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Countdown to Election 2000: 8 Days to Go

Aired October 30, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Across the nation...




BLITZER: ... state by state...


VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to win this fight for the future.


BLITZER: ... Al Gore and George W. Bush sprint toward the final week of their race for the White House with heavy emphasis on attracting the undecided, and inspiring the decided.


GORE: Your one vote is more powerful on Tuesday a week from tomorrow than the voice of any powerful interest.

BUSH: The issue of leadership provides the greatest contrast in this campaign.


BLITZER: Tonight we join CNN's Candy Crowley and Jonathan Karl on the campaign trail and get expert analysis from our Bill Schneider. Also, my conversation with Democratic strategist James Carville. And an opposing view from his wife, Mary Matalin. All straight ahead on CNN, your election headquarters.

ANNOUNCER: Countdown to Election 2000, eight days to go. From Washington, here's CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Good evening from Washington. Just behind me the Washington Monument and the White House, the official residence of America's elected leader and the ultimate goal of both Al Gore and George W. Bush. We will be here all this week bringing you updates and insight, and tracking the candidates, as we close in on election day.

George W. Bush headed West today. He held campaign rallies first in New Mexico, and later in California. That's where CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is standing by, outside Los Angeles, in the city of Burbank.

Al Gore, meantime, stayed focused on the battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin. CNN's Jonathan Karl is covering the vice president and he joins us from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Welcome to both of you. I want to begin, Candy, with what George W. Bush said only a little while ago out there in California, listen to this.


BUSH: I will tell you something, I tell you, there's going to be a lot of shocked people on November the 7th, starting with my opponent.


BLITZER: Just a few minutes ago, Candy, the Republican presidential candidate talking about California. The state, I take it, the Republicans believe at least, the Bush campaign believes is still in play; is that what they're telling you, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On and off the record, they say, look, we believe that California is in play, their internal polls, some public polls they've seen give them reason for hope here in California. And, as you know, at this stage of the game, there is a lot of things that go on. One of the things is looking confident, and for George Bush to be in California, a state that was thought solidly Gore for months and months, is a show of confidence by the campaign when they have dwindling hours to devote to certain states.

There is also the issue of the candidates that are down ballot, the Republicans that are wanting to get the Republican faithful out to vote. But primarily, I have to tell you, they keep California dreaming. They believe that they have a shot here in California. And, you know, 54 Electoral votes are just too good to pass up.

BLITZER: What about that, Jonathan Karl? Are the Gore people nervous at all about California? I take it, Gore is going to be returning to California in the next few days.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, again, both publicly and privately, the Gore people say Bush is California dreaming. They point out there has not been a not single public opinion poll throughout this campaign, a major poll statewide in California that has given Bush the lead. They say that Gore's lead has been consistent, it has been solid. It has eroded a little bit in the last week or so, but that is not surprising because Bush has had the airwaves in California all to himself. Now, that said, you do know, as you noted there Wolf, that Gore is going to California. They say, the official line here from the Gore campaign, is that Gore is going to California to do "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," which indeed he is doing on Tuesday night. But he is also going to a major rally at UCLA. So the Gore campaign saying, publicly and privately, saying: Hey, look, we have got California wrapped up. But they know that Bush has had the airwaves to himself there because the Gore campaign and the DNC have not been advertising out there, and they know they have got to at least pay attention to what's going on in California.

BLITZER: Now Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, for that matter, they are both taking off their gloves, they are going after George W. Bush, if you'll forgive the expression, big time. Listen to what Al Gore had to say earlier today.


GORE: We could have a smaller, smarter government that balances the budget every year, pays down and then pays off our debt, and gives tax cuts to the middle class, the families that need help the most in order to make their dreams come true.

Or we can just repeat the past, like a broken record, letting the wealthiest Americans gorge themselves on tax cuts they don't really need.


