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Election Countdown: View from the Right

Aired November 1, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John McCain! John McCain!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama! Obama!

DAVID BRODY, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CBN (voice-over): In a few days the election will be over. And no matter who celebrates victory on Tuesday night, for conservatives, this election will touch off a deep and painful process of reflection. Will republicans lose this election because they've lost touch with their base? Were social values sacrificed for political expedience and has the bedrock philosophy of small government and low taxes been replaced by ballooning deficits and taxpayer bailouts? This is "Election Countdown: View from the Right."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRODY: And in the next hour we will examine how this election is playing out and what's ahead for the conservative movement. Hi, everybody. I'm David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network and a CNN contributor. And let's get to the first question.

Here it is, how would you characterize the McCain-Palin ticket as we head into election day? Amanda Carpenter, townhall.com, you first.

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM: It seems like now even this late in the campaign they're trying to revitalize the base which you know a few days ago, it seems like they should be more independent minded.

BRODY: Let's keep moving around the table. Editorial editor from "Washington Times" Brian Debose.

BRIAN DEBOSE, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": I think the ticket has had some serious problems from the very beginning. You had McCain who is not very well liked by more religious conservatives, and yet Sarah Palin who comes in unknown, people start to sort of like her, but then very uncomfortable with whether or not she has experience or not. It is always been a mixed bag ticket that doesn't have a solid message going forward.

BRODY: Kevin Madden, former Mitt Romney spokesman, what's your take?

KEVIN MADDEN, FMR. MITT ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: Well, I think it is the maverick ticket, you know, the two people that were best, I think, positioned to offer a message of challenging the status quo in Washington. And what I think everybody would agree is a changed election.

BRODY: Stephen Hayes, "The Weekly Standard," senior writer.

STEPHEN HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I'd say they're finding their voice. It took them a long time but in the last few days of the election, they're finally finding their voice, they have a coherent message.

BRODY: I'm really curious to get your opinions on this one. Because John McCain was always talked about as this perfect ideal candidate to run in an anti-Republican mood in this country. Do you buy that? Do you believe McCain was, indeed, the perfect candidate to run? Brian what do you think this year?

DEBOSE: No, McCain had problems within his own party. You can't start an election off with problems in your own party. Then you have to go out and solidify your support in that party, that leaves out any democrats who may - you may be able to sway. It leaves out all independents you may be able to sway. You know even if you talk about independents, a republican-leaning independent who can move back and forth, they're generally going to go with you. McCain probably had those people locked up from the beginning, but then in his effort to go back further to the right, further to the right and get the base, the red meat-eating base, out for him, he sort of lost these people and now he's trying to get them back. It just -

MADDEN: As the one guy that made the argument during the primaries that John McCain is exactly the wrong person to lead this party, I think I have a very interesting perspective on this, having - we lost a primary. You know, when the counters of the race started to emerge, we saw, I think, a lot of republicans did see, especially up on Capitol Hill who were worried about their own political fortunes, saw that John McCain as the one republican who is consistently outpolled the republican brand among the wider electorate and in a year where we're facing a very toxic environment. And I think his greatest ability was that he was seen as somebody who was a person of accomplishment on Capitol Hill, somebody who was always oriented towards solutions rather than ideology. And that was the John McCain we expected to reach out to conservative democrats and like-minded independents. I think what's happened is that the - we just haven't been successful with a very methodical message to reach out to those swing voters and that's why we see ourselves struggling right now as the closing days.

HAYES: I think Kevin is exactly right. If you look at the republican party today, the brand is in tatters. You ask Americans across the country whether they identify more with republican party, with the democratic party, the democrats have a lead and polls shows will debate this, but you know, eight to 10, 12 points maybe. What I think John McCain brought was a kind of republican that can appeal to independents as Brian said. He made himself - the reason we know John McCain was because he defined himself as sort of the anti-republican in some senses. You go back to the 2000 race, he sort of emerged on the national stage because he wasn't George W. Bush. He was a more moderate, mavericky version of George W. Bush. You look at the way that he ran in the primary. He was not the Bush republican. And it was a liability at times in the primary.

BRODY: So I wonder then at this point if the Sarah Palin factor comes into play here. Because we have polling numbers. I want to show you a poll here this is from CNN opinion research. In October, 41 percent, that's her unfavorable rating. Sarah Palin's unfavorable rating. Look where it was in August, 21 percent. As you can see, it has gone up big time. It seems like John McCain has had to indeed make the Palin pick to satisfy the base because he had problems with the base to begin with.

