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Californians Go To Polls to Vote on Recall

Aired October 7, 2003 - 16:30   ET



On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala.

On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.


California voters get their chance. Will they recall an unpopular governor many blame for economic and energy woes? Will they elect an actor who says he can terminate their problems and provide leadership for their state? It's recall day. What will the voters decide and how will it all be remembered?

Today, on CROSSFIRE.

Live, from Los Angeles, California votes on the recall. Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson are there.


TUCKER CARLSON, CNN CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The circus has finally come to town. It's California recall day. Coming to you live from in front of the Burbank City Hall, where people are voting for, among others, Vip Bola (ph), Cheryl Blychester (ph), an environmental engineer, and 133 others who hope to replace California Governor Gray Davis.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CO-HOST: That's right, Tucker. In fact, L.A. County, where we're standing, is the single largest voting district in America. And, of course, it's the home of all the high tech gadgetry and wizardry of Hollywood, so you would think, of course, they would have voting technology. This is an actual voting machine that we borrowed from inside, made on March 1, 1970. So this is pre-Bee Gees here in Hollywood. Voters go through, for 135 candidates.

And then -- do you remember these from Florida? They punch their little stylus in, pull their little card out, and we're back to the world -- uh-oh -- of hanging chads, which would just be wonderful. So there's going to be some percentage of voters who are trying to say vote for the adult film actress and they vote instead for the child star, Gary Coleman.

CARLSON: That is democracy, Paul. And if there's a Democratic state, it is California.

And now, we go to Kelly Wallace, CNN correspondent, standing by live in Los Angeles, at the headquarters of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, I can tell you advisers to Arnold Schwarzenegger are feeling very good. A sign of that, they are talking to reporters about their overnight internal polling, giving specifics, how they say this shows the recall passing by a good margin and Schwarzenegger leading significantly Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.

What's interesting about this, for the past few days, during the bus tour and even the fly-around yesterday, advisers would only say that the polling looks good, shows an increase in support and the recall passing. They clearly are feeling good by what they are seeing.

But, of course, it ultimately comes down to getting out the vote. There is a significant "get out the vote" effort on its way. And of course, two people who went out to vote earlier today, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for the first time, talking a bit about God, saying this is now up to God, in God's hands. He says he feels good, though. He says he did everything to get his message out and now he has to wait like everyone else to see what the voters decide to do -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, God seems popular in this election, Kelly. I noticed Gray Davis went to church on Tuesday, today, with his wife.

You've been following Arnold Schwarzenegger around. I noticed that the press strategy seems to be not to ever talk to the press. Did the candidate ever open up and give interviews to people from news outlets?

WALLACE: Well, you know, the advisers to Arnold Schwarzenegger get very defensive about this, Tucker, because on Monday, the last day on the campaign trail, the last interviews that Arnold Schwarzenegger gave were to two entertainment television shows, "Access Hollywood" and "Entertainment Tonight." So when we pressed advisers about this, they said, Whoa, he did interviews with Peter Jennings of ABC and Tom Brokaw of NBC over the weekend, which is true.

But during this bus tour, called the California Comeback Express, a little bit modeled after John McCain's 24-hour express during the presidential campaign, reporters really didn't have a lot of access to the candidate. No news conferences. Just a few little appearances before a few reporters here and there. So not a lot of access, although this campaign feels that it did it the right way, got the candidate out, talking to the voters directly. They think it's a winning strategy, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, if it's not a CNN interview, it doesn't count. That's our position.

WALLACE: Correct. CARLSON: Kelly Wallace, thanks a lot -- Paul.


Let's check in now with our man Charles Feldman, who is covering the campaign of the current and -- who knows? -- future or maybe ex governor of California, Gray Davis.

Charles, what are you hearing.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's a real shocker, guys. The people who are connected with Governor Gray Davis, they have a totally different spin on things than the people associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger. They say that their internal polls show that this is going to be a razor thin race, at least on the recall issue. They say it's going to be about 50 to 51 percent. And if there's a big enough turnout, they say they are hopeful that the recall will fail. And that, of course, would keep Gray Davis as governor of this state for the remaining three years of his second term.

