updated 11/4/2008 1:48:13 PM ET 2008-11-04T18:48:13

Douglas Wilder, Sherrod Brown, Tim Pawlenty

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  It‘s a gimmick I‘ve been working on.  Thanks for noticing.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Nice trick, go with it.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

And thank you for sticking around for the next hour.

After two years of campaigning, after eight years of the Bush administration, it all comes down to tomorrow.  Do you want to know where Dick Cheney is spending the day?

(voice over):  It was the night before politics Christmas and all through the land.  Both campaigns were still steering (ph) as the timer ran out of stand (ph).  The Democrats were in the red states right to the end, the Republicans were there too—which left them around the bend.

Obama and McCain competing on their final day on turf that defines the race as much as either men‘s message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Tomorrow, at this defining moment in history, you, each and every one of you, can give this country the change that we need.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Pundits may not know it and the Democrats may not know it, but the Mac is back.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

MCCAIN:  We‘re going to win this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Obama changed the Democratic presidential common wisdom this year, trying to run a true 50 state campaign.  Is that a good way to run a landslide or is that a good way to spend the whole lot of resources in states that a Democrat really won‘t win, anyway?

And can our decrepit election system handle the overwhelming turnout both campaigns are counting on to win?  Former Governor Douglas Wilder joins us with a view from battleground Virginia.

We heard all about the Obama ground game for getting up the votes, the Republicans, on the other hand?  They talk softly, but they are carrying the stick that won them to 2004 election.  Is that why McCain seems so eerily hopeful as the clock winds down?  Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio talks ground game versus ground game.

And Republicans could get flattened in the House and Senate while Senator McCain goes for the White House.  Should he be helping the down ticket Republicans?  Can he?  Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, once a shortlister for vice president, joins us on election eve.

All that, plus, the voting machines in people‘s driveways, Dick Cheney hunting pheasant, and lots of infuriating shenanigans to report.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

(on camera):  Three hours until Election Day.  Yes, democracy.  As many as 140 million Americans may flex our electoral muscles by the end of tomorrow night, if predictions from both campaigns are burned out, that would be almost 15 percent more people voting than in 2004.

Now, the scary question today is: Is our election system ready for 140 million voters?  Is tonight the calm before a very chaotic storm tomorrow?

Today, the candidates canvas the country on their last full day of campaigning.  Well, scratch that.  Today, the candidates actually canvassed the parts of the country that Bush won in 2004.  It‘s almost entirely a red state game at this point.

On the McCain-Palin schedule: Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, and Colorado.  All states President Bush won in 2004.

Obama and Biden also covered Florida, Missouri and Ohio.  They added to that list of red states with trips to North Carolina and Virginia today, as well.

The only blue state that got some election eve attention was Pennsylvania.  John McCain and Joe Biden traveled there today.

So, where the candidates were today tells a big part of the story.  It mirrors exactly what we‘ve been talking about in my big, awkward football analogy on the show this week.

As the clock winds down, this game is almost entirely being played on Senator McCain‘s side of the field.  He‘s playing defense and what have been thought of as reliably red states, like North Carolina and Virginia, and Indiana.  And that fact has a lot of Obama supporters giddy tonight.

And with this particular brand of giddiness comes some risk as well.  There is the possibility that Obama might be spending his time, his energy, and his money just to lose a state like Indiana by one-point instead of the 20 points, by which the Democrats usually lose states like that.  Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so a loss is a loss no matter the margin or how much it costs Obama to narrow that margin.

The other major risk, that one that maybe keeping the Obama brain trust up at night, is that if you are counting on winning states that aren‘t usually in play come Election Day, then you are counting on systems that are relatively untested, under the weight of unprecedented voter turnout, you‘re counting on states that aren‘t used to the pressure of close presidential elections.  It‘s like finding out that you‘re going to be your doctor‘s first ever open heart surgery patient.  It‘s like finding out that those brand new sneakers you‘ve never tried on before are the ones you‘ll have to run the marathon in tomorrow.

Maybe it will work out great but that‘s a lot riding on something that is untested.  States like Pennsylvania and Florida and Ohio, they are not necessarily good at running elections.  But because they are almost always battleground states, they are used to the pressure.  Officials know what to expect.  States like North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada—well, they are bracing for unprecedented conditions tomorrow and there‘s no do-overs here.

