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THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama, McCain Campaign Hard in Final Days; Courting the Latino Vote

Aired October 30, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama racing across the red states he is hoping to turn blue. He is driving home the economic message and the charge that John McCain would be another George Bush.
Plus, John McCain's plumber problem, and why the new guy threw him a pitch today.

And gloom of how the economy is doing, and any doubts left of whether the United States is in a recession now? All of that and the best political team in television.

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

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A trifecta in the presidential race right now. These are live events of campaign events in some all-important battleground states, a Barack Obama rally in Virginia, a John McCain event in Ohio, and a Bill Clinton rally for Obama also in Ohio.

The campaigns pulling out all the stops and the big guns only five days before America votes. We have extensive coverage coming up this hour on all these political developments.

Senator Obama is determined to stay on message in these, the waning days and hours of this marathon campaign. He is telling voters today that the economy is in a ditch, and John McCain and President Bush helped drive it there.

Our senior correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Columbia, Missouri, right now, where Senator Obama is going to be campaigning later tonight.

Candy, this is a day, indeed, all these days, all these hours are critically important.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are.

And, you know, Wolf, you can tell at this point in a campaign a lot about the state of the race if you just take a look at where Barack Obama is going.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): He has the schedule of a man looking for a blowout, campaigning in Republican counties inside Republican states.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Sarasota.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: In 2004, George Bush won Sarasota County by more than eight points, and even if he cannot win here, Obama might be able to neutralize John McCain's territorial advantage.

OBAMA: If you want to know where John McCain will drive this economy, just look in the rear-view mirror, because, when it comes to our economic policies, John McCain has been right next to George Bush.

CROWLEY: Whatever else, this is a campaign in sync.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Wonder where John McCain would take the economy? Look behind you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: He brushes off old and new charges pushed by the McCain campaign and won't bite on whether he will visit Arizona, where Republicans are now worried enough about McCain's home state to dial in some anti-Obama robocalls. He remains on the issue he broke away with, the economy, bolstered today with the latest gross domestic product figures, down for the time this year.

OBAMA: Our failing GOP is a direct result of a failed economic theory of eight years of trickle-down, Wall Street-first, Main Street- last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch.

CROWLEY: He has been relentless, staying on message. And Joe Biden has been told to do the same.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, look, folks, hey, I didn't see the band up there. Hey, folks how you guys doing? Thanks for being here. That is really nice of you. Thank you. That is what you call getting off message, but I will tell you, you guys look good.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: The campaign wants itself described as upbeat, but cautious. Still, there are moments of glee, the latest, an announcement by a New Hampshire alternate delegate to the Republican Convention, one of John McCain's top supporters in the state, he will vote for Barack Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: A little more on the geography, Wolf. Right now Barack Obama is in Virginia Beach. George Bush won there in 2004 by a little over 12 points.

Now, here in Columbia, a slightly different story. George Bush did win here, but not by much. The Obama camp feels that it wouldn't take much from Barack Obama to push this county back over into the Democratic side, but, as you know, Missouri is one of the most hotly contested states. Certainly, the last time I looked at the polls, it was pretty much dead even -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And I remember Obama squeaking out a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in Missouri, as well. Candy, thanks very much.

By the way, I am going to be going one-on-one with Senator Obama tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can be part of the interview. You can submit video questions at ireport.com/Obama. We will try to use some of those video questions during the course of my interview with Senator Obama tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John McCain returning Obama's fire today on the economy, accusing the Democrat of voting for legislation that included millions of dollars of tax breaks for big oil companies, but a campaign gaffe briefly overshadowed McCain's message on this day.

Let's go live to CNN's Ed Henry. He's out in Ohio working the story. It was an embarrassing slip-up. What happened, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, McCain aides keep saying they are going to close strong, but a new bus tour through this pivotal state of Ohio started out anything but.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): There's nothing subtle about the final few days for John McCain, who began Thursday in the Ohio city of Defiance, as in let's defy the naysayers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're a few points down, but we're coming back. HENRY: But, in a sign of just how difficult it will be for McCain to pull that off, a dreaded unscripted moment. Excitement had been building because McCain's staff had told the senator and the press that Ohio's now-famous Joe the Plumber was in the crowd. Except he was not.

MCCAIN: Joe's with us today. Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today. All right.

Well, you're all Joe the Plumbers.

HENRY: Embarrassing after all the time McCain has spent building up Joe as a symbol of his appeal with middle class voters. A McCain aide claimed Joe decided not to come, and staff couldn't get word to the senator in time. But Joe told CNN that after the campaign initially invited him, nobody ever called back to confirm, and he was not happy about being introduced at the even anyway.

JOE WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER : Get involved in the government. That way we can hold our politicians accountable.

HENRY: The McCain camp scrambled to get Joe to a second rally, but the damage was done. And McCain stumbled mid-attacks as he lashed out at Barack Obama's 30-minute television ad.

MCCAIN: He's measuring the drapes, and he gave his first address to the nation before the election. We're a -- never mind.

HENRY: He recovered, however, to pounce on a comment by Obama, who said if he loses, he'll be glad to work with a President McCain.

