Return to Transcripts main page


Can McCain Still Win?; Palin`s Poll Numbers Plunge; California GOP Searches for Sign Stealer

Aired October 22, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight stunning developments on the political front. New polling now shows Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain. Is this a landslide victory in the making? Or should Democrats heed the advice of their candidate?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: But for those of you who are getting a little cocky, I`ve just got two words for you: New Hampshire.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Then, Sarah Palin, her favorability ratings are down among women, and more than half of us think she`s not ready for the White House. Is she actually hurting the McCain campaign? If so, at least she looks good doing it. Her party has been financing some pretty costly outfits.

And the battle over same-sex marriage heats up. Again. In California. We`ll tell you what the state`s anti-gay marriage ballot initiative means to Ellen, to Rosie and to you.

You think you`ve got issues? We`ve got more.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Hello, everyone. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, and we have got a lot of issues to cover tonight. We have expert analysis of today`s stunning sell-off on Wall Street in just a bit.

But first, 13 days. No, I`m not talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I`m talking about how many days are left until the election. With less than two weeks to go, Obama yesterday had the biggest lead of the campaign so far: nine points. And today`s CNN`s poll of polls shows that Obama`s lead has narrowed a tad to seven points, 50 to 43 percent.

Now, we all know the Electoral College is more important than the popular vote here in the U.S. of A. But unfortunately for McCain, there is no good news there, either. CNN`s electoral map says if the election were held today, Obama would win with flying colors.

So is this game over for McCain? Or could overconfidence creep into camp Obama and leave an opening for the Republican candidate to sneak back into this race big-time.

Joining me now, Sam Rogers, an expert on poll data at Zogby International.

Sam, put this into perspective. Historically, what is the likelihood of a candidate coming from this far behind, as far behind as McCain is, to win it?

SAM ROGERS, ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL: Well, it certainly has happened before. And as you know in two weeks, in politics, two weeks is a lifetime. So anything can happen. But you`re right. Right now Senator Obama holds a ten-point lead in our Reuters/C-SPAN poll. And that`s a fairly sizeable lead this late in the game.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Now, what is it with these polls? Because A.P., just before airtime, came out with a poll that showed these two in a dead heat, which certainly doesn`t correlate to all the other polls. There are some polls that are showing him 10 percent ahead.

ROGERS: Right. Well, I don`t know about the methodology of that particular poll. But I know that our ser vas, the survey of likely voters, and we work hard to make sure that they are likely voters. And in that -- in that poll, we`ve had a fairly consistent lead for Senator Obama over the last two weeks, although today he holds his largest lead to date.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Remember that phrase: momentum, big mo, little mo? Does Obama have big mo?

ROGERS: This is -- I would say this is the textbook definition of momentum, yes. He`s -- he has a 27-point lead among independents, a 17- point lead among women. He seems to be winning just about every demographic we have.

VELEZ MITCHELL: OK. Snapshot, Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes. Florida, 21. Ohio, 20. Those are the biggies. What`s happening there?

ROGERS: Well, they are all too close to call. Well, with the exception of Pennsylvania, which you mentioned. We have that as leaning towards Senator Obama right now.

The -- we have seven toss-up states. We have Ohio, Florida and Nevada, New Hampshire, Indiana. All these states -- North Carolina -- very competitive and will probably be competitive up until the final days of the campaign.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Let me just ask you one more question. Is that I understand that those competitive states are must-wins for McCain.

ROGERS: That`s right. He would have -- he has to win all seven of the battleground states, and actually pick up a state that we currently have held by Senator Obama. Could be Pennsylvania or Virginia or New Mexico. But he`s got to make a strong push here in the final days, especially on the economy, especially to the middle class, to try to close the deal.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, you know what it`s what they say: it`s never over until the fat lady votes. I think something like that.

All right. Thanks, Sam.

ROGERS: Thank you.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Now let`s bring in our totally fired-up political panel: Andreas Tantaros, conservative commentator and columnist; John Avalon, author of "Independent Nation" and contributor to Politico; and Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky.

Julie, you get to start first. Not long ago, back in September, Obama and McCain were in a dead heat across the board. Everybody agreed. Now Obama is ahead by ten points in one poll, ahead by seven points in the CNN poll of polls. What happened between September and today? Is the answer as simple as the economy and Sarah Palin?

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don`t know about Sarah Palin, but the economy`s definitely front and center. And John McCain`s completely peripatetic reaction to saying first...


ROGINSKY: ... the economy. Exactly.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Peripatetic? Those big words.

ROGINSKY: Peripatetic, a big SAT word. I know. Well, we could say he`s been completely flip-flopping on where he`s been on the economy. First he said the fundamentals of the economy were strong, that he was against the bailout, that he was for the bailout. He suspended his campaign. He came to Washington to fix the economy. He`s been all over the place. And that`s been reflected in the polls.

