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American Morning

Early Voting Under Way in North Carolina; FBI ACORN and Voter Registration Fraud Claims; Recession and the Everyday Joe

Aired October 17, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Crossing the top of the hour and here are this morning's top stories.
The Dow futures pointing to a lower opening after the Dow roared back into the black yesterday. The last-minute rally pushing the Dow up over 400 points. Overseas, the markets are mixed today. Hong Kong closed down 4 percent, but Japan was up nearly 3 percent. And in Europe today, most of the indexes are in positive territory.

North Carolina, one of six remaining toss-up states, early voting under way. In nearly 400 sites, it will be open through November the 1st. There are long lines at many polling places. Some of them stretching around the block. The state has not voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1976 but is up for grabs this year.

The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped promote voter registration fraud in at least eight states. ACORN officials say they are not aware of any federal investigation. The group has been a force registering mostly young, low income minorities. So far this year, ACORN has registered more than 1 million new voters.

Eighteen days in counting until Election Day. We've got a new CNN Poll of Polls released just a short time ago. Senator Barack Obama now leads Senator John McCain by six points nationwide, 49 percent to 43 percent. Eight percent of voters still undecided. And according to the latest CNN Electoral Map estimate, if the election was held today, Barack Obama would have enough votes to carry him to the White House. He leads John McCain 277 electoral votes to 174. 270 needed to clinch the White House. 87 votes up for grabs in those six toss-up states. Even if he wins those, McCain will -- if he wins all of them, runs the table, if you will, McCain will still have to turn one of those blue states in our map red in order to go past 270.

Well, meantime, fresh off their final debate, both men faced off again last night. This time it was just for laughs. CNN's Ed Henry joins us.

It was kind of like two gladiators putting down the swords and the shields and coming together last night for a night of comedy.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) those swords right back up but last night they traded the jabs for a little bit of jokes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): One day after John McCain and Barack Obama squared off in the final debate they shared the stage again, but this time for laughs.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all it began so long ago with the heralded arrival, a man known to Oprah Winfrey as "The One." Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him "That One."


MCCAIN: Friends, he doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me George Bush.


HENRY: Then it was Obama's turn to tweak McCain at the annual Al Smith Charity Dinner.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Recently, one of John's top advisers told "The Daily News," that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain's going to lose. So tonight, I'd like to talk about the economy.


HENRY: The political roast has been a command performance for presidential candidates for decades.

MCCAIN: I screwed up.

HENRY: Earlier McCain used a little political humor to mend fences with talk show host David Letterman. Last month he canceled an appearance to deal with the financial crisis and has gotten clobbered ever since.

MCCAIN: There's going to be kind of a sad feeling around here when the election finally takes place.

HENRY: With the race now moving to its final stage and Obama up in crucial state polls, he's urging supporters not to become complacent.

OBAMA: But for those who are getting a little cocky, I've got two words for you -- New Hampshire. I learned right here, with the help of my great friend and supporter Hillary Clinton, that you cannot let up.

HENRY: McCain, meanwhile, is still hoping to shake up the race.

MCCAIN: We're six points down. The national media, as they have several bid times before, has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes. And planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes.


HENRY: Now, Senator Obama also warned supporters yesterday that Democrats could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He said it in a joking way. People were laughing in the crowd, but it's a serious point there as well. Can't get complacent.


ROBERTS: It happened in 2000 and 2004 for them. But you know, in terms of his travel, John McCain's travel, he's in Florida. Sarah Palin's in Ohio, Indiana. He'll be in -- John McCain will be in North Carolina.

HENRY: Right. And Virginia Saturday, too.


ROBERTS: Yes. He's still defending in red states.

HENRY: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: He's got to try to pick off some of those lean Obama states. When is he going to do that?

HENRY: It seem to almost impossible for him to do that because he's defending so much turf. You're absolutely right. When you're spending so much time in Virginia. He was there at the beginning of the week. He's going to be there tomorrow in Woodbridge for a big rally as well. You're defending your own turf. You can't be playing on the other guy's turf. And that's what so hard about John McCain. You just said a moment ago, he's got to run the table in this battlegrounds. That's extremely hard.

ROBERTS: The other day we thought that Colorado might be the key state. Now it's looking like Virginia might be.

HENRY: It certainly is. Thirteen electoral votes.

ROBERTS: Ed Henry, thanks so much for that.