MCCAIN: That sounds like a great idea to me. Let's help him make it happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, as Candy noted, it is very important to take a look at where these people are going, where the candidates are. It tells you a lot about the state of their campaign.

Today, John McCain in Defiance, Ohio, that is a Republican stronghold, an area he should have locked up a long time ago. So, he is using that time instead of going after independent voters, though, tomorrow, he will try to go for those undecided voters in Columbus, Ohio, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And that potentially could help him -- Arnold Schwarzenegger a pretty popular guy out there, especially among some Republican circles. Ed, thank you.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's a very popular guy. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A lot's been made of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin going off-script and off-message over the last couple of weeks. Some of John McCain's aides aren't too pleased with some of the things coming out of her mouth. They say that she's gone rogue. She's been called a diva. Her supporters -- and she has a lot of them -- say it's just Sarah Palin being Sarah Palin.

On the Democratic side, we're not seeing a whole lot of Joe Biden being Joe Biden these days either. In fact, Barack Obama's normally chatty running mate known for some serious gaffes of his own when unscripted has been conspicuously quiet these past couple of weeks.

Suddenly, Biden, who will grant interviews to parking meters if he's asked, has not made himself readily available to the media.

As "TIME" magazine's Karen Tumulty, who's been traveling with Biden, put it, at times, it's like Biden is a politician packaged in shrink-wrap. And that's probably got a lot to do with those remarks he made at a Seattle fund-raiser a couple of weeks back when he said Barack Obama would be tested by an international crisis soon after being elected. Obama's public response was -- quote -- "I think that Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes" -- unquote. But maybe there was a private response, and that's why these days, there's no Joe.

Here's the question: In the closing days now, who is the greater risk for saying something harmful, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post an answer on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're waiting to hear from John McCain. He's going to be speaking live this hour, also Bill Clinton. We will go there live, hear what they have to say. Thanks, Jack, very much.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Latino voters want their voices heard. In one battleground state, Hispanics are going door-to-door to encourage other Latinos to vote. Between Barack Obama and John McCain, who has the edge right now with this key voting bloc?

Also, our latest poll -- poll of polls, that is, includes what you might consider a campaign stunner. Does McCain run the risk of losing his own state?

And should you be worried about your vote being stolen? You are going to hear one reason why some fear that is a potential out there, at least in one battleground state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are new signs today of a possible tightening of this presidential race nationwide.

When we average all the latest national polls, Obama leads John McCain now by five points. Obama's advantage is two points less today than in our so-called poll of polls yesterday, an average of these national polls.

And it is close to what it was when the general election campaign really took off. Back in June, our poll of polls at the time had Obama leading McCain by four percentage points.

Right now, seven percent say they are still unsure of their presidential choice -- 10 percent said they were unsure back in June, still making up their mind.

In CNN's recent five-state polls, we found among likely voters -- let me take a look and see what is going on. We will go to Arizona, first of all. Right now, in our CNN/"TIME"/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we have McCain ahead in Obama in home state of Arizona, but only by, what, four points, 49 to 43 percent, 10 electoral votes in Arizona -- six points, excuse me, 49-43. Let's go to Ohio right now, the key battleground state, crucial, Obama still maintaining his lead, 50 percent to 43 percent, remember, 20 electoral votes in Ohio.

In the critical battleground of Pennsylvania, Obama still with a significant lead, very significant, 53-41. This is the CNN/"TIME" magazine poll, 21 electoral votes. In North Carolina, look at this, 52 percent for Obama, wow, 46 percent for McCain, 15 electoral votes in this traditionally Republican presidential state.

And, finally, in Nevada right now, Obama still maintaining a seven-point advantage, 50-43, five electoral votes in Nevada.

Let's walk over to John King. He is over at our magic map, looking at all of this. And it's causing to rethink our estimate -- and it is an estimate -- where the Electoral College map stands right now. What are you seeing?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf.

Now, we have changed because of our new data out of the state of Nevada. We have change our map to show Barack Obama now leading in states with 291 electoral votes. And, of course, it takes 270 to win the White House. So, if he holds just what he has right now, Obama would win.

Now, why is this happening? Look out here in the West. New Mexico, we already have that one leaning blue, five electoral votes. Colorado, we leaned this one blue yesterday, Democratic, nine electoral votes. And here in Nevada, five more in the Obama column today in our estimate, one the big reasons, Wolf, that more and more Latino voters, the fastest-growing segment of the American population, are trending to the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Door to door in the searing desert heat, Angel Santiago taking the steps he believes will help make Barack Obama president --

ANGEL SANTIAGO, ORGANIZER, CULINARY UNION LOCAL 226: (SPEAKING SPANISH)

KING: -- and help Latino voters make their mark as decisive players in American politics.

SANTIAGO: You know, not since JFK has, you know, the Hispanic community had really a -- a viable candidate that they really liked, and that they actually believed that he was going to actually do something for them.

KING: Santiago logs 10 to 12 hours a day organizing for the Culinary Union in Las Vegas, which hopes to turn out 70,000 votes for Obama in a state George W. Bush won four years ago by just 20,000.

