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Presidential Election Too Close to Call: Bush Campaign Confident of Victory; Gore Campaign Waiting on Florida Recount

Aired November 8, 2000 - 2:14 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to another one that doesn't yet, and that, of course, is the presidential race. Pick your description: heart-stopper, cliff-hanger, historic. They said it would be close, and by George, it is. A day after voters chose the new president, we, the people, still don't know who that person is. Florida, the critical toss-up state, lived up to its pre-election hype with just 1,785 votes separating Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Florida's 25 electoral votes and the presidency itself hang in the balance today. At the moment, Gore leads in the electoral vote count, the only one that matters, 260 to 246. But the candidate that takes Florida will capture 25 more, and the count, as of early, early this morning had Bush ahead there. Of course, the one that does win Florida, that will put him over the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House.

If Bush does prevail, he could win the presidency with one, just one electoral vote to spare, while losing the popular contest by a couple hundred thousand votes. That exact scenario has happened once before in U.S. history, back in 1876. Remember it? Rutherford B. Hayes won the White House with just one electoral vote to spare, but he lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden.

WATERS: As I recall, we had to stay up real late that night, too. How exactly will Florida election officials go about this recount that has the world waiting now? And what about voter complaints about confusing ballots and even missing or forgotten ballot boxes? Questions now for CNN's John Zarrella, who's in Fort Lauderdale.

What's going on, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, they're trying to begin to sort out the mess, so to speak, here in Florida and get the beginning of the end of the process under way. About 40 minutes ago here, they -- in Fort Lauderdale, at the voting equipment center, they began the recount of some 587,000 votes. And that's the number of votes, 66 percent of the registered voters, in Broward County, Florida, who went to the polls yesterday. And the recount is under way. After 100 percent of the vote was counted, actually, 60 percent of the folks in Broward County voted for the vice president, 30 percent for the governor from Texas. What you can see there behind me is a room where in this particular room, a representative of the Democratic Party and a representative from the Republican Party, along with their legal counsel, are here to monitor the recount here in Broward County. Off to the right, there is another room, and that is the vote-counting room, and those people in there are literally manning counting machines.

We've got some videotape that we shot just a few minutes ago from another angle, where you can actually see the ballots being placed in these counting machines. That's going to be all 587,928 that were cast here in Broward County put into those machines. And during the course of what's expected to be about three or four hours, they will be recounted. Now, just a few minutes ago, the Broward County elections supervisor, Jane Carol, came out from behind the glass there and told us that the recount is under way, and that this isn't the first time they've done recounts here in Broward County. And she says in the past, it's never made much of a difference. There hasn't been a big change, and she doesn't expect there to be much of a change in the numbers here today.


JANE CAROL, BROWARD COUNTY ELECTION SUPERVISOR: We've never done one that changed the outcome of the race. We've even done them when people were only 1 vote apart when we started for small city races, and they ended up 1 vote apart at the end with the same winner.


ALLEN: Now, they do expect that, again, it will take about three to four hours to finish the count here.

Now, there are other issues outstanding that still have to come into play. As you mentioned, Lou, that they have in Dade County, there was a missing ballot -- or there was a ballot box that was actually discovered this morning when some workers showed up at a church pre-school and found a ballot box there. We're not clear, at this point, as to what was in the ballot box, if it was an empty ballot box, if there were actually ballots in that ballot box. We do know that the ballot box was found in a precinct that is heavily Democratic. If there were ballots in there, no idea how many were in there.

In Palm Beach County, another problem. The way the ballot was laid out in Palm Beach County, apparently, on that ballot there were some complaints from people who voted who said that because of the proximity of the names and the way they were laid out, they thought they were voting for the vice president, but in fact, they think they may have voted for Mr. Buchanan. So another discrepancy to be resolved in Palm Beach County. How you resolve that one is anybody's guess.

But there are still some wild cards here in Florida, even beyond the actual recount that has begun and will take place in all of Florida's 67 counties. Could be a long day, long night, and may not be done and finished until sometime late tomorrow afternoon.


WATERS: And John, both campaigns are sending in representatives, former secretary of state. James Baker for the Republicans, Warren Christopher for the Democrats. What will their role be in supervising this recount?

