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Countdown to Election 2000: The Last Day

Aired November 6, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The candidates approach the hour of decision. George W. Bush and Al Gore make strategic stops across the country and issue late appeals to those who harbor doubts.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Be patient, because help is on the way.



AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We going to win Iowa, and we're going to win the White House.


BLITZER: Tonight, we'll join our team of reporters on the campaign trail for late word on some of the last Bush and Gore events of election 2000. We'll check the newest polls and their potential impact on the electoral college. Republican senator and bush supporter, John McCain, will stop by. We'll also talk with the man who could make his own election day impact: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. And Gore deputy campaign manager Mark Fabiani will weigh in as well.

Our political analysts take voter questions on the House, the Senate, and the key races that could decide the balance of power in Washington.

All straight ahead on CNN, your election headquarters.

ANNOUNCER: "COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000: THE LAST DAY." From CNN Center in Atlanta, here's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Good evening from the CNN Center. The entire CNN election team is assembled here in Atlanta to bring you the most complete coverage before, during and after election day. And as we approach the final events of this campaign, here at CNN we've gathered a group of voters from around the country, who will take part in tonight's final "COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000."

Out on the campaign trail, the candidates are making a flurry of final appearances before heading home. George W. Bush started his day in Gore's home state of Tennessee, then he headed to rallies in Wisconsin and Iowa, before stopping off tonight in Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas. From there, Bush heads home to Austin, Texas.

Al Gore is in a multistate marathon of his own: This morning, he was in Iowa, then he held rallies in Missouri and Michigan. He then traveled south for a rally later tonight in Miami. Gore will vote in Tennessee tomorrow.

For the latest on the candidates, we join CNN's Jeanne Meserve in Austin and CNN's John King in Nashville.

First of all, to you, John, I noticed today when the Democratic candidate was out speaking, he had his usual tough words to say about the Republican challenger. Let's listen to what Al Gore had to say.


GORE: It is close, close, close. Now, that means that Michigan is even more important than ever and Flint may decide what happens in Michigan.


And -- and you personally may decide what happens in Flint.

Listen, there hasn't been an election like this in a long time.


BLITZER: All right, John, how does it look in Michigan right now, which by all accounts is one of those critical battleground states?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Gore campaign, Wolf - let me say quickly we're still in Michigan. We won't make it to Nashville for about 15 more hours. But in Michigan right now, the Gore campaign being told by organized labor, other operatives on the ground that the vice president is up two, maybe three points here. That means it comes down to turnout. They're confident they have a better ground operation here with the help of unions and with the help of just where the vice president is right now at this hour, speaking at an African-American church. Black turnout in Detroit, in Flint, in the urban areas critical. Union turnout throughout this state.

A great competition in play here. Many of these blue-collar union members also gun owners, who are getting mailings from the NRA. The vice president making clear in every speech now that while he supports some gun control, he's promising these hunters and sportsmen he would never take their gun away.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne Meserve, the Republican candidate seems to be a bit more confident in his public comments. Listen to what George W. Bush had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: We can take nothing for granted. We've got to make sure we work hard to turn out that vote. And while you're turning out the vote, make sure you talk to open-minded Democrats and independents, because, like us, they understand -- they understand that there's a better day ahead if we have a leader who's willing to unite the country to bring people together.


BLITZER: Jeanne, how confident are the Bush supporters?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are extraordinarily confident right now. They believe that they have racked up a number of the battleground states, including Florida. By their calculation, George Bush is in position to take 316 electoral votes tomorrow, well more than the 270 he needs to win that election.

But going back to the comments that George Bush made, he is making an overt effort to reach out to independents and Democrats, particularly socially conservative Democrats, many of them union members. He scored points with them with his anti-gun control and anti-abortion rights position. Today, he was putting his tax proposal in terms that they might find appealing. He said that his was an equitable approach unlike the vice president's targeted tax approach. He said, we need to put money in everybody's pocket -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne, stand by. John King, are the Gore folks all that confident behind the scenes right now?

KING: Well, they're not outwardly as confident, they're not bragging as much. You know, let's be candid, psychology always plays a big role here late in the campaign. I traveled with Michael Dukakis 12 years ago on this day when he was claiming he was going to win the election.

The voters will decide that tomorrow. The Gore campaign, frankly, nervous. Looked where he campaigned today: He was in Iowa, he was in Missouri, he is now in Michigan, all three of those states carried by Clinton-Gore twice, all three quite competitive this year, although they do feel much better about Iowa and Michigan in the closing days.

