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Obama Widening His Lead?; McCain's Health

Aired July 28, 2008 - 22:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Barack Obama pulling ahead of John McCain, widening his slight lead with nine days to -- not nine days -- 99 days to go until the election. We look at what is driving the polls. Is this really a trend?
Also tonight, John McCain facing a volley of questions about his health. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic removed skin from his cheek. The four-time melanoma survivor says the biopsy is a routine procedure. We're going to examine the medical and political implications of that as well.

Later, they are watching -- the Homeland Security Department under fire to clean up its terror watch list and to explain how some names got on it in the first place, including CNN's Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit -- all the latest developments, including the TSA -- what the TSA is pressuring the airlines to do.

We have got all that and more ahead.

But we begin tonight with new poll members that show a widening gap between the two presidential candidates. In CNN's latest poll of polls, Barack Obama now has a five-point lead over John McCain, 45 percent to 40 percent. That's a gain of about two points since CNN's last poll of polls.

We should point out we have not seen the full effect of his widely covered overseas trip. We won't see the first entirely post- trip results until about midweek.

But, at a fund-raiser tonight, Obama sounding very confident. Here's what he told reporters right after.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are now in a position where the odds of us winning are very good, but it's still going to be difficult.


BROWN: For his part, John McCain spent much of the day fielding questions about his latest skin biopsy.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... as I do every three months, visited my dermatologist this morning. She said that I was doing fine, took out a small little nick from my cheek, as she does regularly. And that will be -- and will be biopsied, just to make sure that everything is fine.


BROWN: The presumptive Republican presidential candidate described the visit that resulted in the biopsy as a routine checkup. McCain, of course, has a mystery of melanomas, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. He's had it four times. He's also 71 years old, and, if elected, would be the oldest first-term president to take office.

All that makes today's biopsy both medical and, frankly, political news.

In a moment, CNN's Dana Bash is going to bring us up to speed on possible political fallout here.

But, first, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta joins us with medical implications.

And, Sanjay, Senator McCain, as we mentioned, has a history of melanoma. He's -- he's gotten a clean bill of health. And you recently reviewed his medical records. Given what you know, how concerned should we be?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is -- this is the biggest thing in his medical history. There's no question. He's had melanoma four times. Three of those times were not very serious, but one time was very serious, in 2000.

So, any time he has a mole, any time he has an abnormality on his skin, it's going to be more serious than the average person. Now, someone who has had melanoma has a greater likely of having melanoma return again. So, he has to be very, very vigilant.

But all we know about this at this point, Campbell, as you know, is that it was a suspicious mole. It will take some time to find out if it was anything at all or if the biopsy comes back completely clean, or negative, as they say.

BROWN: And you said, whether -- I guess, whether it's positive or negative, how long before you think we will know? And what would probably the recommendation be in terms of how to proceed from there?

GUPTA: Well, it was interesting. You know, he just -- on "LARRY KING"'s show just said he might get those biopsy results back tomorrow, which I thought was interesting and very fast. Typically, it takes several days.

But, of course, Campbell, as you know, we're talking about a presidential nominee here -- candidate, rather. So, it's a -- it could come back that quickly, I guess, if they sort of rush it.

Now, if this is melanoma -- and, again, no one is saying that it is -- there's a few things that they have to figure out. Exactly how deep is this melanoma? And, as a result of figuring that out, most likely, it would be treated with surgery. And this is a surgery disease, typically. It needs to be treated that way. It would involve removing some of the skin around that particular area to make sure there are no malignant cells where that mole once was.

And that's sort of the goal of treatment. That's how you treat this disease most effectively to keep it from spreading to other parts of the body.

BROWN: All right, Sanjay Gupta for us tonight -- as always, Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BROWN: Now to the politics of this medical news.

CNN's Dana Bash joining me now with that.

And, Dana, everybody hopes, obviously, this really is a routine matter, and his health isn't an issue here, but what are you hearing from your sources about political ramifications of this today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, politically speaking, Campbell, what I'm hearing is concern.

McCain's advisers know full well that this is a reminder to voters that he is a cancer survivor, and it's a reminder that he is a candidate who will be 72 years old next month. He would be the oldest president ever elected. And, you know, a poll earlier this month showed a third of voters worry McCain's age would make him less affected -- his advisers -- less effective, rather.

His advisers, Campbell, they're painfully aware of that. And that's -- and they're aware of the fact that that kind of number is exacerbated any time McCain's health is the subject of discussion, as it is tonight.

