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THE SITUATION ROOM
Last-Minute Election Day Rallies; Interview With Obama Senior Adviser Robert Gibbs; Voters Determined to Endure
Aired November 4, 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, an historic Election Day here in the United States. Barack Obama and John McCain vote, then dash off for 11th hour campaigning. You'll see their closing campaign journeys and where each man will either hold a huge victory rally or a huge pep rally for supporters devastated by defeat.
Scores of voters are enduring long lines, even some problems at the polls. You're going to find out what's happening and what you can do about it.
And all day we're reading clues to what might happen. We're going to tell you exactly what you should be looking for over the next several hours.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the polls close, the journey ends. But voting with my daughters, that was a big deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of the pundits have written us off. But I want to tell you, they may not know it, but the Mac is back!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barack Obama and John McCain rush back to the campaign trail after casting their votes this Election Day. Neither man is taking anything for granted.
Besides the White House, the Senate, the House, and governors races are at stake tonight as well. In just one hour from now, we'll have the first exit polls of the 2008 presidential election. You'll get those results right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And in two hours from now, the real results in the votes for president will be coming in. We'll be watching the returns from Indiana and Kentucky.
CNN has teams of reporters at both campaign headquarters. Ed Henry is standing by at the John McCain campaign headquarters. Candy Crowley is covering Barack Obama.
We begin with Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty- two months of policy rollouts, town hall meetings, raucous crowds, and rock 'em, sock 'em speeches. It all ends so quietly.
OBAMA: I hope this works. I'll be really embarrassing if it doesn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will.
OBAMA: I voted.
CROWLEY: Still in a campaign dedicated to a relentless steady march to the end, it was not quite the end, as Obama hopped over to neighboring Indiana, lending his voice to one of his thousands of get- out-the-vote headquarters across the country.
OBAMA: I just want to find out if you've decided who to vote for and if you'd gone out to vote.
CROWLEY: His last words on the campaign trail came in Indiana, a conservative Midwestern state which has not gone for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson, tells you everything about their hopes this evening.
OBAMA: Well, I'll tell you what, I think we've got a (INAUDIBLE). So we're going to just keep them all working.
CROWLEY: 270 electoral votes will do, but he wants a blowout, a huge mandate to move forward. And he wants as many Democrats as possible to meet him across the finish line. Ideally, 60 Senate Democrats, a filibuster-proof group, to fast-track his agenda.
There is a good deal of confidence in the Obama campaign that he will this evening, but there is also the unknown. As one strategist put it, "I'm a nervous wreck."
Twenty-two months is a long time. A certain sentimentality settles in when you've done what you can do. But right now, that's not what Obama has on his mind.
OBAMA: You know, I'm sure I will tonight. That's when -- when the polls close, the journey ends. But voting with my daughters, that was a big deal.
CROWLEY: Barack Obama plays basketball with old Chicago friends this afternoon. Then he'll wait with his family to find out what other voters had to say.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: In the end, election days are curious times for correspondents -- sorry. Curious times for candidates, Wolf, simply because it is the end of something and maybe the beginning of something else -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He always likes to play basketball on these election days.
All right, Candy. Thanks very much.
John McCain, meanwhile, is also fighting to the very end. He held last-minute rallies today in key battleground states.
Ed Henry is in Phoenix right now, where Senator McCain will be watching the election results.
An enormously exciting moment for a lot of people right there, Ed. What's going on in Phoenix?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And a John McCain aide told me today that there's a real feeling of nervous energy here. They realize they're behind, but they're still very hopeful of a dramatic comeback.
They admit privately that there are very long odds of them stringing together the 270 electoral votes to actually win. And that's why John McCain didn't just sit around at the hotel, the Arizona Biltmore here today. Instead, he got aboard the Straight Talk Air and hit two more battlegrounds, Colorado and New Mexico. A sign of how Barack Obama has really expanded the electoral map in this election.
And in his final pitch, John McCain was passionate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: America is worth fighting for! Nothing is inevitable here!
We never give up! We never quit! We never hide from history! We make history!
Now, let's go win this election and get this country moving again!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, McCain aides are privately admitting the math of the situation. They say that if they start losing traditionally red states like Virginia early in the evening, it's going to be a sign they're going to not only have to win those Mountain West states, but they're also going to probably have to win Pennsylvania as well, and those 21 electoral votes.
And at the end here, John McCain is sort of taking it all in. There was a moment in Colorado after the event where you could see him taking his hand and sort of patting his chest, patting his heart. And it's clear he's getting very emotional here at the end -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Speaking of emotional, the Biltmore Hotel where this rally is going to be taking place, there's a sentimental value to the McCains as a result of what?
