My friends, it's time to turn the page. You betcha, literally.
From Wasilla to Wilmington, whether you're a plumber or a superdelegate, a Wright or a Wurzelbacher, a hopemonger or a pitbull or Miss Congeniality, That One or The One or Joe Sixpack, it's all over but the voting now.
That would be 19 hours of voting -- with the first polls having opened at 6 am ET in eastern states (and long lines forming early) and the last polls closing at 1 am ET Wednesday in Alaska. (Alas, no one votes at 3 am.)
Your bitter fundamentals: 35 Senate races, 435 House races, 11 governor's contests, ballot initiatives from a ban on gay marriage in California to a ban on the income tax in Massachusetts -- and a little big thing known as the presidency being decided in 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
This remarkable journey -- the longest and costliest campaign in history, with detours through Rudy and Huck and Romney and Ron Paul '08, and Edwards and Richardson and Mike Gravel and Hillary and Hillary and Hillary -- isn't quite done yet:
John McCain votes in Arizona Tuesday morning and then makes quick trips to Colorado and New Mexico -- trying to hold on in his native Southwest. (No movie on this kind of packed schedule.)
Barack Obama touches down in the Indianapolis area during the day before settling in for the evening in Chicago, with his massive late-night rally set for Grant Park. (And yes, he's building in some time for basketball.)
Joe Biden votes in Wilmington, Del., early Tuesday, then hits Richmond, Va., at 11 am ET before heading to the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago for the long wait.
Sarah Palin is en route to Wasilla, Alaska, to vote Tuesday, then will head back to Arizona to be with McCain at the Biltmore in Phoenix.
As for who gets to celebrate: The final ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll puts it at a nine-point race, 53-44 Obama over McCain. Obama is "strong in the center and even encroaching on some Republican-leaning groups. Obama trails by 7 points among whites, for example -- a group John Kerry lost by 17," per ABC's polling director Gary Langer.
(Who's more nervous Tuesday night -- Obamaland, Team McCain, or polling nation?)
Karl Rove sees an Obama win -- turning Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida blue: "The final Rove & Co. electoral map of the 2008 election cycle points to a 338-200 Barack Obama electoral vote victory over John McCain tomorrow, the largest electoral margin since 1996."
That's the Real Clear Politics tally, too, when battleground states are allocated fully.
Crunching the numbers at FiveThirtyEight.com, the numbers folks guesstimate Obama 346.5, McCain 191.5.
The early state to watch for Obama: Virginia is for landslide lovers. Give him the Old Dominion (where polls close at 7 pm ET) and try to argue he won't win the presidency.
For McCain: Pennsylvania means pathways. Picking up the Keystone State (8 pm ET poll closing time) gives McCain Electoral College options that can get him to 270, though far from a sure victory.
The Weather.com Election Day update: "Gusty southerly winds will transport very warm air into the northern Plains, the Upper Midwest, and the Great Lakes. . . . Although the majority of the East will enjoy comfortable and tranquil weather, the Southeast coast can not say the same. A developing coastal storm off the South Carolina coast will provide rain, gray skies, and blustery conditions for parts of South Carolina, eastern North Carolina, and eastern Virginia."
McCain, on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, tells ABC's David Wright that he has no regrets about the conduct of his campaign: "No one knows what the voter turnout's gonna be. Look, I'm very happy with where we are. We always do best when I'm a bit of an underdog," said McCain. "I'm proud of the campaign we ran. The pundits wrote us off four or five times -- and in fact, they've been doing it recently. And we're gonna -- we're doing fine, and we have polling data, and there's public polling data that shows we're really closing."
To ESPN's John Burns: "I want them to think, he . . . could . . . go . . . all . . . the . . . way to the White House. And even though some pundits, some pundits have written me off, that's why they play the game."
"I will never, ever let you down," McCain said at his closing rally in Prescott, Ariz.
A bit more optimism, perhaps, in Obama's voice: "You know, the thing that keeps me up is not actually winning or loosing -- it's governing," Obama tells ABC's Ann Compton. "When I think about things when the lights are out and I'm tossing and turning in bed, it's how do we make sure we fulfill the commitments to the American people that we've made throughout this campaign."
Back at his rallies, at the end: "Fired up! Ready to go!"
For what this is worth: "As the contest headed to its finish, an air of normalcy surrounded Mr. Obama," Jeff Zeleny and Elisabeth Bumiller report in The New York Times. "There was no rush of friends or advisers on the plane for the final flights. His demeanor, at least from his public appearances, seemed the same as it has for months. His schedule of rallies was no different than at any point in the general election."