Breakdowns and chaos on Election Day are not really bipartisan.  They favor the side that benefits from lower turn-out.  The side that wants the least number of votes cast and counted as possible.  And frankly, in all candor, that is the Republican side, as they and conservative activists have self-defined for more than a generation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1980)

PAUL WEYRICH, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST:  They want everybody to vote.  I don‘t want everybody to vote.  Elections are not won by a majority of people.  They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now.  As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s conservative activist, Paul Weyrich, speaking a generation ago at the height of the Reagan revolution in 1980.  He went on to found the Heritage Foundation.  Conservatives think that a smaller vote total helps them.  Chaos on Election Day therefore helps them.  Even before Election Day this year, we are already seeing signs of strain in the system.

Just look at the early voting process.  Lines stretching out for seven, eight, nine hours in states like North Carolina and Florida.  In Kansas City, Missouri tonight, there are reports of people waiting eight hours in line to cast absentee ballots.

And how is the state of Colorado handling the added pressure of being a swing state this time around?  Well, according to the “Denver Post,” some election officials there don‘t think they will be finished counting mail-in ballots until after Election Day, quote, “It could be well into Wednesday before they have final results,” in Colorado.

So, yes (ph), new battleground states.  The states Obama headquarters maybe watching the closest and worrying about the most—Virginia, Virginia, Virginia.  What would Election Day chaos and strain look like in Virginia tomorrow?

Well, let‘s take just one precinct in Norfolk as an example.  According to the “Los Angeles Times,” in this one precinct, voter registration is up more than 40 percent since 2004.  The problem—is that polling place there was only allocated one extra voting machine since 2004.  That would mean each machine will likely be used by 350 voters.  For comparison sake, a state like Ohio, which is used to being a battleground, now mandates that each polling place have one machine for every 175 voters.

So, depending on the lines, that may mean you‘ve effectively got twice the right to vote in Ohio that you‘ve got in Virginia.  Is this the weak link in Obama‘s grand 50-state strategy?

Joining us now is former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder.  He is currently the mayor of Richmond, Virginia and he is a Barack Obama supporter.

Governor Wilder, i great to have you back on the show.  Thanks for joining us.

MAYOR DOUGLAS WILDER, (D) RICHMOND, VIRGINIA:  It always good being with you, Rachel.  And I really like the outlook that you‘ve been expressing in terms of let‘s look to what might happen and be prepared for it.

MADDOW:  Well, as you know, Virginia is not used to being a presidential battleground.  There are plenty close elections in Virginia but not at the presidential race.  Are you concerned about potential chaos tomorrow?

WILDER:  Yes, I am concerned about it.  I have expressed that concern.  I said that I would have liked to have seen the lines—the voting lines stay open because of the, hopefully, three hours difference.  Keep them open to two or three hours longer.  People don‘t have to break their necks and rush.

The unfortunate thing is that the people who brought the action in the court have waited a little bit, waited a little too late.  I have been assured by Governor Tim Kaine, my friend, and likewise a supporter of Obama, that all is well.  That people are prepared.

But as you so well point out, how can you be prepared for that, which you don‘t know.  We are going to have a greatest number of voters turning out in our state, perhaps, in our history.  And I can tell you, from watching some of the voting taking place in absentee lines on the first floor of city hall, good people or dedicated people, but they only have a few machines as you pointed out, and they were people in absentee lines waiting for four, five, six hours.

The judge that heard the case today in the federal court said he, himself, had to wait 2 ½ hours to vote absentee, right across the street from the balloting place.

So, if we are an advanced society, if our democracy is going to monitor elections all over the world and to tell other people how to do it, we have the money, we have the brains, we have the technology, why not use it?  Why not make voting an enjoyable thing?  Something that people can enjoy all through the day.  Why not make it a longer period of time, not demand it (ph)?  I mean, why don‘t states and representatives of the people understand that this is our opportunity to show the rest of the world?

I have been talking with media people from all around the world who are watching our election.  And it‘s very important that we do it right because if we don‘t, who will be to blame but ourselves.

MADDOW:  Governor Wilder, you mentioned the NAACP lawsuit on which there was a ruling today from the federal judge, there will not be a mandatory preemptive extension of the voting hours from 7:00 p.m.—the closing time from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

There‘s one other technical issue that I have been concerned about and have been sort of following, I understand that Virginia is one of the eight states that‘s using touchscreen machines and there‘s not state requirement that tells the polling places they‘ve got to have emergency paper ballots on hand in the event that any of those machines breakdown.

From what you know what‘s going to happen in Richmond and across the state, are you satisfied that good contingency plans are in place?

WILDER:  They say that.  And I have a personal conversation with our registrar‘s representative this afternoon in the city hall.  I talked with representatives of the state registrar‘s office.  And they say, we are ready, we are well-positioned.

Well, how do you know when you have never seen anything like this?  What have you put on additional people to the extent?  Have you put on extra machines to the extent?

