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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

McCain on the Defensive

Aired October 21, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Republicans divided -- can Democrats conquer?
Two weeks to go -- is time running out for a fired up John McCain?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Stand up. Stand up. Stand up and fight. America is worth fighting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sarah Palin stands up for herself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why does Joe Biden get a pass on such a thing?

Can you imagine if I would have said such a thing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What thing?

And does it make a difference as Obama surges in the polls?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: I can take a few more weeks of attacks from John McCain.

What you can't take is another four years of failed economic policies. That's why you're going to the polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll look at the election from the left and the right and down the middle, right now, on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin in Washington with Susan Eisenhower, president of The Eisenhower Group, a strategic counseling firm. She's the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower and she endorsed Barack Obama, surprisingly enough, in February.

Also, in Washington, David Frum, resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. He blogs for "National Review" online. He was a speechwriter and special assistant for President George W. Bush. Good to have him back.

He will vote for McCain but has described the Sarah Palin pick as a mistake.

And Bay Buchanan, CNN political contributor, president of American Cause. She's a staunch supporter of the McCain-Palin ticket.

For all of you, weekend comments from Joe Biden have provided campaign fodder for the GOP ticket.

Here's some of what he said and here's what Sarah Palin told CNN's Drew Griffin earlier today.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said, watch, we're going to have a international crisis -- a generated crisis to test the mettle of this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Why does Joe Biden get a pass on such a thing?

Can you imagine if I would have said such a thing?

No, I think that, you know, we would be hounded and held accountable for what in the world did you mean by that, V.P. presidential candidate?

Why would you say that, that mark my words, this nation will undergo international crisis if you elect Barack Obama.

If I would have said that, you guys would have clobbered me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Susan Eisenhower, who's right here?

SUSAN EISENHOWER, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Oh, I think this is pretty simple. I think Joe Biden was talking about his own candidate. Any president is going to be tested who comes to the presidency at this particular period. We've got an international crisis underway in the financial field, but there are many other challenges internationally.

KING: Quickly, Susan, why did you support Obama? EISENHOWER: Oh, I think he's by far and away the best candidate for president of the United States. He's got the capacity to bring Republicans and Democrats and Independents together. And that's already been borne out not only by my endorsement, but by the endorsement of Colin Powell and Chris Buckley and so many other people.

KING: David Frum, what do you make of all this Biden/Palin thing?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: I don't think it serves, actually, the McCain campaign very well to discuss this in such intense detail because, I mean, they're arguing about who's right. They're not arguing about things that the public wants to hear about. It's too much about them, not enough about the voters.

I -- my own advice to Republicans, though, is that we need to focus now on the Senate and saving as many senators as we can. And we need to stop indulging the idea, which has been pretty dead for a while, this is -- this race is winnable. It's probably not winnable. It's almost certainly not winnable.

But there are dollars flowing to the Republican National Committee to McCain that should be going to John Sununu, that should be going to Norm Coleman. And we ought to be making the argument that, look, I mean there probably is going to be a Democratic administration. There probably is going to be a Democratic Congress. Send some Republican senators to provide some balance.

But that means facing up to the way things are probably going to be.

KING: Bay, good or bad idea?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you never give up. You know, you never know what's going to happen two weeks in an election is an enormous -- it is an eternity, to be quite honest.

There's no question -- in fact, I spoke to a Democrat this mortgage that told me, listen, I think you guys can still do it. I said OK, explain to me how. And he starts talking about the states. Of course, Florida looks like it's coming around, Ohio is coming around. And he said I think you guys can still do it.

This is what you have to believe. You have to know that if you, indeed, believe that John McCain is the best person for this nation, you will have to do everything you can to make certain that that happens. And I believe that Obama would be an absolute disaster and John McCain would be far, far better. And so I believe we keep fighting until the last day until the voters vote.

KING: Even if you lose the Senate dramatically and that brings down other Republicans?

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, that -- each Senator has to defend their own turf. I mean, you know, that's their responsibility. And they know where it stands. And they can raise their own money. Incumbents can raise an enormous amount of money. It's ridiculous to suggest that we should somehow abandon the top of the ticket and go racing around trying to help senators who may or may not have a strong case with their constituents.

KING: OK. Sarah Palin plays the role of attack dog with great gusto. She's been hammering Obama's economic policies in recent days, invoking the "S" word.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Now is not the time to experiment with socialism.

