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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Stock Markets Soar; McCain's Gambit

Aired October 28, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we begin with breaking news, a wild day on Wall Street, now market turbulence around the world, a near record day in America, and Asian markets right now on the upswing.
Also tonight, McCain and Obama covering much of the same ground today, mirror-image rallies in Pennsylvania, McCain playing defense, looking feisty, Obama looking confident, trying to lock it up, a few national polls tightening somewhat, state polls widening, and new developments in Florida that could shake the race.

We begin, though, with the breaking news, Asian markets right now reacting to this, the rally on Wall Street, the Dow up nearly 900 points, a rally late in the day.

Ali Velshi explains what is happening.

Ali, the markets had their second biggest point gain ever today. What happened, and -- and what happens tomorrow?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's try one of those "Ali Velshi tries to explain what's happening." Some days, there's a real reason behind things, other days, like today, not as much.

Take a look at what happened here. This market opened up just below that 8500 mark. See that band there? We keep thinking about these big swings up and down, but, really, this market keeps rolling back into that band on the Dow between 8500 and 9000. You saw this market do this.

And, then, right at the end of the day, between 3:00 and 4:00, which is what we always see now, it surged. What a surge it was, the second biggest point gain in history and the fourth biggest percentage gain in history. That's good for your 401(k)s.

Why did it happen? Well, I can't say there was fantastic news about the whole thing. Today, we got news about consumer confidence. That's a measure of how consumers feel. And, as you know, this is a consumer-driven economy. It is at the lowest point that it has been at since this measure started being taken, back in 1967. There's nothing good about that news.

There's a little bit of good news on the housing front. As we discussed a little bit last week, the price of existing homes and new homes has come down significantly from last year. What's the good news in that? The good news is, because 30-year fixed mortgages, if you can get one, and if you have good credit, remain low, just above 6 percent, people are starting to move into those homes.

We have actually seen an uptick in the number of people buying new homes and buying existing homes. So, that's a little bit of -- of good news.

Now, I want to just tell you about this market. Anderson, we have been talking about this for a long time. I have taken this back almost three -- three weeks now, back to October the 8th. See the red band there? That's 8500 to 9000 on the Dow. That's the place that some people say is the bottom of the market.

But a bottom takes a long time to fall. Look at all the volatility we have had on this market. It still keeps hanging around that band. Now, this can go on for weeks. It could possibly go on for months. But that's actually good news. Never mind the 800-point gain today or the 400-point loss we might see another day.

The bottom line is, are we sticking around that band? For now, we are. And that might be a good signal. Anderson, one more thing -- tomorrow afternoon, the Federal Reserve may announce an interest rate cut. That's going to make your cost of borrowing a little bit lower -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, we will be watching tomorrow. Ali, thanks.

We will continue to follow market developments throughout the night nation, the Asian markets, but a lot of political news to get to.

John McCain now looking to pull off what would be a rarity, a comeback so close to Election Day and so far behind in national polling. Our latest CNN poll of polls tonight showing a steady eight- point Obama lead, but several individual tracking polls suggesting a tighter race, as close as two points, and one from Pew with a massive 14-point Obama advantage.

It's all over the place, but McCain and Obama are not. The race tonight narrowing to just a handful of states, one blue, Pennsylvania, and the rest traditionally red, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.

Barack Obama at a rally in Norfolk right now, a live event. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ... have you down, reach deep and fight back harder.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Virginia, that's what hope is...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there's something better waiting around the bend...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... insists that there are better days ahead, if we're willing to work for it, if we're willing to shed our fears and shed our doubts, if we're willing to reach deep down inside ourselves when we're tired, when we're down, and come back and fight harder.

That's what this election's about.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Right now, a live event.

Candy Crowley is with Obama on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harrisonburg, deep into Republican territory in Virginia, Barack Obama flanked by the Democratic governor and the former governor, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: ... it is a money picture about a place the Democrats badly want to win, in a campaign now about place and pictures, and, occasionally, a new take on the most enduring theme of his campaign, John McCain as a Bush acolyte.

OBAMA: John McCain has ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy toward the cliff, and now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas.

CROWLEY: At Chicago headquarters, the daily blasts of e-mails continues, focussing on a statement by a McCain official that, under McCain's health care plan, young, healthy workers would probably stick with company-provided insurance because it would be -- quote -- "way better" than any plan they could buy with McCain's $5,000 health care credit.

OBAMA: We were offered a stunning bit of straight talk, an October surprise.

CROWLEY: Still, mostly, this is a campaign on cruise control. As one Obama aide said: "Why would we change things now? It is working."

Inside camp Obama, they are determined to let the weather here at a stop in Pennsylvania be the unpredictable element.

OBAMA: This is an unbelievable crowd for this kind of weather.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Thank you so much. If we see this kind of dedication on Election Day, there is no way that we are not going to bring change to America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: On the ground and at the podium, it is about making no mistakes, while driving voters to the polls. There is a reason they call them rallies.

OBAMA: If you will reach deep down and fight with me, we won't just win Virginia. We're going to win this election.

CROWLEY: Wednesday, an Obama show of deep pockets, he has purchased 30 minutes of airtime across several networks, including the highest-rated Spanish network, Univision.

Then there's the freebie appearance on "The Daily" Show," and then a Florida power play, the party's popular past and its hope for the future on stage in Orlando. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama campaign together in the final days, for the first time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Candy, let's talk about that Clinton and Obama campaign together while we watch this live event, Barack Obama still speaking in Norfolk.

Is this the first time -- this is the first time they have been on the stage together campaigning like this, and how long is that going to last? Is it a -- is it a one-rally deal, or what?

CROWLEY: It's a one-rally deal, but it's in the very important swing state of Florida, obviously. And it's in Orlando, which runs across a corridor in Florida where all the swing voters are.

So, this is clearly meant for maximum impact at the end of the campaign, though I -- I won't -- as we all know, the two men have had some problems with each other. And, so, it took a little while for that, obviously, to wear off.

But, nonetheless, this was -- this is a maximum-impact appearance here by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I can guarantee a crowd pretty much like this, if not bigger, because, obviously, Bill Clinton still very popular within the Democratic Party, and the picture of the two of them together is yet another one of those money pictures that they're looking for in the final days of this campaign -- Anderson.

COOPER: Candy, in your piece, you -- you mentioned Obama attacking McCain a little bit today on statements by his campaign about taxes and economics, but saying, largely, it's on cruise control.

That doesn't mean that they are taking the foot off the pedal, does it? I mean, they -- they are still -- they're -- they're -- they're warning people about overconfidence still?

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely, yes, absolutely. But, I mean, it is -- it is a campaign that is now designed not to make a single mistake. I'm not sure what you can see behind me, but, if you can see the stage, I can't remember a time in the past month or so when there has not been a teleprompter. Basically, what you're getting is the same speech, insert the name of the city or the state.

So, this -- this is designed not to make any mistakes. They don't really need to open up on new fronts, particularly. I mean, he will go after John McCain if there's some new thing, but it's generally a paragraph, and then it is back to what he wants his -- quote -- "closing message" to be.

And that is, "Here's the choice you have." It's: "John McCain believes this. I believe that" -- and a mixture of his hope theme, but it is -- it has been pretty much the same speech for some time.

COOPER: All right, Candy Crowley on the trail -- thank you, Candy.

A major new development tonight out of Florida -- the state's Republican governor extending early voting by four hours each day because of especially heavy turnout. This is seen as helpful for Senator Obama because of the way early voting has gone so far.

Also helping Obama, the recent infighting between John McCain and Sarah Palin.

More of that and some of the new state-by-state polling from Ed Henry on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain and Sarah Palin on the same stage for the first time since sniping broke out among their advisers, so, McCain quickly tried to defuse the tension.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And, by the way, when two mavericks join up, we don't agree on everything, but that's a lot of fun.

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY: But it's hardly fun to be trailing in so many battleground states with a week to go.

Optimistic McCain advisers are sketching a scenario where they can reach 260 electoral votes, 10 short of victory, by holding traditional Republican states, like North Carolina, where he campaigned today.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HENRY: Then, McCain has two possible paths to victory: one, carry Pennsylvania, where he launched a heavy assault on Barack Obama's economic plan.

MCCAIN: He favors higher taxes on investment for -- quote -- "fairness."

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

MCCAIN: There's nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground.

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

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HENRY: But the latest CNN poll of polls in Pennsylvania shows Obama is still up 10 points over McCain, with 6 percent undecided.

Without Pennsylvania, the second path to victory would be a combo of smaller states, like Nevada, New Hampshire, and Iowa. However, McCain is down in all three states, seven in Nevada, 11 in New Hampshire, 12 in Iowa, according to the latest CNN poll of polls.

STEPHEN HAYES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD":It's going to be very difficult for him to claw his way back, if you're just talking about doing the electoral math. So, it makes sense to concentrate your resources, try to pull off something dramatic in Pennsylvania, and hold the Republican states.

HENRY: But nothing is guaranteed in usually reliable Republican states, as McCain found in North Carolina. The senator's vehicle got a flat. So, he had to jump into a new one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ed joins me now from Florida.

Ed, more than a million people already have voted in Florida. The governor has now extended the hours to 12 hours a day. The Obama people have -- have put a big push to their supporters to go out and vote early.

Has the McCain campaign kind of missed the boat on that? Have they been putting out similar efforts to try to get people to come out early?

HENRY: They insist they are trying those efforts.

An amazing situation you're talking about right here in Florida -- that's basically 1.2 million people have done early voting, about 10 percent of the electorate. It gives you an idea how exciting this election is, how people are turning out so early.

You're right that the early signs are that should favor Barack Obama. But the McCain camp counters with two things. Number one, they say they're not scared by a lot of turnout. They think this is an exciting election, and they are going to get some Democrats to cross over the aisle, as well as independents who support John McCain, in addition to their traditional Republicans. And, secondly, they also point out that absentee ballots are up a lot -- people are not talking about that -- compared to early voting. That's separate. It traditionally helps Republicans. And, if you compare it to 2004, 125,000 more Republicans this time have sought absentee ballots. The McCain camp thinks that means they will also get a lot more voters, too. So, there's going to be, on both sides, a lot of voters -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ed Henry on the trail, thanks.

So, has McCain chosen the right territory to stage a comeback? Is Pennsylvania the new Florida?

Tell us what you think. Go to AC360.com. I have already logged on, started to blog. Erica Hill, you can check our her live Webcast during the break. She has begun that.

We will be talking up Pennsylvania with our political panel next, and looking at the McCain-Palin squabbling. A McCain insider recently called her a diva to CNN yesterday, now, today, reports at Politico.com that she's also been called -- quote -- "a whack job."

But she is not missing a beat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's going to come down to the wire here. Pennsylvania, are you ready to help carry this state to victory?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: More on Sarah Palin, plus extended chunks of John McCain and Barack Obama, in their own words, today on the trail. This race is heating up. And we want you to hear the excitement, the drama, and what the candidates are saying.

Later, new developments in the Jennifer Hudson tragedy, her mom and brother and nephew murdered -- new insights into the only person questioned by the police, the nephew's stepfather.

That and more -- tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: He thinks it's your job to earn the wealth and his job to spread it around. Now...

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

PALIN: ... he calls that spreading the wealth. Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic. And to, Joe the plumber, he said, to him, it sounds to him like socialism.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joe the plumber, Obama the socialist, been hearing that a lot on the trail from the Republicans. In point of fact, Joe Wurzelbacher never that to Senator Obama. He first said it to -- two days later in a TV interview.

In any case, that was Sarah Palin tonight at the home of Penn State's undefeated Nittany Lions, friendly turf. Coach Joe Paterno supports McCain, Central Pennsylvania reliably red. On the other hand, his son, also a coach at Penn State, is campaigning for Obama. So, anything goes.

The race is getting to a fevered pitch. And, tonight, we want to bring you extended excerpts from the candidates on the trail today, so you get a sense of the excitement and the drama, and what they're saying, the issues, and also get a better sense of who you want to vote for.

First, Senators Obama and McCain on the economy in their own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... closing days of this campaign, my opponent's trying to distance himself from President Bush...

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

OBAMA: ... despite the fact that he's faithfully supported him 90 percent of the time. He supported four out of the five of the Bush budgets that have taken us from surplus under the Clinton years to the largest deficit in history.

John McCain's ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy towards a cliff. And now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

OBAMA: And, when it comes to the issue of taxes, saying that John McCain is running for a third Bush term isn't being fair to George Bush.

MCCAIN: I'm going to create wealth for all Americans by creating opportunity for all Americans.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth. I'm running to create wealth.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The candidates in their own words.

Right now, let's talk strategy. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen joins me, McCain supporter and former Mitt Romney spokesman Kevin Madden, also CNN political analyst and Obama supporter Roland Martin.

So, David, seven days left. Is Pennsylvania the new Florida? I mean, is this state going to be the decider in the election?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so, Anderson, only if John McCain can win it. Even then, he's got to -- you know, the odds are against him.

The -- the Republicans are taking heart today from the fact that there are three -- all three tracking polls, Gallup, Rasmussen, and Zogby, are showing that the race is tightening, and is down to about five points.

And there's clearly been some tightening in North Carolina in McCain's favor. There's been some tightening in Florida for McCain. But the fundamentals of the race still very much favor Obama. He's ahead in all the states that Kerry took, and he only needs less than 28 electoral votes to make it.

What McCain is trying to do this is this. There are several states that Bush took back in 2004 that Obama has got a good chance of capturing. The only way McCain can reverse things, then, is to take Pennsylvania. But it's do or die for McCain in Pennsylvania, which is an uphill battle.

That is -- you know, Obama's had a pretty strong lead there. So, McCain is playing on a very, very narrow board now. He just has just a couple of options. And with -- with -- with less than a week left, it's getting very tight for him. And the early voting, because it's happening while Obama's ahead, should favor Obama.

