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Emotional Voters, Grateful To Cast Ballot For Obama; Historical Firsts Abound In 2008; Texas Voters Can Have Tattoos Removed for Free; Voters Share Experiences at Polls; McCain Holds Rally in Colorado; Campaign Spokespeople Weigh in on Voting

Aired November 04, 2008 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, stuffing the ballot box? That's bad. Stuffing your face after you cast your ballot? Now, that's a good thing. There is no shortage, rather, of freebies out there. In fact, democracy was never so filling or delicious. Wear your "I voted" sticker to get free doughnut with sprinkles at Krispy Kreme. Got a Shane's Rib Shack near you? Well, get three chicken tenders, fries, and a 20-ounce drink for free; Starbucks, it will give you a tall brewed coffee. And remember, tall means small in Starbucks speak, by the way. Ben & Jerry's will give you a scoop of ice cream. And if that scoop overtaxes your lactose intolerance, well, no worries, one Republican commissioner in Houston is handing out Joe the Plumber plungers, a campaign tool that also unclogs, well, you know, your home issues. You can't make this stuff up, folks.
The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my first time voting and hopefully it does make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the way it should be every year, but it has not been. This is the first time I have ever seen so many people interested in an election.

PHILLIPS: This is it, the time is now, the choice is yours. And no matter how it turns out, we have never seen an election like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For years, black families have had to listen to what we were not. Now, there is a vision of what we are, and what can be.

PHILLIPS: The new president will make history, whoever he is. But for generations of African-Americans, this isn't just political, it is personal.

Machines can fail, mistakes can happen, and it can rain, or all of the above. We are tracking your election day reports to the CNN voter hotline.


PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live in the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. And you're live in the CNN newsroom. Live pictures now of voters across the country. Have you voted yet? Well, no matter where you live, the polls are open, and no time like the present, folks. You are seeing voters in Columbus, Ohio, and Henderson, Nevada, but we are watching voting all over the country; the turnout, the glitches, and the weather, on this pivotal and historic day.

We are also keeping track of your reports to the CNN Voter Hotline. We're counting on you to be heard, first at the polls, then with us, if you run into problems.

Well, at this point we can't say much with absolute certainty, but we can say this. It is an absolutely beautiful day in Chicago. That is where Barack Obama and family voted this morning and where they're waiting for returns just like everybody else. CNN's Jessica Yellin is there also.

Hey, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kyra. It is so unseasonably warm. I was watching the local news today, the weather guy said that it hasn't been this warm on an election day since 1964. You just don't see a Chicago day like this in November.

And folks are getting out to vote. Barack Obama was among the first, as you say. He went with his family, and showed his daughters the ballot. It, in fact, took - there are so many names on the ballot here it took Michelle, his wife, quite awhile to finish filling it out. And he joked to reporters later that he had to double-check afterwards who she voted for.

The Obamas, then, split up and Barack Obama went across the border to Indiana. And he stopped by a local canvassing center where they are working on getting the vote out. The Obama campaign is increasingly enthusiastic about possibility of winning over a number of red states, Indiana among them, because they share a media market with Illinois, with Chicago. So Barack Obama very familiar to lots of people in parts of that state.

He told reporters in Indiana he would not be there if he didn't think he could win. So some cautious optimism for Obama -- and even more cautious nerves from campaign aides, who I have been talking to throughout the day. They say, look, these huge turnout numbers, the fact that they have more than a million volunteers, around the country, getting people out to vote in battleground states, are enormously encouraging to them. But they are, of course, quite worried and frustrated that there is not much else they can do on this day.

In fact, lots of campaign workers have left the headquarters here to go out in the field to see if they can't drive voters to work and encourage people to get to the ballot box. So like everyone else, they are sitting, watching, and waiting - Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. So are we. Thanks, Jessica.

Well talk about a clash of emotions, Barack Obama copes with the loss of a loved one as he stands at the gates of history. Later this hour we're going to take a closer look at how Obama's grandmother helped shape this election day and even has a say in its outcome.

In and out within minutes, that was John McCain when he voted this morning in Phoenix, and with good reason. He's making two last stops in battleground states before calling it a day. CNN's Ed Henry is in Phoenix.

Hey, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon, Kyra.

Much like Jessica's reporting, here, at Camp McCain in Phoenix, there are a lot of advisers huddled around, waiting just we are for results frankly. They say there is not too much they can do right now. They have made their case to the American people. Now they're waiting for the verdict.

But John McCain, himself, actually, after voting, as you noted, has gone out there and taken matters into his own hands a little bit. He's decided to break with his normal tradition, in statewide Senate races here, where he just waits here at the Arizona Biltmore and waits for the returns and relaxes. He is out on the campaign trail yet again. Just like Barack Obama. He was in Colorado; he's heading there now. Then he's going on to New Mexico.

