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McCain as Road Warrior; Obama Mocks McCain on Taxes; America's 'Credit Tsunami'

Aired October 23, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, John McCain goes the extra mile in Florida to try to prevent President Bush from being a drag on his campaign, and he's now accusing Barack Obama is saying "anything to win." Senator Obama is mocking McCain as a corporate tax cutter and he's citing something McCain told me yesterday to make his point.
Sharp words and high stakes a dozen days before America votes.

And a dire warning from the former Fed chairman, now called on the carpet by Congress. Alan Greenspan saying America is in the midst of what he calls a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami."

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John McCain is trying to make sure Florida voters don't throw him under the bus on Election Day, so he's riding the Straight Talk Express through the state, relying on some familiar themes to try to get traction. But he got a little sidetracked when the subject of Sarah Palin's expensive wardrobe came up.

Let's go to Dana Bush. She's is in Sarasota working the story for us. All right. So what happened, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, of all the states truly up for grabs, Florida and its 27 electoral votes really is the biggest prize. But like other red states, John McCain seems to have fallen behind, and he's really spent the entire day trying to catch up. And he has been pressing that familiar theme, hitting Barack Obama on the issue of taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): A daylong Florida bus tour that John McCain's campaign dubbed, you guessed it, the "Joe the Plumber" tour. But Joe wasn't here. McCain instead sat with a group that included "Tom the Contractor" and "Richard the Florist."

Florida voters, McCain aides said, are concerned about tax hikes under Barack Obama, though reporters were rushed out and not permitted to hear for themselves. All day, McCain continued to use the "Joe" metaphor to pound Obama's tax plan.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether it's "Joe the Plumber" in Ohio or Joe over here, we shouldn't be taxing our small businesses more, as Senator Obama wants to do. We need to be helping them expand their businesses and create jobs.

BASH: But back on his bus, evidence that McCain's message about fighting for the average Joe has been muddled. Local reporters repeatedly pressed McCain about Sarah Palin's RNC-financed $150,000 wardrobe, which McCain reportedly was unhappy about having to explain.

"She needed clothes at the time. They'll be donated at the end of this campaign," McCain told reporters.

Meanwhile, it's not just Obama that McCain is fighting in these final days. Increasingly, it is also George W. Bush.

In an interview with "The Washington Times," a rapid-fire attack on a slew of Bush policies. "Spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of government larger than any time since the Great Society, obviously failure to both enforce and modernize financial regulatory agencies, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously... those are just some of them," he finally joked.

Taking more decisive steps like that to separate himself from the unpopular president is something McCain aides tell CNN they wish he did long ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And this afternoon, John McCain even tried to link Barack Obama to George W. Bush. That's right, he's trying to turn what is perhaps one of his biggest liabilities on its head. He reacted to that new bad news jobs report that was out this afternoon, Wolf, and he said that Barack Obama, his only answer is to double down on the Bush administration's legacy of government spending, out-of-control spending, raising taxes, and a whole lot more. Quite an interesting statement there from John McCain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So he's trying to suggest that Barack Obama's economic policies are more like Bush's than his own economic policies. Is that right?

BASH: You got it, because of the fact that, as you heard from John McCain in "The Washington Times" interview yesterday, we've heard him say it many, many times recently, that he believes that part of George Bush's problem was out-of-control government spending. That's precisely what he's saying about Barack Obama. Today he's trying to link the two together.

BLITZER: All right. That's a first. All right. Thanks very much for that, Dana.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is now heading to Hawaii to see his very sick grandmother after getting some quality time out there on the campaign trail earlier in the morning. During that event in Indiana, the senator also worked in a few verbal shots at John McCain.

Let's go to Indiana. Jessica Yellin is standing by with this part of the story. All right. What he's trying to do in Indiana, which traditionally in these presidential contests has been a Republican state, is get some of those Republicans to move toward him.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He sure is trying. And today, Barack Obama was on the offense, not only the trying to take this red state away from his opponent, but also fighting to turn McCain's new message about taxes against him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Five months ago, Barack Obama narrowly lost the Indiana primary to Hillary Clinton the populist.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I've gone all across Indiana. I've said my campaign is about jobs, jobs, and jobs.

