updated 10/22/2008 12:16:15 PM ET 2008-10-22T16:16:15

Guest: Nate Silver

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Tonight‘s NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll: Obama by 10.  And it‘s come down to this.  The presidential election is about—pie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of pie than he is in growing the pie.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I heard Senator McCain say I‘m more concerned with who gets your piece of the pie than with growing the pie.  But make no mistake about it.  After eight years of Bush-McCain economics, the pie is shrinking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yum, pie.

The governor of Alaska also appears to be shrinking.  The internals of our NBC Poll, she‘s a bigger drain on McCain than is George Bush.  And that perception was sealed live from New York on Saturday night.

No longer live: In Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Republican chances there, quoting a top McCain adviser, “gone.”  TV ads in New Hampshire and Wisconsin—over.

Voter registration fraud continues by Republicans.  Young Political Majors getting people to register as Republicans by trickery and mainlining back into the McCain campaign.

Bushed: Gitmo stays opened.

Worst: Murdoch‘s “New York Post” reports, Michelle Obama ordered lobster and caviar delivered to her room at the Waldorf-Astoria, then it turns out, she wasn‘t even staying at the Waldorf-Astoria.

And tonight‘s first ever Campaign Comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  We do a feature called “questions from the third grade.”

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes.

REPORTER:  Brandon Garcia wants to know, “What does the vice president do?”

PALIN:  That‘s something that piper would ask me as a second grader also.  They‘re in charge of the U.S. Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, governor, vice presidents are not in charge of the United States Senate.  You had three months to get this right.  The Campaign Comment: Are you smarter than a third grader?

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I like the third grader‘s question.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  It‘s Tuesday, October 21st, 14 days until the 2008 presidential election. Maybe, just maybe, McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, was right when he said seven weeks to go now, that this election is not about the issues.  Maybe this election will be decided more on the candidate‘s personalities after all. And our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: For Mr. Davis—fifth, rather, could not have any idea that the personality polling says tonight, voters are embracing in still growing numbers is Barack Obama.  And the personality polling says they are rejecting is Sarah Palin. The voters appearing to reach a comfort level with and resolving any doubts about Senator Obama in the latest batch of numbers beginning with the tonight‘s NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll.  The Democrat now is leading by 10 points in that survey, 52-42.  The first time he has been over 50.  Earlier this month, the margin has been six points. McCain campaign manager Davis having said on September 2nd, that this election would be about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.  Here now, the composite view: Senator Obama seen as better suited on having the right temperament to be the president, on being compassion enough to understand average people, leaving a more favorable impression overall. Many more voters expressing doubts about Senator McCain‘s judgment.  In the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, as well as running the far more negative campaign.  In the Pew head-to-head matchup, Senator Obama is ahead by 14, 52 to 38. Back to NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal,” where Senator McCain is still seen as being more knowledgeable and experienced to handle being president, also, the better perspective commander-in-chief.  But because this election is still about the issues, especially about the economy, here‘s where the candidates are seen on being able to handle those, too. In Pew, in the economy: Obama is up by nine, 47-38.  A bigger margin in that question in the NBC survey, 49-28, 21 points. Running through the rest of the issues fairly quickly, healthcare, it‘s Obama by 39 points.  Taxes: Obama by 24.  The mortgage and housing crisis: Obama by 21.  Energy and gas: Obama by a dozen.  The Wall Street crisis: Obama by 17. Senator McCain still has a 5-point lead on handling the situation in Iraq, and on catching Osama bin Laden, which in the last debate he said he had a plan for. Finally, regarding turnout and the enthusiasm gap, nearly three out of every four first-time voters telling the “Washington Post” they favor the Democrats, 73 to 26.  According to the national exit polls in 2004, first time voters in that election favored Senator Kerry by a margin of only seven points. But more about that economy.  On the campaign trail in Pennsylvania today, Senator McCain attempting to explain his “Obama is a socialist tax” argument in terms of pie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  He believes in redistributing the wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.  Senator Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of pie than he is in growing the pie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In Florida, Senator Obama‘s rebuttal, still about pie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I heard Senator McCain say I‘m more concerned with who gets your piece of the pie than with growing the pie.  But make no mistake about it.  After eight years of Bush-McCain economics, the pie is shrinking.  It‘s not growing.  That means lower wages and declining incomes, plummeting home values, and rising unemployment.  So, we‘ve seen what happens with their policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And their pie. Inside those promised Sarah Palin numbers in a moment. First, we call upon our own Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, and joining us tonight from Chicago. Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  We‘ll skip the recipes here on how you can shrink or grow—I don‘t know about how you grow a pie, but you spent the day over there at the “Obama bakery.”  What‘s the mood in there especially in light of these poll numbers?

