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Crossfire

Who Won Florida?

Aired November 8, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

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

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Poor Al Gore. He won yesterday's popular vote, and he got more votes than Bill Clinton did in 1992 or 1996. But that's not good enough. He didn't win the electoral vote count. It still stands at 260 for Gore and 246 for Bush.

And so after all those months and all that campaigning and all of us pontificating pundits, it comes down to this: a recount in Florida to see who wins Florida's 25 electoral votes. Whoever does is the next president of the United States. Maybe we'll know this time tomorrow, maybe not.

Before we check in with two Florida congressmen to debate the recount and allegations of voter confusion down in the sunshine state, let's get the latest from CNN's Patty Davis, who joins from outside the Florida secretary of state's office in Tallahassee.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So far, 17 out of 67 Florida counties have reported their recounts. The Florida Division of Election says that both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush are gaining. But it looks like so far that it is a wash.

Vice President Al Gore has succeeded in tipping away only about eight votes from Bush at this point, the difference still between them stands about 1,700 to 1,800 votes, with Bush leading.

Still Florida's biggest counties, Dade and Broward, have not reported, and the deadline on that reporting is tomorrow close of business.

And then there is the issue of those overseas ballots. We don't know how many are out there. There could be thousands. We just don't know. They have 10 days to get those overseas ballots in to Florida and could impact this election.

Today, Florida Governor Jeb Bush recused himself from the commission that certifies the election. He is, of course, Texas Governor George W. Bush's brother. Jeb Bush saying he doesn't want to have any appearance of conflict of interest in this matter, Bill.

PRESS: Patty, just one quick question. I know the Bush camp and the Gore camp have both sent squads of people down there to be nearby as this recount is taking place. Are they actually in the room? Are there representatives from the Bush campaign and the Gore campaign in the room as a recount takes place?

DAVIS: The recounts are taking place all over, in many counties all over the state, and these election watchers for at least the Democrats -- that is Warren Christopher, who helped Gore choose the vice president; on the Republican side for Bush, it is James Baker, the former secretary of state. They are -- they're keeping an eye. They're hearing reports.

I don't know if they're actually in the same room where the votes are taking place, but I assume if they wanted to have access to that, that they could.

PRESS: Not that far away. Patty Davis, thanks very much. Patty, thanks for joining us from Tallahassee.

Bob, let's speak to our guests.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman Robert Wexler, as a very staunch Gore supporter, you've been all over the television today in a state of outrage over a ballot in Palm Beach County in which you say stole about a couple of thousand votes from Al Gore.

Let's take a look at it. It's right up on the screen there. And you know, I think you really have to be not paying attention not to get this right. It's very clear that the arrow on the left points to where you're supposed to push it for Al Gore. You have to really go up into a different area to push for Pat Buchanan.

You know, I'm a senior citizen myself, and when I voted yesterday, I was very careful in the District of Columbia to vote for the right person. I think your constituents ought to be a little more careful. But certainly, you can't call this voter fraud.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL), GORE SUPPORTER: Well, Bob, I have not suggested anything fraudulent. What I have suggested is that the Palm Beach County ballot, the way it was put together, caused extraordinary confusion, and that is undeniable. I saw the hundreds of people coming out of the polls yesterday. I saw with my own eyes. They came out oftentimes hysterical because they thought they pressed the wrong punch number, and instead of voting for Al Gore they voted for Pat Buchanan.

You need to understand why the confusion. Ordinarily, Bush would be first on the ballot and then Gore second. That wasn't the case here even though the names appeared Bush and then Gore, because Pat Buchanan's push number was in between.

NOVAK: We just saw...

WEXLER: And there's an additional issue, Bob. The Palm Beach County ballot appears, I now understand, to actually violate Florida election law, because Florida election law requires that all of the push numbers that you have to press to be on the right side of each name. And in this case, they were on the left side of four candidates, and...

NOVAK: Wait a minute.

WEXLER: ... Florida law requires that it go Bush and then Gore. The fact that Buchanan's name...

NOVAK: Can I get a word in edgewise...

WEXLER: What's that?

NOVAK: ... Robert, please? Can I get a word in edgewise please?

WEXLER: Of course.

NOVAK: You ever hear of Theresa LePore.

WEXLER: Yes.

NOVAK: She's a Democrat. She's a supervisor of elections, and she -- she devised it. And isn't it true that these ballots are circulated in advance of the election, and if you don't like the ballots, you're supposed to make your protest then?

You weren't on the job for your constituents, were you, congressman? If you didn't like the ballot, you should have done it before the election?

WEXLER: Well, two things, Bob. In fact, many people did complain that the ballot -- the sample ballot they received was -- created a lot of confusing. There were many complaints. But also understand, until you stick that ballot in the actual machine, it's hard to understand just how confusing it is.

But let me raise one other point, Bob. I or anyone else in Florida cannot waive the right to have a legal ballot...

NOVAK: Well, what are you -- what are you going to do about this? Tell me what you're going to do about it.

WEXLER: Well, I think we have to wait and see what the canvas and the recount says.

(LAUGHTER)

If George Bush is more than 3,400 votes ahead, then there is no issue. But if there is not the margin of victory that is required, then all Americans should wonder. We do not want to have an illegitimate election result.

PRESS: Congressman Joe Scarborough, I want to put this ballot up here again. It's been two minutes since we saw it. But I think it really -- Congressman Wexler makes a point here.

The point is on this ballot -- here you see it -- Al Gore's name is the second on the left, but the way it's put up there, if you want to vote for the second name, you push the third bubble, because the second bubble belongs to Pat Buchanan. Now, Joe, I'm a young man. I'm not a senior citizen. I'm a young man like you. I find that confusing, Joe. Don't you say if you vote for the second man you ought to push the second bubble? No?

REP. JOE SCARBOROUGH (R-FL), BUSH SUPPORTER: I think anybody -- I think most adults can look at that ballot and understand that you follow the arrows. But let me tell you what's going on here.

I woke up this morning after about 15 minutes of sleep, and the first story the Democrats were circulating this morning was that there was a missing ballot box found in an African-American part of Miami, and it was going to go to throw the election.

PRESS: I didn't ask you about that.

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, hold on, but it's connected to this other thing.

So the news -- and the Democrats followed that story for six hours until they found out that there were Crayons and school supplies in there and that it was a hoax. Then we turned our attention to this next story, and what's interesting to me is this. First of all, as Bob said, you have a Democratic supervisor of elections. Secondly, Florida law says if you're going to challenge, Bob should have challenged it and other Democrats should have challenged it before. And thirdly and most importantly, there is absolutely no...

PRESS: Well...

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. This is important. Now, Bob spoke for about five minutes, and I'm going to get this point out. There has to be some evidence that there was this confusion and artificial bump. And let me tell you something, Pat Buchanan -- I got this down -- Pat Buchanan got 0.79 percent in Palm Beach County. He ended up in fourth place behind Ralph Nader. It was almost -- it would be an identical result in all different counties, fourth place.

WEXLER: You're wrong, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: And also...

PRESS: All right...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Congressman, with all due respect...

SCARBOROUGH: ... 3,000 votes.

WEXLER: Joe -- Joe, let's get the numbers right. Pat Buchanan got 3,400 votes in Palm Beach County...

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

WEXLER: ... which represented Buchanan 20 percent of the whole state even though Palm Beach County only represents 7 percent of Florida. And he got votes in districts that I know nobody would vote for Pat Buchanan.

SCARBOROUGH: Pat Buchanan got 0.79 percent, less than 1 percentage point in all of Palm Beach County. And again, the law is the law, and the law is...

WEXLER: That's right.

SCARBOROUGH: ... if you thought -- if you thought this was bad, you should have done your constituents a service and...

PRESS: All right, congressman...

WEXLER: Joe...

SCARBOROUGH: ... told them before the election.

(CROSSTALK)

WEXLER: Joe Scarborough -- Joe Scarborough...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: I've got a question.

WEXLER: ... the law is the law.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: I have a question. Congressman, I have a question. Congressmen, stop, please.

SCARBOROUGH: You need to talk to your Democrat supervisor of elections.

PRESS: Timeout. Timeout, Congressman Scarborough, I've got a question for you. First of all, I just have to correct you: This story about Palm Beach did not come up late today. This story was already reported yesterday, it was talked about yesterday, it was on the wires yesterday long before that other box was discovered.

SCARBOROUGH: But that was the focus of the news coverage all day today.

PRESS: But I want to came back to your numbers. The fact is, as Congressman Wexler pointed out, this is a county that is 66 percent Democratic, and there were 3,500 people that voted for Buchanan, giving Buchanan 20 percent of his statewide vote. You know that's bogus. you know those numbers have to be bogus.