PILAR WEISS, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CULINARY UNION: Nevada is always like this. It's always this close.

XAVIER RIVAS, NEVADA MCCAIN SUPPORTER: (SPEAKING SPANISH)

KING: The McCain campaign is also mounting an aggressive outreach effort. Xavier Rivas is a local Spanish radio host and businessman who targets Latino entrepreneurs.

RIVAS: ... love this country. And I have got to go for McCain because is he for free trade agreement. And I think the economy is very important.

KING: But the numbers tell a lopsided story.

Four years ago, President Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote en route to reelection. This year, John McCain is drawing only 25 percent Latino support nationally, and nearly seven in 10 Hispanics voice support for Democrat Obama.

Manny Barajas is one of those Latinos for Obama, and just one example of growing Hispanic clout. We first met Barajas back in early 2007, not long after he applied for U.S. citizenship. It took 20 months, but Barajas took his oath earlier this year and cast his first vote last week using Nevada's early voting window.

MANNY BARAJAS, LATINO VOTER: Well, McCain, to me, I hear him talking, and I -- I hear Bush, the same administration. And that, for me, is no good. I need a change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: It is remarkable when you see that data, Latino voters supporting Barack Obama by a more than 2-1 margin.

Another stunning number, Wolf, there are three million more registered Latino voters now than four years ago, nine million in 2004, 12 million now, heading into this election. And most of them are concentrated in places like Nevada, a battleground state, places like Colorado, fast-growing there, a battleground state, and critically important as we watch the last few days play out in Florida, always a big, important battleground state.

BLITZER: You're always improving -- we are always improving our technology. Show our viewers the new skyhook feature that we have worked out.

KING: The skyhook feature allows us to track our correspondents.

You see here. I am going to clear this little bit, take this off, take the streaks away, and you can see where our correspondents have been over the past week. Let me stretch this out a little bit for you here and you can see, in the state of Ohio, Dana Bash and Mary Snow. Ed Henry is, he's hiding up there somewhere. We can find him if we get him.

You come back down here, these lines show where all the correspondents have been over the past week. We can take it away by doing this. It makes it easier to see. Ed Henry is on his way heading down to Florida now. Suzanne Malveaux there, Jessica Yellin, Dan Lothian.

You see this main spread. And here's one thing I want to show you. I want to take a couple of these people off the board, including myself, because I'm here in New York. Jim Acosta is here in New York. Look at where everybody is, Wolf.

Increasingly, our correspondents, Dan Lothian, red state, Jessica Yellin, red state. The race is playing out in the final days in red states. This is where all our correspondents are. And we can track them over the past week as they travel across the country. So, as you can see that, everybody moves.

And I will end on this note. The Election Express, our bus, out in Ohio waiting for who? Wolf Blitzer, who will be there tomorrow to interview Barack Obama, transmitting from the Election Express.

BLITZER: We will reporting live from the CNN Election Express tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa, and that's where I will be interviewing the Democratic presidential candidate. John, thanks very much.

KING: I will be watching you.

BLITZER: I love this feature, love it very much. We have got some more little things we are going to be unveiling in the next few days as well.

Mary Snow is one of our battleground reporters that we are keeping up with. She is dedicated to Ohio through Election Day, and she has been looking into what some Republicans say could be a nightmare scenario, the chance of votes being stolen. Mary is in Cleveland right now. Mary, officials are trying to make sure that does not happen. What are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been such a highly partisan battle. The secretary of state is a Democrat. State Republicans are saying they fear voter fraud. Election officials say they are confident fraud won't happen on Election Day, but some glitches are obviously expected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Turnout of early voters so far has been heavy. The hope is, it will ease lines on November 4, but election officials in Cleveland say be prepared for long waiting times and even lawsuits. There is intense scrutiny on the voting process and Republicans are airing these radio ads warning of potential fraud.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Could Ohio's election be stolen?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SNOW: The ads cite the case of a Cleveland man who admitted registering to vote 73 times. The chief election officer in Cleveland's county of Cuyahoga says she's confident there are enough safety nets in place to prevent voter fraud.

JANE PLATTEN, CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS: A person trying to register multiple times does not equal a person being able to vote multiple times.

SNOW: Cuyahoga is Ohio's largest county, with 1.1 million voters. Besides its size, the county is known for voting problems.

CANDICE HOKE, CENTER FOR ELECTION INTEGRITY: Unquestionably, Cuyahoga County had a black eye from 2004.

SNOW: Election law expert Candice Hoke cites poorly trained workers and accounts of misplaced ballots. Two election officials in Cuyahoga County pled no contest to a charge of negligent misconduct.

She says the scrutiny has forced improvements. And she does not expect another black eye in 2008, but still there are worries.

HOKE: I am more concerned about the technical systems both at the voter registration level and at the voting machine level not having -- not performing at the level that is necessary for the high demands that we place on them.

SNOW: Voters in Cuyahoga are using paper ballots. The ballots are read by optical scanners. And for the very first time, they will scan by precinct. The new technology tops the list of challenges for the county's board of elections chief, and she is preparing for the what-ifs.

