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Voters Go to the Polls in Election 2002

Aired November 5, 2002 - 16:00   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff at CNN election headquarters. It is D-day at polling places across the nation in the neck and neck cutthroat election of 2002.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bill Hemmer live in Miami. There are still three hours to go, but it looks like Florida is well on its way to doing something it could not do two years ago. So far things are relatively smooth. An update in a moment here in South Florida.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper in St. Paul -- I'm Anderson Cooper in St. Paul, Minnesota. Will Walter Mondale once again become a senator for this state? Election officials here are bracing for a very long night. I'll have an update soon.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Salisbury, North Carolina, where political veteran Elizabeth Dole is hoping to win elective office for the very first time. Will she pull it off or will she be overtaken in the home stretch?

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of INSIDE POLITICS live from the campaign trail.

WOODRUFF: So this is it. Have a seat, grab a scorecard. Americans are voting. And just a few hours from now, the results are going to start to come in. Our election night team, as you can tell, is already in position with live reports in this hour from across the nation on all the squeaker races including the battle for Senate control.

First up, our correspondents in Florida, Minnesota and North Carolina, beginning with Bill Hemmer.

All right, Bill. No fiascoes at the polls this time, right?

HEMMER: So far, Judy. It's 4:00 here in Florida right now. We still have roughly three hours to go. But we're hearing right now only minor problems, which has been absolutely fantastic news for election officials across the state.

You know, they pumped in $32 million over the past 24 months trying to make sure that the Florida fiasco of two years ago does not happen again. Now having said that, a couple glitches did occur. Optical scanners, difficulties in Seminole, Orange and Brevard counties. Apparently, in Orange County, some of the workers forgot to plug the machine in, but obviously that situation was alleviated quite well. In South Florida, just about every polling precinct opened up on time, Judy. That's critical, because back in the primary, on September 10, many poll workers failed to show up for work that day until 4:00 in the afternoon. Another black eye for this state. But a lot of officials simply beaming today with pride and probably a bit of relief, too, knowing that things so far have gone as well as they have.

Best picture today, Judy, want to show you some videotape from Liberty City, which is here in Miami/Dade. A 92-year-old woman taken to the polling precinct by her sister. Too elderly to get out of the car, the poll workers brought out the electronic polling machine to her car and that's where she cast her ballot. We know it's legal, we checked into it.

And throughout the state, we are seeing a huge turnout. In fact, the Bush people are telling us in the panhandle that they're getting a presidential turnout right now. It's a critical governor's race here. The younger brother of the president trying to become the first Republican governor ever re-elected in the history of this state, challenged right now by the newcomer Bill McBride. Much more on that race in a moments ahead.

But for now up to St. Paul, Minnesota and Anderson Cooper, watching a very tough Senate race there -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is that. Thank you very much, Bill.

It is a very exciting race and as Bill mentioned, far too close to call. A lot of voters turning out to the polls, we're told. I talked to the secretary of state's office just about an hour ago and they said voter turnout here is -- seems to be high. It's anecdotal at this point. They don't have any firm numbers, but high by Minnesota standards. And Minnesota generally has high voter turnout. So a lot of people apparently coming out to the polls, really energized by this extraordinary, unprecedented race between former Vice President Walter Mondale and Republican Norm Coleman.

Both candidates were out this morning. Norm Coleman worked all night long last night, drove to some 15 hours to 15 different cities, met his supporters early this morning, tired but confident. He urged them to go to the polls. Same thing with Walter Mondale, appearing early this morning here in St. Paul a few blocks away at a Union hall, telling his supporters to get out the vote, get on the phones, man those phone banks and get Democratic former labor loyalists to go to the polls and cast their ballots. And they seem to be doing that today.

Polls close here in about, well, in about five hours. And it is really anybody's guess. Now remember, these are supplemental ballots. It was too late to have it programmed into the high tech machines they usually use here in Minnesota. Supplemental ballots that will have to be counted by hand. So even though the polls close at 8:00 Central time, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, it is going to be a very long night. We may not get any results till past midnight, if that early at all. It's going to be very exciting here in Minnesota. Let's check in now with Jeanne Meserve, who's standing by in North Carolina.

