updated 11/4/2008 1:42:01 PM ET 2008-11-04T18:42:01

Pat Buchanan, Valerie Jarrett, Ron Brownstein, Mark McKinnon,

Nicolle Wallace, Mary Matalin, Chaka Fattah

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  Tonight, it‘s all over except for the voting.  The polls show Obama is winning, but the McCain campaign will never say die. 

One day to go and one last time, the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

After all this time, here we go.  Just hours to go in the race for the White House. 

Welcome to the program.  I‘m David Gregory.

My headline tonight, “Finish Line.” 

After 20 dramatic weeks—and that‘s just the general election—the nation‘s longest, most expensive general election is finally nearing its close as we stand on the sidelines of history waiting to watch the candidates cross this incredible finish line.  Our final NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows Obama with a clear lead, eight points among likely voters, with 51 percent leaving, McCain behind with 43 percent. 

Determined to disprove those numbers, Senator McCain vowed that he will emerge from the race victorious. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need your help. 

We need your help.  And we will win. 

Volunteer, knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls.  I need your vote.  We need to bring real change to Washington, and we have to fight for it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  It has been a grueling final fight for Senator McCain.  Before the clock strikes midnight, he will have campaigned through seven states in one day, only one of which did not go for Bush four years ago.  Making stops in Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, he is on the defensive.  And ending with a light night rally in, believe it or not, his own home state of Arizona, where the polls are surprisingly tight. 

Meantime, Senator Obama spent the day in the three key battlegrounds of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.  For much of the day he sounded pretty at ease, saying he feels “ pretty peaceful,” that he was cautiously optimistic about his chances, but on the trail he urged voters not to take anything for granted. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is going to be close here in Florida.  This is going to be close all across the country.  We‘re going to have to work like our futures depend on it for the next 24 hours, because it does. 

Understand at this point, I‘ve made the arguments.  Now it‘s all about who wants it more, who believes in it more? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  And unfortunately for Senator Obama, this day took an incredibly sad turn.  The unfortunate news tonight that his beloved grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whom he affectionately called “Toot,” such an important part of her life, has lost her ongoing battle with cancer just one day shy of this historic election.  She was 86 years old.  You remember that he took the break from the campaign trail to visit her in Hawaii. 

The candidates have only a few rallies left in this race, but the last time most voters will hear from them before heading to the polls will be during tonight‘s half-time show on “Monday Night Football,” a game I‘ll be watching because the Washington Redskins are playing.  After that, we will all together wait for the results. 

Joining me now are Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate; Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of “The Washington Post.”  Both Pat and Gene MSNBC political analysts.  And Mike Brzezinski is here, co-host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE.”

We are so pleased to have her.  And I‘m going to be scooting away.  When you see Mika, I‘m going to scoot away for part of the program to do some reporting for “NBC Nightly News” tonight. 

Mika, it‘s great to have you.

MIKE BRZEZINKSI, CO-HOST, “MORNING JOE”:  No problem.

GREGORY:  Gee, we‘re all here around the table.

BRZEZINKSI:  Yes, we are.

GREGORY:  And what a huge table it is.  Look how big the table is. 

We‘re going to serve dinner on the table, it‘s so big. 

BRZEZINKSI:  We‘ll be living here. 

GREGORY:  Here we are.  I mean, it‘s all the work, all the analysis, all the reporting, and we‘re finally at this point.  And it‘s just so exciting to watch on both sides what an historical election this is. 

Let‘s go to the NBC News electoral map and see where we are.  We talked about the polling.  This is how the map looks at this point. 

It is still heavy advantage for Obama, 286 as things stand now.  He needs 270 to win.  McCain at 157.  The tossups at 95 electoral votes.  We‘re talking about Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio. 

Pat Buchanan, North Dakota, Montana on this list of tossups.  It tells you almost everything you need to know about the race. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYS:  It sure does.  Look, NBC is saying Obama is going to win this by 10 million or more votes, eight points.  That‘s what that translates into.  And yet, all of us can see a glide path which is very narrow, whereby McCain, on these swing states—frankly, he would have to win North Dakota and Montana and also Pennsylvania—but that he can possibly win this, because in those states, it‘s a lot closer than those eight or 10 points. 

GREGORY:  Well, and that‘s the question, Mika.  As we talk about all of this, where is an opportunity for McCain to confound the pundits and the polls? 

BRZEZINKSI:  Well, I think we would be confounded in the beginning of the night if Virginia and Pennsylvania, Pat, start doing better by McCain.  And he is certainly is putting up a fight in Pennsylvania. 

The Republican Party is putting up a fight in Pennsylvania.  These Reverend Wright commercials are airing.  And in some parts of Pennsylvania, that will work. 

GREGORY:  Right.

