, as a healer, as a conciliator. That's why I believe he's generating so much support in this country.

PAWLENTY: If I could, Wolf, just two things. My friend, Bill has good rhetoric in that regard, but there's no actual record to back that up. And that's one of the reasons Barack Obama's campaign is faltering. People want to associate Senator McCain with President Bush, which is not accurate. But the U.S. congress run by the Democrats is half as popular as the president. And Barack Obama has voted with them nearly all the time.

So that's no change. He would be a rubber stamp for a Congress that is half as popular as the president. And on energy, one of the issues of our day, Barack Obama actually voted for the 2005 energy bill that was favored by the administration that Senator McCain voted against because it gave away too many, you know, easy money to the oil companies.

RICHARDSON: OK.

BLITZER: I'll let you respond very quickly Governor Richardson because then we've got to go. Go ahead.

RICHARDSON: I mean, John McCain is doing everything the oil companies wants them to do, including more tax breaks in his new energy policy. So that last one on oil companies, I think that Senator McCain is very firmly in their pocket.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, governors. A good discussion, thanks to both of you for coming in.

PAWLENTY: Thank you. RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And up next, many parts of Texas are still without power. Millions of people affected. Water is coming in still. The hurricane, Hurricane Ike, ravaged the region. We're going to get an update on recovery efforts when LATE EDITION continues. Then later, we'll get back to the race for the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hurricane Ike, it's been devastating, especially to Texas, parts of Louisiana. Reynolds Wolf is on the scene for us right now. Reynolds, it looks pretty awful. Where exactly are you and what are you seeing?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just give you a quick idea of where we are. We're actually near Clear Lake, Texas, that is right behind me. On the other side you've got Johnson Space Center. But behind me first, that's where it's really interesting. Wolf, you'll notice the sailboat that has been pushed up. That's not where that thing is supposed to be. That's Clear Lake. On the other side of the trees happens to be Galveston Bay. On the other side of that is the Gulf of Mexico.

And during the height of the storm, you had storm surge that came through here anywhere from six to eight feet. That was certainly some rough stuff. But so is the wind. So wind gusts, well in excess of 100 miles-per-hour. And take a look up there on the building of what it did, right here at this Hilton. You can see some of it just stripped away, a lot of the wall. I can only imagine what the guests were thinking. There were people in those rooms as the winds came through and ripped off the siding. So I can only imagine how terrifying that must be. I'll tell you, Wolf, in terms of high-rise damage, that's not something unusual in the area.

Take a look at this video that we have for you in downtown Houston. This was immediately after the storm. You can see, again, high-rise buildings, some places from the tallest buildings, the JPMorgan building had nearly 50 percent of its windows completely smashed out. When you have those windows smashed out and all that water comes in, I can't imagine how expensive it's going to be to replace all those windows and the water damage inside.

Something else to think about, let's come back here for just a moment. We'll show you that we have a lot of spots of it that you'll see right here. Wolf, that damage, those big logs of the timbers you see, all pieces of docks, pieces of boats, oil barrels, what you have you, all picked up and carried by that storage surge. In many places, that's this common site throughout much of south and south Texas and of course we've had flooding situations in many neighborhoods. It is going to be a very difficult time. Some 1.3 million people without power. Many people without water also. They may not have that power restored possibly for weeks to come. Let's send it back to you in D.C. BLITZER: All right Reynolds, thanks, we're going to get back to you. Stand by, we're watching this story, we're not going to be leaving it for long.

But up next on LATE EDITION, the Sarah Palin factor. Is she bringing new women voters to the Republican ticket? Two members of our best political team on television are here for that and much more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin held her first solo campaign appearance outside her home state speaking to several thousand supporters in Carson City, Nevada. Governor Palin has been able to drawn huge crowds, but can she influence women voters to support John McCain?

To help us assess her effect on the campaign, we're joined by two of the best political team on television, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen is here and conservative columnist and deputy editorial page editor at the "Washington Times" Tara Wall is here well.

Let's take a look at some of these poll numbers and we'll review where we stand right now. In our poll of polls, the average poll of polls, earlier this month really before the Republican Convention, in this average we had Obama at 45, McCain at 42 and unsure at 13. Now it's McCain 46, Obama 45, unsure 9 percent. I mean, national polls are important. The state polls in the battleground states much more important, but there seems to have a bounce for the McCain/Palin ticket. ROSEN: Well remember, McCain went into his convention with a significant under -- less enthusiasm than Obama went into his convention. So he had some ground to make up.

BLITZER: They're pretty enthusiasm right now, these Republicans, thanks to Sarah Palin.

ROSEN: Almost any Democrat and almost any Republican at this stage in the game should be at 45 or 46 percent because that's pretty much their base. The undecided are what matter now.

WALL: They should be. But I think early on when you looked at the polls that gave the Democrat as an unknown, the numbers were much higher and were much lower for John McCain.

BLITZER: The generic numbers, we're not mentioning names, because the country is sort of sick of eight years of the Bush administration. Is that what you're saying?

WALL: Exactly. Well in so many words, absolutely. And I think that's why you've seen even John McCain run up against this -- with this maverick title and up against what he I think has considered -- he even says it failed last few years, four years in his words. So I think it's also -- conservative columnists are having a lot of fun with this. They're calling it the Sarah surge, and you can't deny the impact that she has certainly had on his numbers.

BLITZER: I think it's true that she's had a dramatic impact so for, at least in terms of getting the vote out. These rallies where McCain and Sarah Palin show up now, they're almost Obama-like in terms of the thousands of people that show up.

ROSEN: Right, and to the point where we're hearing that Senator McCain doesn't want to go to rallies by himself now because he doesn't want to seem out crowded with Palin's numbers. But when you look at what's happened with the Palin choice and with the McCain campaign, he was running on experience for all these months. He wasn't getting very far. So he hijacked, in essence, the change message and I think he did it well. But we have to go back. I was kind of tough on Barack Obama as you remember earlier in the year.

BLITZER: Because you were a Hillary Clinton supporter.