MESERVE: Anderson, thanks. It is a nasty, rainy day here in North Carolina, the kind of day that can depress voter turnout, but moderate is the word that the board of elections is using to describe voter participation today. It is a hot contest. The most expensive Senate race in the country this year. The candidates have spent $21 million between them to try to get elected. It matches up Elizabeth Dole, the former labor secretary, former transportation secretary, former head of the Red Cross, against Erskine Bowles, who was President Clinton's chief of staff.

Now political analysts say that if Bowles is going to stage an upset here, he has to turn out the African-American vote. They favor Bowles by a large margin, according to one recent poll 82 percent to 7 percent. We're also told he has to make some headway among the Jesocrats. Those are the conservative Democrats who in the past helped put Jesse Helms in this Senate seat time after time.

Needless to say, the Democrats are putting on a massive get out the vote effort but the Republicans are responding in kind. They acknowledge this race is close. But according to one party official, it's not a nail biter. Polls close here at 7:30 Eastern.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Jeanne. It's just one more reason we're going to be on the edge of our seats all night long. Thank you and we'll be talking to you later on.

Well we do now have a voter alert on a candidate best known as a lightning rod in election 2000. Stu Rothenberg has been working the phones. Stu, what are you hearing about Katherine Harris who is running for Congress in Florida?

STU ROTHENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state, the Republican Democrats love to hate. We all thought she was a slam dunk for Congress, to be elected to Congress this year. As it turns out, it may not be so easy. She's opposed by Jan Schneider, an attorney and one-time law school classmate of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republicans went into the field and had two polls last week. The first one showed Katherine Harris down by one point. They went in to double-check that. The second poll showed her down by four points.

They opened up the money spigots, put in some new ads, some phones, went back into the field. She was up by about 10 or 12. They think they're out of the woods but they're not sure. Now they're keeping their fingers crossed. So, Katherine Harris may not be the slam dunk we once thought.

WOODRUFF: And this was one that everybody thought was off the radar screen.

ROTHENBERG: This is a district that takes 16-point Republican registration edge in the Gulf Coast of Florida. It's almost -- any Republican should be able to hold it. Apparently Katherine Harris' numbers were not nearly as good as Republicans expected.

WOODRUFF: That's one more we're going to be watching closely. Stu, thanks, we'll be talking to you a lot tonight. We appreciate it.

Well when the votes are counted tonight, some politicians will feel like jumping off of a train, but Senator John Warner of Virginia already has, not because of the election. He's unopposed, but apparently what happened is the 75-year-old Republican got fed up with problems during an Amtrak ride on Wednesday, so he grabbed his luggage and jumped off the train as it was moving out of the station in Alexandria, Virginia. Now warner didn't get hurt but his comments about Amtrak were pretty tough. "The Washington Post" is quoting him as saying, You guys can't operate a two-car funeral parade" -- end quote.

Well, did you ever feel like doing something drastic after you went to the polls? We want you to let us know if you've seen any voting problems, either yourself or someone in your family or a friend. E-mail us at

Up next: Will either of the party chairmen feel like partying tonight? We're going to get their predictions and we're going to ask them if they plan to put armies of lawyers to work after the votes are in.

Also ahead:

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jonathan Karl in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I'll have the latest on another race that could make or break the Democrats' control of the Senate.

WOODRUFF: Plus, monkey business helped dash his presidential dreams, so you may be surprised to hear what Gary Hart has on his mind now.

This is INSIDE POLITICS, the place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: No one is going to be watching tonight's results any closer than the chairs of the two national political parties, and they join me now from Washington. Terry McAuliffe is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Former Governor Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Gentlemen, we're already getting reports about problems at some voting places, people casting a vote and it not being counted the way they had thought. We're hearing about long lines, people having to wait. Terry McAuliffe, do you have specific reports of problems at this point?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHRM. DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, sure, we have hundreds of calls that have come into our new 1-888- VOTE-411 number that we've had at the Democratic National Committee. There are long waits all over the country. I think we are seeing record turnout in many different jurisdictions.

In Dade county, there are very long lines. This is presidential level voting. So we're prepared. We think we're being able to handle these issues as people go to the polls. But there are very long lines out there. We need to make sure that everybody's vote gets counted. We need to make sure everybody is out there assisting, not keeping people away from the polls but making sure they go in and that their vote will be counted.

