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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Obama v. McCain: The Home Stretch

Aired October 30, 2008 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Five days to go. They're sweating it out in the swing states.
Can Barack Obama crush his opponent now and then cruise?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why would we keep driving down this dead-end street?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. KING: Does John McCain need a Hail Mary pass to compete?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe with us today.

Joe, where are you?

Where is Joe?

Is Joe here with us today?

Joe, I thought you were here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. KING: Has "Joe the Plumber" deserted the sinking ship?

Are the political headwinds just too strong?

Red states, blue states -- whose states are they tonight?

We're going to crunch all the numbers from the campaign trail right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with two of my favorite guests.

They are Ben Stein, "The New York Times" columnist, former presidential speechwriter. His latest book "How To Ruin the United States of America," a supporter of John McCain.

Also here in Los Angeles, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor of HuffingtonPost.com, a supporter of Barack Obama.

Ben, is it over? BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES," SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, there's always prayer. You can always pray. And there have been long shots. But this would be an extraordinary long shot. I mean I hope, but I think it's getting pretty late in the day.

L. KING: Arianna?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I'm a superstitious Greek peasant girl, so we never count our chickens before they're hatched. And in this case, never count our electoral votes before they're hatched. So even though in all the polls and all the momentum are going Obama's way, the Obama campaign is doing it absolutely right -- not taking anything for granted, not leaving a stone unturned, making sure that their supporters know that they cannot, for a second, give up the effort.

L. KING: All right. McCain has been all over the battleground state of Ohio today. Obama's itinerary includes Florida, Virginia and Missouri.

Here's a little of what they're saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: George Bush has dug a deep hole for us. Now he's trying to hand over the shovel to John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Last night...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: ...last night Senator Obama said if he lost, he would return to the Senate and try again in four years with a second act. That sounds like a great idea to me. Let's help him make it happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. KING: Let's ask our guests to analyze the other's campaign.

Ben, how do you characterize the campaign that Obama has run?

STEIN: Masterful. The only campaign I can compare it to in terms of its thoroughness and it's incredibly good organization and staying on message is the Nixon campaign of '72. Eventually, that, of course, game to grief over Watergate. But I've never seen an organization like the organization of Mr. Plough, or however it's pronounced, put together for Senator Obama. Absolutely masterful, leaving nothing to chance, raising money like there was no tomorrow. But beautifully staying on message.

I do fault them for betraying the promise to take public financing, but that's water over the bridge -- the dam, rather. It's been an amazingly extremely well-run campaign.

L. KING: Arianna, assess the McCain campaign.

HUFFINGTON: Tragic. Tragic because John McCain is a noble man, a war hero. And this campaign is not only going to lead to his defeat if the current trends continue, but it's also going to destroy his legacy. The way he's tried to throw everything at Barack Obama, the way he's tried to fearmonger, present him as a socialist, the way he's allowed his vice presidential nominee to talk about his palling with terrorists.

All that is really a message that, in the end, has undermined his legacy and undermined the Republican Party. And the moment, really, when the McCain campaign and -- was, in a sense, destroyed was the moment that he chose Sarah Palin, because that was like the clock that strikes 13.

STEIN: I'm afraid that's true.

L. KING: Are you agreeing, Ben?

STEIN: Yes, I'm afraid that's true. It's -- I think he had a winning theme, saying experience and country first -- experience, character, country first. He threw that away when he chose Sarah Palin.

Now, she's an incredibly impressive woman in many ways. Her administrative experience greatly exceeds Senator Obama's. But she just comes across as not really presidential timber. She's a wonderful woman, a native of Sandpoint, Idaho, so I've got to love her for that, but just not solid.

L. KING: Didn't she get off well, though, at the beginning at convention? Wasn't she...

HUFFINGTON: She did with -- her speech was impressive, because, you know...

STEIN: Incredibly impressive.

HUFFINGTON: ...she's a fearless, bold woman. But then, the minute she start talking about the issues, it was so clear that she was a know-nothing and that she was an arrogant know-nothing. And that was very troubling for the American people, because we just lived through eight years of being led by an arrogant know-nothing. And it's the last thing that people wanted.

STEIN: I was -- the last word I would apply to Mrs. Palin is no -- is arrogant. She's an extremely humble woman, I think.

But that speech was written by Matthew Scully, one of the best speechwriters there's ever been. And it was a brilliant, super speech. If he could have stayed with her on the campaign trail, I think it could have been a different story.

But once she was on her own -- she's a nice woman, she's a fine woman. I'd love to have her as my next door neighbor. I admire her stance pro-life, I admire her special needs child and her courage there. But she just did not come across as a heavy-hitter.

L. KING: How does Obama remain so cool?

Does he ever get upset?

HUFFINGTON: You know, David Brooks wrote a very interesting column, which is about how, despite the beginnings of his life, despite the fact that he could have remained somebody deeply tormented, he has somehow mastered his demons. And, after all, if you're a political leader, that's incredibly important.

Bill Clinton never mastered his demons. And John McCain clearly has not been able to master his rage, his disappointment. And they're all so obvious.