FINEMAN:  Well, they are keeping their heads down and focusing on the baking.  When I walked into there and it‘s a vast place with a lot of people, most of them under, I don‘t know, 35 or so, many of them in jeans, all of them looking intently at their computer screens. They don‘t want to—they want to pinch themselves.  They can‘t quite believe what they‘ve been working on for so long and the strategies they pursued to really go wide, to go all across the country, to compete in many states, seems to be working. There was a sign at the entranceway that was scribbled by the first person in the morning, in the easel outside the entranceway that said “Two short weeks, two little words: New Hampshire.”  That‘s a reminder to the Obama people that they were surprised by Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire because they thought they didn‘t fare down hard enough and they‘re determined to do it here in the last two weeks.

OLBERMANN:  And the people there, they‘re doing it with or involving themselves with, about what the poll say about the voters—Obama leading not just on the economy but also now judgment questions, temperament questions, compassion questions, and nearly all of the issues.  If the undecided voters had been harboring doubts about Obama, has he managed to erase most of them?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think he has managed to erase a lot of them because it‘s clear that voters, especially those undecided voters, want some kind of new politics.  They don‘t like the partisan division of Washington.  They don‘t like the old way of doing things.  Obama has caught the mood of that better now. McCain started out that way years ago but then lost it.  Obama has not only kept calm, but said that he wants to reach out, that said that he wants to try to do politics differently in Washington.  And that has translated in these debates to a message that these independent voters seem to like.

OLBERMANN:  Obama by 14, viewed as the one more capable to deal with the issue of taxes.  How much longer should we expect the McCain campaign to keep going on it‘s “Joe the Plumber, Senator Obama a socialist” jog or is this going to be jettison overnight, we‘re going to see something entirely new tomorrow?

FINEMAN:  Well, it isn‘t working.  I spoke with David Plouffe, the campaign manager at length, and he said they tested the words about “socialism,” that doesn‘t seem to be working.  Some younger people don‘t even know what that is anymore.  And they feel they built, and I think the polls show that they built a pretty strong fortress around Obama not as a “tax raiser” but somebody who, for the most part, wants to cut taxes. And so, the more McCain runs into that, it just bounces back on him and comes back as negative campaigning because people have a different view of Obama as those polls are showing.  The Obama campaign began a year or more ago, a year and a half ago, to back time just to this point, Keith, so they would be able to depend that position and they are.

OLBERMANN:  There was a “Washington Post” report that the Obama campaign so flush with money, $150 million last month, probably $150 million this month, might want to throw some of that money down ticket to the DNC to help the party build margins in Congress, particularly in the Senate, because, obviously, there has been more to this than running up the vote in—the electoral vote.  Is that still on the table?  And if not, why not?

FINEMAN:  Well, I asked David Plouffe about that and he said, “No, it‘s not on the table.”  That they feel they‘re helping out the state parties and they‘re helping out the congressional candidates with all the registration work they‘ve done and all the organizational work they‘ve done, and they want to bear down. They‘re skittish about this, Keith.  They may be ahead by 10 points in the national poll; the Electoral College maybe looking good.  Plouffe was telling with an air of wonderment, that they are considering making heavier plays in Georgia and South Carolina.  And even Arizona, states that they‘ve never considered.  But they‘re going to spend their own money on their campaign, feeling that they‘ve done enough for those other campaigns in other ways. They‘re not about to write some big check to Chuck Schumer over at the Senate committee, that‘s not going to happen.

OLBERMANN:  And on the other end of all this, is there a plan in the McCain campaign left?  I mean, the “New York Times” magazine Sunday seems to suggest that it‘s just—we‘re just at the tactic, tactic, stunt, stunt stage still and there‘s no vision.  There‘s no—even—visualizing of how they get from here to two weeks to tonight, victoriously?

