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American Morning

Candidates Barnstorming the Battleground States; Obama Tells Supporters Race is not Over; Homeowners Face Underwater Loans; Early Voting Trends: How the Election is Going; Race to the Finish: Challenges for Candidates

Aired October 31, 2008 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Four days and counting.


ROBERTS: The race for the White House becomes a sprint.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to carry Ohio and we're going to win the presidency.

ROBERTS: Can McCain pull ahead? Will Obama hold the line?

OBAMA: Don't believe for a second this election is over.

ROBERTS: The raw numbers and raw emotions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to the wire.

ROBERTS: With one weekend to go on the "Most Politics in the Morning."


ROBERTS: And good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Friday, the 31st of October. It's Halloween.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: It sure is, John. We rented (ph) pumpkins. We're all ready for the occasion here on AMERICAN MORNING.

We have some good news to start off this Halloween morning. More good news at the pump, in fact. AAA reporting the national average of unleaded regular is now 2.50 a gallon. Someone on our show predicted this a while back. I'm trying to remember who. Down now four cents from yesterday's gas price. Gas now declining for 44 straight days and it's at lows we have not seen for at least a year and a half.

World financial markets trading lower overnight. Japan's Nikkei index down five percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng off two and a half percent. And in London, the FTSE is trading in negative territory. The Dow futures also point to a lower opening on Wall Street.

Well, another sign of security improvements in Iraq. October could be the first month in which no U.S. service members have died in combat in Baghdad. As of yesterday, the Pentagon reported 13 U.S. troops were killed in combat and non-combat situations in the rest of the country. And just this week, the 13th Iraqi province took full control of its own security. Only Baghdad and four volatile provinces are still under U.S. command -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, to the "Most Politics in the Morning" now and an early Halloween treat for Barack Obama.

The latest CNN poll of polls shows the senator back up to a seven-point lead over John McCain. That's up two points from a poll of polls that we had out yesterday afternoon. And as the presidential race now turns into a sprint, the finish line just four days away, Obama is maintaining his edge in those key battleground states.

In Minnesota, Obama leads McCain now by 13 points. Also ahead in Wisconsin, 53 to McCain's 41 percent. In Indiana, John McCain has a one point advantage but in Pennsylvania, Obama is now up by 11.

Meantime, out on the trail, the candidates continue to target voters by talking up issue number one, the economy.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need these false choices that we've been hearing about out in Washington for 20, 30 years. The choice in this election is between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's better whether you believe we should only reward wealth or whether we should also reward work. And the work has to be created.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth. I'm running to create more wealth.


Senator Obama is running to punish the successful. I'm running to make everyone successful.



ROBERTS: Today John McCain spends his second full day in Ohio.

CNN's Dana Bash is live for us in Youngstown this morning. Is it going to be all about the economy today, Dana, because that where he seems to finally be getting a little bit of traction here?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been for the most part about the economy. There's no question. The big picture, John, what he's trying to do basically, at this point, is to convince voters that he has momentum. And he's trying to get out the Republican vote and he's trying to convince conservative Democrats that they should be worried about Barack Obama. Really what he's trying to do is raise doubts about Obama and for the most part he is trying to do that with regard to the economy saying, you know, Obama says he's not going to raise your taxes but he will raise your taxes. And he's going to raise your taxes in a way that is going to make more job loss in these areas, appealing to rural voters, appealing to blue collar voters with that.

He's got this mouthful of slogan. He says that Obama wants to be redistributionist in chief. It's kind of hard for him to say, but believe it or not, it gets big applause lines because what he's trying to say is on the economy Barack Obama just philosophically is not like you. And it's something that, you're right, is actually rallying the crowds particularly as he rolls through Ohio -- John.

ROBERTS: And, of course, John McCain continues to rally the crowds by holding up "Joe the Plumber." But you know, sometimes in the campaign trail things don't turn out exactly as you wish they would. Those -- an episode of that yesterday. Let's see what happened.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe is with us today. Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today?

Joe, I thought you were here today. All right. Well, you're all "Joe the Plumbers" so all of you stand up and say. And I thank you.


ROBERTS: Yes, well, things don't always go the way you would like them to. Do they, Dana?

BASH: No. They definitely don't. I mean, that was definitely an awkward, I think maybe an embarrassing moment for John McCain. But you know, as we roll through Ohio his aides actually found Joe. There was a bit of a miscommunication. They forgot to confirm with him that he was supposed to show up at that rally, but he did show up, John.