HENRY: Absolutely. Well, first of all, John McCain traditionally has spent election night for his Senate campaigns here at the Biltmore. But also, he and Cindy McCain were married here a quarter of a century ago.
In this room behind me, this ballroom, a couple of thousand of his supporters will be gathering. But then later in the evening John McCain -- you can see some live pictures -- they're getting this dramatic stage with the American flag ready behind the hotel, and sort of this square green area out there. And John McCain will either be accepting victory or conceding defeat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it together with you. It's a beautiful hotel, a great location in Phoenix.
Ed, thank you.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" on this historic day -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed.
A lot can change in politics in a year. Think about this. Last year at this time, the race for the White House looked entirely different. John McCain far from being the front-runner on the Republican side, and Barack who?
Senator Hillary Clinton and former VP candidate John Edwards had to be considered the odds on favorites for the Democrats. Of course, most of us had never even heard of Sarah Palin.
Different issues held different weight with voters and candidates as well. In late August of last year, a CNN poll found that 31 percent of voters saw the war in Iraq as the number one issue facing America, while 23 percent said then it was the economy. Health care came in at 17, terrorism at 10.
Fast forward now to this fall, and everything has changed. In a CNN poll released on Sunday, more than half of voters listed the economy as the top issue, 57 percent, followed by health care and the war in Iraq, tied for second at 13 percent. And 11 percent felt that terrorism was the top issue.
So here's the question. As you wandered into the voting booth today, what single issue was most important to you?
You can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
Somebody wrote a headline that the economy stole the election. The financial collapse that happened about five or six weeks ago really turned this thing around in a lot of ways.
BLITZER: I mean, because early on there were issues like the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq.
CAFFERTY: Those were John McCain's long suits, yes.
BLITZER: Big issues. And all of a sudden, they went down and the economy went up. And now it's overwhelmingly the most important issue.
CAFFERTY: And McCain is on record as saying something to the effect that he didn't know a lot about the economy, which didn't help.
BLITZER: Yes. It didn't help him at all. And what he also said, remember, the fundamentals of the economy are strong a few weeks ago, on the eve of almost a collapse.
CAFFERTY: A huge collapse, yes.
BLITZER: That didn't help him either.
All right, Jack. Thanks very much.
Straight ahead, the first exit polls of this presidential election and real results in the vote for president, that's coming up.
Also, how confident is the Obama campaign feeling? I'll speak live with a top adviser to Senator Obama, Robert Gibbs. He's standing by in Chicago.
And we're expecting to see an historic turnout of voters. The lines are incredibly long, but many voters are not budging. They're exhilarated right now. We're also checking any voter problems in key battleground states.
Also hanging in the balance, the balance of power in Congress. Who's in control? It could look very different after this election. The margins could be very different.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In less than an hour from now you're going to be learning the results of the first exit polls that are coming in to voter analysis here at CNN's Election Center. We're going to be sharing those numbers with you. That's coming up in less than an hour. Stand by for that.
But coming up right now is Senator Barack Obama's senior adviser, Robert Gibbs. He's joining us from Chicago. Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is here as well. She's joining me in the questioning.
Robert Gibbs, thanks very much for coming in.
What do you think? How does it look going in? How nervous are you, if you are at all?
ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA SR. ADVISER: Oh, there's no question we're nervous. If I can be both calm and anxious in the same breath, that's what I'm feeling, with a heavy dose of tired as well.
But you know, Wolf, I think what we've seen today, and what your viewers have seen on CNN, are really long lines wrapped around buildings. It's a good thing for democracy. We think it's also a good thing for our campaign, a big turnout today.
BLITZER: What is your worst fear right now? What worries you the most?
GIBBS: Well, look, what I worry about is what I just talked about. Those long lines, that people will see those lines and decide not to go vote, or they'll stand in line for a few minutes or half an hour, but decide they want to get out of line.
But what I would tell your viewers is this: If you're in line when the polls close, you'll get a chance to vote. But more importantly, I know it's cold in some places. It's windy, it's raining in others. Get in those lines and exercise your right to vote.
This is a tremendously important and historic election. Be patient. Stand in line. And make sure your vote is counted. That's what's tremendously important today.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYS: Robert, one of the criticisms we hear about Barack Obama as people are lining up to vote is that he's a liberal who can't possibly be a conciliator to unite this country, because no matter who wins this election, you're still going to have a divided country.
BORGER: Tell us, could Obama unite a divided country?
GIBBS: Well, look, Gloria, that's what his record is throughout his life in public service. It's reaching across the aisle to bring Democrats, Independents and Republicans together for commonsense solutions to get things done.