ROSEN: When most of the talk about change was just process, I thought. What does change mean? What are we going to get for it? Obama got much more specific. Change means we're spending a billion dollars in Iraq every single month that we could be spending on health care and education and on job training at home. John McCain is falling into this trap and it's our job in the media and people's jobs on the ground to hold him accountable. They're just talking about change and reform for change's sake now, and there's not any specificity out of his plan.

WALL: I was going to say speaking of hijacking, I thought it was ironic that now Barack Obama's new ad talks about -- he uses the word change - change is not a strategy. Well that's the exact same phrase John McCain used in his speech, the final night of convention. So I thought that was pretty ironic as far as hijacking words, if you will. But I also will say, for as much as he's being touted for this ongoing McCain/Bush administration, I don't think so it's flying among voters. I think he has been No. 1, enough of a maverick and has had a record as enough of a maverick.

BLITZER: You're talking about John McCain.

WALL: John McCain, long-standing record in that regard. Also, many could argue that Barack Obama has become more Bush-like from the tax cuts that he's talked about and he's touted that McCain was against early on from faith-based initiatives, from his flip on FISA. It could be argued.

BLITZER: Hold on. Obama is not about to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for people making more than $250,000 a year.

WALL: But the way he talks about tax cuts is in a way that Democrats have not talked in tax cuts in any recent history.

ROSEN: Middle class tax cuts have always been a portion of Obama's plan and eliminating the tax cuts for the wealthy that McCain and Bush have done. WALL: But the majority of Bush's tax cuts were for the middle class.

ROSEN: I think you're right about one thing.

WALL: I'm saying it mimics - many of his strategies do mimic conservative policies. It's why he has broadened.

BLITZER: I think those points are up for dispute, whether most of the Bush tax cuts benefited the middle class or benefited the wealthy and the corporations.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Well that is up for argument, but many of them did.

ROSEN: He's giving to the middle class what the Bush administration has been giving away to the wealthy for years. That's where it is.

WALL: But when you're talking about child income tax credits, that's middle class.

ROSEN: That was an Obama proposal.

WALL: That was also a Bush proposal.

BLITZER: Hold on, let's move on to what I sense this week, and correct me if you think I'm wrong, a new assertiveness on the part of Barack Obama to respond to a lot of these charges, and I'll play a little clip. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift boat politics. Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some Democrats think he's not being tough enough. Others say, you know, what? That's why he should have surrogates go out there and make the case. What do you think?

ROSEN: Well look, I think he's got to be clear. I think he's got to show when he takes punches that he's not going to take them lying down. But I think what he's trying to do is get back to, you know, focusing people on things other than lipstick and focusing them on the issues.

That's where his outrage should come from. I think that's what we've seen. When you look at there is still no success in Iraq with provincial elections, with an oil law. A surge is meaningless if all we've done is quell violence and we're spending $1 billion a month. Where's the outrage there? Obama is saying we need to reinvest at home, and all McCain has been doing in these last two weeks is symbolism and taking on new messages.

BLITZER: Let me play a clip from Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin this week on ABC News. They had an exchange on abortion. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. You believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is endangered?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She basically said that's the only exception she would allow. You think that that kind of strategy is going to appeal to those disappointed Hillary Clinton women supporters?

WALL: It's not a strategy. It's her personal opinion. It's how she feels.

BLITZER: Do you think that's going to appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters?

WALL: I think, number one, there are a third of conservative Hillary Clinton women supporters that are up for grabs. So I think the conservatives ones, yes, that will appeal to a conservative-type woman.

For the pro-choice, liberal Hillary supporters who are still out there and mad about Obama, of course not.

But I think, obviously, you've seen those numbers increase for John McCain, as a result, to women voters and Hillary Clinton supporters.

I don't think, obviously, they're going to come in droves. But she certainly has an appeal. And it is -- it's her own personal appeal, and it makes her even more appealing because she can be honest and forthright with who she is whether it's in agreement or disagreement...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There has been, in the polls, as you know, a dramatic turnaround among women voters, tilting now in favor of McCain as opposed to Obama.

ROSEN: Not dramatic. He's gotten independent Republican women back. He hasn't made a dent in Democratic women in any significant way.

But -- so, two things. Women don't want to be seen as single- issue voters on the issue of abortion, although an overwhelming majority of Americans and women are pro-choice and want the government to stay out their private lives.

Number two, women are the sole, you know, decision-maker on a lot of things like health care. They care about health care. They care about decent wages.

Health care costs have gone up four times faster than job pay in the last four years. John McCain doesn't have a health care program. Women care more about that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, he has a program but you don't agree with it?

ROSEN: His program is really to keep going as it is and let, you know -- survival of the fittest is his health care program.

WALL: It's a program that allows you, where most people who don't have health insurance...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: But there's no health care.

WALL: If they find themselves without health insurance -- and many times, particularly with women, that change job to job, they're able to take that plan with them.

ROSEN: It does not provide any ability to do that. So that's just wrong, Tara.

WALL: Well, that's part...

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Number one, that's...

ROSEN: Barack Obama's plan has subsidies for companies to do that and tax credits to do it.

WALL: Excuse me while I finish, please, Hilary.

BLITZER: Let her finish...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and finish, and then we'll...

WALL: There is one part of this plan that make an appeal. The other part that does make him appealing, and Sarah Palin appealing to these women -- I agree, it's not a single-focused issue; it is a large swath of issues that includes tax reform, that include transparency in government, that include some of the things that she's been able to do as a reformer.

She's appealing not just because she's pro-life but because of what, in the short time that she has had, has what appears to be a very conservative policy, a very conservative approach to government, and a very realistic way of dealing with issues from...

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: ... from a middle-based, middle America, everyday kind of woman that most people can ascribe to and associate with.

BLITZER: We've got to end it right there, but I'm going to play a little clip from "Saturday Night Live" last night, and I want to discuss this for a second, but just watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" CAST MEMBER: Hillary Clinton, who came so close to the White House, and me, Sarah Palin, who is even closer.

(LAUGHTER)

Can you believe it, Hillary?

(LAUGHTER)

AMY POEHLER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" CAST MEMBER: I cannot!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, Tina Fey, making a return to Saturday night.

Who's -- she's pretty good as Sarah Palin, you've got to admit.

ROSEN: Tina Fey is a genius.

WALL: Very good.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Genius? What do you think?

