updated 11/6/2008 12:54:12 PM ET 2008-11-06T17:54:12

COUNTDOWN

November 5, 2008

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, Dawna Friesen, David Shuster, Chris Cillizza, Chris Kofinis

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

President-elect Barack Obama: As the news reverberates still through the nation, through and the world, the annals of math.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR: It is now 11:00 o'clock on the east coast, and, Keith, we can report history.

OLBERMANN: Barack Obama is projected to be the next president of the United States of America.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF UNITED STATES: While we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes, we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And a new timeless question: Now what? Is Congressman Emanuel chief of staff, or not? The first cabinet rumors: Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Jon Corzine, Lawrence Summers? With Howard Fineman on staffing out a sea change; Richard Wolffe on the conversion from candidate to president; Chris Cillizza on the Senate and House. A recount for him-

Al Franken.

Neither gone nor forgotten.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: If I cost John McCain even one vote, I am sorry about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Never mind costing votes, the shopping spree might have cost him much more than $150,000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: They know that certainly there's absolutely no diva in me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: If not diva, how about this? A McCain aide calls the Palins, quote, "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and vows-the truth will come out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I don't know what the heck is going to happen in 2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: So let us luxuriate on what will be happening through at least 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR: If he loses Ohio, he goes from 286 which the Republicans carried in 2004, down to 266 and that puts him below the 270 threshold to win the White House.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Guess what, Karl? I just received word that the state of Ohio has gone to Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Oh, snap.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HUME: So, um.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, November 5th, 76 days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

But the only remaining question about the election of the 44th president: Was it just a mandate or was it both a mandate and a landslide?

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Either way, who knew? It turns out the country was in the tank for Obama.

You can exhale now.

This man is officially president-elect. Last night, 250,000 people in Chicago's Grant Park, 78 million more are watching on television, watching Barack Obama win the White House. About the other numbers, Bill Clinton got 370 electoral votes, then, 379, George Bush, 271, and then 286. With only one state now left to call, North Carolina, President-elect Obama leading Senator McCain 349 Electoral College votes to 173. No chance of a Reagan-style landslide, but in this era of the assumed 45-45 split, what may be a neo-landslide.

The Democrat is winning the popular vote by a six point margin of 52 to 46, with nearly 64 million votes for Mr. Obama and more than 56 million for Senator McCain. Mr. Obama beginning his first day as president-elect by having breakfast at home with his daughters, then a trip to the gym before heading downtown to thank campaign staffs. Top of agenda: picking a new White House staff. Advisors are saying that Obama wants Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel, a veteran of the Clinton White House, to be his chief of staff.

From the Rose Garden this morning, if the 43rd president was feeling hurt by the Democrat's landslide victory, he succeeded in keeping that to himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday. Across the country, citizens voted in large numbers. They showed a watching world a vitality of America's democracy and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union. It shows the president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story. It'll be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And the same went for the current secretary of state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: One of the great things about representing this country is that it continues to surprise. It continues to renew itself. It continues to beat all odds and expectations. You just know that Americans are not going to be satisfied until they really do form that perfect union. And while the perfect union may never be in sight, we just keep working at it and trying. And I just want to close on a personal note as an African-American, I'm especially proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, joining us from Chicago where he spent election night with the Obama campaign.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Before any talk of dirty politics or the pick of Sarah Palin, should the takeaway from this election be, on a political level, that the president-elect won not because of what anybody else did or because of unexpected economic developments, but because he ran a superior, even perhaps superlative campaign?

WOLFFE: Yes. You know, you hear the conventional wisdom coming from Republicans that if it were enough of the economic crisis, everything would have been OK, or at least, the race would have been closer. And it reminds me of the excuses you heard after 2006 mid-terms when people said, especially one Karl Rove, when they said, you know, if it weren't for those sex scandals and corruption stories, we would have been just fine.

That's not just the case here because I think, you know, Hillary Clinton was right. This is an extended job interview, these presidential campaigns. What's more important than the crisis of the stories that cropped up in the campaign, is how the candidates react to it. Here, you have a candidate who reacted to it with a very even keel and presidential-style temperament. And his campaign kept its focus on their strategic goals, didn't bounce around from message to message.