People no longer trust John McCain to lead. And that`s reflected in the fact that today`s "Wall Street Journal" poll showed that people trust Barack Obama more, even on the issue of taxes, traditionally a Republican issue, than they do John McCain, and certainly much more on the economy. That`s what`s hurting John McCain more than anything else. That is issue No. 1 with the voters.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, I can feel Andrea Tantaros jumping up and down in her chair. The conservative commentator now has a chance to respond.

You know, what strikes me, Andrea, is that there appears to be a distinct sort of formula with Obama. He`s holding all these forums, like an economic forum yesterday with a former chairman of the Federal Reserve board. Today he`s having an international summit with all these international experts. It seems very presidential. Do you think that`s a good strategy?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR AND COLUMNIST: Oh, yes, absolutely. And I think that`s been their campaign strategy from the get- go. You know, you`ve had fake presidential seals. You`ve had the back drop at his speech at the convention, which was extremely presidential.

And the one thing that he had going in his favor was, at these debates, he did very well in the first debate and the second debate. I would argue John McCain took the third debate. But one thing that Obama was able to do is keep his cool the entire time, which actually made him seem, to most viewers, more presidential than John McCain.

So he`s smart to do all these events. I mean, he`s running a very -- a very good campaign. The wind is -- I mean, John McCain`s swimming upstream. It`s very hard for John McCain to overcome the Bush factor. He waited too long to distance himself from President Bush. He waited too long to adopt a cogent message, and now he`s paying the price.

VELEZ MITCHELL: Fascinating. Now, Obama`s biggest fear, his biggest problem is his supporters will become so relaxed by these polls that they will go to yoga on election day or perhaps grab a soy latte and forget to go to the voting booth. You know, just assuming he`s got it in the bag. Let`s listen.


OBAMA: But for those of you who are getting a little cocky, who support me, and start reading the polls, I`ve just got two words for you: New Hampshire. Everybody thought we were going to win that in the primary. We were up ten in the polls, day before the election. We ended up losing.


VELEZ MITCHELL: OK. He`s saying, you know, let`s not get cocky. But look at this. He looked pretty cocky dancing on "The Ellen Show" today. Looks like he`s getting ready to party and celebrate, doesn`t it, John Avalon?

JOHN AVALON, AUTHOR, "INDEPENDENT NATION": I always say we need more rock `n` roll in politics. So I`ve got to be in favor of that.

But he`s exactly right about cautioning his supporters not to be overconfident. I`ve got two more words for voters: President Tom Dewey. You know, Obama`s got the momentum, but the election isn`t held till election day, and that`s the only vote that ultimately counts. These polls are just snapshots.

Here`s what I think to look for on election day, by the way. If Obama wins Florida and Virginia, it`s over. It`s an early night. If McCain, by some Hail Mary pass, can turn Pennsylvania, then everybody stay up late.

VELEZ MITCHELL: I`ve got to get everybody`s reaction on the visit to Hawaii to Grandma by Barack Obama. His grandmother`s ill. I mean, here we are in the crucial few days before the election.

Julie Roginsky, is this a mistake? Is it a wash? Or could it be an actually brilliant move that -- that shows that he`s respectful to his seniors, helping with the voters in Florida, and reminding people he has a white grandmother?

ROGINSKY: You know, it`s an act of God, so I don`t want to say it`s a political plus or minus. But I will say, you know, the one knock on Obama that McCain has been making consistently is that nobody really knows Obama. He`s not really -- he`s almost like robotic. This really humanizes Obama.

And again, I would not wish this on his grandmother, obviously. This is an act of God that happened. But if there is a net positive out of this tragedy, it is the fact that people are going to relate to a sick, elderly grandmother that a grandson is caring for and putting first before he puts his own campaign or any other issue. That`s, you know, family first. That`s something that`s very important to people.

VELEZ MITCHELL: I want to get the conservative take on this. It seems like a lot of people feel the McCain campaign is more focused on criticizing Obama rather than saying what exactly they would do. Even though negative attack ads have not proven to work, here`s McCain on "THE SITUATION ROOM" earlier today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And the thing that probably may encourage him a little is that Senator Obama has been wrong. He was about the surge in Iraq. He still fails to acknowledge that he was wrong. I mean, remarkable.

He was wrong when he said Georgians should show their strength. He was wrong when he said he should sit down across the table from Ahmadinejad, Chavez, and the Castro brothers. He was wrong about those. So I can understand why the American people might be concerned.


VELEZ MITCHELL: So Andrea, if it doesn`t work, why does he keep doing that?