COOPER: Well, it's interesting, Roland, because, I mean, the McCain camp, as David says, pointing to the fact that, in a couple of these battleground states, the leads of Obama are still within the margin of error. And, given the fact that Obama is outspending McCain in some places 4-1, or 4-1 nationally, why isn't Obama further ahead?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because we are still a split nation.

I mean, how do we somehow forget 2000, 2004? You're still dealing with red state/blue state. I mean, that's -- that's a fact. And, so, you also are dealing with the fact that you have Obama, who, obviously, still, whether people like it or not, is still not as well known as John McCain.

The bottom line is, people are still...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I mean, let's just be honest. That's still -- that's fair.

The bottom line is, John McCain and Barack Obama are going at it because we are still a split nation. But what's interesting, in terms of strategy, you see McCain putting everything on Pennsylvania. Obama is sensing an opportunity in Florida.

They are really going after it, in terms of those early voters, and they're even calling upon many of their supporters who are voting early in other states to go to Florida, to also help in terms of driving the vote there as well. So, McCain sees a possibility in Pennsylvania. Obama is sensing an opportunity in Florida.

COOPER: Kevin, this -- we keep hearing now from Palin and McCain -- Palin especially -- using the word socialism, talking that Obama's going to raise the taxes.

Do you think this is working, and, if so, is this something they should have used six months ago?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I think there are definitely lingering doubts about Barack Obama on a lot of these economic issues. I think that, you know, more -- the more people find out about Barack Obama's positions on the economy, they find out that he's -- they're very much left-of-center. His policies are very much left-of-center of where most Americans are.

So, what the McCain campaign is trying to do is, you know, crystallize that argument, and by using words like sometimes very liberal and sometimes socialist, in order to hammer home the...

(LAUGHTER)

MADDEN: ... and -- and take advantage of those lingering doubts by a lot of those voters.

COOPER: But do you think that's working? Do you think that's why there's, in some of these polls, kind of a tightening?

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I do.

I think the simple fact that -- that Barack -- that -- I'm sorry -- that John McCain has made a closing argument that says, do you want a redistributor in chief, or do you want to help Joe the plumber, that argument has helped make people take another look at Barack Obama, and see that his economic policies don't fit with where they want the economy to go.

MARTIN: you know, Anderson, anybody who's been following this knew. We have been saying it for quite some time. Look at every single election. Polls always narrow when it comes to the closing days.

The point is, what is the lead that you build up? And, also from McCain's standpoint, you have to play catchup in more places. As you have fewer days and you have McCain and Palin campaigning together, guess what, they cannot separate themselves. Biden is in one place. Obama's in another place. They're able to spread the field. That's what you want to do in the final days.

MADDEN: Well, I think that's right, Roland. I think that...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Yes, I'm sorry.

COOPER: David, you want to weigh in?

GERGEN: Yes, I just want to -- I want to say I agree with Roland up until the last point, that McCain and Palin actually are doing some separate campaigning.

But what I think we have noticed, Anderson, is, there have been a series of big events during this campaign in the fall that have generally tended to favor Barack Obama, and he opens up his lead, like the debates, McCain going and making a terrible mistake the way he did when he went into, you know, try to save the bailout package.

And these big events seem to help Obama. He opens up a lead. And, then, when things settle back down again, then the lead narrows down again.

And one of the interesting questions is, how much difference will the Obama 30-minute paid advertisement special tomorrow night...

MARTIN: Great point.

GERGEN: ... how much of a difference will it make? Will it open things up a little bit? That's a big advantage for him, to have the money to go on nationwide TV for half-an-hour on two networks and FOX. So, it's a really good -- big advantage for him.

COOPER: We -- we're -- we have got a lot more to talk about. We will have you guys back throughout this year, David Gergen, Kevin Madden, Roland Martin. Stay with us.

Just ahead, more strategy talk -- what do both sides need to do in these last seven days? What can both sides do at this point to win over those undecideds? Obama wrapping up a rally a few moments ago -- we showed you that in Virginia, a state no one expected to be in play. Both tickets were hitting the trail hard there today. McCain had some help from Joe the plumber. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE WURZELBACHER, RESIDENT OF OHIO: One side of this ticket, the McCain ticket, yes, they're for our military members. They're going to support them. They're going to make sure that we come home in honor. The other side, there's talk about cutting spending, and that's -- that's downright scary.

And my choice in this is McCain. I plan on voting for a real American.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Endorsing John McCain. Joe the plumber said a vote for Obama would -- or agreed that it would mean the death to Israel.

We will talk about that ahead -- more on the trail coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: John McCain -- and I'm just amazed by this -- he calls making everybody have a chance and give them opportunity, he calls that socialism. I call it opportunity.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And there's nothing more American than that.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's American as apple pie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama a short time ago at a rally in Norfolk, Virginia.