BRZEZINKSI:  In Virginia as well.  I mean, that‘s where Barack Obama is putting up a fight as well.  The economy plays into it for Obama.  But if these things don‘t go for Obama, it could be a long night. 

GREGORY:  Gene, let‘s look at some voting groups here quickly.  The question out of the New NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, “Shares your values?”  It‘s a dead heat here.  “John McCain, Barack Obama shares your values?”  Fifty-seven percent.

That might give us some insights into pockets of strength for McCain that may not be as strong as otherwise you would have thought. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYS:  I think it might.  On the other hand, after the McCain campaign‘s attempt to essentially paint Barack Obama as an outsider, as someone who‘s different from you, I think that is a number that probably is heartening to the Obama campaign.  And one other state that Mika didn‘t include in her list but is clearly there is Indiana. 

BRZEZINKSI:  Absolutely.

ROBINSON:  When the polls close in Indiana, if we‘re seeing a traditional—it‘s a traditionally red state.  If we‘re seeing a traditional Republican margin, John McCain is doing very well, it could be a good evening for him. 

GREGORY:  Right.

ROBINSON:  He might hit that sweet spot of the landing.  If not, if it‘s too close to call, if Obama is ahead, it could be a very, very long night for McCain. 

BUCHANAN:  If Obama is ahead in Indiana and in North Carolina, where those early votes are quickly counted, I think it may be time to call the rectory.  I think that would be about it. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Panel, stick around.  We‘re going to talk to you a little bit later.  We‘ll get to you later on in the show. 

Barack Obama making one of his final pushes tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This hour, he‘s getting ready to start a rally there momentarily. 

Joining me now is Valerie Jarrett, familiar to our viewers, senior adviser and very close friend to both the senator and Michelle Obama. 

Valerie, welcome once again.  You‘re in Chicago tonight. 

VALERIE JARRETT, OBAMA SR. ADVISER:  I am.  Thank you, David.  Good evening. 

GREGORY:  This is such an exciting night, certainly on both sides of this fight, because this thing nears conclusion.  But I know it‘s also a very difficult night for Senator and Michelle Obama after the death of his grandmother. 

Can you talk about the role she played in his life and what makes this so difficult for him to lose her tonight? 

JARRETT:  Sure, David.  You know, Toot, as he fondly called her, was an inspiration in his life, really the cornerstone of the family.  She helped raise Barack when his mom was away. 

She was just an inspiration to him.  She loved him dearly.  She believed in him.  It‘s I think a tremendous comfort that he was able to get back to Hawaii a few days ago and visit with her, spend some private time with her, knowing that the end was near. 

GREGORY:  Right.

JARRETT:  And I think she was very proud of him.  Of course, he is deeply saddened to have lost her, but looking at her life and the impact that she made on his life, I think that he is profoundly touched by her and she‘ll be with him always. 

GREGORY:  Valerie, did they have an opportunity to talk in the course of the campaign?  And I wonder what you can say about what those conversations were like, how she was reacting to the success he had in capturing the nomination and just this historic road that he‘s been on, win or lose. 

JARRETT:  Well, you can imagine just as anybody‘s grandma would be proud of them, she was deeply, deeply moved by his accomplishments.  She understands his passion and devotion for our country, the country that he has loved, that she loved so dearly. 

I think she understood from whence he came, working so hard.  I think everyone knows that his mom was very poor during his childhood, was on food stamps for a period of time. 

And so, to watch Barack really work hard and have this sense of personal responsibility and confidence, she believed in him.  And I think she helped him believe in himself.  And she taught him that anything was possible if he just worked hard and focused on community, focused on keeping those core values, that decency. 

She was a woman of great intellect and humility, and I think she instilled those characters in him.  And so, she was an inspiration to Barack and his entire family. 

GREGORY:  Right.  And the senator has spoken poignantly about the fact that he was not there at the end when his mother died.  Did he feel a sense of completeness or some comfort by the fact that he was able to be there for his grandmother? 

JARRETT:  I think, David, that‘s probably a good word.  He did regret, as you said, not being there when his mom died. 

She died suddenly.  And he promised himself that he wouldn‘t let that happen again.  And in the midst of this very tough campaign, he said, look, I‘ve got to go home and see Toot, and I know that the end is near.  And I just can‘t take the chance that she‘ll last through the election. 

So I know in speaking with him over the weekend, he was grateful that he had that time and those private moments with her. 

GREGORY:  Let‘s talk about the substance of this campaign.  What can you say about Senator Obama‘s frame of mind right now? 

JARRETT:  Well, I think he is at peace.  He knows that he has worked really hard over the last 21 months.  His team are hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have been out knocking on doors and making phone calls and working tirelessly across our country. 

And I think that as he said best, “I‘ve done my part.  I‘ll continue to work right up until the last moment, but now it‘s time for the American people.”

