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CNN ELECTION CENTER
Race in the Race: Great Unknown; Dow Finishes Worst Week Ever; Race in the Race: The Great Unknown
Aired October 10, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: If you don't have a strong stomach, this was not the day to be watching Wall Street. The Dow whipsawed all day, finishing with a 120-point loss, finally ending its worst week ever.
But our Ali Velshi sees light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not sure how, but he is going to explain in just a moment.
And in the middle of the worst economic crisis this country has faced, what did we get from our presidential candidates today? Well, you know, a lot more of the same, a lot of rhetoric, from one side, what could be the most negative ad of the whole campaign. We're going to get into that coming up in just a moment.
But, first, we're cutting through the bull. We all know this election is about the economy. That's a given. But, come November 4, once inside the privacy of the voting booth, how many people will factor in the color of one candidate's skin? How much is race really a part of this race?
Can we even know before Election Day, before votes are cast and counted? Those are the questions we're going to explore tonight.
There are a few things worth considering here. In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 37 percent of Americans said that race will be a factor in how they vote. Now, what exactly does that mean?
Well, here's what Barack Obama himself said about race as a factor to "60 Minutes."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Are there going to be some people don't vote for me because I'm black? Of course. There are probably some African-Americans who are voting for me because I'm black or maybe others who are just inspired by the idea of breaking new ground. And, so, I think all that's a wash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, pollsters say it's hard to know if it's all a wash. Some argue that the polling on the issue of race can be unreliable. This is based on the idea that, if people really do harbor prejudice, they often don't share those prejudices with the pollsters, and they save it for the voting booth. We will tell you more about this, something called the Bradley effect, a little bit later.
And, of course, there is an overtly ugly side to all of this, and we have talked about it on this show, blatant acts of race-baiting on the campaign trail, McCain surrogates introducing Obama by using his middle name, Barack Hussein Obama, something the McCain campaign has denounced, but also angry reaction by Obama supporters to words they see as code, words that to them have racial undertones, but to others, they just don't.
There has been an overreaction by extreme partisans on both sides. Maybe it's unavoidable, but it should not drive the conversation or dominate the debate. And we're going to try to push beyond that tonight, our focus, "Race in the Race: The Great Unknown."
But we are going to begin tonight with the breaking news we have on the economy. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says tonight that the government is moving ahead with a plan to buy stock in what he called a broad array of financial institutions.
Now, that comes at the end of what was a dizzying day on Wall Street, with the Dow swinging up and down so violently that investors were actually relieved it only dropped 128 points at the end of the day.
If anybody can make sense of it all, it is our own Ali Velshi.
Ali, what is going on out there?
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. I'm going to tell you about that in a second.
First, let me tell you about Henry Paulson and what happened. The treasury secretary, meeting with other financial ministers of the G7 industrialized countries, has announced that, in fact, the rumor and the conjecture we have been reporting earlier this week is true. The Treasury will, in fact, directly invest money in banks.
It's not going to loan them money. This is all part of the $700 billion bailout package. It's actually going to invest money, in other words, give those banks money and get stock in exchange. This is a direct investment in those banks and is meant to clear up some of this credit freeze that we have got by giving money to banks directly.
And that is probably going to have a positive effect amongst all those other things that the government has been throwing at the problem. Now, I want to tell you about the market today. You mentioned that.
Let me give you a tour as it were of the markets today. This is how the Dow opened. Take a look at this. Within six or seven minutes of the market opening, it had plunged, plunged, almost 700 points. We have hardly ever seen such a thing. Then, look at that. It was in the green. There was a cheer that went out on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
And then, through the course of the day, it was lower, and it kept on getting lower, to its lowest point just before 2:00 p.m., where it was at 7996. Remember, Campbell, yesterday, I had a chart and I put a bar at the bottom, 8000 to 8500. That's we thought the bottom was. It got just below that, 7996. Then it went up again and down and then, finally, way up. It was positive. It was up over 300 points. That's a 1,000-point swing in just one day, and then closing down just 128 points.
You know what that does? That gives us the worst single week in the history of Wall Street, massive losses to your 401(k). But there's some sense that we ended up in that band, 8855. We ended up in that band of 8000 to 8500. That's where a lot of professional investors say there's value in this market. It's what we call exploring a bottom to this market.
