Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Barkley vs. Stein

Aired October 14, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, 21 days to go -- have Americans made up their minds?
Time is running out. On the eve of the last presidential debate, John McCain is back on the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama is going to raise your taxes...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With a strategy to scare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Raising taxes is the surest way to turn a recession into a depression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he calling Barack Obama threat?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Perhaps, never in history have the American people been asked to risk so much based on so little.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As Sarah Palin makes a $10 trillion pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we will balance the federal budget by the end of our term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: They're pulling out all the stops. And so, Charles Barkley takes on Ben Stein. This you've got to see right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

OK, it's going to be quite a night.

With us, an old, old friend and a great player, Charles Barkley, a registered Independent supporting Obama. He's an analyst, of course, with TNT. The NBA season begins on TNT on October 28th. He was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. And he's said he'll run for governor every Alabama in 2014.

And our old friend Ben Stein is an economist, of course, "New York Times" columnist, former presidential speechwriter, best-selling author. The latest book, "How To Ruin the United States of America," supporting John McCain.

McCain tells supporters he may be down in the polls, he may be written off by the media, but he's got Obama just where he wants him.

What do you make of that, Charles?

CHARLES BARKLEY, REGISTERED INDEPENDENT, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I think all these polls are pretty much useless. I mean nobody is actually going to know what is going to happen until they get in those booths. I think, obviously, everybody is trying to ignore the race factor. Race is there. It's really important. It's really significant.

You know, people don't want to -- you know, Barack is trying to talk about the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, the educational system. But the only way, realistically, Senator McCain can win this race is he makes it about race and makes people afraid of Barack Obama.

KING: Oh, so you think there are people who are just going to walk in and vote against Obama purely because he's black?

BARKLEY: Oh, no question about that.

KING: Ben?

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES," SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, I would look at it from an entirely different perspective. And that is, the white vote will be divided between Barack Obama and Senator McCain and Ralph Nader and the black vote will go almost 100 percent almost go to Barack Obama and that's will decide the election and give the election to Barack Obama.

Now, if there's race that's going to be a factor, it will be much more on the part of the black voter than on the white voter. I'm not quite sure why it should matter. I don't think race should be a relevant consideration for either racial group or any racial group.

But I think that will decide the election. A hundred -- 98 percent of the black vote will go to Obama, something like 47 or 46 or 42 percent of the white vote will go to him and he'll win.

KING: So you're a McCain supporter acknowledging that Barack Obama is going to win?

STEIN: I would -- I can't acknowledge it, because I don't know it.

KING: You think he will? STEIN: But I'm saying I think he will win. I think it's too late now -- unless there's some miraculous economic plan that McCain comes out with, I think it's too late. He's been talking about Bill Ayers, he's been talking about this, he's been talking about that. He should have come out with an absolutely clear-cut economic plan to keep us out of a severe recession.

KING: What do you make of the tone of this campaign, Charles, the whole campaign?

What do you make, first look?

BARKLEY: Well, it's been interesting because, first of all, I'm just so proud that Barack got himself in this situation. I agree with Mr. Stein, race should not matter. Unfortunately in America, race does matter.

Race matters almost as much as economics, because, really, this election comes down to rich people against poor people. That's what America is divided by.

Of course, we have the racial thing, but, really, America is divided by economics. And I wish it wasn't there, but it's always going to be there. It's unfortunate, it's sad. But, clearly, things in this country, are not going well. They're not going well.

From an economic standpoint, obviously we've got to decide what we're going to do about the war in Iraq. We've got to fix the health care system. You know, and the tax situation -- you know, Barack has been very clear -- unless you make over 250 grand a year, it shouldn't have any effect on you whatsoever.

KING: Ben, by logic, just the way the country is, the Democrats should win.

STEIN: They should win and they almost certainly will win. There's a -- it would have taken a disastrous campaign by Barack Obama for them to lose, considering that they got the advantage handed to them, as our Nobelist friend, Mr. Krugman, said recently, running, once again, against Herbert Hoover.

I mean Paulson, the secretary of Treasury, has screwed this up. If there is a punching bag for the Republican Party that they should punch for really making sure they would lose this election, it would be Paulson, who, over and over and over again, has fouled up every chance to rescue this economy, including today.

KING: Both McCain and Barack Obama -- both voted for his plan.

STEIN: I know, but there's more to it than that. The British are guaranteeing bank loans. And that has opened up bank lending in Britain. It's incredible that Paulson wouldn't do that. It's absolutely mind-boggling that he wouldn't do that.

KING: Charles, in the past, you have accused Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton of race baiting. What do you make of John Lewis' recent comment that the atmosphere at some McCain-Palin events reminded him of the campaigns of George Wallace?