ZARRELLA: I think that's exactly the operative word. It's really supervisors or observers, to make sure that everything goes smoothly, that if there are any issues that arise, if there are any red flags that appear anywhere in the state, in a county here or a county there, that they will be there to raise the flag to their party and say, "Hey, wait a minute. We don't think this is actually going right here. We need to take another look at that." And they'll be on the ground to talk to Florida elections officials and make sure that whatever snafus still may occur get straightened out right away.


WATERS: And they should be in there today, wouldn't you think?

ZARRELLA: And some of them, as I said, are here now. There are representatives here now in that room, monitoring this election, one from each of the parties, along with their legal counsel.

WATERS: All right, and keeping watch over it all, John Zarrella down there in Fort Lauderdale.

We're going to check in now with Jonathan Karl, who's with the Gore campaign in Nashville. And apparently, we're getting some reaction from the Gore campaign to all of this?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have some new developments here. Warren Christopher, as you heard John mention, is the person that's headed up the delegation that will oversee the recount in Florida for the Gore campaign. The former secretary of state, Warren Christopher, is en route here to Nashville. He's expected here before 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon local time. He will meet with Vice President Gore before turning around and going back down to Florida to oversee this operation. There's already a team in place down there in Florida that includes some of the vice president's senior advisers, including Ron Klain, who is his former chief of staff.

In the meantime, as they look -- follow that recount in Florida, look for possible irregularities, look for possible legal challenges, the Gore campaign is also waging a public relations offensive, or preparing to do so. What they are pointing out here is that Vice President Gore appears to have won the popular vote.

And they're doing more than that. They're also pointing out that he has won the popular vote by what they consider to be a serious margin, even though it's close to George W. Bush, they're saying that Vice President Gore, with nearly 50 million votes, has garnered more votes than any previous Democratic candidate in history, including Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

This is a point they want to be making over and over again because should George W. Bush win in the state of Florida, he will, of course, win the electoral vote, making him the president, but they want to make it very clear that Al Gore is the one that has won the popular vote here.

And who knows, some aides, not -- we haven't heard this from the vice president himself, but some in his senior circle, some Gore partisans will be looking very carefully to see how those members of the Electoral College actually vote when they get together on December 18th. Will they be reluctant to vote for a candidate who lost the popular vote in George W. Bush? So they'll be looking very carefully at that.

It's unclear -- you know, Vice President Gore has been on record now for some time saying he fully respects the Electoral College and the current system, so it's doubtful that he himself would complain about this fact. Nevertheless, his partisans doing everything they can to point out that, in fact, Vice President Gore has won the popular vote here, and not only that, but by apparently getting an historic level of votes for a Democrat.


WATERS: All right, Jon Karl in Nashville. And we're expecting momentarily in Palm Beach County, Florida, the election supervisor there to step out and bring reporters up to date on what John Zarrella was talking about, the confusing ballot, where folks thought because of the layout of the ballot that they were voting for Patrick Buchanan rather than their intended candidate, Al Gore. So that's another element or factor in this process now going on in Florida. And we'll keep you posted on that, and when that election presser gets under way, we'll take you right there.


ALLEN: And CNN's Jeanne Meserve has been with the Bush camp, awaiting the news, like everyone else. Let's find out what's going on in Austin, Texas.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, Governor Bush had been invisible to us all morning, meeting with his senior staff at the governor's mansion. But about 45 minutes or an hour ago, he came out into the garden with his running mate, Dick Cheney, and gave us his read on the situation.


GEORGE W. BUSH (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This morning brings news from Florida that the final vote count there shows that Secretary Cheney and I have carried the state of Florida. And if that result is confirmed in an automatic recount, as we expect it will be, then we have won the election. The recount is already under way, and I understand the secretary of state of Florida has announced to the media that it will be completed by 5:00 PM tomorrow.


MESERVE: And Governor Bush announced that he is dispatching James Baker, the former secretary of state, to Florida on his behalf. The Democrats have dispatched another former secretary of state, Warren Christopher. The two of them to observe what is happening there. The press secretary for Mr. Bush indicating that he really doesn't have any questions about the voting. He just wants to have -- have -- excuse me -- Secretary Baker be a "calming influence" and make sure everything is done impeccably and well.