BLITZER: Al Gore in Wisconsin earlier today. Jon Karl, we're also hearing Joe Lieberman say, rather bluntly, that George W. Bush is simply not ready for the presidency. Tough words from both of these candidates.

KARL: Well, this is a major new front for the Gore campaign they've been hitting for about a week now and with renewed intensity today, and that is that George W. Bush does not have the experience or knowledge to be president.

Now all along, the vice president has tried to stay above the fray on this, saying that he himself does not question Bush's experience. But I've got a little bit of news for you, Wolf, and that is that the Gore campaign, even as we speak right now, is putting together an advertisement, a TV ad, that will be going out tomorrow that actually directly questions Bush's experience and level of knowledge.

I have not seen an actual transcript, because the ad is still being put together. But now this is a new front in the air war for the Gore campaign, taking what they're saying through the surrogates, through allies of the vice president in Congress, through Joe Lieberman today, now going to the airwaves raising direct questions about whether or not Bush has the experience to be president.

BLITZER: How does the Bush team deal with that, Candy, this whole question of his qualifications? CROWLEY: Well, a couple ways. George Bush was asked about Lieberman's comments earlier, and he first walked away. And then he turned around and he said, I never expected him to vote for me in the first place. He's tossing it off.

I will tell you that John McCain is out here campaigning with Bush in California and along the West Coast, and he told this crowd just a couple minutes ago, gee, I remember when they said another governor was not qualified, and that governor's name was Ronald Reagan. That, of course, gets a huge rise out of this crowd here in California.

McCain went on to say, look, we had a tough campaign. I am here to tell you this man is fully qualified. So he, too, is -- Bush is letting surrogates go ahead and carry that ball for him.

They don't think at this stage of the game that this will make any definitive movement in the polls. They think that people saw Bush in the debates, that they are feeling confident about his ability to lead the country. It's not something that up to this point George Bush has gotten into.

BLITZER: What about the Gore campaign? Very briefly, John Karl, you're there day in and day out, you watch what's going on, the body language, you talk to these people behind the scenes. What is their mood right now eight days and counting?

KARL: Well, the Gore campaign is out here getting some of the biggest rallies the vice president ever seen, the biggest rallies, keeping a non-stop schedule. Their level of intensity here, a lot of them openly talking about the possibility that this race could be so close that if Gore wins in the electoral college, he could actually lose the popular vote. So there's some anxiety, some intensity.

But if you look at the schedule, there's also some signs of weakness out there. The vice president, we've learned, is planning to go back to Tennessee again next week. He's going to Oregon, California, all states that the vice president would have expected to have wrapped up. But at the same time, of course, they're quick to point out that they're also going to Florida, and recent polls in Florida actually show a very large lead for Gore.

So it's a very intense time here for the Gore campaign.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Candy, same question to you. What's happening behind the scenes in the Bush camp? Are they nervous, are they confident?

CROWLEY: You know, the one thing I'll say about the Bush campaign is that largely they've been even keel. I mean, through defeats in New Hampshire, through a horrible three weeks after the Democratic convention, you know, Bush in public has remained upbeat and confident. I have to tell you, he is feeling that way now, very confident and rolling on.

Are they worried about Florida? You bet. I expect that they will go back there. This is one that everyone has said, gee, a Republican candidate has really got to have Florida. So that obviously is a sticking point with him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy Crowley and John Karl joining us from the campaign trail. Thank you very much.

And joining us now is our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's here in Washington with me.

Take a look at these new poll numbers, Bill, our CNN/"USA Today" Gallup tracking poll, for example, the latest numbers George W. Bush 47 percent, Al Gore 44 percent, Nader 2 percent, Pat Buchanan 1 percent, all within the margin of error.

But look at this, the poll of polls, as we like to call it, the Zogby/MSNBC poll, very close, three points, ABC news tied 47-47, "Washington Post" 47-46. What do these numbers mean?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They mean that Bush is clinging to a very narrow owe lead. In fact, most polls taken in the last two weeks since the final have shown Bush with a very narrow lead. It's narrow and could disappear, but he just keeps on clinging to it.

