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Barack Obama's Grandmother Dies; Final Campaign Dash

Aired November 3, 2008 - 18:00   ET


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Barack Obama's powerful personal loss on the eve of what could be a historic triumph. This hour, the breaking news of his grandmother's death. We're standing by to hear from Senator Obama live this hour.

Also, John McCain's urgent plea. He's scrambling for votes and covering lots of ground on this election eve. We are going to take you inside the Republicans' best hopes and worst fears.

And in the trenches, in the battlegrounds, the mad dash to get out the vote and the long wait once Americans show up at the polls. The best political team on television is standing by.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

By all accounts, Barack Obama would not be where he is today without the strength and love and influence of his grandmother. And now if he wins the highest office in the land tomorrow, it will be without her.

Just a short while ago, the Obama campaign confirmed that Madelyn Dunham died peacefully last night in Hawaii after a long battle with cancer. She was 86 years old.

Senator Obama recently took some time out from campaigning to fly to Hawaii to see her. I asked him about that emotional visit during our one-on-one interview last Friday.


BLITZER: All of us were moved last weekend when you went to see your grandmother in Hawaii. I know she watches CNN...


BLITZER: ... because she says she watches CNN.

OBAMA: She does.

BLITZER: If -- and she might be watching right now. And I know how proud she must be that you have reached this level and on the verge, potentially, of becoming president of the United States.

How emotional is this for you and for her at this moment?

OBAMA: Well, you know, look, she's my grandma. And she helped raise me. And she -- she put off a lot of things in her own life to make sure that myself and my sister, that -- that we were taken care of.

So, a big chunk of whatever success I have achieved is because of her.


BLITZER: John and Cindy McCain released a statement a few moments ago, offering their deepest condolences to the entire Obama family, as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother.

We're standing by to hear from Senator Obama at a rally in North Carolina this hour. He's been out there pushing a very busy campaign schedule, even after learning of his grandmother's death this morning.

Our Suzanne Malveaux has more on Senator Obama's grandmother and what she meant to the man who could be the next president.


OBAMA: Thank you to my grandmother, who helped raise me and is sitting in Hawaii somewhere right now, because she can't travel, but who poured everything she had into me, and who helped to make me the man I am today. Tonight is for her.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a child Obama was abandoned by his father and for long stretches separated from his mother who pursued studies in Indonesia, so Obama's white grandparents largely raised him as a teen in Honolulu.

Obama told me they instilled the values in him he needed to embrace his identity as a biracial child.

OBAMA: They were fundamentally American values and that -- that I could feel comfortable in my own identity and my own skin embracing that side of my family while also embracing the fact of my race.

MALVEAUX: Obama's sister Maya told me Madelyn Dunham didn't care to be called grandmother so they called her Toot, sort for Tutu, the Hawaiian word for grandma.

Toot hasn't been able to travel on the campaign trail because of her osteoporosis, but Maya says she follows it closely on cable TV.

MAYA SOETORO-NG, SISTER OF BARACK OBAMA: A relative lives in the same apartment that she's been renting for nearly 40 years, 950 square feet. That is our family estate. When he becomes president I hope they put a little, you know, historical plaque up there.

MALVEAUX: Obama calls her a trailblazer, a no nonsense kind of woman who broke barriers.

GEORGIA MCCAULEY, OBAMA FAMILY FRIEND: She rose to be the head of the escrow division of the Bank of Hawaii which was quite a feat.

OBAMA: We're among friends here. We're -- we're family.


BLITZER: And our deepest condolences, deepest condolences to the entire Obama family on the loss of Senator Obama's grandmother.

A little less than 24 hours from now, the first polling places will close, and the election night drama will begin. Today, the White House hopefuls are on a frantic race to win last-minute votes. John McCain is dashing across seven states, beginning in crucial Florida and including Pennsylvania, now considered a must-win for Senator McCain. He ends the day in his home state of Arizona.

Sarah Palin swings through Ohio and four other states. She closes with two stops in Nevada, a red state where Barack Obama has the advantage in the polls right now. Obama has a less intense schedule, with stops in Florida, North Carolina, and finally Virginia. That's a red state he's hoping to turn blue. He will wind up home in Chicago.