HENRY: Thank you.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha is at the center of a political controversy this morning after saying that racism in his state could be a problem for Barack Obama.

CNN's Brian Todd went to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to ask voters what they thought about Murtha's comments -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran.

Congressman John Murtha is certainly no stranger to controversy, and now he is really besieged over remarks that he made about his own constituents. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A lot of folks in this hard-bitten town will tell you that John Murtha has brought jobs and plenty of pride to western Pennsylvania in his 35 years in Congress. He's also now brought controversy over remarks to the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" on why he thinks Barack Obama will have a tough time winning in his district.

JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: There's no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area. When I say racist area, I mean, older people are hesitant. They're slow to seeing change, real change.

TODD: Murtha wouldn't do an interview with us but apologized in a statement. Saying, quote, "While we cannot deny that race is a factor in this election, I believe we've been able to look beyond race these past few months." In Johnstown, at the heart of this district, we asked Murtha's constituents if they thought the area was racist. In some cases, it depended on who you spoke with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The older generations, possibly. The way they were raised, the era they were raised in. The younger folks, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do agree it's racist.

TODD: Why? How so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. It's just job wise, me trying to get a job out here.

TODD: Pennsylvania's 12th district, decimated by the loss of steel and coal mining jobs, is predominantly white with a heavy senior citizen population. It went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. An aid to Murtha says his remarks reflected the fact that some of those constituents indicated to him they might vote along racial lines. But Jim White, a Johnstown official, says he doesn't believe this area is more racist than any other.

JIM WHITE, JOHNSTOWN CITY OFFICIAL: In my 30 years here, I've sensed that any more than maybe three or four times that I can look at a person and know and feel from growing up in the south that that person is just a racist.

TODD: The Murtha remarks, even more sensitive after a Sarah Palin rally in Johnstown just days earlier, when someone held up a stuffed monkey labeled Obama. Local newspaper editor Chip Minemyer said that upset many in the community.

CHIP MINEMYER, JOHNSTOWN TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT: That's not what they want to be associated with. That's not the kind of mentality they want people to think exist here, you know, in kind of a predominant fashion.


TODD: Minemyer and others still say Barack Obama will have a tough time beating John McCain in this pro-gun, anti-abortion rights district. But Jim White, that African-American city official we spoke to says he believes people here are going to vote more with their wallets than anything else.

John and Kiran back to you.

ROBERTS: Brian Todd for us this morning. Brian, thanks so much. Recession and the everyday Joe. Who's better off in a bad economy, Joe Six Pack or Joe the Plumber? We'll take a look.


CHETRY: Well, during the tough economic times, one profession continues to cash in. And it's not the only job that appears to be recession proof. There are others out there.

Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" this morning. And she broke it down for us. Because when we talk about these tough economic times and we talk about the contraction in the job market, you've got to look for things that are going to guarantee you earnings.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, you know. And Joe the Plumber now is like the most famous name in politics, right? But let's forget about the politics for a second.

CHETRY: Licensed or not.

ROMANS: That's right. Let's just forget about that. Let's talk about why plumbing is such a good job in this economy.


MCCAIN: Joe the Plumber.


ROMANS (voice-over): The plumber is more than just a political talking point.

MCCAIN: Hey, Joe, you're rich.

OBAMA: Joe the Plumber.

MCCAIN: Joe, I want to tell you...

ROMANS: Plumbers are virtually recession proof.

DAVID MADLAND, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It's certainly a pretty good job. It's expected to grow over the next 10 years. It's been -- it pays better than average. And probably most importantly about plumbing is that there's a career ladder. It's not a dead end kind of job.

ROMANS: From apprentice to plumber to small business owner. The job market is tough but the Labor Department says opportunities are good for plumbers, along with pipe layers, pipe fitters and steam fitters, and should stay that way in coming years.

Hourly pay is better than average -- more than $20 an hour. You can't export plumbing jobs to cheaper overseas labor markets and plumbing is not discretionary spending.

What else is recession proof? Almost anything in health care. Also, jobs in education and security. Not so recession proof, though, is that other Joe.


ROMANS: If Joe Six-Pack is a factory worker or works in retail, he may have already lost his job. Ditto if he's in any job related to finance. Also grim for technology as companies delay big computer upgrades.

So what's an average Joe or Jane, for that matter, to do?