FINEMAN:  Well, to put it terribly, Keith, the problem that they had is McCain didn‘t really get to his core argument about government, if that was going to be his core argument until about a week ago in that last debate, and it was too late at that point because Obama has spent the last year and a half building a positive I.D. for himself that it‘s very difficult for McCain to assault at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” in Chicago for us this evening.  Thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The undercurrent here, as mentioned, not just President Bush and the alarming economic situation, rather, the biggest problem for Senator McCain is now his running mate, Governor Palin.  When asked about voter‘s concerns regarding Senator McCain, ranking first by a wide margin, his vice-presidential running mate is not qualified to be president, if the need arises, as it was phrased in the polling. Second place, the likelihood McCain would continue Bush policies.  Third, that McCain economic policies would benefit only corporations and the wealthy. On the specific question of whether or not Governor Palin is qualified, 55 percent said she is not qualified to be president; 47 percent of those polled hold very or somewhat negative feelings about her, that‘s 10 points more than just two weeks ago.  And it is mirrored by a recent “New York Times” survey. Governor Palin holds the largest negative rating of any vice-presidential candidate in the 28-year history of the poll.  As for Palin‘s continued plunge, one of our pollsters theorizes that it owes, in part, to Palin becoming a caricature, to refuse to be anything other than a platform performer, leaving an incredible information vacuum in which she left it to the critics, analysts, satirists, to sketch out her persona, and when she appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” that only reinforced lingering doubts. Let‘s turn now to the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, our own Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, like a month ago, when some of us said he should have dumped her before the vice-presidential debate, he should have dumped her before the vice-presidential debate?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  Well, that would be been very entertaining but also completely suicidal.  Look, if you‘re portraying yourself as a bold leader, someone who is pseudo-presidential, certainly more presidential than the other guy, you don‘t get a chance to do a do-over, and the problem here is really not just what the poll laid out, but I think, was pretty eloquently spelled out by Colin Powell on “Meet the Press,” which is that it raises fundamental questions about how seriously McCain made this pick.

You know, in presidential contest, you can pick someone for the summer.  You can pick someone for November to help you through the election, or you can pick someone for January for governing.  And it‘s not clear that this was a decision that really moved beyond the convention and a few weeks that McCain saw a moment of weakness and opportunity.

OLBERMANN:  And also, in terms of the polling and—are we seeing that the voters are making this subtle distinction between a situation McCain inherits and tries to deal with, distancing himself from Bush, whereas, one of his own creation, selecting Palin, becomes exponentially worse because it is his responsibility and whatever else you say about President Bush, John McCain didn‘t create him?

WOLFFE:  Right.  Well, he cannot distance himself from his own pick.  But I think the Bush comparison is interesting.  You know, in a weird way, they both, Bush and McCain, have shown similar executive decision-making about Palin in this case, because they both, again, see themselves as bold, decisive figures willing to make a judgment based on a gut feeling.  And as we saw with President Bush—that leads to a very rapid sense of “mission accomplished” but it can lead you into a quagmire, and Sarah Palin has proved to be a quagmire.

OLBERMANN:  We have—we spent here talking a lot of time about the “Saturday Night Live” effect, if Palin began the process of making herself look like a caricature by leaving this big open space that everybody could fill, it would seem that we have some empirical evidence now that appearing on that show kind of sealed this—right?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  You—there was no up side in doing the “Saturday Night Live,” not when the caricature was so strong.  Some daytime TV opportunities would have been much better for her.  But you don‘t erase the caricature by reinforcing it and those skits were inevitable, predictable.  She hadn‘t made herself look more presidential. And this is how—you know, enjoying the ride may be a lot of fun.  The crowds are obviously, buoying up the whole campaign in some way, but ultimately, it‘s not helping them get to where they need to be.  This isn‘t just about the journey.  It‘s about the destination.

OLBERMANN:  And if having the governor had a sudden crisis at home that would cause her to withdraw two weeks before the election is clearly out of the question, and rehabilitating her image with two weeks to go is seemingly impossible.  What are the McCain options at this point—do you put her on ice?  Does she not see the light of day again after an interview with Brian Williams tomorrow?

WOLFFE:  Well, she has still got an appeal to rural America and small-town America and they are, at least now, dividing up the two candidates so they are covering more ground.

Listen—if the ad pullback stories are correct, then they are really making a single play, which is for Pennsylvania and they should both live in Pennsylvania for two weeks.  She can deal with rural Pennsylvania; he can deal with some of the bigger cities.  And that‘s their only goal to the Electoral College victory that they still must be hoping for.

OLBERMANN:  And what, by the way, as a last point, is the sell in Pennsylvania that could get them over what may be in some polls, a 10-point hump?

