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Close Midterm Races Go Down to the Wire

Aired November 4, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight: so little time, so much at stake.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you get in that voting booth here in Iowa, I've got some suggestions for you.


ANNOUNCER: In a special edition of CROSSFIRE, we've got it all, from the last-minute campaign appearances to the last-minute debates.


WALTER MONDALE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're doing is sticking with the right wing and determining to change the tone.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, our hosts' fearless predictions. Who is going to be running Capitol Hill?


From the George Washington University: Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to our election eve edition of CROSSFIRE.

You can almost feel the electricity here in our studio and tonight we're going to be taking you all across the country for a look at the hottest races. We'll ask why some candidates are flying high and why others are sucking wind. We'll take you inside the mind of the voters.

But first, we get to speak our own minds. Here comes the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

When George Foreman returned to the ring at age 45, most people thought it was a joke. But when Foreman knocked out the much younger champion, Michael Moore (ph), nobody was laughing, except George.

Fritz Mondale today reminded me of old George Foreman. After taking a week of tasteless cheap shots about his age, the old lion climbed into the ring with former Democrat, now turn-coat Republican Norm Coleman, and beat him like a bad piece of meat, beat him look a barn mule (ph), beat him like a red-headed stepchild. Go Fritz.

We're going to show you some of that footage from that debate later on in this program. But if anyone in our audience has some smelling salts, please deliver them to Norm Coleman.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Paul, Fritz Mondale was never a lion even in his solid days. He tried very hard not to come over as an old man. He came over as a mean old man. Norm Coleman won the debate.

Senator Dean Barkley, or will be he senator -- or he will be senator when he's sworn in November, on the 12th of November at the lame duck session of Congress. Barkley is the top lieutenant of Minnesota's independent governor Jesse Ventura. And today the governor appointed him to fill the Senate vacancy created by the death of Paul Wellstone, but only for a while.

Minnesota law says the winner of the Mondale-Coleman race takes the seat when he is certified, probably on November 19. But federal law says Barkley should stay in that seat for the rest of Wellstone's term, for the rest of the year. Ventura would have named a Democrat if the Democrats had not turned the memorial service for Wellstone into a Mondale pep rally.

BEGALA: You know, Jesse Ventura is a charming guy, he's a funny guy, but he's done a lot of flaky things. The guy has more flakes than a box of Post Toasties (ph). Here is the latest (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Well, you may have thought tomorrow was Election Day, but for some of our friends on the Republican right, tomorrow is really voter suppression day. In Texas, an elections administrator in heavily- Hispanic south Texas expelled poll watchers for Republican Senate candidate John Cornyn after reports of voter intimidation. One Republican activist was accused of saying, "I'm just a poll watcher, but I don't see many polls, I just see a lot of Mexicans."

Another poll watcher was accused of harassing voters, reducing one elderly Hispanic to tears. Of course, in Texas, even talking to voters is not permitted by poll watchers. Meanwhile, a judge in Miami citing concerns about voter intimidation and lack of accountability, has banned so-called poll watchers from a newly formed group called the Emergency Committee to Stop Bill McBride. Here is hoping every American has the courage to stand up to the Republican intimidation machine and get out and vote tomorrow.

NOVAK: Paul, in 1968, I saw votes stolen on the south side of Chicago and, of course, the poll watchers were accused of intimidating minority voters. The Democrats have been stealing votes in minority precincts for the last 40 years and crying foul when the Republicans try to bring them to rights.

At this morning's Mondale-Coleman debate, the former vice president denied he wanted to deny President Bush powers that his president, Jimmy Carter, possessed. Fritz, you should have read last Thursday's "Atlanta-Journal Constitution," which had an op-ed by Griffin Bell (ph), attorney general in the Carter-Mondale administration. I quote Griffin Bell (ph): "Carter used the authority to exempt part or all of several agencies from collective bargaining, including the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Customs Service."

Incidentally, Mondale said taxes were raised in 1985 by Republicans, as he promised. No, they weren't, Fritz. In fact, income tax rates were lowered in 1986. We need a truth squad for Fritz Mondale.

BEGALA: Somebody is going to have to explain to me why George W. Bush doesn't want heroes to have the same rights as workers that bean counters at the Commerce Department have. I think the reason is he doesn't really want this bill. He opposed Homeland Security Department at the beginning, and I think he is secretly trying to torpedo it now.

Well, in my beloved state of Texas, the Republican gubernatorial candidate -- he's a Republican governor, rather -- Rick Perry -- he is actually running an ad trying to link his opponent, Tony Sanchez, to the murder of a DEA agent. The Austin American statesman said the ad, "gives sleaze a bad name." And a former Reagan Justice Department official called it "nothing short of sleazy."

