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Mortgage Rates Suddenly Surging; Virginia Voters Assess the Candidates; Voter Registration Questions; Obama Speaks in New Hampshire; McCain Speaks in Pennsylvania
Aired October 16, 2008 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello again, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on Thursday, October 16th.
The top story, the final face-off for McCain and Obama. I will talk to two Washington insiders about the third presidential debate.
And stocks struggling again today on Wall Street. Right now the Dow blue chips are down 152 points off of session lows. So a bit of good news there. The Dow giving back Monday's historic 936-point gain.
We are right in the middle of a housing crisis and mortgage rates are suddenly surging.
CNN Christine Romans, co-host of "YOUR MONEY," is at our New York business desk.
And Christine, what is going on here? This is not good news.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is not good news if you're trying to get a new loan, if you've been waiting, waiting, waiting.
ROMANS: No, mortgage rates spiking, the biggest spike since '87. You know, just last week, a 30-year fixed loan was about 5.94 percent. This week, the rate on that same loan would be about 6.64 percent. So you have seen those mortgage rates spike up, and some of the economists are saying it might be an unintended consequence of all of the stuff that's going on with the rescue package and some of the help and aid and government initiatives going out on Fannie and Freddie.
But bottom line here is that if you're out there shopping for a 30-year fixed loan, those rates are moving higher here. And you've seen them pop above the 6 percent line. You know, for some time we've been talking about how they've been hanging at 5.99 for an awfully long time, so now they are indeed...
HARRIS: But Christine, if the rates are going up, that doesn't encourage folks to go out and get loans. And that just continues to contract the housing sector. Doesn't it? ROMANS: Well, you know, the thing about encouraging people to go out and get loans, I think it's less the rate that's keeping people back and more the fact that some people aren't able to get the loan. You know, I've been talking to some real estate agents and the like, and talking to -- on the banking side, you know, finding out, who is able to get a loan and who isn't? And a real estate agent recently told me, oh, you know, all this talk that people can't get loans, I had a buyer who had 30 percent down, and with a cosign from a parent, they had no problem getting a jumbo loan.
I went, "Thirty percent down?"
HARRIS: Thirty percent down.
ROMANS: You know, not all Americans are in a position where they can put 30 percent down. So, you know, you still have to have a pretty good credit rating, you have to be able to find a property where you have a good credit rating and you've got the money to put down still. So that seems to be the biggest hurdle for some people.
HARRIS: Hey, Christine, one other point here. I know there's some news out about Social Security benefits.
ROMANS: Yes. If you're one of the 55 million American who receive Social Security benefits, you're going to see your Social Security check next year go up by 5.8 percent a month. On average, that's about $63 extra in the paycheck for everybody. It's the annual cost of living adjustment.
And as we know, the cost of living has gone up, and it's as measured by inflation. The government's own inflation statistics have reflected it. So now it will be reflected in the cost of living adjustment for your Social Security check.
So $63 a month. For some people it comes at pretty important time, especially those boomers who are retiring and on the edge of retirement, who have seen their home prices fall, it costs more to fill up the gas tank, costs more to keep their home.
HARRIS: That's right.
ROMANS: So $63, I think people, they'll take it.
HARRIS: All right, Christine. Great. Yes, you're right. You're absolutely right about that.
Christine, thank you.
HARRIS: A cool and cautious Barack Obama, a fired up and feisty John McCain. The gloves came off certainly, and the two presidential candidates went round and round in their third and final debate last night. One of the most forceful clashes over Obama's attempts to link McCain to the Bush economic policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things that I think we have to recognize is pursuing the same kinds of policies that we pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit. And frankly, Senator McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going give a new direction to this economy and this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Well, they also sparred over character issues. McCain raised questions about Obama's ties to '60s radical Bill Ayers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Mr. Ayers, I don't care about an old washed up terrorist. But as Senator Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship.
OBAMA: Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign, he has never been involved in this campaign, and he will not advise me in the White House. So that's Mr. Ayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Well, he is no ordinary Joe, at least not anymore. An Ohio plumber named Joe Wurzelbacher played a prominent role in the presidential debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Fifty percent of small business income taxes are paid by small businesses. That's 16 million jobs in America. And what you want to do to Joe the Plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream.
OBAMA: The conversation I had with Joe the Plumber, what I essentially said to him was, five years ago, when you weren't in a position to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then. And what I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who doesn't yet have money, I want to give them a tax break now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: So what does Joe the Plumber think about the debate and all the attention he's getting?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE WURZELBACHER, "JOE THE PLUMBER": It's just, you know, surreal to hear my name on national TV. And like I said, before, I'm just glad I could be used to get some points across. You know, hopefully make some other Americans go out and really look into the issues and find out for themselves.
I want to set the record straight. Currently, I would not fall into Barack Obama's $250,000-plus. But if I'm luck in business and, you know, taxes don't go up, then maybe I can grow the business and be under that tax bracket. And hopefully -- well, let me rephrase it. Hopefully, you know, that tax won't be there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK with being called Joe the Plumber?
