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Unusually Tight, Unusually Competitive, All Four Candidates Campaigning Even On Election Day; Absentee Voting Confused With Early Voting, Every State's Rules Are Different

Aired November 4, 2008 - 04:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You say something.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Election Day, folks. We've been on the hour - or on the air for how many hours? We've almost forgotten we've been here so long.


NGUYEN: But you know it's an important day, a busy day.


NGUYEN: Good morning everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello there. I'm T.J. Holmes. Yes, it is Election Day all across this country now.

We are done with election coverage, we have Election Day coverage now.

NGUYEN: It is finally here.

All right, let's get to it. Barack Obama arrived back in Chicago just about two hours ago. The Democratic candidate began his long day in Florida and then hit North Carolina, then Virginia before heading home.

Now just before settling in for the trip back to Chicago overnight he did speak with reports and it was evident that he and the campaign correspondents are ready for a little downtime.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right. OK, guys, let's take off. Let's go home.



NGUYEN: Barack Obama rallied the crowd last night in Manassas, Virginia as well. The Senator from Illinois took a moment, though, to thank his opponent. And then it was back to business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Senator McCain has served this country with great honor and distinction. He has been a worthy opponent. I am grateful for the condolences that he sent me today with the news of my grandmother. I think you all, by the way, for those same prayers and thoughts that you've sent me.

And Senator McCain can point to a few moments over the past eight years where he is broken with George Bush on things like torture and climate change. He can legitimately claim to have broken with the president. He deserves credit with that.

But when it comes to the central issue of this election, when it comes to the economy, the plain truth is that Senator McCain has stood with this president every step of the way. He hasn't been a maverick on the economy, he's been a sidekick.

After 21 months, after three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy.

You watch the ads. He doesn't point to how he is going to move to the future, all he does is talk about me.


But I think the American people have come to understand that if John McCain wants to give $700,000 tax cuts to the average Fortune 500 CEO, that's not change. It's not change when he wants to give $200 billion to the biggest corporations. Four billion to the oil companies despite record profits or $300 billion of the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. It's not change when the tax plan he comes up with doesn't give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle class Americans.

Look, here's the facts, Virginia. We tried it John McCain's way. Just like we've tried it George Bush's way. And deep down Senator McCain knows that which is why his campaign said that if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose. Which is why we keep on talking about the economy.


Meanwhile Senator McCain's campaign spent these last few weeks calling me everything but a name of - but a child of God.

Because that's how you play the game in Washington. When you can't win on your ideas you try to tear your opponent down. You try to make a big election about small things. So we may see a little bit more of that over the next 21 hours. You may have to talk to your grandma or your parents or your spouse. They may have been hearing some negative ads. You're going to have to be ambassadors on our behalf.

But that kind of say anything, do anything politics that's calculated to divided and distract, to tear us apart instead of bringing us together. We have a chance to beat back that kind of politics in this election. Not just in the short term. We can put an end to it in the long term. We can show that negative politics is no match for the will and determination, the decency of American people. That's what we've tried to show in this election, that you can keep your dignity, keep your decency and still win. That is what this election is partly about.


HOLMES: Well, John McCain was home in Arizona for a midnight rally on the steps of a historic courthouse there. The Republican presidential candidate urging voters to head to the polls and in his words "do what's necessary to secure Arizona and to secure the election."


MCCAIN: You know, I'm confident because I've seen the momentum, my friends. I've been in a lot of campaigns and the momentum we've seen in the last several days, we're closing in the polls. All we've got to do is get out the vote and you can do it and I know that you can do it.

And my friends, my friends, this campaign is all about three things, reform, prosperity and peace and I want to tell you we will reform the way government does business and I will veto every single pork barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk. You will know their names. I will make them famous.

No more bridges to nowhere. No more $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that was a criminal issue or a paternity issue but it's not going to happen again.

Can I say, I see in the crowd fellows with the hats on and the women - men and women who have served. Please raise your hands so we can thank the veterans who are here tonight. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I salute you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

My friends, prosperity, obviously, we have to cut taxes, we have to have lower spending, we've got to keep people in their homes. Arizona along with some other states has the highest foreclosure rates. We have to give people new mortgages that they can afford and keep them in their homes and realize the American dream, owning one's home is the American dream.

I will keep Americans in their home. We will stop this decline in home values and we will realize the American dream when I am president of the United States.