Now, one of my close colleagues always says you can break a lot of bones walking along the bottom of a market. It doesn't mean that doesn't go up and or it doesn't go back down, but it looks like we might -- might just be starting to see the bottom of this, Campbell.
BROWN: So, that was going to be my question. Is the end in sight? What we're going through, how does this recession, frankly, compare to others?
VELSHI: Well, that's a good point.
We often hear that markets recover before the end of a recession, sometimes months. So, we went to one of our friends. You have talked to him before, Lakshman Achuthan. He's the head of the Economic Cycle Research Institute. These guys have literally written the book on recession.
So, we went back and we took a look. Now, let's start right down here in this bottom right corner. Back in 1973 to 1975, we had a global recession that lasted 16 months. That means not just the U.S., a global recession that lasted 16 months.
In 1980, we had a U.S. recession that lasted six months. Then, just a year later, in 1981, 1982, we had another global recession, once again, ironically, 16 months long -- 1991, we had another U.S. recession. It was eight months long. Then, in 2001, we had a recession. It was eight months long.
So, we have got a pattern here. U.S. recessions tend to be six to eight months in length. Global recessions are longer -- 2008, we're in a recession. You won't hear this from Washington. They still, still haven't admitted it. The administration won't say it and the Fed won't say it.
But we're in a global recession. And that means it's longer than a recession. If you think that we started at the beginning of this year in this recession, what that means is that maybe we're halfway through.
BROWN: OK. That's the upside.
VELSHI: That's, sadly, the upside. The markets, your 401(k) might start to recover, but still are going to lose jobs and houses are going to go down, but we will be with you through this whole thing. We do get through these recessions.
BROWN: All right, Ali, thanks. I'm sure we will see you on Monday.
BROWN: Ali Velshi for us.
Now to the campaign. It's only getting more heated out there. Emotions that have been simmering under the surface now emerging, a lot of anger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him. And he's not -- he's an Arab.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: This time, though, John McCain had a direct response. We're going to have all this when we come back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They can try to deny the record of the last eight years. They can run misleading ads. They can pursue the politics of anything goes, but it's not going to work, not this time. The American people don't intend to be hoodwinked this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Barack Obama firing back at a John McCain attack ad, a new one that, again, hits hard at Obama's association with '60s radical Bill Ayers.
Tonight's CNN poll of poll shows Obama leading by eight points, a pretty strong position for the Democrat, but McCain showing no sign of slowing his deployment of bitter character attacks against his opponent.
Dana Bash has been following the McCain campaign. She's in Lakeville, Minnesota, tonight.
And, Dana, we have been hearing a lot about the increasingly angry crowds at McCain rallies. Today, it escalated. And let's listen to what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people here in Minnesota want to see a real fight this next time in your debate. We want to a strong president to lead us for the next four years.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And we want to fight, and I will fight. But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments. I will respect him. And I want...
MCCAIN: No, no. I want everyone to be respectful. And let's make sure we are, because that's the way politics should be conducted in America. So, let's make sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're scared. We're scared of an Obama presidency.
MCCAIN: I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States.
MCCAIN: Now, I just -- now, look, if I didn't think I wouldn't be one heck of a lot better president, I wouldn't be running, OK? And that's the point. That's the point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama.
MCCAIN: I got you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have read about him, and he's not -- he's an Arab. He is not...
MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And you just heard that woman say for -- in case you couldn't hear it, she couldn't trust Obama because he's an Arab. And then you heard John McCain of course saying, no, he's not, and going on to defend Obama.
Dana, McCain is really trying to walk a fine line here. He says he wants to run a respectful campaign, but just this morning, he puts out this ad playing up Obama's ties to former radical Bill Ayers. And what happened there tonight? Is he trying in some ways, I guess, to put the genie back in the bottle?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A little bit, Campbell.
He certainly is. And I think what you heard tonight, which is different from what we heard throughout the entire week, is McCain essentially trying to do that, saying for the first time in a long time, frankly, everybody, just calm down. I want to run a respectful campaign.
Just yesterday, for example, he got some pretty tough and enraged questions from voters, and he didn't do that. And, basically what we have seen, really, since last weekend, Campbell, since Sarah Palin started talking about William Ayers on the stump. And, back then, she said he was palling, that Obama was palling around with terrorists. Obviously, she pulled back on that a little bit.
But ever since then, we have seen a combination of two things from the crowds. One is people really raising some negative pretty things against Obama, some calling him a terrorist. And then we have also seen some of that rage kind of directed at McCain himself from his supporters, primarily saying, come on, fight, fight more.
