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Barack Obama's Grandmother Dies; McCain's Seven State Marathon; Thousands of Volunteers Mobilized in Pennsylvania

Aired November 3, 2008 - 17:00   ET


BLITZER: And one new battleground state has already processed nearly half a million absentee ballots. But the McCain campaign files an eleventh hour lawsuit to extend a key deadline.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.


With the presidential campaign heading into its final hours, both candidates are giving it everything they have, making one last push for votes.

Barack Obama is ahead in the polls, but warning his supporters not to take anything for granted. But on this final day, Obama suffers a deep personal blow -- the death of his grandmother, who helped raise him.

Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin

She's in Chicago.

We just learned about this very, very sad development on the eve of the election, just in the last hour -- half hour or so, Jessica. And I know you just learned about it, as well, in a statement that the senator's sister released.

But tell us what's going on this day -- what happened so far and what we're about to see.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN Capitol Hill CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, we're told, died at her home in Hawaii last night of cancer. It happened around 4:00 a.m. Or 5:00 a.m. Florida time, which is where Barack Obama was this morning. We're told he learned about it at 8:00 in the morning, when he woke up this morning.

The campaign waited to release a statement. And, in part, that statement reads -- it's from Obama and his sister -- that their grandmother "was the person who encouraged and allowed to us take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure."

As you know, Barack Obama left the campaign trail a short time ago -- about a week-and-a-half ago -- to visit with his grandmother. When he came back he said, look, it was good to visit with her, but she said go back and do what you need to do. And that's what he was doing all day today -- campaigning with the knowledge that his grandmother had just passed.


YELLIN (voice-over): On his last full day of campaigning, Barack Obama reprised a theme that's move undecided voters in the past.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain actually came here to Veterans Memorial Arena and reaped something he said at least 16 times on this campaign. He said, and I quote

"The fundamentals of our economy are strong."

Florida, you and I know that not only was John McCain fundamentally wrong, it sums up the fact that he's out of touch -- this out of touch on your own economic philosophy.

YELLIN: At the same time, he urged supporters not to trust the polls -- to get out and vote.

OBAMA: We can't afford to slow down or sit back or let up -- not one minute, not one hour, not one second, not anytime in the next 36 hours. Not now. Not when there's so much at stake.

YELLIN: Obama is closing out his campaign with a push to expand the map rallying in three cities that voted for Bush in 2004 -- Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Manassas, Virginia. And he's sending his top surrogates to one time red states -- Michelle to Nevada.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: This year has been fun. The rallies are great. But the only day that matters is tomorrow.

YELLIN: And Biden to Missouri.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We need to get out and elect Barack Obama president of the United States tomorrow.


YELLIN: The candidate did seem to reveal his own prediction for tomorrow.

OBAMA: We are one day away from changing the United States of America.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, Barack Obama is going to be speaking shortly. I was just in touch with the campaign to ask if he will be addressing his grandmother's passing. They did not have any information on that. They didn't know if he will. So, we'll wait to see -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be there live, as well.

All right, Jessica, thank you.

John McCain may be running out of time, but he's still running hard -- a seven state marathon, which he hopes will help him catch Barack Obama at the finish line.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, one of the key battleground states -- McCain's final strategy, Brian, what are you picking up?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that strategy is to push hardest in states that are close.

John McCain not shying away from those states where he's behind. And if he does not pull this out tomorrow, it certainly won't be for a lack of effort.


TODD (voice-over): What does a 72-year-old man running on adrenaline sound like?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't give up hope. Be strong. Have courage and fight. Fight for a new direction for our country and for what's right for America.

TODD: In one dizzying day, seven stops in seven states for the Republican nominee. Recent polls say that except for Tennessee and Arizona, John McCain either trails or is tied in the states he visits in this final full day of campaigning. But those same polls show the race is tightening in several key states, including three on Monday's itinerary. Blountville, Tennessee should be McCain country, but it's also within shouting distance of Virginia, where McCain is vulnerable. So at that stop, he offered some Republican red meat.

MCCAIN: We're going to cut taxes for working families. We'll cut business taxes to help create jobs. And we'll keep American businesses in America.

TODD: Analysts say McCain has to hit on points like those in the final stretch.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: You can't change your message in the last 48 hours. You just have to drill down what you've got. For McCain, that means drilling down on taxes and on spending.

TODD: On the plane, a top official joked about the lagging poll numbers, saying they wanted to make sure their man didn't peak too early. McCain made his own joke later, alluding to what he believes is Barack Obama's over-confidence.

