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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Palin Expected to Arrive in Alaska; Obama Says Enough is Enough

Aired September 10, 2008 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. Agree or disagree with her politics, Sarah Palin is a political force to be reckoned with. Right now, "Breaking News" she is just arriving back home in Alaska any moment. The plane is expected to touch down and this is going to be the first time since the Republican convention she has gone back to Alaska.
You are looking at a live shot at the airport in Fairbanks, that's inside the hangar where Sarah Palin is going to address the crowd. And we understand her husband is going to introduce her. We're going to bring you his comments as well as hers.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is reporting on the scene. And she joins us now by phone. Jessica, do we know when she is expected to get there exactly?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks like she's running a tiny bit late, Anderson, we think maybe ten minutes or so but she should arrive within the next 10 minutes. And I'll tell you there are a crowd of several thousand people here. An enormous sense of excitement, they are looking forward to seeing her back home for the first time since accepting the nomination.

This is a governor people feel they know by -- in an intimate sort of way. They just call her Sarah. Folks have been waiting for hours, chanting go, Sarah, go. I haven't seen this but my photographer tells me he's seeing some carrying plastic red lips walking around.

Folks call her a straight shooter, a fighter, a no-nonsense governor who took on oil companies. And I talked to a few Alaskans who say they're here just because they're excited that the state is getting this much attention.

Now as you said, she is going to be introduced by her husband, Todd. She'll make remarks. There's actually a teleprompter set up, which is a little unusual for this kind of event. And the big central event will be the deployment ceremony for her oldest son, Track which happens at 1:00 tomorrow.

He's a private first class and one of 4,000 members of the First Striker Brigade which is based here in Fairbanks at Fort Wayne Wright. This ceremony happens tomorrow that does not mean to Track deploys immediately; the brigade ships out over the next seven weeks. And all we can say that where he'll be stationed is that is in Northern Iraq. And Anderson, I should mention that outside the gate there are also about 50 to 100 protesters carrying signs that say things like "Sarah is a good old boy." And many Alaskans know Palin is not qualified to be VP. Which is a lot that said on the sign but there are a few of them.

And those are -- while the families still say they're here, they are not even decided on who they're going to vote for but they wanted their kids to see a woman can do this, Anderson.

COOPER: Jessica is going to be standing by. I should point out that we're the only cable network broadcasting live at this hour of this event, you won't find this on any other network or everyone else is in tape at this point. They've all gone home, apparently.

We're going to continue to look live there at the screen in Fairbanks to bring you any developments as they warranted, we do want to bring you up to date on what happen today on the campaign trail; the flap over lipstick, pigs, all the discussion. The McCain camp said they took umbrage from the comments that Barack Obama had made.

McCain forces said that -- excuse me Senator Obama fired back, basically, at the McCain campaign today sharply what he called phony outrage. The media again today, was fixated on the controversy, we're not going to fixate on that tonight.

Lipstick will be mentioned, yes, so will pigs but so will taxes and spending and everything else that voters said they truly care about.

Candy Crowley begins tonight's coverage on the trail with the Obama campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Some Democrats fear the bloom is off the rose as Barack Obama's poll numbers stagnate and Republicans pound him on everything from sex education to lipstick on pigs.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swiftboat politics. Enough is enough.

CROWLEY: He's out of wax as one nervous Democratic lawmaker. Obama needs to put McCain on defense about the issues. The source added Republicans and Bush have approval ratings below freezing, the war is unpopular, the economy is in the tank, the race is tied and we're talking about lipstick on pigs.

A key Obama adviser has predicted Palin will fade from the headlines. The race will return to McCain and Obama and victory will be in the issues.

OBAMA: So let's talk about something serious and something real which is our education system and how our children are going to end up being able to compete in this new global economy.

CROWLEY: But first he is going to have to clear away the clutter.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Have you ever actually put lipstick on a pig?

OBAMA: You know, the answer would be no. But I think it might be fun to try.

CROWLEY: Obama concedes to David Letterman that Palin is a phenomenon, a familiar word to Obama who said of his own time in "Newsweek" cover stories, those were the days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Is this race, I mean people will say look, there is a lot of mudslinging, it's getting nasty. Is it getting any nastier than races always get around this time?

CROWLEY: We're always are saying, oh I can't believe how nasty this is and I can't remember a campaign when we didn't say that come September and October. It seems to me this is a little early, but you always expect it. I honestly don't think this is any nastier than a lot of them I've covered.

COOPER: We're continuing on the left-hand side of our screen to watch the airport there in Fairbanks, Alaska, awaiting the arrival of Sarah Palin.