Joe Biden zips through three battleground states, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's in Charlotte right now.

It's a painful day for Senator Obama, with the loss of his grandmother. How is he handling it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he and his sister put out a joint statement praising their grandmother for her role in their life and the life of their grandchildren, of course, Barack Obama's two young daughters. So, it was very low-key.

In fact, that's the first we knew that, in fact, his grandmother had died, when they put out this joint written statement. He was told about his grandmother's passing early this morning, about 4:00 or 5:00 Eastern time. He was in Florida at the time. He was told, at about 8:00 in the morning.

But, since then, Wolf, he has had a rally, and he has gone here to visit headquarters. And he has not mentioned his grandmother's death. There is no outward sign, as he campaigns now in Charlotte, North Carolina, and earlier in Florida, no outward sign of his loss.


OBAMA: I have just one word for you, Florida: tomorrow.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CROWLEY (voice-over): No accident Barack Obama came to Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville as part of his finale. John McCain was here in September, and there was a pivotal moment that marked the beginning of Obama's pull-away.

OBAMA: He said -- and I quote -- "The fundamentals of our economy are strong."

CROWLEY: The candidate who launched his presidential bid on opposition to the war closes out on the economy. As foreclosures rose and Wall Street imploded, Obama's lead over McCain on who could best handle the economy rose to almost 20 points.

Still, the fundamental premise, the gale-force winds that pushed him forward, is a single word in ads, speeches, placards: change, and the hope it brings.

OBAMA: It's what led those who could not vote to say, if I march, if I organize, maybe my child or grandchild can run for president some day.


CROWLEY: Obama's ambitious political hopes are in stark relief in his final flights, Florida. Democrats have coveted a clean win here since the controversial 2000 race.

North Carolina and Virginia -- Democrats hope the two will serve as gateways to the once-solid Republican South. And, on Election Day, a quick hop to scarlet-red Indiana, a tie now, but a win would be the coup de grace for a campaign longing to change the electoral map.

The Obama campaign has always dreamed big, politically, historically, rhetorically, seeking from the start to be less of a campaign, more of a movement.

OBAMA: If you will stand with me and fight with me, I promise you, we will not just win Florida. We will win this election. You and I together, we will change this country. We will change the world.

CROWLEY: Obama told a radio network he feels pretty peaceful. He's also plenty tired.

OBAMA: The Republicans are spending a lot of money on ads here in Ohio.

CROWLEY: He was in Florida -- 22 months is a long time.


CROWLEY: As we all know, Barack Obama may or may not be on the edge of history here. It surely must be a bittersweet moment for him, dealing with both the death of his grandmother and yet these crowds that he continues to draw. I have to tell you, Wolf, there are a lot of people here, as far as the eye can see. And it has been pouring rain, so, quite a difference in emotions between what's going on privately and what's happening here publicly.

BLITZER: Quite a difference, indeed. All right, Candy, thank you.

Let's get to John McCain right now and his grueling marathon in these, the closing hours of this campaign.

Our Dana Bash reports from Arizona, McCain's last stop tonight.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his frantic final push, John McCain is closing not so much with an argument, but an urgent plea.

MCCAIN: We need to win Virginia on November 4, and we have got to take this country in a new direction, and we will win.


MCCAIN: Volunteer. Knock on doors. Get your neighbors to the polls. We need to win in Pennsylvania tomorrow. With your help, we will win. With this kind of enthusiasm, this kind of intensity, we will win Florida, and we will win this race.


BASH: The mantra inside camp McCain is that polls are tightening, but privately McCain advisers admit winning would be nothing short of a miracle.

The itinerary for McCain's seven-state sprint says it all: Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. All but one red states he's trying to keep Obama from winning, a game of defense, big-time.

MCCAIN: We need to bring real change to Washington, and we have to fight for it.

BASH: At McCain's first stop in Florida's critical I-4 Corridor, about 1,000 people showed up, lots of empty space in a place George Bush drew 15,000 four years ago. But what some of his crowds lack in numbers, they make up with enthusiasm, fired up by lines like this.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is in the far left lane of American politics. He's the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, more liberal than a guy that used to call himself a socialist.