BASH: Today, so is Obama's.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where I come from, there's nothing more fundamental than a good-paying job.

YELLIN: With that message, Obama has come to within five points of John McCain in Indiana, a state so red it, it last elected a Democratic president 44 years ago. But McCain is trying to shift focus from jobs to taxes, launching a fuselage of attacks on the Obama tax plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe the plumber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Joe the plumber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama: higher taxes, more spending, not ready.

YELLIN: So now Obama is taking aim at McCain's tax policy.

OBAMA: You know, there's a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly houses 18,000 corporations. Think about that. That's either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam in the world. I think we know which one it is. That's the system my opponent defends.

YELLIN: And mocking McCain for telling Wolf Blitzer he believes high taxes drive American companies overseas.

MCCAIN: We should be cutting corporate tax for every business in America.

YELLIN: Says Obama...

OBAMA: More tax cuts for jobs outsourcing, that's what Senator McCain proposed as his answer to outsourcing. He said that's "simple fundamental economics." I say let's end tax cuts for companies that shift jobs overseas, give them to companies that are investing right here in Indiana, right here in the United States of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: Wolf, that was a big applause line for Barack Obama. The message on jobs clearly resonating with the crowd that gathered to see him here, up to 35,000 people, we're told.

And now, as you say, Wolf, Barack Obama is off to Honolulu to see his grandmother, who, by all accounts, is gravely ill. He will take two days off from the campaign trail and return with campaign stops in Nevada on Saturday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we wish her only the best. All right. Thanks very much. Jessica Yellin in Indiana for us.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, John McCain said this on February 3, 2008 when talking about his run for the White House. This is a quote. "We will run an honorable campaign."

McCain made that statement in response to a question about whether his campaign would resemble George Bush's run for the White House in 2000, which as you'll recall was one of the nastier campaigns on record. Well, with less than two weeks to go now before Election Day, it's very much an open question whether John McCain has kept his word. In fact, in the last few weeks, John McCain has become downright nasty.

It began around the time -- you'll recall this -- the time that one of his advisers said that if McCain campaigned on the economy, he would lose. And the ugly personal attacks began: Barack Obama's past acquaintance with William Ayers; Barack Obama's economic plan is socialism; Barack Obama will say anything to get elected. His running mate, Sarah Palin, chimed in with such gutter-level rhetoric as Obama pals around with terrorists.

The sudden negative tone for the man who vowed to run an honorable campaign is not going unnoticed by the voters. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found 60 percent -- that's three-fifths of the voters that were surveyed -- think John McCain has unfairly attacked Barack Obama, and that is up rather sharply from 42 percent just a month before.

It's sad that an honorable man like John McCain, in a desperate struggle to avoid being embarrassed on November the 4th, has resorted to campaign tactics that are typically associated with people who can make no legitimate claim to being honorable.

Here's the question: John McCain promised to run an honorable campaign. Has he?

Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

If you think the credit crunch is bad, listen to this colorful and very disturbing description. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century credit tsunami.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congress gets an earful from the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, and lawmakers return the favor. Did he leave the hearing room humbled?

And Hillary Clinton's very busy campaign schedule, how she's helping Barack Obama, other senators, and herself.

And election officials in Ohio hope it never happens again. Might we see marathon waits at the polls or worse on November 4th? We're all over this story right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One bright spot on Wall Street today. Despite one grim financial indicator after another, the Dow Jones industrials closed up more than 170 points today. But listen to this -- jobless claims jumped by 15,000 last week. Investment giant Goldman Sachs is cutting about 3,200 jobs. General Motors is hinting it may cut more jobs itself. And a realty listening service reports home foreclosure filings jumped by 70 percent in the third quarter.

And against all of this, the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, warned Congress today that the nation is in the midst of a once-in-a-century credit tsunami.