The governor went out of his way in his remarks this morning to reach out to the supporters of the vice president. He said, "If elected, as I expect, I will work hard to gain their confidence. We will do everything we can to unite the nation." This, of course, a theme that he sounded repeatedly through his campaign. He wanted to be a uniter rather than a divider.

He and his staff were asked today about whether he had a mandate because the popular vote and the Electoral College vote, if he does win, would not mesh. They indicated that there's a history in this country of the nation uniting behind the winner. They trust that will happen. And as I indicated right at the top, Governor Bush expressing confidence that when all is said and done, he will be the winner in this election.


ALLEN: All right. CNN's Jeanne Meserve there in Austin. Thank you, Jeanne.

In a moment here, we will talk with voters across the country. We have CNN correspondents posted at a couple of cities to hear what you think about how this election is unfolding. We'll also look at the balance of power, the Senate and House races and how they shaped up.

We'll take a break. CNN TODAY will be right back.


WATERS: Election coverage continues here on CNN, of course, because it's too close to call still in Florida. And we have CNN's Mike Boettcher, who's keeping in shape by running up and down steps at the state capitol. He has some new information to impart.

Mike, what's going on?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, I'm trying to stick to the elevator stairs -- to the stairs, rather than the elevator, so I can make this happen. So far, no results. I was just up there a few minutes ago. They say it's going to come in county by county, and then it will be certified by what's called the State Canvas Commission. And that's consisting of three state officials, including Governor Jeb Bush. Now, for the Democrats, they say that this process has gone from zero to 65 in about five seconds. They're upset about it. The Democratic National Committee is here now. More people will be coming.

We're speaking now with Jenny Backus with the Democratic National Committee.

What about the process? You say it's moving too quickly.

JENNY BACKUS, DNC SPOKESWOMAN: Well, obviously, we want a very rapid answer to this because the entire country is waiting to see who the president of the United States is. But we think that the results will show definitely, and we don't think this election's over. And what we're upset about moving quickly right now is the fact that this is all being done in the dark of night. Where's the sunshine in the Sunshine State? This is done very quickly.

The processes that we interpreted in the statute, we have questions about how the secretary of state is interpreting them. And we're really very concerned. There's a lot of questions here. There's a lot of very angry Floridians. They're calling us. They're calling the state party. The Democratic Committee is here in Florida at the request of the Florida party, and we want to work with them to make sure that every voter got their voices heard.

This is the future of our country. Al Gore won last night the popular vote of this country. Now there's some questions about whether or not this election is over and if we won this election. We haven't had a chance to look at the numbers. The voters haven't had a chance to make sure that their voices were heard.

BOETTCHER: Now, the Republican officials in this state, from the governor to the secretary of state and others, say they are following the law, but -- and it looks like a done deal that this election will be certified tomorrow, no matter -- on the recount, no matter who wins the recount. What will you do if the vice president loses the recount and that's certified? What is next?

BACKUS: Well, I'm not going to speculate that far because there's a lot of option that we can do and the Florida party can do and that other scan do. People are talking about taking away somebody's constitutional right to vote. There are thousands, literally thousands of reports of irregularities. In Palm Beach County -- we spoke about it yesterday during the election -- we got reports of questionable ballots. There's reports of voter intimidation. There's ballot boxes that are missing. There's the results down on the secretary of state's own Web page that seem to have mysteriously increased by a thousand votes.

These are lots of questions, and I think the voters of Florida and the voters of this country deserve some answers. They need to be done in a timely fashion, but they need to be done in a bipartisan fashion.

BOETTCHER: But you brought up the word -- the "L" word, "lawsuit," in this press conference. You're planning to file lawsuits, the DNC or voters?

BACKUS: There's many different options out there. There's voters that have called and told us they're going to file a lawsuit. It's their right if they feel like their right to vote has been tampered on. We're gathering information. Our lawyers are looking very closely. Florida lawyers -- we've had calls from more than 25 different lawyers in different precincts and jurisdictions around Florida that are raising questions.

At this point, we're gathering information. We're going to be responsible about this. We know how important it is. This election is not over, and we are not going to concede it yet. We are looking at the votes that are coming in, and we have a lot of very serious questions.

BOETTCHER: So should we expect to see a huge presence of the Democratic National Committee here setting up camp because this is the state that will decide? There are only three of you here now. What's going to happen now?