Both tickets had a full day of campaigning. Just ahead, Joe the plumber now campaigning for McCain and weighing in on foreign policy issues as well. Is there nothing Joe the plumber is not an expert in?

Our panel weighs in.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we will have more right here for you on our breaking news, the Asian markets, we can tell you, up sharply right now, following a massive rally on Wall Street. The Nikkei has jumped more than 6 percent. South Korean stocks are up nearly 4 percent.

Today's huge gains on Wall Street were fueled by an expected interest rate cut by the Fed. The Dow surged nearly 900 points. That is its second biggest one-day point gain ever. The Nasdaq rose 143 points. The S&P shot up 91.

Meantime, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence plunged to an all-time low this month.

Senator Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, returned to Washington today, for the first time since July. His last major public appearance was in August at the Democratic Convention. Senator Kennedy has been working on health care bills while recuperating from his cancer treatment.

Next Tuesday, "The New Mexico Sun News" will either be celebrating a scoop or eating a whole lot of crow. The headline of its issue -- you can see it now -- it's on newsstands -- "Obama Wins!" The paper's bimonthly deadline forced it to make the call early.

They made a case for it inside the paper, Anderson, a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek one, but there you have it.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: There you have it. All right.

Coming up: new developments in the triple murder that robbed Jennifer Hudson of her mom and brother and nephew.

Also tonight, campaign countdown -- a closer look at two of the biggest battleground states. Miles O'Brien takes us across the board to the magic map. We're looking at Pennsylvania and Florida.

And, later, our shot of the day -- check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What I have called for is a tax cut -- tax cut for 95 percent of working families -- of Americans -- working Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You know how all those debates starts to sound the same? Well, the folks at 23/6 show us that maybe one presidential debate would have been enough after all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We're going to fix it, and she's going to show them what reform is all about, the same way she did in the state of Alaska, my friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: On the McCain campaign today with Sarah Palin in Hershey, Pennsylvania. As we mentioned at the top of the hour, the latest CNN poll of polls has Obama holding an eight-point lead over McCain, 51-43 percent. That's the popular vote. We all know elections are all about the electoral vote. And that's why the candidates are focusing on states like Pennsylvania and Florida, across the board.

For the latest, let's check in with Miles O'Brien at the magic map -- Miles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, as we take a look at the magic wall, let's begin in Florida. I don't have to tell you that's important in presidential politics. We certainly have seen that time and again.

The latest poll of poll numbers, 49 for Obama, and we have 45 for McCain. Four-point race there, tight, and has been relatively static.

Let's go to Ohio. We've told you about Ohio. No Republican has won the White House without first winning Ohio. The current numbers are 50 for Obama and 44 for John McCain in Ohio, closely fought battle there. Once again, those numbers relatively static.

Now, Pennsylvania, these numbers are kind of interesting. It's actually a pretty big spread there. It's a ten-point race: 52 for Obama, and our poll of polls says 42 for McCain, ten points. You would think this wouldn't be a hard-fought battle there, given those kinds of numbers, but we're seeing both candidates spending an awful lot of time there. Sort of feels like a one-state race at times.

Why is that? Let's go through it one more time just quickly. Look at all these undecided states. These are the ones in mustard yellow. If we switch them all over to McCain, wins, take a look at the numbers up at the top there. It's going to tell you everything you need to know. It's not enough to get him over the top to 270.

Now, let's assume for a moment that Pennsylvania goes into the McCain column. Push that over. You get 282 electoral votes and 256 for Obama. And that is why so much has come down on Pennsylvania. We'll be watching that one -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Miles O'Brien.

On the trail in Ohio today, Joe the plumber, is he helping or hurting McCain's chances to win the White House? Our political panel weighs in.

Plus, a strong turnout for early voting. Our own Gary Tuchman went to see for himself in Nevada, wound up mingling with John McCain's daughter, Sarah Palin's brother and the wife of a punk rock legend. Quite a turnout, indeed.

And unraveling the time line and looking for a motive in the triple murders of Jennifer Hudson's mom and brother and 7-year-old nephew. Details ahead in "Crime & Punishment."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: If I'm elected president, I will fight to shake up Washington and take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight. I'm ready for it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: After decades of broken politics in Washington, after eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush, after -- you don't have to boo, just vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John McCain and Barack Obama on the trail today. With just seven days to go, both tickets pulling out all the stops to reach those crucial undecided voters in battleground states.

Joining me again for a "Strategy Session," David Gergen, Kevin Madden and Roland Martin.

David, we just saw before the break how tight the race is in Florida. Six percent of Floridians undecided. First of all, are you surprised that so many voters are still not sure who to pick, and is there any indication which way they are likely to go?

