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Final Debate for Obama and McCain; Fight for Colorado; Max Your Benefits: It's Open Enrollment Season

Aired October 15, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Wednesday, October 15th, 20 days until the election. The final debate. The presidential candidates tussle tonight at Hofstra University. Can John McCain shake up the race?
The battleground states' polls signaling a shift to Barack Obama. This hour, a focus on Colorado.

New questions about grassroots voter registration. Fraud allegations against the group ACORN spread to Philadelphia. A CNN investigation this hour.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Working around the clock fighting wildfires on the West Coast while the presidential race heats up in the East. The final face-to- face showdown tonight.

If you are waking up with us on the West Coast, it is 8:00 a.m. And here is the latest on the California wildfires impacting your lives.

With calmer winds today, firefighters are gaining ground on the biggest of the blaze which has scorched about 13,000 acres and damaged or destroyed almost two dozen homes. Firefighters say that fire is now 20 percent contained.

The other big fire in the area which has burned about 5,000 acres is 80 percent contained. Because of this progress, firefighters are letting more evacuees return home.

And the stage is set for the final face-off of the campaign. Tonight at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, John McCain and Barack Obama meet in their third and last debate.

The best political team on television has you covered. Ed Henry following the McCain campaign. Jessica Yellin covering the Obama camp.

Barack Obama heads into tonight's debate leading in national polls and in several key states. So what can we expect from him this evening?

Let's bring in Jessica Yelling.

Jessica, good to see you.

Is Barrack Obama ready to respond to the guilt by association attacks many are expecting from John McCain tonight?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The campaign says absolutely. They have consistently said Barack Obama doesn't want to throw the first punch at these debates, but he will be prepared to throw the last if necessary.

And that is true on the Bill Ayers issue, as well as on accusations they expect from John McCain that Barack Obama plans to raise taxes. They say he'll be specific about how he will lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans. And on an array of issues they say they're prepared to give as good as they get, but want to focus on the economy, the economy, the economy.

It is the issue that Barack Obama thinks will keep his numbers high and will take him to victory in November. So he wants to be steady. He wants to talk about substantive policy issues regarding the middle class. And then hit back, if attacked, on all those issues that John McCain is prepared to bring up this evening -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. Hey, Jessica, just in your time on the campaign trail with the Obama campaign, has he offered something of a preview of what he might say to the kinds of attacks that we're talking about, the alliances attacks?

YELLIN: Absolutely. Well, John McCain has said that he doesn't care -- he, John McCain, doesn't care about some guy who was a terrorist with the Weathermen back in the '60s.

HARRIS: Yes.

YELLIN: Well, that's what Barack Obama is likely to say. Look, even John McCain has said this is not relevant, these are distractions from the real issues. They'll quickly try to pivot away from what they say are just negative political distractions on to policy issues that will affect voters. That will be a tactic.

HARRIS: OK. Jessica, appreciate. Yes, appreciate it. Thank you, Jessica. We'll talk to you a little later.

John McCain hoping to shake up the race and reverse his slide in the polls recently. So what's his strategy?

Ed Henry live from the debate site.

And Ed, what are we going to see from John McCain tonight, happy warrior or guilt by association attacks tonight? Or maybe both.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Tony, he's trying to -- exactly. He's really trying to split the difference there and try to do a little bit of both. But it's a very delicate balancing act.

I can tell you, out on the campaign trail with John McCain, he's been getting a lot of pressure, frankly, from his own supporters. We saw that gentleman at a rally in Wisconsin late last week who was literally saying, I'm begging you, I'm begging you, take it to Barack Obama in this last debate. You know, go right to him, be more aggressive.

And John McCain himself yesterday said basically he will bring up the name of William Ayers, and that while it's sort of ancient history in a way, McCain justifies it by saying this is about Barack Obama's judgment. It's not about William Ayers, it's about Obama's judgment in associating himself with him, but also about Barack Obama's candor, because the Obama camp has given different explanations about how deep this relationship really is.

So look for McCain to focus in there. But there could be a boomerang effect. There's a real risk here for John McCain.

If you look at this morning's -- the latest poll in "The New York Times" this morning, it's basically suggesting that these attacks are backfiring a bit on John McCain. It's raising his negatives with the American people and with those Independent voters in the middle who are very likely to decide this election.