Have you -- I mean there's been a lot of criticism I heard Fred Thompson today saying that you know no one has -- that the media, everyone has been attacking Sarah Palin, investigating her like nothing that they've ever seen before. It's rare though that a new -- and I'm not trying to defend all the media, but it's rare that a new political figure emerges to such an important position at so late a day and so little is known about them.

CROWLEY: Absolutely, I mean out of the blue, I cannot remember, I mean Dan Quayle comes closest to that. And he was in the U.S. senate. So people did know.

I mean some people knew, now look, we're talking about at this point, reporters are looking and say who is this? Because you know we're talking about Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. But obviously the name Sarah Palin never came up.

COOPER: Occasionally it came up and sort of in passing.

COOPER: That's right. But nothing -- and no one knew a thing about her. And I think that was kind of the downside and the upside for John McCain.

The downside was that, you know, everybody flew 14 correspondents into Alaska and said who is this woman? The upside was it was such a surprise, and you remember at the beginning I was like, what was he thinking, oh my gosh, and now it's like brilliant.

COOPER: Brilliant move.

CROWLEY: Right.

COOPER: And next week we'll see what the conventional wisdom is.

Candy, stick around. We're going to continue to talk as we watch what's happening at Fairbanks, Alaska, waiting for the arrival of Sarah Palin. Apparently, her kids are already there. They're supposed to greet her when she and her husband arrive. And then her husband is going to walk, you saw the camera pan over just a second ago, they're going to walk into that terminal in front of that big American flag. Her husband is going to introduce her and we're going to bring you those comments live.

I want to take a look now though, at the campaign machinery that is gearing up to support Sarah Palin and how John McCain is getting along without her. Those we're just hearing tonight, he might not be on his own for long and this is the first time he was on the campaign trail today, without Palin's since picking her.

"On the Trail" for us is Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Their final post convention rally together and their biggest yet. With Sarah Palin, John McCain is well aware he's ignited a surprising fire for his campaign and he's doing everything he can to stoke it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This governor negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline that will bring clean energy to the lower 48.

BASH: But McCain's advisers know Palin's record isn't what's making her a sensation it's her persona and they're scrambling to protect it. Assembling a new team of lawyers, researchers and class aides to try to shape the onslaught of coverage about everything from earmarks she fought for and against to rampant rumors she banned books.

After their morning rally, McCain parted ways with Palin to campaign alone for the first time since picking her. A small round table with women in a Philadelphia diner; what a difference without Palin. Chanting outside, not for Sarah, but Obama; McCain's statement to reporters drowned out.

MCCAIN: The challenges that face our economy.

BASH: He was finally forced to stop talking when his supporters got in the mix. All he could do was end with a joke.

MCCAIN: Pennsylvania is a battleground state, as we can tell.

BASH: The stark difference between McCain's events with and without Palin is not lost on his advisers. In fact they say, when Palin returns from Alaska she will finally have her first solo campaign trip to battleground states but they also say to look for McCain and Palin together again soon and to be together a lot more between now and November than running mates usually are.

Dana Bash, CNN, Seventh Springs, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And on the left-side of your screen you are seeing her first solo campaign event though not in the battleground state. This is in the state of Alaska where you see as you know is wildly popular.

We're going to, again, continue this coverage.

We'll talk with John King, and Candy Crowley, and David Gergen, and Dana Bash and Jessica Yellin, and all of whom are standing by. Our coverage continues in a moment, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you are looking at a live picture of Fairbanks, Alaska. As I pointed out we're the only cable network live covering this event, now everyone else is on tape gone away. We are watching again for the arrival of Sarah Palin's and her husband and her kids are already there waiting her arrival.

We are told this is supposed to happen in the next 10 to 15 minutes or so. Again, these times are very estimated so we're kind of just waiting to see literally when the plane arrives in the sky and starts to land with the landing gear down.

We anticipate her making some comments. We anticipate her husband introducing her as well. We'll be interested to see what they say. She has been very carefully scripted over the last, well really since the convention, giving a version of her convention speech at many stops along the way with John McCain. This is the first time we have seen her solo. And there's no telling what she will say given this is her state and tomorrow her son begins a deployment to Iraq.

Also of course, Joe Biden's son shortly begins a deployment as well.

Let's talk with some of our panelists John King, Candy Crowley, and CNN's senior political analyst and former presidential adviser, David Gergen also joins us as well as we continue to watch the tarmac.

It is going to be interesting, David, just to hear Sarah Palin in a different context. I mean this is a state where the people know her where clearly she is overwhelmingly popular. She is not going to be telling them about the "bridge to nowhere" and thanks but no thanks.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I'm rubbing my eyes in disbelief that we are all sitting here awaiting to watch the arrival of a vice presidential candidate. I mean, we don't do this for presidential candidates. But there is an enormous public interest and yes we are all sort of curious how she is going to handle it.

