With One Exception Since 1904, the Show Me State Has Picked the President
Missouri may be the ultimate bellwether state. The Show Me State has failed to pick the president only once since 1904. The lone exception was 1956, when Missouri sided with Democrat Adlai Stevenson but the nation chose Republican Dwight Eisenhower.
With those odds, it makes the race in Missouri, which is in a statistical dead heat, even more intriguing. As the quintessential battleground state, the region's current political atmosphere may explain the tightness in the polls.
While Missouri can claim a Republican governor and senator, it has one Democratic senator and in the house its representatives are nearly equally divided between the parties. It has five Republican congressmen and four Democratic ones.
During the primary season both Barack Obama and John McCain captured wins there Ã¢â‚¬â€? albeit barely. Each only bested his opponent by 1 percent during the Feb. 5 contests.
The candidates have drawn in some of their largest crowds in the place where the East meets the West, as its famous gateway archway in St. Louis by the Mississippi River reminds passersby. It also could explain why as Missouri goes, so does the nation Ã¢â‚¬â€? or at least for more than a century.
But could the state with the most accurate presidential record in history get it wrong on Tuesday? Not according to Missourians.
"It's the Show Me state. So we show them," said one resident.
Yet coming to a conclusion may not be so simple for voters, who tend not to be swayed by certain political hot points.
"It is a moveable state and not anchored by a dominate ideology, not dominated by a particular econ or political interest so it responds to issues that are in the air," said Wayne Fields, who studies Missouri politics.
The most moveable voters lie in the suburbs, in places like St. Charles, and some of them remain undecided.
Reliable Republican Tilt of Colorado Shows Signs of Reversing This Year
The Centennial State is a major example of what's new in the American West Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a political makeover. Colorado used to be a solid Republican state. In fact, it has gone for the Republican presidential nominee in every election since 1960, with the exceptions of 1964 and 1992. But this election season gives the state -- which was named after its largest river, named in turn by early Spanish explorers for its red silt Ã¢â‚¬â€? a chance to turn blue.
If you want further proof that it's a battleground state, just watch television for 10 minutes, as residents have been inundated with political ads, especially in the race's closing days.
That's in part because of a seismic shift in Colorado. Though President Bush won the state twice, now there's some Bush backlash. That combined with an influx of new residents may make it more favorable this year for Democrats. Colorado has seen tens of thousands of new residents settle annually, bringing with them high ideals and fierce independence.
Now, so many of those unaffiliated newcomers exist that their voters outnumber the rolls of either party.
"People that were unaffiliated used to default Republican. They don't do that anymore," said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
It was a cue for Democrats, who, after years of wandering the political wilderness, pounced on the opportunity presented by the swelling ranks new voters. And Ritter benefited from it.
As a former prosecutor and Catholic, the Democrat could have run his gubernatorial campaign on a law-and-order, anti-abortion platform. Instead, he went with windmills, and snatched the governor's chair two years ago in a landslide with an issue nearly everyone could agree upon.
"We've found a way to govern to the middle. We're largely centrists," Ritter said.
State Senator Joe Rice is an Army colonel and one of the Democrats' rising moderate stars, and he worries his party may get drunk on power and taste its own backlash in two years.
"Whichever party starts to think they have a monopoly on good ideas, they start losing," Rice said.
Vigo Co., Ind., Has an Knack for Picking the Election Winner
You've heard of Joe the Plumber. Well, meet Joe the Boot Seller.
Joe Tanoos has owned Tromp and Tread, a work and sport shoe store, for 30 years. He lives in Vigo County in western Indiana, a place where they somehow always seem to pick a White House winner.
This county has gone with the winning presidential candidate all but two times over the last 100 years, and every time since 1952.
"I think we are probably a microcosm of the country," said Fred Bauer, a lifelong Terre Haute resident. "We've got a rural population, an urban population. And we are Hoosiers, so we are pretty independent."
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Vigo County and Terre Haute, the county's largest city, but even Democrats in this blue collar town tend to be socially conservative.
"The local Democratic label to the national label isn't very good, says Tom Steiger, a professor of sociology at Indiana State University. "So it really forces people here to become independent voters. They can't just sort of vote the ticket."
So it's not party affiliation but issues that rule in Vigo County. And this year, the economy is issue No. 1 for a community hit hard by manufacturing layoffs.
Fewer jobs in town mean less foot traffic at Joe Tanoos' boot store.
"I'm really concerned about my business and my pocketbook," said Tanoos. "I'm in safety footwear, and my factory business has really dropped off, as well as my walk-in business."
Tanoos voted for President Bush in 2004 because of national security issues, but this time around he's going with the Democratic choice.
"I believe we are ready for a change, definitely, a fresh approach, a fresh face. That's why I'm going to vote for Barack Obama," said Tanoos.
Indiana hasn't gone with a Democratic candidate for president since it chose Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And in the 2004 election, George W. Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry by nearly 20 points. Both parties usually bypass this solidly red state, but this election season has been different.
Singer John Mellencamp Shows 'GMA' Around Battleground Indiana
Sometimes the best way to see a state is with a local. So when ABC News' 50 states in 50 days project rolled into Indiana, we called up favorite son, singer John Mellencamp.