TANTAROS: Well, look, you know, that`s a great question, Jane. Over the summer is when McCain should have been, instead of calling Obama a celebrity, he should have been calling him a socialist and he should have been talking about the economy every day. At the same time he should have been telling his narrative. I think now, late in the game, he`s starting to go on the attack.

I think the Ayers attack was a mistake by the McCain campaign. You know, watching the stock market crash, when on the other side of the stream you have a McCain spokesperson talking about Bill Ayers, the dichotomy was just too much to take, even for this conservative.

And now they`re trying to go on the attack. And it`s seemingly, to a lot of the public, a little bit too late. People wanted to hear about the economy sooner. He should have gotten in front of the issue, you know, months ago. I said he should have taken his Straight Talk Express and parked it on Wall Street. Could you imagine if he would have done that months ago? And a lot of people laughed. They laughed and they said, "Oh, he needs to park his bus on Main Street."

VELEZ MITCHELL: But I have to remind the viewers that you`re the conservative commentator. So it seems like a lot of conservatives are actually frustrated with how this campaign is going.

Andrea, John, Julie, stay right there. Don`t move.

Now we all know tensions tend to boil over during election season. But some take it a tad too far. Take -- take a look at this video.


JANINE BONEPARTH, CODE PINK ACTIVIST: I`m Janine Boneparth, and I have to do a citizen`s arrest -- a citizen`s arrest for treason.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Karl Rove under citizen`s arrest? Well, let`s say an attempted citizen`s arrest. That`s just one example of the pre-election frenzy sweeping the country.

Plus "Extreme Makeover," wardrobe edition. Even if half of all of Americans don`t think Sarah Palin is ready to be president, she will have a closet full of parting gifts on her way back to Alaska: $150,000 worth of, well, we`re going to tell you next.


VELEZ MITCHELL: History will judge whether the choice of Sarah Palin as VP was brilliant or idiotic. But I have to say the polls are increasingly looking like it may have been a lame idea.

In a new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll, 55 percent of those surveyed say Sarah Palin is unqualified to be vice president. Now once again, they`re not saying that she`s not qualified to be president. They`re saying she`s not qualified to be vice president.

More bad news for Palin. More people now view her negatively than they do positively. That`s 47 percent who view Palin negatively, compared to 38 percent who view her positively.

Palin`s numbers are tanking. And, given new information about the six-figure cost of her wardrobe, paid for by the Republican Party, plus an investigation into whether she flew her kids around the country on Alaska`s dimes, it`s quite possible those unfavorables will continue their downward trend. Just a guess, not a prediction.

Let`s turn back to our panel for their insight: Andrea Tantaros, conservative commentator and columnist; John Avalon, author of "Independent Nation" and contributor to Politico; Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky.

Andrea, let me start with you this time. You`re the conservative. Palin seems to be increasingly dragging down the numbers for McCain. How would you argue that her name on the ticket is helping?

TANTAROS: Well, one thing that her name on the ticket did was help solidify conservatives. And John McCain needed that. He had trouble getting them to coalesce around his candidacy. And she`s certainly helped do that. She`s reenergized the right, which John McCain needs to show up at the polls on November 4.

Now, she has been under siege since the day that she came out by the media. I mean, she`s been under attack from day one. I disagree with the way she was rolled out. It was beautiful, her speech at the convention, and then we didn`t hear from her. And then it appeared that she was being mishandled, unprepared, marginalized. I mean, that was just my take. And I -- and from reports it seemed that she felt the same way.

Now you read she`s starting to shake off reporters. You read yesterday in "The New York Times" -- I mean, shake off her staff -- excuse me -- to go speak with reporters directly. I think that was the smart thing. I think they should have let Palin be Palin from the start.

AVALON: So Jane, you know, the American people have already made up their mind here. Sarah Palin has proven to be a deeply polarizing figure. She energized the right, all right, but at the expense of the center and independents, who have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that she is not ready to be VP, which is the key question for the oldest nominee in history.

And conservative dissonance over and over. Chris Buckley, Chris Hitchens, Kathleen Parker, they`ve all said the same thing: this person is not ready to be vice president or president.

ROGINSKY: And furthermore, you know, I will also say that what she`s essentially done is become a caricature. And once you become a caricature in this country -- Dan Quayle can answer this as easily as anybody else -- it`s very hard to turn that around. It`s very hard to be taken seriously after your staff has -- and I agree with Andrea on this. Her staff mishandled her from the very beginning. But she hasn`t helped herself. Just today or yesterday she said the role of the vice president is to run the Senate. I mean, she`s obviously...

VELEZ MITCHELL: Hold it right there, because we`ve got that clip for you.


VELEZ MITCHELL: And it`s a humdinger. Her counterpart, Joe Biden, has often exhibited foot-in-mouth disease. But they`ve been more about predictions and culture. With Palin the mistakes seem to be more on the factual side. Listen to what you just talked about. Palin described the role of vice president.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A vice president has a really great job, because not only are they there to support the president`s agenda. They`re like the team member, the teammate to that president.