I think the most interesting is she got a teleprompter up there. That says to all of us that once again, she's coming in with a script.

COOPER: John King, do we know much about what she's going to say or I mean how this event is going to go?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. We just know mostly this is a welcome home rally for her and we do know the McCain campaign is proud of the fact that two weeks ago, Alaska was considered a bit of a battleground state. The Obama campaign was thinking about competing there.

But we do know she's traveling home not only to this big rally and not only to say farewell to her son, which is a big deal for the family obviously. But she's also traveling home for that first big interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News and Steve Schmidt who is the top strategist and the McCain campaign was on for the flight. He usually would not travel with the vice presidential candidate.

They understand the stakes of this interview. They also understand that they have captured the drama of the campaign and they're going to milk it as long as they can.

COOPER: And David Gergen, you're pointing out, you think it's no coincidence that this interview will be taking place on September 11.

GERGEN: No. They've been playing a very shrewd game. You may not like it, you may think it's very cynical but it is shrewd. And that is -- they scheduled an interview on 9/11, a day of national mourning, a day when people feel, try to be more conciliatory. So I think it's hard to do a tough interview if you'd like and they've also scheduled on a day when her son was -- are having a formal ceremony to depart for Iraq.

And you have to honor that service. And honor the family that sends a son to Iraq. So I don't think it's a coincidence that it's on 9/11 the day her son is departing.

COOPER: And how has, Candy Crowley, and obviously of course, how has Sarah Palin changed everything?

CROWLEY: You know, it's just literally her being there has done it. Ronald Reagan used to say 95 percent of life is just showing up. Well, she showed up.

COOPER: Woody Allen originally said that. I'm not sure.

COOPER: However that went.

You know nonetheless I mean, she showed up at the convention and it just electrified the place. Now, these were the party faithful, the core of the party. And they knew where she was coming from and that's part of why she electrified them but also so few people knew who she was. There was this vast curiosity so that two weeks later we're still sitting here as David says, looking at a tarmac in Alaska. Because if you told me three weeks ago we'd be sitting here looking at a tarmac in Alaska, I would have said, well, it's not for a political story. And yet here we are.

COOPER: We're going to try to squeeze in one break before we anticipate her arrival.

And also I just want to give you a couple quick programming notes. Tomorrow on CNN you can see Obama and McCain on stage together for the first time since their appearance at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. The coverage of the joint forum starts at 8:00 Eastern tomorrow, we'll have special coverage on "360" at 10 p.m. If you miss 8:00 p.m., just watch the 10:00 p.m. "360." We're going to give you all the best moments.

Then Saturday night the two running mates revealed in-depth in a pair of CNN documentaries, Sarah Palin at 9:00 Eastern, and Joe Biden at 10:00.

Back to Fairbanks, Alaska, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Again, we are looking at the tarmac there in Fairbanks where Governor Palin is expected. Shortly one of their late bit of campaign news. CNN has learned that Senator Obama and Bill Clinton are going to be campaigning later this month in Florida; one of course of a handful of states that can make or break the candidates.

Tonight we've got new polling data showing that in many of those state an already close contest is getting even closer.

The "Raw Politics" now from John King in one of those battleground states of Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Signs of struggle dominate battleground Michigan. A giant but shattered Ford plant in Wixom. Just a few miles away in Pontiac, a barren lot once home to a GM truck assembly plant with jobs around the clock. The unemployment rate is 8.5 percent and the housing slump adds insult to injury.

RAY GARDELLA, HOME BUILDER: If I come in and build the houses somebody else takes care of the land.

KING: Home builder Ray Gardella wants help from the next president and isn't sold on Barack Obama's promise of change.

GARDELLA: Yes, we need more than that, especially in the economy we had. And certainly a strong candidate, a very easy to listen to with candidates, but I don't think he gives us the substance we need.

KING: The combination of a struggling economy and an unpopular Republican president should be a huge advantage. But new CNN battleground state polling suggests the race for the White House is as competitive as ever.

Here in Michigan perhaps a tiny Obama edge, 49 percent to 45 percent. Likewise, in New Hampshire where the CNN Time polling gives Obama a 51 percent to 45 percent lead. But in Missouri, it's advantage McCain; 50 percent to 45 percent. And in Virginia, McCain leads 50 percent to 46 percent.

The results are all within the margin of error. So, all four states stay as toss ups in the CNN electoral map.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep hitting back hard.