We‘ve been very heartened by the early vote in the many states that have had early vote.  There are just lots of people who have been coming out to the poll and taking advantage of that opportunity.  But tomorrow, obviously, is the single most important day of this race.  And what he is asking every American to do is to exercise their right to vote. 

GREGORY:  Has he had those moments—you know, you can talk about the fact that you don‘t want to jinx the outcome, but if it doesn‘t go your way, you‘re going to be disappointed.  So the idea of jinxing the outcome may not make any sense at this point. 

You‘re obviously confident.  Senator Obama is confident and hopeful. 

Has he had any moments to sort of let all of this wash over him?  Not only the prospect that he could become the president, but that he would make history in the process? 

JARRETT:  Well, of course.  Of course he has. 

I think he is keeping his eye focused on still working hard to earn the trust and the confidence of the American people.  But he also realizes the magnitude of this accomplishment.  And not for just Barack Obama, but far more importantly for all of the young men and women out there who look to him as a role model and say, well, my goodness, if Senator Obama could do this, so could I. 

And so, I think he realizes that he‘s a role model, that that carries a certain responsibility.  But also, I think he understands that it‘s not just about Barack.  It‘s about all of us getting engaged, working hard to make our country a better place. 

And so, you know, I‘m deeply proud of what he has accomplished over the course of this campaign, over the course of his entire career.  And so, yes, I think it is beginning to sink in.  but he hasn‘t taken that foot off the pedal. 

He is working tirelessly, as you mentioned.  You know, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana tomorrow.  He‘s going to keep working until the last minute and not take a single vote for granted. 

GREGORY:  Governor Sarah Palin and Senator McCain is on the campaign trail today, and they are making their case.  Governor Palin talked about some of the attacks on Senator Obama as being fair, substantively. 

Let‘s listen to what she said and I‘ll have you react. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He‘s adjusting his tax plan pronouncements nearly daily now.  Flip-flopping around on the details. 

Still, his commitment to higher taxes never changes.  And all you‘ve got to do is look at his record to understand this. 

And by the way, Missouri, it is not mean-spirited and it‘s not negative campaigning to call someone out on their record, on their plans, on their associations.  Calling someone out on their record, it‘s in fairness to you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Valerie, response there, especially the reference to associations, where she‘s talked about the fact that Reverend Jeremiah Wright was a fair issue to bring into the campaign, though the McCain campaign mostly stayed away from that? 

JARRETT:  Well, look, David, I think, frankly, it‘s just an act of desperation.  What we‘ve seen from the McCain camp consistently over the course of this general election is an attempt at character assassination and distortion of Senator Obama‘s record. 

He is very proud of his record.  He is very proud of his accomplishments in the course of his career.  So, if Governor Palin wants to try to attack his record and say that he somehow shouldn‘t be extremely proud of his accomplishments, that‘s just nonsense. 

And I think the important thing to keep in mind, David, is what we‘ve heard across this country, is that the American people really want to be hopeful, to look towards the future, to turn the page, and to stop with the divisive, desperate politics of the McCain campaign.  And so I think if the country wants to have another term of George Bush, then they should vote for John McCain.  But if they want to turn the page and look to a brighter future, where we can come together and work together on the tough problems that face our country, well, then Senator Obama is your person. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Valerie Jarrett, thank you very much.  And our condolences to Senator Obama, and Mrs. Obama as well. 

JARRETT:  Thank you.

GREGORY:  Thank you for being here. 

JARRETT:  Thank you, David. 

GREGORY:  Coming next, what to look for tomorrow night as the polls close.  How can Obama keep his advantage in the polls, and what needs to happen for a McCain victory? 

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE returns right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back.

Final tracking poll from Diaego and Hotline shows a tight race.  Obama at 50 percent. , McCain at 45 percent, outside the margin of error, but 5 percent of voters still say they‘re undecided. 

Joining me now to go one on one is Ron Brownstein, political director for Atlantic Media, which publishes “The National Journal.” 

Hey, Ron. 

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, ATLANTIC MEDIA:  Hey, David.  How are you?

GREGORY:  So I just always love learning from you in terms of what you‘re thinking about here in these final hours.  But one thing that I‘ve been thinking about I want to ask you about, we know that the micro-targeting strategy from the Obama campaign is focused on African-American, Latino voters, and voters under 35. 

Is there potential that that group, those groups, pull him across the finish line and he underperforms in some areas that will be very important?  And they may create a negative outcome for him insofar as people wondering whether he can really lead with that kind of base constituency? 

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, it is possible that he will win without significantly improving on the Democratic performance among non-college white voters.  When you think about the electorate as sort of for—an easy way to think about it is four major tracks. 

Hispanic voters, he‘s  almost certainly going to improve on the roughly 60 percent that John Kerry got.  He may hit as high as 70 percent.