QUESTION: Governor, is Barack Obama socialist?

PALIN: I'm not going to call him a socialist, but as "Joe the Plumber" has suggested -- in fact, he came right out and said it -- it sounds like socialism to him. And he speaks for so many Americans, who are quite concerned now, after hearing, finally, what Barack Obama's true intentions are with his tax and economic plan. And that is to take more from small businesses, more from our families and then redistribute that according to his priorities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Susan, isn't redistribution -- scaling taxes, that's redistribution, right?

If I pay more taxes than you, we're redistributing, aren't we?

EISENHOWER: I think Colin Powell said it absolutely right yesterday -- this is absolute nonsense. This is tax policy. It all relates to issues like this.

I, frankly, find Sarah Palin's comments here and the thrust of the McCain campaign around this just frankly embarrassing. We all seem to forget what socialism really was. We who lived through the cold war and paid attention during that time remember what socialism was.

So the sooner we get off this kind of debate and onto the real issues here, I'll be happy.

KING: OK. David, is it playing with the public, do you think?

FRUM: Look, John McCain actually has a really powerful economic argument. The root of this crisis was loose lending practices, traceable to these two government-sponsored entities that Barack Obama always voted in favor of and that John McCain, in 2005, very prophetically opposed. John McCain has been a real voice of reason on this. And if we had listened to him in 2005, a lot of the worst of this the crisis could have been averted.

If he were to talk like that, if he were to make that kind of case, he would sort of reassure people that, yes, if this man gets into power he's ready to govern, that he has -- but, you know, the name calling, it doesn't help. And it's past -- it's so past the moment for this.

So let's -- let's talk like a party that can be in government again. We may not be a government this time, but I worry that on the way out the door, we are going do a lot of enduring damage, not only to the Senate, but to our reputation.

KING: You want to be part of what you're listening to right now?

Blog with us at CNN.com/larryking. We're reading your comments. We'll answer your questions, so let us know what you think.

And we'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back.

Governor Palin has been criticized for her campaign comments about the real America and pro-American parts of the country.

She talked about that with CNN.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: You know, when I go to these rallies and we see the patriotism just shining through people's faces, and the Vietnam veterans wearing their hats so proudly. And they have tears in their eyes as we sing our national anthem. And it is so inspiring.

And I say that this is true America. You get it. You understand how important it is that, in the next four years, we have a leader who will fight for you. I certainly don't want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another. If that's the way it's come across, I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, Bay, that is the way it's come across, though, hasn't it?

It's come across that it's divided, one part of America is patriotic, another is not.

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I think her remark there is very, very gracious. She's commenting, Larry, on the fact that she understands what is the salt of America, who are the grassroots, the people out there who really make this country tick. And they do love this country. They see the flag and they feel a chill go down their spine. And she's one of them. And she fully appreciates that.

And I think there is a case to be made, without question, that Barack Obama has not been there. Twenty years sitting in a pew with someone trashing this country and the people in this country -- that that is something that these people would never understand. They would never do it. They would never allow it to happen in their own lives. And they don't understand why someone else would have done that. And I think that's a good point.

KING: Susan, this may be farfetched, but how do you think your late grandfather would have looked at all of this?

EISENHOWER: I think he'd be absolutely amazed that we're having a campaign like this in the middle of a national and international crisis. I mean it's been so petty, it's not to be believed. And I thought Susan Kahn showed great leadership in suggesting that the McCain campaign take those robo-calls off the line. I think that's absolutely correct. So much of it is full of innuendo that is simply not true.

And we have other things we have to be worrying about. I'm deeply concerned about this country. And all of us love this country and want very much for us to start taking steps that can alleviate this crisis.

KING: It certainly...

BUCHANAN: Larry...

KING: It certainly isn't Eisenhower/Stevenson.

EISENHOWER: No.

BUCHANAN: But, Larry, you know, there is -- the issue here goes to the character of the individual, Barack Obama. And that is a legitimate issue in a political campaign. The American people have a right to know what makes him tick, who really -- who is he really and where does he -- is he likely to take this nation. And it all goes back to these associations...

KING: All right...

BUCHANAN: ...to his word.

KING: David...

BUCHANAN: Character is legitimate.

FRUM: Character...

KING: But, David, is it getting votes?

