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THE SPIN ROOM: Will George W. Bush's 24-Year-Old DUI Arrest Made a Difference in Election 2000?

Aired November 2, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: From CNN Washington to our Atlanta newsroom and all over the United States, THE SPIN ROOM is open.


Tonight, a 24-year-old drunk driving arrest and now the long delayed hangover.

I'm Tucker Carlson.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: And I'm Bill Press.

So, is a November got-you worse than an October surprise? Yes, tonight a Maine television station broke a story later confirmed by the governor himself that back in 1976, George W. Bush was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol near his parents' vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine. There is even worse bad news, perhaps, for George W. Bush tonight. He was endorsed by Ross Perot just one hour ago on the Larry King show.

CARLSON: And that really hurts.

Tell us what you think from George W. Bush's newly revealed drunken driving arrest to Ross Perot's painful, just-announced endorsement of Bush for president. You can call us toll-free at 1- 800-310-4CNN or you can join a live on-line chat at or you can send us e-mail. Out address is

PRESS: All right, so by phone, in the chat room or by e-mail, we want to hear from you, your chance to sound off on the issues of the day. And there's a lot to talk about tonight.

But first, let's go to Joie Chen in Atlanta's newsroom for the details on the Bush DUI story.

Good evening, Joie.


Well, this is what we know so far. This is a story that came out because there's a reporter from a TV station in Portland, Maine -- that's WPXT to give them credit -- heard someone mention the arrest at the courthouse and then did some old fashioned legwork digging up the paper trail.

Now there is an arrest record that shows in 1976 George W. Bush was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. And then there is also a court document which shows George W. Bush's name in the upper left-hand corner, so there was no denying it. About 45 minutes ago, the governor himself braved the gauntlet.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously there is a report out tonight that 24 years ago, I was apprehended in Kennebunkport, Maine for a DUI. That's an accurate story. I'm not proud of that. I have oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much and I did on that night. I was pulled over, admitted to the policeman that I had been drinking. I paid a fine and I regret that it happened.


CHEN: All right, CNN's Candy Crowley is following along on the story. She's traveling with the governor and is in West Allis, Wisconsin. Candy Crowley covering the governor's event tonight.

And Candy, this really was supposed to be just a normal night holding a rally and then all this blew up.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of things you learn over the years on campaign trails, there's no such thing as a normal night. This certainly wasn't one. Something obviously that the Bush campaign wants to get away, get out of the way as quickly as it can, and thus you saw, of course, the news conference with the governor.

CHEN: Candy, was there a sense that the governor's team was trying to low-key this, play this low-key? He did come out, Karen Hughes came out and then about 45 minutes later I guess the governor came out himself.

How are they playing it?

CROWLEY: Well, I think they're playing it the way you heard it, which is this happened 24 years ago. The governor has always said that he had a problem with alcohol, that he quit on his 40th birthday 14 years ago. They are trying to make it a thing of the past and point out that they believe that the American people have the perspective and the judgment to see things in their context.

CHEN: Did anybody -- has anyone brought up this report coming from a Portland, Maine, TV station? Where has this story been all this time? Is there any doubt that it's really coming from this one reporter hearing about this story at the courthouse?

CROWLEY: Well, you heard the governor himself and also his communications director, Karen Hughes say, isn't this interesting that it's coming up four days before the election? They have suspicions, but we have absolutely no proof that it came from anywhere other than what we are hearing, which is a Portland station. CHEN: All right, Candy Crowley is out there following along on all this.

I'm wondering as well, Candy, did you hear anything. any responses from the crowd there? You say this was supposed to be a rally night. Was there much of a response that people heard about all of this?

CROWLEY: No, you know, the thing is that this crowd has been here for hours, as most of them are. They come to hear the candidate. Remember these also are the faithful, those that come out to see him at this point in the campaign, generally those that are excited about seeing him and that are going to vote for him. So, this was not something that had gone through this crowd yet.

CHEN: And was there any question asked to the governor? He had said before he made mistakes in his past and then he talked about this mistake that's come up in the reporting tonight.

Did he mention the possibility there are other mistakes? other things that haven't come up yet? and did any of you ask that?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly it was asked. But again, the governor repeats what he has all along for the two years since we've been covering him anyway, which is, look, I told you that I've made mistakes in my past, and I have told that to the Texas people when they elected me twice for Texas governor, that I was young, I was irresponsible, I made mistakes and this is one of them. And you saw him say one of the reasons that I did not want this out there is I have these daughters. I don't want them to drink and drive. I don't want to delineate for them what I have done wrong because he thinks it's a bad role model not for just his daughters but other people's children.

CHEN: CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley on the campaign trail, covering Governor Bush, reporting to us from West Allis, Wisconsin.

And Bill and Tucker, you know that there's going to be a lot of spin coming in on this over the next 24 hours. I was talk somebody who works on our phone lines here at CNN, they say that the phones have just been ringing off the hook since the story broke just about 7:00 this evening. So, we're going to be hearing a lot more on this I would guess over the next day, don't you?

CARLSON: A huge amount and I think probably a lot of it will be coming in to this show. We can't wait. Send us your e-mails, give us a call. People have strong feelings about this and we're here to hear them.