Yet turn the coin in this remarkably confusing campaign, we head tonight -- the vice president will campaign in Miami, overnight into Tampa. Florida a state many thought the Republican, George Bush, would win: very competitive.

Some Republican privately worried, some Republicans telling us in the past week they think that Gore has a pretty good shot there. Bush, of course, thinks differently.

BLITZER: What about that, Jeanne? Does the -- does the Bush camp think they can win not only Florida, as you said, but also Pennsylvania and Michigan?

MESERVE: They acknowledge that they've got more of a problem in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Florida -- Florida, though, they say their internal polling is showing them up about five points. They're very optimistic that they're going to take that one.

They're even expressing some hopes about California, that a state that many had expected to go for Al Gore. They think turnout there will be key. They have mounted a massive get-out-the-vote effort worth about $45 million. They think it may deliver many states to them, including, quite possibly, California -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, California would be a huge upset. Jeanne Meserve, John King, thanks for joining us out on the campaign trail.

I want to bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, who's been watching all of this.

First of all, Bill, let's take a look at the latest numbers in the polls, our own CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup gives Bush a slight edge, 47 to 45. The ABC News/"Washington Post" poll has Bush 48-45. Bush leads by four points in the CBS News poll.

But look at this, the MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby poll gives Gore a slight edge 48 to 46.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, everyone of those polls is within the margin of error. A few minutes ago, you heard the vice president say this is close, close, close. He's right, right, right.

BLITZER: When you say the margin of error, the last sample poll that we did had a much bigger sampling than the earlier polls.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. It only had a 2 percent margin of error. But in that last sample, we just saw, there was only two points difference between Bush and Gore, with Bush two points ahead. What that means is Bush could be two points lower, Gore could be two points higher, and it's consistent with Gore winning.

BLITZER: But even as important as these national polls are, the electoral college map that we're projecting is much more important. That has to be looked at carefully. What are the latest numbers in these electoral college map show us?

SCHNEIDER: Let's take a look. Remember, the magic number is 270. That's the number of electoral votes you need to win.

CNN's electoral map shows Bush leading in 26 states with 224 electoral votes, Gore leading in 12 states and the District of Columbia -- those are in blue on the map -- with 181 electoral votes. That leaves 12 toss-up states where the election is going to be decided. Those are in yellow.

The big ones: Florida with 125 electoral votes, Pennsylvania with 23, and Michigan with 18.

BLITZER: Well, what do the latest polls in those three states show us, since many believe those states are going to make the difference in determining who's the next president of the United States?

SCHNEIDER: Wolf, I have a poll in Florida that shows Bush slightly ahead. I have a poll in Florida that shows Gore slightly ahead. In Michigan, "The Detroit News" poll has Gore ahead by five. "The Detroit Free Press" poll has Bush ahead by one.

Pennsylvania, two polls show Gore ahead by three and six points, and one poll shows Bush ahead by two points. That is why these are toss-up states.

One more thing: Everyone of those three states has a Republican governor, so we'll see if Republican governors can deliver anymore.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a question from the audience. I think we have someone right here. Go ahead with your question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Wolf, the polls I think for the longest time have shown about a 4 percent lead for Bush, yet you all keep saying that it's a tight, close race. Why is that?

BLITZER: All right. Let's ask Bill Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: What's happening is that Al Gore is really rallying the Democratic Party base and he's picking up some Nader voters. Usually happens to a third party at the end of the campaign, a lot of them realize they're wasting their vote, they could be helping to elect the person they like least, which would be George Bush. So the Nader vote is going a little bit to Al Gore. He's picking up their support.

BLITZER: On that specific point, Bill Schneider, the Nader voters: There are four states -- toss-up states that we've been talking about where he could make a difference.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. For Nader to make a difference, he's got to be getting a pretty high vote and the race between Bush and Gore has to be very close.

What are those four states? We saw them in yellow before on the map: Maine in the far Northeast, Wisconsin in the middle of the country, and two states in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington. Those are all states where Nader could hold the balance between Bush and Gore.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, our audience here at the CNN Center. We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about after the break.

A few minutes with the man who gave Governor George W. Bush a run for his money earlier this year, Arizona Senator John McCain joins us from Oklahoma. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage of election 2000.

In the final hours ahead of Election Day, George W. Bush focused on his tax cut plan in several key battleground states.

Earlier today, I spoke with John McCain, who himself was once a contender in this election, for some insight into the Bush campaign.


BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks for joining us on our countdown to election 2000, our last countdown special.

I want to get right to what Al Gore said today. He spoke out, and he seemed to be echoing what you had often said when you were running for the Republican nomination.

Listen to what Al Gore said earlier today about George W. Bush.