Because one of the problems in this campaign, there seems to be a turnoff of negativism.

FRUM: Yes. Now, it -- I am not saying these are not legitimate questions, but they really aren't working. And I keep thinking like if in 1932, a Herbert Hoover tried to win the presidency by pointing out that -- supposing it were true -- that that Governor Roosevelt had signed a petition in favor of Sacco and Vanzetti. Sacco and Vanzetti were bad guys. But people had more immediate problems. And, you know, again, I think what is so striking about this campaign is that the McCain campaign keeps talking past the country. And it's a sign of the trouble our party is in. We are talking about the things we cared about. We care about Bill Ayers. We care about Jeremiah Wright. And I'm not even going to say we're wrong to care about those things.

But it's just, in the face of the overwhelming evidence that the country cares about other things, we're saying, well, we're going to talk about what we want to talk about, thank you very much. And if you're not interested, why, you've let us down.

We work for them. And what they care about is what we should be caring about.

BUCHANAN: And, John, but that -- it's just not the case. John McCain has made a very strong argument on the economy, which is the key issue. But the key here is, Larry, that you have one candidate ahead of the other. So you have -- and his underbelly is very soft. They went to Obama not because they're attracted to him, but because they're so angry with the Republicans.

And so that's what we've got to do. We've got to move that underbelly back into the undecided column, make people think that he's not the right guy and John McCain brings them home with his economic policy.

KING: Susan, didn't Senator...

EISENHOWER: I'd just like to say...

KING: Didn't McCain promise, though, a clean, above-board campaign?

EISENHOWER: Well, he did, indeed. And, first of all, I absolutely object to the fact that there is something wrong with Barack Obama's character. I think he is an extraordinary man who has been deeply courageous himself, to put himself forward in this election. He has amassed one of the most impressive groups of people endorsing him, including, as I mentioned, Colin Powell.

But look at who he attracted early on during the Democratic primaries, people like Sam Nunn and Bill Bradley and Paul Volcker.

I mean, I think it's outrageous. And, you know, at some point, this becomes exceedingly dangerous, especially in economic times of stress and strain, to be trying to use divisive issues like this to set one part of the country against the other.

I'm for Barack Obama because he's going to bring us together. He demonstrated that to me 20 months ago and -- when I first met him. And I think this is crucial for our country.

KING: OK.

Thank you all very much. Joe Biden was fired up today. Back in 60 seconds with what he had to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We've been hearing a lot from Sarah Palin this hour.

Let's hear from her opposition.

Joe Biden is heating up the campaign trail. Here he is today directly addressing John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: John, stop your ads. Bring down those robo-calls.

If it's about the economy, argue about the economy, not about Barack Obama's character, not about these scurrilous ads.

John, stop these calls. We have to unite this nation when it's over. We have to pull it back together. And ladies and gentlemen, these attacks don't hurt Barack Obama. They hurt you. They divide the country. They distract people -- or attempt to distract you from the things that are affecting people's everyday lives.

Barack Obama and I can take two more weeks of these attacks. But our country cannot take four more years of this policy and these politics. It must end. It must stop now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And I'm still waiting for John McCain to keep his word to me. Last month, the senator abruptly canceled an appearance on LARRY KING LIVE. He said he would reschedule and so far nothing.

The invitation is out there, any time, anywhere. We're old friends and we're hoping that John McCain will make good on his promise to come back on this show soon.

Bill Maher will have a special message for voters, plus he'll make you laugh, coming up on LARRY KING LIVE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: Thank you, Tampa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We need Missouri on November the 4th. And with your help, we're going to win Missouri. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We will not just win Florida, we will win this general election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: As he told Joe, he wants to spread the wealth around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He's been on the attack. That's what you do when you're out of ideas, out of touch and running out of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm not afraid of the fight. I am ready for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With just two weeks to go until election day, one of the best ways to map the lay of the political landscape is to check which candidates are campaigning where.

Today, Obama was in Florida, McCain in Pennsylvania, Biden in Colorado, Palin in Nevada.

Let's meet our panel.

John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for "Slate."

He's in Manchester, New Hampshire.

And in Washington, Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

And also in Washington, Matt Cooper, the Washington editor of "Portfolio."

OK, let's do it state by state here guys.

And what are the chances, John, of Obama in Florida?

