ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, South Carolina (CNN) – The country is at war, the economy is stalling, and the presidential candidates are fighting over everything from universal health care to illegal immigration.
The Democratic and Republican White House hopefuls are offering their plans, but is America listening? Over the next six days we will search for that answer, and provide Americans an opportunity to say what’s on their minds as the CNN Election Express motors from Myrtle Beach to Los Angeles.
For the past year, if you lived in Iowa or New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada, chances are you bumped into Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain or Barack Obama.
These states have made their voices heard - except for South Carolina’s Democrats, who vote on Saturday - but were the voters in Alabama or New Mexico listening?
The candidates had better hope so. Voters in these states and 22 others head to the polls on February 5, when 1,681 Democratic and 1020 Republican delegates are up for grabs.
This is no planned tour. We are going to make unscheduled stops in little towns and big cities, truck stops and diners. When we pull over, CNN’s Ali Velshi will be jumping off the bus to hear what’s on voters’ minds, while I blog along the way.
We begin our journey in South Carolina, and end in California: 2,600 miles and the lives and stories of millions of Americans lie in-between.
So, tune into CNN and The Ticker throughout the day and night for the latest from the road.
– CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
The CNN Election Express on location in St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN)– The CNN Election Express is in Florida. That’s where the Republican presidential candidates will face off this Wednesday in a CNN YouTube debate.
While Florida’s long played an important role in general election in the race for the White House (remember the Florida recount in 2000), this time around it’s also playing a larger role in the primary process. That’s because the Sunshine State moved up the date of its primary to late January.
Right now Senator Hillary Clinton of New York is the front runner in polls in Florida in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. In surveys of Republican voters in Florida, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s on top.
The CNN Election Express just made a cross country trip. Dale Fountain drove the bus to Florida from Las Vegas, where CNN hosted a Democratic presidential debate on November 15th.
Click here to see CNN's new political portal: CNNPolitics.com
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
The CNN Election Express has arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada.
ON BOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN) - We’ve made it Las Vegas and we’ve set up shop in front of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino along the Strip.
We started the day in St. George, Utah. After packing up the bus, we headed southwest from there, along Interstate 15, passing through some beautiful desert canyons along the way in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.
Now we’re in Las Vegas, where CNN and the Nevada Democratic Party will put on Thursday night’s presidential debate.
The national party made Nevada more of player in the presidential primary calendar, moving the state’s caucuses up to mid January. Nevada’s growing Latino population and its large union workforce are two reasons why the Democrats made the move.
CNN's Bill Schneider gives a preview of the upcoming presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.
ONBOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN) - We’re in Southwestern Utah, on the road to Las Vegas.
Utah is considered the most Republican state in the country. President Bush grabbed 72 percent of the vote here in 2004. The governor and both senators and two of the state’s three house members are Republicans. The last time the Democrats won this state in a presidential election was 1964.
We started this morning in Grand Junction, Colorado. After a couple of live reports by CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider for our domestic and international networks, we packed up and headed west.
We crossed over the border into Utah and soon set up shop in the middle of the rugged desert. The gang in the control room asked for our location. I couldn’t give a town as a locator, because there was no town for miles around. Grand County was the best I could do.
We moved on and drove some through some beautiful yet desolate landscapes, as we made our way west through the Beehive state.
We’re on the road to Las Vegas, where CNN and the Nevada Democratic Party will put on Thursday night’s presidential debate. The national party made Nevada more of player in the presidential primary calendar, moving the state’s caucuses up to mid January. Nevada’s growing Latino population and its large union workforce are two reasons why the Democrats made the move.
The CNN Election Express on location near the Colorado-Utah border Sunday.
ONBOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN)– We’re out in the middle of the rugged desert in southeastern Utah. I can’t give a town as a locator, because there’s no town for miles around. Grand County is the best I can do.
Utah is considered the most Republican state in the country. President Bush grabbed 72% of the vote here in 2004. The governor and both senators and two of the state’s three house members are Republicans. The last time the Democrats won this state in a presidential election was 1964.
Mormons make up just over 60 percent of Utah’s population.
The CNN Election Express stops at the Vail Pass for live reports as they head toward Las Vegas.
ON BOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN)– We’re on the road to Las Vegas. That’s where CNN and the Nevada Democratic Party will hold a presidential debate this Thursday.
We’re riding the CNN Election Express, stopping along the way as we pass through the Rocky Mountains towards Las Vegas. We started this trip in Denver, along side the state capitol. The Democrats are holding their presidential convention in the Mile High City next summer. Setting aside California, it’s been 80 years since the Democrats held a convention west of Chicago, and they are coming here for good reason.