ROMANS: Experts say even college graduates should consider some of the skill trades -- plumbers, electricians, miners, oil rig workers, anything related to medical equipment in a hospital because aging baby boomers and a growing population will make those jobs very in demand in coming years.

CHETRY: You also said there's a big teacher shortage out there.

ROMANS: We need about 3 million teachers. And you know, a high school teacher makes, the mean salary is like $52,000 right now. Some would say they need to be paid more. But --

CHETRY: But you get summers off.

ROMANS: That's true. That is true. That's true. But you know, an electrician makes I think $50,000. A plumber makes $47,000. You don't have to go to college. You don't have that student debt. You can go to a community college or a trade school. Locksmith is also in demand. And (INAUDIBLE) expert yesterday told me that dentists also. Now, that takes school. That's going to take a lot of pay -- a lot of money to, an investment for that pay. But dentists are also in demand.

Anything that's an essential industry like plumbing, dentistry, medical equipment -- those are the things that are positioned for the future.

CHETRY: All right. Good to know. Really, Christine, thanks.


ROBERTS: Twelve and a half minutes after the hour. Joe Biden taking a detour from the campaign trail. The Delaware senator sat down with Jay Leno last night on his way to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. The two talked about the debate, the economy, and the Iraq war. Biden also took a few jabs at Joe the Plumber just hours after we learned that Joe, turns out that he does not have a plumber's license in the State Of Ohio.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know, the neighborhood I grew up in, even the neighborhood I live in now, which is a really nice neighborhood. I don't know many plumbers are making $250,000 a year and are worried about it. We're kind of worried about, you know, Joe the Fireman, Joe the Policeman, Joe the real plumber with a license.


ROBERTS: In addition to Leno, Biden also stopped by Ellen for an appearance. I didn't see -- did he dance?

CHETRY: I don't know if he danced either. But she usually tries to get every guest to do it. So, if there's video of that, we better find it.

And still ahead, former presidential candidate Ron Paul says that both John McCain and Barack Obama have some good ideas when it comes to your money, but does he think they need to be thinking about as we head into this -- or at least try to pull ourselves out of this financial mess. He joins us live. It's 13 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: We're back with the "Most News in the Morning." And Rob Marciano keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Omar. What's the latest today?


CHETRY: Barack Obama compares John McCain to President Bush on the economy, saying that McCain wouldn't do a single thing differently. Is it true or false? Our "Truth Squad" is on the case. It's 17 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Senator Barack Obama is making some more claims this morning, linking Senator John McCain to President Bush. So, are the accusations true? Alina Cho and the "Truth Squad" on the case this morning, especially about one claim that he made.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We hear it often on the campaign trail as much as he can on the trail. Barack Obama tries to link John McCain to President Bush. So, here's the latest charge.


OBAMA: In three debates in over 20 months, John McCain still hasn't explained a single thing he would do differently from George Bush when it comes to the most important economic issues we face today, not one. CHO (voice-over): Harsh words from the Democratic nominee for president. The "Truth Squad" looked into things. We heard something from John McCain just hours earlier in Wednesday night's debate when he talked about trying to solve the housing crisis.

MCCAIN: Now, we have allocated $750 billion. Let's take 300 of that billion and go in and buy those home loan mortgages and negotiate with those people in their homes, 11 million homes or more, so that they can afford to pay the mortgage.

CHO: It's a plan McCain introduced even before this week's debate. McCain also criticized Treasury Secretary and Bush appointee Henry Paulson.

MCCAIN: We ought to put the homeowners first and I am disappointed that Secretary Paulson and others have not made that their first priority.

CHO: McCain went on to propose an across-the-board spending freeze for the federal government as well as a plan to cut the federal business tax. And that's not all. The day before the debate, McCain unveiled what he calls his pension and family security plan, which, among other things, would lower taxes for seniors who tap into their retirement accounts.

So, where did Senator Obama's charge that McCain hasn't offered one new economic idea come from? The Obama campaign was asked that very question. It cited two interviews done by McCain's supporters, one this past June and one in July.


CHO: All right. So the question again, is Barack Obama right when he says that John McCain has not explained one thing he'd do differently from President Bush on the issue of the economy? The "Truth Squad" verdict on this one is -- false.

As you just heard, McCain has mentioned several new ideas repeatedly in recent weeks, and the interviews that the Obama campaign cites to back up its charges are outdated and several months old.