JOHN DICKERSON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "SLATE": Well, he's up in Florida. You know, that's obviously been a hotly contested state over the years. The Republicans have a pretty good organization there. But Obama is way outspending McCain in Florida and he's up in the polls. So things look like they're going pretty well for him right now. And, also, Florida is a state that's been particularly hard-hit on the economy with the recent downturn. And that obviously is an issue that helps Barack Obama.

KING: Ryan, you see it that way?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes, I basically agree with John there. It's -- lots of foreclosures in Florida. And once the financial crisis hit -- with a lot of the states we're going to talk about tonight, I think some of these states just popped and broke in Obama's direction.

There was some narrowing in the last week, week-and-a-half. But just over the last couple of days, that narrowing and that momentum shifting back in McCain's direction seems to have stopped. And...

KING: It's amazing how...

LIZZA: Yeah.

KING: It's amazing how that happens.

LIZZA: And we have so many polls coming out now, Larry, that we can actually see this pretty easily. And, you know, I think there was some worry among some Democrats in the last couple of days. And that worry has stopped a little bit with this latest round of numbers today and yesterday.

KING: Matt Cooper, let's take you to Pennsylvania. McCain in Pennsylvania, he's behind. Democratic Governor Ed Rendell has sent memos to the Obama campaign requesting the candidate himself to come back.

How do you see Pennsylvania?

MATT COOPER, WASHINGTON EDITOR, "PORTFOLIO": Well, I think, Larry, you've got to look at the polls, which do show Obama with a fairly wide lead at this point. You know, but that said, look, he lost that primary to Hillary Clinton. It feels like ancient history now. And, you know, it turned out she won by a much wider spread than the polls originally suggested.

So I think -- you know, the McCain campaign must be seeing something there that's giving them a glimmer of hope that's not in the public polls. But for the moment, I do think Obama is ahead.

KING: Matt, if he -- if McCain loses Pennsylvania, does he lose?

COOPER: No, I think he's got a couple of other avenues. But he would then need, you know, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and all those other red states to really stay red.

KING: Joe Biden is in Colorado today.

John, do you want to comment on Pennsylvania?

DICKERSON: Well, I would just say that what's tricky here for the McCain campaign is the reason they're looking so heavily at Pennsylvania is they're moving farther away from and essentially almost conceding -- that's a tricky word, so I don't want to overload it -- but Iowa looks bad. Colorado looks bad. New Mexico looks bad. Those are three states George Bush won that Barack Obama looks like he's locked up.

KING: If that's true, though and he -- and McCain doesn't win any blue states, how can he win, if he loses just those three?

DICKERSON: That's right, it would be over.

LIZZA: Yes. And that's why the he fact Florida is competitive, Larry, is a pretty big deal. I mean Florida is gravy for Obama. I mean he doesn't have to win Florida to win this election.

So, look, all the swing states we're talking about, with the exception of Pennsylvania, are states that George W. Bush won in 2004. So Obama is playing deep into Republican territory. And we could see -- it's obviously too early -- we could be seeing the makings of a new Democratic majority coming out of this election, if the trends continue through election day.

KING: OK.

Joe Biden was in Colorado today. Now, John Dickerson hinted, Matt Cooper, that Colorado may be over.

How do you see it?

COOPER: You know, I think it's looking awfully good for Obama there. You know, I think there had been hope that Palin, with her Western roots, that McCain, with his Western roots, you know, that this would be one they could hold onto and it's one the Democrats have had a lot of problems with.

But I think at this point, it is looking pretty good for Obama.

KING: John, Governor Palin is in Nevada.

Any chances there for the Democrats?

DICKERSON: Well, there are some chances. You know, that will be a very key state for McCain. McCain has to hold Nevada. It's looking good. You know, Obama is competitive there. It's one of those states, one of those red states -- or formerly red states -- where Obama is playing into that Republican territory. But it's the best of -- you know, there's a shot that Palin-McCain can hold it. They have to if they're going to have a shot to win this.

But then there are other states they have to hold down -- Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana -- all states in which Obama is up.

Now, in some cases, he's up just within the margin of error, which means it's essentially a dead heat. But Nevada is just another one of those red states where Obama is threatening. KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back and we'll talk about, fellows, we'll talk about Virginia and Ohio and North Carolina.

And does McCain have time and the resources to turn this around?