WALL: That's very good. It's a very good Sarah.

BLITZER: I thought it was Sarah Palin.

WALL: Dead on. Dead on.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage. We're watching two stories, the race for the White House and the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Much more, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's take a quick look and see what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.

"Newsweek" takes a political look at, quote, "What Women Want."

Time Magazine has 21 ways to "Fix Up America."

And U.S. News & World Report was a double issue last week that looks at "The New Sexual Revolution."

This programming note: CNN's Frank Sesno and Christiane Amanpour will be hosting a special discussion, "The Next President: A World of Challenges," feature five former secretaries of state.

The special will air next Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern and next Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. Up next, we'll go back to Texas to assess the massive damage from Hurricane Ike. And later, is the presidential race turning way too negative and avoiding the really important issues?

We'll ask key Capitol Hill supporters of both sides. "Late Edition" continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Hurricane Ike blasts through Texas.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The American people will be praying for them and will be ready to help once the storm moves on.

BLITZER: But how fast will help reach the shattered region? We'll go live to our reporters on the scene.

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready. We will change this nation.

BLITZER: The presidential race heats up.

PALIN: There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.

BLITZER: Supporters of both sides weigh in. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a backer of Barack Obama, and Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who supports John McCain.

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This woman is undergoing the most vicious assault.

BLITZER: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is under fire. And back in Alaska, her husband is under subpoena. Is she still a political plus for John McCain? We'll ask Linda Douglass from the Obama campaign and Nancy Pfotenhauer from the McCain campaign.

And with only 51 days left before the presidential election, why is this race so close? We'll discuss that and much more with two top political strategists, Republican Alex Castellanos and Democrat Donna Brazile, both part of the best political team on television.

This second hour of LATE EDITION begins right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We'll get to Senator Feinstein and Representative Blackburn in just a moment, but first let's go to the Houston area where Hurricane Ike has caused extensive damage in the fourth largest city in the United States. Reynolds Wolf is on the scene for us in Clear Lake, Texas, where there has been a lot more rain over the past few hours as well. It's pretty miserable over there, Reynolds, but update our viewers in the United States and around the world. What is happening right now?

WOLF: Well, the latest thing we're doing now, Wolf, is the storm is moving off so it's cleanup time. And we're not just talking about just your families, obviously with businesses, too. Take a look at this over my shoulder on the side right here on the side of me here. We've got the Hilton hotel near Clear Lake. And if you look up on the building, you can see that you've got some holes in the side where the side of the building just ripped away by winds in excess of 100 miles- per-hour.

Tell you something else, the roof in parts of the building, glass roof shattered, and we've got plenty of water damage. When you have that kind of water damage, you have companies like this one come in and what they're doing is unloading some supplies. You'll see them right behind me. What they're going to do is dry, cleanup, sanitize this place as best as they possibly can, at least make it bearable. That's the first step of many to recover in terms of business.

But it's not just businesses that are suffering. Again, a lot of communities, too. In fact, take a look at this video we have for you. This is from Surfside, Texas. This video was shot by to photo journalist, CNN photojournalist John Burson (ph). He was out there yesterday dealing with quite a bit of the storm surge that's still floating in some of the neighborhoods. You've got all kinds of debris everywhere. You've got all kinds of appliances that have been ripped out of homes.

Some homes, Wolf, completely wiped off their pavement. So there will be people that will be making their way back to their homes over the next couple days, some families not getting back until Thursday, and they're going to find absolutely nothing except just a cement slab where their home once stood.

So, it's really a scary time for many people. They will be heading back once roadways are cleared, many of them going back and things that matter so much to them, things like photo albums, maybe wedding china, gone forever. But thankfully, many people, again, came through fine. The evacuation orders on the coast were heeded. People did evacuate. Those that were left behind, many of them were still trying to figure out how they are, still rescue crews still trying to get to some of those isolated points along the coast. And we'll figure out how some of those battles, those personal battles with Ike ended up. We'll find that hopefully in the coming days. Let's send it back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, Reynolds, millions of people, especially in the Houston area, about 4 million people, live there without power right now. They just announced that there's going to be a dawn-to-dusk curfew all week in Houston and the surrounding areas. There is deep concerns about what's going on. We saw those pictures you showed us earlier of those high-rises with so many of those windows simply knocked out. It's a pretty dire picture, at least over the coming days.

WOLF: Oh, no question about that, Wolf. You really nailed it, 1.3 million people without power. And keep in mind that a lot of those trees still kind of shaky from some of the wind damage. But many of them have not had a chance to fall over.

Earlier this morning, we had some winds that came through here, so you have some trees there in a weakened state. Keep in mind, we're going to see that number, 1.3 million without power, possibly rise up a bit more, because more storms are in the forecast so there's weakened trees pushing over, hitting additional power lines.

You got it, you do the math and you know that more people are going to be without power. I will tell you though in terms of power though, they have power crews not just from Texas, but all over the United States that are coming together to help people out, to lend a hand, hopefully getting places like say the Hilton and many other neighborhoods, many people help get back on track. Let's send it to you.

BLITZER: All right, Reynolds, stand by. We're going to be coming back to you. We're going to continue to update our viewers on what's going on.

But let's move to the race for the White House right now. Barack Obama and John McCain both asked their supporters to help with recovery from Hurricane Ike and a lot of them are helping right now. But there's little doubt that partisan wrangling will replace unity by Monday, if it hasn't already.

So why are both campaigns going so negative so fast? Let's discuss this and more with two special guests, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, she supports Barack Obama, as all of you know. And Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. She supports John McCain. Thanks very much to both of you for coming in.

You know, it's intriguing to listen to Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, speak about the woman you wanted to be president of the United States, Hillary Clinton. Listen to what she said in response to a question from Charlie Gibson. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I think he's regretting not picking her now. I do. What determination and grit and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She says that Barack Obama made a major mistake in not picking Hillary Clinton to be his running mate. Is she right?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm not going to get into that. I was a supporter of Hillary. I mean, I don't think Sarah Palin is Hillary Clinton. Their views are very different, their views on reproductive freedom, the fact that, you know, Sarah Palin's personal view is that if your child is raped, that child can't have an abortion. And I don't think that stands well with American women.