They don't necessarily like that. They want to hear more, what will John McCain do as president to fix the economy, deal with the financial crisis? So, to get back to your first question, just a little bit of both. He wants to go on the attack, but also try to show what he would do as president. Very tough balancing act -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. OK, Ed. Appreciate it. Thank you, sir, as always.

HENRY: Thank you.

HARRIS: And you can see the final Obama/McCain match-up right here on CNN. Join the best political team on television for debate night in America, tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Guarding against voter fraud in the key swing state of Ohio. A federal court ordering the state to check voter registrations. The ruling calls for a system to be set up by Friday to verify the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters. Republicans had sued for the safeguards. Ohio's secretary of state says she will comply.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER BRUNNER, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: So we have these safeguards in place, and we also know that with voter I.D., that provides a further safety net so that when the person appears to vote, whether it's an absentee ballot or in the person, they still have to provide identification, even if there is a match, with the state and federal databases that those identifying numbers are compared with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And we will look at the claims of voter registration fraud in Pennsylvania at the bottom of the hour. So, as the wildfires in California rage, our iReporters have been on fire watch. Take a look at this. This was sent in by Matt Hartman of Granada Hills, California. He was on the scene as firefighters tried to contain that huge fire there.

The wildfires in the Los Angeles area, as we mentioned at the top, have charred about 20,000 acres and destroyed or damaged dozens of homes right now. While many evacuees are being allowed to return today, some are facing a grim reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BIXLEY, RESIDENT: There's more things I wish I could have gotten, you know, out of here, like pictures of my two daughters, my granddaughter, stuff like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: For months after her daughter's disappearance, Casey Anthony has been charged with killing 3-year-old Caylee. The 22-year- old mother is facing the judge in a Florida court this morning a day after a grand jury indicted her for first-degree murder.

Anthony also faces charges of aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter, and four counts of lying to investigators. She's being held without bond. Investigators say Anthony waited a month before calling police about her daughter's disappearance. Despite an exhausted search, the little girl's body has not been recovered.

Your kids may soon have to buckle up on school buses, but only if they ride the smaller ones. The Associated Press reports new safety rules just announced by the Transportation Department. The changes were prompted by a bus crash that killed four students in Alabama back in the 2006. Officials now requiring three-point lap and shoulder belts on smaller school buses, and they're ordering higher seat backs on the larger buses.

Candidates are focusing in on the battleground states, and so is CNN. Which state has more pull?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Let's get you to the New York Stock Exchange. And man, take a look at this.

Yes, stumbling stocks. You've got right there. The lower third there sort of says it all.

As you can see, the Dow is down 340 points. What's going on here?

Well, new figures show retail sales actually drove off a bit of a cliff in September. And no surprise here, a couple of big banks are reporting profit slumps for the third quarter. That's exactly what you would expect. So 20 days to the finish line, and Barack Obama picking up some speed. Polls suggest voters in several battleground states are shifting to the Democrat.

We are going to focus on one right now, Colorado. CNN's new Poll of Polls shows Obama leading John McCain 48 percent to 43 percent, 9 percent of Coloradans say they're unsure.

Obama picking up four percent points since our last Poll of Polls in Colorado. It was released 10 days ago.

With that bit of background, let's spend some time with Dan Haley. He is the editorial page director for "The Denver Post."

And good to see you, sir. Thanks for your time.

DAN HALEY, "THE DENVER POST": Good morning, Tony. Thank you.

HARRIS: Well, you know, you will meet to sort of figure out your paper's endorsement here. And clearly, waiting until after tonight's debate. Yet, if we take a look at your Web site, the lead editorial today is titled -- and here it is -- "Debates Don't Help Voters."

So here's the question. Is the board's mind made up on the endorsement, or is there a potential game-changer in tonight's debate that might lead the board to revisit the decision?

HALEY: The board is currently split right now. We are not leaning in any one direction. And we decided we wanted to watch the debate tonight and see if there was any game-changers.

We're not expecting that there will. And that editorial was based on the fact that we don't think the debate format allows for game-changers, or even allows for follow-up questions. And if you're a voter coming to this fresh, you're not going to get much out of the debate.

So anyway, as a board we're split. We like to see elections play out. We understand people are voting early, especially in Colorado.

HARRIS: Yes.

HALEY: So we need to give them an endorsement, but we like to see things play out until pretty much the end.

HARRIS: Well, Dan -- no, that makes sense. That certainly makes a certain amount of sense here.