KING: But there are trouble signs for Obama. McCain's pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is boosting the GOP ticket among white voters, men and women, including a 14-point McCain edge among whites here in Michigan.

Gardella started his business here 35 years ago. Back then, he was a McGovern Democrat. But he leans Republican now, and like many in his generation here, shrugs off Obama's talk that John McCain has been in Washington too long to change it.

GARDELLA: I think he was more of a man of action, if he wants to, he's been waiting for 30 years to become a man of action and I think he wants to that in the executive Office.

KING: Some local Democrats complain Obama isn't taking their advice on how to connect with blue collar voters. And they say he could have locked up the state if he had chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

DENNIS COWAN, OAKLAND COUNTY REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: We did fear the Obama/Clinton ticket. He kind of made the safe choice for VP. John McCain made a bold choice for VP which has gotten everybody's attention.

KING: Oakland County Republican Chairman, Dennis Cowan says McCain's VP pick has knocked the Democrats off stride.

COWAN: It's definitely happened. There's no question that we, in essence, stolen the change aspect of the Obama/Biden candidacy. But primarily it's because we are emphasizing reform in government as opposed to just change.

KING: Oakland County is considered the swing battleground within the battleground. It's a diverse mix of more than a million people, a barely even mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And a blend too of sobering economic blight and more upscale developments where home values are sagging because of the mortgage mess.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John King joins us now as we continue to watch what's happen on the tarmac over there.

John you've been traveling around to a lot of this battleground states. It's the question I asked Candy earlier. How has Sarah Palin changed the dynamic in those states?

KING: It's quite interesting and quite significant. In Ohio yesterday a number of people at the McCain rally say they turned out for Sarah Palin. It is the Palin T-shirts selling much quicker than the McCain t-shirts here today.

While we were here, a woman saw us and stopped by and said she is a Christian nearby. Much more excited now about John McCain she said because of Sarah Palin. Now, let's be clear. These people are conservatives. Most of them were inclined to vote for McCain anyway.

But Anderson, many of them say they weren't so sure, they weren't energetic about it. Now they say they're calling up to volunteer and they're showing up at rallies. So McCain is filling in some of the potholes he had on his own path to a competitive election. The dispirited nature of the Republican base, there's definitely more enthusiasm on the Republican side.

The question now is can he use that, essentially Sarah Palin helping him get even with Obama, even a little bit of momentum, can he use that to build? That's the big question looking forward.

COOPER: It's interesting what you say. Because the conventional wisdom always is that well, the vice presidential candidates, don't you know -- people vote for the presidential candidate not for the vice presidential candidate. But clearly, at least in this case, whether it's just energizing the base she has made a huge difference.

KING: She's made a significant impact in part because Christian conservatives, social conservatives have looked at John McCain's record and say, yes he votes with us but we don't really think he believes it. In picking Sarah Palin he has convinced many of them, he actually does believe it, he actually does want the things what we want.

And remember, that the Republican base has been dispirited from the route of 2006, the president is unpopular even among many factions in his own party and John McCain criticizes Republicans from time to time including in the Republican primaries and in his big convention speech.

So Republicans did need a boost of morale. And in that sense they say Sarah Palin is a great shot in the arm. And when you say well, is she ready for Washington; many of the voters you encounter say we don't care. It's a lot like the mood you have with Ross Perot back in 1992, they think Washington needs to be turned upside down if not worst and they think a newcomer and a fresh face is just the type to do it.

COOPER: All right John, while you've been talking we've been watching the left-hand side of the screen. The plane they call the Straight Talk Express 2 has obviously landed. On board are Sarah Palin and her husband, we're told her kids are on the ground.

Jessica Yellin is also on the crowd. Jessica if you can hear me, do you see where her kids are? What is the plan? What is going to happen in the next few minutes?

YELLIN: The kids are here but they're not in view yet. She is going to get off the plane. She'll be walking through this crowd which, Anderson, is enormously excited, they have been chanting "Sarah" for more than an hour now.

She'll come in and be introduced by her husband, first will be greeted I'm sorry by her kids when they're brought down, introduced by her husband and give remarks.

And I'll tell you the folks here see her as the sort of opportunity for Alaska to be known. They describe her as the kind of individualist who represents what they think their state is about, the sense of independence and they call her a reformer.

A little factoid for you, where we are where right now where this plane is landing is across the street from the site where her husband finishes his Ironman races, you know the snow machine races. He pulls in right across the street so this is an area they're very familiar with.

And there is a quote in a local paper this morning saying that, this is going to be America's opportunity to see firsthand just how popular Sarah Palin is in Alaska.