African-American voters, 88 percent for Kerry.  Obama is looking at 95 percent-plus. 

Better at whites with college education or more kind of upper middle class white collar white voters.  Kerry got 44 percent of them.  It‘s likely that Obama‘s going to improve on that, maybe actually win them, which as we said before, no Democratic presidential candidate has done in the history of modern polling. 

And then the last piece in the equation are these non-college working class white voters.  They resisted him in the primaries.  They voted 2-1 for Hillary Clinton. 

He‘s been lagging among them in the general election, although the baseline is pretty low.  Only 38 percent of them voted for John Kerry in 2004. 

GREGORY:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  It is possible that Obama can win without significantly improving with that group, but it will be a longer-term question about whether a Democratic majority is stable if Republicans are still dominating there. 

The thing that Obama has going for him, as Simon Rosenberg of NDN, the Democrat who points out groups where he is strong, millennials, these young people under 30, and Hispanics, are both growing as a share of the electorate.  So in many ways he is tapping into the growth of the country as he builds what might be this winning majority. 

GREGORY:  Well, and, in fact, McCain is underperforming in that same group, which is what the Republican Party, Ken Mehlman, Matthew Dowd said that they would have to build on the gains that Bush made among his Hispanics.  He has not done that. 

BROWNSTEIN:  No, he has not.  And in fact, you know, we saw the Republicans in 2006 after the breakdown of comprehensive immigration reform fall to 29 percent in the midterm election among Hispanics.  It‘s possible McCain, who was ironically originally a sponsor of comprehensive reform that included a pathway to legalization, but backed off of it during the primary, told the “L.A. Times” in one debate that he would vote against his own bill, he may perform quite poorly among that group as well. 

The Republican Party could come out of the Bush years in a very narrow position both demographically and geographically. 

GREGORY:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  If you look at it geographically, David, look what the Democrats are doing.  They‘re consolidating their hold on the West Coast, the Upper Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, and now pressing at the Republican advantages in the Mountain West and in the outer South—

North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, places like that, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, even Arizona, where they‘ll pick up House seats even if they don‘t win the presidential.  So, the Republican base could be a very narrow one that could complicate the task of recovery if this election goes the way it looks right now. 

GREGORY:  What is the scenario for McCain that at least helps him tighten the result, if not overcome the deficit he faces? 

BROWNSTEIN:  I think the most likely path to tightening the result is to drive down Obama‘s vote in the non-college, the working class white voters, who have been resistant to him throughout this year.  I mean, McCain, has final ad talks about working Joes.  He can‘t make it more overt than that. 

Now, whether that‘s—and they are, at least in our Diaego/Hotline poll, they are the single largest group among the undecided, the working class white voters.  So there is potential there.

On the other hand, I tend to think when you look at these early voting numbers—you talked about them, 75 percent of many people in Colorado who voted in 2004 have already voted—I tend to think we‘re going to see a lot of turnout of Obama‘s constituencies, and that may dilute that effect. 

The real story is the stability here.  I mean, you look at Gallup, for example, from October 2 to November 2, Obama‘s vote varied only between 49 percent and 52 percent.  I mean, this has been a very stable election driven by dissatisfaction with the country‘s direction and President Bush.

Two-thirds of American are dissatisfied with Bush.  And roughly two-thirds or a little more than that—of them are voting for Obama.  And that‘s pretty much the driver of this election, and it has been really since September. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Ron Brownstein, so much to think about and to watch for tomorrow. 

Ron, thanks, as always. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Thank you.

GREGORY:  All right.

Now time to hand things over to my colleague, Mika Brzezinski.  I‘m going to do some reporting on “NBC Nightly News,” and then I will come back to this very large table.  There is even room for a little dancing here on the table. 

BRZEZINKSI:  You‘ll have to get a ladder.

GREGORY:  I don‘t know.  So I‘ll come back a little bit later on and Mika will take things over from here. 

BRZEZINKSI:  David, thank you. 

GREGORY:  OK.

BRZEZINKSI:  We eagerly await your return.  Have fun on “Nightly.”

Coming up next, the McCain/Palin ticket.  It‘s a clear winner today. 

We‘ll tell you why.

It‘s on THE RACE‘s radar right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRZEZINKSI:  We‘re back with a look at what‘s on THE RACE‘s radar today. 

McCain defeats Obama, at least when it comes to the ratings.  Twelve million people tuned in to watch McCain on “Saturday Night Live” this week, giving “SNL” its second best-rated show in more than a decade. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

MCCAIN:  Would I rather be on three major networks?  Of course.  But I‘m a true maverick, a Republican without money.  I‘m not like my opponent.  My only showbiz connections are Jon Voight and Heidi from “The Hills.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

BRZEZINKSI:  I did say second best, didn‘t I?  Because McCain still came in second to his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. 