WOLFFE:  You know, he‘s just got to hope that he can pull off some of the New Hampshire magic that worked for him eight years ago.  But in terms of the positions, where the state is, the issues, it‘s a huge mountain to climb.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—as always, great thanks, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The governor of Alaska stepped on another rake today, or more correctly, she stepped on the same rake she stepped on three or four times before with the same result.  “What does the vice president do,” she is asked by a reporter on behalf of an elementary school student, and thus, she gets to play—tonight in COUNTDOWN‘s first Campaign Comment: Are you smarter than a third grader?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Panting (ph) in Iowa, in New Mexico, in Colorado, the McCain campaign reportedly bailing out of three states they once thought were theirs. What the new NBC polling does to the projected map of the Electoral College?  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com joins me. Later in Worst: Rupert Murdoch battles Dana Perino and Sean Hannity.   Membrane: What did Joe the Plumber do to John McCain? And tonight‘s first ever Campaign Comment.  And we ask: Does Governor Palin really still not know what the vice president does or is she trying to expand the job by repeatedly lying about what the vice president does?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  David Byrne‘s geography in “Life During Wartime” is a little out of sync, but the message is about the same.  Heard about Houston?  Heard about Detroit?  Heard about Pittsburgh, Pa.?  Swap in Denver, Des Moines and Albuquerque, and you‘ll understand the McCain campaign‘s internal anxiety tonight. One top strategist and a second campaign source reported saying their hopes in Colorado, Iowa, and New Mexico, are, quote, “gone.” Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: This ain‘t no Mud Club, or CBGB, I ain‘t got time for that now. A look at the latest MSNBC-NBC News electoral map showing Barack Obama holding 264-163 lead over McCain, and this for an electoral map is a pretty conservative one.  According to the two McCain insiders, the campaign is especially dubious about Colorado—nice to meet you Mr. Dubious—acknowledging Obama‘s superior ground turnout operation. Without all three states and their total of 21 electoral votes, McCain must now hold on to the rest of the Bush states still in play, plus turn a blue state red.  That‘s why the campaign is eyeing Pennsylvania and its 21 electoral votes.  The problem here, Obama is ahead in the polls there by about 10 and it‘s been 20 years since the state backed a Republican. In the meantime, official word from the McCain camp, “We see the race tightening both internally and in public polling.  We are within striking distance in the key battleground states we need to win.” As promised, let‘s call in Nate Silver, founder of the poll-crunching presidential election projection Web site, FiveThirtyEight.com.

Good evening, Nate.

NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM:  Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That last quote from the McCain campaign, are they indeed within striking distance in key battleground states?

SILVER:  Well, in some states like Florida and Ohio, those are still tossups but they are not, you know, close enough in the right states.  You know, Obama still has a pretty clear path to 270 or more with the Kerry States, plus, either Colorado or Virginia, where he‘s polling, you know, five or six points ahead, comfortably outside the margin for error. And I don‘t think Pennsylvania is the easiest path for them necessarily.  You know, they haven‘t led a poll in Pennsylvania since April.  You know, even though Obama lost the primary there, he really got his ground game operation, you know, into top gear right there.  He had, you know, something like 80 field offices opened right now throughout the state.  So, they‘re not worried about Pennsylvania, I don‘t think.  And it‘s still polling, like you said, at about a 10-point margin.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, if it‘s not Pennsylvania, Nate, what other scenarios could get McCain to 270 and are any of them, you know, realistic?

SILVER:  Well, first of all, they have to get this national popular vote down, you know, by six or seven points here.  I don‘t know what they‘re going to do to accomplish that, but right now, the electoral map is kind of a secondary consideration; they need something across the board.  You know, but I think it‘s a little bit boring maybe for them but they have to just defend all the red states.  You can concede Iowa and New Mexico, which were the kind of Gore add-on states in 2002.

But when you concede Colorado and then you have to win a blue state to win the election, a state where Obama is ahead by 10 points, then, you know, you don‘t really have a lot of good alternatives.  I guess, they think that, well, if we do in Pennsylvania, we can lose both Virginia and Colorado. But, you know, the same is true, that‘s what applies to California, too, right?  If they win California, Obama would be in trouble.  But they‘re not going to win California and Pennsylvania; it might not be a lot more likely for them.

OLBERMANN:  And according to, as I suggested, a fairly conservative version of the NBC News electoral map, Obama is still six shy of 270 with the deck stacked as it is, what in there, what in play can Obama still afford to lose and still win?  I mean, obviously, there‘s a lot of margin there, but what are the surprises in there?  What are the things people would say, no, there‘s no way he could win by losing that, and yet it‘s true?

SILVER:  Well, I think, the two states they might be least concerned about are Ohio and Florida, which are the two states now where McCain may have gained a couple points in the most recent week of polling.  But Democrats feel like they‘ve seen the Florida-Ohio movie before in 2004.  It does not end well.  They don‘t need to see the sequel. And so, you know, I think they‘d rather kind of compete on virgin territory in Virginia and Colorado and North Carolina, where their early vote has been really strong, in Missouri where they had 100,000 some people over the weekend, even in Indiana where they‘re up today in one poll. So, they would, you know, they‘re not going to be worried so much if they don‘t have to fight, you know, kind of a ground skirmish in Ohio or Florida, as long as the other states where McCain is less well-organized, they‘re still polling, you know, in the lead for them.