And I get to tell you, if this is a movie, you wouldn't believe it because he has -- he was working the rope line, meaning he was, you know, shaking hands with voters. And at the last rally last night, not too far from here, it was almost hard to tell who was the candidate. I got to tell you. There was huge, wild applause for Joe.

And McCain really did try to say, you know, Joe is important and we're glad he's here but he's a metaphor for all of you, a metaphor for people who want to have hope with regard to their place, with regard to their economic status. But it really was a wild thing when Joe actually showed up the rally last night.

ROBERTS: So what do you think? And Wurzelbacher in 2010 for Congress?

BASH: I would not be surprised.

ROBERTS: Yes. BASH: But at this point, we might have to ask his publicist.

ROBERTS: Get in line. All right. Dana, thanks so much. Good to see you.

CHETRY: Right now, Barack Obama is ahead in the polls but taking nothing for granted in these final four days. He begins the day campaigning in Iowa. That's a state that's now leaning toward Obama and its seven electoral votes. Then it's back home to Illinois for some trick or treat time with his daughters and he ends in a nighttime rally in Indiana, its 11 electoral votes still up for grabs.

Now despite his lead, Obama telling his supporters now is no time to let up.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power concedes anything. It's going to get nasty I'm sure in the next four days.

They will throw everything at us like they've been doing. And we are going to have to work like our future depends on it in this last week. You know what? Because it does.


CHETRY: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live for us in Des Moines, Iowa. This is where it all started for Barack Obama, Suzanne, back in the primaries. Why is he back there with just a few days left in the campaign?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kiran, back when he was a little known senator, when people couldn't even pronounce his name, Barack Obama was here in Iowa a year before the first contest campaigning. He was shaking hands. He was in the ice and the snow. We were very much along with him.

And basically, you ask the people here why do they support this guy from the very beginning, and they say they simply got to know him.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): For Halloween and Camp Obama, no Sarah Palin or "Joe the Plumber" costumes. Just a few pumpkins picked up at a patch in Florida.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think you have to wait for Charlie Brown to find that one.

MALVEAUX: A jet set day for Barack Obama that began in Sarasota, Florida, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by 12 percent. But where more Democrats are going early to the polls, a chance for Obama to take this critical state that awarded George Bush the White House for eight years. Obama continued to link Bush and McCain blaming them for the economic crisis.

OBAMA: If you want to know where John McCain will drive this economy, just look in the rear view mirror. Because when it comes to our economic policies, John McCain has been right next to George Bush. He's been sitting there in the passenger seat ready to take over every step of the way.

MALVEAUX: A new TV ad is aimed at driving the point home.


NARRATOR: We can't afford more of the same.


MALVEAUX: Next stop, Virginia, where Obama believes he could become the first Democratic candidate in more than four decades to capture the state.

OBAMA: Virginia, that's what hope is. That thing inside us that despite all evidence, insists that there are better days ahead.

MALVEAUX: Then a late night stop in Columbia, Missouri. Another traditionally red state that he's forcing John McCain to spend money in and compete.

OBAMA: Hello, Missouri.

MALVEAUX: Just over a week ago at a St. Louis, Missouri rally, Obama drew a record 100,000 strong crowd. Today he starts off where it all began, Iowa. The state that launched his presidential bid and gave skeptical voters some hope that his candidacy was possible.


MALVEAUX: And, Kiran, when we return back here in May after he clinched the Democratic nomination, we went back. We asked a lot of voters here essentially, had their impressions changed of Obama? That was when there was controversy over wearing a flag pin or not, that there were inflammatory remarks from his pastor, Reverend Wright.

A lot of the people, not a scientific poll, simply said no. Their impressions of him had not changed. That it was simply a caricature that people knew of Obama, that they really got to know the person because he'd been here for a full year before that first caucus -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Oh, so -- and it comes so far. So much has changed, but you said the support there is still the same.

Suzanne, great to see you. Thanks.

ROBERTS: Well, their votes are in. Millions of early voters already casting their ballots. So can we predict where the race is headed from the surge of early votes? And homeowners in trouble with so-called underwater mortgages, paying for loans worth more than the value of their homes. Christine Romans breaks it all down for us.

Nine minutes after the hour on this Halloween.


CHETRY: Welcome back on this Halloween morning. Some sobering statistics about people who are underwater in their mortgages.

Christine Romans is "Minding Your Business" this morning. And we talk a lot about foreclosure but explain underwater as well.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, imagine you're trying to live the American dream, right? And you finally get the American dream of home ownership and then suddenly in that boom, you bought your house and now you owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth, in some cases considerably more. That's called being underwater on the mortgage or a negative equity position as, you know, the analyst call it.