WURZELBACHER: Oh, sure. That doesn't bother me at all. You know, if I can capitalize on that with my business, then I definitely will. Other than that, though, I've been called worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: So did you watch the debate? CNN's Jason Carroll certainly did. He was in Virginia, one of the battleground states. He attended a debate party in Hampton and asked some of those watching how the candidates did.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you host a debate party...
ANNE DOOP, OWNER, THE PHOEBUS COFFEE HOUSE: I need to see where the Democrats are.
CARROLL: ... and invite passionate people from both sides in a sweet state like Virginia...
DOOP: Can I see a show of hands for Republicans?
CARROLL: ... the ground rules are clear. No swinging.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain, yes! Vote for USA! Yes!
CARROLL: But that doesn't mean voters here are pulling any punches.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain just didn't sound reassuring. Like, he was a little bit unsure himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama is really shifting in a lot of things. And I think that finally came out.
CARROLL: Senator McCain supporters say one of his strongest moments was when he challenged Senator Barack Obama on his past affiliation with former terrorist Bill Ayers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama needs to be accountable for his actions. You know, dealing with this terrorist.
CARROLL (on camera): The consensus seems to be that this was McCain's best debate so far. Are you in agreement with that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. He did a good job.
CARROLL (voice-over): But Obama supporters say McCain should have spent less time attacking.
(on camera): Well, I can see who you support just based on your hat here.
(voice-over): They give their candidate high marks for his take on issues like the economy and health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was on point, he was on message, and he tried focus on the issues instead of attacking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really didn't want to talk about the negative campaigning. What I wanted to hear about was health care and the economy and what they are going to do about jobs. And I thought Obama really kept bringing the topic back to that.
CARROLL: McCain supporters say he excelled on issues including education and abortion, and was best at being himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, his values, his perception, his history, his grasp for things, his life experience.
CARROLL: This divided room in Hampton, Virginia, is symbolic of a split state.
DOOP: You can drive down the street and there will Obama signs, and you go to the next street, in the same neighborhood, and they're all McCains.
CARROLL: We did find two voters in the room who were undecided before last night's debate, but no longer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just based on tonight, I had to go with Obama. I did not hear from McCain any plan that really made sense to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm favoring Senator Obama. I like to see people who speak carefully, thoughtfully.
HARRIS: So who won round three? Poll shows a majority of debate watchers think Barack Obama did better in the final debate. Fifty- eight percent of respondents in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll say Obama did the best job, compared to 31 percent for John McCain.
On the issue of Obama's connection to '60s radical William Ayers, only 23 percent said it matters a great deal, 51 percent say it doesn't matter at all. And it appears a bit of fatigue is setting in. Only 32 percent said there should be more debates, 67 percent say enough is enough already. Fresh from debate night, the candidates are ready to rally again. Barack Obama back on the campaign trail. He has got a big rally in New Hampshire this hour. We will take you live to Londonderry as soon as Obama starts speaking.
We could also see rival John McCain this hour. He is set to hold a rally in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. We will also bring you that live as well.
Check out our Political Ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to CNNPolitics.com, your source for all things political.
And what do you think about the debate? We will check in with our iReporters for their take.
HARRIS: Our Special Investigations Unit has been looking into problems with possible voter registration fraud in several states by one organization. Now ACORN's chief organizer, Bertha Lewis, joins us to address the allegations. And joining me here on the set is Drew Griffin, who has been leading this special investigation for CNN.
And Bertha let me start with you. My understanding is you take issue with some of the reporting by Drew and others on your organization. What's the issue? And feel free to address your concerns directly to Drew. He's here.
BERTHA LEWIS, ACORN CHIEF ORGANIZER: Well, my concern is that despite us registering 1.3 million people, having 13,000 workers, actually turning in every single card that we collected, as well as turning in folks that we might have suspected bad behavior, year after year, time after time, these allegations continue to be visited upon us, especially at a time when it is a political season. And we just think that there's never been a time where it's been proven that we have ever committed registration or voter fraud, and I just think it's very peculiar that the Republicans are attacking us like this.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Can I jump in just for one second?
Ms. Lewis, did you say that no one in ACORN has ever been found to have committed registration fraud? No worker for ACORN?
LEWIS: No. I -- that's -- ACORN -- accusations are against my organization, ACORN.
GRIFFIN: Who hires people to fill out voter registrations, and people who fill out voter registrations for ACORN, you admit, have been in trouble in the past for committing fraud. Correct?
LEWIS: We've actually turned those people in and helped to prosecute individuals that commit voter registration fraud. So there's never been any case, period, even the RNC's general counsel, that says there's never been one single case where someone has voted fraudulently because of an organized voter registration effort.
GRIFFIN: OK. So just to be clear, we're talking about two different things now, because what we're reporting about is the voter registration drive conducted by ACORN, which has turned in thousands and thousands of fraudulently filled out registration forms.
LEWIS: We registered 1.3 million new voters, and we had 13,000 workers that -- let me just answer the question.
LEWIS: It's less than one percent that you're talking about out of 1.3 million registrations. And you know that we're supposed to turn in each and every card. We've flagged, we've tagged suspicious cards, and we also turn in any canvasser that we suspect of bad behavior.