You saw a little bit of both of those things in the sound bites that we played. And basically what McCain is trying to do is say he understands the concern, understands that people see that he's basically down in the polls right now, but that he's a little bit worried about the kinds of words and the kinds of things that he had been hearing from the crowds, particularly people saying like what you heard tonight, people saying, wait a minute, he's an Arab, basically things that are ignorant and not correct.
And they are started to get worried about that inside the McCain campaign. And they're certainly hearing concerns from Democrats and from others saying, you have got to try to tamp this down, Senator.
BROWN: So, Dana, what are you hearing from your sources in the campaign? What's the next move? What's the strategy going forward?
BASH: Well, there is no plan to stop -- the ad you talked about is running right now, saying that Barack Obama is not being honest about William Ayers.
And McCain tonight at least tried to say that it's not so much about William Ayers and him being a terrorist, so to speak. He's still trying to say it's about Obama's -- quote, unquote -- "rhetoric vs. his record."
He is going to still try to do that. Probably his running mate is going to do it more than he is. But still he's going to try to talk about the economy. They are trying to do that, still. We didn't get to hear much of it tonight because of what happened here at this town hall, but he try to offer yet another proposal to try to show Americans he cares about their woes.
BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us traveling with the McCain campaign -- Dana, thanks.
Negative campaigning is one factor in the election. Race may be another. Will bigotry be a factor in this year's vote? Tonight, we're looking at this explosive issue from all sides with new poll numbers and their potential impact.
Stay with us.
BROWN: Right now, it's pretty much a given, voters and the campaigns consumed with the economy.
But, tonight, our no bias, no bull special, "Race in the Race: The Great Unknown," does ask this question: When voters step into the booth, how many will choose our next president because of the color of his skin?
We begin with some surprising poll numbers that suggest Barack Obama's race may actually help him with voters as much as it might hurt him.
Joe Johns is here with a snapshot of where we are in the election right now.
Joe, we know it's going to have some sort of effect. Whether it cancels each other out, the positive and the negative, it's a wash, sort of remains to be seen. But you say, looking at the polling, it's kind of unexpected, what the results may be?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes.
And it is complicated. And it probably depends on what questions you ask and how you ask the questions. But the vast majority of voters, more than 85 percent, say race does not make them more or less likely to vote for either of the presidential candidates.
But there's a little surprise here, according to Gallup. If you look at the people who are more likely to vote for a candidate because of his race, 9 percent say they would vote for Barack Obama, while 7 percent said they would vote for John McCain. And among voters who said they were less likely to vote for a candidate because of his race, it's pretty much a dead heat. Six percent said they would vote for Obama. Six percent said they would vote for McCain. These are very small numbers, so no sweeping conclusions.
But the poll suggests that, when it comes to the race and decision voters will be making in November, Barack Obama may actually have a tiny little advantage. So, in fact, people seem to be saying they're more likely to vote for Obama because of his race.
But what people seem to be more worried about these days is age. A "Washington Post"/ABC News poll showed that 48 percent believe age is important, while 52 percent said it's not important. What we don't know is whether they were concerned about a candidate being too old or too young. Either way, it's much more important than race to them -- 84 percent of voters said they just don't care about race.
But there does seem to be an inconsistency here which could still be a problem for Barack Obama -- 40 percent of white Americans hold at least a partly negative view towards African-Americans. An AP/Yahoo! poll conducted by Stanford University basically played word association games with white voters, giving them a choice of several positive and negative words that might describe blacks.
For example, 20 percent agreed that the word violent strongly applies. Still, any preconceptions voters may have about race don't seem to apply much to Barack Obama -- 87 percent of voters said they would be comfortable with Obama being the first African-American president.
BROWN: Interesting, Joe. And you're right about the different polling and the way the questions are asked being such a factor here. I was going through some of it today, and it really depends on how you phrase the question in terms of the kind of answers and the numbers you get. So, it's a lot of to figure out.
Joe Johns for us tonight -- thanks, Joe.
Now, what voters actually do on Election Day is what really matters. So, do these polls represent what's actually going on in their heads?
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has a few ideas on that.
And, Bill, pollsters talk about something called the Bradley effect. We hear a lot about it, and certainly a lot lately. Explain to people what that is.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hidden racism. White voters tell poll takers that they are going to vote for the black candidate, but, then, when they get in the polling booth, they don't.