Two real battlegrounds in the Mountain West and it is a reflection of a couple of things. First of all, the fact that Barack Obama has been on offense in states that the Republicans thought they would have in their hands; and has really expanded the electoral map. And, secondly, how that has put John McCain in a bind, mathematically, to try to get to the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Basically, McCain aides are banking their strategy on pulling together enough of the red states that went with George W. Bush in 2004.

They think that can get them to about 260 electoral votes. The ten more they would need to go over the top, they think they will get one of two ways. Either from Pennsylvania, very tough haul, though. It is a state that has not gone for a Republican since 1988. Barack Obama has consistently been up in the polls there, but McCain has been making a late charge. Or they want to get the remaining electoral votes from some of those Mountain West states, like I said, Colorado or New Mexico, maybe even New Hampshire in the Northeast, where John McCain made one last appearance on Sunday night. But the bottom line is, it is out of their hands now. They are just sitting and waiting like we are, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Ed, thanks.

Don't forget the running mates. Joe Biden returned to his home state of Delaware to cast his ballot. Biden voted near his hometown of Wilmington, giving a thumb's up after leaving the polling booth. Palin voted in her small hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. And afterwards she took a flight to Phoenix to join John McCain.

Well, it all boils down to the battlegrounds. Just a handful of states will determine who gets the key to the Oval Office. And we've got them covered for you. We are looking at live pictures, right now, of voting in West Palm Beach in Florida. We'll take a look at that in just a minute. And CNN's Dan Lothian is in another one of the big battlegrounds, and that is Virginia.

Hey, Dan.


Well, the state board of elections, they just held a press conference, wrapped up, and kind of giving us an overview of what is going on, on this election day. And they said pretty much based on all the information they have been able to look at, they can't find any major problems happening in any of the 2300-plus precincts across the state.

They did tick off a few problems that they had earlier in the day. They had three precincts that did no open on time. And two of those it was because of operator error, or human error. Apparently the people who were supposed to open them up didn't show up.

Also, one polling place, about eight miles or so away from here, in downtown Richmond, they had five of the seven voting machines were not working. So they had to turn to paper ballots. They were able to bring in some additional machines. Also, we would have loved to have the nice beautiful weather here, but we had rain for much of the morning. And because of that, it caused problem with the optical voting machines. People were going in with all the water dripping off of their clothes. It would get on the ballots, so that was causing some problems. So, how they repaired that, they brought in a box, a secure box and they were putting those ballots inside the box. They will dry them off and then count them later on.

Now, this polling place we're at right now? This is a bit different than what it was a few hours ago. It is very quiet now. A few people trickling in to vote, but this morning, more than a hundred people were snaking through this parking lot and going around the block. We had a chance to talk to three generations of one family, and they are all Obama supporters, and they talked about what this day means to them.


VIOLA GARNER, GRANDMOTHER: It is marvelous. (sobbing) God kept me here for some reason. And I guess this is supposed to be it.

SHAQUILLE JOHNSON, GRANDSON: He inspires, you know what I'm saying, a lot of young African-American men. He inspired me. You know, what I's saying? Make me want to do better.

DENISE FORTSON, AUNT: It is just wonderful that we can have this opportunity to have somebody of color who represents the United States. And that is exactly what he is doing. He is representing everyone in the United States, not just the African-American community.


LOTHIAN: The grandmother there, she is 75 years old, and the young man, 19 years old voting for the very first time.

Now, elections officials tell us that about 50 percent of the registered voters have already cast their ballots. They came up with that number based on the traffic they have had this morning and also because of the number of absentee voters. About 10 percent of the more than 5 million registered voters cast absentee ballots. So they have been breaking all kinds of records here in Virginia, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Dan Lothian, thank you so much.

Voting is so important, but voters in 2008 are helping to make history. Frank Sesno joins me to talk about the election that you will be telling your grandkids about.

And how are you faring at the polls? Well, it is kind of a mixed bag, depending on where you are. We will talk about it with an expert.


PHILLIPS: As Barack Obama flirts with a great triumph he also copes with a great sorrow. Sunday night his grandmother lost her battle with cancer at the age of 86. Seems a shame that she didn't live to see how the election turned out. Without her strong and quiet hand, the history we are looking at today might not have even been possible.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of you heard that my grandmother, who helped to raise me, passed away early this morning. And -- look, she has gone home.

PHILLIPS (voice over): A campaign that has stirred every possible emotion now gets a taste of true sadness. Barack Obama's beloved grandmother passed away just two days before election day.

Madelyn Payne Dunham was part of the greatest generation. Like many women at the time, she helped in the war effort, working on a bomber assembly line while her husband was in the service. Later, she broke a barrier herself, becoming one of the first female bank executives in Hawaii.

