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Special Event

President and Mrs. Clinton Vote in Chappaqua, NY

Aired November 7, 2000 - 7:46 a.m. ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we interrupt that commercial break to take you back live to Chappaqua, New York. As promised, you see there Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with her daughter Chelsea, stepping outside of the Suburban, and she is about to enter the polling station where she is going to be placing her vote.

We had understood that President Clinton was also going to be accompanying her, but we don't see him there. There he is, he was on the other side of the car. I guess he is not the important person this morning there.

Kelly Wallace has been following President Clinton and she, I believe, is going to be joining us.

Is Kelly there. Is Kelly available? Kelly, are you there? Can you hear us?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can. Can you hear me?

HARRIS: Got you. Go for it!

WALLACE: Got you. Yes, you just saw President Clinton and his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea arriving at this elementary school in Chappaqua, waving to a crowd assembled outside.

Leon, this is an interesting day for the first family because the roles are -- as the president said, Hillary Clinton is now the candidate of the family. She will be coming here. Obviously we know who she and her family will be voting for. She is hoping to make history as the first first lady to be elected to the United States Senate.

The president, Leon, facing the first time in 26 years where he himself is not on the ballot.

Coming up on Air Force One last night up to Chappaqua, the president said he had a good feeling going into the election, he predicted that his wife, Hillary, would win the U.S. Senate and that Al Gore would win as well.

When we asked him, Leon, if he was going to miss not being on the ballot, he said a little bit, but he said that he has really enjoyed this campaign, enjoyed working for the vice president and for Hillary. He said he has had his time. So he is looking forward to this day. We also asked him if it is going to the tough when he faces the fact that he will be a lame duck as of Wednesday. The president said, well after 1995, some people thought he was a lame duck, but he said, quote: "I kept on quacking." And he said he has another -- needs to keep quacking focusing on things such as dealing with Congress, going to Vietnam and Middle East peace talks. So this president planning to work until this final day in office -- Leon.

HARRIS: Just out of curiosity, Kelly, as we are looking at this picture from the inside of the polling center, we've -- I don't think I have ever seen the process of a president walking into a polling station and placing his vote, is he going to have to wait in line with everyone else or do you think they are clearing the whole room out, or what?

WALLACE: Well, right now, it doesn't appear to be that there are a lot of people there. I don't think that they are clearing people away. The people that are coming in are basically signing up and heading in to cast their votes.

So I think -- there doesn't appear to be people waiting in line there, so I think when the first family, when they enter the school, they will just basically sign up and do what everybody else is doing today, go ahead and vote. And obviously, Leon, there is no surprise about who they will be voting for today.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: No surprise at all. Kelly, this is Carol Lin.

I'm just wondering if you sense, traveling with the president, that he is feeling a little wistful today?

WALLACE: Well, that is what we asked him last night, Carol, he actually was in really good spirits on the plane. He did not seem sort of wistful, he didn't seem sort of down or depressed, he actually seemed in quite good spirits and very relaxed and we asked him that very question: Are you going to be a little wistful going into this day? And he said, you know, a little bit. But really he seemed pretty excited about this campaign and about the first lady's chances and about the vice president's chances.

He also, though, as you know, Carol, of course, loves to dissect campaigns. He thought that turnout would be key for the Democrats, he said that if African-Americans and Latinos and first-generation immigrants and working-class people get to the polls in good numbers that would be good for Democrats, including Hillary and the vice president.

LIN: Did he feel like he had enough of a role in Al Gore's campaign in trying to make his own pitch for his vice president to win this election?

WALLACE: Well, a lot has been made about that fact, about whether or not the Gore team should have used the president more to get out the vote and build excitement for the vice president. Again, the president taking a lot of questions from us last night. We asked him that very questioned about whether or not he thought that the Gore team should have used him more and he thought any of those reports, he said pretty much, he said, way overrated. He felt that he was out this weekend in Arkansas, New York, the president telling us that no matter where he went, basically his message was getting out there, his signal was getting out there, and at the same time he felt that the vice president also needed to make his own case to the American people and present his own agenda.

So the president saying, in his own words, he thinks that the vice president had the best of both worlds, he had the president going out there a bit, but that the vice president himself was making the case for himself...

HARRIS: Well speaking of them getting out there and making cases and what not, do we know anything at all about what the first lady and what President Clinton are going to be doing after they place their vote, are they going to be going out and making any appearances or doing any radio calls or anything like that?

WALLACE: Well absolutely, actually, before the president came here, Leon, the president was on the phone doing radio interviews. We understand that he talked to some radio stations in New York City, in Philadelphia. The president basically trying to encourage people to get to the polls today.

He made about 20 calls to radio stations yesterday trying to focus on some battleground states and areas where these elections are going to be quite close.