BROWN: And, Dana, McCain called this a routine checkup, as we said before. But it seemed to you and to a lot of other people covering him to really come out of the blue, didn't it?

BASH: It did come out of the blue. And it's kind of perplexing.

Barack Obama went to the doctor to get his hip checked out this weekend. He took the press corps with him. We didn't find out about what McCain called a routine checkup until after it happened. And because of that element of surprise, and because, of course, of McCain's history, this overshadowed what McCain worked really hard today to stage, and that was sound bites hitting Obama on offshore drilling.

Instead, Campbell, that imagery ended up as kind of a bizarre moment, with McCain pleading with people to wear sunscreen while he was standing on an oil field in the blazing California sun. So, this is really an example, I think, of how McCain has had some trouble managing how much he's scrutinized as the nominee. But I'm told, Campbell, tonight that his campaign is making a change in how he's covered in the hopes of avoiding some of the politically problematic surprises, like what occurred today.

BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us tonight -- Dana, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

BROWN: We want to dig deeper now on the potential political fallout with our panel.

We have got CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen with us, also Dee Dee Myers, President Bill Clinton's former White House press secretary and the author of "Why Women Should Rule the World," and Ed Rollins, CNN senior political contributor and a Republican strategist, here with me in the studio.

And, Ed, from your perspective, how bad is this -- how bad is this in terms of the images Dana was just talking about, coming for John McCain at the beginning of the week, after Obama's last week in Europe?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: John had a disastrous week last week, and he needed to move this thing forward this week and get on his agenda and his -- and, obviously, hopefully, this all goes away, and it's not very serious.

But it does remind people that he's old. It does remind people that he's had this cancer. And it does remind people that, when he wears the hat, and won't have you out there, he's lost a day and maybe two or three days of a very important week. We don't have much time before the conventions. And, so, he really had to gain some momentum this week.

And I think it's more the loss of momentum. And, hopefully, everything will turn out to be fine. He's tough. He's aggressive. And, hopefully, he will come out in good health. But it certainly slows down the momentum.

BROWN: Taking him off message.

David, do you agree? What -- talk to us about the broader implications. We just heard from Sanjay that the chance of melanoma recurring very low for McCain, but, also, what would happen if the biopsy were to come back positive? How does the Republican Party proceed?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that would be a much tougher situation.

Campbell, I think, for the moment, we should be a little wary of getting too excited about this story. I mean, he does have to have routine checkups. And, you know, this is -- and it's appropriate that he do that.

And I do think it does raise the questions of -- re-raise the questions age. And when he turns 72 during the month August, I think we're going to have a lot of consideration of that. And I think we're going to have an awful lot of consideration in the presidential debates.

When the two candidates stand side by side, and you're going to see the biggest age gap we have ever had between presidential candidates, 25 years, people are going to have to make a judgment about whether they want a man who is mature and experienced, to be sure, but is very old for the presidency, or do they want someone who is very young and inexperienced.

And I think that's going to be a difficult choice for people. But can I say one other thing why I think we have to be a little careful about what's going on today and the next couple days? On the polls, yesterday, we were all sort of taking, like, wow, the Gallup poll came out with a nine-point Obama lead.

Today, we have had this real curiosity that a Gallup/"USA Today" poll comes out of likely voters...

BROWN: Right.

GERGEN: ... showing a McCain four-point lead. The same news -- the same organization, Gallup, highly respected, 13 points apart.

BROWN: OK. Hold that thought, David, because we're going to get into that a lot more a little bit later. I just want to stay on this topic.

And, Dee Dee, what does Senator McCain need to do going forward from here? If they have learned the lesson of today, as Dana said, how do they get back on message and -- and get focused on the economy, which is what they were trying to talk about?


Well, one of the interesting things about the last 10 days was, in Europe, we watched Senator Obama perfectly execute each of his stops, really being disciplined in choosing a message, choosing a backdrop that reinforced that message, and sticking to the point he was trying to make.

And that is a very effective discipline for candidates, and for presidents, by the way. And I think what we see is a real contrast often with John McCain.

Now, today, the story about his mole and obviously bringing up an uncomfortable series of issues for him was a bit beyond his control. But it reminds us that he's always standing, as Dana Bash said, in a slightly awkward place. He's always resisting being too stage- managed.

And, as a result, his campaign events are often ineffective. They often are confused. You have an optic today of an oil derrick behind John McCain while he's standing in the sun while he's talking to the American people about wearing sunscreen.