I think that's why you've seen in this election people like Warren Buffett and Colin Powell coming together to support Barack Obama. I think somebody who can bring that type of group together is capable of bringing the men and women in Congress together to get things done for the American people, to get our country back on track, to create thousands of new jobs, to make health care more affordable. And like I said, get this country moving forward again.
GIBBS: All right. Robert, we know he likes to play basketball on these election days. And we have some video. We showed our viewers, he's playing basketball.
Take us behind the scenes. Tell us something. What else does he do on this historic day as he waits for the early results?
GIBBS: Well, you know, that's the thing he's most superstitious about, is playing basketball. We were on the plane earlier over to Indiana for a quick stop to call volunteers and call voters. And he was looking at the people that were going to play today and trying to match up teams. I think he's excited.
We haven't let him play basketball in a few months because we didn't want him to break his nose right before a debate or right before the convention and come out with a black eye or look like Marcia Brady on "The Brady Bunch." So I think he's finally excited that he doesn't have to deal with us anymore.
He can go play basketball and relax and be with his friends. He's got friends from all over the country that have come into play. And he's excited about that.
BORGER: Robert, and very quickly, you've been doing this for a couple of years now. Everybody's got a moment in a campaign that they remember. What's yours?
GIBBS: Well, I think that first night in Iowa when we won that night. And it became -- all the possibilities became more real.
We got -- we saw the type of group of people that would come out. We saw a huge turnout not unlike we're seeing tonight. We saw overcrowded polling places then, and people stayed to vote.
I think we had a sense then that what was possible could be real. And I think we're standing on the cusp of that tonight. If people will stay in line and be patient and exercise their right to vote, I think tomorrow morning we can start bringing about real change in this country. That's what we need.
BLITZER: And we're told that there's record numbers out there. People are incredibly patient. They're waiting very long in a lot of places.
We're watching all of it. We're showing our viewers in the United States and around the world, Robert, what's going on.
Thanks very much for coming in.
GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
BLITZER: All right.
We're going to go over to John King and the magic map. He's got some new information that's coming in. He's working the numbers right now. Stand by for that.
Also what's happening right now on the ground, in the states that could determine the out come of this election. We're going to three key battleground states. That's coming up as well.
And remember, starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, when the first polls close, much of America will be glued to the television set as the results stream in. What should you be looking for? Bill Schneider standing by with an election night viewing guide.
Stay with us. Lots going on right here on this historic day in the United States. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider, they're going through the exit poll numbers. And pretty soon you're going to start seeing these numbers coming in. What are the top issues on the minds of voters, how they made their decision on this historic day, stand by for that. That's coming up.
Let's bring in John King right now. He's been looking at our magic map.
You've traveled all over this country looking at the battleground states especially. On this day -- and it is a historic day in the United States -- what do you want our viewers to know?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thirty-one states we visited, Wolf. Thirty-one states.
I want to show our viewers first this, because this is where we'll start tonight. We use the old maps a lot to show you historical data. This is where we are right now awaiting the results to come in.
But as we traveled to 31 states, especially once we knew the nominees, John McCain and Barack Obama, we started to go to places in the battlegrounds that could make the difference. And one place we will watch is of course the state of Ohio.
And look back in time here. You see the blue up here. This is 2004. The Democrats tend to win up in Cleveland and Akron. The Democrats do well in Columbus because of the African-Americans.
But look at all this red. That is small-town, largely white America. And one of the big challenges is, can Barack Obama win?
So we went to this town, Ashland. Bush won this county 2-1 over John Kerry. We were there. This is Archway Cookies.
We were there just as 200 people lost their jobs and lost their health insurance. And as these people were going through these painful moments, and you see it playing out here, we talked to some of them about politics in this election. And we met people like Mike Davis, white people who tend to vote rural conservative, voted for Bush last time, who say this time they will vote for Barack Obama because they hope he can bring better jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... it seems to me are just the last good paying jobs left. It pays anywhere from $14 an hour to $17 an hour to work here. And those kind of jobs aren't within 50 miles. We've all looked. And you cannot find a job that pays anywhere close to that for our skill level anywhere around here. The jobs left are $8 an hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And so, Wolf, it was in travels to places like this where you began to see the economy became the dominant issue. You could see it in your travels repeatedly. And one of the things we will watch tonight is, can Barack Obama turn any of this red, small-town, white, rural America? Can he turn that blue? If he can, he has a good chance of taking Ohio.
BLITZER: As you know, the fastest-growing voter segment out there, Latino voters. In the Democratic primaries they overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton. But they've come to Barack Obama in pretty significant numbers.
KING: They certainly have. And let me show you a new feature we have on our map very quickly.
