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Palin's New Energy; Obama Goes for Knockout; States Changing Colors; Election Day Security Concerns; Siphoning Off GOP Support

Aired October 29, 2008 - 17:00   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: Sarah Palin puts the wardrobe issue back in the closet with a hard-hitting speech on energy, calling for a clean break with the Bush administration.
John McCain, meantime, hitting Barack Obama on the economy and about to do the same on national security. Stand by.

Barack Obama hitting right back -- on the offensive in states McCain simply can't afford to lose. Tonight, the first joint campaign appearance with Bill Clinton. Also this hour, former President Clinton gives us a preview live.

Plus, will a former Republican congressman play the spoiler in his campaign to steer America toward the right? We're looking at the third party candidate, Bob Barr.

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

Six days until the election, Sarah Palin sets aside her image issues with a straight-talking nuts and bolts speech on energy. And she distances herself from President Bush.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She has our battleground coverage from Ohio -- Mary, does this help this late in the game, what Sarah Palin is now doing?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it could help her with Independents. But, you know, a number of strategists we spoke with say they don't think this policy speech will make a huge difference at this point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Stumping in the must-win state for Republicans, Sarah Palin shifted the focus to her signature issue -- energy independence. She called for a clean break from the Bush administration and said relying on foreign oil poses a security risk.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Across the world, these pipelines, refineries, transit routes and terminals for the oil we rely on. And Al Qaeda terrorists, they know where those are.

SNOW: Palin toured a solar panel facility in Toledo. She mentioned solar energy, but stressed the need for nuclear energy and more drilling. She didn't mention Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge, where she supports drilling and John McCain does not. Some political observers say it's a little late for this kind of policy speech, as candidates give closing arguments.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: What it does do and where I think there's some wisdom to it is that she need to bolsters her intellectual credentials -- the sense that she knows something about substance, because she's been so ridiculed on so many other fronts.

SNOW: Fronts like the focus on Palin's wardrobe and apparent riffs within the McCain campaign about Palin's performance. In Ohio, where polls show McCain behind, political observers say Palin still plays well to Republican audiences, but her favorable ratings have fallen as she's gone on the attack.

PAUL BECKI, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: So I think that Independents, in particular, don't want to hear these partisan themes. It really turns them off in a campaign.

SNOW: And while Palin started her day on policy, the political attacks picked up soon after, as "Joe the Plumber" joined her on the campaign trail.

PALIN: Because of an encounter with Senator Obama, what "Joe the Plumber" and the rest of us finally found out is that Obama says that he wants to spread the wealth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Palin's trying to hammer home this theme of trying to paint Barack Obama as trying to develop a socialist nation. But she is going to turn some of her focus tomorrow, Wolf, toward national security. She's going to be holding a roundtable. You know, a number of Republican strategists say, in essence, it's a good idea, but it should have been done weeks ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is she making herself at all more available to the news media in terms of Q&A with the reporters, news conferences, anything along those lines, as well?

SNOW: In the past week, or so, we have seen a little bit of that. But so far, today, no. She has been sticking to her schedule.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks. Mary is in Cleveland working the story.

We're waiting to bring you John McCain, by the way. He's in the crucial battleground state of Florida right now. Here's what he had to say earlier out there on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For weeks now, the attention of our country, understandably, has been focused on the serious financial troubles we face. At such a time, when the jobs and financial security of our people seem at risk, it's hard to spare much thought even for the great and abiding concerns of this nation's security and the security of our friends and allies across the world.

But these dangers have not gone away while we turned our attention elsewhere and the next president will meet no greater test than defending America from these threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. John McCain, by the way, will be Larry King's guest later tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You're going to want to see what's going on in the interview that Larry has with John McCain.

We're also waiting to hear this hour from former President Bill Clinton, who may give a preview of tonight's first joint campaign rally with Barack Obama. Obama today campaigning today in North Carolina and now in Florida. And the Democrat sounds like he's trying to go for a knockout.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's in Sunrise, Florida, working this story for us -- some pretty tough talk from the Democratic candidate, Jessica, today.

(AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: All right, Jessica -- unfortunately, I don't think we're hearing Jessica Yellin. But she filed this report only moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama is playing offense, today mocking the McCain's closing message.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.

YELLIN: And in a snarky new ad, accusing the Republican ticket of incompetence on economic issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAPHIC: "I might have to rely on a Vice President that I select for expertise on economic issues."

NARRATOR: His choice?