BARKLEY: Well, I think anybody who uses race as a factor -- I have a big problem with that.

KING: Black or white?

BARKLEY: Black or white. I mean we just got -- hey, listen, anybody who is white or who is black who's a racist, I think they're an idiot, plain and simple. I don't think you can have a double standard.

But you can see race creeping. As the election gets closer, you can see race becoming more of a factor. People don't automatically come out and say it, but there are bait words that lean that way. You know, you talk about terrorists -- you have people using Barack's middle name. That's the same as being racial.

STEIN: But I saw Barack Obama on a TV show several months ago saying I want to be known as Barack Hussein Obama, because I want the rest of the world to know that a person of my heritage can be elected president.

KING: Yes. He isn't said that in a while, though.

STEIN: No, but he definitely said it.

KING: All right.

STEIN: And if I may say so, I've followed the campaign pretty darned closely. I haven't seen one single shred of racism on the part of the Republicans. And to be fair, I haven't seen it on the part of the Democrats either. But I don't see race in this campaign at all.

KING: All right. Let's discuss Sarah Palin. She made her first call-in appearance on the radio today on "The Rush Limbaugh Show".

Let's listen to some of what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM RUSHLIMBAUGH.COM)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've got nothing to lose in this. And I think America has everything to gain by understanding the differences -- the contrasts here between Obama and McCain. So, you know, I'm going out there and I'm just simply speaking. So be it that I'm a simple talker. But I'm going out there and letting people know the differences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that was hardly hostile territory.

Why do you think...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Why do you think she's not doing more, say, widespread media?

BARKLEY: Well, I think they're trying to protect her. First of all, I think they've done her a disservice. You know, they protect her so much, other than the debate, you've never really gotten a full view of her. And I'm not going to sit here and say whether she's unintelligent or whatever. But the McCain campaign has done a terrible job of letting America get to know her. And they make it, like I say, get to know her, but also they make it worse. They're like we can't let her go to mainstream media, because we don't know if she can handle that situation.

It's Sean Hannity. It's Rush. You know, she sits down with Katie. They've done her a great disservice.

KING: Have something to say about this show or want to ask our guests a question?

Get on our blog right now, cnn.com/larryking, and tell us what you think.

More of Barkley and Stein right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We need you, so get up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That's the American dream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We never give up. We never quit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's include a call for Barkley and Stein.

We go to Arcadia, California.

Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

KING: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. This question is for both of your individuals on the program.

KING: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I would like to know whether or not they have heard an actual economic plan provided by the McCain-Palin ticket. I've heard it from Barack in terms of specifics, but I have not heard anything come from either Palin or John McCain in terms of what...

KING: All right. Let Ben handle that.

STEIN: He actually, Mr. McCain, Senator McCain has provided a very detailed economic plan. I don't happen to like it, but it's a plan that calls for cutting taxes on corporations, cutting tax on capital gains, cutting various taxes here and there. And it also has a lot in it for people whose homes are about to be foreclosed.

He's for a plan, as I am, that goes from the bottom up instead of going from Wall Street down. It goes from the bottom up to stabilize the housing market.

So, if you go to his Web site, you would find an extremely detailed plan and he has enunciated such a plan over and over again.

KING: We have an e-mail question for Charles from Peggy in Atlanta, Georgia: "Charles, do you think Sarah Palin is smart enough to be vice president?"

BARKLEY: Well, I don't ever call anybody else dumb. That's not my -- I don't know enough about her. I mean I've not gotten a chance to see her in interviews, really. I mean those little couple of sit-downs that are staged, that really doesn't matter to me.

But let me say something about what Mr. Stein said. This economic situation, you know, I get sick and tired of people talking about the middle class. This economy is really struggling with poor people. And I hope what he said -- we've got to start helping the people at the bottom.

I hear about rich people getting tax breaks. I'm one of them, thank God. But we talk about the middle class. America -- the poor people in this country are really struggling. And we've got to do something to help them out of this situation, more than anything else, after this election.

KING: Do you agree? STEIN: We've got to do something about it. I don't know what it's going to be. I mean, generally speaking, poor people in this country don't stay poor more than one generation and then they move into the middle class, whether they have government help or not. But I agree.

It is amazing to me that we could just like that vote $700 billion for the banks and can't get a full scale medical coverage for every citizen. That is amazing to me.

KING: What do you make of William Buckley's son, Christopher, supporting Obama, and, also, David Brooks, George Will?