NGUYEN: McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, has wrapped up a campaign swing through five contested states. Here she is firing up supporters at a rally in Elko, Nevada. Again, stressing the importance of a president who can hit the ground running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) AK: So, Elko, we need to realize that we need a leader ready to go on day one. We need a leader with experience, wisdom, good judgment, truthfulness and courage. Remember, Nevada, we are a nation at war. We need a man ready to go here. We need a man who can understand how to win a war and can talk about the wars that America is fighting and won't be afraid to use the word "victory."

Now our opponents have gone on and on in their speeches about the wars that America is fighting and just once in all this time it would have been so nice to hear Barack Obama say he wanted America to win. John McCain wants to win the war, he knows how to win the war, and friends, this is so important because the far left wing of the Democrat Party - and it's not mainstream Democrat ideals and values and planks in that platform that wants to be lived out, it is the far left wing of the Democrat Party getting ready to take over your entire federal government.

If it were to happen with this monopolized unchecked power in DC in the hands of the House, the Senate and heaven forbid, the White House.

Now let me tell you what their priorities would be if this were to happen. And this is according to their own stated plans and don't know how much media coverage this has received the last couple of days but it's on the record and it comes from one of the Democrat's own leaders, good old Congressman Barney Frank told America ...


PALIN: Barney Frank said, and here's their priorities - if that were to happen, this monopolized power hold in DC, one of the first things to go will be one quarter of your U.S. defense budget.

Now how much sense does that make at a time in war? We have a better idea, John McCain and I, one, let's not retreat from wars that are almost won.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, before heading to Philadelphia last night, Joe Biden attended a rally in Missouri. Now on his way there he made some comments, actually, on his campaign plane, stepped back and had a little something to say to reporters. Talked to them a little while, actually. Take a listen.


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is some energy in the air. There is something - there is pace on the ball. The pace on the ball in our direction, can I guarantee you that? No. But there is pace on the ball. Something is happening pretty big here. And because people are focused, I mean a lot of you guys have covered this. Have you ever seen an election with this much intensity? I don't mean the candidates, I mean the people. I've never seen anything with this much intensity.

And so to me I think we have - the issues are on our side. The presumption is to say this. I think we've run a really good campaign. And for all the stuff about gaffes, I don't think there have been any real gaffes, I mean, I don't see anything in your polling data demonstrating any of that stuff you guys love to write about has done anything. I mean, I don't see it. It feels so ...

QUESTION: Are you relieved you didn't make any big gaffes?

BIDEN: Oh, I never make any big, big gaffes. I mean you guys love saying that about me. But I tell you what, just look at the numbers. I don't have any problem with what I've said - there's nothing I've said that I would back off from.

But the generic point is this. That is I really think it was a combination of three things and I'll get out of your hair.

One, this really is on the part of average Americans, they view this as the most important election of their life and they really do. Young kids because it's their first vote and they're excited, but old folks, they think it's the most important election in their lives. I mean, this is just sort of self evident.

Second, the combination of both the campaigns have stirred the interest of the American people in a way that I haven't seen, both campaigns, in a way I haven't seen as long as I've been a United States senator. I've served with seven presidents. I have not seen anything like this, on both sides.

And the third piece of this is I think that Barack has run a masterful campaign. Look, I joined the outfit late. I've been in since August. I mean, he put together this operation. It wasn't me. I mean, they put together this operation. I hope and think I've been some value added, but we'll see what happens.

But the bottom line here is, the thing I admire about this guy, no matter what you say, man, this guy has been unflappable, meaning my guy, Barack, this guy has been steady, man, this guy has come across as solid. I mean, this guy has put to rest what was understandable eight months ago, a lot of people thinking, well, I don't know this guy well.

I mean, this guy has been - I have not seen a candidate this poised, this steady, this resolute, and so the combination of those three things, I feel good, but I am superstitious and I am going to get the hell out of here before I ...


NGUYEN: And that was Joe Biden on the campaign plane a little bit earlier. Now, some polling places on the East Coast opening less than three hours from now so let's get a check of the CNN electoral map. CNN deputy political Paul Steinhauser, up early in New York for us. Paul, how does that map look?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Let's take a look at that map because Betty, as you said, it's all about the states and their electoral votes. That's what's going to win this election, those electoral votes.

Take a look at our CNN Electoral College map and we use state polls, we use voting trends in the states, kind of campaign visits to the states by the candidates and advertising, how much money campaigns are putting up in the states to try to factor it all together and we determined whether a state is a tossup state, whether it's leaning towards Obama, safe for Obama, leaning towards McCain, safe for McCain.