BACKUS: The way that it works is that we want to make sure that Floridians have a voice in this process. We're not coming in from a high (ph). There is a compelling and immense national interest in this election because it's going to determine the presidency, a presidency that Al Gore won by the popular vote. But this is about Florida. We are here to work with Floridians. We will definitely have some national party folks in. This is too critical. But we need to -- we want -- we need the input from Florida lawyers, from Florida voters, people who've been left out of this process. Florida voters need a voice in this, and I think the evidence right now is pointing to the fact that they may have been denied that voice.

BOETTCHER: Has the Democratic National Committee, in its considerations, thought about and weighed what a long, drawn-out battle with -- over this election would do to the integrity of the system and if it would hurt the country?

BACKUS: That's an excellent question, and that's why we don't want a long, drawn-out battle. But we want to make sure that it's fair and that it's not swept under the rug. We need to make sure that -- this is too important for people to play partisan games with. We need a very quick resolution, but we need one that is interpreted and seen on both sides...

And it's not just the Democrats and the Republicans. That's not what's so deeply concerning here. It's the thousands of people in Palm Beach County, in Dade, and counties all across Florida who feel like they were denied their access to vote, they were denied their opportunity to choose the next president of the United States. And that is contrary to everything that this country's been founded on.

BOETTCHER: Jenny Backus, thank you very much.

ZARRELLA: Thank you.

BOETTCHER: So this is not going to end any time soon, it doesn't look like, although the state Canvas Commission by tomorrow will certify the count, whatever that count is. Now, the counties must certify the count twice before it's passed to here, and then the state Canvas Commission will certify. And then there are the matters -- 10 days down the road, they must certify ballots that were posted overseas. Those ballots only had to be mailed yesterday, and some of those could come trickling in. In 1996, there were 2,300 of those. So depending on what the margin is, there are a lot of variables, even lawsuits coming to play here, perhaps.

We'll try to keep you informed, and as soon as we get some results from these counties coming in, we'll pass them along to you, Lou.

WATERS: OK. You're going to be a busy many over the next day or two. Mike Boettcher down there at the state capitol in Tallahassee. We are also now hearing that we're going to be hearing from the vice president, Al Gore, out of Nashville. When that happens, we'll bring that to you.

And when we come back: With this talk of lawsuits in this election battle in Florida, we're going to be speaking with George Washington University professor of law Jonathan Turley when we come back.


WATERS: With the vote count in Florida set to determine the presidency, any ballot irregularities, intentional or inadvertent, could be extremely critical.

Jonathan Turley is a professor of law at George Washington University and a constitutional law expert who joins us from Washington.

Professor, have you ever seen anything like it?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No. We haven't seen anything like it in this country, unless you were around in 1876, which I doubt. It's a very bizarre and somewhat nightmarish situation. You know, the Constitution is designed to bring some level of certainty and acceptance of the person elected for president. And we simply don't have an easy means to deal with some of the scenarios that could come out of this. There is one particularly nightmarish scenario which we simply don't have a constitutional means to deal with it easily.

WATERS: The -- you may have heard the DNC spokeswoman just a moment ago speaking of putting some "sunshine" on the recount process in the Sunshine State and implying that there may be some legal options available to the Democrats here. What would those options be?

TURLEY: You know, it's not uncommon at all these days to have challenges of these types of recounts, and it's very common for those challenges to go on for months. It's very common for hundreds or even thousands of votes to be invalidated. We just have never had to do that in a case in which a national presidential election could be reversed. That's the nightmare situation.

If these candidates are separated by less than 2,000 votes and the losing party challenges, we could have a situation where the person to be inaugurated could later be found to be invalid. And that's a very serious possibility. It is very common for ballots to be thrown out once we have a review, particularly mailed ballots, mail-in ballots. And if that happened, we just don't have a good constitutional option.

WATERS: Do you anticipate anything like that happening? It didn't happen in 1960. Nixon declined to challenge.

TURLEY: You know, it's going to be hard to not yield to this temptation. Let's assume that Governor Bush is declared the winner in Florida by only 2,000 votes. The Gore people realize that there are a number of controversies already identified in Florida that could easily reverse that. These controversies are the very routine type of challenges that are made in local races.