A few years ago, George W. Bush himself was so impressed with Tony Sanchez's integrity that he appointed the Democrat to the powerful University of Texas board of regions. Of course, now W.'s handpicked successor is launching these sleazy lies, presumably with Bush's approval. Hispanics everywhere ought to remember this racist smear before they ever again support George W. Bush or his fellow Republicans.

NOVAK: Of course when W said that, Sanchez was contributing to the George W. Bush campaign. Paul, the truth is that Sanchez has banked, laundered drug money, and that has nothing do with racism or civil rights.

The one Senate campaign Democrats never expected to be close is in Georgia, where Democrat Max Cleland is seeking a second term against Republican Saxby Chambliss. Pollster John Zogby shows a virtual tossup, Chambliss ahead by one point.

How could this happen to Cleland, an experienced professional politician, a very nice man, and a triple amputee from Vietnam? Being a disabled veteran does not entitle him to a Senate seat, and Max Cleland is out of touch with Georgia. Voting a liberal line while representing a very conservative state. Republican Chambliss would vote more like the state's conservative and beloved Democratic Senator Zell Miller.

BEGALA: Well Bob, Zell Miller is a friend of mine. I worked for Zell Miller. Saxby Chambliss is no Zell Miller. Zell Miller has made an ad saying that these attacks on his friend Max Cleland are outrageous and despicable, and he is encouraging his fellow Georgians to vote for Max Cleland and I hope they listen to Zell. Now we're going to take you around the country for snapshots of some of the top races in America. CNN's Anderson Cooper and Jonathan Karl are covering the Senate races in Minnesota and South Dakota. Kelly Wallace is with our president in Texas, lucky Kelly. And John Zarrella is covering the Florida governor's race.

Anderson, let's start with you in Minnesota.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it doesn't get much more exciting than what is going on right now in Minnesota. There are about 12 or 13 hours before polls open tomorrow morning. Both candidates are still out aggressively trying to get out the vote.

Walter Mondale held a rally just about a few hours ago. He plans to have another event later on tonight. He stressed trying to get out the vote. He, of course, was joined by the two sons of late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Norm Coleman is actually taking a page out of Paul Wellstone's book, is driving around in a bus -- he calls it a bus, it's actually an RV -- in the last couple of hours of this thing. He plans to visit about 15 cities in 15 hours, again, trying to get out the vote.

The debate earlier today, very exciting. You know, both these candidates really competing against each other for the last six days. This is the first time they had a chance to face each other face to face. The debate was civil. Both sides said they got their points across and did what they had to do.

NOVAK: Anderson Cooper, thank you very much.

Republicans are trying for the daily double tomorrow in South Dakota. If they knock off Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, they could kick fellow South Dakotan Tom Daschle clear out of the Senate majority leader's office. CNN Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl is in Sioux Falls -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, Tim Johnson and John Thune are the names on the ballot here. But in the final days of this campaign, this has looked more like a battle between Tom Daschle and President Bush. The president has been here twice in the past five days. His wife has been here, and the vice president chose South Dakota to go pheasant hunting this week.

And John Thune, as he travels the state, is making the case explicitly that a vote for John Thune is a vote to support President Bush. A very popular figure in the state of South Dakota.

On the other side, Tom Daschle has been a constant presence at the side of Tim Johnson, traveling the state and explicitly making the case that a vote for Tim Johnson is a vote to keep Tom Daschle as majority leader and preserve clout for the state of South Dakota.

And, Paul, I'll tell you, a flurry of state wide polls have showed this race a dead heat, a virtual tie going into the election -- Paul. BEGALA: Jonathan, thank you for that update with the beautiful falls of Sioux Falls behind you.

President Bush has spent the last few weeks, of course, running around the country campaigning instead of running the country here in Washington. Tonight he's trying to shore up Republican candidates even in his home state and mine of Texas. CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace is with us in Dallas. Kelly, what do you got?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paul, I can tell you White House aides are showing some signs of optimism, predicting that Republicans will not lose congressional seats tomorrow, bucking historical trends because, traditionally, the president's party loses ground in the midterm elections. But will Republicans actually gain control of the Senate? White House aides cautious, but increasingly they say they are hopeful.

With turnout expected to be very key, the president doing a four- state blitz today, going -- starting the day in Iowa and then traveling to three states with very tight Senate races: Missouri, Arkansas, and then winding up here in Texas. The president at the podium right now. His focus here trying to give a boost to Republican senatorial candidate John Cornyn, who is hoping to defeat the Democrat Ron Kirk for the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Phil Gramm.

