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Election 2000: Gore Takes Wisconsin; Presidential Race Still Teeters on Florida

Aired November 8, 2000 - 6:23 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back as we continue our coverage of election 2000. CNN is now ready to make the call on Wisconsin, which had up until now been a state too close to call. We are now calling that Al Gore's state, Al Gore taking the state of Wisconsin, and its 11 electoral votes. That's just coming in here to CNN Center.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, which means that Al Gore needs 10 more electoral votes, George W. Bush needs 24, which once again brings it down to Florida's 25 electoral votes.

HARRIS: It doesn't change the scenario at all, because no matter what happens, Florida has got to be the state that makes the final call.

LIN: That's right. We are still waiting for Oregon, but still it doesn't matter now that Wisconsin is in at this point. All right, 270 electoral votes needed.

HARRIS: That's right. And of course, we are watching and waiting to see the latest news as it comes in and now the drama over this presidential race now has upstaged some rather exciting Senate races that also took place last night.

LIN: Let's take a look at some of those. The Democrats made some gains, but Republicans do retain control.

Taking a look at some of the key races right now, as we bring them up, taking a look at the balance of power in the Senate, Republican holdovers were 35, but they won 15 seats tonight, Democrats won 17.

HARRIS: The balance of power not really shifting much there in the Senate. As you can see the total now stands at 48 seats for the Democrats, 50 for the Republicans, two now undecided. And of course, in the end, no matter what happens, the Republicans will retain control, it appears.

LIN: That's right. Senator Joe Lieberman, should he become vice president, will have to vacate his seat in Connecticut and the Republican will be taking his place. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi also remaining Senate majority leader. HARRIS: Now, across the aisle, looking at the House, the balance of power there, before the election, you see this charge here that shows you the Republicans held 223 seats, the Democrats 210, with two independents. And now, we're looking now, Republicans holding 216 seats, Democrats 207, and 10 undecided with two independents still in there.

LIN: That's right.

HARRIS: Don't want to leave them out.

LIN: No. Also once again Dennis Hastert remaining speaker of the House; the Republicans retaining their majority.

HARRIS: However, in both cases, the margins have gotten quite a bit slimmer, that raises a lot of questions for exactly how the process of governing is going to play out.

LIN: That's right. And that dynamic obviously could change depending on whether G.W. Bush, the Republican, becomes president and, for the first time since 1952, it would be a Republican Senate, a Republican House and a Republican in the White House; or if Al Gore then takes charge and has to deal with both Republican majorities in the House and the Senate.

Why don't we take a closer look at the Senate races? Let's go back to CNN's Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno to analyze this breakdown -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Let's start with New York. If we talk history tonight, nothing comes closer to making history, or does make history than the race in New York, where first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton wins a Senate seat. Eleanor Roosevelt was asked about that at one point, she said, no thanks, I am not going to run. But Hillary Rodham Clinton did and she won, she won convincingly, with about 3.4 million votes in the state of New York.

And she came out, as you see, to her supporters, she took the seat from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he was retiring, and carries a banner in a seat that has really been held by heavyweights, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, before that Bobby Kennedy.

Now last night she addressed her supporters. Here is some of what she had to say.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SEN. ELECT: I promise you tonight that I will reach across party lines to bring progress for all of New York's families. Today we voted as Democrats and Republicans. Tomorrow we begin again as New Yorkers.


SESNO: Now let me tell you that Hillary Rodham Clinton ran first her listening tours, you know, throughout New York, she tried to convince New Yorkers she wasn't a carpetbagger, that she wasn't just coming in for personal gain and personal profile. She ran on a platform focusing on women, women's issues, children and jobs. And in the end, first against Rudy Giuliani and then against Rick Lazio, Carol, she triumphed rather convincingly.

LIN: Yes, and Rick Lazio was saying that he was the underdog the entire time and had the disadvantage of not really being able to campaign as long as he would like to because obviously he took over once Rudy Giuliani stepped down.

SESNO: Well, he was a man -- he was a man, Carol, with not a great statewide profile, he was known certainly in his own district. So he was a relative newcomer. He had the disadvantage of jumping in late because of Giuliani's departure, of course. And in the state of New York, any Republican who is running for statewide office in a situation like this faces the reality that there are two million more registered Democrats.

LIN: Yes, and I guess the carpetbagger claim against Hillary Rodham Clinton really didn't matter in a place where a lot of people move in and try to stake their claim in the Big Apple.

SESNO: Well, she was a lightning rod throughout, she was a lightning rod to the end, and there is a lot of talk here in Washington already, even on the Senate -- Senate side, where she is going to be going, especially there, and among what still appears, at least for the moment, to be a tenuous majority party, the Republicans, saying she will expect no special treatment from the Republicans.

LIN: OK. Well, special -- I guess it depends on how you define special. We'll see what happens. Thanks so much, Frank. We're going to check in with you on some of the other major races, including the interesting one in Missouri, where governor, deceased Governor Mel Carnahan actually won that Senate seat.

SESNO: More history there.

HARRIS: And lots of stories like that throughout the night, and stories that you could not sell to anyone writing a screenplay.