(PICTURE OF SARAH PALIN ON SCREEN)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: His aggressive posture is also clear in his schedule. Beginning the day in Raleigh, North Carolina, which went for Bush twice, then swinging through Sunrise, Florida Democratic -- a Democratic stronghold in a county that was one of the epicenters of the Florida recount. Al Gore lost here by just 537 votes. And tonight, Obama will pull out the big guns, making his first joint campaign appearance with none other than Bill Clinton, who's still adored in Florida and interrupting prime time TV for millions of Americans with a 30 minute ad directed by the same man who brought you Obama's convention biography.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in Washington, he would remember why he was running and who he was fighting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Expect the ad to make this point.

OBAMA: If my opponent is elected, you will be worse off four years from now than you are today.

YELLIN: It's designed to energize supporters and persuade late deciders, like these voters in Virginia, to give Obama what he wants.

OBAMA: If you want it as bad as I want it, then I promise you, we will not just win Virginia, we'll win this general election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Now, Jessica -- unfortunately, we're not hearing Jessica Yellin. I've got a mike problem there. But we'll get back to her later. Jessica Yellin in Sunrise, Florida.

We are hearing Jack Cafferty. That's very good because he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's because you're sitting 18 inches away from me.

BLITZER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: And I haven't got to depend on any electronics.

BLITZER: And we were -- she's a thousand miles away.

CAFFERTY: She's a thousand, yes. Pictures were never meant to fly through the air.

In a last ditch effort to try to pick up those undecided voters, John McCain's message is focusing on portraying Barack Obama as a socialist who wants to raise your taxes and redistribute your wealth.

A socialist. Really? It was just a couple of weeks ago, you may remember, that the federal government effectively nationalized some of this country's largest banks -- a plan signed into law by the current president, Republican George W. Bush -- a law that Senator John McCain voted in favor of.

Is nationalizing our banks, is that socialistic? McCain says Obama will be a tax and spender if he's elected. Consider this. The Republican administration of John McCain's good friend, President Bush, has doubled our national debt to more than $10 trillion dollars since 2000. George Bush rewrote the definition of spending money. Nobody's ever done it like him.

McCain supported him more than 90 percent of the time. We're fighting two wars. We're facing a giant financial crisis. My good buddy, CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, says in a great column that she wrote on CNN.com today: "No matter who's elected, the next president is going to find himself trying to figure out a way to keep some of his campaign promises without breaking the bank." Borger says in a week, that means somebody is going to have to start trying to figuring out how to govern.

When Bill Clinton left office, the economy was sound, the economy was running a surplus. The total debt was half of what it is now, we were at peace and the banks were still private institutions. Then what happened? John McCain's friend George Bush happened.

Here's the question: Who do you think will be the bigger spender in the White House, John McCain or Barack Obama? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question.

Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Right.

BLITZER: Six days to go and CNN's brand new poll of polls changing the look of the Electoral College map.

Coming up, the key states, the closest numbers -- which battlegrounds are changing color and why? John King standing by at the magic map.

And for the first time in decades, Virginia is clearly a battleground state. And that's bringing up some security concerns, as well. We'll tell why you.

And those late night jokes poking fun at the candidates apparently don't just make you laugh, they can also influence how you vote. There's a new study out that's making comedy some serious business.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's some new numbers showing new gains for Senator Barack Obama in some key states. But our latest CNN/"Time"/Opinion Research Corporation polling also shows that some of the third party candidates could -- potentially could be a factor. Let's take a look at the new numbers.

Colorado up first. Right now, among likely voters, Barack Obama with 50 percent to John McCain's 43 percent. But look at Ralph Nader. He's coming in with four percent. Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, with two percent. Nine electoral votes at stake.

In Florida right now, our new poll numbers -- Obama with 50 percent, McCain 45, Ralph Nader two percent. In Florida, Bob Barr one percent. Twenty-seven electoral votes.

In Georgia, look at how close it is in Georgia. Surprisingly, McCain with 50 percent, Obama 46 percent, three percent right now for Bob Barr. That's three percent for the former Georgia Republican Congressman. He could be a factor taking away votes, potentially, from John McCain.

In Missouri, 48 percent to 46 percent. McCain slightly ahead. But it's a 3.5 point sampling error. Eleven electoral votes in Missouri at stake.

And finally, in Virginia, 51 percent for Obama to 42 percent for McCain, three percent for Bob Barr, two percent for Ralph Nader. It's a nine point game right now. Obama leading in Virginia. Thirteen electoral votes at stake.