We reported on the poll numbers. But seeing it in person at a rally it's something different. You know I have covered a lot of Obama rallies. This is a much, much smaller crowd with the kind of excitement, and passion and intensity is that nature, it's what you've seen at those early Obama rallies. Something very different from what we saw around McCain in the early days of his race.

COOPER: And again I'm just pointing out --

YELLIN: And they are eager for her to get off this plane and to say hi.

COOPER: And to David Gergen's earlier point, hard to believe we are sitting around and watching this, a vice presidential candidate arriving home to Alaska. Two weeks ago, very few people in this country, in the world, knew who Sarah Palin was, clearly that is very different.

Let's keep that full screen. I don't think people need to see me anymore. I think more people are interested in this picture.

Hey, let's just listen in to the crowd just a little bit. Again we are not in control of this camera. This is pool camera. There's the pilot, I'm not sure that coming on the pilot have seen this either but judging the fact that he's taking pictures of the crowd. Let's just try and to listen in to see what the crowd sounds like. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a historic moment here in Fairbanks, Alaska. This is very historic moment. The door is opened up. The door is opened up. It's Sarah Palin.

When you hear somebody observing the crowd, that is not anyone from our network. That's just someone there who is talking from the crowd what was going on.

CROWD: Sarah!

Palin!

McCain/Palin!

COOPER: It's interesting the crowd is chanting Sarah. The man is exhorting the crowd to chant McCain/Palin. But clearly this is a hometown crowd. And they want to see Sarah Palin, also her husband. To my knowledge, Candy have you -- we're told her husband is going to introduce her. I've never heard him speak publicly.

COOPER: I haven't either, I haven't either. So that's kind of fun. I mean it's always, I remember waiting at the Republican convention to hear Cindy McCain talk, in an entire speech obviously she's introduce her husband. He is a Mr. Mom. It will be really interesting to see what he says about this woman.

So that will be interesting. It will be interesting what she says when she hits home base. And what she has to say to a crowd that already pretty much knows her record. So she doesn't have to go through that. So I also was sitting here thinking we somehow forget the history of this. This is the first time the Republicans have had a number two that was a female on the ticket.

And it's obviously history for Alaska because I am fairly certain they haven't had a candidate on either the Republican or the Democratic ticket. So there is some history here that's really worth noting at this point.

COOPER: David Gergen, as you watch this, the -- can this last? Can this sort of, I mean, it has been a kind of a honeymoon period for Sarah Palin. Can it go on much longer?

GERGEN: It's unimaginable to me Anderson. It's not imaginable to you'd almost think that this was Straight Talk 1; that they ought to rename the plane, well her arriving on it, because she's sort of dominant now. She selected transcended figure on both sides.

And I do not think that can last but I don't know how it's going to come out. I think it's one of this, one of these mysteries of American politics that she may go on and help win John McCain win this election.

She may be the driving force behind that. But she could also -- this is a shooting star that could flame out, that could implode. There's a lot unknowables attached to this but for the moment, this is wild. It is unbelievable to me that we're sitting here at 11:30 at night and spend our time watching this; just unbelievable.

COOPER: I'm told that's a man named John Reefs who was exhorting the crowd at the airport there in Fairbanks. John Reefs talking to the crowd; getting them going. Obviously, doesn't need to get them going very much because this is a crowd which is eagerly anticipating seeing her first time back in Alaska. Tomorrow there is supposed to be a ceremony for her son's unit which will be shipping off. And there she is. There are all the members of her family. There you see Bristol and Trig. We are told she is supposed to walk into that hangar we saw earlier.

Jessica Yellin, I'm not sure where you are. Can you describe what you are seeing?

YELLIN: I am seeing a huge crowd of people run toward the site where she is arriving. They've been playing the "Top Gun" theme. People have been chanting her name in rounds of Sarah and Palin.

There is an enormous sense of pride over this. They both love her for who she is and for what this means for their state and their kids the attention they're getting. They keep saying this is a friendly warm place, Alaska. Well, not actually warm in temperature, but in the way they treat each other here and they want to show that through Sarah Palin.

And obviously a fabulous homecoming for her; her first time back since this all happened. The reception here would be what any person would want, an enormously warm feeling in this crowd -- Anderson.

COOPER: David Gergen, what are you thinking as you're watching this?

GERGEN: You have got to give her credit. Like, I'm skeptical of a lot of this. She is getting a warm homecoming. She deserves it. It's a chance to be with her own people and receive their plaudits or thanks and salute. She does have a son going to Iraq. For all of that, you have to say you have got to give her credit for what this is.

I think it is rare to the point of being bizarre.

