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Capital Gang

Campaign 2000: Who Takes the Big Prize?

Aired November 4, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.


I'm Mark Shields with the full CAPITAL GANG: Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson. We're ready to predict one of the closest elections in American history. For the third straight night, the CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll gives George W. Bush a 4-point lead over Al Gore. And other polls are even closer.

Five days before the election, a 24-year-old drunken driving arrest of George W. Bush made news.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I regret that it happened. But it did. I've learned my lesson. As I mentioned I -- that many of you know, I quit drinking alcohol in 1986.






GORE: I'll tell you what I was concerned about in yesterday's developments was that Governor Bush said that Social Security is not a federal program. I find that absolutely astonishing.


SHIELDS: Al Gore was referring to this statement by Governor Bush about his Social Security proposal.


BUSH: This frightens some in Washington because they want the federal government controlling the Social Security like it's some kind of federal program. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Meanwhile, both campaigns fired away with tough ads.


NARRATOR: Remember when Al Gore said his mother-in-law's prescription cost more than his dog's? His own aides said the story was made up. Now Al Gore is bending the truth again. The press calls Gore's Social Security attacks nonsense.



NARRATOR: As governor, George W. Bush gave big oil a tax break while opposing health care for 220,000 kids. Now Bush promises the same $1 trillion from social security to two different groups. Is he ready to lead America?


SHIELDS: Kate, Social Security's been a lot better program since we returned it to state and local governments, but what is your electoral vote forecast?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": I have bad news for Mr. Next Best Thing, Mark. I give 315 votes to Governor Bush and 223 to Al Gore.

SHIELDS: Now that's enough for?

O'BEIRNE: A big win. A big enough win, let's put it that way, Mark. The country is broadly conservative. Al Gore, despite his claim that he opposes big government and won't hire a single extra federal worker, was defined as a liberal in this race. Polls show the vast majority of people agree with George Bush on the size and scope of if government plus Al Gore is a weird-o and a phony so I think George Bush wins.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, a winner next Tuesday. Could we have the envelope please?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": The envelop is: Gore, 277; Bush, 261.


HUNT: If Ralph Nader gets 5 to 7 percent, Bush wins. But I think Nader is going down to 3 or 4 percent by next Tuesday. I'm also assuming that Al Gore is going pull off the trifecta. He's going to win Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That's tough, but it's doable.

SHIELDS: Well, I have to make my prediction now and I have to say, Al is low-balling, as usual. He's playing it very cautious, very conservative. It's Bush 241 -- close but no cigar -- 297 for Al Gore in a major upset. You don't think of Harry Truman when you look at Al Gore and for good reason. Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I think it's Bush 308, Gore 230. But Al, you know, he only -- Al, you were right about that trifecta, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, but Gore would have to win all three. If he loses one of them, it...

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": That's what a trifecta is.

NOVAK: But he has to win all three. Now, I was with -- covering Governor Bush yesterday in Michigan and West Virginia. He's turned into a really good candidate. He gives a tremendous stump speech. Of course there's so much ridicule of him from the liberal media who have never been out on the stump and seen him, they give a different picture. But the ordinary people who are watching and see him -- and I'll tell you one other thing, that the last stages of the campaign, as usual, the Democrats are just into personal vituperation and character assassination. And that shows they're desperate.

HUNT: By the way, I thought he was terrific on that Social Security thing, Bob.


NOVAK: I think he's right.

CARLSON: By the way, we call them people. We don't call them ordinary people out there unless we're extraordinary here. My numbers are Gore, 274 and Bush, 264. And I give Gore the trifecta of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida.

SHIELDS: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida.

CARLSON: And Michigan is very close, but since the UAW has the day off I think that they will feel an obligation to go and vote just the way when you were a kid you couldn't go play if you didn't go mass. They're not going to really be able to have that day off their consciences won't let them if they don't go and vote.

SHIELDS: The religious metaphor for this campaign is a stretch, Margaret, but an interesting one. But what about this drunk driving thing? Did the -- is it an overcoverage, Bob Novak?

NOVAK: I was out on the trail when this was breaking. It was a feeding frenzy, not because the reporters are bad, but they're bored. They want something to do. It's a reporter's story. I don't believe there's any impact on it and of course it was all cooked up by the Democrats. There's indications that this record of Governor Bush's was pulled months ago by a probate judge who was part of the Democratic political machine in Maine and that there were very close ties to the Gore campaign and then they waited for a -- do you know what a rorovac (ph) is? That's -- you put a slander out against a candidate too late for him to respond, but I don't think it's going work.

SHIELDS: Al, is that too late to respond?

