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THE SITUATION ROOM
McCain's Seven-State Spring; Obama: 'One Day Away' From Change; Campaigns Knocking at Your Door
Aired November 3, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama says the nation is only one day away from change. The Democrats walking a fine line right now between confidence and overconfidence on this election eve.
We're standing by to go to Obama and Joe Biden rallies live. Stand by for that.
Also, John McCain's seven-state sprint. The Republicans are covering lots of ground in the closing hours of this campaign and calculating ways they could pull off a win. We're standing by to go live to McCain and Sarah Palin events, live as well.
And in the battleground states right now, the early voting phenomenon is changing a lot. A revolution, in fact, in the 11th hour ground war.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They're running on fumes and adrenaline right now. The presidential candidates scrambling for last-minute votes and a second win. On this election eve, the finish line is in sight, and nothing less than the direction of America's future now at stake.
John McCain is dashing across seven states, beginning in crucial Florida and including Pennsylvania, now considered a must win for Senator McCain. He ends the day in his home state of Arizona.
Sarah Palin swings through Ohio and four other states. She closes with two stops in Nevada, a red state where Barack Obama has the advantage in the polls.
Obama has a less intense schedule, with stops in Florida, North Carolina, and finally Virginia, a red state he's hoping to turn blue. We'll wind up back home in Chicago.
Joe Biden zips through three battleground states: Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
We're standing by to hear from all four candidates live. They'll all be coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Here's a taste of their closing arguments earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In these last 36 hours, we can't afford to slow down or sit back or let up, not one minute, not one hour, not one second, not any time in the next 36 hours. Not now. Not when there's so much at stake. We've got to win Florida and win this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just one day left until we take America in a new direction. We need to win in Pennsylvania. And tomorrow with your help, we will win!
Volunteer, knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls! I need your vote!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's begin with our own Ed Henry on McCain's election eve marathon -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John McCain woke up to some good news here in Florida. He's down just two points in CNN's latest Poll of Polls. But even his aides admit that cobbling together the 270 electoral votes to win will be an uphill battle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our next president of the United States, Senator John McCain.
HENRY (voice-over): John McCain kicking off a grueling final full day on the trail in Florida, where he feels a surge.
MCCAIN: You know, my friends, the pundits may not know it and the Democrats may not know it, but the Mac is back.
HENRY: But McCain drew only about 1,000 people in Tampa, near the same spot where President Bush got 15,000 during his 2004 re-election.
McCain and running mate Sarah Palin on Monday are hitting a total of at least a dozen contested states in a mad dash across the country. The problem is the ticket is spending most of its time defending states carried by President Bush in 2004 such as Virginia, where Democrats are bullish about winning for the first time in 44 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm feeling more and more confident that we will turn Virginia blue.
HENRY: So, the most critical piece of McCain's final strategy is to offset potential losses in Republican states by flipping a monster Democratic battleground, Pennsylvania, and its 21 electoral votes. That's why he campaigned there Saturday and Sunday, where he's charging Barack Obama's tax policies will make the economy worse.
MCCAIN: Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth. I'm running to create more wealth.
HENRY: John McCain will end this long day in Arizona at a midnight rally, originally supposed to be a homecoming, but it could now be a get-out-the-vote rally. Polls have even tightened in his home state. And on Election Day, is going to hit two more battlegrounds, Colorado and New Mexico, a sign that McCain believes this race will go down to the wire -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, thank you.
While Barack Obama is trying to close the deal with voters across the country, preparations under way already in Chicago for his big election night gathering in Grant Park.
Jessica Yellin's already there.
Jessica, talk a little bit about Obama's strategy in these final 24 hours.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on his last full day of campaigning, Barack Obama is showing confidence in his campaign strategy that they can win by expanding the map. As you say, he is in red states, places that voted for Bush in 2004, sending Michelle and Joe Biden also to places where Democrats have not won for some time. Their message is twofold.
One, to undecided voters they are promising that under an Obama presidency, he would do more to help the middle class fix their economic conditions. The second message is the sound you played leading into the show, Barack Obama urging supporters not to get complacent, not to feel comfortable with the polls. Everyone, he's saying, has to get out and vote.
Now, Barack Obama, after making this full tour, is going to come back to Chicago tonight, and folks here are already making heavy preparations for what the mayor here has predicted could be as many as one million people turning out to see Barack Obama's event tomorrow night. Win or lose, they think it will be huge. So all police and firefighters are on duty tomorrow. It is a security nightmare potentially.
