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Barack Obama's Grandmother Dies/Final Hours to Election Day/Interview with Cindy McCain

Aired November 3, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, America about to make history. Tomorrow, a black president or a female vice president. Hours before the country decides, a tragedy.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of you heard that my grandmother who helped raise me passed away early this morning.


L. KING: The campaign goes on. Candidates crisscross the country in eleventh hour frenzy.

Can underdog John McCain muster a last minute miracle?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just one day left until we take America in the new direction.


L. KING: Can Barack Obama maintain his lead?


OBAMA: Now it's all about who wants it more, who believes in it more. It all is up to you.


L. KING: The finish line is in sight. Voters will answer one of the most important questions ever asked -- who will be the next president of the United States?

Right now, on this election eve edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Two live editions of the program tonight. You're watching one now, another at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.

Some sad news tonight. Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died of cancer early this morning at age 86. Her passing comes one day before the election that could make her grandson the next president of the United States. Obama spoke about her earlier today in Charlotte, North Carolina.


OBAMA: Some of you heard that my grandmother, who helped raise 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's 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, though, a little bit about her.

Her name was Madelyn Dunham. And she was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plainspoken person. She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America.


L. KING: In a moment, we'll meet our correspondents, who will be with the candidates in their hometowns.

But let's first check with John King in New York.

He is CNN's chief national correspondent.

He's at that proverbial map, the magic map -- John, simply put, what red states does Obama need to win to win the election?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry, right now, if he holds what he has, he would be the next president. This is the 2004 map. And I want to go to 2008, where we are on the eve of the election. But I want our viewers first to remember this. Look at all this swath of red. Those are the states carried by George W. Bush four years ago -- just four years ago.

Obama said he was going to stretch the map. Larry, this is where we are on the eve of election -- blue in Virginia, leaning Obama in a state carried by George W. Bush. Solid blue, safe for Obama in Iowa, a state carried by George W. Bush. Leaning Obama in Colorado, in New Mexico and in Nevada. All three of those states carried by George W. Bush.

Obama has stretched the map. It doesn't mean he will win them tomorrow, but he leads in those states, Larry, right now. And what that means is heading into the election, we have him leading in states with 291 Electoral College votes. And it only takes 270 to win.

So John McCain needs to pull off the comeback of the century.

And let me show you how it could happen -- could happen. The gold states are the toss-up states. Every one of these gold states was won by George W. Bush four years ago.

Let's assume, for this hypothetical, that McCain runs the board. He gets 27 electoral votes in Florida. He wins North Carolina and keeps those 15 Republican. Twenty over here in Ohio, 11 right here in Indiana, 11 more in Missouri -- always a key bellwether state. And then North Dakota, right now a toss-up. That is striking if you're a Republican. The same with Montana -- a toss-up, striking if you're a Republican.

Larry, even if he won all of those, he would still be short of Barack Obama and Obama would win the presidency. So McCain needs to do even more than win the toss-up states.

L. KING: Wow!

J. KING: He needs to turn something big like Pennsylvania. That would get him in the running, Larry. But even that would not be enough, which is why you will see on election day, John McCain campaigning in Colorado and in Nevada, hoping for some sort of a miracle in the Southwest.

L. KING: Thanks, John.

As always, on top of the scene.

John King.

Now let's check with Jessica Yellin, our Capitol Hill correspondent.

She's in Chicago. She'll be with Barack Obama tomorrow.

Is he doing any electioneering tomorrow -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN Capitol Hill CORRESPONDENT: Tomorrow, Larry, he is. He has a casual stop -- they're not calling it a formal rally -- in Indiana. That is one of those red states John has been talking about that they hope to turn blue. But that one is more of an uphill climb. It's a neighboring state, so he's trying to spend some time there.

Other than that, Larry, they say they have a million volunteers who will knock on doors, get people to the polls -- a very sophisticated, what they call micro targeting program. So they know exactly which voters in these state have yet to vote and that they believe will vote for Obama. And their focus is on those people, to do everything they can to get them out to vote tomorrow. They think that their plan is the strategy that will work.

Of course, we'll have to wait and see -- Larry.

L. KING: Jessica Yellin on the scene with the Obama campaign in Chicago.

Dana Bash is in Prescott, Arizona, CNN's Congressional correspondent, covering John McCain.

Now, he's going to do a little traveling tomorrow, right?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is going to do some traveling. You know, it's interesting, Larry, where I am right now in Prescott, this was supposed to be his final campaign stop of the entire campaign because that's tradition for him.