And I think, again, the difference -- the difference we have seen in the discipline and the execution between these two campaigns is going to become increasingly important as we go forward into this intensely scrutinized period of the campaign in the coming weeks and months.

BROWN: All right. We're going to have a lot more with the panel when we come back.

To join our conversation, go to our new Web site,, and share your thoughts on our blog.

Coming up next: Barack Obama is back in the U.S. from his overseas trip, talking about the economy today. We will look at what he had to say.

Also tonight, Barack Obama, and John McCain, and the lobbyists. How exactly are their relationships with lobbyists? We will talk about that as well.

And, later, destroying their lives and others -- female suicide bombers, the newest terror tool in Iraq.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The challenges we're facing could not be more critical. And, if we want to meet them, then we can't afford, I believe, to keep on doing the same things that we have been doing over the last several years. We have to change course. And we're going to have to take some immediate action.


BROWN: That was Barack Obama back home and on the trail today, turning his attention now to the U.S. economy.

He got some unintentional help from government officials, who announced today that the budget deficit would soar to record heights this year -- this as Obama met with more than a dozen economic advisers in Washington and publicly blasted the Bush administration and Wall Street for the country's economic woes. His rival, John McCain, fired back.

CNN's Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not the wall in Jerusalem, the Elysee Palace in Paris, or 10 Downing Street in London, but this picture is where the voters are.

This is Barack Obama flexing his economic muscle, or, as an aide put it, a demonstration to voters of who will be advising him on the economy. It's room full of brainpower, from businessman Paul O'Neill, who served as George Bush's first-term treasury secretary, to labor leader John Sweeney, to former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So that the market is thriving, so that hard work is rewarded.

CROWLEY: It's a meeting to help Obama pivot from a trip designed to show his agility on the world stage, to the home front, where he needs to show a steady hand to steward a flailing economy.

OBAMA: And this is an emergency that you feel not only just from reading "The Wall Street Journal," but from traveling across Ohio and Michigan and New Mexico and Nevada, where you meet people day after day who are one foreclosure notice or one illness or one pink slip away from economic disaster.

CROWLEY: Every state mentioned is a fall battleground.

With polls continuing to show voters trust Obama more than John McCain on the economy, the McCain campaign welcomed Obama home trying to rough him up. Advisers called the Obama meeting just another photo-op, while the candidate toured an oil field and slammed Obama for refusing to support the kind of things that will address one of the major issues troubling voters, the cost of energy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, Senator Obama opposes offshore drilling. He opposes reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. He opposes storage of spent nuclear fuel. And, so, he is the Dr. No of America's energy future.

CROWLEY: Even before Obama left Europe at his final press conference in front of 10 Downing Street, he knew this trip might seem off point back home.

OBAMA: We have been out of the country for a week. People are worried about gas prices. They're worried about home foreclosures.

CROWLEY: And it's hard to top pictures with the city of Amman in the background or 200,000 Europeans in the foreground, but, today, a standard Washington photo-op did just fine.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Chicago.


BROWN: Photo-op or not, Obama is still ahead in the polls. Well, can he keep the lead? Or what can John McCain try to do to turn the tide at this stage? We will take that up live with our panel, David Gergen, Dee Dee Myers, and Ed Rollins. That's coming up next.

And, later, a new twist to the terrorist watch list -- there are a lot of questions how some names got on it. Well, wait until you hear about what the government wants to do about it now and what it means for you.

That's coming up.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In Germany, he did not go to Landstuhl. And I -- I can assure you that the troops welcome, especially those gravely wounded ones, welcome American senators. And if he had wanted to go with just the staffer, I am confident that he could have gone, rather than canceled his trip to see those brave young Americans.


BROWN: That was John McCain earlier tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," blasting his rival, Barack Obama, for not visiting wounded American troops while he was in Germany last week.

McCain has been hammering away at this point for days now in interviews and in a tough new television ad. So, will these attacks help or hurt McCain?

Joining me again for a "Strategy Session," CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, also Dee Dee Myers, President Bill Clinton's former White House press secretary, and Ed Rollins, CNN senior political contributor and a Republican strategist as well.

And, Ed, we just heard him hammering Obama. He's really hitting this one hard. Is he going to get any traction out of this, or is this a dangerous issue?

ROLLINS: I think the only mistake Obama made on his trip was not going to visit those troops. And he should have gone under any circumstances.