WOODRUFF: but you don't have any specific problems that you want to talk about right now?

MCAULIFFE: Well there have -- yes, there have been instances, obviously, that we found out yesterday about, that we're very concerned about. In Florida, there were thousands of robo-calls made into Florida asking people to vote on November 10, which is five days after the election. We turned that over to the attorney general. The FBI has already investigated, they have the number.

We have instances in Maryland where leaflets were handed out telling people to vote on November 6. We're very concerned about that. There are radio ads that have been done that are very discriminatory against the Democratic Party. And they're actually financed by a group that the IRS reports show is a top Republican operative.

The RNC has nothing to do with this, nor Marc Racicot, but there are people out there we're concerned about. And three people have just been arrested in Michigan, three Republican operatives have just been arrested, for intimidating African-American voters.

WOODRUFF: Well let me turn it immediately to Marc Racicot. What are you hearing about any of these specific instances?

MARC RACICOT, CHRM. REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, there were problems in South Dakota as you know, with the registration of people who were no longer alive by some Democratic operatives. There were in Arkansas as well by a Democrat elected official there trying to cast ballot for someone else, absentee ballots.

There are normal vagaries that are associated with any human activity that can always present themselves. We don't have perfect elections although we need work at every single day.

So we've heard of some different challenges here and there and some overt conduct, but I would tell you plainly, it's been our effort every single day to reach out and have as many people as possible -- Democrats, Republicans, everyone voting and that's precisely what the president said as well. We've been reaching to every community especially to minority communities.

So our every effort is designed to enhance the vote, to enlarge it rather than to do anything that would diminish anyone's rights.

WOODRUFF: I want to ask both of you about sending out lawyers, legal teams to anticipate problems, deal with any problems that come up. Terry McAuliffe how are you prepared to deal with legitimate problems that come up, legal problems?

MCAULIFFE: Well the lawyers we have on the ground today -- and I say we have trained over 10,000 that are working the polls -- they're not there for recounts or anything of the such. They're there to assist voters while they're at the polls to inform them if they have an issue about their legal right to vote.

So their purpose is to help people go into the polls today and to make sure that vote is counted. These lawyers are not on the ground. I'm not anticipating -- I'm hoping that we don't have recounts. I, like most Americans, are ready to get this election over with. I hope all the races will be done with tonight.

WOODRUFF: And Marc Racicot, what about you? What about sending lawyers out? I mean are there places you've sent more lawyers because you think there might be more of a problem there?

RACICOT: No, we typically have to be prepared, everyone has to be prepared in the event that there might be court action that's undertaken by the opposition to respond to it, to make sure the law is being complied with.

But we haven't dispatched thousands of lawyers across the country in anticipation of litigation. We'll be ready in the event that there's some difficulty or challenge, but we have not presumed that we should station virtually every place across the United States of America.

WOODRUFF: All right, I'm not going to ask you both what's going to happen because I know you're both going to predict victories for your respective parties. But I do want to ask what you think may be a surprise tonight. Terry, you first.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think we're going to pick up several Senate seats. I think we're going to get the six seats we need for the House. We're going to win a slew of governorships. I think what's going to be proven tonight is the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort which we are known for is going to show that we did it again, we matched and exceeded some places our 2000 presidential effort.

WOODRUFF: Marc Racicot?

RACICOT: Well I think that there are just so many races, Judy, it would be hard for me to pick one out. But I believe the Senate races in Georgia and Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota are going to be obviously particularly interesting. And I believe that they're so close, it's just almost impossible to predict what might happen.

WOODRUFF: All right, well we're going to let you get away with that this time. Marc Racicot, Terry McAuliffe, great to see both of you. And we'll be watching you and talking to you in the days to come. Thanks.

MCAULIFFE: Thanks, Judy.

RACICOT: Thanks to you too. MCAULIFFE: I hope you voted.

WOODRUFF: I did. Voted absentee in Washington before I came down to Atlanta. Thanks again. Great to see both of you.

Well, in our Election Day edition of our "Campaign News Daily," it is a -- we want to give you a reminder that it's never too early to look ahead to 2004. Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart says he is considering another run for the White House. Hart tells the "Denver Post" he's finding it hard to sit on the sidelines these days.