Now, I can finally tell you, Wolf, that Barack Obama is going to be playing basketball tomorrow, something did he during every voting day during the primaries. And he'll also have an informal stop in Indiana, in the Indianapolis area. Again, a red state he's hoping to turn blue this year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks.
Speaking of Indianapolis, Senator McCain is speaking there right now. I want to listen in briefly, hear what he's saying right now.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MCCAIN: Clean coal technology, my friends.
You know, we found out yesterday what Senator Obama really thinks about coal. In a new video talking about his policies on coal, he told, guess what, a San Francisco newspaper --I quote -- I quote -- here's a quote from Senator Obama. "If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them."
I'm not making that up. I'm not making that up.
We all know we need to control emissions, but I'm not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt, my friends. There's too many millions -- thousands and thousands of jobs.
I'm not going to let coal workers lose their jobs, and I'm not going to let energy prices increase even more for our families. When I'm elected president, we'll lower the cost of energy and create millions of jobs.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go from Indianapolis to Dubuque, Iowa. Governor Sarah Palin, she's speaking right now. Let's listen briefly and hear what she's saying.
Unfortunately, we don't have that. But we'll get to Dubuque, Iowa, shortly.
By the way, if you think the candidates are keeping up a frantic pace in these, the closing hours of this campaign, wait until you see what's in store right here on CNN. Our live election coverage continues all night tonight and all day tomorrow, and tomorrow -- and not only tomorrow, but tomorrow night and Wednesday, until the votes are all counted.
I think we've cleared up that technical problem for Dubuque, Iowa. Let's listen in to Governor Palin.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa, do we have your commitment and can we count on you tomorrow?
Now, John and I, too, we're going to set this country firmly on a plan towards energy independence, and we're going to develop new energy sources, and we're going to tap safely into what we've already got. You know, we've got billions of barrels of oil. We have hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean natural gas. And we have coal, and we're going to develop clean coal technology.
Here again, I do not think that our opponents understand this intrinsic link that we have between national security and economic prosperity and energy. It's like they've been missing this link all along and they don't want to talk a whole lot about energy independence. Well, John McCain and I understand, this is a national security issue, and an economic issue also.
Presently -- now, we've had 30 years of failed energy policy in the U.S. We're going to end that failed policy, implement a policy that will allow the energy security we need.
Presently, we're circulating hundreds of billions of your U.S. dollars every year into foreign countries asking them to ramp up production for us. We've sent our energy secretary, Bodman, over to the Saudis. We've sent our own president over to the Saudis asking them to ramp up production so we can purchase from them. Some of these hundreds of billions of dollars end up in the hands of volatile foreign regimes that do not like America, and they use energy as a weapon.
BLITZER: All right. She's getting back into her stump speech on this, the final day of campaigning. We'll check back with her, check back with Senator McCain.
We're also standing by to hear from Senators Biden and Obama as well. They're all getting ready for rallies out there over the next couple of hours or some.
In the meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, what are your plans for Wednesday? Not tomorrow, Wednesday. A 12-step program, maybe a little one-on-one counseling?
You know you're probably going to need some help. We all will. There won't be any more election to fixate on.
But what a ride it's been, huh? Historic, interesting.
Historic, because of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And just when it began to get a little boring, Sarah Palin rode out of Alaska, energized the whole thing all over again. Kind of gave it a big B12 shot right in the whatchamacallit.
Interesting, because we have ourselves here quite a mess. The economy, the wars, blah, blah, blah. You know it all by now. And those problems awakened the American electorate like never before.
But Wednesday, the party's over. Except it's not really over. For whoever leads us, it's just beginning. And my guess is that we will all at some point be called upon to become part of the solution.
But what are we going to do in the meantime?
I know for a fact that Wolf's going to need help with this.
Here's the question. How are you going to deal with election withdrawal?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There'll be a new president of the United States, a president-elect. It will be exciting, right?
CAFFERTY: We'll see.
BLITZER: We'll deal with that.
CAFFERTY: Yes. I'm tired of this now. I'm ready for it to be over.
BLITZER: I'm not yet.
All right, Jack. Thank you.
There's been a radical transformation in the end game of the presidential campaign. The reason? Unprecedented early voting.
We're going to take you inside the ground war in one critical battleground.
Plus, bring a chair and snack. The long wait out there to cast ballots in Ohio, what it could mean tomorrow.
And they're some of Pennsylvania's biggest political stars, but they're working small crowds in tiny towns in these closing hours of the campaign.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Beware the next time there's a knock at your door. If you live in a key battleground state, it could be supporters for either Barack Obama or John McCain. With only a few hours left before Election Day, campaign workers hope to leave no doorknobs unturned.