Those are very important lessons. If Republicans want to correct their mistakes, they need to understand why they lost first.

OLBERMANN: How does on the Democratic side of things, the celebration last? How long until the reality, it's not exactly buyers remorse, the analogy has to be something different, but this reality kicks in that this is not the ideal time in history to be a president?

WOLFFE: Well, inside Obama's inner circle, they are certainly aware of the problems. In fact, more than that, they're daunted by them to some degree, humbled by them. And certainly, the president-elect knows that this is an incredibly full agenda and an ambitious project that he has in these difficult times. But there's another aspect to this, which is that presidents, president-elects like to have big issues to deal with. That chance at reaching for greatness comes from the greatness of the challenges.

So, in their own minds, they know that there are people out there in the economy, also with the national security threat, that desperately need their help. So, this is a challenge that, in some ways, they relish as much as, well, it's not dread, they at least know the scale of the challenge.

OLBERMANN: As to the current president, he seemed to be expressing a genuine admiration, even a pride in the Obama victory and what we heard from him at the Rose Garden this morning. It would be hard to fake that. Was it genuine? If it was genuine, why was he not upset by what was contained in the decision last night, this electorate's utter repudiation of his entire eight years in office?

WOLFFE: Yes. I know they don't look at it inside the west wing as saying, well, you know, it's a great stride for this country that we messed it up enough so that an African-American president could be elected.

You know, I was speaking to a number of White House officials about this and it does seem very genuine. You've got to understand a couple of things, set aside everything that's happened over the last eight years for a minute, but here's a president who did appoint one of the most, if not the most, diverse cabinets in American history, two African-American secretaries of states. He likes to think of himself as being very open-minded particularly on issues of race. And, I think, there is a genuine admiration for what Obama has been able to achieve here.

Of course, there was a certain amount of distance, shall we say, a coldness even between the McCain camp and President Bush, notably being disinvited to the Republican convention. But when it comes to how he's preparing to transition and even welcome the Obamas, I think this is very serious and very genuine.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, in Chicago for us tonight. As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And after the longest and most expensive campaign in American history, the question one we will ask nightly until at least the inauguration, is one post by a very different and a very fictional candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE CANDIDATE"/ WARNER BROS.)

ROBERT REDFORD (as Bill McKay): Marvin, what do we do now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Obama's first "What do we do now," obvious. The transition from the president to the president-elect, from the campaign to the president-elect, the answer is, Obama will move, quote, "quickly but not hastily," according to an unnamed source close to the transition. The Obama-Biden transition team is already in place. Former Clinton chief of staff, John Podesta will be its co-chair.

As we mentioned, Congressman Emanuel has been offered chief of staff. And yet another veteran from the Clinton administration, the former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, a top contender to fill that critical position once again, although controversy at Harvard might follow him this time. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is also reportedly on the short list for that job. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is widely rumored may remain in his post for the near future, anyway.

And to further nod to bipartisan, the retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska maybe asked to become Gates' eventual replacement or to accept another key position on Obama's national security team.

Caroline Kennedy, from Obama's V.P. selection team, in consideration for ambassador to the U.N., according to Politico.com. Her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a possible choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. And more marquee name prospects include former Secretary of State Colin Powell for secretary of education.

Let's bring in "Newsweek" magazine's senior Washington correspondent and political columnist, our own Howard Fineman.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. First, transition in wartime in 40 years, plus a recession already in progress, might this transition like this campaign itself recast how this whole thing is done by necessity?

FINEMAN: Yes, and it has already. Obama is changing everything as he moves. His victory speech last night in Grant Park which was so memorable on so many levels was also the first speech of his administration three months before it begins. He said, we're at the base of the mountain, not at the mountain top, and exuded a core of sort of sense of sober "let's roll up our sleeves" determination you're seeing reflective in the fact that he got this transition system running two or three months ago.

Another example of this guy's ability to plan and look ahead, look over the horizon. They've been working for months on this, Keith, just as they worked for months on the campaign itself before anybody knows.

OLBERMANN: The names that we mentioned here, they are just some of many possibilities that have surfaced for the new administrations. It's all over the place. But what will be-is there going to be an overarching theme in the appointments? We discussed this last night, competency, bipartisanship, diversity, newness, where are they going?