GRIFFIN: In Lake County, Indiana, where I know you know I've been, they said that they weren't flagged. The first 500 came in and they actually had to call back ACORN and say, what's going on here?
Did you turn in any of the people who filled out those fraudulent registration forms? Have you turned those people over?
LEWIS: Again, this is exactly what we do. Our quality control systems work.
GRIFFIN: But who do you flag them for?
LEWIS: We work with the elected officials, and we say to them, listen, if you have picked up a card that we might have missed, here. We'll let you know who the canvasser is. We give them that information. We've been doing this for years.
GRIFFIN: Ms. Lewis, you seem like a very nice person, but I don't think you really understand what's going on, on the ground.
LEWIS: Oh, I understand exactly what's going on. I understand.
GRIFFIN: In Lake County, Indiana, and in Philadelphia, two Democratic strongholds, the Democratic election workers are telling me ACORN doesn't listen to them, they don't get any contact with ACORN, they're not flagging these things properly. And they are the people who are having trouble with ACORN. It's not us. We're reporting what these election officials, Democrats in this case, are reporting about ACORN.
LEWIS: Well, I understand. And you know what? Here's what I'm going to tell you. They're just not telling the truth. The governor, the Republican governor in Florida...
GRIFFIN: I'm talking about Democrats in Indiana.
LEWIS: No, I'm going to talk about a Republican in Florida who just said there's no problem. No problem in Texas. No problem.
Now, in Indiana, if those officials feel as though they weren't getting enough attention from us, which is untrue, we'd be happy to sit down with them and give them every single person that ever worked for us there. That's what we do.
We don't want people to be fraudulently registering. Of course not. And it's never, ever been proven that we've done such a thing. I mean, when Alberto Gonzales came after us, he was never able to prove it.
HARRIS: Well, Bertha, let me jump in here. You feel like you've had your say?
LEWIS: I feel like we just want to get the facts out. And you know, an allegation and a lie doesn't make it true. We've been doing this. We know how to do it. And we've got a million new voters.
HARRIS: Is there anything else you can do? Is there anything else you can do in terms of transparency, in terms of a greater openness that would put some of these issues to rest? Can you get additional information to Drew? Can you -- can you open the books?
GRIFFIN: Let me give a suggestion..
HARRIS: All right. Can we work this out?
LEWIS: Listen, we want Drew or anyone -- Drew, come. Sit down in our offices.
GRIFFIN: Love it.
LEWIS: Let's get the officials together. And Drew, also, I think we can agree, local elected officials, they need to be made to actually follow up. They need to be made to actually pay attention. And we want to work with them. We invite Drew to come, and we invite any person to come.
HARRIS: That's the only person you need to invite. That's the only person you need to invite.
LEWIS: OK, Drew. That's great.
HARRIS: The only person you need to invite is Drew.
LEWIS: We'd be happy.
HARRIS: So we can make that happen here?
LEWIS: We'd be happy to have him. That's right.
GRIFFIN: We're going to do this. OK?
LEWIS: All right. GRIFFIN: But I want to tell you, Tony, the big problem with the election officials coming is, they pay -- they pay to register people, and it creates fraud.
I just want to the show our viewers. Listen, I went to Gary, Indiana. The Gary, Indiana, person for ACORN never called me back.
Then I went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because I was told -- in fact, the state director for Indiana works out of ACORN. Her name is Ms. Castore (ph). Ms. Castore said she would call me back in 20 minutes, Never called me back.
Then I got a call from a guy in Miami who said he was the public relations director or media coordinator for ACORN, he would be handling this. A couple days went by, he never called me back. Then he calls me back and sends me to an attorney in Boston.
The attorney in Boston we interviewed, and we talked about all of these concerns that Ms. Lewis is talking about. So this is -- it's very difficult...
HARRIS: Ms. Lewis?
GRIFFIN: ... when Ms. Lewis wants to sit down with us...
LEWIS: Drew, here I am. Drew...
HARRIS: Ms. Lewis, make this work.
LEWIS: Drew, I am...
GRIFFIN: It's a week and a half later, Ms. Lewis. Thanks.
LEWIS: Drew, I'm the chief organizer, I'm the woman in charge. The buck stops here. You and I together, OK?
GRIFFIN: All right. Good. Love it.
LEWIS: I'm the woman. I'm right here for you.
GRIFFIN: Here I come.
HARRIS: Love it. OK.
You all right with that, Drew?
LEWIS: I'm good.
HARRIS: Ms. Lewis, you OK with that?
LEWIS: I'm fine.
HARRIS: He's on a plane. All right?
LEWIS: All right.
HARRIS: Total transparency, books wide open.
LEWIS: That's right.
HARRIS: All right.
Thank you both.
LEWIS: Thank you.
Let's get back to politics now. The final debate of the presidential season was a real political thriller last night. The candidates really dug in, spoke to one another.
Joining me now, CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno and Politico.com's Jeanne Cummings.
JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO.COM: Good to see you.
HARRIS: Hey, Frank, let me start with you.
Marry me, divorce him. How did John McCain do in making that case last night?
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Tony, it's just an old-fashioned political love story. Isn't it?
