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Campbell Brown

Obama V.P. Announcement Imminent?; McCain Considering Pro- choice Running Mate?

Aired August 19, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, everybody.
Breaking news tonight on the vice presidential search. All day, both campaigns have been leaking new details about when we are going to get the news. Well, a short time ago, we heard from one of the men who we know is on Barack Obama's list.

And now listen to what Senator Joe Biden told reporters who were staked out at his house just a little while ago.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I'm not the guy. See you.

QUESTION: You know that for sure?


BROWN: Well, that says it all, doesn't it?


BROWN: Well, we're going to know soon one way or another.

Today, the Obama camp announced what looks like his running mate rollout. There is a big rally planned on Saturday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. This is the same spot Obama kicked off his run for the White House last year.

The buzz is that this time he is going to have his running mate by his side. Now, John McCain has his own big rally planned, a week from Friday. That is the day after Obama accepts the Democratic nomination. Two sources tell CNN that McCain may have already picked his running mate, but only his campaign manager knows the name. We are going to dig into all that, no bias, no bull, tonight in the ELECTION CENTER.

This story, of course, has campaign watchers on the edge of their seats. Is there any chance Obama could still pick Hillary Clinton for a running mate? Will McCain go for an abortion rights supporter like Tom Ridge? And what does all this -- or why, rather, does all of this matter so much?

Well, the reason is the numbers. Look at this. Our latest CNN poll of polls shows Obama with only a three-point lead over John McCain. That is down from four points, not a big difference here, obviously, earlier today, and six points last week.

But what it means, bottom line here, is there is no room for error.

Ed Henry has been talking to his sources on this all day. He is here now with the very latest.

And, Ed, right off the bat, lots of buzz about Senator Joe Biden today. He came out this evening. You heard it a second ago. He told reporters he's not the guy. Do we believe him?


Look, at this stage of the veepstakes, you have people like Joe Biden on either side of the aisle are going to try to throw reporters off the scent, first of all.

Second of all, people like Biden know that the first rule of the veepstakes is to not want it too bad, not look like you're too hungry. You have got to look humble. You have got to sit back and wait. And I'm told by very senior Obama advisers tonight that their latest intelligence right this hour is that Joe Biden is still on the short list, but also Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine, they're still on that short list as well.

And the bottom line is these Obama advisers say that Democrats are telling the Obama campaign they're nervous that that poll shows this race is much closer than expected and they think the McCain camp is at least succeeding in changing the focus of this election from a referendum on the direction of the country to a referendum on Obama and whether he's ready to lead. Someone like Biden obviously adds a little foreign policy help, Campbell.

BROWN: All right.

And, Ed, I just want to the Associated Press is now reporting -- this is just in -- that Senator Barack Obama will be campaigning with his running mate on Saturday, his choice for V.P. on Saturday. We know, Ed, that we're at the end of the road here. Obama has already announced, as we mentioned earlier, that he's going to have this big rally in Saturday in Springfield. That's where he launched his campaign.

I mean, do we see that as the announcement, the sort of announcement on Friday, big rollout on Saturday? What are you predicting?

HENRY: It could be. Just before I came on the air, Campbell, I got an e-mail from a very senior Obama adviser saying that the chatter among the staff right now is that Saturday in fact could be the announcement of the actual nominee.

But that doesn't mean that it's at the Illinois event. As you know, they could add other events. They could make an announcement at the Illinois event, and then go around the country and do some other events. Or the Illinois event could be a cap to the announcement. But this person told me pay attention to Saturday.

I can tell you other Democrats are saying the window is a little wider, Thursday through Saturday. But all these Democrats are saying end of the week, bottom line, Obama wants momentum going into the convention. But pay attention to Saturday, Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Ed.

I do quickly want to shift back to McCain. Last week, as we touched on earlier, he floated the idea that he is considering a pro- choice running mate. Conservatives went nuts when they heard it. It seemed the idea fell flat. But you're hearing it's back. What are your sources telling you about this?

HENRY: Very much alive. In fact, top McCain aides today have been working the phones, sounding out basically conservatives on Tom Ridge in particular.

We're hearing specifically that the feedback has been awful, conservatives saying they do not want a pick like this, and saying that it would basically wreck John McCain's convention in a couple of weeks. A lot of conservatives telling me tonight they think that this is sort of a trial balloon, sort of some misdirection from the McCain camp, and that at the end of the day what they want to be able to do is go and say to centrists, look, we reached out to independent voters, we considered a moderate, but in the end, we went with a conservative, and that that would end up rallying the base -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Ed Henry tonight -- lots going on for us, Ed. Thanks very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

BROWN: The campaigns have done a great job of keeping their picks a secret, as you can tell from all our speculating right now. We're told even the people who may be McCain's or Obama's pick don't know yet.