He left politics after his 1988 White House campaign was derailed by allegations of an extra marital affair. Hart says the incident will not affect his future plans. Quote, "That was an issue between me and the press, not me and the American people," Hart says. " The American public never had a chance to weigh in."

As for today's elections, loyal watchers of this program will want to know who the results of the "Burrito Poll" in the Maryland governor's race is. Well Republican Bob Ehrlich has been declared the winner with his Ehrlich mashed potato burrito. He edged the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Honey crusted chicken burrito by a 51 to 49 percent margin. We'll see how close that match is, their contest for governor of the state of Maryland. About 1,800 people were surveyed at their restaurants in the California tortilla chain.

And we have to tell you one more food poll. Two Krispey Kreme doughnut shops in Memphis this morning held their own version of the political exit poll. As customers left the stores, they chose a free doughnut from the boxes labeled with candidates' names. Maybe we'll have and answer later as to which one came out on top.

A close encounter of the political kind in the Maryland governor's race today. Kennedy Townsend and Ehrlich showed up at the same polling place at the same time. They shook voters' hands and then they shook each other's hands. Did you know that Ehrlich was endorsed by Olympic gold medal skater Dorothy Hamill? And he was co- captain of Princeton University football team.

But Michigan gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm may have topped him in the brush with fame department. She appeared on the TV show "The Dating Game" 22 years ago. Granholm says, quote, "Who wants a boring governor anyway?"

We head to Louisiana now after a quick break. Arthel Neville is going to be covering that state's Senate race and she joins us with a preview -- Arthel.

ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as you know, the polls close here in a matter of hours. But that could signal a new beginning to this race. I'll explain and I'll tell you why the voters here might have the final say on which party controls the Senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: Well even after the polls have closed and all the votes are counted tonight in the Louisiana Senate race, it still might not be over. In fact, voters might have to return to the polls next month.

CNN's Arthel Neville is covering it all. She's in New Orleans. Hello again, Arthel.

NEVILLE: Hello again, Judy. That indeed is the case here. And the candidates are trying to make sure that it literally does not rain on their parade. We're talking about heavy rain and tornado warnings that could put a damper on Election Day here. But actually preliminary reports from the secretary of state say voter turnout is higher than expected and the African-American voter turnout is good.

Now for Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu a large African- American turnout is key because that's a key part of her base. It is crucial for her to be able to win the seat outright today. Now, bright and early around 6:30 this morning, Landrieu continued her last minute get out the vote efforts including a few last minute phone calls to voters. And at midmorning, when Landrieu cast her own vote, she deliberately left her driver's license at home so she could use the alternative procedure, which calls for voters to sign an affidavit to allow them in order to allow them to vote without an official state I.D. Landrieu says she wanted to make sure this procedure was working properly.

Republican challenger Suzie Tarrell is Landrieu's biggest rival. And Tarrell followed up an early morning trip to the polls with her own last minute campaign efforts which included a lot of hand shaking and a traditional good luck po boy at Domelici's (ph). Tarrell plans to block out some time around 5:00 this afternoon to catch her daughter's volleyball game. But if Tarrell herself scores big at the polls, she could force a runoff next month.

Now in order to avoid the runoff, Landrieu must garner at least 50 percent of the votes today. Now political analysts predicting we will be here again in December for a runoff -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, Arthel, they really are forecasting tornadoes?

NEVILLE: Oh, yeah. All morning long, watching television, it looks like every 10 minutes tornado warnings would come up. But right now they should have lifted and the rain has stopped, again, though the forecast is predicting rain later, which, as you know, folks are getting off work at about 5:00 local time, and if it's raining, we're not sure if that's going to deter them away from the polls or not.

WOODRUFF: Well, we hope everyone stays safe.

NEVILLE: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right, Arthel, thanks and we'll be talking to you a lot later.

Throughout the night, we hope you will check our Web site, for in depth information and the latest results. You can see which races our team of experts are following and why. They have personalized election scorecards and you can set up your own scorecards to track the results in the races that matter to you closer to home.

We're going to head north when we come back for a live update on the Election Day landscape in South Dakota.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: You know, you got Bill Clinton in the state. Al Gore's in the state. You could multiply that times 50 and I would take one George W. Bush.