COOPER: In a race that has been nothing but bizarre for the last year and a half. I don't anybody could have predicted this race. This is just yet another development.

We are obviously going to carry the remarks of her husband and her, bring them to you.

John King, it seems to me when you look at her back ground, a lot of people have underestimated this woman time and time again. When she ran for mayor we heard from her father who said that no one really expected she could unseat an incumbent.

Let's listen in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great honor to introduce to you our wonderful governor and the next vice president of the United States of America, Sarah Palin.

COOPER: We're trying to wait for the -- here she goes.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Thank you so much. This is just overwhelming. Thank you. Thank you so much. Oh, I am so glad to get to be here.

Thank you for being here, Fairbanks. Thank you for letting us be here. Oh. This is beautiful. Wow.

It has been an amazing couple of weeks. And I just want to thank you Alaska for your support and your encouragement.

What we've been doing is taking our campaign on the road, of course, across the nation and we've been carrying our message of reform to the American people. We've been talking all about Alaska. And people are excited.

What a trip it's been and I cannot wait until you meet John McCain. He's a friend of Alaska and he's going to be the next president of the United States of America.

We started in Arizona and then went to Ohio and Pennsylvania and Missouri and New Mexico and Colorado and Virginia. Everywhere we are going the response really has been overwhelming. I kept telling people, if you think it's exciting along those stops, just wait until we get to Alaska.

I know that the coldest state would give us the warmest welcome so I thank you so much. I'm so happy to get to be here, of course, with my family. Some of the kids are here with us. Tomorrow we get to participate in son Track's deployment with the Striker Brigade.

And, of course, I know you are going to give a warm welcome to Alaska's first dude, Todd Palin.

As you guys are going to notice, especially if you watch that airplane and you watch people get off that airplane, you are going to notice that Todd and the kids picked up a few friends along the way; A whole airplane full of friends. If you see them looking lost because they are just overwhelmed as they flew over this territory, I said don't worry.

These are good Alaskans. They'll point you in the right direction. Just look for the North Star. You'll find your way.

So since Senator McCain first introduced me as his running mate Americans have gotten to know a lot more about Alaska. and they know that up here it's a snow machine, not a snowmobile. And we know that in Alaska like that old bumper sticker says, Alaska where men are men and women win the Iditarod.

And you know what? They are really excited knowing more about and that's Alaska's oil and gas. Everywhere we go they are chanting drill, baby, drill and I saw the signs over there.

Americans know that you've done some great work up here, Alaskans, as we've kind of taken the government here in the state, put it back on the side of the people in these last couple of years. Your have really helped shake things up just like we are going to go to Washington, D.C. to shake things up in the capital.

What John McCain has noticed is that Alaska has returned to the fundamental truth that government is not always the answer. In fact, government too often is the problem. So we've gone back to the basics and we put government back on the side of the people.

Again, what we're going to do in D.C., Senator McCain knows that we've done some shacking up, up here in Alaska. He likes to say that he and I, that we're a team of mavericks. It's a team I'm proud to be a part of. I thank you for your support in this, Alaska. Thank you.

Over the next two months we're going to take our case for reform to voters of every background in every party or no party at all. It is going to be a hard-fought contest also. But John McCain and I, we are ready and with your help we are going to win.

I can't wait until you meet John McCain. He is a guy who has been through a few tough fights before, battles, war, he's been through this. He served America in good times and bad. And he knows what it takes to overcome great challenges. And for the job of leading our country, he's the only man in this race who's got what it takes. He is amazing, friends.

Remember it was just about a year ago when the war in Iraq looked very bad. And the consequences of failure would have been very terrible. Defeat at the hands of Al Qaeda in Iraq would have left millions to a violent fate and would have left our country in a much less secure position.

And some in Washington at that time had said that all was lost in the war; and that there was no hope for victory. And they said that there was no hope for a candidate, the candidate who said he was going to put his political aspirations aside and he was going to do the right thing for America. He said he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war.

John McCain refused to break faith with today's troops who have now brought victory in Iraq within sight. And as the mother of one of those troops that's exactly the kind of man I want as commander-in- chief.

So when the pollsters and pundits back there in D.C. they wrote him off, they had forgotten one thing. They had forgotten the caliber of the man himself; the determination and the resolve and the sheer guts of Senator John McCain.

Encouragingly, though, the people knew better. You guys all knew better because we understand that there is a time for politics and a time for leadership; A time to campaign and a time to put your country first. That's what John McCain has done. He wore the uniform of his country for 22 years. And talk about tough; 5 1/2 years as a POW.