But as I mentioned, some interesting details leaking out tonight.

And joining me now to break it all down, some of the smartest people in politics. We have got Joshua Green, senior editor at "The Atlantic Monthly" magazine, joining us tonight, Tara Wall, CNN contributor and deputy editorial page editor of "The Washington Times," and with me here in New York, CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

And, Jeff, let me start with you.

You heard Joe Biden, that great quote from his car window, sort of leaning out through the crack a minute ago. Should we cross him off the list? He says he's not the guy, but also I know he's your favorite.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, he is the one I think will still get it.

And going back to the Nixon days, I thought that was a nondenial denial. It was, "I'm not the guy." As we all know, Obama has not told the guy who it is. So, the fact that he hasn't been told yet allows him to say what he said. I think that was Joe Biden blowing off reporters, but I don't think it tells us much of anything about who is the nominee.

BROWN: All right, Tara, for the sake of argument, let's take Biden at his word and say he's not the guy and look at what he would have brought to the ticket, which is foreign policy experience, overall gravitas. He could make some voters more comfortable with choosing Obama.

Who else out, if not Biden, still fits that bill?


You know, those are actually some great questions for Biden, but at the same time, remember, he's the one that has made remarks, racial remarks that certainly don't sit well with most Americans. So, I think there are some negatives there for him.

But there are others. Obviously, there's Evan Bayh. I think he has got some strong credentials. He is kind of Middle America, if you will. He appeals to the blue-collar Democrats. He's a safe pick, if you will.

But, at the same time, I think Barack Obama has to be careful there as well, because he does have a very close relationship to Hillary Clinton. And some may see that as he may not be able to be trusted if he is so close to Hillary Clinton. But he would certainly be up there.


BROWN: Let me ask Josh about that point, because, Josh, I know you spent a lot of time this campaign covering Hillary Clinton. And we know she is a V.P. longshot.

But check this out. This is a CBS poll. They talked to all the delegates to the Democratic Convention -- 28 percent of them want to see her on the ticket, first place by a mile here. Is she still in the running?

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY": I don't think really she is. Nominally, sure. You don't want to go out of your way to alienate her supporters.

But let's remember she won almost 50 percent of the delegates. So the fact that that number is only at 28 percent, while it is on the top of the heap, I think goes to show that people are beginning to move beyond Hillary Clinton.

And the other factor you have got to take into consideration is the unifying effect that would have on the other party. You don't get a lot of Republicans that really can't stand Obama. But put Hillary Clinton on the ticket and that could excite the Republican base.

BROWN: A fair point there.

And, Jeff, we heard today or we learned today that Al Gore has a very prominent place on the -- or a prime speaking slot, rather, in Denver. He's speaking on the night where Obama gives his acceptance speech.

TOOBIN: He gets to speak at the stadium, not just at the Convention Center, right.

BROWN: So, what does that say to you and is there any chance he wants his old job back?

TOOBIN: I do think there is a chance.

BROWN: Really?

TOOBIN: I do, absolutely. Look, if Barack Obama went to Al Gore and said, look, you can talk about global warming, you can make movies about global warming, or you can get back into the government and do something about it, look, you're not going to win another Nobel Prize. Why not come back into the government and really change the world?

I think Al Gore would have a hard time saying no.

BROWN: Wouldn't that make things interesting?

OK, panel, stay with me.

Josh, Tara, Jeff are going to stand by.

Rush Limbaugh says John McCain could destroy the Republican Party with his choice of a running mate. His words, you're going to hear them when we come back.

Plus, CNN's special investigation into the candidates. You will hear secrets of the Obama and McCain marriages, what you don't know about the candidates' other running mates.

And then, later, this:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a terrorist?



BROWN: Well, apparently, the government thinks he is a terrorist. We're going to tell you how this little boy, his name ended up on the terror watch list.

We are not kidding. Stay with us.


BROWN: John McCain finally out on that oil rig. That was today. Today's stagecraft long in the making. We are going to break it down in just a little bit.

But first the McCain campaign news that had conservatives in a full-on uproar today. Is McCain really considering a pro-abortion- rights running mate? It had Rush Limbaugh all fired up on the radio this morning. Let's listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What is this? This is crap. What is this about picking a liberal Democrat or a liberal Republican, particularly pro-choice? If they do that, if the McCain camp does that, they will have effectively destroyed the Republican Party and pushed the conservative movement into the bleachers.


BROWN: Joining me again, Josh Green, Tara Wall, and Jeff Toobin.