BASH: And, as he has his whole life, from prisoner of war to politician, McCain is drawing his energy from being an underdog.

MCCAIN: They may not know it, but the Mac is back. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: And we're going to win this election.


BLITZER: Dana Bash reporting for us.

We're awaiting one of Barack Obama's last campaign events. He's in North Carolina, Charlotte, right now. We will go there live once we see him.

Also, both candidates smelling victory.


MCCAIN: With this kind of enthusiasm and this kind of intensity, we will win Florida, and we will win this race tomorrow.


OBAMA: I promise you, we will not just win Florida. We will win this election. You and I together, we will change this country.



BLITZER: So who is right? Who is wrong? You are going to find out where things stand in our latest poll averages.

Also, in Pennsylvania, Obama and McCain battle, but they're also bringing out two political big guns.

And it's a pretty big what-if. Jack Cafferty is coming up with his question this hour. You're going to want to see it.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Whoever wins tomorrow is likely to be a very busy fellow, the size of the problems awaiting the victor daunting, and will take every once of energy and concentration he can muster, and it still might not be enough.

You can bet that Americans will have high expectations of our next president. Of course, after the last eight years, the bar is not set very high. Nevertheless, it's possible the tasks at hand could simply prove to be too much, which means, in four years, voters could be looking to make another change. Ponder this. What if 2012 rolls around, and President McCain considers resigning after on term, or President Obama makes some huge mistake that makes a second term for him a long shot?

This campaign has been fun to watch, but the thing I have got in mind would be off the charts. What if the next election saw Sarah Palin running against Hillary Clinton for president? Palin said the other day, "I'm not doing this for naught." And she's made that perfectly clear, particularly to McCain's campaign, that she has other interests besides being vice president.

Clinton almost didn't survive losing the nomination. She almost had a meltdown, and you can bet that she would seize on getting another shot. It would be breathtaking.

Here's the question. Who would win a battle between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2012? It's never too early to start looking ahead, you know. Go to and post a comment on my blog.

It's a good thing the election is tomorrow, because I'm running out of stuff.


BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Jack Cafferty saying, it's never too early to look ahead.

CAFFERTY: That's right.

BLITZER: I am going to remember that, Jack.

Let's take a closer look right now at one state where both the McCain and Obama campaigns are aggressively targeting the voters. That would be Pennsylvania.

Brian Todd is in Philadelphia working this story for us.

Both Obama and McCain are bringing out their best political guns, trying to get votes on this election eve, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf. A real indication of just how crucial this state is to both campaigns, they have tapped Pennsylvania's two biggest political stars to be their surrogates here, and both men have worked tirelessly to put their teams over the top.


TODD (voice-over): In a tiny back alley in Philly's working- class suburbs, classic political back-slapping.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't want to just win. I want to crush him.


TODD: Here, you would expect to find maybe a local delegate or the dark horse running for town council, but the state's top political gun? These days, no alley is too small for Governor Ed Rendell.

Barack Obama's top surrogate in Pennsylvania knows this state is not a slam-dunk for the Democrats, despite what some pre-election polls have said.

RENDELL: Certainly not double digits. And I think Senator McCain and Governor Palin's campaigning in this state, as much as they have done the last four weeks, is having an effect. I mean, they have been here so much, I'm thinking of charging them state income tax.

TODD: Rendell knows the political complexities here, knows those liberal pockets in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh may not be enough to counter the Hillary Clinton Democrats, the undecideds, or the culturally conservative center of the Keystone State.

He was so worried about those voting blocs that he recently blasted a stern memo to the Obama team. The message? Get your people back here.

RENDELL: And the campaign responded.

TODD: But they're up against a freight train.

John McCain and Sarah Palin have blitzed Pennsylvania in recent days, seeing this as the one Democratic stronghold they can turn to counter the likely loss of Republican states.

And they have got their own superstar surrogate, the popular former Governor Tom Ridge, who knows how to win over moderate Democrats here.

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: There are a lot of independent-thinking Democrats throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And one of the points we're trying to make with all these people is that their nominee drives his political car in the far-left lane. There's not a lot of traffic there.

TODD: Local observers say, the Rendell/Ridge matchup shows just how vital this Pennsylvania battleground is for both campaigns.