This state very important to the president, Paul, as you know, it is his home state. He wants a win here. Bob, back to you.

NOVAK: Kelly Wallace, thank you very much.

And finally, we go to Florida, where trial lawyer Bill McBride is challenging the president's younger brother, Governor Jeb Bush. Here is CNN Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Bob, you know in the 11th hour here it appears that Jeb Bush has gotten a little bit of distance. Most of the latest polls show he's about eight points ahead of Bill McBride on the final day of the campaign. Jeb Bush continued to hammer at McBride on issues involving McBride being a tax and spend liberal, to get his programs through he was going to have to raise taxes. And, of course in this economy, no one anywhere, certainly not in Florida, wants to hear about raising taxes.

That has played well in Florida. It may have hurt McBride. Bill McBride, for his part, he's had a lot of big time support. Of course, former President Clinton over the weekend, and today he had support from Al Gore, who was in town at several campaign stops, the former vice president.

And Jimmy Buffet, who got out, "Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville" tunes, trying to convince voters not to "waste their votes," as happened, they said, in 2000, when a lot of votes didn't get counted down here. And, of course, the big question down here, Bob, is in a state that can't vote straight, if perhaps we can finally get it right tomorrow -- Bob. NOVAK: Let's hope so. Thank you very much, John.

Next, did good old Fritz Mondale remind Minnesota voters just why he lost the 1984 presidential race so very badly? The pollsters aren't only asking who is going to win, later we'll see what the voters are really thinking.

And we'll also get Paul Begala's picks for the new balance of power on Capitol Hill. He better be careful. We'll hold him to his predictions, which I'm sure will be wrong.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Walter Mondale's campaign has, of course, only lasted all of about six days. Other candidates have been at it for more than a year. Here to compare strategies from a number of races and states are former White House Press Secretary and my pal, Joe Lockhart, now with the Glover Park Group (ph). And Republican strategist, and my pal as well, Alex Castellanos.


NOVAK: Joe Lockhart, your chairman, Terry McAuliffe -- and I know you follow his every word...


NOVAK: He said something that I really loved, and we'll put it up there and listen to what he had to say.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: The Republicans don't have the kind of experience that we have in our candidates. You know Walter Mondale and Frank Lautenberg, to mention two that are going back, and the experience these two have...


NOVAK: Is that what it is, you have no new people? You have these 78 and 74-year-olds, these people who have been put out to pasture, and this is all that you can draw from?

LOCKHART: Well Bob, this is living proof that I have to respect my elders here. I mean there is a lot to be said for America's seniors, and I think Walter Mondale will do great in the Senate. The thing that I found interesting about yesterday was the Republican Senator, Bill Frist, who is the head of their campaign committee, going on television and saying that the issue environment was good for Republicans. And the example he used was the sniper.

Somehow the sniper was going to house (ph) Republicans. That strikes me as fairly pathetic. ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think that's what Bill Frist was talking about. We're talking about security, we're talking about the economy. Two things the Democrats have absolutely no new ideas on other than blocking homeland security and raising taxes.

LOCKHART: Here is a couple of ideas. A stock market going up, an economy growing, people being employed, as opposed to a stock market going down, the economy declining and people being out of work. That's the Republican...

NOVAK: Joe, before you get to all of your talking points, I'd like to go back to Minnesota. You picked Fritz Mondale -- I was around when Fritz was young. He wasn't a ball of fire when he was in his 40s. And he is really Mr. slow ball in his 70s.

Let's just take a look -- put it up on the screen -- of the Mason-Dixon Poll, respected poll. This was the guy who was supposed to win. Norm Coleman, who's Norm Coleman, 47 percent; Mondale, 41 percent. You made a big mistake, didn't you?

LOCKHART: No. I think if you look at the newspaper out there, the St. Paul paper, the mayor -- Coleman's paper, they had it 47-41 for Fritz Mondale. I mean I watched the debate today, and what I saw from Fritz Mondale was experience and integrity. What I saw from Norm Coleman is I wouldn't vote for him but I might buy a used car from him. So...

BEGALA: Well, in fact, let me show you a video clip from that debate. Because we were led to believe by the Novaks of the world that, oh, Mondale is not a ball of fire, he's lost his speed and his pitch. Look at Mondale putting the wood to Norm Coleman this morning. Take a look.


MONDALE: I don't think we do agree on the future, on the Social Security drug bill that you're talking about. You're supporting the drug industry's bill. You're supporting the governor's -- I mean the president's tax cut bill that gives 40 percent of all the relief to the one percent richest in America.

You have called for drilling in the arctic national wildlife. You have a campaign here that is a poster child for what is wrong in politics.


BEGALA: Social Security, the economy, environment, ethics, he just hammered him.

