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The Situation Room

Republican Insiders Attack Palin; Alaska Senator Convicted of Corruption

Aired October 27, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama tries to close the deal with voters, while John McCain tries to close his gap in the polls. This hour, the best political team on television on the final campaign appeals and attacks.

Plus, finger-pointing inside the McCain/Palin camp, one aide calling the vice presidential nominee -- and I'm quoting now -- "a diva" and worse. The blame game in closing days of the campaign.

And the Alaska Senator Ted Stevens convicted on all counts of corruption charges. The Republican's 40-year political career may end in disgrace and with a Senate pickup for the Democrats.

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

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

Just eight days until America votes, John McCain and Barack Obama are describing their differences in the starkest of terms, and they're crisscrossing two big battleground states on this day.

Both candidates began the day in Ohio, McCain stopping Cleveland and Dayton, Obama in Canton. Then they both hightailed it to Pennsylvania. We're standing by for a McCain event in Pottsville. We heard from Senator Obama in Pittsburgh just a short time ago.

The Democrat is trying to tie his Republican rival to President Bush, to the bitter end.

Let's go to CNN's Candy Crowley. She's in Pittsburgh watching all of this for us right now. The closing argument, that's the way the Democrats are describing Senator Obama's speech on this day. Candy, what's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed, they do call it the closing argument, but this largely has to do with the fact that there really isn't that much time left before the election.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Barack Obama's campaign called it his closing argument, most notable for the date.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election.

CROWLEY: Twenty-one months after he launched his bid to become the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama's once improbable campaign may be on the precipice history, or not. A transition team is already busy, and many Democrats cannot hide their excitement. But whatever he thinks, Obama cannot say in public anything other than this.

OBAMA: We cannot let up for one day or one minute or one second in this last week.


CROWLEY: The speech is a mixed bag now, a return to the hope message that launched his campaign.

OBAMA: In one week, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.


CROWLEY: An echo of the issue that propelled him in the early months of the primary.

OBAMA: As president, I will end this war.

CROWLEY: He talks better days ahead and bipartisanship. He calls John McCain a man who has served honorably, then blasts him for lying.

OBAMA: He's spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book, because that's how you play the game in Washington. If you can't beat your opponent's ideas, you distort those ideas and maybe make some up.

CROWLEY: Obama began this final week of the '08 election in Canton, Ohio, an economically distressed city inside a swing county in a swing state. To deny Ohio to John McCain would likely deny him the election.

Obama is up here by four points in the latest poll of polls, with enough undecideds to change things. That's why elections are held.


CROWLEY: From Canton, Obama moved here to Pittsburgh and yet another arena full of very enthusiastic voters.

He's moving into these cities, from Canton to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, really to try to crank up that vote. This is a campaign that thinks they have a superior turn-out-the-vote machine, and that's really where they're putting their attention right now, as Barack Obama goes from one battleground to another.

Next, we will see him in North Carolina and, of course, in Florida. They are now looking to some of those early voting states and believing that they have turned out a lot more voters than John McCain -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley in Pittsburgh working the story.

This note to our viewers: This coming Friday in THE SITUATION ROOM, I will have a one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama. And you can be part of it. Send us your video questions for Senator Obama at We will try to get some of your questions to Senator Obama, just as we did last week, when I interviewed Senator McCain.

Let's get to Senator McCain right now. He's scrambling to narrow Senator Obama's lead in crucial battlegrounds by hammering him on taxes. McCain also trying to play up fears that Obama is intent on spreading the wealth of middle-class voters. CNN's Ed Henry traveled with McCain to Dayton, Ohio -- Ed.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio. So, John McCain is trying to claw his way back here with an economic message that he hopes resonates in a state devastated by the financial crisis.

(voice-over): After meeting with his economic advisers in the critical battleground of Ohio, John McCain lashed out at Barack Obama with a final week pitch on taxes that seems to be helping McCain chip away at Obama's lead in key states.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My approach is to get spending under control and cut taxes and encourage individuals to invest in our markets or buy a home, and to encourage businesses to hire more workers. Senator Obama's approach is to radically increase spending and then raise taxes to pay for it.