Does the paper think Colorado first and then country in endorsing a candidate for president? I'm just sort of curious about the process here.

HALEY: You know, we take all those things into account. We look at strictly -- we're a western newspaper, so we often look at candidates, and have they addressed western issues. But we also understand that they're the president of the entire United States and the leader of the free world, so we look at big issues -- national security. But right now what we're talking about is the economy and who has the best plan.

You know, our conversation, we've talked -- you have these sort of conversations throughout the year when you watch presidential candidates on the stump, when they come to your hometown, your home state. But our conversation has changed quite a bit to the economy and who has the best plans to get us out of this.

HARRIS: Yes. So -- and that's curious.

Let me follow up this way. Does your endorsement then carry the weight of endorsing the candidates' economic philosophy proposals for Colorado and the country?

HALEY: It will address all of those things -- the economy, health care, who would be the best president to serve while you have a Congress that has -- assuming there are going to be more Democrats in Congress this year. All of those things come into play. And we have things we like about Barack Obama. We have things we like about John McCain. And probably most distressingly, we have things we don't like about Barack Obama and things we don't like about John McCain.

HARRIS: Yes.

Got to ask you, Dan, has your board talked about the historic nature of the race on both tickets really? And will your editorial make some kind of a statement on race, on age, gender in this campaign and in the country at this moment?

HALEY: I don't believe so. We haven't talked about the race issue. We haven't talked about the gender issue on the Republican side.

We have been strictly talking about issues like the economy, health care, Iraq. We understand this is a historic race, it's an exciting race. We're glad to have our little part of it in doing an endorsement and talking about the issues, but we're really looking at strictly the issues that affect this country.

HARRIS: What's the split right now? I don't know how many are on your board. What's the split right now?

HALEY: We were evenly divided yesterday with one person missing at about 4-4. So we very much feel we reflect Colorado in that -- I know your polls suggest that Obama is pulling away here in Colorado, but Colorado is a swing state, and I think we reflect the state.

HARRIS: All right. Dan, thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it. We'll wait to see that endorsement.

HALEY: Absolutely. Thank you.

HARRIS: All right. Very quickly, let's take you to California right now and show you more of these fire pictures. We knew we would see more of these at daybreak, and we're starting to see more of these.

And this is clearly a fire that is encroaching on a home there. And wow.

Kelly (ph), is that what I'm saying, a fire? This is not a firefighter working on that fire. This is a homeowner right now working on that fire, hoping to get some help obviously from some firefighters, and battling that blaze, which is definitely encroaching on that home right there.

We will keep an eye on this situation, because as you can see here, the flames are close to that dwelling. And we'll get you an update on that story and bring you the latest pictures from California.

You know, thousands of suspicious voter registration applications in states where a handful of votes could actually decide the elections. CNN's Special Investigations Unit is on the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: It is open enrollment season. Time to max your benefits, especially in this time of financial turbulence. Boy.

Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is here to show us how.

And you know, Gerri, it fees like everything has gotten more expensive since last year. And I'm thinking about, for example, health care. Am I looking at paying more this year?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: You bet. Of course. You know, your health care costs, including your co-pays, other out- of-pocket costs, projected to total almost $3,900. That is up 8 percent from last year. And you know, that's almost double the rate of inflation.

Think your salary increases are going to cover that? No. Bottom line here, don't be complacent. Remember, your benefits are part of your compensation. And in these tough times you can't afford to get less than what you deserve.

A recent survey, Tony, listen to this. More than 60 percent of employees will default into the plans they selected the previous year. They don't even look at the paperwork. They just check the same box. You want to do more than that.

HARRIS: All right. So what's your best advice if we want to take full advantage of open enrollment season?

WILLIS: Well, understand that your employer is probably facing harder times, too. So even the plan you had this year may look very different from the choices you have today.

Here is your cheat sheet to get the most out of open enrollment.

Number one, get disability insurance if you don't already have it. Look, your number one asset, Tony, is your ability to earn an income. This insurance is vital, especially if you're in a high-risk occupation.

Also, take advantage of flexible spending plans. Hey, free money here, guys. A tax-free way of paying for those rising out-of-pocket costs for health care and transportation.

Investigate alternative coverages. More and more employers are requiring that employees pay a bigger portion of the cost of coverage for dependents, the kids. So if you spouse can get coverage on his or her own, you want to investigate that option. It's very important.

