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Lou Dobbs Tonight

McCain's Final Push; Obama's Warning to his Supporters; Changing Poll Numbers; The High Cost of Free Trade; Blasting the Bailout

Aired October 16, 2008 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight, Senators Obama and McCain on the offensive after their final presidential debate. Both candidates, again, talking about "Joe the plumber", this campaign is far from over, some polls now say this race is tightening.

And tonight the presidential candidates finally talking about an issue they've ignored so far in this campaign, so called free trade. We'll tell you why the issue is very important to every working American.

And, tonight, the FBI has launched an investigation into possible election fraud by the left-wing activist group ACORN. A groups with links to Senator Obama. We'll have the story, all of that, all the day's news and much more from an independent perspective straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and opinion for Thursday, October 16th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Senators McCain and Obama hitting the campaign trail in their final push to election day. Both candidates, again, talking about "Joe the plumber" whose name came up 26 times in last night's presidential debate. McCain today said the plumber whose name is Joe Wurzelbacher, was the real winner in that debate. Obama wondering whether anyone knows a plumber who makes a quarter of a million dollars a year.

We have extensive coverage tonight and we begin with Dana Bash reporting on the McCain campaign.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'll never guess who John McCain thinks won the final debate.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real winner last night was "Joe the plumber".


BASH: Of course, "Joe the plumber".

MCCAIN: He won and small businesses won across America. They've won because the American people are not going to let Senator Obama raise their taxes in a tough economy.


BASH: McCain won't let go of the new political icon he made famous, hoping he's finally found a way to connect with voters on the issue they care most about.

MCCAIN: You know what Senator Obama had to say to Joe? He wanted to spread his wealth around. Wants government to take Joe's money and give it to somebody else.

BASH: But even in fiscally conservative suburban Philadelphia where McCain campaign for the second time this week, warning voters about Obama's economic policies is just part of his struggle. His biggest challenge, detaching himself from the unpopular president.

MCCAIN: As I mentioned last night to Senator Obama, I'm not George Bush, and if he wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago.


BASH: Applause for an anti-Bush line at a GOP rally, a stunning illustration of the political climate. McCain launched a new TV ad with the same message.

MCCAIN: The last eight years haven't worked very well, have they?

BASH: For the first time in weeks, an ad talking about his plans, not hitting Obama's.

MCCAIN: Your savings, we'll rebuild them. Your investments, they'll grow again. We got 19 days to go, we're six points down.

BASH: But given that hard cold reality, McCain aides say their urgent goal now is condensing supporters to keep at it.

MCCAIN: We never give up, we never quit, we never hide from history. We make history.


BASH: And McCain advisors insist their data still shows that support for Obama in key battleground states is soft and they say that things aren't maybe as dire as they seem. But look at McCain's travel schedule tomorrow through the weekend to see he certainly isn't in a defensive posture. He'll be in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.

Lou, those are all obviously states that President Bush won and states that McCain is desperately trying to defend because he needs those and to pick up one or two of those Democratic states if he has any chance at winning this map.

DOBBS: It's interesting these poll numbers, they are all over the map and reflective as they do, some weakness in those red states, but, obviously, the campaign is geared up and is going through for the final 19 days, right?

BASH: Oh, yes, absolutely. And that -- not only are they geared up, but they are -- the critical thing that you heard at the end of that piece there for the McCain campaign is to make sure that their supporters are geared up. They are concerned obviously at this late date in the...

DOBBS: I have to say that Senator McCain looked as energized as I've seen him in your report.

BASH: You know what, it's the way he is. I mean not to put him on the couch too much. But when he gets into a very dark place, he seems to come most alive and that seems to be what he's doing now.

DOBBS: He wasn't kidding about being -- having them just exactly where he wants them.

BASH: Yes.

DOBBS: All right, thank you Dana. Dana Bash.

Senator Obama today warning his supporters not to get cocky. The senator renewing his attack against McCain, again, trying to link Senator McCain with President Bush. Obama also blasted McCain for putting "Joe the plumber" at the center of his campaign. Suzanne Malveaux has our report from Londonderry, New Hampshire on Obama's fight to win independent voters.



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite a strong debate performance and increasing leads in national and key battleground state polls, Barack Obama says he's taking nothing for granted.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are 19 days away from changing this country, 19 days away. But for those who are getting a little cocky, I've got two words for you, New Hampshire.

MALVEAUX: New Hampshire delivered Obama a stinging and startling defeat in its January 8th primary. Polls predicted Obama would be the clear winner after his victory in Iowa. But New Hampshire chose Hillary Clinton as the favorite. At an apple orchard in Londonderry, Obama also seized on pivotal moments from his final debate with McCain.