We all know he was born in a small town (Seymour, Ind., to be exact), and while chart-topping songs have helped him realize the American dream, he hasn't left the heartland behind. He and his third wife, former supermodel Elaine Irwin, now call Bloomington, Ind., home.
He can be stopped driving around in his 1956 Chevy Nomad. He says there's an authenticity to these back roads that you don't find in the big city, even if he disagrees vehemently with most of his neighbors.
"I never did really want to fit in, " Mellencamp said. "I enjoy being the outsider. You know I'm a loud talker and always have been even before I had a guitar and record deals and hit records."
He calls himself a political outcast in his home state. But he has never been shy about voicing, or singing, his politics.
"If I was to vote my interest I'd be a Republican. I don't vote my interest. I vote for what I think would be the best and most compassionate for the country," said Mellencamp. "You know, America used to be a great place. It's not now, and we will be again, but right now it's not a great place."
Mellencamp's career has spanned 32 years and 23 albums. And while he still writes a lot about changing tradition, he no longer cares what other people say.
"I'm an old man. I'm long past worrying when I sit down to write a song what people are going to think of it."
The lyrics to one of Mellencamp's most memorable tunes, "Jack and Diane," were inspired by his experiences growing up in Seymour, Ind. And while the line "suckin on a chili dog outside the Tastee Freeze" lives on, the actual Tastee Freeze is long gone.
"I see small towns across America going out of business," he said. "The town I grew up in, there's no stores in there anymore. Corporate America moved in and put all those stores out of business. I don't like the fact that we're now all the same."
Palin's Hunting Backyard Gives Republicans an Edge Here
For some Wyoming residents, guns are as much a part of life as the wildlife that inhabits much of the state's landscape. Firearms are an indelible part of the culture in places like Jackson Hole, where the buffalo don't just roam, they block traffic.
And for families like the Allans, Second Amendment concerns help mold their presidential picks. Because guns aren't just a political issue, they are a way of life.
"Guns are just part of our life," said Clark Allan, who added, "I have a chainsaw by the door, I have a shovel I have a gun and we use 'em all the time. Living in a big city they probably don't have chainsaws and shovels by the door either."
The family owns somewhere between 20 and 25 guns, but thinks it needs more.
Barack Obama Might Want to Be President, but James Akahi Wants to Be King (of Hawaii)
Sometimes being a journalist is a tough, tireless and, at times, dangerous job.
But then sometimes you get an assignment to cover a story that sends you to beautiful tropical islands where you trade shoes for sandals, monitor glare for sunshine and hurried showers for dips in the clear blue ocean.
If you are "Good Morning America Weekend's" Bill Weir that is.
Somehow Bill managed to nab the most coveted assignment on ABCNews' 50 States in 50 Days project: Hawaii.
But all is not surf and sun in Barack Obama's home state. While there, Bill found that Hawaii boasts a complex and proud history and is watching closely as one of its own attempts to change the future.
It has been more than a century since American sugar plantation owners led an overthrow of the Queen of Hawaii. By the time statehood arrived almost a half century ago, there were so many American "haolies" that any Hawaiian protest was drowned out by parties in the street.
But after years of development, the natives got restless, and this summer a simmering movement made news when a group of radical secessionists broke into the Iolani Palace in Honolulu.
James and Grace Akahi claim that their bloodline makes them the rightful King and Queen of Hawaii. They travel on their own homemade passports and they are suing the government for $100 trillion.
But such secessionist vigor is balanced on the islands by an equally fierce patriotism and belief in democracy. It is a land of contradictions, where minority opinions compete because everyone is a minority. Hawaii has the highest mixed-race population of any state.
And it is here that a half-black, half-white kid named "Barry" came of age before the world knew him as Barack Obama.
The Obama camp is so confident that Obama's statesmen will vote in his favor, they don't run ads on the island.
Brian Schatz, chairman of the Democratic Party in Hawaii, told "Good Morning America" that the numbers speak for themselves.
"We went from 2-3,000 people normally showing up to our caucuses to 38,000 people," Schatz said.
Alaskan resident Ryan Kopiasz, 27, is passionate about organizing for Barack Obama.
"I think the Obama campaign and their strategy -- that every vote matters, every voter matters, every community matters -- resonates really well with a lot of Alaskans," Kopiasz told ABC News.
But the young organizer is fighting an uphill battle; Alaska has not gone for a Democrat in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Back in the summer, when the nights were bright, the Obama team thought they might have a chance in the northernmost state. The FBI went after Republican lawmakers for corruption, while the state's senior GOP senator, Ted Stevens, was indicted for corruption.
"For the first time in years and years and years and years, the three Alaska electoral votes were in play for the Democrats against Republicans," Prof. Stephen Haycos of the University of Alaska told "Good Morning America." "That was the case for a little while."
But then, the political earth shifted under Alaska's feet when GOP presidential candidate John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
"A lot of Republicans might not have gone to the polls," Haycox said. "They didn't want to vote against Republicans, but they didn't particularly want to vote for a Democrat. So they might have stayed home. But now, everybody is going to come out for Sarah Palin."