Her appearance a few week ago netted 15 million viewers.  Amazing. 

Tina Fey, Sarah Palin, amazing. 

Obama was scheduled to be on “SNL” recently, but he canceled due to Hurricane Ike. 

Coming up next, we go inside the war room for the last time in the 2008 race with a look at the final polls for Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, where the candidates are making their last-minute campaign stops. 

THE RACE comes back right after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRZEZINSKI:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m Mika Brzezinski, filling in for David Gregory for a few minutes while he reports for “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams.  Today, Quinnipiac University released its final round of battle ground polls for three of the most hotly contested states.  In Pennsylvania, Obama has a ten-point lead, 52-42 percent.  In Ohio, Obama has a seven-point lead, 50 to 43.  And Florida still too close to call, Obama with 47 percent, McCain, 45 percent. 

So let‘s go inside the war room for this final time in the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  Joining me now, former McCain adviser Mark McKinnon, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, also an MSNBC political analyst.  Mark, what is the path to victory for John McCain at this point? 

MARK MCKINNON, FMR. MCCAIN ADVISER:  Well, as he says, Mika, it is always darkest before it goes completely black.  And it is pretty dark out there.  But John McCain has shown incredible ways to scrap his way back.  And it is a very narrow path but there is a path.  He has to win key states, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida.  If he loses any of those key states, we‘ll know pretty early in the evening. 

If he wins Virginia, wins Florida, then we‘ll see how it goes.  We‘ve seen historically, the Democrats have found incredibly creative ways to screw these things up in the end.  So we‘ll see what happens.

BRZEZINSKI:  Well, that‘s something I guess you can count on.  If

that‘s the way you want to look at it, it is possible.  It‘s definitely

possible.  Let‘s talk about the undecided vote, Eugene Robinson.  Mark,

join in if you want.  This is what Rick Davis said, Politico reporting this

it is a quote—“if Barack Obama hasn‘t closed the deal with them after two years in the campaign and a year as the nominee of their party, maybe they‘re holding out for a good reason.  Maybe they‘re just decided not to vote.  But if we see the vote drop below 130 million, you‘ll know they didn‘t show up.  If it goes over, you‘ll know they came out.  I think that is a good chance for us to win.”

Eugene, it is the undecideds, but maybe African-Americans and Latinos too. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  I don‘t quite get that.  My guess would have been, and I think most people‘s guess would have been, if you see a really big turnout, it is not that these undecided voters are turning out to vote for John McCain; it is that all these new voters that the Democrats have brought into the party are turning out, probably to vote for Barack Obama. 

BRZEZINSKI:  So Mark, can the undecideds make up for the African-American new voters, the Latino voters and the ground game? 

MCKINNON:  I think it is possible, sure.  I think Rick makes a very credible argument.  People have a pretty get sense of John McCain.  He‘s been around a long time.  Barack Obama is the newcomer on the stage.  People have gotten a pretty good look at him.  If they haven‘t decided they‘re going in that direction now, I think there is a credible argument to say most of them will go McCain. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Pat Buchanan, I want to talk about Sarah Palin, and I figure you do, too.  You stand at the ready.  I‘m struck by what I saw today in Lake Wood, Ohio.  We watched her rally live.  We watched a good deal of it.  She was in her element.  She was a political athlete.  She was totally hitting her stride.  She was as if nothing had gone wrong, that no bruises, no battering from the past few weeks.  And yet many, even on this set, have been talking about how terribly mishandled she has been, from the clothing to the way she had been rolled out.  Yet she was amazing today. 

And I just wonder, if they had taken Pat Buchanan‘s advice and let Sarah be Sarah, would we be in a different place? 

BUCHANAN:  I think we would be.  I think you‘ve seen her today at the top of her game.  She has been under tremendous fire after the first two weeks.  And she has made some mistakes with the Katie Couric interview.  I think her debate was good.  I think once she broke out on her own, she appears to be enjoying it. 

She is a tremendous campaigner.  She is far superior to the top of the ticket.  She brings out the crowds.  I think as a pure campaigner, she is the best one out there of the four of them right now. 

BRZEZINSKI:  In terms of technique for sure.  Eugene, you‘ve written about this. 

ROBINSON:  I have.  I disagree only—

(CROSS TALK) 

BUCHANAN:  -- taken this long to get her to this point.  I don‘t think you could have put Sarah Palin out there to give the performance she gave today two months ago. 

BUCHANAN:  She had it in her, as she did the speech at the convention, as she did the debate.  She rises to the occasion. 

ROBINSON:  On that I am a convert.  I feel like I‘m like Paul Revere. 

She‘s coming, she‘s coming. 

BRZEZINSKI:  In 2012. 

ROBINSON:  Democrats can underestimate Sarah Palin at their peril. 

They can laugh at their peril.  She is a really talented politician. 