Let's go over to John King. He's looking at this Electoral College map. He's looking at everything else over here. There's some changes that we've had as a result of these polls and other poll of polls.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the most significant one, Wolf, is we are now leaning Colorado. You see it as a toss-up here. We are now leaning this state toward Barack Obama. So we're going to make it blue here.

And look what it does up here. This is stunning. We have Obama now at 286. It takes 270 to win. So John McCain not only would have to win all of the gold states, which are the toss-up states, he would have to take something away.

We've talked a lot about the McCain campaign targeting Pennsylvania. Even if he took it away, Obama would be at 265, hence they would only have to pick up Nevada and he could get to the 270. So the map changed in another way yet again to advantage Barack Obama. And let's look a bit more closely.

Why did we do this? If you look right here, Wolf, most of the population is here, in the Denver-Boulder area. Barack Obama is leading in that area, Denver-Boulder, 68 percent to 30 percent. That's where the population is in the state and is he up by a huge margin...

BLITZER: And that includes the suburbs, too, right?

KING: It includes -- in the -- yes. That includes the Denver- Boulder area there. But in the suburbs alone, the southern -- just south, 56-41 -- a 15 point lead in the suburbs. And we're seeing that not just in Colorado, but we're seeing that in other states, as well, Wolf, which is what makes the map so interesting. Another big state in our new poll is Florida, of course. Down here, Miami and the Gold Coast -- you know this area very well down here. Barack Obama is leading 65 to 34 -- a 30 point lead, Miami and the Gold Coast. It's a Democratic area, but that margin being so big, turnout high, it is crushing. He's also, Wolf, among non-whites in the State of Florida, blacks and Latinos, Barack Obama is winning more than 70/30. It's 70 to 29 right now. A growing Latino population in Florida. The Obama campaign targeting African-Americans in that state. Those are impressive numbers. It's still a toss-up state. It's still very close there.

One other place I want to look at that you mentioned on the map -- and we'll talk more about this as the day goes on -- let's come up to the State of Virginia. And you come back out and come up here. This is the state, of course, that went narrowly -- nine points, actually, for George W. Bush four years ago. They're trying to turn this blue.

And what is happening is huge Obama leads up here, in Northern Virginia. Again, Wolf, you know, that's near our home. Population growth has been all up here in Northern Virginia. Barack Obama with a huge advantage there and, significantly, running very far ahead in Southeast Virginia.

This is a competitive community. You have the African-Americans in Norfolk and in Hampton Roads. But you also have -- see all the red from four years ago -- military communities, naval bases, military retirees down here. Advantage Barack Obama down here and up here. The population is in these areas in this state. Plus, he's running very well in Richmond among African-Americans. A few days out in the election, the map is tilting more in Obama's favor.

BLITZER: How much of an asset is it in Virginia that he's got the governor right now; Jim Webb, one of the Democratic senators; and a former governor, Mark Warner, who's running for the Senate, all Democrats; Tim Kaine, the incumbent governor. He's got --

KING: Right.

BLITZER: He's got some heavyweights helping him in Virginia.

KING: The state energy -- we talked about the national fundamentals favoring Obama in this election. The state energy in Virginia has been trending Democratic for quite some time. He has all of the popular politicians in that state. Even many Republicans say they're going to vote for the Democratic candidate. Mark Warner for Senate.

It helps you on the ground. It helps turn out votes. And it helps you, most importantly, because, Wolf, I just finished a conversation heading out here with a top McCain adviser, who says there is no way -- no way they see a path to 270 if Barack Obama wins Virginia.

It will be one of the earliest states to come in on election night. If Barack Obama picks up these 13 electoral votes the State of Virginia, are there mathematical possibilities out here? Yes. But does the McCain campaign have a sheet that gets you to 270 that does not include the State of Virginia that is at all realistic? The answer to that is no, Wolf.

BLITZER: And they close the polls -- at least right now -- in Virginia at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

KING: That's right.

BLITZER: So that will be one of the first states that close on Tuesday. John, thanks very much. John's going to stay with us. He's not going away.

Virginia hasn't really been up for grabs in a presidential election in more than four decades. But it's now clearly a raging battleground, as you just saw. State officials are concerned, though, that the intensity of the race could lead to heated and possibly even some violent exchanges at polling places, so they're beefing up security. CNN's Dan Lothian is in Norfolk, Virginia -- Dan, exactly what security measures are we talking about?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there have been a lot of training sessions underway for months. There will be police officers at various polling places. But I should point out, in past elections, they've always had security plans in place at the various polling places just in case anything happened. But this time around, officials have really taken it up a notch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Virginia has long had its battlefields, but only recently has it become a battleground state -- a record number of registered voters, the threat of turning blue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain-Palin.