MCCAIN: My old buddy "Joe the plumber", people like "Joe the plumber", to "Joe the plumber", Joe, you're rich, congratulations.

MALVEAUX: He poked fun at McCain for repeatedly addressing a plumber Obama met on the campaign trail.

OBAMA: He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for. How many plumbers do you know making $250,000 a year?

MALVEAUX: And Obama continued to press that McCain would be no different than President Bush.

OBAMA: I'm not running against George Bush, I'm running against all those policies of George Bush that you support Senator McCain.

MALVEAUX: Obama's campaign launched a new TV ad to back it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL: You may not be George Bush, but...

MCCAIN: I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Well Hillary Clinton won the lion share of the female voters during the primary, but Barack Obama won most of those independents and they make up a whopping 44 percent of New Hampshire's electorate and the idea, the hope for Barack Obama is simply to build on that lead. Lou?


DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you -- Suzanne Malveaux from Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Left wing blogs and surrogates of Senator Obama today launching a series of blistering attacks against plumber Joe Wurzelbacher. Even Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden couldn't resist the temptation to join in. Senator Biden questioned whether Wurzelbacher is actually a real plumber. Wurzelbacher himself remained calm throughout, saying politicians of any kind simply can't be trusted.


JOE WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER: One of the things that me and my friends talk about a great deal is you know the politicians are the nobles, we are the servants, OK. I mean we are the peasants as far as they are concerned. You know they take and they give us back a little bit. You know and that's wrong. You know they're not entitled.


DOBBS: You know, this plumber, I have to tell you straight out, I really like this fellow. Well, I believe we need a lot more people, in fact, like Joe Wurzelbacher in Congress. As a matter of fact, I have been calling not only for racial and religious diversity in our Congress and in our Senate, but I'd also like to see diversity of occupation and jobs, more plumbers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, construction workers, brick masons, too many of our lawmakers are from one of two classes.

They're either lawyers or they're full-time politicians. And a lot of them are both. None of them, apparently, with any idea at all how to help working men and women and their families deal with a weakening and worsening economy. Well Candy Crowley joins me now for more on what is turning into an exciting finish to this presidential campaign and she has some views on some fascinating new poll numbers, as well.

One Gallup poll showing Senator Obama now has a lead over Senator John McCain of only two percent. Candy, what does that poll and the other polls mean about what's going on in this race. Just days ago we were talking about this thing is over.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know first of all we have seen so many (INAUDIBLE) in this campaign. Anyone that declares anything over until, well, hopefully the day after the election is wrong.

DOBBS: Right.

CROWLEY: But having said that, this is something, and I'm sure Dana knows this, that the Republicans are starting to say. They're saying that they are seeing some movement in the polls. That they do think they're closing and there is a natural closing of polls as you move forward and, obviously, this Gallup poll at least today reflects that.

DOBBS: Well the discussion -- Dana Bash is here and let's bring Dana into this -- the idea that there's softness in these numbers in the battleground states, you know, sort of the first reflex I think amongst many of us here that are not on the campaign trail as both of you are every day, used to think that is a little defensive posturing from either the campaigns, but it appears to be real.

BASH: It does appear to be real. I know this new Gallup poll does reflect that and I can only tell you what I mentioned about McCain campaign aides telling us about their internal data, which they say you know it is soft, which is why you heard John McCain not only talking about "Joe the plumber" on the campaign trail, but still talking about Barack Obama's experiences versus John McCain's experience.

Trying to sort of still puncture any kind of support that Barack Obama has, or maybe even comfort with Barack Obama and the people have been able to feel and watching him in these debates especially saying, OK, you might look -- be comfortable with him, but he doesn't really have what it takes.

DOBBS: Explain to me, to all of us, why Senator Obama, a Democrat and Senator Biden, a Democrat, are being so just, I mean, to me, sort of, just arrogantly dismissive of Joe Wurzelbacher who is a plumber. They attacked him.

The natural liberal media went after him saying, well you know, he's not registered to vote. Well at first, OK, now they found out, yes, he is. He has got a tax lien of $1,100 on his house. So what, so do a lot of people. I mean I can't believe that the Democratic Party would act like this toward a working man in this country or woman.

CROWLEY: Well I did think there was a little ham handedness going on with what Obama said today. It was sort of a dismissiveness (ph) and I agree with you. I'm not sure that the -- I mean what this was about was John McCain taking an incident on the campaign trail with "Joe the plumber", who by the way, Joe, if you're listening, name your business that when you get it -- and you know so he's taking an example on the campaign trail and saying he told this man that he wants to spread the wealth around.

I mean the details of Joe's life, you know, at this point, are kind of beyond the point as far as I can see. I mean it was what McCain uses -- this wasn't a McCain supporter. This was a guy that just happened to go up to Obama, so...

