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Election 2000

Election Reflections: Candy Crowley

Monday, December 18, 2000
1 p.m. EST

CNN's Candy Crowley is an award-winning senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

CNN Moderator: Welcome to the Election Reflections chat series, Candy Crowley. We are pleased to have you as our first guest.

Candy Crowley: The good news is that we are actually reflecting on the election instead of just covering it. Good morning to everyone!

CNN Moderator: Looking back at the time you spent covering the campaign, what are some of the highlights?

Candy Crowley: There are so many things over the course of a year and a half that stick out for various reasons. Usually what I remember are the things that surprise me. So off the top of my head, what I think I'll probably remember most is standing in the freezing rain in Austin on Election night in the plaza and getting a phone call from a source that Al Gore has phoned the governor and retracted his concession.

I was so stunned I asked the source to repeat the sentence three times! I was already hooked up to the network as we had been standing there all night. I hung up the phone and said put me on -- Gore has retracted his concession. I was not sure if I still believed it. But there are other moments, that I think when I have time to catch my breath, that will stick out to me--that's just the freshest one.


It was such a stunning piece of news. I had to fight my own reaction to discount it because it had never happened before. But the source was impeccable, so I knew it was true. It was just my skepticism as a journalist that I was fighting it because it had just never happened before.

Question from rod: Hello Candy. Do reporters want to cover a story such as Election 2000, or were you all just tired of it and of being on the road for so long after the campaign year?

"I think what was interesting about this election is, obviously, that just as we thought we were writing the final chapter, we started another one. Surprise is always so interesting to me as a reporter because so many stories in Washington and politics can be so predictable."
— Candy Crowley

Candy Crowley: The truth is both things are right. I've often likened this to childbirth in that while you are going through it, you keep telling yourself, "I'm never going to do this again," then afterwards, you think, "Wow, let's do this again." I love covering campaigns because it's almost like writing a novel. For a year and a half you cover the same story and the ups and downs of all the players. And I think what was interesting about this election is, obviously, that just as we thought we were writing the final chapter, we started another one. Surprise is always so interesting to me as a reporter because so many stories in Washington and politics can be so predictable.

Question from Rosie: Candy: Did you speak to any campaign Republicans who would admit that a manual count in Florida would probably go against the governor?

Candy Crowley: I really did not have anyone say that to me. Understand that these are true believers whose base belief in this fight was that there were election laws set out and that they, under federal law, and the Constitution, needed to be followed. I did get many private as well as public statements from Bush supporters who obviously knew that a recount in only Democratic counties would, by odds, likely show an increase for the vice president. As for a recount of the whole state, no one ever said to me what he or she thought the outcome would be. They didn't think recounts in three counties were fair and therefore continued on that premise with recounts in all counties.

CNN Moderator: Covering George W. Bush for so long on the campaign trail, did you witness any kinds of changes in him or the campaign over time?

Candy Crowley: Absolutely. One of the stories that, had we had a normal campaign that ended on election night, I would have loved to have written was the change in Governor Bush over the two plus years since I first did a profile on him. The main difference to me at the end of the campaign was how much better a candidate he was in the last six months. I have always felt that one of the reasons the governor did as well as he did was John McCain.

Sometime prior to the McCain challenge the governor's campaign style was pretty pro forma. After the New Hampshire primary defeat, you got the sense that the governor took a "gut check," and realized how much he wanted this job. It was the beginning of a real change in the way he performed as a candidate.

I will also say that the closer he got to looking like he might win, the further away from the press corps he got. When the campaign started he was very available. By the time it drew to a close, his media availability? were very few and far between. Although I hasten to add the same was true for Vice President Gore.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Candy Crowley: I feel like I'm too close to it. Honestly this is one of those times that when I know I have a little distance and a couple of months to synthesize what's gone on, I'll be able to put it in some personal and professional context. Right now my overriding feeling is that I'm glad I was there. And I'm glad it's over.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us and sharing your experiences today, Candy Crowley.

Candy Crowley: Thank you very much for having me.

Candy Crowley joined the chat via telephone from Maryland. provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Monday, December 18, 2000.

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