CARPENTER: Absolutely. I think the Sarah Palin pick was go big or go home. John McCain couldn't have run the traditional campaign in this environment. He had to do something so dramatic that it would really get the public's attention and Sarah Palin absolutely satisfied the evangelical base because she's so pro-life and he had to make that pick because people were so unsure about his conservative instincts and that helped convince those voters.

BRODY: So the jump ball, Sarah Palin -

MADDEN: You know I kind of agree with what Amanda was saying. I think what the pick was made originally as a calculation towards disaffected Hillary Clinton voters and a lot of suburban independents and suburban conservative democrats. And you know I think the biggest challenge that the campaign faced was when you put out somebody who is so unknown as Sarah Palin is on the national scene, the challenge is that you only have 70 days with which to introduce her to the American public. And that electorate that you're trying to swing.

And the problem is that you're opponent also has 70 days. And I think in that 70 days the democrats did a better job of framing her as somebody who was disqualified in the minds of a lot of these swing voters. And that's been the greatest challenge. She has absolutely satisfied the base. She has absolutely energized and probably closed the enthusiasm gap but I think going back five months, and I think a lot of the McCain campaign folks would have told you that if we run a base election, we run the risk of losing by about five points.

DEBOSE: The problem with what they did is - and they may not have had a choice - they had to introduce Sarah Palin at the expense of you know letting John McCain be out there. She took up, sucked up all the energy in the room and, I mean, once you got back to looking at John McCain, the base sort of looked at him, they tried to get him to move a little forward and you know hitting back on Obama and some of the things he was saying and he just didn't seem to want to do that. And so it just brought it back to this is why we don't like this guy, this is the problem we have had with this guy. It just didn't work.

BRODY: And she's been under attack. I mean, clearly from - especially from the intellectual conservatives, we hear about. I want to show a graphic real quick of Peggy Noonen from earlier this month and I'm sure you all know about it. Here is what she had to say.

"Sarah Palin is a person of great ambition, but the question remains, what is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? This is not a leader, this is a follower. And she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken- hearted thing whose pain she cannot actually imagine."

Tough words and I wonder, is there this disconnect, you know, this idea of these intellectual conservatives trashing Sarah Palin if she's connecting with the base, Stephen?

HAYES: You know, imagine a politician being ambitious, I'm shocked to hear that. Look there are some legitimate questions raised about Sarah Palin. And I think for me, personally, I think the real question is is she - she doesn't need to be an intellectual. But is she open to ideas? Does she want to learn? Is she intellectually curious, I guess would be the thing that I want to know and we may find out over the next several years. But, look, there is a divide to a certain extent among intellectual conservatives and among the base, among the country. But I think that divide is being overstated. You have intellectual conservatives like my editor Bill Kristol, who had been staunch defenders of Sarah Palin. You have other intellectual conservatives who have taken up for her at every turn, have made the case for her. You have people at "National Review" magazine who made these arguments rather strenuously. So I think there is a divide. People have different opinions. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. But I wouldn't say that the Palin question leads to this, you know, is a manifestation of a huge split among republicans.

BRODY: Well, OK. We could do six hours on Sarah Palin. But I think we'll move on. Please, stay right where we are. We have only begun to chat. Straight ahead, is national security the lost issue of this campaign? "Election Countdown: The View from the Right" will continue in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These dangers have not While we turned our attention elsewhere, these dangers have not gone away. And the next president will meet no greater test than defending America from these threats. When that day arrives and the worries of financial crisis have fallen away, we will find awaiting our country all of the same great challenges and dangers that were there all along.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRODY: Senator John McCain talking about national security this week. But he was pretty much alone because if there was ever an election where it's the economy, stupid, this is it. But the U.S. is obviously fighting two wars and Al Qaeda is still out there. So why aren't we talking more about national security? Stephen Hayes, what a perfect segue into you. Why aren't we and isn't this a Pepto-Bismol moment for the McCain campaign. I mean, they've got to be thinking, you got to be kidding me here, can we not talk about national security?

HAYES: Yes, I think there say lot of truth to that. I mean one reason of the reasons we're not talking more about it is frankly because of the success that we have seen over the last couple of years. We have seen Al Qaeda really on the run. I think you've seen Al Qaeda globally be taken down several notches. You've seen success in Iraq. I mean we're now at a month where we had another record low or close to a record low in terms of American troop fatalities. And half of those have been as a result of noncombat reasons. So I think you've seen, for one thing, national security not be as big an issue. Then the obvious point is that the economy overshadowed anything and everything else.

And what was interesting is I had an interview with Senator McCain on his plane about two weeks ago and the interview was a national security interview. That's how I pitched it. Let's talk about these issues. And every time I went to him with a question about North Korea, Iran, he answered them. But at the end of the answer, he usually tried to turn the question back to the economy. Which when you stop and think about it is an extraordinary moment for John McCain, the man who won the republican primary, I would argue largely because of the commander in chief credentials, trying to turn two weeks before the general election these questions back to the economy. It was a big moment.

