MR. TOM BROKAW: Our issues this Sunday: 48 hours to go, and the candidates spend the final days crisscrossing the nation hoping to sway voters in the last moments of this historic 2008 battle for the White House. McCain vs. Obama, we'll hear closing arguments from both sides.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): We'll win this general election; and together, you and I, we're going to change this country and we're going to change the world.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): Now let's go win this election and get our country moving again.
MR. BROKAW: For the McCain campaign, former 2008 Republican presidential candidate, former senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson. And for the Obama campaign, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.
Then, our political roundtable with insights and analysis on the landscape, the battleground map, and the final campaign strategies: David Broder, veteran political columnist for The Washington Post; David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for NBC News and host of MSNBC's "Race for the White House"; Michele Norris, host of NPR's "All Things Considered"; and Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News.
But first, let's get the very latest polls and battleground landscape from NBC's political director, Chuck Todd, who's our kind of walking, talking GPS system.
Chuck, what's the latest this morning, just 48 hours to go?
MR. CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Tom. Well, there's four states that both campaigns look at their tracking polls first. It starts with Virginia, where we have Obama with a narrow lead, 47 to McCain's 44. In Mason-Dixon polling, this is the first time Obama's been ahead in Virginia. In Florida, we have Obama, 47; McCain, 45. This has been a consistent lead in the Mason-Dixon poll for Obama. Small, but still a lead. In Colorado, the largest lead that Obama has of any of the states we have today: Obama, 49; McCain, 44. And in, and in Ohio, a bright spot for McCain: McCain at 47, Obama at 45. This is one of those states, of course, a Republican has never won without Ohio.
And then our other troika of states here. Nevada: Obama at 47; McCain, 43. This race has tightened in that state. Both candidates in Nevada this final weekend. In Missouri, McCain, basically a dead heat, 47; Obama, 46. And finally, in North Carolina, where we've seen lots of talk about early voting, we have McCain at 49, Obama at 46. All of these polls, of course, Tom, could change depending on what is the percentage of turnout among young voters, among African-Americans, among older voters, etc.
MR. BROKAW: All right, Chuck, stand back for a moment and let's take a look at the big map and see what's going on there for us as well.
MR. TODD: Well, we'll show you what we have. Last week--here is last week's map. And I want you to take a look--keep an eye on these states up here in the Rocky--northern Rocky Mountain region, as well as here, the agricultural Midwest, and down here in the South, where you can see our changes this morning, and you will see what's happened. These states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan solidifying for Obama. John McCain's not even there. Two new toss-ups: Montana and North Dakota. And if we really wanted to get precise, we'd also put the Omaha congressional district in Nebraska. Nebraska, a state that splits its electoral votes by congressional district. And in that Omaha district, it is a dead heat, Tom.
MR. BROKAW: And, Chuck, what about voter turnout, and especially the organization of the two campaigns, getting their people to the polls?
MR. TODD: Well, it--we're seeing a lot of the early voting, a lot of the long lines that's made folks question whether Georgia, South Carolina could end up being much closer than people thought because of this surge among voters, particularly African-Americans. And of course, we've watched everything that's been happening in Florida and North Carolina this weekend, Tom.
MR. BROKAW: And why would John McCain be spending so much time in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the final weekend, Chuck?
MR. TODD: Well, it's a simple math problem that he's got. Here's our, our columns here. I'm going to put all of the current toss-up states in McCain's column, and watch his number as it grows right up here. If you move all of these states over: Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Nevada. You see the problem he's got. He's still at 252, 18 short. So what does that mean? If he pulls a Pennsylvania over, well, we see Obama goes down to 265, McCain gets his 273. Then you asked why New Hampshire? That's the insurance policy. Nevada, a state that is--that Obama right now has that narrow lead in, if that went to him, then McCain would need New Hampshire to get back over his 270. So it is the only number--path he's got left. They know this, and that's why they had to figure out how to put Pennsylvania back in play. And we don't know if it really is. We know he's spending a lot of time there. And they had to figure out if New Hampshire, a state that's been incredibly kind to McCain's political career in the past, to see if it can resurrect him one more time.
MR. BROKAW: All right. Thanks, Chuck. We'll see you later on MEET THE PRESS in our roundtable.
We're joined now by former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who has been a surrogate and an advocate for his friend John McCain.
I hope you understand the spirit in which I say this, but when I was a kid hanging around Bud's pool hall, you're the kind of guy I thought I probably would encounter. So you, you know the meaning of the phrase "run the table."
FMR. SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R-TN): I've heard of it, yes.
MR. BROKAW: Your senator have to run the table?
SEN. THOMPSON: Well, he has to get several of these, these battleground states, there's no question about it. Some people liken it to an inside straight. I think that's probably making it too tough, tougher than it is. It looks to me like it pretty much boils down to the undecided vote, which a lot of experts think will break heavily for John McCain. If they're decided, they're probably already for Obama. And so he's got a shot. He's, he's closing. I think the direction things are going in is, is equally important as where the numbers are today. And the direction is, is--they've been pretty much--seems to be going in John's direction.