OLBERMANN:  And, Nate, with the money advantage that Obama has, can he gamble in long shot states?  Howard Fineman mentioned North Dakota and Georgia and South Carolina and Arizona, can he go in there with some—even if there‘s not an expectation of winning, is it worth it to go there and make McCain spend what little money he has, compared to what we‘re speaking anyway, defensively?

SILVER:  I think, maybe, in North Dakota, because it‘s so cheap to buy television time there, or Montana.  They‘re actually still engaged in Montana.  Ron Paul is on the ballot there, they think he might eat up, you know, 4 percent of McCain‘s vote.  But, you know, Arizona or Georgia, it seems like they‘re kind of rubbing it in.  You don‘t want to have like a “Leon Lett moment” where you‘re about to score a touchdown and you kind of start celebrating too early.  But, you know, North Dakota and Montana, you know, why not?

OLBERMANN:  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, like me, with a huge and original sports background, making a Nate reference there—great thanks to you.  Thanks for your time tonight.

SILVER:  Yes.  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What about the beer party?  Where is the polling for the beer party‘s candidate for president?  I saw the chairman of the national beer party building here raising h-e-double-hockey-sticks over the imbalanced coverage, I have to tell you. And McCain in the Membrane: One of those New York reporters claimed one of those McCain warm-up acts, this North Carolina Congressman Robin Hayes had said, “There‘s a real America and liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish, and achieve and believe in God.”  He denied saying that outright, never said anything of the kind.  And then, the tape turned up.

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OLBERMANN:  Breaking news, this is not but it‘s breaking something.  Politico.com reporting at this hour that the Republican National Committee appears to have spent $150,000 on clothing and accessories for Governor Palin of Alaska and her family, including $75,000 in expenditures at Niemann Marcus and 49,000 more at Saks Fifth Avenue.  And so, in advance of the outcome the election, you can already hear the possible lament of the governor of Alaska, do I at least get to keep the clothes?   Membrane in a moment.  And was Joe the plumber a McCain plant?  First, on this date in 1926 was born one of the 20th century‘s most under-appreciated actors, the late Leonard Rossiter.  He starred as the comedic definition of human powerlessness in probably the best situation comedy in the English language, “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.”  The show and Rossit‘s genius summarized thusly: after his daily announcement that his train was 11 minutes late because of something like seasonal manpower shortages, clap-em junction, he dictates a letter to British Rail: Dr. Sir, every morning my train is 11 minutes late.  This is infuriating.  This morning, I took a later train.  This was also 11 minutes late.  This was also infuriating.  Why don‘t you retime all your trains to arrive 11 minutes late?  Then they‘ll all be on time.” 

Let‘s play Oddball.

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OLBERMANN:  We begin in Wilbur, Nebraska.  Wilbur, where beer party candidate for president Less Vilda (ph) is all about getting votes and getting sauced.  Two weeks out from election day, we‘re not sure if the Beer Party is actually on the ballot, but that hasn‘t stopped Mr. Vilda from touring the Corn Husker state in an Uncle Sam outfit, riding in a Model T.  In his first interview with liberal media elites, the beer man was pressed about his qualifications. 

LESS VILDA, BEER PARTY CANDIDATE:  I‘m pretty much just a spineless little weenie that the beer party campaign committee threw into the ring. 

OLBERMANN:  I think you‘ll go far, sir.  Wilbur noted that he has no vice presidential running mate and he has apparently not gotten 150,000 dollars in clothing expenses from his party.  But promised, if elected, his cabinet would include the St. Pauley Girl and Duff Man. 

To the battleground state of Ohio, where the elderly are having trouble playing nice.  Meet 89-year-old Edna Gestor (ph) of Blue Ash, who was so tired of the kid next door tossing their football into her yard that she decided to keep it.  The parents of the boy who tossed the ball grew tired of Miss Jestor keeping the ball, so they called the cops, who arrested Ms. Jestor.  She didn‘t go down easy. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I said, OK, make sure you handcuff me, because I might hurt somebody.  I might run away.  You don‘t know what I might do. 

OLBERMANN:  Ms. Jestor was charged with petty theft.  Her court date is next month.  She could get six months in the pokey.  That is if she doesn‘t make good on her promise to flee.  Of course, with a quintessential Blue Ash Ohio name like Edna Jester, somebody will notice her somewhere. 