And in that last debate, the contrast between them -- it was a very strong message to the American people at a time when you need...

L. KING: And how does he do that?

HUFFINGTON: ...steady leadership, he can do it.

STEIN: Well, I think you have to do it when you're a person like he is. He had no father. He had a mother who was absent a great deal of the time. He learned to discipline himself very, very thoroughly. He was a person who did not make waves. He was a person who was well liked. I mean, this is a guy who knew what he wanted.

I am reminded tremendous of George Corley Wallace -- obviously in no sense is he a racist like George Corley Wallace. But from an early age, Wallace, with a chaotic home life, was a politician. At four years old, George Wallace would go up to strangers in Clio, Alabama and say, I'm George Wallace and if there's anything I can do for you here in Clio, let me know. At four years old. And that's sort of what Obama is like.

HUFFINGTON: This is -- this is the most ludicrous comparison I have ever heard.

(LAUGHTER)

HUFFINGTON: You know, comparing Barack Obama...

STEIN: I'm not comparing him as a...

(CROSSTALK)

L. KING: As a politician.

HUFFINGTON: But comparing him...

STEIN: (INAUDIBLE) politician.

HUFFINGTON: But comparing him in any... STEIN: Politician.

HUFFINGTON: Comparing him in any way at all.

STEIN: As a politician. No, a politician.

HUFFINGTON: It's so sad that people like Ben...

STEIN: As a politician. No, a politician.

HUFFINGTON: ...and so many other Republicans cannot acknowledge...

STEIN: No, Arianna, you're not even hearing what I'm saying.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: You're not hearing a word of what I'm saying.

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: I'm hearing exactly what I'm hearing...

STEIN: You're not hearing a word of what I'm saying.

HUFFINGTON: And I feel sorry for people who cannot acknowledge that this man has managed both to communicate to the American people in a way that is unprecedented in recent years, in terms of inspiring them and not belittling them, and run an almost flawless campaign at the same time. And to sort of run idiotic comparisons -- I'm sorry, I don't get...

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Arianna, Arianna, Arianna...

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Arianna, that's incredibly insulting. It's not an idiotic comparison. They were both -- were and are both genius politicians. Obviously, Barack Obama is not a racist and he's not a demagogue. But in terms of political savvy...

L. KING: Could you say...

STEIN: ...they're very similar.

L. KING: Could you say that -- William Shirer said the best public speaker of the 20th century was Adolph Hitler.

So was that saying Adolph Hitler was a better public speaker than Franklin Roosevelt?

HUFFINGTON: No. But, you know what, I think that to compare people who appeal to the darkest demons...

L. KING: That's all he was doing.

HUFFINGTON: ...in our...

STEIN: I'm not comparing them in that sense...

HUFFINGTON: ...in many ways...

STEIN: They're both master politician...

HUFFINGTON: To compare them in any way is minimalist.

STEIN: Well, you know, if you want to be insulting, then go ahead be and insulting (INAUDIBLE).

L. KING: OK. We will bring Ben and Arianna back.

I think you misread her, but...

STEIN: What are you talking about?

You totally misunderstood what I said. Totally.

L. KING: Well, they'll be back, folks.

Go to our blog right now and tell us what you think with five days to go -- CNN.com/larryking.

Back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's round-up time, as we've got John King in New York at the magic map.

And then in Norfolk, Virginia, Dan Lothian.

In Plantation, Florida, John Zarrella.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Mary Snow.

And in Denver, Colorado, Dan Simon.

Let's go first to John King.

What's the latest on that magic wall?

What's it look like?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, another change today that tips the map even more in Senator Obama's favor. Let me explain it to you.

Nevada -- we had Nevada as a toss-up state, five electoral votes. But we have moved that now into lean Obama. So what that does -- let me keep it blue. What that does to our bottom line is this -- heading into the final weekend, Obama 291 electoral votes. He is leading in states with that many -- 291. It only 270 to win.

So, a significant advantage for Barack Obama.

I want to give you a closer look, Larry, at why the map is changing.

The reason we switched Nevada over is I was out in the state earlier this week. You have Dan Simon on the panel. He's been there quite a bit. Look at this poll out there at the moment. -- 52 percent to 45 percent, our latest poll, brand new today -- for Barack Obama.

Based on this polling and anecdotal evidence we've collected in the field, we now lean that one to Barack Obama.

Look at this one, Larry. This is John McCain's home state of Arizona. He's still leading there, but boy is that too close for comfort -- 53 percent McCain, 46 percent Obama in Senator McCain's home state of Arizona.

And let's move over to some of the more traditional battleground states. I know you have Mary waiting in Ohio. Here's another one. Republicans have to win this state to get to the White House. We have it right now very close -- still too close to call, but advantage Obama -- 51 percent to 47 percent.

And as we head into the end, just next door in Pennsylvania, that is a state the McCain camp has said it must turn around, it must make Republican. Well, McCain heads into the final days, Larry, with a significant deficit there -- 55 percent to 43 percent -- 12 points. A very tough challenge there.