The governor is extremely popular in her state, Alaska GOP chairman Randy Ruedich said.
"The governor has been overwhelmingly successful in maintaining a positive image here," Ruedich told "Good Morning America." "Popular is a soft understatement."
And though there are anti-Palin rallies in Alaska, polls are projecting a Republican victory in the state by double digits.
As the nights grow long again and winter looms closer, Obama supporters in Alaska have shifted their focus away from their own state. Instead, they write postcards to battleground states. Some Republicans are responding in kind, sending their own postcards to the same battleground states.
For a while it seemed the good times would roll forever, but now luck might be running out for Connecticut's two largest casinos.
Foxwoods is laying off 700 workers this month. A $700 million expansion at Mohegan Sun has stopped cold, putting the brakes on 2,000 new jobs. For the first time in 15 years, the casino business is slow.
Reissa Mello, a casino bartender, said, "So what do you see happening to the tip jar? We see we're getting 30 percent less at the end of the week and that adds up. Scary? Very scary."
Mohegan Sun executives say the slowdown is across the board, from high rollers to retirees.
Race always has had a place in South Carolina's politics. It was the first state to secede from the Union, and 140 years later effectively killed John McCain's 2000 presidential bid after rumors about him fathering a black child surfaced.
(This time around, the McCain camp made sure to dispel such rumors months ago by distributing handouts explaining how the McCains adopted their daughter, Bridget, from Bangladesh.)
South Carolina is a place where large numbers of African slaves met their new world and where the black population at times outnumbered the white population Ã¢â‚¬â€? though never in government, higher education or prosperity.
The first high school football game of the season is a welcome escape from a troubled economy here.
Helena is hurting; the town needs jobs. Arkansas has lost another 6,000 manufacturing jobs, just this year.
Darius West is Helena's biggest star -- the top high school football player in the state.
Darius just announced he's staying in town to play football for the University of Arkansas. It's a shining moment for a challenged city.
Darius's mom, Debra West, said some people in Helena have to decide, do I pay for gas today or buy food?
"People struggling to pay for simple things, like a meal for their kids!" Debra West said. "That's a struggle they go through every day."
Polling indicates the state will go to Sen. John McCain in the presidential election. But president Bill Clinton said this week that that Arkansas, which voted for President Bush in the last two elections and for native son Clinton in 1992 and '96, could go either way in November.
Even within families, voters are divided.
Little Rock couple Tate and Ashley Olinghouse joke about how their 10-week-old boy will vote one day, in a household where mom and dad disagree.
Both say the economy is their No. 1 issue, but they differ on how to fix it.
"We are in a time that we don't need to be rolling the dice in, in choosing somebody that's untested and unproven," Ashley said. "And, especially when we have a candidate such as Senator McCain who is so proven and tested."
Tate broke in to ask, "But isn't the question: How have the last eight years -- how has that worked out for us, andÃ¢â‚¬Â¦?" "No. That's not the question."
"OK. It just feels that way," Tate said.
"No! Because I think that each represent an element of change. It's just which kind of change are you looking for," Ashley said.
The 50 States, 50 Days tour spent part of Day 5 in Washington, D.C. as the Bush administration announced plans of a massive government bailout of Wall Street that could cost American taxpayers in the neighborhood of $1 trillion.
On Good Morning America, Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd, D-Conn., stressed that both parties would work together to find a solution but emphasized that the "total meltdown of the financial market" was "avoidable."
Exhausted and euphoric. Those are the words to describe me right now. Six days after boarding the "Good Morning America" Whistle-Stop '08 Tour train, and beginning the adventure of a lifetime, it's over.
We just wrapped the last show of our little Odyssey from the Newseum in the nation's capitol, Washington D.C., and for me, it was an appropriate but bittersweet ending to our tale.
Appropriate because the point of our tour was to go out and ask real people what was on their minds, to hear straight from them their concerns about our nation. By ending in Washington, D.C., we brought their thoughts, problems and hopes to the doorstep of the government -- to the people that can do something about them.
In dueling TV ads, both Obama and McCain seek voter trust that their own administration would be able to fix the economic woes plaguing the nation.
Obama mocks McCain as part of the problem; McCain hammers Obama for proposing some tax increases
On the federal bailout of insurance giant AIG that dominated headlines yesterday, McCain shifted his answer -- supporting the bailout though he originally opposed -- while Obama held off on taking a position, saying he wants to see more details.
Biden Dismissed Concerns About Obama's Dwindling Lead in Polls
Vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden is dismissing concern among Democrats about why Sen. Barack Obama hasn't opened a commanding lead in the polls, expressing confidence that voters will turn against the incumbent party when they focus more on the key issues.
In an interview with ABC's Kate Snow, Biden said many voters remain skeptical about the Democratic ticket's ability to effect change -- but said such concerns will be assuaged by Election Day.
"They believe in the change we want. They just don't know that we can accomplish it," Biden, D-Del., said in an interview to be broadcast on "Good Morning America" Thursday, when ABC's "50 States in 50 Days" project visits West Virginia.