Colorado certainly one of those states they're canvassing where polls show Barack Obama leading slightly.
Our battleground reporter in Colorado is Dan Simon. He's in Denver.
Dan, these supporters, they're out there working pretty hard right now, aren't they?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, indeed they are, Wolf. And we should point out that about half of Colorado voters have already cast their ballots. That means targeting those who have yet to vote. And it takes on a whole new sense of urgency and purpose.
Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wanted to know if you have voted yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not yet.
SIMON (voice-over): The foot soldiers of the campaigns. A few last- minute instructions...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they say, "I'm going to vote for McCain," "Have a very nice afternoon," and off you go.
SIMON: ... both sides know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. We're with the McCain campaign.
SIMON: ... it's go time.
TOM KISE, MCCAN CAMPAIGN: They're either going to be blistering their toes or blistering their fingers reaching out to every last potential voter here in the state of Colorado.
SIMON: But their path through these Denver neighborhoods is far from random. Before they even approach the doors they know who has already voted.
SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: The information ultimately comes from the county clerks throughout the state of Colorado.
SIMON: Senator Ken Salazar has become one of the Obama campaign's most important advisers in Colorado. He's a Democrat and figured out how to win in a traditionally red state. He says the Obama campaign has made effective use of something he learned along ago -- by using information provided by the counties to determine whose votes may still be up for grabs.
SALAZAR: We are tracking who is voting on a daily basis so that we can go out after those voters who have not yet voted.
SIMON: Obama volunteers are armed with those names. If there's been prior contact, the name also comes with a number, 1 through 5. A 1 means they're committed to Obama. A 5 means they're pro-McCain. A 3? Well, they're in the middle.
The McCain campaign has also made use of similar voter intelligence which sometimes dates back for years. They know how long someone has been registered and how often they vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sort of use that as a way to gauge those voters as how you're going to reach out to them.
SIMON: As for those ho have already voted, the early data suggests an advantage for Obama. That's because more Democrats have voted early than Republicans.
SIMON: Wolf, it is a beautiful day here in Denver, but as you may have seen, the wind wreaking havoc with some of our equipment here.
We should point out that the polls here show Obama leading by about six points, and while this has been a reliably red state, it's worth noting that the Democrats have done well in state races here. There's a Democratic governor, Bill Ritter. The Democrats also control both state houses. And, of course, in the United States Senate, you have Ken Salazar, also a Democrat.
So, while they haven't fared so well in presidential elections, they've done well here locally.
Back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Dan. Thanks very much.
Dan's working the story in Colorado.
In Ohio, that is certainly a key state as well to both of these presidential candidates. Obama hoping to steal it from the Republican column, while McCain knows no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. So both campaigns right now urging supporters to vote, even if it means standing in very, very long lines.
Our own battleground reporter in Ohio is Mary Snow. She's in Columbus.
Mary, you're seeing huge lines out there, aren't you?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf. And you know, when we got here this morning, there were people who were camped out for three hours before the polling station opened. Those long lines have continued throughout the day. But, you know, talking to people, you certainly get a sense more of enthusiasm rather than frustration.
SNOW (voice-over): Almost everyone we spoke with said they've never waited this long for anything in their lives. By mid-afternoon, most people were in line in Columbus for at least three hours before casting a ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was worth it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's my first time voting and hopefully it does make a difference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frustrated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Don't understand why they don't open up more booths in more areas, because they've got all these government buildings and they're not utilizing them.
SNOW: But while some expressed frustration, there were no reports of tensions. We caught up with one woman who took a break from the line and found volunteers encouraging.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of people volunteering and letting us know, you know, what's going on, and not to get discouraged. I guess we're right at the top part of the line where you think you're going to vote, but you see there's still a long way to go. They're just like, stick with it, don't leave. You know. SNOW: Some were downright happy to see the turnout.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great. It's wonderful. And this is the way it should be every year, but it hasn't been. This is the first time I've sever seen so many people interested in an election.
SNOW: Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat supporting Barack Obama, called the turnout inspiring. With Ohio being closely watched, he acknowledged the possibility of legal challenges on Election Day.
GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: We should take time to do it right. And if that means that the vote count will be delayed for a period of time in order to do it correctly and accurately, then that's what we ought to do.
SNOW: Bottom line, Wolf, brace for a very long night potentially here in Ohio before we get official results -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ohio, that's a key, key state. And the McCain people know that without Ohio, they're not going to win the White House.