Now, if you missed some of this report or you want to watch other "Truth Squad" reports, of course as always, go to our Web site, Kiran, You can have links to all of the "Truth Squad" reports over the past several months, actually, and you can do your own tally -- how many truths and how many falses each candidate has. Important stuff.

CHETRY: Absolutely. And we can continue it even after the election. We can have politicians who are...

CHO: We have a few more weeks left.

CHETRY: ...always out there making points. That's for sure. Good stuff, Alina. Thanks.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Which candidate is best for your money, John McCain or Barack Obama? A former White House hopeful says, well, there are good ideas from both men. The Ron Paul revolution rolls into the "Most News in the Morning" cherry-picking the best parts of their plans. That's straight ahead.

And credit is tight, lenders getting more picky. Gerri Willis joins us with tips on how to get your credit score higher so you can get the best rates. Twenty-two and a half minutes now after the hour.



MCCAIN: Now is not the time to raise anybody's taxes except yours. And I guarantee you, when I'm president, I'll do it.


CHETRY: And welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." That's Senator John McCain appearing on "The Late Show with David Letterman" last night talking about issue number one. And our next guest has some very strong feelings about your money and what's being done to protect it. Joining us now from Clute, Texas, Republican Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Thanks for joining us this morning, Congressman. Great to see you.


CHETRY: Last time you're with us you explained why you were against the government's bailout plan, why you were voting against it, and you didn't believe that focusing on buying these troubled assets was the smartest thing to do. Since then, they've sort of tweaked it, if you will, and now have decided to buy stakes in some U.S. banks. Do you think that's a better strategy to help heal the economy?

PAUL: Now they tweaked it up. You know, it started off as a three-page document ended up 450 pages. Instead of $700 billion, it's up to $850 billion. Reuters had a story out this morning today and they estimate it's going to cost the American taxpayer $5 trillion. So now, it's tweaking in the wrong direction, and I don't think it's going to do any good whatsoever.

CHETRY: Well, the credit markets are starting to loosen up a bit, at least from what we've seen this week. Is that a sign that maybe it is working?

PAUL: Well, maybe to some degree on the short run, but that just means that we'll have more inflation. You can't create $5 trillion out of thin air and not expect inflation. So, although the dollar may be up a little bit right now because the markets are a little calmer, this just means that in time we're going to all suffer and pay for this and we're going to pay for it with higher prices. And this is the serious problem. It's the attack on the dollar system. They're trying to save the dollar, but this system that we've had since 1971 is nonviable, and it's coming to an end. That's what this whole story is about, the end of a monetary system that we've had since 1971. And something has to give. You just can't create more money out of thin air and propping up everybody.

It's an immoral system. You're asking the poor people to bail out the rich. You're asking the innocent people to bail out the guilty. You're asking people to just totally defy the constitution because there's no place in the constitution that says that we can do these things.

And besides, economically, it's a disaster. This is going to cause a great deal of harm. It's like a drug addict taking a strong fix, and he feels better for a day or two, but believe me, we're going to kill the patient. And the patient here is the dollar system and our entire world economy. So, I would say let's get off this addiction.

CHETRY: And Congressman, have you heard anything from either of the presidential candidates about their economic plans that you think are good things that need to be implemented?

PAUL: No, not really. You know, it's tough to find out the good parts. I do think that John McCain has a better approach to the medical problem and Obama has a better approach to trying to save some money by coming home from Iraq. You know, we're spending $10 billion a month over there.

So, we could save a lot of money and that money should be spent back here. But quite frankly, how can we trust anybody? Because, you know, when it comes to the bailout, how do they differ? Both McCain and Obama came rushing back to Washington and voted for the bailout. And you know, Republicans...

CHETRY: And was approved in both Houses. I know you voted against it. But that leads me to another question. If Barack Obama does end up winning, it looks like the Democrats would really have a trifecta in Congress, both Houses and the White House. What does that mean for the American people and also for the GOP?

PAUL: Well, I mean, it's a disaster for the country and everybody because, even with all the shortcomings of John McCain, his strongest argument to be president is keep the Congress and the presidency in separate hands. The American people are going to be a lot better off if they're fighting a little bit instead of just having no restraints whatsoever. And that's a poor reason to argue for McCain.

CHETRY: I know what you're saying. Staff members actually writing on your own Web site say that the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress and the White House this November would be a, quote, "repudiation of false conservatism of the Republican Party." How do you get back to some of those fiscally conservative ideals? PAUL: Well, it's going to be tough because you have to convince the American people that that's what we need. And everybody now is realizing in the country there's something seriously wrong with our whole financial system and our governmental system.