PLATTEN: We zone stations throughout the county with additional supplies and devices. So, if something does happen in a location, we can immediately go out and triage that situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, Wolf, also at the ready, what one polling watchdog calls SWAT teams, ready to respond to any potential problems next Tuesday.

There is going to be intense scrutiny, and the campaigns have small armies of lawyers ready to be deployed in case of any trouble. Also, some polling workers here are being trained for the possibility that some polling stations may be forced to stay open longer than planned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will watch it with you. Mary is not going anywhere. She is staying in Ohio. Thank you, Mary.

We are also watching what is happening in Ohio. Bill Clinton, he is getting ready to speak in Toledo, Ohio. You see live pictures coming in. We will go there once he starts speaking.

And John McCain is in Mentor, Ohio. We will watch what he has to say as well. Lots going on this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, it is the state that dashed his dreams of becoming president of the United States, Al Gore going back to Florida. We have details of what he has in mind.

And a brand-new development in a major lawsuit by the NAACP. It involves minority voters in a major battleground state. We have that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Joe the plumber, he is speaking right now to a rally for John McCain. There he is. He showed up. He was supposed to be there at an earlier rally in Ohio. He is speaking to the crowd. We will hear what he has to say and then we will listen in to -- a little bit to John McCain.

But there he is, Joe the plumber, all of the sudden a huge personality for Republicans on the campaign trail, getting the crowd excited about John McCain.

We are also standing by to hear from Bill Clinton. He is also in Ohio, in Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, right now. We will hear what he has to say. He's going to the crowd excited about Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans already are casting presidential ballots. We are investigating who is voting, where they're voting, why they are voting, and we're spotting some fascinating trends we're going to share with you.

And new moves by Republicans to raise doubts about Barack Obama and his experience, but are the attacks effective? Are they coming too late? The best political team on television is standing by.

And are America's worst fears about recession, those fears, are they about to be realized? There are new numbers today -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: voters by the millions casting their ballots early. We are exploring the impact such strong early turnout might have on the election outcome.

The question of experience, and the GOP is on attack. Barack Obama's experience is being challenged by a barrage of Republican robocalls.

And the rocky ride on Wall Street showed signs of stabilizing somewhat today, with the Dow up almost 200 points. Have we dodged the "R" word? Maybe not. We're going to hear from the senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi. All of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

We're watching what's going on, especially in the world of business right now. I want to bring in our senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi. He's been monitoring this situation for us -- Ali, if you're here, come on in.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm right here.

BLITZER: All right. Tell us what's going on, because we got news today -- bad news. The last quarter, there was no economic growth.

VELSHI: In fact, it was a little bit negative. Now, the thing is we measure the -- the broadest measure of the economy -- using GDP, gross domestic product. It's the measure of everything we produce in the economy.

Now, I just want to bring you back. It was negative three percent. I want to take you back to the last quarter -- the same quarter same time last year, the end of 2004 -- the end of 2007, I'm sorry. We were negative back then -- negative two percent -- .02 percent. Then, in the first quarter of this year, we were down by .09 percent. In the second quarter of this year, we had anomaly. We were up by 2.8 percent. But now we're back to negative .03 percent lower.

And I should tell you, these numbers get revised over the course of a year. And most economists we've talked to say they will probably go a little bit lower. There's also no one who thinks that the final quarter of 2008 will be stronger than the last three months were. So that's something we have to worry about. The bottom line here is that the numbers are bearing out what we all already know with respect to home prices and with respect to jobs and all of that -- that the economy is quite weak -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And in terms of a recession, it's still one quarter -- the economists, as you know, Ali, they say two quarters of negative economic growth equals a recession.

VELSHI: Right. And the interesting thing is when you ask the White House for comment on this, Ed Lazar was saying that, you know, he doesn't want to name it. He doesn't want to call it a recession. Back in those quarters where we had positive growth, the White House was very keen on mentioning the fact that we're clearly not in a recession.

What you don't want to be doing is starting to talk about a recession three days before -- or four days before an election. The thing that we have to think about is jobs are being lost. I want to show you these, Wolf. I want to show you the jobs that we've lost just in the last week. These are major American corporations that have announced global layoffs.

Now, in some cases, we don't have the breakdown as to whether they were in the United States or globally. But we know some percentage of these are in the U.S. -- Whirlpool, 8,000 people; American Express, 7,000 people; Motorola, 3,000; Qwest Communications, 1,200; and Tenneco, which is an auto parts manufacturer, 1,100. We've just confirmed from Electronic Arts, the video game maker, they're laying off 6 percent of their workforce.

So when you see this, you add all of this to that 760,000 jobs that we've lost so far in 2008, it doesn't look like a good report. But we're not going to get the unemployment jobless report until November 7th, after the election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: After the election. That's on a Friday. All right, Ali, thanks very much.

It could be the X factor in this year's presidential contest. We're only five days from election day, but we're already seeing record-breaking early voter turnout. So what does it tell us about some new trends that could swing this year's election?

Deb Feyerick has been looking into this situation for us -- Deb, what are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one expert I spoke to called early voting "the quiet revolution." you've got new voters, veteran voters, eager voters all turning out before election day. And because no one really knows exactly how many people there are going to be on November 4th, well, it's difficult to put these numbers into cold, hard context.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): You hear it from both campaigns.