We take pride in our military and our veterans up here in Alaska, especially in Fairbanks. And we thank you, military. In fact, let us take a moment to thank our military service men and women, those serving today and our veterans whom we dearly love and honor. Raise your hands.

So here's how I look at the choice that we face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers and then there are those like John McCain who use their careers to promote change. And this is the moment in America where principles and political independence, which Alaska knows all about, it matters a lot more than just a party line.

And John McCain, he doesn't run with that Washington herd. He's willing to shake things up in Washington. That's only one more reason to send the maverick of the senate right into the White House.

I know the people of Alaska will agree and people across the country they are asking questions about this. What did we do in Alaska that has allowed for a shaking up here and good progress and positive change? Now, during my time as governor -- and I see some of our staff members here and cabinet members -- I can't wait to give you guys a hug and thank you for holding down the fort and thank you carrying the water. You guys are doing so much work. Thank you.

As governor, we took on the old politics as usual and the old oil monopoly, undue influence that had controlled our state, it's broken. And the ethical standards that had led to closed doors and closed door dealings and self interest, it's gone. Even the state's luxury jet; it's sold. Hopefully not sounding hypocritical as you watch me walk off that.

And then there is the nearly $500,000 million in unnecessary spending that we vetoed. We had to do these things to put Alaska on a right fiscally conservative track. We're going to have to do this in D.C.

We suspended the state fuel tax. People around the nation are asking about that also, and returning that chunk of the state surplus straight back to you the Alaskan people. You know, that's kind of unheard of in other states. But we believe, you believe that you can spend that money better than government can spend it for you.

So here in Alaska we are giving money back to the hard-working Alaskans. And in these tough times John McCain and I are ready to do the same thing across our country by giving tax relief to all Americans.

In a McCain/Palin administration we're excited to expand nuclear energy and expand our use of alternative fuels. And we will drill now to make this nation energy independent. More and more every day everyone we are speaking with is recognizing it is a matter of national security and it is for our economic prosperity.

We need American energy resources brought to you by American ingenuity produced by American workers and we have it right here in Alaska. That energy independence for our nation is going to start right here in Alaska with that natural gas pipeline.

People all over the country, they're hearing about it and they're saying, thank you Alaska for allowing safe, responsible development of your resources to help secure our state, provide jobs here, but also for the betterment of our entire nation. They're saying thank you, Alaska.

When that last section of the pipeline is laid and the valves are open, our state, our state, Alaska, will be a leader in energy policy. Our state will have brought Americans one step closer to energy independence. And that's one step closer to an America free from foreign suppliers that do not have our interests at heart.

Today we are spending nearly $700 billion on imported resource. We are sending that money to some regimes who do not like American. We should be developing here -- allowing the resource development to be tapped safely, ethically here, producing it right at home. We could be investing that $700 billion back into America and our economy here.

That, of course, is going to create the good jobs. It's going to allow the stability, the reliable energy sources. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir because you guys already know this.

This message is for America. We've got a reform agenda for America. That's what we're going to run on here, guys. I am so honored and I am so humbled to serve as Senator McCain's running mate. And I'm equally honored and forever will be honored to serve as your governor of the great state of Alaska.

Representing our fellow Alaskans is not only a tremendous honor it's also a sacred duty. And you have placed great faith in me. As I travel across the country I will keep that faith by fulfilling my duty to you and spreading our good message. And I promise that I will do my best to make Alaskans proud in the weeks to come.

And I would ask you to help me then, let us work together. Let us elect John McCain, a great man who will be a great president because he is a friend of Alaska and he will be our next president.

Again I just want to thank you so much for this warm welcome. It is going to be awesome to spend a couple of days here. And just getting back in touch with all of you and the great land we call Alaska that God has so richly blessed.

I thank you so much. God bless you, Alaska and God bless America.

COOPER: There you have it. Sarah Palin arriving back in Alaska, the first time since accepting the nomination as the vice presidential candidate for John McCain, with her family, all her children are there, her husband is there.

We anticipated hearing from the husband, which could have been the first time, but apparently that is not going happen. Candy Crowley, what do you make of it all?

CROWLEY: Actually, I'm sitting here thinking, you know, this is pretty smart. We had heard most of that, obviously, sort of a heavy Alaska content here. But basically the stump speech she's been giving, but as you pointed out it is prime time on the West Coast, across the able networks, her speech out there again. It was pretty good planning which they've been very good at.

COOPER: David Gergen.

GERGEN: Absolutely, very good planning. Anderson, you know, she drives people wild. She drives some people wildly for her and wildly against her.