And finally, keep contributing to that 401(k). I know I keep saying this. I know you're watching your balances fall, but think of it this way, stocks are on sale. And if you have a decade or two until retirement, you're going to reap the benefits later on. So you have to be patient.

HARRIS: That is, as always, great tips, great advice, Gerri. Yes, keep investing in that 401(k) if you can ride this thing out. And that's...

WILLIS: You've got to ride it out. It's ugly today, down 348 points.

If you have any other questions, send them to us at toptips@cnn.com.

HARRIS: Outstanding. Thank you, Gerri. Appreciate it.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

HARRIS: And as the most serious credit crisis in decades takes its toll on your finances, CNNMoney.com has some advice and answers. Check out our special report, "America's Money Crisis." That's at CNNMoney.com.

We have a new hurricane on the move in the Caribbean with its eye on the Atlantic. Meteorologist Rob Marciano is tracking Omar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's at stake in this election? A lot. Decisions that will be made could change the course and direction of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time we need a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person with integrity who knows right from wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person of vision who not only knows what is, but also what can be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person with a moral compass to help chart a course for our nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a person who has the ability to unite and inspire us as we face challenging times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's at stake? Everything.

Vote. Choose wisely. We're counting on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Interesting.

Vice President Dick Cheney cancels a campaign appearance after doctors discover an abnormal heart rhythm.

Live now to our Kathleen Koch at the White House.

So, Kathleen, my understanding is the vice president will undergo an outpatient procedure later today.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he will, Tony. And this is very similar to something that he underwent roughly about a year ago.

It was November 26th of 2007. Basically what happened is the vice president came to work this morning. Now, we did notice he was not present at the cabinet meeting. We do have a photo here of him at yesterday's working group on financial markets where he was seated next to the president.

But according to the vice president spokesman, Megan Mitchell, the vice president came to work this morning at his usual time, 7:30. She didn't say whether or not he didn't feel well or was feeling pain, but she said doctors were called to examine him at his office, and they found that he was having the same problem he had in November of last year.

Basically, it's an abnormal rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. So he is going to go again, as he did last November, to George Washington University Hospital for an outpatient procedure that will restore basically -- it's an electrical impulse that's used to shock those upper chambers back to their normal rhythm.

At that point last year, the procedure went smoothly, without complication. Mitchell says the same thing is expected to happen this time around.

He'll undergo the procedure sometime in the early afternoon, we're told. And then she expects that he will return to his residence at the naval observatory to rest and recuperate.

And just a little bit of history for those who don't know, the vice president has had several heart attacks throughout his life. The first one at the age, the very young age of 37. In 1978 he had another. In '84, '88. That point he did have quadruple bypass surgery. Had a final heart attack in 2000, and then at that point he did have sort of a defibrillator, cardiac defibrillator implanted in his heart that regulates the rhythm.

So again, they're going to go in and do this outpatient procedure. Expect him to be back home tonight and back at work tomorrow -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right. Kathleen Koch at the White House for us.

Kathleen, good to see you. Thank you.

KOCH: You bet.

HARRIS: At the center of suspicion. Activist group ACORN again accused of widespread voter registration fraud. CNN's Special Investigation Unit's Drew Griffin has new developments now from Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The good news, there have been hundreds of thousands of new voter registrations processed in Philadelphia, including a vast majority of good, clean registrations from ACORN. The bad news, Philadelphia has already sent 1,500 obvious fraudulent registrations to the U.S. attorney to be investigated, every one of them from the same group, ACORN.

(on camera): Is ACORN a group that has been problematic in its organizing of these voter registration drives?

FRED VOIGT, PHILADELPHIA DEPUTY CITY COMMISSIONER: (INAUDIBLE).

GRIFFIN: Have you tried to work with them to explain to them...

VOIGT: Absolutely. I don't have an answer for you, OK?

GRIFFIN: Right.

VOIGT: We originally -- I mean, this has been going on for a number of years. We have met with them. We have talked to them.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): According to city officials, close to 8,000 applications turned in by ACORN are problematic, including the 1,500 already sent to the U.S. attorney. And officials expect the number to climb.

Fred Voigt says so far his office is catching them, making sure no bad registrations lead to bad votes. But admits he has limited staff.

VOIGT: Are there going to be bad votes? Sure there are going to be bad votes. There are always bad votes.