Paper ballots ought to be in total abundance.  And I think there‘s going to be a time when we‘re going to return to two things—one paper and pencil and ballot, and the electronic vote.  Some states, for instance, I‘ve talked to some people in some countries, even.  It‘s a choice, if you want to go electronic, fine.  If you want paper and old fashion, you can.

But let‘s simplify, for whatever reasons, we—it doesn‘t make any sense for us in this stage of technology to have to wait until Wednesday to know what an election is.  We‘re going to some very tough times in this country.  Some people have thought some things didn‘t happen as they should have happened.  We can‘t afford to repeat that particularly this election because the eyes of the entire world are upon us.

MADDOW:  Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder, the former governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I thank you for your time tonight, sir.  And I am hereby wishing you short lines and happy voters tomorrow in the commonwealth.

WILDER:  Let us hope so.  And I hope I‘m wrong, but God knows it‘s very daunting out there.  Thank you very much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I hear you.  Thank you, governor.

Now that it is actually time to vote, the election becomes all about the ground game.  The Republicans are quietly working the last 24 hours of their vaunted 72-hour get out the vote program.  That would be the same program that put President Bush over the top in 2004.

Are we in for a surprise glut of GOP voters tomorrow?  Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown will be here to try to Talk Me Down in just a moment.

And, faced with a possible Republican blood bath in the down ballot House and Senate races, couldn‘t John McCain be doing more to help his congressional allies in his own party?  Does he still have congressional allies in his own party?  Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty joins us from Minnesota.

But first, just one more thing tonight, if early voting numbers are a predictor, Georgia may see record turn-out in this election.  But is Georgia ready for the crash of voters?  What if the state was missing, say, a voting machine?  It seems a devolved touchscreen model like this one, kind of like the ones used in Georgia turned up randomly and uninvited in a random woman‘s driveway last week in Alabama.

A driveway is in Russell County, Alabama.  Georgia officials reportedly checked out the machine, they are trying to see if it‘s theirs.  Given how unreliable most people think those touchscreen machines are, I‘m surprised it wasn‘t on that driveway up on blocks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Some sad news to report tonight.  Barack Obama‘s grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham has died after a long battle with cancer.  Last month, if you will recall, that Senator Obama left the campaign trail for a short time to be with her as her health declined.  He spoke about her passing earlier today in North Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘m not going to talk about it too long because it‘s hard to talk about.  She‘s 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Obama talked about his grandmother often.  He said she‘d poured everything she had into him.  It‘s hard to imagine the kind of emotions the senator is experiencing this night before the biggest day of his life.  Madelyn Dunham was 86 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Barack Obama supporters have a fail-safe, catch-all safety net of a comeback to any troubling news about poll numbers or trends or states in peril.  They‘ve got the ground game, the Obama ground game.  It‘s supposedly the big difference for the Democrats this year, right?  If you Google-search Obama ground game, you get like 358,000 of mentions.  Or you could just watch it get talked about all the time on television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF STRATEGIST:  Based on the organization we have on the ground, the reaction that we are getting that we‘re going to do very well.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO:  The Obama organization, the momentum, the canvassing, the enthusiasm among young voters, the organizational side is just outstanding.

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  The reason Georgia is so competitive right now is all the organizational groundwork we‘ve put in.  Yesterday, we have the biggest day of the campaign in terms of canvassing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The ground game is very good.

BILL BURTON, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  And on Election Day, we think that our turnout operation is in place to get the votes that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Very impressive.  Now, in contrast, what have you heard about the Republican ground game?

(INAUDIBLE)

MADDOW:  Yes, they don‘t talk about it.  They just do it.  And they don‘t necessarily rely on the candidates or on his campaign.  The Republican ground game, their get out the vote operation, it‘s mostly run through the Republican Party.  It‘s a 72-hour program.  And it was the critical factor in Bush‘s victories in both 2000 and 2004 in places like Southwestern Ohio.

This year, the RNC, the Republican Party, quietly, very quietly, is insisting that their operation is even stronger this time around.  The truth is, we know very little about what Republican voter turnout efforts will look like tomorrow.  They do not talk about it.  And that may strategically be a smart thing.

But if Republican voter turnout efforts look anything like 2004, I need some talking down about the possibility that the Democrats are in for a big surprise tomorrow.  Again.

Joining us now, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  Senator Brown, thank you very much for coming back on the show.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO:  Glad to be back.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, Paul Lindsay, who is a spokesman from the McCain campaign in Ohio, he tells the “Toledo Blade” this, quote, “We know we have a superior grassroots program and we are happy to talk about voter contact numbers on November 5th after Barack Obama is rejected by the voters of Ohio.”

