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The Voters Respond: A CNN and 'TIME' Town Meeting -- Part I

Aired October 3, 2000 - 10:53 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And now we're going to switch from Cincinnati down to Tampa, where Wolf Blitzer has been watching and listening to this debate with a group of voters -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, we've now heard at least from one partisan supporter of George W. Bush, namely, Dick Cheney. We're also standing by to hear from Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

We've heard from expert analysts, we're now going to hear from some undecided or persuadable voters, how they reacted to what they heard during this 90-minute-plus debate. We're here at the University of Tampa in the key battleground state of Florida. What we hope to do now is to not only get the reaction of these undecided voters who are sitting here behind me, but also speak about the specific issues that came up during the course of this debate, see if they had any impact at all on influencing these voters whether to support Bush or Gore.

Let's talk to our audience here that's been assembled with the help of our polling partner, the Gallup organization. First of all, a general question, we asked the political pundits this question, we'll ask you, key voter, persuadable voters maybe leaning before the debate one way or another: If you had a say who won this debate, Al Gore or George W. Bush, raise your hand if you think that Al Gore won this debate.

Do you think George W. Bush won this debate? Raise your hand. Who thinks that neither won this debate? All right, so we have a little bit more for Al Gore, the winner, as opposed to George W. Bush, but still a significant number of people here at the University of Tampa in Central Florida, who are not yet convinced.

But let's -- let's begin with some people and get your sense of what -- of what happened this -- what happened here this evening.

Who wants to start?

And give us your name, too, when you are introduced.

ALLISON HENRY (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Allison Henry. I feel more impressed with George Bush than I did before the debate.

BLITZER: Tell us why. HENRY: I'm real concerned with the values that the presidential candidate is going to bring to the presidency. I feel like the morals of our country have somewhat been diminished. And I do agree with Al Gore that he stands as his own man. But as far as Bush's opinions on abortion, and his issues, just as the sort of man he is, I -- I feel more swayed towards George Bush.

BLITZER: So, at this point, having heard this debate, are you ready to decide now for sure you are going to vote for Bush as opposed to Gore?

HENRY: No, I still want to listen to the other debates. And then I'll make my decision.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on.

What do you think about this debate?

YOLANDA CLIFTON (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Yolanda Clifton. On knowledge and study, I think Al Gore was more studied on a lot of the -- on a lot of the issues, especially of foreign policy. Bush seemed to stumble a lot on those issues, I thought.

I'm still not convinced, though, because I agree with what Bush says about, we need more bipartisan -- you know, people agreeing, both sides agreeing, getting along, trying to get something done. I mean, there are so many issues that are important: health care, prescription drugs. They're all important, but they've all been issues for longer than the Clinton administration, since the Bush administration before.

But they're still not resolved. And they won't be resolved.

BLITZER: All right. All right. Everybody stand by. We want to go back to Judy Woodruff in Atlanta. She has special guests coming up -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Wolf, thanks very much.

Yes, I believe joining us is Joe Lieberman, who is in the state of Kentucky. He's been there, I guess, since yesterday to prepare for Thursday night's debate.

Senator Lieberman, thank you for being with us.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to be with you, Judy. Hello from Kentucky.

WOODRUFF: And, first of all, what's your reaction? What do you think?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I suppose you could say I have the expected reaction, but I try to be dispassionate. I just thought that...

WOODRUFF: Please be dispassionate.

LIEBERMAN: I am going to be. I just thought that Al Gore was very strong tonight, very optimistic and very presidential. I was just proud of how he handled himself in this debate. And I thought he clarified the differences in the approach of these two tickets to how to use the surplus and our prosperity.

And honestly, George Bush never answered Al's contention that 43 percent of the Bush-Cheney tax cut goes to the top 1 percent of the American people, who make almost $1 million a year. Now, that's just a waste of good money that could be used to improve our schools and health care and make retirement security more secure. So I thought it was a real win for Al.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about two things. One, the comments of these undecided voters that Wolf Blitzer is talking to tonight in Tampa. We just heard one woman say: I am concerned after hearing this debate even more about the morals, the character of the president. She's leaning more toward Governor Bush after hearing him talk about that.

We heard another woman say: Yes, Al Gore seems to know more. But she said: These issues have been around, and how do we know he's going to do anything about it?

What do you say to these people with this -- these kinds of reaction?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I understand those reactions. About the first, I have to got to say that I thought Governor Bush's attack on Al Gore was -- his character and credibility -- was very unfair and not what the campaign should be about. In some ways, in moments the desperation, Governor Bush turns back to attack President Clinton. And his name is not on the ballot. It's Al Gore and me against George Bush and Dick Cheney. And that's what the future is about.

WOODRUFF: But he was talking -- but Governor Bush -- Senator Lieberman, Governor Bush was talking about campaign finance abuses of the Clinton-Gore administration that Al Gore has acknowledged he made mistakes in.

LIEBERMAN: Well, he's acknowledged them. And the fact is that the abuses of the campaign finance system are unfortunately bipartisan and nonpartisan. And it's only Al Gore and me who have accepted John McCain's challenge to stop using soft money in this campaign, which George Bush turned down, and who will support McCain-Feingold and sign it. So -- and George Bush has broken out of the remaining legal limits in the campaign finance system.

So, that -- let me say a word about the woman who talked about the issues being around and needing bipartisan support to get things done. She's right. And I suppose the debate naturally brings out the contentiousness. But over the last eight years, we have worked across party lines in a bipartisan way to reform the welfare system, to pass an anti-crime bill, and probably most important of all, to pass the Balanced Budget Act in 1997, which has helped to create the surpluses that we're now arguing about how to spend. WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Joe Lieberman, I'd love to ask you about Thursday night, but I gather they're about to pull the plug on us. Thank you very much.

LIEBERMAN: Sorry. We're ready. See you Thursday.

WOODRUFF: We'll see you Thursday night.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. We appreciate that.

And are we going back to Tampa? We're going to take a break. When we come back, more from the undecided voters in Tampa.




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