And, for whatever reason, there was a mixup. And it basically leaves him vulnerable. And I think, to a certain extent, it may be a mischarge, and McCain has to be careful not to overcharge when you make your attacks. But I think it's the one thing that he's a little vulnerable on.

BROWN: And, Dee Dee, you said that it's potentially another brick in the wall against Obama and his perceived lack of patriotism.

MYERS: I think Obama does have to be careful of this one.

Again, it does fit into a larger picture that I think the Republicans, some of the operatives, are trying to paint of Senator Obama. And I think McCain has to be very careful of not getting drawn into this.

You know, he's -- I was surprised to hear him on television this everything repeating things that I think he knows at this point aren't true. Primarily, he said -- McCain said earlier that the reason Obama didn't go is because he couldn't take television cameras, when I think Senator McCain's staff has probably told him by now that Senator Obama never planned to take television cameras.

And he went and visited wounded soldiers in Iraq without any television cameras. He's been here in the United States to visit wounded soldiers without any television cameras. So, he has to be careful of overplaying his hands, saying things that he knows are not true.

But it is a vulnerability for Senator Obama. And he better be very careful to rebut it.

BROWN: David, give me your take on this. Could -- is the potential there for this issue to backfire?

GERGEN: I think this -- these charges about not visiting a military hospital are just bunkum. And impugning Barack Obama's patriotism is unwise and dangerous.

You know, Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator, who is a good friend of John McCain's, was on that trip. And he said, this is just nonsense about this hospital. And he called Senator McCain on this.

It seems to me that these kind of personal attacks are -- are beneath Senator McCain, and they ought to move off it. What I think Barack Obama did -- I think he made a couple mistakes on the trip. But, overall, as Dee Dee said, it was a very, very well executed trip.

And now to come back, I thought he made a very smart move today to sit down and be seen with heavyweights on economic policy, like Paul Volcker and Bob Rubin and Larry Summers, because there are a lot of people out there, Campbell, especially in the business community, who are nervous about Obama's economic policies and where he may go, where he may go on taxes, raising taxes and the like.

He needs to have these kind of heavyweight -- mainstream heavyweights around him. I think it will fortify him. I thought he was smart to do that.

And, right now, I think -- I think Senator McCain needs to get back to the issues where he can get some traction, as he's done on offshore drilling.

BROWN: Let me ask Ed to address what -- what David just said on the issue of the economy. You know, McCain is hitting on that -- on that point specifically, that Obama -- quote -- "has only one answer to every challenge, raise taxes," you know, trying to put him -- and Obama, in his response, has been trying to put McCain pretty much in the Bush camp.

Who, if either, has an edge on this issue right now?

ROLLINS: No one has an edge today.

And I think that's the critical thing. I think John McCain has another opportunity, now that Phil Gramm is gone from being his chief economic adviser, to come out with a new plan. And he has got to be very careful. He's already talked about the possibility of raising taxes on Social Security and what have you.

And, to the Republican base, that is still not there, still not very enthusiastic, Social Security is a long-term problem. It's not a short-term problem. And I think the reality is getting this economy moving forward. Energy is a critical issue here. And I think that he can make a lot of mileage out of this, because Democrats are not quite willing to go up against their environmental compatriots. And I think they ought to push that as far as they can. But he has to be very careful about adding more things to the dimension at this point in time.

BROWN: Dee Dee, do you think either has an edge on this?

MYERS: I -- I think they're battling it out.

I think, again, there was an interesting clue in the optics today. You saw Senator Obama gathering together a lot of economic leaders, people who have really made great contributions to this country, with different perspectives. And he was convening this meeting. He was leading the meeting.

And, once again, we see Senator McCain out there by himself. And I think that's an interesting difference in leadership style that's reinforced almost every day. In Europe, in the Middle East, you saw Senator Obama bringing people together, standing with others, people with different points of view.

And you almost always see Senator McCain alone. And, so, I think -- and I do think he also, Senator McCain, tends to show a little disinterest when economic issues come up. He kind of goes to his talking points. But his real passion is ignited really only when speaking about foreign policy.

So, I think it's dangerous territory for Senator McCain. And I think Senator Obama has a continuing edge on economic policy more broadly, not just because of the circumstances of the current economy, but because of the leadership that I think he's showing in this campaign.

BROWN: All right, guys, we have got to leave it there.

But, David Gergen, Dee Dee Myers, and Ed Rollins with me here in New York, appreciate it, guys.