You can see the steps to the courthouse behind me. This is where Barry Goldwater lawns are launched his 1964 presidential campaign. And because of that, it's where John McCain has historically ended his Senate campaigns in this state.

But, you know, instead of doing -- having this as his final campaign event, they decided to add two events on election day, which is kind of unusual. But he's going to go to neighboring states -- Colorado, and he's also going to go to New Mexico.


His aides tell us that it's because they do see polls tightening in those states. But, you know, they also admit it is going to be very, very tough for him to do well in those states, particularly -- it's interesting that he's going to have such a tough go of it in the State of Colorado, because, as you know, Larry, that has been a red state for some time.

L. KING: Yes.

BASH: But it really is indicative of the challenge that he has in red states across the country right now.

L. KING: Thank you, Dana.

Dana Bash in Prescott.

You'll be seeing a lot of her tomorrow.

Want to take part in our show?

Go to our blog,, and answer this -- do you think there will be problems with the vote tomorrow?

We'll have your responses during our midnight show later.

More after the break.



OBAMA: We will not just win North Carolina, we will win this general election -- you and I together. We're going to change this country. We're going to change the world.



MCCAIN: 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.


L. KING: Let's meet two of the top political pros in the business. '

In Washington, James Carville, Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor, supporter of Barack Obama.

In Austin, Texas, Karen Hughes, former counselor to President George W. Bush, supporter of John McCain.

James, if we follow that map of John King's, it would seem that Senator McCain is up against it.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, John King said that it would be the biggest comeback of the century. It actually would be the biggest comeback since Lazarus, I mean, this election...


CARVILLE: ...because for all intent and purpose, as I said after the second debate, it was done. And it's done.

L. KING: Karen, do you agree?

Is it going to be hard for your guy?

KAREN HUGHES, FORMER COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, Larry, my heart still hopes that he has an opportunity to win, by my head says it's a very difficult climb.

He -- when you -- when John King talked about those states, a lot of those states should be Republican states. They're states that President Bush won in both 2000 and 2004. He's got to -- he's a fighter, though.

L. KING: Right.

HUGHES: He has been a happy warrior. He says he's the comeback guy. He's an old fighter pilot.

And so I think he's contesting very hard. Between he and Governor Palin, they've been in 12 or 14 states in the last couple of days. So I think he's trying to do everything he can to turn things around.

L. KING: James...


L. KING: ...has Obama's campaign, win or lose -- and apparently it looks like win -- has it been remarkable in its steadfastness?

CARVILLE: It has. And, you know, I say this -- they have made no mistakes. And let me say, that is mighty praise. Very few presidential campaigns go through and execute without the mistakes that typically we've come to expect Democrats to have.

And so for that reason -- and a lot of other reasons -- this unbelievable toughness that they showed at the beginning of the campaign, and it was well planned and they deserve enormous, enormous credit. But the thing that they were able to do is not get themselves in any trouble. And that was a big advantage. They had a natural advantage going in and they played it beautifully. And they deserve a lot of credit for that.

HUGHES: It's been a very disciplined...

L. KING: Karen, didn't they have a sinking -- they had a terrible situation in the country?

HUGHES: Well, exactly. And when the -- Senator McCain was actually ahead in mid-September, coming out of his convention, until the economic news. The terrible financial crisis really seemed to change and alter the course of the race. And, historically, economic crises have favored Democratic candidates. And that appears to have been the case in this race.

I personally feel -- and a lot of Republicans feel that Democrats in Congress bear a lot of the brunt of responsibility for the financial crisis, particularly the home mortgage problem. But I don't think we were able to effectively communicate that message. And that really has altered the course of the race.

I have to agree with James that Senator Obama has run an incredibly disciplined campaign. He's been totally on message.

When I was with President Bush's campaign, we used to be accused of being relentlessly on message. Well, I think he's -- he's been more so. And he hasn't even had a press conference, I think, in more than a month. And that's...

L. KING: Yes.

HUGHES: That's kind of incredible. That doesn't happen much these days.

L. KING: James, the Pennsylvania GOP is putting out commercials linking Reverend Wright and Obama...


L. KING: But McCain did not.

What do you make of that strategy?

CARVILLE: You know, I don't think it mattered. I think that it was a perilous moment for Senator Obama when the whole Reverend Wright thing blew up. And I think he handled it very well.