BRODY: Yes. I would think, Brian, you know, to tout his experience on foreign policy, obviously is clearly a missed opportunity you wonder what he could have done. I mean could he have gone overseas? Could he have talked to some international leaders or would people say, look, you're out of touch because you're not talking about the economy.

DEBOSE: That's not what he could have done, it's what he did. We were all on the verge of having this discussion about national security until John McCain got on national television and said I want to suspend my campaign, I'm going to go back to Washington, the other 433 people can't do it without me, I've got to go back there and get this bill passed for the bailout, and then he goes back there. He talks to the House leaders, they say they don't like it and then he says I'm with you and goes off and says, we're all for support for the president's plan. That was the end of it that killed it, that turned it into an economic election. And he's not very good on the economy.

CARPENTER: But even before this whole financial meltdown happened, I don't think the media was interested in talking about national security. I mean, look at Joe Biden as the VP pick there has been no questions about his radical plan to chop up Iraq into three sectarian parts and then you know, get out of there. That is a dramatic difference with what Barack Obama is proposing. There has been no coverage of that you know, fundamental difference. And you know the reason why Barack Obama picked him arguably is because of what was happening in Russia and Georgia and there has been no discussion of that either. So I think they're just sick of the debate.

MADDEN: This goes to show that you know campaigns are oftentimes, you know, we are at the mercy of big ocean size events out of the control of the candidates and the campaigns. You know Iraq was an issue largely because of you know, the ongoing violence in - overseas and the conflicts that we have there and the economy became an issue because of a financial meltdown. That even with any attention being paid to the economic index, is a lot of people couldn't predict the severity of it and how it would drive voter anxieties right now. I still believe national security is baked into the cake on how people make their decisions because oftentimes they make their decisions on candidates based on attributes, whether or not they're strong, whether or not they're effective as a commander in chief. But ultimately, what's driving voter anxieties right now, people are not opening the paper and looking at Iraq. They're opening their 401(k)s and their anxiety is driven by the economy.

BRODY: Is there anything you can do in a situation because from a media perspective, to drive the news of the day, you know, you wake up every morning when you were with Mitt Romney. Every morning you wake up and say, how are you going to win that day in the media cycle?

MADDEN; I think what you're trying to do is you are trying to integrate an economic message with the national security message. I mean we cannot have a first rate military unless we have a first rate economy. There are arguments to be made. But whether or not right now that's going to be the motivating factor that is going to help a voter decide whether or not they're for you or against you is a big difference.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: I suggest one of the problems with the McCain campaign is taking the approach you just suggested, that they're trying to win new cycles, they're trying to win every 24-hours news cycle. And what I think it lacks, look it's easy for me to sit here and take shots at them from a difference, but what I think the campaign lacked as you look back over the last two months really is a strategy, a long-term strategy which would have had at its center, I think, or at least as an important aspect, the commander in chief argument. Instead, by trying to win 24-hours news cycles, you see John McCain try to talk about the economy and really, for a three-week period after this bailout vote, almost drop national security, which is his chief credential.

MADDEN: That's one of the things on campaigns, I mean, we used to have these arguments all the time inside strategy sessions and we say let's start with the rip from the headlines attack line, let's stop with that. I mean, campaigns are won fundamentally with the devotion to the methodical and developing a message over a long period of time that sinks in with voters because you have to do it for 200 days before it finally sinks in on that 20 days right before the election.

DEBOSE: I just - I can't say this enough. You cannot have a conservative, a republican candidate say that he's going to support $700 billion in a payout to Wall Street and banks which is our money. The average Joe's tax money going to a - the wealthy banking system that is already capitalized. They had money. They just didn't want to give it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe the plumber.

BRODY: Believe me, we'll get to Joe the plumber. But I want to show you a graphic real quick. Because this pretty much sums it up and the numbers really are shocking. Look at the economy. When we talk about the economy dominating this election, in July, 17 percent of folks felt the economy was the number one issue, now 57 percent. Terrorism somewhat the exact opposite, going a downward trend.

You just get the sense, Amanda, that it has been an uphill struggle since day one for John McCain. And I wonder when he picked Sarah Palin if the dynamics of the race didn't shift because the experience argument started to become a little off the table and they went reformer maverick image and I wonder how much that hurt him.