MCCAIN: My opponent is measuring the drapes in the White House. You know, they may not know it, but the Mac is back.


TODD: That measuring the drapes comment very popular in rallies these past few days, as is another theme that John McCain has been hitting on. He is warning voters -- be careful of electing Barack Obama to go along with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank in Congress. The McCain team thinks they can get traction by warning voters of total liberal control on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brian, he's taking the pretty unusual step of not even letting up tomorrow, election day. He's going out there on the campaign trail.

TODD: That's right. He's going to vote in Arizona. Then he hits Grand Junction, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico Tuesday. It's, again, very close. It is unusual. The McCain team feels that they're in play and if they make that last ditch push, even while voters are heading to the polls on the East Coast, then they can maybe get over the top in those places.

BLITZER: All right, Brian is working the story.

He's in Philadelphia.

All right, Jack Cafferty has got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The prescription for tomorrow is comfortable shoes and patience. It's going to be awesome.

Never in recent memory has there been so much interest in a presidential election. More than a third of Americans are expected to have already voted by the time the polls open tomorrow -- and that's a 50 percent increase from 2004.

But that doesn't mean there won't be a lot of people in front of you in line when you get to the polls. Young people have signed up in unprecedented numbers. New voter registrations have broken records in almost every state. Turnout, you'll recall, in a lot of the primaries was staggering.

So be prepared. Be aware, also, that tomorrow is a chance for all of us to strike a blow for democracy. And God knows she could use a shot in the arm. We're at our best as a nation, I think, when we're all involved, right?

But that involvement tomorrow will come with a price. You're probably going to have to wait -- maybe for a long time. While you're standing there in line grumbling that the line isn't moving or the machine is broken, remember what it was that got you into that line in the first place. This may well be the most important election we've ever had.

Here's the question -- how long are you willing to wait to vote?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf. BLITZER: Some people have been telling me in Florida, for example, they went out a couple times last week there were two hour waits. And they said, you know, what, maybe it will ease up a little bit when they open up more polling booths on Tuesday, which is the regular election. But there's a lot of frustration in Florida.


BLITZER: Remember that state?

CAFFERTY: Florida.


CAFFERTY: Yes, I do.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

A battleground of Pennsylvania -- John McCain making an all out effort to wrestle the state out of the Obama column. We're on the front lines of the political ground war.

Plus, CNN's John King is standing by live. We'll take an eleventh hour look at the magic map to see where all of this stands on election eve.

And the almost unthinkable -- an electoral tie.

What happens if the race for the White House does not end tomorrow?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: With election day only hours away, the campaign has come down to trench warfare in a handful of key battleground states.

Let's bring back our chief national correspondent, John King -- John, the candidates have mobilized all their resources because the clock is ticking.


And one state that both campaigns view as decisive is Pennsylvania. It is right here. It is 21 electoral votes. The Democrats have carried this state in every presidential election since 1988. But John McCain says he has to win it.

To do so, he's up against an enormous Obama ground army. And he's hoping, Wolf, for support from voters who voted for another Democrat in the primaries.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goal now is to knock on as many doors as possible.

KING (voice-over): The ground war matters most now. And Democrats from the governor on down know Pennsylvania is a decisive battleground.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Governor Palin and Senator McCain have been living in Pennsylvania the last four weeks. In fact, we're thinking of charging them state income taxes.

KING: Philadelphia's African-American population is Barack Obama's base.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm working with the Obama campaign.

KING: But predominantly white neighborhoods, where most of these volunteers spread out, are critical if the statewide race is close.

PAT WISCH, OBAMA VOLUNTEER: We're looking for 106.

KING: Down the street a bit, team leader Pat Wisch buzzes an undecided voter who has heard from Camp Obama more than once within minutes...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, like you guys just called me. I just had this conversation.

WISCH: Did you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But thanks anyway.

WISCH: Well, is it Obama, I hope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I haven't really decided.

But thanks for the call.

WISCH: You haven't really?

Well, lots of good luck.

KING: The undecideds worry Camp Obama most this late. In a Democratic neighborhood like this, the worry is race might play a role, though Wisch says she is much more concerned about other parts of the state.

WISCH: I'm not so sure about the small towns, where people are having a difficult time with the race issue.

KING: The scope of the operation is stunning. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 500 paid Obama campaign staffers and thousands of volunteers; plus friends -- 4,000 union volunteers in Philadelphia alone for the final push -- as many as 15,000 statewide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, listen you know what, my dad was in the union for a long time.