OBAMA: We want everybody to go to the polls now.

MCCAIN: My understanding is that the early voting has been pretty well even.

FEYERICK: And so far, some 17 million people in more than 30 states have already voted, either in person or by mail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL GRONKE, EARLY VOTING INFORMATION CENTER, REED UNIVERSITY: The levels are really shocking. They've broken records in virtually every state or jurisdiction that has early voting.

FEYERICK: Of the 30 early vote states, political watchers say Florida and North Carolina remain unpredictable. Both states track a voter's party, not, of course, the actual votes. So getting a clear read is impossible.

Still, new trends are emerging, say two election experts we spoke with. In North Carolina, traditionally Republican, registered Democrats have turned out two to one.

MICHAEL MCDONALD, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: We're also seeing African-Americans turn out at a very high rate in this early voting period, which is very unusual.

FEYERICK: As a result of North Carolina election laws, 100,000 people not previously on the voter rolls have been able to register and vote the same day. The experts tell us they're seeing a difference in early voting patterns between Democrats and Republicans -- Democrats go to the polls, while early mail-in ballots have leaned more heavily Republican.

MCDONALD: There is a two to one Democratic advantage in the early vote that's being cast in person. But the Republicans hold their own in this mail balloting.

FEYERICK: In case you're wondering why the campaigns have been urging people to vote early --

GRONKE: You don't want it to be two days before the election and you're still trying to get your base out. You've got to be focusing on those undecideds, on those Independents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, of course, how you vote, that's secret. But the act of casting a ballot is public record. Campaigns can check, cross you off the list, and then turn attention elsewhere to states that are up for grabs or may have low voter turnout. And that's where they put their efforts, not on you if you voted early.

BLITZER: Political scientists are going to be studying this for a long time, this early voting.

FEYERICK: Many, many years.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Deb Feyerick, for that.

I want to go out to Ohio right now. John McCain is speaking at a rally there. Let's listen in for a moment or two.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MCCAIN: Small businesses all over the country...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Small businesses employ 84 percent of Americans and we need to support these small businesses. Taxing small businesses will kill jobs. We can't let that happen.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist-in- chief. I'm running to be commander-in-chief.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth, but I'm running to create more wealth. Senator... (APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to punish the successful, I'm running to make everyone successful.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: You know, he's made a lot of promises. First, he said people making less than $250,000 would benefit from his plan. Then this weekend, he announced in an ad that if you're making less than $200,000 you'll benefit. But this week, Senator Biden -- the gift that keeps on giving -- said...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: ...said tax relief should only go to middle class people -- people making under $150,000 a year.

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: You get a sneak preview here?

It's interesting how their definition of rich has a way of creeping down. Senator Obama voted 94 times for tax increases or against tax cuts. At this rate...

(BOOS)

MCCAIN: At this rate, it won't be long before Senator Obama is right back to his vote that making -- that Americans making just $42,000 a year should get a tax increase. We can't let that happen.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Now, Senator McCain now in the middle of his stump speech. We're going to continue to monitor what he's saying.

Remember, we're also standing by to hear from Bill Clinton. He's getting ready to speak, also, at a rally for Barack Obama in Ohio.

Let's assess what's going on with our panel right now. David Gergen is joining us, one of our senior political analysts; John King, our chief national correspondent; and Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst.

I want to start with a controversial clip of an interview that Sarah Palin gave Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News that ran on "Good Morning America" this morning. Yesterday, we were talking about -- we just had the press release. And the transcript caused a little bit of a stir. But I want to play the clip. I promised our viewers I would. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABC ANCHOR: If it doesn't go your way on Tuesday -- 2012? GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just thinking it's going to go our way on Tuesday, November 4th. I truly believe that the wisdom of the people will be revealed on that day. As they enter that voting booth, they will understand the stark contrast between the two tickets.

VARGAS: But the point that you haven't been so bruised by some of the double standard, the sexism on the campaign trail, to say I've had it, I'm going back to Alaska.

PALIN: Absolutely not. I think that if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that -- that would bring this whole -- I'm not doing this for naught.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: "I'm not doing this for naught," David, she says.

ABC News, as you know, put out a press release, saying: "2012 -- I'm Not Doing This for Naught," suggesting she's getting ready to lead the Republican Party if, in fact, they don't win Tuesday. Is that reaching too far? What did you think of that exchange?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I thought she was ambiguous about what she was saying. I really -- I thought it was scrambled words and you couldn't quite say what her meaning was. But I think under those circumstances, she deserves the benefit of the doubt that -- let's not -- you know, let's not ascribe things to her that don't -- that she does not deserve. You know, she's taken a lot of heat in this campaign -- some of it deserved. But, you know, the real heat recently has been coming from inside the McCain camp. You know, it's not the press that's been going after her. You know, the press didn't call her a diva who wouldn't take advice.

BLITZER: Did you see the ambiguity in that exchange?

KING: Well, she started to answer before Elizabeth Vargas said 2012. So I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. They pushed back so quickly and so fast, they were saying she is focused on Tuesday and Tuesday alone.

