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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Hits Rival on Health Care; McCain Warns Voters Obama Will Raise Taxes; Fat Pension for Convicted Senator
Aired October 28, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, health care and taxes -- a week before election day the candidates are battling out on the issues sounding warnings about each other's plans for your future.
Some travel hours to see her in the rain and the cold even if they don't plan to vote for her.
So what's behind Sarah Palin's power to draw huge crowds?
And he's been convicted on seven felony counts as you just heard. But Alaska Senator Ted Stevens -- get this -- will still qualify for a six figure pension every year for the rest of his life. You won't believe how many other convicted former lawmakers are still living off your tax dollars.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A week away from election day, the presidential candidates are slugging it out. And they slogged through rain-soaked battleground states. Each is warning voters about the others' policies on taxes and health care.
CNN's Ed Henry is standing by in North Carolina.
But let's go to Harrisonburg, Virginia right now.
That's where CNN's Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama campaign. He's getting ready to speak there. I think he's just started with some introductory remarks -- but set the scene, Jessica, for us.
What's going on on this important day, exactly one week before the election?
JESSICA YELLIN CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama is unveiling a new line of attack today on John McCain's health reform plan. It's a message that his campaign believes resonates with undecided voters -- the kind of folks in this red part of Virginia.
YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama shifting his closing argument into high gear.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: John McCain's ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy towards a cliff. And now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas.
YELLIN: Today's focus -- health care reform.
OBAMA: When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one that we have now.
YELLIN: The Obama campaign is seizing on a statement by McCain's top economic adviser, who told CNN that under John McCain's plan, people who get health care from their employers would probably want to keep it because what they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit.
He's referring to a tax credit John McCain proposes as the central element of his health care reform plan. Barack Obama is calling that a stunning bit of straight talk.
Obama and McCain's plans aim to expand coverage in different way. The McCain plan would encourage people to get their own private coverage. It would tax health care benefits you get from your employers and give a tax credit -- $2,500 for individuals, $5,000 for a family -- all to pay for private coverage.
Obama would try to encourage employers to cover more people by requiring large companies to insure their employees or contribute to a national insurance pool, by giving a tax credit to small businesses that insure their employees and by creating a national health care pool for everyone not covered at the job.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: And, Wolf, one of Barack Obama's top allies, Senator Ted Kennedy, is currently negotiating a health care reform bill that he hopes to introduce in January. We're told he's not coordinating with the Obama campaign, though he is working with Obama's Senate office.
It would be one of Obama's top priorities, we're told, were he elected president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.
You know what, I want to listen in for a minute or two to hear what he's saying right now in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Here's Senator Obama.
OBAMA: Now, we began this journey in the depths of winter nearly two years ago, on the steps of the old state capital in Springfield, Illinois. And back then, we didn't have much money. We didn't have many endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance by the polls and the pundits. And we knew how steep the climb was going to be.
But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believed that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe, that they were hungry for new ideas and new leadership and a new kind of politics -- one that favors common sense over ideology, one that focuses on those values and ideals that we hold in common as Americans.
And most of all, I believed in you. I believed in your ability to make change happen.
OBAMA: I knew -- I knew that the American people were a decent, generous people, who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations. And I was convinced that when we come together, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists or the most vicious political attacks or the full force of the status quo in Washington that wants to keep things just the way they are.
And 21 months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we've come so far, how we've come so close, because of you. That's how we're going to change this country -- With your help.
And that's why we can't afford to slow down or sit back or let up one day, one minute, one second in this last week. Not now, not when there's so much at stake. Not when the issues we face are so important to this country.
We're in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Seven hundred and sixty thousand workers have lost their jobs since the beginning of this year. Families and businesses can't get credit. Home values are plummeting. Pensions are disappearing. Wages are lower than they've been in a decade, at a time when the cost of everything from health care to college to food have all skyrocketed.
I got an amen there.
BLITZER: All right. He's getting into his stump speech right now. We'll monitor it and bring you more as appropriate.
Barack Obama, by the way, will be with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM this Friday. And if you have a question for him, you can send us your video questions online at iReport.com/Obama. The interview this Friday in -- here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Senator Obama.