CASTELLANOS: If that's wood, maybe it is petrified wood. Is that what you're...

BEGALA: This from the party of Strom Thurmond? This from the party of Ronald Reagan? This from the party of Bob Dole? CASTELLANOS: I don't want to take anything away from Walter Mondale. He's doing the best that he can. But he can't talk about 18 percent interest rates, he can't talk about gas lines that stretch for miles. He can't talk about the great Carter record. So if that's the best he can do, we'll be kind to Walter Mondale.

LOCKHART: I don't exactly see Norm Coleman talking about the booming economy under George Bush and the Republicans.

CASTELLANOS: Now wait a second. What exactly have Democrats...


CASTELLANOS: What exactly have Democrats proposed? What have you proposed that would actually get the economy going again, other than tax increases you can't talk about until after the election?

LOCKHART: Democrats have proposed getting back to fiscal discipline, they've proposed unemployment extension.

CASTELLANOS: But they're proposing more spending.

LOCKHART: As opposed to Mr. Yes at the White House?

NOVAK: Joe, I've got a trivia question for you. But first, we'll have to look at another sound bite from Fritz.


MONDALE: I will be in the leadership at the first moment and be able to work on it.


NOVAK: He says he'll be in the leadership from the first moment he's -- you know what the leadership (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? That is my trivia question. Do you know what it is?

LOCKHART: It's whatever Tom Daschle decides he wants him in.

NOVAK: No, there's one by the Senate rule. Do you know what it is?

LOCKHART: Why don't you tell me.

NOVAK: It is deputy president pro tem of the Senate. You know what the deputy president pro tem of the Senate does?

LOCKHART: Tell me.

NOVAK: Nothing, because there isn't one right now.

LOCKHART: Well, it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. The good news is Norm Coleman won't be offered the job because he'll be sitting in Minneapolis.

NOVAK: In just a minute, we'll ask our guests about some of the toughest Senate races in the country.

Later, the voters may be more worried about the economy, but Paul Begala sure won't like what they're going to do about it. And we even track down James Carville. Who is he? To see if his predictions for tomorrow are any closer to reality than Paul's.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking election strategy with former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and Republican Strategist Alex Castellanos.

BEGALA: Alex, let's go down south. North Carolina and South Carolina, two incumbent Republicans, retiring Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, two of the finest minds of the 12th century, they're going off to their retirement. These are tossup races, and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) races are turning on Social Security.

Let me read to you from Ron Brownstein, the "L.A. Times" this morning. "For all the semantic quibbling about whether it should be called privatization, most Republicans still want to let younger workers divert some of their payroll taxes into individual accounts they can invest in stocks and bonds. That could cost as much as $1 trillion over the next decade."

Brownstein asks, "Where should the money come from?" Mrs. Dole says it will come from Social Security surplus, which is gone, because Bush spent it on his tax cut. Lindsey Graham says he'll raise taxes. That's an option Which of your North or South Carolina candidates is right?

CASTELLANOS: I think your definition of tossup and mine are a little different. Tossup means it's either going to go Republican or Republican in both of those cases. And I don't know why Democrats are so dead set against letting anyone in America have any control of their Social Security money, as opposed to leaving it all in Washington, where the politicians spend it all every penny.

LOCKHART: Well why are the Republicans so afraid to say that in front of a camera? Can't find a single one of them that will.


CASTELLANOS: ... personal control of Social Security, not privatization.

NOVAK: Joe, I want to -- CNN-"USA Today" Gallup Poll, which CNN pays much money for, so we have to -- I just want to show you some of the polling -- let me just show you some of the polling that these professionals did October 30 through November 2.

Colorado, Senator Allard, the Republican, two percentage points up. You can take a look at it there. Missouri, former Congressman Talent, four percentage points up against Senator Carnahan. South Dakota, Thune -- Congressman Thune three points up over incumbent Senator Tim Johnson. It is slipping away for you, isn't it?

LOCKHART: Well, I'll tell you, it is going to be great when we get to put those things up on CROSSFIRE on Wednesday night and you can talk about what professionals your pollers are. Let me make a couple of points.

One is, most of these competitive battles are going on in the so- called red states, the states that Bush won. And the fact that Democrats are beating Republicans there says something.

Number two...

CASTELLANOS: Republicans are reversing historical trends that have gone on for 20 years.

LOCKHART: Number two, I think this is going to be in a negative way a referendum on Bush or his lack of leadership on his domestic agenda, because he's put everything they have, all the chips in the middle of the table and it is losing. And number three, if Republicans were so confident of winning, they wouldn't resort to this sort of garbage.