BRADLEY WATSON, PROFESSOR, SAINT VINCENT COLLEGE: You do have to figure out a way to connect with these voters who might be registered Democrats, but might lean toward a Republican candidate in a national election. I think both Rendell and Ridge in their own ways can connect with those working-class Pennsylvanians.


TODD: Now, I asked both Ed Rendell and Tom Ridge if it's tough playing the surrogate role when they're so used to being the headliner. Both said they're happy to be surrogates, but for different reasons. Rendell said it's because he has come to really believe in Barack Obama's message. Tom Ridge said he's been such a good friend of John McCain's for 25 years that he never thought twice about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd is in Philadelphia for us -- thank you.

Brian is one of our battleground coverage reporters.

It's being called the most negative Senate campaign in Minnesota's history, Norm Coleman vs. Al Franken. After the nasty race, will voters be satisfied with either of them?

And Bill Clinton out there on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania right now, can he save the day for two struggling Democratic congressmen? The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures. We're going to show you some live pictures of senator -- there they are -- Senator Obama. He's getting ready for an address in Charlotte, North Carolina. Those are the live pictures from Charlotte. We will go there live once he starts speaking.

I wonder if he's going to say anything about his 86-year-old grandmother, who has just passed away, very sad news.


BLITZER: It's been a rather nasty Senate race in Minnesota.


SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: My anger, Carrie (ph), in this is about an ad that's attacking my wife, that is defaming my wife.

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: This is not about Norm Coleman's wife. This is about Senator Coleman's political sugar daddy.


BLITZER: Al Franken and Norm Coleman, what will the voters say? Will they be happy with either of them as the winner?

Plus, can John McCain win the White House by winning in the West? We're looking at the latest poll of polls in our magic map.

And the McCain campaign using Barack Obama's own words against him in an 11th-hour attack, but have they dug up dynamite or a dud?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: John McCain's last-ditch effort to take key Western states. We will inside his must-win strategy. John King and the magic electoral map standing by.

Also, the gloves come off in an already-heated race in Minnesota. Are Norm Coleman and Al Franken turning off voters with their increasingly personal Senate race?

Plus, the John McCain remark that Barack Obama is seizing on. Was it, as he claims, the turning point in this campaign?

All of this, plus the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

If the polls are any indication, the presidential race is getting a little bit tighter out there. Look at where things stand in our latest average of various polls.

And we will begin in Ohio. Right now, in Ohio, in our poll of polls, Obama with 49 percent, McCain 45 percent, 6 percent unsure, 20 electoral votes at stake.

Let's go to Pennsylvania, 51 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain, 6 percent unsure, 21 electoral votes in Pennsylvania. In Florida, 27 electoral votes there, look at how close it is, 48-46, Obama slightly ahead, but that's within the margin of error. Six percent say they are still unsure.

After Florida, we will go to North Carolina, 15 electoral votes, 49 for Obama, 48 for McCain, 3 percent unsure, virtually tied there in North Carolina.

In Virginia, a slight lead -- Obama 50 percent, McCain 45 percent, 5 percent unsure. Thirteen electoral votes at stake.

We'll go next to Indiana. Look at how close it is there -- 47 seven percent for McCain, 46 percent for Obama, 7 percent unsure. Eleven electoral votes in Indiana.

Missouri tied 47-47. Six percent say they're unsure. Eleven electoral votes in Missouri, as well.

Finally in Nevada, out West, a slight advantage for Obama -- 49 percent for Obama, 44 percent for McCain, unsure 7 percent. Five electoral votes in Nevada.

Let's head over to John King.

He's over at the national -- at the magic map for us.

The McCain campaign say they have a few different options where they could reach that magic number of 270.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very narrow options, Wolf, but they do have some options. And before we go to the electoral map, I want our viewers to remember these areas I circle -- right in this part of the country, right here in the center of the country and then out here in the West. Remember this. Remember all this red -- red here, red here and red there.

Now we're going to go look at the potential scenario for John McCain to get back into this race. And let's come up with our electoral map as we stand right now.

The dark red, safe McCain; the lighter red, leaning McCain. The same thing, dark blue, safe Obama; light blue, lean Obama.