Still ahead: new information about how much Senators Obama and McCain are taking from lobbyists. Are the so-called maverick and change candidates really more of the same? We have got the "Raw Politics" on that coming up.

Plus, a new twist in the case against Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect down in Texas.

And incredible video of a house being swept away by floodwaters -- that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Coming up: Female suicide bombers strike four times today in Iraq. Who are they? And what motivates them to take such desperate actions? That's coming up.

But, first, Randi Kaye joins us with a 360 news bulletin -- Randi.


A hatred for liberal politics and anger about being unemployed were what drove a suspect to kill two and wound seven in a churn shooting on Sunday in Tennessee. That's according to a letter found in Jim Adkisson's car. Investigators say he expected to die in a shoot-out with cops after he opened fire in a Unitarian church in Knoxville.

Five men from the FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas, are under arrest tonight. Four are charged with sexual assault of a child, and face up to 99 years in prison if convicted. The fifth man, an FLDS doctor, was charged with failing to report that child abuse.

And ravaging floodwaters in New Mexico churned up by Hurricane Dolly sent a house on an unexpected cruise along the Rio Ruidoso. Several deaths are also blamed on that flooding.

We didn't have that video, so we were going to show you that incredible flooding, but we didn't get a chance to do that. Maybe we will be able to do that just a little bit later -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. We will try again.

Randi, though, before all that, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi taking her cues before a TV interview in New York today about her new book, "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters."

And here's the caption from Kelly, our staff winner: "OK, you're on in three, two -- what do you mean you forgot your glasses?"

KAYE: Yes, I have heard that line before, actually.


KAYE: Been there.

BROWN: Been there, done that?

KAYE: Oh, yes.

BROWN: All right, you think you can do better? Well, go to our new Web site, Click on the "Beat 360" link, and send us your entry. We will announce the winner at the end of the program. The winner does get a "Beat 360" T-shirt. So, by all means, log on.

Coming up next: The presidential candidates and lobbyists, are they really above their influence? We have the "Raw Politics."

Also ahead, Anderson on assignment, swimming with great white sharks. Was he scared? Hear for yourself -- coming up.


BROWN: Money is the oxygen in politics. And since it takes more money than ever before to run for the presidency, following the money is crucial, which brings us to lobbyists.

Love, hate, pretty much sums up the relationship candidates often have with lobbyists. While cash keeps the campaign afloat, money from lobbyists can cause political problems.

Tonight, the "Raw Politics." Two reports on lobbyists and the presidential candidates. First up, 360's Joe Johns and John McCain.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To hear John McCain tell it, he's your guy in Washington fighting against the unchecked influence of big businesses and their lobbyists.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The workers and entrepreneurs of America are taken for granted by their government, while the lobbyists and special pleaders are seldom turned away.

JOHNS: But how does that McCain rhetoric square with this? A fancy 2006 soiree of the little known but well respected International Republican institute in Washington. The video from the group's own Web site shows the chairman of AT&T, which had just donated $200,000 to the institute, introducing none other than John McCain, who is still chairman of the institute's board.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

JOHNS: Remember, at the time, McCain was fresh off of a term as the chairman of the Senate committee that regulates telephone companies, like AT&T.

AT&T says there were no strings attached to the donation, but that's not always the point.

PROFESSOR LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Access is the name of the game. It's getting in the door to see the candidates so you can make your case. Sometimes you don't even need to see the candidate. You just talk to staff members of the people who influence the candidate's decision.

JOHNS: OK, so which is it? Is he the scourge of the system in Washington that rewards lobbyists and their wealthy bosses? Or is he the guy who hobnobs with and therefore might somehow be influenced by the very interests he says he's trying to root out?

Answer: both. Smart politicians know that tough talk on lobbyists sounds good to the public, but the reality is players at this level can't live without them.

SABATO: They work with lobbyists. They have staffers who have been lobbyists. They are going to defend on lobbyists for a lot of the information for the decisions they make if they get elected.

JOHNS: The group IRI that held the event McCain attended gets just about all of its money from the federal government to do things like promote democracy around the world and help governments run more efficiently. It's a cause McCain believes in.

A former IRI staffer who also worked for the last McCain presidential campaign says while the IRI event may have brought them together, there was never a quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's never been a time when someone gave money and said this is what I want in exchange.