Her view on pay equity. There are a number of other things that are coming out. I think one of the things that concerns me most is there seems to be resistance to vetting her. She is largely unknown on the national arena and the international arena. Her views for two reasons, one, she's going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and, two, because the vice president is now a very powerful position in America, her views are really important and I think Americans need to understand them. I think she needs to be vetted just as Geraldine Ferraro was vetted and Hillary Clinton has been vetted year after year after year.

BLITZER: What do you think about that, congresswoman?

BLACKBURN: I think that what you are seeing is the American people really respond to Sarah Palin and her resume. They like the fact that she brings diverse experience. You know, you've been a mayor. Senator Feinstein was a mayor of a major city.

BLITZER: San Francisco.

BLACKBURN: That's right. And you learn from those processes. And she has excelled at every task that is given to her. And her views have been widely discussed over the last few weeks. And the people in Alaska, of course, have talked freely about the positions that she has taken and the way she's become an expert on the energy issue.

BLITZER: The problem, congresswoman, that she disagrees with John McCain himself on several sensitive issues, on abortion, for example, a made a list, gay rights, global warming, sex education, embryonic stem cell research, and she also disagrees with him on drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge. She supports it, he opposes it. Listen to what she told Charlie Gibson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: ANWR of course is a 2,000-acre swath of land in the middle of about a 20 million acre swath of land -- 2,000 acres that we're asking the Feds to unlock so there can be exploration and development.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is that a problem that you have the Republican presidential nominee and the Republican vice presidential nominee on very sensitive issues taking different stances, not only in nuances but on some substantive differences?

BLACKBURN: You know, I think that's healthy and I think it's healthy for the debate that the American people want to see take place in exploring for American oil here on American soil, unlocking our natural resources. What she's saying about ANWR is exactly right. That 2,000 acre swath out of a 20 million acre ANWR, out of the 54 million acre northern slope, as part of the land exchange that took place, that was given to --

BLITZER: You disagree with McCain on this.

BLACKBURN: Yes, I do. And I think Governor Palin is right. I don't know if you've been or you've been up on the north slope in the village and into ANWR. I've been there to meet with some of those tribal leaders, and the town council members. They want to open up that area, and I think we should.

BLITZER: Do you want to respond to that, Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: See, I'm concerned about the fact that somebody goes into this powerful position really has the experience, the knowledge, and the temperament for it and is really going to be a truthful person. I don't know any of those things about Sarah Palin at this stage. I do know this -- I know the world has become a very complicated place. I know, for example, you know, the vice president, Dick Cheney, essentially, his office, was behind the scenes of the terrorist surveillance program, which is a very controversial program. What does she know about it? She's made a statement, well, the United States may have to use military action against Russia. I find that a very dangerous person.

BLITZER: Let's be precise.

FEINSTEIN: She said Georgia's part of NATO and therefore there is an obligation of NATO countries --

BLITZER: Which is a factually accurate statement.

FEINSTEIN: Look, NATO doesn't always respond, and the fact of the matter is if the first thing you want to say out of the box that you want to use military action --

BLITZER: Let me play that clip. Let me play that clip because this is a sensitive issue.

FEINSTEIN: All right. I know that clip well.

BLITZER: I know you know it, and I know you know it, too, congresswoman. So let's play it and we'll continue the discussion. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: The NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, she was asked, you know, should Georgia and Ukraine be members of NATO and she said yes, which a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, think they should be members of NATO. If Georgia were a member of NATO, isn't the U.S. and the other NATO allies, according to this treaty, aren't they obligated to come to the defense of a fellow ally if invaded by another country?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can tell you what I think.

BLITZER: Please.

FEINSTEIN: Right now, the United States of America has its hands full militarily. We have a major problem escalating in Afghanistan, trying to sustain an operation in Iraq, and remove troops over a period of time. I think the military is severely overtaxed at this stage. To even begin to talk about attacking Russia with its nuclear arsenal of hundreds of kilotons makes no sense to me over Georgia.

BLITZER: So in other words, you oppose -- do you believe Georgia should be a member of NATO?

FEINSTEIN: I'm not going to say at this time because I haven't really looked at it. But I don't think that one should begin to say at -- ask a hypothetical question and then go to the next stage immediately and say you're going to attack Russia.

BLITZER: Let's let Congresswoman Blackburn weigh in. Is she being reckless with U.S. national security?

BLACKBURN: I don't think she's being reckless. And, you know, what is so interesting about being the governor of Alaska and the commander-in-chief of the Alaskan National Guard is the way you prepare and the way you work with the defense resources that our nation holds there in Alaska, the way they prepare to defend our homeland, if, indeed, there were to be some kind of attack.

And you've been on those posts and bases. And you know the resources that are there. You also know that you prepare differently in case of a natural disaster because help is going to be a couple of days away. So, Sarah Palin in her role is the commander-in-chief has prepared a bit differently. And I think probably has a little bit broader view than maybe some governors of other states.

BLITZER: Let me say Senator Feinstein respond to that. What do you think?

FEINSTEIN: Well, look, Alaska has, what, 600,000 people. I come from a state with 38 million. Alaska has fewer people in it than the city of which I was mayor. She was mayor of Wasilla, that's about the size of Sausalito, California. These are not big, complicated state issues, I think. Now, that's just my view. What I want is somebody that really knows national policy and international policy.

BLACKBURN: But we've seen...

BLITZER: Hold on, hold on.

BLACKBURN: We've seen how she makes decisions and how she goes about through that decision making process. The processes that you go through as a mayor, as a governor, the work that she has done with governors of other states on the oil and gas issue and that interface that you have, of course she brings wide experience.

Now, you know, I'll have to tell you, I find it so interesting, those of us who are conservative females, there are always -- and I think even for all women -- you are going to have some who will try to diminish or belittle the experience that you bring to the table because women go about building their resumes a little bit differently.

Sarah Palin has had a broad range of experience, and she is going to move in, and she is going to do a great job when it comes to foreign policy. You have factual knowledge -- BLITZER: Women do face different struggles than men running for office. Is that right? You've faced major challenges.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can tell you this -- I've been in 14 campaigns.

BLITZER: Yeah.