One last one we want to look at for you here is the State of North Carolina. This is another one -- the McCain camp says they can't get to 270 unless they keep this. And, again, Larry, that's close. McCain can do that. That's within striking distance, but advantage Obama -- 52 percent to 46 percent.

So when you come back to the big map, the electoral map, and you look at it heading into these final days, a significant advantage for Obama.

Larry, it's not impossible, but a very steep challenge for Senator McCain.

L. KING: Not only is that map amazing, but John King, you are amazing the way you handle it.

J. KING: Thank you, Larry.

L. KING: I'm impressed every time I see you.

John King, CNN's chief national correspondent.

All right, let's do a quick round-up.

Norfolk, Virginia, Dan Lothian, CNN's Boston bureau chief. Down in Virginia, is Obama ahead by 9 there?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen numbers between 7 points and 9 points. And this, of course, Larry, is a new battleground state. Republicans running for president have had this state locked up for decades. In fact, the last time a Democrat running for president won in this state was 44 years ago.

One of the things that we've been keeping a close eye on as we've spent the last three weeks or so in this state is the record number of people who have registered to vote and the large number of people expected to turn out on election day. Officials telling us that they're expecting a 90 percent voter turnout. More than five million people have registered to vote.

Obviously, that's raised a lot of questions about whether or not the state here can handle that kind of crowd turning out on election day. Election officials telling us that they have made the necessary adjustments in order to deal with it.

And one final note. We will be keeping a close eye on election date in two swing areas here in the state. Northern Virginia, which has been trending Democratic -- a lot of immigrants moving into that area; and, also, the Hampton Roads area, which includes Norfolk, where we are.

L. KING: OK...

LOTHIAN: Experts are telling us that Barack Obama really has to do well here in order to win.

L. KING: OK. John -- thank you very much, Dan.

John Zarrella in Plantation, Florida, what's the Sunshine State looking like?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, pretty interesting. About 1.6 million Floridians have already gone to the polls. That's a record. That's about 20 percent of the electorate. That includes absentee ballots.

But what's really interesting is, you know, we have heard about this youth vote movement. Twenty-five percent of the electorate in Florida on -- between the ages of 18 and 29. Huge numbers registered this year.

Well, guess what?

It's materializing at the polls. "Orlando Sentinel" reporting that only about 15 percent of those youth voters have actually turned out to vote so far.

So as one political scientist put it, Larry, maybe they're doing what they do, these college kids and younger adults, when they're cramming for an exam -- they wait until the last minute. So maybe that's what they'll do and vote on election day. L. KING: Yes.

ZARRELLA: But right now, those huge numbers that would support Barack Obama are not showing up at the polls in the numbers we thought.

L. KING: Mary Snow -- thank you, John.

Mary Snow is in Cleveland.

What's the story in that very important state?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Larry, unlike some of the other battleground states that you saw John King just mention a moment ago, the polls here remain very tight. And on the ground, you certainly get the sense that no one is declaring victory.

Barack Obama doing very well in cities. John McCain -- where Republicans are nervous is that Barack Obama seems to be competitive in the southwestern portion of the state. That is a very heavily Republicans area. That is what is making some Republicans skittish about this state.

And, of course, as everyone knows by now, no Republican has ever won the White House without taking Ohio. That is why John McCain is here for two days. Tomorrow, he'll have a second day on a bus tour. He's going to be campaigning with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both of the Clintons -- President Bill Clinton here today, Hillary Clinton tomorrow campaigning in the state for Barack Obama.

L. KING: Wow!

Thanks, Mary.

Mary Snow in Cleveland.

Finally, Dan Simon in Denver.

What's the Colorado story?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Larry.

Obama up here by 7 or 8 points. A little more history for you. No Democrat here has cracked more than 50 percent since 1964 and LBJ. So this has been one of those reliably red states.

What has happened is the Democrats have been a lot more successful this year in attracting newly registered Democrats, really by a 3-1 margin in comparison to Republicans. Also, the Hispanic vote here also a major factor. They've really grown in numbers in the last couple of years. About 20 percent of the population here made up of Hispanics. And overwhelmingly, Larry, they are going for Obama.

Just anecdotally, I was in Colorado Springs the other day, a highly Republicans area, perhaps maybe one of the most conservative parts of whole country. And there were thousands and thousands of people lined up to hear Michelle Obama speak. And even people there in Colorado Springs -- very conservative -- were stunned by the response they're seeing by the Democrats there, Larry.

L. KING: Thanks very much, Dan Simon.

Thanks to all our correspondents doing yeoman-like work.

We'll be back in 60 seconds with the latest from the Obama and McCain camps.

And then our panel reassembles.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: Let's see what the candidates are up to at this hour.

We'll go first to Columbia, Missouri.

Candy Crowley is covering the Obama campaign -- Candy, what's -- he's spending a lot of time there.

What are we looking at in Missouri?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, what we're looking at is probably one of the closest races in the country. Missouri is one of those bellwether states. It almost always -- and certainly in modern history, presidential history -- has picked the winner. They are very, very close here, within the margin of error.

So Obama has been spending a lot of time here. His running mate, Joe Biden, was in Missouri today. He's coming here tonight.