But the big question is does the majority of the American people believe the government can still take care of us, or should we get the government out of the way, quit spending money, balance the budget, bring our troops home, and let the American people keep the money they earn.

That means drastically reducing taxes, getting the government out of this overregulation and give up on this idea that inflation solves everybody's problems. If inflation, that is the creation of new money, could solve everybody's problems, which they're claiming right now, nobody would ever have to work again. If $5 trillion could save this economy, why work? Just print money and everybody will be happy.

So, they don't understand the idea that people have to work, people have to save. Instead of consumers spending more money, the market is saying you should back off, spend less money, and save money. But everybody says, oh no, don't save money. You're supposed to go out there and spend money.

CHETRY: Right.

PAUL: But the people who have saved in the last five years have money in the bank, and cash is good right now. Now they're going to buy up the bargains. They're going to get a good deal on a house. Prices on houses should come down. We shouldn't make it artificially high. We shouldn't try to stimulate housing. There are too many houses. We should let the market make these decision.

It's arrogant for the politicians and the bureaucrats to believe they can plan the economy and sort this all out. We've been doing it for all these years, and the monetary system is so confusing and so corrupt, that the sooner we get back to believing in ourselves, believing in freedom, believing in sound money, believing in the constitution, we're going to solve these problems.

But right now there's a fight going on in this country. Our numbers are growing. We're not the majority, but our numbers are growing. And as this situation deteriorates, more people are going to say, hey, maybe it's right. Maybe limited government and freedom works. Maybe freedom is popular, and maybe freedom really works and this idea that we depend on government for all these programs is an illusion.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to have to leave it there. But as always, sometimes the voice in the wilderness but you know, you certainly bring up some good points this morning.

Representative Ron Paul, always great to have you on the show. Thanks.

PAUL: Thank you. ROBERTS: He's a good friend of the show too.

Thirty-one and a half minutes after the hour. Here are this morning's top stories.

Voters are going to the polls in North Carolina. One of just six battleground states still up for grabs. Early voting started yesterday, and hundreds of people lined up outside polling centers. In North Carolina, early voting continues all the way through November the 1st, the state has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years. But it's up for grabs this year.

Charges could soon be filed in a sweeping investigation of California's banks and subprime lenders. Prosecutors are looking into whether mortgage fraud and other white collar crimes were committed. A federal prosecutor told the "Associated Press" that charges could come in the near future against the people who made "millions of dollars preying on unsuspecting people."

And New Jersey's mandate. The children get a flu shot in order to attend preschool or daycare, giving hundreds of parents reasons to protest outside the state house. Many of them calling for a bill that allows parents to opt out of the mandatory vaccinations. New Jersey is the first state in the nation to require flu shots for preschoolers.

18 days now until the election and a look at how the electoral college map shapes up right now. According to CNN's estimate, if the polls hold true, Barack Obama has enough votes to clinch the presidency of 277 to John McCain's 174. Obama will be in Virginia today. A state that's leaning in his favor after twice voting for President Bush.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us know from Roanoke, Virginia, which in 2004 was a little tiny island of blue in an enormous sea of red.

Good morning, Suzanne. How is Senator Obama spending these final days before the election?


Well, Barack Obama and his team quite confident that perhaps in these final weeks they can turn some of those red states blue, and Virginia is one of those examples. That's why he is here today. But they are also looking at those important independent voters and that's why he was in New Hampshire yesterday. That is where 44 percent of the electorate is independent.


MALVEAUX (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), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I listened to you, and in the process, I found my own voice.

MALVEAUX: New Hampshire gave Clinton the comeback she needed to revive her campaign, just like her husband's second place finish here in 1992.


MALVEAUX: The state known for its fiercely independent voters also saved John McCain's campaign in 2000 against George W. Bush. And put him ahead of the Republican pack this primary season. At an apple orchard in Londonderry, Obama spoke directly to them.

OBAMA: New Hampshire, it is time -- it's time to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street before Main Street. But ended up hurting both.

MALVEAUX: Obama also seized on pivotal moments from his final debate with McCain.

MCCAIN: My old buddy Joe. Joe the plumber. People like 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.

