Good morning, everyone. It’s Election Day. Polls are open and opening all over America. It’s a beginning, and also an ending.
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It’s raining McCain! Hallelujah, it’s raining McCain! Amen! I'm going to go out -
How would you sum up this long election at America’s Exit Poll? We want to hear from you if you’re voting, if you’re standing in line. Call us at 877-8MY-TAKE or Mytake@thetakeaway.org.
And now live to Atlanta, Georgia, where my co-host, Adaora Udoji, is in the thick of it all.
We are in the thick of what is turning out to be a really exciting election here in Georgia, something many people probably wouldn't have expected six months ago when Republicans were heavily in the lead.
FiveThirtyEight.com now says, John, that Georgia could be the shocker of the election. It’s a red state that hasn't voted for a Democratic president since Clinton in ’92.
And we're in Fulton County, which is the largest county in the state. It includes Atlanta, and wasn't supposed to be a county that counts, but it is. Today Republicans are in a real fight to keep their Congressional seats and the state’s 14 electoral votes.
And we found a real study in contrast. The vote here turned out to be a record early voting season. Two million people voted and a record 36 percent of African-Americans have already cast their ballot.
Hajj Golightly and his family are proudly - they are proudly part of this surge. They were rallying for Obama last night at the State Capitol.
For me, being in the Navy, proud military, having served, it reminds me of a poem by Langston Hughes when he said, let America be America again. And in the final stanza, he said, America has never been America to me, but I swear by oath that America shall be – in that we never really had a lot of the opportunities, but we're willing to fight and to die for this country. This is all that we have.
And I think that Barack Obama has really galvanized everyone and just given us that hope. And I know that a lot of the comments that he's made he may not be able to fulfill in his first administration, but we believe that he’s going to try with every fiber of his being to accomplish that. That’s why we support him and believe in him.
And at this rally last night, there were hundreds – some people say one thousand people, John. It was this amazing fabric of blacks and whites and Latinos, and people were bussed in and they had signs and there were phone numbers and website signs and Obama songs. There was this incredible energy.
But what really stood out was how many people came with their children, no matter how young, and that would include Haj and his family. This is his wife, Danis [sp?]
History’s in the making. And this is our first presidential election, and I think that we're going to have some -
How old are they?
Two and ten months. So, I mean, this is the first time that they're actually going to be around for this, and it’s really going to be history.
Two years and ten months old. They just wanted their children to be able to say that they were there.
Over on the Republican side, we found a completely different picture -and we're talking about roughly the same time last night - north of the city at a Republican phone bank, which was in a strip mall, a more traditional scene.
You saw about a dozen people making many phone calls to voters, arranging carpools. It was very low-key, but all of them were driven by very strong beliefs. We met Lanelle Babbitch Torrez [sp?], an African-American Republican, who’s been working, she said, 20 to 30 hours a week for the last couple of months for McCain.
LANELLE BABBITCH TORREZ [?]:
Martin Luther King said, I want my kids to be judged for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I believe in that. I believe in it today. That’s why I'm voting for McCain.
And for her and all of those people in the room, the election is about values.
Well - security, abortion, gay marriage. I'm a born-again believer, so that’s my platform. And that’s the Republican platform, so I'm cool with it.
And they realize that they're really in for a big fight today. We were talking to the executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, Ben Fry, who acknowledged that battle but thinks they're going to pull it out.
Georgia’s one of those states you never know. Georgia voted for Bill Clinton once and then narrowly for Bob Dole in the '90s, and so we can't take anything for granted. It’s a tight race. It’s a close race.
And that’s why it’s so important we make sure that all our Republican voters get to the polls. Every vote is going to count, and we can't take anything for granted.
And so, John, in Georgia it’s about the presidential vote but it’s also about the Senate race, which is Senate incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss, who is in a real fight against Jim Martin, who’s been gaining ground. And at this point, pollsters are calling it a tossup.
What’s really fascinating, John, is that it seems both the Obama and McCain campaigns overlooked Georgia here. Obama pulled out most of his troops about six weeks ago. He still has 30 offices, though, in the state, and about 50 paid employees and, they say, thousands of volunteers.
McCain never really had a strong presence. Some say that his strategy was to ride the coattails of Senator Chambliss, but obviously that didn't necessarily work out – did not work out, because clearly Chambliss is in a fight for his life here and his political life. Polls open at 7 a.m.
Well, I guess it’s mystifying why the McCain people would have thought that there were Chambliss coattails. I mean, he is a single-termer and he won a controversial election because he, you know, cast Max Cleland, the triple amputee, veteran, sort of Vietnam veteran Democrat, as, you know, friend [LAUGHS] of Osama bin Laden So it seems like the guns are out for Saxby Chambliss.
It seems, though, basically that the explosive turnout in Georgia has transformed the state in the eyes of all kinds of campaign strategists.
Oh, there’s no question, and that’s why we heard that the Obama campaign over the weekend started injecting some cash into advertising here in Georgia.
And one other note that’s really interesting, what you hear from Republicans, and what we've been hearing in the last 24 hours, is that there could be a runoff in that Senate race; that essentially they have to get, one of them has got to get 50 percent of the vote plus one. If they don't get that, then there has to be a runoff. So, some are predicting that perhaps we won't even know this week who actually wins that seat.
And that’s 50 percent plus one voter, or 51 percent?
It’s 50 percent, plus one voter.
Plus one vote, yeah, well, that’s interesting. Well there’s certainly a lot of votes [LAUGHS] to count to get that margin.
Finally, you know, how important is this moment for voters on both votes? I mean, it was curious – both African-American voters you talked to, one McCain, one obviously very passionate Obama supporter, it seems that this Election Day itself is almost important independent of either candidate.
Oh, absolutely. And people are talking about nothing but the campaign. And, interestingly enough, the economy is not necessarily what’s driving people to the polls. There is this sense that it’s bigger than all of us, that there is this moment of history that people want to participate in.
And it’s hard to describe the energy at that Obama rally last night. It was just really something. I've covered a lot of campaigns, and usually people are pretty dutifully – they feel strongly about their candidates, they're dutifully going about their responsibility of voting, but this sense that somehow the vote and them participating in it is something that will change their perception of themselves but also as citizens of the United States is just so much bigger.
Well, it could be as much turnout as we've had since 1980. You got a decent perch down in there in Southern parts there, in Atlanta at WCLK?
We're watching all the races.
We are. We're watching all the races down here – Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi.
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