Right now, we have it at 291 electoral votes for Obama and 157 for McCain. This is merely an estimate. We're just suggesting that if the election were held today, and today is pretty much election day, this is what could happen, it's not a predictor at all.

What we've done in the last couple days, we've moved first North Dakota and North Dakota with its three electoral votes, we've moved North Dakota from lean McCain to toss-up because the polls there have basically become dead even and then just to the west of that in Montana, we've done the same thing.

Just yesterday we moved Montana from lean McCain to tossup state. And right now because of those changes, you can see in the upper part of the screen, 157 electoral votes. We suggest that McCain would win states with 157 electoral votes. Obama would win states with 291 electoral votes and the magic number, Betty, of course, 270. You need 270 electoral votes to win the big prize.

NGUYEN: Absolutely, all right. This is a really cool feature because that electoral map is actually interactive so for people watching at home who want to create their own electoral vote scenarios, they can do so, correct?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. They can game it out themselves. And let's just do that for a second. Let's have a little fun here. I can act like Josh Levs here or Abbi Tatton. Let's go to the map. This is my one chance to do it, Betty.

Let's take a look at the map again. Let's go over - let's go to Indiana. Indiana, 11 electoral votes. And what you can do here, you can - any state, you can go to Indiana, you can go to Pennsylvania, and you can decide, Betty, whatever state you want, you can decide and suggest, OK, this state is going to go for Obama and when you click on that and change it yourself, basically the electoral count changes, you can game it out all yourselves, Have some fun. It's a great tool.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And it's not only just for the presidential election. There are also a lot of Senate races. You can go on there. The map will tell you county by county how they're doing in the polls. So really there is a lot to see and do at Paul Steinhauser, thanks for staying up with us.


NGUYEN: All right. We are on around the clock and you can watch history unfold with the best political team on television. From the first vote to the last one, our team will bring it all to you all day, all night. Stay with CNN, your home for politics.

HOLMES: Pollsters have a really tricky job anyway but new voters are making it even trickier. Are all these polls or all these pollsters getting it wrong?


NGUYEN: All right. The first election returns of this presidential race and Barack Obama is the winner. Take a look. The Democratic presidential candidate at 15 of 21 votes cast in tiny Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Republican John McCain won six votes. It was the first time since 1968 that the village has leaned Democratic in an election.

HOLMES: Well, there's a whole lot of newly registered voters out there this election, and that is making it awfully difficult for pollsters to make their predictions. CNN's Joe Johns now makes some predictions.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like other national pollsters, Michael Dimmock of the Pew Research Center is poring over spreadsheets and trendlines and grappling with a big problem. If you don't know who will vote, you can't do an accurate poll.

MICHAEL DIMMOCK, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Gauging turnout effectively in a poll is a very tricky thing to do. Not everyone we talk to in a survey is actually going to end up voting on Election Day.

JOHNS: Accurately defining a likely voter is a huge deal. Using his traditional likely voter model, Gallup has Obama up just three points. But when Gallup expanded the definition of likely voter in anticipation of likely turnout, Obama's edge jumps to seven.

What makes identifying likely voters so hard this time are the X factors. X factor one. New voters. If a voter has no history of voting, do they really mean it when they say they're pumped up, determined to vote?

DIMMOCK: It may well be that even though they are telling us they have every intention of voting and they're telling us that they are very excited and engaged in this campaign, which they are, that they may actually not turn out at the rate we might expect them to.

JOHNS: X factor two, cell phones. For the first time ever, major national polling organizations are calling not just land lines but mobile phones as well.

DIMMOCK: People who are cell only, maybe not surprisingly, favor Obama by a wider margin than the rest of the country, mostly because they're so much younger. We're in untested waters here.

JOHNS: And it's possible that younger, less rooted voters won't in fact turn out at the same rate as older land liners.

And then there are the fence sitters. Five to 10 percent of the electorate who say they are likely voters but are still undecided. Most pollsters expect them to get off the fence any day now, but guess what, they may not.

DIMMOCK: Experience has shown in the past that a lot of these folks really don't end up voting. They're so conflicted and at the end of the day they don't have a clear enough preference for them to really be motivated enough to get out there and show up.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: Well, millions voted early in this election but some didn't have the opportunity and that has led to a lot of calls to CNN's local hotline. We're going to check in on that.