LOTHIAN: And passionate supporters fighting to win. It's what some call the perfect storm for security problems.

AL SPRADLIN, CHAIRMAN, CHESAPEAKE ELECTORAL BOARD: We have to be prepared more than ever before. You're talking about a great deal of emotion in a polling precinct, so we have to prepare for the fact that people are not going to act normal.

LOTHIAN: Al Spradlin, chairman of the electoral board in Chesapeake, says his city is taking unprecedented security steps just in case. For security reasons, he gave few details.

ROKEY SULEMAN, REGISTRAR, FAIRFAX COUNTY: This is Mason here.

LOTHIAN: Fairfax County registrar Rokey Suleman has been working on his "what if" plan for weeks.

SULEMAN: We've have talked to county and city police to let them know that we have -- to be aware, to be prepared to go out to the polls on election day in case something happens.

LOTHIAN: Poll workers in the state's largest county have also been put on guard.

SULEMAN: To be more vigilant, to look for suspicious people, suspicious items, you know, suspicious behavior. And realizing that everybody has sort of an amped up atmosphere this election.

LOTHIAN: Caution, but security experts say no cause for alarm.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: There is no specific they're the to the election process or anything else on election day.

LOTHIAN: Officials in several of Virginia's largest cities and counties tell CNN that police officers will be present at some polling places, but will most likely be wearing plain clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Virginia.

LOTHIAN: That's something that voter rights groups say they'll be closely monitoring. Training sessions like this one give volunteers a sense of what to look out for.

BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: Are they in any way causing voters to be intimidated or threatened?

Security is an important issue. But we want to make sure that every voter feels comfortable actually going into the polling station.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: One official told me that there is a fine line between security and not intimidating any of the voters. They said that this is something they've gone over with law enforcement officials and don't expect a problem on election day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Dan, the whole issue that the governor is not necessarily going to have enough resources there to allow everyone to vote in a timely fashion, has there been any movement on that NAACP lawsuit?

LOTHIAN: No movement on that at all. They're meeting with the attorney general. Then, perhaps, we should hear more on that tomorrow. But the NAACP saying that even though less than a week to go before election day, they believe there's still plenty of time to get something done, they feel, in order to allow African-Americans, they believe, to be able to vote on election day.

BLITZER: And Virginia, who would have thought this late it's going to be this close there -- Obama with a lead in our poll of polls, in our latest poll there. Thanks for that.

We hear the most about the top two presidential candidates, but there's another opponent who could cause some problems, especially for John McCain, in some of those so-called red states.

And we're standing by for Bill Clinton. He's getting ready to speak at a campaign event in Pennsylvania. And later tonight, he'll be appearing for the first time out on the campaign trail with Barack Obama.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Zain Verjee is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, panic is spreading in Eastern Congo, as rebel troops are believed to be on the verge of overrunning a key provincial capital. The U.S. Embassy says U.S. diplomatic officials are just evacuating the city of Goma and they're urging all American citizens to follow. Rebels on the outskirts of Goma have reportedly declared a cease-fire in an effort to restore the calm there. Tens of thousands of residents, refugees and government troops are all just pouring out of the city.

In Southwestern Pakistan, grief and desperation after a major earthquake rocked the region yesterday. The 6.4 magnitude quake killed at least 170 people. Many others are still missing, while some 15,000 are homeless. Pakistani Army planes are flying in tents, blankets and medical supplies.

And, Wolf, more good news for motorists -- gas prices dropped by four cents a gallon overnight, with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded now standing at just under $2.59 a gallon. It's the 42nd straight day of falling prices at the pump. And prices are now down about 37 percent from the record high set on the 17th of July.

So some good news for us today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A little silver lining out there. All right, Zain, thank you.

A major lawsuit involving thousands of people kicked off the voter rolls -- it's now in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still right now don't know why my name was taken off or why my husband's name was taken off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Just ahead, the frustration, the questions and just why it's happening. We're live from the battleground state of Colorado.

And Barack Obama takes aim at Sarah Palin with a brand new ad that includes the famous wink. Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan -- they're here to talk about it.

That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He's in Pennsylvania. Later tonight, his first joint appearance out on the campaign trail with Barack Obama. We're watching this and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the third party effect -- in 2000, the then Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, probably helped swing Florida and the election to George W. Bush. Could the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, be this year's spoiler for Barack Obama or John McCain?

Also, Barack Obama is calling on one of the biggest names in the Democratic Party. That would be Bill Clinton. And he's hitting the campaign trail today. Will he play the role of Obama's closer? I'll discuss that with CNN political contributors Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.

