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Special Event

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

Aired October 3, 2000 - 11:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We're back at CNN Center in Atlanta for a few minutes, and we will be going back to Wolf Blitzer and that group of voters in Tampa, Florida. But first. we want bring you the results of a poll done just within the past hour. CNN, "USA Today" and Gallup came together, interviewed 435 registered voters who watched Tuesday night's presidential debate. All interviews conducted after the debate concluded.

The first question: who did best job? Al Gore 48 percent, George W. Bush 41 percent. Another question: the effect of the debate on your opinion of Al Gore, more favorable 27 percent; less so. 18 percent; no effect, 55 percent. In same question with regard to Governor Bush, the effect of debate on your opinion. Again. more favorable, 34 percent; less favorable 14; no effect 52 percent.

So my colleagues Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider, a few more people or a slightly larger percentage said Al Gore did better, but overall you get the impression that not many minds have been changed.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Only 3 percent of the people that we interviewed said that they had actually decided to switch their vote in basis of this debate. And those results are within the margin of error, so it's still very close.

I think my bottom line is this: Gore did better in the debate, I think, as expected, perhaps, Bush got bigger boost, because one finding that was there in the poll was that 76 percent said Gore did excellent or good job in debate. But 70 percent said Bush did an excellent or good job in the debate. They both did very well, and maybe, I think Bush got a little bit bigger boost than Gore, but bottom line, Gore did better probably.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I am on record as being extremely skeptical about flash polls. I think they would -- but I do think that what this measured was people didn't move very much. I think the real impact of tonight's debate will come in next day or two in offices, in factories, in supermarkets, at coffee shops as people talk through. Did you see it? What did you think?

And you know, that's why when we were giving our impressions, that's all they were. If this debate had been -- if this poll had shown 90/10 one way or the other, you could say something. You know, 48/41 is about probably where the campaign is right now. And I agree with Bill that Gore probably wins on, you know, scoring measures, but if you asked who did better for himself compared to what people expected, this is not bad showing for the governor.

WOODRUFF: Well, in fact we heard a couple of the voters talking with Wolf there in Tampa, a couple of them did say Bush did better than they expected him to do. We also, I guess -- I've been counting, two of them said they thought better of Bush. Six of them said they were leaning more toward Gore, based on the specifics of what he said about whether it was Medicare, or prescription drugs or whatever.

It is also the fact that we got two news cycles that will completely go before we got vice presidential debate, which will bring with it its own set of dynamics and it could have affect of changing.

SCHNEIDER: Vice president, I'm trying to remember -- vice presidential debates, remember Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle? He demolished Dan Quayle, and guess who got elected? People don't vote for vice president. I think we know that.

GREENFIELD: But I think it is true that so far Joe Lieberman seems to have had more of a positive impact on the Gore ticket than Cheney did on Bush, and that may change.

WOODRUFF: But I'm really just saying that the vice presidential debate get coverage, people will talking about it, perhaps maybe not as many people will watch it. Maybe this will.

GREENFIELD: You know what's really interesting? It's that we've had this first debate that all of us have been waiting for as though it were a thunderbolt from the heavens, and now the real story is so what happens in the next debate.

WOODRUFF: That's right. All right, well, we want to go back to Wolf Blitzer and voters in Tampa, but I think we're going to take break first. Is that right?

We're going to take break. When we come back, back to the voters in Tampa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm leaning more toward Bush.

BLITZER: Even though you think Gore did better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, Gore. Excuse me. Yes.

BLITZER: You're leaning definitely toward...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm leaning more toward Gore, definitely.

BLITZER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one of the major issues is the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. That was the main concern for me.

BLITZER: We're going to get to that, the energy issue, in just a moment. But let me hear from the woman behind you. Tell us: Who do you think did a more effective job this evening?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Gore did a much more effective job.

BLITZER: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he knew a lot more of the intricate details of his Medicade proposal for the elderly. I also think that he has more effective plans in order to correct the situation in education. He knows that the real problem is the overcrowding in the classrooms.

He wants to reduce class sizes. Also, there's a lot of talk about that we need to get education to our younger citizens, the preschoolers, and he wants to bring universal pre-K into the classrooms. Bush didn't propose that. He just wants -- thinks that the only solution is going to be testing. And I think testing only makes schools teach toward the test. And it doesn't bring the fundings to the schools that do poorly who are going to need extra help in order to get those children to reach those higher levels.