There's an interesting thing about this schedule for Obama. He was in Sarasota, Florida this morning, opened up his day. He moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia -- both very Republican counties -- counties that went heavily for George Bush.

So not only is Barack Obama in these Republican states looking, mind you, for a very big win on election night, he is also in very Republican counties, trying to at least, if he can, sort of bring down John McCain's territorial advantage in those places.

But I can tell you, Larry, that here in Columbia, a sort of a swing area. It went for George Bush, but not by much, in 2004. He also has spent a good deal of time around here.

So what they are looking for in the Obama campaign is not just a win, but a really big win.

L. KING: Thanks, Candy Crowley, as ever, on the scene.

Ed Henry is in Mentor, Ohio, a key state.

What's the story there with McCain?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite interesting, Larry. Obviously, his aides say privately they know they're down, but they think they're closer than a lot of the national polls are suggesting. So they're keeping their spirits up.

And you saw Senator McCain in Florida yesterday. You can tell, he's still fighting this out in the final five days.

But I found it very interesting to read his mood. I was on his plane the last couple of days. And, you know, I used to cover him in the Senate. And I'd see him in the hallway and he was always in great spirits, always wise-cracking with reporters.

He'd see me and say, Ed Henry, you jerk, what are you working on?

And he meant jerk as a term of endearment, I want to point out. He would just backslap with reporters, that kind of thing. a couple of days back, I got on his plane. He was having a big plate of cheese. And I started some conversation with him and said, you know, it's been a long time. I haven't seen you. And he said, it has. And that was it.

And I kept walking. And there was nothing else. And what it told me is, A, he's got his game face on, as I'm sure Senator Obama does. But, also, John McCain seems to be sort of holding back a little. His staff has him so much on message, he's not the same guy we saw in that 2000 campaign, when he was more gregarious...

L. KING: Yes.

HENRY: ...and give and take with the press. And I wonder, in the end, whether he may regret that he didn't kind of mirror that so much. And this time he's been held back ever so slightly.

Nevertheless, these polls are still close in some of these states -- Larry.

L. KING: Somebody is going to have a lot of regrets on Wednesday morning.

We'll be back with our panel -- thanks, Ed -- right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: We're back with Ben Stein and Arianna Huffington.

Joining us now in Plantation, Florida is Paul Begala, Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor.

And in Philadelphia, Michael Medved, talk radio host, film critic.

Begala, of course, supports Obama.

Medved supports McCain. How does it look in Florida, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS OBAMA: You know, actually, a whole lot better than it looked here either for Al Gore -- who did win the state before the Supreme Court stole it from him -- or John Kerry, who lost. I've been really impressed.

You know, Senator Obama didn't run in a primary here. Neither did Hillary. They didn't have a primary, for bunch of reasons because they violated party rules. And so I thought Obama would have a really tough time.

I have to say, they brought out the big dog. Bill Clinton came in here and campaigned last night for Barack and people are still buzzing about it.

L. KING: And Michael Medved, what do you hear in Pennsylvania?

MICHAEL MEDVED, TALK RADIO HOST, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, there's a new Mason-Dixon poll that shows a 4 point gap in Pennsylvania, much closer than it has been. I've been campaigning all over the country for Senator McCain. We were in Cleveland last night, Philadelphia tonight. We're going to be in Tampa and Orlando tomorrow during the day. And the truth is, there is tremendous energy in the McCain campaign.

And people who are denying that are wrong, frankly. These polls are tightening. McCain, who I speak to, is not down in the dumps, is not resigned. He is behind. There's no question about it. But the idea that this election is over is wrong and ignores the fact that the issue that's gaining traction right now is exactly that issue of spreading the wealth around, that in a bad economy, is the right thing to spend more money by government or is it to allow the people to keep more of their own money?

L. KING: All right. Arianna, does that set you back...

HUFFINGTON: You know, I was in...

L. KING: Give you pause?

HUFFINGTON: I was in Missouri last night, actually, at the same university, Southwest University, where Sarah Palin was speaking this morning. And the most fascinating thing is how many moderate Republicans would come up to me and say they are voting for Obama. And they would say it quietly.

And this idea that the spreading the wealth argument is really gaining traction is really to misunderstand the whole history of American public policy, to really say that the whole progressive taxation system is spreading the wealth.

Everything that's happened in this country, from the New Deal to the Great Society to the attempts for some kind of health care, Medicare for people without the means, is really spreading the wealth. So to criticize that as socialism or communism, as Sarah Palin likes to say, is really so laughable. And the American people are not buying it.

L. KING: Ben?

STEIN: I don't think it's a wing argument. I mean, I hate to say it, but I think he had a great argument, which was character. Character counts. And he's got an incredible character. He stood up for America.

America, will you turn your back on a man who was tortured for five-and-a-half years for you?

Will you turn your back on a man whose body was broken for you?

Probably not.

I think the Bush administration, very unfortunately, has probably been the most socialistic administration in the history America. They've socialized the banks. They're in the process of socializing the insurance companies. They're in the process of socializing the auto companies.

