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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Twelve Days to Election Day; Ground Game in North Carolina; Joe Biden on the Trail

Aired October 23, 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: New developments tonight in the campaign, new polling numbers, new endorsements, including a surprising endorsement from a former top official in the Bush administration. And, no, we're not talking about Colin Powell.
And with new reports of tension within the McCain campaign, his latest search for a game-changer, a Joe the Plumber bus tour, with barely 12 days to go until America votes.

The new polling shows the Obama lead growing, now nine points in tonight's CNN poll of polls, up two points from last night.

Statewide polling also showing a durable Obama lead, with the Illinois Democrat leading or tied in 10 states that President Bush won in 2004.

Also new surprising statements from Sarah Palin.

A lot happening in this hour, a lot to cover, starting with Senator Obama and Candy Crowley on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a telling measure of this campaign that, 12 days before the election, the Democratic nominee is in one of the most Republican states in the country.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: How's it going, Indiana?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In this state that George Bush won by 21 points, Obama trails McCain by just five. Win or lose the fact that Obama showed up in the Hoosier state at this point speaks to a candidate with time and money on his hands and to an issue that crosses state lines.

OBAMA: The DOW plummeted again yesterday, threatening job security and retirement security and economic security for millions of ordinary Americans. Indiana lost 4,500 manufacturing jobs in September alone.

CROWLEY: Even as he flies high in the national polls and most of the battlegrounds, Obama lands in every state urging his voters not to let up and he doesn't. He now hits McCain for favoring tax cuts for American businesses to prevent them from taking their companies and their jobs overseas.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They go to Ireland they're only paying 11 percent so where are they going to go where they can create wealth and jobs? It's simple, fundamental economics.

CROWLEY: Obama calls that a Wall Street plan.

OBAMA: But I say let's end tax cuts for companies that ship jobs overseas and give them to companies that are investing right here in Indiana.

CROWLEY: Obama left Indiana for Hawaii and a day and a half off the trail to visit his gravely-ill grandmother. He returns Saturday with a confident itinerary booked up in Republican states including weekend visits to Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada.

To change the world as he often talks about, Barack Obama must first change the electoral map.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Candy is the campaign worried about him being off the trail?

CROWLEY: No. They said they will tell you two things. First of all, that it didn't come up in terms of uh-oh, what if we're off for a day and a half? What will that mean? Second of all, let's look at the two states that he canceled the events, Iowa and Wisconsin not states that at this very moment he has to worry about and probably won't have to over the next two weeks.

So, while they are saying obviously this is not a political decision, family comes first, he wanted to go home to see his grandmother. If you just look at the map there just does not seem to be any real harm in him taking a day and a half off the campaign trail. And let's not forget, a man going home to see his failing grandmother, who he says is one of the closest people to him on the face of the earth, is not exactly an unsympathetic threat.

COOPER: The report was from Indiana where he's down in the polls, not down by much, within reach perhaps but still down in the polls. Why spend time there when you have, you know, folks in Pennsylvania saying look, you need to come back here. The polls are actually tighter than they indicate.

CROWLEY: I suspect he will go back to Pennsylvania.

You go there first of all because it's very close to where he was, which is Chicago, and he was en-route out and it was an easy place to go but because, look. They would like to run up the score. And they would like to run up the score because if they do that, they're going to lift all the votes.

They look down ticket and they understand that if they can get the magic 60 number, the filibuster proof senate, if they can increase their numbers in the House it's going to make an Obama Presidency, if there is one, a whole lot easier to do.

So you will see him in Indiana because they believe that he has a real chance there. But you'll see him in Pennsylvania, too. COOPER: If they're looking that far down the ticket at this point with 12 days to go that's pretty confident. Candy I appreciate it, thank you.

Some new endorsements tonight, Republicans throwing their support to Obama, former Minnesota Governor Arnie Carlson and a surprising statement of support from Scott McClellan, President Bush's former White House spokesman who made his announcement today on D.L. Hughley's new program here on CNN.

As for John McCain, he's spent the day "On the Trail" and there was a lot of talk about Joe the Plumber.

"On the Trail" for us, Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's all about branding so it was a matter of time before John McCain gave Joe the Plumber his own bus tour, even though Joe himself wasn't along for the ride. Instead McCain had coffee with Tom the contractor and Patricia the kitchen supplies purveyor -- before heading over to a lumber yard.

MCCAIN: Whether it's Joe the Plumber in Ohio or Joe over here, thank you Joe, Joe thank you, there's Joes all over here. We shouldn't be taxing our small businesses more as Senator Obama wants to do. We need to be helping them expand their businesses and create jobs.