I mean, here we are at this stage, and John McCain sees the numbers and he sees the trends. And what he had to do last night and what he has to do going forward -- it's what makes it so very difficult -- is he has to no longer merely make his own case. He has to make the case for people to abandon Barack Obama. It's not enough just to love John McCain, you've got to kind of cut the love for Barack Obama.
He's got to get some of those folks who have moved to him in the last several weeks away from him. It's why he's trying to point out the inconsistencies, the inexperience, trying to tar him with attacks and "spend liberal" label, why he's trying to say that every time he opens his mouth dollar signs flowed out, which, in fact, they do. And essentially scare people away from Obama and back to him. It's a tough task right now, because this story seems to -- you know, is moving towards its conclusion.
HARRIS: Hey, Jeanne, jump in and talk to one another. What do you think of John McCain's performance last night?
CUMMINGS: Well, I thought it was -- I thought he did some things well. I thought his retort that "I'm not President Bush" was very effective. And I didn't think Barack Obama responded as strongly as he could have in knitting McCain back to Bush. And so I thought McCain won that one.
I thought he got few points in. But here again, you know, we talked yesterday. And I really felt like he needed to talk to those undecided voters. And, you know, when you're into this debate 20 minutes and you're talking about an organization called ACORN, and people are worried about losing their homes and their cars and paying tuitions and buying food, I just felt that was a mistake. I felt like he went -- he was not delivering the kind of message that the voters wanted to hear and needed to hear if they wanted to be moved to his campaign.
SESNO: Jeanne, don't you think, and Tony, don't you think that one of McCain's fundamental problems is that as much as he tries to separate himself from George Bush and the Republicans, what he is basically saying, and he said it several times last night, is what he is proposing is, lower taxes, less government, less government spending. Cutting spending. And however he tries to slice and dice it, that is what the Republicans and what George Bush have essentially stood for. Whether they delivered it all across the board is another matter, but that's what he stood for.
So, when Obama says, wait, we've tried that for eight years, it hasn't worked, for a lot of people, isn't that the bottom line?
CUMMINGS: Well, I agree with you, Frank. And that goes right to the issue of credibility. And the McCain campaign struggled on two fronts.
First of all, to say that he's not George Bush and doesn't -- would not continue policies like it is not credible based on the reasons that you just brought up. And then the attacks on Barack Obama, if you look at the polling, including the CNN overnight poll, the notion that he's palling around with terrorist, or has some alliance, or a strange and exotic -- that has lost its sense of credibility. Meaning, move on.
CUMMINGS: Find something that might work.
HARRIS: All right. Well, let me jump in and maybe this is something that perhaps didn't work well for John McCain. We're talking about the cutaway shots.
In our business, that's the shot where -- where Frank is talking and Jeanne is reacting. And boy, I don't -- I don't tend to want to put a lot of credence into this, I just tend to want to give folks a pass on this. You're under pressure and you react.
But what did you think of those moments? And there were style moments here.
Jeanne, what did you think?
CUMMINGS: Well, I think that they actually are terribly important, because I think that voters, especially when choosing a president, they kind of reach into their gut and say, who am I comfortable with? Who do I think can get me through the next four to eight years that I will trust and be comfortable with? And they don't really say, I like they're health care plan, and Section D of it is my favorite part.
CUMMINGS: You know? They have to have some sense of the issues and where they're going, but it's also a personal choice.
And so those cutaway shots go to that part of a voter's brain when they're making their choices. And in that case, I thought McCain came off too hot, too brittle, sometimes too angry. And I don't think that helped him in the long run.
SESNO: A very interesting thing with Barack Obama yesterday -- and Tony, you and I, for better or for worse, are TV guys. So we know we have to look at the camera and it actually has to work, otherwise we're out on the street someplace.
SESNO: But several times last night Barack Obama was either talking to Schieffer or talking to McCain. He was in the split shot. So he was looking off camera. And then would turn and look right back at the camera.
At one point early on in the debate, as he said, "For 95 percent of you" -- and he was looking right into the camera and right into people's living rooms -- "you'll have a tax cut." And so that connection through the camera mattered.
The other thing he did as John McCain was criticizing him repeatedly through the evening, he was kind of shaking his head and smiling. It was almost a sort of silent equivalent of Ronald Reagan's "There you go again" without the words.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
SESNO: So he was really using the camera consciously or otherwise.
CUMMINGS: And that was the best time he's used the camera, Frank. I think that's the first debate where he did look into the camera, and it is effective. I was surprised it took him so long to pick up a tactic that Sarah Palin used quite effectively in her one debate.
SESNO: And for McCain in debate number one, he's criticized for not looking at Obama in the two-shot, and looking like he's, you know, dismissing him. And here he's looking at Obama throughout, never mind that he's rolling his eyes periodically. He's in the split screen and is looking kind of, well, there you see it.
HARRIS: Yes. Well, guys, you've been terrific. Thanks for helping us navigate these debates. You guys have been smart and insightful.
Frank, thank you.
Jeanne, great to see you.
Thank you for your help.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
SESNO: Thanks, Tony.
HARRIS: All right.
Debate round three, over and done with. Our iReporters are pretty sure they know who the winner is.