Senator McCain, meanwhile, is warning today about what he says are the Democrats' plans to raise your taxes and to boost spending.
CNN's Ed Henry is in Fayetteville, North Carolina working the story for us.
At this late date, it's unusual to see a Republican presidential candidate in North Carolina, but he's trying to shore up what's going on over there.
What is his strategy in this, the final week -- Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are three layers to the McCain electoral strategy here in the final days. All three have hurdles. Part one is trying to hold traditional Republican states, as you mentioned, like here in North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana. McCain aides calculate that if they do that, they can get about 260 electoral votes. That would keep them 10 short of the magic number of 270.
So part two would be winning Pennsylvania -- a state that he visited earlier today with Sarah Palin, his running mate. And he hit Barack Obama hard there on the issue of taxes and the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You see, Senator Obama believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs. He said that even -- even though lower taxes on investment help our economy, he favors higher taxes on investment for "fairness." There's nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: So if he had 260 electoral votes, the 21 in Pennsylvania would put him over the top. But CNN's latest poll of polls shows McCain down by 10 points in Pennsylvania.
So the third layer of the strategy is if you don't win Pennsylvania, you've got to win a combination of smaller states like Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire. But, again, in those states right now, McCain is down anywhere from 7 to 12 points in our latest poll of polls, in all three of those smaller states.
So, as you can see, he can still do it if he runs the table. But it's an uphill battle -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. He's getting ready to speak in Fayetteville. We'll go there and dip in once he starts speaking.
Ed, thanks very much.
Let's check back with Jack right now for the Cafferty File.
CAFFERTY: McCain's warning voters that Obama's going to spend more money?
BLITZER: Spending will go up. Your taxes will go up, you know, all starts of stuff. CAFFERTY: There is no more money. Bush spent it all. We're $11 trillion in debt -- the greatest increase in the national debt of any president in history.
How can the Republicans worry about Obama spending more money?
They've spent all our money. It's gone.
Speaking Sunday on "Meet The Press," Senator John McCain guaranteed a win in next Tuesday's election. He said: "We're going to win it, it's going to be tight and we're going to be up late."
However, if the polls are anywhere near accurate, as Ed Henry was just alluding to, there's a lot of heavy lifting. This is sort of a Dewey beats Truman moment for McCain, I think. He's got to make good on his promise by doing heavy lifting in a handful of battleground states -- traditional red states like Virginia and Colorado seem to be tilting toward Barack Obama.
In Pennsylvania, considered must win, Obama has a 10 point lead -- 52 to 42 percent, according to a new CNN poll of polls.
These numbers appear to be holding firm, despite some furious campaigning in the Keystone State by Senator McCain in the last week.
Obama was ahead by that same 10 point margin a week ago. The McCain camp has called Pennsylvania a must-win state.
McCain has made up some ground in Florida. A new CNN poll of polls there shows the race tightening some. Obama now has but a single point lead. Last week, Obama was up by 3 in Florida.
But winning Florida won't be enough. He's got to win over North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Nevada, also. And that's a tall order with just now less than a week to go.
So here's the question -- what does John McCain have to do to come from behind and win?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog. It's possible and stranger things have happened. You remember when Reagan was way behind Carter until just a few days before.
CAFFERTY: But it doesn't happen very often and he's got a lot to overcome.
BLITZER: He certainly does.
All right, Jack, thanks very much.
There's more than one candidate with star power out there on the campaign trail this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBIN DUSETTE: I drove -- I got up at 6:00 this morning to drive here and stand in the rain and the cold with my children to see Sarah Palin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why thousands of people -- some who aren't even voting Republican -- just can't get enough of Sarah Palin.
Plus, he's one of only a handful of senators ever convicted. But no matter what happens next, Ted Stevens is going to still get lots of money. Wait until you hear how much his pension will pay.
And an extreme version of negative ads -- a mailer sent out that predicts doom if one candidate is elected -- why some analysts are calling it vicious.