HENRY: McCain aides say Joe is not really just a man anymore. He's a metaphor aimed at showing McCain feels the middle class's pain.

MCCAIN: Obama wants to spread the wealth around. Senator Obama wants to spread it around and that means fewer jobs at their businesses and fewer jobs here in Florida.

HENRY: That plays well in Florida where retirees are nervous about their nest eggs. McCain is trailing Obama here and desperately needs his 27 electoral votes.

MCCAIN: We're going to win Florida and bring real change to Washington, D.C.

HENRY: But McCain's pitch for regular Joes may fall flat after revelations Sarah Palin and her family got $150,000 in clothes and styling thanks to the Republican National Committee. Pressed by Florida reporters aboard his bus McCain said she needed clothes at the time. They'll be donated at the end of this campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So are McCain and Palin still talking about William Ayres "On the Trail?"

HENRY: Not really. They've dropped that. That was a line of attack about a week ago as you remember. They thought they could raise more doubts about Barack Obama's judgment, about his candor as well, by raising these questions about his relationship with William Ayres.

You're not really hearing that out on the campaign trail now for two reasons. One, they realize when you look at the public polls it's backfired somewhat. It looks like negative campaigning, Independent voters don't like it. So they pretty much dropped it.

And secondly they realize as well, this financial crisis has trumped everything else and that's why in a state like Florida where foreclosures are up, where you have so many retirees worried about their nest eggs John McCain instead has to talk about the economy, he has to talk about taxes. That's going to be the closing argument in the final 12 days -- Anderson.

COOPER: So how much of the talk is on the economy at a stump speech say of McCain or Palin compared to talking about, you know, Obama or trying to raise doubts about Obama?

HENRY: I would say it's 80/20 or even 90/10 with the economy being 80 percent or 90 percent where John McCain will run through what he says he wants to do. He'll talk about Joe the Plumber, he'll talk about the average guys and very little, maybe 10 percent or 20 percent about Barack Obama's readiness to be commander-in-chief.

They realize they've made that argument over and over again. What the American people really want to hear about is about the economy. That's why he's focusing there.

But again, his message being undermined a bit with Sarah Palin's wardrobe; when you dig deeper out of that $150,000 in clothes that the RNC paid for $75,000 came out of shopping at Neiman Marcus. It's very unlikely that Joe the Plumber or Joe the iron worker has been shopping at Neiman Marcus, That undermines John McCain's efforts to sort of reach out to middle class voters -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right folks, their supporters don't see that way around I'm sure they're "On the Trail." Ed Henry thank you very much.

Let us know what you think about how the candidates are doing. As always we're blogging throughout the hour, join the conversation at AC360.com. Check out Randi Kaye on our live web cast during the break. Erica Hill is off tonight.

Coming up next in our political panel and new statements from Sarah Palin about whether she's a feminist. It's an interesting statement; is she changing her mind on that question? Hear what she's saying and decide for yourself.

Later, the ground game in North Carolina where they have not seen this kind of battle in decades. That and more tonight on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: One of the things we know is that change never comes without a fight. In the final days of the campaign, the say anything, do anything politics often takes over. We've seen it before. We're seeing it again right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama today in Indianapolis. He is down there as Candy told us in the first piece but in red state Indiana not down by much, according to polls. He's warning his forces against complacency.

John McCain stumping in Florida, signs of tension within his campaign. Let's "Dig Deeper" now with Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, he's a CNN's political contributor and Obama supporter; also CNN political contributor and McCain supporter and GOP consultant, Alex Castellanos; and CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, so there are some new reports that point to rising despair in the McCain campaign. Politico tonight reporting that some of McCain's own advisors are engaged in what they call blame casting and some top Congressional aides slamming him for what they say was an unfocused message.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, coming to Washington today I found the Democratic and Republican insiders universally believe that this campaign is slipping away from John McCain, that he only has three or four days to turn the momentum around in his favor. And that unless he does so, there is a growing prospect that Senator Obama and the Democrats will rack up a huge victory, possibly on November 4th.

So that naturally in that kind of environment invites people to start -- the knives start coming out and people, you know, making their preliminary assessments and blame pointing the other way.

I don't think the candidate is in any mood to do that. He's in no mood to give up. He's a fighter and he has a history of closing strong but there has never been as much peace and tranquility and harmony within the McCain camp.

It has a history of going back over several campaigns of folks, a fair amount of personal dislike even though they believe very strongly in the candidate.