That‘s the kind of quite, smug confidence from the Republican side that I‘m just talking about.  Do you think Democrats ought to be impressed, worried about the Republicans ground game?

BROWN:  Well, we should be impressed, but not worried.  I went through 2004 as everybody in my state did.  Part of their 72-hour program was based on passion for their candidate and excitement in that way.  We‘re not seeing that kind of excitement this year.

But more importantly than that is what we‘ve had in Ohio is months and months of good brick-by-brick building of this structure and this, to mix metaphor and go back to football, is the ground game.  And I‘ve never seen anything like this.  I‘ve been in politics for 30 years in the state, I‘ve never seen anything like the Obama organization.  And it‘s—there are other offices, there are 89 offices in this state.

The governor and I with former Senator John Glenn had been on a bus tour for the last eight or nine days, we visited 30 small towns, to smaller and more rural communities.  And I‘ve seen things I‘ve never seen in politics in this state.  Last weekend, just in this past weekend alone, 800,000 doors were knocked on by Obama volunteers just in this weekend.

And I visited boards of elections in Cleveland and Columbus several times in the last few days and to look at the lines of voters about to cast their votes, and early voting is just unbelievable.  And people who are standing in these lines, are waiting two, three, four hours.  They are not complaining.  They know this is an historic moment.  That‘s an indication, these long lines at boards of elections prior to Election Day over this weekend and today, tell me a whole lot more about our ground game and it‘s a whole lot better than it was in any year past.

MADDOW:  Strategically, it seems like there is a difference in focus for the Republicans and the Democrats in terms of get out the vote efforts.  The Democrats, as you‘ve mentioned, not only in Ohio but in lots and lots of states have focused on getting voters to early vote whenever they can, trying to essentially get people locked into their votes so that they focus their resources to get out the vote efforts on voters who have not yet voted closer toward Election Day.

Republicans, instead, are still focusing on Election Day, itself.  It is still a 72-hour program for them.  Have you seen a dramatic ramping up of the Republican efforts in your state?  Have you noticed, over the course of weekend, things seeming to get a lot more traction there?

BROWN:  No, I haven‘t.  I know they are doing this and I know they‘re going to have a good Election Day operation.  But, when you think about and in some counties, we‘re guessing as many as a third of voters will cast their votes early, meaning, by the close of business today.  So, they already have.  We don‘t know those numbers, of course, yet.

But let me give you one county.  Franklin County, second largest county of the state, the capital, Columbus.  There have been some 200,000 people that have voted early through today and it will be a little higher than that at the end of this day, at the end of Monday.  Two to one, twice as many Democrats as Republicans have cast ballots.  And the number of independents is equal to the number of Democrats.  So, roughly, 80,000 Democrats, 80,000 nonaligned or independent voters, mostly first time voters, fewer than 40,000 Republicans.

And I stood in those lines and talk to people.  And most of the unaffiliated voters which usually in Ohio by law means people who have never voted in the primary, most of them new voters.  Most of them are young and many of them are African-Americans.  So, the early voters clearly favor the Democrats by a ratio of better than two to one.  That relieves the pressure on Election Day.

We‘re not going to see huge lines.  People are going to be able to get in and out of the polls.  Ohio, as you suggested talking to former governor and now Mayor Wilder, Ohio is ready for this.  Ohio has a secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner that‘s a whole better and different from the secretary of state in 2004 election, George Bush‘s co-chairman for his campaign.

And we‘re ready.  The elections machinery is much more ready for this election coming up.  And the Democrats organization is so much more focused and sharp than it ever was.  And I think sharper than the Republican organization.

We know now who we have to get out to vote, who are identified Democrats, who are identified independents, and even Republicans leaning to Barack Obama.  And we know them in all 88 counties, unlike in the past when Democrats focused on 10 or 15 counties that John Kerry won decisively.  But those are all the counties he won.  So, we‘re just more ready tomorrow.

MADDOW:  Looking ahead to tomorrow—looking ahead to about roughly this time tomorrow, we‘ll know a lot more about how this election is going to unfold, if John McCain does end up winning Ohio and his campaign expresses confidence that they think they will, what do you think will have been decisive?  What do you think has been his greatest asset thus far?

BROWN:  Well, I think he talks taxes.  And that does concern—I mean, that‘s an issue that always works in Ohio, to a degree.  But when you, again, you look at Barack Obama, he‘s really blunted his tax attack by, again, explaining over and over with good facts and figures that the middle-class taxpayers in Ohio will get a break much more from Barack Obama than John McCain.