FEINSTEIN: I have always been asked questions. I have always had the question pressed. I have always had to know what I was talking about. And I've always had to be truthful. And I have some questions here, particularly on the earmark issue, where Sarah Palin, you know, turned down the bridge to nowhere. Well, if you listen to the mayor of Ketchikan, which one of the points of destination of the bridge, she supported it. She hired a lobbyist as mayor. She hired a lobbyist as governor. She's asked for 200 earmarks for the state of Alaska.

I think it's a bit disingenuous, candidly, to get up there and say I'm opposed to earmarks, I'm going to change it. What is an earmark? An earmark is a congressional designation of spending. I served 13 years on the appropriations committee of the Senate. It happens because your mayors and your state officials ask for money for state projects for the most part. That's what happens to me.

BLITZER: Do you support earmarks?

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

BLITZER: Do you support earmarks?

BLACKBURN: I'm one of the ones that has taken the no-earmark pledge. But the point --

BLITZER: When did you take that pledge?

BLACKBURN: I took that last year.

BLITZER: But before that?

BLACKBURN: Before that I took infrastructure earmarks for my cities and my counties. The important thing I think here is name me any other governor in the United States who has reduced the number of earmarks they ask for, and she moved from asking for $350 million, which is what had been suggested, down to $197 million. Now, that is a pretty good decrease.

BLITZER: But she still took earmarks and John McCain opposes earmarks.

BLACKBURN: But she has made the right step of reducing those earmarks, and she has been successful in saying no. And she has been successful in instructing not only their legislature but her administration to say, let's reduce the number of earmarks. This process is broken. It has to be fixed. It has to have some transparency. And so, do you all know of any other governor that has reduced the number of earmarks they were asking for?

FEINSTEIN: Let me just say one thing.

BLACKBURN: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: I strongly believe they should be transparent.

BLACKBURN: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: I don't believe they should be added in the dead of night. I think you should have to make your earmarks, have them in the record so that everybody stands in agreement.

BLACKBURN: I agree.

FEINSTEIN: And that's happening now. I come from a big state. I think Alaska per capita gets more in earmarks than California does by far. And that's a problem.

BLITZER: It gets the most of any state.

FEINSTEIN: And that came from the governor. You know, you've got to ask for them.

BLITZER: Well they had a senator and a member of Congress who agrees.

BLACKBURN: She actually took on the congressional delegation and challenged them on this earmark issue, and she's the one that moved forward and said we have to reduce this, we are too dependent on federal dollars, and she's the one that started saying no to the earmarks. Now, as I said, I don't know of another governor or another mayor who has said no and can say that they have reduced by 40 percent the number of earmarks that they were going to request from the federal government.

BLITZER: We unfortunately have to leave it right there, but a good, serious discussion. I want to thank the both of you for coming on.

BLACKBURN: Thank you so much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. We'll continue this down the road, 51 days to go.

Later this hour, by the way, we're going to go back to Texas for a live update on the recovery effort from what turned out to be a killer hurricane, Hurricane Ike. But up next, both campaigns released very tough ads, attack ads this week, about education, the economy. But are they really accurate? We're going to try to get to the facts. Top advisers from both campaigns are standing by live to join us. LATE EDITION continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition". I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

This week, the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, had her first major national media news interview since she was picked to be John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

She got some pretty tough questions from Charlie Gibson of ABC News. So let's get to two views at how she did.

Joining us is Linda Douglass. She used to work with Charlie over at ABC News. She's now with the Obama campaign. She's joining us from Brookline, Massachusetts.

And with me here in Washington is senior economic adviser to the McCain campaign and a major senior adviser, also, to the McCain campaign, Nancy Pfotenhauer.

Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.

Linda, this ABC News/Washington Post poll among women voters -- in August, 42 percent said they supported McCain; 50 percent said they supported Obama.

Now 53 percent of these women say they support McCain; 41 percent say they support Obama. What happened?

DOUGLASS: Well, being as respectful as I can of the ABC poll, of course, this is an outlier poll. There's not another poll that shows anything like that.

And these polls are moving up and down rapidly in response to the conventions.

Senator Obama -- you saw a big rise in the polls after his convention. Senator McCain saw a rise in the polls after his convention.

If you saw the analysis that came out from Gallup yesterday, it's all settling back down to where it was.

We've always expected that this is going to be a very close race. It's going to be a close race. John McCain's been, of course, a fixture in Washington for the last 26 years. So, you know, Senator Obama is continuing to tell voters who he is.

It's going to be close, but we're going to win, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Nancy?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think that what we saw, post-election (sic) -- I do agree with Linda in that there are always polling bumps. And the question is, do they stay with the candidate?

But I think what we saw, post-Republican convention -- remember, this was a convention that was truncated because of the hurricane, and so it was a shorter-than-normal convention. I think what we saw is a tectonic shift, and I think that's what's got the Obama concerned.

BLITZER: What kind of shift?

PFOTENHAUER: A tectonic shift.

BLITZER: Really? All right. Tell our viewers what that word means.

(LAUGHTER)

PFOTENHAUER: You saw almost a structural change, if you will, not just the typical bump, because you saw major voting blocs start to switch.

And so I think that that is a sign of the fact that the American people are focusing, now, on this election. They know that Senator McCain and Governor Palin have a record, now, of reform. That's what they want. That's what they want. They want real change.

BLITZER: All right.

PFOTENHAUER: And that's what -- and they're voting for that.

BLITZER: A tectonic shift.

PFOTENHAUER: A tectonic shift.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Do you agree, Linda?

(LAUGHTER)

DOUGLASS: No, of course, I don't agree. This was one poll. It was anomalous. There was no other poll that showed any shifting like that.

You know, Senator Obama and Senator McCain are very, very close in the polls. And, you know, the American people, as they begin to really understand that Sarah Palin doesn't make any difference when it comes to what John McCain is saying about what he's going do as president. He's going to continue the policies of George Bush. She will help him continue the policies of George Bush, whether it's the economic policies, the energy policy or lack thereof, education policy, failed health policy, failed foreign policy. That's what you get with John McCain and Sarah Palin.

PFOTENHAUER: Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

DOUGLASS: She's a new -- she's a new, fresh face. For a moment, it caught people's attention. But the more you hear from her, the more you realize that she and John McCain are more of the same.