HUNT: Now, Mark, I was "The Wall Street Journal" bureau chief in 1992 and I signed and edited the story that Jeff Birnbaum broke on Bill Clinton evading the draft. And I always thought if Clinton had just told the truth about that a year before it would have been a non- story.

Likewise, if George W. Bush had simply told the truth about this, about a 24-year-old drunk driving arrest when he was only 30 years old, nobody would have cared. But he didn't, Mark, and he basically tried to cover this up. He was on "Meet the Press" last November and he was asked by Tim Russert, how about if somebody puts out some damaging information on you? And here's what he said. This is Governor Bush. He said if somebody was willing to go public with information that was damaging, you'd have heard about it by now. You'd have heard about it now. My background has been scrutinized by all kinds of reporters. When he said that, he knew he had a drunk driving record.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, please. The people who are upset about a 24-year- old incident and were not upset about a 24-year-old intern, I think are having a tough one make this one sell. Apparently the Portland newspaper had this fourth months ago, decided it wasn't newsworthy. Happily, the American public agrees. Polls have shown people don't care. There might even be a backlash. It did break on the anniversary, Friday before the election day, of the indictment of Cap Weinberger that broke Friday before the election day in 1992. It's a dirty trick. He gave a non-answer in the past. He hasn't lied about it and I think he handled it well.

SHIELDS: Let me just jump in because Bob and Kate have both described this as a dirty trick. This is not a dirty trick. A dirty trick is a smear. A dirty trick...


SHIELDS: an unsubstantiated charge. A dirty trick is what Richard Nixon's henchmen did breaking into offices, savaging their reputations. This was a factual thing that happened. Now, the question 24 years, I agree with you. If it's 24 years ago. I also agree with Al. The reality is, two years ago he was asked by "The Dallas Morning News" by Wayne Slater, have you ever been arrested since 1968? He said no.


NOVAK: It's not clear he said no. It's not clear he said no.

SHIELDS: Wait a second. Let me just add one point. "The Chicago Tribune" which has already endorsed him, has said most disturbing is that Bush has not been less than candid. He has been untruthful. Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: A non-answer is untruthful in the standards we have, which is that you have to put -- they're sins of omission. You have to put this stuff out there. And when you're asked you must say or it's considered a lie. And since Bush has based most of his campaign against Gore on him being an exaggerator and lacking credibility, it seems to matter on that basis.

But on the Wayne Slater business, he did not say it and Karen Hughes comes back and starts talking about, was it on the record, was it off the record, and then said, well, listen, the governor was going to say something else. I stopped him. The fact that he was going to say something else made you, Wayne Slater, know that he wasn't answering the question, and therefore the fact that you knew he wasn't telling the truth means he was telling the truth.

NOVAK: You both have brought this up. Wayne Slater, in case for people who might not know, is the Austin Bureau Chief. He said he had the feeling that the governor was going to amend it and she pulled him away. It wasn't an interview. It was a conversation after a press conference. Now, why didn't he, if he thought that the guy was not telling the truth, if he thought that he had been arrested, why didn't he write it then? Why didn't he do something about it? It's a ridiculous to base a whole attack on a president at the last minute of the 11th hour and let me ask you this.

SHIELDS: First of all, he's not a president. First of all he's not a president. IT's not a president. Go ahead.

NOVAK: A presidential candidate.


HUNT: That story ran last November. It ran 11 months ago, in "The New Republic." I'll give you a citation afterwards.


NOVAK: Let me ask you one question: Why did this little judge in Maine pull the thing four months ago and not bring it up until the last week? Isn't that a dirty trick?


HUNT: It is public record. The public has the right to know, Bob. It is a matter of public record.


SHIELDS: This has nothing to do with the source of the story. If the substance of the story is true this is not a smear. This is not a dirty trick. You were wrong, Bob, and you stand corrected and you will be quiet.

The gang of five will be back to predict who will control the Senate next year.


SHIELDS: Welcome back; two of the many hotly contested Senate races are in Virginia and in New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: The issue is trust, and Chuck Robb is not telling women the truth, claiming he voted for notifying parents when a minor seeks an abortion, yet he voted against parental notification.



NARRATOR: George Allen opposes a woman's right to choose and supports a Constitutional amendment to overturn Roe versus Wade.



NARRATOR: Excuse me, did you know that for four years Rick Lazio was the deputy whip to Newt Gingrich in Congress and Lazio followed Gingrich's lead and voted for the largest education cuts in history.



NARRATOR: Remember the last time we trusted Hillary Clinton with an important job in Washington? In 1993 she operated on health care. She proposed a government-run system, a bureaucratic plan of rationing that destroyed your choice of doctors.