And technology in the presidential race -- both campaigns have huge e-mail lists, but there's a newer technology that only Barack Obama's campaign is tapping into. We'll tell you what it is and how it might impact the outcome on election day.

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

In an election like this one, a third party candidate can potentially have an outcome -- an impact, that is, on the outcome. The Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, could be an election day spoiler. As we mentioned earlier, in the key state of Colorado, he's receiving two percent of the vote right now -- at least according to our polls. So what does that mean for Barack Obama and John McCain?

CNN's Drew Griffin is working the story. What would it mean -- Drew? Which candidate would Barr take votes more away from? I assume it's the Republicans, since he's a former Republican congressman from Georgia.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: That's right, Wolf. You know, in his campaign speeches, he equally attacks the politics of both John McCain and Barack Obama. But like you said, make no mistake, his most likely supporters are those he's going to pull away from the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In a campaign of mega-crowds, megastars, and mega-campaign war chests it may be hard to believe the man gathering this tiny nearly not even a crowd at the University of Georgia could make a difference. But don't tell that to Bob Barr.

BOB BARR (L-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our message to the two big parties is get out of the way. The American people have had enough.

GRIFFIN: The former Republican congressman now libertarian for president, says this year's choice is between a far left Democrat and a left-leaning Republican. He thinks it's time for someone to take the wheel and turn America hard right.

BARR: The fact of the matter is there still are a lot of Republicans who actually understand what conservatism used to be and really still is but the Republican Party has gotten far away from it.

GRIFFIN: That message certainly resonates with Eric Baffington, a Georgia pastor, who feels abandoned by Republicans.

ERIC BAFFINGTON, PASTOR: Again I feel like to some extent I'm being prodded as a basin stead of being reached out to as a voter. I want to be reached out to as a voter.

GRIFFIN: They are just the kind of voters Barr says he needs to make his point, voters disgusted with two parties and hoping some day for a viable third.

DAVID WILLIAMSON, COLLEGE STUDENT: I would consider voting for either John McCain or Barack Obama as a waste of my vote.

GRIFFIN: Though he didn't consider himself a spoiler, that is what he would be to John McCain. In traditionally conservative states like Georgia and North Carolina where the race could be close, Barr could siphon the one or two percentage points to turn red states blue. Don't think it could happen? Some Republicans still blame Ross Perot for George H.W. Bush's loss in 1992. Some Democrats still blame Ralph Nader for al gore's losses in 2000. Barr says if John McCain loses, don't blame him for being a spoiler. Blame Republicans for spoiling their party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Wolf, certainly not a chance he's going to be elected president in 2008, but Bob Barr just may help decide who does get elected.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right. Drew, thanks very much.

So how much of a factor will Bob Barr and for that matter Ralph Nader be when the Election Day smoke clears on Tuesday? Joining us now, our Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Bay Buchanan.

What do you think, first of all, Paul? How much of a factor are these two third party candidates likely to be Nader and Barr?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, they're two totally different people. They're gadflies on the political extreme but Ralph Nader has a proven track record. Drew mentioned it in his piece. He pulled it enough votes away from Al Gore in a dead heat race to make the difference in Florida and several other states. But that was a dead heat race. Al Gore got 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush out of over 100 million cast. There's not a lot of evidence this is a one-or two-point race right now. Barack Obama has a significant lead. It looks that Ralph Nader is pulling as much or more and he's clearly from the left as Bob Barr is pulling from the right. I think it's a wash.

BLITZER: Bay, let me just put up some numbers, our new CNN Time Opinion Research Corporation poll, Obama and McCain in the race, Obama 53 percent is, 45 percent for McCain. If you add Nader and Barr to the equation, it's 50 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain, four percent for Ralph Nader, Bob Barr 2 percent, Cynthia McKinney not registering anything less than one percent there. What's your assessment of these third party candidates?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think what is going to happen is their big numbers are going to be deminimus (ph). It's not going to be significant at all. The key is the states that are close are the Republican states. If Bob Barr I think since it's close, his numbers will go further because people don't want Obama and will throw their vote for McCain for the most part. If he only gets a half a percent in a really close state, especially a Republican state that's close, Obama could take it. That's the concern.

BLITZER: You think that 4 percent that Nader is getting in Colorado, Paul, is something the Democrats should worry about?

BEGALA: Oh, sure. Yes. And I think I'd love to meet somebody for whom Barack Obama is not progressive enough in Colorado. He's got a great focus on issues that matter to Colorado, the economy, certainly energy, the environment.