And there's some staggering new statistics that show just how big that problem is in some very key states, some key battleground states. So this is something that could be at play in the election. Let's look at the housing crisis, how it affects some of these states.

Forty-eight percent of the mortgages in Nevada --

CHETRY: Nearly half of people there.

ROMANS: That's incredible. Now there was a huge speculative boom in Nevada, too, and now that's coming back to bite people. Michigan, 39 percent of those mortgages are underwater. Florida, 29 percent. Arizona, 27 percent.

There had been big growth in Phoenix and now those home prices are coming down. Georgia and Ohio. So the First American Corelogic, the folks who put this together, is an industry source for the mortgage industry, they're saying that if, you know, housing prices continue to come down you're going to see this problem.

Now, outside of these states, it's about one in ten mortgages that are underwater. So the incentive, of course, is to walk away from a mortgage like that to say look, my mortgage payments have gone up because I have an adjustable rate mortgage. I've lost a job. All of my other costs are going up. I'm just going to walk away.

Listen, walking away from a mortgage, you're going to destroy your credit. It's going to make it very difficult to buy another house again at least in the very near term, and that also drives home prices down still more. So that's all of the problems with this.

Now what are the candidates saying about it? Which candidate? Whose vote is better to fix this problem? This is what Senator Barack Obama says about mortgages. He wants a 90-day moratorium on all foreclosures. He wants to allow troubled homeowners to refinance their loans, allow subprime borrowers to challenge their foreclosures and create a 10 percent tax credit for homeowners.

What about Senator John McCain? He wants a $300 billion plan to refinance home loans for people who have found themselves in a position where they can't afford these loans. He wants to fund community development groups.

He's very careful and he repeatedly points out he wants to help legitimate homeowners facing foreclosure. He did not want help for speculators. And it is clear that in some of these states like Nevada, for example, there was a lot of speculation. Some of these are second homes that people are now underwater on in developments that, you know, in some cases they haven't hooked up the water because they are just these ghost towns of speculative frenzy boom.

So, a very important problem for a lot of people, like people will be finding that their mortgage, in some cases, is worth much, much more than the home is worth, especially if home prices continue to decline.

CHETRY: Very difficult situation. All right. Christine, thanks so much.

ROBERTS: Eager to vote. Millions cast early ballots in more than 30 states.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The levels are really shocking. They've broken records in virtually every state or jurisdiction.


ROBERTS: Who benefits from the record turnout? And what impact will it have on Election Day?

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



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's alive. It's alive. It's alive. It's alive.


CHETRY: A scene from "Frankenstein" as we bring in Halloween this Friday morning. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

We've got our pumpkins carved. The news room is also stacked up with candy. We're good to go, but what about all the kids out there? Will the weather cooperate for the trick or treaters?

By the way, while we're looking at that pumpkin, that is actually carved by one of our own guys here. Brad Phelps (ph) carved that one, which is a beautiful creepy skyline of New York City, and he has another one as well. So, incredible work. Brad the pumpkin carver.

Reynolds Wolf is the guy with the answers. He's in for Rob Marciano in the weather center in Atlanta. How cool is that?

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That was incredible. My hats off to him. And the wolf house is basically just, you know, the triangles and the circles we cut into pumpkin, that's going to be it.

CHETRY: I hear you.

WOLF: That's the limit of the creativity.

Hey, let's show you how creative the weather is going to be today. For the eastern seaboard, beautiful conditions. High pressure is going to be the dominating feature. It's going to have that compressing effect on the atmospheres. The result is going to be mostly sunny to partly cloudy.

Chances of scattered showers in parts of Arkansas and extreme eastern Oklahoma. Also look for some rain showers in parts of the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest. Now in terms of temperatures for the day, well, right now, the temperatures mainly in the 60s in Kansas City, 45 in Minneapolis. In New York this morning, 43 degrees, 45 in Atlanta, and 53 in Portland.

Now for tonight as the kids head out, it looks like it's going to be great for you. In the Great Lakes and the southeast, we're looking at partly cloudy to mostly -- mostly clear skies. Temperatures mainly into the 30s and 40s and 50s in terms of your lows. But when you get out to the Rockies, you're going to see some 50s but the West Coast back into Sierra Nevada into San Francisco Bay Area, look for chances of scattered showers. That's going to be the situation up in Portland, Oregon, even in Seattle, plenty of rain.