HENRY: With Democratic chances of a filibuster-proof Senate increasing, McCain is ramping up his effort to get Republicans to the polls by warning about the dangerous of one party controlling the entire government.

MCCAIN: Now, this election comes down to how you want your hard- earned money spent. Do you want to keep it and invest it in your future, or have it taken by the most liberal person to ever run for the presidency, and the Democratic leaders, the most liberal, who have been running Congress for the past two years, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? You know, my friends, this is a dangerous threesome.

HENRY: McCain is also pouncing on a 2001 radio interview in which Obama seemed to express regret that the civil rights movement had not gone further by redistributing wealth in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

HENRY: Fodder for the McCain camp's repeated attack that Obama is preaching socialism.

MCCAIN: That's what change means for the Obama administration, the redistributor. It means taking your money and giving it to someone else.

(on camera): The Obama camp insists that his comments are being misinterpreted, that he was only talking about redistribution in a narrow legal context, about whether the high court can create a right to an education, for example, or whether that's better for legislatures to handle. But the McCain camp's not buying that explanation, and they plan to continue this message hard -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Ed Henry in Pennsylvania for us -- thanks, Ed, very much. Actually, Ed was in Dayton, Ohio, where he filed that report.

Let's bring in Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Sort of like taking your money and giving it to Iraq or taking your money and giving it to the banks and the Wall Street guys.

BLITZER: You mean redistributing money?

CAFFERTY: Same idea, yes.

A little more than a week to go now, most Americans have made up their mind who they are going to vote for on November the 4th. According to the latest CNN poll of polls, 51 percent say they're going to vote for Obama -- 43 percent say they are going to vote for John McCain. Six percent say they're not sure. It's time to get busy.

The battleground states, Florida, Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, anywhere between 92 percent and 94 percent of people surveyed, voters, say they have already made up their minds for either Obama or McCain. But a lot can happen in a week's time, especially in this campaign that's been dragged out longer than any other in history and cost much, much more.

And it's gotten pretty ugly sometimes, too, especially on the part of the McCain folks, ACORN, William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright. The negative attacks didn't win McCain a lot of friends. Most people say they didn't like the nasty stuff. But, hey, maybe you don't ever say never.

Here's the question then this hour: What would change your mind about your vote for president?

Go to, post a comment on my blog. I wonder when these undecideds are going to get off the fence?

BLITZER: They only have eight days to make up their minds.

CAFFERTY: A lot of pressure building --


BLITZER: Yes. They're going to wait until the -- some of them will wait until the moment they walk into that booth.

CAFFERTY: Probably, that's true.

BLITZER: A senator embroiled in scandal now stands in disgrace -- the longest serving Republican senator found guilty of corruption. Can Ted Stevens keep his seat, avoid prison time?

And we're just getting reaction from Senator Sarah Palin, his fellow Alaskan. She's mincing no words in reaction to the guilty verdict on all seven counts.

Fresh polls suggests John McCain has a really steep hill to climb to win.

Also, Sarah Palin is being called a -- quote -- "diva" and she's being criticized for a lack of understanding on major issues. You may be surprised to learn that's all coming in from an aide to John McCain.

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


BLITZER: He's the longest serving Republican in the United States Senate, fighting to keep his seat, but now likely soon to fight to avoid going to jail. Just a short while ago, the breaking news -- the Alaska Senator Ted Stevens found guilty of corruption.

Let's go live to CNN's justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, with the latest. Wow. It's not every day that a sitting United States senator convicted on all counts of corruption.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty surprising, Wolf. But the jury was unanimous and found the senator guilty on all seven counts. He was convicted of lying on financial disclosure forms for -- of about more than $250,000 in gifts and services that he received, most of them having to do with renovations on his Alaska home.


MATTHEW FRIEDRICH, ACTING ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The department is proud of this team, not only for this trial, but for the investigation which led to it. This investigation continues, as does our commitment to holding election officials accountable when they violate our laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ARENA: Each of those charges carries a maximum five-year sentence, which totals 35 years, though sentencing guidelines allow for much less, Wolf.

And this is far from over. The defense will ask for a new trial. That will be among several motions that will be heard at a hearing in late February. And there were a variety of problems during this trial, most notably, the prosecution did not turn over evidence during discovery.