For the Democrats the problem is there are more for her than against her. And I think she just demonstrated why in that speech. Why she drives people wild in that speech. If you like her, you really like Sarah. She reminds Republicans of what Harry Truman used to do for Democrats, charged them up even though it drove a lot of Republicans like Harry Truman did. But for some Democrats you know, they were turning off as fast as they could tonight.

COOPER: And John King, polls are one thing, but in the travels around to battle ground states that you have been doing in the last week or so, you see the difference.

KING: You do see the difference and you see it in the behavior of Barack Obama, Anderson, in going after this woman. She's a compelling figure; she's charming in many ways. Her record now is rightly being looked at and we will see if she can withstand the scrutiny of her record and of the media interviews that will begin tomorrow night.

But she has changed the dynamic of the game. And she has frustrated the Democrats. Remember their convention in Denver, so much of their advertising dollars have been spent on saying John McCain is more of the same. John McCain is Bush and Cheney.

Sarah Palin doesn't look like more of the same. She doesn't look like Bush and Cheney. She has helped John McCain change the dynamic of the campaign and make his campaign at the moment something new and fresh. Whose message was new and fresh when we started 19, 20 months ago?

COOPER: The Republicans saying it's not just change, it's change and reform; that is the message they have been hammering home. It seems to be working for them in the polls at this point.

We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Sarah Palin, you can't really see her there, but working the crowd still in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she has touched down and given a speech. Candy Crowley, you were saying that the McCain/Palin ticket was actually using sort of the Hillary Clinton play book. How so?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. It has from the beginning. Remember, Hillary Clinton began by saying I'm the candidate of experience as did John McCain; then adopted the change mantra. By the way, I'm the person with experience who can actually bring about change. So that is, you know, that is where this has gone.

What's the difference? Hillary Clinton obviously lost. The difference here is that right now, John McCain is talking to an entirely different audience. This is about those people in the middle who do see Sarah Palin as John has mentioned as something new. Remember, Barack Obama has been around for 19 months now.

COOPER: It's interesting, John King, when Hillary Clinton was adapting the change mantle, Barack Obama was able to combat that effectively. He does not seem at this point as effective in combating sort of the change reform line from McCain and Palin.

KING: Two very different battlefields. Barack Obama was running against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and you had a pretty certain universe of who you were talking to. And his vote against Iraq or his opposition -- not the vote but his opposition to the Iraq war gave him a heads up. Plus he had all the fund-raising advantage. Plus he had younger voters.

Now as Candy just noted you're fighting, especially in these big states, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana even, Missouri, they will be decided by independents because party registration and party identification is down for both parties.

So who are the independents? In a state like Michigan, a lot of them are men, a lot of them are sportsmen, Anderson, traveling here in the last day or so, the people who have boats, people who fish, the people who own guns.

They like Sarah Palin. They're attracted by her story. They find it interesting. They might know about her husband because they have snowmobiles here, snow machines there. So she's giving John McCain a big advantage, which is a second look and a third look by some people who don't like politics who are looking at this as maybe something different.

Now, eight weeks, a long way to go. But at the moment, the drama is on McCain's side and the fact that we are saying that is a very different campaign than a month or six weeks ago.

COOPER: And David, in the minute or so we have left to discuss while we're looking at this picture, we still have more after the next commercial. Where do you see this race going tomorrow and the days ahead? Is it anybody's guess at this point?

GERGEN: I think it's anybody's guess. Tomorrow, fortunately, we will get back to some issues when they get together on the National Service Evening tomorrow night, the two candidates, Obama and McCain. Please remember, McCain still is the candidate.

But she is going to be very competitive in the news environment for the next couple of days with this first television interview. That will obviously dominate a lot of the conversation, whatever way it goes.

And I think, Anderson, the good news for McCain, the bad news for Obama is it's very hard to change the dynamics of this campaign until the first debate, September 26th. That's a long way off for Obama. That's good news for McCain.

COOPER: All right. David Gergen, Candy Crowley, John King, appreciate you staying up for this unusual hour. Appreciate it.

We're going to take a short break.

We'll be back. We're going to look at hurricane Ike pushing toward Texas. We're going to give you a quick update, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before we go, a quick update on hurricane Ike, now in the Gulf of Mexico, category 2 storm at the moment, expected to get a whole lot stronger and build into a category 4 by tomorrow as it takes aim at the Texas Gulf Coast; Category 3 or category 4, it's not clear right now.

Category 3 was the last point they had, but again, they don't know at the time it makes landfall, they are not able to measure, it could be a category 4. Hurricane watches now out from Port Mansfield, Texas all the way to east of Cameron, Louisiana. The current track putting Ike on shore sometime late Friday, early Saturday morning; mandatory evacuations now under way in a number of coastal areas.

That does it for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.