That and more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Sarah Palin is now joining the growing calls for the resignation of Senator Ted Stevens. Yesterday, her running mate, John McCain, said Stevens should step down. And Barack Obama echoed that call today, as well. Palin made her comment during an interview on CNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CNBC)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And now he needs to do the right thing. And the right thing is, as he's proclaiming his innocence and proclaiming, too, that he will go through the appellate process, OK, then he needs to step aside and allow our state to elect someone who will be supportive of those ideals of American -- the free enterprise, the missions that we're on to win the war, those things that have got to take place in order to progress this country. Ted Stevens has got to play a very statesmanlike role in this now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've asked him to step down?
MCCAIN: He should, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A federal jury found the Alaska senior senator guilty of hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free gifts, including renovation work on his home. Stevens insists he will not resign. If he wins his tough re-election race next week, he could face expulsion from the Senate. No matter what happens, Stevens' pension, though, is safe.
Our Special Investigations Unit correspondent, Drew Griffin, is working this story for us -- Drew, tell us about the new ethics laws that go into effect and how, if at all, they would affect Senator Stevens. DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Yes, Wolf, you know, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act signed into law last year was supposed to stop convicted members of Congress from collecting Congressional pensions. But the law does not apply to this most recent Congressional felon.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It passed with big fanfare last year -- part of the sweeping new ethics changes Democrats were promising in Congress.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Our first order of business is passing the toughest Congressional ethics reform in history.
GRIFFIN: But even then, the bill's author knew what had just passed was weak.
REP. NANCY BOYDA (D), KANSAS: It's not perfect, but it's a good first start.
GRIFFIN: Now we are finding out it wasn't much of a start at all. Senator Ted Stevens, convicted on seven counts of making false statements relating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from wealthy friends, will, according to the National Taxpayers Union, get a Congressional pension in an amount most of us can only dream of.
PETE SEPP, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: The wages of sin are pretty good in Congress. In senator Stevens' case, it's $122,000 a year to start. And it will keep going up with the cost of living after that.
GRIFFIN: It turns out Stevens never would have been affected by the new ethics bill. It was passed after he committed his crimes.
But guess what -- even if he committed those same crimes today, the new ethics law couldn't touch him.
The law heralded by Congress only covers 10 specific felonies, including bribery, fraud and racketeering. In the case of Senator Stevens, lying about gifts from wealthy government contractors is not among them.
SEPP: They wanted to show the American people they were getting tough without actually doing it. The problem is, the very first test of this new law has been a failure.
GRIFFIN: Should Stevens retire and begin collecting his pension, he'll join at least 20 others who have been convicted and collected, including former Congressman Randall Duke Cunningham, guilty of accepting more than $2 million in bribes and collecting a Congressional pension of an estimated $64,000 a year; Congressman James Traficant, convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, getting an estimated $40,000 a year; Dan Rostenkowski, former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, convicted of mail fraud and collecting an estimated $126,000 a year.
Now, convicted Senator Ted Stevens, should he choose to retire, will collect annual pension estimated at $122,000 a year.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GRIFFIN: Wolf, Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, who pushed that law through the House, now says: "Officials who violate public trust should not benefit from a public pension. It's unfortunate my legislation was enacted too late to apply to Mr. Stevens' offenses. But I urge him to voluntarily forfeit his Congressional pension."
Stevens, of course, says he's innocent and, Wolf, says he'll fight this conviction -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And he says he will fight this conviction.
All right, thanks very much.
Drew Griffin, thanks very much.
Sarah Palin is moving from battleground state to battleground state with a rally this hour in Pennsylvania. And she's drawing a lot of criticism, but she also draws huge crowds wherever she goes -- even in bad weather.
CNN's Dan Lothian is in Norfolk.
He's got some battleground coverage for us -- tell us what's going on, Dan, because this is an interesting phenomenon.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She really does seem to fire up her crowds, especially those who are her supporters -- those die-hard Republicans.
But what we also found while attending one of her rallies, you'll find a lot of people there who are still shopping around.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Sarah Palin walks in like a rock star and hits just the right note to get her supporters going -- stay away from Obama, he'll raise your taxes.
PALIN: Barack Obama is for bigger, more controlling government and higher taxes.
LOTHIAN: It's a sure bet that many who braved cold and damp weather to be here are solid Republicans -- the base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I agree with her views on just about everything.
LOTHIAN: And so does Robin Dusette (ph).