KING: The smaller McCain ground army has 100 paid staffers in the state and roughly 15,000 volunteers, but is aggressively targeting union members who tilt conservative on social issues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like the defense of marriage and the rights of the unborn.

OK. Thank you very much.

KING: The McCain efforts include veterans of Hillary Clinton's primary bid, like Joyce Levy, who say they can't back the Democrat who won.

JOYCE LEVY, MCCAIN VOLUNTEER: Barack Obama has a very thin resume. I think he's not qualified to be president.


KING: Helping the McCain effort on the ground in Pennsylvania, 1,000 members of what they call Democrats for McCain, Wolf -- 1,000 members who are helping in the final days.

I want to show you quickly the state, as we show this area. Here's two critical areas. Up here, this is the '04 map. But up here is where Hillary Clinton did very well in the primaries.

And watch this area down here. I'm going to bring it up on the (INAUDIBLE). This is the key. I'll move this line over here and bring these -- stretch this out just a little bit and show you.

These are the Philadelphia suburbs -- all blue from when John Kerry won it. The last time a Republican won the state is George H.W. Bush.

Look at that. This is what John McCain needs to do -- not necessarily turn them all read, but do much better in these suburbs than any Republican has done since that race 20 years ago.

BLITZER: And that's not an easy assignment, though.

Later, Bill Schneider is going to tell us what were to happen -- it's unlikely, but it's possible -- there could be 269-269. You need 270 to be elected president. He'll explain what would happen if that scenario were to unfold.

But explain how it's technically possible -- theoretically possible to get to that kind of tie.

KING: There are a few scenarios. I tried to show you one last hour and I had a little brain lock. Let me show you the most likely scenario for 269. And it's highly unlikely, but if there is to be 269, here's how most believe it would play out. John McCain would win Florida.

John McCain would come up here and win North Carolina. He would make a dramatic comeback in the State of Virginia and get that. He would win Ohio. He would win Indiana. He would come over here and win Missouri. He would get these two states up here, North Dakota in the Mountain West and Montana in the Mountain West.

Look where we are right now, Wolf. Colorado is nine electoral votes. Take it off and switch it. There's 269-269. Highly unlikely, but it is a possibility as we head into election night.

BLITZER: And that number -- and Bill Schneider is going to show us later this hour what were -- what would happen, in terms of the Constitution and the House of Representatives and the Senate. It's a fascinating, fascinating scenario to watch out. And we're going to watch it play, potentially, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

KING: It would make that Florida recount from eight years ago look like the Minor Leagues.

BLITZER: Yes. Oh, wait until you see this report.

All right, John, thanks very much.

She told the judge her father died, but now the truth is out -- what the missing juror from Ted Stevens' trial was really up to. You're going to hear from her. That's coming up.

Plus, Barack Obama's election night party is posing some serious security challenges. Maybe one million people are expected. We're on the scene in Chicago, looking at what officials are worried about most.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: All right, this story just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check with Deborah Feyerick.

What's going on -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf, we can tell you that bones found near the California plane of Steve Fossett have been identified as positive. They are Steve Fossett's bones. They were identified by the sheriff's department about a half a mile from where those remains were found.

And in other news, a juror who held up deliberations in Senator Ted Stevens' corruption trial has admitted she lied to be excused. It turns out she didn't have to attend her father's funeral. She says she made up the story and went to a horse race instead. The court used an alternate juror and Stevens was convicted last week of failing to report thousands of dollars in gifts. Stevens today said the juror's lie made it clear that his guilty verdict was flawed. His sentencing is postponed pending appeal.


MARIAN HINNANT, MISSING JUROR: But I didn't think the trial was going to last as long as it did. What was it, about five, six weeks the trial lasted. I bought my ticket probably about March or April. And I knew I was going to the Breeders' Cup. I had a lot of reasons I wanted and needed to go.


FEYERICK: And that was the juror.

Now, in other news, the Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case that could limit liability claims against drug makers. Wyeth is appealing nearly $7 million in damages won by a musician who lost her lower arm to gangrene after being improperly injected with an anti- nausea drug. Her lawyers say Wyeth should have given stronger warnings about the dangers of giving the drug by what's called an I.V. push. But Wyeth says it acted properly by including the FDA's approved warnings on the label.

