This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," November 4, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MEGYN KELLY, CO-HOST: Well, while we wait for that exit poll information, we're going to turn to the man that many believe is responsible for the past two Republican presidential victories and that man is, as he is known, "The Architect," Karl Rove.
Karl, good evening to you.
KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Megyn, good to see you.
KELLY: All right. So, what is the main thing that you are going to be looking for early on tonight?
ROVE: Well, I'm going to be looking at certain counties in Indiana. We're not going to get all the votes in in Indiana when the polls first close because the southwestern and northwestern parts of the state close an hour later, I believe, it is for half an hour later. So, I'm going to be looking at counties like Allen County, and Marion County, Indianapolis, and then the doughnut counties, the suburban counties around there.
Also, I'm going to be looking for the returns in Vigo County, Terre Haute, Indiana, which has called every presidential election with the exception of 1908 and 1952. For 100 years, it's called all but two presidential elections. Then we're going to get the early returns from Kentucky, the eastern part of Kentucky and again, I'm going to be looking there not because I think Kentucky is in danger but it will give us a sense of how McCain and Obama are running in comparison to Bush and Kerry in 2004.
KELLY: Karl, so many people have said that if Indiana is in doubt, if it seems to be leaning toward Obama, it's a very bad predictor for John McCain. Is that true? Could you see a scenario where McCain loses Indiana and then goes on to win Virginia, which comes up shortly there after, Ohio after that, and goes on to win the presidency?
ROVE: Yes, he could. But the question is, in 2004, the Republicans had 286 electoral votes, 16 more than they needed in order to win the presidential contest. You can't lose a lot of states and drop below 270, and if you do, you got to replace them with something. So, if you lose Indiana, that takes you from 286 down to 275. Five above the number you need. If you lose Iowa, you're down under 270. So, you want to minimize your losses and the 11 electoral votes in Indiana are key for McCain to keeping the camp.
Now, we won't know early on in the evening how Indiana is going to come out. In fact, Indiana may be called very late in the evening if it's close, because Lake County, which is in the far northwestern corner, Gary, Indiana — so it is really virtually a part of the city of Chicago. In the primaries, they held out their vote late, they counted them late, they brought them in at the very tail end of the evening. I suspect we'll see that happen again tonight. So, we may not know how Indiana is going until very late in the evening.
KELLY: One of the critical points to look for tonight as the hours tick by, we got 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 o'clock, 11:00 o'clock poll closings, what are the critical points which you think we could know how this election has turned out?
ROVE: It's to compare the performance of McCain and Obama to Bush and Kerry and see how they differ, and see if there's a consistent pattern that shows up that gives you a sense of — remember, the race in 2004 was separated by less than three points. If Obama and McCain start to show a significantly different rate of return in these individual states and counties as they come in, it will give us a sense of what the — of how the general trend for the evening might look like.
But look — early on, Indiana is important. Virginia will come in. They close early. It will take a long time for Virginia to come in, not as long as it will probably take Indiana to come in.
But again, we get a sense from the pattern of votes. Does McCain do well in the Tidewater? How much is the African-American vote in Petersburg and Richmond grow? How does Obama do in Northern Virginia? Have his comments on coal hurt him in the southwest and in the valley of Virginia where he spent a lot of time over the last month campaigning? All of these questions will start to get a glimpse on the potential responses early in the evening.
KELLY: And as you speak, we watch live voting taking place in one of the counties you mention, Lake County in Indiana. Karl, you've been through this, you have been the man at the top of a campaign staff, sitting on a night like this, basically at this point, powerless except to watch the results roll in. What are these candidates and the men and women around them who have helped them get to this point, what are they going through at this hour tonight?
ROVE: Look, it's an emotional time. You spent some number of years of life focused on one thing — victory, and tonight, it's in the hands of the voters. You make a lot of useless phone calls. You call up people in individual battleground states and ask what's going on and the answer is, you know, our people are turning out in some parts of the state and there are turning out, we're feeling good about — but, I mean, you know it's useless but you do it anyway.
I remember there was a New York Times magazine story after the 2004 election, and it was sort of, to me, a wonderful sort of confirmation of things because it was about the Kerry campaign in Ohio, and how early in the day, they were getting the gossip from around the state, all the Democrats are turning out, we're going to carry Ohio, sweep the state, win the presidential race.
About 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, they finally got some hard data by going after a very Republican precinct in Delaware County, north of Columbus, and they walked in and nobody was in this heavily Republican precinct and they started high-fiving each other. Then somebody walked over and looked over on the board where they posted how many people have voted and they realized that it was an overwhelmingly Republican precinct at 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, 72 percent of the people who've already cast their ballot which indicated there's going to be a huge Republican turnout.
And the rest of the article is about their spiraling into the ground through the rest of the day. But that's what happens on Election Day. You just — you're on energy. You're on caffeine, you're on adrenaline and you're about out, and you can see it within sight and either you're going to win or you're going to lose, and several years of your life are going to be spoken for in a few moments.
KELLY: Absolutely, one way or the other. Let me ask you before I let you go, one final question: How do the candidates find out whether they won or not? Is it just by watching television like the rest of the America, or are they doing it — the math themselves?
ROVE: Well, they'll do the math themselves. And like in 2004, we had people with PDAs in all of the court houses and the battleground states in every county who then fed their data in as they got it. So, we were ahead of the "AP" and certainly ahead of the networks. It then flowed into a computer database.
I was sitting in the private dining room of the White House with a computer terminal in front me. All I had to do was hit a state, it would pop up, the vote total, all I had to do is hit a county within that state and it would give me the vote total. I had two big notebooks that showed our goals for each county of a state.
So, we were forecasting and analyzing it slightly ahead of the "AP" and significantly ahead of the networks.
KELLY: I bet you don't believe it until you hear Brit Hume say it?
ROVE: Well, you know what? We believed it before we heard — you know, I remember at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the day after the 2000 election talking with the anchor from another network about why they wouldn't call the election, and even though there were two precincts out p in Iowa and we're up 13,000 votes, they wouldn't call the election. So, you know, you believe it long before the networks will do it for you one way or another.
KELLY: Well, we can't wait to watch it in the poll tonight. Karl Rove will be there as it happens here live on FOX News Channel.
Karl, thanks so much as always.
ROVE: You bet. Thank you.
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