So that's actually very significant thing though. If Ralph Nader is pulling twice the support as Bob Barr, it's kind of hard to see that Barr is the spoiler here. My own belief is, like Bay, that some of that will four percent will drop down to three or two. I think Nader got about 1.5 the last time. Generally third parties are like bees, they sting once and die.

BLITZER: When they say Bob Barr could be a spoiler in a state like North Carolina or his home state of Georgia he were to pick up 3 or 4 or 5 percent that, presumably could really hurt John McCain.

BUCHANAN: It would hurt enormously. I just saw a poll yesterday. Wolf, I think in my experience vein been in the third party game is that if it's a really tight race like here in Virginia, I know a lot of libertarians, a lot of people who are not happy with John McCain finally said look, we can't let Obama win. We have to go with McCain. Bob Barr I saw yesterday, his home state of Georgia, he's down under 1 percent knew. But that 1 percent could be significant. That's the key is how close are they going to be. All they need to take is a few votes if a few votes is going to be the difference between the top two.

BLITZER: Paul, your former boss, the former president of the United States is out on the campaign trail today trying to rally the troops for Senator Obama. Just a little while ago he spoke and he said this -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I'm going to make three stops in Pennsylvania. And then I'm going to Orlando for a rally with Senator Obama tonight, and we are going to light it up in Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He's pretty popular in Florida. Carry that state as you probably remember. How significant is this appearance late in the campaign only six days to go, this joint appearance later tonight between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

BEGALA: It's a very smart move for the Obama campaign. You're right. You know, Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to carry Florida since Jimmy Carter 32 years ago. So it's a big deal. They love him in Florida. He loves that state as I think we said before on this program. His base in Florida are two communities that Barack needs help with, the bubbas and the bobbies, you know white working class, my fellow kind of voters, the rednecks as we like to call ourselves laughingly and the Jewish voter who's have had concerns about Senator Obama. This is a very smart thing.

Another thing that Senator Obama did he has several times said so many of his supporters went too far in their attacks against Bill Clinton in the primaries. That has done a lot of good in healing that rift between the Clinton camp and the Obama camp. He's running on a message of unity and demonstrating it by unifying his party and I think Clinton who ran as a unifier back in the day is showing he can reach back across. It's very good news for Democrats.

BLITZER: The former president Bill Clinton is getting ready to speak in Washington, Pennsylvania. That's in the western part of the state. We've got live pictures. We'll listen in once he starts speaking. How significant do you think the Bill Clinton factor is right now the in trying to help solidify this lead for Barack Obama?

BUCHANAN: You know, I don't know how many votes he's going to take. You know, but there's no question it's smart politics. Bill Clinton is a very popular Democrat. He's going to energize the party. On top of that, he's an excellent candidate and he loves being out there as a surrogate, you can't do better. Also, he gets all this free media and free attention for Barack. I think he reaches people that Barack does not reach as well, and it could be an influential individual. He's not going to hurt him. He's going to help wherever he goes.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Paul, he looks great out there on the campaign trail. He's slimmed down. You're in touch with him. How is he feeling?

BEGALA: He's feeling great. I'm glad you asked. He's got good docks, they got the heart taken care of four years ago. I think you'll see first when we do the feed from Washington, Pennsylvania, but then in Orlando tonight, he's in fine form. He loves doing this. As you know I once said trying to get Bill Clinton to campaign is like force feeding sugar to an ant. He can't get enough of it. He'll never say no. I think it's great Barack asked him to come and do this. It shows a largeness of spirit on the part of Senator Obama to reach out and try to get help from every wing of his party.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. We're going to go there live once he starts speaking. I think you'll be interested, both of you and all of our viewers to hear what he has to say.

Love it or hate it. It's the way millions of Americans communicate. That would be with text messaging. How Barack Obama is turning texting into a massive campaign tool, recruiting voters and volunteers.

Plus commanders in Afghanistan say guess what, it's time to talk to the Taliban. Here's the question. Why? What do the candidates have to say about this?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain and Barack Obama both fighting for every last vote in the key battleground states, including Colorado. But a lawsuit there claims the state is illegally purging voters from its rolls.

CNN's Dan Simon is in Colorado Springs working the story for us. What's this controversy all about, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the controversy is about whether tens of thousands of Colorado voters have been illegally taken off the rolls. If the allegations are true, it would certainly raise some questions about Colorado's system. Right now a federal judge listening to both sides. Among those who testified today, a couple from Colorado Springs who say they don't know why they were taken off the rolls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice-over): Linda and James Johnson moved to Colorado from Utah this year and changed their voter registration. They will have the documents to prove it, including their requested absentee ballots.