PRESS: And Tucker, this unexpected thing, of course, both campaigns, one campaign has reacted, still waiting to hear whether we get reaction from the Gore campaign.

CNN's Jonathan Karl's been traveling with the vice president. He joins us right now from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Jonathan, has the Gore campaign officially or unofficially had anything to say about tonight's revelation of the DUI arrest for Governor Bush?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officially, the official line here is absolutely no comment. Gore's press secretary, Chris Lehane spoke about this when the vice president landed, actually in El Paso, Texas. He landed just about a little over an hour ago, the vice president learning about this on the flight on Air Force 2 before arriving in El Paso and then driving out here to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The official line from Chris Lehane from the campaign is absolutely no comment.


CHRIS LEHANE, GORE PRESS SECRETARY: It is not anything the Gore campaign is involved with in any shape, way, or form.

QUESTION: You could say that authoritatively, how? if you don't know much about the issue.

LEHANE: Because I just know that's not something that the Gore campaign would engage in.


LEHANE: I have no idea.


KARL: Now, Bill and Tucker, privately Gore's aides are a little bit split on this. Some of his top aides are saying that this story is not much. As matter of fact, on the record, Donna Brazile, the campaign manager, told me this is nothing. She said -- quote -- "I don't care."

But some of the other aides are saying that this is a huge story, a huge story for a couple of reasons. One, because there's only four days of campaigning left before the election and they say this is sure to dominate the news for two days, two critical days where George W. Bush will be forced to answer questions about this and not get his message out.

And for a second reason, the Gore campaign, as you know, has been talking continuously about the experience gap, about the fact that Vice President Gore has a 24-year career in public service. And they've been saying all along, look year by year what the two candidates were doing. In 1976, when George W. Bush was getting arrested for DUI in Maine, they are quick to point out, privately, way off the record, that Vice President Gore was doing what? He was running for Congress, beginning a career in public service.

Back to you.

CARLSON: Thanks, Jonathan. PRESS: As Joie mentioned, the story was broken tonight, Tucker, by, apparently, by an independent Fox outlet in Portland, Maine. One of the reporters for that television station joins us now, I believe, from Portland, Maine.

Mike Curry, Mike, are you there?

MIKE CURRY, WCSH: I'm here. Actually, I'm with the NBC affiliate WCSH TV in Portland, Maine.

PRESS: I'm sorry. Let's give due credit to NBC.

Mike, the Bush campaign is hinting and others, Bush supporters are hinting that the Democratic Party is somehow behind this, the Gore campaign behind this. Tell us how you got the story.

CURRY: Well, you couldn't prove any of those allegations by the way we receive a story. We had a reporter covering a court case this afternoon in a courthouse in Portland and she simply overheard a conversation that took place among three lawyers. And as a result of that had a subsequent conversation with one of the participants in there and that the basis of the conversation was, hey did you hear about George Bush being arrested 25 years ago for drunk driving in Kennebunkport? So, any reporter would ask some follow-up questions for that. And we got some information that led us to what we thought was and what proved to be the courthouse Biddeford, Maine, where he was, actually made his plea and fined.

CARLSON: Is there any sense, Mike, of A, who those lawyers were and B, why they knew about this five days before the election when there are of course hundreds of reporters following Bush and looking for stories just like this. How did they come to know this?

CURRY: Well, it's hard for had me to speculate on that. Especially when you're in a courthouse and words spread like wildfire about anything. It's a really close community here in Portland and even a closer legal community. And for me to speculate where that was generated from and how that got passed from one group to another is way too hard for me to do?

PRESS: But isn't it surprise -- we're all reporters and we all have sources and we all get stuff in the mail and by phone, Mike. Doesn't it surprise you as a reporter that if all this time people in Maine, in the courthouse, knew about this, that it never came to anybody else's attention until just today, somehow, when reporter was standing nearby?

CURRY: You know, I'm not so naive to not think that this couldn't happen. But you have to understand, too, that 24 years ago the record keeping system in Maine was pretty shoddy. And somebody -- and granted, probably somebody along the line remembered that and brought it up. But to find a record from 19 -- and it somewhat maybe substantiates what you're saying, to find a record of an arrest that took place in the year that it did, in 1976, you have to do some digging in the files because nothing was on computer then. But all I could relate to you is the way we received the story and the fact that in the mid-part of the afternoon we had two pieces of paper with the name George W. Bush on it and until we could confirm anything, you know, we were really concerned about how to report or if to report this story.

PRESS: Mike Curry, WCSH in Portland, Maine thanks very much for joining us Mike, tonight.

CURRY: Anytime.

PRESS: Tucker, as you know, as soon as this news broke the e- mail started flowing into THE SPIN ROOM. A couple here quickly.

Here's one from Ed in Everett, Washington: "Bush said he was going to bring integrity to the White House. I don't think so. Are there any more skeletons in his closet?"

I'm sure they're not all one-sided. You got a stack of them, too.

CARLSON: It's a pretty small skeleton. Here's one from Gil, address unknown: "We're talking about a job that sometimes brings human pressures to bear. How could we trust someone who has weakness, dormant or otherwise, and such propensity to drink alcohol."