It appears to have happened back in 1982, when a black candidate, Tom Bradley, was running for governor of California. He was predicted to win that race, but he lost narrowly to a white candidate. It may also have played a role in Jesse Helms' reelection victory over a black candidate in 1990 -- hidden racism.
BROWN: So, OK, and you mentioned '82. The Bradley race, that was, what, 26 years ago.
BROWN: The country is very different now, I think you could say. We have advanced somewhat in terms of our attitudes. Do you think it still exists, the Bradley effect?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it appears to have gotten smaller.
The research indicates that, in 2006, the last midterm election, the pre-election polls were actually pretty accurate in predicting how the races would go if there was a black candidate and a white candidate. And one new report says that, in a lot of Southern battleground states right now, that Barack Obama is doing much better than John Kerry did four years ago.
BROWN: Well, let me ask you about that. Are there certain states where the Bradley effect may be more of an issue than in other states, say?
SCHNEIDER: There are several battleground states right now where Obama's margin is very close, like Florida and Ohio.
SCHNEIDER: Now, take a look at Florida. It's very interesting. Obama leads by three points. Five percent of voters say that they're unsure.
Very few black voters are unsure how they're going to vote. If those unsure voters end up going for McCain, that would overtake Obama's lead in Florida, which is very narrow. So, Obama cannot feel comfortable unless his lead is larger than the number of unsure voters.
We could also see a reverse Bradley effect, where an African- American candidate does better than predicted. You could see that in Virginia, in North Carolina, if black turnout turns out to be unexpectedly high. We might also see whites voting in unexpectedly high numbers for Barack Obama if they want to make a statement for change.
What could happen is, economic anxiety could overwhelm the Bradley effect.
BROWN: Interesting stuff, Bill. Basically, you're telling us we don't have any idea.
SCHNEIDER: We don't know.
BROWN: And we're not going to know until November 4.
But thank you for clarifying that, how little we do no.
BROWN: Bill Schneider for us tonight -- Bill, thanks.
So, if you are Barack Obama, the Obama campaign, how do you deal with the Bradley effect, if it even exists? And how much have Americans' attitudes about race shaped Barack Obama's campaign?
Candy Crowley has been digging into this part of it for us.
And, Candy, you have been covering Obama for a long time now. What are your sources telling you? Do they worry about this, this Bradley effect, or do they see it as a relic?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen, I talked to several people in the Obama campaign about this over time. They're not that worried about it.
And, you know, campaigns generally say they're not worried about something that might be negative for them. But, honestly, they look at it and say a couple of things. First, they believe that the Bradley effect now, over a quarter-century ago, was when this happened, that people were not all that sure that whatever they told a pollster would remain confidential.
They think people now have more faith that their neighbor is not going to find out if they say, no, I'm not going to vote for this guy because he's black, or just, no, I'm not going to vote for this guy. They believe that most of the people who would not vote for Barack Obama because he is of mixed race have already said, look, I'm going to vote for John McCain.
And they also believe that this is just an election where identity politics will be trumped by economic politics. They said it sort of, you know, has floated tall boats to an even keel here because everyone is so hurt by this.
So, they see those two factors and sort of say, look, we just don't think there's a Bradley effect. Look back at the primaries. Look where he won. His first win was in nearly 99 percent white Iowa. They say the polls, with the exception of New Hampshire, proved largely accurate at that time. There was no Bradley effect with Barack Obama. The polls did pretty much show what came to be the outcome.
And they say the reason they were so off in New Hampshire, they believe, is that there was so little time between Iowa and New Hampshire, that the polls couldn't catch up with a big shift over the weekend.
So, they're just not, at this point, all that worried.
BROWN: Well, are they, I guess, trying to take advantage, perhaps, of what Bill called sort of the reverse Bradley effect, with massive get-out-the-vote efforts in states with large black populations, with large African-American populations?
CROWLEY: Well, sure.
But, I mean, you know, that's certainly going to help if there is a Bradley effect. But they said, listen, this wasn't about let's bring in as many African-American voters or as many liberal white voters as we possibly can to overwhelm the Bradley effect.
They just wanted to bring them in to have a convincing victory, as they did in Iowa. They said, we have brought in tons and tons of white votes, as well as lifted up black registration. They say it wasn't because of the Bradley effect. It was that we wanted to bring more people into the system that we thought were going to vote for Barack Obama.