So it's not a good Republican argument at this point. I would like him to go back to character. He's got an incredibly strong character. I'd like him to talk about his incredibly strong character.

L. KING: We'll pick right up with this terrific panel right after these words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We will win Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We need to win Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is not (INAUDIBLE) in Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We're going to get out vote and we're going to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: You and I together, we're going to change this country and change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

L. KING: How do you feel about all of the late night laughs and stand-up acts taking potshots at politicians -- fair game or not funny?

We want to hear from you, so let me know what you think about political humor on the LARRY KING LIVE blog, CNN.com/larryking.

Back with our panel. Obama and McCain traded and counterpunched today on the economy along the campaign trail. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Florida, if you want to know where John McCain will drive this economy -- you don't need to boo, you just need to vote.

MCCAIN: There's nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground. We all suffer when that happens, and that's the problem with Senator Obama's approach to our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Paul Begala, is that gaining resonance?

BEGALA: Look, the Democrats have the upper hand here. Neither of these guys has ever run a Dunkin' Donuts stand, OK, let's be honest. But Democrats have a proven track record and that's why they brought Bill Clinton out other night. Senator Obama showed remarkable calm and confidence and clarity during that economic crisis.

And, you know, Senator McCain, Ben is right, a heroic man, really a remarkable American hero but he went -- he was very erratic during the economic crisis. You add to that that he inherits the disaster of the Bush economic legacy and the economy is a no-win argument for Senator McCain.

KING: Michael Medved, in fact, when I spoke to John McCain last night, isn't it a fact that it's basically the Democrats are running against George Bush and that's an easy run?

MEDVED: That's exactly right. If the election is about George Bush, then Obama wins. If the election is about John McCain then Obama wins. But I believe in these last couple of days, McCain has succeeded in making the election about Barack Obama, about his promises to spend at least $430 billion a year more, to expand the national deficit, to expand the role of government.

Obama is promising universal pre-school starting for 3-year-olds so you're going to be paying for your neighbor's kid to go to school even if you choose to have your kids at home. This is the kind of thing that honestly most Americans, it is a moderate to conservative country. It is not a left wing European-style country and when most Americans focus on what Barack Obama plans for this economy and for our institutions, they are going to vote for McCain.

KING: How do you counter that Arianna or Ben?

HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, first of all, Michael, you're missing the point that the country has shifted. What you would consider left wing positions on health care, on corporate responsibility, on global warming, on bringing our troops home are now solidly mainstream.

The center has shifted and that's part of why Obama is doing so well. People want to feel there's a safety net and there is no safety net at the moment and the idea that it's Obama who wants big expansion? I mean, look what happened under George Bush. Have you seen such spending ever before? Have you seen the national debt reach such levels except under a Republican administration?

STEIN: Yes, it's a real unfortunate comparison. I go back. The Republicans cannot win on the economy. I mean, they have just handled it so badly.

KING: You're a republican, Ben, but you don't sound like one.

STEIN: I want to see a return to the republicans like Dwight Eisenhower, balance the budget, small government, civil rights, no foreign adventures, keep the corporate people under control, watch them like hawks and that's the Dwight Eisenhower Republicans and we've drifted far away. If we lose this election, it's a chance for the party to return to its basics.

MEDVED: That's been the whole career of John McCain. John McCain voted against the prescription drug bill. John McCain voted against the agriculture bill, $307 billion that Obama voted for. He voted against the energy bill because of giveaways in the energy bill. He has been a spending hawk. He's been the leading voice in the Senate against corporate welfare and he is talking about reform of our institutions, not greatly expanding the federal government.

STEIN: I would like to see him thoroughly repudiate some of his advisers and thoroughly repudiate the Bush administration spending and wasteful ways.

HUFFINGTON: John McCain voted against George Bush's tax cuts. He said I cannot in good conscience, his words, vote for this tax cut.

MEDVED: Right, and Arianna --

HUFFINGTON: And now he's going to make them permanent. How do you explain that?

MEDVED: Very easily, the same way John McCain has. He never in his 26 years in the Senate voted for a tax increase. To let the Bush tax cuts expire now would be one of the biggest tax increases in American history and, of course, he's going to be opposed to that.

BEGALA: OK so Michael, let me get the logic then. Senator McCain's logic is he didn't want tax cuts to be temporary but now he wants those that should not have been temporary to be permanent, like marrying a girl you didn't want to date.

MEDVED: Paul, Paul, what he said at the time -- he made two points. The tax cuts were -- he felt at the time too much tilted towards the top of the scale. He also said at the time you can look it up, that if you don't tie tax cuts together with spending cuts, you expand the deficit and you'll never get the spending cuts. The spending cuts never happened under George W. Bush and that's the big failure of the Bush administration.

STEIN: I was going to say now in a recessionary environment, we need tax cuts and more spending. We need to have stimulus, stimulus and that will pull us out of the ditch. At least it will help -- the idea of spending cuts in this economic environment is not a starter.