JOHNS: Still, part of McCain's message is very much about going against special interests. And simply by raising questions with McCain's relationship with lobbyists, the Democrats are hoping they're also raising seeds of doubt.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Change is a theme of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. And that's impacted his relationship to lobbyists. He's promised not to take money from lobbyists, but does that mean that big money isn't coming into his campaign?

360's David Mattingly focuses on the "Raw Politics" of a less obvious approach top lobbying, called bundling, and how that's shaping the Obama campaign.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Obama campaign is an extraordinary money machine, especially impressive because it made an unprecedented pledge: no money from lobbyists.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe we can take on the lobbyists if we keep on taking their money.

MATTINGLY: It sounds like out with the old days of big lobby money and in with the small donor. In fact, campaign figures show 94 percent of the money going to Obama comes from people writing checks for $200 or less. Sounds good, right?

But some political observers say that does not mean lobbyists have been locked out. They could still have influence.

LISA LERER, THE POLITICO: Just because you don't take money from lobbyists, of course, does not mean you're not taking money from big business.

MATTINGLY: The Center for Responsive Politics estimates Obama has taken $18.8 million from lawyers and law firms, some that employ lobbyists or special-interest clients.

One of the big rewards for big lobby contributors was access to the White House if your candidate won. But some say, where lobbyists are out of campaigns, they've only been replaced by so-called bundlers.

(on camera) Bundlers are deep-pocket contributors who work to get others to reach into their deep pockets to give the maximum allowable individual contribution. This creates huge bundles of cash.

(voice-over) The Obama campaign says it does use bundlers. This e-mail obtained by CNN shows a top-dollar Obama fund-raiser definitely acting like one. The e-mail promised a private meeting with Obama for Iranian-Americans if the group could raise 250 grand.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: We know that Barack Obama has raised at least $52.2 million from bundlers or about 18 percent of his overall receipts.

MATTINGLY: The Obama campaign says the e-mailer was wrong to make that promise and fell short of the state dollar goal. A spokesman says the candidate spoke to the group for 15 minutes, pausing for handshakes and photos.

In fact, the campaign now seems to want to make sure everyone at least has a chance to meet the candidate.

OBAMA: If you make a donation in any amount by July 31, even just $5, you could be selected to come to Denver to attend the convention and even join me backstage.

MATTINGLY: And that is the all-time perk behind any contribution.

David Mattingly, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: Next on 360, four suicide attacks with one thing in common: the bombers were women. We're going to take a closer look at this deadly trend.

Also ahead, new questions about the TSA's terror watch list. They say CNN's Drew Griffin isn't on it. So why does he keep getting stopped every time he flies? He's "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.


BROWN: As senators Obama and McCain spar over what's next in Iraq, the country's relative calm was being shattered. Suicide attacks, three in Baghdad, one in Kirkuk today, killed at least 70 people and injured dozens more. It was one of the deadliest days in Iraq this year. And it was carried out by four female suicide bombers, a terror tactic used to deadly precision just a few months ago. CNN's Arwa Damon now explains.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): March 17, a busy street in the Iraqi city of Karbala. Security video captures a woman dressed in flowing black robes. A bomb she carries explodes, killing more than 50 people.


BROWN: If the conditions are improving in Iraq, why are women becoming weapons, killing themselves and taking scores of innocent lives with them? We want to talk about that now with CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen.

Peter, thanks for joining us tonight.

I just want to get your take on the significance, what you think it is, of these latest attacks being done by women.

PETER BERGEN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Campbell, it's part of a trend that's been going on for some time. The first female suicide attackers showed up in Iraq November 9, 2005. She, in fact was Belgian, conducted a suicide attack on an American convoy. But she was the beginning of a trend that, unfortunately, has increased.

We've seen a large number of female suicide attackers. One of the reasons that al Qaeda is employing these female suicide attackers now is that the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has decreased rather significantly.

I was in Iraq some months back and, you know, a year ago, 120 foreign fighters, many of them volunteering for suicide missions, were coming into Iraq. Now that flow has gone down to about 25 a month.

So we don't have the foreign fighters volunteering to be suicide bombers coming into Iraq. You're turning now to females, occasionally to teenagers, and others who can do these kinds of operations, Campbell.

BROWN: At one point it was taboo for women to be used in combat. Is that essentially what changed?

BERGEN: Well, I think that has changed, obviously. Needless to say, al Qaeda in Iraq is a bunch of misogynists who don't have very high regard for women. But for tactical reasons, that they're willing to use women in these suicide operations.