WOODRUFF: Sure, we know the president is popular, but can he win a political trifecta tonight?


WOODRUFF: We're told that President Bush plans to have dinner with top Republican leaders at the White House tonight as they watch the results come in.

Before the vote results start to come in, he returned to Washington this afternoon from Texas where he and Mrs. Bush cast their ballots this morning.

As our Candy Crowley explains, Texas is one of three states where the president has the biggest investment tonight.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: High approval ratings are political capital, and the president has been on a spending spree.

G. BUSH: And I'm not undecided about what's best for Arkansas.

CROWLEY: His time, his name and his agenda are on the line everywhere. But in three states, it is so much more than that.

South Dakota's Senate race is laden with symbolism beyond the balance of power. This is a Washington showdown in the Badlands.

SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well thank you, Mr. majority leader. Thank you.

CROWLEY: The question on the ballot is Republican John Thune or Democrat Tim Johnson. The headlines will be about whether George Bush's man can win the other Senate seat in the home state of Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

To the winner go bragging rights and the first jewel in this year's triple crown of politics. Location, location, location.

Bush family roots grow deep in Texas. The president's political buddies are all over the ballot.

Even the Democratic candidate for Senate talks about how much he likes George Bush. A mere detail for the Democratic party, which would love to stake a claim in the president's backyard.

And this guy, running for governor, he was George Bush's lieutenant's governor. Need we say more?

But, oh, brother, of all the races in all the states, this one cuts the closest. Die-hard Democrats call Florida the scene of the crime. Its governor, Jeb Bush, is the No. 1 target in the country.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know what happened here two years ago. A lot of people are beginning to open their eyes and see the truth of the matter.

CROWLEY: It is payback for Democrats and, in some ways, it is for George Bush, too. No state was more critical to his election, no one more loyal than Governor Jeb Bush. The president has made a lot of trips to Florida, raising money, rousing the troops. Big brother has come through in a big way.

J. BUSH: They give you a lot of hard time. But then, when you need them, they are always there to help, right? Older brother, you listening to me?



CROWLEY: Judy, all of these races are, of course, a matter of politics. But, in Florida, for George Bush and Jeb Bush, it is a matter of heart.

WOODRUFF: And it couldn't get any more important than that.

All right, Candy, thanks very much. And we'll be seeing a good deal of you this evening. Appreciate it.

On this Election Day here in the U.S., candidates are knocking on doors and they're hitting the phones to try to get their supporters to the polls and to try to sway any voters who haven't made up their minds yet. Now, that's especially true in the tightest races, including the Senate showdown in South Dakota.

That's where our Jonathan Karl is in Sioux Falls -- hi, Jon.

KARL: Hey, Judy.

Well, the rest of the country may be talking about possibly low voter turnout, but not South Dakota. Experts here have been predicting turnout of as high as 75 percent. And anecdotal evidence today of crowded polling places and long lines across the state suggests those experts may be right. And turnout could even be higher. Now, Republican John Thune continued to call those remaining undecided voters this morning. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN THUNE (R-SD), SOUTH DAKOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think everybody has been called and called and called again. There are still, interestingly enough, people who are still undecided. And I've talked to a couple people today who said, "Well, I'll probably not going to decide until I get to the polling place." So I guess they'll make their decisions at the last minute.

KARL: Flip a coin?


THUNE: Must be. I don't know.


KARL: Majority Leader Tom Daschle's name might not be on the ballot, but he's been working hard, virtually a constant presence at the side of the Democratic candidate, incumbent Senator Tim Johnson. That's because Daschle knows that his fate is tied largely to what happens here in South Dakota.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I have a lot riding on it personally, I guess. Whether or not I'm the majority leader or the minority leader in part will be determined by what happens here in South Dakota, but certainly across the country. In that regard, at least this morning, I feel somewhat optimistic. I think I'm going to hold on to my job.


KARL: And, of course, the other person whose name is not on the ballot here in South Dakota, but who has a lot riding on it is President Bush. He's worked almost as hard as Tom Daschle to win here in South Dakota -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, I think you got all the way through that without using the words "proxy war," which the rest of us are free to use all night long.

Thank you, Jon. And we'll see you alter.