STEIN: Well, these guys are all maverick sort of guys and I think none of them really loved Mr. McCain from the get go. Chris Buckley loves to do wild, unpredictable things. David Brooks sort of likes to be liked. We all like to be liked. I think people are sort of leaving -- I won't say leaving a sinking ship. I don't know that it's sunk yet. But, you know, I go back in this campaign to something basic. My great hero of my lifetime -- I'm 63 years old -- was Martin Luther King, Jr. . And he said his dream was for Americans to be judged by the content of their character instead of by the color of their skin.

I think the content of Senator McCain's character is so spectacularly good. He stood up so bravely for his country. He has stood up to the power bosses in Washington. He has stood up so bravely to his own party over and over again. I think his character is fabulously good.

I don't doubt that Senator Obama's is very, very good, too, but it has never been tested in the way that Senator McCain has been.

KING: But then why would he embrace George Bush?

STEIN: Well, because he -- because he's his friend. I mean he's his friend. But he has repudiated his policies over and over and over again. I mean there's such a thing as being friends with someone. He's very close friends with Senator Kennedy, but he doesn't agree with his policies.

KING: Are you working for Obama?

BARKLEY: I got the pleasure of introducing him in Alabama. And I would do anything he asked me to do. I hope to make another couple appearances. If he does something in Philadelphia or he does something in Arizona -- I have a house in both places -- or go back to Alabama.

I would -- Larry, this country, this is the greatest country in the world. But what has happened here in the last few years is unacceptable. And I don't get caught up in the Republican/Democrat/conservative/liberal B.S., as I call it. I look at America like this -- it's rich people against poor people. And right now, poor people are getting screwed. And I feel bad for those people, plain and simple.

KING: And we're going to take a break and come back with more of Barkley and Stein. Lots more to go to this program. We'll be back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: "Saturday Night Live" is on fire this year. Let's take a look at a recent show that references our guest, Charles Barkley. It's a parody of all the wild political ads.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY NBC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama plays basketball. Charles Barkley plays basketball.

Is Charles Barkley qualified to lead our economy?

He gambled millions away in Las Vegas. Don't let Barack Obama gamble with our economy. No way, no how, no Charak-O'Barkley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Had you seen that?

BARKLEY: I had not. I liked that, though. That was cute.

Hey, you know, Larry, probably -- I miss gambling. Probably the best thing -- the best thing that happened to me was this situation last year, just to not gamble for a while. I haven't decided if I'm going to gamble again, but it probably turned out good for me because I was obviously gambling too much. And just because you can afford to do it, does not mean you should do it.

So I turned a negative into a positive.

KING: Do you miss it?

BARKLEY: I miss it. I mean -- well, I miss it -- let me (INAUDIBLE) -- I miss it every Saturday and Sunday betting on football. That's when I miss it the most. I mean, going to the casino was always fun, but I miss it on Saturday and Sunday, betting on football.

KING: You can't beat it.

BARKLEY: You can't beat it.

KING: You can't.

BARKLEY: But like I say, I could afford to do it. That's why -- it's fun, it's exciting. It only sucks when you lose.

(LAUGHTER)

STEIN: How often do you lose compared with how often you win?

BARKLEY: If you've been to Las Vegas, a lot of people are losing.

KING: Right.

STEIN: Well, that's why they have those big buildings.

BARKLEY: That's my point exactly.

STEIN: (INAUDIBLE).

BARKLEY: That's (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We built them.

BARKLEY: Exactly.

KING: We built them.

BARKLEY: I've been in a couple of them.

STEIN: (INAUDIBLE) -- in building them.

KING: We'll bring Ben Stein back into the mix. The debate continues when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Who will be do better in tomorrow's debate?

That's tonight's Quick Vote question. Give us your answer -- cnn.com/larryking.

Joining Charles Barkley and Ben Stein, in Omaha, Nebraska, is Karen Hughes, former counsel to President George Bush, served as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

And in New York, Hilary Rosen, CNN contributor and a strong supporter of Barack Obama.

John McCain put forward his own multi-billion economic plan today, including eliminating the tax on unemployment benefits and cutting the capital gains tax. He also took some digs at his Democratic opponent.

Let's take a look and then we'll get comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: My plan for economic recovery does not require guesswork or blind faith from the American people. You know my record. You don't have to hope I will do what I promise. When I say I will cut spending, you need only look at my record to know that it's true.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: When I say I'll defend taxpayers, you know it's true because it's what I've always done. When I say I will work across the aisle, you can see it in the results that I've delivered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hilary Rosen, as a supporter of his opponent, how effective is that?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I thought, actually, for the first time in, you know, maybe over two weeks, John McCain looked like he was on surer footing today. He was proactive, he was focused, at least on some substance.

I think there are problems with his plan. He depends on giving banks their full refunds when bad loans are made and things like that. So I think there are substantive problems with the plan.