COOPER: Paul, in an interview with "Washington Times" McCain blasted President Bush saying his administration and I quote, "Let things get completely out of hand and went on to list a handful of policies he would have handled differently." It's interesting because you and James Carville predicted earlier this week I think on "Huffington Post" that the finger pointing was about to begin.

Go ahead.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And it has and I couldn't be happier.

COOPER: It doesn't surprise me.

BEGALA: Well let me set my partisan hat off for a second. The truth is the only way, let's presume that McCain loses which is reasonably likely, the only way to revivify a party is to figure out what went wrong.

Carville and I wrote a book, we're very tough on our party in 2005 after the Democrats lost that presidential election. And a whole lot of Democrats were I think quite wisely trying to pull it apart and figure out what went wrong.

This thing with the Republicans, though, Democrats, we go off in a yurt somewhere and like smoke pot and meditate and try to decide what we believe in, right?

Republicans, man, they have a knife fight, it's going to be vicious, it's going to be like steel cage death match, you know, it's going to be great. And what's happening is I'm picking this up too as David is.

The old Reagan guys are blaming Bush. The McCain guys are blaming Bush. The Bush guys are of course, blaming McCain and his campaign. I think they're all right. This has been a terrible campaign run in a really difficult time. And McCain was dealt a terrible hand by President Bush and he's played it as badly as he could.

COOPER: Alex, is it possible that I mean, some Republicans may not want to hear McCain slamming Bush but is it possible that could be a strategy that David Gergen says the next three or four days are crucial, that might work for him this late in the game? Trying to woo some undecided?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It's one of the few things he has left that he can do. But there are a couple ways to separate yourself from something that's unpopular and most of the time candidates choose the weakest way and that is to attack it.

And the problem with attacking say, your own brand, or Republican brand or your own President is you get tangled up with it. You have to actually move closer to it to attack it.

The other way to separate yourself from something that's unpopular is to turn in a different direction, to lead, to transform yourself. And the McCain campaign didn't seem to do that early in the campaign and now the only choice it has left is to attack really its own brand, its own party and that's a tough thing to have to do late in the campaign.

COOPER: David go ahead.

GERGEN: I just want to add one thing to that. Alex is absolutely right about that. The interesting comparison, and I know people don't like to hear about foreign countries very much but there was in France, Sarkozy was running as the nominee of a very, very unpopular incumbent party and instead of attacking the incumbent party what he did was offer something -- he offered himself as a fresh kind of candidate and he won it and he won it convincingly and he has been very popular there for the most part.

It is possible to do. They have not chosen to go that way. COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel coming up. I promise not to ask either David Gergen or Alex Castellanos, if they've ever been in a yurt or smokes. We'll have more from them in a moment.

Twelve days to go. The battlefield is narrowing down to just a few key states.

Up next, John King on the ground game in North Carolina, at the Magic Map.

And later, see what Sarah Palin told Bryan Williams about her feminist beliefs and whether they differ from what she said not too long ago then make up your own mind.

And our "Ten Most Wanted Culprits of the Financial Collapse," this one shouldn't come as any surprise but it may come as kind of a shock, when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The state of the race tonight, this is how the electoral map looks right now. It'll all come down to those key battleground states. Not that you can actually read them right there but maybe soon, there if you can.

CNN estimates there are just six left, six battleground states left -- Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida.

Tonight we want to take a close look at North Carolina. The latest "CNN/Time Opinion Research Poll" has Obama up by four points in the state, 51 percent to 47 percent.

It's been more than 30 years since North Carolina voted for a Democrat for President and tonight Obama has the lead there partly because of campaign troops. It is a ground war being fought literally block by block.

CNN's John King reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY BOYD, N.C. GOP VOLUNTEER: We're just trying to get the base out.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mary Boyd is a Republican foot soldier in Charlotte, North Carolina, charged with finding and delivering every available vote.

BOYD: And the best way to do that is to take a list of registered Republican households and take a piece of literature and leave it right on their door so that they have easy access to the information.

KING: It is her third presidential campaign as precinct captain.

BOYD: Definitely going to this house.

KING: Twice she walked these streets for a ticket led by George W. Bush. This one is very different.

BOYD: Well, it's extremely close. I think John McCain is going to win North Carolina. I hope by a lot but we'll take it any way we can get it.

KING: Extremely close in North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. I'm a volunteer calling --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mecklenberg County Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were wondering if John McCain can count on your vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't decided.

KING: And in these final days when the ground war matters most, Republicans are for the first time in memory outnumbered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm with the Barack Obama camp side. Do you know when you're going to go and vote and that early voting is going on now?