I will tell you this. I know for a fact that from three different sources, that a couple of people very close to Sarah Palin have started talking about the contingency -- that if they lose -- not saying they're going to lose, but if they lose, how can they form some form of an organization to keep her politically active nationally.

I have no reason to believe she is involved in this, that she has authorized this. They are people who are close to her, who like her, who want to find a way to keep her active if they lose -- emphasis on if.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And John and I were talking, I think it was yesterday, about the Republican Governors Association meeting, which is November 15th. And it will be interesting, if she is not vice president, to see whether she goes. And if she goes, how she is received.

BLITZER: Because she is a sitting Republican governor.

BORGER: She absolutely -- of course.

BLITZER: And as John McCain keeps pointing out, the most popular governor, if you look at public opinion polls, of any governor out there. What, she has an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska? So you've got to give her some credit for that.

BORGER: Funny what tax refunds will do for you.

GERGEN: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: Yes.

GERGEN: She would be -- listen, I think if they lose, she is clearly going to be in the mix for 2012. I think it would be inappropriate to say that she's going to be the frontrunner.

BORGER: Sure.

GERGEN: I think that goes too far. You know, if they lose, it's going to be -- is going to be a fight.

BORGER: She's in the mix. But I don't even know if she's in the top tier. You don't know.

GERGEN: You don't know that.

BORGER: You just don't know.

KING: The fierceness of the tug of war and the soul-searching within the Republican Party, if they lose. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

GERGEN: No, right.

KING: If, if, if, there's still a path for McCain to win this. It's a very narrow path, but there's still a path.

But if they lose, there is going to be a soul-searching. Newt Gingrich is already talking about after the election what does he do. A lot of the Republican governors, excluding Sarah Palin, are saying the party in Washington has gone off the tracks, we need to take charge of it again and so on and so forth.

BORGER: Ideas.

GERGEN: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And Gloria...

BORGER: They have to search for ideas. Yes. BLITZER: ...I found this interesting, that in McCain's home state of Arizona -- the RNC is running these robo-calls in Arizona.

Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC, because Barack Obama is still dangerously inexperienced. His running mate, Joe Biden, just said he invites a major international crisis, that he will be unprepared to handle alone.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Talking about the inexperience of Barack Obama. But you would think in Arizona -- they could spend their money better in Ohio or Florida or Virginia or some place else.

BORGER: Well, the polls are obviously tightening in Arizona. He doesn't want to lose Arizona. That would be such an embarrassment to him. And it's clear that robo-calls are kind of a cheap way to make your point. And they're -- they can be a little subterranean, as opposed to going up on the airwaves and saying inexperienced -- although they are doing that, too, about Barack Obama. But it's clear they don't want to lose Arizona.

BLITZER: Yes, Arizona. It's, what, five, six points in Arizona, something like that.

GERGEN: Yes.

BORGER: Four points.

GERGEN: The only thing --

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: -- one poll had it down to two. I think -- I'm sure he'll win it. But it does illustrate how much of a trouble they're in.

But here's the thing I don't understand, Wolf. And maybe John can help us with it. I mean I have theories about it. But the national polls -- we see these tracking polls tightening. And yet electoral battlegrounds -- the Obama map is expanding. You just --

BORGER: Although they're trying to (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Yes.

GERGEN: You've put three states or so into his column here recently. And there are only down to six now, toss-ups.

So how do you -- how do you reconcile the tightening of the national polls with his growing Electoral College count?

KING: There is a split. And we are getting some complaints from Republican pollsters that the state polls are done three or four days ago and they're tracking all the time overnight, of course. They say the national race is tightening somewhat in some of the polls, not all of the polls.

And so my caution on all of these is use them as a judgment of whether there's a clear trend line one way or the other. But don't invest in them. Don't bet on them.

GERGEN: But (INAUDIBLE) to CNN polls from some key states...

KING: Our CNN polls in the State of Nevada --

GERGEN: Right.

KING: -- Obama building his lead.

GERGEN: Right. And Michigan.

KING: In the State of Colorado.

GERGEN: And it's a fresh poll.

KING: Yes. In the State of Colorado, Obama building his lead. Now, those are two relatively small states that have less influence in a national poll.

GERGEN: Right.

KING: So if John McCain is closing from 55-38 to 55-40 in California, even though he will lose California, that would influence the national poll.

BORGER: It depends on the size of the sample.

KING: Yes.

BORGER: It depends on when the sample was taken, how it's weighted, is it weighted...

KING: The likely voter model.

BORGER: And I think, in a presidential race...

GERGEN: But if you were saying...

BORGER: You have to look...

GERGEN: But you're saying they're a necessity, which one...

BORGER: Which one to pay attention to?

BLITZER: You know what...

BORGER: The state polls.

BLITZER: You know, as much as the national polls are intriguing and interesting, they're not important compared to the polls in the battleground states.

KING: If they get back inside 5 points, I would call them important.

GERGEN: The national ones.

KING: If you consistently see the track back inside 5 points, because in the Bush campaign, they would have told you if we're inside 3 or 4 nationally, we will win. Without a doubt, they thought they would win.