BLITZER: All right. I'll get you to respond quickly, because then I'm going to play a new -- a relatively new Obama ad that came out this week. But go ahead.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, let's see how fast I can talk, because that was quite an array of charges.

First of all, Senator McCain's got a fantastic reform proposal both for the economy, for education, for health care.

He's also by far the most qualified on either ticket to deal with our national security challenges. And Senator Obama is the most -- has the most liberal vote record in the U.S. Senate. That's not in touch with the American people.

BLITZER: Hold on one second. On all of those issues you just mentioned, are there any significant differences what the Bush administration has been doing for eight years?

PFOTENHAUER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Give us an example.

PFOTENHAUER: Spending, spending, spending, on the economy side. Senator McCain was frequently the only person standing on the Senate floor fighting his profligate taxpayer-funded party.

BLITZER: You're an economist.

PFOTENHAUER: Yes.

BLITZER: In the scheme of things, you know that that's a relatively small percent of the budget.

PFOTENHAUER: No, it is not. No. He fought against the energy bill, the highway bill and the farm bill. Wolf, that's hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding.

BLITZER: But he's not going to -- he's not going to eliminate all...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's talking about small numbers of earmarks.

PFOTENHAUER: No, he's not. And Senator Obama voted for all of those bills, in addition to proposing, in his three short years he's been in the U.S. Senate, nearly a billion dollars of earmarks, including a million for his wife's employer, which he didn't disclose, and $3.4 million for Biden's son.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on. I'll let Linda get into this.

But on the biggest spending, whether on Social Security or Medicare...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on, Linda -- Social Security, Medicare or military spending, is he involved in any major cuts in those areas?

PFOTENHAUER: He has. In fact, when we look forward...

BLITZER: Anything different than what Bush is recommending?

PFOTENHAUER: I believe so. In fact, Senator McCain was at the head of the Boeing tanker scandal investigation. So he's always been willing to subject the defense and military to the same level of scrutiny that you subject the rest of the government for.

BLITZER: But in terms of the overall numbers for the Pentagon, is he calling for reduced spending for Pentagon?

PFOTENHAUER: What we've called for is elimination of certain weapons systems that we think are not necessary and, in fact, not called for.

And as you know, during the budget process, frequently, you have members of Congress lard in...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because, everything I understand about Senator McCain, he wants a bigger U.S. military, not a smaller.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, but that doesn't mean...

BLITZER: Which is a lot more money.

PFOTENHAUER: But he called for holding the growth rate of federal spending to 2.4 percent. Underneath that umbrella, there are certain programs that will grow faster, like Social Security and Medicare will grow about 4.8 percent.

BLITZER: All right. Linda is anxious to weigh in. Go ahead, Linda. DOUGLASS: Well, I mean, I just want to say that you've raised the most important point.

I mean, Alan Greenspan, who is John McCain's guru when John McCain said that he didn't know much about the economy but he had Greenspan's book, well, Greenspan -- I wonder if he read the book because Greenspan said that John McCain's $3.4 trillion in tax cults over the next 10 years will require $3.4 trillion in spending.

And he has not even begun to come up with any plan, any sort of proposal to cut spending to balance the tax cuts that will absolutely plunge us into the red.

And all he's talking about, really, is eliminating earmarks, which are a drop in the bucket, something like...

PFOTENHAUER: That's not true.

DOUGLASS: ... 6 percent of all the spending, if even that.

And what is he going to do, Nancy? Is he going to cut Medicare by 50 percent?

Is he going to cut Social Security by about 38 percent?

PFOTENHAUER: Linda...

(CROSSTALK)

DOUGLASS: These are the kinds of big steps that would have to be taken in order to balance -- or to bring the budget into any kind of balance, as he's promising to do.

PFOTENHAUER: You're -- that is absolutely not the case.

(CROSSTALK)

PFOTENHAUER: That is absolutely not the case. You have to look at revenues as well as spending. And what Senator McCain's plan will do is bring in a period of economic expansion like we had in the '80s and '90s. Because he's doing precisely what is required to do that.

Senator Obama, however, is doing the antithesis of that. He's increasing taxes on capital formation and job creation. He's increasing spending on top of the taxpayer-funded party that we've had. And he's shoving a massive health care bureaucracy down the throats of American businesses.

It's a recipe for a recession. That's why he's backing off his own economic plan.

BLITZER: All right. I'll let Linda respond. Then I'm going to change the subject. Go ahead, Linda.

DOUGLASS: OK. None of those things are true. If you make less than $250,000, you are going to get a tax cut with Senator Obama's plan. He's proposing creating 5 million green jobs. John McCain has no proposal for really creating jobs.

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, my goodness.

DOUGLASS: What he does is he doubles -- he doubles down on the policies of George Bush by adding even more -- hundreds of billions of dollars more in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, tax cuts for corporations, $4 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry.

All of those things are the very policies that have plunged us into the hole we are in right now.

BLITZER: All right. I want to move on.

(CROSSTALK)

DOUGLASS: ... and John McCain.

I want to move on and play this new Obama ad that was released this week because, Nancy Pfotenhauer -- Nancy, you have a cameo role.

PFOTENHAUER: I saw it . Yes, I did.

BLITZER: ... in this ad. I'm going to play it and then we'll discuss. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: His campaign manager lobbies for corporations outsourcing American jobs. The campaign chairman he picked last year, a bank lobbyist. If seven of McCain's top advisers are lobbyists, who do you think will run his White House?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. We saw your picture in there.

PFOTENHAUER: Yeah, it's hilarious.

BLITZER: So what's the answer? If seven of McCain's top advisers are lobbyists, who do you think will run the White House?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, to give you some idea, a little fact check. I haven't been a registered lobbyist for seven or eight years. I ran a nonprofit and then retired. So that's how far they're stretching. This from the campaign that to this day refuses to release their list of advisers, even though they acknowledge that there are registered lobbyists on the list.

So they have absolutely nothing they can say again. Look at what each candidate does, not just who's around them. Senator McCain throughout his entire career fought corruption. He received the award from John F. Kennedy, a profile in courage award for his campaign finance reform. He received an award from public citizen because of his effort. He introduced and passed the gift ban. I mean, he has been a lobbyist's worst nightmare. Compare that again to Senator Obama in three brief years and proposed a billion dollars in special interest giveaways.