This is interesting, actually, because you know, right after this broke there obviously was quite a bit of pressure on George W. Bush and we saw him give that speech in Wisconsin. And You never would have known, I don't think, just watching it, if you hadn't known the news, that he was under all this pressure. Pretty impressive performance, really.

PRESS: It was. But you know, we also watched earlier Karen Hughes talking about this to reporters.

CARLSON: Not as impressive an performance.

PRESS: What I thought was interesting was because that one reporter right away said what about other substance abuse and Karen Hughes didn't say, none of that, none of that. She just said the governor has said he made mistakes.

I think what this does for Bush campaign, and again, I think mistakes that people make in their youth should not be an issue in the campaign as long as they've changed their ways. I said that about Bill Clinton's Whitewater investigation -- or, you know, investments. I want to be consistent. But they knew about this. They didn't let people know for a time, and I think this now does opens the door to those questions that he wouldn't answer before.

CARLSON: Well, see, I think that if there's one axiom that ought that guide every presidential candidate,

PRESS: Put it out there. CARLSON: When someone at a televised candidate says, hey, does the candidate -- has he ever had a drug problem? The answer is no, never. Absolutely not. You don't say, well, you know, he's addressed that in the vaguest way. You shoot it down immediately.

PRESS: Here's someone that's been following the Governor Bush and is there, first of all, comment from one of our viewers. I can' believe -- Steve Smith says, "I can't believe Bush has tried to hide his DWI while casting doubt about Gore's honesty. I am rethink my vote," says Steve Smith.

As I was saying, a friend of ours has been traveling with the Bush campaign, may have a chance to throw a question to Governor Bush on this issue. Soon enough.

CARLSON: Shout one, anyway.

PRESS: He is Jake Tapper, right, from "" magazine. Jake Tapper joining us tonight from Milwaukee.

Jake, what is your take on this? what do you hear on the plane? On the bus?

JAKE TAPPER, "SALON.COM": It was really quite remarkable. We were on a tarmac and all of sudden there was this huge scrum, and all these reporters were gathering around and I didn't know what was going on and I said, what's going on over there? And one of the reporters from Texas told me that, you know, Bush had -- there had been a DUI 24 years ago. And Karen Hughes came out and it was an amazing scene from a movie. All the reporters like standing there, and then running on the plane and calling up. It was great. It was real drama.

CARLSON: Do you have any sense, Jake, first how long the Bush campaign had known the story. I assume it hadn't been long, and did they have a story right away? Did they respond quickly with answers that you all asked for?

TAPPER: I think he seemed to come right out and answer the questions directly, and get this out of the way. I mean, if you saw the press conference, he pretty much addressed the issue, said that the story was accurate. He followed the first rule of politics, which is -- well, he broke the first rule. He should have gotten this out about a year ago. But second rule, which is, you know, own up early and own up completely, and that's what he did on this issue at least.

PRESS: Jake, there are four more days left. The question is -- we remember Gennifer Flowers, we remember Clinton's draft stories. They came up earlier, a lot earlier in the campaign. Does this story, as we say in the business, have legs, do you believe?

TAPPER: I don't think it helps, obviously. It certainly feeds into the character of him as candidate who is kind of glib. Remember, he was not 16 when this happened, he was 30 years old, driving with his sister and two of her friends in a car drunk. Thirty years old. I mean, that doesn't fit Henry Hyde's definition of old, but it certainly is, you know, past an age when you know better. I think something more telling is Salon just broke a story, that Bush is speaking tomorrow at a school in Michigan, a college in Michigan, that it's like a Bob Jones Lite, in a way. It's Cornerstone University and expels students for being gays and lesbians. That's a much more telling indictment of Governor Bush than any extra beer he had with John Newcombe 24 years ago.

CARLSON: Well, I don't know if that's true, but we'll come back and talk about that some more now that we have battered around the George W. DUI story. Let's go back to Joie Chen for the rest of the day's top stories -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, guys, these are some of the stories we saw in the news today. We want to bring you up-to-date on them.

That truce deal made between Israelis and Palestinians we announced just about 24 hours ago here on THE SPIN ROOM, it didn't have much of a chance to take hold. There was a car bombing near a crowded market in Jerusalem today. Two people died, one of them was the daughter of an Israeli politician. The militant wing of the group Islamic Jihad said it was responsible and said there would be more trouble. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the bombing, but there were more clashes in Gaza and the West Bank and two more Palestinians died.

Turns out that hole in the side of the USS Cole is much bigger than first thought. Looking at new pictures, experts now peg it at 40 feet high, 60 feet wide. As you see, the hull did crumble badly, but it can be fixed, although it will cost at least $150 million. The Cole is now piggy-backed onto a tow ship and it will begin it's long ride home to Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday.

Those are the stories we're looking at and, guys, you know, we do want to stay on the news. We know that a lot of our viewers will say, well, you're going to hammer on this Bush story, the DWI story, sort of like bringing out a two-by-four to hit a fly, but we do follow the other stories and we want to remind our viewers that we do stick on that as well on CNN.

PRESS: All right, Joie, thanks very much and we'll be back to you very, very shortly. We'll be talking here on THE SPIN ROOM and getting your comments on about the Bush DUI story and about Ross Perot's endorsement. We'll get back to Jake Tapper coming up in the next break.

