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The Situation Room

Hillary and Barack Campaign in Florida; McCain's Red State Scramble

Aired October 20, 2008 - 18:00   ET


Happening now: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton together in Florida. It's their first joint appearance in months. We're going to let you listen to both of them. That's coming up live.

John McCain plays defense in red states. His campaign now is fighting Obama's momentum and cash by throwing out the S-word, socialism.

And the list of Republicans questioning Sarah Palin's experience, that list is growing -- what it says about her and the state of McCain's campaign. The best political team on television is standing by.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Florida this hour: Barack Obama is fighting for one of the most important battleground states, with a big gun in tow. That would be Senator Hillary Clinton. We're set to bring you their joint appearance. That's coming up live. And it comes only 15 days before the election, at a time when Senator Obama has a coveted new supporter in his corner, and an unprecedented amount of campaign cash in his pockets.

CNN is using its resources on the campaign trail big-time with our political correspondents and our battleground reporters spread across pivotal states.

First to CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. She's covering the Obama campaign in Florida.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Armed with the endorsement of Bush's former isn't of state Colin Powell, fresh momentum.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were thrilled yesterday when a great American statesman, General Colin Powell, joined our cause.


MALVEAUX: In the battleground state of Florida, where presidential ambitions have rested on hanging chads, early voting began. New Democratic voters out-register Republicans two to one here, and Obama needs every one of them.

OBAMA: I want you to go vote. Don't wait until November 4th.

MALVEAUX: Here, the financial crisis has been devastating. Forty-four thousand homes in foreclosure, the second highest rate in the country behind California. Obama is making the case his financial plan will benefit them, the working class. John McCain's, the rich.

OBAMA: No tax; that's my commitment to you. You can take that to the bank.

MALVEAUX: Despite supporting the federal government's biggest intervention in the financial markets since the Great Depression, McCain is accusing Obama of going one step further, promoting a system of government control over private industry or socialism.

OBAMA: It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton. John McCain calls that socialism.

MALVEAUX: Obama also mocked McCain's running mate Sarah Palin for saying if she had a magic wand, she would prefer not to use the automated calls her campaign is being criticized for.

OBAMA: You really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.

MALVEAUX: On a lighter note, Obama praised members of the Tampa Bay Rays, who the night before defied the odds to make it to the World Series, even though Obama's rooting for the Phillies.

OBAMA: When you see a White Sox fan showing love to the Rays and the Rays showing some love back, you know we're on to something right here.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Well, you hear Obama using more of that language that he originally used back in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention, when he captured the national spotlight, and not calling for red America or a blue America, but a United States of America.

Now, the hope of the campaign is that he not only gets people to support him, but he inspires them to come out and vote -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.

And we're going to show you some live pictures coming in from that rally right now. There they are there together in Orlando. They haven't started speaking yet, but this crowd obviously very excited by the fact that Senator Clinton is there, Senator Obama is there. Once they get into the meat of their remarks, we are going to want you to stand by and hear what they're saying. That's coming up.

John McCain, meanwhile, is campaigning in Missouri today, fighting to prevent that red state from turning blue. Our brand-new poll of polls in Missouri may give him some hope. It shows McCain has a two-point advantage right now over Obama in Missouri. That's up from a point 11 days ago.

CNN's Dana Bash is on the scene for us. She's working the story. What's the latest, Dana? You're in Belton, Missouri.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is the fifth state in a row, Wolf, that McCain has visited that George Bush won in 2004 and that he's trying to hold onto.

And it really is exhibit A in the challenge that they have, because John McCain just after the Republican Convention had a five- point lead here. No more.


BASH (voice-over): Missouri is a state John McCain's advisers told CNN just six weeks ago they hoped to secure and move on. Now it's neck and neck, and he's back.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With your help, we're going to win Missouri and bring real change to Washington, D.C.

BASH: Several thousand people came to see McCain in this St. Louis suburb two days after Barack Obama drew this unprecedented crowd downtown. But McCain aides are taking heart in several national polls showing Obama's wide lead narrowing a bit, which advisers attribute to McCain's relentless use of Joe the Plumber to hit Obama's tax plan.

MCCAIN: Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it's not a tax cut. It's just another government giveaway that the liberals have been trying to push on America for a long time.