BLITZER: Because that's --

KING: And this year --

BLITZER: A bigger ground game.

BORGER: Yes.

KING: Good. This year is different, because Obama has the resources on the ground. But if the Republicans are inside 3 points nationally, they think they have a pretty good shot on election day. We'll see what happens. But we'll see the dichotomy -- I would just say to people do not invest in these. It's such an unpredictable year -- young voters, new voters, turnout models, how many African- Americans will turn out --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Will the Evangelicals turn out? Pollsters have to run these through a computer and they have to pick a model.

BLITZER: All right, guys --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by, because Bill Clinton is being introduced out at an event in Toledo, Ohio. We want to hear what the former president of the United States has to say.

There he is.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, Bill Clinton right here live in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bill Clinton has just been introduced. He's just starting to thank the crowd. We're going to go there in a moment, Toledo, Ohio.

But let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

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

CAFFERTY: In the closing days of the campaign, the question is: This -- who's at greater risk for saying something harmful, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin?

Frank writes from Des Moines: "I think Joe Biden has a responsibility to keep quiet until this election is over. We've already seen the negative ads and attacks from the McCain-Palin campaign. If Obama is in the lead according to the polls, then it's pretty clear to me that Joe Biden could cause more harm to their campaign now by saying something he shouldn't."

Cammie writes: "But I would have to say Palin. When it comes to showing her utter ignorance on most things political, she hasn't let me down yet."

Neerja writes: "Sarah Palin has the potential to do much more damage in one speech than Joe Biden can do in a lifetime of gabbing. You have to see the difference in gaffes. Biden makes harmless little gaffes and he has a lifetime of hard work and a brilliant career to fall back on. Sarah, on the other hand, casts more and more doubt on McCain's judgment in picking her as a running mate whenever she makes a statement."

Grover writes: "I'm an Obama supporter. To me, there's no question Biden is much riskier than Palin at this point. Palin has been pretty good at sticking to the script. That's exactly what Biden can't do. No surprise he's being contained by the Democratic camp."

David in Florida writes: "But as deep as Obama has buried Biden is in the closet, he's not a factor in the race at all. Obama is too powerful a figure. He overshadows his V.P. so much that nobody really cares what Biden says. Palin is the opposite. She overshadows the top of her ticket, so her words mean almost more than McCain's. And she's so out of it, that every time she talks, she hurts the ticket. She's what's killing the Republicans."

Bernie in Massachusetts suggests: "They have finally found a good use for duct tape."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

Bill Clinton is now speaking. He's speaking about last night -- his first joint appearance with Barack Obama out on the campaign trail in Toledo.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Until I got in there, it was we had to win two out of three undecided votes, because they had more of a base than we did. That's all changing now, in Ohio and throughout the country.

The second thing is the conditions of the country. And the country is in the ditch, so that helps us.

But I want to say why Ohio is so important. This is a third element here, which is very different from when I ran.

When I was elected in 1992, with the votes of the people of Ohio -- thank you very much -- and in 1996...

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: ...the people voted for me then, as they had voted for President Carter in 1976, because the country was in the ditch. And they sort of turn to us when the country's in the ditch and then things get going well and people say oh, well, the other guys sound good.

And I had a very different view of how a government should work and what the purpose of it was. And I heard a lot of those themes echoed in Senator Obama's speech last night.

But the difference was when I won, people thought well, the country's in trouble and that Clinton guy seems like he's more in touch with us and he's got half good sense. We'll give him a chance to run the country.

But there was no understanding that this was not just about two personalities -- me and former President Bush. This was about two different philosophies, two different programs -- the decisions that would flow from what we believed and how that would change America.

And as a result, when I left office, I couldn't believe it. We -- the administration had an approval rating of 65 percent. And we --

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: But wait, wait, wait. But Vice President Gore only won the election by 500,000 votes and they messed around with Florida and got in the Supreme Court and President Bush won the 2000 election 5-4.

Now, why did that happen?

That happened because the --

(INAUDIBLE)

B. CLINTON: Yes, well that, too. But it shouldn't have been a -- but wait a minute. But it shouldn't have been that close. Why was it that close? First, President Bush was a great politician and he had the best slogan in modern times until this one -- until "the change we can believe in" -- which was "compassionate conservatism." You remember that?

And the message -- the subtext of that to the moderate voters was -- the people who (INAUDIBLE) -- hey, I'll give you everything Bill Clinton did with a smaller government and a bigger tax cut. Wouldn't you like that? And a lot of -- enough people said it sounds good to me that we got the last eight years. Now, what is the difference -- this is really important you understand why you matter so much. Because for six of the last eight years, for the first time since the Republicans started putting out this kind of -- they call it conservative, but it was actually radical. I mean look what they've done with our debt. When they started in 1981, we had a debt of a trillion dollars and now it's $10 trillion. And I was paying it down, you remember. So --

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: So they've had to --

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: They've had to work hard to build it up to where it is. But anyway, what's different?

The difference is that for the first time since they started saying all this stuff in the mid-'70s, the American people finally got a taste, for six of the last eight years, of what it would be like if they controlled everything in the federal government and they were actually able to do what they had been talking about doing all this time. We got it full bore and we didn't like it.