FINEMAN: Well, it's going to be all of those. But I think, if you had to pick one, it would be excellence. Barack Obama is a guy who appreciates excellence and focus. He is a guy who appreciates results. As we reported reportedly, he doesn't like drama queens, doesn't like egomaniacs, doesn't leakers, which eliminates about ¾ of the people in Washington for sure.

And that's what he's going to focus on. It will be naturally diverse and naturally bipartisan. He's not going to pick people to fit slots because they are Republican, because they are an African-American, because they are Hispanic, he believes that the country has changed enough and developed enough and is diverse enough as his own election has now shown, that he can pick the best people all across the spectrum and will reflect the whole country. But it's going to be excellence first and experience.

He's a young guy, but he is a guy who doesn't mind having senior people around, at least to talk to, if not to necessarily having cabinet positions.

OLBERMANN: As the game plan in the first 100 days, the first six months, even with budget constraints, does he want to come out with centerpieces of legislation, the grand ark of the first few months, or is it problem-solving? Is there any indication on that yet?

FINEMAN: Oh, no. He's not an in-basket guy. He's not a guy who waits for stuff to come in and be thrown on his desk. He's pro-active and he's thinking deeply and seriously, and in a big way, about a big economic rescue package or a recovery plan of some kind of his own. He's been encouraged already to think that way by Ben Bernanke of the Fed and by other people who are experts on the economy, including Larry Summers, who you show there before.

It's going to be big and it's going to be bold and it's going to be detailed. And I can tell you, they are already working on the details of it now. We won't know for awhile, but they are already game-planning it.

OLBERMANN: Is this the quote that's over his desk right now. The Leon Panetta quote, you better damn will do the tough stuff up front and make decisions that involve pain and sacrifice?

FINEMAN: Well, I think he's not naive. I think he knows that that's going to be true all the way along. The country is essentially broke. There is a credit crisis in the world. He's been handed a big set of problems. The guy I saw last night seemed very soberly determined to roll up his sleeves and tackle it.

Yes, I think with that economic rescue package, he's going to deal with taxes right upfront, Keith, because he knows taxes. He's going to raise taxes on anybody, he's going to have to do it right off the bat when his numbers are high and when he's got momentum and the wind at his back. So, he'll do all of that big and bold right at the beginning.

OLBERMANN: Not the coincidence that the steepness of the slope was mention last night within an hour of Mr. McCain's concession.

FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek," great thanks tonight and, of course, Howard, great thanks for all your help during this election season.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith. Thanks very much.

OLBERMANN: Which is hardly over-as many as four Senate seats still up for grabs tonight. One already into a state mandated automatic recount even though the incumbent Republican is actually saying his Democratic challenger should fight to stop the recount. And there's another Republican, a John McCain's staffer calling Sarah and Todd Palin, "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast."

And you thought we'd run out of great stuff to talk about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The recount in Minnesota. The convicted felon reelected in Alaska. The possible revote in Georgia and chaos in Oregon. As clear as the presidential was, that's how uncertain four critical Senate elections remain. The latest-next.

Bushed: The first lady versus the vice president over sharks. Worsts:

Rush, Billo, Bill Kristol. And the final Campaign Comment.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: There were so many last minute fear cards play that you may have missed this one. The horrible fear that the nation might dissolve into a pile of liquefied milk duds if the same party will have control the White House, the Senate, and the Congress.

The talking point got out enough that the anchor of another news broadcast this hour reported yesterday that last time it happened, it didn't go so well. And people who have been worried about the possibility of one party controlling Congress and the White House, the last president to do that, of course, was, Jimmy Carter, a swing and a miss. Her colleague tried to correct her, Bill Clinton, swing and another miss.

Correct answer: George W. Bush, that current guy-early 2001, and again from 2003 through 2006.

Anyway, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: No Republicans in charge of anything but by how much the Democrats will be, still very much in doubt in the Senate. Not in North Carolina, though, Senator Elizabeth Dole losing her seat 44 percent to Democratic challenger Kay Hagan's 53 percent of the vote. First time since 1952, there will not be a Bush or a Dole in a prominent elected position, this after Senator Dole attempted to paint her opponent, a former Sunday school teacher, as godless.