We understand that after the first family basically casts their votes, I believe the first lady is expected to head into Manhattan. The president, though, will go to his home here in Chappaqua. He is expected to stay there for most of the day and then go into Manhattan, join the first lady for some event where she will be thanking her volunteers and supporters, and then basically they will be watching the election results with everybody else at a hotel in Manhattan. And certainly, we expect to hear from the president probably later tonight after the results come in.

HARRIS: On your ride on the plane there, talking with the president. We know that he has been watching very closely both of these races. What insight did he give you about how his wife Hillary's campaign is going to be like, did he talk about that much at all?

WALLACE: It's funny, last night the focus was a little bit more from reporters on the vice president's race. But he did say that he thought the first lady would win. He did say, over the weekend, Leon, when he was doing some appearances in New York City, that this campaign, he said, was even amazing to himself, and he said he has been out there quite a bit, he obviously thought that the first lady did face a pretty tough campaign, but he was impressed with how she did, he said she passed every test. So the president feeling confident about her chances. But he is more inclined to talk about the vice president. It was interesting, he said that both the vice president and Governor George Bush ran good campaigns, according to the president, he said especially in the last few weeks both candidates did quite well.

But the president thinking that in the end the voters are going to go the way -- going to go with Gore. The president thinking that people think the country is moving in the right direction and they are not going to want to make any changes.

HARRIS: And does it look like they are campaigning to the very end? Folks who are just joining us, who are just tuning in, may be wondering what this scene is. This is a scene inside a polling station in Chappaqua, New York.

And finally now, they have entered the room. You see there President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter Chelsea have just now entered the polling station. It took them, what, all of about maybe seven minutes to get in from outside after they got out of the Suburban?

LIN: Hillary Rodham Clinton doing some last-minute campaigning outside before she turns in her own ballot.

Is Chelsea Clinton registered yet to vote in New York?

WALLACE: I believe, I believe that she is registered here. I'm not 100 percent sure about that. I know that the president certainly registered here in New York. Yes absolutely, see her registering now her name there, so she is.

It is, again, to repeat the point we made at the top, it really is quite an interesting day for this family, that President Clinton has been the candidate in this family for the past 26 years. He basically has been the one doing the campaigning, the one on the ballots, the one Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea have been supporting.

And now roles are definitely reversed, the first lady is the one on the ballot. The president will be basically acting as a supporter, casting a ballot for his wife. It is definitely an interesting change for this family, something the president definitely commenting on last night.

HARRIS: And this is quite an interesting picture, it has struck me, as we saw the president there speaking, shaking hands with the little children who were accompanying their parents as they were voting. Is that something of a civics lesson, or what, for those young children who are in there? They are going to see something important to take place, their parents are actually placing votes and participating in the process and who walks in but the president and the first lady?

WALLACE: I think it has really been interesting, obviously, for the people of Chappaqua, of course, this community about 45 minutes outside Manhattan. You have the president of the United States and the first lady purchasing a home here. You have the first lady running for the U.S. Senate, making history, the first time a first lady is running for elected office. You have the president winding down two terms in the White House...

LIN: Kelly, we've lost your phone connection there. Can you hear us?

WALLACE: I can hear you.

HARRIS: Yes, I think we were in a funny cell area. Go ahead, Kelly.

WALLACE: Yes, it has been a lot for people here in Chappaqua not only, you know, have the Clintons picked a home here, you have the first lady trying to make history, running for the U.S. Senate. And then you have the president winding down, after two terms in office, also with the -- potentially one of the closest presidential races in years. So this town has gotten a lot of attention, a lot of reporters coming here, a lot of satellite trucks, people here have been very nice, but it has obviously been an adjustment for them as well.

HARRIS: And the reception that you have seen them getting there. I assume it has been pretty much all positive?

LIN: It has been. I mean, I think that there were times certainly when there were -- when the first lady actually officially stepped into the race back in February, and there were reporters everywhere. I think it was probably a big adjustment to this community. But they have been getting pretty much a lot of support, and I think that people overall are very excited about the attention this community.

HARRIS: You know, I know reporters there who travel with the president have to maintain their professionalism and to keep the guard up. But you talked a moment ago about how the president might be expressing some wistfulness at this point in his career, what is the sense there among the corps? It seems as though, you know, there was something of a bond that this man has developed with a press corps that has been following him around for some time?

WALLACE: Yes, I mean, I think it is exactly the same way, I think people just sort of have watched him, He is known to be and people have covering him for years as a legendary campaigner, a master politician.

Well, here goes, Leon, actually this moment is quite interesting. There is the first lady entering into -- behind the curtain, clearly a big moment for her. I just want to say obviously this is the first time she is really facing the voters in a general election. She has obviously worked with the president in the administration eight years as the first lady, worked with him when she was in Arkansas, but she has never, outside of the primary a few months ago, she has never been tested by the voters. And this will be a big moment for her, if the voters of New York State put her in office, it will be in some ways a validation for her about her service and her agenda and her ideas for this state. It's a big moment. But going back to the president there. Well, there he goes now into this, behind this curtain. I think reporters feel like he is a master politician, a legendary campaigner and he did his last rally in Arkansas yesterday, his home state. Many reporters commenting that this will be sort of the last time we'll be seeing him do this, kind of campaigning as a president, and something he is so good at most people say.