If they believe that they could overturn that result, there's a strong temptation to do so, particularly if they claim the moral legitimacy of winning in the popular vote. It's a temptation that, particularly in the heated environment that we're in, will be very hard not to yield to. But if Vice President Gore, in this hypothetical, yields to that temptation, we will be in uncharted constitutional territory.

WATERS: It's 72 days until inauguration. A lot of that time could be eaten up if these scenarios, these nightmare scenarios you're talking about should, in fact, be effected. But beyond -- beyond the recount in Florida, if Bush is certified as the winner in Florida and the 25 electoral votes go to George W. Bush, that would give him a 1- vote electoral margin, 271.

Now, the question is -- and there's a lot of debate going on in the country now about whether or not the Electoral College should even be employed in our election process. That's another story. However, the electors, those folks who will be voting on December 18th, do they not have the option of switching, if they want to?

TURLEY: At least...

WATERS: Could not a couple of electors say, "Hey, the guy who won the popular vote should win the electoral vote," and vote in that way?

TURLEY: Well, it has happened. And in fact, we have had a handful of electors that simply changed their minds. About half of these electors are bound by state law to vote the way the states go, but it would only take a couple, obviously, to change the result. And what you have is a political system designed and functioning for the 21st century, and in that system is a part that was designed in the 17th century. And that part has failed. It is not well-suited for our current sort of pressures.

And how this all comes out is a very good question, but what we do know is two things. One is we could very well end up in a situation which we have had no preparation and no constitutional provision for. And second, no matter how this comes out, we will not achieve what the Framers wanted to achieve, and that is a feeling of certainty among the electorate that they know who is the legitimate president of the United States. There will be lingering doubt to that fact, no matter how we go forward, and that is a real problem.

WATERS: How do you think many Americans, maybe half of Americans, feel today knowing that the man who won the popular vote might lose this election when they realize what the system really is all about?

TURLEY: Well, you know, they have a right to be confused. This was a system developed in the 1700s, and even back then, a lot of people thought it was uniquely stupid. And you know, now it's become even more obvious how ill-suited it is. But the biggest problem is that the relative value of votes under this system are dramatically different. If you vote in Florida, you have enormous amounts of power as a voter. If you vote in Washington, D.C., or Wyoming, you don't, simply because of where you are voting. And that is a very uncomfortable position to be in when you claim to be a democracy.

WATERS: Professor Turley, thanks so much.

TURLEY: Thank you.

WATERS: Jonathan Turley with George Washington University, constitutional law expert.

Natalie, what's next?

ALLEN: Well, you asked him about what he thought about how Americans feel. We're going to find out. We've talked with the constitutional law expert about this. Let's talk to the guys down at the local barbershop. CNN's Jeff Flock is doing that for us in Chicago.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. It's on everybody's mind today. And that very issue that you were talking about there, the potential of a popular vote winner not winning the election, is on everyone's mind here. I want to go around what is called the Hubbard (ph) Street Hair Studio here in Chicago and get a sense for what's on people's minds.

What are you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thinking that maybe the Electoral College needs to be amended. Maybe it's outmoded and we don't need it and we should go with the popular vote.

FLOCK: We're hearing a lot of that today, as people think about what has transpired here.

What are you thinking, Vince (ph)? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking pretty much the same thing. First of all, I'd like to say that I'm awfully happy that everybody came out. I think it was about a 70 to 75 percent vote, and I'm happy for that. But I also think, in this particular case, that something has to be done with the Electoral College.

FLOCK: You know, some people got fooled overnight. I want to show you a newspaper headline. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) able to see -- this is the "Daily Herald." You can see "Bush wins cliffhanger."

I'm joined by Rick Pearson (ph) here of the "Chicago Tribune." And you guys at the "Tribune" -- I know if I look at the newspaper -- Bruce (ph), if you can see that -- that's as close as you got to it, too. You didn't make that mistake.

RICK PEARSON, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, there was that problem in 1948, that we are very deliberative in when we call races.

FLOCK: That's the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline. Although this one may turn out to be correct.

PEARSON: Oh, that's exactly right. I mean, this thing could go on for weeks, if not months. History of recount is, after this recount is done in Florida, basically, it establishes a base number for Bush. That brings the lawyers in, and it's up to Bush's lawyers to defend those numbers.