Am I concerned this is a close election? Of course I'm concerned this is a close election. But you have to weigh everything in terms of your capacity to find things out. GRIFFIN: Voigt says the problem is ACORN hires people desperate for money, including drug addicts, homeless, recovering alcohols, even recent parolees who only get paid if they get signatures.

VOIGT: You just looked and it was all in the same hand. You know, you could see some where they used a phone book, including the apostrophe.

GRIFFIN: Someone went down in the phone book and just copied it verbatim, right out?

VOIGT: Kitchen petition. It's --

GRIFFIN: Kitchen petition?

VOIGT: Kitchen petition.

GRIFFIN: Sit around the kitchen, fill out the petition.

VOIGT: Fill out the petition. That happens.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We went to ACORN's Philadelphia headquarters where a rally was taking place telling volunteers the recent news about voter fraud was just another attack by the right wing and the media on the poor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is fraud. That is voter suppression. That is not true.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the news media when that is going on?

GRIFFIN: Junette Marcano is the local ACORN chairperson who acknowledges ACORN hires the less fortunate, but says there is nothing wrong with that.

(on camera): Why is the deputy city commissioner of Philadelphia telling me that ACORN is hiring recovering alcohols, drug addicts, homeless people who are so desperate to get money that they know that if they don't make their quota, they just fill in any old name? That's what he's telling me.

JUNETTE MARCANO, PHILADELPHIA ACORN CHAIRWOMAN: That's just not the point.

GRIFFIN: That's not the point?

MARCANO: No. That is not the point.

GRIFFIN: What is the point?

MARCANO: We did not deliberately go out there and say, you are homeless, you are a recovering alcohol, you are -- GRIFFIN: But has it presented itself as a problem to ACORN? Wouldn't ACORN like to run a nice, clean, smooth voter registration drive?

MARCANO: We have done that. Because if we have been able to register 85,000 -- above 85,000 -- good registrants, compared to 5,000 suspect cards, we have done a good job.

GRIFFIN: Election officials in Philadelphia say that number is actually closer to 10,000 fraudulent voter registration cards, but they really won't know until after the election.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Once again, John McCain and Barack Obama meet in New York tonight. It is the last debate before Election Day. And you can see it right here on CNN. Join the best political team on television for debate night in America tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Issue #1, the economy, will be the focus of tonight's debate. And the candidates are hearing some bad news about retail sales. And it is playing out in the markets big time. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with details.

Susan, good morning.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony.

Well, you probably know this anecdotally, but millions of Americans are reigning it in when it comes to spending. Retail sales dropped in September for the third straight month, a more than 1 percent decline, the biggest in three years, largely due to weak auto sales. At least one analyst says the report is clearly consistent with a recession, something that Janet Yellen, a regional federal reserve president, said yesterday as well.

We're certainly seeing stocks recede, no question about it. We had that huge relief rally Monday on hopes that the financial crisis is easing. But in the meantime, what's happening now is investors are focused on the economy and the news has not been good. The Dow Industrials right now down 361 points, or nearly 4 percent. The Nasdaq and the broader S&P 500 each down about 3.5 percent as well.

The federal government also having some problems there. We're seeing down arrows when it comes to the budget deficit. It soared to a record high this past year, more than $450 billion. That's more than double what it was last year. And worse, economists say next year's federal deficit could easily top $700 billion, which will be quite a hole for the next president to dig his way out of. No shortage of problems for the next president -- Tony.

HARRIS: How about that?

Susan, what's going on? Is this a case of the government spending more than it has?

LISOVICZ: Well, the government has been spending. There's no question about that. But what's happening is that the economy has been decelerating, and many people are seeing their paychecks dwindle, or are out of work, which means reduced tax revenue for the government. The same thing is happening in terms of businesses. At the same time, Washington is spending a lot to get us out of this financial mess. There was that nearly $170 billion stimulus program, the $700 billion bailout bill, and back in the spring, the Fed back stopped the sale of Bear Stearns. So, there's a lot going on.

HARRIS: Those numbers are so big, I have no idea what those numbers mean. We should do some kind of a graphic where we show folks what $700 billion looks like.

LISOVICZ: It would fill up the screen and probably take up a couple lines, Tony.

HARRIS: It's insane.

All right, Susan, see you next hour. Thank you.

Rob Marciano is in the severe weather center with the latest information on Hurricane Omar.

And Rob, I'm guessing here, surmising, that the latest advisory is in.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is in, and it has updated its position. It shrank, and its -- forecast track, 85-mile-an-hour wind speeds right now. So that has come up. It is strengthening and will probably remain in a strengthening mode for the next several hours, probably the next day and a half.