DUSETTE: I'm a very good example of the base. LOTHIAN: She drove two-and-a-half hours to get here.
DUSETTE: And I drove -- I got up at 6:00 this morning to drive here and stand in the rain and the cold with my children to see Sarah Palin.
LOTHIAN: But in a crowd this large, there are bound to be some who are still making up their minds or are simply curious. Amanda Cowtz (ph) is a college student who's on the fence -- a self-described Independent voter still doing her home work.
AMANDA COWTZ: I'm not exactly sure yet. I went to go see Obama talk in Washington and I came here to watch her talk, too. So after I listen to her speak, I'm going to make my decision.
LOTHIAN: We weren't able to catch up with her after the rally, but we did run into Dominick Foster (ph), another Independent who's voting for Obama, but curious about Governor Palin.
DOMINICK FOSTER: I'm not really supporting, you know, McCain, but I just wanted to see what it's all about.
LOTHIAN: This is what it's all about -- all things Palin for sale. And a Republican vice presidential candidate who seems to have energized the party base -- and others. Like Patty Merritt (ph), who also stood in the rain in this crowded park -- an Independent voter leaning in what the party would consider the right direction.
PATTY MERRITT: I think I'm more for McCain and Palin than I am Obama.
LOTHIAN: Some here who have already made up their minds are now trying to influence their friends. Like Margie Paglinavo (ph), who got to shake Governor Palin's hand -- a magic moment she plans to pass on to her friends, who are still undecided.
MARGIE PAGLINAVO: They're still (INAUDIBLE). We're trying to really make them vote McCain and Sarah Palin.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LOTHIAN: The McCain-Palin campaign is working very hard to make sure that this red state does not turn blue. And they're hoping that they can get some help from those undecided voters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.
Dan Lothian working the story.
She's been jailed in Italy for nearly a year -- now a young American woman learns she may face trial for the murder of her roommate there.
And that Special Forces raid into Syria by U.S. forces drawing very different reactions from the McCain and Obama campaigns. We'll tell you what their reactions are right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest -- Zain.
VERJEE: Wolf, an American coed and her ex-Italian boyfriend will stand trial in the death of their roommate. Just minutes ago, an Italian judge ruled that there's enough evidence to try 21-year-old Amanda Knox and her boyfriend for the gruesome death of a British exchange. Twenty-one-year-old Meredith Kercher, a student at the University of Perugia, was found last year dead in her bed with a knife wound to her neck.
"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that U.S. officials are considering holding discussions with some levels of the Taliban. General David Petraeus, who becomes the head of U.S. Central Command this week, used a similar tactic in Iraq. He supports this latest idea to calm the recent violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The newspaper is calling it a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago.
And an astonishing figure about American military women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq. A new study says about one out of every seven of them report being sexually assaulted or harassed during their tour of duty. The Pentagon plans to broaden prevention programs next year, focusing on educating males from 18 to 24.
And a big security change is coming to the subway and bus systems in Washington, D.C. Metro officials say police and bomb sniffing dogs will randomly search passenger bags. Similar searches are already in effect in New York, Boston and New Jersey. It's all an effort to prevent terrorist attacks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's probably a good idea.
Zain, thanks very much for that.
The religious right -- it used to have a lot of influence on the elections, but might they be losing some of their power?
We'll talk about that and more when James Carville and Leslie Sanchez -- they join us. They're standing by live.
Plus, Nancy Pelosi says Congress will be more bipartisan if Democrats win the White House.
So is that possible?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, extreme politics -- Evangelical Christians are spelling out their opposition to Barack Obama in apocalyptic terms. We're going to show you the Web sites and some e-mails that some are calling vicious.
With seven days left, is John McCain doing everything he can to try to win voters?
We're taking a closer look at his final strategy.
And a sea of voters -- the NAACP says Virginia is simply not ready for an expected record turnout and black voters could be hurt the most. What the group wants done right away.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As the campaign winds down, some dangerous rhetoric is being revved up -- a flurry of what if warnings about Barack Obama and a victory sent out by voters -- to voters, that is -- by groups on the religious right.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been looking into this story. Deb's here.