I've been in Ohio and Pennsylvania recently and I've seen the turnout. I think Sarah Palin had about 25,000 in rural Missouri the other day. The enthusiasm is tremendous. People are really focusing now on what's at stake. And John's a closer, he always has been. He often is given up for dead, you know, literally and politically. People have been wrong about him before. He's in his element now, and he's, he's feeling good about it. So I would not count him out by any stretch of the imagination. I think the, the election is yet to be decided.
MR. BROKAW: The Economist has described a group of voters that has crossed over to vote for John McCain. They call them "Obamacans." These are disaffected Republicans and Libertarians. A couple of very prominent conservative columnists have commented on all this. We want to share with our viewers this morning what Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post had to say on Friday.
"The National security choice in this election is no contest. The domestic policy choice is more equivocal because it is ideological. McCain is the quintessential center-right candidates. Yet the quintessential center-right country is poised to reject him. The hunger for anti-Republican catharsis and the blinding promise of Obamian hope are simply too strong. The reckoning," he says, "will come in the morning."
And then Michael Gerson, who was a speechwriter for President Bush said, "Yet there is little doubt, given a likely (though not certain) McCain defeat, that the conservative movement would enter a period of intense soul-searching. The issues that have provided conservatives with victories in the past - particularly welfare and crime - have been rendered irrelevant by success. The issues of the moment - income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health-care access - seem a strange, unexplored land for many in the movement. And McCain, though a past reformer, did little to reaffirm that reputation during his campaign."
The senator is at the head of a ticket in a--of a party that's been in power eight years now. The president, who's the head of that party, has historically low approval ratings. The country is saying, 85 percent, we're off on the wrong track. Isn't he swimming against a tsunami?
SEN. THOMPSON: Yeah. Yeah. He is--he's going into the strongest headwinds that I've ever seen for a candidate in a presidential race. Some might say that it's, it's amazing that he has a chance to win this race. You mentioned the factors, plus the fact that in this country, you know, we swing the pendulum. We, we have one side in for a while and then another side in for a while. The president gets credit or blame for anything that's happening. We know the numbers, we know the generic ballot and all those kinds of things, and then, you know, shortly before the election, the bottom seems to drop out of the economy. I mean, just to, you know--in case we hadn't gotten the point yet, it seems, that fate's playing with us. So, yeah, it's, it's remarkable. We nominated the, the only fellow that'll have a chance, I think, under these circumstances. And it's because of, of several things. But, but because of the character of, of the man. Here is a guy who has spent his entire life demonstrating courage, honor, dedication, duty, putting his country first, sacrifice. Someone who has been willing to stand up to power, whether it be Democratic or Republican power, whose entire life has equipped him to be the leader of the free world. Charles is right about the national security part. It's really no question. Here's a man who has been involved one way or another in the major issues facing this country for the last 25 years.
On the other hand, you have a fellow who is the most inexperienced and least qualified from a national security standpoint of any Democratic candidate I've seen in my lifetime.
MR. BROKAW: We're going to share with our audience, as well, something that you had to say as an advert for Senator McCain talking about principles and how they've always served us well. Let's share that if we can now.
SEN. THOMPSON: (From Web ad) We've always been able to accommodate constructive change without turning our back on our first principles. We must do it again. However, that does not include staking everything upon the eloquence and inexperience of one who has toed the extreme liberal and partisan line his entire political life, as much as he tries to blur that fact now.
MR. BROKAW: Senator, you talk a lot about principles, both on the stump and in that ad, but here's a Republican Party that is now leading the way on a $700 billion bailout, buying shares of American banks, a form of nationalism. Your own candidate, John McCain, says we ought to spend another $300 billion to buy back mortgages. They've had to invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They've left the country with a $500 billion deficit. What Republican playbook do those principles come out of?
SEN. THOMPSON: I might say parenthetically John McCain's one of the few who tried to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the objections of Democratic leadership at the time. So that wasn't done. I think what you're seeing is a somewhat desperate reaction by both parties and leadership on both sides to what they perceive to be an absolute crisis. You know, they were told that the world's going to come to an end unless they passed a particular package, and the stakes were too great in many minds to, to let that go without responding to it in that way. We can argue about that. We won't know for some time whether or not if that was the right approach. They're already taking different approaches now.
But if you look back over a period of time, there's certainly reason to, to be concerned about some Republican activities as well as Democrat. We spent too much. We went along with these massive spending programs. The president didn't veto enough. We, we certainly can be faulted there. But the basic principles, the ones that John McCain has stood for, for, for all of his career--a free market, the rule of law--meaning a Supreme Court that will obey the law and not make it up as they go along--trade, and an upwardly mobile society where a person doesn't have to be in a static situation, they can aspire to achieve and make something out of himself, and, and a country like that. If you need help, you get it. But if you can help yourself, you're expected to do so. Those are the basic principles. It's not the principles that are in question here. It's our deviation from those principles that has gotten us in trouble.