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: It's great to be here in Pennsylvania. We need to win in Pennsylvania on November the 4th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It's the Sunshine State. You can help bring some sunshine to D.C. .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Nevada, are you ready to make John McCain the next president of the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Let's win here in Colorado. Let's bring change we need to the country we love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, John Dickerson, I know that Senator Warner -- or, rather, that former Governor Warner is way ahead in the Senate race in Virginia.

But could that lead to a victory for Obama in Virginia?

DICKERSON: It could certainly help, although you can argue kind of the other way, that he gets the votes and then Virginians give it -- give their presidential vote to McCain. Obama has got a strong organization there sort of in his own right.

And, you know, Virginia is a changing state. It has been -- it's been trending purple from red to blue. So there are a lot of dynamics in the State of Virginia that help Obama. And he's been working that state pretty hard. He'll be there tomorrow.

And so there are things there other than former Governor Warner's cake walk, essentially, into the Senate that will help him.

KING: Ryan, if he takes -- if Obama takes Virginia, is it over?

LIZZA: Yes, I think -- look, I think the linchpin of their strategy seems to be Colorado and Virginia -- states that weren't even competitive in any way for John Kerry in 2004.

And, Larry, just to take a step back, all of these states -- all these red states that Obama has a chance in -- North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico -- what -- you could almost -- the demographics of these states, the change in the demographics that is benefiting Obama. Now, these are states with a declining white working class, which is becoming less important to Democrats as time goes on -- it's still important, but less important. And you're seeing higher income, more educated voters and white collar professionals in the suburbs as a growing percentage of the population in these states. And they're trending toward the Democrats. And that's what's making these states available to Obama right now.

And the once that financial crisis hit, those voters came over in droves to Obama.

KING: Matt Cooper, what do you hear in Ohio?

COOPER: Well, again, it's been neck and neck there, Larry. I think one thing that is helping Obama, as a corollary to what Ryan said, is he's not giving up on these rural parts of these states, you know? I think Democrats don't have to win there, but they can't get clobbered too badly, and that's what really hurts John Kerry in Ohio in 2004. And you just -- you can't give up on these rural areas.

And one of the bright things that the Obama campaign has done is they have played hard in these rural areas. He's gone to Elco (ph), Nevada two or three times. He's gone to South-West Virginia, coal country. He's played the rural card quite well.

KING: John Dickerson, could, in fact, Obama win North Carolina, and could Elizabeth Dole lose her Senate seat?

DICKERSON: It's looking bad for Elizabeth Dole, which would be extraordinary. You would have the first time in 50 years you wouldn't have a Bush or Dole in office in Washington, which would give us some sense of the scope of change that might be coming if there's a big movement toward Obama. And if Obama wins North Carolina it probably means he'll win Virginia and it means he might win in Missouri. It means the numbers is going to be pretty big. North Carolina, as Ryan pointed out, there are a lot of demographic changes there that some Democrats have been predicting for a while would make that state turn. But now we see it actually happening. And it would probably mean that you get a lot of big numbers for Obama and it wouldn't be a real squeaker.

KING: Ryan, this is basically 51 elections. Do national polls mean anything? Do they count? If I tell you seven points ahead, you can still lose, right?

LIZZA: That's true. I don't -- I don't think there's much of a chance that -- at this point, that Obama could lose the election. I don't think there's much of a chance that Obama will win the election and lose the popular vote. There's a chance that McCain -- scenario that McCain loses the popular vote and wins the election. But yes, the national polls tell you about -- they give you a good thumbnail look at just the broad change in the electorate from day to day, and from week to week.

But as we get closer, it's all about those state polls and looking state by state and counting to 270.

KING: Matt, can McCain turn it around and if so, how?

COOPER: You know, the window is closing, Larry. I guess anything's possible. I think it just gets harder and harder to figure out how he can run the table and just get the narrow victory he needs to get to 270 in the electoral college. Everything would have to break his way. Now, you know, it's been a crazy year. A lot has happened and there are still a couple of weeks left. But I really think he's run that time.

KING: Virginia, John, their polls will close fairly early on election night. If Obama wins Virginia, can you call it that early?