Now, police are appealing for an anonymous caller to come forward and say more about the shootings last night at a makeshift homeless camp near Los Angeles. Three men and two women were shot to death there last night. The anonymous caller helped police find the bodies. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots and screaming coming from the camp near a freeway off the ramp.

And automakers recorded one of their worst sales months ever. G.M. sales plummeted 45 percent in October. Toyota's U.S. sales fell more than 20 percent, while Ford's sales tumbled 30 percent. The industry says tight credit and the weak economy are to blame -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Deb Feyerick working the other news for us.

Thank you.

CNN is keeping them honest.

If you have trouble at the polls, you can call CNN voter hotline, help us track the problems and we'll report the trouble in real time. Here's the number -- 1-877-462-6608. That's 1-877-462-6608. And we'll make sure that we get all over that story.

Now, you'll be able to view where all these calls are coming from at

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has more on this -- Abbi, what sorts of problems are people reporting?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're not even at election day at this point and already we've had more than 10,000 calls to CNN's voter hotline -- calls and complaints that are being mapped right here at this map -- 10,000 complaints. We've received about 30,000 calls in total, the other people asking for information -- other information here.

But these are the complaints that have been mapped so far. The darker the state, the more complaints we have received from there. And so far, three out of the five counties that we've received the most complaints from have been from Florida. -- Broward County, Dade and Palm Beach.

And if I show you this I-Report up here, you'll look at one of the main things that people are reporting. That's poll access problems -- the long lines that have been coming from these early vote locations that closed yesterday.

This is a CNN I-Reporter in Miami who was reporting that. And we're also getting reports -- some of the top complaints that we've been getting are also registration issues and problems with receiving absentee ballots.

You can follow them all at But this election, people have access tools that they just didn't have in previous elections -- not just on CNN's I-Report, but people are sending in information. YouTube has a tool, Video the Vote, where encouraging people to upload their pictures as they go to the polls tomorrow.

And, also, on, people are sending in their updates via text message. We're going to be looking at all these sites as we go into election day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Some see him as being on the verge of victory right now. But Barack Obama isn't counting on it. He's still fighting to close the deal and battling for a decisive win.

Also, the Obama campaign puts a spin on the latest McCain endorsement.

Is Vice President Dick Cheney's backing helping or hurting the Republican ticket?

Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos -- they're standing by to weigh in live, plus their predictions for election day surprises.

And what if the race ends in a tie?

It is a possibility, as we just saw John King show us on the magic map. But there are some interesting rules in the competition -- how to get out of that tie. We're going to show you what would happen.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, election day only hours away. Some voters still haven't decided how they'll cast their ballot -- which candidate stands to benefit from the fence-sitters.

Also, an eleventh hour controversy goes to court in a critical toss-up state. We're on the front lines of the battle for Virginia.

Plus, it's a setting causing some serious concerns for those charged with keeping Senator Barack Obama safe -- his election night party in Chicago is turning out to be a security nightmare.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Polls show Barack Obama is leading on the eve of election day. But after a bruising battle to win his party's nomination, Obama is warning his supporters against overconfidence.

CNN's Jim Acosta takes a closer look what's behind that warning -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama seems to be on the verge of victory, but he's had trouble landing the knockout punch before -- which is why he's reminding voters John McCain is still standing.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Barack Obama's message -- it's closing time.

OBAMA: I need you to make the case. I need to you close the deal, because the time for change has come and you know it. And we've got a righteous wind at our back.

ACOSTA: Obama's seen races tighten before. In the primaries, he built a commanding lead only to stumble in the last nomination contest, prompting Hillary Clinton to ask then...


ACOSTA: But even Clinton's most passionate supporters say it's different this time.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: He's just a much better candidate today than he was in April. I have tried to panic, but I can't. And believe me, I've tried everything I can to not go to sleep at night, but it doesn't seem to work. I go to sleep.

ACOSTA: Which may explain this sign of confidence -- this Obama fundraising message offers donors a chance to win a ticket to history -- choice seats at his election night celebration. That's presumptuous, say McCain campaign strategists, who see their own path to victory.


RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I would say the Southwest and Colorado are really moving into McCain columns. We're still very competitive and expect to win Florida. But I think the most important state to watch right now is Pennsylvania.


ACOSTA: Both sides are laying it on the line. The GOP's new robo- call features a dated speech from Senator Clinton.


CLINTON: In the White House, there's no time for speeches and on the job training.


ACOSTA: Obama's new ad includes a rarely seen Dick Cheney.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm delighted to support John McCain and pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense.