OBAMA: Thank you to my grandmother who poured everything she had into me. And who helped to make me the man I am today.

PHILLIPS: As a child, Obama was abandoned by his father and for long periods, separated from his mother as she pursued studies in Indonesia. So Dunham and her husband largely raised their teen grandson in Honolulu. Obama said they instilled in him the values he needed to brace his identity as a biracial child.

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

PHILLIPS: Toots, as he called her, was a woman who didn't seek the spotlight, didn't like giving interviews. She let the fruits of her life speak for themselves. She died Sunday in the same apartment where she helped to shape the grandchild who would grow up to make history. But even in death, Toots will be part of the history she helped shape. Her absentee ballot received on October 27th will count.


PHILLIPS: Well, the family plans a small private ceremony for Madelyn Dunham.

In so many ways, the presidential race of 2008 is like none that has gone before. I could spend the rest of the hour ticking off the firsts and the mosts and the onlies, but first among those has to be the race. You don't have to look very far to find voters who never thought they would live to see an African-American presidential candidate, and let alone African-American president. Special Correspondent Frank Sesno joins me to talk about that, and a lot more.

Good to see you, Frank.


PHILLIPS: I will tell you what, a lot of emotion at the polls. We have been talking with people. We've been seeing the I-Reports, we have been getting e-mails. We have been seeing the video. I mean, older voters are looking back saying, boy, we remember there was a time we didn't even have the right to vote. And now we are voting for a black man.

SESNO: Well, Kyra, a couple of months ago I had the opportunity to interview Congressman John Lewis, who was on the front lines of the civil rights movement. And he almost came to tears, he almost brought me to tears, as a matter of fact, when he sat there and he said - and this is a few months back - where he said you must understand what this means for me. That when I was a young man I could not get on a bus in Washington, D.C. that was headed to the deep South without worrying about beaten up or maybe killed on the way. And now, I'm seeing this.

And you could see, in him, and you hear it echoed across this country in black, and white, in many cases, this intense sense of the American story playing itself out. This chapter in history that is about to turn, this --this place, and it is a peculiar and overpowering feeling. And I think, I predict that if Barack Obama wins and even if Barack Obama wins, and even if he doesn't, this intensity of feeling and emotion is something that we are really only now beginning to sense and digest, even though this campaign has been going on it seems like forever.

PHILLIPS: Well, historic even No. 2, a member of Congress, now elected as president since JFK.

SESNO: Yes, in either case, John McCain or Barack Obama will actually be going back to the Senate in the special session that they are likely to have to take up, among other things, the stimulus package to turn this economy around. And it will be very, very interesting to see this member of the Senate, either one of them, go back, take their place as a president-elect. And those will be the first days and the first times, first moments we will see as to how their members are deferring to them, and the kind of leadership that they are going to start to imprint on what will become, very quickly, their future.

PHILLIPS: Also, we don't want to forget that it is a very historic time with regard to gender. We didn't see a female get this far since Geraldine Ferraro. We were joking too, a big difference between the clothes, too. She was a lot more conservative than Sarah Palin.

SESNO: I covered that campaign. I was there on the floor of the convention when she was nominated back in 1984. I went out on the campaign trail with her, and there was this astounding moment, this astounding sense of change. The sort of glass ceiling that was cracking, whether it had millions of cracks, or it actually broke is a another matter. It is almost a measure of progress and, of course, contrast because Barack Obama is at the head of the Democratic ticket, but Sarah Palin and the gender breakthrough that she represents. I don't want to say it is routine, that it is sort of taken in stride. And of course there has been a lot of controversy around Palin, herself, but that too, is a moment in history here. I mean, this is a powerful signal that is a very American story here that is playing out here today.

PHILLIPS: All kinds of spirits and feelings. And, you know, you think of JFK, you think of Martin Luther King, you just think of, you know, the whole movement for women. It is all kind of coming forward today, on so many levels.

SESNO: I have to say, when -- again whether Barack Obama wins or not - there is a sense here that JFK, John F. Kennedy's torch being passed to a new generation, is combining with Martin Luther King's let us judge people not by the color of the skin, but the content of the character. There are plenty of problems in this country. There is plenty of racism left in this country, but the journey we have seen over the last 20, 30, 40 years that is culminating in some fashion today, is something that I don't think that anybody could have imagined and all of us who are witnessing it, really are privileged to see.

PHILLIPS: Frank Sesno, always a privilege to talk to you. Thank you so much.

SESNO: Thank you, Kyra. Thanks a lot.