We need to fund the schools that are failing and not turn our backs on those schools.

BLITZER: So have you decided now you're going to vote for Al Gore?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I have.

BLITZER: Based on what you heard this earning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I have.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and talk a little bit about another subject that came up: the whole issue of energy oil prices and the environment, to a certain degree. We have an excerpt from both of these candidates: what they had to say. Let's listen to this excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me clarify. I'm for doing something both on the supply side and production side and on the consumption side. And let me say that I found one thing in Governor Bush's answer that we certainly agree on, and that's the low- income heating assistance program, and I commend you for supporting that. I worked to get $400 million just a couple of weeks ago and to establish a permanent home heating oil reserve here in the Northeast.

Now, as for the proposals that I've worked for, for renewables and conservation and efficiency and the new technologies, the fact is, for the last few years in the Congress, we've faced a lot of opposition to them, and they've only -- they've only approved about 10 percent of the agenda that I've helped to send up there.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He should have been tackling it for the last seven years. And secondly, the difference is that we need to explore at home. And the vice president doesn't believe in exploration, for example, in Alaska. There's a lot of shut-in gas that we need to be moving out of Alaska by pipeline.

There's an interesting issue up in the Northwest, as well. And that is whether or not we remove dams that propose hydroelectric energy. I'm against removing dams in the Northwest. I don't know where the vice president stands. But that's a renewable source of energy we need to keep in line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, the issue of energy: You listened very carefully to what both of these candidates had to say. Tell us your name, and what you -- how you responded.

GARY ARDETTE (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: Gary Ardette, Palm Harbor, Florida. I feel I have to go with Bush on this. I think his idea of being -- developing our resources here at home so we can remove the choke-hold that OPEC and other nations have on us is excellent idea.

Also, I work in construction. And I have done some land reclamation, moving wetlands and things like this. So I know we have the technology to protect the environment. We have moved entire wetlands, entire forests if we have to, to build something. If we can do that to build, you know, a shopping center, I'm sure we can drill safely for oil and protect the environment at the same time.

I think Al Gore has a tendency to flip-flop on this policy. If I remember right, in some of his writings, he seems to be very deaf against any type of drilling in certain areas of the country. But now that it seems like a political issue, he's pretending like on TV that he's willing to maybe look at the possibility so that maybe he can win votes. I think Bush would have a better plan on this issue.

BLITZER: They have a clear difference of opinion on the Alaska Wildlife, drilling for oil up in the North. George W. Bush says it can be done. Environmentally, it can be done. Al Gore says it would be a huge mistake. It would endanger the environment up in Alaska. What do you say about that?

ARDETTE: I think that Al Gore is wrong on this. I think we have the technology that we can drill safely. And I think, if we do have an accident, we can minimize the risks to the environment. Like I say, I worked in construction. We've done land reclamation. We've moved entire wetlands if we have to, to build something. We can move as many as 150 to 200 trees and lose one tree of out it. Yes, some people say: Yes, that's one tree too many.

But in our old practices, we would go in and knock down all 200 trees. We wouldn't even try.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get another point of view. What do you think? And tell us your name.

TRAVIS, AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name in Travis from Clearwater, Florida. Personally, I think Gore has better issues on the oil consumption and everything else like that to help eliminate the consumption and find better processes of using that oil in other energy, such as for the vehicles, such as these SUVs out there on the road only getting 12 miles to the gallon.

Yet they have the technology nowadays for cars to get 75, even 100 miles to the gallon. But they don't want to, because of the oil companies losing out money and everything else like that.

BLITZER: On this issue, have you made up your mind as a result of who you are going to vote for?

TRAVIS: I'm leaning more toward Gore with the education and also the oil consumption and everything else like that.

BLITZER: And I take it you're leaning more toward Bush right now based on what you heard tonight?

ARDETTE: Yes, not just because of the energy issue. There was lots of issues that were addressed tonight that I wanted to hear about. And I think one of the things that really makes me lean more toward Bush is, like in the opening statement, Gore had the chance to open.

Instead of going right to the point of what the question was, he wanted to go around and thank everybody. I want somebody in Washington, when he's presented with a problem, I don't want him out patting people on the back. I want him taking care of the problem. I'm tired of people in Washington sitting there and just talking around the problem.