DICKERSON: Well, I think anybody in the television news business should be nervous about calling anything early. So perhaps even if he does win Virginia and other states on the east coast, they should pause, but it will be a sign. Again, if he's winning in Virginia, it's likely that his message is winning, and a lot of other bets for play here. In other words, are these big registration numbers with Democrats, are those real? If they turn out to be real in Virginia, they're likely to be real in other places.

Is his ground operation is formidable as we think it might be? If we see that it is in Virginia, it's likely to be in other places. So a victory in Virginia will give us hints that go beyond just the numbers that come out in the vote totals.

KING: Thank you, John Dickerson, Ryan Lizza and Matt Cooper for a nice -- an important conversation. Ron Silver, Arianna Huffington, Ron Reagan and Kellyanne Conway are on deck. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ron Silver is in New York. He's host of a daily calling show on the Indy Talk Network, the channel on Sirius Satellite. He has not endorsed a candidate. He's the famed actor, political activist. In Seattle, Ron Reagan, talk radio host of his own show, registered independent. He has also not endorsed. In New York, Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the Polling Company, Republican strategist who has supported John McCain. And in Los Angeles, Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor of HuffingtonPost.com, a supporter of Barack Obama.

We'll show you a clip, guys, and get your comments. Like his own vice presidential pick, John McCain has seized upon Joe Biden's comments that Obama would be tested by a global crisis within six months of taking office. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Senator Biden guaranteed that if Senator Obama is elected, we will have an international crisis to test America's new president. My friends, we don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ron Silver, is he reading what Joe Biden said correctly?

RON SILVER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, I think so. It was a foolish comment to make, but it was an accurate comment. I mean, Khrushchev did the same thing with Kennedy in '61, and Kennedy was foolish enough to go to a summit and Khrushchev came away from that summit thinking he could take advantage of this young man, and he did and it was followed by the missile crisis and some other events. And it was, by most accounts -- the consensus is that it was a failed summit, and Kennedy should not have gone to that summit.

KING: Arianna, were you surprised that Biden would do that?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: It was not the most elegant way of expressing something. But McCain is making a desperate attempt, in a desperate time in his campaign, to make something out of it.

KING: Biden gave him the --

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, yes. But I think what is most significant here for the Obama campaign is to realize that they still have one weakness remaining, and that is the difference in all of the polls about who will be better in dealing with national security issues. Obama is ahead on every other issue except that, and I don't think you should forget that, because something may happen. I don't mean a terrible attack on domestic soil, but a new Osama bin Laden videotape, something that would remind people that we live in dangerous times. So Obama should not leave that vulnerability undealt with.

KING: Kellyanne, how do you read it?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That is exactly why I could not understand why Senator Biden, the VP candidate for Obama, would actually raise national security, when it is clear by anyone's account it is the economic downturn that has been benefiting Obama. And Larry, he didn't just say leave it alone. I read the quote on your screen earlier. Biden kept saying, mark my word, I guarantee you, if you remember anything I said tonight, remember this. I'm thinking, we sure will, pal. It was so bizarre by how this misreads what Obama's strengths and weaknesses are in terms of his campaign.

KING: Ron Reagan, could it change the election?

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The comment by Biden? No. I'm sure that Joe Biden probably wished he'd phrased that a little differently, but what he might have had in mind is that we've already seen a crisis here. We've seen an economic crisis that has erupted in the last few weeks of this campaign. And he was probably reminding people, voters, who responded better during that crisis?

I think the voters saw that John McCain was erratic, was pulling stunts like so-called suspending his campaign. And the guy who looked calm, cool and collected through the whole thing was Barack Obama. So if there is going to be a crisis coming down the pike if Obama is elected, I'm glad he's going to be sitting in the Oval Office and not John McCain.

KING: We'll be right back with this outstanding panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: On a quick break here, we have a blog question from Cam, who says, "on the question of experience, why bother. No amount of experience can prepare someone to be president. Why has the campaign coverage not focused instead on personal capacity for learning, understanding visionary ideas and the ability to understand American political and social culture?" Ron Silver, you want to take that?

SILVER: Sure. I think the American people, the good sense of the American people is more than just the piety. They base it on a gut reaction, because no experience can train you for the presidency and what comes up. Harry Truman was put on the ticket at the last minute when FDR realized he didn't need Henry Wallace and he was too far to the left. Harry Truman wasn't even informed about the Manhattan Project and he was president three months later.

But it was this gut feeling that he had, this decisiveness that he had, this clarity that he had. And he had this courage to make a decision and live with it. And it served him very well.