Tara, some pretty strong words there from Rush Limbaugh, who is obviously a staunch conservative. Do you agree? Would a pro-choice pick shatter McCain's conservative base?

WALL: I actually agree and I wrote about it as well today.

In fact, in my column, I said he is riding this tide of faith coming out of Saddleback and the one sin that can undo it all is if he puts Tom Ridge on his ticket as V.P.

Listen, with all due respect to Tom Ridge, McCain has his conservative base to contend with. And as one Republican voter told me, she said, look, if he does that, this is one thing that assures that I will not be voting for him in November. That would be the last nail in the coffin if you will that assures that he won't get my vote this election.

And so I think it's something that, as was mentioned, he wants to do. He likes Tom Ridge.

BROWN: Right.

WALL: But at the same time, you also have to ask what does Tom Ridge have to bring? What does he have to offer in addition to what McCain already has? And there isn't much there.


BROWN: Josh, you heard Ed Henry earlier, some out there saying that this pro-choice trial balloon, it's a lot of smoke and mirrors, that McCain is trying to rattle conservatives, so eventually they will embrace his anti-abortion pick, whoever that may be. What do you think? GREEN: That sounds too clever by half, but you never know. You have got campaigns trying to throw reporters off the scent on both sides of the aisle.

The other obvious pro-choice candidate who we ought to be talking about here is Joe Lieberman. I have talked to some conservatives recently who actually told me they would have an easier time swallowing a Lieberman pick than a Ridge pick, because, in Lieberman, you would -- in McCain, you would have two senators who had run against George W. Bush. It would help McCain distance himself from the Bush administration. It would reach out to independents and it would really change the dynamic of the race.

BROWN: Well, what do you think? What do you make of a Lieberman, whether it's real or not, trial balloon that is clearly being floated?

TOOBIN: It is.

But I think this, picking a pro-choice running mate, is very realistic. The pro-life movement frankly have been a bunch of patsies. They always talk about how they're going to leave the party. They always talk about how they are outraged that Roe v. Wade is never overturned. But they never go anywhere. And they are not going to end up voting...


BROWN: They could absolutely stay home.


WALL: Yes, but they will sit on the fence. They may not leave the party.

TOOBIN: I don't believe that. They are not going to sit home. Present -- looking at Barack Obama or John McCain, they are going to vote for John McCain, no matter what. I don't buy that for a second.


BROWN: Tara, but given the anger and concern that many have clearly expressed already about Barack Obama, do you honestly think they would sit at home?

WALL: I think that there would be a contingent that would absolutely sit at home.

These are the silent Republicans, the silent conservatives that never get polled, that you never hear from. They vote silently. They don't tell people how they vote. There are black Republicans quite frankly that are like that that won't tell you they're black Republicans, but will vote that way.

There is a contingent. It may not have a huge impact, but it's going to have a significant enough of an impact that could upset the platform, that could upset the convention, and that will absolutely sit home. I do believe that will happen.


All right. Sit tight, guys. We are going to come back.

Up next, a side of the candidates that frankly you have never seen before. CNN's Special Investigations Unit has been digging into the backgrounds of John McCain and Barack Obama. A big part of their lives is their marriages. Coming up, you are going to learn some things you didn't know about them.

And, then, later, new developments and a new forecast in Florida, where Tropical Storm Fay is still swamping some neighborhoods, even causing some tornadoes. We're going to update you on that.

And women athletes, they are ratings gold at this summer's Olympics, but why is it so much harder for them to cash in than it is for men? We're going to talk about that as well.

Stay with us.


PASTOR RICK WARREN, AUTHOR, "THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE": What's been your greatest moral failure?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My greatest moral failing -- and I have been a very imperfect person -- is the failure of my first marriage.


BROWN: That was John McCain on Saturday speaking at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

McCain doesn't talk about his first marriage very often, but he did open up to chief national correspondent John King for CNN's Special Investigations Unit documentary on his life.

It premieres tomorrow night at 8:00. And John is joining us with a preview.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, Carol McCain had waited for five-and-a-half years while John McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. One of the many surprises when he got home, he found out while in Vietnam his wife had been in a terrible car accident that left her with a permanent limp and it had changed her physical appearance.

But friends say at the time they did not notice any strains in the marriage in Jacksonville, Florida, where they lived first, then here in Washington, D.C. But we now know there were strains and McCain was in Washington because he was the Navy's liaison to the Senate. He took a whole number of international trips with members of the Senate. And on one of those trips on the way to Asia, there was a routine stopover in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a life-changing encounter.


J. MCCAIN: I saw her there and struck up a conversation with her.

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I was a little taken back, because I was a lot younger than he was. And I was surprised he would be interested.

KING: And you lied about your age?