We'll hit "Hispanic" here. If you see -- the more orange you see, the higher the concentration of that voter group. And this is Hispanics.
So you see there are more Latinos out here in the Southwest and the western states. But you of course find them all the across the country.
I want to turn this off, because one of the places we visited to see the impact of the Latino vote is the state of Nevada. And while we were out there we met a gentleman named Manny Barajas (ph).
Now, Manny Barajas (ph) has been in the United States for 40 years, but only this year did he become a citizen. It took him almost two years, but he has become a citizen. He took part in early voting and voted for Barack Obama. And Manny Barajas (ph) thinks that Nevada will go from a Republican state to a Democratic state because he says there are tens of thousands of Latino new voters just like him.
BLITZER: We're going to be spending a lot of time with -- you got another...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were 95 Latinos. In the next station they were the same. And I like that, because they're opening up. They're coming out.
And I've never see this before. So they know something special is coming. And it's going to happen. And they're going to be part of it, just like I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So those are two places to watch, Wolf. And obviously the Latino vote could be the swing vote out in these western states as Barack Obama tries to do what he promised to do from the very beginning, stretch the map and make the Democrats competitive in many of these red states George W. Bush dominated twice -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John. Thank you.
We're going to spend a lot of time with John throughout the course of this day and night.
But I want to check in with our reporters now who are watching what's going on in some of these battleground states. Mary Snow is in Columbus, Ohio.
How does it look there in that key battleground state, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, some of the lines were very long in the morning. We expect them to resume tonight. But so far the secretary of state is reporting no major problems. And many people say they are not seeing the horrors they saw in 2004. One key reason is early voting in this state.
There has been one legal action, though, this day. And that is from the Ohio Republican Party, filing an amended complaint. This basically dealing with provisional ballots, how they'll be counted. How big of a deal is this? It'll count on whether or not there's a dispute of the election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is in Columbus, Ohio.
Ed Lavandera in St. Louis, Missouri. It's a bellwether state that normally determines, decides who's going to win in the sense that they rarely are wrong, if ever.
What are you picking up in St. Louis, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are in a suburb of St. Louis, in Webster Groves, where we've seen a steady flow of voters here throughout the day. And here they are this afternoon. This is an area, a suburb that in recent elections has gone rather significantly for Republican candidates.
And one of the reasons we're here is because many political observes here in this state say, Wolf, that as the suburbs of Kansas City and St. Louis go, that could very well determine how the state of Missouri ends up, in which column it ends up tonight. Traditionally, Democrats have fought for voter turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City, but they're really making a push for getting Barack Obama big support in these suburbs -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ed. Thank you.
Ed's in St. Louis.
Let's go to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, it's been an incredibly important battleground state.
What are you seeing there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of excitement here, record numbers of voters expected here in Pennsylvania, up to six million Pennsylvanians going to the polls. At this polling station in Overbook Park, so far, soo good. In the last few hours, people getting processed right through to those voting stations without any problems. Earlier today, however, the lines were very, very long, snaking right out here to Haverford Avenue, turning left on to Woodbine Avenue, down here, and going down the street as far as the eye could see.
Now, voting problems in Pennsylvania? Some minor things we're told about.
We're told that people are showing up thinking that they're on the registration rolls and not being on the registration rolls. We're told those people are given provisional ballots and most, if not all of them, are being allowed to vote, Wolf. But so far, so good.
A very highly charged atmosphere here in Pennsylvania. They're expecting record numbers.
BLITZER: We'll watch with you, Brian.
Brian Todd is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It all starts, by the way, about an hour and a half from now, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Ten different poll closing times over the course of seven hours and six time zones. What should you be looking for as you watch election night results right here on CNN?
And it's not only the presidency hanging in the balance. We're going to update you on the key congressional races that will determine the balance of power in Washington.
It's an historic day. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the first exit poll numbers will be coming in very soon. The story they may tell about the battleground states and what's important to voters as they cast their ballots.
Back to where it all began. Sarah Palin casts her vote in her home state of Alaska and reflects on the history she's making.
And a bittersweet Election Day -- we're going to be hearing from Bill Clinton about not seeing his wife's name on the presidential ballot.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Most of America will be glued to the television tonight. It all starts when the first polls close in most of the counties of Indiana and Kentucky at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, about an hour-and-a-half from now. And an hour after that, polls will be closed in the key battleground states of Virginia at 7:00 p.m. and then in Ohio at 7:30.
And just a half-hour later, polls in Florida and Pennsylvania will close. At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, it's Colorado and 14 other states, then Nevada at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And it won't be until 1:00 a.m. here on the East Coast that the last polls close. In Alaska, we will be tracking every minute, every development. And, at the end of it all, voters will have chosen a new president and a new Congress.
Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, give our viewers a little guide, what we should be looking for as this day and night moves on.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: first of all, you will need -- our viewers will need some fuzzy slippers and a map and a watch, set to standard time, don't forget.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Seven o'clock p.m. Eastern, last polls close in Indiana and Virginia, two battleground states that haven't voted for a Democrat in 44 years. If both states are called for Barack Obama, it looks like he will have a good night. If both states go for John McCain, the Republicans have got a fighting chance -- 7:30 Eastern, we can see what's happening in Ohio, the mother of all battleground states.
If McCain loses Ohio, a Republican victory scenario looks bleak. Also, North Carolina at 7:30 Eastern -- an Obama win in North Carolina would indicate a huge turnout of new voters and African-Americans, and trouble for Senator Elizabeth Dole, who is seeking reelection -- 8:00 Eastern, three biggies, Florida, an essential state for McCain, not as crucial for Obama.
But Democrats are looking for sweet revenge in the state that made George W. Bush president. Pennsylvania at 8:00, critical for McCain, a question mark for Obama ever since he lost the Pennsylvania primary to Hillary Clinton. Missouri is a bellwether state. It has voted for the winner in every presidential election, save one, for the past 100 years.
The pre-election polls in Missouri have shown the race neck and neck -- 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Democrats find out if they are gaining a foothold in the Rocky Mountains, when polls close in Colorado. We will get the first results from New Mexico, where Latino voters are a major force -- 10:00 p.m. Eastern, back to Iowa, where Obama first showed he could win white voters. Can he do it again, this time against a Republican?
Nevada voted twice for Bill Clinton, then twice for George W. Bush. It's tonight's last battleground.
SCHNEIDER: Still up? Polls close in Alaska at 1:00 a.m. Eastern. Now, will the state vote to reelect Senator Ted Stevens, who was just convicted of seven counts of felony? That may be worth staying up for -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill, as you look at all of this, do you have a personal little nugget you want to share? Because I know you're getting ready, with Soledad, to bring our viewers some of those exit poll numbers that are going to be coming in very, very soon.
SCHNEIDER: Well, the one thing that we're interested in is to what extent this really is a referendum on a character who hasn't been much in evidence, but a very important factor in this race, George W. Bush.
One of the problems McCain has faced all along is George W. Bush's overwhelming negative numbers. We will see in our exit poll how much they are influencing this race.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider's going to be coming back shortly with Soledad. They're going to be on voter analysis throughout this day and night, going through all the exit polls. We're going to be sharing the early numbers with you. They're coming in fairly soon.
Let's bring back John King. He's here at the magic map.
There's a balance of power in the House and in the Senate that people are going to be looking at very closely, because you and I know, and our viewers know, the way Washington works, the executive branch is important, but the legislative branch is pretty important as well.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, the Democrats are hoping for a big night. They think -- and Republicans even concede, for the most part -- that you have the Democratic majority. Here's the House lineup right now, 236 Democrats.
They think they could gain 25, perhaps even in excess of 30 seats. The main battleground tonight is the Senate. Democrats begin with 51. republicans have 49. Again, Democrats think it might be possible to get up to the magic number of 60.
Here is the battleground. This is it right now. And here are the results. Here's what's happening tonight, Wolf. We will be watching 35 races. And this is significant. Notice the red borders. Twenty- three seats are Republicans. The Republicans are defending well in excess of what the Democrats are defending.
Now, in both parties, they tend to concede that these are the safe seats. We assigned those. We will watch them all night, of course, in case there are any surprises, but 13 races in the big fight for the balance of power.
And, remember, assume the Democrats begin with 50 at that point. Very early on, they expect to win right here in the state of Virginia. This seat, it's not coming up at the moment. This is Mark Warner, who is expected to win in the state of Virginia, a very competitive race, the state of New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen against the incumbent, John Sununu, there.
The North Carolina race, Elizabeth Dole is in trouble down there. Another big race to watch, Ted Stevens, just convicted of corruption charges, he has vowed to fight on in the state of Alaska. As you can see, we're having a little programming issue right there, Wolf. And that has disappeared. But we will watch this throughout the night. And the Democrats do believe they will pick up at least six or seven seats, and perhaps as many as eight. Some think, optimistically, they might get to that magic number of 60. And then we might have a Joe Lieberman conversation a bit later in the night.
BLITZER: Now, very quickly, tell our viewers, because not everyone's familiar, why the magic number of 60 -- 60, why is that so important in the 100-member U.S. Senate?
KING: In the arcane rules of the Senate, you need 60 votes to prevent a filibuster.