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OLBERMANN:  A threat to the fabric of democracy was how John McCain described voter fraud.  Why is his campaign main lining directly back to registration fraud?   And tonight‘s comment, Governor Palin tries again to answer the question what does a vice president do and she gets it wrong.   But first, the most outrageous or untrue thing said by, on, or behalf of the Republican presidential nominee, McCain in the Membrane.  Number three, never ask the bypassed VP candidate about the chosen one.  “Is Sarah Palin ready to be president,” they put to Mitt Romney.  His quote, “well, that—that‘s something which I—I believe the American people will, uh—assess individually and say, uh, yes, she‘s got the kind of executive experience that you‘d hope to find from a person who has been a governor and a mayor.”  So all things considered, Governor Romney, you believe she has actually the same kind of readiness to be president that somebody who has that readiness to be president would already have?   Number two, Joe the plant.  Politico.com with a gem of a find.  With Senator McCain slowly riding poor Joe Wurzelbacher into the ground, the guy‘s latest humiliation at the hands of the candidate, pushing for small donor transparency from Obama.  McCain‘s campaign has had to reveal that one of the donors to the Republican campaign in the amount of 100 dollars was Joe Wurzelbacher.  The database does not include dates of the donation, but if Joe the plumber hadn‘t already donated to the campaign before he confronted Obama two weeks ago, before McCain mentioned him 21 times in the debate, before McCain pretended that he was some kind of neutral, typical, apolitical figure, that‘s some coincidence.   Number one, them reporters has those new fangled voice recording things.  On Saturday, North Carolina Republican Congressman Robin Hayes was part of the red meat warm-up act for Senator McCain.  Jason Horowitz of the “New York Observer” reported that Congressman Hayes accused Senator Obama of, quote, inciting class warfare and added, quote, “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.”   Congressman Hayes absolutely denied saying any such thing.  Then it turned out that reporter Lisa Miller of WFAE radio in Charlotte had recorded Congressman Hayes‘ remarks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBIN HAYES ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Sarah Palin, she‘s a lady that can get her done.  She‘s been in Alaska.  She got her did.  Folks, there‘s a real American.  Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.  That‘s a great comparison.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So, Congressman Hayes, how does it feel to be revealed to the nation as a total, unequivocal, indisputable bald-faced liar? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was less than one week ago when Senator John McCain, on national television, warned the nation about a grave threat to democracy, maybe even, quote, destroying the fabric of democracy.  So, in our third story tonight, why have McCain and Sarah Palin stopped sounding the trumpet on this grave threat over the last few days?  No, he didn‘t just forget.   McCain‘s charge was that the national grassroots group ACORN was committing widespread voter fraud, disenfranchising voters by registering fictional voters and that Barack Obama had helped fund ACORN.  As we have explained previously, some part-time workers have been accused of ripping off ACORN because fictional voters do not vote.  But there may be other reasons why McCain has dropped the voting fraud rhetoric, namely new reports that McCain himself has funded not one but two Republican owners of voter registration firms, both of whom are embroiled in very real charges or very real and concerted efforts to disenfranchise real voters.  First, meet Mark Jacoby.  Yes, that would be a mug shot.  He was arrested Saturday night in California on two counts of perjury and two counts of vote fraud.  The charge that Jacoby registered a fake address in California so he would be legally eligible to register other voters in the state.  Mr. Jacoby‘s And YPM was no stranger to vote fraud claims, even before Jacoby‘s arrest.  Prosecutors in LA, Ventura and San Bernardino Counties are investigating Jacoby‘s company after dozens of voters accused YPM of slamming, which is registering them as Republicans without their knowledge.  “Los Angeles Times” finding YPM registered more than 80 percent of its new Republicans either without their knowledge or by misleading them. The company is YPM, Young Political Majors.   So why does or what does YPM have to do with McCain?  YPM makes money by registering not voters but Republican voters specifically, working not only as a sub-contractor for the California Republican Party, but also, according to the “Ventura County Star,” for the voter registration bounties offered by another man, Steve Poisener (ph), a multi-millionaire who offered YPM five dollars for every new Republican registered, like a bounty.  He also happens to be the California co-chairman of the McCain campaign.  McCain cannot claim ignorance of YPM‘s track record.  Jacoby is based in Arizona, where a number of ballot initiatives may not be on the ballot this year after YPM gathered signatures for them, and some of those signatures failed to pass muster with local election officials.  YPM was publicly accused of vote slamming before, in 2004, in both Florida and Massachusetts.  Then there is Nathan Sprewell, former head of the Arizona Republican party.  He, too, now in the vote registering business and a serial denier of whistle blowers, who not only accuse him of slamming voters into the Republican party, but also claim he has torn up Democratic registrations in Oregon, Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  Real registrations of real voters, real Americans who thought they were registered, and may very well have been denied to vote in the real elections of 2004.  