So, you know, it's not fun to go out trick or treating trying to hold on to your plastic pumpkin full of candy then hold on to your umbrella. But that looks like it's going to be the case for much of the West Coast.

Kiran, let's send it back to you.

CHETRY: All right. The kids will love it either way.

WOLF: Yes. Candies kids (ph).

CHETRY: Those are the kids for you. Exactly. All right. The sugar high is a sugar high even if you're getting wet. Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

ROBERTS: Nineteen and a half minutes after the hour and to the "Most Politics in the Morning" now.

And right now, millions of Americans have already cast their ballots in early voting and we are getting some possible clues about how the race may be going. Here's CNN's Deb Feyerick with the breakdown of the early voting trends.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, one expert I spoke with called early voting the quiet revolution. New voters, veteran voters, eager voters all turning out before Election Day. Because no one knows exactly how many people are going to be out there on November 4th, it's difficult to put these early numbers into cold, hard context.


FEYERICK (voice-over): You hear it from both campaigns.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want everybody to go to the polls now.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My understanding is that the early voting has been pretty well even.

FEYERICK: So far, some 17 million people in more than 30 states have already voted either in person or by mail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The levels are really shocking. They've broken records in virtually every state or jurisdiction that has early voting.

FEYERICK: Of the 30 early vote states, political watchers say Florida and North Carolina remain unpredictable. Both states track a voter's party, not of course the actual vote, so getting a clear read is impossible. Still, new trends are emerging, say two election experts we spoke with. In North Carolina, traditionally Republican, registered Democrats have turned out 2-1.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're also seeing African-Americans turn out a very high rate in this early voting period which is very unusual.

FEYERICK: As a result of North Carolina election laws, 100,000 people not previously on the voter rolls have been able to register and vote the same day. The experts tell us they're seeing a difference in early voting patterns between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats go to the polls while early mail-in ballots have leaned more heavily Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a 2-1 Democratic advantage in the early vote that's being cast in person, but the Republicans hold their own in this mail balloting.

FEYERICK: And in case you're wondering why campaigns have been urging people to vote early?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want it to be two days before the election and you're still trying to get your base out. You've got to be focusing on those undecideds and those independents.


FEYERICK: How you vote, well, that's secret. But the act of casting a ballot is public record. Campaigns can check, cross you off the list and then turn attention elsewhere to states that are up for grabs or may have low voter turnout - John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Deb Feyerick reporting for us this morning. Deb, thanks so much for that.

There's a lot of concern about problems at the polls next Tuesday. So if you run into trouble or if you run into trouble in early voting as well, still another couple of days for that. Call our CNN voter hotline. Toll free number is 1-877-GOCNN-08. That's 1-877- 462-6608.

CHETRY: Standing by their man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people here think John McCain is going to win?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people are confident he's going to win?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you all think of the polls, though, that say that he's --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't believe the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't believe the polls? How come you don't believe the polls?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they're biased.


CHETRY: Turning a blind eye to the polls. Defiance until the end.

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



JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Today John McCain campaigned in the Ohio town of Defiance. Next comes anger, then finally acceptance.



ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Just four days to go now. And our latest CNN poll of polls shows Barack Obama leading John McCain now by seven points, but this race is far from over. Both candidates barnstorming the battleground states trying to pick up every possible vote they can.

Joining us now from Washington, two of our CNN contributors. Tara Wall is the deputy editorial page editor of the "Washington Times," and Dana Milbank, CNN contributor and reporter for "The Washington Post."

Good morning to both of you.

Tara, John McCain's pollster, Bill McInturff, says don't pay attention to the public polls that we see out there. His internal polls, he insists, are showing that this is a much tighter race. He says that turnout is going to go through the roof, and he also doesn't believe that Barack Obama can increase his numbers at all from where they are. He figures that they've pretty much topped out in all of the battleground states. If that is the case, Tara, what does John McCain need to do in the next four days?

TARA WALL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he needs to -- he needs to certainly focus on where he's focusing right now and that's those target states like Ohio where he can't lose. Republicans haven't lost there and been able to win a presidency. He needs to continue to get out the vote.

That 72-hour operation with the RNC is one of the most intense operations in Republican politics. I'm sure you'll see a lot of that, and I'm sure you'll see him continue to hit this message home, this "Joe the Plumber," you know, low tax message. That is beginning to resonate.

You can look at least Rasmussen polling, you can see that he is making a little bit of an imprint, if you will, with voters who now slightly say that he is more trusted in taxes and the economy. It may be a little too little too late because he should have been saying a lot of this early on.

ROBERTS: Right. Right.

WALL: But it is starting to get through and it's very effective.