So, I think that John McCain has done what Republicans always do in my state.  They appeal to people‘s fears.  And that‘s—if Barack Obama loses the state and I absolutely don‘t think he will, I think he‘s going to win tomorrow night.  I think he‘s going to win by a decent enough margin.  And I think that‘s because people in this state are working harder than ever before and working a whole lot smarter than we have as a Democratic Party in the past.

So, I‘m confident.  I know they‘ll continue to play the people‘s fears of the unknown or other fears, but it‘s not going to work this year.

MADDOW:  Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, doing an excellent job, resisting my efforts to put a dark cloud in your silver lining here tonight.  Thank you for being with us tonight, sir.

BROWN:  Thanks, as always, Rachel.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Wish you a smooth election tomorrow.  Thanks.

There‘s a flier going around in Virginia that says that this year, Democrats are voting November 5th.  That would be a day late.  College kids are being told that their financial aid might be threatened if they voted college.  Do you smell bullpuckey?  There are people trying to steal your vote before you cast it.  Dead serious.  So, what can you do to keep these thieves from robbing you of your right as an American?  There is an answer.  And it‘s actually kind of easy.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  John McCain is all over the map right now.  No, he hasn‘t changed message, I don‘t think.  He‘s actually just traveling, big time.  In the final 24 hours, 13 states.  Now, what‘s not on his itinerary?  Stops to rally support for Congressional Republicans who find themselves caught in this year‘s huge Democratic up draft. 

In just a minute, Minnesota‘s Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty joins us to talk about John McCain‘s closing strategy. 

First, though, it‘s time for a few underreported, holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  In another sign of how swell the economy really isn‘t, U.S. auto sales fell for the 12th straight month, extending the longest slide in 17 years.  The big three U.S. automakers, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, along with Toyota, Honda and Nissan, all reported a steep decline in sales during the month of October. 

GM says that adjusted for population growth, October‘s industry-wide sales were probably the worst since World War II.  Wow.  GM actually reported this afternoon that its sales plunged 45 percent.  When I saw that number come across the wires today, I actually initially thought it was a typo.  This was GM‘s first month of less than 200,000 cars sold since at least the 1970‘s. 

The company says its financing arm, GMAC Financial Services is tightening its lending standards to require a credit score of at least 700 - that cost the automaker up to 60,000 sales last month.  You remember hearing about the credit crunch? This is the credit crunch. 

Money-losing GM is exploring a possible merger with money-losing Chrysler which posted a 35 percent decline in sales last month.  Whatever support the industry can get from the next president or even the current president and the lame-duck Congress might benefit that possible merger. 

Sales of the second largest U.S. automaker, Ford, dropped 30 percent.  Even the fuel-efficient Focus, sales of which increased over the summer, saw an 18 percent drop.  Ford said it could reduce production of money-losing vehicles and cutting overtime and suspending work at some of its plants.  Oh, good. 

Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain, you guys, sure you want this job?

And finally, imagine showing up to vote and seeing a group of uniformed mercenaries over-watching the polls.  This is not a story from some fledgling democracy in a developing nation; it‘s from Oregon. 

A CIA-linked private security contractor called Evergreen Defense and Security Services E-mailed Oregon County elections directors offering to provide private, for-profit security at every county election office on voting day tomorrow.  Quote, “EDSS proposes to post sentries at each voting center on November 4th to assure that disputes amongst citizens do not get out of control.  All guards will be unarmed but capable of stopping by violence that may occur and detaining the troublemakers until law enforcement arrives.”

According to “The Oregonian” John Lindback from the State Election Division replied with an E-mail asking the obvious question.  He wrote, quote, “Are you aware that county clerks rely on their county sheriffs for their security needs during an election and that state agencies are prepared and ready to assist in the event of emergencies?”

You know, an even better question someone might have thought to ask Evergreen Defense and Security Services is, “Do you guys know that Oregon is the only vote-by-mail state?” Right?  What, are you going to post a guard at every mailbox?  The spokesman for Evergreen says the company is less than a year old and still beating the bushes looking for work.  You guys keep looking. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It‘s election eve.  The Republican, a genuine war hero with a great sense of humor, is down in the polls on the wrong side of a steep electoral map mountain.  And let‘s face it.  The crowds at his events are underwhelming compared to his Democratic opponent.  What year is it again?  Because it kind of sounds like 1996. 

But from the look of things, John McCain is not about to go out in the same style that Bob Dole went out in.  At this time in 1996, Dole was not doodling the words Mr. President in the margin of his notebooks, or mentally redecorating the Oval Office.  In fact, Bob Dole spent the final days of the campaign pointedly not chasing the big, unlikely electoral map long shots. 