DOBBS: Obama...

CROWLEY: He really ought to drop it, yes. Exactly.

DOBBS: And we've -- and as we look at these numbers, this two- point contraction in the Gallup traditional poll, which is about 60 percent of the likely voters in the country, which conforms to what is typical in a presidential election turnout, I mean, this has had to come as I would assume, a bit of a shock to both the Obama and the McCain campaigns. Right?

BASH: Maybe more of a shock to Obama campaign.

CROWLEY: Yes, I mean, listen, we have seen all along polls that just seem to be moving ever further...

DOBBS: Right.

CROWLEY: ... out of the reach of John McCain. But I will tell you that they will say on the record, we're not cocky. You heard Barack Obama bringing up his New Hampshire experience and that he lost when everyone expected he would win and, again, these are very smart folks that are running that Obama campaign and they understand that the things have turned on a dime in this campaign. And so, they -- I don't think they thought they would win by 10 points.

DOBBS: Or perhaps even two, at least as it looks now. It sort of -- it makes it a lot more interesting for everyone. Thank you very much, Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, thank you. Both terrific and we appreciate you being here.

Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha today apologizing for calling residents of his home base in western Pennsylvania his congressional district. He called them racist. Congressman Murtha told a local newspaper yesterday quote, "there's no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area", end quote.

Well, he decided to apologize today and in that apology Murtha said he believes voters will look beyond race in the upcoming election and vote on issues. Small town America has been a difficult area for Democrats. Back in April, Senator Obama touched off a controversy of his own when he said small town Americans were bitter and cling to guns and religion to, well, to explain their frustrations and he was referring, by the way, to working people in Pennsylvania at a liberal fund-raiser in San Francisco. In a new interview for "The New York Times" magazine that will appear this Sunday, Obama calls that quote, "his biggest bone headed move" of this campaign.

The Racine (ph), Wisconsin, school district is using a new textbook that proves a chapter on Senator Obama, but it doesn't have a chapter on Senator McCain. The literature textbook was first used last year in eighth grade classes. The Obama chapter is titled "Dreams of My Father", the title of Obama's 1995 memoir. A spokesman for the publisher (INAUDIBLE) Nifland (ph) now says all future versions of the textbook will not include the Obama chapter to avoid the appearance that the company is supporting one campaign over another.

Still ahead here, a top Bush administration official blasting the Bush administration's Wall Street bailout. We'll tell you why.

And the most spirited presidential debate of this entire campaign, well that's perhaps being praised but we'll show you what happened in a mere 90 seconds and three top political analysts join me, as well, to assess who won and what's next.


DOBBS: Well last night's final presidential debate wasn't quite as boring as the first two, but we still think the candidates' hour and a half of blather could be boiled down often to just a few seconds. So, tonight, the LOU DOBBS TONIGHT highlights of last night's 90-minute debate in 90 seconds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get to it.

MCCAIN: Americans are hurting right now and they're angry. They're hurting and they're angry.

OBAMA: I think everybody understands at this point that we are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the great depression.

MCCAIN: I'll keep your taxes low.

OBAMA: I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans.

MCCAIN: What you want to do to "Joe the plumber" and millions more like him is have their taxes increased.

OBAMA: And the conversation I had with "Joe the plumber"...

MCCAIN: Like "Joe the plumber", we're talking about "Joe the plumber"...


OBAMA: "Joe the plumber". MCCAIN: "Joe the plumber" -- It's a matter of fact that Senator Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any political campaign in history.

OBAMA: And 100 percent, John, of your ads, 100 percent of them have been negative.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama wants government to do the job.

OBAMA: Now, under Senator McCain's plan, there is a strong risk that people would lose their employer-based health care -- We've got to get our education system right. Now, typically, what's happened is that there's been a debate between more money or reform and I think we need both.

MCCAIN: Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. You will find that some of the worst school systems in America get the most money per student.

OBAMA: We need fundamental change in this country.

MCCAIN: I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go vote now, it will make you feel big and strong.


DOBBS: In that debate, the buzz word was without question, "Joe the plumber". That would be buzz words actually, wouldn't it?

Senator McCain referring to Joe 21 times. Senator Obama mentioned "Joe the plumber" only five time, a total of 26 times throughout the debate. In sharp contrast to the old phrase and word, buzz word of change. Last night the two candidates only said the word change once. And you heard it.

And we should note fewer people were watching last night's presidential debate that watched the second debate, according to the early Nielsen ratings about 38 million people watching last night down from 42 million last week. Viewers may have decided to watch game five of the National League Baseball championships instead or perhaps something else altogether. It's entirely possible while we're (INAUDIBLE) these possibilities that there weren't watching television at all, isn't it?