KING: Early voting runs through November first in North Carolina and is a major priority of the vast Obama ground operation; 45 offices across the state, McCain has 30. And the huge paid Obama staff is complemented by volunteers like these students on break from college in Tennessee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The purpose of you going out today isn't to convince anybody. This is just to make sure they know about early voting.

KING: So far so good from Camp Obama's perspective. Early voting in North Carolina is running more than 2-1 in favor of the Democrats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John, is part of the reason they want people to vote early, is that those people then who have voted will help other people go to the polls?

KING: That is part of it. There are several reasons, number one, if they can get their determined voters who will also be volunteers to vote early they don't have to waste time on Election Day, it's already done.

Number two, especially in lower income African-American communities, there have been problems in the past with people not turning out. They want to get their least reliable voters out early and they offer them rides and they bring them out so that they don't show up on Election Day and maybe see a long line.

And Anderson, one other part of it is if they detect that somebody is soft in their support, that says they've just decided for Barack Obama or I think I'm for Barack Obama they say why don't we help you early vote? Why don't you get out and early vote?

That gets them out, gets that vote on record so if in the last ten days John McCain says something and that voter starts to change their mind it's too late.

COOPER: John King, many people have been impressed by your Magic Map throughout this entire campaign season but I was surprised to see you show up tonight on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" just about an hour or so ago. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a really expensive piece of equipment Fred and I kind of feel like you're wasting our time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Ok, where are you from exactly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from New Hampshire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Hampshire. What a pretty state. Wouldn't it be a drag if we pulled it over to Mexico?

AMY POEHLER: Ok. Fred, come on. Stop moving around. Hey! Don't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Fred. Put those states back where they belong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Check out Michigan. I can make it bounce.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Have you ever had an urge to do that John?

KING: I'm going on "Lou Dobbs" and move the border and say what border crisis, Lou? We have some tricks that are up our sleeves for election night. Don't you worry.

COOPER: All right. We'll be watching, John King thanks.

One day after Barack Obama charged him for his language on the stump has Joe Biden kind of toned it down?

We're "On the Trail" with him to find out. First, Randi Kaye joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Anderson. The judge in Senator Ted Stevens' federal corruption trial will hold a hearing tomorrow morning to decide what to do about a juror who said she had to go out of state for a family emergency and now cannot be reached.

Earlier today, the judge denied a request to dismiss a different juror after complaints about her alleged misconduct from the jury foreman.

The carnage on Wall Street continues. Some experts are forecasting 200,000 jobs in the financial industry could be wiped out before the year is over. More than 110,000 employees have already lost their jobs so far.

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has won his fight to extend term limits. The New York City Council today approved changes to the law that would have prevented Bloomberg from seeking a third term.

COOPER: All right, Randi, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo; Barack Obama at a rally yesterday in Richmond, Virginia. Here's the caption from our staffer winner Alyssa, "Whoa, ladies! It's not that kind of rally. I can't take it off."

You think you can do better, go to AC360.com and click on the "Beat 360" link. Send us your entry and we'll announce the winner at the end of the program. Of course, the winner gets a fancy shmancy "Beat 360" t-shirt.

Up next, we've taken you inside some Palin rallies. Tonight her opponent "Up Close" Joe Biden, "On the Trail" trying to turn a red state blue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He told Democrats donors to mark his words that there were at least four or five scenarios that would place our country at risk in an Obama administration. We got to say first, thanks for the warning, Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Governor Sarah Palin turning Senator Biden's comments into a punch line on the campaign trail. That was in Troy, Ohio today.

As for Senator Biden he hopped across North Carolina with stops in Charlotte, Winston, Salem and Raleigh. He also took some new shots at Senator McCain saying he doesn't have a steady hand these days.

We've covered Palin rallies unfiltered turning the cameras on the crowd to see what it's like for the supporters and the candidates. Tonight we're doing the same with Biden.

"Up Close" here's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Tarheel State has been an Achilles heel for Democratic presidential politics.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our goal is to have the biggest voter turnout in the history of North Carolina and we're counting on all of you.

TUCHMAN: The last time a Democratic presidential ticket won the state of North Carolina, Sarah Palin was a 12-year-old and Joe Biden was the same thing he is now, a U.S. Senator. Age may be a sensitive issue in society but in the 2008 campaign it's the stuff of punch lines. BIDEN: Governor Palin said before my debate with her, our debate together, she said, it was a great line, she said, you know, I was in second grade when Joe Biden got elected to the Senate when he was 29.