The gold or yellow states are our toss-up states. Look at the blue out here, Wolf, already. Those were red states four years ago.

Look at the blue over here in Virginia. And the toss-ups out here -- all Bush states, these toss-up states. Every gold state on this map was a Bush state four years ago.

Now, Barack Obama, right now, as we project, would win the presidency if he just held everything he was -- every state he's leading in today, he would win the presidency.

So how does John McCain get back?

Well, it starts by sweeping these toss-up states. No easy task. He's behind by a few points, as you just noted, in some of them. But let's give John McCain the benefit of the doubt and say he can hold Florida -- a Republican state the last two cycles. He can hold North Carolina -- a Republican state all the way back to 1976, I believe -- even 1964, excuse me.

Here we go, Ohio with 20. He needs that. Indiana, 11 electoral votes. He needs that. The "Show-Me" State of Missouri is 11 more. McCain must win it. The same out here. He has to hold North Dakota and keep Montana. A stiff Obama challenge in both of these states out here.

But, Wolf, as you see, even that is not enough. Barack Obama would still win the presidency.

The McCain strategy is, first and foremost, turn Pennsylvania. They are campaigning heavily in this state. They need to take those 21 not only away from Barack Obama, but make them Republican. That hasn't happened in 20 years. So there's one steep hill for Senator McCain.

And even then, he'd be at 270 -- 268. They are concentrating, Wolf, on Colorado. McCain will be there on Wednesday. And on Nevada -- five electoral votes there. Trying to turn two states where, at the moment, if he could do that and everything else, he would get there. But both of these states leaning blue at the moment. Barack Obama not only ahead in the polls, but has a very good ground operation in both Colorado and Nevada.

BLITZER: All right, John, stand by, because we're going to talk a little bit more about this. That's coming up.

Also, with the help of an audiotape, the McCain campaign has launched an eleventh hour attack on Barack Obama over comments he made about the coal industry.

Deborah Feyerick is back.

She's working this story -- Deb, what did Senator Obama say?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Barack Obama was talking about the importance of coal and the importance of controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

What did he mean?

You decide.


FEYERICK (voice-over): In a surge through make or break states, Republican V.P. candidate Sarah Palin reached out to coal miners in Pennsylvania and here in Ohio, criticizing Barack Obama for comments he made 10 months ago.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're going to hear Barack Obama talking about bankrupting the coal industry. He explains...


PALIN: Now a couple of points on this. One is that the tape just now is surfacing, just a couple of days before the election?

FEYERICK: Obama used the word bankrupt, but did not talk about bankrupting the industry and the interview with the "San Francisco Chronicle's" editorial board has been available online since January.

OBAMA: So, if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted.

FEYERICK: Obama says he is not anti-coal, but says coal plants need to move to newer technology or end up bankrupt, paying emissions taxes -- a comment editors considered as part of Obama's overall energy strategy before endorsing him.

JOHN DIAZ, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": None of what went on in that meeting was any secret at all. We were very transparent. We were very open. We put it on our Web site and invited people to look at it. And many, many did.

FEYERICK: The audio and videotape recently got top billing on the conservative NewsBusters Web site, which brands itself as "exposing and combating liberal media bias."

L. BRENT BOZELL, PRESIDENT, NEWSBUSTERS: As a colleague of mine put it to me this afternoon, it was hidden in plain sight. Yes, the video exists on the Web site, if you want to dig long enough to find it. But that's not the point. FEYERICK: The conservative Web site calls the remarks a "keg of dynamite." And the RNC rushed to send the remarks to political reporters over the weekend.

Larry Sabato is with the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: This is typical of what happens on election eves when one candidate is losing. Frequently, you find allies of the candidate doing everything possible to find some leftover stick of dynamite to upset the realities coming the next day.


FEYERICK: Now, Senator Jay Rockefeller praised Obama's commitment to clean coal, saying he vetted the plan, calling the McCain-Palin comments "misleading and untrue" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Deb, thank you.

In these, the final hours of the race for the White House, the candidates are battling over the economy.


OBAMA: He said -- and I quote -- "The fundamentals of our economy are strong.


OBAMA: You don't need to boo, you just need to vote.



MCCAIN: He thinks that taxes are too low and I think that spending has been too high.