This sort of thing that showed up in Baltimore today in black neighborhoods saying that the election was November 6, and make sure that you pay your rent in advance. Because if you're overdue on your rent you can't vote and you'll get arrested.

CASTELLANOS: Come on, Paul.

LOCKHART: This is exactly the kind of thing -- and you know what, every Republican here should stand up and say we're not for this. This is beneath us.

BEGALA: Alex, I've never known you to engage in this kind of tactic. I want you to take the opportunity to clear your good name or continue your good name and say this is outrageous.

CASTELLANOS: I'm not here to clear my good name. I don't have to. But, you know, for Democrats to keep waving the bloody shirt, when they're the ones last time who ran ads, paid radio ads saying that every time you vote Republican, you know, another cross burns. That's what Democrats did in Missouri last time.


LOCKHART: Well, let's talk about a Republican ad running in Missouri this time that says -- that tells African-Americans not to vote Democrat because they're decimating our children and they want to kill our children.

NOVAK: I have one question I have to ask you...


NOVAK: I have to ask you one question. The Florida governor's race was, by all measurements, very close. Your old boss, Bill Clinton, went down to Florida and Jeb Bush went into a double-digit lead. Isn't it a fact that he is absolutely a hex on any Democratic candidate?

LOCKHART: Well, I think what is remarkable here, Bob -- and we're making progress with you, because we're at the end of the second segment before you blame Bill Clinton for something -- that's progress.

BEGALA: Well, if in Colorado, where corporate irresponsibility has been the Achilles heel of Wayne Allard, the incumbent, the vulnerable Republican, if he goes down, isn't it because of these new stories coming out about Bush's alleged insider trading and Harvey Pitt misleading the SEC? Isn't that Bush sinking one of his own candidates because it turns our he was an insider trader?

CASTELLANOS: No. But, in Florida...


CASTELLANOS: I want to take exception with Bob. It is not just Bill Clinton. He did have Al Gore's help, who is down there. And Al Gore's campaigning has helped so much that...

BEGALA: How about Bush's insider trading?

CASTELLANOS: Al Gore may lose Florida twice now.

BEGALA: We are out of time. That's the last word. Alex Castellanos from the Republican Party, thank you very much. Joe Lockhart, my friend from the Clinton White House and the Democratic Party.

You know, no matter how hard the Republicans try to change the subject, it is still the economy, stupid. In a minute, we will see what else is on the minds of the voters. We'll talk to two great pollsters.

And then, we'll let our right wing sidekicks dream a little -- or maybe a lot, and get their pick and predictions for the new Congress.

Stay with us.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom, D.C.

Paul Begala keeps chanting, It is still the economy, stupid. But when it comes to solving our economic problems, the polls seem to be showing it is still the Republican game plan. In the CROSSFIRE now, our Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.


BEGALA: Thank you all, both. Let's get right to work. First, thank you. A lot of IQ power on the stage. You all could boil water with your IQs, but we are going to get right to it, then.

Charlie Cook runs the independent nonpartisan "Cook Political Report." This is what he says this week going into the election. He writes -- and I will put it on the screen for our audience -- "Bush is a weak force. Republicans do not benefit from the fact that a majority continue to approve of Bush's handling of the job of president. Far fewer than half -- 44 percent -- want to see Republicans in control of Congress. It is probably too late for Republicans to recapture those who approve of Bush but not enough to give him a Republican Congress."

Why is Bush such a weak force, Kellyanne?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: He's not. In fact, in the "USA Today" Gallup CNN poll today, Paul, it was revealed that among people who think Bush is a factor in their vote tomorrow, they're two to one more likely to vote for the Republican Party because of George W. Bush. There is absolutely no substitute for him having been on this huge campaign swing, 15 cities in the last couple of days, because when he goes in, people love the Bush brand. He answers two questions in the affirmative, Do I like him, is he like me? People say that is it, I am going to go out, I am going to rally the troops. Now, the generic ballot today in the "USA Today" Gallup Poll would suggest that, for the first time, we have cracked 50 percent in what seems to be a very competitive, very split country, 51 percent to 43 percent of the people indicated they would prefer the Republican in the blind generic ballot. That is proof positive that if they're worried about the economy, they think the Republicans have the solutions.

BEGALA: Let me come back to that point that you said. Of people who think Bush's participation in the campaign is relevant, two to one they support Bush, that's right. But there is very few of them. Let me put the chart up here. The question from the CNN poll...

CONWAY: And they are going vote tomorrow.

BEGALA: But they're 28 percent, Kellyanne. They're 28 percent, and they are all just already committed. Right wing (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Only 28 percent -- it says that their vote will be to support Bush. Only 15 percent to oppose him. Fifty-three percent, the majority of Americans, the vast majority, say Bush not a factor.

CONWAY: Could you imagine how we asked that question about Clinton being a factor. Even Erskine Bowles, his own former chief of staff, somehow deleted from his resume...


BEGALA: ... Clinton beat y'all twice.


BEGALA: What about Bush being so weak?

NOVAK: But Clinton was killing Democratic candidates in his first midterm election when he trailed in '94, and I want to -- she talked about generic ballots. For the uninitiated, that means who do you want to control Congress. I want to put that poll up. That is the CNN "USA Today" Gallup poll -- actually, Kellyanne, it is 51/45. That is a stunning result. That's the least thing I expected to see, the generic vote in favor of the Republicans -- weren't you surprised?

ANNA GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: No, because it is not plausible. There were five polls conducted last week. Four of the five had Democrats up by three to five points. Only one, the Fox Poll, which is from a Republican network, had the Republicans up. If you look at the average, over the last month, Democrats have been up three points. It is not simply not plausible this race has turned around by nine points in two days. I don't believe it.

BEGALA: In fact -- Kellyanne let me ask -- actually, maybe both of you this -- if you go through -- the CNN Gallup poll, it shows Republicans picking up in all these key Senate races. If you go through the MSNBC Zogby poll, our competitors, it shows Democrats winning all of them. For people who have not spent their lives running campaigns like I have, how does that happen, Kellyanne?

CONWAY: It happens because polls are beholden to who is responding to them. We voters, we Americans, are very dynamic. We change our minds all the time. You change your mind as to what tie you're going to wear, what you are going to have for dinner, which way you are going to go to work. People are truly undecided, and truly wringing their hands, depending on the last minute campaign stops, depending on the mail pieces they get, the debates they see, unless, of course, they are in Minnesota, then -- it is easy for them to decide for whom to vote. So, with few exceptions, Norm Coleman, that is -- with very few -- with very few exceptions, Paul, people who are truly fence sitting right now will look at this last weekend's campaigning as deciding their vote, and as probably seeing in their own surveying that people become late-in-the-game deciders. People are struggling with whom to vote for late in the game.

NOVAK: And since neither you nor Paul like the poll that the Gallup organization we pay so much money for, let's switch to the "New York Times" CBS poll.

They ask, "Which party has a clearer plan for the country if they gain control of Congress?"

Watch this. Republicans, clear plan, 42 percent, no, 39 percent. Democrats, 31 percent yes with a clear plan, no, 49 percent.

You know, even people who are Democrats privately tell me they love the Democratic party, but they don't have a clear plan this year. Isn't that true?

GREENBERG: I don't think that's true. You don't think I would think that was true. It has been a very difficult election for anyone to break through. There have been a series of events since late August, the commemoration of September 11, the vote on the Iraq resolution, even the sniper story have made it very difficult for anybody, Democrat or Republican, to know what this election is about. The truth is that if you look at who people think can handle the economy better, people are evenly split. If you look at who people can handle Social Security and health care, people vote for Democrats.

There are a series of issues here where people see the Democrats better than the Republicans. They are even competitive on the economy, which historically has not been true. So this number doesn't bother me, I don't think it really has much relevance to the race.

CONWAY: The numbers tomorrow, I think, are going bother lots of Democrats...

BEGALA: We'll have to see, Kelly. We are going to save this videotape, because I think they're going to bother you and your fellow Republicans, but both of our pollsters are going to stay right here. We are going to come back to them in just a minute, and later on, we are going to get direct input from you the voters. Our "Fireback" segment. One viewer has found the real over-the-hill gang, and it ain't in the Senate.

Then, we'll pull out our crystal balls, and make our predictions for who is going to control Congress for the next two years. Stay tuned.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. A CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll shows that Americans are not very enthusiastic about this year's midterm elections. How can both parties' candidates do a better job of connecting? In the CROSSFIRE, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg.

NOVAK: All right. First question from the audience, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Laura Keener (ph) from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), California. My question is: Do you think that voter turnout will increase due to the projected close races, coupled with the memory of the razor-thin margins that decided the 2000 elections? And if so, which party will it benefit?

NOVAK: Anna, you want to go first?

GREENBERG: Sure. I think nationally, turnout will be the same as we've seen in other off-year elections. I think in the closely contested races, like South Dakota, we'll see high turnout. I think high turnout always favors the Democrats. The organizations on the Democratic side always do a better job of turning out their voters, and they're harder to turn out, so it absolutely benefits the Democrats in these close races.

NOVAK: Only if they don't vote dead Indians in South Dakota.

BEGALA: Oh, now.