BLITZER: And as important as these numbers are nationwide, what's really much more important, of course, are the state polls showing what's happening in the electoral college.

SCHNEIDER: And the magic number there: 270. That's the majority that it takes to win. Let's go to the maps.

Bush is leading in 25 states with a total of 214 electoral votes: the South, the interior West, the Midwestern states, a few of them, and since yesterday New Mexico has tipped into the Bush column.

Gore is ahead in 11 states, plus the District of Columbia. Those states have a total of 171 electoral states: the East Coast, the West Coast and one state in between, Illinois.

That leaves 14 toss-up states with 153 electoral votes, the battleground. The biggest states: Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

You know it is embarrassing for Bush that Florida is a toss-up state because his brother is the governor. But it is even more embarrassing for Gore that Tennessee is a toss up state, that's his home state.

BLITZER: And also let's take a look at something that amazing that is going in Missouri right now, the Senate race. Mel Carnahan, the governor, died in a plane crash, together with his son. John Ashcroft, the incumbent senator, running against him. But today, the Democrats convinced Mrs. Jean Carnahan, the widow, to, in effect, run, even though her husband's name has to be on the ballot, given the rules of that state.

Listen to what Mrs. Carnahan had to say earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN CARNAHAN: It was a very personal decision that I made, and I just so much believed in the dreams and the hopes that my husband had. I didn't want them to die, and I want to be a part of helping them stay alive.


BLITZER: And look at this, a new poll in the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" has Carnahan, who's dead of course, 50 percent; John Ashcroft 43 percent.

SCHNEIDER: When Governor Carnahan died, the conventional wisdom was the Democrats couldn't possibly win. But they figured out a way to keep this race going. They have got the sympathy factor, that is their issue, and they are going to go with it.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst. He will be with us all week, as we do these special reports. Thanks for joining us.

BLITZER: And next here, a check of the day's other news headlines, and my conversation earlier today with the Democratic strategist James Carville. All that and much more, when this CNN "Countdown to Election 2000" continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back. In a moment, James Carville's thoughts on election 2000. But first, a quick check of the day's other top stories.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak today blamed the Palestinians for the violence that has rocked the Middle East for the past month. Barak made his comments in a speech to the Israeli parliament on a day that saw more clashes in Gaza and the West Bank, including reports of Israeli helicopter strikes against targets controlled by Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

In Kazakhstan, two Russians and an American will blast off early tomorrow morning, headed to the International Space Station. The team will become the first to live on board the $60 billion space lab. The mission will leave Earth from the same launch site the Soviets used to send the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, that was almost 30 years ago.

For the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years, thousands turned out in New York today to honor the latest Yankee team to win the World Series. The Yankees defeated the cross-town Mets in five games to win their 26th World Series title,

And staying in the city, Wall Street investors joined the celebration and pushed the Dow industrials higher by more than 200 points to close at 10835. Nasdaq investors punished the tech stocks, however, sending that index almost 88 points lower on the day, to 3191.

And now back to election 2000. Eight years ago at this time, James Carville was in the thick of the presidential election, serving as the key campaign strategist for then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Earlier today, I spoke with James Carville just outside the White House, and got his thoughts about the election, and Al Gore's chances to succeed Bill Clinton.


BLITZER: James Carville, how do you feel about this apparent snubbing of Bill Clinton by Al Gore?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't -- A, I agree with the Gore campaign, I think he's got to make his case himself. I think if the president went out, it would just drain everything -- all of the coverage away from it. When I describe myself, I'm second to no person in my affection for the president, I describe myself as a Shi'ite Clintonite.

But, at the same token, I think the decision is right that the vice president has to make his case on their own. I hope, in the final week of this case that he really makes his case, and he really makes this case on what's been accomplished here with this economy, what's at risk with Governor Bush's plans. I think if he does that he wins.