HOLMES: Well, we have gotten word that Barack Obama's grandmother in fact has died. She died of cancer after really a long battle with it. Madeline Dunham was her name. She was 86 years old. Obama calls her "Toot." That's short for the Hawaiian word for grandmother. Obama has repeatedly talked about her on the campaign trail and what a key figure she was in his life at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina he talked about it.


OBAMA: Some of you heard that my grandmother who helped raised me passed away early this morning. And look, she has gone home. And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side and so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it's hard a little to talk about.

I want everybody to know a little bit about her. Her name is Madeline Dunham. And she was born in Kansas in a small town in 1922. Which means that she lived through the Great Depression, she lived through two (ph) world wars. She watched her husband go off to war while she looked after her baby and worked on a bomber assembly line.

When her husband came back they benefited from the GI Bill and they moved west and eventually ended up in Hawaii and she was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plain-spoken person. She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America who -- they're not famous. Their names aren't in the newspapers. But each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing. And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that -- mothers and fathers, grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives. And the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children -- and maybe their grandchildren or their great- grandchildren -- live a better life than they did.

That's what America is about. That's what we're fighting for.


NGUYEN: Dana Bash joins us now on the phone from Phoenix, Arizona, where John McCain is wrapping up a major marathon run on a campaign trail. Dana, we saw you a little bit earlier. Now you're finally in Phoenix. Is John McCain going to get any sleep tonight or early this morning as it is?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): For John McCain? What about us?

NGUYEN: Yeah, me too.

BASH: Exactly. It was actually funny. I'll tell you that as we were landing my alarm went off from the day before yesterday, the last time we actually woke up in a bed which is pretty funny.

But yes, he is going to get a few hours of sleep and then he is going to do what you'd imagine he would do in Arizona on Election Day. He is actually going to go vote and then he is going to go campaign in two more states, in two neighboring states. He is going to go to Colorado and New Mexico.

These were somewhat last minute decisions to go and campaign in neighboring states because he's here and because his campaign insists that he is coming up from behind in those states although public polls tend to suggest something different although I've got to tell you, at this last event where John McCain spoke in Prescott, Arizona, he - it was very interesting for a number of reasons. But first of all he didn't mention Barack Obama's name at all. It was very much about himself and what he has to offer as president of the United States but also it was his - the first time speaking in his home state and it was after a very, very long day.

And he likes to make jokes on the campaign trail about other people who ran for president from Arizona. And didn't fare very well. Barry Goldwater is one, Mo Udall is another. So he started to tell that joke but then he sort of came back to himself and he got a little emotional. I think we have a sound bite. Let's listen to it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (D) AZ: Barry Goldwater, our beloved Barry Goldwater from Prescott, Arizona used to come up here for every race and including the presidential race in 1964. Another guy that ran for president was a guy named Mo Udall and he said - he used to ask sympathy for the families of the State of Arizona because Barry Goldwater ran for president and Morris Udall from Arizona ran for president and Bruce Babbitt from Arizona ran for president and I for Arizona ran for president.

And he used to say Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children that some day they can grow up and be president of the United States. Tomorrow we're going to reverse that unhappy tradition and I'm going to be the president of the United States.


BASH: You heard there John McCain get a little bit emotional when he was talking about what tomorrow or actually what today means for him and means potentially for the state. Obviously very, very long road and he has been remarkably energetic considering the pace that he has been going at, particularly in the past couple of days and he wasn't the only one who got emotional.

His wife, Cindy McCain, when she was introducing him, when she said his name she broke up and she kind of just moved away and let him move over to the microphone. So as you could imagine, this is very trying for these families and when it reaches a climax they kind of let it out a little bit, Betty.

NGUYEN: It is a schedule that is almost unimaginable. Still 13 hours to go till the polls close and John McCain has a lot more work still to do today, although along with Dana some of us are going to try to get some sleep and John McCain is going to be one of them as well.

Dana Bash, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. Let's bring our deputy political director Paul Steinhauser back in from New York. Paul, we keep talking about, they have a little more work to do on this Election Day. Is this traditionally and historically what we have seen? Do they still keep stumping on Election Day? Don't they usually lay low?

STEINHAUSER: Usually they lay low, but T.J., not this time. There is more work to be done. And, Dana, as you've just mentioned, was just talking about what John McCain is going to be doing today. What about his running mate? Sarah Palin wakes up in Alaska. She' s not even there yet. She's probably flying there as we speak, because we saw her in Nevada just about two hours ago.