ACOSTA: These last minute appeals aimed at undecided voters, who could make the difference.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One thing we know about the undecided voters -- they're almost all white. There are very few African-Americans who are undecided, while overall, white voters tend to favor John McCain.


ACOSTA: And no Democrat since Jimmy Carter has gotten more than 50.1 percent of the vote. And you have to go back all the way to 1964 to find the last Democratic presidential blowout.

So Barack Obama is doing more than running against John McCain -- he's running against history -- Wolf.


Jim Acosta reporting.

All right, let's talk a little bit about these undecided voters.

Who are they?

Joining us now, two of the best political team on television. Paul Begala is our Democratic strategist.


BLITZER: That's you.

Alex Castellanos is our Republican consultant. A lot of these undecided, they're so undecided they don't even bother voting. Is that fair?

BEGALA: It is. I think with an African-American candidate, I think the Bradley effect has been overplayed. I do think there are some few people parking themselves in undecided with the pollster when they're going to vote for John McCain or against Barack Obama. Not that much of it. I do think Bill Schneider right in that piece Jim Acosta had. Usually the change candidate gets most of the undecided in a change election. Right? A normal year, you would see Barack Obama probably getting three-fourths of the undecided. This year they're not counting on that.

BLITZER: You think McCain will do better with undecided?

BEGALA: Yes sir.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think so. These voters are, you know, as I think Bill was saying, they're white. They are a little older. So I think we're going to see them probably break to McCain a little bit. But you know, and also at this point, if you've looked at Barack Obama and you've wanted change for four years or eight years and you haven't really pulled that lever for Obama yet, that means have you some doubts about him.

BLITZER: Paul, in the piece that Jim Acosta just had, you saw that statement from Dick Cheney endorsing John McCain, Sarah Palin; a quick ad by the Obama campaign taking advantage of that. Big deal, little deal, no deal? What's going on?

BEGALA: It's a big deal because the Obama campaign was nimble enough to seize on it. As a Democrat, I believe in the theory of evolution. It is not actually the survival of the strongest. It's the most adaptable. Barack Obama is being adaptable. Imagine the arrogance of Dick Cheney. President Bush knows he's unpopular and he's hiding. He's raising a little bit of money where he can. Otherwise, he's hiding being a loyal guy. Dick Cheney puts himself above everything. The most arrogant politician in the modern era and he knows him popping up out of his hole hurts John McCain but he has to do it for his own ego.

CASTELLANOS: I think this is going to put Republicans over the top. A lot of people didn't know that Bush and Cheney were supporting the Republican ticket this year.

Look, this shows that it's really not just a local campaign for president anymore. You can't go to an event and say something. It's global. Barack Obama has run a global presidential campaign. He's campaigned in Europe. Whatever happens on TV, that's what happens in your living room. Candidates need to remember that. This does hurt a little bit because it puts a period at the end of the argument that Obama's been making, which is do you want eight more years of this.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about predictions. What's going to happen tomorrow? Both of you quickly, let's go through the Electoral College. What do you think will be the outcome tomorrow? 270 the magic number needed to be elects president.

BEGALA: Not to plug our website,, you can be John King and I played John King for a day on the magic map. Minimum of 325 for Barack Obama. And I can see.

BLITZER: Plenty more than enough to win.

BEGALA: I can see a way he gets 378. I think it's a big win for Obama tomorrow.

BLITZER: What do you think?

CASTELLANOS: Here's the way it looks. If you look at the map today, I've got 318 electoral votes for Barack Obama. He carries Pennsylvania, he does not carry Ohio. He carries Virginia, does not carry North Carolina. He carries Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida? I think goes right now looks like it goes Obama. But that's the floor. If Republicans get a little dispirited right now, if Republicans stay in bed tomorrow, then I think Paul's right. It could be bigger.

BLITZER: Bill Bennett in the last hour he predicted McCain would go ahead and win. You're not necessarily as a Republican agreeing with him as a strategist?

CASTELLANOS: No, but if Bill's right then Bill can turn water into wine right after that.

BEGALA: One bad sign for the McCain campaign, the last day of the election, even Walter Mondale in the process of losing 49 states had 50,000 people at closing rallies. John McCain this morning, Tampa, Florida, 1,000 people. Reporters on the scene said it was set up for 10,000. That's pathetic.

BLITZER: You saw Ed Henry report he was there four years ago at that the last event in Tampa. George W. Bush had like 15,000 people.