BASH: And even sharper rhetoric -- talk of socialism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a cloud that will threatens that American freedom that we all enjoy, and that is the creeping socialism that we feel.

BASH: Still, McCain's urgent challenge is not getting drowned out by Obama and his mind-blowing amount of campaign cash.


NARRATOR: You did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time.


BASH: Here in Missouri, Obama is outspending McCain on TV ads two to one. In other states, much more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's talk a little bit about your campaign here in Virginia.

BASH: To try to compete, McCain aides say they have doubled the number of his local interviews in critical markets. And they're jumping on any opening from camp Obama, like Joe Biden warning donors at a weekend fund-raiser that America's enemies will quickly test a President Obama.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's going to have to make some really tough -- I don't know what the decision is going to be, but I promise you it will occur.


BASH: And just at this rally a few moments ago, Wolf, McCain responded to that, actually jumped on that. Take a listen to what he said.


MCCAIN: We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.



BASH: Now, you heard the fact that John McCain, Wolf, is basically trying to -- their campaign is trying to jump on any little thing that they hear, any opening that they can find from the Obama campaign. It's certainly not new, but I think perhaps a lot more urgent, given the state of play and where we are right now with regard to the calendar -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks. Dana is in Missouri covering the McCain campaign.

This important programming note for our viewers. On Wednesday, day after tomorrow, Senator McCain will be my guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And guess what? You can be part of the interview. Go to You can submit your video questions for Senator McCain. We are going to pick some of them to ask Senator McCain some questions. That's coming up on Wednesday.

But coming up right now, let's go to Orlando. Hillary Clinton is speaking now to a crowd, together with Senator Obama. I want to listen in.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And they are losing their homes.

The mortgage crisis has become an economic crisis. President Bush, John McCain, and the Republicans looked the other way, and Florida has paid a price.

Now, you have got great leadership here from so many people who are fighting hard for you, Senator Bill Nelson, who was up here.


CLINTON: His wife, Grace, is also here.

Alex Sink, the chief financial officer of Florida. Mayor Buddy Dyer from Orlando.


CLINTON: The one and only Congresswoman Corrine Brown.


CLINTON: State Representative Darren Soto.


CLINTON: State Senator Tony Hill and others who knew what Barack and I knew, that we needed change.

But we're not going to change unless we change the White House and give us back a Democratic president.


CLINTON: Florida is one of the hardest-hit states when it comes to home foreclosures. You know that.

And, here in Orlando, a lot of people have just barely hung on to their homes, if they were able to save them at all. Florida also is leading the nation in job losses. That's a pretty bad one-two punch.

You know, back in March of last year, I had the privilege of coming to Orlando and talking with some folks from this area about the home mortgage crisis. I met a woman, Deana Fratelli (ph). She told me her story. And it could be a story told across Florida and America.

She had lost her job. She had never been without a job before. In fact, she had served in the military for our country. Panic struck. She and her husband weren't sure how they would make it through the holidays. Now, Deana found some work cleaning condos. She and her husband decided to try to refinance. She explained the situation to the mortgage company.

A representative of the mortgage company asked her to say that she had a job paying $5,000 a month, even though she was unemployed. Well, Deana said she didn't think that was the right thing to do. And when the notary came to finalize the papers, she refused to sign them.

Now, when we met early last year, she had already had to sell her home to a neighbor. So, now she's back being a renter, but still able to live in her own home.

And I know how many people are in that position. A year-and-a- half later, she and her husband are now both working, but they are still in the same situation. They can't afford their home. She works at the VA hospital. She's a veteran, having served in the Navy.

I believe that Deana, her husband, and every one of us deserves to have a president who will stand up and fight for us.


CLINTON: For too long, Deana and hardworking Floridians, the middle class of this country have been invisible to George Bush. They're not even seen by the Washington Republicans.

And it wasn't until Wall Street got into trouble, the big financial firms, the big insurance firms, the big banks, they went to Washington and said, we need a bailout, and the Republicans gave it to them. Well, who's going to bail out the hardworking people of Florida?


CLINTON: Well, I know where it's going to start.

We can help Americans losing their jobs and losing their homes by making sure the Republicans lose the White House.