SCARBOROUGH: Listen to these numbers, and I actually dug them up before I came here. I couldn't believe this.

PRESS: So did I. I've got them right here.

SCARBOROUGH: Here are the numbers. Al Gore actually received 62 percent to Bush's 35 percent to Nader's 1.2 percent to Buchanan's 0.79 percent. Now four years ago -- and that was about 3,400 votes -- and everybody says would not have gotten this votes, Reform Party, all of that. Four years ago, Ross Perot, the Reform candidate, got ten times the amount of vote...

PRESS: Ross Perot is not Pat Buchanan.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: It's not just Robert Wexler's district. Also Mark Foley represents Palm Beach County. Also Alcee Hastings does, also Clay Shaw does. It's a very diverse county.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. Gentlemen, we're going to have to take a break.

SCARBOROUGH: Mark my words, gentlemen...

NOVAK: No, no, no, no. Wait a minute. Take the debate online tonight, first with Congressman Robert Wexler and then Congresswoman Kelly Fowler right after the show at cnn.com/crossfire. But we'll be back to talk about Ralph Nader in Florida and more of this great vote count after we hear from a dear old friend talking about the Florida count.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if ever there was a doubt about the importance of exercising democracy's most fundamental right, the right to vote, yesterday put it to rest. No American will ever be able to seriously say again my vote doesn't count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Who wins Florida, whenever they get around to figuring out the state's vote, is the next president of the United States and if it hadn't been for Ralph Nader's 95,000 votes in the state, that next president almost surely would have been Al Gore. So does George W. Bush owe the Green Party candidate a little thank you note?

We're asking two Florida congressman: Democrat Robert Wexler who is in West Palm Beach and Republican Joe Scarborough who is in Pensacola -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Congressman Scarborough, let me ask that you question right off the top. I mean, Ralph Nader, as Bob said, got 95, 000 votes in Florida. Al Gore is only behind about 1,600 votes now. So George Bush didn't win Florida if the vote stays that way. Ralph Nader won it for him, didn't he?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, there are a 1,000 different issues that go in. And I mean, obviously, the Ralph Nader vote, you can you look at numbers you just gave and I think it's fairly evident he had a huge impact not only in Florida but possibly in a couple other states.

But you know, Republicans said the same thing in '96 about Perot. They said the same thing in '92 about Perot. The bottom line is...

PRESS: True then, true now.

SCARBOROUGH: Bottom line is that there were a lot of missed opportunities I think from both camps, Al Gore and George W. Bush and I know Al Gore certainly, if he doesn't win this he's going to be disappointed but I think he as well as George W. Bush can look to missed opportunities and not blame Ralph Nader.

NOVAK: Bill...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: All right, now. Your Governor Bush -- hold on, Congressman, just a second please if I can, because I'm going to shift here. Your Governor Bush today -- Jeb Bush -- was out there talking some pious stuff about respecting the voter laws of Florida. Congressman, we all know Florida. In the last elect in Miami there were 36 people who were charged with rigging ballots. The guy who won was thrown out. I mean, when you've got an election in Florida you can expect -- I mean, American people have to be suspicious there's a lot of election fraud going on, don't they?

PRESS: I don't think there's a history in Florida as much as there is, for instance, in some of the larger cities in Northeast or the Midwest. But again, the main thing is we have to look at the process and I certainly hope Republicans and Democrats...

PRESS: Well...

SCARBOROUGH: Let me finish a sentence please. Can I finish a sentence?

NOVAK: Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: This is a very important issue and we shouldn't being playing political gamesmanship. What I was going to saw was this: It extraordinary important that tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m., whether it's George W. Bush or Al Gore, that we handle this like responsible adults because I do not want an illegitimate president for the next four years, be he a Republican or a Democrat.

We need to behave like grown-ups, not jump to conclusions wait until 5:00 p.m. If Al Gore has any challenges tomorrow night that are credible, then he needs to bring them forward. If not, he needs to concede it like Richard Nixon did in 1960.

PRESS: All right, I want to come back to Florida's record, because last year, you may know, they cleaned up the voter rolls in the state of Florida and here's what they found, Congressman. That there were 50,483 felons who were registered -- shouldn't be -- 47,000 people who were registered in more than one place in Florida and 17,702 dead men registered. Now, a dead man won in Missouri. How many dead men voted in Florida yesterday and how do we know?