It's true. But I wanted to say to her, Governor, you were in sixth grade the last time John McCain had a good idea on the economy.

TUCHMAN: Joe Biden has passionately attacked the McCain/Palin ticket on the stump but as he busts through the statistically dead heat state of North Carolina his attacks are more of the gentler and goofier variety.

BIDEN: John McClain -- excuse me -- John McCain -- John McCain I don't recognize him anymore.

TUCHMAN: His crowds in Charlotte, Winston, Salem, and Raleigh were enthusiastic but less emotional and excited than Sarah Palin's crowds. The word change is uttered a lot when you travel with Joe Biden.

So Sarah Palin is a woman. She'd be the first female vice president. That's a change right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want a good woman not just a woman. A good woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The right woman.

TUCHMAN: With Barack Obama in Hawaii, Joe Biden for now is the primary campaigner for the ticket. And he's using some of his time to preach togetherness.

BIDEN: We mean what we say that once this election is over, we have to reach out; we have to reach out and unite this country.

TUCHMAN: His crowd at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte included a large group of American Muslims.

What do you say to people who say, Barack Obama is a Muslim and that's why you shouldn't vote for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say to those people, become enlightened. We live in a new day of America and as Americans we intend to go forward not backwards and I say what Colin Powell said. If Obama was a Muslim, so what?

TUCHMAN: Biden spent almost as much time shaking hands and posing for pictures as he did making speeches but he's not making time for news conferences with reporters.

With all the attention being paid to Sarah Palin's avoidance of the national media Joe Biden is actually more scarce these days not holding such a session for over six weeks although he does do individual interviews.

Questions about his comment that Barack Obama will be tested by an international-generated crisis are not being answered by Biden. His opponents may say the Democratic ticket is too left of center for America.

But left is not a dirty word.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So Joe Biden is talkative guy certainly. Why isn't he doing press conferences?

TUCHMAN: Anderson, too much risk, too little chance of reward. If you talk to most of these campaign bosses for all the campaign, for all the people in the race, they would tell you, they like their people to do teleprompter speeches and commercials. And it's not just Joe Biden who's not talking. Barack Obama has far less media availabilities than he used to. John McCain was a champion talker in 2000 when he ran for president. He doesn't talk to the media very much either. Sarah Palin is talking more than anybody.

Now, it's our feeling in this business that if you want to be one of the leaders of the free world, it's great to talk to people like us who cover the world but, unfortunately, that opinion is not shared.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Gary Tuchman, thanks, on the trail.

Around three weeks ago the vice-presidential candidate on the other ticket, Sarah Palin, called herself a feminist. Asked about that tonight, a little bit different answer. We're going to show it to you, let our panel weigh in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Now I'd like to give you a little straight talk, my friends; a little straight talk. Florida is a battleground state. We got to win it. We have less than two weeks, 12 days. Who's counting?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Everyone's counting on Florida as a battleground, and so are some others, others that George Bush easily won back in 2004. The numbers are getting tougher and tougher for Senator McCain. There's no doubt about that.

Let's talk strategy now with Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala; Republican consultant and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos; and former presidential advisor to Republicans and Democrats, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.

So David, isn't it fair to say that, if the tables were turned, and the Republican nominee was spending as much as Obama and Biden, that the Democrats would be flipping out, saying the Republicans were buying the election?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Absolutely. This happens. We've seen this in the past. When John Kennedy got elected everybody thought his daddy did it and, you know, that they bought the -- they bought the primaries in West Virginia and places like that and then went on. That's regular.

But you know, Anderson, what really interests me is at this point with the huge problems we've got in this country, the big, big issues facing the country that, here on a night when Obama is in Hawaii and the Republicans have sort of the airwaves to themselves, how small the stuff is we're talking about, how repetitive it seems to be.

It is -- it's a measure, I think, of how -- how much the Republicans are struggling to fill the airwaves with something interesting or exciting or different or new or provocative, with some set of ideas.

COOPER: Well it's interesting you bring that up, because literally, we just got a sound bite from an interview that Sean Hannity did with Sarah Palin that was aired tonight. And she tried to kind of put a new spin on the Bill Ayers thing, of all things, not really a new topic, but kind of a new spin on it.

Let's play that and then see what you would say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The other part of that, Sean, is to ask the question, what did those characters see in Barack Obama? Why would they have wanted to be associated with him? Why would Ayers have wanted to kick off Barack Obama's political campaign in his living room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's sort of a new take on it, I guess, or at least I haven't heard that before. Alex, is that -- I mean, is that going to get them anywhere?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's going to maybe get them all those votes they've already got on FOX, I would suspect. But, no. You know, if you haven't figured out a message beyond that in two years, you're probably not going to figure it out in the last two weeks.

