CBS ‘Early Show’ Fawns Over Obama Casting Ballot

In the 8:30AM half hour of Tuesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez led live coverage of Barack Obama voting in Chicago and asked Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer: "Bob, how must he be feeling right now?" A choked up Schieffer replied: "Well, I mean, this is a -- this is a remarkable moment in American history. Stop and think about this, 150 years ago there were 31 million people who lived in this country, 4 million of those people were slaves, 4 million people. And, today, here you have an African-American who may be elected president of this country. This is not -- people keep talking about the American people may be ready to turn a page, but it's not just a political page, this is a page of American history." Rodriguez agreed: "Absolutely."

Co-host Harry Smith joined the coverage and actually wondered if Obama was voting for himself: "I'm wondering, I would love to ask him afterwards whether or not he voted for himself...Because having voted in school elections and stuff like that, we were taught as kids sometimes you vote for the other guy because that's how -- that's how -- it's an honorable thing to say that 'I honor your presence here. This was a battle well fought.' And I would be very interested to know whether or not he voted for himself." A realistic Schieffer replied: "I'm betting he did." Smith responded: "Yeah, I'm betting he did. I'm just bringing up a question."

Rodriguez earlier observed: "And the example that they're setting right now for their two little girls whom we see right there. Those little girls are growing up in a different world than you and I did." Schieffer added: "It will be. My grandchildren will live in a different world. No matter what happens today, the fact that -- that an African-American, you know, is one of two candidates here. This is a -- this is a moment for all of us to remember." Rodriguez later reiterated: "As we watch Obama in his booth right now, voting for himself, his two young daughters at his side, as well as his wife. What a moment for the Obama family."

Schieffer predicted a possible "political realignment" of the country: "We may be seeing a political realignment across the south, depending how Virginia, Georgia, states like that go...The 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed. Lyndon Johnson said 'we have done the right thing, but I have lost the south for the next generation for my party' and he was right about that. It became solid Republican. Now we're seeing southern states back in play. We're seeing Indiana back in play. Out in the west, we may see a political realignment out there, depending on what happens today."

Schieffer did acknowledge the importance of John McCain’s campaign as well: "And stop and think about this. If Barack Obama wins, the first African-American president, if he doesn't win, the man who will defeat him will be a true American hero, a man who spent 5 ½ years in an enemy prison camp, who is literally come back from the political dead in one of the great, you know, political resurrections of all time. This is a moment in American history that we are all seeing and sharing." Rodriguez also mentioned Sarah Palin’s historic run: "And like you said, Bob, no matter what who wins, it's history because we also have the possibility of a first female vice president...historic on so many fronts."

Here is a full transcript of the coverage:

8:35 AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Alright, there is a picture we've been waiting for this morning of Barack Obama showing up at his polling place in -- in Hyde Park. Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Here watching this, Harry, with Bob Schieffer. Bob, how must he be feeling right now?

BOB SCHIEFFER: [Choking up] Well, I mean, this is a -- this is a remarkable moment in American history. Stop and think about this, 150 years ago there were 31 million people who lived in this country, 4 million of those people were slaves, 4 million people. And, today, here you have an African-American who may be elected president of this country. This is not -- people keep talking about the American people may be ready to turn a page, but it's not just a political page, this is a page of American history.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

SCHIEFFER: This is a magnificent moment. Whoever wins this election.

RODRIGUEZ: Exactly right.

SCHIEFFER: And stop and think about this. If Barack Obama wins, the first African-American president, if he doesn't win, the man who will defeat him will be a true American hero, a man who spent 5 ½ years in an enemy prison camp, who is literally come back from the political dead in one of the great, you know, political resurrections of all time. This is a moment in American history that we are all seeing and sharing.

RODRIGUEZ: And the example that they're setting right now for their two little girls whom we see right there. Those little girls are growing up in a different world than you and I did.

SCHIEFFER: It will be. My grandchildren will live in a different world. No matter what happens today, the fact that -- that an African-American, you know, is one of two candidates here. This is a -- this is a moment for all of us to remember.

RODRIGUEZ: Got to be melancholy for him, too. On the one hand, he is poised, if you listen to the polls, to ride into victory tonight, he's voting for himself. On the other hand, he lost his 86-year-old grandmother yesterday, the day before election day, the woman who raised him, who didn't get to see her grandson vote for himself today.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah, well we don't get to decide when we die.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

SCHIEFFER: Or who lives.

RODRIGUEZ: That's right. We have Dean Reynolds standing by as well, in Chicago. Dean, good morning.

DEAN REYNOLDS: Good morning, Maggie. You know, it's a -- it's a poignant day for Barack Obama. You could tell yesterday when he announced to the crowd in Charlotte that he was -- he was really emotional about the news from Hawaii. I can tell you, though, that Madelyn Dunham, his 86-year-old grandmother, voted absentee prior to this election, so her vote will be counted today for her grandson. No, she did not live to see whether he was elected president, but she did get to vote for him for the presidency.