Let's go to our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff. He's watching this story for us. Allan, very strong words from the former Federal Reserve chairman. I guess it's a lot different than what he used to say when he himself was the Federal Reserve chairman.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the entire appearance today was very, very different, because for 18 years when Alan Greenspan was chairman of the Federal reserve, he essentially was the finance professor appearing before Congress. Congressmen were his students. But not today. Today, Alan Greenspan was humbled before Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: You, Mr. Greenspan, promoted adjustable rate mortgages that fueled the subprime market.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): For a change, it was former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan who was getting a lecture from Congress, not the other way around.

REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: What did you do in your tenure to help Americans and to help Congress understand the real numbers for America? CHERNOFF: Some members of Congress blamed Greenspan for the financial crisis because he used to run the nation's central bank.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: The Federal Reserve had the authority to stop the irresponsible lending practices that fueled the subprime mortgage market. But its long-time chairman, Alan Greenspan, rejected pleas that he intervene.

CHERNOFF: Congress' General Accounting Office in 1994 warned of the dangers of financial derivatives like mortgage-backed securities. Greenspan, a fierce advocate of free markets and finance, said at the time banks could handle any problems themselves.

WAXMAN: My question for you is simple. Were you wrong?

GREENSPAN: Partially.

CHERNOFF: The former Fed chairman admitted he's stunned that banks failed to control their risk-taking.

GREENSPAN: I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and the equity in the firms. I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened.

CHERNOFF: But Greenspan refused to take blame for what he described as a once-in-a-century credit tsunami, arguing it's the fault of banks and other big investors who became too greedy in trying to profit from the mortgage boom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF: Some congressmen were still interested in hearing a forecast from Greenspan, and he said more tough times are ahead. More layoffs, and he says the economy will not improve until housing stabilizes, which, Wolf, he says is still several months away.

BLITZER: A very gloomy assessment from Alan Greenspan. All right. Thanks, Allan, for that.

Let's get some background on Greenspan right now. His stint as the Fed chairman from 1987 spanned four administrations. He was a director of policy research way back when in President Nixon's presidential campaign. He served as a member of President Ford's Council of Economic Advisers.

The 82-year-old Greenspan has a Ph.D. from NYU. He also studied music at Juilliard. He toured the country, by the way, playing tenor sax and clarinet in a swing band. Greenspan is married to NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

In these last days before the election, Hillary Clinton is crisscrossing the country. She's aiming to pump up support not just for Barack Obama, but also for Democrats in key some of those key Senate and House races, including Al Franken out in Minnesota. Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's looking at the story for us.

Democrats, they're trying to bring some additional new contenders into this race. They really are upbeat that maybe they can do this.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, they're bringing in an old contender who's been around the track many times.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The marathon runner is back in the race.

CLINTON: We are 15 days from the finish line. This has been a marathon race.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton is out on the campaign trail rallying the troops for Barack Obama.

CLINTON: Will you vote today? Go right from here to vote.

SCHNEIDER: And for Democratic House and Senate candidates like Al Franken in Minnesota.

CLINTON: Now, it's said you can't go home again, but for Al, I don't think he ever really left. He certainly left his heart here in this state.

SCHNEIDER: Senator Clinton has reactivated her political action committee which contributes to Democratic congressional campaigns. If Obama wins, it's likely to shut down the Democratic nomination until 2016. If Obama loses, Clinton becomes the instant front-runner for 2012.

Is it really in Senator Clinton's interest for Barack Obama to get elected? The question came up at a bipartisan dinner last week.

MCCAIN: I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton may be making a different calculation -- that Democrats are likely to enjoy a big victory this year. She wants it to be her victory, too. She's bursting with ideas.

CLINTON: Jobs, baby, jobs. That's what we're for! With your help, America will once again rise from the ashes of the Bushes. Tell them Hillary sent you to vote for Barack Obama.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton lost the nomination but she gained respect during the course of the primary campaign. Her favorability ratings went up. That doesn't look like a loser. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: If Obama wins, Clinton could be the leading force for the Obama agenda in the Senate, and possibly one day the first woman to become Senate majority leader -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Bill Schneider, for that report.

Hillary Clinton, by the way, isn't the only Clinton showing support for Barack Obama and other fellow Democrats. Bill Clinton, he's also out on the campaign trail, and he's heading to Kentucky to campaign for Bruce Lunsford. Lunsford is locked in a very tight race for Kentucky's U.S. Senate seat against the Republican incumbent, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

We'll watch that story for you tomorrow.