North Carolina, one of five Senate seats the Democratic Party picked up, giving them a current total of 56, another four seats still up for grabs. In Oregon, the incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith was ahead in the polls, but given that the uncounted vote is primarily from Democratic areas, Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley could easily pick this seat and went ahead earlier in the evening.

In Minnesota, a mere 465 votes separating incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken. That contest heading to an automatic recount, even though Coleman is trying to paint Franken as a bad man for not demanding that there not be a recount.

In Georgia, incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss in danger of losing the seat he took from Vietnam vet and triple amputee Max Cleland in 2002. Having failed so far to get 50 percent of the vote, Chambliss is now facing the possibility of a December 2nd runoff election, in essence a revote against the Democrat Jim Martin.

And in Alaska, convicted felon and incumbent Republican Senator Stevens neck and neck with Democratic challenger Mark Begich, even if he holds on to his seat, Stevens facing probably expulsion from the Senate which would trigger a special second election.

We're joined now by Chris Cillizza, who, of course, authors "The Fix" at WashingtonPost.com.

Chris, thanks for your time.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Thanks for having me, Keith. We made it.

OLBERMANN: Yes, we did somehow, and, of course, we say we made it but it is not over. To those in a moment, but right now, would the Democrats have enough gains in the Senate to make a difference in how they can run that place and does that gain of 17 in the House change the dynamic there?

CILLIZZA: Let's do the Senate first. I think, it's likely you are going to see probably 57 or 58 seats, ultimately for Democrats in the Senate. Every Democrat I talked to in Oregon feels pretty good about that. Gordon Smith had led, Jeff Merkley now ahead, the Democrat. A lot of those votes as you mentioned, Keith, are in Multnomah County, that's Portland, that's obviously a pretty strong Democratic area.

The other three much more up for grabs. But still, 57, 58 seats, it's more substantial control. Remember, they had 51 with Joe Lieberman counted as a Democrat. It's still a body where any one senator can filibuster. Democrats are not likely to get to that 60 number to break those filibusters. So, they will have more control. They'll be able to push more of their agenda, but they are not going to have iron-fisted control.

OLBERMANN: What do they do about-you mentioned Lieberman-what do they do about him now? We understand, Harry Reid is going to meet with him behind closed doors tomorrow. What happens behind closed doors tomorrow?

CILLIZZA: This is actually fascinating, Keith. I think if Democrats have gotten to 60, including Lieberman, Lieberman might have remained in the Democratic caucus. I think, now they are likely to be at, as I said, 56, 57, 58, they are not going to get to 60, I think that probably means Joe Lieberman's time in the Democratic caucus is narrow.

Remember, I talked to a lot of Democrats after the Republican National Convention. They saw that as the final straw. That Lieberman have said he would speak at the Republican convention, but not speak ill of Barack Obama. They view his speech as breaking that pledge. And I think, for many of them, that was the breaking point.

OLBERMANN: Norm Coleman and Al Franken, the Republicans are confident that the recount would still have Coleman ahead there. (A), should they be? And (B), how on earth is Franken in the wrong for not demanding that there should be no recount when state law demands a recount?

CILLIZZA: Well, first question, there's 2.6 million or 2.7 million votes cast. So, when you're losing by 465 votes, you should never be totally sure of defeat or victory. Things can change.

Now, what Coleman is trying to do-last night, I got statements from Mitch McConnell, from Jon Kyl, from every person in the Republican leadership, proclaiming happy they were that Norm Coleman had won. What he's trying to do, this is an old and tried true sports tactic, if your team is ahead, when there's controversy at the end of the game, you get them all in the bus and drive away as quickly as possible. That's essentially what we are seeing here.

Al Franken is well within his rights to ask for-to comply with a recount. He could say, no, I don't want one, but he's only losing by 465 votes. That one, I think, though, Keith, mid-November at the earliest, could even be until December until we know who wins.

OLBERMANN: And lastly, what happens now to the congressional leadership for the Republicans? Who are they? Are there any leaders? Who's running this party?

CILLIZZA: Well, I think, there's a couple big fights that are going to go on. I actually do think in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is safe. He won very narrowly. I don't see anybody who's going to be able to take him out.