Well, joining us now here on the set are a couple of very tired people. They are helping us assess all of this, Cynthia Tucker of the "Atlanta Constitution" and Ramesh Ponnuru, thank you both very much for sticking around throughout the night.

Cynthia, you work for a newspaper. How would you write the headline this morning?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": Well it has been excruciating for newspapers, almost as excruciating as it has been for the networks. But our problem is we have to put an edition out, we have to put something in print and we are stuck with it.

So all over the country probably now this morning readers are going out, collecting newspaper editions that will...

LIN: This is a collector's edition right here.

HARRIS: Since you brought it up. Since you brought it up here...

LIN: Only by coincidence it happens to be Cynthia's paper, several other papers grappling with the same issue with headlines.

HARRIS: Exactly, and we can't blame her for this because she was here the entire time.

Folks, take a look at the headline here, we'll put this under Cynthia's face, the headline from the "Atlanta Constitution," it came out about -- I can't tell what time this came out. Do you know what time this came out, this first edition?

TUCKER: Probably about midnight.

HARRIS: About midnight. Here we go. "Gore Bush Battle to Wire. Miller Is Elected to Senate." That was first, moments later, about what time did this one come out?

TUCKER: Probably about 2:00 in the morning because that is about the time, somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00, as I recall, most of the broadcast networks, which is where we get our news from, were saying that Florida had gone to Bush and he was the president.

HARRIS: Exactly, and that is what we have here, the headlines saying that "Bush is Declared Winner." However, that was at 2:30, and now what time did this one come out?

TUCKER: Four o'clock, this ones says 4:00 a.m. edition. We have "Bush Set to Win, but Florida Vote Questioned."

Now again, the disadvantage is, we are stuck with this, on the networks you can come back in just a few minutes and say: Whoops, no, we were wrong. But we put this in print on the dead tree medium, we're stuck with it.

LIN: Yes. Well, Ramesh Ponnuru of the "National Review," when you take a look at -- now we are focusing on Florida. You've got a fairly liberal county, Broward County, where we are still waiting for results, the Jewish vote is going to be significant there, as well as the senior vote, seniors leaning to Bush, the Jewish vote, perhaps, leaning to the Gore-Lieberman ticket. What are your predictions here, in terms of how these absentee ballots are going to matter in this race?

RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think that you would have to be extraordinarily foolish after this, the last 12 hours to be making any predictions of any sort. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if we recounted the votes of some deep South states and they had all gone for Nader.

LIN: That we need, yes.

PONNURU: I think it is going to go down, not just to absentee ballots but to overseas ballots, and not just in Florida, but in some other places as well.

LIN: Well, do you think that the campaigns surely have to have the ability now to take a look at the demographics of where these ballots are coming in from, see what the leanings are, or is the race that close? I mean, a difference now of a little over a 900-vote difference between the two candidates. I mean, is there any way to do the math where they are likely to see where it is going to go?

PONNURU: They can make their calculations, but I think one thing we have seen tonight is that it is just very hard to predict how that is going to turn out. An interesting thing, for all of the projections, I'm not sure there's never been a point during the night when the actual vote totals had Gore above Bush in Florida.

HARRIS: Speaking of the polls, I want to ask you to get both of you to weigh in on this one quickly, if you can, what do you think happens from here on out and particularly, you know, in consideration what the public takes away from this because the polls have been all along saying that it was going to play out a certain way, and although they have been right about the fact that it was going to be close all the way to the very end, how do you think -- what do you think the public takes away from all of this with the polls?

TUCKER: Well, let me talk about journalists first because I think there will be a great deal of soul searching about the way we have handled tonight especially, and there will be a lot of questioning about polling throughout. But especially the fine art of exit polling, as it turned out.

The public, I think, is going to be even more cynical about the reporting we do, the forecasting we do. This has not been a great election for punditry, I will admit.

But I hope that citizens also go away with a keener sense that their vote matters. For at least the next decade, nobody should say my vote doesn't count because, in some places, these may come down to a few hundred votes.

LIN: See, when we talk about counting votes, I think what a lot of people don't now is when networks make their projections it is based on a lot of different factors, exit polling, meaning talking to people as they leave the polls, how did you vote? Our own projections, in terms of our polling data, as well as literally counting the ballots.

PONNURU: I think the public -- there are two interesting things that will happen with the public, number one, it just strikes me as ironic that the one thing, I mean, this is a very divided, split country, obviously politically. But the one thing everybody wanted, the Republican base, the Democratic base, swing voters, was for this election to be over, and that is the one thing they are not going to get. The public has thwarted itself.

The other thing, and I think, to strike a more serious note, I think that either side, whoever wins, the losing side is going to be be metaphysically certain that it was robbed of the election. I think that it is going to be, the fallout, particularly if you have a popular electoral split, there is going to be as much bitterness as there was from impeachment without the principles at stake.

LIN: And no clear mandate for whoever is taking over the White House. Thank you both.

HARRIS: We've got to take a break right now. Back with more in just a moment. Don't go away.



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