KING: I've got to get a break. We'll come back with Arianna and more of this panel. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK))

KING: We're back. It was the Bubba and Barack show last night in Florida. Bill Clinton made his first campaign appearance with Obama. Here's a little of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: If you make the decision based on who can best get us out of the ditch, who's got the best philosophy, the best positions, the best ability and the best judgment, I think it's clear. The next president of the United States should be and with your help will be Senator Barack Obama!

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's still around, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, and right now he's doing the right thing. All the equivocations and not being sure, the anger and bitterness have gone and in the last few days he's clearly going to pull out all the stops for Obama now that it seems inevitable.

KING: Michael Medved, could he turn some votes?

MEDVED: Sure, Bill Clinton still. However, most people already know that Hillary has endorsed Barack Obama. Bill Clinton has endorsed Barack Obama. I was with Joe Lieberman last night in Ohio, and Joe Lieberman made a terrific point which is that right now there is this simmering controversy about a tape involving Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi. Rashid Khalidi, who was a PLO of the United States who apparently Obama, the "L.A. Times" is reporting, was toasting and praising just a couple of years ago.

Why won't they release the tape? Joe Lieberman made the point last night in Cleveland, Ohio, that if Barack Obama wants to put this to rest he should come forward and ask the "Los Angeles Times", please, make that tape public, put this issue to bed.

BEGALA: Come on.

KING: One thing before Paul responds, Michael, I believe that Khalidi denies ever being in the PLO and also has stated he and Obama disagree on almost everything about the situation with regard to the Palestinians.

MEDVED: So why not release the tape of an evening in which a number of people expressed determination to wipe out the state of Israel? Why not release it?

BEGALA: Michael, you're terribly troubled that six months ago the "L.A. Times" reported this, by the way. So it's an ancient news story in terms of political press cycles in a presidential campaign.

So six months ago it was reported that many years ago Barack Obama might have been at a banquet that included this guy Khalidi who is a professor who has views completely antithetical to Senator Obama's on Israel.

Are you equally troubled that Mr. Khalidi's group was funded to the tune of $450,000 by a group John McCain chairs, the International Republican Institute? John McCain was sending hundreds of thousand of dollars to Khalidi and Barack Obama apparently was eating a rubber chicken with him at a banquet one night and you're all up in arms and you and Joe Lieberman has his panties in a wad.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED: Why not release the tape? Why should the tape be held secret?

BEGALA: Michael, it is so beneath Senator McCain.

HUFFINGTON: Michael isn't even responding to what Paul is saying.

MEDVED: I will respond very gladly, Arianna.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED: First of all, the charges are not that they were at the banquet together. The charge is that Barack Obama offered a toast to Mr. Khalidi and said we're going to miss you and talked about how much he admired him.

HUFFINGTON: OK.

MEDVED: This is an individual who is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel.

HUFFINGTON: Michael, I do wish that that tape would be released.

MEDVED: Good. HUFFINGTON: Because I'm tired of tapes being presented as fearmongering. We had the tapes, supposedly Michelle Obama who said something about whitey and for the entire primary, we're waiting for the whitey tape. And now we're going to be waiting for the Khalidi tape. The real fact that you are not answering is that $450,000 has gone to Khalidi's group by an organization chaired by John McCain. Just stop, Michael, it's frankly beneath you.

MEDVED: Frankly, Arianna, I know nothing about that organization. I will look into it.

BEGALA: Oh so, Joe Lieberman didn't mention that to you, Michael?

MEDVED: The point is that Joe Lieberman who you campaigned for, Paul Begala, rear enthusiastically as I recall.

BEGALA: No, rather reluctantly once he wimped out on Al Gore.

MEDVED: OK, he wimped out on Al Gore?

BEGALA: By the way, he's throwing McCain under the bus.

MEDVED: By saying the soldiers' votes should actually be counted even if they were overseas.

BEGALA: We can litigate that some other time.

KING: Let me get a final word here from Ben Stein. We're going to bring this whole group back. No matter who wins Tuesday, this whole group is coming back. Ben, you want to put a capper on this?

STEIN: I'm going to put a capper on this. There are a lot of flaws in Senator McCain's life. There have been a lot of flaws in his campaign, but this is a guy who gave his youth, his strength, his health for us when I was living it up on the campus of Yale and smoking dope. He was getting tortured and beat up and having his arms broken for the people of the United States of America. I will never turn my back on him.

KING: That's not a reason to vote for him.

STEIN: Yes, it is a reason to vote for him.

KING: It is?

STEIN: It is, because I think he's a person of magnificent character.

KING: So if I found someone more injured --

STEIN: No, if you found another presidential candidate who was even more of a war hero then I would be very, very impressed. He's been a maverick all his life. He's the most heated man in the Senate because he crosses party lines and he's not a reliable party hack. I will never turn my back on him. HUFFINGTON: You know, this is actually a very interesting point because Ben is talking about voting on a candidate's story. And last night during the half hour infomercial, Obama is asking for the American people's vote based on reviving the American dream and this is really the distinction and that's what I think is going to determine what happens on Tuesday.

KING: Thank you all very much. Ben Stein, Arianna Huffington, Paul Begala and Michael Medved. We'll be back in 60 seconds with your comments on our blog.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now our man on the scene, David Theall. He's a veteran of the United States Army, he was at the Pentagon on that terrible day, 9/11, was somewhat of a hero and is now somewhat of a very important cog to LARRY KING LIVE and he's going to give us tonight's blogs. David?