John Boehner, the congressman from Ohio, who's the highest ranking Republican in the House, put out a letter this morning saying he is going to pursue that job. It looks like he's unchallenged right now. It looks like the infighting is going to be down ticket.

The other big thing to watch, real quickly, though, Keith, is the next chairman of the RNC. They are not going to decide that. The Republican National Committee will decide that in early January, right around when Barack Obama is sworn in. That's going to be a huge fight and a real signal to whether the party is going to move more to the center or more to the right.

OLBERMANN: Is it going to be Todd Palin?

Chris Cillizza, author of "The Fix" on WashingtonPost.com. Hey, it's an idea. Many thanks, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: You heard something maybe about the world's reaction to this election? They weren't all like this but the front page of the Pravda Web site read, quote, "The End of Eight Years of Hell." Speaking of which, the Worsts Person all-star stage a post-election battle royale for the honors tonight. Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: "If it were possible for me to get to the United States on my bicycle, I would." Those are the words of Joe-Joe the Carpenter, the citizen of Nairobi, Kenya, celebrating Barack Obama's win last night. That country, the prominence (ph) of Obama's own father, declaring a national holiday as the dawn of a new Thursday and new world nears. The current world has been nearly as caught up in this remarkable 24 hours as had we.

Dawna Friesen offers us a roundup from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today, in every language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama.

FRIESEN: . a newscast in almost every country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the new world.

FRIESEN: There was only one story. Barack Obama has, as one German newspaper put it, resurrected the American Dream. His victory touching a chord from South Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very nice to see a black man leading with them, such as example.

FRIESEN: To Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that the American people did the right thing.

FRIESEN: Even in Cuba.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I feel my belief, my faith in America is my faith in Obama.

FRIESEN: At parties in France-in London-and in Japan, people stayed up to watch him win, to share in the moment. Among the flood of congratulations, a letter from an icon of reconciliation, Nelson Mandela:

"Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place."

In Indonesia, NBC's Ian Williams witnessed the excitement at Obama's former elementary school.

IAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There's enormous excitement at the election of a man who lived here for four years as a child. At Obama's his old school, children were glued to the television, cheering him on. The election has generated enormous hope here in the world's most populous Muslim country.

FRIESEN: But on his first day as president-elect, already signs of the challenges Obama faces. No congratulations from Russia's President Medvedev today. He did call for constructive dialogue, but then threatened to place new missiles near Poland's border. Afghanistan Hamid Karzai applauded American for its courage in electing Obama, but demanded he help end civilian casualties by NATO forces.

MICHAEL BINYON, "TIMES OF LONDON": I think Obama has a big mountain to climb to reestablish America's credibility and popularity in the world and that's going to be a big issue. It's the first thing he's got to tackle overseas and I think he knows it.

FRIESEN: For so many, though, like Palestinian artist Walid el Ayub (ph), Obama embodies hope. "We are always searching for a savior," he says, "maybe Obama can deliver peace." So much riding on one set of shoulders.

(on camera): No one doubts Obama's ability to inspire. The question now is, can he fulfill the expectations? For now at least, he has the good will of much of the world on his side. Keith?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: Thank you, Dawna. Dawna Friesen in London.

And thank you, Sarah Palin. The saga continues. As a McCain aide calls her and her husband "Wasilla hill billies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." The shopping spree cost a lot more than reported.

And then some things are just priceless. The night in history in the final campaign comment. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best persistence, an unnamed 38-year-old woman in Osaka, Japan, arrested for having phoned the emergency police number repeatedly between September 14th and October 13th of this year, 7,177 times! She was apparently annoyed at the cops. Or she may have thought she was John McCain's brother, Joe.

Number two, best metaphor, an unnamed woman jogger from Chino Valley, California, who ran a mile to a local hospital even though she had been attacked by a rabid small animal who was still clinging to her arm by its teeth for the whole mile. The rabid animal that bit her and clamped its jaws to her arm and refused to let go was a Fox. Of course, it was.