GORE: Thank you. This is a wonderful gathering and you've come at the right time.


BLITZER: You know that Al Gore is having a tough time in six states that not only Clinton and Gore won in '92 and '96, but that Michael Dukakis won in '88.

CARVILLE: Well, I think, first of all, he has got Ralph Nader to deal with. Michael Dukakis didn't have that to deal with, nor did we. So let's be candid, in almost all of these six states that he is a having this quote "tough time," and lets wait to see how it ends up, he is getting siphoned off about 8 percent of the normal Democratic vote, which is lot of vote to take away. So let's see where it goes from there.

And I think, in the end, the people that are now supporting Nader are going to see, and I think there is already some evidence that they are, that what they're doing is that they're electing Bush, they're not really doing anything for Nader or their cause. They're doing something to help the opposition.

What the Nader people need to do is quit trying to be perfect and start trying to be real and get real things done for this country. The same thing that has been done in the last eight years. If the Nader people are like James Carville and they care about opportunity, they care about people, working people who are trying to make it, look at what this administration has done in terms of the earned income tax credit, in terms of minimum wage, in terms of expanding health care.

Look, this is the first time in history that our prosperity has actually dug down and lifted the incomes of people in bottom four- fifths of this economy. This has been the best administration for what we commonly refer to as the working poor, the people that Democrats have traditionally been cared about than any administration in history.

In fact, this administration has been the best administration for the working wealthy as any administration in history. It's been the best administration for this country as any administration in history.

BLITZER: So when Al Gore asks, "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?" We know you're better off than you were eight years ago.

CARVILLE: But the main thing is is we know this: We know America is better off today than it was eight years ago. And that's the point that the vice president has got to make.


BUSH; I feel great. I want you to know my spirits are high.


BLITZER: Is George W. Bush ready to live in this building we're standing in front of, the White House? Is he ready to be the president of the United States?

CARVILLE: I think if you look at his proposals, I don't think he really understands them. And of course, the press that travels with him is basically brain dead. I don't know what purpose they serve. Here's a man that promises one generation that he's going to cut their payments to the Social Security Trust Fund by 15 percent and promises the older generation after 18 years that they will have guaranteed benefits. Now, nobody in the press corp that travels with him says: Now how are you going to do this? And the truth of the matter is he can't. He's going to run up the deficit another $1 trillion.

If you look at his tax plan, I don't think he really understands his own tax plan.

BLITZER: Hasn't the press...

CARVILLE: I don't know. I don't know.

BLITZER: You don't think the press has done a good job reporting?

CARVILLE: I think that the people that travel with Bush have been totally seduced and charmed.

BLITZER: And the people that travel with Gore? CARVILLE: They're totally cynical.

BLITZER: What's the James Carville guide to these final eight days? What should we be looking at?

CARVILLE: I think you got to look at how the contrast is set up. A, you know, it's not going to be a lot, and I think there has to be a couple of really big contrasts. I think that we're going to have to -- which way these two guys are trying to frame this. I think today's events are going to be pretty significant because people usually the Monday, this Monday, they want to set what they are doing the last seven days of the campaign.

I think if you see anybody shifting to different themes that's going to be a bad sign. I think the themes that are laid out today are pretty much the themes that those guys need to stick with for the rest of the campaign.

I think a lot of it, on our side, is going to depend on the vice president talking about the last eight years, energizing the Democrats.

I think a lot of it on their side is that, you know, Governor Bush, they think, is going to emphasize a sort of changed nature to keep his people. I actually think we got it a little bit better. I'd rather be us than him right now, today.


CARVILLE: I'm a political professional. That's what I do for a living. I'm proud of it. We change the way campaigns are run.


BLITZER: You're inching to go down to Nashville.