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Larry, as you talk about these things with your panelists so, too, are the bloggers talking about it on your blog site tonight. We're going to get to just a couple of the comments that we have coming in.

Joe the Plumber, love him or hate him, he is still burning up on the blog wires, he's still generating a lot of comment. June chimed in tonight and she had a suggestion for a new reality show. She said "I think they should take John the pit bull, Sara the opportunist and Joe the jerk and put them on a desert island and see who eats who first in order to survive."

We also -- you were talking about the all-important battleground states in those polls earlier that are our national past times and checking the polls every day. Gary says that he thinks the popular vote is still going to be close. He suspects closer than the polls reflects and still thinks the race can go either way on Election Day.

Paul Begala and you were talking about the big dog, as Paul Begala called him, President Bill Clinton campaigning with Senator Barack Obama last night. Jeanne wanted to know is the Obama campaign paying off or promising to pay off Hillary Clinton's primary campaign debt in order to secure that enthusiastic endorsement from President Clinton.

Vinny on the other hand is mad at anybody who is talking about Senator Obama's fundraising. He says it's simple. "They are mad as hell and they can't take another Republican in office and that's why they are donating to Senator Obama."

On your blog today, Larry, we had a story about whether or not Governor Palin would fit into the elite Washington crowd, those Georgetown polite parties that you keep hearing about.

ML chimed in and she asks, would she stick out in Washington? Yes, like a put bull wearing lipstick in a consignment suit. Ted, on the other hand, is tired of people talking about Governor Palin in a negative way. He says she's got the guts, the courage, the strength and charisma and intelligence to do just for America what it is that she did for Alaska.

And finally, Larry, Mae, we've heard from tonight who worried about an Obama victory says this. The American people are going to wake up. They are going to be sorry that they made a mistake in not electing whom she believes the most expensive and most prepared person John McCain. She says I'll keep my money, my guns and my freedom and you can take the change. It's all happening on CNN.com/LarryKing. It's an active blog and we're looking forward to your comments.

KING: Thank you, David. Another yeoman like job tonight, David Theall at the blog site. When we come back, two of the top reporters in the business and John King returns. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's check in with Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. What's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, the marathon is now a sprint. Five days and counting. Barack Obama expected at a campaign stop in Missouri, a critical battleground state. That's the live event there. We're going to bring you his comments in their entirety. Also live tonight, Bill Clinton speaking in Minneapolis. We'll bring you both events as they happen. John McCain also pushing for votes, pushing back on the polls saying he can still win this election. Our John King is going to show us the magic wall, how that could happen and how the states right now are breaking down.

And we'll see Joe the Plumber finally with McCain on the campaign trail, but only after some awkward moments this morning. We'll explain what happened. Those stories and the latest polls and a look at how accurate the polls really are. Could this race actually be closer than thought? More at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: That's Anderson Cooper, "A.C. 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

In Washington, Anne Kornblut joins us, the "Washington Post" national political reporter. And also in Washington, Jim VandeHei, executive director of "Politico." And in New York, John King, CNN's chief national correspondent will be joining us shortly.

Anne, is McCain up against it? How do you see his situation?

ANNE KORNBLUT, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think as all your guests earlier and your reporters out in the field were noticing in the battleground states, there are very few states where he shows a lead. Now his pollsters are saying it's close and that their polls, their internal points show that he's down by a point or two in some of these places. But in the public polling we've seen in all of these battleground states, Obama has a lead. It's not impossible for him to catch up. And so you see him defending all these Republican states that he's going to. But it is going to be tough and he has limited time now obviously to do it.

KING: Jim, you recently wrote on "Politico" that the McCain/Palin people are getting hosed by the press, but you cited McCain's poor campaign as a reason?

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: I think it's a big reason. A lot of the stories that have been negative about the McCain/Palin campaign have been about the internal intrigue in Republicans questioning their strategy, their tactics and a lot of their decision making.

That's coming from Republicans. It is not hard to find Republicans in the McCain camp or outside who are very frustrated, who feel like he has made a lot of strategic blunders and that's the reason you see him trailing in the polls today.

I certainly think there's some component that there's probably some press bias. There's no doubt. I think we make a nod to that in the column. And then there's other factors such as just I think there's a feeling that this is a different McCain, when you talk to reporters from the one they dealt with earlier in this campaign and certainly than in 2000. Those factors combined, I think have sort of hosed McCain in the coverage over the last month.

KING: John King at the map, is there going to be a particular state you are going to look at early?

KING: Of course, Larry, because the polls close at 7:00 Eastern in Virginia and in Indiana and those are two states that the McCain campaign tells you they have a very hard time if not impossible time getting to 270.

So the McCain comeback counts on this state, right here, the state of Virginia, 13 electoral votes. We actually have the state leading blue right now for Barack Obama. If McCain can keep that red early in the night, you say hmm, something's happening out there maybe.