CARPENTER: You know, I thought when Sarah Palin was initially debuted that she was doing actually a pretty good job of tying energy reform to national security and the economy. She doesn't do it as much anymore but I thought that was a good play. I think they have abandoned that message and you know I agree with you completely about John McCain supporting and negotiating the deal for the bailout with the Bush administration. I think that was a fundamental opportunity they missed to oppose that. But Sarah Palin in her respect has done a good job of trying to tie those things together that you know, helped her experience.

You see, I have a different take. I would not have had Sarah Palin talk about national security. It doesn't make sense. I mean she doesn't exude confidence when she talks about national security. I mean you had people literally making the argument that she knew about Russia because she lived and could see Russia. Come on. That's preposterous.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Energy independence and drill, baby, drill, I thought that worked to get off oil.

DEBOSE: I agree with (inaudible) point. I don't think they really knew initially what they were going to use her for and they sort of had to try her out and feel her out to figure out what message she should be projecting because her initial pick was to try to try and get these sort of democratic Hillary -

CARPENTER: There's always some energy play. If you look at the interview she did on Larry Kudlow, on "Investor's Business Daily," she did 2000-words interviews talking about building that pipeline.

BRODY: While we argue amongst ourselves here when the camera is not rolling. We're going to take a break. When we come back, a hard look at Barack Obama, why is he doing so well in traditionally red states? Is Obama really that good or are the republicans just that clueless? CNN's "Election Countdown: View from the Right" returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you'll stand with me, and fight by my side, and cast your ballot for me, then I promise you we will not just win Florida, we will win this election and, together, we will change this country and change the world. Thank you. God bless you. And may god bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRODY: Welcome back to "Election Countdown: View from the Right." I'm David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. That was just a bit of Barack Obama's 30-minute campaign commercial, watched by one out of every five American households. And yes, if you are wondering that's more than watched the whole finale of "American Idol." So let's see if we can figure out what makes Barack Obama so attractive. Kevin, I got to tell you, watching that 30- minute special. I mean if I didn't see, saw so many American flags. I was waiting for Lee Greenwood to come out and sing "God bless America." I mean, my goodness -

MADDEN: "American idol," so fitting too.

BRODY: That's right. I mean, how has he done it? He has defined and crafted in the campaign - they crafted a bipartisan figure here, somehow.

MADDEN: You know Barack Obama has faked it for two years now, for two years as a centrist. He has convinced conservative democrats that his policies are perfectly fit with theirs. Independents, independent-minded democrats, independent-minded republicans the same way. And even some moderate republicans that he's a centrist and he is anything but on economic policies, on national security policies, on social policies. He's far outside the mainstream, even radical on many of his positions but he has done this with a lot of advertising. He has done this with a very tight, a very effective message and quite frankly he's won the competition on the economic message in a lot of these red states.

Folks in Indiana right now, the economy is driving whether or in the they're going to vote for Barack Obama. And right he is exuding more confidence and a little bit more security that on those issues that they're looking for.

DEBOSE: It's a five-year message, I mean, this is the message that Axelrod has perfected with African-American candidates for about 10 or 15 years. Obama started doing this message in, I believe 2003, when he started running for the Senate. If you listen to some of the things he said, the speeches he said, talking about getting above the partisanship, these are the same things he said in his 2004 Senate campaign. He's been crafting and perfecting this and now he's got it down to a science and it is really hard, very difficult to counteract.

MADDEN: You know what's amazing on that part real quick, he says he's above this partisanship and he wants to you know, bring change to Washington. And then he automatically pivots to a partisan message that hits John McCain and the republicans.

HAYES: That is this rhetorical gimmick. And I think Barack Obama has it down. You're right. When I was with him back in December in Iowa, we did a week-long college tour and I followed around in my car behind the bus. He took a question in one of these events, from a college student who I think might have been wearing camouflage, maybe my memory is not - but a question about the second amendment and Obama took the question and said, first acknowledged the legitimacy of the question, tipped his hat to the questioner and said, look, there has been this long debate about you know whether these rights are attached to a individual or militia, I come down on the side of these rights attaching to an individual, and you know people were sort of - that seems reasonable. He said, but, look, 34 children were killed on school playgrounds in Chicago last year. We have to constrain these rights. It was a masterful long answer and I think a lot of Americans, including you know second amendment types would come away from that thinking not as bad as I thought.

CARPENTER: That is absolutely - if you read his books, he'll say I understand how these people from red states think and he'll acknowledge their concerns, every single time in an almost systematically giving a legal argument and then at the end of the day, always come down at the very left side. Every single time. It's his method. Like you said, it is absolutely -

BRODY: See, he has not demonized the other side. He hasn't gone out of his way to do that. If anything, he's done the exact opposite.