BLITZER: All right, Nancy made the case. Linda Douglass can now respond. Go ahead.

DOUGLASS: OK, Senator Obama does not take any money from lobbyists. He does not take any money from PAC. The top seven people in the McCain campaign have been some of the top lobbyists in Washington representing the oil companies, drug companies, foreign governments, and now the head of the transition team on top of all of that, Mr. Timmons, who's going to be setting up the government that John McCain would put into place if he was elected president is one of the best-known, biggest lobbyists in Washington.

So, what kind of people are going to be running the government of John McCain if his campaign is run by lobbyists, if his transition team is now being run by lobbyists. These are all people who have made their living representing the very special interests that John McCain claims he's going to try to do something about. But when he says he's going to get rid of the lobbyists in Washington, was he talking about his campaign team and now the head of his own transition team.

PFOTENHAUER: Linda, why won't you release your list? Why won't you release your list? Why won't you release the list of the people who are advising your campaign? You guys won't do it even though you acknowledge there are lobbyists. Again, look at what these men are have done, not just who's around them because that speaks to their character. John McCain has led the fight against earmarks. That's why he's known as the sheriff in the Senate. You know that he passed major campaign finance reform even though your guy promised to go along with public finance and then went back on his promise, promised one thing on gun, went against it, and has passed special interest pork barrel provisions for his wife's employer without disclosing it and for Joe Biden's son.

BLITZER: All right, there's a lot of stuff there and I know Linda Douglass has answers, but do it quickly, Linda, because we're out of time.

DOUGLASS: OK, well, first of all, I mean, so many of the positions you just named are completely false but let me ask you this question. Why does John McCain continue to take money from lobbyists? I mean, if he's concerned about the influence of special interests on people who formulate the policy in our government, why doesn't he take a pledge like Senator Obama has done and not take money from lobbyists?

PFOTENHAUER: I can't believe that Linda is talking about pledges that people have made since Senator Obama on the record several times said that he would go with public financing and as soon as it wasn't convenient for him, he threw it over the side of the boat, like he had done on so many issues.

DOUGLASS: Well then why isn't John McCain a co-sponsor? John McCain is not a sponsor in order to reform the broken system. He's not -- you know, he talks about this, but he's done nothing to try to save the public financing system as Senator Obama has done, legislation that would bring back public financing.

BLITZER: Ladies, ladies, ladies.

PFOTENHAUER: She doesn't say it was John McCain.

BLITZER: Let's continue this, and we will. We have 51 days to go. Linda Douglass joining us from the Obama campaign. Nancy Pfotenhauer joining us from the McCain campaign. Thanks to both of you for a very spirited discussion.

Coming up, we're going to go back to our Rob Marciano. He's on the ground in Texas right now, he's looking at the massive damage from Hurricane Ike. LATE EDITION continues after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Live pictures of Galveston, Texas, right now. I want an update of what's going on after Hurricane Ike slammed through the area. Rob Marciano is on the scene for us. Rob, it looks awful. Where are you now? Explain to our viewers what we're seeing.

MARCIANO: Well, you're looking for the first time the waters have receded enough now to where we can get down to where the sea wall is. This is the wall that 36 hours ago was protecting this city from huge waves crashing up and over the top of it. It did a pretty good job of it. There was some overtopping but obviously the wall itself still stands.

But anything that was built along this wall on the other side like that flagship hotel there, severely damaged. As a matter of fact, that's really the only thing standing mostly because it's got some concrete pillars supporting it and concrete columns. But anything with wood, conventional columns, like say this, what used to be here, which actually used to be a brand new Hooters, that's gone.

Further down, more history, 79 years ago, the Balinese Room. Boy, that was built kind of a speak easy joint built. They had gambling there at the outer end of the pier, Frank Sinatra used to perform there. That survived Hurricane Carla, it survived Hurricane Alicia. It's gone. It did not survive Hurricane Ike. Where did it end up? Over here, with everything else that was along that dock.

Piers that supported not only restaurants, not only old-time historic pubs but also souvenir shops, all sorts of commerce. That's all now gone and nothing but a pile of rubble that stretches for hundreds of yards. So, commerce taking a huge hit here. People have been walking by kind of shaking their heads in disbelief as to what's happened to what was a very historic boardwalk along this sea wall.

And on the other side of the coin, Wolf, is obviously not only is commerce destroyed but the search goes on. Search-and-rescue teams out there again today doing missions especially on the western end of this island where it's still covered with water for the most part, so that is going to be the ongoing story as is the recovery of this power out, water not happening, might be several days if not weeks before that sort of infrastructure is rebuilt here.

And the mayor says the island for the most part is closed. She doesn't want anybody coming backing back until they can clear some of this semblance, clear some of this stuff out of here. And at the very least get the power back on in some spots. People are allowed to leave, but right now the island is closed and to add insult to injury, Wolf, it's beginning to rain again, so that's hampering recovery efforts today.

BLITZER: Simply heartbreaking, Rob. Rob Marciano on the scene for us. We're going to stay on top of this story for all of our viewers. But coming up, with only 51 days until Election Day, which candidate is gaining the upper hand? Two members of the best political team on television standing by to assess, live, right here on Late Edition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos, they're standing by. But first, this. Right at the top of the hour, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Today, Fareed speak with author and "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR: I always love when people say we're having a green revolution. I say, really, really? Us, a green -- a green revolution? Have you ever been to a revolution, Fareed, where no one got hurt? That's the green revolution. In the green revolution, everyone is a winner. Exxon is green, GM is green, yellow cap now on those flex fuel cars that they're making for 10 years, never told anybody so they could make more Hummers. Everyone is green now. But when everyone is green, Fareed, that's not a revolution. That's a party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Tom Friedman talks about his new book on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," that's coming up right at the top of the hour. But up next here on LATE EDITION, the Ralph Nader factor. Insight from two members of the best political team on television when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The rhetoric between the McCain and Obama campaigns is getting more heated. Joining us now, two members of the best political team on television. Alex Castellanos is joining us, he's a Republican strategist, and Donna Brazile, she's of course a Democratic strategist. Donna, as worrisome as some of the general poll numbers in the Obama/McCain race might be for Democrats, there are these numbers that have come up in the Gallup/"USA Today" poll on generic congressional numbers.

