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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO COMMENTATOR; MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM TAPED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2008 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 18-19, 2008

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Joe Rising (the Plumber).

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) I would like to mention that a couple of days ago Senator Obama was out in Ohio and he had an encounter with a guy who's a plumber. His name is Joe Wurzelburger (sic/means Joe Wurzelbacher).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Joe Wurzelbacher, now aka Joe the Plumber, has become a star thanks to this week's presidential debate. Joe the Plumber was mentioned a total of 24 times by both presidential candidates. Here's Barack meeting Joe for the first time Sunday in Toledo, Ohio. (Begin videotaped segment.)

JOE WURZELBACHER (Ohio plumber): My name's Joe Wurzelbacher.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential nominee): Good to see you, Joe.

MR. WURZELBACHER: I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes about $250,000, $270,000, $280,000 a year.

SEN. OBAMA: All right.

MR. WURZELBACHER: Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Obama then described for Joe his trickle-up theory.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success too. My attitude is if the economy is good for folks from the bottom up, it's going to be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: At Wednesday's Obama-McCain debate, Obama repeated what he had said to Joe the Plumber in Toledo; namely, that if his tax break had been enforced five or 10 years ago, Joe would be enjoying a much bigger income today.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) The conversation I had with Joe the Plumber, what I essentially said to him was, "Five years ago, when you weren't in a position to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then. And what I want to do is to make sure that the plumber, the nurse, the firefighter, the teacher, the young entrepreneur who doesn't yet have money, I want to give them a tax break now."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: John McCain makes very clear what he thinks is the essence of Senator Obama's so-called tax break. It is actually a redistribution of wealth, the cornerstone of the "S" word -- socialism.

SEN. MCCAIN: (From videotape.) In other words, we're going to take Joe's money, give it to Senator Obama and let him spread the wealth around. The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare; let's spread the wealth around.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On the morning after the debate, Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher, in a TV interview, agreed with McCain and pointed to another potential down side and a slippery slope. MR. WURZELBACHER: (From videotape.) And that's a very socialist view, and it's just -- it's incredibly wrong. You know, $250,000 now -- what if he decides, "Well, you know, $150,000, you're pretty rich too. Let's go ahead and lower it again." You know, it's a slippery slope.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: So is Obama in favor of redistributing wealth, spreading it around, classical social welfare economics? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: First, Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes are about up, John. First, he's not licensed. Secondly, he doesn't make any $250,000 a year. Third, he's delinquent in his tax payments and he's probably going to be caught up in a grand jury for impersonating a plumber.

But on the socialism issue, he really called Obama out. What Obama has in mind, and he said so, is basically taking money from successful people who earn it and giving it to people who don't earn it. That is classic democratic socialism -- you know, equality of wealth and all the rest of it. He's not talking about simply aiding the poor. I think he has opened the door here to an attack on Obama as a socialist basically of the Saul Alinsky school, the community organizers and all the rest. You're going to see that theme developed all during the rest of the campaign.

MS. CLIFT: Boy, are you reaching. Look, Joe has lost some credibility, but he gave the media a chance to explore exactly what the tax plans are of these two candidates. And under the Obama tax plan, Joe the Plumber would pay lower taxes than he's paying now. He would pay even lower taxes under John McCain.

But that is hardly redistributing wealth. That is simply restoring to the tax code an element of fairness that has been lacking since the people at the very top have gotten so heavily rewarded in recent years. And the words "middle class" never escape John McCain's lips. And that is one of the reasons why Barack Obama is doing better in the polls and seems to have the momentum in this race, because he is talking to the broad middle of this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By the way, Gallup says that Americans are 84 percent opposed to redistribution of wealth and 16 percent are for it. Is that your impression from your New York experience? (Laughter.)

MS. CROWLEY: Well, New York is not exactly, you know, a microcosm of America, John, okay?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to develop that?

MS. CLIFT: Actually, it is. The part of New York where I came from, Queens, is the microcosm of America. MS. CROWLEY: New York City and New York State are among the highest-taxed municipalities and states in the entire country. The tax burden there is unbelievable.

Look, I think that what Joe the Plumber did was he's a potent symbol around which John McCain could formulate his economic message, because, let's face it, McCain has sort of been all over the map when he's talked about his economic plan and his tax plan vis-a-vis Barack Obama's massive tax hikes that he put in place.