CLINTON: If you know people who are still undecided, ask them, are they happy that the stock market is plummeting? Are they satisfied that retirees are seeing their nest eggs cracking? Do they feel good about small businesses being denied credit and college students unable to obtain affordable loans?

People are afraid even to look at their 401(k)s. A man told me the other day he got the envelope in the mail, and he held it up to the light. He didn't want to open it, because we know that the Republicans' answers are all wrong. What is their answer to outsourced jobs? Well, continue to give tax incentives to the very companies that take the jobs away from hardworking Floridians and send them elsewhere.

The Republicans' answer to a broken health care system? Throw everyone on the mercy of the insurance companies. The Republican answer to rising economic insecurity? Privatize Social Security.


CLINTON: Can you imagine what would have happened to your Social Security or your mom's or your dad's or your grandparents' if it had been in the stock market the last month?

Sending the Republicans to clean up the economic mess in Washington is like sending the bull to clean up the china closet. We're not buying that anymore.


CLINTON: So, my friends, we have a big choice in front of us. And we have got to keep moving with real determination toward the election two weeks from tomorrow.

We know that Democrats will be able to begin to turn this economy around. A Democratic president did it before, and a Democratic president will do it again.


CLINTON: I want you to know this. With your help, America will once again rise from the ashes of the Bushes.


CLINTON: You know, for two years on the campaign trail and for a lot of years before that, I have been fighting for children and families and women and working people and economic and social justice, for people who have been invisible to this president, for people like Deana and so many of you who need a champion. That's what I'm fighting for today.

And, as I travel around our country campaigning for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, people ask all the time to one another, who are you for? But the right question is, who is for you? Who is for you and your family and your job?

It's Barack Obama who has proposed a $1,000 tax cut for hardworking families -- 95 percent of Americans would be eligible to receive that. It's Barack who will end the tax breaks for the oil companies and the insurance companies and all of the other special interests, so we can invest in clean-energy jobs, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

In fact, contrary to the Republicans, we have a new slogan for our campaign, as the Democrats move toward victory. It is, jobs, baby, jobs. That's what we're for.


CLINTON: So, if you care about jobs, and you care about health care, and you care about energy, and you care about education, and you care about our standing and our leadership in the world, then, we need your help.

We need you to work as hard as you can in the next two weeks. Many of you supported me in the primary, and I am very grateful and very appreciative of each and every one of you.


CLINTON: Now I am asking you to work as hard for Barack as you worked for me.

If you made phone calls for me, make them for Barack. If you walked streets for me, make them for Barack. If you talked to your friends and your neighbors, do it again for Barack. We cannot risk four more years of the same failed Republican policies.


CLINTON: So, my friends, this is the mad dash to the finish line. This is the opportunity each of us have to stand up for what we believe is best about America.

I hope that each and every one of you will do all you can in the next two weeks, because you understand what is at stake in this election. Florida's a battleground and Central Florida is the battleground of the battleground. And we need your help.

And, as you talk to people who may not yet have made up their minds, remind them that they have been taken advantage of and fooled before. Remember that old saying, fool me once, shame on me -- on you; fool me twice, shame on me? We can't let anybody vote for the McCain/Palin ticket and condemn our country to four years of stagnation and falling backwards.

So, the answer is very simple. The answer is to join me in doing everything you can to make sure we have a great victory on November the 4th for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.


OBAMA: Hello, everybody.


OBAMA: Hello, Orlando.

I want to thank one of the finest United States senators in the country, Bill Nelson, one of the finest members of Congress that we have, Corrine Brown.


OBAMA: I want to thank Mayor Buddy Dyer for the wonderful hospitality here in Orlando, State Representative Darren Soto, my dear friend State Senator Tony Hill. And I want to thank Alex Sink, who is doing such great work on behalf of the people of Florida.

But the main thing I want to do is, I want to thank Hillary Clinton.


AUDIENCE: Hillary! Hillary! OBAMA: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

AUDIENCE: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

OBAMA: I want to thank all of you for joining us here today. And I want to start by saying a few words about the woman you just heard from.

As someone who took the same historic journey as Senator Clinton, who shared a stage with her more times than we want to count over those 16 months, I know firsthand how tough she is, how passionate she is, how committed she is to the causes that bring us here today.