You know, campaigns are going to try to do things that they can. And the Republican Party in different states is going to try different things.

I think this thing is sad. I think this country is going to -- wants to make a change. It's going to make a change. And there's not much that the Pennsylvania Republican Party can do to talk the country or the people of Pennsylvania out of it. And you have this kind of thing that happens.

He -- it's not like he hid from this problem. He addressed it. He was very candid about it. He talked about it in a speech. And many people think one of the really fine speeches -- great speeches any presidential candidate has ever given.

L. KING: Karen, why do you think McCain didn't use it?

HUGHES: Well, Larry, I think that he just felt personally that it wasn't an issue. I personally, as a voter, still have concerns about someone choosing to rear their children and take them to a church where the minister is engaged in very anti-American rhetoric, in some cases, and invokes the almighty to -- calls on him to damn our country. And I have concerns about that. I certainly wouldn't make that choice. Other parents, I think, would not make that choice for their children.

But Senator McCain felt like that was out of bounds. And by and large, the party respected that decision.

I agree with James, though, that running an ad now in Pennsylvania, I doubt that it will have much of an impact. I do think the only thing that could have a significant impact at this point in the race is if the undecided voters -- of which there are still a pretty -- you know, 4 percent to 6 percent of the people are saying they're undecided. If they as a bloc decide to shift to Senator McCain, that could have an some impact in some key states.

L. KING: Yes.

HUGHES: And I think that's likely that could happen, because if they've waited this long, I think that tells me they have some nagging doubts about Senator Obama...

L. KING: We'll...

HUGHES: ...and about whether he is really ready to be president.

L. KING: We'll have more with James and Karen in 60 seconds.

Don't go away.


L. KING: You're looking at the scene in Manassas, Virginia, where Barack Obama is expected to address a large crowd shortly. CNN will take you there live when he speaks.

We're with James Carville and Karen Hughes.

James, give me a -- give me a forecast...

CARVILLE: I think that...

L. KING: What's going to happen tomorrow?

CARVILLE: Yes. I think Senator Obama it's going to win by 9 points. I think that just basically everything that's -- I think it's going to be like a tsunami. It's almost like one of these nuclear winters. I mean the question is what Republican version of a cockroach that survives a nuclear winter is standing after this. There will obviously be some, but not very many.

And my real prediction is, is that Senator Obama carries Virginia by a greater margin than Senator McCain carries Louisiana.

L. KING: Whoa.

Karen, objective opinion or it can be not objective. Karen, it's your show.

HUGHES: Well, again, I'm still hoping, Larry, from my heart, that Senator McCain will find some way to pull this off. But my head intellectually tells me that it's very, very difficult. And he's had -- you know, he's been outspent. He's been -- he's got a difficult economic circumstance. The polls show the majority of voters feel the country is overwhelmingly on the wrong track -- the highest margins in history. And that's a very tough environment.

I think he's run a -- you know, he's done a good job to be in contention. And we're talking about him being in contention going in. I think if -- again, he has to win some states that -- where he's currently behind.

But I'll take refuge in that old adage of candidates who are behind that the only poll that counts is on election day. And, of course, polls and pundits don't vote, the people do.

L. KING: That's true.

HUGHES: And so I will trust that the people of America will go and look at the big challenges facing our country and will decide they want a candidate who is a reformer and an agent of change, but who has experience.

L. KING: James, what was the smartest move you think Obama made?

CARVILLE: Oh, I think that he was able with, A, to get into the race and understand that the country was really looking for something different.

And I think they planned their primaries very well. I think this was a campaign that was very well prepared.

As you know, I was not for Senator Obama in the primaries. I was for Senator Clinton. And I was obviously disappointed that she lost. I thought she was remarkable toward the end of the campaign. But I think the early preparation paid off for him. And I think that the long primary season actually helped him. I was watching the second debate at CNN headquarters in New York. And I was watching his face. And he had gone through 25 debates in the primaries. And I think he was looking at Senator Clinton -- at Senator McCain.

And I could see it like, gee, is this what I'm really up against?

And just at that moment and after the debate, I said that -- that you could call the dogs in and (INAUDIBLE) and leave the house, the election was over. And that was on October 7th.

L. KING: Yes.

CARVILLE: And I never looked back from that prediction.


L. KING: Karen -- OK. We've got less than a minute.

What was McCain's, in your opinion, best moment?