ROBERTS: Dana, you recently wrote about Barack Obama's challenge in the next couple of days. And you specifically said that one of his challenges is to "get out the vote among African-Americans, but in a way that doesn't frighten white voters." His chances in big battleground states like North Carolina and Virginia really hinge on big minority turnout because he's losing big among white voters there. DANA MILBANK, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's really a paradox and that Barack Obama has run a non-racial campaign. You very rarely see him in front of an all African-American group. It doesn't make an explicit racial appeal. But particularly, if you look at places like Virginia, like North Carolina that where he wants to make some inroads in these red states, it's going to be crucial for him to turn out a very huge black vote and some 98 percent of African- Americans are in his camp right now. So that's absolutely crucial for him.

But if he's seen as going out there and campaigning for this, well, that could cost him on the other side of more conservative white voters. So it's really a balancing act. In fact, I caught up with Michelle Obama who is sort of doing that black get out the vote effort down in North Carolina this week while her husband was out there appealing to the centrist voter.

ROBERTS: And, Tara, we're still hearing more about the vice presidential running mate, the Palin effect, if you will. A new CBS News/"New York Times" poll found that 59 percent of voters believe that she is not prepared for the job. That's up nine points since the last time that people were asked that question.

And Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state under the first President Bush, said of Palin when asked if she's ready, "Of course not. At the moment she's not prepared." He also added that other running mates were not prepared as well. But he also went on to say, "At best, she would be adequate not a genius." Do you think she'll be a drag on Senator John McCain in the next four days?

WALL: I think in some regards she certainly has turned the tide in a more negative tone with McCain campaigners as it relates to her experience and all of that. But I mean, some could argue that, you know, Joe Biden, a gift that keeps on giving...


WALL: ... may not going to be, you know, all that prepared either when you have someone who spouts off and antagonizes reporters. You know, you got to think, you know, if this guy is in charge, you know, how is he going -- how's his temperament going to play, you know, in a presidency. So I think there are questions with both vice presidential candidates.

We all know that she doesn't -- there are areas where she is certainly lacking and we -- but the McCain campaign needs to focus on what her strengths are and what she does bring to the table. And I think you're starting to see them do a lot more of that. She still obviously brings out big crowds with the conservative base.

ROBERTS: All right. Folks, thanks very much for your analysis. It's good to talk to you. We'll see you again on Monday here on AMERICAN MORNING. Appreciate it.

WALL: Thanks.

MILBANK: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: Well, we're just 30 minutes past the hour. Checking your top stories right now.

Four days until the election. Barack Obama's campaign reportedly thinking about the White House team already.

The "Associated Press" is reporting the campaign has approached Illinois congressman and former President Clinton adviser Rahm Emanuel about being Obama's White House chief of staff. Obama downplayed questions about the story last night. Meantime, Emanuel's office says the congressman has not been offered a job.

There's some more good news at the pump. AAA reporting the national average for unleaded regular now 2.50 a gallon. It's down more than four cents from yesterday's price. Gas has now declined for 44 straight days. In fact the last time you saw gas prices this low was March of 2007.

And it's that time of year again. Daylight saving time. It ends at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. That means you'll set your clock back before you go to bed, Saturday.

And it also appears that extra hour of sleep that people get may be good for your heart. Researchers in Sweden found the number of heart attacks dipped by 5 percent the Monday after we turned back the clocks.

Now back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." And the fight to the finish, just four days until America votes. And this morning, we're taking a look at CNN's national Poll of Polls. It's only a snapshot of time in the race. Barack Obama leading John McCain by seven, 50 to 43, with 7 percent still saying they are unsure.

In the all important state of Ohio, 51 percent say they support Barack Obama, 47 percent backing John McCain. But despite the deficit, McCain and his supporters remain confident that it's not over. Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, John McCain spent Thursday traveling west to east across the State of Ohio, ending here at the Mentor High School on the shores of Lake Erie. John McCain talks about how he's behind in the polls, but most of the people at his rallies seem to be keeping the faith.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): At John McCain's rally in the city of Defiance, Ohio, here are the defiant Ohioans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is just a little too confident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the polls are wrong, and he's going to win. TUCHMAN: You don't believe the polls?


TUCHMAN (on camera): What do you often get to polls, though, that say that he's --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't believe the polls?

TUCHMAN: You don't believe the polls? How come you don't believe the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they are biased.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to carry Ohio and we're going to win the presidency, and we need you out there working every single moment.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): As John McCain traveled from Defiance to other cities in Ohio, including Sandusky, Elyria and Mentor, there was no apparent feeling of gloom and doom despite the polls.