I have admired her as a leader. I have learned from her as a candidate. I'm proud to call her my friend.


OBAMA: Hillary shattered barriers. She inspired millions. Because of what she accomplished, my daughters, Malia and Sasha, all our daughters, are dreaming a little bit bigger. They're setting their sights a little bit higher.

So, I want everybody to give a huge round of applause for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Give it up.


OBAMA: Now, Orlando, it is great to be back in the Sunshine State, especially on a beautiful evening like tonight.

And, in just 15 days, you and I can bring something badly back to Washington, D.C., and that's some sunshine in Washington.


OBAMA: Now, that's the good news. But we're going to have to work for it, as Hillary just said. We're going to have to struggle for it. We're going to have to fight for every single one of those 15 days to bring our country the change we need.

And I'm hopeful about the outcome. We were thrilled yesterday when a great American statesman, General Colin Powell, joined our cause.


OBAMA: But we can't let up. And we won't, because one thing we know is that change never comes without a fight. Power concedes nothing without a fight.

In the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often takes over. We have seen it before. Hillary has been subject to it before. We're seeing it again today, ugly phone calls, misleading mail and TV ads, careless, outrageous statements, all -- all aimed at keeping us from working together, all aimed at stopping change.

I mean, it's getting so bad that Senator McCain's running mate denounced his tactics last night.


OBAMA: Now, you have to work really hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.


OBAMA: That's a hard thing to do.

But we're not going to be distracted. We will not be hoodwinked. We won't be bamboozled. No. We're not going to be diverted, not this time, not this year. We won't fall for that okeydoke.


OBAMA: Our challenges are too great for a politics that's so small.

Now more than ever, this campaign has to be about the problems facing the American people, because this is a moment of great uncertainty for America.

The economic crisis we face is the worst since the Great Depression. Businesses large and small are finding it impossible to get loans, which means they can't buy new equipment or hire new workers or even make payroll for the workers they have got -- 115,000 workers have lost their jobs in Florida this year, more than any other state in this country.

BLITZER: All right. So, there you have Senator Barack Obama. He's getting into his stump speech now in Florida, a critically important battleground state. But, for the first time in months, you saw Senator Obama together with Hillary Clinton.

We are going to monitor what he's saying, get back there.

And we are also going to assess what has just happened. What does he need to do to push himself over the top in Florida? Will their joint appearance this hour make a difference? The best political team on television is standing by.

Also, Sarah Palin, an asset or a liability? As some Republicans, including General Colin Powell the latest, criticize McCain's vice presidential running mate, it's time to ask that question once again.

And the defense secretary, Robert Gates, gives in to very deep emotion. You're going to hear and see what brought the Pentagon chief to tears.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Happening now: The hatchet is clearly buried and the former rivals are together again, as you just saw live here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigning side by side in the critically important state of Florida.

Senator McCain is miffed and so are some Republicans over General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. How much of an impact will the Powell factor have on this presidential race?

And conservative criticism grows over Senator McCain's selection of running mate Sarah Palin. We are going to examine the wisdom of his pick -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Colin Powell standing in the middle of a heated political rivalry, on the one side, a man he's know for two decades or so, on the other, a man he praises as a transformational figure -- now that General Powell has decided to endorse Barack Obama, we're learning Senator McCain is not all that happy with how the endorsement happened.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working at the story for us. He's also looking at the impact of this endorsement -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with strategists on both sides spinning this, we looked at whether Colin Powell's support may tip the balance among that bloc that's going to be so crucial in two weeks -- the undecided.


TODD (voice-over): Colin Powell has made it fairly clear what he won't do for Barack Obama. An aide to the former secretary of state says he won't cut political ads for the Democratic nominee.

And asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" if he'll campaign for the man he's now endorsing...

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't plan to. Two weeks left -- let them go at each other in the finest tradition. But I will be voting for him.

TODD: The effect Powell's endorsement has on a tightening race may depend on who you talk to. It's already galvanized some conservatives -- against Colin Powell.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: He evolved over time into a calculating Washington insider who speaks incessantly to the media. He seeks to portray himself in a good light at the expense of others.