Let's queue the tape here. Let's get down to CNN.com's iReport desk. It's a quick little trip. One of the guys helping us run things down there at our iReport operation, producer Tyson Wheatley from Tysons Corner.
I'm not giving up on that.
Tyson, good to see you. Hey, share with us some of the debate reaction.
TYSON WHEATLEY, PRODUCER.CNN.COM: Yes. OK, Tony. Yes, let's get right to it.
We had a big response. The first one I showed to you comes from John Carroll of West Hollywood, who says this was by far the best of the three, but McCain actually came out really strong. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CARROLL, IREPORTER: McCain certainly seemed a lot more at the boiling point, but he's bound to be more on edge given that he's behind in the polls. He has to really pull it right out of his hat here. And I think he did a very good job.
Just as in the first debate, I think McCain really showed the reasons why I liked him back in 2000. McCain's a smart guy, and I think some of the ideas he has are quite good. I just happen to think Obama's got more good ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHEATLEY: OK. This next video comes from David Kronmiller. He's from North Hollywood, and he agrees that McCain did a lot better. But ultimately he thinks Obama won the day for staying cool and being very specific. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KRONMILLER, IREPORTER: I thought Obama won the debate, if anything, for demeanor, let alone the specifics. He went into great detail on his economic policies, on his health care plan. And his answer have been really great lately about that.
And really on every front he was very detailed, often putting it in context. The larger context, meaning the future, what's going to happen to not just us next month or next year, but to our children. You know? And all I ever hear from McCain is short-term solutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHEATLEY: OK. There you have it, Tony. That's just a small sampling of the reaction that we're getting from the final debate. I do have actually another video that I want to show you.
WHEATLEY: This was taken before the debate last night. This was right outside of Hofstra University.
HARRIS: Oh! That's a protest.
WHEATLEY: Yes. This is -- there were about 350 people, and some of them were anti-war protesters. And some of them were actually former veterans.
And they got into -- they demanded to get into the debate area, and they were met by police on horseback and police in riot gear. And so there was -- you know, there was a little bit of a clash there. All together, about 15 people were arrested, and police say actually one person ended up getting taken to a nearby hospital when he ran into a horse and fell back and hit his head.
Well, here's what we probably should do. Probably encourage folks -- would you like more iReports from folks reacting to the debate?
WHEATLEY: Yes, absolutely. It's not too late. I mean, we certainly want to hear. We know you watched, so...
HARRIS: Yes. That's for sure.
WHEATLEY: ... tell us who won.
HARRIS: All right, Tyson. Great to see you.
WHEATLEY: Take care, Tony.
HARRIS: Thank you, sir. See you tomorrow.
Where oh where is Hurricane Omar headed? We have the latest next.
HARRIS: Fire evacuees finally allowed back home in southern California. Crews battling three major wildfires, now getting the upper hand. Strong Santa Ana winds are dying down. Authorities say the biggest fire was caused by a downed electrical line. That blaze now 50 percent contained. Fire officials expect to have it fully under control by the weekend. Fifteen homes and several dozen other structures have been destroyed.
Let's check in now with Chad Myers.
And, Chad, firefighters obviously able to really get after those fires in SO CAL, getting the help they need from the conditions.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, still a red flag warning, Tony, but that's only because the air is dry. Not because the wind is moving. And it doesn't matter how dry the air is, if you can get helicopters in the sky, if you can get men on the ground, women on the ground, you can get these fires out. And that's exactly what's happening now. And there are no other extreme circumstances going to happen in what I see for the next 10 days. Yes, the air will be dry, but they will get a hold of it.
Something else that was dry. Believe it or not, there was enough dry air over Omar to kill it. I mean this storm was a category three hurricane, very near the British Virgin Islands, and then the Spanish Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Kitt. And then it went right through the Onondaga (ph) Passage. And it went through there as a cat three, 120, 125 mile-per-hour storm. Now it's down to 85 and dying from here. And by later on tonight, probably won't even be a hurricane anymore. And then just turns right up there into the north Atlantic and finally kills itself in the colder water there.
That's the good news. I've got dying winds and a dying hurricane. I'm the good news guy of the day.
HARRIS: You're done. All right, Chad, appreciate it. Thank you.
MYERS: You got it.
HARRIS: Trying to survive in a slowing economy. People are sharing their stories with us.
HARRIS: And, very quickly, Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama in New Hampshire this hour at a big rally there. Let's take you live to Londonderry.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
OBAMA: ... And they had a great time and this is just a wonderful institution and tradition here in New Hampshire. It's good to be back, guys. I missed you. I've missed you.
You know, we meet at a moment of great uncertainty for America. The economic crisis we face, I think a lot of people know is the worst since the Great Depression. The stock markets plummeted again yesterday and millions of Americans have opened up their 401(k) statements this month to see that so much of their hard-earned savings had disappeared.
The credit crisis has left businesses large and small unable to get loans. Which means they can't buy new equipment or hire new workers, or even make payroll for the workers that they have. And in households all across America, it's getting harder and harder to get that loan for a new car, or that start-up business, or that college that you've dreamed of attending.