GORE: We're at a fork in the road. We can go one direction or the other. We can continue the prosperity, we can balance the budget and pay down the debt -- I want to pay off the debt so these kids don't have that burden on their shoulders, so we can free them up to realize their potential.


BLITZER: Senator McCain, he's complaining about Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut. Has Governor Bush gone too far on that specific issue?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think that one of the things that has softened the blow of his proposed tax cuts is the continued increase in the surplus. But I also believe that Al Gore has proposed so many new government programs and such expansion of existing ones that he's spending the money in his direction as well.

So I think that Governor Bush is committed to paying down the debt and a viable Social Security program and saving Medicare. I didn't agree with him on the size of the tax cut, but I also believe we need to tax cut taxes for working families and eliminate the marriage penalty and the death tax and those things.

BLITZER: The other issue in which Gore seems to be on your side as opposed to Bush's, the issue probably closest to your heart right now, campaign finance reform. Do you think your legislation, the McCain/Feingold legislation, has a chance of getting through the Senate if George W. Bush is in the White House?

MCCAIN: Yes, I do. I have a discussed with Governor Bush the need to eliminate a lot of this soft money problems. The corporate and union contributions have gone.

The vice president has a certain credibility problem on this issue as well, especially because of the abuses of 1996. And we understand that renting out the Lincoln Bedroom goes on, only this time for Hillary Clinton rather than President Clinton and the vice president. So I believe we will have campaign finances reform no matter what. The system has lurched completely out of control. there's over a billion dollars that have been spent in negative TV attack ads, and the American people are sick and tired of it.

BLITZER: You know, it was a tough primary that you had, a tough battle that you had yourself with George W. Bush. But one thing you repeatedly said during those bitter weeks, those tough months of the New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan primaries, one of the things you said about George W. Bush was you didn't think he necessarily could beat Al Gore.

Listen, for example, to this little snippet that was often part of your stump speech. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: While polls are polls, they have consistently recorded that by large margins I can defeat Al Gore while George Bush cannot.


BLITZER: Do you still believe that to be the case, that Al Gore is going to win if he's running? Obviously, the election is only tomorrow.

MCCAIN: I don't, Wolf. I'm a better American and a better senator for having gone through a tough primary with Governor Bush. We had some differences, but we were operating within the parameters of the Republican Party. We share the same principles, value and philosophy. I believe that the American people, especially during the debates, saw a man in Governor Bush who is calm, confident and capable of being president of the United States.

In Al Gore, we saw three different Al Gores in three different debates. And I think the American people probably will decide tomorrow on the basis of their comfort level and their confidence, and I think Governor Bush wins.

BLITZER: Put on your hat as a political analyst -- and you've been around politics for a long time. You know the electoral college situation as we go into this vote tomorrow -- what does Governor Bush have to do in terms of specific battleground states? Must he win, for example, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

MCCAIN: I think he has to do very well there. I see that California is now within the margin of error, so we could see a big upset in California.

I think, though, that there will be a certain indications out of Pennsylvania and Florida. They'll be the first to report of the major battleground states. But we may be up very, very late on November 7th. The volatility of this campaign, I think you would agree with me, Wolf, as a long-time observer, we've never seen anything like this. No one can predict how it's going to come out. But Pennsylvania and Florida will be our first indicators. But as opposed to a month ago, California, Oregon and Washington are now in play, as well. So one thing I promise, we're going to be up late.

BLITZER: And finally, Senator, you're one of the most respected political figures in the country right now. You've known Al Gore for a long time. Joe Lieberman, other supporters of Gore, repeatedly raise questions about George W. Bush confidence. Are you raising questions about Al Gore's competence as we go into this election?

MCCAIN: No, I don't think that's appropriate. I respect Vice President Gore. And, by the way, there's no doubt in my mind about Governor Bush's competence. I wish we wouldn't get into this kind of thing. They're both good and decent men. We just have different philosophies. And also, I think, as I said before, Governor Bush is much more comfortable within himself. Al Gore, in my view, has not demonstrated to as much of a degree his competence to lead. That's what debates and campaigns are about.

But I think they're both good and decent men. I, obviously, strongly prefer Governor Bush, but I think we're now at a time where we ought to let the American people decide and respect their verdict, because this has been one heck of a ride.

BLITZER: I think we could all agree on that. Senator McCain, always great to talk to you. Thanks for joining us on our election eve countdown to election 2000. Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: And let's get some reaction to what Senator McCain just had to say. Go ahead with your comment, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that even though John McCain definitely supports Governor Bush, I believe it shows that he still has reservations on his candidate.