GERGEN: No, no, not at all, Anderson. I think you typically have -- in fact, I think the undecided number nationwide is pretty small right now.

The serious pollsters look at the composition of the undecideds and think they will be more like Obama voters and that they're more likely to fall his way.

The Republicans make the argument, wait a minute. After all this exposure, actually the people have thought quite a lot about Obama. Now, if they haven't made up their mind, they're more likely to go for McCain.

I think the truth is we don't know. What we do know is Democrats going into this with a much heavier name I.D., and that's favoring them in Florida. And a loss in Florida for John McCain would be catastrophic.

COOPER: Kevin, what is going on inside the McCain campaign? I mean, yesterday, a senior adviser was telling CNN that Sarah Palin's a diva. Today, apparently, an unnamed senior adviser telling Politico.com that she's a whack job.

MADDEN: Yes.

COOPER: The fact is that these are people around McCain, apparently, saying this kind of stuff. What does this tell you about, A, what they're thinking their chances of victory are, and B, what they think has gone wrong?

MADDEN: Look, I think David will agree with me on this. It is very easy to have a background quote that's anonymous, you know, give a false sense of consensus within -- inside a campaign. I think that 99.9 percent of the people inside that campaign are working 24 hours around the clock to try and help John McCain and Sarah Palin, you know, get to the White House.

But I think what's more important is that it has become a little bit of a distraction in these last weeks. And that's something that no campaign could afford, given that you have so many few precious news cycles with which to hammer home your message.

So I think you've seen a quick pivot today, and they're back on message, and they're hammering Barack Obama on the economic issue.

COOPER: Roland, what do you think it says about the McCain campaign, and do you think they have pivoted? I mean, John McCain kind of referenced it, almost, today on the stump, saying, you know, we may not agree, but it makes it fun.

MARTIN: It says that this is an absolutely dysfunctional and schizophrenic campaign. You have Palin aides attacking McCain aides on Politico. Then you have McCain aides attacking Palin on CNN.com. They're constantly at odds.

And then, of course, you have Palin who goes out with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, brings up the clothes again after that was buried. And then McCain makes the comment today. I mean, when you're spending more time trying to quell stories like this and not focusing on the issues, your campaign is in trouble.

And that's -- and I think when you see the distinction between the two campaigns, you have Obama on one hand, who is focusing on boots on the ground, getting people to the polls. McCain is still fighting to make sure he has a consistent message every single day. That's the problem with less than a week left.

COOPER: David, do you think -- do you agree with Kevin that they've moved on, or with Roland that it is a sign of schizophrenia and a breakdown?

GERGEN: I think this is -- the McCain campaign just hasn't been well run. I don't think it's dysfunctional, but I do think it's demoralized.

I do think Kevin is right. There are tons and tons of people in the McCain campaign who are working their hearts out to put him in office. They're still fighting hard. But I think everybody knows now, yes, he's making a valiant effort in Pennsylvania. But when you're -- when you're behind in Florida, as a Republican, and you're behind in Ohio, where I am tonight, and it looks now as if Ohio would be close or be maybe a three- or four-point Obama victory, when you're that far down, it's easy to be demoralized.

What you have to do is, I think they need to cut this crap out. I think it's ridiculous that they're going after her this way. And fight as hard as they can, but they're in a very, very uphill place.

COOPER: Finally, just -- we're running out of time, but just finally, David, on Joe the plumber, does it make sense to have Joe the plumber out there? I mean, clearly they must feel they're getting some advantage with Joe the plumber.

But you have Joe the plumber basically pontificating on every subject under the sun, including you know, foreign policy now, and saying that, agreeing that Obama would be the death of Israel.

GERGEN: I thought last night, Anderson, we had reached the limits of absurdity, in talking yet one more time about Sarah Palin's wardrobe. But tonight I think we even went higher. With Joe the plumber out there...

COOPER: But I mean, this is a guy they have out there.

MARTIN: Right.

GERGEN: They have him with John McCain out on the trail, offering views about Israel. Come on, give us a break.

MARTIN: Wait, he was saying himself, "I know so little about foreign policy, I'm dangerous," in an interview with Shepard Smith. Dude, shut up! I mean, it's nuts. Go fix -- go fix a bathroom.

COOPER: I want Kevin to be able to...

MADDEN: Joe the plumber, the actual guy, is probably not going to help John McCain win this campaign. But Joe the plumber, you know, the symbol, will help them hammer home on an economic message. But you're right. I mean...

COOPER: Unfortunately -- unfortunately, Joe the plumber, the symbol, is an actual guy who continues to talk and say this stuff.

MARTIN: Right.

COOPER: so anyway, we'll see if he continues to stay on the trail after today.

Guys, thanks very much. Good to have you. Kevin, Roland, David Gergen.