SHIELDS: Democrats need a net gain of five seats to control the Senate. What is your prediction, Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Mark, I come out the with the Dems going up four, so it's going to be 50/50. I love that health care ad with -- I wish I had one of those stickers here. It was an excellent ad, but Clinton is actually going to pull that race out. I would not have always thought it, but the preposterousness of a first lady abdicating the White House, moving to Westchester, going for the Senate in a state she had only visited as a tourist -- it came to be kind of routine. We got used to it. She spent more time in upstate than Lazio and they loved her. She's going to win.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: I think the Democrats will pick up two seats in the Senate, a net of two. The Republicans are defending more seats, of course -- 19, and they're going to lose some of them, I think. I think Delaware looks bad for them, I think Minnesota looks bad for the Republicans, Montana's a problem for the, probably Florida -- but they have some pickups.

Chuck Robb despite all his abortion ads, I think, will lose in Virginia and about Nevada will pick up for the Republicans and, with a consumer alert, because I've been wrong about Hillary Clinton consistently -- I think I was maintaining in July she wasn't running; I think Rick Lazio will win in New York. So when all is said and done, it'll still be a better night for the Dems.


HUNT: Kate's record remains unbroken on Hillary, I think. I agree with Margaret, the Dems will pick up four seats and, other than, perhaps, New York, the most fascinating is Missouri where the democratic candidate Mel Carnahan died in a tragic plane crash 2 1/2 weeks ago; his widow will take the seat if he should win next Tuesday.

But the Republicans had an ad cut by Senator John Danforth this week, who said -- he said in the ad that what's happening in this race is not, to John Ashcroft, the Republican candidate is not right. What? Not right? His opponent died! How about what happened to the Carnahan family?

SHIELDS: Good point. I will say right now that the Democrats in the Senate will pick up five seats and they will win a majority and I'll even predict Joe Lieberman will win in Connecticut. Diane Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, I mean, I'll go right across the board, Ken Conrad. Dick Lugar will win.

But I think that Montana, Washington -- Montana and Washington will be two surprises for the Democrats. Go ahead Bob Novak.

NOVAK: The situation will be that the Democrats will pick up only one seat -- only one seat, because I am counting Hillary Clinton losing. I just can't believe she can win that race. But even if she does win, they still don't get control because of the daily double they have of Nevada and Virginia. I think the Torricelli -- the campaign chairman has always known if they don't win one of those states -- if the Democrats don't win in one of those states, they cannot win the election.

And let me tell you something else, Al. Dead men tell no tales and they win no election. Ashcroft is going to win in Missouri.

CARLSON: No, Carnahan is going win. Slade Gordon is up five points in Washington; Maria Cantwell is going to win thanks to the Nader vote.

O'BEIRNE: In Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg, Republican, trails -- the former governor. But I think there could be a strong vote for Stenberg with Bush doing well there.

HUNT: In Michigan, Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow is going to overcome a double-digit lead that Senator Spence Abraham had only four weeks ago and eke out a victory on Tuesday.

SHIELDS: Ben Nelson will win in Nebraska even though he is...

NOVAK: No, no, no.

SHIELDS: Margaret (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will win in Montana, beating Conrad Burns.

NOVAK: I'm going to give you a real upset, and that's Congressman Franks is going to win.

SHIELDS: Bob Franks.

NOVAK: Bob Franks -- I think he may win, I'm not going to say he's going to. He may win in New Jersey against money bags Corzine, a triumph of virtue over wealth.

HUNT: Bob when you stop attacking you're...

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, the battle to control the U.S. House.

Novak attacking wealth!


SHIELDS: Welcome back. House candidates, too, have been pounding away at each other as in the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky.


NARRATOR: Scotty Baesler has a problem with the truth. He hides the fact that his plan further drives up your health insurance costs, threatens the health care you get through your job and causes over 20,000 Kentuckians to lose their health insurance.



UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: I'd like to set the record straight on who is telling the truth about patients' rights. It's Scotty Baesler. I'm angry with Ernie Fletcher.

NARRATOR: One of the few doctors in Congress to vote against patient's rights.


SHIELDS: Democrats need a net pick up of at least seven seats to regain control of the house. Al Hunt, what is your call?

HUNT: Mark, the good news for Dick Gephardt is that on Election Day Democrats will pick up eight House seats. The bad news is for Gephardt is that on Election Day the Democrats will pick up eight House seats. The bad news for Dick Gephardt is the next day Youngstown Democrat Jim Traficant will then put up his vote for speaker to the highest bidder. I'm not sure the House will survive that spectacle.

This is hand-to-hand combat all across the country, Mark. I think you had better stay up late on Tuesday night because I think going into the Western timezone this is going to be almost even. And I think the Democrats are going to win seven seats in the West including four in California.

