This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM: Well, this election may seem like a grueling marathon for those in it and those who watched it at times, but how does it feel for the candidates now that they are really approaching the finish line, just 11 days to go? Yesterday, I spoke with "Time" magazine's Joe Klein about his interview with Barack Obama, and today is John McCain's turn. Down in the polls but my next guest says McCain remains optimistic and confident.

Joseph Curl is senior White House correspondent for the "Washington Times." He interviewed McCain' on Wednesday.

Joe, good to see you. Welcome.

JOSEPH CURL, WASHINGTON TIMES: Good to see you. It doesn't look like Major's job is too grueling right now, huh? Hawaii.

Video: Watch Martha MacCallum's interview with Joseph Curl

MACCALLUM: No. I know that there's a bride and groom in the background and there (INAUDIBLE) I wonder if he's invited to the reception. We'll have to ask him.

Joe, talk to me a little bit about John McCain's mood, because there are other reports out there that sound kind of different from the one that you experienced -- saying that, you know, the campaign is tense. You didn't sense that on the plane on Wednesday.

CURL: I really didn't. I mean, you know, there is a way to sort of see a -- you know, false bravado of someone. McCain really seemed to be, you know, quite comfortable, quite relaxed. You know, I put in my article that he was sitting there, sort of chopping up a peanut butter sandwich, and talking about his position in the campaign.

And there is a different mood as we get to these last 11 days. A lot of his staffers are seeing the end of this, you know, this two-year road. But McCain, he really seems to think that this is all coming around. He talks about being down and how he likes to be, you know, the underdog, and how he always he comes back, and he has come back, you know, several times.

So, he really does not think this thing is over.

MACCALLUM: Joe, what does he point to, though, that he believes is going to turn it around?

CURL: Well, one of the things is -- you know, if you start looking at these polls, it's almost indecipherable. You can find anything from, you know, this state is a one-point McCain lead, this state is a 13-point Obama lead. These guys do their own polling and they have pollsters that are really looking for -- these guys are the best in the business.

There's pollsters out there, but then there's campaign pollsters. They really know what's happening. We started wondering -- why is John McCain still in Pennsylvania.

MACCALLUM: Right.

CURL: The polls say he's down 13, his polls say he is down by three, four, five at the most. So, he sees something completely different. And that's one of the reasons that he is staying in a lot of these states and thinks he can still win them.

MACCALLUM: He also talked about President Bush. And we have a quote you're your piece that I want to bring up here.

McCain slams Bush on what he sees he would have done differently as president, saying, quote, "Spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of the government, larger than any time since the Great Society, laying a $10 trillion debt on the future generations of America, owing $500 billion to China, obviously, failure to both enforce and modernize the financial regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously. And those are just some of them," he says.

I guess there's more.

(LAUGHTER)

CURL: Well, he went.

MACCALLUM: I know you said there was a chuckle in the room when he got to the end of that list, right?

CURL: Yes, there were. And he went on to list, you know, in the rest of the interview, three, four, five more things. I mean, it was something that he, really, clearly wanted to get out there. And it is something that, you know, he has been thinking about for quite some time.

As a lot of people have said, you've got to break some distance between you and President Bush or you're just not going to be in play on this thing. And it was something that, you know, drew a laugh from his campaign staff because when he got to the end of the list, you know, they sort of chuckled like, you know, that was an awful big list.

So, it's something that he sees as something that can move him in a direction to be more in play for independents, and even some Republicans who didn't much like George Bush.

MACCALLUM: All right. We will see.

Joe Curl, thank you very much. Good to talk to you.

CURL: Thanks. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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