Now, the governor was out earlier in West Hollywood, where he cast a ballot, presumably no on recall. He wouldn't say who he voted for as a replacement for himself. The guess is probably Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, the only major Democrat running in this recall election.

He also made it a point of getting out his message that despite the record deficit that this state has, despite all of the problems that brought this state to this historic recall election, he wanted voters to know that he says the state of California is in pretty good shape. He pointed out that he did well with education, did well in health care and so he wanted their support for the remaining three years of his term -- Paul.

BEGALA: Charles, Tucker mentioned a moment ago that after voting, the governor went to mass. Now, being a Catholic, as I am, did he suggest that perhaps he was praying to St. Jude? He's the patron saint of lost causes -- or was this real optimism you were hearing from his camp?

FELDMAN: Well, I think the there's the public optimism and then the private version. Publicly, they're saying they have some lot -- some degree of optimism. I've talked to some people in Davis' camp privately and they're not so optimistic and there is some discussion facetiously about whether or not the fax machines at the hotel later tonight will be busy sending out resumes.

BEGALA: Charles Feldman, thank you very much for that report.

You know, Tucker, the thing is, I've talked to professionals in both camps. Nobody knows who's going to vote. And that's the truth in every election. But usually, you can make a better guess. The question is, will Arnold Schwarzenegger bring in so many new voters, the way Jesse Ventura did, that he swats (ph) the sort of traditional turn-out patterns -- or does Cruz Bustamante, the Hispanic lieutenant governor, bring in Latinos who don't normally vote in large numbers? And nobody knows yet.

CARLSON: Well, The registration numbers are massive, about 65 percent of the state.

I tell you who's not voting are the people of Burbank around lunch time. You can look in back of us and there is precisely no one is there. No winos, no pigeons, not a single voter.

I have to say, the idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger, after a week of talking about nothing but Hitler and sexual harassment, still has a chance to be governor of the state, tells you everything you need to know about just how despised the current governor is.

BEGALA: He does have a pretty low favorable, but I think there's going to be a firestorm -- it may be as many as a fourth of the votes cast today cast absentee before these news stories broke about alleged comments from Schwarzenegger toward women and actions toward women and comments about Hitler. There could be a whole Californians after today who want that absentee ballot back.

CARLSON: Quickly, if you were -- you ran campaigns. If your candidate was being besieged with questions about Hitler and groping, would you open up to the press or just stick him with "Entertainment Tonight"?

BEGALA: I would do exactly what they're doing. Arnold is a pretty savvy guy with the media. I would not put him in your hands, because you'd ask tough questions. I'd send him to...

CARLSON: I'd be mean.

BEGALA: I'd send him to "Entertainment Tonight."

We're going to -- in fact, just a minute, we're going to be joined by two real pros who are running this thing, the chairmen of both the California Republican Party and the California Democratic party will step into this very special CROSSFIRE right after this.


BEGALA: Welcome to back to "CROSSFIRE." The days of beckoning the voters are over. The days of reckoning for the politicians is here. We are joined now in the "CROSSFIRE" by the chairman of the two parties. At the Davis headquarters here in Los Angeles is California Democratic Chairman Art Torres. And with the Schwarzenegger campaign -- I'm sorry, no, with the Republican Party is the chairman of the party, Duf Sundheim. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us on "CROSSFIRE."


CARLSON: It's Tucker Carlson. Thanks a lot for being on.

Gray Davis has spent the last week, as you know, focusing on allegations against his main component, Arnold Schwarzenegger, essentially the groping. I wonder if you think that's been a good strategy, neglecting to offer any sort of positive message and instead focusing on his opponent's peccadilloes? Do you think that's a winning strategy? Would you recommend that as a winning strategy?

ART TORRES, CHMN., CALIF. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I what think the issues that raised throughout this campaign have tried to set in motion, not only what the governor has done, but also asking the voters to judge the character of both candidates here, the governor and Arnold. And I think Arnold has been doing that from the other side, obviously, giving back just as good as he gets.