She votes in Wasilla, at the city hall there. And then, basically, she hops on another plan and flies back to Phoenix and she'll be hanging out with John McCain - and Dana Bash, I would assume -- down there, Tuesday night, tonight, I guess, if you want to call it - for, with McCain.

As for Barack Obama, he's now in Chicago. You guys had those live pictures of him arriving in Chicago a couple hours ago. He wakes up Tuesday morning, this morning, in Chicago. He will vote. And then he's going to head next door to Indiana. And he's going to go to Indianapolis and meet and greet voters there, as they head to the polls. Indiana, of course, such a crucial state, we've been talking about it. It hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential election (sic) since 1964 and it's dead even in those polls there.

Joe Biden, his running mate, he's not in Delaware. He ended up the night in Pennsylvania at a rally. Now back in Delaware, he's going to wake up and vote in Wilmington, Delaware. That's where he lives. He is going to head over to Virginia. Now, Virginia, another state just like Indiana, hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential election (sic) since, again, 1964. He will be in Richmond, Virginia. He is going to meet and greet voters heading to the polls. And then he's going to head out to Chicago, team up with Barack Obama and that is what is going to happen.

HOLMES: All right. That's it?


HOLMES: That's enough, isn't it?

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, that's enough.

HOLMES: What else can they possibly - are they still trying to get votes? What's the point in doing it? Like you say, we don't historically see them out and about on actual day, why was it important that they do it this time around?

STEINHAUSER: You know, it is, I guess, a little bit of symbolism, it gets them on TV, obviously. And, of course, they're going to crucial states. While they're doing this though, T.J., they're campaigns are doing the real work. It is called GOTV, Get Out The Vote. Both campaigns have sunk millions of dollars into this and they're going to have people across the country, in all the polling stations, and checking off whether they're supporters have voted or not, and if they're supporters haven't gone to the polls yet, they will be calling these people, making sure they get to the polls. If these people need rides, they will be doing it. It is a massive coordinated effort and they have new technology - bar codes, now, to check whether people have voted or not, instantly finding out. Getting out the vote, this effort is huge and it could be the reason why either John McCain or Barack Obama wins on election day.

HOLMES: Which is today, now, we're finally realizing.


HOLMES: Paul Steinhauser, buddy, good to see you.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, ELECTION DAY '08: We've been covering this for so long you just kind of loose track of time. So throughout the night, or this morning, whatever you want to call it, the CNN Voter Hotline is logging more and more calls from people who worry that their votes won't count.

Now, one caller says some people are being told they're not allowed to vote early. CNN's Josh Levs joins us with that disturbing story. It sounds like we're getting a lot of rumors out there. JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, yeah. A lot of people really concerned about them, as you can imagine. It is a great thing we set up this hotline.

I want to show you something. Let's zoom in back here. I want to show you a look at the numbers. What we've gotten. This right here, at, you can see logs of calls from all over the country. This is our latest numbers over here. National complaints, total calls, is now close to 35,000 and the complaints among them is about a third. So, a lot of these are calling and saying, not sure where to vote, can you help me? But about a third of them saying there are some serious problems.

Now this, is a call that we got from the toss-up state of Missouri.


ASHLEY THOMAS, KANSAS CITY, MO.: Here in the state of Missouri there is a little conflict as to whether you can vote early or not, and they're saying it's only reserved for veterans or people that are disabled. And then they're saying that anyone who does vote is being given a - the ballots where it really doesn't even count, whether you have all your information or not. I don't know if that's true, but that information has been given out a lot over the past couple of weeks.


LEVS: All right, now here's how it works. I want to give Ashley some information here. Basically, Missouri does not have early voting. What it has is absentee voting for people who have an official excuse. A lot of people have been lining up to do that. So it acts like early voting for those people.

I pulled up the web site here, from the Missouri secretary of state. Let's zoom in on it for just a second so people can get a sense of who is allowed to do this inside Missouri. You have to have a official absence and these are the reasons that they allow you to do it. First of all, you have to not - if you are a normal voter who just won't be there, but also if you are someone who will still be in town, but has incapacity, or confinement, or religious reasons to do this; or if you're working as part of election authority that day. If you are working at the polls, that is another reason you're allowed to do it. Or people who are incarcerated and still allowed to vote.

So, it is true that not everyone is allowed to do what some people are thinking of as early voting. But that is because it is absentee voting.