Violent outbursts and rude, disrespectful and unreasonable behavior, it's all happening during deliberations at Senator Ted Stevens' trial. Will it force a mistrial? We'll tell you what the judge is doing.

And chances are you've been on the other end of those increasingly infamous robo-calls. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns are using them, but will they end up tuning out the voters?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, we're in the midst of a global financial crisis and the biggest government intervention since the Great Depression. So why are some of the Wall Street banks handing out billions of dollars in bonuses? We're watching this story.

And battleground North Carolina. The campaign foot soldiers try to make sure no votes get left by the wayside. John McCain says he's the one who should be commander in chief in a crisis. Why he's pointing to a Cold War showdown as proof.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A dozen days before the presidential election, and Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain have come a long way, with Obama now holding an eight-point lead in our new Poll of Polls, averaging all the latest national surveys. Back in June, when the general election effectively began, Obama was ahead by four points. McCain briefly move ahead of Obama after the Republican National Convention in early September.

That was then though. This is now. The Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr is skipping a debate for third-party presidential candidates here in Washington tonight, but he's sendinging a very strong message to voters in another way. The former Republican congressman from Georgia sent out an e-mail today saying John McCain can't win the presidency.

Bob Barr is joining us now from Atlanta.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

BOB BARR (L), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, it's always a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Well, why can't he win the presidency? Still 12 days to go.

BARR: The numbers just aren't there. I mean, he's behind in several states that he ought to be way ahead as the Republican in. He's way behind. I mean, I think he's 12 points behind in Pennsylvania. That's a key state for them.

There's no way that he's going to be able reasonably to make that up ground. And we've sent out a message to folks who might otherwise be predisposed to vote for him -- don't throw your vote away. Make it mean something. Vote for Bob Barr. Vote for, you know, the real choice, Wolf.

BLITZER: But you're not going to -- you don't have a big chance of getting elected president, certainly nothing compared to John McCain, right?

BARR: No. That isn't really the point though. The point is to influence public policy.

Where you have votes going to Senator McCain or Senator Obama, you're basically voting for the status quo. That is big government or really big government.

Now we urge people who might be predisposed to have voted for Senator McCain simply because he's the Republican to remind them of the fact that he's got not going to win, and therefore they need to do something to influence public policy for smaller government, and that's vote for me.

BLITZER: I have heard several Libertarians say, you know what, they're going to hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, from their perspective, suggesting, that's John McCain, who, as -- who, as you point out, is big government, but not really big government, which you say is Barack Obama.

BARR: We -- I have been traveling the country, Wolf, as you know. I have been in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire, all the battleground states, recently speaking primarily to universities and colleges, to huge groups of young people.

And I don't sense that there's a lot of Libertarian-leaning Americans out there, Republican or otherwise, who are going to hold their nose and vote for Senator McCain. We sense that they are going to vote for a real choice, a real message. And that is to vote the Libertarian ticket.

BLITZER: Is it your assumption that your votes mostly, by and large, would be votes that would normally go for John McCain, as opposed to Barack Obama, given the fact that you're a former Republican conservative congressman from Georgia?

BARR: They -- they -- most of our votes will come from young people not wedded to either party. But insofar as we do hope and will pick up a large number of Republican-leaning votes, they're not so much votes from McCain as votes that he's simply not going to get because he represents big-government Republicanism.

BLITZER: Because, in some of these close races, some of the pundits suggest, you know what, Bob Barr is going to hurt John McCain, but Ralph Nader is going to hurt Barack Obama. You don't buy that?

BARR: Certainly not on our side. There -- Wolf, there's very little that I have in common with Senator McCain. It isn't as if somebody's going to wake up on November 4 and say, man, I was going to vote for that big-government Republican, but I think, after all, I will vote for a small-government Libertarian.

Our votes would not go to Senator McCain in the first place.

BLITZER: Why aren't you attending this third-party presidential debate tonight?

BARR: We found out about it -- it was poorly organized, and we out about it after we had several events that we couldn't get out of here in Georgia.

