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Obama's First Moves as President-Elect; McCain-Palin: After Defeat; Colin Powell 'Overjoyed' at Obama Win
Aired November 5, 2008 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Barack Obama in transition. His first moves as president-elect, he's just made some. The tough choices on his way into the White House and the hard work once he gets there.
Plus, change across the map. Presidential politics very different as of today. Can Republicans overcome a desperate case of the blues?
And living the dream. The pride and hope of African-Americans, and indeed all Americans after an historic election.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Behind closed doors today, Barack Obama is confronting the scope of his election victory and the enormous challenges ahead. He's shattered a racial barrier, reshaped the electoral map, and the way White House campaigns are financed. But the real change he's promising to bring America may be much harder to achieve. And it all starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley is with President-Elect Obama in Chicago right now.
Candy, how is he moving forward on this first day as president-elect?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's working on setting up his White House chief of staff. He has asked Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois congressman, a tough -- a hard-nosed and tough legislator who also worked in the Clinton White House, to be Obama's chief of staff. A key position, it both protects the president, runs the White House, helps move issues through the pipeline to the president. So that is a key move. We have -- the man that used to talk to thousands of people every day has been silent in public, but there is lots of talking going on behind closed doors. We believe he is with Joe Biden, who remains in Chicago as they put together not just a transition -- and we are talking about offices in every department that work to make this transition smooth. We are talking about an office building in downtown Washington where, in fact, they will do most of the nuts and bolts of the transition, gathering the resumes, putting people in key slots. Barack Obama will stay here in Chicago for the most part; I'm told, making the major public announcements of some of those cabinet figures.
Beyond that, Wolf, you know how we counted down to Election Day. We are now beginning to count down to inauguration, 76 days. That is not much time to put this together. And then as you mentioned, the hard stuff starts. And that is delivering on that promise of change that brought so many millions of people into the system and believing in him.
BLITZER: An enormous, enormous challenge for the president-elect.
Candy, thanks very much.
President Bush is promising complete cooperation with President-Elect Obama and a smooth White House transition. Today Mr. Bush publicly congratulated the Democrats for their victory. He says he's invited the Obamas to visit their future home soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have waited so long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Bush says when he leaves the White House in President- Elect Obama's hands, he will return to Texas with treasured memories and profound gratitude.
On this day after the vote, Republicans can't help but look back, rehashing where and why they lost the White House. John McCain's presidential hopes now dashed, but Sarah Palin's political future still full of possibilities.
Let's go to Phoenix, Arizona rights now. Dana Bash has been covering the McCain campaign for us.
I assume they really must be disappointed, Dana. What are they saying?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course. They're incredibly disappointed. And you know, McCain is supposed to head to his creekside cabin near Sedona, Arizona. That's a place he once told us is probably the only place that he can actually relax. And, you know, he's going to need to do that because he actually has a transition of his own. He's going to have to go back to a Senate that is poised to consider Barack Obama's agenda, one he has spent months calling too costly and too liberal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator John McCain.
BASH (voice-over): Standing beneath the flag he has served for more than half a century, John McCain could not hide his disappointment, and did not try.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.
BASH: McCain said he will leave it to others to determine why he lost. Many Republicans blame powerful anti-GOP headwinds and a campaign that relied on a series of tactics, not an overriding defining strategy. Senior McCain advisers admit mid-September's economic collapse sealed his fate, both the event and his reaction to it.
MCCAIN: I'll suspend my campaign and return to Washington.
PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: He came as being erratic and not ready to deal with the economy. And at that stage, people started to look at Obama, and Obama had a new fresh wind, and that was the difference.
BASH: And then there was Sarah Palin. Exit polls show she hurt McCain with Independent and suburban voters who called her unqualified to be president.
We caught up with Palin and asked her about that.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I don't think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit that I would trump an economic woeful time in this nation that occurred about two months ago, that my presence on the ticket would trump the economic crisis that America found itself in a couple months ago and attribute John McCain's loss to me. But now having said that, if I cost John McCain even one vote, I am sorry about that.
BASH: McCain will now go back to the Senate, a post-defeat trip he's taken once before.