But also they`re in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators, and make a lot of good policy changes.


VELEZ MITCHELL: John Avalon, correct me if I`m wrong, but isn`t she wrong, the vice president in charge of the Senate, even though technically the VP is technically called the president of the Senate? They simply cast the deciding vote if there`s a tie. I think Dick Cheney has done about eight of those deciding votes, but he`s not in charge of the Senate.

AVALON: You`re correct, and she is wrong, and that`s almost a disqualifier for the office. I mean, as Homer Simpson said, "Doh!" This is not good news.

And the worst thing she said this week wasn`t that. It`s when she started talking about how real Americans only live in small towns, and kind of running that tribalist, nativist trend in America, which is so beneath John McCain and this election.

So on so many levels, I think she`s been a divisive figure.

ROGINSKY: Well, look, she`s running for Harry Reid`s job, obviously. She`s not running for -- to be vice president. And furthermore, the problem for her is that John McCain is 72 years old and has had a history of cancer. And whether that`s right or wrong, the reality is that, when people look at her, somebody that potentially could replace John McCain, that makes John McCain`s numbers go down, because people start to question his judgment.

VELEZ MITCHELL: I feel like we`re beating up on Sarah Palin, and I don`t want to do that. I don`t want to go into it right now. OK.


VELEZ MITCHELL: OK, get in a defender on here.

TANTAROS: Listen, OK, so who runs the Senate. President of the Senate. I`ll tell you what: on Capitol Hill, I`ve worked there. The day that that tie-breaker vote comes in from the vice president, she does run the Senate. I`ve got news for everybody. She is the tie-breaker. She chose her words poorly. But I`m sure that she understands what...

VELEZ MITCHELL: I want to get this in. I want to get this in, because some of Palin`s critics accuse her of dumbing down the political discourse. Listen to this.




VELEZ MITCHELL: All right. Well, guess what? Andrea, let me go back to you. I mean, she`s saying, you know, the bricklayer and Jane the engineer, and Rose the teacher. It`s like, what`s next? Big Bird the baker?

TANTAROS: Look, she`s a populist. She`s putting a human face on the issues. She`s talking to Americans. This is how real America speaks, in human terms. Not in big words and fluffy language and rhetoric. They just don`t. You know...

AVALON: American people are smart. The American people are smart.

TANTAROS: But listen -- but listen, she is connecting with a lot of Americans. Say what you will about her. Criticize her all you want. She`s not dumbing down politics.

She`s done very well in Alaska. The people of Alaska love her. She`s very popular for her human, real -- I mean, she`s real. Say what you want about her. She is a real person. And that`s why she connects with most people.

VELEZ MITCHELL: The last word, because it has been a little bit of a beat-up, but only because all these things are coming out today. Not because we want to. She actually seems very personable and charming and funny. She`s got a lot of great qualities, too. It`s just not necessarily working in this election season at this time.

Andrea, John, Julie, thank you.

Next, the really nutty campaign behavior. You won`t believe what some people are doing. You`ve just got to stick around and watch, because it`s kooky, it`s crazy, it`s nutty. Got to see it.


VELEZ MITCHELL: The presidential campaign headed into its final stage, and the hysteria is escalating. Protesters out in full force. Get this: a woman from the anti-war group Code Pink tried to arrest Karl Rove for treason. She even brought handcuffs with her and tried to use them yesterday while Rove was appearing at the Mortgage Bankers Association`s annual convention.

Apparently, Mr. Rove tried to be subtle as he elbowed her out of the way as she was whisked away, whisked off-stage.

Call it a sign of the times, but the campaign crazies aren`t just after Karl Rove. Even inanimate objects are targets of protests.

CNN`s Ted Rowlands has this truly kooky story.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans want to know if you`ve seen the thieves that stole this sign. Watch as a woman grabs it and, in a matter of seconds, with the door of the get-away minivan still open, the driver speeds off.

Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party, says sign stealing is such a problem, they`re offering a $500 reward in this case.

RON NEHRING, CHAIRMAN, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We believe that the person in the video has engaged in this in repeated fashion. We`d like to see this person held accountable for what she`s doing, as well as the driver.

ROWLANDS: Across the country signs are being stolen and defaced. Some have even been burned, like this one in Sacramento. Some victims, like this Milwaukee, Wisconsin, man, have had multiple signs stolen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first one they destroyed. And then the next one they just stole the whole sign. So every night now I just take it in the house.

ROWLANDS: It`s not just McCain/Palin signs. A CNN iReporter sent us these surveillance videos of someone stealing Obama signs in a Tempe, Arizona, neighborhood.