CARLSON: Next, though, the campaign by the numbers. Polls and what they say depends, of course, on who's saying it. You're in THE SPIN ROOM. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson, here with Bill Press. We're talking about the latest poll numbers, George W. Bush's DUI arrest, and of course, the all-important Ross Perot endorsement: a cornucopia of stories tonight. PRESS: And we want to hear from you about all of the above. Here's how you get ahold of us. First of all, you can toll-free at 1- 800-310-4CNN. Also, join our live online chat at, or e-mail us. The e-mail address, Phone calls and e-mail already coming in, Tucker.

CARLSON: In fact, we have a phone call. Kathy (ph) in Virginia has called. Kathy, are you there?


PRESS: Hi, Kathy.

KATHY: Hi. I would just like to say on behalf of Governor Bush that we all have things in our past we'd like to forget, and when this whole issue came up -- first of all, I forgive him for that. When this issue came up, he came forward and answered quite honestly, responded to the situation. When President Clinton was confronted with the Monica Lewinsky issue, he looked the American public right in the face and flat-out lied. And you can't tell me that the vice president of the United States, working that closely with the president, had no clue that this was going on with Monica Lewinsky.

PRESS: All right, Kathy, thank you for the call.

CARLSON: Thanks.

PRESS: If Hillary didn't know, I don't know how Al knew. But anyhow, just to show that this issue cuts both ways...

CARLSON: And I don't know how Hillary didn't know. I guess that's another conversation.


PRESS: Here's Robert from Houston, Texas, e-mails us. "I really can't believe that people are already trying to cover for Bush. Where is the outrage? A DUI arrest is a pretty good indicator of irresponsibility, especially at age 30. I was undecided," says Robert. "That's not a problem anymore."

CARLSON: Where's the outrage?

PRESS: This cuts...

CARLSON: Did you hear what Bob Dole did that night? He said, where's the outrage? It didn't work, it never showed up, outrage never arrived.

PRESS: Speaking of outrage, I think George Bush might have been outraged tonight if he was watching the "LARRY KING SHOW" and he heard the -- you know, the endorsement of the century perhaps. For those...

CARLSON: Of the millennium, really.

PRESS: Most Americans watch "LARRY KING" but not everybody. For those that might have missed it, here's what Ross Perot had to say just about one hour ago.


ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I concluded that Governor George Bush, based on his record in Texas -- here's a man that I have never heard anybody criticize once for improper conduct as governor, for improper taking of political funds, for payoffs, for impropriety in the governor's mansion or at any time.

Looking at both of the candidates, I concluded, because he has demonstrated the ability to be a person who knows how to administer and govern and have the responsibilities at the state level that the president has at the national level.


PRESS: Now, Tucker, I would just like to point out that that giant sucking sound you hear is George Bush trying to escape Ross Perot's endorsement. Poor guy.

CARLSON: Unbelievable. You know, that clip is such a -- just a tiny, tiny portion of what Ross Perot said. He's really -- I mean, I do think this sews up the all-important crackpot vote, and it does take some of America's more eccentric voters away from -- from Ralph Nader. And also, keep in mind, it's counterbalanced by the fact that Stevie Wonder today endorsed Al Gore. So it does sort of balance out in the end.

PRESS: No doubt about where the crackpot vote is. It's not fair for George Bush to get slammed twice like this in one night.

CARLSON: No, it...

PRESS: Let's get back to Jake Tapper there in -- in Milwaukee.

So, Jake, the polls have been close. I guess now with Ross Perot's endorsement Bush will shoot up probably like 20 points, or probably -- maybe fall 20 points. Which is it?

TAPPER: Well, I think clearly Bush will swing all of Ross Perot's immediate circle of family and friends, no question.

PRESS: Because they were friends?

TAPPER: No, because Ross Perot can't even control the Reform Party. Who cares what he says? Who cares who's he endorsing?

CARLSON: So there no high-fives on the plane tonight?


CARLSON: There were no high-fives among Bush advisers tonight when they heard that Perot, you know, dropped the bomb.

TAPPER: First of all, I mean, look, Ross Perot -- Al Gore in the NAFTA debate in 1994 wiped the floor with Ross Perot. He destroyed him. And of course, Ross Perot was never going to endorse Al Gore.

I do think that, you know, it's interesting that Perot endorsed Bush. I also think that I don't care. Who cares what Ross Perot thinks? Why is this guy still being invited on "LARRY KING"?

CARLSON: Well, that's astute political commentary, Jake Tapper.

PRESS: I think that's unanimous here. Jake Tapper, thanks so much for joining us again. And as we've been saying, moving right along, one reason that this news is so big tonight is because the polls are so close and anything may shift the polls one way or the other.

Getting into the polls, let's start off with Joie Chen in Atlanta to set the scene for us. Joie, take it away.

CHEN: All right, guys, well, look at this. The fine folks who bring us the daily tracking poll you hear about here on CNN, they tell us it's now Bush 47, Gore 43, Nader 4 -- these are this afternoon's numbers -- and Buchanan at 1 percent. Same story pretty much all week.

Now, here's the disclaimer that we always give in small type here. This is probably written by the same people who tell you the price of the car after tags, title, license, dealer service charge, all that stuff, the sampling error is two points.