So right now it's almost really too late to come up with it, pull a rabbit out of the hat with a new message. Whatever horse they're on, and I'm not sure I can tell. They just ought to ride it. Other than that, buy some scotch and good cigars. See if we can get John King to make Arizona bigger on the electoral map, and that might do it.

COOPER: But you see it -- you do see it that way? You see it as they're all over the place?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think one of the things we have to go back and ask is why in the spring and why in the summer didn't the Republican Party and the McCain campaign say, "Look. This election is about one thing, whether we're going to keep America the strongest economy in the world. We've got a new global frontier, all kinds of opportunities, all kinds of competition. To do that we've got to change Washington; that's what I'm good at. But America -- America first. Country first."

Country first could have meant we're going to strengthen this economy and how we're going to do it. But we've waited until very, very late to really start talking about the economy, until it actually melted down, and so it's a defensive posture on it. Imagine what would have happened if McCain had spent the summer talking about the economy, and we might have been in a different world.

COOPER: Paul, David was saying before that he thinks sort of three or four days is the window that McCain has to kind of do something. Do you agree with that? And if so do you have any recommendations for him? I know that's not your job but you do like to put on hats.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would. I would say, apparently, what they said to Walter Mondale when he was going down to certain defeat against Ronald Reagan. Apparently they said to him, "You know, Mr. Vice president, why don't you campaign the way you want your grandchildren to remember you?"

And that's what I'd tell Senator McCain. You know, he is a man of profound personal courage, and the suffering and service he gave this country ought to be honored in particular by Democrats like me. Why not go out with some class and some dignity? You're unlikely to win anyway. But, you know, there are things worse than losing an election, and right now he is at risk.

COOPER: So are you saying -- are you saying point blank there is no way he can win?

BEGALA: I'm not quite where James is. You know, he had that colorful metaphor about calling the dogs and peeing on the fire, that the hunt is over. I'm not quite -- quite there. But it's very hard to imagine a scenario under which McCain wins.

But, you know, why not listen to what Alex was saying? Why not go big? Why not talk about calling us to be something greater than ourselves rather than -- you know, they started out attacking Barack on sex education. Remember that one? Like he was some kind of a pervert or something.

Then he was palling around with terrorists. Then he was a socialist. It's all been small and it's all been petty, and it's all hurt John McCain. It's driven his vote down.

So I guess if -- I would say if I was working for him, I'd say, "Look. You're going down in history for your heroism. Why not end this campaign with the dignity that you've shown in the past?"

COOPER: David, a couple of weeks ago during one of the -- I think it was after one of the debates. Frankly, this whole year is now starting to blend together. But I think it was right after one of the debates. You said there was still this kind of unknown quantity of race. And I hate to even bring it up, but is that still, in your mind, a question in terms of what's going to happen on election night?

GERGEN: First of all, amen to what Paul Begala just said. And yes, Anderson, I think the racial issue still lurks here, and we don't know how it's going to play out. There are two or three unknowns. There's the racial question. There's the question of whether these young people, who are such an important part of the Obama coalition, whether they'll truly turn out.

In the early voting in North Carolina and Florida, we're now told that young people are under represented in those who are voting. Does that mean that they're not going to be voting in the numbers that we thought they would on Election Day?

So there are some imponderables here. But I think that the realization is setting in that Barack Obama has begun to pull away. It's not just -- it's not closing. It's going the other way. And under those circumstances, race, then, becomes, even though it will play a role, may not be enough to overcome everything else going on.

COOPER: Sarah Palin was asked by Brian Williams tonight if she is a feminist. I want to play our viewers the answer; part of the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I'm not going to label myself feminist or not, but I do believe that American women can recognize in me an advocate and a friend, and I want to be in the White House for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's actually different from what she told Katie Couric last month when she said she was indeed a feminist. Why a different answer? I mean, is there anything there? I mean, maybe we're at the stage where we're just talking about such little details that, you know, people are parsing every word. But, Alex, do you make anything of the answer?

CASTELLANOS: You know, there's a lot more to Sarah Palin than we've had a chance to see in this campaign. Here was somebody who did have great numbers in Alaska -- here is somebody who took on their own party. We all know the story. Took on big oil companies and actually had some success and then became kind of captured by the campaign.