KING: The blogger is correct?

SILVER: Yes, I think to a degree. Some of our more experienced politicians, Richard Nixon and LBJ, got us into some of the biggest messes that we've had in the last 50 years.

KING: We'll be back with more -- hold it! We'll be back with more on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, Arianna Huffington will be answering some of your questions on our blog tonight. And if you have something you'd like to ask her, go to CNN.com/LarryKing and click on blog. You ask, she'll answer on our blog.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Ron Silver, Ron Reagan, Kellyanne Conway and Arianna Huffington all with us. The McCain campaign has invoked socialism in slamming Obama's economic proposals and Obama pushed back this way earlier today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Apparently, what they consider socialistic is my plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans, tax cuts that John McCain himself said in 2000 were irresponsible and prevented middle class tax relief. That's what he said then. He was right then. I'm right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ron Reagan, what do you make of the socialist idea?

REAGAN: Well, maybe I'm just not rich enough, but the whole idea of spreading the wealth around seems pretty good to me. I think it may sound pretty good to most Americans who are feeling a little stressed now about their 401(k)s and their health care and everything else. This is, again, part of the desperate sort of mud-slinging that's going in the McCain campaign, where they're really just throwing anything up against the wall to see if anything whatsoever sticks. He's a socialist; he's a pal of terrorist; he's a baby killer. They'll just see what works. They're desperate now.

KING: Kellyanne, isn't a graduated income tax spreading the wealth?

CONWAY: Yes, it is. And I'm not sure people want their tax -- of course, it is. Who said the progressive tax system is the best way to go? People have called for a flat tax. They've called for a fair tax. You don't hear either candidate talking about anything so revolutionary. Larry, look, I've been on your show many times saying I don't like the Ayers strategy. I don't run around calling people names. I think that is very unhelpful.

If I were the McCain campaign, which I clearly am not, I think this is easy. You quote Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, this year in 2008, questioning the qualifications of Barack Obama. You show a couple of things Obama has said along the way that maybe call into question some of his policies. You don't have to do all this other stuff. But I'll tell you, it's because of the combination of all this out of control spending from the last couple of Congresses, Republican and Democrat, President Bush who signed a lot of it into law, and some of the proposals that are being bandied about by Obama that people are starting to worry that we are becoming much more of a nanny state. We're depending way too much on the government to bail us out and to help us. I think that's where this impulse comes from.

KING: Is she right? Would that have worked, rather than this concept of campaigning?

HUFFINGTON: I think anyone would have worked better than what they've done. What they've done is classic Rovian politics in the age of the Internet. I just wrote today about how Rovian politics is dead.

KING: Karl Rove, you mean?

HUFFINGTON: Karl Rove, his politics, his henchmen are running this campaign. John McCain is hiring the same people who smeared him in South Carolina in 2000, who did robo-calls against him, to now do robo-calls for him. And said in 2000, there is a special place in hell reserved for people like these. Now it seems like this special place is within the John McCain campaign.

It's as though his campaign hasn't gotten it. This is a different time. Remember, in 2004, Youtube did not exist. The Huffington Post did not exist either. A lot of blogs that have a lot of influence now did not exist. You cannot go around repeating lies and expect them to take somehow root. You cannot have Sarah Palin continuing talking about the bridge to nowhere and being a maverick and being cost cutter, and then all that information comes in and it's repeated day in, day out, hour in, hour out. And it has an effect.

KING: Ron Silver, I moderated that historic debate in South Carolina between McCain and Bush. They clearly didn't like each other. McCain was clearly hurt and troubled by what went on against him. Now they're doing some of that. Does that bother you?

SILVER: It doesn't bother me, because what a lot of people are complaining about today, if you look at our history, is really child's play. If you look at the elections of 1800, 1824, 1828, 1876, you won't believe what was said. You won't believe what was printed. They would call each other's mothers and wives prostitutes, that they were living illegitimately with people here and there. They accused them of crimes against humanity. It was ridiculous what went on in this country.

This is relatively mild by comparison. I think by concentrating on some of these excesses, we're losing sight of the issues involved. We have a Republican president now who has nationalized the private sector. We have the government taking equity stakes in banking. The Republican party, if they are out of power for a while, needs to regroup and rethink who they are as a party. This deregulation, this whole Reagan Revolution did not seem to work in this crisis.