BLITZER: Give me a prediction in the state of Georgia, your home state. It looks like McCain has a -- has a pretty significant lead over Barack Obama. But the voter turnout over the past few days has been incredible. The young people, a lot of young people who support Barack Obama are showing up, African-Americans. How do you predict Bob Barr will do in Georgia?

BARR: I think we will do very well in Georgia. We will get several percentage points, at any rate. And I think that Senator Obama is going to fool a lot of people, surprise a lot of people.

I have talked with a lot of those folks that have voted early, early voting that we now have in Georgia. And, while we're getting our fair share, Senator Obama is getting by -- by far the lion's share of those early votes.

BLITZER: So, are you saying that Obama will carry Georgia?

BARR: It wouldn't surprise me at all, Wolf.

BLITZER: Bob Barr, thanks very much for coming in.

BARR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good luck to you.

People waiting for hours to cast their ballots, many saying they couldn't even vote. That was the scene in parts of Ohio in the last presidential election. But could it be even worse this time around?

Mary Snow is one of CNN's dedicated correspondents covering the battleground states. Will we see these problems again this time, Mary, or even worse?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, one expert who gets paid to look at all different kinds of scenarios says there's a possibility that things could be worse this time around because of what's expected to be record turnout.

But, of course, county officials here and state officials are doing everything they can to avoid that happening. And that includes early voting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Ohio is hoping its early voting will prevent a repeat of this, lines that lasted for more than five hours in places like Franklin County, which includes Columbus.

Engineering professor Ted Allen was hired by the county to look at what went wrong.

TED ALLEN, ENGINEERING PROFESSOR, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: We estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 people were deterred from voting.

SNOW: Twenty thousand to 30,000 people who couldn't vote, and that's just in one county.

Allen says lines were longest in urban areas. And, as a result, African-Americans, on average, had to wait half-an-hour longer than everyone else to vote. One big problem? Not enough machines. The state has doubted the number from 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing the voter would do would be to vote on this page.

SNOW: Touch-screen machines like these will be used in Franklin County for the first time in a presidential election. Ohio's secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, who inherited the machines, was so skeptical of them, she ordered backup paper ballots at polling places.

JENNIFER BRUNNER, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: We -- we have very poorly engineered systems, that I know that there are some on the horizon that would be an improvement, but we're waiting on a very slow federal certification and testing process.

SNOW: There's more emphasis on better training for poll workers. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If David's address or what he provides me with does not match what I have in here, that's not going to work.

SNOW: We did a walk-through of the early voting process using a paper ballot. State and local ballot measures make it lengthy.

MICHAEL STINZIANO, DIRECTOR, FRANKLIN COUNTY, GEORGIA, BOARD OF ELECTIONS: In the time wait study we did, it takes about seven to nine minutes for the average person.

SNOW (on camera): OK.

STINZIANO: Obviously, we have seen anywhere from maybe three minutes to an hour.

SNOW (voice-over): Crunching the numbers into simulations, Ted Allen says long ballots, coupled with high turnout, could be problematic.

ALLEN: Amazingly it, takes so much longer to vote with the new machines, we're predicting that there might be lines, and, depending on the turnout, it might actually be worse than 2004.

SNOW (on camera): Worse than 2004?

ALLEN: Possibly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And, Wolf, some of the precincts here in Franklin County have as many as 24 races that people will be voting on. Election officials are trying to encourage people to look at sample ballots on the Web before they get here. But, again, there is expected to be record turnout, even though the turnout is already high in early voting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. We will watch this story. Tempers could be flaring if people are waiting way too long. We will watch it in Ohio, all around the country.

They're automatic and they are usually effective. We're talking about those so-called robocalls. Yet, they are now a source of red- hot controversy in this presidential race.

And the $5.3 billion election, in a time of financial crisis, is it worth it?

Later, John McCain says, he's been tested by crisis. We're taking a closer look back at his role in the Cold War showdown.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Asian-Americans are a minority in the state of Virginia, at least in numbers, but they could be hugely significant as part of a voting bloc. Let's go to Dan Lothian. He's covering the campaign issues in-depth in that battleground state. Dan, are Asian- Americans in Virginia leaning toward Obama or McCain?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, at this point, we are told that Asian-Americans tend to lead -- lean Democratic, but older voters seem to lean towards McCain.