HUGHES: Oh, gosh. I think his convention speech was a very powerful moment. I think he gave a strong speech where he really spoke from the heart about his love for this country and his service to the country. And he -- I found myself having tears in my eyes when he talked about his experiences in Hanoi. He doesn't talk about that very often and kind of what he's been through for our country and how he loves her and will fight for her always.

And so I -- I think that convention speech was a great moment.

L. KING: Yes...

HUGHES: And he came out of the convention, actually, with a lead and managed to maintain it until the financial crisis that hit with such devastating impact in late September.

L. KING: Thank you both very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Larry.

L. KING: James Carville, Karen Hughes.

I want to remind you, we'll be back again at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific time tonight.

And we'll be back with more of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


L. KING: Welcome back to our election eve special.

I talked with Cindy McCain yesterday when she was campaigning with her husband in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And I asked her if she thought the race had gone as expected. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: You know, no race, in my opinion, is ever the same. We have -- you know, we've been doing this a long time. This has been an interesting race, because it's had -- you know, there's been a lot of ups and downs and some twists and turns that we hadn't quite anticipated. But it's been a wonderful ride and we've really enjoyed it.

L. KING: Was 2000 the worst?

C. MCCAIN: No. No 2000 wasn't bad at all. I mean it was -- it -- I think for -- I think John would agree with me, our first race, in 1982, was probably the worst, because we -- it was the first time out. We didn't really know what we were doing. And I think both he and I would agree that was the worst.

L. KING: Did you regard it as a blow that Dick Cheney endorsed the ticket, knowing how unpopular the current administration is?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, gosh. No. You know, we thank him for his endorsement. We have a lot of endorsements. You know, absolutely not. No, no, no. No. He's a marvelous man and, you know, we greatly respect him.

L. KING: What about Obama, Cindy, has surprised you?

C. MCCAIN: I think probably his -- his -- obviously, his eloquence would be the first thing. And I don't mean to say that it surprised us, but he is a very eloquent man. And he and his wife are -- this does not surprise us. They're lovely people. They're good parents. And in that respect, I think we've enjoyed getting to know each other, at least in that way, through the media, which is about the only way we can get to know each other.

But it's been fun. It's been a fun race.

L. KING: Michelle Obama has campaigned a lot on her own. You have not.

Is that by your design?

C. MCCAIN: Yes. You know, everyone has their own style. And I've been out quite a bit on my own. It just -- you know, I guess maybe people didn't hear a great deal about it. But my husband and I are both comfortable campaigning together.

Everyone has their own style. Everyone, you know, does what feels best to them. And we like doing this together. So we do a lot of it together.

L. KING: Did you like Governor Palin right away?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, very much.

Yes. I -- we had met her a long time ago. And I knew a little -- I knew what my husband was thinking for quite a while. And when we really did sit down and talk to her at great length, she's marvelous. And I just -- I have such great respect for her, not only in her -- with her professional -- in her professional life, with all that she has done through city council to being a mayor and now a governor, but also her family life.

She's a marvelous mother. And she and Todd are just -- they're a lot of fun to be around. They're great parents, which I deeply respect in both of them. And I think most importantly, with the love that they have given to their special needs child has been a great inspiration to many, many parents and would-be parents around the world.

They're marvelous people.

L. KING: Do you think she got a bad rap?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, yes. I mean she draws enormous crowds. She's been an inspiration to women all over the world. And, absolutely. I think she was treated very poorly in the press.

She is truly a unique and a very gifted woman in all the things that she has done. And what a great vice president she will make.

L. KING: So you don't buy the pundits who are saying she has wound up hurting the ticket?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, not at all. Oh, no, no. I have heard those -- the quote pundits that have said that. Those clearly are the pundits, perhaps, that are not on our side.

She has done nothing but help this ticket. The size of the crowds she gets, the inspiration, the -- you know, just her ability to get her message out, get our message out. She is a truly remarkable woman. And I am -- I'm just -- I'm just so glad that we -- that I know her. I mean she's really just been -- and she's just really down to earth, also, which is something I really like in her. She's a very easygoing person when you talk to her and get to know her. And I just like every aspect of her.

L. KING: What did you make about flak over her wardrobe?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, you know, with all this going on now, with our economy being where it is and with -- you know, we're in two wars. With everything else that's going on worldwide, I thought it was really a very silly thing to be upset about.

We need to be concerned with what's going on with our economy, how we keep people in their homes, how we bring jobs back to areas like Scranton, Pennsylvania, where we are. And just make sure that people are able to keep -- not only keep their jobs, but be able to provide for their families.