So, you can't really see the eye here on the infrared satellite picture, but the recon aircraft has gone in there, and says, yes, there is an eye, and it's on the move. It's moving northeasterly at 9 miles an hour. You kind of see how the tops of these clouds are being thrown off towards the north and east. So that's the direction of the upper level winds. That's the steering current that's going to move this thing just to the east of Puerto Rico, and probably right over St. Croix, St. Martin, maybe Antigua.

Yes, those islands are going to get a pretty good douse from this thing. It will probably be a Category 2 storm before too long here. So -- strong storm moving across the Leeward Islands. The fact that it's going out to sea, of course, for the U.S., that's good news.

Tropical depression number 16, this is just north of Honduras, scouting that coastline, or scooting north of that coastline, will be heading towards Belize. The forecast for this was for it to become a tropical storm. That's still the forecast. But it's not going to the U.S., so that's the good news there.

We had cool air over the Inner Mountain West and that cool air has been forcing those Santa Ana winds. Things are beginning to moderate as far as that is concerned. But the temperatures off to the east, still very warm across the southeastern third of the country. Temps way above average.

And the fire threat continues today. Although we won't see as much wind, we will see low levels of humidity and locally gusty winds. And some of the pictures that we've seen, Tony, and that you've commented on in the past 30 minutes or so, little sparks, little embers will fly and start local fires, and locally gusty winds will create some problems near some of those homes.

HARRIS: Did you see the pictures of the homeowner out there battling this fire -- I don't know if we have those pictures. It was just pretty dramatic stuff --

MARCIANO: Yes, he or she was knocking it down pretty good with the garden hose.

HARRIS: Wasn't doing a bad job. All right, we'll try to get those pictures up and get an update on that story.

Rob, good to see you, doctor.

MARCIANO: All right, Tony.

HARRIS: Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, is on the campaign trail in Dover, New Hampshire, this morning. We will take you there when the rally begins right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: As the presidential candidates prepare for tonight's debate, the vice presidential candidates are out and about as you can see. Let's listen in the as Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, speaks to her crowd in Dover, New Hampshire.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... so, thank you New Hampshire for honoring and supporting our military. Our hearts and our prayers go out to this family. Now, New Hampshire --

(APPLAUSE)

-- yes, thank you for that family. God bless them.

OK, New Hampshire, we are just three weeks away from Election Day. And it's going to come right down to the wire. With your help, we are going to win the war on terror, and we're going to win the economic war that we're in. We're going to get our economy turned back around because we're going to take the maverick, the patriot of the Senate, and we're going to put him in the White House with your support, New Hampshire. Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

And I know that we can count on the good people of New Hampshire because you're a lot like the people of Alaska. We all love good moose hunting. I know that. And we both so enjoy our great lands, the clean water and the fresh air and the abundant wildlife and good fishing. We love being outdoors. I know that that is New Hampshire, also. And we both do take seriously our -- your state's motto, I think it should be ours also, live free or die.

(APPLAUSE)

And here, we have that support and we have that love for John McCain because he always puts his country first.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, just last January the critics had counted John McCain out, and they said there's no way that he would win the primary up there. He was down in the polls, but the people of New Hampshire went to the voting booth and they turned the underdog into the victor, so John McCain has a history of overcoming the odds in this great state. And that is exactly what you can help us do on Election Day on November 4th.

(APPLAUSE)

So New Hampshire, are you ready to help us carry this great state to victory?

(APPLAUSE)

Are you ready to make John McCain the next president of the United States of America?

(APPLAUSE)

Are you ready for us to get there and shake things up in Washington?

(APPLAUSE)

There is so much at stake in this election, New Hampshire. Our economy in crisis, financial markets collapsing, retirements at risk and jobs vanishing. Our country is facing tough times. We have got to reform. We have got to turn things around. Now, more than ever, we need a tough man as president who is ready to lead on day one, and we need a leader with experience and courage and good judgment and truthfulness and a bold plan of action to take this country in a new direction.

(APPLAUSE)

We need that new direction. John McCain will lead us there.

All across America -- right now there's a lot of anger. There's frustration and anger about the insider dealing of lobbyists, and anger at the greed and the corruption on Wall Street and anger about the arrogance of the Washington elite and anger about the unconscionable voter fraud that's going on. And with serious reforms to change Washington and Wall Street, John McCain is going to turn that anger into action.