In Oklahoma, David McNeely had his Obama signs spray-painted.

DAVID MCNEELY, SIGN VANDALISM VICTIM: They call themselves Americans. But they`re trying to suppress the very things that make America.

ROWLANDS: In Santa Monica, California, this home owner put up a message board for people to express their feelings about the fact that Obama signs were stolen from the yard. Someone then stole two of the message boards, but left the pen.

We actually found an accused sign vandal. He is facing criminal charges in California and wants his identity protected.

(on camera) Why do people do it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that part of the reason people do it is obviously a political agenda. They don`t like the other side, and they feel like it`s a tangible way of taking action and getting your point across.

ROWLANDS: After getting two Obama signs stolen from his Ohio home, Bob Krasen (ph) may have come up with a solution. He bolted his sign to a frame that anchored it into his yard and installed an alarm system, using a cow bell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, there you go. My concern is how I`m going to get it out of the ground once the election is over.


VELEZ MITCHELL: Oh, boy. I talk a lot about keeping it real around here, so I think whenever we bring you news of the crazy, like honestly the guy has to have an alarm on his campaign alarm sign? We should also bring you something that warms the heart a little built. This is one of those items.

Military combat dogs, the animals that go into the most dangerous areas of the war zone so that people don`t have to. Just got a long overdue $15 million veterinary hospital and recovery facility at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, before the state of the art center opened. Dogs from all branches of the military had to be rehabilitated in cramped quarters, over four decades old.

The move includes state of the art intensive care and rehabilitation equipment. Most of these guys go back to active duty after they recover. Others will retire to, in the words of the hospital`s director, a living room. That`s taxpayer money that is well spent.

We will be back with a lot more shockers in just a minute.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Welcome back, everybody. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell.

A major issue today, the sell-off at the stock market; the Dow Jones Industrial average had one of its worst days ever, falling 500 points. Ali Velshi, CNN`s senior business correspondent. He is delighted and we`re delighted to be having him with us today.

These gyrations, honestly, they`re making the entire nation sea sick. What caused today`s stumble?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They really are. You know, I woke up this morning to headlines that said, "Fears of a recession are causing people to sell stocks."

It`s October 22nd. If your first fears of a recession surfaced today, you shouldn`t be anywhere near the stock market. Some of us have thought for more than a year there`s a recession coming or under way.

What this was about is the layoffs. There were a lot of big layoffs we`ve seen in the last couple of days; Merck laying more than 7,000 people off, Yahoo! more than 1,500.

Jane, the issue here is an economy like ours only recovers if people have work and they continue to pay taxes and they continue to consume. And what`s happened here is we have seen 750,000 jobs lost since the beginning of this year, so far we`re likely to see that accelerate. We should be creating about 150,000 jobs a month.

So what this is, is people fearing that if people are not going to be employed, if they`re not going to have jobs, the recession will end later rather than sooner. That`s kind of what it is. Remember, at this point in the market, you shouldn`t get too consumed with the day`s ups and downs. We`re in for probably months of volatility like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but a lot of people are consumed with the ups and downs. Some of these day traders, I was one of them way back when, we talk about capitulation and then retesting the lows.

VELSHI: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have we had capitulation? Could this be a recapping of the lows?

VELSHI: Yes. I happen to believe we are. On the Dow, if you follow the Dow, we sort of hit 8,300 and change and we came up above 8,500. 8,400; 8,500 is one of these lines where once the market starts to go below that, you have got investors who are coming in saying, "It`s is not the stock market, it`s companies. And they seem cheap because they will make some money."

There`s sort of a baseline price. Remember, the stock market is the only place people run away from when there`s a sale. So there`s some sense that we`re establishing a bottom. But as you know, a bottom to a market, it`s not like somebody sends a press release and say we`re here, we`re at the bottom. This could take months. It can be very volatile.

But you`re testing these lows. A lot of people who think these might be the lows, somewhere between 8,000 and 8,500 on the Dow, if you look at technical analysis of the market and how it`s performed in years gone by, we could be in for a good gain if you are properly invested over the next year.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear you, Ali. And everybody says, buy low, sell high. The question is, when is it the low, the real low? And who`s going to know if you don`t have a crystal ball?

Thank you so much, Ali.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I got to tell you, when I got up this morning and turned on my TV, I had this crazy sense of deja vu. Why? Can you say 2004? Can you say 2000? We`ve all been around for the last couple of those wacky presidential elections. It seems like voting madness is once again upon us.

Take a look at the early voters stuck in long lines getting royally ticked off. This was what really got me. You wouldn`t believe it unless CNN is reporting its story of how some electronic voting machines in West Virginia were selecting McCain when voters actually punched Obama. Yep, that happened, gang. And I thought, holy cow.