BROWN: Candy Crowley for us tonight -- Candy, thanks. Appreciate it.
In a moment, our political panels take on the Bradley effect, if it exists.
And, later, there is a generation gap in this election. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stand on street corners with Obama signs. And we have had people pull up and say to our face, "We will never vote for a black man for president."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The racially charged senior citizen vote, that's still ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LARRY KING LIVE)
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Do you fear that here? An anti-black vote?
MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: People talk about it all the time but it's theoretical in the case of this election because --
KING: But you have a past case to look at.
OBAMA: But also, look where we are, Larry. Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. If there was going to be a "Bradley effect," or if it was going to be in play, Barack wouldn't be the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Michelle Obama doesn't buy the idea of a racial bias in the polling. Let's see if our political experts agree with her.
CNN contributor Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor of the "Washington Times" and a former senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, with us; CNN contributor Dana Milbank, national political correspondent for the "Washington Post"; CNN political analyst Roland Martin, also a radio talk show host and he is a supporter of Obama's. And here with me again, senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, good to see you, too.
Let me just get everyone's take on this idea of what we're talking about earlier, the "Bradley effect", whether or not it exists. Roland, what do you think?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it does. You have the "Bradley effect" that's called the Harold Washington effect. It's called the Doug Wilder effect.
Look, we don't know what's going to happen. We don't hope it happens. But remember, when Doug Wilder ran for governor of Virginia, he was up seven or eight points prior to the election in 48 hours. He won by less than half of a percentage point.
BROWN: But what we were talking about earlier, Roland, and Bill and I discussed this. You hear the Obama campaign say this, the world has changed.
MARTIN: Of course.
BROWN: Yes. That happened but a lot has changed since then. You're not seeing it play out now.
MARTIN: Campbell -- Campbell, the reality is they are concerned about the "Bradley effect." Look at 2004, I talked to many people in the campaign. They don't want to make race a significant issue because they know it is a major issue. But they are concerned about it.
2004, 19 electoral college votes were decided by less than 50,000 votes. George W. Bush beat Kerry in Iowa by 10,000, New Mexico by 6,000, and New Hampshire by 9,000, 23,000 in Delaware. And so, less than 50,000 people turned for state. And so, you have to be concerned about people voting based upon prejudices.
BROWN: Tara, what do you think?
TARA WALL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there's a lot of prejudices out there. There's ageism. There are some people that won't vote for John McCain because of his age. Maybe because of sexism, because he put Palin on the ticket.
You know, I think Michelle Obama was absolutely right and that if there was a "Bradley effect," so to speak, you know, he would not be the nominee. I think we are looking at a very historic moment. It's a great moment for all Americans. And I think that, you know, we should take note of that.
The fact is he is getting the majority of white support. He is ahead, you know, by most standards in the polls. And I think that absolutely -- I mean, look, if we're going to look at this race about race, obviously, there are issues with race. You're not going to change people's minds overnight. There are bigots out there, of course. But I think it's miniscule in comparison to the actual supporters that he has and the number, obviously, of white folks that are going to vote for him.
BROWN: And I should just mention, too, that Tara is a McCain supporter.
WALL: Well, no. I haven't come out and endorsed anyone, yet.
BROWN: Oh, OK. All right. I should say a Republican then.
MARTIN: Oh, oh, oh. Right, you're voting for Obama. Right.
WALL: I am a Republican. I am a Republican. I'm a conservative. I have not endorsed anyone.
MARTIN: You're right. You're not voting for McCain.
BROWN: All right. Interesting. Well, OK.
Let me turn to Dana now. Dana, you know, it seems like every reporter has an anecdotal account of hearing people say that they won't vote for a black man. You heard a woman earlier in our show say that, who was part of the get out the vote effort. Do you think these stories are real and widespread, I guess? Or are they just isolated examples?
DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they're real but they're anecdotal. I think if you take the "Bradley effect," the reverse "Bradley effect" and throw in a triple lutz and a double toe loop, probably you've got a washout of this whole thing because there's so much evidence on both sides of the equation. I think to the extent that there's a racial effect in this election it's already baked into the polls.
It's not that people are lying to pollsters but in that "AP"/Yahoo poll that was cited earlier, the extrapolation from that was that if Barack Obama were white he would be another six points ahead of where he is now in the polls. So race is playing a role in this election but it doesn't appear to be the sort of thing that's going to surprise everybody on Election Day.