Colorado has a Democratic governor and a Democratic controlled state legislature for the first time in 40 years. “I think Colorado is absolutely a state that the Democratic Party could win,” says Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. He continues, saying “Bill Clinton won it in 1992. No Democrat has won it since, but we are in a different place than we have been in recent elections.”
And it’s not just Colorado. Democrats made major gains throughout the Rocky Mountain states. They’ve picked up four House seats, two Senate seats and three Governorships in the past two elections.
“I would say there’s a four state area, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, that truly are going to be up for grabs in the presidential election and some others as well could be surprises,” says Arizona’s Democratic Governor, Janet Napolitano. “So when you combine those electoral votes if you’re looking at the map and how to get to that magic number to be elected as president, there’s a big clump of votes out there to get,” she adds.
The Mountain West’s population is growing and changing. Many residents now come from the East and West coasts and there’s a growing Latino population. But it’s not just California transplants and East Coast retirees who are changing the nature of politics here. It is concern within the natural constituency of the Republican Party that there is a threat to the things that make this region special. Increased oil and gas drilling has sportsmen and ranchers worried about quality of life issues.
Click here to see CNN's new political portal: CNNPolitics.com
The CNN Election Express stops at the Vail Pass for live reports.
ON BOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN)– We’re on the road to Las Vegas. And we’re two miles high. We set up shop and CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider did live reports for CNN Domestic and CNN International at the Vail Pass, nearly 11,000 feet in altitude.
We started the morning in Denver, outside the state capitol. The Democrats are holding their presidential convention in the Mile High City next summer. The party’s made major gains in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain states. They’ve picked up four House seats, two Senate seats and three Governorships over the past two elections.
Here in Colorado, Democrats control the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 40 years. A region that was once reliably red is now up for grabs and Democrats hope to continue that trend in next year’s Presidential election. That’s one reason their holding their convention in Denver.
But Republicans say that they’ll hold on to the region, especially if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination.
Bill Schneider’s first live shot this morning was in front of the state capitol. But just as we were finishing up, we had to move. The city was setting up for Denver’s Veterans Day parade, and the CNN Election Express was in the way. So we quickly packed up, brought down the satellite dish atop the bus, and drove over to Mile High Stadium to set up shop again. Schneider was back at it, going live for CNN and CNN International.
After a few more live reports for CNN Domestic and our international network, we were on our way, up into the Rocky Mountains, and on the road to Las Vegas, where CNN will host Thursday’s Democratic Presidential Debate.
Related video: Watch Bill Schneider report from Vail Pass on the way to Las Vegas
Related video: Watch Paul Steinhauser report on Western politics
Watch Sen. Biden's take on the Pakistan crisis.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told CNN Sunday he is not surprised by the current instability in Pakistan, and said that if he were president he would be working to ensure elections took place there in the coming weeks.
The “way out for [Pervez] Musharraf and in turn for us and Pakistan is this guarantee, making it known now that the election will go off within sixty days and there will be a fair arbiter of whether or not it was conducted fairly,” Biden told CNN's Candy Crowley in a wide-ranging interview aboard the CNN Election Express as it ambled through Iowa.
Biden spoke to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto while campaigning in Iowa Sunday and told voters he was trying to connect with President Musharraf to talk about the political crisis in Pakistan.
The Delaware senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee agreed with the Bush administration’s decision to review U.S. aid to Pakistan and told Crowley he thinks the war in Iraq has contributed to Musharraf’s present situation.
Biden said he's not interested in being No. 2.
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told CNN Sunday he is confident a top three finish in Iowa will propel him to his party’s nomination, and said he would not consider being a vice presidential candidate if his White House bid is unsuccessful.
“I believe I’m going to do very well here,” the Delaware senator told Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley during an interview on the CNN Election Express. “If I end up one, two or three then I believe I’m the nominee because all of the sudden the national press will have to cover me.” (Related: Biden says Bill Clinton will overshadow VP position)
Biden pointed to his years of foreign policy experience and relationships at home and abroad that make him the most qualified of the crowded Democratic field.
“This is not a time for on-the-job training and no matter how smart the next president is, you know and I know that they don’t make really difficult decisions, no matter how bright their advisors are unless they feel it in their gut, these are good decent people these Democrats. It’s going to take them a while to get their footing, we don’t have a whole long time,” Biden said.
When pressed about who among his candidate colleagues might need to learn as they go, Biden replied: “I’m talking about the entire field … the exception might be Chris Dodd and I would’ve thought Bill Richardson but some of the things Bill’s saying these days, I find it confuses me whether or not he has a sense of a proportion about our place in the world.”