Well for the first time in three presidential debates, the candidates last night finally talked about trade. Senators McCain and Obama seem to have stark differences on the issue of so-called free trade, but as our Lisa Sylvester now reports, those differences may not be as great as they might first appear.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Barack Obama says he would like to rewrite the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing it has cost jobs and hurt the American worker.

OBAMA: We've got to have a president who understands the benefits of free trade, but, also, is going to enforce unfair trade agreements and is going to stand up to other countries.

SYLVESTER: Senator John McCain is an unapologetic free trader. McCain ripped Obama for opposing a trade agreement with Colombia.

MCCAIN: So Senator Obama who has never traveled south of our border opposes the Colombia Free Trade agreement, the same country that's helping us try to stop the flow of drugs into our country.

SYLVESTER: The candidates' views may seem to be on opposite spectrums but not necessarily. The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition says despite the rhetoric, Obama's position on trade is less than clear. During the primary, Obama was blasted after reports surfaced that Obama's economic adviser, Austin Goolsby (ph), had told...


SYLVESTER: ... that NAFTA was not going to be renegotiated after all, that much of it was for show. The Obama camp disputes that account. Still some manufacturing groups are not entirely optimistic that NAFTA will be reopened even if Obama is elected president. For clues, they look at Obama's inner circle.

AUGGIE TANTILLO, AMER. MFG. & TRADE COALITION: Many of his top advisors come from Wall Street. Many of them were proteges to Robert Rubin (ph), who in the Clinton administration, was one of the biggest backers for things such as NAFTA and Clinton's free trade agenda. So I -- I'm from the show-me state. I'm from Missouri on this one. I'll believe it when I see it.


SYLVESTER: Now, in addition to NAFTA, the two candidates also debated the Colombia free trade deal. That trade agreement has been held up in the House, but there is a possibility the Colombian deal could come up in a lame duck session after the election. Lobbyists are pushing to have that trade agreement attached as part of the stimulus package, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her office has not agreed to any such commitment -- Lou?

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much -- Lisa Sylvester.

Time for our poll tonight. The question is, who do you believe won the debate last night? Senator Obama, Senator McCain or "Joe the plumber"? Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

The FBI tonight is investigating Florida Congressman Tim Mahoney. The Associated Press reporting that investigation is centered on whether Congressman Mahoney broke any laws or misused federal funds when he hired his mistress to work in his congressional office. Federal agents also looking into an alleged second affair that Congressman Mahoney may have had with a local Florida official. Congressman Mahoney was voted into office after his predecessor, Mark Foley (ph), resigned in a scandal involving text messages to congressional pages.

Up next, a new threat to the election upcoming. Thousands of ineligible voters may be allowed to cast a ballot in November. We'll have a special report on challenges to voter registration and what could be a Supreme Court case.

And Venezuela's leftist president has a unique take on President Bush and this economic crisis of ours. We'll have the story. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Wall Street today rebounding and putting on a rally. The Dow Jones industrial average up more than 400 points today. The Dow closing just below 9000. Crude oil prices today also dropping down below $70 a barrel. That's just about 60 -- a 60 percent reduction in the record price reached this past July. The sell-off attributing to increased supplies of crude oil and gasoline and new concerns that the weakening economy will cut demand for crude oil.

One of the president's own appointees tonight criticizing the federal government's massive Wall Street bailout. As we reported, that bailout will cost taxpayers as much as $2 trillion. Sheila Bair (ph), who is the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the FDIC says she's frustrated that this bailout does more to help banks than homeowners. Louise Schiavone reports from Washington.



LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush- appointed chairman of the FDIC suggests that so far homeowners in distress are the odd man out as the Treasury Department plots a strategy for a $700 billion financial rescue. Sheila Bair (ph) tells "The Wall Street Journal" quote, "We're attacking it at the institution level as opposed to the borrower level and it's the borrowers defaulting. That is what's causing the distress at the institution level. So why not tackle the borrower problem?", end quote. Of concern, the status of half a million homes in foreclosure right now and another four million in delinquency.

ROBERT MANNING, ROCHESTER INST. TECH.: We cannot stabilize this economy and put together an industrial policy to get us out of this recession until we address the housing issue. Once we address the housing issue, we can begin to be realistic about what the needs of banks are and what the needs of people are.

SCHIAVONE: Americans want to know why the first wave of relief flew out to the nation's big banks with little effort so far to help rework failing mortgages.

SEN. ROBERT CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It troubles me that the Treasury Department most recently has talked about committing $250 billion to a new effort that has arisen to provide help for banks without modifying a single loan.

SCHIAVONE: The Treasury Department tells CNN quote, "We have been hard at work on several fronts to reduce foreclosures for well over a year." Citing a few examples including Hope Now, a federal outreach program to help homeowners in financial distress, which according to the Treasury spokesman has resulted in 2.3 million foreclosures being avoided.