SCARBOROUGH: I can report to you -- and I've got the information here -- that all the dead men and all the convicted felons voted for Bob Wexler. And I think you've got like 75 percent. Congratulations on that, by the way, those are two good constituencies. But you know, again you can say this about any state.

WEXLER: Let me jump in, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's wait and see how it returns.

WEXLER: You know what, Joe? I was beginning, Joe, to respect your demeanor because this is a serious issue. Let's not play politics and let's not play games.

SCARBOROUGH: I was just joking with you, Bob. Don't lose your sense of humor.

(CROSSTALK)

WEXLER: The presidency is on the line and the legitimacy of American politics is on the line.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I agree.

WEXLER: Al Gore won popular vote in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Can I ask you a question, please?

WEXLER: Excuse me -- the Palm Beach County...

NOVAK: I want to ask a question please because we've only got about two minutes to go. Let's take a look at the vote totals in Florida. Governor Bush is ahead about 1,725 votes, just a little over 1,700 votes. Now, 17 counties out of the 67 in the state have been counted so far and there is a net gain so far of eight votes for Vice President Gore. Can we assume that tomorrow night at 5:00, Vice President Gore will not have overtaken it in the recount, being realistic?

WEXLER: I don't think we can assume anything. We only know certain things, Al Gore won the popular vote in this country and that Governor Bush is essentially ahead by 1,700 in the swing state of Florida now. We do know that probably 17,000 votes were disqualified in Palm Beach County. Why? Because people voted for two presidential candidates because it was so confusing. This isn't my characterization, this is the Palm Beach County supervisor's characterization, sending out a warning to her poll workers late in the afternoon to warn people how confusing the Palm Beach County ballot was. The Palm Beach County ballot violated federal law.

NOVAK: All right, we have discussed that, Congressman.

WEXLER: If that's the case, we may have an illegitimate election.

NOVAK: Congressman, I want you to take a listen to what the national chairman of the Gore campaign, Bill Daley, said this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIR: We believe when those votes are counted and that process is complete, totally complete, Al Gore will have won the Electoral College and the popular vote and therefore is -- will be the next president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Do you honestly believe that, that when the -- they finish counting this count tomorrow that he will have Florida? Because I can't find anybody else in Florida who believes that.

WEXLER: I believe if they let all of the people in Palm Beach County vote the way they wanted to vote and stop disqualifying all the votes because of the confusion, and if they follow Florida law with respect to the Palm Beach County ballot, yes, Al Gore will win Florida and therefore be the next president.

PRESS: That's got to be the last word. Congressman Robert Wexler, Congressman Joe Scarborough, thank you both for joining us. All eyes on Florida tonight, all eyes on Florida again tomorrow. And we'll see you back again on CROSSFIRE, thank you.

Bob Novak and I, back soon with our closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Now you can find out what's coming up in the CROSSFIRE, sign up for a daily e-mail sent free of charge telling you what we are planning for that night. Log on to cnn.com/crossfire to sign up for your daily CROSSFIRE e-mail.

NOVAK: Get the latest on the recount in Florida from two members of Florida's delegation: first, debate Congressman Wexler, then Congresswoman Fowler online right after the show at cnn.com/crossfire. And don't forget to join Bill and Tucker Carlson in "THE SPIN ROOM" tonight at 11:00 p.m. to have your say about the election.

PRESS: Yes.

NOVAK: Spinner, you know, this is serious business, it truly is.

PRESS: Yes.

NOVAK: And I believe that if this recount tomorrow night doesn't show much difference -- and so far it hasn't shown hardly any difference -- and then you have the overseas votes, which will probably show a gain for the Republicans -- they always do -- I think it is time for Al Gore to pack it in, to say, OK, be a good patriot and a good American and not start weeks and weeks of political litigation over silly stuff like the ballot in Palm Beach County.

PRESS: Well, Bob, there is no indication that he's going to do that. I think that Al Gore will do the right thing that respects the Constitution, once there has been a careful count in Florida that everybody can have confidence in. If that happens by 5 o'clock tomorrow night, fine. But if not, then take time to get it right -- no rush, Bob, right?

NOVAK: It's going to be by 5 o'clock tomorrow night.

PRESS: Maybe not.

From the left, I'm Bill Press, good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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