After losing his presidential primary bid in 2000, McCain returned to work across the aisle on major legislation like campaign finance reform. McCain confidantes tell CNN they're encouraging him to do that once again.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: And McCain's best friend, Senator Lindsey Graham, told us that he's encouraging the senator to become kind of the next lion of the Senate. He thinks that he can do that by working with Democrats and Republicans on big issues like illegal immigration and even climate change. But Graham also told us, Wolf, that obviously it is going to take some time for the wounds of this grueling two-year campaign to heal, and also because of the fact that McCain's lifelong ambition to be president is now crushed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And congratulations to Lindsey Graham. He got himself re- elected yesterday in South Carolina. Not a surprise, but he did it impressively, without a whole lot of campaigning, because most of the time he was out there with Senator McCain campaigning.
All right, Dana. Thanks very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Watching Sarah Palin, did that worm Ted Stevens in Alaska, did he win?
BLITZER: No, not yet. It's very, very -- could you believe how close it is? Convicted of seven felony counts and it's really -- yes.
CAFFERTY: Yes, he's in the race, right?
CAFFERTY: They may have to do a recount.
BLITZER: They might.
CAFFERTY: It's a shame. All right.
There is perhaps no more profound way to slam the door on eight years of the Bush administration than to elect the first African-American to replace him. The irony is delicious, the symbolism is powerful, and the history is breathtaking.
We changed a lot more than our political orientation last night. The country finally grew up.
Something stirred us in a very profound way. The disillusionment and disappointment of failed policies everywhere you looked, those were the catalysts. But Barack Obama was the spark. And watching him in Grant Park last night, it occurred to me that just like Hemmingway was born to write and Tiger Woods to hit a golf ball, this man Obama was born to do this, to lead.
He has single-handedly carried the country on his back beyond some of the racial boundaries that have divided us for more than 200 years. Now, that's a pretty fair day's work. But he's done more than that.
He rekindled hope and optimism in a country that was running very short on both. And when he says, "Yes, we can," well, it's hard not to believe him.
Here's the question. What does it mean that the U.S. has its first African-American president?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
Huge is not a good enough word to describe the enormity.
BLITZER: What's a better word han huge?
CAFFERTY: I don't know. But, I mean, it's huge times five or something.
BLITZER: Could you find a better one?
CAFFERTY: I'll go look.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
There was a fleeting moment in political history when some thought Colin Powell might be America's first African-American president. General Powell goes one-on-one with CNN and gets choked up about Barack Obama's victory. You're going to want to see this interview.
Also ahead, Democrats find magic on the map. John King standing by. He'll show us why Republicans may feel the pain of last night's defeat for years to come.
And great expectations, how the world will be watching and testing the 44th president of the United States.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Colin Powell certainly knows what it's like to make history. He was the first black secretary of state and the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So it's especially moving for General Powell to witness the election of the nation's first black president.
CNN's Hugh Riminton caught up with Colin Powell in Hong Kong and got his reaction. Listen to this.
COLIN POWELL, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: President-Elect Obama did not put himself forward as an African-American president. He put himself forward as an American who happened to be black, who happened to be African-American. And that ought to come after the title, because what he did in this campaign was to be all-inclusive, to reach out across racial lines, cultural lines, religious lines, you name it.
He wanted to be a transformational figure to bridge the gap between generations. And I think that's what allowed him to win this election. So we're very, very proud to have a new American president who also happens to be an African-American. And that very fact moves us so far along the continuum that African-Americans have been traveling for the last 230 years of our nation, and for the last 400 years of the existence of colonies in America.
And so I have to share in the pride that all Americans have now for the fact that America did this. And as I watched it, as I watched finally one of the newscasters cut to the chase and say he's won, it's over, a pretty moving moment.
HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There was a tear?
POWELL: Everybody cried. And when you saw all of the crowds in Washington, in New York, Chicago, "Look what we did. Look what we did."
RIMINTON: And it hasn't worn off yet judging by the look on your face.
POWELL: No, no. No, I'm not ashamed of it. My family, my wife, my kids, everybody.