The senator had no comment, but on his way out of the courtroom, Wolf, he kissed his wife and told her, "It's not over yet." And, as you know, Stevens is up for reelection. His name remains on the ballot in Alaska. If he wins, he keeps his seat, Wolf, unless he resigns or he's expelled from the Senate.

BLITZER: And going into today's verdict, it was really neck and neck between him and his Democratic challenger. We will see what this conviction on all counts does in this race eight days from today.

Kelli, thank you very much.

With Senator Stevens serving Alaska, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is now reacting. In a statement she says -- and I'm quoting -- "This is a sad day for Alaska and a sad day for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company up there in Alaska that was allowed to control too much of our state. And that control was part of the culture of corruption that I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward, regardless of party affiliation or seniority or even past service."

She goes on to say: "As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully now monitor the situation and I will take any appropriate action as needed."

In the meantime, she says this: "I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system, and I'm confident that Senator Stevens from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska" -- that statement coming from Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Only eight days to go until the election, and John McCain seemingly has an uphill climb if he's to win the White House.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's looking at some new poll numbers.

Are we seeing any late shift at all, Bill, in these numbers?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Late shift? Not really. But we have seen a big shift since the conventions.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Our latest poll of polls for the national campaign has Barack Obama leading John McCain by eight points. Obama 51 percent, McCain 43, with 6 percent still undecided. About the same as it's been for the last two weeks.

The national poll of polls every week since the conventions shows a clear trend. After the conventions, McCain had a very slight lead nationally. By mid-September, Obama had pulled ahead by a few points.

In mid-September, Lehman Brothers failed and the financial crisis began. Obama's lead began to grow.

At the end of September, the market crashed. As the crisis spread, Obama's lead grew bigger.

Since mid-October, his lead has held steady at 8 percentage points. Obama is trying not to sit on that lead --

OBAMA: I feel like we've got a righteous wind in our backs here. But we're going to have to work, we're going to have to struggle.

SCHNEIDER: -- while McCain is not intimidated by it.

MCCAIN: Let me give you the state of the race today. There's 10 days to go and we're a few points down. The pundits have written us off, just like they have done several times before.

SCHNEIDER: We also have polls of polls in several battleground states. They show a similar trend.

In Virginia, McCain was leading in late September. Week by week, Obama gained support. The latest poll of polls in Virginia, Obama up seven points.

Ohio? McCain had a small lead in September. By mid-October, Obama had a lead in the low single digits in Ohio, where it has remained.


SCHNEIDER: The financial crisis seems to have moved a lot of voters to make up their minds for Obama. And they haven't changed their minds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Bill Schneider, looking at all of the numbers.

By the way, you can track over time how the candidates are doing in the polls state by state at

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what do you see there?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is's Election Tracker, where you can see how the candidates are doing in the polls, where they are spending their time, where they're spending their money. And this map right here is going to show you how Obama has been pulling ahead over the last few weeks. This is CNN's map of the poll of polls that we have been doing in those states that Bill Schneider was just talking about. And we put it on a time lapse over the last five weeks or so. And you will see that states that were red for McCain slowly turning blue for Obama.

Florida goes, Ohio, Virginia. You will see Missouri go in a moment, this lapses going right up until our latest information that was put out in the last 24 hours. On this election tracker that you're going to find at, you can compare these figures to lots of other factors that might be involved.

This is the ad spending that both candidates are doing in those states. The darker colors means more money is spent. Take a look at the numbers for Virginia, Barack Obama leading there, spending $18 million. That's compared to $4 million for John McCain.

You can find all of this at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thank you.

So, here's a question: Has America reached the point where race is less of a factor than age in a presidential campaign? The best political team on television standing by to take a closer look at that one.

And dramatic video, as emotions spill out of control in a Florida courtroom. The brother of a fatal beating victim goes after one of the suspects.



BLITZER: Some members of John McCain's inner circle are venting their frustrations with Sarah Palin. They're accusing the GOP's new superstar/lightning rod of being a -- quote -- "diva." The best political team in television standing by to assess the Palin backlash.

Also, are voters as unconcerned about Obama's race as the polls would suggest? We may be getting an answer eight days from now.