BLITZER: Why do you think he still has reservations?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems as if he wasn't really secure with his decision. He was going back and forth saying one thing, it's going to be a close race. And your other hand, by saying that, you know, definitely, I support Governor Bush.

BLITZER: Who do you support?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Gore, definitely.

BLITZER: Al Gore. All right, anybody else?

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name Phil Smith (ph). I'm a member of a group called the Concord Coalition. An I think one issue that we have looked at that is the bottom line on all these issues, is the issue of the projected surplus. And I use emphasis on the word projected, which a lot of people in the media and a lot of these candidates haven't been using. And all of their plans rely on just these trillions of dollars of surplus coming in some lottery payment. And they're acting like it's money in the bank.

If these surplus payments don't come in, whichever one of these candidates wins tomorrow, they're going to have egg on their face, because, you know, current levels of spending in Congress, discretionary spending is up. So, if it just stays at the current level that it has been for the past couple of years, two-thirds of this projected surplus, is going to be used up.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens to that projected surplus. We're going to take another quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. We want to hear from all of you as well during the course of this hour. But up next, in our Campaign 2000 special, we'll talk with the Gore camp on how the vice president is spending the final hours ahead of tomorrow's election. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Just a handful of points behind his opponent in most of the polls, Al Gore today focused on get out the vote efforts.

Joining us now from Nashville, Tennessee with some inside perspective is Vice President Gore's deputy campaign manager, Mr. Fabiani.

Mr. Fabiani, welcome to our COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000 special.


BLITZER: What are your biggest concerns right now? We heard earlier from McCain as well from our own Jeanne Meserve who's covering the Bush campaign that perhaps California may be in play in favor of George W. Bush?

FABIANI: That's wishful thinking on Governor Bush's part. Al Gore's position in California is solid because Al Gore agrees with Californians on the issues that are important to them: projecting the environment, protecting a woman's right to choose.

The Bush campaign ought to be worried. The latest poll that just came out, the Zogby Poll, a widely respected poll, shows that Al Gore has surged into the lead. He is now two points ahead. He's ahead in Florida. Al Gore's ahead in Pennsylvania. He's ahead in Michigan. And with the lead in the national polls now and a lead in those three big states, Al Gore's going to win this election tomorrow.

BLITZER: Well, George W. Bush, as you are probably not surprised here, strongly disagrees with you. He was in Gore's home state of Tennessee in Chattanooga earlier today. He had a little fun with Al Gore. Listen to what Bush had to say.


BUSH: I, of course, come from Texas and I plan on carrying my home state. My opponent vows to carry his home state. But he may win Washington, D.C., but he's not going to win Tennessee.


BLITZER: Why is it that at this late date, Tennessee, Al Gore's home state. appears to be very much in play?

FABIANI: Well, there are lot of states that are in play. But the fact is that Al Gore is leading in the states that matter the most to the popular vote and to the electoral college. And you know we welcome Governor Bush. He's wasted a lot of time in California, in New Jersey, in Tennessee. States that Al Gore is going to win.

You know, Governor Bush and his campaign are the same people that brought you the New Hampshire primary. Right up until the end, they said they were going to beat John McCain, that McCain was going to lose. And McCain ended up trouncing them in New Hampshire. That's what's going to happen tomorrow.

The Bush people may be picking out their drapes in the White House offices. They may be looking for real estate in Washington. But voters don't like that. Voters don't like to be prejudged by a candidate. That's what Bush is doing to them and I think they're going to be sad tomorrow at the Bush campaign when they see the results.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a question from one member of our town meeting here in Atlanta.

Go ahead with your question please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm curious how the relationship between Clinton and Gore has affected this campaign and if Clinton had campaigned more strongly for Gore what would the results have been.

FABIANI: Well, I think Al Gore, from the very beginning, made it clear he wanted to run as his own man with own vision for the future. And that's the way he's run the campaign. He didn't want it to be a referendum on the past even though the last eight years have been tremendously successful for this country. He wanted to run on his vision for the future. And Al Gore has run as his own man.

And that means the president's role on the campaign has been limited and we think that's the way it should be. The president has been helpful, of course, with fund raising, with get-out-the-vote efforts, but this is an election where people are going to decide whether they want Al Gore to be the next president and Al Gore has run it exactly that way.

BLITZER: Mark Fabiani, a lot of people think that for Al Gore to win he has to win a trifecta, in effect, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It's almost like drawing to an inside straight.

Is it that close? does he have to win all three of those states in order to be next president?