TODD: That draws a "no comment" from Powell's camp.

John McCain says he was disappointed Powell didn't give him a heads-up before he endorsed Obama.

Moving forward, Democratic strategists say Powell's support could answer some voters' questions about Barack Obama's gravitas -- his innate ability to be commander-in-chief -- and they believe that may swing a key voting bloc.

LISA CAPUTO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Colin Powell appeals to Independent voters. And Independent voters are key in this election. And this is huge for Barack Obama.

TODD: But GOP strategists and some independent analysts say the endorsement of a Republican who has been moving further away from his party over the past few years is neither shocking nor all that significant. One expert says Powell's endorsement would have meant a lot more in September, when Obama hadn't answered as many questions about his readiness.

As for the Independents...

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": People are deciding for themselves on the presidential race. And they're not letting somebody else, whether it's Colin Powell or "The Washington Post" or Ted Kennedy, make that decision for them. This is a race that is a very personal decision for voters.


TODD: Now, on that Kennedy reference, Stu Rothenberg points out that if Ted Kennedy couldn't deliver Massachusetts for Barack Obama in the primaries -- which he did not -- there's no reason to think Colin Powell could deliver any state for Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd working the story. Thank you.

So will Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama sway some of those undecided voters?

Let's discuss this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our political contributor, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post;" and our CNN contributor David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. They are all part of the best political team on television.

What do you think, Gloria, the eight, nine percent undecided, some of them maybe will say, you know what, if he's good enough for Colin Powell, he's good enough for me?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think you've got undecided voters, you've got those soft Obama supporters who got reassurance from Colin Powell, suburban women who heard him talk about the Supreme Court, military families in those battleground states who may look at Colin Powell.

I was talking to a Democratic strategist today, Wolf, and he had a great line. And he said that: "Colin Powell is the letter of transit for undecided voters to get out of Casablanca."


BLITZER: It could help him. It certainly can't hurt, can it?

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR "WASHINGTON POST": Sure. Yes. It's a Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Now, I mean we talk about the undecideds. They're not, historically, a tremendous amount of them now. And the truth is, after this race, if you're still undecided, you've got some commitment issues, I think.


MILBANK: Having seen what you've seen. But it's -- it can only help among those last few who, for some reason, have not been able to make up their minds.

BLITZER: Does it close the deal among some of those undecided?

DAVID BRODY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. I mean, it's the trifecta, if you will. I mean the national security issue gets covered, so to speak. There's cover on that. There's a cover on the experience issue. And then you just go down the list. And there's just all sorts of issues that Colin Powell helps with.

And he changes the story line a little bit for Barack Obama, especially heading into these last two weeks. Anytime a campaign can win the story of the day -- and this will carry on more than a day -- that's a good day for the campaign.

BORGER: And he's not -- he's not regarded as just another politician. So if a Joe Lieberman endorses John McCain or like Zel Miller, in the last election, the Democrat endorsing the Republican ticket. But they're regarded as politicians.

And even though Powell may be a politician and considered running for the presidency, he stands on a different level.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, let's go to Florida right now, because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they're together in Orlando -- in the battleground of a battleground state, if you will.

How significant is it for Hillary Clinton to try to close the deal among some of her still uncommitted voters down there -- she has plenty of them in Florida -- to reassure them that it's Barack Obama?

MILBANK: You know, Florida is the one place where it probably does matter. If you look overall at the polls, I think it's 81 percent of Hillary Clinton voters have now -- both Independents and Democrats -- have now sort of rallied behind Obama. He has 90 percent support among Democrats, which is historically about as high as it can get.

The one place they don't necessarily have is in Florida, which is why you have the comedian schlepping the Jewish grandmothers to the polls...

BLITZER: Sarah Silverman.

MILBANK: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: Yes. Because there's still some Jewish voters down there who might not necessarily be 100 percent convinced, David.

BRODY: That's right.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BRODY: And I think Hillary Clinton also -- let's be straight about this. I mean, if anybody is going to derail Barack Obama, it would be Hillary Clinton at this point. I mean, think about it.

I mean she -- if she said anything at this point, that would be a problem. Clearly, she's not going to do that.