RODRIGUEZ: As we watch Obama in his booth right now, voting for himself, his two young daughters at his side, as well as his wife. What a moment for the Obama family. And like you said, Bob, no matter what who wins, it's history because we also have the possibility of a first female vice president.

SCHIEFFER: Well, there is also --

RODRIGUEZ: Historic on so many fronts.

SCHIEFFER: There is also that. I have to tell you, Maggie, I covered my first election in 1964, I guess. I went to the 1968 Democratic convention. I've covered -- I've been on the airplane. I was on the -- the first time I was on the airplane was in 1972 with George McGovern, but I've never, ever covered a campaign like this one. It's not only been historic, it's also been fun, you know? It's -- and we're seeing so many things here. We're seeing this great voter turnout. Campaign rallies were back. You know, it was getting to be for a while there where people didn't hold campaign rallies, it just wasn't cost effective. We're told that last night in Manassas, Virginia, the fire chief there says that Barack Obama drew 90,000 people. That's more people than heard him make his nomination speech out in Denver, which was, at that point, the largest political gathering in American history. I mean, it just keeps happening. You know, these tremendous turnouts of crowds. And, also, on the other side. I mean the -- you know, the enthusiasm that John McCain generated and what John McCain stands for. We've never had an election like this.

RODRIGUEZ: An energized electorate will be the legacy -- the greatest legacy of this election, without a doubt.

SCHIEFFER: Oh I think this one changes everything.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: And you know, from the standpoint of the internet coming in, people early voting, raising money online, the small contributions that come in, you know, literally, millions of dollars. This one, it's kind of a sea change in American politics, I think.

JULIE CHEN: Bob, what does it say to you that later today, we know that after he's voting he is going to play a game of basketball, but work is not over for him. He plans on heading out to Indiana. What does that say to you about this election?

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, Indiana, no Democrat has carried Indiana since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson carried it. And that tells you, Indiana is in play this time around. Indiana, Virginia. We may be seeing a political realignment across the south, depending how Virginia, Georgia, states like that go. I'm old enough to remember when the south, for example, when you said the solid south, you were talking about old Democrats out there-

SMITH: Democrats-

RODRIGUEZ: Wow-

SCHIEFFER: -you know, from Texas all the way up to -- to North Carolina. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed. Lyndon Johnson said 'we have done the right thing, but I have lost the south for the next generation for my party' and he was right about that. It became solid Republican. Now we're seeing southern states back in play. We're seeing Indiana back in play. Out in the west, we may see a political realignment out there, depending on what happens today.

SMITH: In Nevada and Colorado-

CHEN: Colorado-

SCHIEFFER: This -- this election has changed so much already.

SMITH: Yeah. On the other hand, we're sitting there looking at a picture of Barack Obama voting. I'm wondering, I would love to ask him afterwards whether or not he voted for himself.

RODRIGUEZ: Really?

SMITH: Because having voted in school elections and stuff like that, we were taught as kids sometimes you vote for the other guy because that's how -- that's how -- it's an honorable thing to say that 'I honor your presence here. This was a battle well fought.' And I would be very interested to know whether or not he voted for himself. And the other thing-

SCHIEFFER: I'm betting he did.

SMITH: Yeah, I'm betting he did. I'm just bringing up a question.

RODRIGUEZ: He'll take every vote.

SMITH: On the other hand, the other thing that is out there, and I remember so well being in New Hampshire, it seems like a long time ago, but it's just not all that many months ago, right? I mean, John McCain was done. It was done. It was over. Mitt Romney was like a freight train. Here comes Mike Huckabee. It's done. When the votes were counted at the end of the day, here was John McCain, as you said, literally resurrected again.

SCHIEFFER: You never want to count John McCain out of anything. This is a man, 5 ½ years in an enemy prison camp. But don't forget, he's also survived three plane crashes.

RODRIGUEZ: Right.

SCHIEFFER: So it's not that he seems to come back just from political defeats.

SMITH: Right.

SCHIEFFER: He's like crab grass.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

[LAUGHTER]

SCHIEFFER: You can't seem to get rid of it.

RODRIGUEZ: Nine lives for sure, if not more.

SCHIEFFER: He's always there. So he's a-

CHEN: How many-

SCHIEFFER: He's a man of great character and what he stands for. I mean, just the fact that, you know, that these two people, at this particular time in history, I mean, to me, that's what's so remarkable about it.

SMITH: People are wondering, okay who -- what can he be doing in this voting booth as long as he's there? You're talking about Cook County offices, you're talking about state-wide races, you're talking about a local state Senator, a local, you know, the list there is going to be on and on and on and on. And of course, he's there with his children. He's got to say 'look who's here. This is what it's all about. It's not just about me, it's not just about him, there's a whole thing here I want you to see and understand.'