And McCain's latest attempt to peg Obama as a -- quote -- "socialist," are voters buying it?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: rumblings of discord within the McCain/Palin campaign, campaign insiders declaring, Sarah Palin has been acting like a -- quote -- "diva." Is the tension too much this late in the game? A presidential candidate in his 70s and the nation's first African-American candidate -- in these final days before the election, we revisit the question how does age vs. race stack up?

And we're standing by to hear from Senator John McCain in Pennsylvania. He's getting ready to speak to a crowd there. We are going to go there live, all of this plus the best political team on television.

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

All right, you're looking at a live picture out there in Pennsylvania right now. They're getting ready to introduce John McCain, Cindy McCain getting ready to do some of the introductions. Once he starts speaking and gets to the meat of his remarks, we're going to go there and listen to what he's saying, only eight days away from this election.

Apparently, some things are not all that fine inside John McCain's campaign. We're hearing revelations of infighting over some things Sarah Palin is doing and saying.

Let's go to Pottsville, Pennsylvania, right now. Dana Bash is covering the McCain campaign for us.

There's a rally under way. We just saw some of the live pictures, Dana. Talk a little bit about some of the infighting that seems to be going on.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you mentioned the fact that there's a rally starting behind me. We're going to hear John McCain pound away at his economic message, specifically hitting Barack Obama on taxes.

That obviously is the message that they want to keep hitting. It is something that they say is winning for them. The last thing they want right now is the fact that there are some strains between Sarah Palin and top some McCain aides going on. The last thing they want is for that to go out into the public, but it has. And the language sources are using with us is exceptional.


BASH (voice-over): In critically important Virginia, Sarah Palin was back on message.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes.

BASH: That after a weekend where some top McCain aides questioned her judgment and loyalty. Tension had already spilled into the open when she went off script Sunday about $150,000 the Republican National Committee spent to accessorize Palin and her family.

PALIN: Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging that everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska.


BASH: Palin's aides said she was trying to get the truth out, that she's frugal, not fancy. But some McCain aides told CNN her off- the-cuff comments were unwelcome, because it helps keep the wardrobe story alive, fueling frustration among some McCain advisers that Palin is now looking out more for herself.

"She is a diva," a McCain adviser told CNN this weekend, "playing for her own future, and sees herself as the next leader of the party."

One Palin aide told CNN she may be trying to bust free after a mishandled rollout, limiting her initial press access to high-profile interviews that did not go well.

But, in a sign of the dramatic tension, another source with direct knowledge of Palin's preparation told CNN they had no choice saying: "Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic."

Now, dissension inside a presidential ticket is hardly new. To varying degrees, there's been infighting over the years in both parties.

KIKI MCLEAN, GORE-LIEBERMAN 2000 ADVISER: When a campaign is winning, there's less to point fingers at and blame about. And when a campaign is losing, it can get pretty ugly.


BASH: Now, advisers to Palin say her agenda is exactly what you see -- John McCain and Cindy McCain pushing for it behind me here in this rally in Pennsylvania -- and that is winning on November 4th.

And, Wolf, one senior McCain adviser told me that this is basically what happens when you're behind in a campaign -- finger- pointing and scapegoating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thanks so very much. Dana is in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Thank you.

This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. In Virginia just a short while ago, a lawsuit filed by the state's NAACP against the governor, Tom Kaine. The charges -- that the State of Virginia simply failed to prepare for an unprecedented turnout in next Tuesday's election.

Let's go to Virginia. Our battleground correspondent, Dan Lothian, is watching this story for us. All right, what do they want to happen -- Dan? What's going on?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have, indeed, filed this lawsuit, as you mentioned, because the NAACP believes that the state really has not done enough to get prepared for this unprecedented voter -- election, rather, which is expected to be about 90 percent voter turnout.

As you know, Wolf, already more than five million voters have registered here in the State of Virginia. And that's a record for the state.

What the NAACP is asking for, in addition to many other things, they would love for the polls to be open an additional two hours in order to handle what's expected to be long lines.

Additionally, they would like some of the voting machines to be reallocated so that there will be enough machines in some of the areas where a lot of people are expected to show up.

And in addition to that, they're asking the court to have the federal government step in and take over the election process.

Now, I did get off the phone a few minutes ago with the communications director for Governor Tim Kaine. And she told me that, indeed, they had received this lawsuit. She said that the governor is very confident in the work that the state board of elections has done in hiring additional poll workers, election officials, to be out on election day; very confident that they're within the law in terms of how many machines they have versus how many voters they will have.

So he does believe that there's been a lot of preparation done, that the state board of elections will be able to handle the high voter turnout on election day -- again, which is expected to be about 90 percent.

I'm also told that shortly, we should be hearing more from the state board of elections. They'll be putting out a press release -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting, you know, Virginia, as you know, Dan, they close the polls in the State of Virginia relatively early -- 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's on the East Coast. A lot of states on the East Coast, they close their polls at 8:00 p.m. even 9:00 p.m.. I guess a simple way out of this would be simply to let the polls stay open until 8:00 or 9:00 to give the folks out there another hour or two to vote.

How difficult of a change would that be?

LOTHIAN: Well, on the face of it, it doesn't appear that it would be that difficult. Again, we don't know if that is something that the state board of elections will entertain. We, of course, will be waiting to hear what they have to say on that.

But, indeed, Wolf, that could, perhaps, mitigate some of the problems, because these long lines really are expected. We talked -- we've been in Virginia now for a couple of weeks talking to elections officials in some of the biggest counties here in Virginia. And they tell us that they had problems in 2006. And so, when you have 90 percent voter turnout, they expect very long lines.

BLITZER: What a story. All right. Thanks very much. Thanks to Dan Lothian. Thanks very much.

Let's go out to Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Senator John McCain is now in his speech. And that crowd is really enthusiastic. Let's listen in.


MCCAIN: We're going to double -- we're going to double the child deduction for working families. We'll cut the capital gains tax. We'll cut business taxes to help create jobs and keep American businesses in America.


AUDIENCE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!

MCCAIN: Friends, raising -- you all know this. Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse. Keeping taxing low creates jobs. It keeps money in your hands and strengthens our economy. If I'm elected president, I won't spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money. Senator Obama will. And he can't do that without raising your taxes --


MCCAIN: -- digging us further into debt.

My friends, I'm going to make government live on a budget just like you do.


MCCAIN: I'll freeze government spending on all but the most important programs, like defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care, until we scrub every single government program, get rid of the ones that aren't working for the American people. And I will veto every single pork barrel bill that passes my desk (INAUDIBLE).


MCCAIN: No more bridges to nowhere in Alaska, no more spending $3 million of your dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that was a...


MCCAIN: I don't know if that was criminal issue or a paternity issue, but we're not going to have that anymore, my friends. And you will know their names. I will make them famous.


MCCAIN: I'm not going to spend $750 billion of your money just bailing out the Wall Street bankers and brokers that got us into this mess.


MCCAIN: I'm going to make sure we take care of the working people, who are devastated by the excesses and greed and corruption of Wall Street and Washington.


MCCAIN: My friends, this crisis started with the housing crisis. We've got to fix our housing market. We've got to go out and buy up these bad mortgages, give people a mortgage they can afford, so that your home value doesn't go down when your neighbor defaults, so that people --


MCCAIN: -- so that people --


MCCAIN: -- people in danger of defaulting have a path to pay off their loan and realize the American dream of owning our own homes. That's what the American dream is all about. My friends --


MCCAIN: My friends if I'm -- when I'm elected president --


MCCAIN: When I'm elected president --

AUDIENCE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!

MCCAIN: When I'm elected president, we're going to stop spending $700 billion across -- to overseas to buy oil from countries that don't like us very much.


MCCAIN: You know, in the debate the other night, I talked about how much I admire -- how much I admire Senator Obama's rhetoric. Well, when you pay attention to his words, when we were talking about offshore drilling, he said he would "consider it." When we talked about nuclear power, he said well, it had to be environmentally safe and we had to -- you're right, pal. Drill, baby, drill. Drill offshore and drill now. Drill now.


MCCAIN: Drill now.


MCCAIN: My friends, we'll invest in all energy alternatives. We'll build new nuclear power plants. We will do wind, solar, tide. We'll encourage the manufacture of hybrid, flex fuel and electric automobiles and clean coal technology as an answer to our problems.


MCCAIN: We will do clean coal technology. We will invest...


MCCAIN: Let me just remind you of two things. One, the United States of America sits on the world's largest coal reserves. We can do clean coal technology, create millions of jobs.


MCCAIN: And on nuclear power, I see a few old Navy vets in the audience. Hey, there's one from my old ship. Let me just say, my friends, they'll tell you, we've sailed nuclear ships around the world with nuclear power plants on them. The French, the British, the Japanese -- they all reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

By the way, the French, 80 percent of their power -- we always want to imitate the French, right?


MCCAIN: Eighty percent of their electricity is generated by nuclear power. My friends -- by the way, we also now have a pro- American president in France, which shows if you live long enough, anything can happen in this world. But look --


MCCAIN: Look, we'll --


MCCAIN: We'll lower the cost of energy within months and we will create millions of new jobs in America and get our economy going again -- millions.


MCCAIN: You know -- you know something, my friends, we've learned more about Senator Obama's real goals for our country over the last two weeks than we've learned over the past two years. And that's only because "Joe the Plumber" asked him a question in Ohio.


MCCAIN: And that's when Senator Obama revealed -- but not for the first time -- that he wants to "spread the wealth around."

Now --


MCCAIN: Now, Joe -- Joe didn't ask for Senator Obama to come to his house and he didn't ask to be famous and he certainly didn't ask for the political attacks on him from the Obama campaign.


MCCAIN: Joe's dream is your dream. It's to own a small business that will create jobs. And the attacks on him are attacks on small businesses all over this nation. They should be ashamed.


MCCAIN: Small businesses -- small businesses employ 84 percent of Americans. We need to support small businesses, not tax them.


BLITZER: Senator McCain -- you get the drift of what he's saying.

In the last hour, we heard from Senator Obama and now from Senator McCain.

Let's assess what we just heard. Joining us, Gloria Borger, John King and Candy Crowley. They're three of the best political team on television.

Eight days to go, Gloria -- not with whole lot of time. I want to get back to what Dana was reporting just a little while ago, some of the finger pointing that seems to be going on inside the McCain camp. Some people say, you know what, it's business as usual for a supposedly losing side.

But what really is going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you can see, as Dana has been reporting, the clear tensions in the McCain campaign over the strategy over how to handle her. I mean you can look at one side who says look, she wasn't ready for prime time. We had to hold her back -- from those of us in the media -- before she could really face us. And there are others who say, look, you did her a disservice by not letting her get out there, because you didn't let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin.

I think the truth, when we look back on this, may be somewhere in the middle. But she's clearly trying to establish her own bona fides in case they lose this election. She wants to have a political career.

BLITZER: John, you've been doing some reporting. What are you hearing? What's going on inside the McCain campaign right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are some people, Wolf, right at the top of the campaign who do believe that she is starting to put her own self-interest ahead of the campaign's interest. And there you saw those tensions spill forward -- remarkably tough language used back and forth by both sides over the weekend.

What they are saying today is, why don't you all stop talking about this? And if they can stay on the economic message and if they can stop fighting amongst themselves, that would be the best use of our time from tomorrow on in the final week of this campaign. But we did not start this.

BORGER: Right.

KING: These are very senior McCain aides talking about Governor Palin and people very close to Governor Palin firing back at the senior McCain aides. There is an internal tension. And as Dana reported, it happens. It happened in the Dukakis-Bentsen campaign. It happened in Kerry-Edwards campaign. It happens a lot. But for it to happen one week out, when this campaign has so little room for error, is quite remarkable.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Candy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "The View," a conservative, she introduced Sarah Palin out on the campaign trail. She sort of revived the issue -- the issue that a lot of the McCain people would like to see go away -- the $150,000 wardrobe that RNC purchased for her. And then Sarah Palin responded. I'm going to play these little clips.


ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": With everything going on in the world, it seemed a bit odd. But let me tell you, this is deliberately sexist.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those clothes, they are not my property, just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased. I'm not taking them with me. I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska.



BLITZER: All right, Candy, how do you assess what's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think it's interesting that they finally sort of have a coherent answer to this. It seems to me that the first response we had from the McCain campaign was I can't believe we're talking about this -- the first part of what she said. But then, you know, she went on to say, listen, here is what happened. I mean, I think they needed an explanation so that they could move on.

And as it is, you know, having that come up yesterday, it just keeps the story going. And one of the first rules of politics is if there's a negative story out there, get it out, provide the explanation and stop talking about it. And I mean I think part of the problem here strategically is they let this story go on. You know, that's a serious problem for this campaign -- for the McCain campaign.

BLITZER: Gloria, let's get to the issue of age and race in this election only eight days away. In our recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we asked, "Is the race of a candidate a factor in your vote for president? Twenty-nine percent said yes. Seventy percent said no.

And we also asked, "Is the age of a -- of the candidates a factor in your vote for president?" Forty-seven percent said yes, 52 percent said no, which seemed to suggest -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that maybe McCain has a bigger problem, since he's older, than Obama does.

BORGER: Well, you know, voters have always worried about age, Wolf. They worried about Ronald Reagan's age when he was running. And I believe, getting back to Sarah Palin, that voters are probably now more worried about McCain's age than they may have been before he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, because what our polls also showing is that a majority of voters don't believe she's qualified to step into the job of president.

BLITZER: John, you're in California right now, where they had that so-called Bradley Effect way back in the '80s -- the black mayor of Los Angeles running for governor. Polls showed it would be close, he might win. He didn't win, so they said white people -- some of them, at least -- said they would vote for him, but then didn't. What do you think about this whole issue?

KING: That's the very reason I'm here, Wolf. We're going to do a piece for later in the week explaining the Bradley Effect, because many of the people involved in that race simply don't think it was true. They say the polls tightened at the end. But that is the label now used. Do white people lie to pollsters? Do they say they're going to vote for black candidate and then they change their mind?

There is no question that race will be an issue in some places. Remember the congressman, Jack Murtha from Pennsylvania, saying he believes people in his district are racist and might not vote for Barack Obama. We know in a number of states we will be watching -- places where Senator Clinton did very well -- where white, rural, blue collar Americans support Barack Obama.

But remember, there's a very important flip side to the race debate and that is we expect dramatically increased African-American turnout. And that could not only make a big difference in the presidential race, Wolf, it could have a coattail effect on many Congressional races.

BLITZER: And we expect, also, Candy, a huge turnout, relatively speaking, among young people. And that could be a big bonanza for Obama, as well.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And that's what they've been counting on, of course, is all of these new people, both young and African- American, that they have brought into this process over a very long primary campaign. And that has really helped this campaign -- the Obama campaign.

Frequently, Barack Obama, on the campaign trail, will say, well, Hillary Clinton made me a better candidate. Well, he also -- she also gave him a better organization, because they have been in basically every state trying to turn out that vote. So these are very important numbers that they've registered. But, of course, the real thing is can they get them out? And they are very confident here in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, that they do, in fact, have a superior get out the vote and that's where they think their real ace in the hole is.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

Now you know why this is the best political team on television.

With eight days to go, is there anything left for the candidates to say that might change voter's minds? Jack and your e-mail -- that's coming up.

And forget about "Joe the Plumber," Jeanne Moos says Joe the electrician may be needed out there on the campaign trail.

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


MCCAIN: Thanks for your warm welcome. Thank you for the warm evening. And the lighting -- I think the lighting is brought to you courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here once again.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: At this late date, what would change your mind about who to vote for for president?

Rob says: "Nothing will change my mind at this point. Obama has had my vote in the beginning. I voted Republican up through Bush's first term. But ever since Bush-Cheney started screwing up this country, I've been voting anything but Republican."

Kay in West Virginia: "Obama has 30 minutes on Wednesday to convince me he has the integrity, grit and intelligence to be our next president. He could change my mind by being absolutely truthful in his remarks, answering the simple question -- why you -- and explaining his reasoning for reinstating the marriage penalty in his tax plan."

Alexis says: "As an Independent, there are things I like about both men. I'll vote for Obama, as I fully feel he is the best choice. McCain made the decision easier for me when he chose his running mate."

Pat in Atlanta, Georgia: "Nothing. I'm voting for the person I believe has the right temperament to lead the country -- someone smart enough to surround himself with intelligent people, because we have big problems that are going to take new, innovative ideas to solve. I want someone who can be liked and respected on the world stage. At this point, McCain is too set in his ways and stubborn to change."