What Joe the Plumber allowed McCain to do was crystallize his thinking on this and then sell it to the American people. Every once in a while Barack Obama shows his slip and he shows exactly what he's thinking and where he would like to take this country, especially on economics. He did that in his exchange with Joe the Plumber when he said, "I'd like to bring up the people behind you by evening the playing ground and spreading the wealth around."

That is anti-American, John, because Joe the Plumber may not be making 250 grand a year now, but he was talking about his aspirations, John. He was talking about wanting to buy the business in which he works right now, creating jobs, expanding his own personal wealth, expanding the wealth of his community by hiring people, buying new trucks, feeding into the economy. And basically what Obama says is, "I'm going to squash your American dream by taxing you higher, because even if you reach that point of $250,000, you're going to be sent into a different tax break.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, hold on.

MS. BERNARD: Can I just add something, though?

MR. BUCHANAN: What is your question, John?

MS. CLIFT: Is there a part two to this lecture? Can I sign up for it?

MS. BERNARD: Look, here's something that's important for us -- I think there's a point that we're not missing -- that we are missing here. First of all, it's classic Democratic politics to say, "I'm Robin Hood. I'm going to steal from the rich to give to the poor" -- classic Democratic politics. Here's the problem, though --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And okay.

MS. BERNARD: No, it's not okay. It's absolutely wrong, and it's how you flatten our economy. But the bottom line is, the danger in using the term "socialism" here as applied to Barack Obama is you could easily say that about John McCain. Both of them signed on to the bailout.

If we're not talking about moving towards the end of the free market in this nation and becoming a socialized nation, the bailout says it more than anything else, or the rescue plan, if that's what you want to call it. And the majority of Americans are completely against it.

MR. BUCHANAN: But what we're doing here -- but what he said, this is classical socialism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What who said? Who are you talking about?

MR. BUCHANAN: What Obama said. The idea of redistributing wealth -- in other words, not just taking care of poor people with needs, but taking money from the group that's succeeding and then giving it to the group that did not earn it themselves.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You meaning take it from the affluent --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't say that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and spread it around to the rest.

MR. BUCHANAN: Take it from the successful and give it to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Americans are opposed to that.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, they are.

MS. CLIFT: He's not taking it from the successful. Again, under the Obama plan, Joe the Plumber would pay lower taxes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor --

MS. CLIFT: He's not talking -- he's talking about creating opportunities --

MR. BUCHANAN: -- the top 5 percent --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Pat.

MS. CLIFT: -- for people behind Joe the Plumber, not giving money to undeserving people.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me make a point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, the top 5 percent in income whom he's going to tax pay 60 percent of all taxes, and they already carry the enormous burden. And about one-third of taxpayers' families that earn income pay zip. And, what, are you going to take more from the successful and give to the --

MS. CLIFT: They pay the payroll tax. They pay sales tax. They pay taxes on --

MR. BUCHANAN: No income taxes.

MS. CLIFT: And they are having a very difficult time making ends meet. And they're the people who are going to decide this election --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Hold on --

MS. CLIFT: -- not the people worried about income redistribution who are in the upper 2 percent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me in with the exit question here.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't have that much wealth left to redistribute after the last two months. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- do you want to develop that?

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.) Lehman Brothers took it to the grave.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you in bonds and stocks?

MR. BUCHANAN: Pardon?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Both equities -- bonds and stocks?

MR. BUCHANAN: I'm in --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you buying now?

MR. BUCHANAN: What am I buying now?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where did you put these? Did you move your money?

MS. BERNARD: Nothing. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I'm just watching it. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, exit question. A University of Chicago professor who was a frequent lunch companion of Obama was quoted as saying that Obama was as close to a full-out Marxist as anyone who has ever run for U.S. president, so reported by James Pethokoukis on October the 16th, this past Thursday, in a U.S. News & World Report site.

So is Obama a socialist, or is Obama a Marxist, or is he both, or is he neither? MR. BUCHANAN: He is not a communist. He is -- what he is is --

MS. CLIFT: Well, thank you for that. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: He's a Democratic socialist. I mean, he's got a more left-wing voting record than the socialist, Bernie Sanders.

MS. CROWLEY: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he's number one out of 100 senators.

MR. BUCHANAN: Bernie's four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's number one most liberal. He's number 100.

MR. BUCHANAN: Biden is three, and the socialist is four.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: According to the National Journal, he's the most liberal and Biden is the third-most liberal.

MR. BUCHANAN: And the socialist is fourth.