MARTIN: Thank you, Anderson.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Still ahead, record numbers of Americans are voting early in dozens of states, including Nevada, where Sarah Palin's brother was campaigning today. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK HEATH, GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN'S BROTHER: More evidence is coming in every day, and happily, strongly, as it comes in, people are -- the undecideds are going to sway McCain/Palin's way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Nevada may be the easiest place to cast your ballot before election day. You're looking at live pictures right now of people voting in Las Vegas. Coming up, we'll show you why it's so easy.

Also tonight, the latest on the triple slayings that have shattered Jennifer Hudson's family. Today, the medical examiner releasing his report on the youngest victim, Hudson's 7-year-old nephew.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You saw the debates, you heard the policy positions, and now -- now it's time to choose. And with early voting in Florida, I mean, now is a time to choose, today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senator Joe Biden in Florida today, where early voting turnout has been extremely heavy. And as we said, Governor Charlie Crist there ordered polling sites to stay open an extra four hours every day to help reduce wait time.

It's under way in 30 other states, early voting is, and other states, including Nevada, which is very much in play. CNN's new Nevada poll of polls shows Obama leading McCain by seven points, 50- 43, a three-point gain since yesterday. Among Nevada's early voters Democrats outnumbering Republicans. But all voters have the same easy access, as 360's Gary Tuchman found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wander through a shopping mall in the state of Nevada, past the stores and kiosks, and there's a good chance you'll be able to vote for leader of the free world. No state makes it easier to vote early than Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm voting for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's made very easy. The polls open every day in your neighborhood and every mall, it pretty much is open every day. TUCHMAN: November 4 may be election day, but in 31 states where you can vote early without giving a reason, it's one of many election days. In some states, like Indiana, North Carolina and Florida, the lines are often long. You can wait for hours. But in Nevada, there are so many voting machines in so many places, long waits are uncommon.

(on camera) County elections officials here in Nevada work to come up with creative, convenient locations for early voting. Casinos, bars and brothels, this being Nevada, are not considered. But there are plenty of other options.

(voice-over) Besides malls, outlet centers, health clubs and grocery stores are just a few of those options. In Clark County, home to Las Vegas, election officials declare...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More people vote before election day than they do on election day.

TUCHMAN: Nevada generally votes Republican. Democrats are voting early by a more than three-to-two margin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thank you for voting early, and the Republican Party thanks you for all your votes.

TUCHMAN: At this McCain/Palin phone center in Las Vegas, GOP officials say they're not concerned about that. Mingling with the volunteers, John McCain's daughter, Meghan, and Linda Ramone, the wife of late punk rock legend Johnny Ramone.

(on camera) How important do you think early voting is to get your father elected president?

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: I think early voting is important, but I don't think it's vital. I think it's important, but I think just going out and voting in general is important.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sarah Palin's brother was also there.

HEATH: More evidence is coming in every day, and I believe strongly as it comes in, people are, you know, the undecideds are going to sway McCain/Palin's way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So tell us where those are and we'll go there. OK.

TUCHMAN: As they canvass neighborhoods, Democrats say...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you be voting for Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't made up my mind yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't?

TUCHMAN: ... they will win Nevada for the first time since 1996.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we count on you for an Obama vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are you going to early vote?

TUCHMAN: Across the nation, up to one-third of voters are expected to cast early ballots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to vote for Obama? You can do that today!

TUCHMAN: Democracy may be hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love it. It's easy.

TUCHMAN: But voting doesn't have to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, Gary, I think a lot of people seeing that will say why doesn't every state have this kind of easy access to voting?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, 19 states don't have this kind of early voting, the biggest of which is where you are right now in New York. And the reason that those states don't have it are threefold. One, it's the cost. It's more expensive to do that for the counties and the states.

The second reason is the security and the integrity of the ballots spread out over more days.

And third is old-fashioned nostalgia. I mean, a lot of politicians like the one really important election day. But this is the wave of the future, people bringing their kids to vote for a period of over two weeks.

And one woman I just talked to a short time ago, it's her first time ever voting. She's 19 years old. And this may not be extremely dignified, but she told me, "I came to the mall and it was as easy to vote on this as it is on 'American Idol'."

COOPER: All right. Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. I actually can't figure out how to text for those phone votes. So this would probably be easier for me.

Up next, who killed Jennifer Hudson's mother, and brother and young nephew? Tonight, some new details on the case and new information on a person of interest in it. That's ahead.

Also tonight, stocks surging, the best -- the second best day ever on Wall Street, the Dow up nearly 900 points. We're watching Asian markets, as well, right now. We'll tell you how they're doing ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER HUDSON, OSCAR WINNER: A positive upbringing and positive people around me. I've been able to remind me of who I was and what I wanted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: From an interview last year, Jennifer Hudson talking about the people closest to her, especially her mom. Tonight, the Academy Award winner is mourning her mother, her brother and 7-year- old nephew. They were all shot to death.