DEBOSE: I mean, we have to consider he comes from a state that is liberal in one section in Chicago and is very red everywhere else. He won statewide there by a huge margin. He may not have had an opponent, but he seems to be very good also at getting rid of his opponents in this campaign. He's a real politician.

BRODY: I'm wondering how much, Kevin, how much Hillary Clinton helped Barack Obama in that primary battle because it went on and on and on and therefore Obama was able to compete and set up offices in North Carolina, in these red states. I mean, I remember Rush Limbaugh saying vote for Hillary Clinton because we want to elongate this thing out. But actually it may have come back to actually help Barack Obama.

MADDEN: Well, I think on two points. I mean organizationally you know his organization as far as getting out the vote now has gone to a full-body workout in anticipation of what is going to happen on November 4th. As well, you know personally, he's been hitting live pitching now for two years. You know a lot of people haven't had that. There was a lull after the campaign, the republican primary campaign where John McCain had to go and build his organization. But you know we didn't have this - the type of warfare back and forth you know that tends to really sharpen a lot of people's political instincts, sharpen the message. That is, I think, another one of the challenges we face this year. BRODY: I'm just wondering about President Bush. We haven't talked about much about him but as it relates to red states, I mean, how much of this is kind of a concern that McCain has had with red states or is it more President Bush has been a drag in some of these red states. I mean where is the divide? Where is the mixture here.

DEBOSE: I think this is a transformational campaign from the Obama standpoint. Much the way the Reagan campaign was transformational from a conservative standpoint. He has, through a very, very aggressive grassroots effort, mobilized people who didn't vote. Young people, African-Americans, Latinos, who didn't really - weren't involved in the electoral process. He's convinced them to get involved. Now we have new voters out here that the republican party, for whatever reason, just did not feel the need to go after. And they may have lost them and if we believe what Reagan did was transformational, that lasted for 28 years. This could go on for that long.

HAYES: Well, call me cynical on the new voters. I'll wait to see it when they actually show up again and again and again.

They don't necessarily buy it. You know we hear this every cycle. I think he's certainly energized younger voters. Whether they actually go out and show up at the polls, we'll see. There is some early voting states where there are indications that they haven't shown up in the numbers that people had anticipated.

But I agree that he has been sort of Reaganesque in one way. He has taken what I would consider to be, you know, left liberalism, mainstream left liberalism and made it salable to people who wouldn't otherwise be open to buying it. I mean you're talking about independents who I think still in this country are conservatives. We are still a center-right country. And if he wins, it is because he's made this Obama-style liberalism appealing to people who -- with whom it is not a natural thing.

BRODY: And Axelrod knows that, doesn't he? His campaign knows that. All right, we're going to take a break here. Back in a moment to take up the role of faith in the 2008 campaign or to put it a bit more simply, where the heck is the religious right? Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK WARREN, PASTOR: How does faith work out in your life on a daily basis? What does it mean to you?

MCCAIN: It means I'm saved and forgiven. And we're talking about the world, our faith encompasses not just the United States of America, but the world.

OBAMA: It means I believe in -- that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I'm redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRODY: Two candidates talking about their religious faith with Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church back in August. I'm David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Welcome back to ELECTION COUNTDOWN: THE VIEW FROM THE RIGHT.

Joining me, Amanda Carpenter of Townhall.com, Kevin Madden, the former spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign, Brian DeBose of the "Washington Times" and Stephen Hayes of the "Weekly Standard."

Brian, I have to ask you. I must tell you, the whole Muslim e- mail thing. I mean, we saw it from the very beginning. I have to tell you, I was sitting down with Barack Obama, it was the first time I ever interviewed him over a year ago and one of his handlers came to me, we were done. We had 12 minutes in the interview. We were finished. One of his handlers came up to me and said, we know, we really want you to ask him about that Muslim e-mail question. Could you go ahead? So we put our mikes back on and we asked one more question because they had been very persistent and aggressive on this Muslim e-mail thing. My point simply being is that they have from a faith perspective been aggressive throughout to make sure this comes shining through in the Obama campaign.

DEBOSE: They knew it would be a problem. His father was a Muslim. There was no question that that issue was going to come up for them. They aggressively went after it. They got to the point where even, you know, a few weeks ago John McCain had to correct a voter who said that he was a Muslim and that sort of happened during the primary. Clinton did the same thing.

I think one of the issues with Obama is that he comes from a general relation that is more comfortable proselytizing about their religion. John McCain does not. John McCain comes from a generation where your religion was a personal thing that you kept to yourself, you didn't talk about it. You went to church, you went home and you fellowshipped after church but you didn't go out at the job and start talking about your faith and Jesus Christ and say this in church. Obama does come out of that and he's more comfortable talking about it. I think that's sort of what helped him get to some of those religious voters very early.