They need to refigure who they are. Obama, if he is the president, is going to run into a lot of trouble with the left wing of his party. If it's accurate and he does what he says he's going to do, and reach across aisle, and be moderate, and have people like Richard Lugar or Chuck Hagel in his cabinet, then I think a lot of people on the left of his party are going to be very disappointed. They'll have a liberal super majority there.

KING: We'll get a break and be back with some more moments with this outstanding panel. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Hi, I'm Bill Maher here at MTV for Rock the -- oh, I'm sorry. I'm here at CNN. But they also want you to go vote. I'm on that page, I mean, not if you're a total idiot. But if you read the paper once in a while, if you have some idea of what's going on, please, go vote. What else are you going to do that day?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's our go vote campaign. You never know what they're going to say. This item, Anderson referred to it just moments ago, an Associated Press investigation finds that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to invents where they were not invited. She later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business. The McCain camp has answered. The senator says, "like spouses and children of governors across the nation, Alaska's first family make public appearances, attend events and perform ceremonial duties, and members of the first family participate in these events. The state provides for the travel. Governor Palin refuses per diem payments for her children, which the state allowed for her."

Ron Reagan, is this a story or nothing?

REAGAN: No, I think it could be something. I don't think, in of itself, having the kids come along and the state paying for them is going to be big news. But it adds to the perception that Sarah Palin has not been forthcoming about her so-called mavericky status and her cost cutting measure, and all that sort of thing.

There have been a number of thing. She has charged the state per diem for nights that she spent in her own home. I was the kid of a governor and I used to go places with my folks sometimes when they were on official business. I don't remember anybody cutting a check to my father when I came along.

KING: OK. By the way, mentioning her, in her interview with CNN's Drew Griffin today, Governor Palin contrasted herself with Barack Obama on the question of experience. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama does. He had served for his 300 days before he became a presidential candidate. That wasn't in an executive office, of course. But as an executive, working with John McCain, we will take on the special interests and we will clean up Wall Street and some of the abuses of power in Washington D.C. also, to first and foremost, get government back on the side of the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Kellyanne, are you looking forward to the end of this race?

CONWAY: No, because I won't see you as much, Larry. That will make me sad. Seriously, you had the blogger earlier ask the question about experience and then it always comes back to Sarah Palin's experience. Nobody talked about experience for months until she was chosen. All the sophomoric polling questions were, who would you rather have a beer with? Who would you rather drive cross-country with? Who makes you feel good?

It was about likability, and, all of a sudden, she was selected and we wanted to have a high minded discussion about leadership and experience. If we're going to have a discussion, I think her point is at least be fair.

HUFFINGTON: It's never about likability. Nobody said vote for Obama because he's likable.

CONWAY: These polling questions are horrible.

HUFFINGTON: From the beginning, those of us who supported Obama have been saying vote for him because of his wisdom and judgment, because he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning.

CONWAY: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: Because the way he would handle the economic crisis. Nobody said vote for him because he's likable. The problem with Sarah Palin is that, although I believe she's going to have a great career in entertainment -- I really see her having her own reality show, maybe her own talk show -- I don't in any way underestimate her talents. The problem with her is that she's deeply uncurious. She really has no philosophical stands on anything except those that have been given to her, handed to her by the neo-cons, and because she goes around dividing America. Those statements about what parts of America --

(CROSS TALK)

KING: Ron Silver, go ahead.

SILVER: Real quick, Sarah Palin is governor of the largest state in the union and has to deal with some very important issues, like oil and energy. Joe Biden comes from Delaware, whose claim to fame, as far as I know, is that every corporation goes there to incorporate, including the present company we're on right now, Time Warner, is incorporated in Delaware. Why do people go to this tiny little state to incorporate?

REAGAN: That's bit of distraction.

KING: Thanks again to all -- I'm sorry, we're out of time. Thanks again to you bloggers for taking part in the show. The response has been amazing. Don't be left out. Let us know what you think as the show airs at CNN.com/LarryKing. And check out our guests, commentaries and other features on our interactive web page, CNN.com/LarryKing. Michael Moore is going to be here Thursday night. You can send him an e-mail now on our website.

Right now, we turn it over to Anderson Cooper, as always with breaking news, "AC 360." Anderson?