That's a great deal more important than clothing.

L. KING: How is John doing, really?

How is he handling all this?

C. MCCAIN: Oh, he's wonderful. He's great. He's always the strong one in this crowd. I get a little tired or perhaps a little frustrated. And he always reminds me about just how lucky we are to be here and lucky to be doing what we're doing. And I respect him for that so much because he's very grounded. He's very well-grounded in that respect.

And he's made me, perhaps, keep an even -- a much more even keel than I would on this. It's very -- you know, it can be very personal sometimes. And he's just always the one that keeps everybody level and keeps everybody on target with what we're doing. I just love him for that.

L. KING: More with Cindy McCain in a minute.

I'll ask about her appearance on "Saturday Night Live."



C. MCCAIN: If Americans want straight talk and plain truth, they should take a good close look at John McCain.

MCCAIN: Won't Cindy make a great first lady of the United States of America?

Thank you.

C. MCCAIN: If all works well, you'll make our dreams come true tomorrow. And I can't thank you enough for that.



L. KING: We're back with Cindy McCain. Let's touch some other bases. What are your plans if it's a victory tomorrow?

C. MCCAIN: Gosh, well, first of all, obviously if we are lucky enough to win, we begin our transition. For me personally, I can't wait to see my children and begin a little bit of a normal family life again. But most importantly, if we do win, we need to get this country back on track, and that's something that my husband is very anxious to get to work on.

For me personally, if I'm lucky enough to be put in that position and be the next first lady of the United States, I'd like to continue all of my non-profit work and all of the overseas work that I've done with regards to poverty, hunger, AIDS, and children's health care. Regardless, win or lose, I intend to keep doing that anyway.

KING: How do you do all that and be a mother?

C. MCCAIN: Well, you just do. Women are good at that. And I think anyone who has -- not just in the situation we're in, but millions of working mothers across the country do the same things we do. You just do it. Women are good at it. They're very good at -- although I don't like the word multi-tasking, they're very good at making everything work and doing it really well.

For me it's just what I do. I like doing it. My children always come first, of course, but it's fun to do everything. It's a lot of fun and I've been offered a lot of opportunities through this political life that I wouldn't have had normally.

KING: Are you going to be involved in the transition?

C. MCCAIN: I don't know. Never having been through this before, I'm not sure what takes place in a transition. Certainly, I'll be listening and watching. I'm not sure where that plays in in all of this. Ask me afterwards. Then I can tell you.

KING: Obama has said he would consider your husband, if he wins, for a post in his administration. How do you react to that?

C. MCCAIN: Well, we will consider Obama, how about that? My husband has always said, with regards to us, that of course he would always cross the aisle and reach his hand across the aisle. His administration would be one that would be made up of Republicans and Democrats and people from all walks of life. I certainly hope that if Mr. Obama wins, that he will do the same.

KING: Are you nervous?

C. MCCAIN: Yes, a little bit. Sure. I'm nervous in that -- Exactly. I'm nervous in that I'm excited. I'm excited for my husband. I'm excited for our family. It's been a long run, and election nights are always a lot of fun, regardless. Hopefully we'll win, but election nights are a lot of fun. And most importantly for us, our family will be together, all of our kids and all of us. That's what makes it special.

KING: Did you like selling jewelry on "Saturday Night Live?" That was funny.

C. MCCAIN: That was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun doing that. I was surprised -- I didn't know I was going to be doing that until I actually got there. So I enjoyed it. That's such a fun show to do, and it's always fun to poke fun at yourself and remember to keep a good sense of humor, because, after all, you can't take yourself too seriously in anything that you do.

KING: Finally, Cindy, any concerns about John's health?

C. MCCAIN: None at all. Oh, my gosh, he can out-run all of us. I don't know if you've met his 96-year-old mother. But no, I have no concerns for his health whatsoever. I just hope I can keep up.

KING: Because he's had the prior illness, so you would think it's something at least to at least look a little bit at. C. MCCAIN: No. No. He is -- with regard to his skin, he is very routine and very regular about having his dermatologist take a look at him. And as he and I do around the country, we recommend that everybody do the same. As long as he keeps a check on himself, he's in good shape.

KING: Always good seeing you, Cindy. Stay well. Good luck.

