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Election 2000: Ron Faucheux of 'Campaigns & Elections' Discusses Key Senate Races

Aired November 8, 2000 - 6:37 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is the morning after and I'm afraid we don't have a lot of answers for you. The presidential race is still too close to call. We can tell you that the Republicans have retained their majority in the House and the Senate. We are still waiting on, though, 10 more House races to report to you.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And we're still waiting on the state of Florida. Everything right now hangs on whether or not Florida goes for Bush or for Gore. It has flip-flopped through the night. And of course we'll stay on top of that as the last of the absentee ballots and some of these overseas ballots that are coming in and the last couple of people who are -- I guess precinct folks who are still waiting to come in.

LIN: That's right.

HARRIS: Once all that comes in, we'll get a final picture, hopefully.

LIN: The state of Florida has already said that there is going to be a recount because, by state law, when it comes within one-half of 1 percent, they automatically have a recount. So who knows what might even change of the votes that we already do know about.

HARRIS: That's right.

Now, let's get some more analysis and some more answers, hopefully, from Frank Sesno, who's standing by in Washington -- Frank.

LIN: And take a look at those Senate races.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, hope springs eternal, right? on the answers, because it's worth pointing out that there's not only a cliffhanger...

HARRIS: All right.

SESNO: ... as far as who's going to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but we've got cliffhangers as far as who's going to ultimately control, and by what margin, the Senate of the United States and the House of Representatives of the United States.

First, let's look at a couple of key Senate races. Let's go to Michigan first. We're still not calling this one. Debbie Stabenow, Democratic challenger, you see with 50 percent of the vote; Sen. Spence Abraham, 49 percent. Spence Abraham came in in the class of 1994. He was a soft-spoken Gingrich revolutionary, really, on the Senate side, a key element in the Republicans' majority there.

I'm joined by Ron Faucheux of "Campaigns & Elections."

Ron, Michigan, Spence Abraham, Debbie Stabenow, a lot at stake here. And what do you expect?

RON FAUCHEUX, "CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS" MAGAZINE: Well, certainly a lot at stake. This was a case where you have a first-term Republican incumbent who was elected in the '94 Republican landslide. He was always considered to be vulnerable, although about a month or two ago it looked like he had established a pretty good lead. Everybody was touting the fact that he had handled the prescription drug issue better than other Republicans and it looked like he had this thing won. But in the last few weeks, Stabenow all of a sudden started closing the gap and had a tremendous amount of momentum in the end. And as it looks now, she may have a slight lead at this point.

SESNO: And I want to tell you that he hammered her as a liberal throughout and really tried to hang that around her.

Let's take a look at another state, another key state, another one we cannot call at this time, and this is Washington State. Slade Gorton fighting off a tough challenge from Maria Cantwell. Maria Cantwell is a high-tech millionaire, threw a lot of her own money at this thing. Slade Gorton a conservative stalwart from the Republicans Senate and he's fought tough races before and hung on.

FAUCHEUX: Well, what's interesting about Gorton is he lost reelection once before and came back two years later and won another Senate seat in his state. And as far as Cantwell goes, she is one of three Democratic candidates who used a large amount of personal funds, the other two being in Minnesota and New Jersey. And the Minnesota and New Jersey Democrats were successful.

SESNO: And I want to tell you this: If both Cantwell and challenger Stabenow win, two more women go to the Senate. And if Gore and Lieberman lose and Lieberman goes to the Senate, based on the last rendering we had, unless the quicksand has shifted under my feet in the last few minutes, it would be a 50-50 tie, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

One other seat, very interesting, another piece of history: state of Missouri. A tragic race there, Sen. John Ashcroft, also the class of 1994 when he came in, up against Gov. Mel Carnahan, killed in a plane crash tragically. And look what's happening, Ron Faucheux. We're calling this one for Carnahan.

FAUCHEUX: Well, of course this is an extraordinary situation for someone who has died and was still on the ballot. It shows you the importance of state election laws, because not all states would have allowed him to stay on the ballot like that. Many of them would have either reopened qualifying or would have had the state party select a new candidate. It also shows you how when a candidate like Ashcroft is in a sensitive situation like this, everything he says, every word he utters is so important and so sensitive to voters. Because there was a feeling that Ashcroft in the last few days began to look like he was whining about not being able to campaign and sort of being caught in this situation, and I don't think that went down well with a lot of voters.

SESNO: Carol, Leon, a remarkable situation, and one that I'm going to tell you a couple times, more than a couple times throughout the morning, and that is this margin that we are seeing starting to emerge on Capitol Hill, regardless of who wins the White House, is going to suggest that much of what needs to be done is going to be bridge-building first, because there's a very tight split and a very nasty impression here in Washington, mood in Washington, between Republicans, Democrats and the Hill and the White House.

HARRIS: And the fact that, with it being this close, there's no mandate.

SESNO: There will be no mandate. There's not going to be a mandate, from what we can see right now, for the presidential and there's not going to be a mandate on Capitol Hill. So this is going to be incremental government. Some say it's going be coalition government.

LIN: And, Frank, really, this year's Congress left a lot of the more critical issues, larger issues like Medicare reform and what's going to happen with Social Security for the next Congress, isn't that right?

SESNO: That's -- there's a tax bill on the table there. And what Republicans were telling me yesterday and today is that if George W. Bush comes in, they're going to put that tax bill aside and they're going to let him take the lead on the tax bill. But there's Social Security pending, whether he or Al Gore are in there, and they're going to be working with very narrow majorities, if there's a majority at all. And whoever the vice president is may have another job for him on Capitol Hill, because in a 50-50 tie the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote on the Senate.

LIN: Yes -- boy.

HARRIS: All right, good deal.

LIN: Thank you very much, Frank.

HARRIS: All right, we'll get back to you later on, Frank.

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