And number one, best explanation for everything, a teaser from the "Newsweek" election post-mortum: at the Republican convention, McCain campaigners Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt went to the hotel room of Governor Palin to brief her, and were surprised when, quote "Palin sailed into the room with wearing nothing but a towel with another on her wet hair." I'm confused, wasn't that the point of her nomination?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Dole and Kemp, Gore and Lieberman, Kerry and Edwards, John McCain and Sarah Palin; our third story tonight, today's losing losers, how they lost and what follows their loss now that they have lost. Republican vice-I mean, embattled Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today was asked whether she helped cost McCain the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I don't think anybody should give Sarah Palin that much credit that I would trump an economic woeful time in this nation that occurred about two months ago, that my presence on the ticket would trump the economic crisis that America found itself in a couple of months ago, and attribute John McCain's loss to me. Having said that, if I cost John McCain even one vote, then I am sorry about that, because John McCain, I believe, is the American hero. I had believed that it was his time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Is Palin getting too much credit for McCain's loss? An NBC/"Wall Street Journal" Republican pollster reports that after last night's results, only 18 percent of Republicans surveyed want Governor Palin as the party's leader and new details perhaps about why. "Newsweek" reporting that Neiman Marcus-gate was worse than we know, that McCain aides say Palin spent, quote, tens of thousands more than that 150,000 reported, including as much as 40,000 for the first dude's new duds.

A Palin aide replied "Newsweek's" report that Palin had lower level aides put her purchases on their own credit cards, saying, quote, "Governor Palin was directing staffers to put anything on their credit cards." And then, astonishingly, in the same sentence, acknowledging, "anything that staffers put on their credit cards has been reimbursed."

A McCain aide called the shopping spree-and this is one for you sig file-quote, "Wasilla hill billies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." Damned Republican elites. "Newsweek reports that McCain barely even spoke with Palin during their campaign and that campaign strategist Steve Schmidt had to smack Palin down when she asked whether or not she could speak to the nation during last night's concession speech. Lose your own damn presidential election.

Let's bring in Democratic strategy, Chris Kofinis, formerly communications director for the Edwards campaign. Chris, good evening.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Here come the post-mortums. This "Wall Street Journal" timeline was there was the shaky practice debate by Palin, which caused McCain to want to push the reset button on his campaign, hence, suspending it for the economic crisis. The story, their cover story, the spin, the alibi today is, it was a financial crisis that did it to John McCain. Is that accurate? Or was it how he handled it that was more of an impact on the campaign?

KOFINIS: I think it was how he handled it. You can't control whether a crisis happens. Let's be frank, when an economic crisis of this magnitude happens, especially in this political climate, it wasn't going to help John McCain. But how they handled it exposed serious flaws in McCain's candidacy.

You kind of have to point to two big things. The first one was when he came out-and I think it's one of the statements that people are going to be looking at really as really a defining moment-when he came out and said the economy was fundamentally sound, it was so out of touch, it basically reinforced everything the Obama campaign had been saying for months.

The second thing is when they chose to suspend their campaign and take 24 hours to go from New York to D.C. and basically not lead on the issue. Again, it just exposed that this was another political stunt instead of real leadership. When you put those two events together, it just made people wonder, wait a second; does this candidate, does John McCain have the judgment and the crisis management skills to lead this country in a serious time?

And I think what you saw on Tuesday night was voters said, no. We think Barack Obama can do a much better job.

OLBERMANN: And Governor Palin's roll in this; now this poll about who the Republicans want them to lead, Romney and Huckabee both finished ahead of her in that poll. If she doesn't, say, leave politics voluntarily or involuntarily in Alaska, she might stick around to be slowest moving target imaginable for comedians and commentators? It would be like shooting moose from a chopper. What now for Sarah Palin?

KOFINIS: Well, no candidate that I can think of has ever risen so fast and fall so hard. Sarah Palin has clearly gotten a taste of the limelight and clearly a taste for Neiman Marcus. I don't expect her to going away any time soon. In fact, you know, it's going to be like a bad comedy or a ad horror movie, depending on your perspective. She's going to be back, I would assume, in 2012, which is probably going to go back to Alaska, lay low for a while, then she's going to end up doing the fund raising conservative circuits, if you will, and then coming out and talking a little bit more substantively and gearing up for a race in 2012.

But this is an amazing transformation. She went from an unknown figure to a star to a caricature in about two months. And it's amazing that she actually thinks she has a future. But I guess maybe stranger things have happened, but I can't think of it right now.