It`s the insanity starting all over again. Are all the headaches and the craziness and the accusations of election fraud surrounding the last two presidential elections about to come crashing into this election? It certainly seems that way.

The right has spent the past few weeks accusing the community organization group ACORN of voter fraud on a massive scale. The left claims those claims are phony baloney. Meantime, the left suggests the GOP is suppressing voter registration, and the right retorts, not true.

So I don`t know what to believe anymore, except this. We, the American people, do not want to be hassled when we go to vote. And we don`t want to revisit that mess of 2000.

Here to figure all of this out, Tom Fitton, president and chief spokesman of Judicial Watch. And Greg Palast, writer at "Rolling Stone" who wrote a very insightful article on the GOP`S attempts to allegedly suppress the vote for some in this election.

Greg, let`s start with you. We all lived through the hanging chad nightmare of 2000. Are we going to experience that again? And this time will it be, not just in Florida, but across the nation because of something called HAVA, the Help America Vote Act which you feel has been hijacked by the right?

Why, and how?

GREG PALEST, "ROLLING STONE": The whole nation has been Floridated, Jane. What`s happened is I`m the reporter that broke the story about how before 2000, Catherine Harris and Jeb Bush knocked off tens of thousands of black voters off the voter roles calling them felons, criminals, when in fact their only crime is voting while black.

Now, that same method of mass purging is going on in all the swing states where Republicans control elections machinery, like Colorado. I mean, not many people know that 19.4 percent, that`s one out of five voters in the state of Colorado have been poofed, vanished off the voter rolls. New Mexico --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How do they do that? Are they just erasing it? I can`t imagine that.

PALAST: It`s a purge. They call it list maintenance. They`re getting rid of suspect voters. They have a brand-new system under the Help America Vote Act, which George Bush signed. Now George is helping us vote, if you can imagine that.

One thing that they`re doing is they`re checking names on voter rolls against government data bases. When there`s a mismatch, you`re gone. In fact, what we`re finding is the voters that are losing their vote have such names as Velez-Mitchell.


PALAST: If you were in Colorado, you wouldn`t be voting, baby, not a chance.

Let`s give Tom president and chief spokesman of Judicial Watch a chance to respond to that. If I go to the voting booth and I`m a new voter, what they`re essentially saying is, because I have a hyphen in my name, if I signed that registration form and didn`t put that hyphen in, but that hyphen`s on my driver`s license, I can`t vote.

Do you think that`s really happening in America right now?

TOM FITTON, JUDICIAL WATCH: Maybe if you registered through ACORN you might have an issue because of all the fraudulent registration forms they`ve been putting forward.

Greg is kind of wrong on the history. I like Greg, he`s a good guy. We`ve worked together in the past. But this law, this federal law that was passed was in response to liberal concerns about what happened in 2000. So this is a reform put forward by liberals in a bipartisan way. Obviously Bush signed it to kind of take care of the problems that happened in 2000.

The American people don`t want fraudulent voting. And what happens is they clean up the lists, and if you show up and your name has accidentally been removed when you have the right to vote and you`re eligible to vote, in most cases you can cast a provisional ballot and your name is going to be -- your vote is going to be counted in the long run.

The concern is that these fraudulent registrations are going to lead to fraudulent voting. In a close race, whether it be in Ohio or Nevada or elsewhere, this is where this ACORN scandal, I think, is going to have a potentially explosive impact on Election Day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, I want to get to ACORN in a second. But there`s so many different scandals here, it`s hard to keep up.

Take a look at this video, guys. This is an electronic voting machine in use in Jackson County in West Virginia. And what you se there is somebody trying to vote for Obama, but their finger goes onto the blue line between the two names and they end up voting for McCain.

Now everybody`s saying this is an isolated incident. They caught it. But it doesn`t instill a lot of confidence in the system.

FITTON: Jane, it looks like someone`s voting for McCain and hitting Obama. That to me is an indication you`ve got to be careful when you use these machines. And if you put your finger between the two names, who knows what`s going to pop up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In Florida, remember, the senior citizens with the hanging Chads. Why can`t we get this right? I mean, is this like sending somebody to the moon, to come up with a voting system where we can figure out when people want to vote for so-and-so, they actually get to press that without accidentally hitting the other side?

PALAST: Jane, they don`t want it right. This is Greg Palast.

Listen, the U.S. Civil Rights Commissions, measured this. That`s called vote spoilage; that votes don`t come out right or get counted. Votes don`t spoil because you leave them out of the fridge. According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, if you`re black, the chance your vote will spoil, get messed up is 900 percent higher than if you are right.