Deb, what are you discovering?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we're really discovering is that the scare tactics are in full bloom, as religious extremists and Jews -- Christians and Jews put forth doomsday scenarios as possible warnings to the voters should the more liberal presidential candidate win.
FEYERICK (voice-over): To hear some religious extremists tell it, elect Barack Obama and it's the end of the world as we know it, to borrow part of a line. Evangelical Christians from Focus on the Family Action warn that children will be awash in pornography, terrorists will strike four U.S. cities, marriage will be turned inside out.
Other Evangelical Christians warn an Obama victory will herald the apocalypse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CHRISTIANADC.ORG)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a broad road to destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: And this e-mail sent to 75,000 Jewish voters equates an Obama presidency to Nazi Germany. LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: This stuff is beyond the pale. It's the most negative, vicious stuff I've seen in quite some time.
FEYERICK: Political experts say the extreme attacks underscore the concern far right groups have with Obama. The evangelical group focus on the family action defended its what-if letter as based on its analysis of Obama's record.
CARRIE GORDON EARL, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY ACTION: To look with a critical eye at recent events and how they may play out in the future, that's not needless alarm. I think that's prudent.
FEYERICK: Political analyst Larry Sabato calls it tragic.
SABATO: Many of these conclusions are extreme and illogical. No president would ever attempt these things. No president who wanted to be reelected would even think these things.
FEYERICK: The Pennsylvania supreme court judge who signed the e- mail to Jewish voters warning of a holocaust if Senator John McCain loses, a apologized. And the Anti-Defamation League condemned the e- mail as divisive. While the attacks may rally religious group, other voters are put off by the negativity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find it abysmal for people who call themselves Christians decide if someone is different other than what they consider to be Christian that now they think it's going to ruin the world. It's not going to ruin the world any more than it ruined the world when they came from Europe to America because of their Christian beliefs.
FEYERICK: What kind of an impact does this really have on undecided voters? Insiders say it's pretty likely undecided will run in the opposite direction. This is really aimed at a small target audience not voting for Barack Obama anyway.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Deb, thanks very much.
How much influence does the religious right have heading into this election? Let's discuss this with a pair of CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville and the Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.
James, you've been studying the religious right for a long time. What do you think? A lot less influence? A lot more influence? What's going on?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, so much of that -- apparently that doesn't have any part of Christianity, these people. Look, truth of the matter is people are fed up with what these -- Dobson and that whole crowd, focus on the family. They are a definite detriment to the Republican Party. When this is over they're going to have to figure out what to do with these people. There was a Timothy Egan piece "New York Times" in the Sunday op-ed page about how the people around the country are coming around to reject this. It's going to be very interesting.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think people look at this with a jaundiced eye. You can't take an extreme in some of those or defend some of those messages. But I do think there is a concern among cultural conservatives of the coarsening of America, dropping our values, the attacks it would be on the sanctity of marriage. There are very serious concerns to a lot of believers. They want to make sure that they have principal leadership in there that's going to defend their values. To the extent that those concerns are very real, I don't think you can discount Dobson or any of the others who speak to this audience.
BLITZER: As you know, James, they're very influential in 2004. Karl Rove really energized that religious base and they got out to vote even more impressively than the Democrats did.
CARVILLE: They certainly did. I think rove is reputed to be whistling on with Christian soldiers in the white house. The point is when you look at this what happens is they've been exposed. I don't see anything, certainly nothing of Christianity that I was taught at St. Joseph Parochial School that's contained with this kind of language. That would be seem to be just the opposite of what real Christianity is about. Again, Mr. Dobson, Dr. Dobson or whatever he is, he's entitled to be as hateful as he wants to be. I think people are tired of it, though.
SANCHEZ: I think people can attack James Dobson to any extent that they want to. The bottom line, there's a lot of evangelical Protestants, charismatic Catholics that are concerned about the direction of the country. To the extent he raises issues about protecting the family, protecting life, fair contrast. Some of the language in the letters we don't defend, the debate on the cultural issues very fair and very real.
BLITZER: It'll be interesting to see, James, if the Democrats are making any significant inroads with the evangelical right because there have been suggestions over the past year or so that many of them are concerned about the environment and other issues not necessarily traditionally part of their so-called agenda.