But, you know, to his credit, at least he's talking about substance instead of trying to be the schoolyard bully.

KING: Now, we'll have everybody jump in, but I want to have Karen respond to this. Barack Obama says that he's reviewing McCain's ideas, thinks some are good, likes not forcing people to start tapping into retirement accounts at age 70, has problems with other things.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are some ideas that Senator McCain has put forward in the last couple of weeks that are very bad ideas. The idea, for example, of purchasing homes at full price from banks so that banks have no losses and taxpayers automatically have losses, that's a bad idea. And I think it's been widely panned by Democrats and Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, Karen, is it the economy, stupid?

KAREN HUGHES, FORMER COUNSELOR, PRES. G.W. BUSH, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, it's the economy, Larry. And, clearly, we're in uncharted territory here, because we've really never had, I don't think, a presidential election -- certainly since 1932 -- taking place in the midst of what's extraordinary economic chaos.

I mean, in the last couple of weeks, we've seen the worst week ever for the stock market and yesterday one of the best days ever -- the best day, I think, since 1933. And so we're seeing an extraordinary set of circumstances here in the midst of a presidential campaign. And that's why tomorrow night's debate is very important.

But I want to respond to something that Senator Obama just said. Senator McCain is offering a solution to the problem that is the crux of this problem, and that is all these homes that people are -- that -- are being foreclosed. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is just kicking the can down the road. He says let's have a three month moratorium. Let's just wait another three months and then we'll solve the problem and we'll look at it then. Well, that's -- that's not the kind of decisive action that we need.

And what Senator McCain offered today was a comprehensive plan that will help seniors by encouraging them not to have to withdraw their savings at age 70-1/2. And that is something that Senator Obama did support and I give him credit for that. He also called for not taxing unemployment benefits to help those at the lowest end of the economic scale.

KING: All right...

HUGHES: So, Senator McCain, today -- I agree with Hillary -- offered a very comprehensive, balanced plan. And I think it's going to be a very interesting debate tomorrow night, because there are some new ideas on the table.

KING: Charlie -- Charles Barkley, what do you think?

BARKLEY: Well, I don't know enough about either one of the plans to say pro or con. But Mr. Stein said his thing is economics. He said he didn't like Senator McCain.

But first of all, let me say this. I've great admiration for Senator McCain living in Arizona. But Mr. Stein, who's an economics guy, said he didn't like that package. I'll let these guys -- I don't know enough about either one of them's package to make a comment on it.

STEIN: Well, see what's happening here is a unique situation, as Karen said. The economy is scaring people to death. People are looking at their 401(k) statements. They punch it up on their computer. Instead of having $100,000, they've got $50,000 or $40,000. They're terrified. They're absolutely terrified.

This calls for dramatic, bold action like the kind of action FDR took in his first hundred days when he was president. This is the kind of thing Bush should be doing right now. It could be made into a gain and a plus for the Republicans, instead of a liability for Mr. McCain.

We need a bold plan, just like FDR did.

KING: But the conservatives fought that.

STEIN: That was a big mistake. We need to have a bold plan from bottom up and top down, say we're taking off the gloves -- we're taking off the gloves to fight this scare and we're going to start right now by guaranteeing inter-bank loans and we're going to start guaranteeing loans to small business to get those taps of money running again and get people employed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Larry...

KING: Hillary, will the economy decide this election?

ROSEN: Well, I think it will, although I think it's also clear that, over the last several months, on education, on health care, on even in Iraq, you know, Barack Obama was building up a lead.

But let's be focused here. What we're talking about with Barack Obama's plan is to actually guarantee some job creation. I think that marries with some of the issues that have been brought up tonight. Let's give tax credits to companies that hire people here -- poor people, middle class people, working people who are losing their jobs -- you know, another 150,000 jobs lost in the last month.

So small business loan guarantees, working out mortgages. The reason that Barack Obama didn't come up with a wild scheme on repaying mortgage foreclosures over the last three days is because, actually, the Congress gave the Treasury Department that authority to do that in the FHA bill last year. So those things can be done. And I think they just need to be enforced by the current administration. There's a lot more in the Obama plan for working folks and for middle class.

KING: Karen, with regard to foreclosures and the like, I think under 2 percent of American homes are foreclosed, right?

HUGHES: But the problem right now, Larry, that we have...

KING: Three percent?

Ben says 3 percent.

HUGHES: I think it's about 2 or 3 percent. That sounds right, Larry.

But the problem right now is what we have is a lot of people whose homes are not worth as much, because of the decline in home values, as the loans they have on those homes. And so they're under water. And they can't make the payments. Maybe they can pay a little bit.