This attack on ACORN is just baloney to cover up Republican vote thefts. That`s exactly what`s happening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Speaking of the attack on ACORN. I want you to listen to what McCain said about ACORN at the last debate, because it`s a heck of an accusation.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama`s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it doesn`t end there. I want to show you this. Take a look at this full-page ad that is in today`s "New York Times" from the liberal group People for the American Way, who were saying that the accusations against ACORN are a fraud, and a false story instigated by right-wing operatives.

PALAST: That`s it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who`s telling the truth? Let`s start with Tom.

FITTON: The "New York Times," I think, is telling the truth. They had a report today talking about an ACORN internal investigation that found that nonprofit moneys from one of ACORN`s arms are seemingly being improperly used in this voter registration drive and prior voter registrations drives. So you have nonprofit moneys, potentially illegally being used for partisan purposes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand that.

FITTON: The organization involved here, Jane, is Project Vote; Barack Obama`s former employer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m going to give you the last word. But I just want to say that even if you signed your name as Mickey Mouse on a registration form, that doesn`t mean you can show up and vote as Mickey Mouse. The key question is, who is voting twice, and is that a large percentage of people? Yes or no answer, Greg.

PALAST: Absolutely not. There are 24 people convicted of voter fraud over four years in the United States out of 178 million voters. It`s a complete con. All this anti-fraud stuff is used to literally eliminate the voters.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to go, guys. Fascinating conversation.

FITTON: Thanks, Jane.

PALAST: Thanks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll continue it soon. Greg, Tom, thank you.

The presidency isn`t the only thing at stake on Election Day. The definition of marriage may be, too. What seemed to be a sure victory for same-sex couples in California may now go the other way; a stunning turn of events that Ellen certainly cannot be happy about.

VIRGINIA CHA, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, I`m Virginia Cha with your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."

President Bush is inviting leaders from the G20 group of industrialized nations to come to Washington to talk about the world financial crisis. That summit will take place on November 15th.

The price of oil dropped to $67 a barrel Wednesday; a level not seen since 2007. The government reported a greater than expected rise in crude stockpiles a sign that demand for fuel may be slowing with the economy. AAA reports the average price for a gallon of regular is now $2.85. That is down almost $1 in the past month.

Five students were taken into custody after reports of gunfire at Western Kentucky University Wednesday afternoon. The campus was locked down for several hours. Police determined there were no weapons or gunmen, but there was some type of fight near a dorm. Many of those involved were also involved in a campus fight Saturday.

That`s a look at some of the stories we`re following for you.

I`m Virginia Cha.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: San Francisco arguably the national center of the gay rights movement. Los Angeles, particularly Hollywood, is filled with extraordinarily successful gay executives and movie stars. California is one of the bluest of the blue states, and in the bag for the Democrats, who traditionally lean toward tolerance for gays.

But a new addition to the ballot called Prop 8 may change the rules once again for the Golden State. Same-sex marriage was made legal in California back in June. But Proposition 8 defines marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. Polls show the odds of it passing on Election Day are now 50/50.

Joining me now, Jennifer Roback Morse, campaign spokesman for Protect Marriage and Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Kate, let me start with you. What the heck happened? Back in September, Prop 2 was losing by a margin of about, well, according to the polls, 55 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. Now there is a 50/50 chance of it passing. What happened?

KATE KENDELL, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS: Well, you know, Jane, we always knew this was going to be very, very tight. When we saw those double-digit leads for defeating Prop 8, we never believed them. We knew it was going to tighten up.

But what we have seen is really nothing less than a shock and awe campaign from those in favor of eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry. And these ads, these ads perpetuate three key lies and distortions that have been called lies, not just by me and not by the people who want to see same-sex couples continue to retain the right to marry but by every newspaper in California, the California Teachers Association and educators. And it`s taking a while now.

VELEEZ-MITCHELL: What lies? What lies?

KENDELL: First, that churches would lose their tax-exempt status if Prop 8 were to pass; that children should be taught about "gay marriage in schools;" and that people who have a faith belief that is not consistent with recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry would be persecuted. All three, absolute lies; and it has taken awhile for voters to regain their equilibrium.

What we`re now seeing, and I think everyone will see, that the polls are now going back to the place where people do not want to eliminate this right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s talk about the polls for a second. Let`s go to these issues.

Jennifer Roback Morse, you are for Prop 8. You are the campaign spokesman. I guess that`s how you like to be called, spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson for Protect Marriage. What about those accusations because I did see an ad in California that had a man saying, well, if this passes, boys are going to be taught that boys can marry boys. And apparently the opponent of Prop 8 are saying that`s not true.

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN, PROTECT MARRIAGE: The lies are really coming from the opposite side. The ballot language in the voter information guide was litigated earlier this year. The judge said that our language was perfectly truthful and acceptable. And in point of fact, our ads say nothing more nor less than that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But they do, I saw the ad. It says that you`ll teach boys can marry boys.