C. MCCAIN: Thank you. I appreciate it, Larry. I appreciate you having me on.

KING: You're now looking at the scene in Manassas, Virginia, where Barack Obama is expected to address a large crowd shortly. CNN will take you there live when he speaks. Howard Dean knows something about running for president. He's here next.


KING: Joining us now in Phoenix, Arizona, is Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Phoenix?

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Phoenix. We can win here, Larry. We're two points down in a two- point race. Turnout is everything. We're working like crazy to get every last vote out here in Arizona. I always said four years ago when I took this job -- I said I think the road to the White House leads through the west. We've been preparing for this for four years and I think we can win.

I think we're going to win in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, if folks get out and vote tomorrow. And I think we can win in Arizona, too.

KING: What would have made Arizona possible, the senator's home state?

DEAN: The reason it's possible is that Barack Obama wants to cut taxes for the 95 percent of Americans who didn't get a tax cut the last time. That's the big difference. He really is on top of the economy and he is fighting for middle-class and working-class people. That's not what the Republicans have been doing for the last eight years.

KING: Are you buoyed? Are you up?

DEAN: You know, I'm cautiously optimistic. If people get out and vote tomorrow, whatever state they're in, I think we'll win. We've got to have a big turnout. Wore working very hard on it. We've been working on it for three weeks. We've got huge early voting, especially here in Arizona coming out, and an incredible amount of enthusiasm. The early votes are going our way, but people have to vote tomorrow. That's the big deal.

In Pennsylvania there is no early voting. So Pennsylvania tomorrow is the whole thing for us. Everybody has to get out and vote. KING: Has the Obama campaign surprised you in its staying on message?

DEAN: The thing that's so incredible about the Obama campaign -- I've seen a lot of campaigns over my time in politics -- is their self-discipline. I don't believe even the extraordinary Clinton campaign in '92, which was really a very successful campaign, was not as disciplined as this. I have never seen a Democratic campaign as disciplined and on message as the folks around Barack Obama.

KING: Are you going to stay in Phoenix tomorrow?

DEAN: No, I'm going to Chicago. I'm doing a couple more things very early in the morning tomorrow here in Phoenix. Then I'm going to Chicago in the middle of the day.

KING: Thanks Howard. We'll see you soon. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. We have a great panel ahead. We'll be back in 60 seconds.



J. MCCAIN: Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight! America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here.

OBAMA: Because the one thing we know that is stronger than negative politics is the will and the determination, the hope of the American people. That's what you're showing me here in North Carolina. That's what we're showing the American people all across the country. That's how we're going to win this election in 24 hours.


KING: An outstanding panel now joins us the rest of the way. In Washington, Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on the HD-Net. Here in Los Angeles, Tavis Smiley, host of the "Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS, one of the really fine people in broadcasting. And in New York, John King, CNN chief national correspondent. David Broder, one of the dean of American political columnists, considered by many the dean, says this has been the best presidential campaign he's ever covered. Tavis, what do you think?

TAVIS SMILEY, PBS ANCHOR: I'm not sure I agree with David Broder, although I respect him immensely. It's certainly been the longest, I think too long. I'm certainly in favor of a system that allows us to do something more like UK. I think six weeks, a good week -- a good six-week sprint.

This campaign has certainly been good for Obama. The longer it went, the more we got to know him. So certainly good for him. I think though, all things considered, Larry, too long a campaign, number one. Number two, I'm concerned about the money. Again, Obama's campaign run strategically brilliant. The money of course has allowed him to be in play in so many places that you've been talking about tonight. But ultimately if he wins, once he wins, we have to get back to a conversation about real campaign finance reform, because the envelope where the money has been concerned has been pushed so far off the table, Larry, that we have to address it.

KING: Dan Rather, has this been the best campaign you've observed?

DAN RATHER, HD-NET ANCHOR: Yes, Larry, it is. I agree with David Broder. Before this one, the John Kennedy/Richard Nixon campaign in 1960 was the most interesting. But I want to follow on what Tavis Smiley just said. You know, this campaign, when all is said and done, totalled up will be on the order of two to three billion dollars spent during this campaign. The questions are, who's giving that money to whom, expecting to get what?

As you know, Larry, we'll be on the air with our election coverage on HD-Net tomorrow night. It's one of the things we intend to delve into once the evening gets long and the decision is known, if indeed it gets known tomorrow night.

KING: John King, what are your thoughts? You have seen a few.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I've not as many as David Broder or the esteemed Dan Rather. But in this six I have covered, Larry, this is the most interesting. You have two very compelling candidates, Barack Obama obviously on the verge of potential history, John McCain no slouch when it comes to a compelling biography. And the issues are so consequential.