All right, Mary. Thank you.
With only a few hours to go before Election Day, where do things stand right now? You're going to see who's up, who's behind in our new battleground Poll of Polls.
And if you're thinking of buying a new car, now may be a good time. Auto sales have dropped to possible historic levels. You're going to find out which makers are hit the hardest.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now, an intriguing thought. Could the presidential election end in a tie? It's a nightmare scenario for both campaigns, but it's certainly possible.
We're going to tell you exactly how things would have to break for Barack Obama and John McCain to each end up with exactly 269 electoral votes, and what would happen next. Stand by for that.
Also, closing time. Barack Obama is ahead in the polls, but he's had trouble landing the knockout punch before. We're going to tell you what he's asking supporters to do to help him finish the deal.
And the "Saturday Night Live" effect. John McCain is the latest candidate to take valuable time off the campaign trail to make a guest appearance on the show. Could it really impact the election?
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
If the polls are any indication, the presidential race is extremely tight. Look at where things stand in our latest average of various polls.
Let's begin in Ohio right now. Here's Ohio.
In our Poll of Polls, Obama 49 percent, McCain 45 percent, 6 percent unsure. That's not much different than the margin of error in most of these polls. That's Ohio.
Let's go to another battleground state, Pennsylvania right now -- 51 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain, 6 percent unsure. That's a little bit more of a breathing area for Barack Obama right now. Twenty-one electoral votes at stake.
In Florida, look at how close it is there, 48 percent for Obama, 46 percent for McCain, 6 percent unsure. A huge prize, 27 electoral votes at stake in Florida.
Let's go to Indiana. Excuse me, North Carolina right now.
Well, let's do Indiana before we do North Carolina -- 47 percent for McCain, 46 percent for Obama, 7 percent unsure. That's well within the margin of error. Eleven electoral votes at stake there.
Now let's go to North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes, well within the margin of error, 49-48. Obama slightly ahead, 3 percent unsure.
In Virginia, only a five-point difference there and its 13 electoral votes at stake, 50 percent for Obama, 45 percent McCain, 5 percent unsure. It's pretty close in Virginia.
Now -- now let's go to Missouri. Missouri is looking extremely tight. Doesn't get closer than this, 47-47, 6 percent unsure. Missouri is a bellwether state. It usually knows what it's doing in terms of electing a president.
Nevada, Obama at 49 percent, McCain 44, a little bit of breathing space for Obama in Nevada and those five electoral votes in Nevada.
Those are all our latest poll of polls. You can see, it's getting close in a lot of those races.
Let's walk over to John King.
It's -- it's obviously a huge advantage that Barack Obama has. But, in some of those states, battleground states, seems to be tightening a little bit.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are tightening.
And, in many of those states, the McCain campaign, Wolf, would argue, if we get the undecided, if we get the bulk of them and they broke our way, a possibility, a possibility of pulling off what even top McCain advisers concede would be pretty much of a miracle on Election Day. But let's scope it out and how it looks. And I will show you a couple different scenarios. Here's where we begin. CNN now projects Obama leading in states with combined 291 electoral votes. And 270 wins. So, that shows you the steepness of the hill facing Senator McCain.
First, Wolf, what Senator McCain has to do, the gold states are our tossup left. They're all states carried by George W. Bush four years ago. To begin with, Senator McCain needs to run the board tomorrow. You just mentioned how tight Florida is. He needs those 27. North Carolina is about a dead heat. He needs those 15.
Ohio, we have said it before. We will say it again. No Republican has ever won the White House without those. Indiana, another red state, McCain has to win there. The Show Me State of Missouri, its winner has won the presidency for 100 years now. McCain needs that.
Then, out here in the Mountain West, he needs to keep North Dakota and Montana, two surprising tossups. McCain has to keep them. But look there. Look there. He's still short there. The leading scenario in the McCain campaign, Wolf, is turn Pennsylvania and its 21 electoral votes. That's over here. If he can do that, then he has Barack Obama just at the finish line, but he needs something else, which is why, on Election Day, John McCain will vote in Arizona, but then go to both Colorado and Nevada.
He is he hoping to strike gold out West. If he could turn Nevada, after doing everything else, he would bring that back into play. If he makes red and that red, that would get McCain the presidency.
Many Republicans think Nevada probably out of reach because of the growing Latino vote there, so he will go back to Colorado. If he could swing Colorado, that would do it, but, again, a huge, steep hill for Senator McCain.