One more thing, here, because we try to give people as many answers as we can. I want to show you this graphic from Kansas City, in Missouri. This is really interesting. I'm telling you all these people lining up. Check it out. They have 231,000 registered voters there this year. Well, 36,000 of those are new voters. This is microcosmic of what's going on in America. And a spokeswoman told us that, "We have never had this kind of absentee voting. We were overwhelmed." But she add that, of course, they're happy to see that kind of turn out.

We're asking you to help us track voting problems. We're reporting them in real time, as you can see. That is the number, right there, 877-462-6608. It is 877-GOCNN-08. Also, if you forget that number, or you want to learn more about it, just go to You can see the map behind me. You can click on different states and you can see what's being reported in your state.

Guys, we're keeping them honest all the way through election day, and beyond, this effort is going to keep going.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks, Betty.

NGUYEN: You know, it's not just the White House that is up for grabs today. Some of the other races could have an explosive impact on the Senate. And we're going to look at the battle for Capitol Hill.


NGUYEN: All right. It is crunch time in this historic election and we are focusing on those key voting blocks. The Asian-American vote could help determine who wins the White House, particularly in swing states like Virginia and Nevada. It is a unique voting block. Hard to gauge for many reasons, but no where is that more evident than in California, home to more Asian-Americans than any other place in the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Asian Language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Asian Language)

NGUYEN (voice over): From the streets of Little Saigon ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Asian Language)

NGUYEN: To the airwaves of Chinatown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will vote for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like vote for John McCain.

NGUYEN: Fifteen million Asian-Americans live in the U.S. That's just 3 percent of the electorate, but these voters typically turn out in large numbers. And they could prove powerful in a tight race.

PROF. KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE: Even if it represents a smaller portion of the electorate than say the African-American vote, or the Latino vote, you have a very large proportion of undecided voters.

NGUYEN (On camera): The younger generation ...

RAMAKRISHNAN: From the younger generation ...

NGUYEN (voice over): Karthick Ramakrishnan is a University of California professor who helped launch the first comprehensive study of Asian-American voting patterns. In the past, Asian-Americans have skew Republican, but that's changed.

RAMAKRISHNAN: So, ever since Bill Clinton got elected, in each subsequent election, the share of Asian-Americans voting Democratic has increased.

NGUYEN: A shift that is resonating with listeners who tune into Chinese talk radio. Felix Guo anchors the morning drive in Pasadena.

FELIX GUO, TALK RADIO ANCHOR: At this point we're seeing some support for - a little more support for Obama simply because, I think, they kind of blame President Bush for some of the mistakes - or some of the things that - bad things that happened to this country.

NGUYEN: To find our more we headed to L.A.'s Chinatown.

RICHARD LUI, VOTER: Actually I voted Republican in the past. This is the first time I think I'm voting Democrat.

NGUYEN: Others can't be convinced to switch.

ALICE LIMSON, VOTER: I've been a Republican for a long time. And I like - I'm comfortable with them.

NGUYEN: Over in the Little Saigon section of Orange County John McCain seemed to have the edge among those we spoke with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm voting for McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking at Barack Obama right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like Obama, too socialist for me.

NGUYEN: But take a walk through the Little Tokyo section in downtown LA, and you'll find strong support for Barack Obama.

DAVID SHIBATA, VOTER: I think Obama will do a better job than McCain can and we need some change in this country, so hopefully he can turn it around.

DENISE KOYAMA, VOTER: It was a tough decision because I am a Republican, but I'm going to be voting for Obama.

NGUYEN: A sentiment that falls in line with the national Asian- American survey. Numbers just in for the second half of October show 52 percent of Asian-Americans back Barack Obama, 27 percent are for John McCain, and 20 percent are undecided.

Asian-Americans polled also said the economy is by far the most important issue in this election, yet we found very few willing to place blame.

KOYAMA: And I don't care whose fault it was, I just want them to fix it.

NGUYEN: But we all know that is no easy task regardless of who is elected.


NGUYEN: So, as you can see the Asian-American vote is power but tough to measure. That is because many Asian-Americans tend not to vote along party lines.

HOLMES: All right. We're focused a lot on Obama and McCain, and rightly so, but there are some other serious stuff going on in Congress on this election day. Democrats need to pick up nine seats to make the Senate filibuster proof. Let's bring back in Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser.

Paul, is that possible?

STEINHAUSER: You know, it is possible. That is the goal for the Democrats. And, T.J., this is an incredible story because it is so overshadowed by this historic race for the White House. But this battle for the Senate, and for the House, is truly and interesting story.