Jason in Colorado: "Taxes. If Obama adopted a sensible tax plan, I'd vote for him. I'm a Democrat who's planning to vote for McCain. I don't get why he would raise taxes at all. I think we learned the hard way in the past what happens when you raise taxes during a recession. That president's name was Hoover and all it did was make the Great Depression worse."

Robin writes: "If it came out that Obama did something highly immoral or very unethical, I would change my vote to a third candidate, such as Bob Barr. But I will never, ever, ever vote for McCain."

And Leza writes: "Let's see, nothing. I could not ever bring myself to vote for an old dude playing checkers with death and a bubble-headed mystery to herself and the rest of the world." That's cold.

BLITZER: Leza. She's tough, Leza.

CAFFERTY: That's cold.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog,, and check it out. It's a fascinating place.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And we'll see you here tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: I'll be here.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The economy is certainly tough. You're on the campaign trail and guess what, the mic goes out. So what do you say?


OBAMA: I'm told you folks are having trouble making their electricity bills.


BLITZER: Some bad jokes sometimes.

Candidates' look-alikes in the crowd -- it's all part of an unscripted side of the presidential race. Stand by for this report.


BLITZER: In our "Political Ticker," this Friday, THE SITUATION ROOM -- in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll have a one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama. And guess what? You can be part of the interview. Send us some of your video questions for Senator Obama at and I'll pick some of them and ask -- and let your questions be part of the interview. The campaign trail is inevitably paved with goofs, gaffes and missteps. CNN's Jeanne Moos has been taking them in her "Moost Unusual" style. Here's her latest installment of campaign follies.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the fake Sarah Palin please raise your pom-pom?

There was she was chanting his name...

AUDIENCE: John McCain! John McCain!

MCCAIN: Thank you.

MOOS: Basking in his praise, behind his back.

MCCAIN: She's a great reformer and a great person and I'm proud of her.


MCCAIN: And thank you for your support of Sarah Palin, as well. I'm very grateful for that, as well.

MOOS: The mystery look-alike Sarah even chanted her name.

AUDIENCE: Sarah Palin!

MOOS: Hey, sometimes folks don't you're the real thing even when you are. For instance, when Barack Obama was dialing for votes.

OBAMA: Doesn't that sound like me?

MOOS: At an Obama rally, the microphone died.


MOOS: At a McCain rally, the lights kept going on and off on Senator Lindsey Graham.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, "Joe the Plumber"...

MOOS: It's Joe the electrician they need.

MCCAIN: I think the lighting is brought to you courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.

OBAMA: Somebody from the McCain campaign kicked our plug out of the socket.

MOOS: The warm-up acts at these rallies seem to get wackier.

TITO MUNOZ: I am Tito Munoz. But you can call me Tito the builder. MOOS: And for the Democrats, there was Cecil the president -- of the United Mine Workers.

CECIL ROBERTS, PRESIDENT, UNITED MINEWORKERS OF AMERICA: Just a few more weary days and no more George Bush!

MOOS: Not to mention Senator Robert Byrd answering his own question wrong -- though the crowd got it right.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, the next president. Who is he?


BYRD: Joe Biden.

MOOS: The rally chants also seem to be getting odder, from "I am Joe!"

AUDIENCE: I am Joe! I am Joe!

MOOS: To "Bless your heart!"

AUDIENCE: Bless your heart! Bless your heart!

MOOS: -- to, Vote McCain, use your brain!

AUDIENCE: Vote McCain, use your brain!

PALIN: You bet you. That's good.

MOOS: Not so good was what happened to a hockey player on this carpet just before Sarah Palin dropped the puck for a St. Louis-Los Angeles game. Goalie Manny Legace slipped on the carpet, hurt his hip and had to leave the game.

(on camera): Now we've all heard that Senator Biden is long- winded, but now we have visual proof, thanks to a cub reporter with a tired arm.

(voice-over): Fifth grader Damon Weaver asked Biden what a vice president does. As the senator went on and on, Damon's his arm sagged.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: When the president comes up with an idea...

MOOS: Sometimes weighing a candidate's words can be heavy lifting.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

DAMON WEAVER: Senator Biden is now my home boy.

MOOS: -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

We want you to check out our CNN political pod cast. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at ROOM.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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