But the governor has been out there reaching for the issues that are important in this campaign. And quite frankly, we're seeing that we're probably going to have the highest voter turnout, I think, since Bobby Kennedy ran for president here in 1968.

CARLSON: That's an interesting point. But I wonder, as a pure political matter, if focusing on character works. It didn't work for the Republicans in '96. It didn't work in '98. I wonder if a national candidate comes to California, and they will, and as party chairman here, if you'll recommend to those Democrats that they focus on, quote, "character issues."

TORRES: No, Tucker, I think we're going focus on all that Duf Sundheim and all the Republicans have been saying against Gray because when you use the same issues, a deficit of unbelievable proportion, unemployment reaching 2 million -- 3 million in this country now, all the arguments that the Republicans used against Gray, we're going to use against George Bush, because it makes sense, because that's exactly the right fit for your president.

BEGALA: Mr. Sundheim, let me bring you into this. First, thank you for joining us on what must be a very busy day for you.


BEGALA: Let me ask you about your party not just here in California but across the country. You have one of your leading intellectual lights, Bill Bennett, who's been reported now to be a massive gambler. You have Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual father of the Republican right, who in press reports has been accused of popping pills.

And now Arnold Schwarzenegger, your leading candidate for governor, accused of making admiring comments about Adolph Hitler and of groping women. What has happened to the Republican Party?

SUNDHEIM: I think it's in great shape.

As you know, with respect to those comments regarding the Nazis, the Jewish community in Austria has stood up and said this is totally inaccurate and a gross distortion of that who this man is.

With respect to the comments about women, Paul, you should know better than anybody else that this is something that different people deal with. And the Republicans are dealing with it in a way completely different than the way Clinton dealt with it. Clinton stood up in front of the United States and said, "I did not have sex with that woman." Whereas Schwarzenegger, when he was confronted with this issue, stood up immediately, accepted full responsibility, and apologized. So I think the contrast is pretty severe.

BEGALA: Mr. Chairman, for what? What specifically did Arnold admit to doing? Bill Clinton of course did admit that he'd had an affair. Let's set Clinton aside.

Arnold has played this very cute, I think. And in a way that may be fine for a campaign. But if, God forbid, he wins, people are going to require him to answer these questions. He promised NBC News, Tom Brokaw that he would answer all these questions and challenges in detail after the election. Will he keep that promise, Mr. Chairman?

SUNDHEIM: Well, that's up to him to decide. And I think you're overstating what he committed to. But I think what he has done is that he has admitted that it was a problem, the conduct was inappropriate, and he apologized.

I don't know what more we're going to do. We could flog this for a while longer if we wanted to, but I don't think that does good in terms of adding jobs for people, reducing the budget deficit, changing the environment here in California, which is what we're focused on. And I think by -- when we look at the polling numbers and who we see coming out to vote, that's what the voters of California are focused on.

So I think that you and the rest of the media can decide to focus on whatever you want. But the people of California are focused on moving forward on the issues that matter to them.

TORRES: It's not the media, it's the criminal investigators that have to focus on these charges.

CARLSON: And that's my question for you, Mr. Torres. The sitting -- not for long, but for right now the sitting governor has said he thinks there ought to be a criminal investigation into these allegations, that Arnold Schwarzenegger ought to be arrested for fanny grabbing. Do you believe that?

TORRES: Yes, I think it's appropriate to do so. This governor has always voluntarily asked the attorney general to investigate his administration whenever there's been a conflict of interest raised. And I think that's appropriate. I would hope that Arnold does the same, voluntarily promotes himself to be investigated to clear the charges.

CARLSON: In what sense is there a conflict of interest arising out of the charge that he made lewd comments to the makeup artist? I'm missing this...


TORRES: I'm saying that the conflict of interest issues raised during the governor's administration were always voluntarily investigated by the governor, asking the attorney general to investigate him.