Now, what that means really is that the numbers you see could be off by two points either way. So it could be Bush 49, Gore 41, or it could be Bush 45, Gore 45. What's more, if you look at the average of the past six days, you can see the numbers wobbling there, sort of a fever pitch.

So the very smart people who do these polls say it all comes down to this: The race is really, really close, in case you hadn't gotten that point.

Believe them? Well, they aren't exactly out on a limb, because everybody's latest poll says pretty much the same thing. You've got to watch out, because if you stare at wobbly numbers too long, they're prone to spin. Pretty good? Pretty good effect for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the control room. Thanks a lot, Matt.

All right, let's go back to you guys. You know, you can get a little bit dizzy. I don't blame our viewers for getting dizzy looking at all these numbers. Why don't we just go on the air and tell them, OK, it's really close or it's not really close, and just leave it at that?

CARLSON: Well, especially if you use the psychedelic number fade. I think that -- I think that really makes the point...

CHEN: It got their attention, though.

CARLSON: ... to viewers. Right, fungible is the word.

PRESS: It did make the point.

CARLSON: Well, we've seen the poll of polls. When we come back, we'll get the polls from the pollsters.

PRESS: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Celinda Lake works for the Democrats, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick for the Republicans. We'll talk to them both when we come back.

PRESS: More SPIN ROOM coming up. Stay with us.


PRESS: And you're in THE SPIN ROOM with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson. Over 6,000 e-mails so far tonight. Tucker, another world's record.

CARLSON: Unbelievable.

PRESS: We want to hear from you by phone and by chat and by spin. The phone number, 1-800-310-4CNN. Chat room, And of course, you can e-mail us -- we've got a whole stack more to read here --

CARLSON: And we want you to hear two of the best pollsters now working in politics. We have Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster, and Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, a Republican pollster.

Now, I've been dying to ask a pollster this question all week, and I'll ask you, Celinda. Sometimes when you call pollsters, reporters call pollsters on the phone, or campaigns, they make reference to a campaign's internal polls, and they always imply they have these secret polls that are much more accurate than anything you as a civilian have. Is that true? And if so, why are they more accurate?


CARLSON: Oh, no.

LAKE: And Kellyanne and I are eager to have more private polling done, preferably with our companies.

Well, first of all, about half the polls or more of the polls that we do are not public, and frankly, as we were talking earlier, the polls that we do have to be really accurate, because if we had polls that fluctuated from nine points one day to 11 points the other way the other day, we have a lot of campaigns that would shoot the pollster and then kill themselves.

So we have a lot of polling that we look at. But the important thing I think is that we look at the internals of the polls, like a surgeon. So we just don't look at the outside, and we have to figure out what are the patterns, what are the demographic patterns, who's undecided, what are the favorabilities, what have the undecideds been hearing, what kinds of people are they, will they even show up to vote on election day.

And so we don't really specialize in the kind of snapshots that the viewers see often on television. We specialize in looking for the underlying patterns and logic.

PRESS: All right, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, let me ask you, first of all -- and I'm suspicious of all pollsters, so don't take this personally...


But how do we know that people are not just outright lying to you to get off the phone?

KELLYANNE FITZPATRICK, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, some are lying to pollsters, but those who would have a propensity to lie in the poll actually are those who hang up the phone begin with anyway and who are naturally screened to a very fine, fine and also multilayered screening process.

For example, Bill, I think the worst way to find out if someone is a likely voter is to ask them the question "Are you likely to vote?" because, of course, they are...

PRESS: Right, right.

FITZPATRICK: And they do situps every morning, they go to church every Sunday, they never cheat on their wives or their taxes.

And also, likelihood to vote is inherently flawed, because it is a current intention of a future behavior. It's like me calling you up at a Friday afternoon at 4:00 and saying, "Hey, Bill, what are you doing this weekend?" And you tell me, "Oh, I'm going to volunteer my time and run the Boston Marathon and say all my prayers and clean out the attic." And if I call you Monday morning at 9:00 and I say, "Hey, Bill, what did you do this weekend?" it's not that you lied to me on Friday, but sometimes those, you know, best intentions don't really measure up.

PRESS: I wouldn't be able to remember all of that. OK, but this -- I have never seen -- I think Tucker and I agree -- so many polls in one year or so many polls that are all over the place. I mean, quickly, why such wild swings this year? Any idea? I mean...

FITZPATRICK: Yes. There are very -- very few wild swings in private polling. I have to agree with Celinda.

The problem with polls today is not really with the art or the science as much as the public dissemination of all the polls.

Most of our clients hire us to never let their numbers see the light of the day, because this is for internal, strategic purposes. Most of the polling numbers that you see out there have wild swings because they're all about top-line data, they're all about everything. There's no fine cross-tabulation, explanation and analysis. That's where the richness of the data is. For folks like Celinda and I, our job begins after the top-line data is released, not our job doesn't end then. In other words, when you release a poll to the public, it says 800 likely voters, a thousand likely voters all said this, boom, everything's done. For us, that's where the analysis begins and that's why there are so many wild swings.

I don't object to there being more and more polling. But I do object to non-pollsters doing polling. And I think that people should stock to a certain consumer's guide to the polls in evaluating these polls.