FLOCK: Rick Pearson has a lot of experience with this. You covered the 1982 gubernatorial race here in Illinois that went down to 5,000 votes statewide, right?

PEARSON: That's exactly right, and it ended up with a Supreme Court ruling three days before inauguration day.

FLOCK: Wow. Before we get away, I want to get to one more -- one more sense of somebody in the chair here. This has been on everybody's mind today.

You said you stayed up all night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. Till about 5:00 in the morning.

FLOCK: What possessed you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The interest, the history, the fact that a presidential election could come down to, you know, 1,200 or 1,500 votes.

FLOCK: I'll give you the last word. How do you think it's going to shake out?


FLOCK: Do you really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. FLOCK: OK. Heard from in Chicago. Of course, remember, the Democratic Party here in Chicago is a long and strong -- a long history and strong, so we're in Chicago. That maybe skews the viewpoints a little bit. But you can tell that out here, all over the country, this is an issue that's on everybody's minds and everybody's tongue today. We're listening.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, reporting live from Chicago.

ALLEN: Thank you, Jeff. That's some folks in the nation's heartland, the Midwest.

Let's head out to the West Coast now and hear from CNN's Jim Hill, who's talking with people in L.A.


JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, this is The Pantry in downtown Los Angeles. Since about 1924, people have hashed over politics here, along with their hash browns. And talk about some history today, shades of Harry Truman.

Here we have the "Pasadena Star-News" declaring "Bush squeaks by," giving Bush 282 electoral votes. Not true, of course. Another newspaper, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in this area, "La Opinion" -- "Gana Bush" is the headline, "Bush wins," subheadline, "Gore pierde (ph)," "Gore loses." Not true in either case, of course. The "Los Angeles Times" telling the story that it is, in fact, neck and neck, and Florida is where all eyes are now, watching this unfold.

We can talk to a few people here who've agreed to chat with us. Right over here, we have Robert Feinstein (ph).

Robert, you've been following this, you tell me.


HILL: Your opinion on how this is all coming down to one state and really a handful of votes?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can remember in 1960 -- I was born in 1953 -- and that was very close, similar situation, very exciting. I was up at 5:30 this morning watching CNN. And I think the next couple days'll be very important.

HILL: Do you get the idea that history is in the making now and we may see some -- some unprecedented kinds of situations that unfold from here on out?

FEINSTEIN: I agree if the electoral votes differ from the number of votes that were -- total votes that were cast in the election, yes, that would be quite interesting.

HILL: And how does that sit with you? As things stand right now, we have Mr. Gore ahead in the popular vote, with the possibility that if Florida goes to Bush that Bush would win. FEINSTEIN: Well, again, the voters ultimately make the decision. It'll be up to them.

HILL: OK, well, thank you, Robert.

FEINSTEIN: You're welcome.

HILL: Two more people who've agreed to talk with us right over here. This is Pablo (ph) and...

ALISON (ph): Alison.

HILL: ... Alison. Alison, how about your opinion on this idea that the popular vote, it's possible to go one way and the electoral vote another way?

ALISON: Well, I'm really glad that Gore got the popular vote, and I'm just hoping that with the recount and then with the absentee ballots that Gore might get the Electoral College, as well. I'm just still holding out hope for that.

HILL: Pablo, how about you? We have a situation now in Florida where it comes down to perhaps 1,700 or so votes, and Gore, who's ahead in the popular vote, could possibly lose in the Electoral College.

PABLO: Yeah, I mean, for me, it books (ph) on Nader and the fact that a lot of the Nader support is Democratic support. And if just one or two percent of his support would have went to Gore, it would be decisive. And the fact that he has 260 electoral votes, and if he would have won his home state, then it would push them over. So there's all these sort of delicate situations going on.

But the electorate has spoken, and the popular vote has gone to Gore and by a margin of, I believe, 200,000 votes. And I was up until 2:30 in the morning watching this. That's why I'm having my breakfast at 11:30 this morning. And it's been a roller-coaster. I remember when someone said that Gore had won Florida, and then later in the evening...

HILL: All right, thank you very much, Pablo.

By the way, this -- this establishment is owned by Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles, a political figure himself.


ALLEN: All right, Jim Hill, thanks very much for letting us hear from folks there, as well.