Riding along in Pennsylvania, a few giant windmills loom on a mountain nearby. It's only the latest example of clean energy opportunities we've witnessed this week.
Clearly, wind power is a big part of any effort to achieve energy independence and cut carbon emissions. As is hydroelectric power -- and there is no greater demonstration of the potential there than Niagara Falls.
Rail travel itself is a "clean" method of personal and commercial transportation. So it's been interesting to see some other opportunities outside our windows here.
The cardinal serves as West Virginia's state bird, but it's not the bird the state's known for Ã¢â‚¬â€? that would be Byrd, Robert C. Byrd to be exact. And the Mountain State's senior senator is affiliated more with pork than fowl.
Thanks in part to the 90-year-old senior senator, West Virginia takes the No. 4 spot when it comes to states that receive the most pork per capita. Between 1995 and 2006, Byrd single-handily brought in more than $1 billion in federal funds for projects in his state.
The train is no longer just a train Its not just a banner, a welcome wagon "come to town" It has become a sounding board for the people in the towns we visit...
Sure, they are considerate enough to come meet us, and to hear us thank them for the opportunity to meet the morning together.
But they are also there with a sense of profound purpose: to tell us what is, and often what is not, working in their beloved hometown.
"GMA" stopped by Pymatuning Valley High School in Andover, Ohio, during the show's "Whistle-Stop Tour" countdown to the November election. Students and faculty gave Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion a big Buckeye welcome, including a pep rally in the school gym. Click here to check out students' video coverage of the event.
Remember yesterday when I told you that today's show was going to be amazing? I love being right.
Despite heavily diminished visibility due to fog, the show was fantastic and, along the way, I got to interview country superstar Brad Paisley. Not a bad start to a day.
We rolled up to the northern Ohio farm while the sun was trying desperately to rise and the dark bluish hue that precedes it seemed to be soaked into a thick layer of fog that had settled over endless corn stalks. Where yesterday the house and barn of the Lipps family, who owned the farm, had been readily visible, today only corn in front and fog behind.
But the scene was so serene and Midwest idyllic that I half expected a team of phantom baseball players to emerge from the stalks to play catch with me, a la Field of Dreams.
GUSTAVUS, Ohio -- I caught up with country music star Brad Paisley shortly before his concert on "GMA" this morning, and asked him about the state of the race.
He had a refreshing take for a celebrity: He's not sharing his personal thoughts, and he had a pretty good explanation for why not.
"I've got a lot of fans who've got their own ideas -- some of them are smarter than me. They've got to make up their own minds," Paisley said.
"I think aligning yourself with a candidate, I've just seen too many people stumble," he added. "Imagine the people that were on the John Edwards bandwagon, you know, just watching that happen. And it can happen to anybody out there -- they're all human. I'm not saying that scandal, but something."
"So I don't necessarily ever align, and I don't really talk about it."
He said he is feeling the impact of high gas prices -- tour buses are expensive to fill up with fuel -- and knows his fans are, too. That, he said, is the No. 1 issue out there these days.
The Whistle Stop train is making its way through Ohio today, a state that could prove to be one of the most crucial swing states this election.
Running a campaign in Ohio is like running in five separate states, each region proving to be its own unique battleground. Watch more about the war being waged in Ohio here.
Regional directors of both campaigns are waging their fights meticulously. The Obama side is counting on numbers, saturating the state with 70 field offices over McCain's 40.
While the McCain side is counting on technology---- using internet phones to help volunteers place more than four thousand calls a night and the time tested tradition of talking to your neighbor.
Experts say the grassroots, phone calls and door knocking might be able to add up to 1 to 2 percent on election day, a percentage that very well could decide a race.
Asked whether he agreed with the government bailout of insurance giant American International Group on today's "Good Morning America," Sen. John McCain answered ambiguously, in stark contrast to a Tuesday interview where he adamantly opposed it.
"I didn't want to do that. And I don't think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investment, whose insurance were at risk here," the Republican presidential nominee told ABC News' Robin Roberts, sounding somewhat accepting of the Fed's action on AIG.
"They were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption," McCain said.
But on Tuesday, the day following Lehman Brothers' collapse after the government declined to bail out the 158-year-old bank, McCain was opposed to the notion that the government should act to save AIG, teetering on the brink of collapse itself.
McCain was adamant in an interview with "The Today Show." "No, I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be on the hook for AIG, and I'm glad that the Secretary [Henry] Paulson has apparently taken the same line."
History Is Not Enough, Says Clinton, Urging Support for Obama-Biden Ticket
Sen. Hillary Clinton, who came close to making history as the first female presidential nominee, concedes that Gov. Sarah Palin has created a lot of excitement as a possible history-making first female vice president.
Palin's presence on the Republican ticket has drawn Sen. John McCain into a dead heat with the Democratic ticket of Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden, fueled largely by a surge in support among white women.
"A lot of people are missing the boat here," Clinton told ABC News' Diane Sawyer, aboard the "Good Morning America" Whistle-Stop Express.