CASTELLANOS: There is the paper bag factor. That is a lot of Republicans are voting this year with a paper bag over their head. It's not the most popular thing to say I'm going to vote Republican. So there is some Republican vote out there you just don't tell a pollster and you don't necessarily fly the flag out in public but it might show up tomorrow.

BLITZER: I want to report to viewers a statement that John and Cindy McCain have just released because of the very sad death of the 86-year-old grandmother of Senator Barack Obama, Madelyn Dunham. She just died today out in Hawaii. "We offer our deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother." The statement from John and Cindy McCain says, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact on their lives."

It's a very tragic moment if you think about this, Paul, that just on the eve potentially of becoming president, he learns that his grandmother, who spent so much time raising him whom he loved so much, has died.

BEGALA: Heartbreaking. At least thank god he had the time to go out, say good-bye to her. He has spoken in the past of his regret he didn't get a chance to say a final good-bye to his mother. It's a heartbreak thing. I certainly solute the McCains, John and Cindy, for putting out such a thoughtful and sensitive statement.

It does remind you he is entering into the most difficult job in the world and there will be no time to take off in grief for almost anything.

I remember when Virginia Kelly, Bill Clinton's mom, she passed away. A day after, he had to fly to Russia for a summit with Boris Yeltsin. You never stop being president. If the American people are on his side tomorrow, he's going to begin a very difficult journey and at least his grandmother will have gotten him right to the -- to the beginning of that journey.

BLITZER: I was the White House correspondent. I flew off with him. I remember that sad moment, as well it's just profoundly tragic and sad, the timing of this. We knew she's been sick for a while.

CASTELLANOS: We often lose sight these are real people in the warfare of the campaign and the back and forth, they become distant from us. Sometimes an event like this be heartbreaking and again our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, remind us that these are real people who enter the public arena at great sacrifice just to serve us and to serve their country on both sides. So we should remember him on a day like today.

BLITZER: Our deepest condolences to the entire family.

All right. Guys, thanks very much.

Coming up, a scary scenario. What happens if the map ends up half red, half blue, a dead even count in the electoral vote, 269-269? No one reaches 270. It could get messy.

Plus, playing the campaign for laughs. We're going to hear from the first pretend candidate Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live's" political impact.

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


BLITZER: A red state leaning blue on our electoral map. As the candidates battle for Virginia's votes, hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots are already in as a new controversy develops. Let's go to Dan Lothian. He's got our battleground coverage.

Dan, the McCain campaign has gone ahead and filed a lawsuit. Give us the background, what's going on?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. CNN has confirmed that the McCain campaign has filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections here in Virginia asking the state to accept ballots, absentee ballots from military personnel overseas late. So if they're sent out by at least the 4th, they should be counted as they arrive by at least the 14th of November.

Now the guidelines here in the state say that absentee ballots have to be received here in Virginia by 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening. I did reach out to the Board of Elections. The communications director tells me they have not have a chance to review the lawsuit and can't comment. Meanwhile, state officials are gearing up for an unprecedented election.


LOTHIAN: To use a sports analogy, Virginia a rookie battleground state is putting up veteran numbers. 10 percent of its more than 5 million registered voters have cast absentee ballots. Some by mail, some in person. Almost a half million absentee ballots have been processed so far compared to a total of about 200,000 four years ago. It seems every voting record in the state is being shattered.

JEAN CUNNINGHAM, CHAIR, VA. BOARD OF ELECTIONS: That is so exciting to know that we have so many more people participating in the process.

LOTHIAN: And this early jump will help to relieve sop of the pressure on precincts as officials brace for 90 percent voter turnout.

NANCY RODRIGUEZ, SECY., VA. BOARD OF ELECTIONS: Obviously that's going to have a major effect.

LOTHIAN: On the ground, both campaigns are sprinting the last few miles of this presidential marathon. The Obama campaign says 15,000 volunteers are contacting hundreds of thousands of voters across Virginia from now and until the pillows close.

KEVIN GRIFFIS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Obviously the campaign has invested heavily in Virginia and there's a lot at stake here.

LOTHIAN: At McCain headquarters in Richmond, volunteers work the phones. The campaign says they're making tens of thousands of calls and knocking on thousands of doors in these final hours. They say their get out the vote effort includes a force of 20,000 volunteers statewide.

BOB MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We can't lose Virginia. John McCain said in Bristol this morning in, I'm going to win the presidency is, I need you all to win Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN: Now, Barack Obama is still leading in the polls here in Virginia. You might remember, Wolf, just a couple weeks ago he was up by ten points. That lead has been cut in half. Up by five points. 5 percent still unsure.