OLBERMANN: I may have to donate to her campaign just to keep her in the news. More broadly, after all this, with this defeat, what is the Republican party right now? There's no Congressman in the northeast now, is from this party. They have the South, some of the West, mostly in low-population states. Is this a national party at the moment?

KOFINIS: Well, it is at least in name. There's a civil war that is going to brew, if not erupt, within the Republican party, between the moderate wings and the more conservative right wings. And it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. What's fascinating to me is listening to some of these conservative commentators. It's like, did they watch the election on Tuesday, in terms of what's happening?

There is an ideological and demographic shift happening in this country that's putting the Republicans in a deeper hole. The way they talk about issues is not connecting with voters. And the way they talk about their ideology and philosophy is not connecting with voters. They keep talking about Ronald Reagan like he was in office two years ago. It was 28 years ago when he got sworn in.

So the notion that they can simply just go back to conservative principles, become more conservative and they're going to resurrect the party-listen, as a Democrat, I hope they keep following that philosophy, because it will be good for us.

OLBERMANN: What about McCain himself. Clearly, his finest two moments in the campaign, when he defended Obama in the town hall in Minnesota, and last night when he defended Obama again. Does he become actually a maverick now against his own party and work with the president-elect?

KOFINIS: I think you saw an inkling of that last night. I thought it was a very gracious speech and a very powerful speech, just emotionally, in terms of understanding how historically significant it was that we were electing Barack Obama as the first African-American president. But I think what you're going to see from John McCain, he's going to embrace probably more of his maverick tendencies, and try to fulfill his legacy and not necessarily be more of a conservative. But that is going to be an interesting story to watch, how those two candidates, or former two candidates, play together.

OLBERMANN: Chris Kofinis, former communications director of the Edwards campaign, thanks again, Chris.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The final campaign comment. More pictures than words, because neither suffice. There will always be worst persons, though, but tonight it's a post-election all star celebration of them.

But first, because they're not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration 50 running scandal, Bushed.

Number three, voter suppression-gate, government voter suppression-gate. Mr. Bush's acting director of the Federal Office of Personnel Management, Michael Hager (ph), advised of likely long lines at voting places in the District and Virginia and Maryland and asked by one Virginia Republican Congressman and one Virginia Democratic Congressman to extend excused absences for voting for all federal employees yesterday by two additional hours, refused. Nothing like the federal government being the role model for employers in a participatory democracy.

Number two, high school musical-gate. Addressing the president's 26 percent approval rating, Press Secretary Dana Perino actually says, quote, everybody would like to be popular. You can all remember that back in high school, everyone really wanted to be popular. Some of us just were not. But that doesn't mean that you don't have principals and values that you stay true to. Don't be telling me this. Don't be telling me the last eight years were all because he wasn't as popular in high school as he thought he should have been, or that you were not. If that's all, we could have all chipped in for him to get a live in shrink.

Number one, swimming with sharks-gate. The administration's final three months could easily be consumed by fights over environmental protection between the vice president and first lady. The "Washington Post" says Mrs. Bush has already asked for two briefings from White House staff, has met with scientists in hopes of creating marine conservation management areas in the northern Marianna islands, that U.S. commonwealth situated between Guam and Japan. If established, it would halt international hunting of blue sharks in the area.

Vice President Cheney is fighting the first lady, saying that banning the shark hunting will hurt the region's economy. Despite the vice president's reputation as a hunter, one might think he would, in this instance, side with the shark, since it is his closest relative in the wild.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Where were you and what were you're doing when Carl Rove was droning on about how vital Ohio was to John McCain, and Brit Hume interrupted him to say, "guess what, Karl? I just received word that the state of Ohio has gone for Barack Obama." Remember-remember the 4th of November in the final campaign comment next.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to William Kristol of the "Weekly Standard," Fixed News and his hilarious unintentionally snarky humor column every week in the "New York Times." Of Obama's election, Kristol today writes, quote, "Sarah Palin"-wait a minute. What's the difference what he wrote? Bill Kristol, you don't matter anymore.

OK, our runner-up, comedian, Rush Limbaugh, who told his disbelieving sheep today that after Obama's election the conservative movement needs to wait a minute, what's the difference what he said. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, you don't matter anymore.