Whether you voted for Mr. Obama or not, you have to take enormous pride in the fact that we were able to do this. We were able to have a contest between two political parties, four different candidates, two on either side competing in that typical American way, which is hard fought.
You fight for your position. It's what our founding fathers intended. They wanted a clash of ideas, and from that clash of ideas the people are informed and the people make their choice.
Now the people have made their choice, and both gentlemen, Senator McCain and President-Elect Obama, both said the same thing, this is now over. Let's come together. We are all Americans again. And let's pursue a new agenda, an agenda of transformation, an agenda of change, and let's get on with the challenges that we are facing and solve those challenges.
RIMINTON: For even one moment there when you were watching that speech, did you think, that could have been me?
POWELL: No, never. I made an informed choice 13 years ago and I've never looked back at it. It was a correct choice for me and for my family. So I am overjoyed that Barack Obama has succeeded.
RIMINTON: Would you serve in an Obama administration?
POWELL: Well, I haven't been asked, and I'm not looking for service. I'm not looking for a job, and I don't expect to be offered a job.
I think I might be able to be of some use from the outside because of the experience I've had as a national security adviser, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as secretary of state. But I'm not looking for a position and I do not expect to be offered a position. RIMINTON: There were some McCain supporters -- these are ordinary American -- who seemed to hold a sincere view that an Obama presidency would make them less safe. What would you say to address those fears?
POWELL: I think it was an unfounded concern. Why would an Obama presidency make them less secure?
He knows the challenges we face. He sees our potential enemies. He also sees great opportunities in the world. He also sees the opportunity of working with our allies around the world and, yes, talking to those who are adversaries of ours.
But he's as committed to the security of this nation as anyone else. And I think those fears were unfounded. I'm quite confident that he will surround himself with good, strong security advisers at State Department and elsewhere in the government, and his national security adviser, and they will be very clear-eyed about the challenges we face and what has to be done.
BLITZER: Colin Powell clearly choked up, very, very emotional by the success of President-Elect Barack Obama.
We're going to play the entire interview for you in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. I think you're going to want to see this a very moving moment not only for General Powell, but for millions of other people here in the United States and around the world.
Barack Obama amassed his victory by redrawing the political map.
Let's bring in our Chief National Correspondent John King.
It's amazing how he put it all together. It was by no means easy.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And if you look at Barack Obama's map last night, Wolf, it is very different than the Republican electoral lock people have called it for the past generation, including back in 1996. That's when General Powell thought briefly about running for president.
Let's look at what Barack Obama did.
Right now, 97 percent of the vote in nationally, 53 percent of the vote. Not since Jimmy Carter has a Democrat cracked 50 percent. And Carter just did it against Gerald Ford.
BLITZER: Bill Clinton never did.
KING: Never did -- 49 in 1996 was as high as he got, 43 back in '92 because of Ross Perot on the ballot in those days. But Barack Obama said what? I will stretch the map.
Well, that is a promise he has kept. He said he would compete down in Florida. That was a state critical to George W. Bush twice. He said he would compete in Virginia and North Carolina. He said he would even go into Indiana and Ohio, critical to the Republicans.
And most important, the fastest growing segment of the population, Latinos, are reshaping the politics of the Southwest. Barack Obama said he would play out there.
Watch these areas where I drew those lines. Excuse me for stepping across. We're going to back in time four years.
This is how George W. Bush won 51 percent four years ago. Look at those circles: red, red, red, red and red. George W. Bush four years ago; Barack Obama now.
He has done what he set out to do, which is create a new map, a new electoral map for the Democrats. The challenge now in governing is to keep it. But some things you want to watch, Wolf, as you go through this map. Let me take these lines out.
This is critical out here. I'm going to pick Nevada, but could do this in Colorado or New Mexico.
The Latino population is exploding, especially in urban areas out here. Barack Obama winning the Latino vote more than 2-1, and tens of thousands more Latinos voted in this election as did four years ago, and that will continue. If the Democrats can hold that vote, they are in very strong stead looking forward.
Another state I want to look at is right down here. This is the most important part of Florida. Wolf, you know this area very well down here.