CARVILLE: Right. I mean, I think that Senator Obama is probably as religious a candidate as we've had, at least since Jimmy Carter. But, yes. I think people understand, I think they're rejecting this. I think there are a lot of Christians that believe you should love your neighbor as yourself.
Actually you know many people think charity is the integral part, cornerstone of Christianity. Dobson wouldn't know that. There are millions of Christians around this country, me being one of them, who actually believe that.
But at any rate I think there's been an overreach here. I think there's going to be a backlash. I think on election night a lot of evangelicals and a lot of people who believe in values of charity and tolerance are going to embrace Obama's candidacy.
SANCHEZ: That's probably the hardest part to believe though, James. I mean I think in one respect yes, we're going to see a mobilized base of social conservatives. That has to do with Governor Palin.
Two, I would commend both candidates in the fact that they were trying to reach out to the faith community in a bigger way than maybe a lot of people expected. You have Senator Obama who is meeting with a lot of faith leaders including his fan of Hispanic pastors. You have the prayer breakfasts that they were attending. Senator McCain did not attend the Hispanic prayer breakfast. But I think to the extent these issues are raised, that's what's fundamentally important. Those concerns, Wolf, you can't walk away from the fact they're very real to these people.
BLITZER: I want to read to you, James, what Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker said to a radio station out in San Francisco, KGO. She said, "Elect us. Hold us accountable. Make a judgment and then go from there. But I do tell you if the Democrats win and they have substantial majorities, Congress of the United States will be more bipartisan." All right. Help me understand how it's going to be more bipartisan if the Democrats are in control of the White House and significant majorities in both houses of Congress?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think she's much more conciliatory person than Tom DeLay was. They wouldn't pass anything with Democratic votes. They would have passed everything within a Republican caucus.
I think just by nature, like I said, she's a lot -- going to be a lot more embracing. And of course she's speaker of the House and you would sort of expect her to say that anyway. She's the leader of the House, so that would be sort of expected language to use. But, I mean, yes.
By the way, she's a terrific -- she's a very religious person. She's a terrific Catholic, a terrific mom, too. So I think evangelical community will see a lot to like in Nancy Pelosi.
BLITZER: You understand her rationale, Leslie?
SANCHEZ: Not at all. I think she's delusional. I mean I think she may be a terrific person personally, but she's been a failure as speaker of the house. Look at the fact that she went in with tremendous swagger and said there's a new Congress in town. They were going to get rid of corruption. They were going to end the war. When ultimately look what happened, they have the lowest approval ratings in the history of the most recent Congresses. They had to concede the surge was working when they tried to basically denounce excuse me General Petraeus. They were obstructionists on everything from free trade to immigration to selection and appointment of judges. This is not a Congress that is working. And to say that it's going to work better with more Democrats is something that's very difficult to believe.
CARVILLE: Well, we'll see a week from today what the voters think. It's their opinion that matters. If they elect more Republicans, then I think Nancy Pelosi will be properly chastised. However, if as I suspect happens, that even more Democrats get elected, I think the public will be saying, you go, speaker. You're doing fine.
BLITZER: Stand by, guys. I want to continue this conversation.
Putting out the call for volunteers; the Obama camp asks people to take a day off and help out on Election Day. Does the McCain camp have an answer to that?
And stock markets soaring today. The second biggest point gain in U.S. history. You're going to find out why. Ali Velshi standing by for that right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're back with our CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. Stand by. I want to listen for a minute to Sarah Palin. She's speaking in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania right now.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- be able to afford college. We have a pro-growth, pro-private sector agenda that will get this economy back on the right track.
See, John and I will lower your income taxes and we'll double the child tax deduction for every family and we'll cut capital gains tax and we will cut the business taxes. Right now in the United States, our business tax is the second highest in the world. It's no wonder that companies are moving elsewhere. It's too expensive to do business when government is trying to take more from them. So we will cut the business tax in order to keep American businesses in America.
You know, when it comes to taxes, you have such a real choice. Already on national security issues, I don't think anybody can compare the two. Everybody knows that, yes, John McCain needs to be our next commander in chief.
Let's talk about -- let us talk about, though, on the economic front; the war that we are in there, too, in these tough times. And I want to talk about this for a minute because our opponent is not being candid with you about his tax plans.