But our winner, Bill-O the Clown, who after the election of Barack Obama insisted that John McCain failed because, quote, he's not a-wait a minute. What's the difference, what he said? Bill-O the clown, you don't matter anymore. Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person who doesn't matter anymore in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, the last campaign comment. What would you give, what price would you pay to be able to watch film of the Declaration of Independence being read to the American colonists in 1776? How about a scratchy audio recording of Lincoln's speech at Gettysburg or of either of his election days and nights? Consider the chills still inspired by those scant seconds of Roosevelt's Fear Itself Speech, of the emotions waxing and waning whenever moments are played of Kennedy's inauguration or in Berlin.

And then consider that, for all the absurdities of can-you-top this holograms and the unyielding barrage of commentary-guilty-the little miracle that gives you as often as you want and for as long as you want, the chance to relive the ultimate game-changer. For this campaign comment is not about words and how they might sway, but rather about images and memories chronicled by this gizmo here and how they can stay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC ANCHOR: It is now midnight here on the East Coast and you're looking at live pictures from Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where the balloting has begun.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENT ELECT: This is a big day, isn't it?

PALIN: I don't have to tell anybody who I vote for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen a steady flow of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll still going to have lines here today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polls have been opened without a real hitch.

OLBERMANN: People have been waiting for this vote, whether it be for 300 plus days or eight years or since 1619 in some respects, metaphorically speaking. People want to be part of this election in a way we may not have seen before.

MCCAIN: You know, some of the pundits have written us off, but I want to tell you, they may not know it but the Mac is back.

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR: We have the first important news of the night. Kentucky is going to be won by John McCain.

OLBERMANN: Senator Barack Obama will win in Vermont.

GREGORY: John McCain the projected winner of South Carolina.

OLBERMANN: Illinois, no surprise.

GREGORY: New Jersey to Obama. And in Oklahoma, another victory for McCain.

OLBERMANN: No surprise in Massachusetts.

GREGORY: McCain on the board again.

OLBERMANN: Maryland another likely state going in.

GREGORY: Pennsylvania has gone to Obama.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: This second battle of Gettysburg has gone the same as the first one, a failure for the Republicans.

OLBERMANN: How does a Republican win without winning Pennsylvania?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS ANALYST: If he loses Ohio, he goes from 286, which the Republicans carried in 2004, down to 266.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Guess what, Karl? I just received word that the state of Ohio has gone for Barack Obama. Umm-

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Look at the blue paint. To call it a narrow path is generous at this point.

OLBERMANN: Can everybody check my math. We have 200 electoral votes on the Obama side, based on the projections we're solid on. Correct? California is 55; 255, plus 11 from Washington state is 266? Still, we haven't changed that? And then Hawaii, that's four. Does that add up to 270 still?

MATTHEWS: You have a jeweler's eye.

GREGORY: We're watching our screens right now as Grant Park in Chicago, and people hurrying up to get their spot, in what is going to be a big turnout.

OLBERMANN: It looks like the end of the New York Marathon on Sunday.

GREGORY: It is now 11:00 on the East Coast. And Keith, we can report history.

OLBERMANN: Barack Obama is projected to be the next president of the United States of America.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": To think that when we tell our children, as I told my sons, you can grow up to be anything. You can grow up to be president. I'm now telling the truth. And I think the world will never forget this moment.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I think it sends the strongest possible message to all of our citizens and to the people of the world that we are prepared to create a truly multiracial Democratic society.

GREGORY: The Associated Press is reporting that Senator McCain has called Senator Obama tonight to concede and to congratulate him. .

MCCAIN: Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans and please believe me when I say, no association has ever meant more to me than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the next first family of the United States of America!

OBAMA: If our children should live to see the next century, if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Anne Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress we will have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids. To restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace. To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one, that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the people: yes, we can!

Thank you. God bless you, and may god bless the United States of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN: So from inside the box, an honor to have joined you electronically in this most unlikely of American journeys, and a hope you will continue with me as we walk the even longer path, now clear and unmistakable, just there at the horizon.

That's COUNTDOWN for this 2,016th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. 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 MSNBC 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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