PHILLIPS: Before we move on, I want to show you just one more thing on a monumental day it sums up what we, at CNN, are all about. It is a full page ad on "The New York Times. Our incredible head of marketing and promo, Scott Staffon (ph), actually had a vision. And I saw this as I was walking through the hallway today at work. And I just wanted all of you to be able to see this. This is what it says: "There is a moment, a simple moment, before history gets recorded, before it goes in the books, before it appears as a question on a game show or a midterm exam. A moment right before the headline is written, there is a moment when history lives in the present, when we can watch it unfold in real-time right before our eyes and we can all assume our place in it. Some people live for history. We live for the moment just before."

Well, straight ahead, election day on Wall Street. Traders seem to put worry on the back burner and focus on the election. A decent trading day today. More on that in just a moment. Dow industrials is up 213 points.


PHILLIPS: Well, more problems for ACORN and this time it could be costly. The community organized group embroiled in voter registration fraud across the country is now being frozen out by the Catholic Church. That could mean millions of dollars of grant money no longer going to that group. CNN's Drew Griffin joins me now with the latest on this investigation.

It just keeps unfolding doesn't it?


The details are in a memo to all U.S. bishops from the bishop who oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, advising them that all ACORN grant money from the Catholic Church has been suspended. Bishop Roger Morin, of New Orleans, writes that funds were cut off to ACORN last June, because of questions that had arisen about financial management, fiscal transparency, and organizational accountability of the National ACORN structure.

Now, Kyra, the letter dated October 22nd goes on to say, recent widespread reports of alleged ACORN involvement in voter registration controversies and allegations of fraud raise serious concerns.

PHILLIPS: All right. So what are the bishops going to do?

GRIFFIN: Well, what they have decided to do is they are going to hire a forensic accountable to look at all of the money the church has sent to ACORN, which is sizable. Some $7.3 million in the last 10 years and including more than just $1 million last year. And listen tot his, it is believed now, by the church, that $40,000 of that Catholic money may have ended up in the hands of the Las Vegas ACORN office, that is the one raided by authorities in a voter registration fraud investigation. This is that ACORN office, Kyra, that tried to register the Dallas Cowboys' football team.

What is the ACORN's response? Here it is from the executive director. "ACORN is grateful to have received Catholic Campaign for Human Development funding for many years and proud that CCHD has enabled us to help our low-income constituency achieve the American dream. We know that CCHD is reviewing their current funding, and we are in discussions with them about continuing their support." ACORN voter registration voter drives are under investigation in no less than a dozen states.

PHILLIPS: I'm having visions, I'm going to write it all on black. No red, no black. Extending beyond politics and elections, what do you think?

GRIFFIN: Yes, I think so. ACORN, you know, has been trying to place this all in, they're smearing, this is the Republican smear, but as we have been reporting, it is Democrat election officials in Indiana. Democrat election officials in Philadelphia, and now the Catholic Church that is raising questions about this, not right-wing Republicans. Although, certainly, the Republican political campaigns have used this ACORN information to their benefit.

PHILLIPS: I have a feeling your investigation will just keep on giving.

GRIFFIN: It will.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Drew.

Well, along with the stunning voter turnout, problems at the polls have turned up. Some of them the usual glitches, others, may be breaking new ground. Let's bring in Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and a former speech writer for President Clinton.

Michael, good to see you.


PHILLIPS: All right, let's talk about what you are seeing. I have a list here. And I know all the way up to five minutes ago, you have been getting contacted and calls about problems, what is the biggest concern for you right now?

WALDMAN: Well, yes, the cell phone has been ringing up until air time.

Look, it is a day where millions of new voters are voting. And what we are seeing, in part, is that this very positive development is putting some strains on the system. We are seeing a lot of voters who registered, but are not on the voter rolls. And when that happens to a voter, they should insist that they are registered, they should call a voter hotline, because if you did register, you have the right to vote. There were a lot of efforts to kick people off of the rolls and sometimes the people fell through the cracks.

We are also seeing problems with voting machines -- just breaking down and maybe polling places and officials not being ready for the sheer onslaught of voters. And that is why you will see some of these long lines. There the key is making sure that the voters vote in emergency paper ballot, that is really what they ought to have there. That is different from a provisional ballot. It is just a backup emergency paper ballot and voters should know that that is counted like a regular ballot.

PHILLIPS: But a lot of these places don't even have a contingency plan, right?

WALDMAN: Well, a lot of places don't. We did study the country and found, among other things, two weeks ago that Virginia was one of the worst prepared states. And lo and behold, there are long lines and major problems in Virginia with machines breaking down and not enough backup ball lots.

Bottom line is when this election is over, we all need to come together, Democrats and Republicans and work to build a much more modern election system, where everybody is on the rolls, the government keeps the lists and we make sure these polling places have enough equipment and backup so that in the unlikely event that people actually show up to vote, the machines can handle them.