Democrats, the further south you go, the further north you are, is what they say in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers, New Englanders have settled down here, many of them Democrats.
Barack Obama held the areas where the Democrats needed to win, and then significantly he did this. The I-4 corridor runs through here. The population is growing here. And it's a very diverse and complex electorate, a lot of Independents, a lot of Latinos.
This is Barack Obama last night. And Wolf, let's again go back in time one more time. This is George W. Bush.
The lighter green is a tossup. He tied Orange County with John Kerry four years ago 50-50. And even if you go back to where Al Gore ran a more competitive race in Florida eight years ago, a little bit better there, but he could not match what Barack Obama did last night.
The potential, Wolf, for a new electoral map. The challenge for Barack Obama now is to govern in a way that keeps it blue, not red.
BLITZER: And if you're a Republican looking at this right now, you're saying to yourself, what do we do next? I mean, who is the leader of the Republican Party right now? It's not John McCain.
KING: The answer is no one. You have many people, even Republicans across the country, counting the 74 days I think it is until George W. Bush is gone. There is going to be a fierce competition for leadership in the Republican Party.
You saw Dana talking to Sarah Palin earlier today. Governor Romney, Mitt Romney, has done a lot of work around the country.
A guy I would watch not as a national leader, perhaps, but a guy I would watch is the governor of this state right down here. I missed by one, the governor of the state -- I'm going the wrong way on the map. See, I'm getting a little lost on the map.
The governor of the state of Mississippi. Remember Haley Barbour? He's the governor of Mississippi, he's very popular.
He did very well post-Katrina. He's a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a respected voice in the Republican Party.
Not that he's going to come back to Washington, but people like Haley Barbour, who have won nationally in the congressional races, are being consulted right now saying this is a mess, what do we do?
BLITZER: And if you go one state to the west, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana...
KING: Another rising star, absolutely.
BLITZER: ... a very young Republican governor there. He's got a good future ahead of him, as well.
All right. No shortage of potential leaders in the Republican Party.
Barack Obama will soon be naming names, picking people he wants to help run the government. You're going to find out some possible picks from inside his inner circle.
And if you want a sense of what problems Barack Obama might tackle first, listen closely to what he told me only last Friday. What he said then takes on new meaning right now that he's president-elect.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President-Elect Barack Obama expected to get his first top-secret briefing from the CIA tomorrow. But intelligence officials aren't just gathering information.
We'll have a live report on all the steps the CIA is taking right now to help the president-elect hit the ground running.
Michelle Obama, Harvard Law grad, successful career woman, and mother of two. So what will her focus be on once she's in the White House?
We'll have a revealing look at the nation's next first lady. And a high-tech technique, should we say, right here in the CNN Election Center. Our reporters and guests out in the field. They're beamed into the studio as a hologram. You might have seen it here yesterday. We're going to show you how we did it.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: As an African-American, I'm especially proud because this is a country that's been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wrongs and making race not the factor in our lives. That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, sharing her very personal feelings about Barack Obama's election as president of the United States.
She's also promising that the Bush administration will do everything it can to help Barack Obama make this transition to the White House smooth, as smooth as possible.
As our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, explains, the entire world will be watching -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was an exciting moment for the United States and a moment the rest of the world wanted to share.
(voice-over): From a hotel in Australia, to a Japanese village that shares his name and his old school in Indonesia, the world celebrates the election of a president they hope will bring them change.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: To those -- to those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: To those who seek peace and security, we support you.
VERJEE: Newspaper headlines "A New World Dawns," "One Giant Leap For Mankind," "Mr. President."
A reminder, though, of the complex world that awaits a new president: With ordinary Russians going about their business, their government congratulated Obama on his victory, while, in a speech to Russian lawmakers, President Dmitry Medvedev complained about U.S. policy, ranging from Georgia, to the economy, to missile defense.
In France, champagne for the people and a statement from the president, hoping America will lead the way once again. In England, more of the same.
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is a movement that will live in history as long as history books are written.
VERJEE: In Kenya, Obama's grandmother danced in delight. The family slaughters a cow for a feast, as Kenya stretches its celebration into a national holiday.