And you just mentioned something coming in. I know you're going to discuss it later, but I want to show you one scenario. If he won Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and the two Mountain West states of North Dakota and Montana, and then switched Colorado, and won Pennsylvania -- I lost one somewhere -- you get to -- you get to -- I was trying to get to 269-269. And I blew it.
But I can show you that if -- another scenario. McCain has to run the board to get there. And you can get to 269-269 if you start moving states around out here in the West. But the Mountain West becoming increasingly important to John McCain, why he's campaigning twice in the final days, because they were looking up here, Wolf, in New Hampshire, looking in Iowa. They're increasingly of the mood they're not going to get them in New Hampshire and Iowa.
So, they're going to make last-ditch efforts in Nevada and Colorado.
BLITZER: It's remote, that 269-269 scenario.
But Bill Schneider is going to show us what would happen if neither of these candidates got 270, the -- the number you need to be elected in the Electoral College. What happens then? That's going to come up, and we're going to be -- and we're going to be talking about that. All right.
KING: And I will figure out what I did wrong and show you next time on the map.
BLITZER: All right. We will figure that out.
All right, let's go out to -- let's go out to Ohio once again.
Senator Joe Biden is speaking at a rally. Listen in briefly.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's within our power to change our circumstances.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: And change, we will.
Look, folks, as I said, it's not rocket science. Middle-class people need a tax break. Businesses need a tax break if they invest here in America, not invest abroad.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: Energy policies -- we need an energy policy to free us from the grip of the oligarchs of oil that protects our environment and creates, in the process, our policy, five million new green jobs.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: We need to rebuild America. We need an infrastructure, our bridges, our roads, our water systems. Ladies and gentlemen, if we do that, we can create 76,000 new high-paying jobs right here in the state of Ohio.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: Ladies and gentlemen, not only because it's right, not only because it's moral, but because it's good, solid business, we need affordable available health care for all Americans.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: And we will make a deal with every one of you young people in this audience, and all you parents trying to figure out how to get your child to college, as the costs skyrocket.
If you serve your country, not just in the military, but in our under- served communities, hospitals, schools, senior centers, rural and urban areas, we will get you to college.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: And, ladies and gentlemen, you know as I do, Ohio knows, maybe better than anyone, all the jobs you have lost.
Ultimately, it's about jobs. Ultimately, it's about jobs. And, ladies and gentlemen, a job, as many of you know, like Barack and I know, is more than about a paycheck. It is a paycheck, but it's about more than that. It's about dignity. It's about respect.
And, ladies and gentlemen, when a job is lost, or a house is foreclosed on, it's not just an economic loss. It's emotionally...
BLITZER: We, unfortunately, have some very sad news to report to our viewers -- a statement just coming in from Senator Barack Obama and his sister, telling us all that his 86-year-old grandmother, Senator Obama's 86-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has just passed away.
As you remember, not this past weekend -- last weekend -- Senator -- Senator Obama went out to Hawaii to see his grandmother. That was, obviously, the last time he had a chance to spend some time with her.
Here is the statement that Senator Obama and his sister have just released on the death of their grandmother: "It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure."
The statement goes on to say: "Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman. And we will respect her wish for a small, private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."
That is a statement coming in from Senator Barack Obama and his sister, Maya, on the death of their grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
And our deepest condolences, obviously, to the entire family.
John King is here. You know, it's so -- so, tragic, on the eve of, potentially, his election as president of the United States to suffer such a personal tragedy. I know how close he was with his grandmother.
KING: And he just took some time off from the campaign trail to rush home to spend some final time with her, because they knew she was in grave health.
She's a remarkable story in her own right, Wolf. Born Madelyn Payne in Kansas, in World War II, she was one of the many American women who went to work in the military -- military industrial complex. She was an aircraft inspector for Boeing Aircraft during World War II, when all the men went off to fight the war, and women became so critical in those days, unusual, as well, but critical, in the war effort. Then she went -- moved to Hawaii in 1960, and was viewed there, if you read the profiles of her, as a pioneer working for the Bank of Hawaii, a woman working for the bank, a pioneer back on those days -- so, obviously, critically important to Barack Obama.
He was largely raised by his grandparents in Hawaii, while his mother was off around the world doing her work, which is why he took that break from the campaign trail to go home quickly.
And he said he -- he wanted to go see her, and he suspected it would -- might be for the last time -- because he had failed at the end to see his own mother just before she passed away from cancer. And he said -- he said, at the time when he decided to go out to Hawaii, suspend his campaigning for a couple days, he said he didn't want to make that same mistake twice.
And at least he had a chance over the past 10 days to say goodbye to her and spend a little quality time with her in Hawaii.