MR. BROKAW: A number of Republicans that I know, and I've been surprised by the number that have come to me, and they've raised real questions about Senator McCain choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. They--for them it reflected on his judgment. You, on the other hand, have been a defender of Sarah Palin. Here is some of what you had to say about Sarah Palin when she was first picked as governor of Alaska.
"She's a breath of fresh air, and she's going to prove herself throughout this campaign. Nobody--at the end of the day--nobody's going to have any questions about her or her qualifications."
One of the people that Senator McCain has cited as a supporter of his is former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. This is an exchange that he had when he was talking on NPR about Sarah Palin and her qualifications.
SEN. THOMPSON: Mm-hmm.
Unidentified Reporter: Are you entirely comfortable with Sarah Palin as the vice president of the United States--that she would be ready to take over in, in a crisis if, if she should, terribly, be called upon to do so?
FMR. SEC'Y OF STATE LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER: I don't think at the moment she is prepared to take over the brains of the presidency. I can name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it either. So the question, I think, is can she learn and would she be tough enough under the present--under the circumstances if she were asked to become president? Heaven forbid that that ever takes place. Give her some time in the office, and I think the answer would be, she will be adequate. I can't say that she would be a genius in the job, but I think she would be enough to get us through a four-year--well, I hope not.
FMR. SEC'Y EAGLEBURGER: ...get us through whatever period of time was necessary. And I devoutly hope that it would never be tested.
MR. BROKAW: You have, among others, have said that she's a victim of the liberal media, that they've been unfair to her in some fashion.
SEN. THOMPSON: Yeah.
MR. BROKAW: What question was she asked by Charles Gibson or Katie Couric or Brian Williams, for that matter, that you thought was unfair?
SEN. THOMPSON: I don't know, I didn't see any of the interviews. I, I saw excerpts...
MR. BROKAW: But you were willing to make the judgment that she was...
SEN. THOMPSON: I saw, I, I saw excerpts from it. from, and I've, I've read accounts of, of all of them. I don't think it's a matter of particular questions. I think the question that, you know, she was asked about the Bush doctrine, she seemed to know more about it than the questioner did. But that's a, that's a separate story. I don't think there is one single Bush doctrine.
But set the media aside for a second. I mean, it, it can be no question that, I think, that she has had a double standard applied to her, and there was a vicious assault on her that is unprecedented probably in American politics at this level. I think that, you know, they build folks up to take them down, and if they're not involved on the buildup, the takedown's even more drastic, and I think we've seen that. The point is, is the one that Larry goes to--a man who I respect a lot. She got off to a rocky start, there's no question about that. I don't hold anything against any member of the press for asking tough questions. And she got off to a bad start. She is now doing very, very well. She's open, she's accessible, she is touching something within the American people, and, and a lot of people around this country that hasn't been touched, I think, in a long time. The turnouts are tremendous, the outpouring is tremendous among just average people. Certainly no one inside this beltway feels that way yet, but she's more accessible than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden on the campaign trail now, and you haven't read anything about her or anything she's said recently because she, she hasn't made any, any missteps.
MR. BROKAW: So you're sure that she's qualified to be president of the United States, should that moment come?
SEN. THOMPSON: Yeah. When I compare her with other people who've been nominated for president, when I compare her with Joe Biden, who, quite frankly, you know, in that debate stood up there and got about a dozen things flat wrong. And he wasn't called on it. I think...
MR. BROKAW: You just said Sarah Palin, not Joe Biden.
SEN. THOMPSON: Yeah, Joe Biden got, got, got a dozen things wrong. He wasn't called on it. She, I think, did extremely well in that debate. And when I consider the people that I know she'll surround herself with and the policies she will promote, promote, I'd rather have her in that position than the alternative.
MR. BROKAW: Final question: What's the better bet, that John McCain will win the presidency or that the Titans will win the Super Bowl?
SEN. THOMPSON: Well, I--you know, I'm going to--I'm going to hold out for both of them. I, I, I, I really think--I, I've known John for a long time. I've traveled the world with him. I've seen him with foreign leaders. I've seen how foreign leaders treat him and respect him. I've sat next to him on the floor of the United States Senate when he has been pretty unpopular because of his independence and because of his courage and because of his, really, his personal honor. And when I see him, you know, be maligned or when I see people denigrate him, you know, it concerns me greatly because I think this is a man uniquely prepared to be president of the United States.