McCain‘s connection?  This year, “Huffington Post” reports a joint committee including the GOP and the McCain campaign paid 175,000 dollars for, quote, registering voters to the Lincoln Strategy Group, the voter registration company headed by Nathan Sprewell.  Why isn‘t anybody investigating Nathan Sprewell?  Since the days of John Ashcroft, Democratic members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to investigate real voter suppression.  Congressman John Conyers is specifically including Sprewell in one of his follow-ups last year.  The stonewalling in stark contrast to the Justice response time on Republican claims about voter fraud, last week leaking word of the ACORN investigation the day after McCain pointed his finger at ACORN.  Previously pressuring prosecutors to pursue Republican claims about voter registration fraud, firing some of the prosecutors who refused to do so, including most famously New Mexico‘s David Iglesias, who later revealed Justice Department knew those claims in 2004 were bogus.  “Talking Points Memo” reporting that some of the same Republican operatives pushing voter fraud claims this year were at the heart of showing bogus claims.  Quoting one party operatives 2004 email, “I believe the voter ID issue should be used at all levels.  You are not going to find a better wedge issue.” Then there‘s Governor Palin.  Asked a question about a fundamental of the constitution posed by a third grader and she gets it wrong.  Was it deliberate?  Tonight, our first campaign comment.   And meltdown for Rupert Murdoch‘s “New York Post.”  It has to retract something it printed about Michelle Obama.  Worst persons ahead.  First, the biggest headline breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed.   Gitmo-gate; the Supreme Court basically warned him he‘d better do it.  A series of advisers from State and the Pentagon told him he had better do it.  President Bush himself said he would do it, close Guantanamo Bay.  He lied.  First the “New York Times” reported Bush, quote, never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials.  Then came the news this afternoon officially from Defense Secretary Gates that Gitmo will not be closed before the president sinks into oblivion—I‘m sorry, leaves office in January.  “This is an issue that will have to be addressed early on,” Gates says, “by a new administration.”   And the stink of America‘s Gulag will be passed on to its 44th president, because Mr. Bush does not even have the courage to clean his own diaper. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If we do one every night, it can‘t be a special comment.  So tonight a campaign comment; Governor Palin plays “Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?”  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.  The chairman of the President‘s Council of Economic Advisers may have said, quote, we‘re seeing what I think anyone would characterize as a recession in certain parts of the country.  That, says Miss Perino, means it‘s not a recession.  “I think what he was saying is that there are parts of our country that are hurting right now.  Economic cycles always have, someone is on the up, and someone is on the down.  Even when you have a country that experienced, as we did, 52 consecutive months of job growth, you end up with some regions of the country not doing as well as others.”  It‘s like how everybody in history is either breathing or not breathing right now.  Just because you‘re not breathing right now doesn‘t mean you‘re dead.  It just means you‘re not breathing right now.   The silver to Sean Hannity of Fixed News.  “Do you think it‘s fair,” said the manatee, “if I brought up that I started asking you questions tonight, Barack Obama has admitted using cocaine?  Do you think we should bring up issues of where did you buy your cocaine?  Did you ever sell it?  Would that be fair?  So I‘m not bringing it up.” Did you see what he did there?  He brought it up, but because he said he wasn‘t bringing it up, it doesn‘t count.  Let me see if I can do this.  Watch how this goes.  Do you think if I brought up Sean Hannity‘s past connections to Hal from North Bergen (ph), who advocated assassination of a presidential candidate, would that be fair?  So I‘m not bringing it up.   And our winner, Rupert Murdoch, owner of the “New York Post” and its Page Six, living up to its usual standards.  Murdoch‘s gossip page reported that while her husband was a meeting at New York‘s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Michelle Obama, quote, called room service and, arr, ordered lobster, hors d‘oeuvres, two whole steamed lobsters, Iranian caviar and champagne.”  Yes, it turns out Mrs. Obama did not even have a room at the hotel.  The paper retracted the story today, placing the blame squarely on its source.  And its own policy of printing anything anybody tells its overly paid vermin, then making sure it does not check with actual grownups or real news organizations, especially if those individuals would contradict the lie which Mr. Murdoch or his mignons have their minds set on publishing.”  No, it‘s a bad source, not a bad newspaper.  Rupert Murdoch, today‘s worst person, arr, in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I suggested last night that until the election, we could very easily wind up doing a Special Comment here every show.  It was in turn suggested to me that while events may warrant them, this would certainly render that word “Special,” for two weeks anyway, inoperative. Good point.  So tonight, as promised, a Campaign Comment on the continuing adventures of Governor Sarah Palin in the big leagues or “Are You Smarter Than A Third Grader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Finally governor, we‘ve been trying to engage some local grade schoolers for the last few elections.  We do a feature called ‘questions from the third grade.‘  Brandon Garcia wants to know, “What does the Vice President do?”