I had a chance -- when I interviewed him on Friday in Iowa, we spoke a little bit about his grandmother. And -- and you could see in his eyes how sad he was about what was going on.
BLITZER: And he appreciated -- he appreciated the outpouring of support.
In fact, I think we have that exchange. I want to play it right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're out -- we're out of time.
But all of us were moved last weekend when you went to see your grandmother in Hawaii. I know she watches CNN...
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Yes.
BLITZER: ... because she says she watches CNN.
OBAMA: She does.
BLITZER: If -- and she might be watching right now. And I know how proud she must be that you have reached this level and on the verge, potentially, of becoming president of the United States.
How emotional is this for you and for her at this moment?
OBAMA: Well, you know, look, she's my grandma. And she helped raise me. And she -- she put off a lot of things in her own life to make sure that myself and my sister, that -- that we were taken care of.
So, a big chunk of whatever success I have achieved is because of her. I love her dearly, and she knows that.
And, if she is listening, I just want to make sure that she's getting her rest and -- and hopefully getting better.
BLITZER: And we wish her only the best and -- and a speedy, speedy recovery to your grandma.
OBAMA: Thank you so much, Wolf.
Great to talk to you.
BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much.
OBAMA: Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we just learned, only moments ago, that Madelyn Dunham, the 86-year-old grandmother of Senator Barack Obama, has passed away.
That was his great fear, that -- that it would happen. And, you know, it's so sad that she -- she didn't make it, if in fact he wins tomorrow -- and the polls show that, obviously, he's the front-runner right now -- that she didn't make it a few more days to be able to treasure that, although I'm sure how -- how proud she must have been to see his accomplishments over these past several years.
KING: It's an incredibly sad loss for the family. And the timing, as you mentioned, is -- is horrible, in any event, win or lose tomorrow, but Barack Obama on the poise of potential history here in the United States, and his grandmother so critical in shaping his life.
The picture, I think, we showed earlier, the -- I believe it's an AP photo -- is when he was at Columbia University. And you see both of his grandparents sitting next to him on a bench. That's here in New York City, when he was a student at Columbia University years ago.
And what Obama will tell interviewers about his grandmother and his grandfather, for that matter, and his mother, were that they drilled into him that education was his pathway; education was the pathway for him, as a young African-American, to achieve more and to better himself and to move forward. So, you see a very happy college student, Barack Obama, there with his grandmother back in his Columbia University days.
The timing is just -- I can't find the words for it -- just horrible.
BLITZER: He often spoke of how his grandmother started off as, what, a clerk or a secretary at a bank, and she worked her way up to a major executive position, how proud he was of her own accomplishments in her -- in her own right, and how much she sacrificed, as we just heard from him, how much she sacrificed to make sure he would have what he needed to grow up in Hawaii and then -- and move beyond.
So, I can only express, on your behalf, on our behalf, all of us at CNN, all our viewers' behalf, how sad it is to have to report this news that Senator Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has passed away.
And I guess, at this point, they just have to go on and do a little bit more campaigning and -- and see what happens tomorrow.
KING: At a moment of sadness, I assume what is paramount in Senator Obama's mind is that he's here because of his -- efforts of his grandmother and his grandfather and his mother, and that he believes the most important tribute he could make to her is to finish the job, I'm sure.
BLITZER: We are going to check in with the campaign and our reporters there covering the campaign to see what is -- what's next for Senator Obama today and -- and tomorrow, in the -- in the aftermath of this very, very tragic loss.
All right, we will take a quick break. We will continue our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Once again, the breaking news that we have been following, just moments ago, a statement coming in from Senator Obama and his sister, Maya, that their grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, 86 years old, has just passed away of cancer in Hawaii, very sad news that, on this, the day before, potentially, he could be elected president of the United States, we have to report this very, very sad news.
Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett are here.
Donna, I don't know if you ever met Senator Obama's grandmother. I can only express the feelings that I'm sure all our viewers are feeling, how sad it is that, on this day, he loses his grandmother.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I never had an opportunity to meet her, but do I know how much Senator Obama loved her, looked up to her.
She was his rock. She was such an inspiration in his life. If you read his first book, in "Dreams of My Father," he talks so much about her inspiration. And, of course, when he made the decision to stay in Hawaii when his mother went back overseas, he said because he knew his grandmother would -- would be there, and to help him.
She put him through school. She raised money, like his grandfather, to make sure that he had a decent education. And I'm sure, you know, the Obama family tonight are in deep mourning.