FABIANI: He doesn't have to. There are a variety of scenarios where AL Gore can win when he loses one of those states. As I said, the newest poll, the most recent poll, shows Al Gore now ahead in the popular vote by two percentage points. He's ahead in Florida. He's ahead in Michigan. He's ahead in Pennsylvania. We think we're going to win all three of those states and we're going to win the popular vote as well.

BLITZER: Mark Fabiani, it was good to join us, good of you to join us in Nashville on the eve of this election. Thank you so much.

Let's get a comment from somebody in the audience.

Go ahead please. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question. I'm curious as to why Vice President Gore believes that only certain citizens should get a tax break and why the government should decide who those people will be.

BLITZER: Well, I think Mark Fabiani is already gone. So, he can't answer that question.

But I could tell you what he would say. He would say that there is simply not enough money for everybody to get the tax cut. What he wants is targeted to those who need it the most. That's his standard answer when that question has come up many, many times.

Do you have a comment you want to make?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think an important issue to look at is going to be affirmative action and looking at the current state of affirmative action and understanding that Governor Bush seeks to modify that radically. We need to take -- we need to pay closer attention to what the Gore campaign is going to do with affirmative action, if anything.

BLITZER: What do you want the Gore campaign to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think Gore should modify affirmative action but he shouldn't modify it as radically as Bush is proposing, because I think a lot of people stand to suffer with radical modifications and the way Bush is proposing.

BLITZER: So, you favor the mend-it, don't-end-it policy that President Clinton put forward a few years ago.


BLITZER: Who else has a comment they want to make?

We've got someone over there. Hold on one second, let's wait for the microphone. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, I just want to say whoever is elected president -- of course I'm for Pat Buchanan -- but government spending is totally out of control, pork-barrel spending, and I think whoever is elected president ought to take a serious look at the government waste. It's totally unbelievable, out of control.

BLITZER: Government waste. I live in Washington, D.C., I've been covering Washington for a long time. I can testify there is plenty of government waste that all of the candidates should be taking a look at.

We have to take another quick break.

When we return, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader on his role in this race and his chances for tomorrow.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Joining me now, one of the nation's most influential private citizens-turned politician: Ralph Nader. He entered the political arena after making his name as a consumer advocate. He's now making his second bid for the White House, and he joins us from Boston.

Mr. Nader, a lot of people think that if you don't get 5 percent of the vote, which would enable you to get matching funds, federal matching funds four years down the road, that would be a defeat for your cause. Is that how you see it? You need to get that 5 percent threshold?

RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not at all. We're going to get 5 percent, but it's not anywhere near a problem. We're building a grassroots movement. This is an issue where people have got to grab the time to take back their country, invigorate their democracy and get these corporations off their back so they can stop keeping America down in one area after another.

We don't have universal health insurance, we don't have trade union rights worth anything in the private sector, we don't have crack down on corporate welfare that's bleeding the neighborhoods and communities of billions of dollars of what would be public investment in schools and clinics. There's lot of work to do here, and we're building a new political party with a political reform movement that's going to break through the tape in November and move to a watchdog role on the two parties and move towards majoritarian status in coming years.

BLITZER: As you know, the Gore campaign is clearly nervous that you could hurt them in several of those so-called battleground states, and the vice president in recent days has been speaking directly trying to address your supporters out there.

Listen, for example, to what he said earlier today.


GORE: The big oil companies, the chemical manufacturers, they are going all out to try to defeat me and my agenda. They would say, vote for George Bush or in any case vote for Ralph Nader.


BLITZER: The implication being that a vote for you is a vote that presumably would have gone for Al Gore.

NADER: What a joke. For eight years, he's surrendered to these very companies, pesticide, herbicides, biotechnology, HMOs, you name it. He's broken more promise on his environmental record than any politician in modern history. He's got the nerve to say he's entitled to other people's votes, such as mine, instead of earning them?

Let me tell you something, Wolf, that's very important here. He's going around the country trying to grab populist votes by saying he's going to fight big oil and big HMO and big insurance companies and big corporate polluters, to use his words. And his vice presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman, is going around the country saying, hey, business community, don't believe him. It's just impassioned rhetoric.

It was only a few days after the Democratic convention Joe Lieberman told Bob Davis of "The Wall Street Journal" that. Here you have the vice presidential candidate telling the business community, don't worry, it's just impassioned populist rhetoric by Gore. Don't believe him. That's part of the duplicity of the politics in Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: All right, Ralph Nader, we have a question here from our audience. Go ahead with your question for Ralph Nader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, Mr. Nader.