Stop asking the American people, for example, to render an opinion on matters that we know nothing about. We don't know about how serious the crisis is in the Middle East or what...

CARLSON: It sounds to me like, Kellyanne, that the American ought to buy some of your secret polls, and maybe when we come back, we can ask you where to get them, because the ones that are in the paper aren't accurate. We'll be back.

PRESS: And when we come back, we want to hear from you. Remember our spin of the day. We want your nominations for spin of the day. Tucker's got his. I've got mine. You can call us toll-free 1-800-310-4CNN with your nominations for spin of the day, or join our chat room at or send us your e-mail at for spin of the day.

CARLSON: There's a lot of spin.


CARLSON: Welcome back to SPIN ROOM. We're talking with two pollsters, Republican Kellyanne Fitzpatrick and Democrat Celinda Lake. We're also taking your phone calls, your e-mails, and the chats.

PRESS: And Tucker, before we get back to Celinda and Kellyanne, I've got one question here from THE SPIN ROOM, from the chat room. Let's see if we can pull it up on our monitor here. This question -- it's addressed to you.

"Tucker: You said" -- this is from Chris Sdao, I guess. "You said Americans shouldn't feel obligated to vote. Don't you think that's inherently un-American?"

Shame on you.

CARLSON: Of course, I do. I'm always suggesting that Americans ought to do un-American things. I mean, of course not.

PRESS: Especially after 10 o'clock at night.

CARLSON: Governing is complicated. Nobody should feel obligated to keep up with it and to necessarily participate in it.

PRESS: OK. All right, back to Kellyanne and Celinda. Are you there?

LAKE: I'm here.

FITZPATRICK: We're here.

PRESS: All right. There we go. My question to both of you -- I want to ask you this very fairly and very quickly. One's a Republican pollster, one's a Democratic pollster. Doesn't that really say to people that you're going to slant the polls one way or the other, Celinda?

LAKE: Actually, it's our job not to slant the polls one way or the other. We would lose our jobs really fast if we weren't accurate. We're forgiven if our candidates lose but only if we told them we were going to. And I think that actually we like working bipartisanly, not nonpartisanly, because we respect the accuracy that the day-to-day campaigning requires of us.

CARLSON: Kellyanne, I want to get back -- I'm fixated, as you can tell, on this secret poll business. But I'm interested, people have been asking out loud quite a bit why the Bush campaign is spending all this money in California when the polls, at least the ones we read in the paper, suggest there's no way he can win there.

PRESS: Good question.

CARLSON: The implication is, is that he has access to secret data about California. Will you divulge that secret data, please?

PRESS: Yes, let's hear it. Let's hear it.

FITZPATRICK: It really is not about that. The fact is that if you're Al Gore, you do not plan nor want to campaign west of Michigan some time after your convention. The fact that the Gore campaign and even the media have to dispatch resources and reporters to the left coast to cover this campaign shows that Bush believes everything is in play in states that neither Bush won in '92 nor Dole won in '96 are, in fact, in play, and Bush is leading in some of them right now.

Whether he wins California or not is not as relevant than the fact that he took this campaign seriously enough to campaign in every state. I don't think it's got anything to do with hard numbers as much as we as Republicans right now, we're glancing at the national polls, but we've really become cartographers. We're very focused on the electoral map.

PRESS: All right, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, Celinda Lake, thanks so much for joining us tonight...

LAKE: Thank you.

PRESS: ... to shed a little light on these polls. We really appreciate it. And of course, the polls are so close that people are actually now, Tucker, for the first time talking that this could actually end up in the electoral college.

CARLSON: People are talking for the first time about what the electoral college really is.

PRESS: Really is, exactly.

CARLSON: Because the real presidential election isn't next week. It's in December, when the electoral college votes. Amazing.

PRESS: And this isn't the kind of college where you can get youthful discretions out of the way. This is a lot more serious.

Joie Chen is going to tell us all about it.

Hi, Joie.

CHEN: Did you mean to say youthful indiscretions there, Bill?

PRESS: Oh, did I...

CARLSON: It's discretions here in THE SPIN ROOM, Joie.

CHEN: Just asking. Just asking a question.

PRESS: Just a little Bush-ism slipped in there.

CHEN: Well, in case you weren't paying attention in your high school civics class, perhaps you have forgotten where did that electoral college thing come from. It turns out they came up with it at the Constitutional Convention. Now, this was back when voting was preserved for those land-owning white guys. Direct elections by the riffraff just seemed like mob rule at the time.

So we ended up with a system where each state picked electors, and those electors -- not you and me -- actually pick out the president. Where do electors come from? Well, add a state's House and Senate seats to get its number of electors, which is why you hear about the candidates today in Florida or California were not out barnstorming Delaware or Rhode Island or anything like that.

More math, there are a total of 538 electors, so you need 270 to win. If no candidate gets there, the newly elected House of Representatives, which could possibly be the one with Speaker Dick Gephardt, maybe, well, that would be the person who gets the job.

It has happened before. John Quincy Adams, class of 1824; Rutherford B. Hayes, class of 1876; and Benjamin Harrison, class of 1888, to names just three of the obscure footnotes in electoral college history. All three of them finished second in the popular vote but got to be president anyways. So before it happens again, why doesn't anybody just fix this mess? Well, somebody is trying to.