Then we would come over to Indiana, this is the reddest of red states in the middle of the country. Those polls close too. Assuming the results come in quickly, that will tell us something.

Another state that closes in the early hour, Larry, I think it's 7:30 Eastern Time is North Carolina. That is a state right now where Barack Obama is in a dead heat with John McCain, 15 electoral votes. We will learn there about African-American turnout. We'll learn there if a lot of those young students on college campuses are turning out. We'll also learn there a bit about the congressional dynamic. It's overshadowed a lot by the presidential race, but Elizabeth Dole for example, an incumbent in North Carolina, she is in trouble. If Obama wins North Carolina and Senator Dole goes down in the early hours, you know you're in for a very big Democratic night.

KING: That's John King, CNN's chief national correspondent, atop the scene. We'll be back with our panel right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: This is Bill Clinton and you won't be surprised that I think voting is important. After all, it gave me a chance to be president. It's very important. We all know that the outcome of this election will produce a president and a vice president and a Congress that will have to deal with some of the biggest challenges at home and around the world we've faced in many, many years. Whether you vote or not, you actually are influencing the outcome. If you don't vote, you are just saying that you trust everyone else to decide your future and your family's future for you. Democracy works better when everyone has a say. So please, get out there and make your voice heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Bill Clinton for the campaign of "Go Vote." Anne Kornblut, do you think race is going to be a factor?

KORNBLUT: Well look, there's no way we are going to know that until the day after and we are going to be able to look at the numbers and see what happened. I think what we've heard from the Obama campaign all along and we heard Obama say it yesterday, is that it could be -- there will be a small fraction that will probably have that in mind when they vote.

The Obama campaign has also said look, it's going to be a wash. There are going to be black voters who might vote for him because he's black and it would be historic to see him win.

One interesting numbers you should bear in mind is that in Ohio, if you can get the black voters in Ohio to support him up to around 95 percent, that could help him actually take the state and that would be a big blow for McCain. So it could work in the reverse. But at the end of the day, Obama hasn't run a race based campaign and McCain, it seems especially towards the end has tried very hard not to himself.

KING: And Jim, a University of Texas poll shows over a quarter of Texans think Obama is a Muslim. What do you make of that?

VANDEHEI: Well, I saw that poll and there has been questions like that asked in other states, particularly the competitive states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. That number has been much lower.

There's no doubt that there has been a very aggressive e-mail campaign in particular that's been targeting people for over a year making the case that in fact he is a Muslim, which is not accurate.

And I think that is resonating with some people. There are a lot of very angry conservatives out there who feel that Obama has not been scrutinized. I think we all -- everyone in the media is feeling this. We're getting phone calls, e-mails and people feel like he needs to be better scrutinized.

That one obviously is a false allegation. Whether race matters in the end, I think it probably only matters if it's very tight. And the place to watch would be Pennsylvania and Ohio and those rural regions where I do think Obama had a problem in the primaries against Hillary Clinton. If he can open up wide margins in Pennsylvania and Ohio, it just doesn't matter. If it's tight, it could matter a lot.

KING: Anne, has Governor Palin been a plus or a minus?

KORNBLUT: Well, all of the polling we have seen and I understand there's a new "New York Times" poll out tomorrow and certainly we've seen it in the "Washington Post" polling is that she's a negative.

That people have -- that she's been polarizing, that people haven't trusted her to be president or to even be vice president. And at the end of the day, it's reflected badly on John McCain's own judgment.

People are saying they don't trust him now to make good cabinet picks or to pick the right people to be around him. And I think that's one reason we saw the Obama campaign run this new ad that they launched yesterday about his choice of Palin. They talk about him on the economy saying he would pick a running mate who could help advise him on the economy and they show an image of her. They wouldn't be running that ad if she were a positive. This is a final blow, they hope, in the final days to focus spotlight on her.

VANDEHEI: Larry, one cautionary note on that. You cannot underestimate though the effect that she has had on the conservative base. When the pick was made, conservatives were not at all enthusiastic about John McCain. A lot of them quite frankly didn't like him at all. They didn't feel he was an authentic conservative. They feel she is an authentic conservative and there is probably going to be a boost in turnout because of her. The question is, does he end up losing a lot more of those Independent swing voters that once were taking a serious look at him, because of her. We won't know that a couple of days.

KING: Anne Kornblut and Jim VandeHei, thanks so much. Before we go, I want to offer an early and heartfelt happy birthday to Billy Graham. This great man and a good friend of this show turns 90 on November 7th. Billy's touched a lot of lives. As a special gift to him, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is collecting birthday greetings and personal stories about the impact he has had. You can share your thoughts and best wishes on the Internet at BillyGraham90.com. The material will be collected into books and presented at a special tribute dinner, a dinner I hope to attend. Once again from LARRY KING LIVE, happy birthday, Billy Graham, an American treasure.

I want to remind you about our two shows on election eve. LARRY KING LIVE will be seen Tuesday at 9 and midnight this Monday, with double the election coverage. And get on our blog, CNN.com/LarryKing with your thoughts. We love hearing from you. Time now, Anderson Cooper, "A.C. 360." Anderson?

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