Watch Wednesday's exclusive interview with Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain aboard "Good Morning America's" Whistle Stop Express starting at 7 a.m. ET
Palin has generated a great deal of interest, Clinton acknowledged, but added, "That's not a good enough reason to vote for that ticket. There's a lot of talk in the country about who are you for in this election, but that's not the right question. The right question is, who is for you."
Clinton suggested that the McCain-Palin team doesn't understand "the struggles you face."
"So I don't think it's inconsistent for a lot of people to say well hey, that's exciting, what an exciting pick, and still say, but that's not the ticket for me and my family," she said.
An angry Sen. John McCain indicated today that as president he would launch a 9/11-commission style investigation into what he called "the old-boy network and Washington corruption" that created the current Wall Street crisis and has endangered peoples' savings and retirement funds.
McCain and his White House rival Sen. Barack Obama traded furious accusations and charges Tuesday on the economy as both campaigns jostled for position on the unfolding financial meltdown.
The economy had already been established as the No. 1 issue for voters, but the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the fire sale of Merrill Lynch, and the desperate efforts of American International Group to avoid collapse has rattled Main Street as well as Wall Street.
Watch Wednesday's exclusive interview with Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain aboard "Good Morning America's" Whistle Stop Express starting at 7 a.m. ET
The future of AIG, the country's largest insurance company, hung in the balance Tuesday. Its stock dropped 61 percent since Monday and the federal government ruled out any taxpayer rescue. McCain said Tuesday he agreed with the decision of the federal government to not intervene with AIG saying taxpayers should not be "on the hook" for AIG's problems.
"We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else. This is something that we're going to have to work through," he said.
McCain's stance on the economy has been under attack from Democrats since he released an ad Monday that said the economy was in crisis, but later gave a speech saying the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." He defended himself Tuesday and laced into a denunciation of corporate greed.
"I said the fundamental of our economy is the American worker. I know that the American worker is the strongest, the best, and most productive and most innovative," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC's Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
"They've been betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess -- corruption and excess that has damaged them and their futures," he added.
[DISCLAIMER: Despite the text of the below narrative, the tone hopefully makes it obvious that everything that follows was in jest and was met with laughter by all. A lot of laughter.]
When Cleo bought Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion a monopoly board, everyone expected a little light-hearted fun when a game broke out in the antique Warrior Ridge car between Chris, Sam, and producers Cleo and Kendall.
I don't think anyone realized just how far and quickly the game would degenerate from light-hearted fun to "You will never get this property, you understand this? Never, ever. You will die old and poor!"
The wake-up call came at 2:45 a.m. That's how dedicated we are to you, America.
We had to wake up so early because before we could board the train today, a Secret Service dog had to go through our bags. So we stood in the cold at 3:00 a.m. and watched the furry little guy go sniffing through everything and then we were allowed to board.
Today I spent the pre-show period down in the "Good Morning America" offices where the writers, producers and higher-ups get everything in order so that the two-hour-long show runs smoothly, at least on the editorial side. After witnessing the rehearsal yesterday, I know that there's a lot to coordinate and a great show to produce.
"Everyone non-essential, get off the train," someone announced and I panicked for a second. Am I essential?
Doubtful, but I took a shot.
"Hey Jim," I said after a short but frantic search for "GMA" executive producer Jim Murphy. "Can I stick around and shoot this?"
The phrase "classic television" gets thrown around a lot these days, especially since "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" landed a spot on Nick at Night. But there is one scene from one show that will forever be the definition of the term: Lucile Ball stomping grapes on "I Love Lucy."
In an effort to recreate that iconic scene, the "GMA" "Whistle-Stop '08 Tour" stopped off at a vineyard in Silver Creek, New York to try their hand, or foot, at grape stomping.
When the train pulled up and stopped, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it took me a little while to realize that what I was looking at out the window were rows upon rows of grape vines and in the distance, just before the horizon, Lake Erie sparkled. I had no idea the North could be so, well, pretty.
Here's the scene from about twenty minutes ago: Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo, political reporter and The Note author Rick Klein, a camera man and myself packed into Sam Champion's tiny train bedroom with a bewildered Sam Champion squeezed into a corner.
"We're really three to a room?" he asked wide-eyed.
"Yup, and you've got top bunk," Rick said without cracking a smile that I was desperately trying to hide.
It's very early in the morning aboard the "GMA" Whistle-Stop '08 Tour train, and Chris Cuomo is cool.
Not cool like James Dean cool (although that's debatable), but cool like Tiger Woods on the 18th hole at the Masters cool. And he needs to be.
Today we're headed to Niagara Falls, N.Y., for what I've been told are breathtaking views and a few major surprises, including a life-threatening, death-defying, insanity-inspired stunt that is only now being slightly overhyped.
They really don't tell me much, but I do know that at some point Chris' life could literally be on the line and that he'll get a view of the falls few people get, save those that have been over in a barrel.
Tune into GMA Tuesday 7 a.m. EST for an exclusive interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Weighing in on Gov. Sarah Palin's impact on the presidential race, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton says in an interview to be broadcast Tuesday 7 a.m. EST on Good Morning America that she has full confidence in Sen. Joe Biden as Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, praising his knowledge of the economy and world affairs.