ANNOUNCER: You may not be George Bush but -

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


MALVEAUX: John, expect to hear Barack Obama talk about some of those things again, familiar themes, the economic crisis and his own plan trying to compare John McCain to George Bush. This is his seventh visit here to Virginia since the primary. It's his first visit to Roanoke of either candidate. That is significant because obviously a socially conservative area, but they believe they have enough confidence to believe that they can win over some of those Republicans and those independents, John.

ROBERTS: Who would have thought, but it looks like Virginia is going to be the big battleground in this election.

Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning --

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Susan Malveaux for us in Roanoke. Thanks so much for that. We'll see you again soon.

CHETRY: It's a town full of average Joes getting the star treatment this year. Candidates hitting it early and often. We're going to take you to this year's "it" town in Scranton, Pennsylvania. 36 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY: You know, lenders are not making it tougher for people to get loans with many requiring high credit scores just to qualify. So here to tell us about the changes and what you can do to boost your score is CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis.

You know, we were talking about this in the NEWSROOM with our researcher, and she was saying, this has probably changed from when you last decided to take out a loan.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Holy cow, has it changed. Well let's talk first, just a second. You might have heard GMAC recently upped its credit standards for people who are trying to get auto loans. They're the major lending arm for GM. They want a 700 credit score to get an auto loan.

But let's take a look at what you need now to get the best terms on a mortgage loan. That's right. It's gone from 720-750 to 750-780 today. That's just two years, 24 months. Keep in mind here that a couple of years ago you get a subprime loan with a score of 620. Now 60 percent of us have scores that are less than 750. So most of us are going to have to do a little work here, Kiran, to get what we need.

CHETRY: How do you I guess clean up your credit score?

WILLIS: Well, there are lots of things to consider. The most important thing to your credit score is your payment history. It's 35 percent of your score. So a big proportion of your score depends on how well you're paying your bills. Job number one here, you've got to make sure that you pay everything on time. Obviously, not 30-days late, but a 90-day late on a bill, you're really cruising for a bruising. You may not be able to get a loan. So make sure you're paying everything on time.

CHETRY: And how long until that drops off your credit? WILLIS: It takes a long time darn time. A lot of stuff stays on six or seven years. Now let's talk about the credit mix for just a second. Because when they're looking at your credit score, trying to decide what your credit score should be, it's not just your credit cards that's matter. They want to see if you have different kinds of debt. So if you have a mortgage that you can afford, that helps. Installment debt like an auto loan, that helps. You want a mix of credit, not just one flavor of credit. And finally, credit applications.

You know, folks with the best credit scores, they're not applying for credit. They're not you know in a department store applying for a credit card as they're buying their fancy winter coat. That just doesn't happen. So you want to make sure you limit your credit applications at all times. But this is your financial DNA. These credit scores. You've got to keep these numbers high because bankers are stingier than ever when it comes to handing these things out.

CHETRY: And where do you go quickly to find it again?

WILLIS: FICO. Go to the FICO Web site, you can get it there. Remember, this isn't your credit report. This is your credit score. So it's really your financial DNA. It's the one number you want to know. Determines how much you're charged for borrowing. Also it has a great deal to do with whether you get hired or not, what you pay for insurance. So a really important consumer number.

CHETRY: Gerri Willis, thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you. When you're making strange faces, well, that's a job for Jeanne Moos. The facial expression face-off. 41 1/2 minutes after the hour.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you talk to Democrats and all they talk about are these -






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the other side they just see these you know --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Latte-drinking.




ROBERTS: That's a clip from the new political documentary titled "Split: The Divided America," the nonpartisan film by writer Kelly Nyks is part road movie, part political investigation. Nyks crisscrossed the country to find out the truth about our red-blue political divide and he's here now to explain more about it.

Great to see you. I was really impressed with this film. This answered a lot of questions that I had. And it's amazing you, a political neophyte, went out there and found these information out.


ROBERTS: How did you do it?

NYKS: I think that has primarily to do with the fact that because we have such an incredibly polarized electorate, because such an incredible partisan gridlock, that even though we found it -- and I found so many people coast to coast saying, I found it almost impossible to talk politics with either family or friends or colleagues.

But even though we're in this situation where it doesn't seem like we can discuss politics, that underlying this, there really is this desire to engage with our fellow citizen in the type of discourse to be able to solve the problems that we have today because the problems are so significant.

ROBERTS: A lot of times though it seems that they just want to beat each other over the head. You say in the film and I mean you illuminate this issue very well that we are divided as a nation literally on every issue, economy, morality, race. You call it political tribalism.