But look at the conversation we had just a few months ago, where we were talking about will Barack Obama do well in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia -- some of these Rust Belt states. And all of a sudden, Pennsylvania looks pretty solid for Obama at this point.

And the McCain campaign is campaigning in West Virginia. I remember the conversation we were having in the primaries where this was going to be an issue. It doesn't seem as much an issue anymore.

BORGER: Older women voters -- that's the ones Hillary Clinton is going to bring along. And that's really important to Barack Obama -- in Pennsylvania, in Ohio and in Florida.

BLITZER: And her husband's doing similar work for him out in Nevada, as we speak.

BORGER: Right. Yes.

BLITZER: We're going to discuss this and more. She was picked to shore up the candidates' support on the right. Did John McCain make the right pick when he selected Sarah Palin? The best political team on television is standing by to tackle that one. David Brody spoke with her yesterday. We're going to have some of that interview.

And he had a life-threatening condition two decades ago, so how is Senator Joe Biden's health right now?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think the saddest part of that is that faith -- and not just my faith, but faith in God in general has been mocked through this campaign. And that breaks my heart. And that -- and that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit. And my faith has always been pretty personal.


BLITZER: The Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, speaking with David Brody. How did it go?

You had a chance to sit down with her over the weekend and get a personal assessment of what this woman is like.

BRODY: Yes, very much a regular folk. She doesn't come across as a typical politician. I know we've been talking about that, but when you get to see her in person -- and, you know, I've interviewed Obama, McCain, Romney, Giuliani. I mean they walk in and it's a politician in a room and you know who he is.

With Palin it's different. I mean you get the sense that though she, along with everybody else, wants to stay to those talking points, she is easily distracted and will get away from them if you can force her that way. And, indeed, with the faith portion of the interview, she definitely was off the talking points and really had a moment where she was able to really talk candidly.

And I think that's pretty refreshing. And, really, it goes to a lot about what she is about, regarding why the conservative base likes her so much, because she comes across very authentic, in those moments, at least.

BLITZER: And I thought on "Saturday Night Live" she came across pretty good, too. And she had moves.

BORGER: She had moves, Wolf.



BLITZER: She was good.

BORGER: But she -- she didn't have a lot of lines, right, to tell you the truth. She didn't have a lot of lines. I think they were quite nervous about her being mocked and what she would do. So I think they probably kept that a little bit under wraps.

BLITZER: But she was pretty good and that kind of stuff helps her, I think. It humanizes her and makes her -- makes people out there a little bit more comfortable with her, don't you think?

MILBANK: It's always better when somebody is laughing with you instead of laughing at you. And I think there was a lot of laughing at Sarah Palin. So they can now laugh with her.

That said, I'm not sure that if you look at the "Saturday Night Live" demographic, that that's really going to do be very solid...


BORGER: Right.



BLITZER: You know, and the problem that the McCain ticket has, when you have -- it's one thing when liberals out there and Democrats are criticizing her and undermining her. But when you have hard core conservatives...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: know, whether -- Colin Powell, for that matter; Peggy Noonan. You know, I was making a list -- George Will, David Brooks, the columnist Charles Krauthammer. That's a pretty serious -- a pretty serious vote of a lack of confidence.

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: Whatever happened to saving the recriminations until he actually loses the race?

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: I mean, they can blame it on her, but arguably, what could they be doing that would get him in a better place?

A hundred thousand people coming out for Obama...

BORGER: Look, you...

MILBANK: $150 million.

How could anyone (INAUDIBLE)?

BLITZER: What do you think, David?

BRODY: Well, look, she's energized the conservative base.

I mean would a Mitt Romney have done that?

BORGER: Oh, no.

BRODY: I mean Mitt Romney may have helped him, given him cover on the economy. But at the same time, we would have been talking about the split within social conservatives with the Mormon issue and everything.

Look, she's been able to do that to a certain degree. And whether or not some of these intellectual conservatives have come out against her, she plays well in the base...

BORGER: But you can't win with the base...

BRODY: those rallies.

BORGER: You cannot win with the Republican base anymore.


BORGER: There aren't enough Republicans votes to make you president. And when we look back on this, I think we're going to see that she's divided an already divided Republican Party.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it.

I'll just alert our viewers and let them know that Governor Sarah Palin will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. She's sitting down with our own Drew Griffin. And that interview will happen here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, Governor Sarah Palin.

And this additional note. On Wednesday, I'll be interviewing Senator McCain. I'll go out to the campaign trail. My conversation with Senator McCain on Wednesday. Palin tomorrow, McCain on Wednesday.

Bill Clinton in a battleground state right now. He was the only Democrat to carry it in the past 40 years. Could he help swing it for Barack Obama?

Plus, he faced a life-threatening condition 20 years ago. What do Joe Biden's medical records show?

And stunning video of a dramatic collision between two fire trucks captured by a red light camera. Wow!

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

It's "Joe the Plumber" versus Colin Powell on the presidential campaign trail. Senator Obama using Powell's endorsement to try to win the support of Independent voters. But is Powell's endorsement another example of group and identity politics? We'll be talking about that.

And the McCain campaign continuing to use the image of "Joe the Plumber" to hammer what it calls Obama's socialist agenda.

Who is the more powerful symbol in this election, "Joe the Plumber" or Colin Powell? Three top political analysts will assess that and more.

And new concerns tonight about the integrity of our voting system just 15 days before the election. We'll tell you just how easy it is to hack into those e-voting machines -- much simpler and quicker than almost anyone thought. Every voter should be concerned.

Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour -- all the day's news from an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou. Thank you.

Live this hour, you saw them -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Orlando, Florida. But the Clintons are doing a sort of political tag team. Bill Clinton is campaigning in Nevada today. Let's go there.

CNN's Dan Simon is joining us. He's one of our battleground coverage reports. He's in Reno.

All right, tell our viewers what happened with the former president -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, Nevada only has five electoral votes, but the candidates are spending a lot of attention here. The state has gone with the winner in all but two elections over the past 100 years.

The polls here show a very tight race -- Obama with a slight edge, though. And today Bill Clinton was here to press the case. Take a look.


SIMON (voice-over): The only Democrat to carry Nevada in the last 40 years was Bill Clinton.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to be back in Reno and good to be back here at this community college.

SIMON: He won in both '92 and '96. The state seems to have affinity for both him and his wife. Senator Clinton defeated Obama in the Nevada caucuses. So it's hardly a surprise that the Obama campaign would call on the former president to rally voters in this Western swing state.

B. CLINTON: If you watch those debates, you know that Barack Obama has a better economic plan, a better health care plan by light years, a better education plan, a better energy plan and a better understanding of how to restore America's standing in the world.

SIMON: Las Vegas, where he was on Sunday, was an obvious stop. Clark County has two thirds of the state's voters and they overwhelmingly go Democratic. Today, it has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

On economic policy, Mr. Clinton highlighted Senator Obama's credentials this way.

B. CLINTON: You want a president who wants to understand and who can understand. And Obama can. (APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: Oh, yes, he can do that.

SIMON: Earlier today, Clinton made a swing through Northern Nevada and rural Elk Hill, a GOP stronghold -- more evidence that Obama is aggressively trying to turn the state blue. He was there last month.

OBAMA: There's a reason we keep coming to Elk Hill. You know, because in the past, presidential candidates don't come up here. Their attitude is well, you know, if you're a Democrat, you go down to Vegas. If you're a Republican, I guess -- I don't know you, just don't show up.


SIMON: For McCain to keep this state red, he has to do very well right here in Reno, in Washoe County. Right now, the polls here are showing a very tight race. But a little bit of a grim statistic for the Republicans -- they held the edge in voter registrations here for 30 years. But now the Democrats now have the edge -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Dan Simon getting a beard going out there, as well, out in Nevada. Dan, thanks very much.

On our "Political Ticker," Joe Biden's health appears to be good two decades after life-saving surgery for a ruptured brain aneurysm. Medical records released today show the 65-year-old Biden has some routine issues associated with aging. The record did not indicate what follow-up brain scans might have been done over the years. But a spokesman for Senator Biden's doctor says the senator has undergone appropriate tests and has not had any aneurysms since his brush with death back in 1988.

Zain Verjee is here. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what's going on?