J. MCCAIN: I lied.


KING (voice-over): The age disparity -- she is 17 years younger -- was the least of their worries.

McCain was still married to Carol McCain. Their daughter, Sidney, was 12 years old. The marriage was in trouble. He had been having affairs for several years.

KING (on camera): And how does it sit with you to those who have over the years have said John McCain comes home from Vietnam, you know, leaves his wife, and then marries this younger, beautiful, wealthy woman?

C. MCCAIN: At the time, I didn't really understand what they were saying, because my husband had been separated. And, you know, six-and-a-half years, it was a long separation.

KING (voice-over): McCain wrote in his memoir that he began dating Cindy after he separated from his wife, Carol. In fact, his own divorce filing shows they dated for nine months while he was still living with Carol.

And records show he applied for a marriage license in Arizona before his divorce was final.

(on camera): The chronology that was presented publicly doesn't necessarily match the chronology of the documents, that you had applied for a marriage license in Arizona at a time when your divorce wasn't final yet.

J. MCCAIN: It's 30 years ago. I have a happy marriage.

C. MCCAIN: His reasons are his reasons. You know, I think I have been a good wife and I think I'm a good mother. And I think that's what he wanted. I think that's what he saw in me.


BROWN: John, there are certainly critics of how McCain handled the breakup of his first marriage, but the truth is, is that Carol McCain and John McCain have, if not a close relationship now, a solid relationship. And, in fact, she told a reporter recently that she wishes him well, right?

KING: They certainly have a civil relationship, Campbell.

The only thing publicly she has said critical of John McCain was way back after the divorce, where she said: He came back from Vietnam. I needed him to 40. He wanted to be 25.

But she said she does support his candidacy. Their children from their marriage, their daughter, Sidney, and her two sons that he had adopted in that marriage, actually still show up at John McCain events from time to time. And back in his first campaign, McCain found out one of his opponents had called Carol, trying to dig up dirt on him.

And he approached his rival in that campaign said, if do you it again, I will deal with you, and you will know what I mean, physically threatened his opponent back in that 1982 race.

BROWN: All right. John King for us.

It will be a fascinating documentary for sure. John, Thanks so much.

KING: Thank you.

BROWN: And we will all be watching tomorrow night. Tune in for "Revealed," all new 90-minute profiles of both presidential candidates, John McCain at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, then Barack Obama at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

And we will bring you a sneak preview of the Obama profile a little bit later tonight, secrets of the Obama marriage, why she refused at first to go on a date with him and what changed her mind.

And then, later, what is a third-grader -- that is right, a third-grader -- doing on the government's terror watch list?

And here's why you don't want to go kite surfing in a tropical storm. It's just brutal. We are going to tell you what happened to this guy when we come back.


BROWN: Just ahead, the innocent Americans, even children, on the government's terror watch list, they share their outrage with CNN's Drew Griffin, who is also on that list. That's coming up.

But, first, Erica Hill is here with tonight's briefing -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Campbell, I want to warn you, this first bit of video, you may find very disturbing.

A kite surfer ignoring the warnings on Fort Lauderdale Beach is in critical condition tonight. Now, watch this video, as a wind gust from Tropical Storm Fay picks up 28-year-old Kevin Kearney's sail, blows him into a building, actually picked him up twice.

CNN affiliate WFOR shot this video. His family says Kearney is an experienced kite surfer.

Fay could strengthen into a hurricane as it zigzags around Florida.

For more on that, meteorologist Chad Myers standing by with the latest predictions in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Hi, Chad.


This thing is just turning schizophrenia at this hour, now not really moving at all. And even though the forecast does call for it to go back in the Atlantic Ocean, make a big left-hand turn and maybe hit Jacksonville, I'm thinking it could do anything at this point in time.

When a storm literally stalls, when it doesn't move at all, it could go left, right, north, south. It could anything it wants to. The biggest threat today is going to be the onshore chance of tornadoes and, of course, the flooding. Some spots could have picked up 15 inches of rain already. There's the official track. It could hit Orlando and just go left. We will see.

Stay tuned tonight and tomorrow.

HILL: All right, Chad, we know you will stay on top of it for us as well.

There are also some new developments in another severe weather story, the 11 people missing in the Grand Canyon flood all accounted for tonight. Rainstorms, of course, caused a dam to break in the Grand Canyon on Sunday. Rescue crews had been looking for members of two families who hadn't been heard from, but tonight police have learned those people did get out. They simply got lost in all the confusion.

And fire ravaging Egypt's upper parliament building. It is a 19th century palace. Flames bursting through the downtown Cairo building. Firefighters had a difficult time. It burned well into the night. Terrorism has been ruled out. Investigators are blaming the fire on an electrical problem -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Erica, thanks. We are going to be seeing you a little bit later, we should mention.