Another cut: "Obama seemed almost unsteady amid the emotional barrage of the end of the campaign and his grandmother's death, while his aides held fast to solid, positive early voting numbers with a mood one Chicago staffer described as 'cautiously nauseous,' " Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin report. "A hoarse McCain and his top aides and advisers, clinging to the far weaker evidence of favored polls, evidenced an upbeat, even jaunty attitude through a grueling final day of airport hangar rallies that took them through seven states in just over 24 hours." http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15239.html
A sentence worth remembering for the man who may be No. 44: "From the outside, he looked like a candidate wary of the fishbowl and realizing that, if elected, he may never emerge from it," Smith and Martin write.
Of course, it's a bittersweet period for Obama, as he remembers his grandmother on the day he hopes to fulfill a dream that beyond anything she might have imagined.
"In this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that," Obama said Monday night in Charlotte, N.C., per ABC's Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller. "Mothers and fathers and grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives and the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children and maybe their grandchildren and their great grandchildren live a better life than they did. That's what America's about. That's what we're fighting for."
(Madelyn Dunham's ballot, received Oct. 27, will count, Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin tells ABC's Tahman Bradley, Rigel Anderson, and Arnab Datta.)
We should know early on who gets to keep commitments, and who gets to go home: "The political pros say they'll be watching to see whether Pennsylvania goes red Tuesday -- if so, Sen. John McCain might pull off one of the greatest comebacks in political history and be on his way to the White House," Stephen Dinan and Ralph Z. Hallow report in the Washington Times. "But if Sen. Barack Obama holds Pennsylvania and collects Virginia or Indiana, two states that haven't gone Democratic since 1964, a landslide is in the offing for Democrats, and that could help them win down-ticket races that could give them a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate."
"Virginia's results may signal a tidal wave of states turning Democratic after backing Republican President George W. Bush in 2004. Another on the watch list at 7 p.m. is Indiana, which also hasn't backed a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won in a nationwide landslide 44 years ago," per Bloomberg's Kristin Jensen.
Might it be a very early night? "At least one broadcast network and one Web site said Monday that they could foresee signaling to viewers early Tuesday evening which candidate appeared to have won the presidency, despite the unreliability of some early exit polls in the last presidential election," Jacques Steinberg writes in The New York Times.
"A senior vice president of CBS News, Paul Friedman, said the prospects for Barack Obama or John McCain meeting the minimum threshold of electoral votes could be clear as soon as 8 p.m. -- before polls in even New York and Rhode Island close, let alone those in Texas and California. At such a moment, determined from a combination of polling data and samples of actual votes, the network could share its preliminary projection with viewers, Mr. Friedman said."
But what if the polls are wrong? "If it turns out that McCain wins tomorrow night in the face of so many polls that even at this late hour show Obama ahead comfortably, I think you have to say that the industry of political public opinion polling in this country will be shot," ABC's George Stephanopoulos blogs. "They'll have to build from the ground up. People will have to rethink how they do this work. The same thing will hold true for the political media."
"Probably even more important, if this happens tomorrow, I think a significant number of Americans will be in a state of political shock," Stephanopoulos writes.
Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal ponders the possibilities: "Taken together, these potential pitfalls offer little hope to McCain voters. But there is one remaining theoretical possibility that amounts to the 'nightmare scenario' for pollsters. What if those who refused to be interviewed have very different political views than those who agreed to participate?" Blumenthal writes in his National Journal column.
Closing strong: "Continuing the sharp attacks right to the finish line, the two candidates delivered arguments yesterday that were more urgent versions of the highly partisan messages they have been hitting hard for weeks: Obama, the Democratic nominee, asserted that Republicans are siding with Wall Street barons and Fortune 500 companies over middle-class families, while McCain, the GOP nominee, warned that Democrats' spending plans would send America into another depression," Scott Helman and Sasha Issenberg write in The Boston Globe.
McCain's hopes? "McCain's aides described a thread-the-needle strategy that involves holding on to reliably Republican states while somehow defying the odds in states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania that seem out of reach," Juliet Eilperin and Michael D. Shear write in The Washington Post. "McCain's top aides said they continue to see momentum headed in their direction, with the only question being whether the election will come too soon for them to take advantage of it."
"We need to hold those red states and we need a big break along the way," senior adviser Steve Schmidt said. "We have a narrow-victory scenario."
"The McCain campaign is banking on undecided voters skewing its way. Campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters on a flight from New Hampshire to Florida that internal polling data continue to show that undecided voters are largely white and in either suburban or exurban areas," Elizabeth Holmes and Nick Timiraos report in The Wall Street Journal.