Now, they are, as you mentioned, only a fraction of the more than five million registered voters here in the state. But, here in Northern Virginia, where there's a high concentration of Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese Americans, some say they could make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): One by one, Asian-American volunteers reach out to their Northern Virginia community by phone with a nonpartisan push to the polls.

KHANH TRAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BOAT PEOPLE SOS: All we want you to do is encourage them and educate them and get -- get out there and promote people to go out to vote.

LOTHIAN: Confident that, in this swing state, how Asian- Americans vote could determine who makes it into the White House.

JOAN JAVIER, ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN LABOR ALLIANCE: The high turnout that we're going to expect from the general population shouldn't overshadow the -- the real power that our community, the Asian-American community, has.

LOTHIAN: Some political observers say, their voting power in this state became clear in the 2006 Senate race. Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, a Democrat who is married to a Vietnamese-American and speaks her language...

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: (SPEAKING VIETNAMESE)

LOTHIAN: ... defeated Republican incumbent George Allen.

JEREMY MAYER, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: I'm certain that the Asian vote in 2006 in Virginia helped Jim Webb win one of the closest Senate elections in Virginia history.

LOTHIAN: There are more than 180,000 Asian-Americans old enough to vote in Virginia. Nonprofit groups like Boat People SOS are trying to reach as many of them as possible before November 4.

Jacqueline Tran, a first-time voter who helps out in the family store in Falls Church, says her community is not complacent.

JACQUELINE TRAN, FIRST-TIME VOTER: I know a lot of friends and my family are also going out this year to vote.

LOTHIAN: Many of them are small-business owners, who see an opportunity to make their lives better.

J. TRAN: So, I think the election does affect us.

LOTHIAN: A community worried about the economy, and something else.

K. TRAN: The workers and -- and immigrant rights.

LOTHIAN: So, which candidate appeals to this voting bloc? George Mason associate professor Jeremy Mayer says Asian-Americans don't speak with one voice and are inclined to vote for the person, not with the party.

MAYER: They're divided by nationality. They have very different voting patterns when you break down, say, Koreans vs. Indians.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Both of the campaigns realize how important this voting bloc is. In fact, McCain and Obama have a point person in Northern Virginia specifically reaching out to this voting bloc. In fact, the McCain camp has also put out campaign literature, like this one here in Korean, to specifically target this voting bloc -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan. Dan is in Falls Church, Virginia, right outside Washington, D.C., in -- in the northern part of the state.

By the way, if you're in one of the election battleground states, your phone may be ringing off the hook. Robocalls, as they're called, are the campaigns' newest weapon. Both John McCain and Barack Obama are making use of them.

Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello -- Carol.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, expect your automated phone friend list to grow. Robocalls are not only ubiquitous this year; they're nasty.

(voice-over): It sounds like a bad B-movie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SCREAMING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The attack of the killer robocalls. But, for voters, that's exactly it feels like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really annoying. COSTELLO: StopPoliticalCalls.org feels your pain. Its goal is to stop robocalls now. But, with two weeks to go, forget it.

SHAUN DAKIN, FOUNDER AND CEO, STOPPOLITICALCALLS.ORG: It's essentially the spam of this election cycle. They have become so cheap. They have become so ubiquitous at every level of every race. So, if you particularly live in a battleground state, our members are reporting getting 10 to 15 calls a day. That's only going to increase.

COSTELLO: Dakin says the McCain camp has launched 12 different robocall campaigns in the past month-and-a-half, including linking Barack Obama to '60s radical William Ayers.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC, because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That attack robocall is in part why you should expect more robocalls. It's actually sparked a robocall war on and off the phone.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: John, stop your ads. Bring down those robocalls.

COSTELLO: Even some Republicans echo Joe Biden. The co-chair of McCain's Maine campaign, Senator Susan Collins, says, these kinds of calls should stop immediately.