They say: "Oh, we're going to fix this. We're going to fix that. We're going to do this. We're going to pat everybody on the back for doing a great job." But as soon as they came to George W. Bush, it was like he was right there. He wanted -- he knew what the problem was, he wanted to give you an answer for it of what he thought was the best way to go about it. And Gore stood there and spent, you know, two or three minutes of valuable air time thanking everybody in world for, you know, how wonderful things were going to go that night.

And that -- that kind of really threw me off.

BLITZER: All right, it looks like two of -- two of our undecided voters have now made up their minds.

What about you? Give us your name.

MICHAEL PALM (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Michael Palm. I'm from Tampa, Florida. And I really liked what Al Gore said about coming up with alternative, cleaner and more efficient fuel sources. I definitely think that's the way to go, I think. Big Oil has had its day. And the future -- especially in this country, with all our intellectual resources, we could come up -- we could be a leader in industry of more efficient and cleaner fuel sources other than oil.

BLITZER: So are you going to vote for Al Gore?

PALM: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Dan Goodgame, "Time" magazine, this is a huge issue, given the fact that it's about to get cold in a lot -- major parts of this country. And the price of heating oil, price of gasoline seems to still be going up.

DAN GOODGAME, EDUCATION EDITOR, "TIME": Well, it is, Wolf. And one of the places I was surprised that Governor Bush didn't come back at Vice President Gore on was when he was talking about energy versus conservation. Of course, Vice President Gore has been well known for a long time as a conservationist. And early in the Clinton administration -- and in his writings before that -- had held that fuel prices actually need to be higher, that higher fuel prices will cause us to consume less.

He was one of the biggest campaigners for the BTU tax, which was the Clinton administration's proposed tax on energy. Of course, now that fuel prices are very high for both heating oil, as you point out, and gasoline. He's in favor of releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He believes that those prices need to be a lot lower.

I was surprised that Governor Bush didn't point out that contradiction.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, stand by. I want to ask our undecided -- some of them are now decided -- voters here if they have any specific questions that are still hanging out there on this issue or other issues. Dan Goodgame has been following all of these issues.

Anybody want to ask a specific question, try to clarify a point. Tell us your name, too.

DIANA MILLER (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: Diana Miller, Tampa, Florida.

They were discussing the Supreme Court issues and the potential of having to vote or appoint new court justices. And my question is not so much the abortion issue alone, but recently, there was a report from the Supreme Court about the injustice in America in regard to race. That was not addressed at all.

So how can we be more concerned about appointing justices when they're not dealing with the injustice in America?

BLITZER: There wasn't, Dan, a whole lot of discussion of the whole issue of race during this first of three presidential debates. But give us your sense of what they had to say about the future Supreme Court under an Al Gore or a George W. Bush administration.

GOODGAME: Well, of course, both of them hold that there's no litmus test, although I thought Al Gore probably served himself very well by saying, yes, the justices that I appoint will be more likely to support Roe v. Wade. He's, you know, doing himself a world of good with women voters, who are one of his bases there.

George W. Bush held to his position that, you know, while he will not set litmus tests he is personally pro-life. That's about as far as they got on Supreme Court justice.

They didn't get into any of the judicial qualifications they'll be looking for. Of course, they won't talk about specific candidates at this point.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, stand by. We have another question for you. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This goes back to the education. I was wondering how they proposed to get more teachers into the classroom. I know whenever I told a lot of my friends and their parents that I planned on going into education, they all smiled and said, that was good, but what are you going to do for a real living? I mean, everyone knows there's no real money in education. And money talks and everyone knows how the rest of that saying goes. But how are they going to get teachers?

BLITZER: Dan?

GOODGAME: Probably Vice President Gore has the most specific proposal on that. He would offer federal money that would fund probably raises of $5,000 to $10,000 per teacher in districts that agree to adopt tough standards, that have peer review of teachers, and that make it easier to get rid of incompetent teachers.

In addition, he offers a $10,000 incentive to students who would agree to teach in, you know, inner city areas, other poor areas for at least four years. So, that's his proposal.

GOODGAME: I think that, you know, in response what Governor Bush would say is that teacher salaries went up 33 percent in six years during his term as governor, so he has a record in that area.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, stand by. All of our voters here in Tampa stand by. We're going to take another commercial break. A lot more to talk about, specific, substantive issues. The voters will tell us how they react when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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