BLITZER: All right. There you get a little sense of what she's saying, her stump speech out there in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
James Carville, Leslie Sanchez, we're listening. So I just wanted to point out we're also looking at the Straight Talk Express. John McCain is on his bus as it's arriving at his event. I think he's in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He's at the front of his bus getting ready to walk off. As we watch the pictures, we assess what's going on, this strategy, James, of spending so much time, as Sarah Palin and John McCain are doing in these final 10 days in Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes, a critically important state, but it's gone Democratic in most recent presidential elections. Right now in our poll of polls, our average of all the major polls in Pennsylvania, ten-point spread for Barack Obama, 52 percent to 42 percent. What do you make of this strategy of the McCain/Palin campaign to devote so much of their energy to Pennsylvania?
CARVILLE: Well, you know, I guess the real answer is they once asked Ray Charles what's the worst thing about being blind, he said well, you can't see. The real answer is they've got to go somewhere. They've got to go somewhere that's got some potential to try to get them to 270.
I agree it's pretty hopeless but as I said, after I said about the second debate, this race was over. They're in a situation that they're behind and they're in a situation that they're not going to win the race. They've got to do something. They can't shut the campaign down. I guess they can't go to Utah because that would be a terrible story for them. So they go to Pennsylvania.
BLITZER: Is it a good strategy, focusing in on Pennsylvania for this Republican candidate, Leslie?
SANCHEZ: I was talking to folks in the campaign and they explained Pennsylvania and where they think they're holding strong in some of those battleground state and they're putting everything into this state.
What's interesting about Pennsylvania, you're exactly right, outside the urban areas you have a lot of very conservative counties. You have a lot of independent either moderates or weak Democrats, weak Republicans who like bipartisan ship. They like the maverick nature of an outsider coming in to change Washington.
But I tell you, Governor Palin's been interesting. She's doing a couple of things. She's, yes, talking taxes and spending. But she's talking about them like John and I. She's talking as if there's somebody that's very relatable. Those little things could make an impact in a state like Pennsylvania.
BLITZER: You know, the other interesting thing today, James, the Obama campaign saying a lot of folks if they can take the day off next Tuesday, volunteers, get out there and help get Barack Obama and Joe Biden elected. What do you think about that -- that appeal?
CARVILLE: Well, I think it's -- I think it's wonderful in democracy. I think it's almost in terms of you can do something in democracy, the fact that you would take off to volunteer in a campaign would be a great thing. I think employers should actually let people off if they want to go and participate. This is something that happens every four years. It's the greatest event in democracy on earth. I'll tell you what. I think a lot of people are going to take Senator Obama up on this challenge. I think you're going to see people out there voting, working. I think it's going to be just a magnificent day come Tuesday.
BLITZER: Do you think the ground game on the Republican side, Leslie, is going to be as effective adds apparently the Democratic ground game is going to be, getting out the vote?
SANCHEZ: You can't match the money and the number of people and the technology. I mean, that's just tremendous what Senator Obama has been able to do.
But the difference is you have such of a defiant spirit among grass roots Republicans. They are ready to fight. They are ready to be the last ones standing on the hill. And they're not -- they're not going to give up or go quietly. They want to, in their sense, protect this country. They feel John McCain's the right person moving forward. And they're not going to give in.
BLITZER: Leslie and James, we've got to leave it there. But you'll be back. Thank you.
CARVILLE: OK. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's asking this question. What does John McCain have to do to come from behind and win? Jack and your e-mails, that's coming up.
Plus, just a day after he was convicted on seven felony counts, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is vowing to get back out there on the campaign trail.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's not just the campaigns trying to get out the votes, but lots of other special interest groups like moveon.org and the AARP, among others, they're using peer pressure and creative personalized videos to make sure that their members and their friends go to the polls.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, what is going on?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here is how the moveon's video works. A potential voter, let's call her Jane Smith, gets an email from a friend that says you have got to see this video. In it a fake news clip imagining that John McCain has won the election by a single vote and it says that it is all Jane's fault for not voting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shock turns to outrage as the New York Times revealed the identity of the particular nonvoter responsible for Obama's loss. In a few short days this private citizen has become a national pariah, fearing retribution, police took the nonvoter into custody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: Jane's name actually embedded into the video. It is a get out the vote campaign by moveon.org where members customize these videos, send them out to their friends and more than 6 million people have gotten one of these or forwarded this already. It is aimed to the older generation, but the younger generation is getting on board. This is a video going around being e-mailed to e-activists or members of the AARP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who can shake up Washington by bringing us financial security and fixing health care?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: AARP's video has been emailed out to more than 1 million people and they are not endorsing a candidate, but they want their members to get out there and vote.