You know, in the Senate right now the Democrats have 51 seats. They have 49 of their own and there are two Independents, Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut, they caucus with the Democrats. That gives them a majority 51 to 49. What they are aiming for is 60; and 60 seats in the Senate gives you a filibuster proof majority. A filibuster is a move by the minority party that can basically stall legislation and votes. So what the Democrats are aiming for is those 60 seats. They need nine to get there.

Right now, we consider 11 Republican seats kind of in play. Five Republican senators are retiring, and six incumbent senators, Republicans, are really fighting for their political lives.

On the flipside, there is only really one Democratic seat where there - there could be a little interest in that, that is Mary Landrieu down in Louisiana. She is fighting for re-election. And she's got a little bit of a battle on her hands.

But that is kind of where it stands right now.

HOLMES: Yeah, and North Carolina is one of those places were Republicans are fighting to hold on. And this race is getting a lot of attention there, because it is just nasty.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, this is a real tough race. And you're right. It has been getting a little ugly. No doubt about it. Elizabeth Dole, the incumbent Republican, the wife of Bob Dole, the former presidential candidate, Senate majority leader, facing off against Kay Hagan, who is a state senator in North Carolina. Kay Hagan now leading in the polls in the last couple of weeks.

Elizabeth Dole coming out with an ad, the other day, that some people said was just - just - just very dirty politics. Take a listen to this.


SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE, (R) SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Elizabeth Dole and I approved this message.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: A leader of the Godless Americans Pact, recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no God to rely on. There was no Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take it that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, you're down with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're down with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "In God We Trust", you're going to whip that off the money?


FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Godless Americans and Kay Hagan, she hid from cameras, took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?



STEINHAUSER: Yes, well, Kay Hagan and her campaign obviously took issue with that one, T.J. They're looking into legal action of maybe - they were looking into legal action to get that campaign ad off the air. Of course, Kay Hagan says, listen, I'm a regular churchgoer, every Sunday, and this is just ridiculous, T.J.

HOLMES: Yeah, a lot of people thought that was awfully ridiculous. Let's talk about another race that we are familiar with here in Georgia, because we see these ads on a lot, about this battle going on. But, I guess, was it expected to be a close race? But it certainly is now?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, right down there your home state, Saxby Chambliss, like Elizabeth Dole, he's a freshman Republican senator fighting for re-election. And as the presidential race has gotten tight in your state, so has this race. Jim Martin is the Democratic opponent. Georgia, like North Carolina, those polls close early there, T.J. If Saxby Chambliss does loose this could be a tip that it could be a real long night for the Republicans. And that the Democrats, maybe, could get close to that 60-seat filibuster-proof majority they're looking for.

HOLMES: All right. Also, Paul, you're good enough, you're smart enough.

(LAUGHTER) HOLMES: Doggone it, people like you. I say that, heading into this next race, we know those words, really from a man who made those words famous on "Saturday Night Live", but up in Minnesota, he's using so much tougher words and trying to get himself elected.

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, you're talking about Al Franken, no doubt about it, from "Saturday Night Live", back in the old days. Then he became a major left - radio talk show host on the Air America, on the left. He's facing off, again, against another Republican freshman senator, Norm Coleman, who won for the first time in 2002. This race - so much attention because of Al Franken, of course. And this got really dirty. This race got really nasty as well; some really tough ads from both candidates. Al Franken was behind by double digits in the polls. It has tightened up. This one is going to be a great race to watch tonight.

HOLMES: All right. Yes! Tonight, here it is! It is 5 o'clock in the morning now, on the East Coast. Polls are now going to open in a couple of hours in a lot of places. So, we are underway.

Paul Steinhauser, buddy, always good to see you.


NGUYEN: You know, it's funny, it's contemporary. And it's ratings, they are through the roof! "Saturday Night Live", we're going to look at the impact that its had on politics, past and present. We are live from Atlanta.



JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight on NBC, it's "Saturday Night Live's Presidential Bash", an independent, unaffiliated show created by a maverick television producer I call Joe the Network Programmer.



HOLMES: All right. Senator John McCain having a good time there on "Saturday Night Live". Though how has that late-night comedy juggernaut affected the presidential race, if at all. CNN's Alina Cho takes a look at the so-called "SNL Effect", in an exclusive interview with an original cast member.


MCCAIN: Good evening, my fellow Americans.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): John McCain, trailing in the polls, and the race for money.

MCCAIN: We, however, can only afford QVC. (LAUGHTER)

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: These campaigns sure are expensive.