We expect to hear from Al Gore speaking live from Lowes Hotel in Nashville. We heard from candidate George W. Bush the past couple of hours on tape, so we'll bring you that when it happens. We'll also have a report on the balance of power in Congress.

We'll take a break. More after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: A key question now for whomever is elected president -- will he be able to work with the Congress? It's all so close even there.

For a look at how this election has affected the balance of power on Capitol Hill, we're joined now by our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno.

How does it look, Frank?

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Lou, it looks questionable. I mean, for months now we've been hearing proposals about tax cuts, reforming Social Security, getting Medicare done, letting you put more money in your IRA or your 401(k). Any of those things requires a president, a White House, and a Congress working together, establishing majorities, passing laws, ultimately signing them.

Let's look at the numbers. Right now in the United States Senate, the Republicans have lost ground, but they're still in charge there, but narrowly. Here you can see it's 50 seats for the Republicans, 49 for the Democrats. There is one undecided. Which one is that? It's out in the Pacific Northwest, in the great state of Washington, where Maria Cantwell is challenging Senator Slade Gorton.

Now, you see Gorton's up by about 4,000 -- just under 4,000 votes there. Folks in the Cantwell camp say they're fairly confident the absentee ballots will cut here way. Gorton says forget it. The counting will go on probably for a few days.

Let's go to some other very interesting races, to Missouri here. We heard a little earlier Senator John Ashcroft conceding. This a tough one here because he loses, essentially, to a man who wins from the grave, Mel Carnahan, who died tragically just a few weeks ago. His wife, Jeanne, will come in. John Ashcroft says he will not lend his name to any challenge, legal challenge, as some have suggested, toward this seat.

In the state of Delaware, another Republican icon toppled, Senator William Roth, who has leant his name to such things as the Roth IRAs -- you probably know that. You put some of your money into accounts like that. He was beaten at age 79 by Governor Tom Carper. That was a very toughly fought race there and one that revolved, to some extent, around age and the future.

So the Senate very close.

Over in the House, it's close there, too, not completely done. The Republicans still have control, but again, by a narrower edge, at least for the time being. They have 220 seats that we're prepared to tell you about now that fall under their category, 211 for the Democrats. Remember, 218 is the majority, all right? So the Republicans, as you can see, just two more than the majority. There are two still undecided, and there are two independents, one of whom cuts either way.

Now, all of this adds up to one dependable fact in Washington, Lou, and that is that criticism and advice are about the only things here that are free. And the advice is already coming from both sides, that if it's George W. Bush who's the president, he's going to have to play like Ronald Reagan, with minorities and majorities like that, play right over the heads of the Congress to the people of the United States. And the advice to Al Gore, if he's in there, good luck. He won't have a honeymoon, in any case.

WATERS: When last we spoke, Frank, we were mentioning that historians are probably fast at work already, writing this chapter in this democratic spectacle that we've been seeing, and you picked right up on that.

SESNO: Well, you can't resist, right? I mean, there's a lot of stuff out there. So we've strung just a few of them together. There are a lot of firsts, we're hearing. We've touched on a few of them. But let's cut back.

We have in this election the first first lady who's elected to the Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. By the way, she's the first woman senator from the state of New York. We have the first woman likely to take the seat of her husband. That's Jean Carnahan. We just talked about Missouri. We have the first United States Senate in history that will feature 11 women, maybe 12. It's the first time a former first lady voted for her son for president. That happens to be George W. Bush. And Lou, if you're keeping score, it's the first time a billion dollars was spent on congressional campaigning.

WATERS: You know, it's so extraordinary, Frank, because young people who are now just getting involved in the political process have witnessed the impeachment of a president, and now they're witnessing a presidential election, not one like it since the 1800s. This is quite extraordinary.

SESNO: It is extraordinary. And Lou, I've talked to a lot of people here in Washington the last several days and today, as well, who say that that particular connection you made may actually have some bearing on what's happened, that the U.S. public has seen a gridlock situation, and they want that ended. And in a sense, this is a message. "Get to work. Produce something."

WATERS: Frank Sesno in Washington. We'll check back.

ALLEN: And again, we expect to hear from Al Gore live at any moment. We'll bring that to you when it happens.

Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: I'm Lou Waters. We'll be around. Take care.



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