REP. RAY LAHOOD (R), ILLINOIS: I was an elector in 1988. I went to Springfield, Illinois, the state capitol and I voted for George Bush but I could have voted for Dick Durbin. I could have voted for Ray LaHood. There is nothing in the Constitution that tells the electors they have to vote for the person who gets the popular vote. (END VIDEO CLIP)


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: It's time for the electoral college to close down. It's time to put this constitutional dinosaur permanently in a museum.


CHEN: Senator Durbin and Mr. LaHood are backing a constitutional amendment to get rid of the electoral college, but guess what guys, that will not happen by next Tuesday.

CARLSON: Well, Amen. I have to say that direct elections still seems like mob rule to me.

CHEN: You like that, I bet.

CARLSON: Not one bit. Joining us now from Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the great sources for reporters in Washington, Larry Sabato. He's founder and director of the Center for Governmental Studies at UVA. He's important enough to have his own spin. "The Wall Street Journal" calls him the most quoted college professor in the land. Doubtless he is. Larry Sabato, is it going to go the electoral college?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: You know, we always talk about this ahead of a close election, but -- and I don't think normally that there's much chance. I still don't think it's probable, but I'll tell you, I'm starting to wonder.

At least before this story tonight, I think it was close enough and Bush was doing well enough in certain areas of the country building up excess votes, so that it was possible, given the drift to Gore in some of the major states, that Gore would win the electoral college and Bush would win the popular vote.

Am I predicting that? Of course not. It's always an improbability. But we're sitting on a time bomb and it will happen again. It's only a matter of time.

PRESS: It does seem to me that if it happens again and when it happens again is the time you'll see a constitutional amendment to get rid of it. Hey, Larry Sabato, lots more questions for you about the electoral college, so please stick with us.

CARLSON: And the electoral time bomb. Sounds worrisome.

PRESS: Coming up on when we continue with THE SPIN ROOM right here on CNN with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson, more electoral college. Coming up.


CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press. We're speaking to Larry Sabato, the world's most quoted college professor.

PRESS: Yes, Tucker, before we go back to Larry, I just had this late-breaking news that just came in here regarding the Ross Perot endorsement earlier this evening. Ross Perot says sadly, now that he spoke too soon. He realizes that this might interfere with his daughter's wedding so he's going withdraw his endorsement. You know, you can't trust this guy.

CARLSON: That's what I'm telling you. The crackpot community. I mean, these are important votes in a tight election like this.

PRESS: Oh, you got to love it.

CARLSON: Really, the deeply eccentric, the mentally ill, they're peeling off for Bush at this moment because of Ross Perot.

PRESS: As we speak.

CARLSON: As we speak.

PRESS: Spinning away. All right, Larry Sabato, to get serious again for just a second. Here's the other scenario. you just said you're not sure it's going to into the electoral college, but it could. What if we get to the electoral college and the electoral college, 538 is tied? Where do we go?

SABATO: Well, remember, by one count there are 68 ways for the electoral college to tie. Another person claimed there are 80, so there are just a lot of ways for the electoral college to tie. There aren't many ways for it to reasonably tie. I don't think it's going to happen.

But if that does happen it goes the House of Representatives and the new House of Representatives that meets for the first time on January 3. And the strange about it is, as the founders decided it should be because they believed strongly in federalism, the House won't vote as a whole. Instead each state delegation within the House of Representatives will cast one vote so that gargantuan California gets one vote and tiny Rhode Island, tiny Wyoming, each of those states gets a vote.

CARLSON: Well, I'm not -- my real, the question I want to ask is what are the names of the people who figured out how many ways there are for the electoral college to tie? Because that's just remarkable ideas of counting them. But let me ask you the other question, which is at what point do we know who's the going win?

Let's say, two days before the election. Let's say it's Sunday afternoon, Monday morning. Tell me what the polls look like at the point at which it becomes obvious that Gore or Bush is going to win? Is one up by three, does that mean he's absolutely going to win? Tell us, when we will know for sure?

SABATO: You know, what's really interesting about this, this is one of the first times I can ever remember when you take all the polls together, whether it's now or Monday, and you have Bush with, on average, about a 3-4 point lead, but it really doesn't guarantee him an electoral college majority.

It all depends on how many votes you amass in states you're already going win. Bush's problem is he has a great excess of votes in some big states and also throughout the entire South, the rural Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states. It's incredible and that's what could throw the electoral college to Gore. It's possible. It's not probable, but it's possible.

PRESS: It is certainly the most interesting, exciting and closest election I think any of us can remember that we've reported on. Larry Sabato, as usual, you're right there with the information that we need to make sense out of all of this. Thanks so much for joining us tonight, Larry.

SABATO: Thanks a lot. I enjoyed it.

CARLSON: Thanks.

PRESS: Tucker, you know, someone pointed out to me tonight,in 1976 Jimmy Carter won by 1.2 million votes in the popular. There's a difference of 14,000 votes in Ohio and Mississippi that could have swung that election to Jerry Ford. That's how close it was. One vote per precinct and Ford could have been elected in the electoral college. So it comes closer than you think.