"Privately, [McCain aides] make no secret of the fact that their candidate must pull off a sleight of hand to win, given the number of states Bush won four years ago that are either up for grabs or tilting narrowly toward Obama," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. "Obama, in contrast, is now looking at the prospect of winning by a potentially large margin in electoral votes, although the estimates by various analysts vary wildly."
Either way, Mark Salter has some work to do: "I don't work until the day of," Salter tells Time's Michael Scherer, adding that the speech should not take him more than a couple hours to write. "It's gonna be a late night," he predicted.
Spinning it hard: McCain pollster Bill McInturff pre-buts exit polls that haven't taken place yet: "Based on the previous exit poll results, we should expect once again that Tuesday's exit poll data could overstate the Obama vote and under represent the McCain vote," he writes in a memo to reporters.
Working it hard to the end: "The closing swing has echoes of Bob Dole's 96-hour death march of nonstop campaigning before the 1996 election," per The Washington Post's Dana Milbank. "By the time McCain settles down to watch the returns Tuesday night, he will have hit nine states in 48 hours, from Peterborough, N.H., to UFO-loving Roswell, N.M."
Who's betting against some chaos at polling sites? "More than 4.3-million people already have voted early or by absentee ballot [in Florida], but it could be a very long night for counting results," Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary report in the St. Petersburg Times. "Turnout is expected to eclipse the 83 percent that voted in the 1992 presidential race. Ballots in some counties stretch three and four pages long. And today marks the largest group of voters using the new optical scan machines all at the same time."
"Plus, as many as 10,556 voters could be snared in the state's controversial "no match" voter verification law. That could require them to cast provisional ballots today because the information they provided on a voter registration form does not match information in state databases," they write.
A last taste out of Ohio: "Barack Obama is likely to prevail over John McCain in the fierce battle for Ohio's 20 electoral votes, according to an Ohio Poll released Monday. The poll by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research - billed as a 'final projection' of today's results by institute pollster Eric Rademacher, shows Obama with 51.5 percent to 45.7 percent for McCain."
"Across Northeast Ohio, voters on Monday braved lines that stretched for as long as three hours in Summit and Lorain counties. Some voters feared longer lines today. Others wanted to be part of the excitement," Laura Johnston and John Caniglia write in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Don't forget Pennsylvania (because John McCain hasn't): "The Republican nominee has returned to Pennsylvania again and again in recent months seeking its 21 electoral votes as a vital building block in his long-shot bid to put together an Electoral College majority," James O'Toole writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Up early (very early) in New Hampshire: "Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement. The town of Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. Independent Ralph Nader was on both towns' ballots but got no votes," per the AP. (Which means just about nothing, except -- as ABC's Jake Tapper points out -- these residents tend to lean GOP in general elections.)
No. 1 on Mark Halperin's things to watch on Election Day: turnout. "The big question: Whose supporters are more likely to be deterred from voting by long lines? Obama's young, new and low-income voters, who might be put off by the wait and are too busy to commit several hours to exercising their right to cast their ballot? Or McCain's less motivated backers, who are more likely to see their cause as hopeless?"
"We are going to break voter turnout records this year, huge records," per ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "More than 130 million people are likely to vote this year. That is a huge record. . . . If it hits 65 percent, it would be stunning. You have to go back to 1908 to find numbers like that."
Think Obama is focused on it? (Your cellphone does, if you signed up for his text messages and are still trying to find out how to cancel them.)
"For a campaign that has tended to play down racial strategies, the rallies Monday in Jacksonville; Charlotte, N.C.; and Manassas, Va., underscored the importance it is putting on black turnout," Amy Chozick writes in The Wall Street Journal. "We need to make sure we give people in those places every motivation to vote," says senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs.
As for the early vote: "The influx in many places seems to be favoring Obama, as Democratic early voters outnumber Republicans in all but one state that keeps track of party affiliation," the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Noam N. Levey report. "In three swing states -- North Carolina, New Mexico and Colorado -- the number of voters who have already cast their ballots has reached more than 70% of the number who voted there in 2004."
In Georgia: "Although 2 million Georgians had cast absentee ballots by mail or hit early voting booths last week, and alleviated some of today's expected onslaught, state officials predict an additional 3.2 million Georgians could cast votes today -- an Election Day record," Dan Chapman writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
To behold the history: "It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage -- and withstand -- political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. "It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds."
"I hope the one thing, the mark that it will leave will be the involvement of the American people," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
Details for election night in Chicago: "The Grant Park Election Night rally for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will be held in two sections of the park -- a southern portion on the softball diamonds at Hutchinson Field for some 70,000 ticketed guests of the campaign and a smaller non-ticketed event farther north near the Petrillo Music Shell in Butler Field," per the Chicago Tribune. "Still, Tuesday night's rally promises to lure 100,000 or more, and participants will have a standing-room-only chance at witnessing history."