BLITZER: What's the latest on that NAACP lawsuit filed last week against the governor of Virginia?

LOTHIAN: Is the NAACP was in out in the courthouse behind me. He ruled their lawsuit did have merits but denied their request to have additional machines put out there in some precincts and denied their request to have the voting hours extended for a couple of hours, the NAACP will watch how things go tomorrow and we might end up in court.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see. Dan Lothian reporting from Richmond, Virginia.

The Obama camp is hoping it will be a victory party but the massive open-air celebration planned for tomorrow night in Chicago is shaping up to potentially be a security nightmare. CNN's Susan Roesgen is there.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Obama's party is going to be here in downtown Chicago in Grant Park, more than 300 acres of open space. Now completely closes off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, sir, if you don't have a patch, you have to cross to that side of the street.

ROESGEN: Mayor Daley says is he hopes a million people will come to cheer Obama on but Beverly won't be one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's too many nuts around here.

ROESGEN: The nuts are exactly what Chicago police and the Secret Service are trying to keep out. There are security issues here that a Ramada ballroom won't have. Grant Park is lined by skyscrapers full of people. Residents will have to show IDs to get near their apartments and condos. Lake Michigan is on the other side of the park. Chicago police will have special marine units in the water patrolling along with the coast guard.

JODY WEIS, SUPT., CHICAGO POLICE: I'm extraordinarily confident that we can keep Senator Obama safe and the citizens of Chicago safe and the neighborhoods safe.

ROESGEN: The chief says every single police officer in the city will be on duty. They'll be the ones in uniform. The secret service guys won't be so easy to spot.

TOM KELLY, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: We have never discussed our methods and scope of our security plan. We have a very, very good security plan in place.

ROESGEN: In fact, for anyone but media, this may be the only peek you'll get at the center of the action. The t-shaped platform is where Senator Obama will make his speech.

RAY OROZCO, EMERGENCY OPERATIONS DIRECTOR: The city of Chicago is honored that presidential hopeful Barack Obama has chosen his hometown as the place to spend election night.


ROESGEN: And there is another reason everyone here wants election night to go smoothly, Wolf. That's that Chicago is in the running to host the 2016 Olympics. And we know the whole world will be watching. Wolf?

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen is in Chicago getting ready for that party tomorrow night.

What if it's a tie though? An electoral stalemate could be a rather scary scenario. The U.S. constitution tells us how to resolve it. That doesn't mean it would be easy. Bill Schneider standing by.

Plus, John McCain took time in the waning days of the campaign to laugh it up on "Saturday Night Live." We'll go behind the scenes to find out why that may be a good move.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you someone who likes fine jewelry and also respects a politician who can reach across the aisle? If so, you can't go wrong with McCain's fine gold.


BLITZER: Perhaps more than ever this election year, the road to the white house passes through the set of "Saturday Night Live" where presidential satire dates back to the Ford administration. CNN's Alina Cho talks to the man who set the standard. Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, you know it's hard to say who the bigger star is in this election, SNL or you, Wolf Blitzer. I recently sat down with Chevy Chase, the first person to say live from New York, Saturday night. I asked him what he thought of you and what he thought of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and SNL's impact on politics.


MCCAIN: Good evening, my fellow politics.

CHO: John McCain trailing in the polls and the race for money.

MCCAIN: We, however, can only afford QVC.

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: These campaigns sure are expensive.

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

FEY: And who wouldn't want the complete set of Joe action figures? There's Joe the plumber, Joe six-pack, and my personal favorite, Joe Biden.

CHO: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin is pure ambition.

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

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR: Tina, who is not an impressionist, per se, fits right in there.

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

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

CHO: Wait a minute. You mean to tell me in the back of your mind you were thinking, hey, I want Carter?

CHASE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

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

CHASE: Oh, yeah.

CHO: Wow.

CHASE: What do you think they're doing now? Do you think they're doing this because Sarah is funny?

CHO: "Saturday Night Live" denies any bias.

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

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

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

CHO: Joking aside, this election season, Chase isn't just watching "SNL."

CHASE: I've never seen so much Wolf Blitzer in my life.

CHO: He's also glued to CNN.

CHASE: Is Wolf really alive? How can he live and not get sick? (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: And on this election eve, "SNL" will take one last shot at the candidates in a two hour special that airs tonight. We've learned that Sarah Palin will be part of the show again, but this time it's not live. She actually taped something earlier for the show.