NYKS: Yes, I mean, what we've seen now and developed over the last, let's say, 20, 30 years is the fact that politics has become so incredibly partisan and has allowed basically those types of leaders to move to D.C., and you end up in this kind of polarized gridlock. And unfortunately, that then translates to the rest of the country because those are our political leaders. I mean, they are the ones who kind of give us the example of how to engage in dialogue, and that's also been reflected in, for example, in the media and the way it's become kind of segmented so it approaches those political niches so that people can get exactly what it is they want. ROBERTS: You say in the film that they use fear as a motivator above bread and butter issues. To the point that you say that people can't talk about politics. Again, that's something that you illuminate very well in this film. And here's a clip from it. Take a look at what these people say about that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have some friends who are in different political parties than I am, and we have gotten to the point where we're silent as priests. We do not discuss it, period. What kind of attitude is that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had asked him a couple questions, and he had finally got to the point where he said to me, I can't even talk about this. It just makes me so angry. We have to change the subject right now.


ROBERTS: We notice that here at CNN. We get hundreds and hundreds of e-mails everyday.

NYKS: Sure.

ROBERTS: And people are just so angry out there that it looks like they just can't talk to each other. Maybe they can yell at each other, but they certainly can't discuss politics.

NYKS: Now, which is unfortunate. I mean, if you look at some of the problems that we're facing, I mean right now, the headlines are obviously plastered with the economic crisis. I mean, the fact that we are now looking at almost $2.5 trillion is what they're looking at potentially of what the bailout can cost. That's not going to come out of a vacuum. I mean you just had Ron Paul on, and it's very true. I mean, that's really going to have really dire consequences.

The fact that we can't engage in the type of civil discourse that in essence the founding fathers predicated this democracy on is it's not just a problem, but it's tragic for what it is that we need to be able to do to overcome the crises that we're facing.

ROBERTS: Well, I tell you it's a fascinating documentary, and you really lay out these issues so clearly, very easy to understand. And I don't know if there's hope for the future, but perhaps there is.

Kelly Nyks, it's great to see you this morning.

NYKS: Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: Thanks for coming by.

NYKS: Absolutely.


CHETRY: Well, CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead.

Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Kiran.

Here is a check of what we're working on in the NEWSROOM. Markets on our mind, of course. Globally mixed though today. Will Wall Street have whiplash again this morning?

John McCain wants you to have a $5,000 health insurance tax credit. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains if you actually get your money's worth.

And can't get to the gym because of your job? Well one office brings the treadmills to work. We get started at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Kiran.

CHETRY: Give us one more thing to do.

COLLINS: Exactly, right. They only go two miles an hour, though. So, I don't know.

CHETRY: That's about our speed.

COLLINS: Exactly.

CHETRY: Heidi, thanks.

COLLINS: You bet.


ROBERTS (voice-over): The working class town in the national spotlight.


ROBERTS: The working class town in the national spotlight.

BIDEN: Get up Scranton! Get up!

ROBERTS: Why Scranton, Pennsylvania, is key to making it to the White House this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scranton, Pennsylvania, is Main Street, U.S.A.

ROBERTS: You're watching "the most news in the morning."



CHETRY: Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton, U.S.A.. It's a little mining town in the northeastern part of the state, and it's really become the talk of the 2008 election from god and guns to candidates who have roots there. So how are people there handling all the fame? Our Lola Ogunnaike went to find out.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

H. CLINTON: Here in Scranton, people are built tough.

BIDEN: Get up, Scranton! Get up!

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's been a must stop on the campaign trail, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, is loving the attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's time to enjoy the spotlight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like to be on the map.

OGUNNAIKE: At the diner, the patrons are as flavorful as the food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every Wednesday they have stuffed cabbage, and it is to die for.

OGUNNAIKE: Now, that is a meal.

But the people here say that's not the reason the candidates just keep on coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what the candidates are all talking about Main Street. This, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is Main Street, U.S.A.

OGUNNAIKE: And it's not just the election that's putting Scranton on the map. It's also popping up in pop culture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York is like Scranton on acid.

OGUNNAIKE: The hit "The Office" is about a fictional paper company based in this Pennsylvania town. In this real life paper company, the office employees can't get enough of the show.

BOB COHEN, PAPER MAGIC CORP.: We use that show as a parody of how what not to do in a real office.