The question is, can whoever wins get anything done in the polarized environment that is Washington right now? But whether it's war in Iraq, troops in Afghanistan, climate change, the tax structure, Medicare, Social Security -- we could go on and on and on -- the person who wins this job tomorrow night, Larry, is going to have a giant and overflowing inbox. And two very compelling guys. I would agree this is by far, of the six I've covered, the most interesting.

KING: Tavis, if it's an Obama victory, is it his victory or a McCain defeat.

SMILEY: I think it's his victory. McCain, certainly, as has been said any number of times, had every obstacle that he had to overcome. All the odds were against the guy, no question about that. But Obama's campaign again has been strategically run, I think, just absolutely brilliantly. He tapped into something I think Republicans and Democrats, Larry, black or white, rich or poor, urban or suburban, as Americans we all want the same thing right about now. And I think that is to live in a nation that is as good as its promise. What Obama has tapped into is how we advance, how we take another step towards the promise of America, making American democracy real for everybody. So if he wins, it is going to be his. Let's not take it away from him. KING: We'll get Dan's and John's thoughts in a moment. If you have something to say about our show, go to our blog at right now and tell us, do you think there will be problems with the vote tomorrow? We'll have your responses in our special midnight show. Stay with us.


KING: We'll be back with a live show at midnight. Dan Rather, is -- what I asked Tavis, is Obama winning or McCain losing?

RATHER: I think you have to give Obama and his exceptionally well-disciplined campaign and very strategic campaign full marks. With John McCain, I think it's George W. Bush who's losing. John McCain is attached to President Bush, the man who beat him in 2000 for the Republican nomination. There's a certain irony there. But look, John McCain is facing three big factors, and has been for most of the race: an economic meltdown, the country's fatigue and souring on President Bush, and the country as a whole in a downbeat mood. That's an almost impossible hill to climb. I'm not saying that John McCain can't win tomorrow, but his back is to the wall, his shirt tail's on fire, and the bill collector is at the door. It's going to take a lot to get out of this.

KING: It's good to hear Rather-isms again. John King, would this be a miracle for McCain to pull this one off?

J. KING: I sure as heck can't top that one, Larry. Sure it would be. It would be a miracle for a number of reasons, for everything Dan just mentioned, which is a very good concise synopsis of the environment John McCain is walking into, a very stiff headwind, if not a stiff really tornado in his face.

Add into that, Larry, the demographics of this country are changing in way that is not favorable to the Republican party right now. There are more Latinos in the key presidential battleground states, like Colorado, like Nevada overwhelmingly so, in New Mexico, and even in Virginia and North Carolina. You're going to go to northern Virginia tonight. That state is changing dramatically.

There are fewer Republicans by a decent margin now as opposed to four years ago, more Democrats and more independents. Independents right now have that Bush fatigue Dan was just very smartly talking about. I've been in 31 states over the last 21 months, many of them five or six times gone back. Even in Republican communities, the small town American communities that made George W. Bush president, the way I like to say it is people's legs are tired. They feel like they've been treading water and they want something different.

Many of them, if asked them six months ago, would you vote for a 47 year old African-American, they would say, I don't think so. You double back to those communities now and they think, you know what, I think I will.

KING: Tavis, has Governor Palin been a plus or a minus? SMILEY: She's been a plus in the early stages and a minus in the latter stages. Cindy McCain -- I saw your conversation earlier -- was right, the crowds, as we all see, are enormous that she turns out. I think the problem is that John McCain picked an August running mate and not a November running mate. She played well in August, not playing so well in November. Certainly going to be around if these polls hold up in January.

So he made the right decision for August, but not necessarily the right decision for November. The question for me is what does she do beyond this? I'm not one of those person who sees at the moment -- this could all change. This is politics. I'm not one who sees at the moment how she comes back in four years, even eight years, and runs successfully without being able to expand her appeal beyond the conservative base of the Republican party. Clearly, she plays well with them. But how do you expand your base, number one?

And more importantly, or at least as importantly, when you have become ridiculed, when you've been positioned as being an intellectual lightweight, like Dan Quayle, how do you ever come back from that? I'm not sure you can.

KING: Dan?

RATHER: I agree, she was a good pick in late August. As things have played out, the two big turning points in the campaign against John McCain, as it turned out, picking Governor Sarah Palin, who I think is a great campaigner and is a very good entertainer, but beyond that was the way Senator McCain handled or didn't handle the economic situation when it became clear that things were in a meltdown stage. Those were the two turning points.