Don't bet on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: That robocall...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization, bombed the U.S. Capitol.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: ... is absolutely accurate. And, by the way, Senator Obama's campaign is running robocalls as we speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: StopPoliticalCalls.org says the Obama camp is doing that, launching at least four robocall campaigns in the last month. And the Wisconsin Democratic Party has also joined in, creating this robocall attacking McCain's attack robocall.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I live in Green Bay. And, like you, I have been getting sleazy phone calls and mail from John McCain and his supporters.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Expect to hear that one a lot if you live a swing state. And the only way to avoid it, don't answer your phone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: So, the question is, do they work? Well, not so much.

Pew Research did a study during the primary, and found, half of us hang up on our robofriends. Other voters listen angrily. And a few people do listen. And, the nastier the message, the more effective it is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thank you for that -- Carol Costello reporting.

Barack Obama apparently feeling confident today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We will not just win here in Indiana. We will win this general election.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And you and I together will change the country and change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says, even if the polls were tied, he believes he can win the election. Our "Strategy Session" coming up next. Donna Brazile and Kevin Madden, they're standing by live.

Plus, taxpayers have to bail out the big banks, so, why are their top managers getting billions of dollars in bonuses this year? We have details of that story and much more -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama predicting today he can still win on Election Day, even if the polls are tied. So, here's the question: Is he right?

Let's discuss in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. Guys, thanks very much.

Is he right, Donna? If the polls are tied, he wins?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I guess what Senator Obama is referring to, of course, is his ground game.

As you well know, Wolf, he has an enormous get-out-the-vote operation. They are on the ground in communities that -- that they understand must turn out in record numbers.

But, you know, I am old-fashioned. You don't count your chickens until they have laid their eggs and out in the farm yard. But Senator Obama is clearly keeping it on the offense. His campaign is sending out e-mails to their supporters. And they're encouraging people who are in so-called safe blue states to travel into those competitive red states to help them get out the vote.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kevin. I think everyone agrees that, in 2004, Karl Rove and the Republicans wound up having a better ground game, especially in Ohio, than the Democrats had and the Kerry -- the Kerry campaign had.

But a lot of those same pundits now say, you know what, Obama has a better ground game, a much better ground game, in store right now than McCain has. Are you among those who agree?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I worked on the president's reelection campaign in 2004, and specifically in Ohio.

And the reason that we had a good ground game was because we prepared for the campaign as if it was going to be very, very close on Election Day. And we knew that the turnout model that we had, with thousands of volunteers all the way down to the precinct level, getting out there and knocking on doors, making those calls in that critical 72-hour period right before Election Day, that that was going to be the difference on winning and losing in a lot of these contests.

And I think that, because of the money advantage, because of the long organizational advantage that Barack Obama has had, going through the primary, where essentially his organization got a full-body workout for all those months and all those very close contests against Hillary Clinton, he does have a distinct advantage.

But Republicans, again, they feel that they have got that organizational framework with a lot of the state parties working and that they can still compete in many of these battleground states.

BLITZER: Donna, in an interview with "The Washington Times" that was published today, Senator McCain blamed the Bush administration for overspending, the conduct of the war in Iraq, the massive debt, failure to address climate change. He went on. Here's the question. Will voters believe -- will voters believe that he is really a very different man than -- than George W. Bush and decide, you know what, they're going to vote for him?

BRAZILE: No. No, because John McCain had plenty of time, after securing the Republican nomination back in the spring, to begin to separate and distance himself from the president.

But it's very hard, in the closing days, when voters see pretty much John McCain talking just like George Bush talked in 2004: tax cuts for the wealthy, once again, you know, talking about the war. That's the -- the American people want a break from the past. They want a break from the present, as well. And that's why you see so many voters turning -- turning to Senator Obama, because they believe that he is a break from George W. Bush.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Kevin, at how far Senator McCain is going in trying to distance himself from the incumbent Republican president?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think that there's already one candidate in this race running against George Bush. And that's Barack Obama. We don't need another.

What's really important for John McCain to do is -- again, is establish a separate identity. You know, for years, up on Capitol Hill, Democrats always used John McCain as a rhetorical touchstone for accomplishment and bipartisan legislation.

