Live Chat! With Joe Trippi!

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For the next hour, veteran Democratic consultant Joe Trippi and I will be answering your questions... live and uncensored. Click here to participate.

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UPDATE: Here's the transcript. Apologies for the typos...

6:56Welcome to our live blog with veteran Democratic campaign manager Joe Trippi and NEWSWEEK's own Andrew Romano. To submit your questions, simply type them in the comments field below and click send. We'll try to answer as many of your questions as possible, but we may not get to all of you.
7:00[Comment From Andrew Romano]
Hey everyone: This is NEWSWEEK political blogger Andrew Romano. It's great to be with you on this historic night--especially just as the (potentially) crucial results from Indiana, Virginia, Florida and Georgia begin to trickle in. I'm looking forward to answering your questions--or, more accurately, deferring to Joe Trippi's superior knowledge and expertise, then adding a few of my own thoughts around the margins. So fire away...
7:00[Comment From Joe Trippi]
Great to be here -- fire away gang!
7:01Patrick Enright: To start things off, is there a single state you're watching more than any other?
7:02Joe Trippi: Right now I am watching Virginia if it goes to Obama its pretty much over and the networks do not look ready to project it -- if Indiana goes for Obama that would be a game ender in my view
7:03Andrew Romano: Right now, it's Indiana. Obama's actually leading by 15 percent at this point in Vigo County--with, like, 70 percent of precincts reporting. Why does that matter? Because Vigo County has a history of picking the winner in every election since 1960--by the closest margins in the country. I imagine that lead will narrow some, but if it holds at all it's probably a good sign for the Democrat. Bush won Vigo by seven percent in 2004.
7:03[Comment From Guest]
Quick prediction: what will be the big surprise tonight? any takers?
7:04Joe Trippi: I think we will be surprised by the size of the Democratic Victory tonight -- I think it has the makings of a shocker -- not just how big the electoral win is for Obama -- but the number of House and Senate seats
7:04Andrew Romano: I'm on the record predicting that Obama will win North Dakota and Montana--which would be pretty crazy if it happens. Those are ruby-red states, but Obama's been very close in the polls and I suspect his superior ground game will give him a sizable boost. Perhaps enough to paint 'em blue. If so, he'll probably win about 370 electoral votes.
7:05Andrew Romano: Joe, Do you think the Dems will hit 60 seats in the Senate?
7:05Andrew Romano: (FYI: They just won their first pickup--Mark Warner in Virginia. But no surprise there.)
7:06Patrick Enright: NBC has projected Kentucky for McCain and Vermont for Obama -- no real surprises there either, right?
7:06Joe Trippi: I think Democrats will probably fall short of 60 Senate Seats but that could be the big surprise -- I think this is going to be a win for the ages -- one that people will be talking about for generations
7:07Andrew Romano: I'd say not, Patrick. The race to watch in Kentucky, of course, is Mitch McConnell. If he loses, the Dems are probably on their way to at least 57 Senate seats.
7:08[Comment From John]
Has the Republican refrain that people should be very afraid of a singly party controlling two branches of the government resonated at all with people?
7:08Joe Trippi: Every news organization out there would like to call Virginia and they are not doing it -- which is good that they are waiting for real votes to be counted -- but I am with Andrew we will know when they call Indiana and Virginia -- that will give us a big early hint of how big this is going to be
7:09Joe Trippi: Process arguments about party control etc seldom sway voters in these kind of elections
7:09[Comment From Guest]
You both sound like a win for Obama is a lock. Am I reading you right?
7:10Andrew Romano: My suspicion is no, and here's why. The American people always say they prefer a divided government, but it's not clear why they would vote against a candidate they favor (Obama) simply to preserve. More likely: they'd vote for Obama at the top of the ticket and then against the Dem on a local level. If there's a smaller than expected gain in the House, I'd guess that could be a reason why. But I'm with Joe here--party control does not sway the electorate. Especially in a year like this.
7:11Andrew Romano: A lock? Not quite. But what I'm seeing and hearing--when taken in concert with the pre-election polls, which showed Obama with a nearly insurmountable lead--all point to an Obama victory.