(on camera): Do you think John McCain is going to win the presidency?


TUCHMAN: You're confident about it?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Sandusky positively erupted. When the celebrity of the month showed up -- Joe the Plumber.

(on camera): At a John McCain rally, you don't have the same passion and excitement that you have at a Sarah Palin rally but you also don't have the same levels of anger and frustration. What you have at both is a refusal to believe that Republican White House rule might be nearing its end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's going to the White House?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): The cheerfulness was ever present on this day. But some do acknowledge usually quietly that they are preparing for the possibility of disappointment.

(on camera): If McCain-Palin lose on Tuesday, how do you think you're going to feel when you wake up on Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'll have to regroup.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Regrouping for one side or the other is only days away.


TUCHMAN: John McCain emphasizes his differences with the current occupant of the White House at his rallies. He talks about how he wants change. What's interesting as I talk to many people at the rallies and I directly asked them do you like the job George Bush is doing and almost every one of them told me yes. They want change but they also like the current president. Above all most of the people at the rallies are loyal Republicans.

John and Kiran?

CHETRY: Gary Tuchman for us, thanks. Well, they won't give up the fight, but is the McCain campaign ready to throw Sarah Palin under the bus if they lose the election? We're taking a look at the possible Republican blame game.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A new generation of voters, deciding the future of the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you see students like just out on the corner at 8:00 in the morning while you're walking to class, you know people are serious about this campaign.


ROBERTS: The high expectations of campus enthusiasm from first time voters. But will they turn out on Election Day? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: With just four days left to go in this election campaign, there are still many unknowns -- one of them being the youth vote. Pundits have been saying that they will turn out in record numbers, but in years passed, they haven't. So, what's different this time around? CNN's David Mattingly is here now to tell us.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the race here in North Carolina is so close that young voters have a real opportunity. They could decide who wins this state in the presidential election. The question is, will they even try?


MATTINGLY (voice-over): What will young voters really do? Historically, they are enthusiastic.


MATTINGLY: But they don't turn out to vote in a big way. In polls, young people prefer Obama almost 2 to 1. And that's why whether or not they vote means so much to both Obama and McCain.

(on camera): Do you feel like your vote is being asked for this time?


JEFF CHEN, UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Like when you just walk through the pit every single day, you will be hounded by them. They're like, have you voted yet?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): There are more than 874,000 newly registered voters here in North Carolina. Fully one-third, nearly 300,000 are under the age of 25.

HEATHER SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ROCK THE VOTE: I think you're really seeing the most impact that you'll see from -- that we've ever seen from a youth population.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Who's going to win North Carolina?



MATTINGLY (voice-over): The students I talked to, do seem motivated and perhaps surprisingly focused on issues like health care and the economy.

(on camera): Do you know who you sound like? You sound like your parents.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): But the great unknown, will they actually vote?

PETER LEVINE, C.I.R.C.L.E.: Young people today, not just college students, young people volunteer, do community service at a record rate.

MATTINGLY: And the candidates know it. Campaign signs have appeared on campus by the dozens, representatives of both parties have been here passing out sample ballots. All of them betting that this new generation of voters will turn out in numbers that will make a difference. If that happens, it may signal the beginning of a new wave of activitism.

JJ RAYNOR, UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Not only do they recognize the importance of the vote, we also recognize comfortness to go beyond that in terms of connecting with our peers, sharing our opinions and making sure that we're present outside of the voting booth as we are inside of it.


MATTINGLY: But without large numbers at the polls, this new generation of voters could end up following the lead of previous waves of first time voters who passed on making history.



CHETRY: Pointing political fingers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They seem to be saying, don't blame us. You know, Sarah Palin dragged the ticket down. I can't think of a precedent for this kind of attack by high-level senior aides in the last days of a presidential campaign.


CHETRY: The votes haven't even been counted, but if things don't go McCain's way, will Sarah Palin take the fall? You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." A big question that people have been asking is Sarah Palin ready to be president if anything were to happen at John McCain? We've heard it it asked throughout the presidential campaign, and now in these final days, the McCain campaign is dismissing talk that Governor Palin will be a scapegoat if they lose.

CNN's Jim Acosta is following that for us. And as we've seen in prior presidential campaigns when the polls start turning against one of the tickets, sometimes you get this, where there seems to be some finger pointing before the elections even happen.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, the pre-mortem, not the post-mortem.

CHETRY: Right.