CARPENTER: Some of the things he's said, he's become so comfortable. When he's on the campaign trail and he justifies gay marriages, sermon on the mount, there are evangelical voters that whip their heads and say what is he talking about? He has these fairly radical notions. I don't know if he'll continue to talk about them, but he's done it very openly so far. I think people have been shocked.

DEBOSE: But he's talking about it.

CARPENTER: Yes, that's true.

BRODY: You know Kevin, I wonder though with George Bush being the "evangelical candidate" in 2004 and here comes John McCain who doesn't really want to talk about his faith as Brian was saying. Was there an unfair standard for John McCain to live up to, to a certain degree? It seems like the evangelicals wanted him to talk about it.

MADDEN: I don't think you can use the word unfair. Voters decide how they apply the certain litmus test to candidates. They do that personally. And I think what a lot of -- from my experience, a lot of evangelical voters, they want to feel that your faith sort of emanates throughout your entire life, how you raise your family, how you live your life and quite frankly, how it informs your public policies.

And so I think it is a legitimate question. I think that, you know, every candidate has to be prepared to answer it and talk to voters about it. I think what is interesting about Barack Obama is like Bill Clinton and like Jimmy Carter, he was one of the first Democrats, those were Democrats who were very comfortable talking about their faith. And that's largely why they have been successful with a larger swath of the electorate than many of those Democrats who have run a presidential election who haven't been.

HAYES: But let me point out one area where I do think it has been unfair. I think that there has been a tremendous media double standard from the way that they treat Democratic candidates talking about their faith and the way they treat Republican candidates talking and their faith. Remember when George W. Bush was asked about his favorite philosopher and he said Jesus Christ.

Well, there were snickers in the newsroom, you know, how could he possibly say that? It was an important moment for George W. Bush I think because it signaled to evangelical voters and other Christians and probably people of other faiths that this guy takes his faith pretty seriously that he would say something like that.

But Barack Obama, as we just saw, says much the same thing and he's not berated for it. He's not criticized. I think Republicans sometimes get to the point where if they pass, you know, if they pass some religious figure who has said questionable things in the past what have you in the hallways, the media pounds them on it and calls on them to denounce it.

But Barack Obama can sit in the pews and listen to Reverend Wright for 20 years and "The Washington Post" can run a front page profile about him and his religion and never mention Reverend Wright's name.

DEBOSE: It's not so much Reverend Wright that I thought was sort of disingenuous. I come from a faith background, a family church started by my great grandfather. I had issues with pastors at the church and now I don't go to church, but I've never left the church. Barack Obama leaves his church for political reasons and people just sort of left that go. That was the most disgusting thing I could have watched in the campaign. No one said anything about it.

HAYES: And he left it just weeks after saying he could never disown Reverend Wright because disowning Reverend Wright would be like -- DEBOSE: I mean, pastors come and go, the church stays. The church is the community of people within it who fellowship and praise the lord together.

MADDEN: But he titled his autobiography, sermon from the sky. I mean, it's incredible that he's distanced himself from him. But his faith has been a double-edged sword. I think it is because of all of the questions about black liberation theology and it's a double edged sword for the media they don't know how to talk about it in a way that is not offensive.

MADDEN: That's a good point, the double standard point. I mean, Governor Romney was constantly asked about certain tenets of his faith, certain preachings of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I don't think that same standard was applied to those who also talked about it.

BRODY: But I am curious on Jeremiah Wright. Amanda, do you think that McCain has missed an opportunity by not going after Jeremiah Wright earlier or for that matter at all, he hasn't done it?

CARPENTER: I do. I think he could have framed the debate in a way that wouldn't have been toxic by linking Ayres and Wright, by saying Barack Obama tolerates radicalism and that would have been a good way to handle it, all together without singling out a -- one of those figures in a way that could have backfired.

BRODY: Make it a character judgment issue.

HAYES: He still would have been -- I think McCain still would have gotten a lot of media scrutiny had he done that anyway. We've seen -- calling him socialist, calling Barack Obama socialist now is somehow racist. So he was going to get criticism. The question was whether he was willing to take it.

DEBOSE: That's more from a historical standpoint of African- Americans being tired with socialism in 1920s, 1930s, and that's sort of what that comes out of, DeBose's call to socialism.