And we all know what it's like to become a vice-presidential candidate inside a campaign. You become very heavily scripted. There is very little, including the William Ayers palling around with terrorists thing. Those weren't her words; those were campaign words.

And we haven't really had a chance to see Sarah Palin. And I think there are moments where we do and that was one of them, where she is more than just a base pick to reinforce the Republican base, where we see that she's kind of a new generation of Republican.

If McCain does not win this election, it'll be interesting to see if she can grow to become that again, that kind of Republican who goes beyond the base to the new generation.

COOPER: Do you have any doubts she has a big future in the Republican Party nationally?

CASTELLANOS: I think she can have. I really do. I think, you know, the only time the McCain campaign was successful in this, and tied Barack Obama, even pulled ahead in some polls...

COOPER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: ... was when Sarah Palin was not just the Republican base, but she was an outsider who was going to change Washington.

COOPER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: And by the way, I want to make it clear. I'm not saying that Republicans should just, you know, have a campaign for these last two weeks of hugs and kisses and "America's a great country" and "I want my grandchildren to remember me as a nice guy." No. McCain needs to continue to fight, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it.

COOPER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: And the right way to do it is say, "Look, we've got great opportunities. Let's -- and the Democrats are going to screw all this up, and we can take you to a better place."

COOPER: We've got to move along, David Gergen, Alex Castellanos, Paul Begala. I know Paul is eager to get back to his yurt, whatever he does in that yurt.

CASTELLANOS: Scotch and cigars. Scotch and cigars.

COOPER: All right.

BEGALA: He's got his Scotch and cigars. You're richer than I am.

COOPER: Thanks a lot. It was an interesting discussion tonight.

Up next, a special homecoming; a wounded vet back from Iraq and his wife getting a gift to remember.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Programming note. MTV and CNN are working together to honor veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. MTV is putting on an all-star concert for our heroes; that's tomorrow night. And over the weekend a special 360 looks at their lives here on the home front.

Tonight a preview; it's the story of one vet and the help he has received from others. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Matt and Tracy Kyles is a story of love interrupted by war. Home from his first tour of duty in Iraq, Matt met Tracy through a friend. It was, he says, love at first sight. Their wedding came during his second tour in Iraq.

TRACY KYLES: The main reason we got married is because what if something happened?

COOPER: Something did happen just six weeks later. Fighting in Ramadi, Matt was shot by a sniper.

MATT KYLES, WAR VETERAN: I jumped up from the tallest part of the roof. I went over the stairwell and that's when I got shot right in the right side of the neck.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

T. KYLES: They told us that he had a Christopher Reeve type injury and I just collapsed.

COOPER: He was paralyzed from the neck down.

M. KYLES: Realizing that my wife was going to be helping me eat, cleaning me up, you know, doing things like that, it was kind of devastating.

COOPER: Devastating but slowly things did start to look up.

Matt regained some use of his left arm and in August, 2007, while undergoing treatment, Matt heard about "Homes for our Troops," a nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted houses for disabled veterans. John Gonsalves started "Homes for our Troops" frustrated that not enough was being done for our veterans.

JOHN GONSALVES, HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS: Our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers are all in a far away place putting their lives on the line and getting injured and many of them dying for us and we're not doing anything. We have to do something.

COOPER: So now you're volunteering for those who volunteered for us.

GONSALVES: That's it.

COOPER: John got hundreds of volunteers to help build Matt and Tracy's home for free.

GONSALVES: It's the certificate of occupancy.

COOPER: We were there when it was presented to them.

M. KYLES: Your fingerprints are throughout our entire home now. You'll always be a part of our family no matter what and we love you. Thank you very much.

GONSALVES: Welcome home, Matt. Welcome home, Tracy.

This is more than building homes. This is about thanking. You have no idea how much I admire what you've done. Thank you very much.

M. KYLES: People like you make America great, John. COOPER: This is the 33rd free house "Homes for Our Troops" has given to a vet. They're currently working on 40 more.

M. KYLES: It's one of the most life changing events that's ever happened to us for sure especially after being injured. We're going to be in this house that's fully accessible, has everything it needs to take care of me. Wide open floor plan, easy for Tracy to help take care of me too and I don't think we could ask for anything more.

T. KYLES: Let's give the security for our life, this is where we can have our kids and this is it. This is where we'll stay forever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Honoring their service, giving them the attention they deserve. The MTV Concert for the Brave, a night for the vets airs tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on MTV. It features music from Ludicrous, 50 Cent and many others.