BROWN: Do you agree with that, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. I think it's already there. When people are asking us, I'm often asked, why is this race so close? Race may be a reason for that. But the Bradley effect means people are lying. That means, are there even more whites who are saying they're going to vote for Obama and they won't?
That probably is very small right now. In fact, McCain depicts Obama as a risky choice. But we've seen again and again that when people are anxious and fearful and desperate for change, they'll take some risks.
MARTIN: But, Campbell, the problem with this whole dialogue...
BROWN: Yes, go ahead.
MARTIN: ... is we're sitting here saying, oh, he's up, five, six, eight points. That is the point of the "Bradley effect." You had Tom Bradley up several points. Doug Wilder, up several points. Harold Washington running in an overwhelming Democratic state. The point when we say it's a small effect, that's the point. Small numbers of people in tight races could throw them. Obviously, we don't know what's going to happen but that's the whole point of it.
BROWN: All right, guys.
WALL: For many different reasons, there are many reasons people don't vote for people -- racism, sexism, ageism, many reasons and more significant numbers.
MARTIN: We understand that, Tara. We get that. We get that.
BROWN: Guys, hold on.
MARTIN: But it could change the election.
BROWN: We got a lot more to talk about. We're going to stay with our panel for much more of the show, but let me just pause for a moment here.
We have some breaking news. Sarah Palin abused her power as the governor of Alaska. This is according to an investigation into the firing of her former public safety commissioner, but she did not violate any laws. Again, this is all according to the official report.
Randi Kaye here with the breaking news, details. Randi, what do you know?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, I have the findings of that report. It was about 260 pages, the findings of this investigative report. And I could tell you that Steven Branchflower, the investigator that was hired by the Alaska legislature to look into whether or not Sarah Palin abused her power, in the firing of the state's top cop, Walt Monegan, because he did not fire her ex-brother- in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten, we can tell you that Branchflower, the prosecutor, found that she did abuse her power by violating an Alaska statute which says that any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.
That personal interest would be the firing, at least it's being made clear to us, the firing of that state trooper, Mike Wooten. He is the ex-brother-in-law of the governor. He had been married for several years to her sister. It was a very bitter divorce that ended about three years ago and apparently, according to the governor, he had threatened her family. He'd even threatened to kill her father.
These are claims that Mike Wooten denies, but the governor wanted him, apparently wanted him to be removed from the state trooper's force and had been asking that along with some members of her staff and also, possibly her husband who just testified this week.
We can also tell you another key finding, finding number two, that although Walt Monegan, the top cop's refusal to fire the trooper, was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin in July. It was likely a contributing factor to his termination as the commissioner of Public Safety.
It goes on to say that this was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads. But, again, finding that it was a contributing factor.
Now, we did speak with Walt Monegan throughout this whole investigation and he told us he was never directly told by anyone to fire Mike Wooten, but that he does believe that that is the reason he was fired. The governor has said that he was fired because of budgetary disagreements.
We can tell you also that just before this report came out, Governor Palin was asked about it and she said that she wasn't nervous about it at all. She had nothing to hide. The government there has nothing to hide. And that it is a governor's right and responsibility to make sure that they have the right people in the right place.
So that is the very latest now on an investigation that's gone on for a very long time. What all this will mean for the McCain campaign, we have yet to see.
BROWN: All right. Randi Kaye for us. Looking like the bottom line here, an abuse of power by Sarah Palin but no broken laws here. So she is off the hook in that regard comes that final report coming in. Thanks, Randi. We appreciate it.
We know a certain percentage of voters won't support Obama because of his race. For older Americans, the numbers are even higher. We're going to go to the battleground state of Florida and see how racial bias could affect the senior citizen vote.
BROWN: According to the Census Bureau, people 65 and older make up 12.4 percent of the population. In recent elections, they cast almost 20 percent of the ballots so senior voters could be hugely influential this year and their questions about how their views on race could play out in the voting booth.
David Mattingly is in Miami where he talked to some older voters about race -- David.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're looking at a generation gap, Campbell. Older voters might be watching younger voters this time around and learning something new about racial bias.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): They live in the turmoil of the civil rights era. Most were still old enough to vote when segregation was still accepted in this country. And for some senior Americans, decades of racial attitudes still affect how they might vote today.
(on camera): How often does race come up as a reason not to vote for Obama?