Well, no matter how Republicans fare tonight, the first couple has reason to celebrate. This is their 25th wedding anniversary.


G. BUSH: I'm not telling what I gave the first lady for our 25th anniversary.


G. BUSH: Huh? QUESTION: What about for her birthday?

G. BUSH: Not telling.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you think you're getting...

G. BUSH: But I was -- I was -- but I was -- let me just say that I remembered.

L. BUSH: He did remember.


WOODRUFF: So, we need a good reporter to find out what he did give her. She said she was going to tell, so somebody needs to ask that question.

The CNN election team is on the ground in all the key states -- live reports on three more races when we return.

Also ahead, we check in with the hosts of "CROSSFIRE" here at CNN election headquarters.


WOODRUFF: We've already checked in with CNN reporters in several important states. Let's get some updates now from three more of our correspondents.

Let's go to Gary Tuchman first. He's standing by in suburban Atlanta with the latest on Georgia's new voting system and this state's ever-tightening Senate race -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, despite some very crummy weather throughout the state of Georgia, turnout is described as very good.

Three main reasons for that: a competitive governor's race, a very competitive U.S. Senate race, and the introduction of new touch- screen voting technology. Georgia has now become the first state in the nation, every precinct, every county to have touch-screen voting.

We want to give you a demonstration of how it works. This is the machine, 22,000 of which are throughout the state. You stick your voter access card into the machine. It loads up a ballot. This is not the ballot the voters here are getting. The voters here are getting a ballot with the U.S. Senate race: Max Cleland, the Democratic incumbent, against Saxby Chambliss, the Republican, a very tight race. The governor's race here: Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes against Sonny Purdue, the Republican -- not as close, but also more competitive than thought.

But this is the sample ballot. This gives you an idea. I vote for Betsy Ross for a famous leader. I vote for Gladys Knight for a famous Georgian and Chipper Jones for a famous athlete. Then I go to state constitutional amendments, I vote for yes for each of them. Then I press "next." It takes me to the final page summarizing my vote. I'm happy with my vote. I push the "cast ballot" button.

I get the card out and my vote is cast inside the machine. That's all there is to it. There have been some allegations throughout the state of problems with these voting machines. However, the secretary of state's office is saying right now no problems have been confirmed.

And to give you an idea of how it is going in this particular polling place, right over there is the expert technician. That's Archie sitting there. Right now, he looks like the Maytag repairman. He hasn't had a lot to do at this particular precinct today -- Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: That's good news for everybody voting there. We did hear the Democratic Party chair, Terry McAuliffe, a moment ago say that there had been some reports. But they dealt with them, we think.

Now we go to New Hampshire, where there is an equally tight Senate race.

Our own Bill Delaney is with us -- hi, Bill.


You know, a razor-thin margin is expected to decide this Senate race here in New Hampshire. The sun is going down here in New Hampshire, Judy. And there are some here who predict we may still be standing here when the sun is coming up again. It is that close, with Republican John Sununu running against New Hampshire's Democratic governor, Jeanne Shaheen.

Now, voters here in New Hampshire seem inspired by all this. They're turning out in big numbers. Election officials are predicting as many as 60 percent of the voters in this state will buck the national trend of not voting much by turning out to vote today.

Now, key to all this: independent voters. More than a third of voters in New Hampshire now are registered independents. How their vote cuts will be critical. Now, Governor Shaheen here, the Democrat, has been very adept over the years at drawing independents to her, combining her policies with a kind of social liberalism.

When it comes to things like abortion rights, she's for it, while, at the same time, supporting policies like President Bush's Iraq and tax policy. She walks fine lines. Congressman Sununu is much more of a kind of predictable conservative. But he trumpets his strong connections in Washington. He's the son of a former governor here and the son of the first President Bush's chief of staff.

Now, the wild card here, Judy, that everyone will be watching: the looming presence of 6-foot, 6-inch outgoing Republican Senator Bob Smith. He lost in the primary to Congressman Sununu. And now disgruntled Republicans are promising to write in his name. And if as many as 2 percent do write in his name -- and they're predicting that's how many could write in Senator Smith's name -- that could be more than enough to drain away votes from Congressman Sununu and throw the election to the Democrat. And the Republicans would lose a seat in the Senate, Judy.