NOVAK: Kellyanne? CONWAY: Yes, I would agree that -- all these reports that we're going to have low historical turnout, and people are apathetic, they're angry -- I don't really see evidence of that. We should know that in midterm elections, the turnout is always low. This will probably be a mirror image of past elections.

But it also is a sign that people are comfortable with the way things are. Again, the Bush presidency legacy -- people are comfortable with the way things are, and in tightly contested races where they actually believe their vote will count, you'll probably see some people going to the polls. I only hope that the judges in St. Louis don't keep the polls open a little bit later this time.

BEGALA: Oh, because we would not want people to vote...


BEGALA: We'll take another question from our audience. OK. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Matt Pryor (ph), I'm a college Republican from the American University.

My question is, given the historical trend for the party in control of the White House to lose seats in the midterm elections, that coupled with the fact that, you know, people are not too satisfied with the economy, do you think the projected election results reflect on the popularity of our president or just the poor performance of the Democratic Party?

NOVAK: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: It can be either. And I think many times in politics, we like to confuse causation with coincidence, and the only way to really answer that question in a sophisticated fashion would be to ask it that way in a poll.

What I have seen in everybody's data is that people feel very confident in the ability of this president to lead, not just on the war on terrorism, but on the economy, which means those memos written by James Carville and others early on saying attack the president on the war but -- support him on the war, attack him on the economy really fell flat.

The fact that we are not sitting here tonight quantifying the number of losses that Republicans will suffer tomorrow as the party in power itself is a victory. Itself is a victory for the Republican Party.

GREENBERG: Sometimes history is just history. And in the last three, you know, midterm elections you had Democrats pick up in '96 and '98. And you had no coattails for Bush in 2000. You know, we have fewer competitive seats this year. We had Republican pickups in states like Arizona and Texas, where there are new seats, and I don't think it is surprising at all that this has been a tough election for Democrats to pick up seats. BEGALA: Kellyanne, let me quantify some Republican losses. These are job losses. President Bush today went to Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. I think it was his economic devastation tour. He went to see the hundreds of thousands of people he's gotten laid off -- 16,800 jobs lost in Iowa, 5,900 jobs lost in Missouri, 5,600 lost in Arkansas, and almost a quarter of a million of my fellow Texans lost their jobs since George W. Bush got his via a lawsuit. This cannot be good news for the Republicans, can it?

CONWAY: This has been a very expensive war on terrorism, and besides, you know -- you know that the Clinton/Gore legacy of those eight years taxed to death the entrepreneurs in this country, and they had to lay off a lot of people and defer expansion plans. But that is a ridiculous statistic to put up. The only reason he's in these states is because the Democratic incumbents in those states aren't doing well in holding on to their seats. Why is Missouri even contested? Why isn't Minnesota gone?

NOVAK: Quickly, last word on this.

GREENBERG: You know, Harkin is going to get reelected. So is (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Pryor is going to pick up in Arkansas, and it looks like Kirk is going to win in Texas, so I don't know what you're talking about.


NOVAK: Next, the CROSSFIRE crystal ball segment. Novak, Begala, Carville and Carlson all weigh in with our final predictions for tomorrow.

Also, your chance to fire back at us. One viewer has finally noticed which host is always right.


NOVAK: Welcome back. It's time to tell it like it is going to be tomorrow night. Paul Begala, James Carville, Tucker Carlson and I will be at CNN headquarters in Atlanta taking part in the election night coverage. Two of us will be feeling a lot better than the others. That's a good prediction. You can guess which ones after you see our election returns. I will start.

I predict four seat gain in the House of Representatives. That is just amazing in a midterm election. But not as amazing as a one seat Republican gain in the Senate. Just enough to win control of the Senate for the next two years. But I'll tell you something, folks, it may be more than that. I detect a Republican breeze blowing across the country.

BEGALA: I don't feel the breeze but I got a lot of hot air from Bush.

I'm picking a Democratic gain of three seats in the Senate, solidifying the Democratic majority in the Senate. That laughter is from some of our friends from the American University. They need to learn how to count and they might be a little better. The Democrats are the ones who know how to count, like votes. We're going to actually lose three seats -- my party will lose three, the Republicans will gain three in the House.

NOVAK: OK, I'm going to give you James Carville's predictions.

Now, James is not quite as extreme as you are, Paul. He only predicts a two-seat Democratic gain in the Senate but this is just wonderful, James Carville who was talking about a 20-seat Democratic gain in the House of representatives a few months ago, you remember him talking about that, now he says the Republicans will pick up two seats in the House.

Isn't that amazing?