Tonight, we are pulling back the curtain, though, looking at the secrets behind the presidential candidates' marriages. Up next, find out what Michelle Robinson thought the first time somebody told her about this guy named Barack Obama.

Then, later, we are going to drill down for the stagecraft behind John McCain's day on an oil rig. He's daring Obama to follow his lead. Will the Democrat be tempted?

And listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a terrorist?



BROWN: So, why do the government and the airlines have his name on the terror watch list? Yes, he's pretty troublemaker material, if you ask me.

We're going to go looking for answers -- it's pretty absurd -- right here in the ELECTION CENTER.



OBAMA: My wife, Michelle, has met with military families in North Carolina and Kentucky and Virginia over the last several months. Every time she passes on their stories, the message that Michelle has heard is what you all know and have lived. When a loved one is deployed, the whole family goes to war.


BROWN: Barack Obama today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention talking about his wife, Michelle. Well, tonight we are really excited about the all new candidate profiles, our special investigations unit has been working on for months.

They premiere, yes, months (ph). They premiere tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. We showed you a preview of the McCain documentary telling you how he met his wife, Cindy. So what is the story behind Barack and Michelle Obama?

Our Suzanne Malveaux hasn't slept since when?



BROWN: She has been working on the Obama profile for all of us and she's here with me now, physically, in person. They let her out of the edit room. Give us a preview.

MALVEAUX: You know this is really fascinating to sit down not only to talk to Barack but also Michelle. They talk about what it was like, their experience with their first born, their first daughter. They talk about the difficulties, the challenges on the campaign trails and the surprises, the pain it was that they want through, letting go of their pastor, Reverend Wright, and actually moving on. And then there were kind of those lighter moments. Really the two of them have this wonderful story of how they first met, and it really gives you a good sense of why they tick.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): In 1988, like his father 30 years earlier, Barack Obama was accepted into Harvard, where he planned to study law. After his first year, Barack returned to Chicago for a summer internship at the Sidley Austin law firm. It was here he met Michelle Robinson, a recent Harvard Law School grad.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had actually spoken with her on the phone and she was very corporate and very proper on the phone, trying to explain to me how the summer program at Sidley Austin was going to go.

MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA'S WIFE: I probably did what a lot of people do when they hear about Barack Obama. First, I thought, what kind of name is Barack Obama?

B. OBAMA: First of all, she thought it was inappropriate to have any interoffice dating even though I was only there for the summer.

M. OBAMA: I'd already sort of created an image of this very intellectual nerd, and I was prepared to be polite and all that.

B. OBAMA: When I saw her, she was very crisp and professionally dressed and beautiful.

M. OBAMA: Then he walked into my office on that first day and he was cuter than I thought he'd be. So that was a first positive impression.

B. OBAMA: Then she had I think given up on men. She was going to be focusing just on work.

M. OBAMA: I thought, this guy is going to be a good friend of mine. I liked him. We hung out. But I just didn't see that. I didn't see a relationship coming out of that.

B. OBAMA: She had all these theories and I basically knocked them down one after the other until finally --

M. OBAMA: I said OK. We'll go on this one date but we won't call it a date. I'll spend the day with you.

B. OBAMA: At that point I thought, OK. I think I got something going.

M. OBAMA: We went to the Art Institute in Chicago. And he impressed me with his knowledge of art. And then we walked up Michigan Avenue. It was on a really beautiful, summer day, and we talked and we talked.

Then we wound up having a drink on the 99th floor of the John Hancock building that gave you a beautiful view of the city. And probably by the end of that day it was over.

MALVEAUX: You were sold?

M. OBAMA: I was sold.


MALVEAUX: OK. So Michelle was sold but Obama was smitten. I mean, the two of them continued dating. This was kind of a long distance thing while he finished law school. But it was interesting too because they also tell me about some of the difficulties they had.

One of the most challenging things in the relationship once they were married, he spent a lot of time at the State Capitol, really trying to make a name for himself, build a career. He was just starting out and it really created some tension within the marriage.

They're both open about it. They worked it through, and it's something that he is sensitive about because he didn't have his own father in his childhood.

BROWN: And she -- you know, I noticed her on the weekend in the forum that was hosted by Rick Warren. He named her as one of the wisest people in his life, the person he turned to most. But she is also in the campaign become a lightning rod and a real target of conservatives.

MALVEAUX: And sometimes that's been successful for them for the critics to go after her in this way. The one thing that she does say that she said is the one thing that's misunderstood about both of them is that there's a sense that they're not patriotic. And she says that's farthest from the truth, that the two of them really believe that this is really the way that he -- the only way he could be where he is is in a country like ours that has the kind of opportunities. And it's something that she really feels she wants to get out there. And they also believe that the more you know about them, get to know them, that they're a lot like everybody else.