In case you're wondering, Saturday's show that featured John McCain was the most highly rated "SNL" in nearly 11 years. The only show this season that had more viewers, the one where McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, was a live special guest.

You heard Chevy Chase talking about the impact of "SNL" via the internet. Listen to this. The "New York Times" is reporting that Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin has been viewed online 50 million times.


BLITZER: All right, Alina. Thanks very much. Alina Cho reporting. Glad Chevy Chase is watching CNN.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's got nothing else to do.

The question this hour, how long are you willing to wait in line to cast your vote?

Michelle in New Hampshire writes, "I'm willing to wait all day. I've cleared my calendar to spend all day. The time I don't spend waiting or voting I will spend poll-watching and holding signs. It's far too important not to make a personal sacrifice to make sure my vote counts. As an army wife, one day of work loss is meaningless compared to the days my husband has and will spend on deployment. To all within the sound of your voice, get out and vote."

LaShunda Mobile, Alabama, "I'm seven months pregnant, standing for long periods of time hurts my back tremendously. In spite of the pain, I plan to stand in line as long as it takes to exercise my right to vote, especially when those before me endured greater rights to have this right."

Bill in San Diego, "I appreciate the question, but if anyone thinks the wait is not worth it, think about all of the people in places who can't vote. Think about the people who have fought for voting rights and remember that blacks and women were not allowed to vote not all that long ago.

Patrick says, "Not longer than about 30 hours."

Dawn in Florida, "My husband and I waited 2 1/2 hours to vote early. About an hour into the wait, my husband began getting antsy and wanted me to remind him why we were wasting our time. I just said, George W. Bush. That did it."

And Kim writes, "All day if I have to, but I'll have my 3 and 4- year-olds with me. They may think differently. What a great opportunity to live by example. Never give up."

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

BLITZER: It's inspiring seeing these people waiting in line. It's really good. Thank you, Jack.

The analysts say it could happen, an electoral tie. What happens if it's 269 to 269? You'll find out next.

Also, the heavy-hitters showing just how important Pennsylvania is. We talk to Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In our political ticker, what if tomorrow's vote leads to a nationwide dead lock? It's possible. Let's go to Bill Schneider. He's looking at the story for us.

A tie, what if it happened, Bill?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The constitution specified exactly what to do in that case. Article one, take a deep breath.


SCHNEIDER: Halloween may be over, but another scary scenario could be lurking. The electoral vote could end up tied, 269 for McCain, 269 for Obama. Suppose Barack Obama carries all the states John Kerry carried in 2004 plus Iowa, New Mexico, and Nevada. Result? A tie. Suppose Obama takes all the Kerry States except New Hampshire, plus three former Bush states, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado. The result? A tie. Crisis? Not necessarily.

The constitution spells out what to do. The new Congress counts the electoral votes in January just like just like in 2001. The result? A tie. Then what? Then the newly elected House of Representatives chooses the new president. Each state gets one vote. 53 California representatives get one vote. The single representative from Alaska gets one vote. In the current house, Democrats hold the majority in 27 states, Republicans in 21 with two states tied. So it looks good for Obama, assuming Democrats hold or increase their house majority.

Some representatives will be under pressure to ignore their party and vote the way their state voted.

ALAN SILVERLEIB, CNN POLITICAL RESEARCHER: In Delaware, Mike Castle, the long-time congressman, his state is almost certainly going to vote for the Obama/Biden ticket. Is he going to risk the wrath of his constituents by voting for John McCain if the election goes to the House of Representatives?

SCHNEIDER: Has the election ever gone to the house before? Yes. And it wasn't pretty.

SILVERLEIB: In 1824. There was a corrupt bargain reached in the house wry the speaker of the house, Henry Clay, threw his support behind John Quincy Adams and after Adams entered office, then he appointed Clay as secretary of state.

SCHNEIDER: A corrupt bargain to elect a president, pretty scary.


SCHNEIDER: What if the delegation is tied? The state can abstain. It takes 26 states to elect a new president, so if a lot of states abstain, the house has to keep on voting. And if the house can't pick a new president by January 20th, when George W. Bush's term expires, then the new vice president becomes acting president.

Well, wait a minute. Who picks the new vice president? The new Senate, with each senator casting one vote. If the Democrats increase their majority in the Senate, Wolf, Meet President Joe Biden.

BLITZER: Or interim president Joe Biden, until the House can make up its mind.

All right, Bill, thanks very much.