BRODY: Jeremiah Wright, we'll add that to the Sarah Palin discussion afterwards. Because clearly Palin and Wright, we could talk about them for a long time. When we come out, get out your crystal balls, mystic mirrors, whatever you have in your closet. When we come back, time to peer into the future of the conservative movement. Who is going to lead and will anyone follow? "ELECTION COUNTDOWN: THE VIEW FROM THE RIGHT," back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRODY: Welcome back to "ELECTION COUNTDOWN: VIEW FROM THE RIGHT." I'm David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Let's start a discussion of the conservative future, or some say, lack of same. With this poll, there it is, 56 percent of the country say they are conservatives. Only 37 percent describe themselves as liberals. So with so many conservatives around here, why do so many feel outnumbered? Is there an identity crisis, Amanda, going on? I mean there seems to be reach for the Tums for many conservatives.

CARPENTER: I think the whole Republican primary was an identity crisis for the party. But I like to be optimistic. I think there are points of light existing. If you look at the guys who were protesting all August long, you know to get gas prices down. If you look at the guys that fought the bailout, those are the guys that are going to be the future of the party. And they, I think they're ready to go fight, regardless of what happens in November.

BRODY: I wonder if that House Republican situation where McCain went back and suspended his campaign and there was all that consternation about what was going on in the house, Kevin, that seemed to crystallize.

MADDEN: Those are tactics. I think where we saw for instance, what the rebuilding phase that we're going to go through which will have to be a robust one is going to have to be about ideas. I mean ultimately, what is the infrastructure that we're going build? Where are the ideas that we're going to build around? When I see infrastructure, we have to bring together these great coalitions of conservatives in a way that is going to be able to reach out and bring back those conservative Democrats who they didn't identify us on the party roles but they still went to the polls and they voted for us. The same with Independents. That's going to be the charge that we have in these days after the campaign.

DEBOSE: There is a number of problems. One is the RNC for whatever reason is not operating effectively at all. The second part of the problem is -- Thaddeus McCotter came in our paper this week and basically said McCain stabbed them in the back. He can't be their leader. He's the titular head of the party as the nominee for president, he can't be the leader going forward.

Who are they going to pick? He didn't know. He's a Boehner guy. But the House member can't lead the entire party. They don't have the ability to message that well. There are just so many fragmentations. He also talked about the globalists versus the traditionalists. That sounded like a dissertation in political philosophy. But these are the sort of questions they're wrangling with.

BRODY: But then who are the future leaders in this Republican Party, exactly, especially when it comes to president of the United States?

MADDEN: I would argue it is less about individuals right now and it has to be about ideas. I mean you have -- we have to find out, look, what is the answer to the question why Republicans? A lot of Republicans can't answer that. I mean that's a big problem when you can't look at a voter in the eye and say why me, why my party? So we have to answer that question first. And then identify the individual.

DEBOSE: They don't look any different than the Democrats right now. After the Bush administration, they really don't look different.

HAYES: You're also, I think, seeing some of these fights -- some of these fights have been playing out for decades. And we're seeing them manifest themselves again in different ways. There has been a fight among intellectual conservatives over the past year, year and a half, about whether the party should be a more activist party, especially on economic issues. Whether it should appeal to middle class voters, whether it should look for things that would allow a Republican government to solve problems that would be consistent with the conservative philosophy.

And then you have the more libertarian leaning members of the party who say, look, I don't want government to get more involved, I don't want them to be doing this. I want them to get the heck out of the way. And that's a real fight, it's a robust fight and it's a good fight to have.

MADDEN: I think there is an argument about, well, we have to somehow abandon what people say was the Christian right part of the party. I absolutely disagree with that. I think we -- the argument we have to make is that we have to bring those three pillars of the Reagan coalition together: social conservatives, economic conservatives and national security conservatives and then reach out and get those conservative Democrats like Independents. I would like to hear what Amanda says about that because I think that's most critical, is keeping those coalitions together.

CARPENTER: I think the big issue that will get everyone together again is going to be spending. And you can't make arguments about spending until the Bush administration is gone because of the expansion of government. That just has to be over to capture that message.

DEBOSE: You have to be able to expand the tenet. The tenet of the Mehlman RNC, which the grassroots portion, we're talking about ideas, we're talking about getting new people into the party -- his idea was to be more inclusive, target minorities, look for minority candidates have who have conservative values that we can run, look to minority leaders who have conservative values that we can make sort of precinct captains.

This sort of thing just was completely oblivious to Mike Duncan and certainly to Mel Martinez. They had no mission on that and they've lost -- if they lose this campaign it will be because they have no grassroots organization. There is nobody out there fighting.

BRODY: So then what about this conservative meeting we're hearing about that is going to happen after the election? What are you all hearing about that meeting and what is going to go down, as they say? That's going to be an interesting -- to be a fly on a wall in that meeting. Anybody?

HAYES: Well, look, I think the conservative meeting after the election is really a metaphor for these kind of discussions that are happening all over the entire country. I think that -- I think -- I forget who said it, but we're unlikely to see an individual leader emerge immediately.