(APPLAUSE)

Now yesterday, John McCain set forth a plan to help those who have been hardest hit by our crisis. Now, the pension and the family security plan that he talked about yesterday -- that will get our country through a time of testing and get this economy back on the right track. Under this plan we will help American families keep their homes and save family neighborhoods and bring stability to the housing market. Predatory lenders had so taken advantage of hard working American families, and now too many of those Americans are struggling under the weight of the wrong mortgage. We're going to work with them to get them a fixed rate mortgage that will help them keep their homes. It is not a handout, but a hand up that will help stabilize the housing market.

(APPLAUSE)

Right now, there are a lot of retirees and good folks close to retirement age -- they're worried about their loss of savings in this crisis. They're worried about those investment that they had worked so hard for and trusted other people to invest wisely and manage that money, and only John McCain has a plan to change the tax code immediately to help protect them so that Americans can keep money in their retirement accounts and rebuild their savings. He's the only with a plan to do this. So, instead of just giving more billions of tax dollars to the Wall Street bankers and the brokers who got us into this mess, John has a plan to help America's workers and small business owners, because they're the ones who make our economy run, they're the ones who are deserving that help from the federal government, not the guys that got us in this mess.

(APPLAUSE)

So John and I will also bring tax relief to every American so that every business can have the opportunity to grow, to thrive, to prosper. Business owners, so that you can hire more people. That's how jobs are created. That's how jobs are created -- is to allow you to hire more people, allowing you to keep more of what you produce and earn and reinvest that then into growing your business. We're going to eliminate the unfair tax on unemployment benefits, also. Because those folks who are sincerely and aggressively really looking for work, they shouldn't have to worry about paying yet another tax to the federal government.

John has the backbone, too, to confront the $10 trillion debt that our federal government has run up. We will balance the federal budget by the end of our term.

(APPLAUSE)

We must do this because the federal government is in a hole. What do you do if you're in a hole and don't want to be there? The first thing you do is stop digging. We have dug ourselves in a hole. The first thing we have to do -- as president, John McCain will impose a spending freeze to cover all but the most vital functions of government, like worker retraining and care of our veterans.

(APPLAUSE)

In this great community here in New Hampshire, and others just like it across the U.S., all that working people are asking for is for government to be on their side, be on our side, so that we can have a good job in our own hometown. And with lower taxes and a pro-growth agenda, a pro-private sector agenda, and spending under control finally in Washington, we're going to get this economy moving again. Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

Americans cannot afford another tax increase, not at this time. Barack Obama voted 94 times for higher taxes. 94 times he had the opportunity to be on the right side of the issue, on your side. Instead, 94 times he voted to support the higher taxes, even on hard- working, middle class Americans, individuals making $42,000 a year. Increasing taxes? No. Taxes are already too high, and he wants to raise them. And government already spends too much, and he now wants to spend almost a trillion dollars more in new government spending. But he won't bother to tell you where that money is going to come from for all these new proposals.

America is deep in debt and he's going to get us even deeper in debt. We cannot afford this at this time. We cannot afford this. Folks, in times like these, the last thing we need is a tax increase.

You know, I hear that here in Dover there's home to two kinds of people, the fine people of New Hampshire and then the fine people of Massachusetts who got sick of paying all those taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

That should tell you something. I think the rest of this country is looking at this area and seeing, OK, what is it that New Hampshire wants? Kind of this microcosm here in the state of the rest of the entire U.S. -- people here in New Hampshire -- I know people back home in Alaska -- they know that you don't have to tax people that much, if you would cut down the federal government's expenditures.

(APPLAUSE)

We know that to get our economy moving again we must cut that wasteful spending and balance the budget and keep taxes low so that Americans can keep more of what they produce, what they earn, so they can reinvest in their priorities. You know best. You know better than government knows. Making decisions for you on where your money should go, you know best and John McCain and I trust you.

New Hampshire, it's very nice to be here because as you showed in the primary, you just get it. And it's nice to be here with group of people who understand what the federal government's proper role should be.

HARRIS: All right. There you have it. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaking to a crowd there in Dover, New Hampshire. You can see it live right now at CNN.com.

We are just a few minutes away from getting some fresh, new poll numbers in. The presidential race, results from key battleground states coming out at the top of the hour. Nine minutes from now. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider live from Hempstead, New York, with a preview.