On the other hand, the American people have got to decide. If they want to turn to a, a, an eloquent young man who is totally untested, totally untried, who has never stood up to authority, who has never stood up to power, who has never bucked the party leadership, who has avoided trying to take positions on tough votes his entire career. And when he had to take them he took the most liberal position that was available to him under the circumstances and followed the party leadership. Barney Frank wants to cut the military 25 percent. He and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, if they get the numbers that they want, will take this country down a road toward, toward a, a liberal welfare state, European-style policy like we've never seen before or accepted in this country.
MR. BROKAW: Well, we'll get a chance to ask your former colleague Senator John Kerry about that in just a moment. Senator Fred Thompson, thanks very much for being with us today.
SEN. THOMPSON: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
MR. BROKAW: And we'll check those Titans and John McCain.
SEN. THOMPSON: Well, I'm, I'm holding out for both.
MR. BROKAW: All right.
Coming up next, the Obama camp's closing arguments from Senator John Kerry, and then our political roundtable. That's all coming up, only on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. BROKAW: The view from the Obama campaign with Senator John Kerry after this brief station break.
MR. BROKAW: We're back with MEET THE PRESS. And representing the Obama campaign, Senator John Kerry.
Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Glad to be back.
MR. BROKAW: Four years ago you and I were in Madison, Wisconsin, just five days before the election, and I remember you saying to me, "No incumbent president who is below the 50 percent threshold has ever been re-elected. Osama bin Laden came out with a tape that Friday, two days later; and then, of course, you lost the election to George Bush. What is the cautionary tale, based on your own experience, for Senator Obama and his team now with 48 hours to go?
SEN. KERRY: Well, the, the Obama campaign is practicing a cautionary lesson by working, working, working. I mean, the bottom line is you take nothing for granted. And I know that the candidate, every member of the campaign, and all of his supporters are taking nothing for granted. Presidential races tighten up anyway. That year we had a particular event that pushed it, but I think everybody has to be very cautious here and simply work as hard as possible right up until 8:00 on Tuesday night.
MR. BROKAW: The McCain campaign does seem to be getting some traction, how much we can't say, by attacking Senator Obama on taxes...
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
MR. BROKAW: ...his absence of experience, and he's never been tested. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, was campaigning for Senator McCain in Ohio. Here's what Arnold had to say.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): We are in a tough time right now. Ohio cannot afford, America cannot afford the economic proposals of Senator Obama. I tell you something, I left Europe four decades ago because of socialism has killed opportunities there.
MR. BROKAW: Do you think that the campaign promises are slightly behind the curve of what is happening on the ground in this economy, in this country with the continuing meltdown, and that Senator Obama will have to defer any tax increases on those higher income groups?
SEN. KERRY: Certainly not on the highest income group. It is absolutely a certainty that 95 percent of all American families are going to get a tax cut of at least $1,000. And if we can pass health care, they'll lower the premiums at $2,500. You know, it's really interesting listening to Arnold and listening to Fred Thompson a moment ago. They're both trying to scare people. They're trying to use the time-honored tradition of the Republican Party in the last eight years to scare people. They want to take people backwards, not forwards, Tom. Barack Obama's campaign has been very clear about what it is fighting for.
You never heard Fred Thompson mention the word middle class. You never heard him offer one proposal for John McCain as to how he will deal with this economic crisis. You know, there've been two real presidential tests during this campaign. The first was the choice of the vice president, and it is very clear John McCain went back on his own promises in the primaries, on Fred Thompson's own promises in the primaries, and chose somebody who has zero national security experience, who by definition is not ready to be ready to be president immediately, which is the very qualification John McCain set up.
Secondly, the second critical presidential moment was the economic crisis. On 15 September, John McCain said the fundamentals of our economy are sound. That was his judgment. Three days later, he suspends his campaign and says it's the greatest economic crisis since World War II. He lurches erratically from one place to another. He doesn't offer any constructive suggestion as to what you do about it. Senator Obama did offer those. In fact, all four of his fundamental principles were passed by the United States Congress and put into effect. So I think on the two critical presidential decisions in this campaign, Barack Obama has been calm and steady and John McCain has been sort of erratic and, frankly, impulsive. Now, come to the security issue. Barack Obama has more security experience than Bill Clinton had when he became president. He has more security experience than Ronald Reagan had when he became president. And the fact is, it's not just time and a place, and I love John McCain. I--I've worked with him, I know him.
MR. BROKAW: You wanted him as your vice presidential candidate at one point.
SEN. KERRY: I wanted to talk to him about the possibility, but he was not willing to consider that. And that was a John McCain, incidentally, who had voted against George Bush's tax cuts, calling them immoral and unaffordable. He had eloquently been the most powerful spokesperson against torture because he, himself, had experienced it. And he's changed on all those things. Now you have a candidate McCain who wants to make the tax cuts permanent that we can't afford, who voted for George Bush's bill on torture, which sends a terrible message to the rest of the world. So, just bottom line, Barack Obama has offered a foreign policy that has shown judgment that is correct. And, in fact, McCain has been wrong again and again and again.
