Today on the Presidential Campaign Trail, Oct. 7th


Obama hopes to cement gains in debate; McCain tries to make up ground amid economic crisis ... Supreme Court turns down Barr's request for help in Louisiana ... Palin's promise of transparency in Alaska wanes on touchy topics like e-mail and polar bears ... McCain's tough stance against pork barrel spending sometimes compromised by tough choices ... Elections officials find, fix glitch that could have affected NM presidential race tally

Trailing Obama, McCain hopes to gain in debate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Leading in the polls, Barack Obama hopes to cement his standing while John McCain is trying to turn his fortunes around in their second presidential debate - with economic turmoil bordering on chaos suddenly serving as the backdrop.

Exchanges between the candidates have grown ever more acerbic with just four weeks to go until Election Day. Tuesday night's debate gives Republican McCain one of his last chances before a nationwide TV audience to halt the Democrat's momentum and convince voters he is capable of addressing the crisis in the credit, housing and stock markets.

The town hall format at Belmont University will allow voters to ask questions while NBC's Tom Brokaw moderates. The candidates' third and last debate will be Oct. 15 at Hofstra University in Hempsted, N.Y.

If Tuesday night's confrontation echoes the most recent campaign exchanges, it could be far more personal and pointed than the two men's Sept. 26 encounter.

High court turns down Barr bid for help in Louisiana

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to intervene in a dispute between Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr and Louisiana over Barr's bid to get on the state's ballot.

The justices denied Barr's request for help in a one-sentence order.

The Libertarians blamed Hurricane Gustav for making them miss the deadline to be included on Louisiana ballot.

Barr is on the ballot in 43 states, though court challenges could change that.

Palin pledges of Alaska sunshine marred by secrets

Sarah Palin's promise for a new era of government openness as the reform governor of Alaska started to crack even before Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign built a wall of protectiveness around her.

Palin was elected nearly two years ago with splashy moves like publishing the state spending checkbook online. She kept a campaign pledge to allow the public to view online communications between state officials and potential bidders on a major gas pipeline, a contrast to her predecessor.

But her administration has claimed broad exceptions to Alaska's freedom of information rules to keep government e-mails secret, and it's shown reluctance to disclose documents about sensitive topics, ranging from polar bears to policy issues. And her state's online checkbook is limited in its detail.

Disclosures about private e-mail accounts used by Palin and her top aides have raised questions about whether they were trying to evade disclosure under the state's public records law. Her aides have denied this.

McCain's stance against pork a balancing act

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - It's one of Republican John McCain's most surefire applause lines, a vow to veto pork barrel spending like the road and bridge projects that lawmakers hold dear.

"You will know their names. I will make them famous," he tells his audiences.

Yet three times in recent weeks, the Arizona senator supported legislation allowing thousands of these and other projects to go forward at a cost of billions of dollars. It's an awkward acknowledgment of the difficulty McCain - or any chief executive - faces in stamping out lawmakers' pet projects.

Routine spending bills often combine dozens if not hundreds of such projects, and lawmakers who are eager to protect their own are loath to vote against someone else's.

Congressional rules often prohibit votes on individual issues.

And leaders in both parties and both houses of Congress frequently combine several measures into one, calculating that the overall package will be politically difficult if not impossible to oppose.

Officials find, fix glitch in NM voting machine

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A glitch that would have kept votes from being counted in the presidential and other top-of-the-ticket races was discovered during a pre-election check of a voting machine in Santa Fe County, officials said.

The error was found Friday and corrected the same day, said Denise Lamb, who heads the elections bureau in the county clerk's office.

The problem in the coding of the machine's memory card would have prevented the tabulating machine from counting the votes in the presidential, U.S. Senate and 3rd District congressional races when Democrats or Republicans marked their ballots indicating they wanted to vote a straight ticket.

In New Mexico - a state where the presidential contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain could be close - voters use paper ballots that are inserted into optical scanning machines for counting.


Democrat Barack Obama has a 9-percentage-point lead over Republican John McCain - 51 percent to 42 percent - among registered voters, according to the latest Gallup Poll daily tracking update.


Barack Obama participates in a presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

Joe Biden has no public schedule.


John McCain participates in the presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.

Sarah Palin campaigns in Florida and North Carolina.


"What we've learned in doing these things is that most of these people are terrified. Most of them have never had a microphone in their hand." - Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, speaking about Tuesday's debate audience, who will hear beforehand what they can expect from moderator Tom Brokaw.


Republican George Bush won Tennessee in the 2004 presidential election by 347,898 votes; he garnered 1,384,375 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 1,036,477.

Compiled by Ann Sanner.