7:11Patrick Enright: Here's a question on the race in Minnesota:
7:11[Comment From Minnwatcher]
Will Norm Coleman or Al Franken win?
7:12Joe Trippi: I personally would be shocked if McCain pulls this out -- I just do not see it. I have been in Florida all day and the turnout is amazing. I haven't seen this kind of energy on election day in the 30 years I have been doing this -- and it is almost all on the Obama side of things -- I became convinced during the day that this is going to be historic turnout to the advantage of Obama
7:13Andrew Romano: That's probably the single hardest race in the country to predict. I'll defer to polling guru Nate Silver (a sometime NEWSWEEK contributor and former profile subject of mine) on this one: he gives Franken a 52 percent chance of winning. I'd say that's about right. With a boost from Obama voters, he could very well take it.
7:13Joe Trippi: The Senate Race in Minnesota is a true head heat -- but when you see this kind of a wave for a Presidential candidate it tends to raise the boat of candidates for Senate and House of the same party -- so in a car wreck finish in Minnesota I would give the advantage to Franken
7:14[Comment From John]
How has Obama's unprecedented spending this year forever changed the landscape for campaign finance (if at all)? What about his flip about accepting federal funds?
7:15Joe Trippi: No one is going to accept Federal Funds again unless they fix the system -- McCain accepted them because he had to.
7:15[Comment From John]
Why did McCain have to accept Federal Funds? (sorry to show my ignorance!)
7:16Andrew Romano: I think public campaign financing as well know it is dead. The question going forward is whether other candidates can replicate Obama's success--and especially Republican candidates. Personally, I'd like to see the public financing system fixed. Obama's internet system is more democratic than its predecessors, but it's still essentially unequal--and if you want to get money out of politics, you have to remove it as a variable.
7:17Andrew Romano: FYI, guys, Obama is significantly outperforming John Kerry in Indiana. Of course, he'll have to to close Bush's 20-point margin of victory. But here's some of what we're seeing:
7:17Andrew Romano: Steuben: Kerry 34%, Obama 42% DeKalb: Kerry 31%, Obama 38% Knox: Kerry 36%, Obama 54% Marshall: Kerry 31%, Obama 50%
7:18[Comment From TMac]
What counties are likely to portend the overall Virginia result?
7:18Joe Trippi: McCain simply could not raise any money so he took 85 million dollars of federal money Remember he opted out and then back in to the system in the primary -- he simply tried to game how he could get the most money for the general election and took the federal money because it was the way to get the most money -- he would have opted out if he could raise more
7:20Andrew Romano: I'm watching Prince William, in the exurban area outside Washington D.C. Between 76 and 04, the GOP won here by an average margin of 18 points. But Tim Kaine won the county, and recent polls put Obama up by 8 or so. If he can replicate that sort of margin tonight, chances are he'll have racked up enough votes in the northern part of the state to put it out of McCain's reach.
7:22[Comment From Zach]
Which of these three states hold the most importance tonight for Obama: Florida, Virginia or Indiana?
7:24Andrew Romano: Florida or Indiana. Indiana is probably more of a reach, so if Obama wins, it's a sure sign of a big, big win. Florida has the most electoral votes, so it'll probably put 270 out of McCain's reach. Virginia is important, too, but McCain can still win if he loses there. Will he? I don't think so. But it's possible. So Indiana and Florida are tied with Virginia a close third.
7:25Joe Trippi: If he wins any one of the three he is the President elect in my view -- and I think he will win at least one of the three. I am in Florida right now and I really think Obama will win here based on what I am seeing on the ground. He only needs one of the three -- really doesn't matter which one -- the fact that he could win two or all three of them portends in itself that this could be a very big win
7:26[Comment From MalcolmGene]
What's Hillary Clinton's future? Sarah Palin's?
7:27Andrew Romano: Hillary heads up Obama's health care effort. Maybe Senate Majority Leader someday? Supreme Court? Palin... hmm. I think she'll run again in 2012. How well she does with anyone other than the GOP base depends a lot on how well she can rehabilitate her image over the next two or three years.
7:29Joe Trippi: I think Sarah Palin begins running for President tomorrow morning and will try to lock down her base as soon as possible. And she may be the nominee in 2012 particularly if other members of the GOP think it would be a suicide mission to take on a President Obama. Hillary could well end up with an appointment to the Supreme Court -- they Dems may have the Senate votes to confirm her.