MR. BROKAW: Senator, as I go around the country--and I've been talking to a lot of voters coast to coast and in the heartland and in large cities--there's a lot of concern about one party rule. It does appear that the Democrats could pile up a big majority. I just want to share with you what Charles Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee had to say. He argues that a President Obama would face a narrow window after the election to move on those big items, health care and energy, as well as his tax plan. That would raise the top two income tax rates, raise capital gains and dividend tax rates on upper-income families, and cut taxes on the middle class. "For God's sake," he said, "don't ask me where the money will come from. I'm going to go to the same place that Paulson went." Is that responsible fiscal policy?
SEN. KERRY: I don't agree with all of that and nor does Barack Obama. Barack Obama is the person running for president and he's made it very clear we're going to have to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington. Don't forget, everybody in the country forgets this. We, Democrats, are the ones who led the effort to balance the budget in the 1990s. We left George Bush with a $5.6 trillion surplus. They have now made a $10 trillion debt. We borrowed unbelievable sums of money from China, from India, and elsewhere under a Republican administration. Talk about welfare and talk about socialism, they're the ones who've created this situation where the government has had to bail out corporate America. So I think Barack Obama has shown a responsible approach to how we're going to create jobs in America.
Now, as to the management of the Congress, my advice, if it was asked for--and I, certainly, as a senator will weigh in--is we don't need to pass things by 51 votes or 60 votes. We need to build 85-vote majorities. And I am confident--everything about Barack Obama's campaign has been inclusivity, has been reaching across the aisle. General Colin Powell sat right here--an eloquent spokesperson and a respected figure in America--and said he thinks Barack Obama's ready to be president. An Eisenhower, a Reagan, a Chris Buckley, a Nixon are all supporting Barack Obama. And he's going to govern in a way that brings the country together, and no matter what our majority, he's going to seek to reach a broader consensus because that's the only way we can govern America at this time.
MR. BROKAW: Here's what your former colleague Bob Kerrey--who shares a name with you, different spelling--had to say about one-party rule. "By my lights, the primary threat to the success of a President Obama will come from some Democrats who, emboldened by the size of their congressional majority, may try to kill trade agreements, raise taxes in ways that will destroy jobs, repeal the Patriot Act and spend and regulate to high heaven. ...
"To build up the political capital for the kinds of changes needed in these difficult times, Obama will need to communicate the following to Congress, in no uncertain terms: The Democrats have not won a mandate for all their policies. Rather, the American people have resoundingly registered their frustration with a failed status quo, and the next president must chart a new, less partisan course."
Should one of the primary and initial statements that Barack Obama makes, if he gets elected, is that he reaches across party lines and brings Republicans into his Cabinet?
SEN. KERRY: Absolutely. And Bob Kerrey...
MR. BROKAW: Who would be someone...
SEN. KERRY: And Bob Kerrey is correct in what he just said. And I'm confident that a President Obama is going to reach across the aisle in many different ways, Tom. There's no way to govern at this point in time.
But here's what's important. John McCain does not represent a break with George Bush. I mean, yesterday he was endorsed by Dick Cheney. He earned that endorsement by supporting this administration 90 percent of the time. And this has been one of the most divisive campaigns in history. John McCain ran--you know, he announced for president, saying he wanted this campaign to be about big ideas and he wanted it to respect the American people's desire not to be negative. It's been the most negative--100 percent of his advertising is negative.
MR. BROKAW: But, Senator, let met just ask about advertising for a moment.
SEN. KERRY: Sure.
MR. BROKAW: Depending on your point of view, Senator Obama either changed his mind or broke his word when it came to public financing. He's outspending Senator McCain 2-to-1. This campaign is going to cost more than $2 billion. Is this the end of public financing in America, and will we...(unintelligible)?
SEN. KERRY: I hope not. I hope not. But you have to, you have to fix the system. And I speak as somebody from experience because I was forced to pull out of three states--Colorado, Missouri and Virginia--three weeks before the election because the public financing system didn't give you enough money to compete. Now, the American people, the people in those states deserved a presidential campaign that went to the end. What, what Barack Obama said, Tom, was that he would try to get 527s out, and then they could reach an agreement. But John McCain hasn't gotten them out. You know, when I ran for governor--when I ran for governor. When I ran for re-election as a Senate against the governor of Massachusetts, we came to a mutual agreement where we limited the money we spent, but we did it by each keeping the 527s, independent expenditures out. So I think Barack Obama did the right thing, because the American people deserve a race that can go to all of America. And secondly, he's not--you know, he doesn't take lobbyist money. This isn't the fat cat Washington money. This is average Americans who've come together in unprecedented numbers who are, in a sense, funding his campaign publicly.
MR. BROKAW: But he also has had 300 bundlers who have raised $500,000 apiece. That's $150 million. A lot of them came from Wall Street and from the upper reaches of American life.