Here on CNN "Back from the Battle;" a 360 special airs Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 p.m.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's our "Ten Most Wanted List, Culprits of the Collapse," they're the big shots who helped create the crisis on Wall Street that's rocking Main Street and shrinking everyone's savings.

Some say this is not the time for blame. We disagree, because blame leads to accountability, and accountability leads to change.

Today, one of the movers and shakers on our list, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, testified before Congress. You heard him a bit from before. Here's some more of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENSPAN: I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He said he made a mistake. Greenspan actually accepted a sliver of blame. Now, his critics say he left out all the other mistakes he made, but you know what? Accepting a little blame is still more than we've heard from most of these other "Culprits of the Collapse." There's plenty of blame to go around: Republicans and Democrats. And tonight we're asking all of us, including ourselves, to look in the mirror as we add another name to our "Ten Most Wanted List," you.

Here's 360's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was the ride you thought would never end, the spending spree you've grown accustomed to; bigger homes, fancier cars, more credit cards than you could count.

VELSHI: We took on too much credit. It was part of the American dream that we were convinced we needed to be part of.

KAYE: For many, that dream is now a nightmare. In September, more than 80,000 homes were foreclosed on, a 71 percent spike from the year before.

VELSHI: We had the ability now to get cheap and easy credit. It's like somebody offering you crack. You don't have to buy it.

KAYE: But we did. The Federal Reserve says the average family in the U.S. is nearly $80,000 in debt, including mortgages. That's about $2 trillion nationwide. And consumers are saving less than ever. In the last four years, you've saved less than one percent of your income.

VELSHI: We didn't save for a rainy day because for so long we didn't see that rainy day, and now it's pouring and nobody bothered to stop to buy an umbrella, even if you could charge it to your credit card.

KAYE: We know it's not all your fault. You've been bombarded with offers of cheap credit and bigger home loans. But consumers seem to have lost any sense of discipline. When the banks told you, you could afford more house than you needed, too many of you jumped on it.

VELSHI: At some point personal responsibility needed to kick in, and you needed to say, "You know what? I really can't afford this."

KAYE: But with all this easy credit, how could you? Especially when your neighbor's house is bigger, your best friend drives a nicer car, and television shows like this one hammer home bigger, better, more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't throw a party for 500 grand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least not a good one. Nick, economies of scale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you even know what that means?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But you know what I think I mean. And that's what matters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need two million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need two million.

KAYE: Instant gratification. Easy credit makes it possible. Remember when you had to actually save up for what you wanted? Now you just charge it. Credit card approval takes minutes. And those fancy cars, instead of buying them, since you couldn't really afford them, you started leasing them.

VELSHI: Car leasing was a contributing factor to our idea that we didn't have to cut back. You could always get more than you thought you could afford.

KAYE: So forget what Gordon Gekko told you years ago.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.

KAYE: He lied. But maybe you believed him. Living beyond your means has earned you, the consumer, a place among our "Ten Most Wanted Culprits of the Collapse."

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So let's make it official. You, all of us to be precise -- we're including ourselves in this -- join our "Ten Most Wanted List." We began with Joe Cassano from AIG, covered a rogues' gallery that was ten names long, but actually, it doesn't end there.

In the weeks ahead, in the nights ahead, look for us to keep naming names and keep expanding this list and keep looking out for you.

Up next, more from "Saturday Night Live": Tina Fey with a new take on Sarah Palin. She has some special guests with her. It's our "Shot of the Day."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Time now for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one any of us around here could think of. Tonight's picture: Obama at a rally yesterday in Richmond, Virginia.

Our staffer winner, Alyssa. Her caption: "Whoa, ladies, it's not that kind of rally. I can't take it off."

Our viewer winner is Clark. His caption: "Please, be quiet or you'll wake up the Republican Party."

KAYE: Nice.

COOPER; Clark, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations. You can check out all the entries on our blog and play along, AC360.com.

Randi, now time for our "Shot of the Day." The folks at "Saturday Night Live" provided some more chuckles tonight, other than the spoof on John King's magic map that we showed you earlier.

KAYE: Pretty good.

COOPER: Tina Fey played the part of Sarah Palin once again -- imagine that -- and she had some company. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILL FERRELL, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": When you think of John McCain think of me, George W. Bush. Think of this face. When you're in the voting booth, before you vote, think -- right here.

A vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush. You're welcome. I want to be there for you, John, for the next eight years.

TINA FEY, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The next 16 years.

FERRELL: I think I blinked on that last shot; thumbs up everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ouch.

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

"Larry King" starts right now.

I'll see you tomorrow night.