BROWN: Well, I cannot wait to watch. It's going to be fantastic. Suzanne Malveaux for us.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: Suzanne, thanks.

Again, be sure to watch "Revealed." That's tomorrow night, all new. 90-minute investigations of the presidential candidates. The John McCain profile begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Barack Obama follows at 9:30 Eastern time. That is right here on CNN.

When we come back, we are noticing a real difference in Barack Obama's tone on the campaign trail this week. Well, there's a reason for that and we're going to tell you what it is.

Also, Shawn Johnson got her gymnastics gold medal this morning. She's one of many women winning gold in Beijing. We're cheering for them now, but what happens when the Olympics are over? We're going to talk about that when we come back.


BROWN: John McCain's been hitting Barack Obama pretty hard lately, and tonight there is new evidence those attacks may be taking a toll. Check out this new "L.A. Times"/Bloomberg poll.

Obama's favorability rating has tumbled 11 points since June from 59 percent to 48 percent. His negative rating up eight points from 27 percent in June now to 35.

McCain's numbers pretty much held steady over the same period; 46 percent giving favorable ratings, 38 percent negative. So no wonder, given those numbers, that we're hearing a much different, a much sharper tone today as Obama answers McCain's attacks. Listen to something McCain told the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention yesterday and then to how Obama came back hard during his own VFW speech today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are just still trying to square Senator Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq. Even in retrospect he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president. What's less apparent is the judgment to be commander in chief.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yesterday Senator McCain came before you. He said that I've changed my position on Iraq when I have not. He said that I am for a path of retreat and failure. And he declared that behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president, suggesting, as he has many times before, that I put personal ambition before my country.

I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I'm not suggesting it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interests. Now it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.


BROWN: Check it out. A new, tougher Obama really going after John McCain there. Will it do the trick?

Back again to talk about this, Josh Green, Tara Wall and Jeff Toobin.

And Josh, let me just throw these favorability numbers back up on the screen from this new poll we mentioned. This is a big drop for Obama. He's taken a real hit here. Do you think that what explains sort of this different tone that we heard today and frankly over the last couple of days? JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": I do. Yes. I think three things happened. Number one, he was on vacation in Hawaii so he wasn't out there campaigning.

Number two, you had the Georgia situation intrude which is perfect for McCain. And number three, McCain has been driving a really hard, negative message against Obama and I think we're seeing the effects of that in these numbers.

BROWN: Jeff, Obama can hit McCain as many times as he wants on issues like Iraq and foreign policy, but at the end of the day you look at what the polls show in terms of how people feel about who's best prepared to be commander in chief. I mean, should at some point he just kind of let these issues go?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. I didn't think that Obama reaction was all that tough. I thought it was defensive and weak.

I think he's got to go back to John McCain talking about being in Iraq for a hundred years. Do you want to be in Iraq for a hundred years? That's the question he's got to make this election about.

BROWN: Why didn't he hit him on that point?

TOOBIN: Because I don't know. I think it's because he's not doing a very good job lately. He is not has been as focused, as tough. I mean, I don't think they should be in a panic mode about it but that is not a tough, negative message. A tough, negative message is forcing McCain to defend his positions not defending his own patriotism.

BROWN: Is this a real opportunity for Republicans, Tara?

TARA WALL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, in some ways. I mean, Republicans are succeeding. It's also an opportunity I think that Obama himself needs to look at. And one of our readers summed it up when talking about Saddleback.

You know, Barack Obama said a lot. He said a lot. He had a lot of words but said little, whereas McCain said a little but said a lot. And that's the focus that Barack Obama needs to have. He needs to say more with less.

BROWN: All right.

TOOBIN: I don't think it's the number of words that matters. It's what he says that matters.

WALL: Exactly.

TOOBIN: But he is on the defensive. He's been on the defensive for a month, and I think that's why the polls have tied it.

WALL: Absolutely. And he's got to step it up. BROWN: OK, guys, we got to end it there. Many, many thanks tonight. To Jeff Toobin here with me in New York, to Tara Wall, and to Josh Green, appreciate it, guys.

Coming up, we would like to show you the stagecraft behind what the candidates are doing. So fasten your seatbelts. We're about to land on an oil rig with John McCain staging his campaign event on a really big stage.


BROWN: Earlier we showed you John McCain's visit to an offshore oil drilling platform near New Orleans today. Well, why was it so important for him to get there? High gas prices have turned the tide in favor of drilling, so for his campaign the candidate on an oil rig was the picture of the day.