Asked to respond to Palin's assertion that she thinks Obama is "regretting not picking [Clinton] now" -- with many former Clinton supporters now saying they will support the McCain-Palin ticket -- Clinton demurred, saying she's excited to campaign for Obama and Biden.
Watch Good Morning America's Exclusive Interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton at 7 a.m. Eastern.
"We have a great Democratic vice-presidential candidate," Clinton told ABC's Diane Sawyer, aboard the "Good Morning America" "Whistle-Stop Express." "Joe Biden is a friend of mine. He's been a strong leader both on issues here at home when it comes to the economy and stresses on middle class working families, and he understands the strategic challenges that we face around the world. So I'm very happy going out campaigning as hard as I can for both Barack and Joe."
ALBANY, N.Y. -- There's a certain charm to confusion in that when you don't know exactly what's going on, you're sometimes pleasantly surprised.
Such was the case just now in Albany, New York when we stopped momentarily and, much to my surprise, Sen. Hillary Clinton boarded the train.
She boarded straight through the "Good Morning America" offices where I was fiddling with footage from earlier today, walking not ten feet away from me.
Tune in to "Good Morning America" tomorrow to see Diane Sawyer's full interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Eyes wide but hands at the ready, I grabbed for my camera. Luckily Cleo, a much better photographer, beat me to it and snapped a few pictures.
What Hillary and Diane talked about is top secret and not to be released until tomorrow's show, but I've got my sources and I do know that Diane asked if Hillary was secretly pulling for Palin to break the now-famous "glass ceiling."
Tomorrow morning "Good Morning America" will air that answer along with full interview with the former presidential candidate.
After her interview with Diane was finished, Hillary chatted with the other anchors and then they all came out of the train together to meet "GMA" fans and Clinton supporters on the station platform.
Sporting her usual sophisticated pantsuit Ã¢â‚¬â€? light blue this time Ã¢â‚¬â€? Hillary made her way through the crowd and waved to more fans that were further away behind fences.
In the back of some of their minds must be a question that has been commented on recently by both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Ã¢â‚¬â€? Would the election be different if Obama had chosen her for VP?
But just like that she was off and so were we. Now I'm back to fumbling with my camera and preparing for our next stop.
What will happen there? It's likely to surprise me as much as you.
I mean, they just said over the loud speaker, "In the next leg we will be going 100 miles per hour. We've never done that before. Hold on."
What can I do? I hang on.
Watch the exclusive interview with Sen. Clinton Tuesday on "GMA."
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Here in New York State, the financial crisis on Wall Street is a critical local issue in a different way than it matters nationally. Here, Wall Street is Main Street -- or, at least, one of them.
"Obviously here in New York we have the special concern of the thousands of jobs that are at risk," said Clinton, D-N.Y. "Now we're in the crisis, and we all have to be smart and focused on how we're going to get ourselves out of it."
"I'm very concerned about the impact on New York -- we're going to see a drop in revenues in government, for the city, for actually all the jurisdictions around New York City," she added. "The job loss is something I'm worried about. So we're just going to have to do the best we can to make up for what wasn't done, and frankly a real failure of leadership and oversight."
Clinton's exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer will air Tuesday on "Good Morning America."
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- with entourage, and Secret Service contingent -- just boarded the train here in Albany, for her sit-down with Diane Sawyer. We're in her home state -- so in a sense, we came to her.
Success! "GMA" Makes History
I don't know if people said we couldn't pull this off, but if they did, they were dead wrong because we totally did. "Good Morning America" just became the first network television show ever to broadcast live from a moving train.
From the opening shot of Diane and Robin greeting the nation live from the back of the speeding Whistle-Stop '08 Tour train all the way to the closing shot once again from the back of the train, the whole thing went off without a hitch. The madness caused by the switching to live shots and the timing to make everything work just right while the train powered along came together in genius when it needed to.
Everyone stayed safe. Most people stayed happy. And a few people even stayed sane.
Unknown forces tried to conspire against the train as a tree branch fell in front of it, causing a minor delay but providing the train engineers an opportunity to show off their brawn by moving it for us.
Then we were back on schedule, making three stops at towns in Massachusetts, providing up-to-the-minute news and weather reports and even relaxing a little as we listened to James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma play a concert live in Stockbridge, Mass., from the front porch of the famous Red Lion Inn.
From the antique buildings to the small shops with smiling patrons, Stockbridge is truly an American city. Even the lyrical white picket fences have a deep texture to them that exudes sturdiness with age.
It's no wonder the town looks as if it stepped out of a Norman Rockwell picture -- the famous artist had his first studio in Stockbridge, just a stone's throw from the Red Lion Inn.
I met one person there who knew that studio very well -- Claire Williams, who was 29 when she posed for a Rockwell drawing in 1959.
"Oh, he was very nice. And I look as good now as I did then," she said with a long laugh.
With an attitude like that, she, like the idyllic town she grew up in, seems to have only gotten better with age.
There was a sort of golden age in American history not too long ago when presidential candidates would load up their staff and travel the country by train.