This morning we learned that wages are lower now than they've been in nearly a decade. Think about this. That during the eight years that George Bush has been president, average wages and incomes have gone down, at the same time as you're paying more for everything from gas to groceries. Your paycheck's flat-lined, but your bills keep coming.
I know these are difficult times, New Hampshire. And I know that a lot of people are worried. But I'm here to tell you, I am confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis because I believe in this country. Because this is the United States of America. This is a nation that has faced down war and depression, great challenges and great threats. The American story has never been about things coming easy. It's been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard.
So America can meet this moment. We still have the most talented, most productive workers of any country on earth. We're home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small business and research facilities. So it won't be easy, but there's no reason we can't make this century another American century. We can do this.
But, New Hampshire, I also know this. It's going take a new direction. It's going to take new leadership in Washington. It's going to take real change in policies and politics from the last eight years, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.
And I notice that I think this whole change thing's been catching on. Now, I was in Ohio, in a small town in Ohio, traveling with the governor there. Governor Strickland. And we went to Georgetown, Ohio, in southern Ohio, because we were hungry and we needed a snack.
So we pulled up to this diner where people told us that we could get some good pie. And I like pie. You like pie, too? So we go in there and we say, all right, what kind of pie you got? And they didn't have sweet potato pie. They didn't have pumpkin pie. They had some cream pies mostly, which is OK with me. So I got some coconut cream pie. And Governor Strickland, he got lemon meringue pie.
So while we're waiting for our pie, the staff come and they want to take a picture with me because they say, you know, the owner of this dinner is a staunch die-hard Republican, so we want to kind of tease him a little bit by getting this picture with you. So we're taking this picture and suddenly the owner comes out with the pie. And he looks at me and I say, sir, I understand that you are a die- hard Republican. He says, that's right. I said, how's business? He said, not so good. He said, my customer, they can't afford to eat out anymore. I said, who's been in charge of the economy for the last eight years? He said, Republicans. I said, you know, if you kept on hitting your head against a wall over and over again and it started to hurt, at some point would you stop hitting your head against the wall? He said, you've got a point.
Now, I'm sure the American people are tired of hitting their head against the wall. They want real change in this country. And even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you're worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent's campaign announced earlier this month that they want to turn the page on the discussion of our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead.
Don't boo now. Just vote.
Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose. Well, New Hampshire, last night we had a debate. And I think you saw a bit of the McCain attack strategy in action.
But here's what Senator McCain doesn't seem to understand. When the economy in turmoil, with the American dream at risk, the American people don't want to hear politicians attack each other. You want to hear about how we're going to attack the challenges facing the middle class each and every day. You want to hear about the issues that matter in your lives. You want to hear about how we're going bring about the change that we desperately need for this country, and that's why the American people have been moving in a direction that promises change.
Let's debate our genuine differences on the issues that matter. Last night, Senator McCain said that George Bush won't be on the ballot this November. He said, I don't know why you're running against George Bush. I said, I'm not running against George Bush. I'm running against all those policies of George Bush that you support, Senator McCain.
In three debates, and over 20 months, John McCain still hasn't explained a single thing he would do differently from George Bush when it comes to the most important economic issues we face today. Not one. Here's the truth, New Hampshire, John McCain voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. That's not change. It's more of the same.
He wants to keep giving tax cuts to corporations that ship our jobs overseas. I want to give tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.
He wants to give more tax cuts to Fortune 500 CEOs. I want to give 95 percent of working families the tax relief that they deserve.
He wants to double down on health care policies that will only work for the healthy and the wealthy. I want to cut costs and expand coverage for all Americans.
John McCain wants an energy policy that gives billions to the oil companies, an education policy that leaves our children behind and war in Iraq that's costing us $10 billion a month while the Iraqi government sits on billions of dollars of surplus, a war that you and I know that we must end.
And now, in the closing weeks, John McCain thinks he can make this campaign all about me. But the truth is, this campaign's about you. It's about your jobs. It's about your health care. Your retirement. Your children's futures. That's what this election is about. That's what I'm fighting for. Because I can take three more weeks of these attacks from John McCain, but the American people can't take four more years of a failed policies and the same divisive politics that he's peddling. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.
New Hampshire, it is time to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street before main street, but ended up hurting both. We need policies that grow our economy from the bottom up so that every American, everywhere, has the chance to get ahead. Not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on the factory floor. Not just the CEO, but the secretary. We've learned -- if we've learned anything, if we've learned anything from this economic crisis, it's that we're all connected. We're all in this together. We rise or fall as one nation. As one people.
Now, the rescue plan that was passed by Congress was a necessary first step in easing this credit crisis. It's also important that we continue to work with governments around the globe to confront what is a truly global crisis. But now we need a rescue plan for the middle class. If we're going rebuild this economy from the bottom up, it has to start right here, New Hampshire. It's got to start on main street. Not just the big banks on Wall Street. And that's why I've outlined several steps that we have to take right now to help folks who are struggling.
First, we've got act now to create good paying jobs. Now John McCain said about a month ago that he thought the fundamentals of the economy are strong. Let me tell you, where I come from, a job is pretty fundamental. I know the steel workers agree with me. We've already lost three quarters of a million jobs this year. Some experts say unemployment may rise to 8 percent by the end of next year. Maybe more. That's why I've proposed a new American jobs tax credit. Every new employee that a company hires here in the United States over the next two years, they're going to get a tax break. That's how we'll create good, new American jobs right here in New Hampshire and all across America.