BERNARD PARNESS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Basically, it doesn't but the clues are an excuse. I'm not sure who he is. After two years of watching a campaign, and I tell them, what you're telling me is you're a bigot?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Retirees in South Florida tell me Obama's race will cost him votes in November. They can't say how many because not everyone will admit their biases. But these senior Democrats campaign for Obama and say sometimes attitudes are surprisingly blunt.
(on camera): People don't just come out and say, I can't vote for a black candidate? Do they say it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I heard that.
EILEEN BERMAN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I stand on the street corners with Obama signs, and we've had people pull up and say to our face, we will never vote for a black man for president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): While that new Gallup poll which found six percent of all voters are less likely to vote for Obama because of his race, experts say the rate of racially-charged voting among seniors is higher.
ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH: Older voters, especially less well- educated older voters tend to have less tolerant views toward African- Americans. There are more of the group of people who hold these intolerant views and, as a consequence, are less likely to support Obama.
MATTINGLY (on camera): By a show of hands, how many here have had someone say to them, I cannot vote for Obama because he's black?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MATTINGLY: Almost everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Obama is actually the second choice for most of these senior Democrats. Their first choice was Hillary Clinton. It's a generational divide within the ranks.
ANTHONY GREENWALD, PROJECT IMPLICIT: We assume that's partially racially based, but the poll numbers that we have don't actually break it down as to whether it's due to issues or due to racial factors.
MATTINGLY: This election will be the first national test that produces data to measure how racial bias of the 20th century plays in the 21st. For now, these senior Democrats say maybe the time has come to close the generation gap with younger voters who have supported Obama from the start.
PARNESS: The young people that I meet in this campaign see no color. They see Barack Obama as a well-spoken, educated American. Period.
MATTINGLY: The seniors I talked to had individual experiences with racially-biased voters but overall, they don't believe that race will be enough or important enough to enough people, to matter much when there are so many critical issues weighing on this election -- Campbell.
BROWN: David Mattingly for us tonight. David, thanks.
And it's not just black and white attitudes that could affect this race. There is also religion and the bogus claims still out there that Obama is not a Christian. We're going to look at that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not -- he's an Arab.
He is not? No?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: You heard that McCain supporter in Minnesota saying, "I can't trust Obama. He is an Arab." John McCain, very quick to correct her. But this is why we're asking tonight how people with deep feelings about race and religion will vote.
Let's go back to our panel now, to Tara Wall, Dana Milbank, Roland Martin and Bill Schneider. This, another example of the rumor out there which is completely false. We can't say it enough that Barack Obama is a Muslim. In one recent poll, 13 percent of people thought that that is the case.
I mean, Roland, why does this idea persist?
MARTIN: Because we have Americans who are wholly ignorant of other societies. All they see is the name, Barack Obama.
Look, he said it last year. As long as my name is Barack Obama, I'm going to be an underdog running. Look, if you showed probably the average name of somebody in Ghana, they'd probably see the name and say, oh, that's a Muslim country. Eighty percent of Ghana, they are Christians. But, again, people just see that and say, oh, he's got to be a Muslim, look at his name. No, he's a Christian. He is.
BROWN: Dana, what did you think of McCain response? You saw him immediately knock that down, obviously. But this has come up more than once out at these rallies. Is the McCain campaign doing enough, I guess, to tamp it down?
MILBANK: Yes. It's extraordinary how much it comes up. Just even this week, McCain was in the building, Palin was in the building, and there's some guy out there saying Barack Hussein Obama over and over again.
So it's up until this point, I think people were saying that McCain was not doing enough. He's sort of riding the tiger here and riling up people, but not pushing back. And what he has finally done is honorable. In fact, it's probably going to cost him some of the enthusiasm among his voters, but he's finally doing something.
I don't think that that's going to get it, the 10 percent or whatever, who are still believing that he's a Muslim. I think the only thing that could fix that is to get them to watch Campbell Brown on CNN.
BROWN: Tara, what do you make of all this?
WALL: Well, it's flat-out ignorance, quite frankly. I mean, it's ignorant folks. And I think that, you know, Barack -- excuse me -- John McCain did do the right thing, the noble thing. He, in fact, one of the other hecklers he also, you know, I got an email they sent out immediately saying they don't condone what some of these folks were saying in the audience. And I think he needs to obviously continue to do that and to denounce that.