My question was kind of more towards someone who was not going to vote nor a Republican standpoint, that wouldn't vote Republican. I guess my question is, you know, how do you feel about being considered sort of the lesser of two evils, if you will, especially considering, you know, you don't really have much of a standpoint on foreign policy or anything of the sort.

NADER: We have a terrific agenda. Just look at our Web site, or It's more detailed, it's more forthright, it's based on 37 years of experience fighting for people in Washington. And that's a real test for any presidential candidate to me.

If you want to vote for the lesser of two evils, remember, at the end of the day you have evil. And if you want to vote for your conscience, your dreams, your interest, the way our forebears did when they broke through to new levels of justice, vote for the Green Party candidacy of Nader-LaDuke, which will be a watchdog in Washington right after election, telling those two parties if they don't start shaping up, they're going to shrink down in the future. That's who you get, a watchdog party right away.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader, this is a question a lot of people probably have asked you, but I'll ask it again. How will you feel Wednesday morning if you wake up, see George W. Bush narrowly won this election by taking enough votes in some of those battleground states where you were the decisive element, that you in effect helped George W. Bush become the next president instead of Al Gore?

NADER: I'll be disappointed if either Al Gore or George W. Bush wins. Only Al Gore could defeat Al Gore. And he's doing a pretty good job at that, it seems.

It's not my responsibility, Wolf, to run for president and try to elect the other candidate, just as it isn't their responsibility. We've all got to stand up and earn our votes from the American people. And on college campuses and university campuses and people all over the country who want real reform in Washington, give your vote to the real reformer with a track record, who's taken on these agencies and departments and the big business lobbyists who own them.

BLITZER: All right, let's take another question from the audience. Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Nader, I have an ethical question. How do you feel about your supporters in swing states trading their votes for Gore votes so that he could help win? Do you feel that's cheating the electoral college any?

NADER: I don't like that. I think it's imaginative, but frivolous and diversionary. In some states, it's unlawful, too. I think people should vote their conscious. You feel better the day after when you voted for someone you believe in rather than for someone you don't believe in who isn't as bad as someone else on the same ticket.

BLITZER: All right, one more question from the audience. You go ahead with your question, please, for Ralph Nader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ralph, there's been a whisper campaign, and the Gore campaign has denied any involvement in that questioning your morality, your integrity and your commitment to your principles. Do you think this is a deliberate attempt on their part to derail your campaign and drive those supporters over to Gore?

NADER: Oh, yes. It's typical Al Gore dirty tricks. Everybody in Washington knows he's a dirty politician. He did it against Dukakis when he raised the Willy Horton issue. That's what he does when he's desperate.

He kept me out of the debates. He hasn't got the guts to face me in person-to-person discussion. He brags about his environmental record being better than anyone else's, including mine. I gave him a list on our Web site,, of his environmental betrayals, offered to have a public discussion. He didn't respond. Al Gore is a legitimate political coward. He's a bully against the powerless and he's a coward in front of the powerful. And that's why people don't like him. They know he is not credible. As one reporter told me the other day, the two men, one is a -- one is a politician who's not very smart and another politician who's not very honest.

BLITZER: Ralph Nader telling us how he feels. Next time, you'll be a little bit more outspoken and tell us how you really feel. Thank you so much for joining us on this eve of election day from Boston.

And when we come back, we'll take a look at the House and Senate races that could shift the balance of power among Democrats and Republicans.


BLITZER: Congressional Republicans are in a tough fight to maintain their six-year-old hold on the House and the Senate. Joining me to discuss a possible shift in the balance of power, CNN political analyst Stuart Rothenberg and Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. She joins us from Los Angeles. She's a political analyst from California's Claremont Graduate University.

First of all, Stuart, let's go through some of these Senate races. Right now -- and we'll show it on the screen -- the Republicans, of course, have 54 Senate seats. The Democrats have 46. There are 19 Republicans up for election this time, 15 Democrats.

How does it look for the Democrats to become the majority in the Senate?

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's possible, Wolf, but I think they're going to fall just a little short. They're likely to pick up seats, somewhere between two and four. The fifth seat, that's very, very difficult.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a look at some of the most high- profile races up for grabs. An open seat in New York state, Hillary Rodham Clinton against Rick Lazio.

ROTHENBERG: Is there a race in New York? I hadn't noticed.

BLITZER: I heard about it.


BLITZER: But you know, maybe our audience here in Atlanta didn't hear about it, but go ahead.

ROTHENBERG: Well, look, Wolf, the polls suggest that Mrs. Clinton is ahead. She might be ahead by two points or four points. It could well be a race. I think you have to give her an advantage.

On the other hand, you have to recognize that unless she's up pretty close to 50 percent, she's not going to get a lot of the undecided vote.