MS. CLIFT: You know, you're going to try to scare everybody about Barack Obama as this liberal radical. He has just been through three 90-minute debates. They have been one long job interview. He has won every debate. There is a comfort level with Barack Obama that all of your ranting about Marxism is not going to shake. John, you're powerful, but not that powerful.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's more powerful.

MS. CROWLEY: You know, we should be afraid of Barack Obama, because what he wants to put in place is a confiscatory, oppressive tax burden on the American people that will kill --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do you see that?

MS. CROWLEY: Income taxes, capital gains tax increases, dividend tax increases, cap and trade, $100 billion tax hike, global poverty taxes. And I'm just getting started.

MR. BUCHANAN: Death taxes.

MS. CROWLEY: Death taxes, right. The kind of oppressive tax burden he wants to impose on this country will kill whatever is left of this economy after this economic -- (Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The motive for this -- hold on -- the motive for this is redistribution of wealth.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Take from the rich and give to the poor.

MS. CROWLEY: Of course it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's called class warfare.

MS. CROWLEY: It is called class warfare. He dresses it up really well, but this is what he (wants ?).

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MS. BERNARD: Well, I would say I think it's -- I almost think that it's something that really need not be discussed, because, quite frankly, if we look at the reality of the economic condition that the country is in, I understand that Barack Obama is appealing to his base by saying, "I'm going to give you this, I'm going to give you that; you know, we're going to live in a free world because the government is going to give you everything," but --

MS. CLIFT: He's not saying that. He's not saying that.

MS. BERNARD: But it's not --

MS. CLIFT: He's not saying that.

MS. BERNARD: Well, we're not -- okay.

MS. CLIFT: You're saying that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish. Let her finish, Eleanor.

MS. BERNARD: Barack Obama has said, for example -- and this is not my policy -- Barack Obama has said the world would be a much better place and the United States would be a much better place if we had universal health care.

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MS. BERNARD: Well, we don't have money to pay for it. So anyone who is scared that he's going to go in and he's going to increase taxes dramatically, particularly in the economic condition we find ourselves in, you have to sort of just shake your head loose and really think about it. It is impossible. He's not going to do it. He can't do it. MS. CLIFT: If John McCain gets elected, there will also be incremental steps toward widening the access and affordability of health care.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't think you --

MS. CLIFT: And that will happen under whoever is the next president. We're finally there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to get clarity on what Michelle has said here. Do you think, by inclination -- you know, granted that he's going to be coerced into, or restrained, if that's your thought, into not doing what he is believed to be doing --

MS. BERNARD: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that is, developing a socialist society (in parvo ?), in the making. Do you think that's his inclination?

MS. BERNARD: That his inclination is to be a socialist? No, I think his inclination is to be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think his philosophy, whether announced or unannounced, is really socialistic?

MS. BERNARD: No, I think that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or is it Marxist, or is it neither?

MS. BERNARD: It is neither. He is a classic Democrat. He believes that big government is the solution to what ails the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any difference between a socialist and a liberal, say a far right liberal Democrat -- a far left liberal Democrat?

MS. BERNARD: Yes, there is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is?

MS. BERNARD: I don't think Barack Obama is a socialist.

MS. CLIFT: You know what he is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not?

MS. BERNARD: No.

MS. CLIFT: He's a compassionate capitalist, which is what I hope all of us are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. MR. BUCHANAN: He's a Saul Alinsky socialist. He's a community organizer of that school. He's got one foot out there with Ayers and Reverend Wright.

The other foot is where Eleanor thinks it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying Alinsky --

MR. BUCHANAN: The other foot is in the -- he's moving one foot into the center of the Democratic Party, but his history is out of that left wing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Alinsky go through phases? Was he at one time a liberal Democrat and then he was a self-announced socialist?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a -- I would say a democratic Marxist.

MS. CLIFT: Listen, this country --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's Alinsky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's what you think Obama is?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that's where he comes from. Where is he going to go?

MS. CLIFT: This country is to be commended if they install Barack Obama as president. But they are not installing a socialist Alinsky-Marxist society. Pat, you want to make a bet about that? I'll meet you back here two years from now --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's to the left of Bernie Sanders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's to the left of Bernie Sanders.

MS. CLIFT: That is so far out of the realm of reality, it is laughable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please relinquish. Please relinquish when you hear my voice -- (laughter) -- if you can hear it. The answer is TBD -- to be determined.

Issue Two: How Dare You? (Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Pursuing the same kinds of policies that we've pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit. And frankly, Senator McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets.

SEN. MCCAIN: Yeah. Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does that retort by McCain cut the umbilical cord between McCain and Bush? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: No. He can't cut that cord, not when people remember the hugs with President Bush, not when they look at the 95 or 90 percent voting record. I do think that was one of his better moments in the debate, but all he did was hand Barack Obama a punch line to keep pointing up the fact that he is not that different from George W. Bush in his policies. He's a different personality, and that I give him credit for on a handful of issues. But on the broad issues that are facing the American people, chiefly the economy, he is right there with George W. Bush --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: -- and also Monica Crowley tax policy. (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: He has -- Senator McCain has done his best to sever the umbilical cord. He hasn't ruptured it. He's severed it. He has a new ad out this week that talks about how difficult the last eight years have been -- well, that's George Bush -- and how we need change.

But the bottom line is he's not going to fully be able to sever that umbilical cord. This election could quite possibly be a referendum on George Bush. And John McCain is going to have a very difficult time getting away from the Republican Party.

MR. BUCHANAN: I disagree --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Republican Party is in really tough shape --

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- like intensive care?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. It is -- the Republican Party right now needs a defibrillator. The Republican Party is in very serious trouble. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they've thrown in the sponge?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. BERNARD: No, no, no. Absolutely not.

MS. CROWLEY: John --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MS. CROWLEY: No, they haven't thrown in the sponge -- (laughs) -- whatever that means. The towel, maybe, but no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it mean? Tell her, Pat. Tell her.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a boxing term. You throw in the sponge when your fighter's finished. (Laughter.) You throw it into the ring --

MS. CROWLEY: Then I stick by my answer -- no.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- when you want to stop the fight. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I stick by my answer. Listen, when the Obama team and the Democrats say John McCain has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time, what Obama doesn't tell you is that he has voted with the liberal Pelosi-Reid Congress 95 percent of the time, and this is a liberal team that's at 12 percent --

MS. CLIFT: That's not a negative. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: -- job approval.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Deal sealed?

The Investor's Business Daily TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics this week released their most recent poll. It showed Barack Obama leading John McCain by a margin of three percentage points, 45 to 42. The IBD tip poll in the 2004 election was the most accurate of all polls, off by only four-tenths of a percent. The race is still close.

And what must be even more worrisome to Obama is that, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, when asked, quote, "Regardless of who you may support, do you think Obama does or does not have the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president?" 54 percent said he does; 45 percent said he does not.

Do you believe that 45 percent figure, Monica?

MS. CROWLEY: That he does not have the experience? Yeah, I believe that. Of course I believe that. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not that he doesn't have the experience -- that the American people believe that he doesn't have the experience.

MS. CROWLEY: He doesn't have the experience.

Yeah, I mean, all of these attacks on Sarah Palin as not being qualified to be vice president -- the obvious question is, is the guy at the top of the Democratic ticket qualified to be president of the United States? And what you saw is that almost half of the American people believe he is not qualified for the top job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into the McCain thing.

MS. BERNARD: The polls show -- I mean, there's a large number of people that think he does not have the experience --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-five percent?

MS. BERNARD: Well, it's still -- that means more than 50 percent think he is qualified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With a couple of weeks to go?

MS. BERNARD: Look, I don't -- I think a lot of people are going to go into the voting booth, and there are people -- Democrats are going to vote for Obama. Republicans are going to vote for Senator McCain. And the challenge for both of these candidates right now is to go after independents, go after Reagan Democrats, go after people who are undecided, and they will tell us who they think is most qualified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's a shrinkage of his support, Obama's support, among independents. You know that.

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact, I think a majority of independents now -- correct me if I'm wrong -- you correct me, Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're wrong.

MS. CLIFT: You're wrong. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where are the independents? MR. BUCHANAN: Independents are now with Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are independent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But let me just get into the McCain thing, John.

MS. BERNARD: No, they're with Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain's problem is not the connection to Bush. He was leading Obama and Biden two weeks out from the convention. His problem is the economic collapse, which has caused Americans to say, "Get rid of all the Republicans."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Horse race still?