That is, let's say John McCain wins the presidency or Barack Obama wins the presidency and their signature first initiative is on the floor of the United States Senate, and somebody objects. You can get up and speak and speak and speak, and you can't shut off debate unless you have 60. That's a filibuster-proof majority. Democrats would like to have it. Most think they will get close. We will see if they get all the way tonight.
BLITZER: That's one of the magic numbers we will be looking at.
Another number, 270, we will be hearing a lot about that number as well.
KING: Yes, a lot of numbers...
BLITZER: Amid all this Election Day, we're seeing two things regarding Governor Sarah Palin. Private details about her health are now been -- have now been made public. And an Alaska panel hands down its decision regarding her involvement in an ethics case.
Also, Donna Brazile talks about how proud she was in casting a vote for the first African-American major-party presidential nominee. Stand by for that.
Straight ahead as well, the first exit polls of this presidential election, they will give us an early glimpse of what voters are thinking on this day.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Deb, what is going on?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, on our "Political Ticker": A summary of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's health history is now public. Just hours before Election Day, the McCain campaign released a physician's letter saying Palin is in excellent health. Her only hospitalizations have been related to her five pregnancies.
In 1992 she had a breast biopsy for what turned out to be a benign lesion.
And it's a complete vindication for Palin this time. Alaska's Personnel Board says Palin didn't violate any ethics laws as governor when she fired her public safety commissioner. A separate investigation by the legislature found Palin abused her office by allowing her husband and staffers to pressure the commissioner to fire a state trooper who was divorced from Palin's sister.
The general in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has left Pakistan and is now making an initial assessment of the conflict in Afghanistan. With U.S. deaths in Afghanistan at an all-time high, General David Petraeus will meet with Afghan and military leaders. He's credited with stemming the violence in Iraq. Petraeus became the chief of U.S. Central Command Friday.
And, Wolf, about 20 U.S. soldiers serving -- I'm sorry -- 200 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq are celebrating Election Day by becoming U.S. citizens. The men and women come from 60 countries. And although they became citizens too late to cast votes in this election, they say they're excited to cast ballots in the future -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They should be excited. Everyone should be excited.
All right, thanks very much.
Deb Feyerick will be back shortly.
In under two hours from now, real results in the votes for the presidency. We're watching early returns coming in from Indiana and Kentucky. Those numbers will start appearing actually in a little bit more than an hour from now, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
Also, there are some problems at some polls, and calls to CNN's voter hot line are pouring in. You're going to warning to hear what is happening. Ali Velshi is standing by.
Meanwhile, it was nearly a close encounter for Barack Obama today.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama arrived at his polling place just minutes after former radical William Ayers voted at the same school. His kids in tow, Obama and his wife filled out their ballots.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I noticed Michelle took a long time.
MOOS: He joked that he had to check to see who she was voting for.
Obama and his daughter Malia kept whispering, kept grinning at one another.
OBAMA: I voted.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MOOS: For his 10-year-old, voting wasn't just a yawn. It was two yawns.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And we're only moments away from the first exit poll numbers coming in.
In the meantime, I want to check with -- in with Abbi Tatton. She is going through some of these amazing I-Reports that are coming in, Abbi, from not only the United States, but around the world.
What are we seeing?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, from the moment we checked in with our I-Reporters this morning -- this morning, our inbox was absolutely packed with these reports coming in from people voting around the country, people voting absentee, waiting to get their ballots in.
First of all, we're going to Miami, Florida, here. This is Mike Bichara's experience. He said he didn't want to vote early. There was early voting offered in that state, but he wanted to vote on Election Day. He's a McCain supporter. He said the lines were too long for early voting. But he had two-and-a-half-hour wait this morning in Miami.
He said it was all fine and good, though, when he got to the front of the line. That was at 7:30 a.m. in the Miami suburb. Also, at the same time, also in Florida, this is a text message that was received by Brad Cornelius, a hoax text message received this morning from Brad Cornelius -- he's in Jacksonville, Florida, an Obama supporter -- from a number he didn't know, saying, Obama voters asked to vote on Wednesday.
Clearly, that's false, a hoax. He ignored it, sent it to CNN at the voter hot line at CNN. We have had a handful of reports of these being forwarded around from people they don't know in several states there. But most of the reports that we're getting from our I- Reporters today are just of their voting experiences, people excited to be a part of this, and not just in the United States.
This is Holly Felmlee and her husband, Dennis (ph). They're in the Peace Corps in Romania. That's them standing with their absentee ballots. They got those a little bit late, and they're just hoping today that they arrive in Colorado on time. They said they spent 140 bucks on express mail to hope that happens -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow. That's pretty good, very patriotic of them. Thank you. Abbi, thanks very much.