SEN. KERRY: They have raised money, and that is something that happened under McCain-Feingold. They're allowed to do that, and we're living by the rules. He wants to change those rules, and he's proven that he is a reformer with the talent and the ability to build a movement in this country to hold Washington accountable. This is a moment for change, Tom. And I might add, you know, if, if John McCain were elected--you look around the world--this is a man who was the biggest cheerleader for the war in Iraq. He was wrong about who's fighting whom, Sunni-Shia violence. He was wrong about us being liberators. He was the first to stand on an aircraft carrier and say, "Next up, Baghdad." He cannot break the break we need from the, from the Bush-Cheney years. We've got to have a fresh start for America. We need to move in a new direction, and Barack Obama brings us that.
MR. BROKAW: Finally, the last time you were here, in August, you sat next to Joe Lieberman. You've shared a party registration with him. At the end of a very spirited exchanged, you turned your back on him, took off your microphone and walked out of the room. Do you want Joe Lieberman to be...
SEN. KERRY: Joe, Joe and I are friends who went to school together.
MR. BROKAW: You get...
SEN. KERRY: We've talked many times since. I think I was in a rush to get an airplane, but I'll tell you...
MR. BROKAW: You want him in the Democratic caucus?
SEN. KERRY: I want him to be a Democrat. You bet.
MR. BROKAW: You going to get to 60?
SEN. KERRY: That's beyond my--I can't--I don't know. You know, we just have to work, we have to work for every vote. Let's not--I'm not going to make predictions, but I'm, I'm very hopeful for Tuesday that we're really going to get the change America needs. The middle class needs to be represented in Washington, and we need to represent the people struggling to get into it. Not the large corporations and the folks who've done so well these past years.
MR. BROKAW: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Democratic presidential nominee 2004.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you.
MR. BROKAW: Thanks for being back on MEET THE PRESS.
SEN. KERRY: Great to be back. Thank you for having me.
MR. BROKAW: Coming up next, the final days of Decision 2008. Our political roundtable--David Broder, David Gregory, Michele Norris and Chuck Todd--only here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. BROKAW: Welcome back now to our roundtable. David Broder, Michele Norris, Chuck Todd and David Gregory on the other side of the table.
David, I--you've been covering campaigns since Theodore Roosevelt, but you say that this one is the most exciting one that you'd covered since 1960, and it exceeds it. We're going to begin our roundtable discussion with something that you have written recently.
"In what history may record as [Obama's] singular achievement - dealing with the classic American dilemma of race - he had the largely unappreciated help of his opponent, John McCain, who simply ruled out covert racial appeals used by politicians of both parties in the past. But Obama himself demonstrated repeatedly how to bridge the facial divides that still remain, by emphasizing his calm good judgment and respect for others. As a symbol of that national maturity, he carries a powerful, positive message to the world."
There's been so much discussion about race. Do you think in the closing days that's all been muted?
MR. DAVID BRODER: It's been muted, and I think it's been surpassed by the willingness of both the candidates and the mass of the American people to look beyond race as they make these judgments.
MR. BROKAW: Michele, my own judgment has been, and it's anecdotal and intuitive on my part, that race is not much of an issue for 45 and under, the age group, and it remains one for those 45 and older. Is that fair?
MS. MICHELE NORRIS: It's--I think that's accurate. It's much more of an issue for people who are older and lived through a much more difficult and painful chapter in, in America when it comes to race. It's interesting because I don't think we're completely past it. I think it's too big and too divisive and too thorny an issue to say that it's behind us, but it's almost like the atmosphere. It's there, and it's, you know, we don't necessarily take note of it. It's like the sky. You know, ever present but sort of, you know, something we kind of take for granted and don't much think about.
And what is interesting is that people may be past it, they may not be talking about it, but Peggy Noonan wrote about something a while ago called the reverse Bradley effect, and that's something that we might actually be seeing, is that people aren't willing to say that they're supporting Barack Obama publicly, but they'll go into the booth, sort of the reverse of what we've seen with the Bradley effect where people will tell pollsters one thing and then go and do something else. In this case, they'll tell pollsters perhaps that they're not supporting Barack Obama because it's not popular in their family or their community, but they may be supporting him when they actually go in the booth.
MR. BROKAW: In the arcane art of polling, can we measure that?
MR. TODD: We've tried a little bit by doing certain things. You ask certain questions, "Have you ever experienced--do you believe you've been discriminated against because of your race or gender?" You've asked certain--we've asked a question on our NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, "Does Barack Obama represent your values? Do you feel like you..." So we've done that and Peter Hart and Neil Newhouse, our two pollsters, they think there is a one to, one to two points among voters who, when you profile them, they're voting Democratic. For Congress they're voting Democrat in a lot of ways. They probably voted for John Kerry and Al Gore, and they're still sitting at undecided. So it's a couple of points. I kind of think it's, it's not just--you, you talk about it as far as generational. I actually think there's going to be a regional aspect to this, too. I think we'll see it more in the North and in the industrial Midwest pop up, in an Ohio and Pennsylvania. Less, I think, in the South. The South has openly dealt with race for much longer than the North ever did, and so I think you're going to see Obama overperform potentially among white voters in, in some of these Southern states. But, you know, we'll see race pop up in those industrial states.