Call it stagecraft. And, yes, Erica Hill is back to take us through it -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely stagecraft today, Campbell. It turns out though this is really the oil rig campaign visit part two because Senator McCain was supposed to be here in July. That's when oil prices were at near record highs. Hurricane Dolly though blew through forcing him to cancel. And while gas prices may be down more than 30 cents since then, it is still a very important issue to voters and, of course, in turn to the candidates.

So today, McCain and eight reporters flew 130 miles south of New Orleans to an offshore oil platform which is operated by Chevron. As you saw on those first pictures we showed you, that overhead shot, it is enormous. In fact, this particular rig produces about 10,000 barrels a day. While that may sound like a lot, it turns out that is just one-half of one percent of the 20 million barrels, Campbell, that the U.S. consumes every day.

BROWN: And that pretty much illustrates the fix we're in when it comes to gas prices. I saw this video when it was feeding in, and it definitely did not look like the usual McCain campaign stop.

HILL: No, not exactly. That's true and it certainly wasn't. The getup alone is a little bit of a departure for the senator. He has, of course, the bright orange hat. You see here the safety goggles necessary for the senator's hour-long tour of a floating oil factory.

And then he troops up and down and up and down the stairs, all over the rig, got a run through of the technology, visited a bit with some of the workers.

Well, with that to a wrap and, of course, with the all-important pictures ready to feed, that was when McCain took the opportunity to give a statement from the deck of this rig complete with a special message for his opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama opposes new drilling. He said it won't solve our problem and that it's "not real." He's wrong and the American people know it. And I hope he'll seize the opportunity to come out and pay a visit like this one. I think it would probably change his mind.


HILL: So it seems it's a bit of a stagecraft challenge there to Senator Obama on the energy issue, Campbell.

BROWN: Well, and, Erica, McCain might want to be careful about that. The last time McCain issued a challenge to Obama, he called for him to go to Iraq. Obama took him up on it and Obama ended up with a week of great stagecraft of his own.

HILL: Excellent point there. The Obama campaign, by the way, didn't think much though of today's trip. They called it a stunt so who knows, Campbell, whether or not Senator Obama will actually end up on one of those oil rigs.

BROWN: All right. Erica Hill for us. As always, thanks, Erica.

Coming up on "LARRY KING LIVE," a guy who is never at a loss for words especially when it comes to politics. Right, Larry?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You are so right, Campbell. He is never dull. You may not agree with him, but dull he ain't.

Bill Maher is here tonight. He's got a lot to say I'm sure about the upcoming election and anything else that pushes his buttons. Plus, he'll tell us about his new film in which he confronts Jesus face to face. No kidding. Bill Maher for the hour, next on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Larry. We'll be watching.

Coming up, everybody, adorable little kids who somehow got on the terror watch list. Yes, really? We're going to tell you about it.


BROWN: Tonight we are learning that even more ordinary Americans, including children, are ending up on the government's terror watch list. CNN's special investigation unit correspondent Drew Griffin, he's one of them. He's also on the list. He has shared his frustrations with us over the past few weeks, and he joins us live tonight.

And, Drew, you've been hearing from so many people caught in the same ridiculous mess. What are they telling you?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, since we began airing my dilemma we've gotten e-mails, I- reports, dozens of people caught in the same boat. Three in particular, though, really caught our attention because all three are not only in the same boat, they share the same name.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Looking for terrorists? Meet the Robinsons -- James, the former assistant U.S. attorney general and Washington lawyer, on the terror watch list.


GRIFFIN: This James Robinson is a retired Air National Guard brigadier general. He still flies as a pilot for a major airline and, get this, he is licensed by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit but he's not allowed to check his luggage at the curb.

CAPT. JAMES ROBINSON, AIRLINE PILOT: I've got these two lists that aren't talking to each other. I'm carrying a weapon, flying a multimillion dollar jet with passengers, but I'm still screened as, you know, on the terrorist watch list.

GRIFFIN: And this James Robinson is -- well, James Robinson the third grader.

Are you a terrorist?


GRIFFIN: Don't laugh. Apparently James' government still doesn't know either because for the last three years every time he goes to the airport with his family, James is singled out as a potential terrorist suspect.

Do you feel like anybody in government cares about you?



BROWN: And, Drew, you watch that and it is astounding bureaucratic incompetence. You have been following the story now for months. You've reported that Michael Chertoff, director of Homeland Security, says that there is a simple solution to get your name off the list. Go the Web site, fill out the form, check the box. But if it is so simple as he claims, why are all these people still on the list?