LIN: And a president with a very personal touch. Kelly, I've heard people who worked with him, as well as members of the press corps. have noted that oftentimes he might come up and just ask about your family and see how you are doing and really take the time to talk to people even amongst his own staff and his own Secret Service agents.

WALLACE: Yes, he has been, as you say, a lot more accessible these days over the past few months, when maybe attention was more centered on the presidential race, Vice President Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The president seems to be much more accessible, coming up to reporters after events in the Rose Garden. He would take a ton of questions, 12, 15 questions, and yes, coming up and talking to reporters, certainly after the convention he talked to us a little bit about what he thought of his speech, about Vice President Gore's speech, about the campaign. So he has definitely become more accessible. He always enjoys talking about politics.

LIN: Vintage Clinton right now.

HARRIS: Yes, talk about accessibility. Now, moments ago, we were wondering aloud whether or not Chelsea Clinton was registered there and it appears that maybe she is not, we did not see her go into that voting booth.

WALLACE: That's right. We'll have to get that answer for you, Leon, I'm not clear on that exactly. So I would have thought that she was -- I believe, yes, I'm not sure about that one, I'll have to.

LIN: She took this year off from school didn't she, Kelly, to help her mother campaign in New York?

WALLACE: Absolutely. She basically, she goes to Stanford, and basically took, I believe, it was the trimester off so that she could do two things, basically help her mother in this historic campaign, but also basically be with her father in the remaining months of his time in the White House. Basically she has a front seat on history, she participated in going to Camp David and watching the Middle East peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians; she has traveled with the president to Japan. She is basically there as a supporter, somewhat of an adviser, and also basically just watch these remaining days, a chance she won't ever have again, obviously, after January 20th.

HARRIS: It looks like one of those campaign rope lines right now, doesn't it? LIN: No rope, though.

HARRIS: Again, never passing up an opportunity to campaign. We see President Clinton hard at work pressing the flesh after passing, or actually posting his vote, and we assume that he voted for his wife just moments ago there in Chappaqua, New York.

We are still inside the polling station, and it looks like it took them awhile to get in, it is going to take them awhile to get out.

LIN: And awhile for those people to be able to vote and get out to work today.

HARRIS: Have you had a chance to listen to the local radio, any of the talk up up there, Kelly, since you have been there, I know you have only been there few hours?

WALLACE: Right, exactly, and we got in so late and the president talked on the plane, so yes, we have not really heard much. The state has been getting a ton of attention on radio and television and print. The "New York Post," the "New York Daily News" probably had Hillary Clinton or Rick Lazio on the front page, oh, how many times? It's hard to say. But it is getting a ton of attention up here.

HARRIS: Have you seen any of the headlines this morning on the newspapers?

WALLACE: You know, again, I have not, unfortunately. Just "USA Today." So I have not see the cover of the "Post" or the "Daily News" either interestingly.

HARRIS: It's understood. We know you work for a living and you have had to work quite a bit in the last few hours.

WALLACE: Exactly. Exactly. But it clearly is a race that has gotten a ton of attention up here.

HARRIS: Now do we know where they are off to when they leave this particular room?

WALLACE: Yes, I think what they will do is after they leave here they will -- the president is expected to head back to his home in Chappaqua. The first lady is likely to be heading into Manhattan basically to be meeting, I guess, with her supporters, her volunteers. The president will meet up with her later in the day.

LIN: Do you know if the president plans on talking with his vice president at some point today?

WALLACE: We would imagine so. I mean, basically, the White House saying that the president sort of keeping a low profile for this day, other than doing some of these interviews, trying to encourage people to get out and vote.

Certainly we will be watching the results, most likely, of course, we will be talk to the vice president when any results are in and could make some comments after these results come in, both about the first lady's performance and also about the vice president.

HARRIS: You know, we have been talking off and on the last couple of days about how this -- the results for his protege may actually be affected by the weather or Ralph Nader. Did President Clinton talk about either of those at all on the plane, Kelly?

WALLACE: No he didn't, Leon. But it was interesting, a couple of days ago, the president was in California, and he was asked about this by reporters about whether he thought that, you know, supporters for Ralph Nader are, in effect, throwing their votes away since Ralph Nader really has clearly not a big chance of winning this.

The president said that is really for those individual Ralph Nader supporters to decide. But he did say he believes that only one of two men will be elected president, either Vice President Gore or Governor Bush. And he said, when you compare the two men and their records, and their -- particularly their records on the environment, the president saying that Al Gore wins hands down. He was certainly hoping that Ralph Nader supporters get that message.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much, Kelly Wallace reporting live from Chappaqua, New York, where, as we just show you, President Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first first lady to run for office, just cast their ballots.

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