BLITZER: Very cute. All right. Thanks very much, Abbi.
Speaking of very cute, here is Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is very cute. All right the question this hour is as follows, what does John McCain have to do in order to come from behind and win this thing?
Carol in Florida says, "Fortunately, I don't think there is anything he can do at this point. McCain has run one of the vicious, ugly, filthy campaigns that most of us have ever seen when he promised in the beginning to have a decent and respectful campaign. He picked a running mate who's unqualified, uneducated and totally unprepared and I am not sure this woman could lead a choir let alone the country."
Matt in Lorain, Ohio, "Jack, the only way he could possibly pull this off is if he Bushes his way into office. By Bushing, I mean, lying, cheating and steal his way into victory."
Toby in New Orleans, "To win, McCain has to fly to Pakistan and single-handedly capture Osama Bin Laden. Anything short of that and he loses on November 4th."
Greg says, "Fire Palin, sell 10 of his houses, 15 of his cars and start telling us the truth." Marcy in Mobile, Alabama, "He needs to hope that Obama supporters decide Obama doesn't need their vote because he has it in the bag and thus they decide to spend their Tuesday doing something else."
Cindy in Toronto suggests, "Put Palin at the top of the ticket."
John in White Plains, New York, "Simple, just tell the American people the truth. The country is broken and I don't know if I can fix it, but I will do my best."
And Peebo writes, "There is nothing in the world McCain can do now besides getting as chummy as possible with old man Diebold and pre-perforating some chads."
If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others. I used to be cute.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, all right. Stand by.
U.S. troops across the border. We will tell you what the McCain and Obama camps are saying about the raid into Syria.
Plus the NAACP files suit against the governor of Virginia. We have new information what it says that the state is not ready for Election Day.
And what happens when one party controls Washington and what the public thinks about that.
Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: That across border raid in Syria by U.S. troops has drawn different reactions from the McCain and Obama camps. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
Jamie, what are they saying?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, in the last month of his administration, President Bush is making it clear that he is willing to be more aggressive in crossing the borders to protect U.S. lives. The question is what will the next president do?
MCINTYRE: No sooner had anonymous officials in Washington confirmed that during daylight commando assault into Syria that John McCain's camp used it as ammunition against Barack Obama. In a blast e-mail, McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb said "If Barack Obama had his way U.S. forces would not have been in a position to launch this strike," citing Obama's pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq. But Obama's supporters fired back, accusing McCain of hypocrisy for publicly embracing the covert operation in Syria after earlier admonishing Obama for talking too openly in advocating cross borders strikes into Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you announce that you're going to launch an attack into another country, it's pretty obvious it would have the effect that it had in Pakistan, it turns public opinion against us.
MCINTYRE: Unlike Pakistan, Syria is not an American ally but it has been seeking a better relationship with the U.S. and made some efforts to tighten the border with Iraq. While it is unclear how the U.S. raid will affect Syrian public opinion, it described the attack on innocent civilians, but something that the U.S. disputes.
Meanwhile a stepped up campaign of unmanned predator attacks across the Afghanistan border into Pakistan border, at least one ground incursion by U.S. special operations troops has inflamed anti- American sentiment in Pakistan, but despite the political sniping, the fact is that both major candidates have almost the same position on violating the sovereignty of a friendly or unfriendly nation to protect Americans.
OBAMA: If Pakistan is unable or unwilling to hunt down Bin Laden and take him out, then we should.
MCINTYRE: An Obama spokesman dismissed the criticism from the McCain campaign as a stale attack. As for Obama's public position on the secret Syria raid, he is adopting the same response as the Bush administration, silence. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thanks very much.