He instead traveled to states that wouldn‘t necessarily help him in his, at that point, theoretical effort to win the presidency.  But rather, he went to places where his presence could help down-ballot Republicans running for the House and the Senate.  John McCain, on the other hand, wants to make it very clear that he is still trying to win his own race. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am an American and I choose to fight.  Nothing is inevitable here.  We never give up.  We never quit.  We never hide from history.  We make history. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  There is another kind of history here, the unfortunate kind.  Laughing at the heels of a whole slew of Congressional Republicans from those in North Carolina, to Kentucky, to Minnesota, to name just three states where incumbent Republican senators are in the fights of their political lives. 

Rather than adding down-ballot burden to his work, McCain is instead focused on trying to hold on to his electoral votes in places like in Indiana, a state George Bush won by 20 points in 2004 and a state where John the fights of their political lives.  Rather than adding down ballot burden, McCain is focused on holding on to his electoral votes like in Indiana where George Bush won and where John McCain is now being forced to run defense. 

Of the other six states McCain will have visited by the end of the night tonight, only one, Pennsylvania, can really be called an offensive play.  Now, it‘s genuinely unclear to me, to be honest, who will win this race.  I do not think that anybody‘s got it in the bag.  McCain‘s challenge is certainly more winnable than Bob Dole‘s was this time, 12 years ago. 

But for a guy whose victory hinges on winning every single toss-up state, plus, some combination of Democratic-leaning states, he certainly seems to have an eerie confidence and his total focus on his own race as Election Day closes in on him and his party. 

Joining me now, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.  Gov.  Pawlenty, it‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show tonight.  Thank you so much for being with us. 

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN):  Hello, Rachel.  Thanks for giving a Republican a shot on this show.  We appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Absolutely.  I keep asking, but you guys are so recalcitrant. 

That‘s why we‘re very happy to have you. 

PAWLENTY:  I‘m available.  I‘m available.

MADDOW:  Oh, very good.  Very good.  Governor, nobody is suggesting that John McCain should stop trying to win the day before the election.  But had he chosen to spend more time in states where Republican incumbents are struggling like North Carolina, Kentucky, your own state of Minnesota, do you think he would be doing more to help the Republican Party rather than making these repeated visits to a state like Pennsylvania where really he is very, very far behind?

PAWLENTY:  Well, Rachel, with your background in political history, I think you‘ll remember that Bob Dole was quite a bit further behind than John McCain would be now.  And I think you acknowledged that in the lead-in to the story.  If you look at the most recent Rasmussen polls, for example, John McCain was in a plausible range of most, if not all of the swing states. 

And so while he is the underdog, he does face an uphill battle, it‘s not implausible that he can still win this race.  And I think abandoning that would be a disservice to the party and to his efforts in his campaign.  And he has been campaigning in some of the states that you mentioned. 

Finally, if the logic that you‘re using is true, then the inverse of the logic should also be true.  In other words, why isn‘t Barack Obama campaigning in places where he‘s got a big lead, where there‘s congressional seats at issue? 

One would be Minnesota.  Barack Obama hasn‘t been here in months, and yet he has a U.S. Senate race that is essentially tied with maybe the Republican having a slight advantage, Norm Coleman. 

MADDOW:  Well, all of the action in the presidential race seems to be happening in states that President Bush won in 2004.  Sen. Obama is up on average of I think about nine points in your home state of Minnesota.  And certainly, that Senate race is being very closely watched around the country. 

I feel like it‘s pretty clear that if Barack Obama were campaigning with Al Franken, it would help Al Franken.  If John McCain was campaigning with Norm Coleman, would it help Norm Coleman?

PAWLENTY:  Well, John McCain, until not so long ago, was doing pretty well in the polls here in Minnesota.  Now, it‘s an uphill - more of an uphill climb for him.  Although last night, we had a survey USA poll in Minnesota that showed the race here 49-46.  If it‘s accurate, the race in Minnesota would be within the margin of error. 

MADDOW:  It has - in looking at the polls in Minnesota, we typically think of it as a blue state, but it is really quite blue this year.  Do you think that is because of the economic crisis?  Do you think that is because the McCain campaign hasn‘t spent much time there since the RNC? Why isn‘t McCain leading in Minnesota at this point?

PAWLENTY:  Well, in fairness, Minnesota has a pretty deep liberal or Democratic tradition.  We have had some success in making it more competitive state.  And in the right year with the right candidate and the right message, Republicans can win here. 

And John McCain, I think, did some good things here, made some good progress here and still is competitive, I believe.  But it‘s a fiercely independent state, Rachel.  The Democrats have an advantage, but the plurality of people here are independents or ticket-splitters or swing voters.  So it can go back and forth depending on the year the candidate and the circumstances. 