Bill, can't wait for the new numbers. What's the focus of this latest poll, again, again, again due out in minutes?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Any minute. Well, in about 10 minutes we'll have the numbers for you. It's going to be in five states. Four of them are usually called battleground states; Colorado, Florida, Virginia and Missouri.

Candidates have been spending a lot of time there. They've been devoting a lot of advertising to those states. But we've added one state to that list that's often not thought of a battleground state. And it happens to be the state where you are right now. And that's the state of Georgia. Could that be a battleground? There was some discussion early on that this could be a close election in Georgia.

We'll see in just a few minutes how close it is. What's interesting about all five of those states is, they all voted for George Bush in 2004. All red states. Which suggests that this election -- the 2008 election -- is being fought in states that are normally Republican. Republicans are on the defensive and they're fighting to hold on to their territory. So, we'll see very shortly how they're doing now.

HARRIS: OK. That's eight minutes away. I'm hyping it as best I can. I'll do a little bit more after the break.

Bill, good to see you. And I know you'll be back at the top of the hour.

And check out our political ticker for all of the latest campaign news. Just log-on to CNNpolitics.com. Your source for all things political.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREVOR DOUGHERTY, ITHACA, NEW YORK: I'm 16 years old and in this presidential election I cannot vote. That's why I'm begging you, if you can, to get out this November and vote. Also, please encourage those who will listen to you to do the same. And let yourself be heard in this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: OK. Well said. Barack Obama buys ad space, where? And you named your baby what? Veronica De La Cruz joins us now with some news from the web.

Veronica, what have you found this time?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Tony.

It's good to see you. Well, we're talking about Barack Obama and, yes, he has raised a couple eyebrows with his news billboards. They can be found in the virtual world, Tony. Xbox360 to be exact.

Do you play?

HARRIS: No, I don't. By my son's all over this thing. He plays more than anyone in the family and your family.

(CROSSTALK)

DE LA CRUZ: Well, the next time he's playing check it out. This story is from the blog zdnet.com, that's a tech blog. Obama here is obviously targeting gamers --

HARRIS: Wow.

DE LA CRUZ: -- And here's what happens. You can speed along the highway, you race past these billboards that feature Obama's face, the message early voting has begun, vote for change. And he's done this in nine video games, Tony, ranging from Madden NFL, is that one your son has?

HARRIS: Yes, of course.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes? And then Burnout Paradise.

So, have seen them, then? Have you seen these?

HARRIS: No. I haven't seen the ads. But I try to stay out of the room, because there's a lot of stuff flying around that room and he's on the headsets and he's talking to people. It's just --

DE LA CRUZ: He's all over the place.

HARRIS: It's just too much confusion for me.

DE LA CRUZ: I know. All right. Also on the blogs this morning, got to tell you about this story. You named your baby, what? You were asking earlier.

Well, a Tennessee man goes behind his wife's back, Tony, and names their baby this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I figured Sara McCain-Palin would only give me two weeks in the dog house, so that was my bright idea. So about a half an hour before we leave the hospital I brought it up to my wife, because my conscience really you know, drilling me. I just really felt bad that she wasn't involved. And I really thought she was going to be gung ho and yes, let's do it. She wasn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: OK, what did he just say? He thought that she was going to be gung ho over naming the baby Sara McCain-Palin. And he thought that it would only give him two weeks in the dog house. Compared to what?

HARRIS: It's a man, though. It's just (INAUDIBLE).

DE LA CRUZ: Men, men!

HARRIS: As usual. It's men.

DE LA CRUZ: Listen to this, Tony. Instead of Ava Grace, which both he and his wife agreed on, this guy put the name Sara McCain- Palin on his baby's birth certificate. And he said he did this because he couldn't afford to donate money to the campaign. So, he felt that this was the one way that he could get the word out. He also --

HARRIS: But that's not the family's last name. What is going on here?

DE LA CRUZ: At all.

HARRIS: It's not even --

DE LA CRUZ: I don't know. But, I give him 90 days and the marriage is over.

HARRIS: Oh, yes. He is so in jail. Boy. Maybe he's even under the jail.

All right, Veronica. Good to see you. Thank you, lady.

And once again, you can see the -- can you believe that -- the final Obama/McCain match up right here on CNN. Join the best political team on television for debate night in America. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Poll numbers coming in, poll numbers coming in, fresh out of the oven.

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