VERJEE: Wolf, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with wounded veterans and their families at a summit at the Pentagon today. During the meeting, Gates, who is known as a tough leader, became really emotional when he talked about some of the troops he's met at hospitals right across the country. Just take a listen to this.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Like the wounded officer, Lieutenant Dan Moran, at Brooke Army Burn Center, who reminded me that I had handed him his diploma at Texas A&M in 2002. He also told me he had the doctors play the "Aggie War Hymn" during his surgery.

(LAUGHTER) GATES: Former President Bush and I presented him with a medal for valor at halftime during a Texas A&M home football game in front of 85,000 wildly cheering admirers -- the kind of public acclaim all of our wounded warriors deserve.


VERJEE: Gates promised the families that he would make sure the next administration continues to provide the wounded with the appropriate care.

And, Wolf, just take a look at this video. Just look at -- look at what happens -- a smash right there -- a dramatic collision between two fire trucks. This is something that's surfacing on the Internet. The trucks just slammed into each other in North St. Louis about a week ago. The accident was captured by a red light camera and someone just posted it on YouTube. It's pretty unbelievable, too, Wolf, that when you look at something like this, that eight of the firefighters involved in this accident and only two of them suffered some very minor injures. So they were pretty lucky.

BLITZER: Very lucky, indeed. Dramatic video. Thanks, Zain, for that.

Up next, a "Moost Unusual" countdown to Election Day with Jeanne Moos.

And a special political edition of Hot Shots -- the best pictures of the day.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some -- some of today's "Hot Shots" coming in from the A.P.

In Missouri, a woman takes a picture of John McCain exiting his plane.

In Florida, Barack Obama holds a baby.

In Philadelphia, Cindy McCain listens to women speak at a lunch with mothers of veterans.

And in Florida, Obama shakes hands with members of the World Series bound Tampa Bay Rays.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

And right now, a "Moost Unusual" countdown to the election.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) (voice-over): Things are getting squirrelly out there. Mickey Mouse politics.


OBAMA: How much will you pay me to put this on?


MOOS: And Hillary had her own headgear to ward off the rain.


H. CLINTON: This is going to be a short speech, OK? Will you all get out and vote?


MOOS (singing): Ranting in the rain.

And how about those Republicans accusing Senator Obama of the "S" word?

PALIN: Like socialism.

MOOS: No wonder when Obama walked in a diner the other day, a lady started yelling.

She was yelling socialist, but she sure wasn't being sociable. She refused to shake Obama's hand.

OBAMA: How are you ma'am?


MOOS: Forget about the skunk at a garden party, how about a Republican squirrel at a Democratic press conference?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The negative attacks.


MOOS: A squirrel drawing attention to ACORN, the controversial group during voter registration.

This just in -- Madam Tussauds is calling the election too close to wax. They're preparing clay molds of both Obama and McCain so either will be ready on Inauguration Day.

(on camera): With Halloween falling just four days before election day, the campaign and the holiday are already beginning to intersect.

But who cares about people wearing silly masks?

(voice-over): We'd rather see Bon Bon (ph) the Chihuahua in an Obama mask. Bon Bon showed up for the dog day masquerade in Times Square. Note the oversized but accurate ears. Obama wouldn't mind the resemblance. He pointed out his plus size earlobes himself while posing with his kid.

OBAMA: We've got the same ears. So we've got power ears.

MOOS: But power ears on a pumpkin?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just be careful cutting out my ears.


MOOS: "Better Homes and Gardens" is running a presidential pumpkin poll.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my confident maverick smile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that offer of being baked into a pie, I said thanks, but no thanks.


MOOS: Those Obama folks will turn anything into a slogan.

OBAMA: Yes, we can!

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

MOOS: Yes, we carve. Just think, only two weeks left of these guys carving up each other.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: And we approved this message.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Finally, the CNN family and all of broadcast journalism has lost a dear friend and a mentor to many of us. Our former Washington chief, Bill Headline, died this morning after a brief illness. A legend of Washington journalism, he spent decades at CBS News before joining us at CNN.

Bill hired many of the people who still work at CNN, including me. He guided us and this entire bureau through some of the major stories of the 1980's, the 1990's. He had the perfect name for a business that's going to miss him and his contributions.

Our deepest condolences to his wife Kate and to the entire Headline family. Bill Headline, we will miss you.

That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.