SHIELDS: OK, I predict that the Democrats will have a net gain of 10 seats on next Tuesday, far exceeding Bob's own prediction, I know, and Bob's own hopes, and that will leave 220 Democrats and Dick Gephardt will rue the day that he was speaker with 220 seats.

HUNT: With or without Traficant.

SHIELDS: That's right. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: I see only one seat gained by the Democrats and one of the reasons is this late Bush spending and campaigning in California is going to save a couple of those seats that Mark thinks are going to go to the Democrats. You know, this is a huge disappointment for the Democrats even if they gain 10. Just the other day the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman was predicting 33 seats were going to be gained, but it's going to be nothing like that and I don't think they can win. I think the Democrats have a better chance in the Senate than the House.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I agree with that, Bob. The Dems will be up four coming up, GOP 219, Dems 214. Two of the impeachment, two of the guys identified with impeachment will go down, Jim Rogan, and Jay Dicky. It's as if Bill Clinton is running against Jay Dicky. He going to see to it that he loses in Arkansas. And in Salt Lake, Matheson is going to win the first time, I mean, a Salt Lake City seat going Democratic. You know, there are so many close races it really is going to depend on a little bit of coattails here and there.

SHIELDS: Coattails.

O'BEIRNE: Let me buck this gang thing going on here. I think Republicans will pick up two.

SHIELDS: Two, wow.

O'BEIRNE: I agree with Al, they're awfully tight. They could be down two. They could be up two. I'll be bullish on it and I think that Margaret's wrong. I'm not at all sure that those two House managers will lose their races, but even if they do house Republicans, and it's owing to Bill Clinton, let the record show, that House Republicans ought to be grateful to Bill Clinton to some extent. They've gained about 50 seats since 1992 when Bill Clinton became president.

SHIELDS: Good point. Surprises, Al. What's the upset?

HUNT: Down in South Florida, 10-term congressman Clay Shaw, a senior Republican in the House Ways and Means Committee, is going to get beaten this time by Elaine Bloom.

SHIELDS: All right, I predict in the 11th District of North Carolina Charlie Taylor, Republican, will fall to Sam Neal, the Democrat.

NOVAK: I'm going to give you a real potential surprise.

HUNT: Sure.

NOVAK: Sam Gajdenson, in Connecticut, top Democrat on the House International Affairs Committee, is in big trouble, could lose.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Anne Northrop is going lose to another woman in Kentucky, Eleanor Jordan. Yes.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: In Florida's Third, Corinne Brown will go down to a conservative Republican woman in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

SHIELDS: The gang of five will be back with the "Outrage" of this campaign.


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Campaign."

Since Arizona Senator John McCain departed the presidential race last March, no major party presidential candidate has dared to challenge us, the American voters, to even consider making any sacrifices for the common good. Both presidential campaigns have been about rights, about entitlements, about painless, ouchless citizenship with no mention of what the responsibility of citizenship, of what each of us owes to our community, to our country, and each other. That, my friends, is an unforgivable outrage -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: In this campaign, Democrats totally returned to the old- fashioned populism of Harry Truman and definitively turned their backs on the progressive ideology of John F. Kennedy. JFK called for across-the-board tax cuts, proclaiming that a rising tide raises all votes, but Al Gore and other Democrats reverted to stale Trumanism, attacking corporate business and bashing the rich. Whether or not this works as well in 2000 as it did in 1948, it's a regressive step for the Democratic Party and bad news for America.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Conjuring up the darkest forces to defeat John McCain, Bush launched a phone bank in South Carolina that smeared Cindy McCain as a drug addict, made racist attacks on McCain's adopted, Bangladeshi daughter and claimed falsely that McCain opposed breast cancer research, when McCain's very own mother was suffering from it. Then Bush accused POW McCain of ignoring veterans. This is the same Bush who got a sweetheart deal to join the National Guard and gave shifting excuse for not reporting for duty for two years. Has there ever been a less honor in a presidential candidate?

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: The NAACP is responsible for the outrage of this campaign season when they ran a vicious TV ad linking George Bush to a vicious killing in Texas. This once-principled organization's dirty work for the Democrats strips the NAACP of any pretense of nonpartisanship.


HUNT: Well, Mark, less than eight years after the national press lamented that Bill Clinton came to the presidency with too many unresolved questions about him and his past, it could happen all over again if George W. Bush wins next Tuesday. On stories ranging from his failure to disclose his 24-year-old drunk driving record to substantive matters like the $1 trillion gap in his Social Security plan, an acquiescent press -- perhaps feeling guilty about being duped by Bill Clinton -- has let Governor Bush get away with entirely too much.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Next on CNN: "INSIDE SPORTS" reports Miami's Hurricane against the unbeaten Virginia Tech.



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