SCHIAVONE: But, Lou, the epicenter of the crisis lies in troubled assets, much of which are rooted in mortgages that homeowners cannot pay. CNN has learned from a source at Treasury and elsewhere that within the coming days, not weeks, they are poised to appoint potentially a dozen asset managers whose job it will be to weave through these so-called toxic assets and determine how the rest of the bailout money might be applied -- Lou.

DOBBS: And unfortunately, again at the institutional level this is a highly experimental program being embarked upon by the Treasury Department with, of course, the authorization of Congress and both political parties. I've got to say right now the chairman of the FDIC, Sheila Bair (ph), I commend her for her courage.

I think she's exactly right and the shame is that no one in Congress, no one in this administration has the sense to listen to her. And this is something that I've been calling for, for a year. It's called trickle up economics and it would solve much of the problem certainly in the housing crisis that we are suffering through right now.

Sheila Bair (ph), good for you for having the guts and the character to speak up. We need more people just like you in government. Louise, thank you very much -- Louise Schiavone.

Venezuela's socialist president -- I think he's a socialist -- Hugo Chavez today spoke out about the Wall Street bailout and President Bush. The rather anti-American Chavez ridiculed President Bush and he said quote, "Bush is to the left of me now. Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks."

This, of course, isn't the first time that Chavez has, if you will, insulted or tweaked President Bush over the past years. Chavez has called the president variously a devil and a donkey, now, comes comrade.

Up next here, the most spirited presidential debate so far and final one they had to do it on the final one and some indications that the race is now tightening. I'll be joined by three of the best political analysts next and troubling evidence that e-voting can cause chaos in some states on Election Day. That special report upcoming. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The FBI is now investigating ACORN to determine whether this left-wing activist group with ties to Senator Obama promoted voter registration fraud across the country. Government officials tell CNN that the FBI is now looking at state investigations of ACORN to see whether there is a basis for a federal criminal investigation. ACORN tonight says it hasn't been contacted by any federal law enforcement agencies and it says quote, "We're 110 percent confident that any legitimate review of ACORN by any law enforcement entity will determine that the organization has conducted itself properly."

Other allegations of election fraud however tonight all across the country.

As Bill Tucker reports, thousands of convicted felons who are ineligible to vote have somehow found their way on to voter roles.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Washington State, convicted felons can vote, but only after they completed their sentence and been declared eligible by the court. Yet a recent investigative report by KRO-TV uncovered tens of thousands of ineligible felons on voter registration roles. Many of whom have voted in past elections and an investigation by Florida's "Sun-Sentinel" newspaper found much the same in Florida. Lawyers for the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation say the voter registration process is full of holes that create the possibility of fraud and undermines confidence in the system.

JONATHAN BECHTLE, EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION: If you end up with an election like some we've had here in Washington and other states, as well, where it was a very, very narrow margin of victory, few hundred votes, say, but afterwards it was found out that there were thousands of illegal votes cast, that really, really damages the confidence of the public in the elections.

TUCKER: Similar concerns were raised in New York State when former Governor Eliot Spitzer wanted to grant drivers licenses to illegal aliens which may have enabled them to vote under Motor Voter laws.

The investigation of voter registration activities of the citizens of the group ACORN exposes another vulnerability. One voter expert says the answer is to have the government register voters and get rid of outside parties.

RICHARD HASEN, ELECTION LAW EXPERT: If you look at the way most mature democracies handle their election, the government conducts voter registration. I have long supported universal voter registration conducted by the government. But everybody who wants to register would be registers through the government.

TUCKER: However, Hansen (ph) admits such an idea would probably never get past Congress, even though the Constitution permits it.


TUCKER (on camera): Now the idea of a national voter I.D. card has proven to be hard sell in the past with critics portraying it of yet another way for Big Brother to be watching you, Lou.

DOBBS: All right. Bill Tucker. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

TUCKER: Ohio's election chief is taking the legal battle over voter fraud investigations to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat to set up a new system to verify thousands and thousands of new voter registrations in Ohio. Brunner must hand over 288 election boards a list of new voters whose information does not match motor vehicle records or Social Security records.

Republican leaders say that this would prevent election fraud and the Sixth Circuit Court agreeing with the Republican Party in Ohio. Brunner, a Democrat, estimates 200,000 of these new voter names don't match government database records.

Election Day is now more than 300 days away and electronic voting still posing a threat to the outcome. In fact, there is disturbing new evidence that some states aren't prepared to handle electronic voting problems come Election Day. Kitty Pilgrim with our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is America ready to vote? A new report raises deep concerns about voting problems on Election Day. Problems this broadcast has been reporting on for years!

The report put together by three voter groups took a look at recent primaries in places like Ohio where votes in at least 11 counties were dropped in the March primary. August 26th primary in Palm Beach County, Florida, several votes disappeared during a recount and then reappeared on a second and third recount flipping the outcome to a different winner each time. September 9th primary in Washington, DC, three recounts, three different totals.

SUSANNAH GOODMAN, COMMON CAUSE: We are very concerned because basically, the premise of this report is that machines fail. We know they fail and do they have the back-up procedures and checks and balances in place to make sure that no votes are lost when that happens?

PILGRIM: According to the report, half of the states in the country use voting machines, but eight states have no requirement for emergency paper ballots as a backup. Ten states don't have good crosschecks to make sure every vote is counted or counted only once. Twenty eight states don't have adequate audit procedures to make sure the votes are counted. LARRY BORDEN, NYU BRENNAN CENTER: The truth of the matter is, look, most people have other obligations on Election Day. They have to work, maybe they have to take care of kids. They don't have four hours to spend waiting in line to go vote. So, when there are those long lines that result from machines breaking down, we can break out the paper ballots.

PILGRIM: But unfortunately many states are not stepping up to put in paper ballots as back-ups.


PILGRIM (voice-over): The sad fact is states have been trying to change voting systems since the botched presidential election in 2001 and the conclusion is there still could be massive, massive problems with this presidential election, Lou.

DOBBS: Extraordinary. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

The Secret Service tonight says allegations that you heard Senator Obama refer to last night saying that Senator Obama was threatened during a Sarah Palin rally are simply unfounded. The secret service investigated a claim that someone at Tuesday's Scranton, Pennsylvania, rally yelled kill him when Obama's name was mentioned by a local congressional candidate. The agent in charge of a Scranton office said agents could not find no one to substantiate the claim and none of the agents certainly could.

The allegation first appeared in the "Scranton Times-Tribune" the national main stream media jumped on the story and reported the claim. The "Times-Tribune" says it stands by its story. There are, as I repeat, no witnesses to corroborate it.

Up next, the candidates making their final push towards Election Day. Is there anything out there that could change the game?

And Democratic Congressman John Murtha, he calls his constituents racist, but he's sorry. Three of the country's top political minds join me here next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Well, Senator Joe Biden said last month said Franklin Roosevelt addressed Americans on television during the 1929 stock market crash apparently has trouble counting. At a rally in Athens, Ohio, yesterday Senator Biden blasted senator McCain's economic plan and he, of course, praised Senator Obama's. Senator Biden had this to say about his running mate's priorities.


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number one job facing the middle class and it happens to be, as Barack says, the three-letter word. Jobs. J-O-B-S. Jobs.


DOBBS: Well, just to make sure the count's correct, jobs is a four-letter word, Senator Biden. Biden's gaffe and apparently the national media is pretty well used to that, it may be a topic when he appears on "Tonight Show" this evening but republicans are still the favorite target of those comedians.

According to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, late-night talk show hosts are seven times more likely to make jokes about Republicans than Democrats. That's seven to one.

Senator McCain appears on the "Late Show with David Letterman" tonight and first appearance since he bowed out of an appearance last month. Well, joining me now, three of the best political analysts all CNN contributors, Republican strategist Ed Rollins who served as White House political director under President Reagan and he was also Mike Huckabee's campaign chairman, Pulitzer prize winning columnist for the "New York Daily News" Michael Goodwin and Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, gentlemen, thanks for being here. All right, hank, who won?


DOBBS: Did I say Democratic strategist?

SHEINKOPF: You did. I think Obama won, but not because I'm a Democratic strategist. What people remember is the close. The close of the statement is what worked. He tied it together very nicely. McCain looked fidgety and not in control the last half hour of that debate and he gave the economic arguments away.

DOBBS: Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I thought it was McCain's best effort. I think he lost a lot of great opportunities. I don't think he won the night. I think he got outjabbed all night and he was throwing haymakers and he landed a couple and not a consistent performance all the way through.

Good start. He had tremendous opportunities on the tax issue, he didn't lay it out as effectively as he should and I don't think he scored the knockout that he needed to basically bring this thing back.

DOBBS: Michael?

GOODWIN: McCain had almost an impossible hurdle and he couldn't clear it. He had to hit like a ten-run home run to change the race. However, having said that, I do think this tax issue is alive and well now. I think McCain came out of there still with a chance and I think it's built largely around the tax issue.

DOBBS: Now, I want to say to you, I think that going after Joe the plumber, a man who said a host of really intelligent things today. As I've called for diversity of occupation in Congress, as well as race and ethnicity and religion because I'd like to see that Congress represent the people who make this country work. Here's a guy who is, he said he won't tell anybody how he votes because he thinks that's none of their business.

He said that he believes that politicians need to quit running this country down. I mean, everything this man says makes great sense. He says succinctly, directly and Biden and Obama go after this man like he is Atilla coming across our northern frontier.

SHEINKOPF: If he were from North Dakota, might be a good idea to do that. But he's not. Joe the plumber is from Ohio, where a lot of people think like Joe the plumber and act like Joe the plumber. Me as a blue collar kid growing up, I knew a lot of Joe the plumbers East Coast style. People who grow up in that area are very loyal to Joe the plumber.

Don't hurt him, because if you hurt him, you're going to start the see the soft underbelly that you got of white, blue collar people starting to get nuts.

DOBBS: This is, this elitism surfacing. I'm not suggesting that McCain is an elitist or Obama is by himself. But this stuff keeps manifesting itself in the Obama campaign! I don't get it!

GOODWIN: Two interesting sort of lines that Obama used in that clip with Joe the plumber. One, just three percent from 36 to 39. What it was under Bill Clinton, just three percent. I'm going to raise your taxes just three percent and the other one is, I want to, of course, spread the wealth around. Part of that is giving tax credits to people who don't pay income taxes, which is another word for that. It's welfare. So, he wants to take money from Joe the plumber and give it. Joe's got an issue and I think McCain has an issue.

ROLLINS: He also talks about raising Social Security tax for small business men that's a big chunk of money. It's a big chunk of money.

DOBBS: It's a big chunk money for everybody.

ROLLINS: The biggest tax that most ordinary working people pay and extend that out and if you hit $250,000, which a lot of small business do. You have to pay both halves of it.

DOBBS: How does anybody justify raising taxes on working people in this country, how does anybody justify raising taxes when this government has just put forward $.2 trillion to bailout Wall Street institutions and the buddies of Hank Paulson? We're going to be talking about that when we come back with our panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, NO BIAS, NO BULL WITH CAMPBELL BROWN. Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou. Can you believe this? I know you've been talking about it. Amid all the outrage over the ritzy junkets for some of its employees, tonight, AIG asking for yet another helping of its bailout money.

We're going to have the story, NO BIAS, NO BULL. Also, the star of the presidential debate, Joe the Plumber, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, dispensing all sorts of wit and wisdom. Plus, the surprising reaction to women that we brought together for a focus group had to last night's debate. Coming up in just a few minutes. Lou?

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Campbell. Look forward to it, thank you.

Back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodman, Hank Shienkopf. Let's turn to this issue of what is a narrowing race. The Gallup poll, traditional poll, showing over a three-day tracking period of the likely voters saying now 49-47, should Obama be nervous suddenly?

SHEINKOPF: He should be nervous every day he wakes up because this could close. Likely? Probably not. The anger over economics is overwhelming and that is what's driving people toward Democrats. Expect them to do very well here.

GOODWIN: I think McCain is alive, so he's got a chance. I think there are two fundamentally basic issues. Number one is the tax that we've been talking about. The other is Sheila Bair saying today, head of the FDIC which you reported earlier, that the government should use some of the bailout money for individual home-owners, which is, of course, the point that McCain made belatedly in that whole debate. Those two things are populist messages. You combine them, with a good appearance, you could create a groundswell coming down the stretch.

DOBBS: I want to say they're not only populist messages, they are also intelligent economic policies, they are humane policies, they are equitable policies and it beats the living dickens out of 300 million Americans supporting a bunch of tycoons on Wall Street who have been BSing this country for years.

ROLLINS: All the dynamics -- money, get out the vote intensity, all the polls indicate Obama should win. I think if McCain takes this tax issue, if he takes -- if he's on the side of working people and as much as this issue has hurt him, the economic issue, think this could become a plus and help him close in some of these key states.

SHEINKOPF: The problem is he changes the message every two minutes. This guy can't stay on the message.

DOBBS: If this two minutes it's been fairly consistent. I was just thinking, Joe the plumber becomes a poster boy for this campaign, if you will, and I don't mean that in any derogatory way, poster boy, I'm talking about if he becomes an emblem, a symbol, which he is right now for the McCain campaign, that could be extraordinarily powerful.

But again, going back to the idea that $2 trillion spent to bail out a bunch of folks on Wall Street, which is the way that it's perceived, it's not entirely $2 trillion to those folks, it's only about $700 billion to those folks, that the idea that anyone would be talking about raising taxes in the midst of this profligate spending, I mean, we can't -- you know, at one point, John McCain last night referred to tax and spend Democrats, it's a joke. They're spending sums of money that are incomprehensible here. Why should a working man or woman even have to think about taxes?

SHEINKOPF: You could do some great ads with that I mean, you could say Barack Obama's plan, getting the rich guys on Wall Street will create a problem with trillions of dollars, raise taxes to pay for it so they can do it again.

DOBBS: The problem with this is that those two senators running for president approved this ignorant bailout.

ROLLINS: A gentleman went up to Ronald Reagan in 19484 and said, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your tax cut. Mr. Reagan said I'm glad it benefited you. He said it didn't benefit me. I've never been hired by poor people. I'm hired by working people who make money and you've given them more money. That's what the economy was driven by at that's the explanation. That's why you can't raise taxes today.

GOODWIN: You would think Obama knows that FDR was one of those who really wanted to cut taxes. Democrats, including Al Smith, who actually wanted to raise taxes during the depression. FDR said, what are you crazy? We have to inflate the economy. Traditionally, Democrats don't raise taxes in a recession. Obama is out of step with that.

DOBBS: Here's the other issue, too, and that's the spread the wealth around, because this goes to social engineering through the tax system. Even -- even Democrats have a real problem with that. And that looks like it's been hung on Obama here. How big a problem is that or is it a problem at all for him?

SHEINKOPF: It's only a problem if McCain makes it a problem, and thus far John McCain has not been very good at making problems for Barack Obama. Barack Obama has created his own problems.

GOODWIN: I think it's telling to the point last night, in the first go-round in the debate on that question, McCain missed that line. He didn't say that Obama said spread the wealth around. He had to come back to it. He missed the softball right down the middle. That's the McCain not a very good candidate moment.

ROLLINS: You need to make this very simple, and what it is is forget judges, forget school prayer, forget abortion. Talk about jobs and talk about the economy and talk about no taxes and talk about Democrats are going to go back to big spending programs and they're going to tax the daylights out of all Americans.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much, Ed, Michael, Hank, thank you gentlemen.

And a reminder to vote in our poll tonight, who do you believe won the debate last night? Senator Obama, Senator McCain, or my personal favorite, Joe the plumber, cast your vote on

Up next, the presidential candidates talking more about the economy than two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'll be talking about that with General David Grange. Next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Presidential candidates are talking very little about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as you've noticed. Violence in Iraq has declined sharply as a result of the surge strategy. The fighting, however, in Afghanistan has escalated. Joining me now, General David Grange, a non-paid board member of a security company that does have some Pentagon contracts. We're obliged to say that. General, great to have you with us.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET): Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, because it is so strange not to hear a discussion from a campaign trail of these two candidates about two critically important wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Does that have an influence on the morale of our men fighting and our women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan?

GRANGE: Absolutely. And I'm sure they appreciate, all troops appreciate that you're doing that tonight, because they seem to have forgotten we are at war. It does affect the economy. It does affect the attitudes of the American people. It's very important that we discuss this. It's a national issue.

DOBBS: General Petraeus is launching a commander's review of the situation. What is the purpose? What do you expect the result to be?

GRANGE: I think the result will be a regional approach, though specificity in each of these war zones, but really to modify the existent strategy to apply, I think, effects at the local level, at the village level with not just the military but all elements of power use what they call a whole-nation approach that's for profit, nonprofit and governmental entities in order to take this mission on.

DOBBS: And let's go to the issue of withdrawal from Iraq, withdrawal of our forces. How soon? -- if you can give us your estimation. How soon, how significant a level of withdrawal can we expect?

GRANGE: I think the current administration is not going to allow much withdrawal -- until after the change of guard in the White House. But then I think it's going to be tremendous pressure to come out of Iraq and what's key here is to maintain a momentum of success some economy afford solution that makes sense to sustain the gains made so far so it's not done in vain.

DOBBS: And in Afghanistan?

Grange: Afghanistan, they're going to have to do a surge. And its going to have to be a more than a military or it's not going to work.

DOBBS: All right. General David Grange -- as always, good to have you with us.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Tonight's poll results: Fifty-one percent of you said Senator Obama won the debate last night. Twenty nine percent say you believe Senator McCain won the debate. Twenty percent said Joe the Plumber won. I'm sticking with Joe the Plumber.

Time now for some for some of your thoughts.

Glen in Virginia said: "Lou, how do you make an educated decision on who to vote for president when all you have to choose from is these two? God help us. We're going to need it."

Roberta in Pennsylvania: "With all the worries about voter fraud, the American people should demand that we bring in international election monitors."

And Larry in Norman, KS: "Where do we- where do we get there clowns in Washington? We really appreciate your journalism, not just what sells, but what is truth. Thank you so much for your hard work." Thank you. We try -- and we love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at

We thank you for being with us tonight and please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thank you for watching. Good night from New York. Campbell Brown "NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts right now -- Campbell?

BROWN: Thanks, Lou.