MCCAIN: They sure are.

CHO: So the real McCain and the fake Palin are hawking house wares.

FEY: And who wouldn't want the complete set of limited edition Joe Action Figures. There's Joe the Plumber, Joe Six Pack, and my personal favorite, Joe Biden.

CHO: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin is pure ambition.

FEY: OK, listen up, everybody, I'm going rogue right now, so keep your voices down. Available now, we've got a bunch of these.

CHEVY CHASE, ORIGINAL SNL CAS MEMBER: Tina, who is not an impressionist, per se, just happen to fit right in there.

CHO: Chevy Chase is speaking from experience. Some believe his portrayal of Gerald Ford as a bumbling buffoon cost Ford the election in 1976.

CHASE: They wanted Carter, and I wanted him out. And I figure, look, we're reaching millions of people.

CHO (On camera): Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that in the back of your mind you were thinking, hey, I want Carter.

CHASE: Oh, yeah.

CHO: I'm going to make him look bad.

CHASE: Oh, yeah.

CHO: Wow.

CHASE: What do you think they're doing now? I mean, did you think they were just doing this because Sarah's funny?

CHO (voice over): "Saturday Night Live" denies any bias.

LORNE MICHAELS, SNL EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We're not partisan. We're - and we're not putting on anything that we don't believe is funny.

CHO: And it is funny. Here's McCain talking about a last-minute change in strategy.

MCCAIN: It's called the "sad grandpa". That's where I get on TV and go, Come on, Obama's going to have plenty of chances to be president. It's my turn!


NGUYEN: All right. So a seemingly endless primary race paves the way for an unprecedented election. We are going to look back on the most memorable moments.


NGUYEN: This year's White House race has given us everything from 3 a.m. phone calls to Joe the Plumber. Special Correspondent Frank Sesno hits the highlights.


FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Images from the campaign, they tell the story of trail by fire and two candidates who blow hot and cold. It began in Iowa where a young black senator who sought change and hope found both in an overwhelmingly white state.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.

SESNO: John McCain waited 'til the next stop, New Hampshire.

MCCAIN: Tonight, we sure showed what a comeback looks like.

SESNO: The primary season was a blur, from stump speeches to YouTube debates. Sometimes nasty, sometimes destructive.

ANNOUNCER: It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

OBAMA: You're likable enough, Hillary.

CLINTON: Thank you so much.

SESNO: He won, but she talked about breaking through.

CLINTON: We weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time. Thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.

SESNO: But when there were two the contrast couldn't have been sharper. McCain built his campaign on experience, national security, his own heroic biography.

MCCAIN: And I will not be a president that needs to be tested.

SESNO: Obama's constant refrain was "change".

OBAMA: The American people can't take four more years of these failed economic policies.

SESNO: Along the way he was judged by company he kept, Jeremiah Wright, most of all, who he finally cut loose. McCain was judged, too. But it was harder to cut the connection to the president who had endorsed him.

MCCAIN: If you wanted to run against President Bush you should have run four years ago.

SESNO: Everything changed when the crisis hit. Foreclosures, bankruptcies, market meltdowns.

OBAMA: The result is the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

SESNO: And McCain uttered the words that would haunt him most.

MCCAIN: People are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

SESNO: Their choices for running mates, a further study in contrast. He stayed inside Washington. Sought age and experience, a safe choice.

He went for the long vault (ph), the game changer. It was controversial, at times, harsh.

SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ultimately, what the bailout does --

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: -- is help those that are concerned about the health care --

PALIN: --reform that is needed to shore up our economy. Helping them - oh, it's got to be all about job creation.

FEY (simultaneously): It's got to be all about job creation.

SESNO: So, here they are, nearly two years of campaigning, down to a matter of days. And the images, now, a kaleidoscope of experience and history.

(On camera): So this election is built on images and impressions, proposals and personalities, against a back drop of crisis and uncertainty; all of it wrapped in a debate over judgment versus experience. What's most striking is just how stark the contrasts really are.

Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: And we have gone from a matter of days to a matter of hours.

HOLMES: Of hours now. Polls, I'm told some are opening right now, as we speak.


HOLMES: In some states, some open at six, some open at seven. They're going to be opening, but our around-the-clock coverage continues with the best political team on television. But we are about to punch out of that clock right now.

NGUYEN: Get some much needed rest. "American Morning" picks up the baton after a short break. I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks for joining us.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. If you haven't done it, do it. Go vote.