Second, we need to help small businesses get back on their feet to fuel and real engine of job creation in this country. I'll eliminate all capital gains taxes on investment in small business and start-up companies and provide an additional incentive through next year to encourage new small business investment. And we'll make sure that small businesses can access the immediate loans they need to pay their workers, to finance their inventory.
Number three, we need to provide relief for homeowners who are watching their home values decline while property taxes go up. The Treasury has to use the authority that its been granted and move aggressively to help people avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. We don't need a new law or a new $300 billion giveaway to banks like Senator McCain's proposed, we just need to act quickly and decisively. For those responsible homeowners in danger of losing their home, I've proposed a three-month moratorium on foreclosures so that we give them some breathing room to get back on their feet.
Finally, we've got to help states and local governments that have been squeezed. I know Governor Lynch can tell you something about this. This is a part of this crisis that hasn't gotten enough attention. If Washington keeps pushing the burden on the states and cities and towns, you might be forced to raise new revenue through cuts in services, increases in taxes.
Today, 21 states are facing budget shortfalls, including New Hampshire. But the last thing we should do when families are struggling is forcing states and towns to choose between getting rid of essential programs or raising property taxes. You've got a great governor here in John Lynch. What he needs is a strong partner in the White House. And that's what I'll be if I'm president of the United States of America.
Now, last August, I called for a $25 billion fund to help state and local governments avoid property tax increases. If we had acted two months ago, New Hampshire would have gotten the relief you need. We can't afford to wait any longer. We need this fund to help New Hampshire and states across the country pay for health care and education, police and firefighters, without resorting to tax or fee increases.
We also have to save 1 million jobs by creating a job and growth fund that will provide money to states and local governments so they can move forward with projects to put people back to work right now repairing and rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools. Rebuilding our infrastructure for the 21st century. If we can rebuild Baghdad, then we can rebuild the United States of America.
Now, we also need new lending facilities that reaches out to states and localities. We can't extend a hand to banks on Wall Street without reaching out to main street so states can make payroll and deliver services. You need leadership in Washington that's looking out for you. For the services you count on. For the jobs that our economy needs. For the change that will help the middle class. That's why I'm running for president. So you've got somebody in that White House ...
HARRIS: OK. We're going put up what we call, in our world, a triple box here to show you all of the political activity that is going on in this noon Eastern hour. OK, Barack Obama, you've been listening to him, from Londonderry, New Hampshire. As you can see to the right there, top right, Michelle Obama is holding a rally.
And John McCain is now on the stage in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Let's take you to the John McCain rally.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MCCAIN: ... And how can I go without mentioning my mother, who is 96 years young -- 96 years -- who raised our family for years in the absence of my father, who was at sea doing his nation's business. And I have one brief -- many stories, as Joe said.
Two Christmases ago, I believe it was, my mother wanted to drive around France. So she flew to Paris and she tried to rent a car. They told her she was too old. So she bought a car and drove around. And that -- if anybody knows -- and those are the genes I've got, my friends. And congratulations to the Phillies for a great victory last night. See you in the World Series.
Now, my friends, I'd like to give you a little straight talk today. And the first item is what you know. The state of Pennsylvania again will decide who's the next president of the United States. I need your vote. We've got to carry Pennsylvania. We will carry Pennsylvania. We must fight for this state and we need your help. We need your help. It's a close race. A close race, my friends.
And before I go any further, I'd like to recognize -- you know there has been some comments about people who come to our rallies. I cannot tell you how proud I am of all of you. I cannot tell you how proud I am of every working man and woman who's here, every family member.
Could I also take a special moment to recognize those who have served in the military of the United States of America and their families. And I thank you. And I thank you.
Friends, we had a good debate last night. It was a lot of fun. You know, I thought I did pretty well. The real winner last night was Joe the Plumber. Joe's the man. He won and small businesses won across America. They've won because the American people are not going to let Senator Obama raise their taxes in a tough economy. They're not going to let him do it, my friends.
Small businesses provide 16 million jobs in America. And Americans know that raising taxes on small business will kill those jobs. At a time when we need to be creating more jobs in America. Create more jobs.
By the way, how about that running mate of mine? Isn't she just marvelous? Isn't she just a great, great person. I'm so proud of her. Now -- and I've noticed -- I've noticed that the Georgetown cocktail circuit doesn't like her very much, but we love her out in America. We love her.
But you know what, you might recall I related last night. Senator Obama had an encounter with Joe. Joe the Plumber. Up in Ohio. Another battleground state. And, you know, Joe the Plumber said, look, I've been working all my life, 10, 12 hours. I want to buy the business that I'm in, but you're going to raise my taxes. And you know what Senator Obama had to say to Joe? He wanted to spread his wealth around. He wanted to spread his wealth around.
Now what does that mean? He wants government to take Joe's money and give it to somebody else. His hard-earned dollars. We're not going to stand for that. America didn't become the greatest nation on earth by spreading the wealth. We became the greatest nation on earth by creating new wealth.