On Thursday, Gallup's traditional poll of likely voters, which uses past and current voting trends, showed that Obama's lead had narrowed to a two-point margin, 49 to 47 percent. That puts the race within the margin of error, with just over three weeks to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is that a valid poll?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not, John, in this sense. They're using 2004 numbers --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big turnout.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, and we've got a huge number of new registrants. If you use 2008, as I understand it, from MSNBC, Obama is still at about a five- or six-point lead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you got this information from MSNBC. (Laughter.) Okay, Pat. We get the picture. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: If Obama wins, it's because he changes the face of the electorate -- a lot more younger people, more African-Americans, more Latinos. It's a different electorate than your -- than Richard Nixon's electorate. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quick change of subject. As we go to press, Colin Powell has not endorsed either presidential candidate. But there is a rumor that he will endorse Barack Obama. How damaging would that be for John McCain? I ask you.

MS. BERNARD: I don't think it will make a difference for John McCain. I think there are a lot of people in the Republican Party who are not happy with Colin Powell and would not be surprised by this.

The thing that makes this very interesting is the conundrum that it presents for black Republicans and black conservatives who are torn between party ideology and something that they see very positive in Barack Obama, particularly his mantra of personal responsibility within families in general, but particularly within the African- American family. And I would venture to guess --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. BERNARD: And I would venture to guess that, as a black man in particular, it would be hard --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're out of time.

MS. CLIFT: And you're speaking for yourself as a black Republican, I assume.

MS. BERNARD: I'm not a Republican. I'm an independent.

MS. CLIFT: You're a Republican on your website.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't think it will help that much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Independent Women's Forum, okay?

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to say to this question about Powell? What would it do to McCain? Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: I don't think it damages John McCain because I think it's already factored in. I mean, the fact that Colin Powell has not endorsed McCain to this point, people already assume that Colin Powell --

MS. CLIFT: It's a huge --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also he favors a time line of exit from Iraq.

Issue Three: A Clean Sweep.

The Democrats are sitting on top of both legislative and executive control of the United States, the Congress and the presidency. In the House, all 435 seats are up for election. Here are the current numbers: Democrats today, 235; Republicans today, 199. Enlightened opinion says that the Democrats will pick up eight more House seats, leaving us with Democrats 243, Republicans 191.

In the Senate, 35 seats are up for election. Current numbers: Democrats 50, Republicans 49. Post-election: Democrats 56, Republicans 44.

Then, to round out the Democratic power grab is the White House. Enlightened opinion, like Eleanor Clift, is calling it President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Question: Are the Democrats in for a clean sweep? I ask you, Monica. MS. CROWLEY: Well, it certainly looks like the momentum for the Congress is going on the part of the Democrats. And, in fact, those numbers may be more tilted toward the Democrats than the numbers you just put up there. In fact, I'm hearing 42 Republicans, not 44 Republicans.

I do not think that the Democrats will get their filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate of 60 seats.

There's also a question about Joe Lieberman. And that's their doomsday scenario for the Democrats, that if they get 59, then up to 60, that Joe Lieberman will switch parties and throw it out of whack.

But, look, it's a very bad year for Republicans, and this is the argument that John McCain needs to make, which is, you know, think about the checks and balances that you want in this government and not to give up on Congress.

MS. CLIFT: The country is furious at the political class, and they associate the political class primarily with the Republicans. You've got polls that show only 10 or 11 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. The only way they have to express themselves is at the polls.

And I think we're heading for a second, what's called a wave election, which basically goes in the favor of one party. Nine is no longer a crazy number for Senate pickups. I mean, they may not get there, but you've got Elizabeth Dole probably going to lose in North Carolina; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in trouble in Kentucky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why is he in trouble?

MS. CLIFT: Because the economy has just washed over everything, and the Republicans have been in charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that brings them up to 59, right?

MS. CLIFT: It's very simple.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-nine.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Well, you don't need to get that high, because there are a few moderate Republicans who can be counted on to come over to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So some votes are --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John, let me tell you what we're headed for. Look, the Congress of the United States, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, has 10 percent approval. However, they are going to be augmented not by eight seats in the House; more like 20 seats in the House.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty-four. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: And there's a real shot it could be 30. And it could go all the way up to a filibuster-proof Senate. Now, this is my --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are you calling it?

MR. BUCHANAN: The country is a right-center country. Barack Obama shows that by how he's moved. But the Congress of the United States and the presidency are going to be in the hands of the most liberal regime in American history; I mean, really in American history. This has the makings of a tremendous backlash.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that when the voter realizes that this is going to be an all-Democratic government --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to realize it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- White House, Senate and House, they will recoil, and they will deny the presidency.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they will have already voted for it and are going to wake up and find that's what they got.