BUCHANAN:  The polls you show are very disheartening if you are McCain.  A big lead in Ohio and Florida.  He has to win both Ohio and Florida.  I think he may need Pennsylvania for insurance, because there could be some real hemorrhaging with the Latino vote out in the west. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Absolutely.  And Sarah Palin helps with the Evangelical vote, southern Ohio, different regions of the country that may tap into what she has to offer. 

BUCHANAN:  Those working class white folks in middle Pennsylvania, the Reagan Democrats, they will love her. 

ROBINSON:  There‘s one thing that people forget; if you look at the primary experience, there were state in which Barack Obama under-performed on election day.  There were are also state in which he over-performed. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Hey, guys. 

ROBINSON:  Virginia, Georgia, Iowa. 

(CROSS TALK)

BRZEZINSKI:  Pat and Eugene, I want to take you both to Charlotte, North Carolina.  We‘re going to hear Barack Obama.  He is speaking at a rally there.  It is the first time we‘re hearing from him since his grandmother passed away.  Let‘s take a quick listen. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am so grateful to all of you.  I want to thank UNC-Charlotte.  Thank you guys for all that you do.  I want to thank North Carolina‘s next governor, Lieutenant Governor Beth Perdue.  I want to thank the next United States senator from North Carolina, state Senator Kay Hagan.  All of the statewide Democratic party council of state candidates, two leaders locally who have been incredibly helpful, Charlotte Mayor protem Susan Burgess (ph) and Councilman Anthony Fox. 

And I‘m deeply honored to have a great North Carolinian and supporter, NASCAR pioneer Junior Johnson.  Give it up for Junior. 

You know, obviously, this is a little bit of a bitter sweet time for me.  We have had a remarkable campaign.  When we started 21 months ago, I didn‘t know how it would turn out.  And no matter what happens tomorrow, I‘m going to feel good about how it has turned out, because all of you have created this incredible campaign. 

Some of you heard that my grandmother who helped raise me passed away early this morning.  And look, she has gone home.  And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side.  And so there is great joy as well as tears.  I‘m not going to talk about it too long, because it is hard a little to talk about. 

I want everybody to know, though, a little about her.  Her name was Madelyn Dunham.  She was born in Kansas in a small town in 1922, which means she lived through the Great Depression.  She lived through two world wars.  She watched her husband go off to war while she looked after a baby and worked on a bomber assembly line.  When her husband came back, they benefited from the GI Bill and moved west, and eventually ended up in Hawaii. 

And she was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plain spoken person.  She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America, who—they‘re not famous.  Their names aren‘t in the newspapers, but each and every day, they work hard.  They look after their families.  They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren.  They aren‘t seeking the limelight. 

All they try to do is just do the right thing.  And in this crowd, there are a lot of quiet heroes like that: mothers and fathers, grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives.  And the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children, and maybe their grandchildren or their great grandchildren, live a better life than they did.  That‘s what America is about.  That‘s what we‘re fighting for. 

And North Carolina, in just one more day, we have the opportunity to honor all those quiet heroes all across America, and all across North Carolina.  We can bring change to America to make sure that their work and their sacrifice is honored.  That‘s what we‘re fighting for. 

BRZEZINSKI:  All right.  You‘re watching Barack Obama in Charlotte, North Carolina, in his first speech since the loss of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.  It was discovered that she died this morning when he was campaigning in Florida.  This is the first time he has spoke about her.  And, of course, he was inspired by her and raised by her.  A big loss for Barack Obama.

Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, before we go to break, he was hoping she would hold on. 

ROBINSON:  He was.  He couldn‘t get to Hawaii.  I think he actually spoke to that and said we think she‘ll make it to election day.  We‘re not sure. 

BRZEZINSKI:  She had been obsessed watching the television all day long, reading all the papers. 

BUCHANAN:  That was moving, authentic and very well done. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Yes it was.  It was beautiful.  Gentlemen, stay with us. 

We‘re going to go take a quick break here on the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. 

Coming up, we‘ll be talking to, from the McCain campaign, Nicolle Wallace. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRZEZINSKI:  We may be in the final hours of the campaign season, but John McCain isn‘t slowing down, hitting seven states in less than 24 hours, finishing off this final push in his home state of Arizona.  Joining me now from Phoenix, Nicolle Wallace, senior adviser to the McCain campaign.  Nicolle, good evening.  Thanks for being on. 

NICOLLE WALLACE, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER:  Thanks Mika.  Nice to see you. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Nice to see you.  Lets talk about Pennsylvania.  Is Pennsylvania within reach for John McCain and why? 

WALLACE:  It sure is.  We look at some of those states where Barack Obama, you know, I think had a lot of confidence during the primary, and Hillary Clinton, you know, really had decisive victories in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan over Barack Obama.  It is a place where the mere concept of spreading the wealth that Barack Obama revealed to be a center piece of his economic philosophy really doesn‘t go over well.  So Pennsylvania is very much in our sights.  It‘s something that we feel really good about. 