So now we have a third thing very important about this election. We have -- the country is in the ditch, the country is more like us than them, more communitarian, more diverse. But we now know that it's not just about personalities, it's about ideas. It's about philosophy. It's about programs. And their deal has run out of energy and run out of time. It doesn't work. We're on the rocks and we're going to reject it.

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: And, therefore, we've got an opportunity to do something that -- because the people are in a different place and because they have now seen it -- we did not have the chance to do in '92. We have a chance to basically be a responsible, progressive majority party and a responsible progressive country. And we have to take advantage of this.

Now, a little history. A lot of you know that since the Republican Party was created -- and it was then, from 1856, under John Fremont; 1860, Abraham Lincoln; through Theodore Roosevelt; it was the progressive party in the country. Then it became the conservative party and then it became the radical right-wing party, right?

They started out on the right side of the street and then they got off on the wrong track and they've just been going headlong that way. But in all those elections since 1856, not a single solitary Republican has ever been elected president without carrying Ohio.

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: Now, once in a great while, but rarely, the Democrats have eased in without carrying Ohio. But that's rare. You voted for me twice and I'm very grateful for it. But it's rare. The point is that you have this election and the future of our country in your hands. Don't feel any pressure, but you do.

(LAUGHTER)

B. CLINTON: Now, I think you know that I feel a very special bond to Ohio. I'm very grateful for the reception you gave to Hillary in this primary and for those of you who supported her. I thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: But I have never ever been more proud of her in my life -- and there's never been a day that I wasn't proud of her -- that she put her disappointment aside and she will have, by the time election day rolls around, she will have done more than 70 appearances for Senator Obama -- more than 70.

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: This is unprecedented in modern American politics. And she makes me look like a piker. I only have done 30, but I had to go back to work. Somebody had to make a living in our family.

(LAUGHTER)

B. CLINTON: But -- and I say that because we were taking a walk the other day -- early this month, we celebrated our 33rd anniversary. And we...

(APPLAUSE)

B. CLINTON: And so we were taking a walk, what we like to do. And the leaves were turning and it was beautiful. We've got lot of beautiful scenery in the county where we live. And we were laughing about all the good and sometimes not so good things that have happened. And we decided that no matter what happens from now on out, we were going to leave this world ahead. We had been fortunate and blessed and we would leave it ahead.

And our obligation is to spend the rest of our lives in whatever way we can serve, trying to make sure that every child gets the same chances we had to live his or her dreams and that no one dies before their time.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right, Bill Clinton. He's out on the campaign trail right now in Ohio for Barack Obama.

David Gergen, his role right now -- give us an assessment.

GERGEN: Well, I think this is -- well, he's tired today. He's wandering a little bit. But I'll tell you, as a...

BORGER: You think? (LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: But I think as a general proposition, after this long period of sort of apparent acrimony and distance, coming in here at the end, reinforcements just at the time when the McCain campaign is trying to turn the momentum, is very helpful. And last night in Orlando, he gave the best case for electing Obama that anybody has given since this thing started. He gave a...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: He was really passionate and dynamic.

GERGEN: And he was better than Obama himself on why Obama ought to be elected.

BLITZER: Yes, what did you think, John?

KING: He's in Toledo, Ohio, one of those blue collar places where Hillary Clinton did very well and Barack Obama did poorly in the primaries. He's in the blue collar communities Obama needs.

And he, Wolf, is the exclamation point on the Democratic Party is incredibly unified in this election. The Clintons are the exclamation point. Maybe they don't love Barack Obama, but they are there doing what good Democrats do. And from Republicans, you hear all of this grumbling and complaining.

BLITZER: And if there was any doubt that he was going to go out on the campaign trail with Barack Obama --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- that disappeared yesterday.

BORGER: Yes. He's a great surrogate. He reminds people of the prosperity of the '90s, just like Al Gore going to Florida will remind people that their votes count.

BLITZER: Tomorrow.

BORGER: And even when Bill Clinton talks about himself, as he has a tendency to do, he is helping Barack Obama. No doubt about it.

BLITZER: We remember when David Gergen was brought into the Clinton White House.

BORGER: We do.

GERGEN: But we're not going to go there.

BORGER: We do.

BLITZER: We used to say -- and I was a reporter then, John was a reporter at the White House -- that David Gergen was brought in, with Leon Panetta, for some badly needed adult supervision. And you were there, as you recall.

GERGEN: Well, they brought in the gray hairs, right.

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: Yes, right.

BORGER: That's what he does here now, Wolf, right?

GERGEN: Yes, yes, yes.

BLITZER: All right, guys --

KING: I'm always fond to say I got most of these gray hairs covering Bill Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Most of us --

BLITZER: I think all of us did.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

We have an important programming note for our viewers. Tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll be going one-on-one with Senator Barack Obama. And you can still be part of that interview. This is what you do. You can submit your video questions at iReport.com/obama. We'll try to use some of the best questions in my interview with Senator Obama tomorrow. We'll be doing that interview in Des Moines, Iowa. That's where we'll be reporting from tomorrow.

That's it for me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.