ROBACK MORSE: The thing that the ads are showing, the thing that`s compelling to people are the personal stories of the couples from Massachusetts, the Worthlands, the Parkers, whose children came home with "King and King." And that`s what`s moving the California voters.

They`re looking at that and thinking we want to do our part to keep something like that from happening here in California.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "King and King?" Explain that.

ROBACK MORSE: "King and King" is a children`s book that was read to children in second grade explaining to them, the little fairy tale type of story about how a king was supposed to get married to a princess. He chose not to; he decided to marry a prince instead.

The parents objected to that being read to their second graders. They were not told ahead of time. When they went and tried to have an opt-out provision for their children, the court in Massachusetts told them to sit down and shut up.

When people looking at those ads --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kate, what does this have to do with Prop 8?

KENDELL: That`s the question. It has nothing to do with Prop 8. Nothing that children are taught in California schools -- and this was said yesterday by the superintendent of public instruction in California -- nothing that children are taught in schools will be affected whether Prop 8 passes or whether it`s defeated.

Prop 8 is about one thing, and one thing only, are we going to take the unprecedented step of eliminating the fundamental right of an entire category of population in California, something that has never been done in this country. But those in favor of talk about that right don`t want to talk about that core issue. They`re engaging in deflection and distortions to mislead the voters.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this question, Jennifer Roback Morse of Protect Marriage, why do you care what other people do? In other words, it doesn`t really impact heterosexual couples; it`s passed in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the economy hasn`t gone in the toilet. The crime rate hasn`t gone up. What difference does it make to you?

ROBACK MORSE: Let`s get back -- I have to respond to this point about the education. It says right in the education code that if schools teach comprehensive sex ed, they must teach about marriage; 96 percent of the schools elect to use comprehensive sex education. This is well-known in the education establishment. They know perfectly well that teaching respect for marriage is part of that comprehensive sex education curriculum. And so that will be part of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got ten seconds.

KENDELL: Welcome to the discussion. They won`t talk about what`s real. They`re instead misleading the voters. Everyone says they`re misleading the voters.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You hear that music? That means we`ve got to go. Jennifer, Kate, campaigning is always tough business, but that doesn`t mean it`s always business as usual.

We`ve got some kooky, kooky, kooky behavior that you have to see to believe.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You can tell we`re getting close to Election Day by all of the campaign craziness going on right now, from vice presidential look-alikes, porno movies, photoshops, Obama pictures, it`s getting zany. CNN`s Jeanne Moos has a compendium of totally goofy, off the wall political behavior.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If the campaign doesn`t end soon, those ladies on "The View" are going to kill each other.

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW" HOST: As I made the point --

MOOS: McCain supporter, Elizabeth Hasselbeck is even wearing her Ameri-Cain tee shirt.

And on "Ellen," the host joked about how much election coverage she`s watching on CNN.

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW: I realized the other, I called my den the situation room and I`m sleeping now in a Larry King-size bed.

MOOS: On Monday, VP pick Joe Biden was trying to pick off an actress, by poking six throws to dunk Julia Louie Dreyfuss for breast cancer. Then he apologized in what looked like a prison conjugal visit, but that pails next to the X-rated Sarah Palin look-alike film that "Hustler" publisher, Larry Flynt has made.

A non X-rated clip has surfaced showing the look alike showing two Russian soldiers whose tank is broken down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could re-arrange the alphabet, I would put you and I together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I didn`t know any better, I would think you boys were flirting with me.

MOOS: And thinking of look-alikes, according to the website TMZ, the real Sarah Palin supposedly checked into her New York hotel as Tina, the night she happened on "Saturday Night Live."

Our Photoshop joke photo of the day is Obama and Palin dancing with the stars.

Our poster of the day is attack of the 50-foot Palin.

Meanwhile, conservative blogs are attacking the animated show "Family Guy" for sticking a McCain pin on a character wearing a Nazi uniform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, there is something on here. That`s weird.

MOOS: The McCain campaign keeps pinning its hopes on a certain Joe --



MOOS: Just call me Jeanne the plunger, actually a Portland, Oregon radio station plunged in to rescued Joe the plumber.

KEX organized a donation drive and listeners contributed $1,800 to more than pay off Joe`s overdue tax bill.

JOE THE PLUMBER: You have my deepest gratitude. I really appreciate it.

MOOS: Watch out, Joe the plumber has spawned signs proclaiming --

PALIN: Ed the dairyman, Phil the brick layer, and we have Andy the engineer, Tito the builder.

MOOS: Maybe Dave the cop better start checking IDs.

PALIN: John, the only Republican in my high school?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kooky stuff.

Jane Velez-Mitchell. We`ll do it again tomorrow.