CARVILLE: Look, as an old washed-up, retired, political consultant, I mean, I guess you're always itching to say: Come on guys, let's do this. But no, I am really happy doing what I'm doing. You see, you know, I've had my day and you never want to be the guy that, you know, second guesses everything and everybody, although you sometimes you say: Gee, I wish I, you know, if I just one more time. But I promised my wife I would not get involved in this, and I've been true to that promise.


BLITZER: And James Carville's wife will tell her side of the story in just a moment. "CROSSFIRE" co-host Mary Matalin gives us the view from the right as we continue our countdown to election 2000.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Former Republican strategist Mary Matalin is living proof James Carville does have a softer side. The two may live under the same roof, but their political views are decidedly different as we all, of course, know. Mary Matalin joins us now from her seat on the right, on the set of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

Mary, you heard your husband suggest that George W. Bush is not ready for prime time, not ready for this White House. You obviously don't agree with him.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": You know. it's so sad. The one right thing that James said was that whatever the positions are that these candidates are closing on now is where they'll stay to the end and I think it's really sad that Vice President Gore, who's laid out some proposals, who really is a liberal, who really does -- has very different ways of governing than Governor Bush does, is closing out attacking Bush. If he campaigns that way, imagine how he's going to govern. People are just very, very sick of it.

But it is the hallmark of the way the Clintonistas have not just campaigned, but have done the perpetual campaign throughout their years in White House. People are tired of it. I think it's a strategic loser going into the close here.

BLITZER: You heard James suggest that he agrees with Al Gore's decision to, in effect, snub Bill Clinton, not invite him to join him on the campaign trail in some of those battleground states.

MATALIN: Well, I agree with that as well, strategically. But what the Gore people have done and it's a testament to a campaign that's in disarray -- which again, Al Gore is running a campaign, if he can't run a campaign, can't run a campaign that does anything except end in disarray, how would he govern? -- they've talked so much about snubbing Bill Clinton. They've talked so much about the, apparently the riff that these two have had, that they're eating up their own news hole. They're stepping on their own message. It's just not running a very good campaign.

Again, campaigns are emblematic of the way a man or a woman or whoever candidate would govern and Gore is revealing something here about his governing style: disarray.

BLITZER: Is a vote for Ralph Nader in effect a vote for George W. Bush?

MATALIN: Well, I'm hearing all this Nader bashing but, really, Gore is more liberal than Clinton and he's run on more liberal themes, more liberal programs. They used to say chicken in every pot, now Gore is saying we have a program for every person.

So, if the liberal followers of Nader don't like Gore, it's a testament to a weakness in something else of Gore's presentation, his character or his multiple personalities. I don't know what it is, but those are liberals who are not supporting Gore, who is running on more liberal platforms than Clinton. So, you would have to say that these followers of Nader are a result of a weakness in Gore and not a strength in Nader. BLITZER: Al Gore's message today and presumably for the rest of this campaign -- and there's only eight days left -- is keep the prosperity going. Are you better off today than you were eight years ago? If the answer is yes, vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

MATALIN: That is a huge, huge difference. That is the defining difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. We do not believe that Bill Clinton or Al Gore or anybody created this prosperity. We believe people taking advantage of the new technologies have been innovative, have been entrepreneurial, have created this wealth, have created the prosperity and will continue to do so if the government gives them more back of what they've earned, allows them to take more risks, be more creative. That's what Bush is proposing.

Very different, great philosophical divide between him -- between Governor Bush and Gore. And James and all of his cronies have continued to testify to this great difference and people are coming down on the side of what has made this country great from the beginning: trusting the people.

BLITZER: OK, Mary Matalin from the set of "CROSSFIRE," thanks for joining us. Go out to dinner with your husband right now. I know you are about to do that.

We have to take another quick break. I'll be right back.


BLITZER: CNN's election coverage continues moments from now. Join senior analyst Jeff Greenfield for a few surprises and an unconventional look at the final days of the campaign.



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