LINDA JOHNSON, COLORADO SPRINGS VOTER: My vote wouldn't have counted.

SIMON: It was a shock when they got a call informing them their registrations had been purged.

JOHNSON: I'm a female and an African-American. We didn't always have this right. It didn't come easy. So it shouldn't be taken away easily.

SIMON: The call came from a government watchdog group that had done some digging. The Johnsons are included in the lawsuit alleging as many as 30,000 Colorado voters have been eliminated from the rolls.

JOHNSON: I thought it was a mistake, and I it could be easily cleared. But I didn't understand, you know, we didn't get anything from the clerk's office. Why wouldn't Colorado State tell us?

WENDY WEISER, VOTING RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Not only are they not notified that they're being removed from the rolls but by all indications they think everything's in order.

SIMON: The lawsuit targets Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman. As the state's chief election officer, it alleges he's eliminating voters for reasons not allowed under federal law. In a written statement, Coffman says the state has, "Fully complied with all applicable voter registration laws." He says the number of Colorado voters removed is 14,000 less than half of what is alleged. He says the majority had either move out of the county or state or were listed as duplicates.

JOHNSON: I still right now don't know the why my name was taken off or why my husband's name was taken off.

SIMON: The Johnsons say they were eventually told by their clerk's office they did not have an address on file. No address? How did they get their absentee ballots? After proving it was the clerk's mistake, the Johnsons were reinstated.

JOHNSON: I'm a real advocate for voting. So it meant a lot to me that the system did work, and I think it should work for all of us. If there's an error, we should do something about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: So things came out OK for them. The question is whether other who's might be in the same situation will be as fortunate. The court hearing today expected to last all afternoon and the judge expected to rule sometime today, Wolf, whether there should be some kind of change to either the procedures or whether additional names should be reinstated on the registration rolls -- Back to you.

BLITZER: The lawyers will be busy all over the country between now and Tuesday and maybe even after Tuesday. Dan Simon is in Colorado in Denver.

People around the country signed up for Barack Obama's text messages this summer to find out who he was going to pick as his running ate. Now in these final days, the Obama campaign is putting those phone numbers to use. Let's go back to our internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. What kind of messages are being sent out, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: For the Barack Obama campaign, all these cell phone subscribers means a whole lot of voter information that they can now use for their get out the vote efforts.

We've got some of the messages sent out around the country in the last few days tailored to geographic area. If you're in a battleground state like Ohio, this is a recent message telling you to come out and volunteer, giving instructions how you can do that. In Texas, the message is about early voting. It tells you the deadline, when you have to do this by, the website you can visit to get more information. In California, a recent message is basically you're of more use to us if you can travel to a swing state and help out there if you're able in the next few days.

Both the Obama campaign and McCain campaign have their e-mail lists they're using for get out the vote efforts. But it's the Obama campaign that's really ventured into text messaging. This has implications for Election Day, the ability to contact voters while they're out and about on their cell phones, being able to contact them by zip code with specified information.

We don't know how many people very they have on this list. But Nielsen Online estimated when that text message was sent out about the VP announcement, that went out to 2.9 million cell phones -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

The presidential candidates are the butt of jokes on late night TV but may be eliciting more than laughs. That story straight ahead.

And who would be the bigger spender in the white house, John McCain or Barack Obama? CNN's Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mails.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The presidential candidates and their running mates are certainly stars of late night TV, but those jokes could be influencing votes. Let's go to CNN's Kareen Wynter -- Kareen?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this election season has been ripe with political humor, but some say that the comedy carries more weight than you would expect.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: When they told McCain they were only giving him four years, but he said that is great, the doctor only gave me two.

WYNTER (voice-over): John McCain and Sarah Palin, late night comedies favorite targets.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: And another message from Sarah Palin.

PALIN: I have no experience and John McCain should get rid of me.

WYNTER: The McCain/Palin ticket has been the butt of more jokes on late night TV than their counterparts according to the Center of Media and Public Affairs. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel received a trophy for telling the 1 millionth McCain old joke. Kimmel denies he and fellow late night hosts are biased against the Republican candidate.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Well, I don't think that anybody is taking sides. You know what? When things happen, you come up with a spin on them.

WYNTER: There's also evidence that this humor might actually influence voters.

PROF. LAUREN FELDMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: The power of late night comedy to influence voters lies among those voters who are currently undecided and are potentially less tuned into the campaign.