There's that classic black-and-white photo of the candidate, arms raised as he shouts out a speech to as many people as can hear him, projecting from the very back of a flag-draped train.
No sound bites. No stadium-size conventions. It was a genuine way to get to the people, and even if the candidates were less than genuine, the people could look them in the eye when they asked the candidates how they would help.
While town hall meetings still abound, the Whistle-Stop Tour is a rare occasion these days.
But "Good Morning America" is bringing it all back, and to do so took some impressive engineering. Just walking from one end of the train to the other is like traveling through time.
Of the 11-car train, two of the middle cars have been specially modified to house a rail-bound television studio. Lining the walls of the Stars and Stripes decorated cars are a mass of monitors covering every possible camera angle of the train, and even two domes have been carved out of the roof to allow for satellite communication equipment.
Helicopters trail the train, sometimes three at a time, both to get dramatic shots of the speeding locomotive and to provide communication boosts when necessary.
But far more breathtaking than the electronic wizardry are the last two cars, the antique Warrior Ridge and PRR-120 cars.
The Warrior Ridge, the "Lounge Buffet Car," was built in 1953 and has not lost even an edge of that polished steel class. The interior was decorated in the style New Orleans Bourbon Street -- think cool jazz, leather and brass, not spring break.
The PRR-120 is the car with history, though. The train has carried both foreign dignitaries and American icons. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Juan and Eva Peron rode in this car. The entire Kennedy family, including President Kennedy, also graced the leather seats. In a more somber moment, the car was used to transport the body of Robert F. Kennedy to his burial at Arlington National Cemetary. More recently, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall rode in the car.
With as much history as these cars bring along for the ride, it's only appropriate that "Good Morning America" make a little history of its own on this extraordinary trip.
Sen. Hillary Clinton in an Exclusive Interview With GMA Tuesday
"Good Morning America" will interview the biggest political names of this election year as part of its unprecedented "Whistle-Stop Tour."
"GMA" anchor Chris Cuomo interviews Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama Monday morning.
Presidential and vice presidential nominees and their spouses from both parties were invited to be interviewed. "GMA" is still waiting to hear if Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will participate.
Tuesday: Sen. Hillary Clinton talks exclusively to "GMA" on the train when it rolls through New York.
Wednesday: Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, will talk to "GMA" during a live broadcast from an Ohio farm.
Thursday: Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, sits down with "GMA."
Friday: Michelle Obama wraps up the exclusive series of interviews from the campaign trail.
ABC News and USA Today began its "50 States in 50 Days" tour Monday, an unprecedented initiative to report from every state in the nation during the 50 days leading up to the presidential election.
Over the course of the next two months, ABC News anchors and correspondents and USA Today reporters and photographers will report on one state each day in the run-up to the historic vote Nov. 4.
Good morning, America!
Welcome to one of the most ambitious network television projects ever undertaken, GMA's "Whistle-Stop '08" Tour - the first show ever to broadcast live from a moving train!
Over the course of the next two months, ABC News' anchors and correspondents and USA Today's reporters and photographers will report on one state each day in the run-up to the historic vote Nov. 4. We'll hit all fifty states in fifty days! The trip begins right here, in Lenox, Massachusetts, where we've just pulled in to kick of the show's five-day Whistletop
Yesterday we got a glimpse of the impending frenzy.
Greetings from aboard the "Good Morning America" "Whistle-Stop Tour '08," a splendid 11-car train specially designed to broadcast live television starting Monday.
(We're technically not moving yet -- rehearsals and other preparations are in order to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.)
ABC is starting its "50 States in 50 Days" tour leading up to the 2008 election in the state where, in a sense, the last election ended: Massachusetts, Sen. John Kerry's home state, where he delivered his (slightly delayed) concession speech the morning after Election Day 2004.
But for those who would mock Massachusetts as outside of "real America" (as the Republicans sought to argue four years ago), know that we're far from Boston -- in the beautiful Berkshires, on the other side of the state.
We are, at this moment, perched beside lake at the foot for a mountain, next to the historic train station in Lenox.
The 11 cars that make up ABC's "Whistle-Stop Express" are a technological marvel -- stuffed with satellite dishes, high-end television equipment, servers bringing rolling WiFi access, and plenty of really expensive contraptions that do I know not what.
And car No. 11 -- the caboose -- carries ghosts and whispers that connect the train with political history.
It's the Pennsylvania 120 -- something that meant absolutely nothing to me before this trip, either.
But to train buffs, this is the Hope diamond -- one of the most storied and expensive pieces of Americana.
Built in 1928, the car carried every president from Herbert Hoover to Lyndon Johnson. Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford once chartered it.
Perhaps most famously, the car carried Robert F. Kennedy's body from Los Angeles to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1968, in a journey that drew millions of mourning Americans along the tracks.
A great article in Cigar Aficionado, from 1998, tells you everything you need to know about the train and its owner, Bennett Levin.
From the outside, the most striking feature is the observation deck -- one can imagine a politician's wave to curious crowds, back in the era of whistle-stop campaigning.