MS. CLIFT: What's wrong with that line of thinking is the Congress is at 10 percent approval because they haven't delivered on getting out of the war and Democratic-promised initiatives.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: So the expectations for this government to deliver will be huge. But we are a center-left government --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to deliver, all right.

MS. CLIFT: -- and I think it's very difficult to move initiatives that are going to be --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be another -- Great Society II is what we're looking at.

MS. CLIFT: The initiatives that would be my dream and your nightmare --

MR. BUCHANAN: Socialism.

MS. CLIFT: -- they won't be achieved. MR. BUCHANAN: Socialism, Eleanor. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: I think that if we have -- I really like our system of checks and balances. I think that if a Democrat is in the White House, then the Republicans should be leading the Congress, and vice versa. I don't think it's going to happen this time. I think it's going to be a clean sweep. And I think two years from now the nation is going to wake up and things like Card Check would have been enacted and people will be thinking to themselves, "What did we do, and how did we let the United States Congress do this to us?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think checks and balances is here to stay?

MS. BERNARD: It should be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the debate, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mac comes back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Obama, three for three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: John McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: Draw.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: Draw.

Bye-bye.

END.

is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There is?

MS. BERNARD: I don't think Barack Obama is a socialist.

MS. CLIFT: You know what he is?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not?

MS. BERNARD: No.

MS. CLIFT: He's a compassionate capitalist, which is what I hope all of us are.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. MR. BUCHANAN: He's a Saul Alinsky socialist. He's a community organizer of that school. He's got one foot out there with Ayers and Reverend Wright.

The other foot is where Eleanor thinks it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying Alinsky --

MR. BUCHANAN: The other foot is in the -- he's moving one foot into the center of the Democratic Party, but his history is out of that left wing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Alinsky go through phases? Was he at one time a liberal Democrat and then he was a self-announced socialist?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was a -- I would say a democratic Marxist.

MS. CLIFT: Listen, this country --

MR. BUCHANAN: That's Alinsky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that's what you think Obama is?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that's where he comes from. Where is he going to go?

MS. CLIFT: This country is to be commended if they install Barack Obama as president. But they are not installing a socialist Alinsky-Marxist society. Pat, you want to make a bet about that? I'll meet you back here two years from now --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's to the left of Bernie Sanders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's to the left of Bernie Sanders.

MS. CLIFT: That is so far out of the realm of reality, it is laughable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please relinquish. Please relinquish when you hear my voice -- (laughter) -- if you can hear it. The answer is TBD -- to be determined.

Issue Two: How Dare You? (Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) Pursuing the same kinds of policies that we've pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit. And frankly, Senator McCain voted for four out of five of President Bush's budgets.

SEN. MCCAIN: Yeah. Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Does that retort by McCain cut the umbilical cord between McCain and Bush? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: No. He can't cut that cord, not when people remember the hugs with President Bush, not when they look at the 95 or 90 percent voting record. I do think that was one of his better moments in the debate, but all he did was hand Barack Obama a punch line to keep pointing up the fact that he is not that different from George W. Bush in his policies. He's a different personality, and that I give him credit for on a handful of issues. But on the broad issues that are facing the American people, chiefly the economy, he is right there with George W. Bush --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: -- and also Monica Crowley tax policy. (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: He has -- Senator McCain has done his best to sever the umbilical cord. He hasn't ruptured it. He's severed it. He has a new ad out this week that talks about how difficult the last eight years have been -- well, that's George Bush -- and how we need change.

But the bottom line is he's not going to fully be able to sever that umbilical cord. This election could quite possibly be a referendum on George Bush. And John McCain is going to have a very difficult time getting away from the Republican Party.

MR. BUCHANAN: I disagree --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the Republican Party is in really tough shape --

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- like intensive care?

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely. It is -- the Republican Party right now needs a defibrillator. The Republican Party is in very serious trouble. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they've thrown in the sponge?

MR. BUCHANAN: No.

MS. BERNARD: No, no, no. Absolutely not.

MS. CROWLEY: John --

MR. BUCHANAN: Hey, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you?

MS. CROWLEY: No, they haven't thrown in the sponge -- (laughs) -- whatever that means. The towel, maybe, but no --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What does it mean? Tell her, Pat. Tell her.