BLITZER: We're going to talk about that and a lot more with the best political team on television. They're standing by live.

Also, two Democrats facing uncertain futures -- can the former president, Bill Clinton, help save them?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: We're going to be going out to Charlotte, North Carolina and hear what Senator Obama is saying. That's coming up shortly. But in our Political Ticker right now, Barack Obama aides say the economy and a remark by John McCain provided what they call "the turning point in this campaign."

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin; and our chief national correspondent, John King.

We're told that Senator Obama is now speaking about his grandmother, who has just died.

Let's listen in.

OBAMA: And she was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plain-spoken person. She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America who -- they're not famous. Their names aren't in the newspapers. But each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing.

And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that -- mothers and fathers, grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives. And the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children -- and maybe their grandchildren or maybe their great- grandchildren -- live a better life than they did.

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

And North Carolina, in just one more day, we have the opportunity to honor all those quiet heroes all across America and all across North Carolina...


OBAMA: We can bring change to America, to make sure that their work and their sacrifice is honored.


OBAMA: That's what we're fighting for.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, after eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush...


OBAMA: You don't need to boo, you just need...


OBAMA: You just need to vote.


OBAMA: After 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coasts of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one day away from changing America. One day.


OBAMA: Tomorrow, you can turn the page on policies that put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of men and women all across Main Street. Tomorrow you can choose policies that invest in our middle class and create new jobs and grow this economy so that everybody has a chance to succeed, from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor, from the factory owner to the men and women who work on the factory floor.

Tomorrow you can put an end to the politics that will divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region or city against town, Republican against Democrat, that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.

Tomorrow at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change that we need. You can do this right here in North Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: We began this journey in the depths of winter nearly two years ago on the steps of the old state capital in Springfield, Illinois. And back then, we didn't have a lot of money and we didn't have many endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance by the polls or by the pundits. We knew how steep our climb would be.

But I also knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believe that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe, they were hungry for now ideas and new leadership -- a new kind of politics, one that favors common sense over ideology -- what my grandmother would call just being sensible; one that focuses on those values and ideals that we hold in common as Americans.

And most of all I knew the American people were decent and generous people, willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations. And I was convinced that when we come together, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists or the most vicious political attacks or the full force of status quo in Washington that just wants to keep things the way they are.


BLITZER: All right. Senator Obama. And you saw him get emotional, understandably so, on the death of his 86-year-old grandmother. You saw him wiping away some -- it looked like he was wiping away some tears -- Gloria.

That was the impression I had which, of course, he had just spent a few -- a couple of days with her out in Hawaii. But this is a really sad moment, when you think about it, on the verge, potentially, of being elected president of the United States, to lose the woman who played such an incredibly important role in his life.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's almost Shakespearian, Wolf, that she wouldn't be here to see what happens finally in this race for the presidency, particularly if he were to win.

You know, Barack Obama had told journalists many times that the one regret he had in his life was that he wasn't -- he didn't -- wasn't at his mother's bedside before she died. And so he made a point of going to Hawaii to be with his grandmother. And I think that was probably very important to him.

BLITZER: Yes, because she died of cancer -- his mom, as well. So you can only imagine what he's going through right now.

KING: It's obviously a tragedy and the timing of it is just horrible. And I don't know what the word is for it beyond horrible. That was a very nice tribute he made there, talking about her as a quiet hero. If you go back and read the biography of her, she was one of the millions of women in the United States who, back in World War II, went to work helping build the weapons of war when all the men were shipped off to fight in the war. She worked for Boeing Aircraft as an inspector -- an aircraft inspector.

She went on to college after that and worked in the banking industry. But, a tribute to a generation I think that is often forgotten , not just the contribution of the men of that generation -- and they are fading, sadly, from our landscape, but the women, too, who, as the boys were shipped off to war, the women had to go and build the tanks and build the planes and make the guns and everything else. And it is a remarkable story.

BLITZER: Yes. They were in Kansas, the greatest generation, as they're called.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE COLUMNIST: Well, but the interesting thing about this family is -- if you read the story -- as Obama writes

"in "Dreams from My Father," it was his grandmother who was really the breadwinner in the family. His grandfather was not a particularly successful businessperson. And it was her efforts in the banking business -- she became a vice president, ultimately -- that really kept the family afloat. And so it was not just the spiritual, but the material support that she gave.

BORGER: You know, and don't forget, at that time, here's this woman in Kansas with a black grandson, a white woman. And imagine what this woman had to -- had to go through at that time. It was not particularly accepted and particularly in the Midwest. And, you know, I think this woman probably had a lot of guts.

BLITZER: Yes. And he spoke movingly of her at this event that we just saw in Charlotte, as well. So our hearts go out to the entire family. And our deepest condolences. I want you to listen -- changing subjects to another campaign that's going out in Minnesota. Minnesota has a history of unusual political campaigns, as all of us know. Norm Coleman, the incumbent Republican; Al Franken, the former comedian, as the Democratic challenger; a third party candidate, Dean Barkley, a former senator -- he spent a couple of months as a senator and Jesse Ventura, when he was then governor, named him after Paul Wellstone died.

But listen to this exchange they had in the debate yesterday.


SEN. NORMAN COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: My anger, Gary, in this is about an ad that's attacking my wife, that's defaming my wife. There should be limits in this. And I think we've crossed them here.

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: No, this is not about Norm Coleman's wife. This is about Senator Coleman's political sugar daddy.

DEAN BARKLEY (I), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: I call this a fitting and probably the most negative U.S. Senate campaign in Minnesota's history.


BLITZER: All right. Let's start with Gloria. This is wild out there. And it's a toss-up. I don't know who's going to win.

BORGER: Yes, it is a toss-up. It wasn't for a very long time. Coleman was given the clear advantage. Obviously, the change in the economy and the fortunes of Barack Obama in that state have really affected Al Franken's chances, to the point where it's a toss-up. You have a third party candidate. That's clearly going to be a factor here. But you could have a comedian in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that Minnesota is going to be Democrat on the presidential level, if you believe all the polls...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: But on this Senate race, it's wild.

KING: And the question everyone has is how much of the vote...

BORGER: Right.

KING: ...whether it is anti-Coleman vote, an I don't want a comedian in the Senate vote or just disgust with the tone of this campaign, which has high school level at best -- although there are some serious issues about the issues and the sugar daddy reference Al Franken was making was about some questionable money that made its way to Norm Coleman. But the tone of...

BLITZER: Norm Coleman's wife. KING: Yes. The tone overall has been pathetic for a United States Senate race. And the question is how much does the Independent get and where does it come from?

TOOBIN: You know, it's a state with such a great political history -- Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy. And to see these two guys, it seems like the genetic pool has thinned a little in Minnesota, I think, you know.


BLITZER: We'll leave it at that, guys.

Thanks very much.

A massive turn out for early voting leading to huge lines, some of them hours long. We have some I-Reports coming in from across the country.

And this hour's question -- who would win a fight between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2012?

That's Jack's question. Stand by for the Cafferty File.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is who would win a hypothetical match-up between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in 2012?

Chris writes from Athens, Ohio

"Clinton would destroy Palin in an election. Hillary Clinton is a serious, intelligent, highly capable woman. Sarah Palin was used as a desperate ploy by John McCain to make sure the right-wing nut jobs turned out in force on election day."

Mirra in Denmark -- in Denmark we have viewers -- "Hillary would break through the ceiling big time. With the gender card irrelevant, Senator Clinton would destroy Palin on every issue."

Lucy in Illinois

"Hillary by far, the best of the women. I'm voting for Obama. Hopefully, he'll be there until 2016. But Hillary, please be ready to run then. You'll do great. No naive wolf or moose killer for president of the USA. You betcha, doggone it, lipstick please."

Mike writes

"Sarah Palin could not handle a softball interview with Katie Couric. Hillary would leave Palin's head spinning with comical cartoon stars and twittering birds." Steve in Long Beach writes

"If Palin ran as an everywoman instead of someone pretending to know things, she'd win hands down against the consummate politico, Hillary Clinton."

And Jamie writes

"Hillary, no doubt. It would sort of be like comparing Albert Einstein to Paris Hilton."

And Phil in Los Angeles writes

"You're a sick and twisted man. Please go lie down."


CAFFERTY: A little bit, actually.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

I'm going to go lie down now.

BLITZER: Go take a nap.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Jack.

Thanks very much.

On our Political Ticker, more than 24 million voters have cast ballots in early voting. And on this election eve, voters in some states are still lining up for hours to vote before election day.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been looking at the I- Reports coming in -- Abbi, what are you seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these I-Reports have been telling the story now for weeks, as we've been getting these pictures in from around the country. And as you said, the early voting is still going on today in a few key states.

Going now to Ohio -- Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the picture that Julie Andress (ph) is seeing from her window at her workplace. The line here snaking all the way around the block. She says she's voted here herself. And she says it doesn't stop when you get inside. You have to go through a couple of floors before you can cast your ballot, as well. She estimated five hours for some of the people there today.

In Indiana, Indianapolis here at 9:00 a.m. This morning, not so bad there for Kevin Phillips (ph) -- an hour-and-a-half, he said. But by the time he came out, he said that line had doubled in size. Some of the early voting locations -- some of those states closing yesterday. That was the case in Florida. This is Miami here, where Evan Jacques (ph) spent three hours in line yesterday to cast his vote. And he says that was more than worth it to him, because he anticipates that the lines tomorrow will be even longer -- Wolf, those states that give out the information have said that the registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans in this process -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

And CNN is keeping them honest. If you have trouble at the polls, you can call the CNN voter hotline. You can help us track the problems. We'll report the trouble in real time. Here's the number -- 1-877-462-6608. We're keeping them honest all the way through the election and beyond.

Here's a look at some Hot Shots coming in from our friends at Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Jacksonville, Florida, Barack Obama boards his campaign plane for North Carolina.

In Pennsylvania, John McCain speaks at an airport rally -- just one of seven states he's hitting today.

In Missouri, Sarah Palin greets the crowd during a rally at the state house.

Also, in Missouri, Joe Biden smiles during a rally.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- picture is worth a thousand words.

This time tomorrow, the first polls will be about to close. And as we leave this hour, our Jeanne has a Moost Unusual look back at the campaign.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're getting down to the last day. And everywhere Senator McCain went, he kept coming back.

MCCAIN: But the Mac is back.

The Mac is back.

The Mac is back.

MOOS: The Mac seemed to be losing his voice, while Senator Obama was losing track of where he was. A Florida crowd had to correct him

OBAMA: in Ohio. But if you watch those ads, you don't know (INAUDIBLE) Florida. I've been traveling too much.

MOOS: And while in Tennessee...

MCCAIN: Thank you, Virginia.

MOOS: But at least Senator McCain was just a few miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border, probably trying to whip up Virginia voters.

Senator Obama even hit the beach -- well, not really. His likeness was engraved on a beach in Barcelona, Spain. The artist wanted the two-and-a-half acre gravel and sand portrait to be big enough to be seen on Google Earth.

(on camera): Call me undecided, but I couldn't decide which of two photographs should get our Photoshop photo of the day award.

(voice-over): Contestant number one, Wizard of Oz '08, with Palin as Dorothy, Biden as the cowardly lion, McCain as the scarecrow and Obama as the tin man.

Or maybe you'd prefer Obama-Cain, featuring white Obama and black McCain. The ad agency Grey New York made the poster to take the focus off race and let the issues be the issue.

And talk about creating an issue -- the "Drudge Report" report showcased Obama touching his face while talking about Senator McCain and implied Obama was flipping off his rival.

OBAMA: He has...

MOOS: Come on, not again. Last time it was Hillary Clinton Obama was supposed to be flipping off.

OBAMA: She's...

MOOS: Sometimes a scratch is just a scratch. We find the finger not guilty.

Sarah Palin was casually campaigning in blue jeans. But over in Britain, they made a bonfire out of her. A huge paper mache figure was loaded with fireworks as part of annual bonfire celebration that features a political icon getting blown up.

To end on a nicer note, imitation is flattery -- especially when the imitator is a 3-year-old dressed up for church fall festival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Palin, are you going to be the next vice president.


PALIN: You betcha.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BLITZER: And that's it for us.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Remember tomorrow, our election day coverage begins 4:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT"' -- Lou.