PALIN:  That‘s something that Piper would ask me, as a second grader, also.  That‘s a great question, Brandon, and a Vice President has a really great job, because not only are they there to support the President agenda, they‘re like a team member, the teammate to that President.  But also, they‘re in charge of the United States Senate.  So if they want to, they can really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.  And it‘s a great job and I look forward to having that job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oh!  I‘m so sorry, Governor.  The correct answer can be found in the Constitution of the United States.

Article One, Section Three: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.”  So, the Vice President is not in charge of Jack, Governor, let alone in charge of the Senate.  And you are not smarter than a third-grader. On the one level, it is hilarious and entertaining that the Republican nominee cannot correctly answer the question “What Does The Vice President Do?”  I mean, that first reference to the Vice President comes not 600 words into the Constitution.  And the other meaty references are pretty simple to remember.  Article Two, Section One: “In case of the removal of the President from Office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.” There‘s also the 20th Amendment: you‘re done on January 20th, and the 25th Amendment: if the President‘s incapacitated, you‘re the acting Pres.   It‘s so simple, really, one could memorize those four points pretty easily.  It wouldn‘t take long. Brandon Garcia could do it in the third grade, probably.  So, on the one level, this is pretty damn silly.  The Sarah Palin material, as Tina Fey might be able to say, just writes itself.  As it does, it makes stupid mistakes, but it still writes itself. Except there are two very serious aspects to this.  Governor, do you really think you‘d be “in charge of the United States Senate?”  Do you really want to suggest that you think if you “want to”  you “can really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes?” We‘re just wrapping up eight years of a Vice President who had no clue what his damned job consisted of, couldn‘t even correctly find his governmental branch with both hands.  The last thing anybody in this country wants, Republican or Democrat, is another buccaneer in there, making it up as they go along, and, in your case, presuming you can stride in to the Senate and change policy if you want to!  Besides which, Governor, exactly how on Earth could you not have the correct answer by now?  It‘s not like this is the first time you‘ve been asked about the Vice Presidency and gone all Miss South Carolina on us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, CNBC ANCHOR: Is this police-flap state investigation going to disqualify you from becoming Senator McCain‘s vice presidential candidate? 

PALIN:  As for that VP talk all the time, I‘ll tell you, I still can‘t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?  I‘m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration.  We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we‘re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That was on the 31st of July on cNBC, Governor.  Even giving you the biggest benefit of the doubt, that your later claim that that was just a lame attempt at a joke, you couldn‘t come up with the correct job description on the second try?  What am I saying?  The third try!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN IFILL, PBS ANCHOR:  Governor, you said in July that someone would have to explain to you exactly what it is the vice president does every day. 

PALIN: In my comment there, it was a lame attempt at a joke and yours was a lame attempt at a joke, too, I guess, because nobody got it.  Of course we know what a vice president does.  And that‘s not only to preside over the Senate, and will take that position very seriously also.  I‘m thankful that the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president, also, if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate, and making sure that we are supportive of the president‘s policies, and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No!  No, Governor, the Constitution does not allow “a bit more authority” “if the vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate.”  You would not be some kind of Senatorial hall monitor.  You would not be a Veto, or a Censor, or a Balance. And even if you think you would somehow obtain those powers from somebody, don‘t pretend the Constitution will give them to you!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Thankfully, our founders were wise enough to say, we have this position and it‘s Constitutional.  Vice presidents will be able to be—not only the position flexible, but it‘s going to be sort of those other duties as assigned by the president.  It‘s a simple thing.  I don‘t think that was a gaff at all in stating what the truth is.  And that is we‘ve got flexibility in the position.  The president will be directing in a lot of respects what the vice president does.  The vice president, of course, is not a member—or a part of the Legislative Branch, except to oversee the Senate.  That alone provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and authority if that vice president so chose to use it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You‘re wrong!  The word flexibility appears nowhere near the Constitution.  You‘ve memorized everything else, Governor.  You couldn‘t memorize the job description in three months?  Four tries?  I mean, I‘d like my President and Vice President to have memorized the Constitution, and to abide by it.  Or at least, I‘d like them to know more about the Constitution than I do, or than Brandon Garcia does in the third grade.  Maybe I‘m raising the bar too high, but at least wait until you achieve office before trying to seize power extra-Constitutionally! “The founders,” governor, were not George Bush and Dick Cheney!  Give me something to work with here, Governor, or go home!  And please don‘t forget to take your lovely parting gifts with you, including the home version of the vice president game. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,001st day since the declaration of independence—declaration of mission accomplished—might as well have been the declaration of independence in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

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