(on camera): Expectations of the president-elect are sky high. And experts say he's going to have to find a way to prioritize and manage those expectations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Zain's watching the world's reaction.
Across America, there's prayers, there's praise, cheers, and tears of joy by Americans from all walks of life. We're seeing a lot of it within the African-American community, but also beyond.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now once again.
You were not far away from that scene last night, Deb.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
I was actually three miles north of here, in Harlem, the soul of Manhattan's African-American community, where more than 1,000 people gathered to watch the election results on a huge Jumbotron. And this doesn't happen very often. But the people I spoke with of all races said they wanted to come out, share this moment with others who feel as deeply as they do.
FEYERICK (voice-over): To people in New York's Harlem, it was like winning the World Series on New Year's Eve: total euphoria.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't matter what color you are. Barack Obama is your president. It's not a dream for the black people. It's a dream for the whole world.
OBAMA: At this defining moment, change has come to America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FEYERICK: Everyone, no matter their age, shook their heads and said the same thing. They never believed it would happen in their lifetime. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We actually made it, as African-American people. And that's a huge step. Who would have ever thought that this day would come?
FEYERICK: Many felt the victory was highly personal, embraced by every man, woman and child sharing the night in the heart of Harlem.
Schoolteacher Daniel Clark (ph) called it a revival.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the thing is, after so many years, it's a catharsis. It's a spiritual and mental cleansing. That's what Barack means to us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we haven't had someone to speak for us as a people since Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem.
FEYERICK: President-elect Obama not only got the highest black vote ever. He also got more of the white vote than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our parents grew up in the '60s, most of us. And I don't know. They -- for us, it wasn't about his skin color. It was more about, you know, his message, his character. He was a real person. Like, he -- he touched us spiritually and mentally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Obama's really proved over the last couple months that he can really bring people together, but that he can also challenge us to start solving some of our own problems.
FEYERICK: As people celebrated late into the night, they felt, the future had truly begun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That means that my son, who's 12, has no excuses. That means anything's possible. That means that to everybody. That's why people are so involved. It's personal.
FEYERICK: Now, I spoke with one of the original civil rights leaders, Hazel Dukes, who said this was the culmination of decades of work of civil rights leaders, and there was a real, real sense of pride, being there last night -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Oh, it's an amazing -- an amazing story.
As you -- as you went -- went through that crowd last night -- and you have been to Harlem before -- you know, I was just in New York last night. Walking out of here, people from all walks of life, they were just coming up to me. They were emotional. They were crying.
And I'm sure, in Harlem, it must have been even more -- more intense.
FEYERICK: It was incredible. People were throwing their arms around you. Everybody was just joyous, people talking to one another. There was a real sense that -- that everybody who had gathered there was just witnessing something, and they were sharing it. And they could say it, hey, I was there, too.
BLITZER: Deb Feyerick, thanks very much, really emotional stuff going on. Thanks very much.
Coming up: Did President Bush -- what did he say today about the president-elect of the United States, Barack Obama? He certainly offered his congratulations. We're going to have an in-depth look at how the president is reacting.
And her early support helped president-elect Obama get where he is today. That would be Oprah Winfrey. She talks at length about his victory to our own Alina Cho. Stand by. You're going to hear her enthusiasm and what she's saying -- Oprah, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President-elect Barack Obama won't have any time to waste when he becomes president of -- the president of the United States. There are a number of pressing problems facing Americans.
So, which ones would the president-elect tackle first?
Listen to what he told me last Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You have to make major decisions, and you have to make them right away.
BLITZER: Priorities are going to be critical.
I'm going to give you five issues. You tell me which one of these five would be your top priority after you're inaugurated, on January 25, you are inaugurated: health care reform, energy independence, a new tax code, including tax cuts for the middle class, education spending, or comprehensive immigration reform.
BLITZER: Top priorities.
OBAMA: Top priorities may not be any of those five. It may be continuing to stabilize the financial system. We don't know yet what's going to happen in January.
And none of this can be accomplished if we continue to see a potential meltdown in the banking system or the financial system. So, that's priority number one, making sure that the plumbing works in our capitalist system.