MADDOW:  Gov. Pawlenty, it is political common wisdom that vice presidents don‘t make a difference too much when people go to vote.  People vote for the top of the ticket.  And the vice president is there to help with the campaigning.  But it‘s not - they are not necessarily determinative in terms of how the vote goes. 

You - everybody knows, you‘re on the very, very short list to be John McCain‘s running mate.  It has been a surprise to a lot of people that so many Americans have a strongly negative opinion of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential choice at this point in the race.  Do you think that she will ultimately go down as a help or hurt to John McCain‘s chances of winning this race?

PAWLENTY:  Well, that‘s a debate that will go on, I‘m sure, for a long time.  But in the end, it will be answered by the data.  I think Sen.  McCain believes that he was facing a deficit position.  This campaign had to do something bold or take a bit of a gamble.  I think she has energized the base and Sen. McCain believes she has appealed beyond just the base.  And, you know, that seemed to be working post-convention.  Of course, many other things happened since then. 

MADDOW:  Do you think that - do you believe she has appealed beyond the base?  Do you think that she‘ll be a big a part of the leadership of the party moving forward even if she‘s not elected vice president?

PAWLENTY:  Well, again, I think those questions will be answered by the data and people can all spot off with their opinions and the like.  But clearly, she‘s a very - person with a lot of skill - I think a lot of ability and Sen. McCain believes she‘s going to be - has had appeal across the country. 

And look at those rallies.  Look at the excitement she has brought out, not just from Republicans but from people across the country, from other political stripes as well. 

MADDOW:  Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Republican of Minnesota.  Thank you so much for coming on the show.  And I wish you a safe, smooth and happy election tomorrow. 

PAWLENTY:  All right, Rachel.  Thank you very much for having me. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  If anybody tells you, you can vote by phone this election, hang up.  If someone threatens your college financial aid if you vote, hang up.  If someone tells you to vote November 5th instead of November 4th, yell at them then hang up.  The dirty tricks trolls are out in force.  We will have more on that in just a moment. 

But first, one more thing about the McCain campaign‘s advertising team.  You might remember last week, we showed you this ad, where they misspelled the word “everybody,” leaving out the liberal elitist “Y” in the middle?  Well, unbelievably and inexplicably, they have done it again. 

Check out this new online ad from the McCain campaign attacking Barack Obama for wanting to spread the wealth.  It says, quote, “I don‘t know when they decided to make a virture (sic) out of selfishness.”  “Virture?”  You mean “virtue?”  Look, I know campaign funds are hard to come by around there but - “virture?”  Can‘t you guys spare a few bucks for some dictionaries?  Maybe they spell them at Neiman Marcus? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  After pouring everything they‘ve got into the presidential race, the principals leave as little as possible to chance at the last second.  And that includes superstitions.  James Carville famously refused to change his underpants while Bill Clinton was winning.  Tomorrow, Dick Cheney will do what he always does on Election Day.  He‘ll go pheasant hunting in South Dakota. 

If you think you‘re nervous tonight, imagine the pheasants.  Barack Obama will shoot hoops like he always does on voting day.  John McCain‘s superstition?  He goes to the movies on Election Day.  At least he used to, even right through the primaries.  But not this time, apparently. 

McCain is tempting fate and staying out on the campaign trail campaigning to the bitter end in Colorado and New Mexico.  He‘s giving up his lucky movie tradition this year.  Is that change we can believe in?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There is bad news and good news this election eve.  The bad news, there‘s a crime wave going on.  People are trying to steal from you as we speak - steal, rob, burgle, pilfer, abscond.  That is the bad news.  The good news?  Unlike most arch-criminals, these thieves can be stopped if you just ignore them.  Can you imagine if Batman could have ignored the Joker?  Holy simple solution. 

Well, what treasure do these thugs want from you?  They want your vote.  They want your power.  Anyone who tells you, you can vote by phone in this election is lying and trying to steal your vote.  You cannot cast your vote by phone.  Anyone tells you, you are risking arrest or traffic tickets or outstanding warrants by turning up and voting tomorrow, they are lying to you and trying to steal your vote.  You will not be arrested at your polling place. 

Anyone who tells that you are expected to show up to vote on Wednesday instead of on Tuesday because of high expected turnout or something, they are lying to you and they are trying to steal your vote.  The last day to vote is tomorrow, Tuesday. 