OGUNNAIKE: Joe Biden may call Scranton home, but "Saturday Night Live's" Biden impersonator isn't as kind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, IMPERSONATING JOE BIDEN: It's a hell hole. An absolute jerk water of a town. You couldn't stand to spend a weekend in there.

OGUNNAIKE: Did you wince? MAYOR CHRIS DOHERTY, SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not a fan of "Saturday Night Live." I know it was an exaggeration. And I also know this. If you come here, I can show you that it's a great place.

OGUNNAIKE: Scranton's mayor says all the attention has brought media from around the world to his doorstep. Scranton is the girl that everyone wants to date now.

DOHERTY: That's a good thing. It's always good to be pursued.

OGUNNAIKE: He says Scranton is making a comeback, bringing new business to Main Street. Now when I told people that I was coming to Scranton, they were like oh, god.


OGUNNAIKE: What are you going there for?

PILOSI: It still has a bit of that. Again, it's from the way it used to be. But it is becoming a lot more progressive.

OGUNNAIKE: But once the election is done and the attention fades, what happens next?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When everything is all done, the hoop-la's over with, we're still going to be Scranton, Pennsylvania.


CHETRY: So there you have it. It seems like Scranton is not the butt of jokes making a comeback. My mom was from a town so small that it makes Scranton look huge -- Palmerton, Pennsylvania.

OGUNNAIKE: You know --

CHETRY: How about it? Go, Scranton.

OGUNNAIKE: You know, I thought it was going to be, you know, a little small, nowhere town, but it is really making a comeback. The mayor is pumping $500 million into the town. He's really committed to revitalizing that town. And Scranton may be the place to be in a few years.

CHETRY: How about it? It's wondered why you're wearing this around the news room.

OGUNNAIKE: I brought this for you. "I heart Scranton" for Kiran Chetry. There you go. Rock that girl this weekend. You wear it with pride. Scranton rules.

CHETRY: Lola, thanks.

The tale of two faces.


MCCAIN: Back on track.


CHETRY: You can tell a lot about a man from his smile. Jeanne Moos dissects the last debate in the race for president and how the split screen may have told the most interesting story of the night.


OBAMA: And what I have said --


CHETRY: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Well, body language with say more than actual language when it comes to a presidential debate.

CNN's Jeanne Moos now on what the candidates' faces reveal during their final face-off.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bless the split screen. For letting us see the cornucopia of expressions.

OBAMA: And what I have said --

MOOS: If you think of their faces as battlegrounds, the weapon of choice was the smile, flashed like a sword by Senator Obama.

MCCAIN: Back on track. To raise taxes without precondition. Has to be safe.

MOOS: Obama showed his teeth. McCain kept his sheathed.

OBAMA: And this was your plan, John. I make no apology for that. And under Senator McCain's plan, those rules would be stripped away.

MOOS: The experts say the seated format was an improvement over the last debate for Senator McCain.

T.J. WALKER, MEDIA TRAINER: You didn't see the sort of awkward lumbering around.

MOOS: Strolling that got skewered by impersonators on "Saturday Night Live" by adding imaginary musings by Senator McCain on "The Daily Show."

AS JOHN MCCAIN: What's going on over here? How are you folks doing? Has anybody seen my dog? Mr. Puddles.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": So much to talk about tonight. I think we have -

MOOS: Safely seated at Wednesday's debate, Senator McCain kept saying about Americans -

MCCAIN: They're angry. And they're angry. And they're angry.

MOOS: But in that split screen, it was McCain who seemed like a volcano ready to erupt.

OBAMA: ... the culture in Washington that's been taking place for too long.

MOOS (on-camera): And though he never did explode, it reminded us of our favorite Chilean performance artist, a little person by the name of La Peqeuna doing an impression of Hillary Clinton turning into the Hulk after losing to Obama. No growling from Senator Obama, playing it placid, smile after smile.

MCCAIN: 860 sought.

MOOS: And when the debate ended and the candidate might feel he can relax, Senator McCain jockeying to get to the moderator made a funny face. There it was on every blog, Senator McCain holding his tongue out. The moral of the story --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: smile though your heart is aching smile even though it's breaking.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: 18 more days to go.

CHETRY: That's right. We'll be analyzing a lot more than just their facial expressions.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. Have a great weekend. We will see you back here again on Monday.

CHETRY: That's right.

Right now it's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.