PHILLIPS: Well, Michael, there, also, we have been receiving calls about the deceptive robocalls that have been taking place, also fliers telling people to come out to vote on Wednesday, or come out on November 9th. Some of this is just in the Spanish section. I mean, these deceptive calls and fliers are spreading.

WALDMAN: Well, you know, the biggest problem of election fraud, there is no evidence that any voters are showing up to vote as Mickey Mouse, but you have these deceptive practices, and they are unfortunately seem targeted at minority communities, at poor communities, and they are a remnant of the past practices in this country that have tried to keep a lot of people from voting.

So what I would say to anybody who wants to vote is there may be long lines, but they should brave the lines. It is a very special day in our democracy. And the bottom line is, overall, things are going well, votes will be counted, there may be some long lines, may not be on the list where you think you should be. But overall, people are able to vote and are able to do it this year and it is a very positive thing for the democracy.

PHILLIPS: Michael Waldman, executive director at the Brennan Center for Justice. Always great to have you, Michael. Thanks.

Well, we want to hear from you, too. As you run into problems at the polls call the CNN Voter Hotline. Help us track the problems and we will report the trouble. Just call 1-877-462-6608. We are keeping them honest all the way through the election and beyond.

Well, as Americans across the country head to the polls, many want to know what the outcome will mean for their wallet. Some hard number show the stock market is a pretty good at forecasting election winners, but can knowing the winners tell us what will happen to the market? Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with all the details.

Hey, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kyra. Well, you know, the S&P 500 is actually an excellent indicator. Here it is how it works. Since 1928, if the S&P goes up in the three months before voting day, the incumbent party, in this case Republicans, wins. If the S&P goes down the replacement wins and over, for the past three months, do I need to tell you? The index has tumbled. In fact, big time, down nearly 24 percent. So, if the S&P indicator holds, Senator Obama wins.

It hasn't been right 100 percent of the time: 80 percent of the time, this formula. Good track record. That's for sure.

Either way, uncertainty not welcome on Wall Street, so investors just want a winner. Some analysts say it doesn't matter who wins, because stocks are so beaten down that there's only one way for the market to go up -- go and that is up. And that's what we're seeing on this election day. The Dow Industrials right now up 239 points or 2.5 percent. Ditto for the NASDAQ. A very nice rally indeed.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Susan. Thanks so much.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Well, voting in the 2008 election sure can make you full. This year, taking part in democracy is like walking around Costco when they have all the free samples coming out. Well, coming up, voting, bloating (ph), and reasons to save your "I voted" sticker.


PHILLIPS: Well, forget about spreading the wealth for a sec. This election is also about redistributing the carbs. Palling around -- or Palin around -- with freebies. Your "I voted" sticker will get you a free cup of Joe from Starbucks: just a tall, of course. East Georgia voters qualify for a free chicken sandwich at participating Chik-Fil-As, and might have thought, as you stood in line, "Hey, I could really use a doughnut right now." Well, Krispy Kreme has got that covered too -- with sprinkles, FYI.

And in Houston, you can get a free Joe the plumber plunger. You can't eat that, of course, but hey, you can't have too many plungers in the house. You know what I mean?

Also, Ben and Jerry's is giving away a scoop of ice cream if you want to go there. And you want to head back to Dallas, well, you can have your tattoo removed for free if you voted.

That's what you can get for free just for voting. But there's also stuff that you can lose for free. Like that tattoo of your ex's name. Yes, a guy in Texas is offering to erase part of your past, all in the spirit of change. And lots of people are taking advantage of the valuable offer. Ryan Lambert's on the phone with us now from Dallas.

OK. Ryan, how did you come up with this idea? RYAN LAMBERT, NEW LOOK LASER TATTOO REMOVAL: Well, we -- we've been having a lot of patients coming to the clinic for the last year or two, and we realize that the election is all about change this year. Whether you're looking for McCain or Obama, you're definitely looking for a new direction for this country. We'll be electing a new president here by the end of the day.

So we figured that a lot of people have a need for tattoo removal and figured the method made a lot of sense, given this election day.

PHILLIPS: All right. So what kind of tattoos are they having removed, Ryan? Give me some examples.

LAMBERT: A lot of stuff. The names of ex-boyfriends and ex- girlfriends, that's always a common tattoo. A lot of people have lower back stamps that women may have got, late one night when they were partying in college. Some people have military tattoos they got back from the Tet Offensive in '68. So we're getting a huge range.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, is anybody having a tattoo removed and then wanting an Obama or a McCain tattoo? Maybe a Sarah Palin, Joe Biden?

LAMBERT: Ye, I haven't -- I haven't looked that closely. I imagine maybe a few McCain or a few Obama tattoos. I know there's a couple Dole-Kemp, 1996. There are Gore and Lieberman 2000 tattoos, some of the old stuff, from back in the day. But...