Keep in mind, coming out of the Republican convention, this was a dead heat shaded towards John McCain. But again, the economic hurricane that hit swept away most of his hopes. I again want to say, it's not impossible for him to win tomorrow, but it will take something of a miracle of almost Biblical proportions for him to carry the day tomorrow.

KING: Will Palin be a factor, John?

J. KING: Tomorrow? As Tavis and Dan have both mentioned, she helps enormously with the conservative base. Going into the convention, many especially Christian social conservatives weren't quite sure McCain was one of them. In picking Governor Palin, they said, you know what, he does believe what we believe. Larry, when you go into those communities, they are energized. Will they vote in record numbers they voted for George W. Bush, that's a big question for tomorrow night.

Where she is hurting the ticket right now is in the suburbs and among independents, and those happen to be perhaps the two biggest critical battlegrounds in presidential politics. To win the big swing states like Missouri, like Pennsylvania, you have perform in the suburbs. There are more Democrats in the suburbs now and more independents in the suburbs now. As for her rehabilitation, I can tell you this, Larry, she has said Tuesday, tomorrow, is her first priority. There are already people around her and loyal to her thinking if the Republicans lose, what do we do next? What kind of political organization do we need to find and found? How do we need to move her around the country and perhaps around the world? So a Palin future movement is being assembled on the side, waiting for the results tomorrow night.

KING: We'll be right back with Dan, John and Tavis. Election day is almost here.


KING: Tavis Smiley, if the turnabout occurs, if McCain wins, will race be blamed?

SMILEY: It certainly could be. That depends -- we'll see how these exit polls turn out. I hope that's not the case. I've been disturbed in this campaign that the media has been so quick to embrace this terminology of race transcendence and post-racial and race neutral, on the one hand. And for those of us who raise issues on racial disparities, we're somehow practicing a politics of grievance.

Racism is still the most intractable issue in this country. I hope that beyond this campaign, if Obama wins or for that matter loses, I hope this campaign will generate a real conversation about that in this country.

KING: Dan, is it still prevalent?

RATHER: Of course it is. What Tavis Smiley says is exactly right. If Barack Obama wins or loses, it isn't going to be a post- racial time in America. None of this talk of a transcendent time. The problem remains. We're on the road to becoming the kind of country we hope to be some day. But certainly if Senator Barack Obama wins, there will be those who say we have reached a new kind of Nirvana. We will not. If he loses, there will be plenty of people who will blame it on race. While racist feelings and racial feelings may be a factor, if Senator Obama loses, I don't think he will blame it on that, nor do I think anyone else should.

KING: Will economics, John, overcome race?

J. KING: It appears for the most part, Larry, at the moment, yes. I agree with both Tavis and Dan that it is still an issue. And even if Obama wins, it is not going to be solved. When you travel -- I was in Ashland, Ohio, a small community, a rural community, I was there the day a cookie bakery, Archway Cookie, shut down the bakery suddenly. More than 200 people lost their jobs and their health insurance like that. No notice, Larry.

Many of those were blue collar white voters who said, you know, if you asked me this question a week ago, I would have said no, in part that because not that they are racist so much as they've never voted for an African-American for anything and it's hard for them to get their arms around that. They looked at the economic plans, and they say, McCain is Bush. Maybe that is from the Obama ads or whatever. But that is how they felt. You saw that they were now willing to vote for Barack Obama because they think he has a better idea or at least a different idea when it comes to the economy.

Dan was right earlier, that just crystallized everything. The economy was issue number one anyway. When you had the meltdown on Wall Street and the apparent inaction at first and the debate in Washington, that polarized and cemented the views of many swing voters in this country.

KING: Thank you, Dan Rather, Tavis Smiley, John King. Fly safely. Tavis will be reporting for NBC tomorrow night.

On the eve of this historic presidential vote, a lot of us can't help thinking about the late Tim Russert. He lived and he breathed American politics. He would have loved covering this one. His untimely death in June left a hole in the news business. We'll feel that void very sharply when the vote count comes in tomorrow night.

We will be back tonight at Midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific. We will check in with the first voters in the country, the good people of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where we will get some immediate returns. Plus, we'll talk with Joe the plumber and experts, observers and charter members of the best political team in television. See you in a couple of hours. Now, here's Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?