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a boxing term. You throw in the sponge when your fighter's finished. (Laughter.) You throw it into the ring --

MS. CROWLEY: Then I stick by my answer -- no.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- when you want to stop the fight. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: I stick by my answer. Listen, when the Obama team and the Democrats say John McCain has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time, what Obama doesn't tell you is that he has voted with the liberal Pelosi-Reid Congress 95 percent of the time, and this is a liberal team that's at 12 percent --

MS. CLIFT: That's not a negative. (Laughs.)

MS. CROWLEY: -- job approval.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Deal sealed?

The Investor's Business Daily TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics this week released their most recent poll. It showed Barack Obama leading John McCain by a margin of three percentage points, 45 to 42. The IBD tip poll in the 2004 election was the most accurate of all polls, off by only four-tenths of a percent. The race is still close.

And what must be even more worrisome to Obama is that, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, when asked, quote, "Regardless of who you may support, do you think Obama does or does not have the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president?" 54 percent said he does; 45 percent said he does not.

Do you believe that 45 percent figure, Monica?

MS. CROWLEY: That he does not have the experience? Yeah, I believe that. Of course I believe that. (Laughs.) MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not that he doesn't have the experience -- that the American people believe that he doesn't have the experience.

MS. CROWLEY: He doesn't have the experience.

Yeah, I mean, all of these attacks on Sarah Palin as not being qualified to be vice president -- the obvious question is, is the guy at the top of the Democratic ticket qualified to be president of the United States? And what you saw is that almost half of the American people believe he is not qualified for the top job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me get into the McCain thing.

MS. BERNARD: The polls show -- I mean, there's a large number of people that think he does not have the experience --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Forty-five percent?

MS. BERNARD: Well, it's still -- that means more than 50 percent think he is qualified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: With a couple of weeks to go?

MS. BERNARD: Look, I don't -- I think a lot of people are going to go into the voting booth, and there are people -- Democrats are going to vote for Obama. Republicans are going to vote for Senator McCain. And the challenge for both of these candidates right now is to go after independents, go after Reagan Democrats, go after people who are undecided, and they will tell us who they think is most qualified.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's a shrinkage of his support, Obama's support, among independents. You know that.

MS. CLIFT: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In fact, I think a majority of independents now -- correct me if I'm wrong -- you correct me, Pat --

MR. BUCHANAN: You're wrong.

MS. CLIFT: You're wrong. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where are the independents? MR. BUCHANAN: Independents are now with Obama.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are independent.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah. But let me just get into the McCain thing, John.

MS. BERNARD: No, they're with Obama.

MR. BUCHANAN: McCain's problem is not the connection to Bush. He was leading Obama and Biden two weeks out from the convention. His problem is the economic collapse, which has caused Americans to say, "Get rid of all the Republicans."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Horse race still?

On Thursday, Gallup's traditional poll of likely voters, which uses past and current voting trends, showed that Obama's lead had narrowed to a two-point margin, 49 to 47 percent. That puts the race within the margin of error, with just over three weeks to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is that a valid poll?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, it's not, John, in this sense. They're using 2004 numbers --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Big turnout.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, and we've got a huge number of new registrants. If you use 2008, as I understand it, from MSNBC, Obama is still at about a five- or six-point lead.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you got this information from MSNBC. (Laughter.) Okay, Pat. We get the picture. (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: If Obama wins, it's because he changes the face of the electorate -- a lot more younger people, more African-Americans, more Latinos. It's a different electorate than your -- than Richard Nixon's electorate. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, quick change of subject. As we go to press, Colin Powell has not endorsed either presidential candidate. But there is a rumor that he will endorse Barack Obama. How damaging would that be for John McCain? I ask you.

MS. BERNARD: I don't think it will make a difference for John McCain. I think there are a lot of people in the Republican Party who are not happy with Colin Powell and would not be surprised by this.

The thing that makes this very interesting is the conundrum that it presents for black Republicans and black conservatives who are torn between party ideology and something that they see very positive in Barack Obama, particularly his mantra of personal responsibility within families in general, but particularly within the African- American family. And I would venture to guess --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. BERNARD: And I would venture to guess that, as a black man in particular, it would be hard --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're out of time.

MS. CLIFT: And you're speaking for yourself as a black Republican, I assume.

MS. BERNARD: I'm not a Republican. I'm an independent.

MS. CLIFT: You're a Republican on your website.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, I don't think it will help that much.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Independent Women's Forum, okay?

MS. CLIFT: Okay.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you want to say to this question about Powell? What would it do to McCain? Quickly.