And now over to Carol Lin in St. Louis.

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill and Judy, you know it is a very tight race here between Democrat Jean Carnahan, the incumbent trying to hang on to her seat, as well as Republican Jim Talent.

The polls still have them neck-and-neck. And it will get down to turnout. We hear turnout is pretty good. But key to this election may be the absentee ballots, which, according to the secretary of state, are up 30 percent, up 30 percent in some key areas of the state. Both candidates there, Jim Talent casting his vote today in Chesterfield at a country club; Jean Carnahan casting her ballot in rural Rolla, Missouri.

Both candidates feeling very optimistic about their chances of winning this race: Jean Carnahan today predicting what she calls a Missouri surprise. And she says that she's got enough experience, after 20 campaigns with her husband, to know the vibe of the voters. She's talking about feminine intuition. And she says she feels the momentum in this race.

Jim Talent, though, pulling ahead in some polls slightly -- in one poll, Zogby International, actually beyond the margin of error. And it may actually come down to St. Louis County, which is where we are right now at the Democratic headquarters for the state -- St. Louis County casting one out of five of the total ballots cast in the entire state of Missouri. And it may come down to the African- American vote, which cast 20 percent of all ballots usually in tightly contested Democratic races -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Carol, we are also going to be checking in with you throughout this night. Thanks very much.

Well, you can feel the tension building. And, as you feel it, get ready for some bare-knuckle election analysis. The "CROSSFIRE" gang made the trip all the way to CNN election headquarters here in Atlanta. And we're going to check in with them next.


WOODRUFF: All right, they need no introduction, so I'm just going to tell you their names: James Carville, Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak. They're the "CROSSFIRE" gang. They're with us here in Atlanta.

And I'm going to start with a question that I hope puts you all on the spot. Let's start first with Bob Novak and Tucker.

What is going to be the most embarrassing result tonight for the Democrats, Tucker?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": For the Democrats or the Republicans?

WOODRUFF: For the Democrats.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, I'll jump right in, since I savor moments like this.

I think, by far, the most embarrassing is going to be the defeat of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in Maryland, a completely Democratic state. She ran what turned into a pretty rough campaign at the end, with, I think, racial overtones. And I think she's going to lose anyway. Despite trying to paint her opponent as a member of the Klan or the militia movement, I think she's going to lose.

And it's kind of remarkable in Maryland. You live near Maryland. I do, too. You know how liberal it is. And for a Kennedy to lose there, amazing. It's a new dawn in America.

WOODRUFF: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: That certainly is the first.

The second is another very, very Democratic state, Massachusetts, where the Democrats put up a statehouse hack, Shannon O'Brien, to run against Mitt Romney, who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics. And the old boys in Massachusetts admit they about made a mistake with this woman, too. And Mitt Romney is going to win, another embarrassment for the Democrats.

WOODRUFF: All right, James and Paul, if that's what's going to happen to the Democrats, what are going to be the biggest embarrassments for the Republicans?


JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Texas. Ron Kirk is running an unbelievable campaign. And I think Ron Kirk has an excellent chance to win. This would be the biggest Senate victory in my lifetime or anybody else's lifetime, if he wins.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": And then I think North Carolina, Judy. There's Elizabeth Dole. She has got a great name and a great background, but she's going to lose, I think.

Erskine Bowles, my former boss, Clinton's chief of staff in the White House, has run a remarkable campaign. He's caught up at the end. We never know what happens on Election Day. But I think Elizabeth Dole goes down. It's an enormous black eye for the GOP, replacing Jesse Helms, one of the finest minds of the 12th century, with Erskine Bowles, a man who served in the Clinton White House. God bless America.

NOVAK: In the first place, I liked the 12th century a lot.


BEGALA: That's the spirit, Bob.

NOVAK: But, James, you didn't say that Kirk was going to win. CARVILLE: I did.

NOVAK: You said he's putting up a hell of a race.

CARVILLE: Then let me clarify that. I think he's going to win.

NOVAK: That is really -- you're demeaning yourself to say that.

CARVILLE: Well, we'll know if I'm right or wrong by 10:00 tonight.

NOVAK: Well, you're wrong.

CARLSON: Well, you know what, James? You can't see them, but I'm wearing a very thick pair of wingtip shoes right now. And if Ron Kirk wins, I will eat them.