We've seen that with the Chechens, with the so-called black widows in the '90's in the Soviet -- former Soviet Union. We've seen that, also, with certain Palestinian groups using women. And now we're seeing some of the Jihadi, the global Jihadi groups increasing turning to women as suicide attackers or people that they'll employ.

BROWN: But Peter, I think we've often heard that women are motivated in many of these cases by revenge. They want to avenge the death of a loved one. But there seems to be some evidence in some of these cases of women being used unwittingly.

BERGEN: Well, certainly, there was a famous case in the Baghdad market a few months back when two women with some form of mental deficiency were sent into a market and blew themselves up and killed something like 100 people.

So -- but I think that is not necessarily the -- true of all these cases, and revenge does seem to be one of the motives. That was also the case in Chechnya with the so-called black widows, Campbell.

BROWN: You know, often women in Iraq pass through the checkpoints without being searched, because it's considered improper to pat down a woman. Do you think the procedures at these checkpoints need to change to adapt to this new reality?

BERGEN: Of course. And one of the -- one of the kinds of policies we're going to see is an attempt to bring in more daughters of Iraq, similar to the sons of Iraq, so people who can track women going into markets, and these sorts of things. But clearly, there aren't enough of those women yet to do those kinds of operations.

BROWN: Peter Bergen, always appreciate your expertise. Peter, thank you.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BROWN: If your name is on the government's watch list -- is your name rather on the government's watch list? If so you could be in for an unwelcome surprise the next time you go to the airport. But now the government wants to end those headaches. The plan is new. Is it improved. We are "Keeping Them Honest."

And then later, road rage. A cop takes out a bike rider on the streets of New York.

And Anderson goes swimming with great white sharks. It is a "Shot of the Day" you are not going to want to miss.


BROWN: Tonight, an update on the story that has people talking and people angry. It's about the Transportation Security Administration's watch list. The ACLU says it has gone to about a million names. Among them, CNN special investigations unit correspondent Drew Griffin.

And he's not the only one caught on the list. So are lawyers, even congressman. While no government agency-strapped airlines, asking them to store passenger's dates of birth. But that's not all.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, here's Drew's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Congress now bearing down on watch list mistakes the Transportation Security Administration will look for help from the airlines. Along with asking airlines to store dates of birth on travelers, the TSA wants air carriers to count how many travelers are stuck on the watch list, forced to verify who they are, rather than quickly getting tickets online or checking in at a kiosk.

That has been happening to Jim Robinson, who has been stopped every time he flies for the last three years, even though he's a former assistant attorney general.

And to me, since CNN began airing reports critical of the TSA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on the watch list.

GRIFFIN: The TSA insists I'm not on a watch list, even though just last week I was stopped again and told I was as I checked in for a flight to Detroit.

The TSA also says it is actively exploring enforcement action against air carriers who inaccurately tell passengers they are watch- listed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're on the watch list.

GRIFFIN (on camera): A watch list?

(voice-over) What does the financially strapped airline industry say about the TSA's proposals? The Air Transport Association told us, "The airlines have been given assurances for more than four years that TSA would soon be taking over responsibility for vetting passenger names against government watch lists."

It hasn't happened yet. The TSA says next year. So the airlines are waiting, but Congress may not.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, demanding solutions. She says 32,000 people have written to homeland security, demanding to get off the list they are apparently mistakenly on.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I want the burden of clearing this up to be on the agencies that are the holders of the responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security, the secretary of the department, and the attorney general of the United States of America.

GRIFFIN: Along with clearing up the list, Congresswoman Jackson Lee wants to know how some people got on it in the first place.

LEE: Frankly, I also want to know why you curiously wound up on a list after you did a -- an investigation that asked questions about the United States' air marshals.

GRIFFIN: If this is just a case of mistaken identity, we have asked the FBI if CNN's audience can help catch the real terrorists. Specifically, CNN has asked for the name, photos and location of any suspected terrorist using either the names James Robinson or Drew Griffin.

The FBI refused, saying their policy is not to discuss individuals on or not on the watch list.


BROWN: Unbelievable story. And Drew with me now.

Drew, last week homeland security director Michael Chertoff said if you wanted to get off this list, you should go see the inspector general of homeland security about it? Did you?

GRIFFIN: Yes, he said that in a congressional hearing. Of course we did. I want to get off this list, but the inspector general's office told us they don't investigate individual complaints of people. Basically told us to go elsewhere.