BEGALA: And then my friend and yours, Tucker Carlson, weighs in saying, the Republicans will gain two seats in the Senate and they will actually gain eight more seats in the House -- a 10-seat swing for the Republican party in the two houses.

I don't know what Tucker's drinking but I'm get a case of it as soon as I find out.

Stand by for your chance to "Fireback" at us. One of our viewers has figured out what W is really doing when he flies from state to state. We'll let you know when CROSSFIRE returns.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time now for "Fireback" where you get to "Fireback" at us. Here's our first e-mail from Bette Guy in Los Angeles, California: "Paul, Walter Mondale a thing of the past? How about "W's" entire cabinet?"

Well, there you go. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney.

NOVAK: Nobody in the cabinet as old as Fritzy, though, I'll tell you that.

Next e-mail from Patsy Robertson of Monroe, Georgia: "I thought Norm Coleman was great today. I hope the people from Minnesota send him to the Senate. He's fresh and has got great ideas. On the other hand, Mondale reminded me of my husband, a grump old man."

Patsy, congratulations to you and condolences to your husband.

BEGALA: Well, of course, if I was Patsy's husband, I would be grumpy, too.

Paul Shockey in Flagstaff, Arizona, writers: "Bush is not really on the campaign trail. He's looking for imminent threat to America, namely bin Laden and Saddam. He's looking for them in South Dakota, Minnesota, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and least -- last but not least -- Texas." Good point, Paul. In fact, John F. Kennedy did not campaign during the Cuban missile crisis. If we have a real national security crisis, shame on Bush for campaigning.

NOVAK: You know, I was there. If you think Jack Kennedy was not -- was not campaigning in that crisis, when he was pulling back Republican senators to -- and Democratic senators to come into Washington, you're not as...


NOVAK: All right. Christina Smith of Portland, Oregon says: "Dear Bob, you're mean and cranky, but you're also right about everything you've ever argued about on CROSSFIRE. Don't ever change."

Go Christina!

BEGALA: I would say Christina's half right. I don't what to say which half.

Yes, sir? What's your question or comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir, I'm Ed Birmingham (ph) from Adelaide (ph) in South Australia. I spent the last few weeks traveling around about five states around the U.S. And it's quite clear that the Democrats have no coherent message or no clear policies, particularly on the economy. Do they really have any hope in this election?

NOVAK: I think we ought to make the -- Did you say South Adelaide (ph)? We ought to make that the 51st state, you know?

BEGALA: Well, further proof we know now why Australia was a prison colony back in -- yes, sir, what is your -- yes, ma'am what is your question or comment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Lindsay Shapiro (ph). I'm from Maple Grove, Minnesota. Last week, Jesse Ventura said the Democrats everywhere should lower their heads in response to Paul Wellstone's memorial service. And this week I'd like to say the same thing to supporters of Governor Ventura. He used Paul Wellstone's death to further the cause of the Independent party and his appointment of an independent to Paul Wellstone's seat is a disgrace.

NOVAK: Well, I'll tell you what miss, that is a senator for a week. It isn't going to make any difference.

BEGALA: That's too bad Jesse wasn't governor for a week. He's damn entertaining for a week but after that he was a bad joke.

NOVAK: Next question.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my name is Tyler Pace (ph). I'm from San Jose, California. And my question is that assuming that various dead heat races end tomorrow as close as the 2000 presidential elections, what are the -- what's the chances that there's the cry of foul play from tomorrow's losers?

NOVAK: I tell you if the Democrats are crying foul play. If the Republicans are be good sports about it.

BEGALA: Oh yeah, like last -- yeah, sure. Like the last time around when Al Gore won Florida and they went to Thief Justice Rehnquist and got him to overturn the election and stop the counting of votes.

NOVAK: Last question.

BEGALA: Go ahead. You got to make it quick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Steve Pinto (ph) from Minnesota. I'm wondering, with Norm Coleman being handpicked by the administration and massive campaigning the president himself, is there any truth to the sentiment that Norm Coleman is just a puppet for the president?

NOVAK: No, he's a supporter of the president? If you don't know the difference between a puppet or supporter, you ought to go back to Minnesota.

BEGALA: Here's the difference. Here's the difference. He was the supporter of Bill Clinton when he was president and now the supporter of George W. Bush's president. That's a puppet. You see, a puppet is somebody who goes with whoever happens to hold the strings.

NOVAK: Ronald Reagan was a supporter of Roosevelt until he got the message. Norm Coleman got the message.

BEGALA: Norm Coleman is no Ronald Regan. He's a two-faced fraud who has no business running for Paul Wellstone's post.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. Goodnight for CROSSFIRE.

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

And join all of us, Paul, James, Tucker and me tomorrow night during CNN's election coverage.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now.


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