7:29Andrew Romano: Quick question for Joe: You ran against Obama for months, if not a year, as John Edwards' campaign manager. How did you underestimate him at the start (if at all)? How has he surprised you?
7:30Andrew Romano: [Private Message to Patrick Enright] i was trying to squeeze that in there for awhile
7:31Andrew Romano: (Or was it senior adviser? Spiritual guru? I can never keep the job titles straight.)
7:32Joe Trippi: We did not underestimate him at all -- we took him very seriously -- the only thing that surprised me all year was that Clinton did not run as a change agent from the start -- that they focused so much on experience. We knew our only chance was to defeat both of them in Iowa. We came in second and close doesn't count in politics. Yes I was Senior advisor.
7:32Patrick Enright: Early exit polls are showing the economy as a key issue for voters. No surprise, and Obama has been doing well on economic issues so far. But do you think McCain's "socialist" rhetoric has resonated at all with voters? Has he gained ground there?
7:32Andrew Romano: Gotcha.
7:35Andrew Romano: Some voters, maybe. The question is whether it's resonated with voters who weren't already voting for McCain. The last polls I saw showed that Americans preferred Obama on taxes by 15 percent--which, correct me if I'm wrong, is a reversal of the typical Democratic-Republican split. So no--I don't think McCain got a game-changing amount of traction out of the Joe the Plumber attack. That said, it gave him something "issues-based" to talk about in the home stretch. And that was better than Ayers n ACORN, which was actually hurting him more than it was hurting Obama.
7:35Joe Trippi: I really do not think much of what McCain was saying post his convention and post the economic crisis helped him at all or was even heard by most Americans. I think the "suspended" campaign gambit killed his credibility and they failed to understand that the polarizing strategy of the past was old school and made more people want to turn the page
7:35Andrew Romano: Was suspending the campaign his biggest mistake?
7:35Andrew Romano: Or was it Palin?
7:36Andrew Romano: Or something else?
7:38Joe Trippi: I think once he suspended the campaign he had to mean it -- he had to stick to his guns -- and when he caved and started campaigning I think most people saw it as a political ploy and he killed his brand. Palin helped his brand as a Maverick -- you could think it was an "out there" pick but that made him less old hat. So I think the erratic nature of his actions during the economic crisis made a bad situation much worse
7:38[Comment From Ryan]
How much should we trust early exit polls, especially when they have less than 10% reporting? NYTimes has a lot of states that were polling well for Obama showing strong McCain support.
7:39Andrew Romano: I'd agree--it was kind of perfect storm there at the start of October--the Palin interviews, the suspension, and then debates, which introduced a lot of casual voters to Obama. I think they were surprised when he appeared so "unradical"--and the contrast with McCain's recent zig-zagging was all the more apparent.
7:40Andrew Romano: Ryan: Not at all. BTW, those are real results. But they're coming in sporadically from all of the the state. So pro-McCain areas might be reporting now, and pro-Obama areas reporting later.
7:40Andrew Romano: *all over*
7:40[Comment From Sue]
The exit polls are saying that most folks believe that McCain's campaign was more negative than Obama's. It seemed like Obama managed to separate himself from the negative TV ads he was running against McCain. How much do you think the perception that Obama was less, well, mean than McCain helped Obama?
7:40Joe Trippi: The press has learned their lesson on exits polls and do not believe them nor rush to call states based on them. Look at Virginia -- everyone would love to call it but they have not. I think what they are good for is to put texture on information -- why did they vote for Obama. How much did the economic crisis impact the vote etc
7:42Joe Trippi: Andrew be careful with the "all over" stuff this early in the evening even if you are just correcting an earlier comment!
7:42Andrew Romano: I think that was a brilliant move on Obama's part--running this massive ad campaign somewhat under the radar while he stayed positive on the stump. McCain, on the other hand, released a ton of negative ads online that were never actually aired. The point was to drive coverage of his attacks on Obama--which he had to do as the guy in second place. Obama had the luxury of appearing to be above the fray--even when he wasn't.