BASH: So what's going on? I mean, do you think it's bureaucratic confusion on all counts?

GRIFFIN: You know, it's hard to tell. That's what our congresswoman, Jackson Lee, is trying to figure out, Campbell.

Now, they've had two -- we've had the head of TSA, the head of homeland security both go to congressional hearings and blame somebody else for all this.

Jackson Lee is trying to figure out who manages this watch list and who can get people off the watch list. Right now, people like me, I'm stuck. So are apparently thousands of other people, and we don't seem to be able to have a way off. And that is the problem.

COOPER: Stay on it, as I know you will. Drew Griffin for us again tonight. Drew, as always, thanks.

Coming up next, Anderson's shark adventure. We take you into the ocean. It is our "Shot of the Day."

But first Randi Kaye joining us again with a 360 bulletin -- Randi.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A New York police officer who body-checked a bicyclist at a Times Square demonstration has been assigned to desk duty and stripped of his badge and gun.

On Friday, the officer, as you can see, stepped in the biker's path and slammed him to the ground. Look at that.

A 360 follow. A Louisiana grand jury will hear the case against former cop Scott Nugent, who tasered a man to death in January. The victim was handcuffed and tasered nine times. Nugent's attorney says he was following proper police procedure.

And here's that incredible video from New Mexico. Ravaging flood waters churned up by Hurricane Dolly sent this house on an unexpected cruise along the Rio Ruidoso. Several deaths are also blamed on that flooding. But look at that house go.

BROWN: Some serious video. OK, now our "Beat 360" winners. It is our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our own staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post in our blog every day.

Tonight's picture, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- there she is -- doing a TV interview in New York today for her new book.

Our staff winner tonight, Kelly and her caption: "OK, you're on in three, two -- what do you mean you forgot your glasses?"

Our viewer winner is Charlie from Orlando. And his caption: "Speaker of the House Pelosi ignores a producer's plea to pay attention to the people on her right."


BROWN: Clever. Charlie, your "Beat 360" t-shirt is on the way.

And you can check out all the entries we received on our blog and play along tomorrow by going to our new Web site,

"The Shot" is next. Anderson's adventure with great white sharks. His view from under water =coming up.

And at the top of the hour, a routine procedure or not? John McCain, who has battled skin cancer in the past, has a mole removed from his cheek. We're going to have the very latest, coming up.


BROWN: All right, Randi, time now for "The Shot." Anderson is off tonight, but he's not exactly taking it easy.

KAYE: Very busy.

BROWN: He is diving off the coast of South Africa and getting up close with great white sharks for our latest "Planet in Peril" investigation. Let's take a look.

OK, this is pretty incredible. This is from his underwater journey. Anderson, very brave to get in within a few inches of a great white. We'll let him explain what it's like.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: It's actually not as scary as one might think. The silence of it when you're underwater. But I was in this interview and marveling at the size and the strength and the grace of this animal. It's fantastic. It's really cool. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Yes, really cool. Really cool. That was fantastic.

HILL: Look at that. I could see...

BROWN: It's not as scary as you think? We're going to have -- we're going to have a very serious conversation about this when he returns from his travel.

OK. Much more from Anderson tomorrow night on 360, and you can see more of his shark adventures on our Web site at

HILL: Just ahead, Barack Obama's lead widening. We're going to show you the new poll numbers and tell you what they might mean. Plus, when health collides with politics. Senator John McCain facing renewed questions about his fitness. We'll look at the medical implications of his latest skin biopsy.

Plus, the "Raw Politics" of it all when 360" continues.


BROWN: Tonight, Barack Obama pulling ahead of John McCain, widening his slight lead with nine days to go -- nine days -- 99 days to go until the election. We look at what is driving the polls. Is this really a trend?

Also tonight, John McCain facing a volley of questions about his health. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic removed skin from his cheek. The four-time melanoma survivor says the biopsy is a routine procedure. We're going to examine the medical and political implications of that, as well.

Later, they are watching. The Homeland Security Department under fire to clean up its terror watch list and to explain how some names got on it in the first place, including CNN's Drew Griffin, our special investigations unit. All the latest developments, including the TSA, what the TSA is pressuring the airlines to do. We've got all that and more ahead.

But we begin tonight with new poll numbers that show a widening gap between the two presidential candidates. In CNN's latest poll of polls, Barack Obama now has a five-point lead over John McCain, 45 percent to 40 percent. That's a gain of about two points since CNN's last poll of polls.