Arnold has made no such claim and clearly doesn't want to take responsibility for his actions. And I think when this kind of issue is, he's asking the California voters, trust me. Trust me of how I'm going to run this government without raising taxes. Trust me and I'll tell you the details later of what I did a few years ago and many years ago. Trust me on who I am.

And the reason that people are doing that is because this is the first time we've had an election with such a short period of time where the character of a candidate has not been judged.

BEGALA: Mr. Sundheim, let me pick up on that. Ronald Reagan, a former governor of this great state, used to say trust but verify. You mentioned earlier that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a strong record, and I believe he does, of supporting the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish organizations and pro-Israel organizations.

Why, then, won't he release the outtakes to the movie "Pumping Iron"? Outtakes he owns and controls to dispel this story accusing him of praising Adolph Hitler? Why doesn't he just release the tape that he owns?

SUNDHEIM: Well I don't know the specific answer to that question. That's something you'll have to ask him. But I don't see any issue here.

BEGALA: Could it be possibly that those tapes actually prove that he may have made complementary comments about Adolph Hitler? Could that be a reason, do you suspect?


SUNDHEIM: Paul, you know, I think what's really sad about the Democratic Party is that it's the party that once upon a time told us we have nothing to fear but fear itself. And what has happened is it's degenerated to the point where it has nothing to offer but fear itself.

What we need to focus on are the issues...


CARLSON: I'm sorry. I'm going to have to cut you off. I'm sorry. This debate is getting rolling. I don't think we'll resolve it today. But I'm afraid we're out of time.

Art Torres, Duf Sundheim, thank you very much.


CARLSON: One of you will be gloating. I can't wait to find out which one. We may have evidence which one. And when we return, we'll have the first exit polling data in the state of California. And then we'll speak to actual California voters. The new Floridians. We'll meet a couple when we return. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We promised you exit poll data and we have it. We have four people who have just exited the poll here at Burbank City Hall.

First up, is Jeff Langton, who I believe voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger. And you know Mr. Schwarzenegger, is that right?

JEFF LANGTON, SCHWARZENEGGER VOTER: I think he'll be an excellent governor, Arnold, I wish you the best of luck. Paulina (ph) told me to even to vote for you. You'll know what I'm talking about. And I know you're bring movie making back to Los Angeles, to California. Good luck, Arnold.

CARLSON: Were you bothered by the groping, Mr. Langton?

LANGTON: Not at all. Arnold is not that type of man. Arnold would never grope anybody, as far as I'm concerned. He's a family man. He's a good man. And anybody who that voted for Arnold, I know that we're going to have a great California this year, you know? He's a great man. Great man.

BEGALA: So Jeff, Arnold never groped you?

LANGTON: No, he hasn't groped me yet.

BEGALA: OK, Well, he's a man of some taste, at least. We'll give him that. No, I'm just kidding. Thank you.

Shirley Bunce from here in Burbank. How did you vote today?

SHIRLEY BUNCE, DAVIS SUPPORTER: I voted against the recall. And I -- if Gray Davis doesn't make it, then I voted for Tom McClintock.

BEGALA: For Tom McClintock? The conservative Republican. Now why did you vote to keep Gray Davis, but potentially replace him with a very conservative Republican?

BUNCE: Well, I feel the devil, you know, is better than the devil you don't know. And that's my thoughts.

BEGALA: So do you not -- do you not trust maybe having an actor who has not got political experience?

BUNCE: Exactly.

BEGALA: Wow. Well, that's pretty interesting. Tucker, you want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARLSON: Amazing, yes.

And next we have Joshua Wright. Mr. Wright, tell me how you voted.

JOSHUA WRIGHT, MCCLINTOCK VOTER: McClintock and yes on the recall.

CARLSON: Yes on the recall. Do you think -- Mr. McClintock, impressive as he is, is widely considered an absolute, positive sure loser. He can never win. Do you think he could be elected?

WRIGHT: Well, I mean, I put my vote behind him. So I'm hoping so. It's just that -- you know, no offense to Mr. Schwarzenegger. But we're in such dire straits right now that we need to bring in somebody we don't have to retrain, he can do the job. So I felt that McClintock (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARLSON: Do you think he's too conservative for your state?