But there's an old Scripture that I'm sure that he knows. And that's, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And tomorrow is the day that Senator Obama will remember that his grandmother and grandfather, his mother prepared him for.
BLITZER: It's certainly true.
Bill, what goes through your mind at a sad moment like this?
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I thought -- personally, I was raised, Wolf, by a mother and a grandmother. I dedicated my Ph.D. dissertation to my grandmother.
I was thinking, as Donna was talking there, just that last sentiment. It's too bad that it couldn't have gone at least another day, given what may well happen tomorrow.
But I wonder if, somewhere in his own mind, he might be able to get some solace in thinking, that -- now, that is the prelude. That part of my life is over. And, tomorrow, perhaps, a whole new life begins for him, all that preparation that Donna was talking about. And it all comes tomorrow, perhaps, in -- in unbelievable realization and fulfillment.
BLITZER: Yes. And I'm sure he would -- you remember, Donna, when he was -- he got that nomination at the Democratic Convention in Denver, I believe it was then that he dedicated that night, dedicated that speech that he was going to give to his grandmother, because of the role she played in bringing him up.
And, you know, and I -- I pointed this out just a few moments ago, when I interviewed him Friday in Iowa, and I raised the issue about his grandmother, you could see that he knew how awful the situation was, how -- how, I guess, he was comforted in the fact he went out there and did have a little time with her before she passed away.
I can only imagine, if he had not done that, how he would be feeling so much worse right now, knowing that his grandmother had died, as she did, on the eve, potentially, as we say, of his election -- potentially -- as president of the United States. It's a sad story.
So, what does he do now? He's supposed to do -- Donna, have a rally in the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Does he cancel that? Does he speak about his grandmother? I mean, these are tough -- tough questions, tough decisions he has to make.
BRAZILE: Wolf, Senator Obama is a man of enormous personal strength and inner convictions.
And I'm sure that he will find it in his soul, in his spirit to continue on. This has been a -- a very long journey for Senator Obama, who, many of us know, came out of nowhere just a few years ago. And he's now in -- in the lead, in terms -- if you believe the polls -- and I do.
And I think that, tonight, is he going to continue to dedicate this journey to his grandmother and -- and many other grandmothers and grandfathers, and so many others who have made this journey possible.
So, look for Senator Obama to find it in himself. And I know, when he took time off to go off to Hawaii to see her, that was the right move to make. So many of us in politics, in public life understands what it is to sacrifice. And some of the things you give up is, of course -- and Bill knows this -- is that you give up time with your family. But he made time to go and see her and say his goodbyes, I'm sure.
BLITZER: And I'm sure he was comforted in knowing that.
That rally, by the way, Bill, is supposed to in Charlotte, North Carolina. We're getting some guidance that it looks like it's still going to go forward. And I guess the argument could be made, this is what his grandmother would want him to do at this point...
BLITZER: ... you know, try to wrap it up as best as he can.
BLITZER: Well, you have had grandmothers, Wolf. I have had grandmothers. Don't they all have the same message, which is, work hard, study hard, and make something of yourself?
Well, pretty good, I would say. Pretty good. He could deliver that tonight, and just -- just report what she taught him, and let the crowd take the rest. It's -- sure, he should go on with it. And, obviously, he will pay tribute to her.
But, you know, all grandmothers can identify with the success and that her message has gotten across to her grandson.
BLITZER: And all grandchildren can identify with -- with him right now, because...
BENNETT: You bet. You bet.
BLITZER: ...I don't think there are any grandchildren out there who don't love their grandparents.
And, you know, grandparents play special roles in the lives. But, in his particular case, with his father basically gone from his life...
BLITZER: ... and his mother having spent a couple years, basically, gone, it was his two grandparents out there, both from Kansas originally, but out in Hawaii, that spent all that time making sure he was doing his homework, he was studying, enabling him eventually to wind up at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.
Those are not easy accomplishments, as all of us know. And -- and he -- you know, he can credit his grandparents for helping -- with helping him get to that level. And I'm sure he's thinking about all that right now.
BENNETT: Well, we still -- we still want to -- we still, in all respect, want to beat him, you know, in the election tomorrow, but, my goodness, she prepared him very, very well.
They -- they have to be, in heaven, very, very proud of this young man. What a fabulous job they did. And what a great example he is to kids white and black all over the country in so many ways, win or lose.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about predictions, because the election will take place tomorrow.
Donna, what do you see happening, first of all, on the Electoral College level?
BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, if -- and, again, I'm basing it on all of the polls and the average of the polls. It's clear to me that Senator Obama is still maintaining a significant lead, with 291 electoral votes.