Priority number two of the list that you have listed -- have put forward, I think, has to be energy independence. We have to seize this moment, because it's not just an energy independence issue. It's also a national security issue, and it's a jobs issue. And we can create five million new green energy jobs with a serious program.
Priority number three would be health care reform. I think the time is right to do it. Priority number four is making sure that we have tax cuts for the middle class and part of a broader tax reform effort.
Priority number five, I think, would be -- would be making sure that we have an education system that works for all children.
One thing I want to make a point of, though, that the tax cut that I talked about may be part of my priority number one, because I think that's going to be part of stabilizing the economy as a whole. I think we are going to need a second stimulus.
One of my commitments is to make sure that that stimulus includes a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans. That may be the first bill that I introduce.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, what he said to me on Friday obviously takes on greater -- greater significance right now.
Let's talk about this in our "Strategy Session" with two CNN contributors, Hilary Rosen is editor at large at TheHuffingtonPost.com, and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.
What did you think about what he said his top priority would be? Because he's really concerned about a long and deep recession.
ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No president has come into office since Roosevelt in the early '30s with the serious problems that he faces.
So, I think his -- the success of his presidency is going to be determined on how well he does this. And there's no time to waste. He needs to get his person in place, the treasury secretary. He needs to kind of take charge of the new budget, everything, right from day one.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Two things to think about.
One is that this $700 billion bailout that Congress passed just a month ago gives enormous power and flexibility to the administration, to the secretary of treasury, but who works at the discretion of the president, to manage the economy and manage large financial institutions. That will then be in his purview. So, he has to deal with that.
And the second thing is, very early in his administration, he has to actually propose a new budget to the Congress. That's part of the president's duty. And, so, that budget is going to have his long-term financial priorities as well. So, he's going to have to think about the short-term fiscal issues, and, then, in presenting the budget the next -- the following years as well.
ROLLINS: The budget is already being prepared. Obviously, he has to put his touches on it. It's...
ROSEN: That's right.
ROLLINS: It's a year-long process.
And -- and, obviously, he needs to get his OMB director, his treasury secretary, his people in the agencies quickly, to put his fingerprints on it.
BLITZER: He -- and he can't waste a whole lot of time...
ROLLINS: He cannot waste a whole lot of time.
BLITZER: ... because, every day right now, as we know from historical transitions, is critical. What they do in these early days will set the tone for that -- for his administration. I
want you to listen to what President Bush said today, because I want to discuss what he is saying. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States government will stay vigilant in meeting its most important responsibility, protecting the American people. And the world can be certain this commitment will remain steadfast under our next commander in chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The way I listened to that, Ed, he was sending a message out to the world, the enemies of the United States, whether hostile governments or terrorists: Barack Obama is going to be steadfast in making sure America is protected.
ROLLINS: I took it exactly the same way. And I think what he is saying, where he was sort of caught a little off guard -- they did a lot of things before they got to the terrorism reports and what have you -- he's going to make sure that Barack Obama comes in fully addressing the issues, and he won't discover things after the fact, as -- as Bush and his people did.
ROSEN: We're hearing that President Bush has already directed his administration to be extremely cooperative with -- with the Obama team.
But I think what President Bush was saying was something bigger and more important for him personally. He's starting now to work on his legacy. And he wants to be reminding America and reminding the world that there wasn't an attack in the last couple of years. And, so, is he trying to figure out the messages he wants to send going out of office that are important for how people view his presidency.
BLITZER: I thought John McCain was very gracious in his concession speech last night.
BLITZER: Even when he would mention Barack Obama's name or Joe Biden's name, and there were hecklers and there were angry little boos coming out of there, he tried to avoid that. He was really sensitive, and it's time to move on. And he took personal responsibility.
He said, you know, if there were mistakes made, they were my mistakes. And, if I lost this election, it's because of me, not because of anyone else.
That was pretty -- pretty gracious of him.
ROLLINS: I thought it was incredible. I think that's who John McCain is.
John -- people didn't get to see the real John McCain the last -- the last couple months of this campaign. I think he will do everything to make this country move forward and this new administration succeed. He's not going to go -- come be the loyal opposition. He's going to basically do everything he can, as he has in the past, to...