It is not going to happen after -- three weeks if John McCain loses, we're not going to -- conservatives aren't going to turn and say OK, there is our new leader. It just doesn't happen that way. What you'll see is these kind of fights, the kind that we're talking about now, take place on a national level and you'll see leaders emerge.

BRODY: But is there a tendency to head in a direction of that Sam's Club Republican, that what Tim Pawlenty talks about and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee seem to have a populist streak, they can reach social conservatives, but maybe play themselves as Independent. Is the movement going that way? I'm not suggesting Huckabee and Palin as much as I am a model of the Huckabee and Palin.

MADDEN: I think that's a -- using the term Wal-Mart Republicans or Sam's Club Republicans is a way to distill down the effort that we're not really talking in solution-oriented term on a lot of the issues that people care about.

You know, it is the kitchen table issues of education, health care, the economy. All of those issues have to have Republican solutions. We have to have a Republican message for those solutions. That's going to be the charge again in these weeks after the election is whether or not we can put that together.

DEBOSE: You have to have a message that is not talking points tease. It has to be something that can connect with people. A lot of things, even on the McCain campaign, sometimes they had good ideas and you sort of look. I'm not understanding where he's going with this because he cuts off and he goes to the next line in the talking points. He just doesn't elaborate. They have to be able to get out, get into communities. We talked about this a little earlier, Barack Obama has got 40 people in the small town, 40 people in a small town can kill your message in that town because they're working for you. They're working for your party. Republican Party does not have that going on right now.

BRODY: All right, guys, thanks. Hold those thoughts. We have the lightning round coming next. You're not going to want to miss it. Buzzers and everything. Coming up though, I do want to tell you a little bit about Sunday night. Wolf Blitzer and the entire best political team on television will gather for a special program "THE NEXT PRESIDENT: 2 DAYS TO GO." It's all coming down to the wire, CNN, the place to watch it happens, Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRODY: Welcome back. I'm David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. This now the lightning round, like "Jeopardy!" where the political theory meets hard, cold reality. We're not buying any buzzwords, wishy washy objectives, equivocation. We want to know what's going to happen on Tuesday. Amanda, what is going to happen on Tuesday?

CARPENTER: No land slide for Barack Obama and Senate Democrats do not get 60.

BRODY: Very interesting. Kevin? MADDEN: All roads go through Pennsylvania. John McCain wins Pennsylvania, he can win the presidency and Democrats do not get 60. Amanda is right.

BRODY: OK. Stephen?

HAYES: I think it would be stunning if John McCain did win. I don't think it is something you can rule out, but it would be a fitting end to what has been a campaign with all sorts of kinds of twists and turns.

BRODY: That's true.

DEBOSE: Virginia closes at 7:00, it's the earliest state on the East Coast, the earliest state in the country. By 8:15, 8:30, we'll find out that Barack Obama won Virginia by five, six points and it will be Miller time.

BRODY: And you're in bed by 8:30.

DEBOSE: Yes.

BRODY: Well, all right. I don't know about predictions for me. I can just tell you I'm going to Obama's -- what many in the media are calling a coronation, if you will. But it could be a rose petals -- I don't know how many rose petals will there be for Obama. So maybe the over/under might be about 100 or so. All right, that wraps up our conversation. I want to thank Amanda Carpenter, Brian DeBose, Kevin Madden, Stephen Hayes for joining me. I'm going to be back in a moment with a comment, sort of a comment. Stick around, I think you'll like it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRODY: On the morning of November 5th, barring a bunch of hanging chads, we will wake to a new president-elect. Let's look ahead in our version of the CNN Magic Wall. Here are actually some Obama staffers in a possible future where John McCain wins. Now, if that happens, McCain may owe it all to Joe the Plumber. I understand they're so close now that when my toilet was running, I actually called Sarah Palin to get Joe's cell number.

We want to turn our scanner now to the local mall. McCain staffers, they're in a hardware store, loading up on dozens of cans of this stuff. And staffers for Joe Biden were picking up their top secret remedy for foot in the mouth disease.

Now, next to the hardware store there is a multiplex and the movies that are very interesting that are playing there. For the media covering Obama, the McCain campaign was sponsoring a rerun of "Love Story." I understand it is sold out. "Cape Fear" was how Obama's staff depicted the McCain effort and Sarah Palin down in theater eight presenting Danny DeVito's movie "Other People's Money" to sum up the Obama economic plan.

But, listen, no matter who wins, let's all hope that the end of this very long, long campaign is "As Good As It Gets." Thanks for watching. I'm David Brody.

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