Let's get to out "Strategy Session" right now.
Joining us now, our CNN political contributors, the Democrat Donna Brazile, the Republican Alex Castellanos.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Donna, you voted in Washington, D.C., today, before you flew up here to the CNN Election Center in New York. And you said this. I'm going to play this little clip, because I was moved. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't believe anyone ever thought they would see this day, that they would see the day that we would be -- be prepared, as a country, to elect the first black president of the United States.
And, so, for me, I have been involved in politics all my life. I have run a major presidential campaign. This is a day that I could only imagine when I was a little girl growing up in the Deep South.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And multiply that impressions by millions out there, it's a pretty amazing day, when you think about what's going on in the United States right now.
BRAZILE: Wolf, I thought about my ancestors. I thought about the people who raised me, my grandmother, when she would call us in the room at night in the order of our birth, Cheryl (ph), Sheila (ph), Donna, Tayla (ph), Chet (ph), Louisa (ph), Dimitry (ph), Kevin (ph), Zoey (ph). There was a lot of us.
But they had faith. And they kept telling us that we could do anything. We could become anyone. And when they left the room, we giggled, because we thought, no, some doors are still closed.
But, after this day, Wolf, no grandmother, no mother, no father will ever be able to say that without just smiling and say, look at Obama.
It is truly a historic moment.
BLITZER: It's -- it's an amazing moment, when you think about there's also a potential out there for the first woman to be a vice president of the United States.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's -- it's still the greatest land of opportunity that the world has ever seen. I came here from Cuba in 1960. And I became...
BLITZER: You were a little boy.
CASTELLANOS: ... became a citizen of this country. And, you know, I voted absentee last week. This country's always made me the promise that, in America, you could do and be anything you want. And -- and it's always kept that promise to me. This year, we can have a female vice president, a black -- who knows.
But the point of it is, this is the day we all become one. And whoever wins this election tomorrow is going to need all of us together as one to move forward.
BLITZER: Well, how difficult, Donna, will it be, whoever's elected, whether it's Senator Obama or Senator McCain, to unite this country, given the enormous crises that are out there, economic, national security, wars? It's not going to be an easy mission. And there are some bitter feelings out there, as well, as you know.
BRAZILE: But, you know, Wolf, what makes this country so unique, what makes Americans so -- so special is that we understand the nature of our challenge.
We have been inspired. We have been dared before to dream to dream and to believe. And I think that the next president will have to reach out to the other side. And the other side will have to come with the president and say, we're going to work this thing out. We want to become one country again.
If you look at all of the polls, the American people are very pessimistic. But they want us to end the partisanship. They want the country to come together.
CASTELLANOS: You know, it's actually interesting. Right now, people say the country is on the wrong track, 80 percent. But they also say -- are looking for hope and they're looking for vision.
They are looking for optimism. And it's moments like these, when we have found really our greatest presidents, whoever's elected tomorrow. When -- when America faces challenges like the Great Depression, it got a Roosevelt. When -- the Cold War, it got a Reagan.
So, at a time like this, we need a great president. And we're picking one, I hope, today.
BLITZER: And, during the Civil War, they got -- we got Abraham Lincoln. We can't forget that as well.
BRAZILE: I voted four blocks from the home where Frederick Douglass lived on Capitol Hill.
BRAZILE: And, when I looked back, I said, can you imagine? Frederick Douglass would have been proud of this day.
BLITZER: A lot of people are -- are feeling exactly what you're feeling, Donna. BRAZILE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Both of you are not going away, so, stay with us.
Calls, by the way, are streaming into CNN's voter hot line right now. We're going to be telling you what we're hearing from -- from voters about some problems. We will show you where the most severe problems are occurring on this Election Day.
Also, we're going over those first exit poll numbers. We're going to be showing the early results in just a few minutes. Stand by.
Sarah Palin voting in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, and then she tells reporters why she believes this is an historic election.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: CNN is the only network to have established a voter hot line to report problems over at the polls.
CNN's Ali Velshi has been fielding some of those calls.
Ali, what are you hearing? What's going on out there?
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing a lot.
In fact, we have taken in 21,500 calls since the polls have opened today. We have taken more than 70,000 all together, more than 15,000 problems. I will tell you, they're ranking in this way. These are the three biggest areas: registration problems, voters think they should be on the rolls, but are not seeing their names when they go in; mechanical problems, machines failing or machines not registering to vote; and poll access, which is our big word for, generally speaking, trouble getting into the polls. And that means lines are too long.