MR. BROKAW: David, a lot of this in the final 48 hours is about turf. We're going to share with our viewers now where the candidates are going to be and measure them against where they were four years ago. Four years ago John Kerry was campaigning in the final weekend in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Barack Obama: Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West--we've been talking a lot about that; Florida's still in play; Missouri, which has been safe Republican territory; Nevada, again another Western state that the Democrats covet; North Carolina; Ohio; and Virginia.
Let's talk about the Democrats first of all. There are some new targets of opportunity there for Barack Obama.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Absolutely. Barack Obama on a Saturday is campaigning in Pueblo, Colorado, in a part of the state that went handily for George Bush in 2004. His advisers say, "Look where we're spending our last few days. We are on offense across the board." And what are they trying to do? They're trying to drive down those McCain margins and his pockets of strength in states like Colorado, while at the same time in, in--with their ground game trying to maximize the Democratic turnout.
What's interesting, Tom, about what's happening in some of these targets of opportunity and in the Bay states is that Obama is doing what Bush did successfully in 2004, at least they're counting on it, which is to create new voters. They're not just relying on their base, they're out there trying to increase African-American turnout. Six hundred thousand African-Americans in Florida who did not--who were registered but did not vote in '04, they think they can get three-quarters of those African-Americans this time. They could overwhelm the polls with that, and that's what they're counting on.
MS. NORRIS: Yeah, it's interesting if I could just say something. With these new voters, when you look at that, most of the polls look at likely voters. They're not necessarily catching these voters who are new to the system, and so there may be real surprises.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Or sporadic voters, lapse voters, or who haven't voted in the past.
MR. BROKAW: All right, we're going to take a look at the Republican map in the final 48 hours as well. George Bush 2004: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and he told me on the Sunday before the election, he really thought he could win Pennsylvania--he couldn't--and Wisconsin.
John McCain now, final weekend: His home state of Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The idea that he has to campaign in Virginia, David, is pretty striking.
MR. BRODER: It's entirely a defensive posture, except for Pennsylvania. And as you were talking with Chuck earlier, Pennsylvania is their one offensive card--a place where they hope to be able to break into the Democratic base. I think the odds are against them. And I'd have to say that the choice of Governor Palin did not work in the Philadelphia suburbs, and they're going to pay a price for that.
MR. BROKAW: You have also written about the organization of the Obama campaign. And the fact of the matter is that four years ago the Bush campaign, led by Karl Rove, was better organized than the Kerry campaign. It looks like the Obama campaign has taken a page right out of his playbook.
MR. BRODER: They really have, and it's probably the most unexplored story about why this first-time candidate was able to do what I think probably it's fair to say no other first-time candidate has ever really been able to achieve, to build an organization of this kind of power and efficiency.
MR. BROKAW: And, Chuck, as you talk to the campaigns and to the Obama campaign particularly, where are they worried about the system working against them? They can be organized and organized and organized, but secretaries of state, voting machines...
MR. TODD: Right.
MR. BROKAW: ...and, and, and the manipulation that can come on Election Day?
MR. TODD: Well, I think they're worried about places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Less so, Florida. I think they think places where there has early vote and there has been a loose rules on absentee voting, they feel pretty good about. But take a state like Pennsylvania. Michele and I were talking about this before. This is a state with no early voting. They haven't been able to bank any votes. They've banked votes in North Carolina, they've banked votes in Florida. They haven't been able to do it there in Pennsylvania. There's a little bit of nerve-racking there. I've heard from some Democrats who are worried that Obama hasn't handed out enough money for the city get out the vote operations, hasn't done enough there. Ohio, of course, they're worried a little bit about the same thing. There was a loosening of the early vote rules there, but not enough. So those two states in particular, I think, will have them staying up late on Monday night into Tuesday morning.
MR. BROKAW: You know, I've been saying repeatedly during this campaign that of all the campaigns I've covered--and I don't go quite as far back as David, but close--the nerve-endings of this country are more exposed than any time I can remember them. I mean, everybody is tuned in. There are no casual observers, even those who say they're not going to vote want to know what's going on. But there are undecideds. Kathleen Parker, who writes for the National Review and also for The Washington Post, wrote this on Halloween. "It's hard to imagine that `undecideds,' like restless phantoms with unfinished business, still haunt these final hours. ...