7:43Andrew Romano: It's not all over! I swear! I haven't even seen the top-secret exit polls...
7:44Andrew Romano: Joe, How will Obama govern? Will he really rule from the center?
7:44Andrew Romano: How much autonomy does he have from the Democratic Party and the typical special interests--and do you think he'll take advantage as president?
7:47Joe Trippi: I think Obama is going to govern from the center -- I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed in that -- but he is not going to take the Democratic Majorities and rush to the left -- that isn't who he is -- he really is going to try to work with both sides to fix things -- and I think that is what America wants and why he is going to have the margin he will have tonight. I think for netroots Democrats and progressives they are going to have to organize and push the party and Obama more than they think
7:47[Comment From Ryan]
Care to venture a guess on how big of an impact the youth vote will have this year? (As a percentage of the total voting population, say)
7:48Andrew Romano: Interesting bit of exit polling from Indiana, via the AP: one-third of those who voted for the Republican gubernatorial candidate also voted for Obama. Right now, McCain is leading 51-48 with 21 percent of the precincts reporting. But the key Obama counties up near Chicago aren't reporting yet. So we'll have to wait and see.
7:50Joe Trippi: I think Obama is going to be the first "Wired or Networked or Connected" President -- and so I think when he says "these are the 15 members of Congress that stand in the way of my health care bill" Millions of Americans at are going to go hammer on those 15 members of congress. Congress is going to be between and rock and a hard place -- Obama could well turn out to be the most powerful president in a long time. Obama connected to the people who help power his agenda through congress instead of the special interests.
7:52Andrew Romano: I think the youth vote will hit record highs this year. The question is whether it's an asymmetrical increase--that is, whether it actually increases as a share of the electorate or is simply swallowed up by gains across the board. My hunch is that new voters--many of them minorities or young people--will give Obama a one or two point boost at the polls tonight; he's just done a much better job of mobilizing his supporters than McCain. But again, we'll have to wait for the actual turnout numbers before we can say for sure.
7:53Joe Trippi: When you look at the youth vote in 2004 and 2008 it is looking like realignment -- this generation is looking very progressive, very active, and have helped change politics -- if they stay active and help change the governing process as well -- and stay progressive it is going to have the impact baby boomers thought only they would have and screwed up
7:53Andrew Romano: That's a really interesting point, Joe. If Obama wins tonight, one of the big stories of the next few years will be how he harness his online support to pressure legislators and actually organize for substantive change in Washington. The danger is that without all the horserace excitement, a lot of those folks will tune out. Governing is nowhere near as dramatic as campaigning.
7:54Joe Trippi: I think these people are going to stick around -- and I think they are going to fight for health care -- energy -- global warming -- on the big fights they will be there
7:55Patrick Enright: Here's a more personal question: What are you both most looking forward to come tomorrow?
7:55Joe Trippi: Slep
7:55Joe Trippi: sleep
7:56Andrew Romano: For me, it's the end of non-stop blogging. I'm been posting three or four substantive analytical items every day for a year now, traveling around the country, etc. It'll be a relief to think a little longer before I write. And sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.
7:57Andrew Romano: Joe, I'm curious: What's next for you?
7:57Andrew Romano: After the sleeping...
7:59Joe Trippi: I remember seeing Andrew early last year (2007) rolling around Iowa with the Edwards campaign -- i remember him having to blog from the event and he has been doing it every day since. I don't know the answer to what I am doing next. I spent a lot of time in Africa earlier this year trying to rid Zimbabwe of Robert Mugabe (its different when they have bullets)
7:59Andrew Romano: [Private Message to Patrick Enright] got it
8:01Joe Trippi: They have called PA for Obama which is huge -- really limits McCain having any real chance now
8:02Andrew Romano: Absolutely. That's a huge one--if Obama wins Florida, Indiana, Ohio or Virginia, it's probably over.
8:02Patrick Enright: On that note, and with polls closing in more than a dozen states at the top of the hour, we're going to let our experts go so they can flip obsessively between CNN, MSNBC and all the other cable news channels. Thanks, Joe and Andrew, and thanks to all of you for participating. If we didn't get to your questions, you can ask them of NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff right here:
8:03Joe Trippi: Take care all -- enjoyed being here --