PHILLIPS: They're getting rid of those Ross Perot tattoos there in Texas?

LAMBERT: Ross Perot and Admiral Stockdale are both getting removed today, I'm sure, at New Look Tattoo Removal.

PHILLIPS: Ryan Lambert. We got a kick kind of reading about you and what you're doing. Good luck with business today.

LAMBERT: Thanks much.

PHILLIPS: All right.


PHILLIPS: Well, on this election day, CNN iReporters are out in force, too, and sending us their pictures and video of what's happening. Josh Levs has the story of a first-time voter who actually was applauded at the polls. What was that about?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Have you seen this one? It's so awesome.


LEVS: I love this, because it's one of these things that we can all celebrate. You know, not pulling the country apart. It's just taking part in the process. And I'll tell you about this guy. His name is Ronnie Senique, 34-year-old sixth-grade math teacher in Landover, Maryland. He's from the Bahamas and recently got citizenship. He lined up super early, and he sent us this video iReport after he left the polls.


RONNIE SENIQUE, FIRST-TIME VOTER: So, I'm done. I'm finished. I voted for my candidate, both my issues that I support. And it is 1:30 in the morning pays off. Man, this feels great. I love voting, and I should have been a citizen a long time ago.


LEVS: That is so cool. He's just one of the many people celebrating to be a first-time voter today.

No matter what your story is, we of course, encourage you, send us your photos, videos, stories. Keep in mind, state laws sometimes don't let you bring the cameras inside polling sites.

But I'll tell you Kyra, we love the stories we've been getting all day. We're going to keep bringing them to everyone on air here. And in the coming days, we can do stories. It's just so awesome.

PHILLIPS: All right. Sounds good. Thanks, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks a lot.

PHILLIPS: Well, we want to know what you are saying also, want to see what you are doing this election day 2008. As you go to the polls, share your voting experiences with CNN. Send us your iReports. Go to We might talk to you on air.

Got a rally going on in Grand Junction, Colorado. John McCain. We're going to check in on that once he steps up to the mike.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A couple of Christmases ago, she wanted to -- she wanted to drive around France, so she flew to Paris. She wanted to rent a car, and they said she was too old, so she brought one and drove around France. So, a great -- when anybody ever asks anything about my age, I always introduce them to my mother. So, I'm so grateful you're here.

My son Doug and his wife, Ashley, are here. And I want to thank all of you.

I feel the momentum. I feel it. And you feel it, and we're going to win this election. We're going to win it. And we're going to -- and we're going to win it right here in the state of Colorado.

And I bring greetings. I bring greetings from the great governor of the state of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who has ignited this campaign, who has -- who has done an incredible job.

You know, she's got a husband. His name is Todd, and she calls him first dude. Her husband, Todd, is a four-time world champion in a snowmobile race across Alaska in the middle of winter. One time he was running this race, broke his arm with 250 miles to go and still won. I think he's ready for Washington, D.C., and so is she. Don't you think?

Now, I'd like to thank all of the veterans who are here. Would you raise your hand so we can say thank you for your service? Thank you very much. Thank you. Air Force brat for McCain, thank you.

And -- and here is two special people, Marine girlfriend for McCain and Army girlfriend for McCain. Thank you. Military moms for McCain, thank you.

I want to say thank you again. I want to say it's great for you to turn out today. We've got to turn out the vote, and we're going to be up late tonight. And you know, some of the pundits have written us off, but I want to tell you that they may not know it, but the Mack is back.

With your help, we're going to take America in a new direction. Get out there and vote. I need your help. Volunteer, knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls. Drag them there if you need to. We're going to bring real change to Washington, and we have to fight for it.

So, my friends, you know -- you know that I have been fighting for this country since I was 17 years old, and it's been the honor of my life. And I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege of serving the United States of America. I owe this country more than it will ever owe me, and I promise you, if I am elected president, I will never let you down.

I'll fight to shake up Washington and take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight. I'm ready for the fight.

And we're going to cut taxes for working families, and we'll cut business taxes to help create jobs and keep American businesses in America. We're going to get the spending in Washington under control. I'm going the make government live on a budget just like you do. And I'll veto every single pork-barrel bill that comes across my desk. You will know their names. You will know their names. I'll make them famous.

And we're going to make sure we take care of the working people who were devastated by the excesses and greed and corruption in Wall Street and Washington. My friends, we have to fix our housing market. We've got to get home values up, keep people in their homes. That's the American dream. I'm going to protect it. We'll keep people in their homes.