BLITZER: And, remember, when I interviewed Senator Obama, now president-elect Obama, on Friday...
BLITZER: ... I asked him about John McCain. Would you consider using him as an adviser, maybe even bringing him into the Cabinet?
He said, yes, I would be -- I want to work with this man. We may have exchanged some bitter words, but I respect him.
ROSEN: And he also said that he thought that the McCain campaign deserved some credit for not going down sort of a -- a racist path and the like.
Differentiate John McCain's personal attitude, though, with what we're seeing his campaign start to do in the last 24 hours, which is trash Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: It's really amazing what's going on, if you hear.
ROSEN: And they are trying to blame her. Right.
BLITZER: I have been getting some of these calls myself.
ROLLINS: They -- they did not lose because of Sarah Palin.
ROSEN: That's right.
ROLLINS: And they did not treat her well. She is one of the most significant -- we had -- before yesterday, we had eight, three governors, five women senators. We now have four. We now have seven. She is one of the most important ones, the most widely known. And for these people to do this is totally irresponsible.
BLITZER: What do they dislike her so much? I mean, what did she do that irritated some of these -- some of these folks?
ROLLINS: I don't think they did -- she may not have paid enough attention to them. Those are big egos, some of these people who -- who run these campaigns. And I think, to a certain extend, they expected her to click her heels and march and do everything they told her.
And she's a governor.
BLITZER: And it's only just beginning, as you know. The leaks are going to be coming out...
ROSEN: That's right.
BLITZER: ... and some of these sordid stories or whatever, you know.
ROSEN: And she's already on the defensive about it, as we heard her say to Dana Bash this morning, that, you know, she -- she will -- she apologized for potentially making mistakes, which, in my view, she should not have had to do, that that was really inappropriate of the McCain campaign to go after her like that.
BLITZER: And she -- she spoke with our own Dana Bash.
ROSEN: With Dana Bash.
BLITZER: And we're going to play that interview for our viewers.
ROSEN: It's a great interview.
BLITZER: Because it's revealing. And her future, you know, we will see what happens, but she's not going away, certainly.
ROLLINS: She's not going to away, absolutely.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
ROLLINS: Great. Thank you.
BLITZER: Who helped Barack Obama pull off his history-making victory? Our Bill Schneider is standing by. He's at the CNN voter analysis center with a closer look at who was motivated to go out and vote.
And a little bit later, wasting no time -- the president-elect gears up for his first top-secret intelligence briefing and a lot more.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider has been crunching all the numbers and voter analysis. We have learned a great deal about why Americans voted the way they did yesterday.
Bill, what are we picking up?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the Obama campaign likes to say that this was a victory for the new America. And there's some evidence for that.
Let's take a look at our exit poll. In our interactive technology, these are all the red and blue states. We're going to look at the country as a whole. This is the United States, as you see at the top. Now, this double funnel, all these blue groups are blue groups that voted for Obama, from the ones that gave him the most support, African-Americans, to where it was closest, men. And the red groups are the ones that voted for John McCain. His strongest support was conservatives and Republicans.
These gray groups in the middle were tied. Now, the new America, how about new voters? They were about 11 percent of the voters yesterday. They voted more than two-thirds for Barack Obama. That's better than 2-1 over John McCain.
Now, the new America meant, above all, young voters. This was a victory for young voters. Let's look at voters under 30 nationwide, two-thirds for Barack Obama. Now, look at what happens as we go to each older age group. Remember, two-thirds for Obama among those under 30.
If we go to 30- to 44-year-olds, Obama gets 52 percent, pretty close. One age group older, 45- to 64-year-olds, look, Obama and McCain split the vote almost evenly. What group voted for John McCain? That was the seniors, people who are 65 and older, McCain 53, Obama 45.
So, one can say the old America were the Obama voters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fascinating numbers. And you have got a lot more coming up. Stand by.