BLITZER: There's an extraordinary race going on in Missouri. The late governor, Mel Carnahan, is still -- his name is still on the ballot. He's running against the incumbent senator, John Ashcroft, but Mrs. Carnahan, Jeanne Carnahan, says she's become the senator if he wins.

ROTHENBERG: And the most recent polls show the race a dead-heat. I don't know what to say. I've been doing political analysis for a while, and I've never seen a race like this. That's what the polls show, a dead heat.

BLITZER: One -- it's a very, very, I guess, apt way of discussing it, what's happening in Missouri right now. But in Delaware, there's an opportunity for the Democrats to gain a seat.

ROTHENBERG: Yes, now the polls there again show the candidates virtually even. This is Tom Carper and Senator Bill Roth. Privately, I think most insiders believe that Senator Roth is behind. It's going to be very tough for him to be re-elected.

BLITZER: Governor Tom Carper being a popular, much younger candidate right now. It's an opportunity for the Democrats in Delaware.

New Jersey, a multi-multimillionaire Jon Corzine, he's running against Congressman Bob Franks, a former congressman, in a very, very close race.

ROTHENBERG: Potential upset. This race is not supposed to be close. Corzine spent about $60 million, Corzine -- just a fraction of that. The polls show a three- or four-point lead, possibly for the Democrat. It could be a horse race.

BLITZER: And in Florida, a race widely watched, the Republican congressman, Bill McCollum, he was a House impeachment manager running against Bill Nelson, again a very close race down there.

ROTHENBERG: It wasn't supposed to be. Bill Nelson has been up by about 10 points for a while. The most recent polling suggests low single digits, yes. That could be a come-from-behind win for McCollum.

BLITZER: All right, in the House of Representatives, let's take a look at the balance of power that exists right now: 223 seats belonging to the Republicans, 210 Democrats -- seven-seat, in effect, difference. How likely is it that the Democrats will become the majority and that Dick Gephardt would be the next speaker of the House or Representatives?

ROTHENBERG: I'd say the chances are 50/50, Wolf. But if you make me go district by district, state by state, race by race, I think the Democrats may fall one or two seats short of the majority.

BLITZER: And we'll be talking a lot more about this tomorrow. You and I our partners on our balance of power desk. Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, you're following what's happening in California...


BLITZER: ... very, very closely. A lot of people think the Democrats could pick up four or five potential seats out in California. Is that your reading?

JEFFE: Well, you know, when it all is said and done, Wolf, it all comes down to turnout. I will tell you that the big four are the 15th congressional district, which is an open Republican seat, Tom Campbell's seat. Today, there seems to be some indication that Mike Honda, the Democrat, is a wee bit ahead. The 27th CD, that infamous Rogan seat, the seat of Jim Rogan, the House manager: Even Republicans out here have been ceding that seat to Democrat Adam Schiff. 36 in the South Bay, Steve Kuykendall, the Republican incumbent, who replaced Jane Harman, the Democrat, in a swing, moderate seat. Jane Harman wants it back. A tossup. The 49th in San Diego, Republican Bilbray versus Susan Davis, a member of the assembly. People here have been thinking it's sort of trending back a little to Susan Davis.

But let me tell you something, we won't know this until tomorrow. But the presidential race is tightening in California. We haven't seen hide nor hair of any advertising on the part of Al Gore. We finally saw him out here last week.

I'm wondering whether that absence is going to have an impact not only on energizing the Democratic base in terms of the presidential campaign, but in shorting his candidates for Congress. It will be interesting to watch tomorrow.

BLITZER: California maybe in play. We heard it from Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. We have to take another...

JEFFE: Well, wait a minute.

BLITZER: We didn't hear it directly from her, but she's saying that it's something we'll have to watch for as this election continues. I don't want to put words in her mouth.

We have a lot more to talk about with Stu Rothenberg and Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, and more questions from our voters here in our audience. Plus, we'll check on the weather tomorrow, which potentially could affect voter turnout in critical battle states. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our election eve town meeting here at CNN Center in Atlanta.

The weather often makes a difference in voter turnout, and it could be the key in this tight presidential race. When things are tight, anything could be the key. With a look at tomorrow's forecast, we turn to Karen Maginnis in the CNN weather center. What does it look like tomorrow, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've got some very interesting weather, Wolf, and even in some of those non-battleground states, especially across the Dakotas. It look like it's going to be fairly tricky here with near blizzard conditions, icing, snowfall. So, even though these look like they're pretty good as far as who we think it is going to go to, whether it's Bush or Gore.