My friends, we're going to protect people's retirement. Don't be afraid of the scare tactics that get trotted out every four years. They try to scare seniors. I was there when we fixed Social Security, and I'm going to be there when we fix it again. I'm going to protect Social Security and I'm going to protect Medicare, and I'm not going to let Washington tax away your retirement savings.

My friends, if I'm elected president -- when I'm elected president -- we're going to stop spending $700 billion to buy oil from countries that don't like us very much. We will invest in every energy alternative: wind, solar, tide, hybrid cars, clean-coal technology, safe nuclear power and offshore drilling. When I'm president, we will drill offshore and we will drill now. I think that we ought to -- we ought to hear it one more time: drill, baby, drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill. Drill, baby, drill.

MCCAIN: And we will. And we will, my friends.

If we're going to change Washington, we need a president who has actually fought for change and made it happen. I've been fighting for change in Washington my entire career, and I wasn't elected Miss Congeniality because of it.

The next president won't have time to learn how to change Washington or get used to the office. America faces many challenges here at home and many enemies abroad in this dangerous world. Today, we elect a commander in chief to lead the nation. I know how to deal with our enemies, and I know how the deal with our friends.

You know, there's been a lot of talk recently about the tests that the next president will face. My friends, I've been tested, and I have passed the test.

When many of both parties wanted to retreat in Iraq, I said, no, I'd rather lose an election than lose a war. Today, because of the surge strategy, because of great general named Petraeus, because of the brave men and women who are serving in uniform, the best of all of us, the best of America, we are succeeding in Iraq. We will succeed in Afghanistan. And when I'm president, our troops will come home with honor and victory, not in defeat.

Let me, my friends, give you a little straight talk about the election today. I know you're worried. America is a great country. We're at a moment of national crisis that will determine our future. Let me ask you: will we continue to lead the world's economies, or will we be overtaken? Will the world become safer or more dangerous? Will our military remain the strongest in the world, and will our children and grandchildren's future be brighter than ours?

My answer to you is yes. Yes, we will lead. Yes, we will prosper. Yes, we will be safer. Yes, we will pass on to our children a stronger, better country. But we must be prepared to act swiftly and boldly and with wisdom. I'm an American, and I choose to fight. Don't give up hope. Be strong. Have courage and fight. Fight for a new direction for our country. Fight for what's right for America. Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, infighting, and selfishness in Washington, and fight to get our economy out of the ditch and back in the lead. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people. Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

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. 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. Let's go, Colorado, God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you for being here today. I love it.

PHILLIPS: As you can see, they're all -- it's the day. It's election day, and just hours from now we hope to know who will lead America for the next few years. John McCain there, holding his rally with his wife, Cindy McCain, by his side.

So what will both campaigns be looking for tonight? Will there be any surprises? Well, joining me from Chicago, Linda Douglass, senior advisor with the Obama campaign, and from Phoenix, Arizona, the McCain campaign's national spokesman, Tucker Bounds.

First, let's get to you, Linda. And you got to hear part of John McCain there at his rally. You know, most of major polls still have Senator Obama with a commanding lead. What are the critical states that you'll be looking at tonight?

LINDA DOUGLASS, SENIOR ADVISOR, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Well, you know, as you have been hearing from the Obama campaign throughout this campaign, this campaign has really begun to expand the map for the Democrats.

I mean, we are looking very closely at Indiana. We're looking at North Carolina. We're looking at Virginia We're looking at Florida. We're looking at Colorado. We're looking at Nevada. We're looking at many of the states that George Bush won back in 2004.

These are states where Senator Obama's message of economic rescue for a middle class who has been suffering under eight years of failed policies of the Bush administration that would be continued by John McCain. That message has resonated with those voters, and those are the states we'll be watching.

PHILLIPS: Well, what do you think Senator Obama -- what was it that pushed him ahead? Would you say it was the financial crisis and how he handled it?

DOUGLASS: Absolutely. I mean, Americans are tired of what has happened to their lives. They are afraid of losing their jobs. They are afraid of losing their homes. They are afraid they're not going to have the money to be send their children to college. They are afraid their pensions won't be there when they retire.

These are all the consequences of eight years of failed policies. And John McCain has yet, even today listening to him, John McCain has yet to make the case about how he would do anything different for America's economic future than George Bush and Dick Cheney have been doing for the last eight years.

This is the message that voters have been hearing. And they've been hearing that Senator Obama will bring relief to the middle class, giving tax cuts to 95 percent of American -- working American families. And that's what they're looking at.

PHILLIPS: Linda, a lot of emotion today at the polls. Talking not only to African-American families, but also white families, as well. We started seeing a lot of the video coming through, black voters drawing up tears because they never thought this day would come when they would not only have a chance to vote but vote for a black president.