We're following several new developments in the triple homicide, and we have some new insight into the only person questioned by the police, the nephew's stepfather. We'll get the latest now from Erica Hill in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Outside Jennifer Hudson's family home, a constant vigil since the Friday slayings of her mother and brother. The memorial now growing after the Oscar winner's 7- year-old nephew was found murdered Monday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a baby. It was a baby. How could someone do that to a child?

HILL: It's the question everyone wants answered, one of many.

Today we did learn how little Julian King died. According to the autopsy report, multiple gunshot wounds. But officials would not tell CNN when or where the little boy was murdered.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You don't always want to release all the information you have from an autopsy, because there's certain things that are involved possibly before, during and after the killing that only certain people would know. So the investigators aren't going to lay all their cards on the table.

HILL: Since Friday, police have called Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law, William Balfour, a person of interest. On what appears to be his MySpace page, Balfour describes himself as a proud parent to his stepson, Julian.

He was taken in for questioning on Friday night after his mother- in-law, Darnell Donerson, and his brother-in-law, Jason Hudson, were found shot to death in their Chicago home.

We are now learning Balfour missed a parole meeting earlier that day. According to the Associated Press, Balfour told his parole agent he was, quote, "baby-sitting on the west side of Chicago." On Monday morning, the body of 7-year-old Julian King was found in this SUV on the west side of Chicago.

But police are still not officially connecting the murders, nor the two crime scenes, which are about 14 miles apart. SUPERINTENDENT JODY WEIS, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: We don't know what the motive really was at this time. But clearly, you have people who do know each other. So it wasn't a case of a stranger-type homicide.

HILL: William Balfour married Julia Hudson two years ago. But the couple has been estranged.

On what appears to be Julia Hudson's updated MySpace page, this posting. "Now, because I chose to do what was natural to me and love someone, it cost me my beautiful family. I take comfort in knowing that Julian is with my mother and my brother, and most of all, the Lord. And now he's my angel. He's protecting me."

Whether anyone could have protected Julian is unknown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, William Balfour's mother started speaking out in support of her son and his innocence beginning Friday night. She was actually on "NANCY GRACE" again earlier tonight, saying the same things, Anderson, that she supports her son, that he is an innocent man.

COOPER: Police earlier said obviously this was some sort of -- or seemed to be some sort of domestic situation. Are they still kind of sticking by that?

HILL: Yes, they're not exactly backing off of it. They're not coming out and proclaiming this as the reason, but we did confirm CNN was able to confirm today, there's been some talk about an unpaid car payment and whether or not that led to some disputes in the house.

Well, apparently, Julia Hudson's wages were garnished for a car payment that William Balfour was supposed to make. There's some thought that maybe that could have led to some sort of a disturbance.

And just earlier tonight, the Hudson-King Domestic Violence Fund was established by the family.

COOPER: All right. Erica Hill, thanks. Unbelievable.

Still ahead, John McCain and Barack Obama facing off in three debates with three different moderators. But would one debate have been enough? Do candidates' talking points actually change? Well, we'll let you decide in tonight's "Shot." It's pretty funny.

And in the next hour, barely seven days to go, both campaigns scrambling to lock up the battlegrounds that could decide the race. We'll have all the latest for you. We'll take you to the magic map and show you state by state and the latest on the economic numbers, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Time for "The Shot," Erica. You know how at all the debates it sounded like the candidates were kind of repeating themselves, at all the different debates?

HILL: No.

COOPER: Well, they were.

HILL: Talking points? No.

COOPER: The folks at 236.com have totally busted them, editing together all three debates into one. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: Senator McCain mentioned looking at our records.

J. MCCAIN: Looking at our records.

OBAMA: An across-the-board spending freeze.

J. MCCAIN: Senator Joe Lieberman and I.

OBAMA: We're currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. And they have a $79 billion surplus.

J. MCCAIN: We've got to stop spending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much.

Alternative fuels. Wind, solar, natural gas.

OBAMA: Voted four out of five on the Bush budgets. When the war started you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said that...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Synchronized debating.

HILL: Amazing.

COOPER: Well, done. Although I'd probably rather see the candidates try their hand at synchronized swimming. So please accept our invitations.

We've run out of time. We can't get to "Beat 360." We can quickly show the photo, and you can go to AC360.com to find the captions. And they're actually very funny tonight.

HILL: Or the cat-ion.

COOPER: Oh, you're good, Erica.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the latest on our breaking news. A wild day on Wall Street spread around the globe. It will give your nest egg -- I don't know, whatever. That's the breaking news.

And the candidates slugging it out tonight on the trail. We'll tell you what they said ahead.