(CNN)–The 21-month marathon is over: Voters head to the polls today to elect the 44th President of the United States. In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily: Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain hold their last round of rallies in key battleground states, as CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and Ed Henry take a look at what has been the longest presidential campaign in history.
Plus: Are Republicans about to become an endangered species? CNN’s Jim Acosta breaks down the balance of power in the House and Senate and why GOP anxiety is at an all-time high.
And: Broken machines and long lines are just some of the issues voters are facing at the polls. CNN’s Carol Costello breaks down common Election Day problems, and offers helpful tips to the affected in her voter survival guide.
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(CNN) – candidates saying they'll bring more openness and responsibility to the federal government.
But ask former Democratic Texas congressman Charlie Wilson about transparency, and he chuckles.
"You can't do everything transparently," Wilson told CNN in a phone interview, and he should know: his determination to fund Afghan rebels against the Soviet invasion was made into the book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War." (The DVD of the film, which starred Tom Hanks as Wilson, comes out Tuesday.) Wilson's effort was covert: He set about increasing funding for CIA operations in Afghanistan, helped convince disparate groups such as the Israelis and Saudis to cooperate, and did it all with almost no coverage in the press.
"This was opaque and it had to be opaque, and had it not been, it wouldn't have succeeded," he continues. "But to be opaque, it had to have bipartisan support. It had to have enthusiastic bipartisan support - but bipartisan support that didn't go to the press, and try to take credit."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The battle over the word "bitter" between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has sparked a new look at the candidates and their stance on the Second Amendment.
At a closed-door fundraiser just over a week ago, the Illinois senator referred to some small-town Pennsylvanians as "bitter" people who "cling to guns and religion."
"I didn't say it as well as I should have," Obama admitted in Muncie, Indiana, on Saturday, the day after he first defended his comments, "because the truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation - those are important."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Frances Lewine, who covered the White House for the Associated Press during the administrations of six presidents and spent nearly three decades as a CNN assignment editor and field producer, died Saturday of an apparent stroke. She was 86.
Lewine was regarded as a trailblazer who battled for women's rights in journalism, fighting to open the National Press Club and the Gridiron Club - a Washington journalists' organization - to women.
"It's amazing that at her age, Fran was still staking out administration and elected officials after weekend talk shows," CNN Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman said. "All of journalism has lost a true pioneer."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The California Democratic Party announced Monday that it has sanctioned the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate that will air January 31 on CNN, and feature questions from Los Angeles Times and POLITICO journalists.
The debate - to be held in Los Angeles - will be the Democratic contender's final face off before voters from delegate-rich California, as well as 20-plus other states, are set to head to the polls on February 5.
“The California Democratic Party is excited that our party’s presidential debate, on the eve of the momentous Feb. 5 primaries, will be in Los Angeles, California,” said California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres. “As a native Angeleno, I am proud to join CNN, the Los Angeles Times and POLITICO in helping our presidential candidates embrace the diversity and vision that California offers all Americans.”
This is the only debate that the Democratic Party of California has officially sanctioned in the 2008 race for the White House. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will moderate the debate.
Fans watch race action during the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Congressional Republicans Thursday seized on a Democrat's recent suggestion that his aides get immunized before attending NASCAR events, claiming such a recommendation shows a "disconnect" with America.
Asking in a press release whether Democrats are "allergic to NASCAR nation," the National Republican Congressional Committee wrote, "While red-blooded, patriotic Americans were packing their coolers and gathering their families in preparation of attending last week’s race at Talladega, a leading Democrat was advising staff to get immunized."
The NRCC is referencing Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, who advised aides to get immunized against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, and influenza before heading to the NASCAR event. The aides were on a fact finding mission on health preparedness at large events.
"Maybe the House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson was afraid his fellow Democrats might come down with a case of Red State Republicanism after coming in contact with hundreds of thousands of regular Americans attending the event," the NRCC said in its release. "No matter what his reasoning, Thompson’s ignorant behavior is inexcusable and clearly exposes the fundamental disconnect between the Democrat-led Congress and the rest of America."
The NRCC's statement follows a strongly-worded letter to Thompson Friday from Rep. Robin Hayes, R-North Carolina, which said, "I have been to numerous NASCAR races, and the folks who attend these events certainly don't pose any health hazard to congressional staffers or anyone else."
Responding in a letter Wednesday, Thompson wrote, "Since committee staff members are visiting hospital and other health-care facilities available at or near these venues, including areas where groups of people are detained before being transferred to other off-site facilities, I believe that the recommendation (not requirement) that our congressional staff receive these same immunizations was sound."
– CNN's Alexander Mooney and Deirdre Walsh
Supporters of D.C. voting rights were on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The DC Voting Rights Bill failed to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to reach cloture and move toward a vote Tuesday.
The bill would have given the District of Columbia the right to a representative in Congress with full voting rights. The District currently has an elected delegate who does not have the right to vote on legislation that comes to the floor of the House of Representatives, but can sometimes vote for legislation when it is considered at the committee level.
Supporters of the bill, including D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, claimed disenfranchisement for the nearly 600,000 residents of the city.
"Not since segregation has the Senate blocked a voting rights bill,” Fenty told a crowd during a rally, “and this is a voting rights bill."
Those against the bill argued the bill violated the constitution because the right to vote can only be given to citizens of states. Others feared that the bill would give the District a pathway toward gaining two seats in the Senate.
President Bush had threatened to veto the bill had it passed in the Senate.
– CNN Ticker Producer Xuan Thai