DOUGLASS: Well, it has been a very emotional scene throughout this campaign. I mean, there is no question that the African-American voters feel very emotionally. There's no question that younger voters, who have never felt the politics was directed at them, are beginning to feel that their voices, their activism, their small donations can make a difference.

Americans of -- all around the country, of the unheard middle class, is beginning to feel that somebody is listening to them. This is a campaign that has mobilized 500,000 volunteers who are out calling millions of voters around this country. This has been a ground-up campaign, not a Washington-run campaign.

And voters all around the country of all kinds are feeling empowered for the first time by Senator Obama.

PHILLIPS: So if Senator Obama becomes President Obama, is there a role for you in the Obama administration? I have to ask you that question?

DOUGLASS: Listen, all we are thinking about right now is winning the election today. We are completely focused on making sure that every single voter gets out there, stands in line for as long as it takes. Forget what the weather is. This is the most important vote you could cast in your life. That's what we're focusing on today.

PHILLIPS: Linda Douglass, thanks for your time.

DOUGLASS: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Let's head to Phoenix, Arizona. McCain campaign's national spokesman, Tucker Bounds.

Tucker, what do you think? It seems like these past couple of rallies your man has been gaining a lot of energy, a lot of momentum. The Mack is back, I guess that's the new line now? TUCKER BOUNDS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: That's exactly right. I think he's feeding off the enthusiasm of the crowds. He knows that our ground game is out in full force. We're making a million contacts for the last few days.

The voters -- the voters are enthusiastic about John McCain's message. John McCain has literally been fighting for the country since he was 17 years old. You know that he will deliver change. He knows how to work across the aisle, buck his president, buck his party, to do what's right.

I think that, you know, where Linda and I may disagree on some policy points, I think we must agree on one thing, which is the American electorate is going to turn out in force, because they recognize that the American people face serious challenges. And if we want serious challenges to be met, we need to go with a leader that is ready, someone that is proven.

John McCain is the only candidate in this race that is proven, that is ready to take over. He's ready to take -- make change in Washington by working across the aisle, taking on his party, working with Democrats, and able to push back the wasteful spending in Washington, keep taxes low and get our economy back on track.

PHILLIPS: Tucker, why do you think there are so many undecided -- undecided voters? Even today, we were talking to people that still, they just weren't sure what they wanted to do when they got to the polls.

BOUNDS: You know, it's impossible for me to say why any particular voter would be undecided, but what I do know is that there are a lot of undecideds, and Barack Obama has been saturating the airwaves with television ads, infomercials. He's been on video games, advertising. He's literally left no leaf unturned, looking for those undecided voters, and they still remain.

We think they're going to break our way. They're going to break our way in the target states. And that why we're really confident that people need to get out to vote. They need to vote for John McCain. We have a serious chance at winning this race. We expect to be successful tonight.

PHILLIPS: Well, Senator Obama still a commanding lead. What is it Senator McCain has to do from now until closing?

BOUNDS: Well, I don't think he shows a commanding lead. If you look at a lot of the polling information that we're seeing in the Rasmussen poll yesterday, we're within the margin of error or leading in some of these key -- most of these key battleground states.

We're going to win in Florida. We're going to win in Virginia. We are going to win in Pennsylvania, which is a state we're in offense on. That's a blue state that John McCain has a great chance of winning tonight.

We're also on offense in New Hampshire. That's a state John McCain has won twice. Barack Obama has not won in New Hampshire before. He's not won in Pennsylvania, and he lost in Ohio to -- to Senator Clinton.

So we think there's a historical precedent for John McCain closing strong. Barack Obama lost nine of the last 13 primaries in the Democratic primary. And there is a chance that John McCain is going to win, and we feel very good about that chance.

PHILLIPS: Tucker Bounds, we're all going to be up late tonight. Thanks for joining us.

BOUNDS: Indeed.

PHILLIPS: We'll be talking again.

All right. We take a quick break. More from the CNN NEWSROOM straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: All right. We've done most of the talking the last couple of hours, but now we'll turn the floor over to the voters. Today is all about them, after all, and here's their take so far on this election day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first time that I've felt engaged in -- in national politics since John F. Kennedy. It's -- I have the same feeling I did when I was a teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just wonderful that we can have this opportunity to have somebody of color to represent the United States. And that's exactly what he's doing. He's representing everyone in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never seen it like this, early this morning. I came up here at 6:15. The lines were around the corner. Never up here we had this big crowd like this. And it's going to continue all day long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take the plunger to the polls. OK? Carry that around with you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's from Joe the plumber.

I want them to drive with them in their car, and hold them up. And you know, it's just a battle cry.


PHILLIPS: Well, whether gender or race, history has definitely been made today. If you haven't voted, get out and vote today. Be a part of history. Rick Sanchez takes it from here.