And what Senator McCain is saying is let's step in, help those people who are creditworthy, help them negotiate -- a lot of them have these big balloon mortgages -- help them negotiate fixed rate loans so they can stay in the homes and so we help start addressing this problem.

But I want to go back to something Hilary said about jobs. Unfortunately, yes, Senator Obama has some plans to spend a lot of tax money on public infrastructure and things to create some government funded jobs. The problem is that his tax increases -- and specifically his tax increase on what he says is individuals over $250,000 -- and a lot of times, those are small dry cleaners and restaurants and the local stores that employ people. And small business is the number one creator of jobs in America.

So, unfortunately, Senator Obama's plans would also cost jobs.

KING: All right, I've got to get a break. Hold on. We'll be right back.

Your e-mails, blogs and calls, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with a terrific panel. Reminder, Charles Barkley returns to TNT this fall as an NBN analyst, probably the best in the business.

BARKLEY: Thank you, Larry.

KING: The NBA season begins on TNT, our sister network, on October 28th. Let's take a call to Brighton, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Larry, thanks for taking the call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: For the guests, two years ago the Democrats won landslide victories in Washington in November, promising to bring change. How can all the troubles with the economy be laid at the footsteps of the Republicans and McCain?

STEIN: Well, I don't think they are. First of all, it was not by any means a landslide. I heard a speech by Karl Rove on Saturday night in which he laid out the numbers. The total numbers of votes differentiating Republicans and Democrats in this whole country was 80,000, all told.

KING: A divided country.

STEIN: A very closely divided country. They're not all laid at the foot of the Republicans. The Democrats started this CRA thing, making banks lend to people who were unqualified. The Democrats protected Fannie and Freddie. There's plenty of blame to go around. Both parties are hooked up with Wall Street and with the lending interests very, very closely.

KING: We have a blog question from Jay: "How should Obama respond to the issue of Ayers tomorrow night, if it's addressed by McCain?" How should he, Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, I think that, you know, the McCain campaign is -- and Sarah Palin in particular, who has now sort of taken on the role of, you know, courtyard bully again, while McCain is trying to stay positive, they're lost when they go to Ayers. His unfavorable shot up way high over the last week when he tried to talk about this. Over the last two days, he tried to justify this by making -- trying to create a substantive connection that doesn't exist about Barack Obama's policies.

I think if he does it, you know, surprisingly, Barack Obama's likely to just turn the other cheek and say you know what? People don't want to hear about this, you can talk about it all you want, but we're not going to talk about it. I think maybe two or three weeks ago before this economic situation started, you would have heard the Obama campaign come back with Dick Keating or, you know, the fact that McCain's lobbyist, head of his transition team has Saddam Hussein connections are or Sarah Palin and being proven to have ethical abuses. You may have heard all of those things, but I think tomorrow night you're going to hear Barack Obama focus on the economy and focus on the audience.

KING: OK, we have a question for Ben Stein from Peg in Missouri. "Has Sarah Palin disappointed you in any way?"

STEIN: I don't like the fact that she shoots wolves, because wolves are related to dogs, and dogs are my favorite creatures, but other than that I think she's been very impressive. I think her speech at the convention was one of the best speeches I've ever heard in American political life, and I wish they would unwrap her and let her get out there and have nationally televised interviews and go for it.

KING: Has she hurt the ticket?

STEIN: I think probably she has hurt the ticket. I think they should have stayed in that previous vein, we're the conservative tried and true group, with Washington experience. We're not the newbies. They went off that and I thought that was a winning strategy, but I like her very, very much, and I hope she is goes on to bigger and better thing.

HUGHES: Larry, I have to interject here, because I'm traveling the country doing some different campaigning for Republicans, and there's still a great deal of enthusiasm about Governor Palin. The other interesting thing is I find there's a lot of people who have served as mayors or city council members or school board members, and they're mad, because they understand that serving on one of those entities is experience with real-life people and their problems. You go to work with your constituents, you go to church with them, you run into them in the grocery store, and that's very practical, real-world, real-life decision-making that we can use more of, not less of, in our nation's capital.

KING: Are you saying send school board members to meet with Putin?

HUGHES: Well, I'm saying, Larry, that obviously you're sending Senator John McCain who has 30 years of experience meeting with foreign leaders.

KING: Yeah, but she could inherit that.

HUGHES: Well and so could -- there was another governor named Clinton who came from Arkansas and didn't have a lot of foreign policy experience when he was elected president. And so I'm just saying Larry that I always found when I was working in the White House that bringing a mom's perspective, a sort of practical real-world perspective. One of my favorite stories, I remember being at a meeting where there were all these people in the room discussing the effects of some energy regulations on everyday household appliances like washing machines. I looked around at all the assembled experts, I was the only woman in the room, and I remember thinking you know I'm the only person that ever uses a washing machine. Sometimes that kind of practical experience is valuable in Washington.

KING: Thanks, Karen. Ben, thanks, we'll see you soon.

STEIN: Honor to see you, sir.

KING: Charles remains. Other panels coming. Has Sarah Palin's candidacy been good for women or not? Some answers next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Charles Barkley, Karen Hughes and Hillary Rosen remain. We're now joined in Washington by Terry Holt, who served as national spokesman for the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign and was senior adviser to the Republican National Committee. Terry, some suggest that this is now Obama's election to lose. Do you agree with that?

TERRY HOLT, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: I think in many ways it is. In most of the polls, he's getting more than 50 percent of the vote. John McCain has a huge challenge facing him over the next three weeks. He doesn't just have to get all of the undecided votes. He has got to change people's minds about Barack Obama.

Now I would say that the race is still relatively unsettled and relatively volatile. He has an opportunity to do that, but it's an uphill climb at this point. Because remember, Barack Obama has an ocean of money behind him. He plans on spending more than $90 million over the closing days of this race. He's trying to win this presidency with money, and it looks like he might pull it off.

KING: You know sports, Charles, better than anybody. The worst thing you can be is overconfident. You're going in the game and you're going to win. That's a good way to lose. Is there a danger with that with Obama?

BARKLEY: I don't think so. Number one, I'm just so excited for this opportunity he's presenting to America. This guy has his stuff together. He's got great people around him, he's got great ideas, some you agree with, some you disagree with. But Larry, this country is broken, this country is broken. And I'm willing to take a chance on this man. I never get caught up in the Republican/Democrat thing. I hate when I hear conservative and liberal. I'm putting all my eggs on Barack Obama. I like my chances, because I trust him.

KING: Karen Hughes, frankly as an opponent, do you respect him?

HUGHES: I do respect him, and I think he's done a lot of good things in this campaign. I liked his rhetoric starting out when he talked about United States of America, not divided states. He talked about not red, not blue, but the United States of America. I think he's tried to lift us at some points during the campaign to a higher purpose. I fundamentally however just disagree with him. I don't think he has adequate experience, unfortunately. I noted that Charles just said take a chance. There's too much at stake to take a chance.

I worry that he's only been in the United States Senate for three years, and that he really has never been in a decision-making position where he had to make fundamental life or death decisions. John McCain had to make a very difficult life or death decision when he was a prisoner of war regarding his own life. He chose to stay in that prison rather than let other people who had been captured who were ahead of him be released before -- rather than go home before people who had been there longer. And that's a life or death decision. And when you've had to confront that kind of decision, it matures you and it gives you wisdom. And I just worry that Senator Obama has not had to make those kinds of decisions in his life.

KING: Hillary, we don't hear the name Dick Cheney mentioned much by anybody. Should the Democrats be mentioning him?

ROSEN: Well, I don't -- frankly, George Bush's unfavorables are so high that you don't even need to get to Cheney. Really the Republican brand and the feelings for the Republican administration could not be worse in this country. You know, despite what Ben said before, I think there's very much a sense that Republican excess and deregulation brought us to this situation in the economy, and at worst, over the last six or eight months when the signs were heading this way, the Treasury Department did nothing.

So, you know, I think the other reason you don't hear Dick Cheney much is we don't have much point in raising him, and the Republicans sure don't want the comparison between Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. So it probably is to nobody's benefit to keep talking about him.

KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll get into another area, and then this panel will return. We'll be back in 60 seconds with people covering the campaigns. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: let's go ahead a beat on this big debate coming up tomorrow night. Jay Carney, "Time" magazine, Washington bureau chief. Chris Cillizza, author of "The Fix," the national political blog on the WashingtonPost.com. And John King, CNN chief national correspondent. John, this debate, you expect a lot to happen?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, I expect Senator McCain to try to grab command of the economic debate, which he is losing right now in a way that has put his campaign more than back on its heels. I was out in the suburbs here of St. Louis today. Presidential elections increasingly are decided in the suburbs if they're close. Barack Obama now leads by double digits, 12, 14 points among suburban women, a key constituency. Why? They say their energy costs are up, their health care costs are up. They're worried about the mortgage crisis. They are worried about jobs and they think John McCain is like George W. Bush. And even though most are not completely sold on Barack Obama, they want something different. That's a pretty big dynamic that John McCain must change in only 21 days left, Larry.

KING: Chris, tell me about, as you read it, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: You know, Larry, I think one of the most fascinating things is when Barack Obama won this nomination at the beginning of June, he said we're going to remake the political map, and cynical political reporters, I'll put myself in that category, rolled my eyes and said everybody says they're going to remake the political map and very few people do.