BRZEZINSKI:  That would start off the night well, for sure.  Certainly make it a long night, if not a surprising night if you talk to anyone who is looking at the polls right now.  I want to ask you about Sarah Palin.  She was quite amazing today.  I was watching her in Lake Wood, Ohio, performing beautifully, really, masterfully, and really growing amidst a great deal of challenge. some of it fair and some of it unfair, from the media. 

I wonder how she feels and how you feel about how the campaign has handled her.  Do you think she was over-coached?  Was the Katie Couric interview a mistake?  Was the clothing thing a mistake? 

WALLACE:  You know, everything about Sarah Palin is what we all hope we will find in our leaders.  I mean, she is a mom.  She is a governor.  She is smart.  She is authentic.  She has her own views about how this campaign should be won.  And obviously she sits at the table and makes strategic decisions. 

I think the night that she grew into the vice presidency was the night of her debate against Joe Biden.  I think that was the night where everyone got to see her, not just as a candidate, not just as a governor, not just as a new face in the scene, but they have could see her hold her own against Joe Biden, who is certainly—we don‘t agree with him on much, but he is certainly accomplished. 

So I think she has certainly grown and I think she continues to really inspire and draw huge crowds.  She is a huge inspiration.  The people come to see her.  They come dressed like her.  There are people at McCain events that seem to want to emulate everything about her.  She is really a very special and inspirational political figure. 

BRZEZINSKI:  I don‘t know if you can see me but I‘m accused of having Palin hair today, Nicolle.  Anyhow—but here‘s the thing. 

WALLACE:  I‘m sure it looks great. 

BRZEZINSKI:  You‘re absolutely right, she draws the crowds and she is doing really well with them.  I think the criticism, from what I‘m hearing and reading, is moving away from Sarah Palin and to her handlers.  And the best example that I can think of is this fake phone call from Nicolas Sarkozy, which was really a Canadian radio station.  Who in the campaign hands her a phone and says the president of France is on, you need to talk to him.  What happened? 

WALLACE:  You know, campaigns are like jumping on a treadmill going 15 miles an hour.  We all make mistakes.  I‘ve made mistakes.  Lots of us have made mistakes.  The hope is that on election day, when someone goes into the voting booth, they choose between John McCain and Sarah Palin and Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  I think that these things become more interesting to people like you who have to find something new every day to talk about.  But I think the voters are looking at two tickets with really diametrically opposed philosophies. 

BRZEZINSKI:  What is new to talk about though is how she is performing.  I noted today a big difference in this woman. 

WALLACE:  Yes.  Present company excluded.  You know, I think that you guys—seriously, you have enough time, I think, to get to the substance.  But there are certainly in some of the blogs and some of the day to day coverage, they look for the moment where she missed—really on both sides, where someone misspeaks, and they spend two days talking about it.  I think where you have a format, you have all the thoughtful people around you, you get to the substance.  But that doesn‘t happen every where. 

BRZEZINSKI:  We‘re blessed to have a show that can do that.  Nicolle Wallace, best of luck to you in these final hours.  Great to see you.  Hope to talk to you tomorrow. 

Now we are—since we are just hours away from election day, one of the keys to the election is the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, as we‘ve been discussing.  And the latest NBC/Mason Dixon poll shows a lead of four percentage points for Barack Obama.  That‘s the margin of error.  Joining me now, Chaka Fattah, Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania.  Congressman, thank you very much for joining me.  You are fighting for a seat there and you‘re an Obama supporter.  What do you think about the possibility of McCain making some serious headway in Pennsylvania?  He seems to think he can.

REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I think its his—as I said before, that it‘s more like Custer‘s last stand.  He has no chance of winning Pennsylvania.  We have delivered this state for Clinton twice, for Kerry, for Gore.  Now, John McCain has been in it 21 times.  But people who might have been confused in the past about this Republican philosophy, now they see millions who are in jeopardy of losing their homes, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.  They‘re not going to be voting for this Republican philosophy tomorrow. 

And I think what‘s special about this campaign, which may be being missed—we talk about African American turn out.  It‘s how successful Barack Obama has been, more successful than any of the other Democratic nominees in getting white voters.  The reason why Montana, the reason why Washington State—look at all these states that he‘s doing so well in. 

Iowa, where there‘s no African-Americans at all.  You‘re going to see him

do very well outside of Philadelphia, and also doing extraordinarily well -

BRZEZINSKI:  But Congressman, obviously, the McCain campaign feels they have a fight to fight in Pennsylvania.  And you‘ve got the GOP running these Reverend Wright ads.  I wonder if you think this will work.  And I also wonder if you think the ads are right, if they are correct in their nature. 