"So what are these zombies of the voting booth really waiting for? Something they won't find: the perfect choice. It doesn't exist. The clear path is dappled with doubt. The telling clue is buried in the hearts of Colonel Mustard, who worries about Iraq and taxes under Obama, and Miss Scarlet, who can't get past McCain's age and the winking wonderwoman of Wasilla." That's Governor Sarah Palin; she's been writing pretty critically about her. How much of the undecideds do you think how they will break, David?
MR. GREGORY: I think it's probably optimistic on the part of the McCain campaign that they break in a way of 2-to-1 or in such a fashion that's decisive for McCain. But nevertheless, if we look at the primaries in a state like Pennsylvania, we see that these undecideds are not breaking for Barack Obama. With all this spending, with all of the media saturation that Obama's had, it's hard to think at this point, if he hasn't gotten them yet, that he's going to get them now. All of these threshold questions about whether he can handle the big stage seemed to have been answered or not answered, depending upon where you're coming from.
MR. BROKAW: We're talking a lot about the election and what happens on Tuesday, understandably, but it's Wednesday that also interests me. The line that's been going around is that the candidate who wins is going to wake up and demand a recount because of what's ahead in terms of the meltdown and the economy, the vexing decisions that are going to have to be made. You know, let me just share with you what Tom Friedman writes this morning in The New York Times.
"Since the last debate, John McCain and Barack Obama have unveiled broad ideas about how to restore the nation's financial health, but they continue to suggest that this will be largely pain-free. McCain says giving everyone a tax cut will save the day. The Obama tells us--Obama tells us only the rich will have to pay to help us get out of this hole. Neither is true."
Based on what you're seeing in the polling, Chuck, how much are people looking for more candor from their candidates and willing to make those sacrifices that they've not been asked to make in the last eight years?
MR. TODD: Well, I do think that there's going to be an expectation that there's acting fast. There's--gone will be the days of checking in on the president-elect as he's relaxing at his, you know, where he's trying to figure out, "Is it going to be a Western White House, a Southern White House, a New England White House." It is going to be an expectation that he hits the ground running. But I tell you, I'm just concerned watching everything that's--we're going to see 10, maybe 10 new senators, 12 new senators, you know, mostly from the Democratic Party. Potentially 40 to 50 new House members. Folks that have--are really new to the system, not just new to Washington, new to politics, new to what they do. You know, when they--some of these folks that are going to win, when they announce, they really didn't think they were going to win, they were sort of trying this out for once to see if this was going to be... And so the learning curve, not just for the incoming president, but this new Congress. You know, there is--this first 60 days in--before these guys take the oath is going to be very critical because their problems are too big.
MR. BROKAW: Finally, there's a phantom in all of this, and we want to share with our viewers what John McCain had to say about the sitting president back in March when he wrapped up the nomination.
SEN. McCAIN: I intend to have as much possible campaigning events and--together as is in keeping with the president's heavy schedule. And I look forward to that opportunity.
MR. BROKAW: David, have you ever seen a president so completely disappear?
MR. BRODER: Not since Lyndon Johnson and, and Hubert Humphrey, I think, have we seen one quite like, like, like this. That's a little cruel to John McCain, because he was saying the absolute minimum that he had to say when he was standing next to George Bush. He knew perfectly well that he was not going to be enlisting President Bush in this campaign.
MR. BRODER: And he's been emphasizing the last two weeks, "I am not George Bush. If you want to run against him, you should have run in 2004."
One of the beneficiaries of all of this has been "Saturday Night Live," and John McCain appeared on "Saturday Night Live" last night with Tina Fey, aka Sarah Palin. We want to close out the hour this morning with just a little bit from "Saturday Night Live," if we can.
(Clips from "Saturday Night Live")
MR. BROKAW: Well, there are circumstances in which she could go back to Alaska. If Senator Ted Stevens, who has been found guilty, wins the election and then is sentenced, then guess who gets to appoint his replacement?
What do you think the chances are, Chuck, that Sarah Palin would say, "Maybe I'd like to go to the Senate in Ted Stevens' place"?
MR. TODD: I don't know if it's good to self-appoint, but, you know, it was just amazing, the Sunday before the election, there's one of the two nominees. You know, one thing about this campaign is we--these--all of the candidates that ran exposed themselves to a press corps that wasn't just the mainstream media, but it was bloggers, it was the entertainment media to a point. The only thing missing is they weren't strip-searched by TSA. Beyond that, we have found out a lot.
MR. BROKAW: All right.
MR. TODD: Maybe too much.
MR. BROKAW: Thank you very much, Michele Norris, my old friend David Broder, David Gregory and Chuck Todd for being here on the Sunday before the election. I'll be right back.
MR. BROKAW: Stay with NBC, MSNBC and msnbc.com all day Tuesday for nonstop election coverage. That's msnbc.com.
That's all for today. We'll be back next Sunday. If it is Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. And, of course, we'll have all the results this next Sunday. I'll see you then.