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CNN Today

Ron Faucheux Analyzes the Last-Minute Hunt for Electoral Votes

Aired October 30, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: By all accounts, we are in for a fast and furious finish to this presidential race, one of the tightest in decades. Every endorsement, every vote, now considered critical.

Joining us now from our Washington bureau today, Ron Faucheux is the editor of "Campaigns & Elections" magazine.

Thanks for talking with us, Ron.

RON FAUCHEUX, "CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS": Thank you.

ALLEN: First of all, let's talk about where the candidates are today and why they're there. We heard from Gore. He's in Michigan and Wisconsin. Bush is in New Mexico, headed to California. What makes up their strategy this final week before the election?

FAUCHEUX: Well, they're look at electoral votes, and they're going to the states where they think can make a difference. Michigan and Wisconsin are two states that are very, very close right now, and they're teetering within a few percent either way. So it certainly makes sense to go there.

New Mexico is an important state. It's a close state. New Mexico has the best track record of any state in the country in voting are for winners. It only voted for a loser once, and that was for Gerald Ford in 1976, and then only by a small margin. And usually the way that New Mexico goes, so goes the nation. And the polls show that it's very close there.

I think Bush is going to California not just for his only presidential purposes but also for Republican Party purposes in terms of Congress and some of the close congressional races there. And he also knows that by going to California, he conveys a message of hope and a sense of impending victory across the country.

ALLEN: Let's talk more about California and Florida as well. Why hasn't Al Gore been able to apparently lock up California, and why hasn't George Bush been able to do the same in Florida, where his brother's governor?

FAUCHEUX: Well it's very interesting. You know, both of those states are growth states. They grow at a very rapid rate. Every few years, their population, their demographics, change from where it was in the prior election. So you see changes going on in there. And in both states, you have very polarized electorates. Even though Florida generally tilts to the Republicans, and California generally tilts to the Democrats in statewide elections, they still cn be fairly close. I think when it's all said and done, Gore still has an advantage in California, and I think that it's going to be tough for Gore to maintain the advantage that he has in Florida, because I think Bush will probably come on at the end, even though the most recent polls show Florida to be leaning to Gore right now.

ALLEN: Let's talk about the undecideds that are out there. They've had a long time to make up their mind and apparently still cannot. Some reports are saying that their lack of interest suggests that some undecided voters may not cast the ballots at all so it's a futile attempt to try and sway them at this stage in the game. What do you think?

FAUCHEUX: Well, not necessarily. Of course, some undecideds won't vote, as is the case in some elections. But some undecideds will, and you also have a few percent of the people who are saying they're for Gore and a few percent who are saying they're for Bush who are not strongly committed there. So they could flip one way or another.

So the candidates have to go for undecideds. They have to go for voters who have weak commitments one way or another, as well as they have to energize and build up their base.

One of the interesting things about this election has been the inability of both campaigns to, really, to close the deal. I think that Bush has done a little better in terms of sharpening his message over the last couple of weeks in terms of why he wants to be president. I see today in Michigan and Wisconsin, Gore is still talking a laundry list policy and isn't really sharpening that message yet.

ALLEN: In closing the deal, will bringing out any big guns to help them do anything significant? Like, we hear George Bush's father will get out to help him in Florida this week. We saw Al Gore bring out Bill Cosby last week. He's traveling with another entertainer today.

FAUCHEUX: Well, I think big names can help the candidates in certain pockets, certain pockets of votes -- President Clinton among African-Americans, for example, Perhaps George Bush in Florida with certain pockets of voters there. But ultimately, people are looking at the candidates now and not other people.

ALLEN: Should there any surprises or gimmicks or anything out of the ordinary either candidate should try to try to, as you say, close the deal?

FAUCHEUX: Well, I think generally it's a message battle in terms of defining a clear message for the American voters, although there's a lot of attacks going on right now, a lot of attack mail, a lot of attack phone calls. The Democrats have Bush on the very severe attack in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Florida and in Wisconsin and some other states. And that's something we don't see, but it's having an effect on the campaign.

ALLEN: And do you think with eight days left, we're going to see them continue to circulate through these states we've been talk about that are up for grabs?

FAUCHEUX: Yes, I think so. I think you're going to continue to see them work these same states, places like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Oregon and Washington and perhaps California and Missouri and New Mexico and New Hampshire and possibly Maine, as these states are very critical, because neither candidate really has the 270 electoral votes locked up yet.

ALLEN: Ron Faucheux, editor of "Campaigns & Elections" magazine. Thanks, Ron.

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