In those yellow shaded areas, that's where we've got the toss-up states and across the Great Lakes and the Midwest some big problems. A very powerful storm system is moving across the plains states and this is where we're looking at wind gusts, perhaps high as 50 miles an hour.

Down in Florida, not a problem, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, that northeastern corridor looks fine. You might expect a few clouds but temperatures are going to be on the cool into New York City and Philadelphia. You're expecting fairly quiet weather conditions.

Let's go ahead and show you some of the key cities that we're anticipating could expect some rough weather. In Omaha, Des Moines, Bismarck, also for Minneapolis, those winds are going to kick up. You might see rain starting out and then it changes over to snowfall. But then breezy for Chicago. So, not a problem, but my suggestion is to go out early because the weather is going to deteriorate rather quickly.

Let's go ahead and take a look at your weather map coming up for the forecast and there is a storm system that is moving into the midwestern United States. Now, along the frontal system, look for some showers, maybe some thunderstorms. And the desert Southwest, we might expect even Albuquerque could expect some rain and snow. And in the Pacific Northwest, not really much of a problem, maybe a few clouds here and there. So, that's our wintry weather mix at least across the Midwest.

But if you are headed to Tucson or going to Seattle, watch out, the rain could be developing there as well, with lowering snow levels as well. That's your weather picture, now back to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Karen, thank you.

Despite the weather, I'm sure most people will go out and vote and suffer whatever consequences they have to suffer.

Very quickly, Stuart Rothenberg, is there any scientific evidence, historically speaking, that the weather is a big factor?

ROTHENBERG: Well, I can't think of a particular race, although, if you look at the map, Wolf, you see that if it rains or snows in a certain part of a state where there's a good Republican or Democratic vote, yes, in theory it could affect the contest, but I don't think there's a long history. We don't have a long list of races that are affected by snow or sleet or rain.

BLITZER: All right, let's get a question for our political analysts, or comment.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my name is Tony Simon (ph). I am here with the University of Georgia college Republicans and the Republican base is absolutely energized. I mean, we are pumped up and we're going to go to the polls rain, shine or snow. It doesn't matter. We'll vote in a typhoon tomorrow.

Do you think that the pollsters and the pundits have discounted or maybe not taken this into account when they're running these numbers, especially in the swing states up north?

BLITZER: Let's ask Sherry Bebitch Jeffe in Los Angeles. I don't think the weather is a problem out there.

But go ahead, how energized are people in California about this race?

JEFFE: It's interesting, Wolf, I've been to the Bush rally, the Gore rally, the Clinton rally, and I was surprised at the low level of energy at all three of them. Although the intensity is with the Republicans. But as someone pointed out to me, listen Sherry, it is L.A. So, maybe I'm not a fair indicator. Growing up in New Jersey, rain and snow meant Democratic weather on election day. In California, on those rare occasions it rains, it's Republican weather. Republican voters out here are high propensity voters. And they are going to be tomorrow.

BLITZER: Let's get another question or comment from our audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Steve Vilad (ph). I'm interested in knowing about where the Bush campaign stands on campaign finance reform. John McCain was so behind that when he was running his campaign and then all of a sudden that kind of dwindled. And it seems that the Bush campaign is not interested in that. And we elect -- it seems as though we elect a president on money and the Gore campaign at least stands up and takes issue to this, and is trying to make it to the American people that they want this reformed.

BLITZER: What about that, Stuart Rothenberg? How big of an issue is campaign finance reform? He's right. We haven't heard much about it on the stump these past several weeks.

ROTHENBERG: No, the candidates have talked a bit about it and they are contrasting positions and I think you're right in sensing that for the vice president it is a more urgent issue. He has bigger reform, a bigger picture reform. But the bottom line appears to be that relatively few people are basing their votes on that one issue. As a matter of fact, I can't think of very many individual issues where a lot of people are basing their votes.

Certainly, there are Democrats and Republicans that tell you they like one candidate's tax position or they like another one's position on patient's bill of rights or campaign finance reform. But I think for most Americans, they look at the two candidates, they get a sense of their values, a sense of their commitment to issues in general, a sense of the direction they want to take country and they vote that way. I just think it's very difficult to get one issue, certainly in a time like this of general affluence, one issue driving the electorate. So, I understand that you may well be concerned with that. You may base your vote on that. I think a few people do.

BLITZER: Stuart Rothenberg and Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, thank you so much for joining us.

Thanks to our studio audience. And thank you for watching this final COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2000. Please join us tomorrow for complete coverage of election night from 5:00 p.m. Eastern until all of the races are decided.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN Center. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.



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