So this is the choice we face. Three weeks from now, you will choose a new president. Choose well. There is much at stake.
Now, my friends, I've got to give you a little straight talk, because here in the heartland in Pennsylvania, we've got have straight talk. These are hard times. Our economy -- look, I need to have a conversation with you for a few minutes here.
Our economy is in crisis. Financial markets are collapsing. Credit is drying up. Your savings are in danger. Your retirement is at risk. Jobs are disappearing. The cost of health care, your children's college, gasoline and groceries are rising all the time with no end in sight. While your most important asset, your most important asset, your home, is losing value every day.
Americans are fighting two wars. We face many enemies in this dangerous world and they're waiting to see if our current troubles will permanently weaken us. The next president won't have time to get used to the office. He won't have the luxury of studying up on the issues before he acts. He will have to act immediately. And to do that, he will need experience, courage, judgment and a bold plan of action to take this country in a new direction.
We can't -- we can't spend the next four years as we've spent much of the last eight, waiting for our luck to change. As I mentioned last night to Senator Obama, I'm not George Bush. If he wanted to run against George Bush he should have run four years ago. I'll take us in a new direction.
My friends, the hour is late. Our troubles are getting worse. Our enemies watch. We'll have to act immediately, and we need that new direction now. And we have to fight, and that's what America's all about. And that's what I'll do for you.
I've been fighting for this country since I was 17 years old, and I've got the scars to prove it. If I'm elected president, I'll take the fight to America in a new direction, from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight. I'm ready for it.
I'm not going to spend $700 billion of your money just bailing out the Wall Street bankers and brokers who got us into this mess. I'm going to make sure we take care of the people who are devastated by the excesses and greed and corruption of Wall Street and Washington. I'm going to spend a lot of that money to bring relief to you. I'm not going to wait 60 days to start doing it.
My friends, home values, home values. My friends, it was the Fannie and Freddie scandal that got us into this, and the collapse of home values in America, and I have a plan to protect the value of your home and get it rising again. Let's take that money -- let's -- let's buy up these bad mortgages and refinancing them, so if your neighbor defaults it doesn't bring down the value of your house with him. I agree with the chairman of the FDIC who said that the secretary of the treasury in this government is not doing enough to help people stay in their homes. That's got to be our first priority. Not Wall Street. Not the bankers. Not the investment houses.
During the Depression we had -- we had a program where they went out and they bought people's mortgages and they gave them a mortgage that they could afford to make the payments on. Over time, my friends, we even made money on that deal, because home values started to rise again. We must do that for the homeowners of American -- of America. How many millions are there? Eleven, 13, more? We've got to keep them in their homes.
My friends, I have a plan to let retirees and people nearing retirement keep their money in their retirement accounts longer so they can rebuild their savings. I have a plan to rebuild the retirement savings of every worker. I have a plan to hold the line on taxes and cut them to make America more competitive and create jobs at home.
Senator Obama wants to raise your taxes. Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse. Keeping taxes low creates job, keeps money in your hands, and strengthens our economy.
My friends, the explosion of government spending over the last eight years has put us deeper in debt with foreign countries that don't have our best interests at heart. It's weakened the dollar and made everything you buy more expensive. My friends, we have accumulated a $10 trillion debt on these young people standing in front of me, $500 billion debt to China. It's not going to happen. We're going to take a hatchet and a scalpel to spending in Washington, D.C.
And if I'm elected president I won't spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money on top of the $700 billion we just gave the treasury secretary, as Senator Obama proposes, because we can't do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I'm going to make government live on a budget just like you do. I'll freeze government spending. I'll freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans' care, Social Security and health care, until we scrub every single government program and get rid of the ones that aren't working for the American people.
And I will veto every single pork barrel Bill that Congress passes. You will know their names, and I will make them famous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!
MCCAIN: If I'm elected president, I won't fine small businesses and families and children, as Senator Obama proposes, to force them into a huge government-run health-care plan. Will I keep the cost of the plan (ph) a secret, until I hit you with it? That's what he wants to do.
Today his spokesperson said he won't give any details. My friends, you deserve the details if you're going to pay a fine.
I'll bring down the skyrocketing costs of health care with competition and choice to lower your premiums and make it more available to more Americans. I'll make sure you can keep the same health plan if you change jobs or leave a job or stay at home. I'll provide every single American family with a $5,000 refundable tax credit to help them purchase insurance.
Workers who already have health care insurance from their employers will keep it and have more money to cover costs. Workers -- workers who don't have health insurance can use it to find a -- to find a policy anywhere in this country to meet their basic needs.
If I'm elected president, I won't raise taxes on the Joe the Plumber, Senator Obama proposes and forces him to cut jobs. I'll keep small business taxes where they are, help them keep costs low, and let them spend their earnings to create more jobs.
If I'm elected president, I won't make it harder to sell our goods overseas and kill more jobs, as Senator Obama proposes. I will open new markets to goods made in America, and make sure our trade is free and fair. I'll make sure -- I'll make sure we help workers who have lost a job that won't come back to find a new one that won't go away.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Barack Obama in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.