GRIFFIN: First off, Campbell, it is not easy and Secretary Chertoff should know that if he doesn't know that. Every one of these Robinsons went through the Homeland Security's so-called redress process three years ago, as I did months ago. Nothing happens.

So now, Chertoff and you're seeing in that speech last week out in California, started to blame the airlines -- the airlines for not clearing people from the TSA's own list. It's basically a bunch of finger pointing going on which is why members of Congress are finally beginning to probe into this and asking questions, Campbell, demanding some sort of solution, which we don't see yet. BROWN: Hey, it's mind blowing idiocy. It really is. I can't tell you how many stories you brought us about this. It just -- it blows my mind.

Drew Griffin, amazing reporting. Drew, thank you very much.

GRIFFIN: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: There is an unbelievable twist to this story. People caught on the watch list have found a way to beat the system. Yes, they have. Some of them have anyway.

Drew is going to have that part of his report on "AC 360." That's tonight at 10:00 Eastern time.

Next, we all know that Michael Phelps is going to cash in on his history-making Olympics. But what about Shawn Johnson? Do women athletes get their fair share? We're going to talk about that when we come back?


BROWN: 16-year-old American gymnast Shawn Johnson finally got her gold medal today. She won on the balance beam, her favorite event. Now, think about this. Will Johnson and other women athletes get as much attention and big money endorsements as the men who win gold? Well, check this out.

Swimming star Michael Phelps is the cover guy on "Sports Illustrated" posing with his eight gold medals. Do you think any women will get that kind of payoff?

We want to talk about that. The sexist, money, Olympic stardom.

Shannon Miller won seven gold medals at the U.S. Olympics. She was a gymnast in '92 and '96. Ken Sunshine is with me here in New York. He is a public relations executive and consultant who also works in sports marketing.

And, Ken, take a look. I think we've got a full screen we can put up here of the top female athlete earnings. Pretty big money. All tennis players, I think. Do we have the graphic here we can show you? There you go.

Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Venus Williams. Compare that to the top male earners. You're talking significantly more money for the guys. What's really going on?

KEN SUNSHINE, SUNSHINE, SACHS & ASSOCIATES: Double standard. I mean, it doesn't only apply to sports it applies to everything. I mean, it's -- women have come a long way but clearly not far enough.

I mean, I have a son and a daughter. I wish they were treated equally and they're not. And hopefully, their grandchildren will be treated equally, male/female. BROWN: Shannon, during the Olympics, we see a lot of female athletes getting attention doing tons of press. But what happens after the Olympics? Why do people pay so much attention to the women athletes during the Olympics but it sort of ends afterwards in a way that it doesn't for men?

SHANNON MILLER, 7-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: Well, I think it's important not only to look at gender but also to look at the sport. You have sports like swimming and gymnastics that are very high profile sports. You're going to reap a lot more benefits from that than some of the more obscure sports that you really only see every four years. And I think that's part of it.

I think women have come a long way. They have a long way to go. But it really depends on how much exposure you get. You know, the more dollars go into more exposure and more exposure creates more dollars.

BROWN: If the Michael Phelps of this Olympics had been a woman, would we be talking about the same level of endorsements, Ken, that we're talking about with him, $50 million to $100 million? You hear this numbers swirling around?

SUNSHINE: You know, I think we might be. I mean, we're just talking about a lot of money. The Michael Phelps phenomenon is so unique and his story is so great, and he just fits the pattern perfectly that it almost isn't fair. I think what makes more sense are the people that won one medal or two medals and compare them. And it's a double standard. We need to make it fairer and it's not.

BROWN: Well, what do you do, Shannon, when the spotlight fades after the Olympics is over?

MILLER: It's very hard. I have to tell you. You know, for a lot of Olympians no matter how many medals you win, maybe not Michael Phelps but for most athletes, you have six months a year to really cash in and then one day you wake up and it's over. So you really have to rely on these lessons you learned in sports, set new goals, try to, you know, extend your career by moving into different areas.

BROWN: I'm going to ask you, this is sort of the negative side, I mean, the more negative side of this. How much with women has to do with appearance, with looks, in a way that it doesn't with men, in terms of the endorsement deals and the publicity they'll ultimately get?

SUNSHINE: I think there's a lot to do with it. You know, there's a tennis player, Kournikova, who --

BROWN: Who's a stunner. She looks like a model.

SUNSHINE: She's as hot as could be. She hasn't won anything. She makes a lot of money and it's purely on looks. There's a shot putter that won the gold medal today.

BROWN: Right. SUNSHINE: She's great but I don't think she's going to make much money.

BROWN: We got to end it there. But to Ken and Shannon, thanks very much, guys. Appreciate the time.

That's it from the ELECTION CENTER.

Larry King right now.