On our "Political Ticker": a squeaker in Minnesota right now, the Senate race too close to call, enough of a -- to trigger an automatic statewide recount, in fact. Republican incumbent Norm Coleman leads the Democratic challenger, the former comedian Al Franken, by only about -- look at this -- 475 votes. Coleman is declaring victory, but Franken is not conceding and is urging the recount to go forward.
The Independence Party candidate, Dean Barkley, was third with 15 percent of the vote. We're going to watch this race closely.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.
Just ahead: Sarah Palin takes on criticism that she -- quote -- "went rogue." Her one-on-one interview with Dana Bash, that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, new clues about the kind of first lady Michelle Obama will be.
And CNN makes a little bit of history of its own. Maybe you caught our virtual interview with Will.i.am. How did we turn him into a hologram?
Stay with us. You will get the answer. We will explain the technology. David Bohrman, our genius, will explain it all -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Obama supporters around the world are reacting to his huge, very impressive victory.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
What are we seeing online, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are I-Reports that have been coming in to CNN by the thousands in the last few hours, whether it's close to home here. This is the -- the scene in the streets of Richmond, Virginia, when Virginia was called for Barack Obama last night -- that recorded by Gabriela Miller just looking out of her window.
And then we can go a lot further afield, as well. Nairobi, Kenya, this was reported by a freelance photographer out there who said the mood in the street was electric. That's David Gichohi, who sent that in to CNN's I-Report.
And then an American bar in shanghai, China where 40 or 50 Democrats abroad gathered to celebrate the victory with signs that says "Obama Hope." They said, they had such a good time, that they're going to go back tonight and do it again.
And then this must be my favorite here. This is Antarctica, the McMurdo station, a group of Obama supporters out there, scientists, who all voted absentee, celebrating this victory, despite it being negative 20 with a windchill factor.
Wolf, we were checking in with Barack Obama's Facebook account, where people from all over the world are offering congratulations. We stopped counting at 45 countries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Amazing. Antarctica.
Jack Cafferty, they -- they love Obama in Antarctica. Who knew?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's just like when George Bush would travel overseas, remember? BLITZER: Yes.
BLITZER: Not exactly.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: What does it mean that the United States has its first African-American president?
Brian in Florida writes: "Perhaps Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream really has come true, because I -- and millions of Americans -- elected Obama not because of the color of his skin, but because of his character. We didn't see a black man; we saw a great leader and communicator who has been able to excite the American people once again."
Melanie in Iowa, where this all started, where Barack Obama won the Iowa primary: "As a baby boomer it means a lot. I'm thankful my generation got to see this turn of events and that so many young people took an active role in this historic election."
This is a little long, but this is the essence, I think, of what happened last night. Rob writes New Freedom, Pennsylvania: "I sat there last night, and I wished my dad had lived to encounter the feelings that I and many Americans felt. He died two years ago, after working 42 years for local government. I saw his sacrifice and hard work scoffed at. I watched him be turned down for promotions, although he was more qualified than others.
"I heard him talk about the days when he had to take my mom into the back of a restaurant in order to get something to eat, and, after paying, being told that they had to take the food somewhere off the property to eat it. To see someone finally be given the highest office in the land because he was the most qualified, and to know that it took more than just African-Americans to vote him in is humbling. I told someone today, it took all types of Americans to achieve this, and I am proud of my extended American family for making it happen."
And, finally, John in Arizona says: "When Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama move into the iconic White House -- with their new puppy -- they will be moving in next door, in a figurative and very real way. All Americans are eventually going to embrace them and ultimately become much more comfortable with their neighbors -- all of their neighbors -- as a result."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others.
This was a profoundly moving experience for millions of Americans.
BLITZER: I -- I loved reading those e-mails. I went there and read some of them. You know, you can't help but be moved. Just go to that "Cafferty File" and read those e-mails.
Jack, thanks very much.
And happening now: Barack Obama's reality check. A day after his extraordinary victory, the president-elect of the United States faces extraordinary challenges. As he gets down to work, can he avoid dashing hopes that he raised so high?
Also, John McCain very gracious in defeat, Sarah Palin perhaps looking ahead, but, after a monumental defeat, Republicans have started the finger-pointing right now. How do they start picking up the pieces?