Among the veeps -- a promise kept, barely. "Gov. Sarah Palin, 44, is in excellent health and has had no major medical problems, according to a two-page, seven-paragraph letter by her doctor released late Monday night," Julie Bosman reports in The New York Times. "The letter is the first information the Palin campaign has provided about her medical history. The release of medical records is common practice for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, but earlier this month, Ms. Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, declined to provide any health information or be interviewed about her medical history."
"Her health would appear to be a non-issue, which makes you wonder why they waited until the literal last minute to release the information," said Dr. Timothy Johnson of ABC News.
More baggage that Palin wouldn't have mind dropping off earlier: "A report released on Monday by a state board found that Gov. Sarah Palin did not apply improper pressure to try to dismiss a state trooper who was her former brother-in-law and did not violate state ethics laws in the firing of her public safety commissioner," The New York Times' William Yardley and Serge F. Kovaleski report. "The report by the Alaska Personnel Board contradicts the conclusions last month of a separate inquiry into the matter overseen by a bipartisan legislative panel."
As for Joe Biden, he doesn't see the gaffes we've all had fun with. And some predictions: "If I had to I'd bet you on Pennsylvania," the Scranton-born senator told reporters, per ABC's Matthew Jaffe. "I don't want to bet you on Ohio or Missouri."
Bob Shrum provides a Biden reassessment: "Biden has been a powerful advocate on the campaign trail and he has done it with a kind of Irish panache," Shrum writes in his The Week column. "Palin delivers a base that has nowhere else to go. Biden widens the Democratic ticket's base."
In the House races: "House Republicans are expected to bear the brunt of the bloodbath, with even conservative estimates of the carnage netting Democrats 25 or more seats, many of which are districts that generally perform well for the GOP," Roll Call's Matthew Murray writes. "A dozen or more House Republicans may lose their jobs by midnight tonight, as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has poured at least $1 million apiece into 15 districts now held by GOP incumbents. Even more, the DCCC as of Monday had invested $2 million-plus in districts held by GOP Reps. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Jon Porter (Nev.), Robin Hayes (N.C.), Steve Chabot (Ohio) and John Shadegg (Ariz.)."
"Republicans in charge of spending the party's money for congressional races have ceded some ground to Democrats without a fight, declining to defend seats they currently hold in an admission that some areas have turned too blue to save this year," T.W. Farnam reports in The Wall Street Journal. "The Northeast and the Mountain West could be sources of big losses for Republicans, especially in the House, where they have declined to spend money on competitive races for seats they hold in Arizona, New Mexico, New York and Connecticut."
Another reason the count in the House matters: "The lack of early public challenges to the top four positions in the Republican Conference has not stopped staff and members from speculating privately about what it would take to topple the leadership team led by [Minority Leader John] Boehner and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)," The Hill's Jackie Kucinich reports. "Republicans have scheduled a conference on Nov. 17, Boehner's birthday, where they will discuss possible shifts in leadership."
A victory lap for Howard Dean? "Dean envisioned the Democratic Party building a new base in solidly Republican strongholds, and should Barack Obama win the presidency and Democrats expand their margins in Congress on Tuesday, as most polls predict, Dean will walk away from this election as one of the unsung heroes," The Hill's Alexander Bolton writes.
Wednesday's stories on Tuesday: "Few economists predict the world is in for a repeat of the 1930s. But the deepening problems -- rising joblessness and home foreclosures, falling consumer spending and tight credit -- are prompting calls from businesses and Congress for quick action by the next president to clarify, and begin working on, his economic agenda," The Wall Street Journal's Bob Davis, Jonathan Weisman and Timothy Aeppel report.
A flare for 2012 -- with 2008 in mind: "Today marks the end of one of the most dishonest, relentlessly one-sided campaigns of bias and distortion by the mainstream media in American history," former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., e-mailed his supporters on Tuesday. "So annoy the mainstream media. . . . Go out there and vote. Now."
"There's Kelly the nurse! . . . and here's Janet the professor, and Rick the preacher -- Rick the preacher. Thank you Rick! They're all here! Army wives! Jeff the retired soldier. They're all here! Coal miner's daughter." -- John McCain, sounding a bit like a Billy Joel (or Brooks & Dunn?) song in the closing hours.
"Years ago I taught Sarah how to field dress a moose. But tomorrow, tomorrow I want you to see her field dress a donkey." -- Chuck Heath, Sarah Palin's father, on the trail Monday, per ABC's Kate Snow.
ABC News is live starting at 7 pm ET from Times Square in New York, with Charles Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, and Diane Sawyer anchoring the coverage.
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