NOVAK: He's not going to win.

BEGALA: Buy some ketchup. The very fact that this thing is in play...

CARLSON: It is not in play.

BEGALA: Texas is Utah on steroids. It's the most Republican big state in America. They have, of course, a Democratic lieutenant governor. The whole state is Republican. And the Democrat is going to knock off Bush's handpicked successor.

CARLSON: If that happens, truly I'll apologize.

CARVILLE: I'm very grateful that my prediction is the one that stimulated the conversation here.

CARLSON: Because it's insane. That's why.

NOVAK: I'll tell you why. It's because it's so silly, James. The campaign is over. People are voting. There's nothing you can do about it. So don't make fools out of yourselves by making ridiculous statements.

CARVILLE: If I say I think somebody's going to win the game and they're ready to play the game in two hours, you don't know whether I'm right or wrong.

NOVAK: The game's been played. This game's been played already.


CARVILLE: I like to take a long shot every now and then.

WOODRUFF: All right, now I see how hard it is to get a word in edgewise with you guys.

Let me just ask one other question. Al Gore is campaigning around the country for some Democrats. He almost always is talking about what happened in Florida, reminding everybody of the debacle in the state of Florida. Is this smart for him to do?

NOVAK: It's really stupid, Judy, because the only people who worry about that is Al Gore. Al Gore goes to bed every night sobbing about Florida. But most people, they put it behind them.

The problem with Al Gore is, when he went to New Hampshire, when he was scheduled to go to New Hampshire -- it was canceled -- the Senate candidate for the Democrats, Governor Shaheen, was going to be on the other side of the state when he was in New Hampshire. He is like a plague for the Democrats. They don't want to be anywhere close to the man.

CARLSON: I hate to disagree with Bob, but I think this is all the more reason that Al Gore needs to be the Democratic nominee in 2004. I mean, he is the voice of the Democratic Party. He has a legitimate claim on the job. And if they don't make him the nominee, there's something deeply wrong with the Democratic Party. Al Gore-Al Sharpton in 2004, I'm behind it.

BEGALA: These guys are geniuses, but this is what they don't know about campaigns. Campaigns in the midterm are about firing up your base, your most loyal voters. And what fires them up is anger. My people were very angry in Florida. But that anger dissipated.

The Democrats didn't fight Bush hard enough on the tax cut and they didn't campaign on it. They didn't fight him hard enough on the war. That means that base Democrats are very depressed on this Election Day. If Al Gore goes out there and reminds them how we got that election stolen from us in Florida, it may engender some of that fire we need on Election Day.

CARVILLE: You don't steal elections from candidates. They stole the election from the people. The Supreme Court took the election away from the people. The electoral process does not belong to the candidates, the commentators, or pundits. It belongs to the American people.

This thief was from them. They stole it from the American people, not that Al Gore was wronged, so much as our process was wronged.


NOVAK: Do you really think that Al Gore fires up anybody?

BEGALA: I think that that Florida debacle does, absolutely.


WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there. Gentlemen, we're going to let you keep talking, but we're going to sneak the camera away, because we need to move on.

CARLSON: We're going to keep going.

WOODRUFF: You guys keep on talking. Our special edition of INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.



WOODRUFF: And this special edition of INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: Well, judging by the e-mails you've been sending us, many Americans got in and out of polling places today without any serious glitches.

La Juan and Otto in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wrote us: "Am pleased to inform you that my wife and I have just breezed through the voting process on our new electronic voting machines here in Broward County. Bah humbug to those who denigrate Florida. Remember the story about those glass houses?"

Tom from Georgia raves about the new touch-voting system there. He says: "I just returned from voting. I have been voting a long time. It has never been easier, even in the rain."

And Lisa e-mails us: "I live in Pennsylvania and had to vote with the old curtain-and-lever method. My machine had the manufacturing date of 1957 on it. I hope the money that Bush signed to update election equipment comes this way."

Well, those are just some of the messages we've been getting in. We're going to keep on watching those throughout the night. Let us know about how your voting is going.

That's it for now for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.

And I'll be back in exactly one hour with my colleagues Aaron Brown, Paula Zahn, and the entire CNN election night team.


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