Of course, one-third of the country voted already, absentee or early. But we still have a substantial number of people who must show up at the polls tomorrow to ensure that these 291 electoral votes -- look, if he has -- if he has a good day tomorrow, with turnout and getting his voters out in Virginia and North Carolina and Georgia, and some of those early states, including Indiana, he could achieve, you know, over 300 electoral votes.
And, of course, those Mountain West states, like Nevada, Colorado, are crucial, New Mexico, in putting him over the top, because a large percentage of Hispanics reside in those states. And I'm sure that's one reason why John McCain is going to make one last-minute appeal to go out there and to try to shift the momentum his favor.
BLITZER: All right.
And, Bill, I know you have been thinking. We asked you to spend some time thinking about...
BENNETT: Right. Right.
BLITZER: ... that Electoral College, 270 the magic number. And your bottom line is?
BENNETT: Two hundred and seventy-three McCain, 268 Obama.
BENNETT: 1948, Wolf, Dewey-Truman. They asked 50 political experts what they thought. They asked the people in Vegas what they thought. All the pollsters predicted Dewey. Truman beat him. Remember that newspaper. I know you have seen that picture.
It ain't over until it's over. And it's not over until the people say so, not the pollsters, not the pundits. And, so, we shall see.
BLITZER: We shall see what happens.
Give me a surprise, Donna, one surprise you think might happen tomorrow.
BRAZILE: Well, of course, I have been looking at the Senate races, because that's another area where voters will be paying attention. North Carolina, I predict that Kay Hagan will defeat Elizabeth Dole. I also predict that, in Georgia, that Saxby Chambliss will not reach 50 percent, and, therefore, will be in a runoff against Jim Martin. I predict that Mitch McConnell will lose to Steve Lundgren (sic). And I also predict that Mary Landrieu, my home state senator, who I'm proud of, will win her Senate race in Louisiana.
BLITZER: Give me a surprise on your part, Bill.
BENNETT: Well, I -- gee, Donna's all in. I was going to say, I'm all in. She's in pretty strong, too.
House races, Wolf, much discussed in Minnesota, you know, the Michele Bachmann race, where she said some things on TV, and a couple million dollars went in to support her Democrat opponent, but I think she will prevail.
Two black Republicans will win. Allen West in Florida will take back the Clay Shaw seat. And Dr. Deborah Honeycutt, a physician, will win the seat from the Scott in Georgia. And John Murtha, you cannot insult your constituents like that. He will lose to William Russell.
BLITZER: All right, we will see what happens.
Guys, thanks very much, Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett.
John McCain's presidential hopes may be riding on Pennsylvania right now -- the 11th-hour campaign to get out the vote.
And he's come so far. Can Barack Obama seal the deal with voters? The last-minute hopes and the doubts.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: How are you going to deal with election withdrawal come Wednesday?
Nancy says: "I'm going to start exercising and go back on my diet. No more nervous eating while glued to the television, unless McCain wins. Then nothing matters."
Carolyn writes: "I will be glad it's all over. I will continue to pray and mediate. I haven't felt this much anxiety since Katrina came through Laurel, Mississippi, and I woke up to such destruction."
Kevin in Dallas, Texas: "The only thing sad about this election ending is that, on Wednesday, you guys will be back to reporting on the trials and tribulations of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton."
John in Pittsburgh, "I think I will take up the lost art of reading, try to mitigate all the sound bite damage that has been done to my brain." Jack writes: "We won't, but the press will. They have got the obsession, not the electorate. All 24/7 news shows and programs should shut down for a couple of weeks to go through detox. You would do us all a favor."
Hey, I'm in favor of that.
Donny writes: "I will be basking in the glow of, 'Bush isn't going to be the president very much longer.'"
And Bob in Morristown, New Jersey: "If Obama wins, I will tune in to see if I can do anything to help him rescue our nation. If McCain wins, I'm opening a travel agency specializing in one-way tickets."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Election Day only hours away, each candidate looking for a last-minute edge, Barack Obama taking the fight to red state turf, John McCain on a seven-state race to the finish line.
But, amid all the frenzied campaigning, Barack Obama, just a few moments ago, announcing a deep personal loss, the death of his grandmother. We will have more on this story coming up.
And, on the eve of the election, the campaigns are locked in trench warfare in a handful of battleground states. We're going to show you what's at stake and where on our electoral map.
And one new battleground state has already processed nearly half-a- million absentee ballots. But the McCain campaign files an 11th-hour lawsuit to extend a key deadline.