Back in August, if you were asked, you want Democrats to be elected in Congress or Republicans, 51 percent said Democrats, 40 percent said Republicans. It's now narrowed dramatically after the Republican Convention, 48 percent say Democrats, 45 percent say Republicans. What's going on here?

BRAZILE: The fact is the Republicans are now more unified, the voter I.D. among Republicans has all of a sudden has risen since the convention. But still the underlying fact is for the Democrats very good, more Republican retirements in districts and states where Democrats are more favorable to win. So, I still believe that the Democrats can pick up the 27 and 10 seats this year.

BLITZER: In the Senate.

BRAZILE: In the House.

BLITZER: In the House.

BRAZILE: In the Senate again, the Republicans gave us a gift with so many retirements in Virginia, in New Mexico, Colorado, clearly Democrats will have an advantage in those states.

BLITZER: How many pickup in the Senate?

BRAZILE: I predict the 24 and six.

BLITZER: That would be pretty impressive. What do you think?

CASTELLANOS: I think Donna's kind of got it on the nose there. One of this things that's happening is that Republicans were defined by George Bush, and that wasn't the most popular thing to be.

But this campaign has gone on so long that now the Republican brand is defined by what it is going to be, John McCain, and guess what? republicans are becoming more popular. We've closed the gap. That does help down ballot races. It's still going to a tough year to be a Republican.

BLITZER: Donna was the campaign manager for Al Gore's campaign back in 2000 and a lot of our viewers will remember that Al Gore lost in Florida by 537 votes.

BRAZILE: That's correct.

BLITZER: Let me repeat that, 537 votes. Ralph Nader got more than 97,000 votes in Florida that time. And, you know, he's appealing to a lot of liberals as you well know. Take a look at these CNN/"Time" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers in the key battleground states of Michigan this week.

Obama 45, McCain 42, Ralph Nader 6 percent. In New Hampshire, another battleground state, Obama, 48 percent, McCain 43 percent, Nader, 4 percent. How worried are you about the Ralph Nader potential spoiler effect for Barack Obama in some of these battleground states?

BRAZILE: Barack had an impact on 2000. He did not have an impact in 2004. I think Democrats should be worried. Clearly, he's drawing three, four percentage points. We know this will be a close election, but I don't believe that Ralph Nader will be able to draw progressives this year. They understand that there's a lot at stake this year. They have mobilized, they are energized. They're out there today doing voter registration for Al Gore -- Al Gore - for Barack Obama. I think that Nader will not be a factor this year.

BLITZER: Is Nader a secret weapon for McCain?

CASTELLANOS: You know, I think he's going to be a little bit of a larger factor than we thought initially, and for this reason.

Barack Obama, in the primaries, was the anti-establishment candidate, the guy for change. He's increasingly becoming more of a traditional Democrat, an establishment guy. He hasn't really stood up to his own party, for example, as I think you noted with Bill Richardson this morning, Wolf.

And if he's not the change guy, really, Democrats may look for someone, an anti-establishment guy like Ralph Nader. Republicans have to worry, a little bit, about Bob Barr. We have to keep an eye on him.

BLITZER: He's the former Republican Congressman from Georgia. BRAZILE: You know, the Terrorist Surveillance Act gave us -- the Obama campaign a lot of heartburn. And that was standing up to many in the Democratic Party...

BLITZER: ... when he extended it, he voted to extend it.

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

CASTELLANOS: But, you know, Obama is such a cerebral candidate. He's almost the idea, the theory of change. McCain has become the candidate of change in fact.

He picked Palin, a very anti-establishment choice in Washington, you know, an outsider, shake things up.

So, one is more visceral. The other one is, kind of, theoretical. And people really respond -- I think we're seeing that response to McCain's choice.

BLITZER: Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin if she was ready to accept the vice presidential spot when John McCain offered it to her, and this is what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: On January 20th, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, we'll be ready. I'm ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: What did you think of her performance in that first national interview?

BRAZILE: Well, I thought the bar was set pretty low, but she didn't make any major gaffes. She had some problem answering questions, but, pretty much, if you like her, then you loved her performance. If you are still questioning her readiness to be vice president and president, then you came away from that interview saying she's still not ready for prime time.

CASTELLANOS: I thought she did -- and I most most Republicans are very pleased with the way she did. But, you know, the Obama campaign and even the media, I think -- they're tackling the guy without the ball. That's Sarah Palin.

You know, if McCain's the one that's running for president -- but again, the big challenge for Obama is not to become just another Washington politician. That's not what put him on the map. He was the new, fresh change guy.

And unless he stands up to his own party, something strong and emotional, soon, he's just one more Democrat running for president, and that's not going to get him there.

BRAZILE: But Governor Palin is Still the flavor of the month, or the flavor of the week. And we know that, at some point, she'll lose her flavor. BLITZER: We'll soon find out, guys. Thanks very much for coming in.

The former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, has a gloomy assessment of what's going on in the economy. Our very popular "In Case You Missed It" segment is coming up next. And we'll also play a clip from "Saturday Night Live" last night, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On ABC, the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, gave his assessment on the struggling U.S. economy, saying the credit crisis was the worst he had seen in his long career.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: This is a once in a half-century, probably once in a century type of event. There's no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I've seen. And it still is not resolved and it still has a way to go.

And, indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On CBS, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke of the effect of Hurricane Ike on oil refineries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, R-TEXAS: The refineries are pretty much down, so we're looking at probably another week or maybe eight or nine days before the refineries are going to be up and going. So the refined gasoline is going to be in a shortage situation because of the power outages and the flooding.

So I think it is going to be felt for the next week, that we will have gasoline shortages. And people need to be prepared for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And if you missed it last night, "Saturday Night Live" opened with a funny skit on Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TINA FEY, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" CAST MEMBER: You know, Hillary and I don't agree on everything.

AMY POEHLER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" CAST MEMBER: Anything.

(LAUGHTER)

I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.

FEY: And I can see Russia from my house.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That's it for me.

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