If anyone threatens your college financial aid or tells you your parents will not be able to claim you as a dependent on their taxes anymore, if you vote where your college is instead of where your parents live, say it with me now, they are lying to you and are trying to steal your vote.  The Supreme Court has affirmed that college students have the right to vote where they go to school. 

Now, in an ideal world, candidates would each try to persuade the largest possible number of Americans that they‘d be the better elected official.  And that‘s how elections would go.  Who ever persuaded more Americans to their side would win. 

In the real world, there‘s a whole lot of hullabaloo and holy-baloney that gets in between us deciding who we want to vote for and our votes actually getting cast and counted. 

First, it‘s the voter registration purges.  With election officials looking to produce the smallest possible roster of eligible voters, kicking people off the voter rolls for squinting in their ID photo or whatever. 

Then, it‘s the allocation of voting machines and poll workers and the restricted polling place hours to ensure that you have to be able to afford to wait in line a really, really, really long time if you want the privilege - I mean, the right of casting that precious ballot. 

Then it‘s these last-minute dirty tricks that fall somewhere between mob tactics and the kind of prank calls that Bart Simpson makes to Moe‘s bar, “Is Mr. Kaholic there?  Al Kaholic?” 

Voters in Virginia have been getting these flyers with the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia on them, the letterhead of the Virginia State Board of Elections.  And they tell them that if they‘re planning on voting for a Democratic candidate, they should show up the day after Election Day. 

Robo calls in the Pittsburgh area are telling voters the same thing.  Voters in Broward County, Florida have been getting calls that sound like they‘re from the county election supervisor inviting them to vote by phone instead of at the polling place.  Same thing in Nevada, where Latino voters are being targeted with the same vote by phone scam. 

At Drexel University in Philly, flyers warning students that voting would cause them to risk arrest at the polling place. 

Here‘s what I think about this anti-democratic, “steal your vote, screw the heroes who died for this right,” underhanded, cowardly, sniveling, illegally intimidating and misleading, unpatriotic, anti-American, bull pucky.  I‘m not crazy about it. 

And since it‘s illegal, and since it happens to a greater or lesser degree in every election now, it would be nice to see this stuff get prosecuted every once in a while. 

In the meantime, we can all fight back by not being intimidated, not getting tired, not letting the obstacle course they are making you run through keep you from exercising your right as an American to participate in this big group decision we call democracy. 

After eight years of perhaps the most incompetent government in American history, we‘ve got one way to fix it now, one way to exchange a president who is more despised by his own people than any other president in the time that polls existed.  Choose who you will, but do not give up the power to choose by letting anyone or anything stop you from voting.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Now, it‘s time for a big election cake and also “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent.  What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Good evening, Rachel.  Well, we have heard from dozens of pollsters about this election.  But there‘s one important group of predictors we haven‘t heard from - the astrologers. 

According to the esteemed Indian stargazer Raj Kumar Sharma, quote, “The circumstances and conjunction of stars are very clearly indicating that John McCain is going to lose this election and Barack Obama is going to win at least by 10 percent.” 

Take that, Zogbi (ph).  Sharma also points out that Jupiter has been rising in Obama‘s horoscopes since December of 1999 and would remain in the ascendancy until  September of 2015, making the rise of this powerful Leo unstoppable. 

He also warned against complacency and wants everyone to put down the damned Xbox and go vote tomorrow.  OK.  That was me.  I‘m a Gemini. 

Next, regardless of what happens here, the rest of the world loves Barack.  Here‘s an election-inspired art show which opened yesterday in Geneva.  Oh, look, Sarah Palin. 

I guess the Swiss aren‘t neutral about her, hmm.  My favorite part of the show - Obama‘s speeches play in the background while this guy dances.  Check it out.  Oh, yes. 

MADDOW:  Wow.

JONES:  Yes.  That‘s called the Ro-bama.  It‘s hard.  Finally, I know what you‘re thinking, if only someone would show me pictures of an elephant and donkey picking a candidate. 

Well, here to help at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California - Valerie, a 26-year-old female African elephant voted for Barack Obama.  But, wait, I promised you a donkey.  And there she is - that sister, a 33-year-old female Mediterranean donkey who voted for John McCain. 

The moral, after 22 months of the longest, hardest, weirdest campaign in history, don‘t be an ass.  Go vote, everybody. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much, Kent. 

JONES:  Oh, what cake is this?

MADDOW:  We have a cake.  And I‘m going to eat the - I‘m going to eat some of it.  I hope you don‘t mind. 

JONES:  No, no.  There we go.

MADDOW:  I like the cake.  And thank you very much for watching tonight. 

We‘ll see you here tomorrow for our special election night coverage. 

Later on, I‘m going to eat John McCain‘s head.  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Good night.

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