Well he has, to his credit done it. He's still advertising in North Carolina. He's spending huge amounts of money there. Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, these are not places that John McCain really wants to be fighting the last three weeks of the campaign. If you look across the map, Barack Obama on offense almost everywhere. John McCain is playing offense in only a few states, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, where John Kerry won in 2004. Barack Obama on the other hand is playing in a whole lot of states that George W. Bush won.

KING: Jay, this outlook, could this be a landslide?

JAY CARNEY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME: Well, in my lifetime, and most people's lifetimes, Larry, watching this show, there have been very few Democratic landslides. So I'm reticent to predict something like that because there's so many things -- you know, that you could still argue that the country is by and large a centrist, moderate, maybe even center right country. And there are a lot of factor working against a Democrat winning 40 states and more than 375 electoral votes.

But it certainly feel like it's possible, looking at these numbers now and those margins that John talked about earlier among suburban women and the margins shifting.

Sort of the last holdout group, seniors, now shifting toward Obama in key states like Florida and Ohio, with populations that are older.

You know, the potential is certainly there. What I think the big question for me tomorrow night with this debate is which John McCain will we see? Will he go wholeheartedly towards attacking the economic message? Or will he try to balance that with going back to his attacks against Barack Obama's character?

KING: We'll be right back with our three gentlemen and some more forecasts right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with John King and Chris Cillizza and Jay Carney. John, you filed a report today on the suburban vote in Missouri, another key battleground state. You said McCain has a problem there. What is it?

KING: The biggest problem is not personal, Larry. The biggest problem is in much of the country, not just in the suburbs, but that's a key decisive factor in close elections -- the country is tired. This financial meltdown came at the absolute worst possible time for John McCain. He's trying to separate himself from an unpopular Republican president and you have an unpopular Republican administration in the news, on the front pages every day, trying to deal with a huge problem.

And of course we wish our president well at a time like this, but you have an unpopular George W. Bush out in the mix every day. People, whether it's fair or not, blame Republican economic policies by and large for this, or at least blame the incumbent party. And so they're tired, Larry. They feel like they're treading water. So much around them seems beyond their control and they don't trust the politicians.

This is not so much love of Barack Obama or embrace of his politics, as much as if you simply ran Democrat versus Republican, take the names out right now, the Democrat wins big. If you run Hillary Clinton against John McCain she wins even bigger than Barack Obama. So some of his support is still soft, but this was already a Democratic year and this financial meltdown makes it worse.

KING: Let's check in with Anderson Cooper, he'll host "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. What's up tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, a lot of breaking news. John McCain looking for a boost. Today he unveiled a new economic plain, a day after Barack Obama did the same. We'll have that. But when the candidates debate tomorrow night in their last face-off, will he bring up the issue of Obama's relationship with '60s radical William Ayers. McCain made a prediction about that today. We'll tell you what he said.

Plus, we're on the trail with Sarah Palin. She was in Joe Biden's hometown of Scranton today, bashing the media and Obama. Tonight, will what she's saying sway Independent voters. And the latest on Wall Street's wild ride and we name another name to our ten most wanted list, the culprits of the collapse. If you want to know who's to blame for what's happening to your money, tune in tonight on "360," Larry.

KING: Thanks. That's Anderson Cooper, 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific.

Chris, does McCain need to really win tomorrow night?

CILLIZZA: You know Larry, I think he does. I feel like it's cliche, we go into each of these saying somebody needs a game changer. And I do think John McCain needs a game changer. I'm not sure he's going to get it though because of what John just talked about. The broad dynamics of this election are really tilted against John McCain. I'll give you two numbers, Larry, nine and eight. That's the number of people in the "Washington Post" and then the "New York Times"/CBS News poll came out in the last few days that said the country's on the right track. That's a stunning number. Talking about 85, 90 percent of Americans, that's a lot of Republicans, a lot of Independents and Democrats saying the country is off in the right direction. John McCain is swimming so hard against a very, very strong current there that I think anything he does will be difficult.

Barack Obama has been at this for several years now. I don't think he will make some sort of major gaffe, say something like the economy is not important. He's been at this a long time. It is going to be hard for McCain. And even if he does win quote-unquote tomorrow night, I'm not convinced that it changes that overarching dynamic.

KING: And Jay Carney, Joe Biden has slammed Republicans for trying to raise questions about Obama's past associations and he had this to say about McCain's failure to bring up the topic in the face to face debate. This was the other day. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VIC EPRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the things they said about Barack Obama in rallies and on TV before the debate and all the things they're saying right now, after the debate, John McCain couldn't bring himself to look Barack Obama in the eye and say at the debate. Folks, in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood, where I came from, you got to say something to a man, look him in the eye and say it to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jay Carney, was that strong?