WYNTER: American University professor Laura Feldman conducted a study based on the 2004 primaries and found that negative portrayals can have an impact like seeping into the audiences' consciousnesses.

FELDMAN: By harping, it makes the characteristics more top of mind.

WYNTER: At a recent panel discussion at the University of Southern California, comedy writers differed on the power of their work to influence voters.

MICHAEL PRICE, CO-EXEC. PRODUCER, "THE SIMPSONS": I don't think it changes the opinion, but it makes you feel better about how you feel and gives you a laugh.

MARK EVANIER, COMEDY WRITER: They take the worst features of the people and exaggerate them and reduce them to stereotypes and makes it easier to make up our minds about.

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: Are we not doing the talent portion?

WYNTER: Acknowledging the power of comedy shows to influence voter opinion, Palin, herself, appeared on "Saturday Night Live" after being a parody for weeks. And John McCain sat down with Letterman following a missed visit which got him nightly ridicule. Experts say both of them have been serving as laughing stocks of late night.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER: Some say that Sarah Palin's appearance on "Saturday Night Live" took the attention away from the campaign and same for John McCain as his appearance helped to diffuse some of the controversy brewing from the missed visit -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Kareen out in Los Angeles, thank you.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File"

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Who would be the bigger spender in the White House; John McCain or Barack Obama?

Amy in Maryland writes, "I think when you look at what will be the bottom line, this country will be better off financially with Barack Obama as president. Unlike John McCain who would like to pull the lint off of the pockets of the poor, Barack Obama will go to where the real money is and tax the rich who can afford to part with a couple of bucks." Stella in Pennsylvania, "I think whoever wins will have to spend a lot to get our country back on track. The question will be where the money comes from. Will it keep coming from the middle class or will someone help level the playing field and make companies pay what they should?"

And Jennifer in North Carolina, "That depends, what price do you put on morality, on unity or on our reputation at home or around the world? What is the return on investment of investing in the middle- class and turning our attention to energy independence. This upcoming presidency is more than dollars and it's dollars and sense, but it is sense. The McCain campaign in office would be costly on all fronts."

T.J. says, "It's a sad day in America. Barack Obama has been accused of being a socialist and a terrorist and a communist and an elitist and a liar, but what I am getting from the campaign the McCain and Palin ticket are the only ones terrorizing people."

And Dhiren in California, "I think they will spend equally. However, Barack Obama's economic policies target the right people which would create millions of jobs which means higher productivity and an improvement in exports and a lower national deficit, although I would benefit from McCain's tax policies I think that Barack Obama is the better choice for the overall economy."

If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for yours among hundreds of others -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, thank you -- Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

So why haven't they all made up their minds? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us what might be happening inside of the brains of undecided voters.

And the Pentagon wants to talk with the Taliban. Is that a way to end war in Afghanistan and what do the presidential candidates think about it?

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Voters say they have not made up their minds. And our chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the brains of undecided voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Well, there are a lot of undecided voters out there. We've been talking about that for quite some time. the question is who are they and the most important thing is who are they and what might be going on in their brains? Well, if you break down the undecideds, you start to see some very interesting categories. For example, there is a category of particular undecideds that happen in the section of this area of their brain called the parietal lobe, the parietal cortex where you gather evidence. You gather evidence before making decisions. Some people like to gather a lot of evidence before they trigger a particular decision and some people need less evidence before that decision is triggered. It is those people who need more and more evidence to fill up this area of the brain that are probably still undecided even right now.

There is another group of people that I find very fascinating, Wolf, and they are people who at this point are not exactly sure who they are going to vote for, but the part of the brain is the telling them to go in a certain direction, so to say they are absolutely 100 percent decided, but when they get to the polling booth maybe they will go in a different direction, because the brain is taking them in a different direction. So it is fascinating with the different groups of people.

How do you tease out who these undecideds are? Well, one of the ways is through the types of questions that pollsters ask. A typical poll question for example question might be asked, if the election were today, would you vote for Senator Obama or Senator McCain? Very closed question and get a specific response, but if you start to ask more open ended questions like who do you think understands your problems better? Are you more concerned about the economy or terrorism? Which candidate has the better temperament? Well, those are more open ended and you will tease out in which direction the undecideds are leaning. There is a lot of money going into the polling and combining all of this is what a lot of people are doing right now the try to figure out who the undecideds are --Wolf, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting for us.

We are just getting new word of what Sarah Palin might do in 2012 if she and John McCain lose the election next Tuesday. Standby, because you will want to know. She is speaking out right now about her political future.

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