ACOSTA: But one thing we have to emphasize, the race is not over yet. The voters still have to go to the polls on Tuesday. And as John McCain is trying to make the biggest come back of his political career, a just release New York Times-CBS News Poll indicates voters are having reservations about the woman he chose to be his running mate.

59 percent of those surveyed say Sarah Palin is not qualified to be vice president, adding fodder to one of the biggest debates in this campaign.


ACOSTA (voice-over): This week, Sarah Palin has generated plenty of heat on the trail and inside the McCain campaign. Just days ago, unnamed McCain advisers told CNN, Palin has gone rogue and diva on the campaign. That led some political analysts to start questioning whether Palin is being scapegoated by McCain camp insiders before the votes are even counted. ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: They seem to be saying, don't blame us. You know, Sarah Palin dragged the ticket down. I can't think of a precedent for this kind of attack by high-level senior aides in the last days of a presidential campaign.

ACOSTA: A spokesman for the GOP nominee acknowledges there were some stresses inside the campaign, but he insists the ticket is focused on winning, something McCain echoed on Larry King.

MCCAIN: We get along fine. Sarah is a maverick. I'm a maverick. No one expected us to agree on everything.

ACOSTA: Even after a month marked by lavish wardrobe spending...


ACOSTA: ...and botched interviews, including her bungled comment on the role of vice presidents...

PALIN: They are in charge of the United States Senate.

ACOSTA: ...trying to blame Palin alone for sagging poll numbers may be a stretch.

SIMON: That just begs the question, who chose this person? Well, it was John McCain, wasn't it?

ACOSTA: Ousted McCain adviser, John Weaver, describes the Arizona senator's campaign as bleak but added, "I'm certainly not blaming Governor Palin for any of this."

Other conservatives note her fundraising prowess and point to those big rallies like this overflow crowd in Missouri as evidence of her common touch.

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: They can look at her and say, she really is every mom. She's a class of Republicans and conservatives and women who have grown up and become almost protective of Sarah Palin, and are offended when she's questioned or ridiculed the way that she has been, I think in the media.

ACOSTA: As Palin put it in Pennsylvania, the race isn't about her.

PALIN: It's all going to come down to a choice between two men, Barack Obama and John McCain.


ACOSTA: The Culture and Media Institute has released a study accusing the national news networks of, quote, "Distorted coverage of Sarah Palin," arguing anti-Palin biased is driving up unfavorable views of the Alaska governor.

Kiran? CHETRY: All right. Well, the verdict is still out. We'll see what happens four days from now.


As you said, it's not over yet.

ACOSTA: It ain't over yet.

CHETRY: Jim, thanks. Great to see you.

Well, is Barack Obama's running mate being muzzled? In our next hour, we're going to talk with "Time" magazine's Karen Tumulty who called Joe Biden a, quote, "a politician packaged in shrink wrap."

ROBERTS: It's the last weekend and things are getting down right strange. From the beauty salon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody wants to be Sarah Palin.


ROBERTS: To the front lawns of America. Jeanne Moos shows you how supporters are showing their love for their candidate with just days to go. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." And more campaign follies to tell you about. In today's episode, Sarah Palin gets nailed and we meet Joe the Booer. Here's Jeanne Moos with all of that.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's almost over. Are you one of those voters clutching and clinging? To every last bit of election news or would you rather cover your ears until it's history. Even Joe the Plumber went AWOL.

MCCAIN: Joe is with us today. Joe where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today?

MOOS: Typical plumber. Actually, Joe said it was a miscommunication. He showed up at a later McCain events. Our favorite part of recent rallies is when the crowd does this.

(on camera): When it comes to bringing out the boos, there's a clear front-runner. A booer in chief with the most boos in every speech.

PALIN: Higher taxes. He wants to spread the wealth which is -- it means attacking our friend Joe the Plumber.


PALIN: Barack the Wealth Spreader.


MOOS (voice-over): Barack the Wealth Spreader isn't spreading boos.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't need to boo, you just need to vote.

MOOS: It's as if Senators Obama and Biden are burnishing their booing is beneath us image.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John and Sarah Palin are up there saying -- "no, no, no, no, no, they are good folks. They are good folks."

MOOS: We would like to boo people who steal political lawn signs. This Ohio man got so mad when he caught kids vandalizing his McCain sign that he allegedly got a rifle and shot at them, hitting one in the arm.

After someone took this Texas' woman's Obama sign, she went grassroots -- painting the Obama symbol on her lawn. Look what some folks are painting on their fingernails at this Florida salon. Who is the most popular candidate to nail?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Palin. Girls love Sarah Palin out there. Everybody wants to be Sarah Palin.