CARNEY: Oh, that was strong and that was a dare. And it wasn't just schoolyard bully tactics. It was a deliberate dare, I think, on Joe Biden's part because he knows, he's seen the polls and the survey data, that the negative attacks from McCain have backfired. That a lot of people are blaming him for being too negative in this race, they don't like it because there are just issues that are more important, that transcend your past associations and efforts by McCain to make Obama seem unacceptable as president. Those kind of tactics work in an election year like 2000 when things were relatively quiet and peaceful.

KING: I have to take a break. Thanks to our trio, we'll be having them back. Charles Barkley and company return right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW: I'm Joy Behar. You know, every vote counts, so don't forget to vote this November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's our "go vote" campaign. We have our panel left, not much time. Let's talk about the Bradley effect. We discussed it a little earlier in the show.

We'll start-and you're the one I guess brought it up. We don't know if people will vote against people just because they're black. It happened to Tom Bradley who was mayor of Los Angeles and lost the gubernatorial election in California. And people didn't tell the truth to poll takers.

BARKLEY: Well unfortunately Larry, racism white and black, exists in this country. They are some white people that say I watch CNN the other night and some of these little old ladies said they couldn't believe how many white people came and said I would never vote for a black guy. That's unfortunate, that's sad. It does exist. We're still going to win this thing. I think the economy will win out in this situation.

KING: Terry Holt, does it bother you?

HOLT: It certainly would bother me. I'd like to think we're going to choose who our president would be based on their accomplishment, their record, their ability to lead this country in difficult times. And I am going to be hopeful about it. I think we are going to have an honest election where it's pretty close in the end and John McCain is able to find his voice in these last few weeks and appeal to the American people with a strong leader who knows how to navigate through difficult times.

KING: Hillary, could there be a racial vote that affects North Carolina or Florida or Ohio and Virginia, four key battleground states?

ROSEN: Well you know, from an overall perspective of course in all the polls, the economy does trump race for voters this year. But this election is about individual states. And the key thing to remember is actually Ohio and Florida were never on the Obama map, as the top priorities. I've long been saying I think that we're going to win Florida.

But actually, the new states that Obama brings to the table are states full of diversity and full of a kind of electorate that has kind of taken over politics, whether that's New Mexico with heavy Latino votes or Nevada with young suburbanites.

So I think that we have a diversity in this country and this electorate the likes of which haven't been seen before. I think that is going to undermine any potential Bradley effect. I don't think we'll see that.

KING: Karen, how does McCain pull it off?

HUGHES: Larry, I will remind people that Ronald Reagan was behind, I believe by double digits 11 or 12 points on October 26th of the year that he won the White House and beat incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

And so I think no doubt he is behind. It would help if he had a great debate performance tomorrow night, was able to really connect on the economics. He has unveiled a new economic plan. I think it's got a lot of great specifics to help seniors, to help homeowners, to help those at the lowest end of the income scale as well as middle class families. And so I hope that he will go into the debate tomorrow night and make a convincing case that he is the leader to win the war in Iraq, not just end the war and to bring us back from this economic crisis.

KING: Charles, are you going to run for governor in Alabama?

BARKEY: I'm leaning that way Larry in 2014.

KING: Why 2014?

BARKLEY: Well, you have to live there for seven years and I just got a house there last year.

KING: And that's your home?

BARKLEY: That's my home. And Alabama needs a lot of help, a lot of help.

KING: So you have to wait seven years?

BARKLEY: That's how far we are behind the times.

KING: What's the basis of that law?

BARKLEY: I have no idea. I have no idea.

KING: You are going to run as a what, a Republican?

BARKLEY: I'm going to run as an Independent. Let's get one thing. The reason I'm supporting Barack Obama is because of Barack Obama. Like Mr. Stein said earlier, hey these Republicans and these Democrats have screwed up our country. They both have did it.

KING: Thank you, Charles.

BARKLEY: Thank you for having me.

KING: Thanks to our whole panel. Hey, who is going to do better in tomorrow's debate? That's our quick vote, cast your ballot at CNN.com/LarryKing. And out the LARRY KING LIVE blog. It's your chance to take part in our show as it happens.

And finally, we want to congratulate Paul Krugman, awarded the Nobel Prize in economics yesterday, a frequent guest on this show. Whenever we discuss the economy, we love having him. Well done, Paul. And on Thursday night following the debate, Bob Schieffer will be here and so will Bill Maher. And Bill will rate the debate.

Time now for Anderson Cooper and "360." Anderson?