We're taking an increasing number of calls from Pennsylvania. We spoke to Regina Hollis. Here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REGINA HOLLIS, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: The problem I had was, my name was not in the registration book. I'm an avid voter. In the five years I have lived at this address, my name always appeared in the voter registration book to sign to cast my vote.
And just six months ago, when we had the primary, my name was in the book. Today, I go to vote, my name is not in the book, and I had to fill out a provisions ballot.
(END AUDIO CLIP) VELSHI: All right, this is happening in Pennsylvania and Ohio, other states, particularly those where there were late and heavy registration drives.
For people who are running into the problem, number one, call the hot line, 1-877-GOCNN-08. We can try and get to the bottom of it. If enough people are calling, we put in calls to secretary of the state or the board of elections.
There are also some hoaxes going on around the country, with text messages, e-mails and phone calls suggesting that, because of long lines voting has been delayed until tomorrow.
Today is your voting day. There are no exceptions to that. If you're in the polling place, if you're in the line before polls close in your state, you will get to vote, no matter how long it takes. So, as Donna Brazile told me a few minutes ago, just tell everybody, be patient. Sing songs. Do whatever you have to do. Get in that line. Be adamant about your registration, and get a ballot cast.
BLITZER: And bring something to read.
VELSHI: Bring something to read.
BLITZER: That's always a good idea.
All right. Or go with a friend. You can have a good conversation.
VELSHI: That's right.
BLITZER: Ali, thanks. You're not going away.
John King is looking at where these calls are coming in from.
John, what are you seeing?
KING: Well, Wolf, Ali just mentioned some of the places where we're getting these calls.
We can use our map to track the calls. And, again, throughout the night, the deeper the intensity of the color, that means the higher volume of the call. Let's just look. Ali just mentioned Pennsylvania. Let me stretch this out a little bit, and you can see, 246 calls right here near the city of Philadelphia, 73 calls in the county just over here, 53 calls out here.
I'm going to shrink this down a little bit. We will go next door. Ali also mentioned the state of Ohio. And you can see there are calls coming in from all over the state, the highest right now up here along the lake, the city of Cleveland, 223 calls up there.
As you shrink down the state, probably no surprise, the highest number of calls coming in with the highest population centers, 195 right here in the city of Columbus, in Franklin County, in the central part of the state. If we pull out to the national map, again, you see, the deeper the orange, the higher the volume of the calls. So, throughout the night, Wolf, when we get those calls, we can track where they're coming from.
BLITZER: All right, John, thank you.
And a reminder: If you see any voting irregularities or have any problems casting your vote, you can call 1-877-GOCNN-08 go CNN-08, or that's 1-877-462-6608. We're reporting on your reports as we get them.
On our "Political Ticker" right now: From East to West, and in between, there are one governor's races also at stake this Election Day. Three are for open seats. Those are in Missouri, where Republicans hope to hold on to the governorship, and in Delaware and North Carolina, where Democrats are hoping to retain the governor's seats.
The eight other races feature an incumbent. There are Republican governors running to stay in office in Indiana, North Dakota, Utah, and Vermont, and Democratic governors running for reelection in Montana, New Hampshire, Washington State, and West Virginia.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: What single issue was most important to you as you went to the polls today?
Rich writes from Minot, North Dakota: "The economy, with justice for the middle class. John McCain couldn't even say the word middle class. A middle-class tax cut is redistribution of wealth, but the tax cuts for the rich aren't? Grandpa didn't fool me."
Jim in Kansas: "The war in Iraq was the only issue that got me out to vote. I feel Obama will bring the troops home a little sooner than McCain."
Elle in Pullman, Washington: "Health care, hands down. I run a small business and support my family of four. We had to search for our own health care. And I can tell you for certain, our health care system stinks. My whole family is healthy, no pre-existing conditions, non- smokers, et cetera. Our premiums are ridiculous, even with higher deductibles."
Ralph writes: "The economy is a very important issue. However, getting the current, inept Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice administration into the history books was foremost on my mind. John McCain is a good man, and I have respect for him. However, his affiliation with the mess we now have moved my vote to Obama-Biden."
Scott in Wichita, Kansas: "The war on terror. We have seen very little economic impact out here in Wichita. House prices actually went up. Iraq is now looking better than ever. We need to concentrate on how well the sanctions and diplomacy are working in places like North Korea, use those lessons on the other state sponsors of terror. We also need to refocus on Afghanistan. The market will recover. It always does." And, finally, Ryan in Indiana: "I think all of our financial woes begin and hopefully will end with an ultimate end to the war in Iraq. The war has dragged down our financial system, elevated gas prices, created nothing but headaches and heartaches to every taxpaying American. I hope to see some progress and to see a great percentage of our troops home by the end of next year."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there. We post hundreds of them every hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.