MS. CROWLEY: I don't think it damages John McCain because I think it's already factored in. I mean, the fact that Colin Powell has not endorsed McCain to this point, people already assume that Colin Powell --

MS. CLIFT: It's a huge --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Also he favors a time line of exit from Iraq.

Issue Three: A Clean Sweep.

The Democrats are sitting on top of both legislative and executive control of the United States, the Congress and the presidency. In the House, all 435 seats are up for election. Here are the current numbers: Democrats today, 235; Republicans today, 199. Enlightened opinion says that the Democrats will pick up eight more House seats, leaving us with Democrats 243, Republicans 191.

In the Senate, 35 seats are up for election. Current numbers: Democrats 50, Republicans 49. Post-election: Democrats 56, Republicans 44.

Then, to round out the Democratic power grab is the White House. Enlightened opinion, like Eleanor Clift, is calling it President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Question: Are the Democrats in for a clean sweep? I ask you, Monica. MS. CROWLEY: Well, it certainly looks like the momentum for the Congress is going on the part of the Democrats. And, in fact, those numbers may be more tilted toward the Democrats than the numbers you just put up there. In fact, I'm hearing 42 Republicans, not 44 Republicans.

I do not think that the Democrats will get their filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate of 60 seats.

There's also a question about Joe Lieberman. And that's their doomsday scenario for the Democrats, that if they get 59, then up to 60, that Joe Lieberman will switch parties and throw it out of whack.

But, look, it's a very bad year for Republicans, and this is the argument that John McCain needs to make, which is, you know, think about the checks and balances that you want in this government and not to give up on Congress.

MS. CLIFT: The country is furious at the political class, and they associate the political class primarily with the Republicans. You've got polls that show only 10 or 11 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. The only way they have to express themselves is at the polls.

And I think we're heading for a second, what's called a wave election, which basically goes in the favor of one party. Nine is no longer a crazy number for Senate pickups. I mean, they may not get there, but you've got Elizabeth Dole probably going to lose in North Carolina; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in trouble in Kentucky.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why? Why is he in trouble?

MS. CLIFT: Because the economy has just washed over everything, and the Republicans have been in charge.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, that brings them up to 59, right?

MS. CLIFT: It's very simple.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fifty-nine.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MS. CLIFT: Well, you don't need to get that high, because there are a few moderate Republicans who can be counted on to come over to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So some votes are --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, John, let me tell you what we're headed for. Look, the Congress of the United States, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, has 10 percent approval. However, they are going to be augmented not by eight seats in the House; more like 20 seats in the House.

MS. CLIFT: Twenty-four. (Laughs.)

MR. BUCHANAN: And there's a real shot it could be 30. And it could go all the way up to a filibuster-proof Senate. Now, this is my --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How are you calling it?

MR. BUCHANAN: The country is a right-center country. Barack Obama shows that by how he's moved. But the Congress of the United States and the presidency are going to be in the hands of the most liberal regime in American history; I mean, really in American history. This has the makings of a tremendous backlash.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean that when the voter realizes that this is going to be an all-Democratic government --

MR. BUCHANAN: They're not going to realize it --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- White House, Senate and House, they will recoil, and they will deny the presidency.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, they will have already voted for it and are going to wake up and find that's what they got.

MS. CLIFT: What's wrong with that line of thinking is the Congress is at 10 percent approval because they haven't delivered on getting out of the war and Democratic-promised initiatives.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: So the expectations for this government to deliver will be huge. But we are a center-left government --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to deliver, all right.

MS. CLIFT: -- and I think it's very difficult to move initiatives that are going to be --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's going to be another -- Great Society II is what we're looking at.

MS. CLIFT: The initiatives that would be my dream and your nightmare --

MR. BUCHANAN: Socialism.

MS. CLIFT: -- they won't be achieved. MR. BUCHANAN: Socialism, Eleanor. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MS. BERNARD: I think that if we have -- I really like our system of checks and balances. I think that if a Democrat is in the White House, then the Republicans should be leading the Congress, and vice versa. I don't think it's going to happen this time. I think it's going to be a clean sweep. And I think two years from now the nation is going to wake up and things like Card Check would have been enacted and people will be thinking to themselves, "What did we do, and how did we let the United States Congress do this to us?"

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think checks and balances is here to stay?

MS. BERNARD: It should be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who won the debate, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: Mac comes back.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Obama, three for three.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Monica.

MS. CROWLEY: John McCain.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Michelle.

MS. BERNARD: Draw.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Answer: Draw.

Bye-bye.

END.