So, you know, he -- he has to got and make the case to those swing voters, those Democrats -- those conservative Democrats and independents that he's always been the person who's put party aside and has instead done what he thought was best. He put country first.

And that is his closing argument in these last days. It's not about running against George Bush. Instead, John McCain has to run for John McCain.

BRAZILE: That's -- that was a different George -- that was a different John McCain. He has changed over and over and over.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Donna, he's still the same John McCain...

BRAZILE: No.

MADDEN: ... who has accomplished bipartisan legislation up on Capitol Hill. He's still the same John McCain that, oftentimes, challenged this -- the status quo up on Capitol Hill...

BRAZILE: But, Kevin, what you're not going to change in...

MADDEN: ... challenged the status quo in the administration.

BRAZILE: Kevin, you're not going to change in 12 days the fact that he voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. You're not going to change that. And that is what voters are concerned about.

BLITZER: And you know what?

BRAZILE: They're concerned about their future.

BLITZER: Kevin, we heard a new line today from Senator McCain. Dana Bash reported it at the top of the hour, namely, that -- that -- this is McCain speaking -- and I'm paraphrasing right now -- Barack Obama really is going to continue the big-spending, the big-government policies of George Bush. I want to stop that. I want to reverse it. It's Barack Obama who is the heir to Bush.

What do you think of that new strategy from Senator McCain?

MADDEN: Well, look, any -- you know, Wolf -- and I think Donna will agree with me -- any time that this race becomes a three-person race, four-person race, John McCain loses.

If this becomes a head-to-head matchup, a contest of attributes and a contest of contrasts between these two candidates on the big issues, like -- like national security, like the economy, that's John McCain's best chance.

He has to make sure that he's going to -- he makes the case to those -- to those voters that he's going to take the country in the right direction; Barack Obama is going to take it in the wrong direction. This has nothing to do with the Bush administration.

BLITZER: Guys, we got to leave it there. Kevin Madden, Donna Brazile, thanks very much.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: The McCain/Palin ticket might get a boost from a celebrity, the outspoken Republican female star who will join Sarah Palin out on the campaign trail. Our "Political Ticker" is next.

And John McCain has been speaking about his experience in the Cuban Missile Crisis. We're checking out just what his role was during that infamous part of U.S. history.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": The lone conservative on the daytime talk show "The View" is now set to campaign with Sarah Palin. Elisabeth Hasselbeck will appear with the Republican vice presidential nominee in Florida this weekend. Hasselbeck says, Palin invited her to participate. And the rally should give her some good stories when she returns to "The View" on Monday.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can also download our political screen saver. Stay with us for that.

Let's go back to Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: John McCain promised, way back in February of 2008, to run -- quote -- "an honorable campaign." Has he?

Shawn writes: "Oh please. John McCain has not run an honorable campaign. I'm sure you have been watching Senator McCain's shift in gradual campaign ugliness as he falls farther behind in the polls. McCain has spent more time attacking Senator Obama than he has providing answers for this country or tutoring Governor Palin."

Sami in Arizona writes: "The robocalls, false information being spread in vile brochures have put him over the top in the area of dishonor and disservice to the nation as a whole. McCain may have been honorable with his service in the past and even the principles that he once had. However, he has lost himself through the process and has been sucked into the RNC machine."

Debi writes, "An honorable man running a dishonorable campaign -- very disheartening to see."

David in Pennsylvania: "Welcome back. I missed you. McCain is running a typical dirty Republican campaign" -- this is from a battleground state, by the way -- "a campaign that will relegate him and Benedict Lieberman ineffective when they return to the Senate. His well-dressed running mate, however, will become a host on QVC."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: C.J. in Georgia writes: "Which John McCain, 2000 or 2008? The John McCain now has let the inmates take over the institution."

Sarah writes: "John McCain lost a lot of the respect and honor he had from people on both sides of the aisle, as well as from the general public. I think he will lose the election, and, in the future, he will come to regret the campaign that he has run. If he was 32, he would struggle to repair his reputation. Being 72, he has no chance."

And Heather writes from Elko, Nevada: "Has McCain run an honorable campaign? Is Jack Cafferty a sexy young chick?" What's your point, Heather?

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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