WRIGHT: Schwarzenegger or McClintock?

CARLSON: McClintock.

WRIGHT: No. No, I think we need to really shake things up as far as, like, spending and everything else is concerned.


WRIGHT: Because California reflects on the rest of the nation as far as the budget.

CARLSON: Yes, it does.

BEGALA: Excellent. Thanks, Joshua.

Now Shirley Bunce is here with baby Katherine (ph).


BEGALA: Oh, Jennifer Foyt, I'm sorry. Jennifer, tell me how you voted.

FOYT: I voted for Arnold and yes on the recall because we need -- we need a change.

BEGALA: Now, clearly, you weren't bothered, then, by some of these allegations of complementary remarks about Adolph Hitler or allegations about women, right?

FOYT: Well, I think the Adolph Hitler thing was a cheap shot just because he was an Austrian. And the groping things came in the last couple days of the campaign and were just a typical Gray Davis ploy to win the election.

BEGALA: Shirley, thank you very much. And thank you, Katherine. We'll get you a microphone to play with in a minute, sweetheart. Thank you all both -- all very, very much for joining us.

When we come back in just in a minute, we'll let more of our viewers from all across the country "Fireback" at Tucker and me on the recall and all things political.

Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

A moment ago, you heard from real California voters, surprisingly more lucid than maybe they got credit for with the media.

Now, let's hear from viewers.

C. Keiser in Florida writes, "If Arnold is the best candidate, California is in a pack of trouble. Texas gave us their best in 2000, and look where we are now."

And as a Texan, I got to point out, C. Keiser is in Florida. No position to be complaining about anybody's politicians.

CARLSON: They know about elections.

Henry Silver of Colorado, maybe a former Californian, writes, "California Democrats waited until the last minute to throw all the mud they could find at Schwarzenegger. As a Democrat, I think that this act of desperation will haunt the party in the long run."

Moreover, it doesn't work. I mean, that is the lesson of the Clinton years, is that personal attacks, even when they're justified, aren't very effective.

BEGALA: I agree with that, but I didn't see the Democrats doing this. I saw this coming from the media, from people who came to the "L.A. Times," which is not controlled by either political party.

CARLSON: But that's all they're running on. You heard Art Torres say, No, we think there ought to be a political investigation into this guy's fanny grabbing. I mean that's -- it's ridiculous. It's not a platform.

BEGALA: I think that's a mistake. I think yesterday, Gray Davis had -- for the first time -- had a real message saying, this about whether they're is going to steal the election and the Republicans are going to take over.

But you're right, they shouldn't -- I don't believe in going into people's personal life.

An e-mail now from David Varao of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, who writes, "I am amazed at the number of Republicans who have their conservative values aside and backed a liberal movie star just to gain control of California." CARLSON: Are you really amazed? I'm amazed not at all.

BEGALA: David Varao is.

CARLSON: I'm not amazed at all. People in politics just give up.


CARLSON: A lot of them do, but a lot them don't, unfortunately. And so they would back someone who doesn't agree with anything they believe, just so he can be elected. It's distressing. I'll never defend it.

Jim Page of Hypoluxo, Florida, writers, "A hearty thanks to California for moving Floridians off the front page. Your new governor could make 'hanging chads' look boring."

Hey, look. There's someone more pathetic than we are. Amen.

BEGALA: I think that seems to be -- I saw the satirist Harry Shearer the other day who's on television who said that, that we will -- that California has wrested back from Florida the claim of most dysfunctional political culture. So congratulations, California.

CARLSON: It's sad. I mean, it's an important state. I'm from here. I'm still proud to be a native Californian. But it's embarrassing.

BEGALA: You know what? This story is not going away.

First off, CNN will bring you all the coverage, all night long. Tucker and I will be wandering around....


CARLSON: In the words of your former -- new governor -- we will be back.

BEGALA: That we will.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow from Washington for yet more CROSSFIRE. See you later today.


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