MOOS: And then there's this kid dressing up for Halloween.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My costume will allow me to vote for Barack Obama or John McCain.

MOOS: In the past, he's been the Dalai Lama and Gene Simmons. But this year, he's wearing a polling place where folks can drop candy in the slot of their preferred candidate.

That's nothing compared to how this guy was adorned at a Palin rally. "Obama is a Baby Killer" was scrawled on his back.


MOOS: We don't. Really.

But we have something even weirder.




MOOS: It's at


MOOS: We don't get it so we can't explain it. We report, you digest.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.




ROBERTS: A nation transfixed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watch all the battleground states polls.


ROBERTS: More thrilling than "American Idol" because there's so much more at stake.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to the other side of the country now, Virginia.


ROBERTS: The election addiction. You're not alone.

Plus, under fire.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is these wackos from Bill Ayers to Reverend Wright, working with ACORN.


ROBERTS: Slam over the fake name voter registration scandal, but fighting back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When someone registers under a fake name that doesn't mean they can vote under a fake name.


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


ROBERTS: 54-1/2 minutes after the hour. And welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Election Day just four days away now and CNN is carefully watching allegations of voter registration fraud. We've been asking you to call us, call our hotline whenever you see anything. And Carol Costello joins me now from Washington with a closer look about -- closer look at claims about this organization called ACORN.

What do you got for us this morning?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been very controversial, hasn't it, John? ACORN, a group committed to registering minority voters has been under attack and now it's fighting back.


COSTELLO (voice-over): ACORN is trying to turn the tables on Republicans who charge it's not only guilty of voter fraud but of trying to swing the election Obama's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even the general council of the RNC has acknowledged that he cannot cite a single example of an improper vote having been cast as a result of alleged voter registration fraud.

COSTELLO: ACORN is trying to quiet what it calls hysteria, coming from conservative circles.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE HOST: It is these wackos from Bill Ayers to Jeremiah Wright working with ACORN training young black kids to hate, hate, hate this country.

COSTELLO: Senator John McCain has also expressed concern about allegations surrounding ACORN.

MCCAIN: They may be destroying the fabric of democracy.

COSTELLO: ACORN say that's not true. It's released this TV ad touting it's mission to sign up minority voters and accusing Republicans of suppressing votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell John McCain, not this time.

COSTELLO: ACORN acknowledges some workers have turned in questionable voter registration applications. Just this month, elections officials in Lake County, Indiana told CNN of its ACORN problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 50 percent. We had close to 5,000 total from ACORN and so far we have identified about 2100. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, roughly half of them...




COSTELLO: Federal law requires organizations to turn in all completed forms, phony or not. ACORN said it's fired some of its employees for putting fake names on registration applications and some of its workers have been charged or convicted for what they did. But former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias says that does not prove voter fraud.

DAVID IGLESIAS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: This current scare makes me think a little bit about the red scare of the 1950s. This is a blue scare of the 21st century.

COSTELLO: IGLESIAS says Republican charges against ACORN sound awfully familiar. Back in 2006, he and eight other U.S. attorneys were improperly fired by the Bush administration for political reasons. Among them, according to Iglesias, his refusal to pursue voter fraud charges against organizations like ACORN.

IGLESIAS: It's easy to make accusations. But ultimately a prosecutor has to prove that case beyond reasonable doubt and federal court.

COSTELLO: And elections expert Michael Walden (ph) says phony registration forms don't mean that phony voters will actually cast a ballot.

MICHAEL WALDEN, ELECTION EXPERT: The key thing voters should know is that when someone registers under a fake name that doesn't mean they can vote under a fake name. Mickey Mouse is not going to be able to vote without showing some I.D.


COSTELLO: We did reach out to the McCain camp for comment. We did not hear back. Now, whether ACORN's P.R. push will calm fears is an open question. Whatever one agrees on, though, ACORN does need to be more careful about how it hires its employees. But again, just because it has sent in these phony names on registration forms does not mean that voter fraud will be committed at the ballot box -- John.

ROBERTS: But this really is, to a large degree, too, when you throw this into the arena of partisan politics, an issue of perception as well, isn't it?

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Because Republicans absolutely think ACORN has done wrong. But Democrats feel that it's been overblown. So, you're right. It's a very partisan issue. But, again, at the ballot box, it doesn't mean that voter fraud will be committed.

ROBERTS: All right. Carol Costello for us this morning with that.

Carol, thanks so much. Great to see you.