CARLSON: You know, you want to track down those voters in Mississippi, for instance, and berate them. I mean, you can probably figure out who did it. Who gave this country to Jimmy Carter for four years. Not that, you know, we want to point fingers.

PRESS: Five dollars each and you might have thrown the election the other way.


CARLSON: It would have been a good investment. It'd be worth it.

PRESS: We've got spin of the day coming up. Your spin of the day, my spin of the day and we've got nominations for spin of the day from all of you, over 10,000 e-mails tonight so far, folks. We love it. Your spin of the day and ours coming up next in THE SPIN ROOM.


CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson, here with Bill Press. We've come to the best part of the show, the crescendo, where we get to our spin of the day and yours. There are many. The dam is almost bursting.

PRESS: These are things that make you want to stand up and throw a tomato at the screen when you hear some politician say it.

CARLSON: Or a beer bottle.

PRESS: Or whatever. CARLSON: Or whatever. Tony (ph) from New Jersey is on the line. Have you been throwing things at the television, Tony?

CALLER: Yes, I am. I'm a little angry this evening. In regards to this DUI incident, I'd just like to remind this country that several years ago, when Marion Barry was caught smoking crack cocaine on videotape, we all forgave him after he went off and did his little rehab time. He came back and was elected back to office. So I think we should be a little more understanding after this DUI here.

CARLSON: Well, Tony, as someone who lived in Washington at the time, and I think I speak for Bill when I say, we didn't all forgive him. The voters of Washington, D.C. did.

PRESS: That's right and I think that may only have happened in Washington, D.C.

OK, here's a nomination from a no-name submitted for the spin of the day. "The spin of the day is that this DUI event with Governor Bush has no relevance to the election. The truth is Bush was hiding something from us, character matters," spin of the day.

CARLSON: Sounds like a Bush voter actually making an argument that Bush himself has made many times. Here's a spin of the day from Tony (ph). "Attempts to marginalize the significance of Perot's endorsement while making something relevant out of events 24 years past." That sounds like something we've been doing.

PRESS: If I were endorsed by Perot, I would want to marginalize it.

OK, here's my nomination for spin of the day, Mark McKinnon. You know Mark McKinnon? Mark McKinnon is a good guy, a friend of ours. He's doing the media for Governor Bush, a Democrat working for a Republican. There's Mark McKinnon. His spin of the day, as he's quoted in "The New York Times" this morning saying that you can't trust John Zogby poll from the state of Florida, because Zogby -- get this, Tucker -- he says, Zogby polls during the daytime, therefore he gets too many retired people at home.

To which I say, hello, Mark, when was the last time you were in Florida? I mean, that's what Florida is, Florida is leisure world. That's what you get when you call in Florida. It doesn't matter what time of day. But it's a nice attempt to discount the poll. And John Zogby is a good pollster.

CARLSON: Polling in Massachusetts, you just get too many Democrats. That's the problem.

PRESS: Too many Irish.

CARLSON: A self-delusion problem here.

We talked about another kind of self delusion problem last time. I think we called it candidacy psychosis. And there is a candidate we haven't talked about tonight, or any other nights, named Pat Buchanan. He's been put on the road a long time. How long has he been out? So long that he says things like this. Listen.


PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I do believe our message is getting across. I mean, I don't know anybody that's contradicting my ideas out there. When I say, bring the troops home from Bosnia and Kosovo to the United States, finally you see Mr. Bush picking up on those ideas. So I think our ideas are doing well but people see the Super Bowl as between Bush and Gore. It's very close, so they're focused on that rather the other candidates who are not even on the networks.


CARLSON: Now we could deconstruct this for years, but just three quick points: I believe my message is getting across, no one is contradicting me, and I don't get on TV enough. This guy was on CNN for close to 20 years. You know he's got high name I.D.

PRESS: You know, Tucker, I think maybe both of these independent candidates are into the hemp.

CARLSON: Oh, they're heavy into it. But the real surprise is that Pat Buchanan has been hitting the hemp. Yes, I mean, one wouldn't expect that.

PRESS: But you know, we are getting close to the end. I think we have to warn people tonight again, remind people that all the polls we talked about tonight and all of the poll numbers that we showed tonight could be wildly off because they were all taken before Perot endorsed George W. Bush.

CARLSON: Well, I think more to the point, they are not Kellyanne Fitzpatrick's secret polls. Read them in the newspaper, they don't make sense. The secret ones, they're true.

PRESS: They also were taken before the news of the DUI came out tonight, and we should mention, too, that when he was up for secretary of defense it was pointed out that Dick Cheney had some DUIs in his youth.

CARLSON: So it's the all-cocktail ticket. You know what, I think that's a selling point.

PRESS: The all-oil, all-DUI ticket. I don't know.

All right, folks, that's it for THE SPIN ROOM. Tomorrow night on SPIN ROOM we are going to open the phones. You drive the bus. You tell us what you want to talk about, real spin.

CARLSON: Drive the bus, amen.

PRESS: Amen.

CARLSON: And that's all the time we have for tonight. For Joie Chen in Atlanta, I'm Tucker Carlson. PRESS: And I'm Bill Press. THE SPIN ROOM is now closed until tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern. See you then.



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