RODRIGUEZ: And this is just the beginning of what will be for both candidates a very long day. Dee Dee Myers, Dan Bartlett, and I were talking about how both candidates, have, at this point, prepared both a victory speech and a concession speech. They have to be ready tonight to give one or the other.

SCHIEFFER: And they're both campaigning today.

RODRIGUEZ: And they're both campaigning today.

SCHIEFFER: That's the interesting thing about it, it used to be that, you know, once you got to election day, everybody sat around-

SMITH: Sat around with your family and -- exactly right, compared notes-

SCHIEFFER: -and kind of re-grouped and everything. But they're both going to be out there today. Which just gives you another indication that nobody on either side is really taking anything for granted.

RODRIGUEZ: Dan Bartlett has joined us now. What's it like to wake up in the morning, you've been with the campaigns, and say 'We're the -- I'm the president-elect'?

DAN BARTLETT: It is a wild feeling, because you're exhausted, you've gone days of campaigning. And all of a sudden, you have the responsibility and weight of the world, as you just mentioned. It was a real surreal moment to have to sit there and have one little team working on a concession speech, while the other team is working on a congratulatory speech. And then you're trying to set the right tone. There's been a divisive political year that has go on for a long time, month after month, and you're trying to capture the right tone of the country and start bringing the country back together. So you've got to immediately move from campaign mode to governing mode and it's a very difficult, but has to be a very quick transition for the candidate, and more importantly, for the staff.

RODRIGUEZ: Wow. After this long season, the one who wins, I think it'll hit, reality will set in at that point, just when you thought it couldn't get any bigger here you are elected President of the United States.

SMITH: I disagree. I think the reality is already there. It used to be that, you know, you won an election, you got to take a couple of days off or whatever, 'I'm going to retire with my family to someplace and chill.' There's -- there can be no chill in the world that we live in right now. Two wars being fought, an economy in total turmoil, and some people have suggested over the last couple of weeks maybe it seemed like running for president was a good idea 18 or 20 months ago-

BARTLETT: Well, remember Harry-

SMITH: -can you imagine the plate that's being set right now?

BARTLETT: -remember, the current president is convening all the 20 economic leaders around the world shortly after the election. The new president-elect will have to help shape the meeting, the agenda. Whether he will participate or not. So you're right. It's right into the mix, right out of the gate, right after the election.

CHEN: And Dee Dee, how true is that once someone is elected president for the first term in office, from the minute they hit office, the focus is about re-election?

MYERS: Well, it's something you have to consider. Because every decision that you make has consequences down the line and not just for the decision itself, but for how does the country perceive it and who's ox is getting gored. And that's one of the things that makes being president so difficult. Something that Dan and I have talked a lot about. There's no place to hide when you're the president. You make a decision and a lot of times, 52% of people are happy and 48% of people are unhappy. And so how do you maintain a majority of support in the country? And that's important not just to get re-elected, but to keep a sense that the country supports your policies and that you're moving in the right direction.

RODRIGUEZ: That is something that's already on the minds of the Obamas. I spoke with Michelle Obama in Indiana a couple of weeks ago and looking ahead, she said that she could see two successful terms for her husband. So it is something that already is -- is on their minds.

SMITH: This may be the most meticulously groomed over ballot-

[LAUGHTER]

RODRIGUEZ: Did he look at a sample ballot before he went in there?

SMITH: -in presidential -- in presidential-

BARTLETT: I hope he's not flipping coins in there. Get down to those ballot -- those referendums and everything.

SCHIEFFER: You know we -- we should not forget that Dan Bartlett was there on one of the most unusual election days or election nights ever.

SMITH: Eight years ago.

SCHIEFFER: When George Bush thought he had won and then thought he had lost and then-

RODRIGUEZ: Don't blame me, even though I'm from Florida.

BARTLETT: You know, it's one thing that you always could expect at the end of an election was that it would be over. I mean, you put your heart and soul into it, but there's a finish line and you kind of left it all on the playing field. Obviously, that wasn't the case that night. We were readying, then what we thought was president-elect Bush to go out and then we started getting the phone calls there in the governor's mansion that no, Al Gore was not going to concede. Next thing we know, I think he sent out Bill Daly, his chairman of the campaign came out and said, you know, the count is going to come. So all of a sudden, your mind set has to quickly change. We're rushing back, you know, several blocks from where the celebratory stage was, back to the campaign headquarters, pouring over those Florida numbers to see exactly what was going to happen. And then as everybody knows-

SCHIEFFER: And in the midst of that, his brother was running for Governor, right?

SMITH: Right.

BARTLETT: Well -- and he was, you know-

SCHIEFFER: And he got beat.

BARTLETT: Well, he got beat. And now he was trying to be helpfully responsible for carrying the state for his brother. A lot of family pressure there, you can imagine. It was an interesting dynamic in that governor's mansion that night.

SMITH: Lots more to talk about this morning as we continue to look at this picture of Barack Obama voting in Chicago in Hyde Park this morning.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC