ALISON STEWART, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Alison Stewart. This week, Senators Obama and McCain spent the last few days of the campaign mining for votes in key battleground states. Early voting got off to a strong start as people cast ballots in record numbers. And the first drop in consumer spending in nearly two decades signals more trouble ahead for the economy. Senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hi , Mr. Schorr. Nice to meet you.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Alison. Welcome aboard.
STEWART: Thank you so much. We're in the final days of the campaign. Both candidates have been making their closing arguments and trying to woo still undecided voters. What did you notice?
SCHORR: Well, what strikes me is the way in which Senator McCain is trying very hard to act out the role of underdog, but Senator Obama is not trying to act like the frontrunner. It's a very delicate little play they have to play as they get into these closing days. The other thing you notice is what everybody noticed from simply reading the polls, that by margins of anything from three percent to 11 percent, that almost everywhere Senator Obama is ahead.
STEWART: Who are these people who are undecided voters at this point?
SCHORR: The undecided voters may be really undecided, but I suspect that some of them are people who believe in the secret ballot and don't want to have to answer questions about it, so when asked whom they are voting for, they'll say, I haven't made up my mind.
STEWART: The 30 states that allow early voting are reporting record turnout. So what else do we know so far?
SCHORR: Well, the interesting thing is that in certain states that they will tell you the breakdown of the voting, and in several of them registered Democrats have far exceeded the number of registered Republicans voted so far.
STEWART: You couldn't miss it this week. Senator Obama's half-hour infomercial ran on seven stations Wednesday night, and at least in terms of audience numbers, it was fairly successful.
SCHORR: In terms of numbers, it was very, very successful. Something like 33 million people on the three networks and four other stations which carried the infomercial, in every case where they had to preempt a show that would have been on at that time, the rating was better than that show had had last week. So you sort of wonder whether maybe they should pay Obama for increasing their ratings.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: David Axelrod is taking notes somewhere when you said that. One of the more interesting - is drama too hyperbole to say, about Sarah Palin, what's been going on with her this week and the McCain campaign?
SCHORR: Yeah. It's very interesting because she was really taken as a breath of fresh air when she was first introduced to the convention by Senator McCain. And she went out, and she really, apparently, for a while, did very well. She was really chosen because she appealed particularly to the very, very conservative wing of the Republican Party. But in recent weeks, it seems to have weared out its welcome, and now you will find commentators saying that she's turned out to be a net liability.
However, let me add to that, she may be a net liability and she may not win the election, but she certainly has established herself as a force in the Republican Party and I'm sure will be heard from again.
STEWART: If you aren't talking about the presidential election with your friends, you are likely speaking about the economy.
STEWART: And it looks like some more bad news. Consumer spending dropped by three-tenths of a percent in September...
STEWART: What do you make of it?
SCHORR: Well, it dropped by a larger amount than any time in recent years. It dropped more than it was expected it would drop. It dropped in spite of the fact that payroll for the same period went up, and you have to wonder whether we're drifting into an ever-deeper recession. Now I must say that nobody objects to using the word recession anymore.
STEWART: Before I let you go, I do want to follow up on something that you and Scott spoke about last week, the ongoing negotiations over status-of-forces agreement in Iraq, which was in trouble. Is it looking any better this week?
SCHORR: It's looking a little worse this week. The Maliki government is making clear that they cannot accept the draft that was arrived at after five or six months of negotiation. And there are very key things involved there that established Iraqi sovereignty. The Iraqis said if soldiers commit crimes in the streets, we take them. We don't give them to the Americans. And it's very difficult to give the Iraqis what they want, and the result is that as of now, there is every likelihood, every possibility that we'll reach December 31st, which is when the UN mandate expires, without having yet something to replace it.
STEWART: Senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Thanks so much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.
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