FATTAH:  I think the best thing that Barack Obama‘s campaign can hope for is that the same thought process that has led the McCain campaign to do everything they‘ve done so far, that that continues until the poll close tomorrow.  They‘ve not been right about a lot of things.  If they think that Pennsylvania is a place they‘ll find a win, we‘re going to see tomorrow.  But I think he will do very poorly in Philadelphia and in the Philadelphia suburbs.  But also, Senator Obama is going to do very well in parts of our state that Democrats have not done well in in the past. 

You know, so I think that we‘re going to do well here.  But Senator Obama is looking to do well across the country.  And on the key issues facing the country, the American public seems to have decided.  I‘ve never seen lines like this in my life.  Look at them in every state where there is early voting, people are lined up, hundreds and hundreds of people.  So something is actually going on in this election.  And I hope that we don‘t miss the point, because it is something very special. 

BRZEZINSKI:  Congressman, thank you very much.  Chaka Fattah, thank you for coming on the show.  You have an election as well tomorrow.  Good luck to you, sir.  We‘ll talk to you soon.  That does it for me for now as host.  David Gregory is done with his nightly duties and he is back in.  David?

GREGORY:  All right, Mika, thanks very much.  John McCain says he‘s going to pull off an upset and win this election.  Can he make another comeback in his very successful political career?  Joining me now is Mary Matalin, Republican strategist who formerly served as assistant to President George W. Bush, counselor to the vice president.  Hey Mary. 

MARY MATALIN, FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR:  David, what would an election be without you on election eve, election eve? 

GREGORY:  That‘s right.  I‘m sorry we took the Obama event, so our time is cut a little bit short.  But Mary, as a veteran of so many campaigns, how did this election eve feel to you? 

MATALIN:  As much as I love spinning you over the years, I don‘t like to spin myself.  And I think that he could do this and for just the reasons that you started off saying.  He has come back not once but twice.  They had enough targeted turnout in the states that they need to do it.  They don‘t need to do it everywhere.  And they have been exceeding their performance levels of the Bush campaign in ‘04.  If they can crank it up in those states that they need to and those polls seem to be closing in those states, then yes.  It will be a long night tomorrow. 

GREGORY:  Would you quarrel with the idea that even if he does pull it out, it does not erase the fact that the Republican party is in distress? 

MATALIN:  I wouldn‘t call it in distress.  I‘ve been in Washington since 1980.  The Senate has split six times.  The House has split twice and all that.  The Republican party has been of concern to conservatives for some time.  So yes, there is an on-going issue about what does it mean to be a conservative.  We have to keep re-asserting what people like me, why I joined the party in the first place in the Reagan years.  What does that mean in the 21st century? 

That will go on whether or not McCain wins, which again, I do think he and Sarah Palin will do. 

GREGORY:  Do you think that it is possible to overstate impact of the president on this election?  It is where a lot of the arguments started and it is where it ends.  The shadow that the president and the vice president, for that matter, have cast over the Republican ticket. 

MATALIN:  To answer your question directly, I don‘t think it is possible.  I think the president‘s impact on this ticket has been grossly, grossly overstated.  All this notion that it‘s a repudiation of Bush; you can‘t repudiate something that wasn‘t debated, wasn‘t defended.  There wasn‘t anybody—McCain‘s strategy to distance himself from Bush was to do it in a sort of quasi attack on the president.  We‘ve seen this.  I call this the Catch 22 strategy.  If no one is defending the ticket, or has an interest in defending this administration, then that pushes the numbers down further and that drags the ticket down further.  We‘ve seen this when the House members took a step back from Bush. 

Conversely, when Senator McCain supported, against all odds, the surge and it came to a victorious almost conclusion at this point, then those numbers went up for him.  So you can‘t say it is a repudiation if it was never debated, never was defended.  I‘ll say this—you were there for eight years—we‘re going to look back a pretty—really remarkable presidency relative to national security.  Yes, there is an unrecorded and unreported lately—how long that recovery was, that economic recovery right up to this last incident here, which he warned against. 

GREGORY:  All right, Mary Matalin, long time Washingtonian, but Louisiana resident now.  My best to you.   

MATALIN:  Come visit.  Come on down. 

GREGORY:  I‘m coming.  Thanks.  That will do it for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory.  Special thanks to Mika Brzezinski for all her help tonight, and to you for watching.  I want to thank a very talented group of women and even a couple men who have brought you this program over the course of this incredible campaign.  We‘ll still be here.  We‘ll be following the story where it goes.  Be sure to tune into the big event tomorrow night, our election coverage right here on MSNBC.  I‘ll be along with Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.  It starts at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. 

Before you do any of that, stay right here, because it‘s “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews, and it‘s up next. 

Content and programming copyright 2008 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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