Inside, it feels and smells like the Roaring '20s -- rich walnut, etched glass, red velour couches, walls decorated by paintings of trains. (Walking through, I felt like I would open a door onto the poker room from "The Sting.")
Not a bad way to see the country.
As the "GMA" anchors arrived at the historic train station in Worcester Sunday morning -- greeted by a crowd of several hundred, including a man in a yellow smiley-face outfit (Worcester-invented symbol, merrily oblivious to current economic plights) -- something else was out in force. Palin Power.
By one very unscientific count, McCain-Palin signs outnumbered Obama-Biden signs by roughly 10-1. Surprise -- they didn't wake up on a rainy Sunday morning to show their love for Sen. John McCain.
"I didn't think anybody would have the chutzpah to pick someone like her," said Daniel Schur, 47, of Westborough, Mass., who came to greet the train along with his daughter to hold a McCain-Palin sign -- emphasis on the Palin.
Key to Gov. Sarah Palin's appeal, Schur said, is her ability to relate to so many in the country.
"That's one thing people from the East Coast and the West Coast forget -- how many people live in the middle of the country," he said.
ABC News Radio's Aaron Katersky caught up with one older woman on the train platform who said she was an avid Hillary Clinton supporter -- and now said family members aren't speaking to her because she's leaning toward McCain-Palin.
"Was Hillary was defeated, I started to listen to the others more carefully, and I find that my agenda matches up more with the Republicans," she said.
On Palin, she added: "I was very pleased to hear her speak -- I think she's a very smart woman. . . . I like a thinker -- somebody who can look at a situation, assess it, come up with a plan, and go forward from there. I think she's that kind of person."
Here in the birthplace of basketball, where Dr. James Naismith invented a wholly American sport that's gone global, there's reason to be happy for hoops these days.
One almost certain result of this year's presidential contest will be an elevation of basketball by our new leaders.
Talk about change: The Bush years have been baseball years -- complete with T-ball on the White House lawn, and a president who once owned a Major League team.
In 2008, both tickets have genuine hoops players, and even real hoops nicknames: It's Barry O'Bomber vs. Sarah Barracuda.
(For the record, the "GMA" crew was shamed on the court by some local high-school students, in a free-throw shooting contest near the train station.)
Barack Obama can trace his roots to the heart of the heartland -- and while there's no place like home, even family connections are unlikely to make the difference in Kansas.
Obama's mother was born in Kansas, a factoid he's played up in advertisements and on the stump as she seeks to highlight his cross-cultural, red-state appeal.
Yet that may be the extent to which Kansas is a battleground in 2008.
What's the matter? Notwithstanding some recent Democratic successes, Kansas remains solidly conservative, with a large rural vote and a high number of religious voters proving unwilling to vote Democratic at the national level. The state sits astride a sea of red, a near-certain six electoral votes for the McCain-Palin ticket.
Obama may have stood his best chance to make Kansas competitive if he had chosen Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kan., as his running mate. But while Obama and Sebelius are close, many observers predicted a backlash from Clinton supporters if he tapped a woman who isn't named Hillary Clinton, and Obama went in a different direction.
The biggest electoral prize on the map looms as a tempting and glittering target for John McCain -- but this is one star he's not likely to seriously chase.
California's politics are as diverse as its demographics, with Hollywood and Haight-Ashbury, in addition to huge tracts of farmland, large rural stretches, and a giant immigrant community.
McCain -- hoping to build on the electoral success of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif. -- has made a handful of campaign stops in the Golden State, and aides claim publicly that the state could be competitive.
But at the national level, California is consistently Democratic. The state is too expensive for campaign head-fakes; indeed, McCain's stops have been mostly to shake the money tree, not to shake free votes.
Yet as the single largest cache of electoral votes, and home to the nation's most diverse economy, California can never be ignored. Check back for more ABC coverage from the Golden State, and see whether McCain is serious about making a play there.
It's hard to imagine Barack Obama winning the presidency without keeping Michigan in the Democratic fold -- and it's just as hard to envision John McCain expanding the electoral map without picking up Michigan.
There are no bigger battlegrounds than Michigan, where economic turmoil and scandal-plagued Democrats have helped shape a critical testing ground for both candidates.
Obama -- who did not campaign in the state during the primaries -- needs to demonstrate an appeal to working-class voters who have been skeptical of his leadership abilities and his economic plans.
And McCain -- who lost the state to a populist-themed Romney campaign in the primaries -- must put daylight between himself and the Bush administration, in a state that has seen its economy battered like few others over the past eight years.
The state has been solidly -- if narrowly -- Democratic at the presidential level, going back to 1992. A still-strong union presence is promising a big turnout effort for Obama.
Yet the white, working-class voters who form the state's voting core are the very people Obama had trouble attracting throughout the Democratic primaries.
His allies at the local level have done Obama few favors: Detroit's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, resigned in September and is now behind bars after pleading guilty to several felony charges. Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., has seen her approval ratings plummet, in part due to the cratering economy.
Michigan and some of its neighbors in the upper Midwest figure to be where the 2008 race is settled. Check back for more to see when ABC will be dropping in to the most critical of battleground states.