You're always going to have, you know, ignorant folks in every audience in every rally. I think that's with both sides. There have been times that Obama has had hecklers as well.
I certainly had hecklers. But, you know, look, I think he's doing the right thing and he should consistently do that in order to continue to educate even some of his own base who are just quite frankly ignorant of the facts.
BROWN: Bill, let me go back to the piece we saw a moment ago from David Mattingly talking to elderly voters down in Florida, obviously, a crucial battleground state. And it seemed, based on David's reporting, that for elderly voters in particular, race is more of a factor, perhaps, than for the population at large. Do you think that's true?
SCHNEIDER: I think it is true. Elderly voters are sometimes less well-educated because they had less of a chance to go to college. And also, they grew up in a different era. I grew up in the South when racism was part of the system. It was official.
You had a Democratic Party defined as the party of white supremacy, where a lot of voters, elderly voters in this country grew up in that system as well. And let me point out something else. The Internet. One of the reasons why these rumors are now spreading -- the Internet does a lot of good -- but a lot of these stories and rumors are spread very efficiently by the Internet.
MARTIN: Campbell, the --
BROWN: Yes. Go ahead, Roland.
MARTIN: The beauty of David's piece is that you heard individuals saying what they had been told individually. I've had people who were canvassing for votes in California who are Hispanic, who say that they heard all kinds of racial rhetoric from Hispanics as well. This is not just a black and white issue.
And so, the key is, is not what a poll says. It still comes down to what does an individual decide when they have to push that button or bubble something in, and that's the unknown. And so, when we look at the polls and stuff, we don't know people's personal feelings, that gut comes out as opposed to what their head is saying.
BROWN: All right, guys, stand by. We've got more to talk about.
Senator Obama said he wanted to start a national conversation on race. So as we near Election Day, has that happened? We're going to take that on, coming up.
BROWN: In a few minutes, more political coverage and insight on "LARRY KING LIVE" where politics is king. Larry, what are you looking at tonight?
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You bet, Campbell, and we'll lead with what you just talked about. Breaking Sarah Palin news.
She abused her power as governor, but it wasn't illegal. We'll figure it all out. That and the latest on more help for the economy announced late today, as the worst week on Wall Street mercifully comes to an end.
Plus, we're going to take a look at John McCain's defense of Barack Obama. It was an interesting turn of events at a rally tonight.
And we'll take a look at bogus voter registrations. Is it a scandal that threatens Democratic chances? All coming up next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Friday -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Larry. Appreciate it.
A friend of ours, a prominent African-American political figure, made a powerful statement about race in this election not long ago. The online world is buzzing over it, and we're going to hear what she said when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FROM JEZEBEL.COM)
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is a more tolerant, a more open, a more progressive society. And yet, we're having this conversation because he's biracial. He spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. He was raised for the first 18 to 21 years by his white grandparents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: CNN political contributor Donna Brazile there on Barack Obama, the subject of race.
Let's get a few final thoughts right now from our panel tonight. Tara Wall, Dana Milbank, Roland Martin.
And, Dana, you know, earlier in the campaign, Barack Obama talked about starting this national conversation on race. You're out there in the real world talking to voters. Is there a conversation going on? Is there something that people are working through on this issue?
MILBANK: I think they are in their own living rooms. It's not something that Barack Obama started by something he said just by virtue of him being black. And I think that we're going to see this election in some ways as a referendum on this.
Rightly or wrongly, if he continues to lead in the polls and then for some reason doesn't win on Election Day, some people will say that that means the nation hasn't come as far as they thought, rightly or wrongly.
BROWN: Tara, what do you think? Has the conversation changed? We're two years into this campaign now, you know, that Barack Obama has been a part of this campaign. Has the conversation changed at all?
WALL: Well, I don't know. I mean, we keep raising the issue of race but I think -- I believe a discussion should happen. I think this should happen really outside of an election when you can really delve into the issues. And I think if you look at it not only as it relates to just white racism but black racism as well, there is more than one kind of racism and more than one race.
There are, you know, of the 90 percent of black folks that are going to vote for Barack Obama, I do still hear from black folks who tell me, and some of them conservatives, will tell me they're voting for him simply because he is black and McCain is white. And they don't agree with most of his policies...
WALL: ... but because of the fact that he's black.
BROWN: All right. Tara, we got to end it there.
Roland, I ran out of time for you. We'll get to next time. That's it for us tonight, everybody.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.