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Election 2000: Presidential Race too Close to Call; Florida Still Counting Absentee Ballots

Aired November 8, 2000 - 5:32 a.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This is the vote with 97 percent of the precincts reporting across the United States, Al Gore in the lead in the popular vote, 47,827,000 to George W. Bush's 47,551,000, an almost 300,000 vote difference.

In the state of Florida, where it is all messed up, if you'll excuse the colloquialism, George W. Bush in the lead 2,905,000 to Al Gore 2,904,000; they both are at 49 percent. It is so close they are counting the absentee ballots, and we're told there's a good chance they're going to start a complete recount. We don't have that official notification yet.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Under a 1000 vote margin in the Florida vote, about 275,000 votes pro-Gore, plus Gore, and the national vote, and with a few million votes outstanding.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this is the 13th hour of CNN's worldwide live coverage of election 2000.

Let's check in with two primary correspondents who have been on the story not only throughout the night, but throughout the year, and most of last year.

First to John King in Nashville, Vice President Gore's campaign.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, the vice president has now finally gone to bed. We've been searching all-night into the early morning hours now for words to describe all this: amazing, incredible, remarkable. How about unbelievable?

Here at the Gore campaign tonight, initially elation in the crowd here, when we first called Florida and said the vice president was going to win that state, then it was pulled back, and it appeared Gov. Bush would win the electoral majority, depression struck through here, the crowd turned glum, then again, pulled back just as the vice president was coming here to concede.

And let's tell you how close he came. He was two blocks away from this site. He had already called Gov. Bush and said he was conceding the election, when he received a phone call, his chief of staff then received a phone call, and he was told by the field director do not concede, the numbers being reported on television in Florida are not consistent with what we're being told by the secretary of state.

So the vice president called off plans to concede. His campaign chairman called the Bush campaign chairman. Then the vice president called Gov. Bush back and most remarkably of all retracted the concession he had phoned in to Gov. Bush just a short time before.

Everyone here, a crowd of hundreds waiting in the rain, freezing cold waiting to find out what was going on, expecting the vice president, instead stepping out before the microphone, the campaign chairman Bill Daley.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Without being certain of the results in Florida we simply cannot be certain of the results of this national election.

Let me add that Vice President Gore and Sen. Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and to support Gov. Bush if and when he is officially elected president. But this race is simply too close to call, and until the results, the recount is concluded and the results in Florida become official, our campaign continues.


KING: Not long after that statement, the vice president, Al Gore, his Democratic running mate, Joe Lieberman, they returned to their hotel, some senior staff meetings there involving the two candidates, then the candidates left, off to bed they went; some Gore staffers still meeting into the early morning hours now. Unclear now the morning after who won the U.S. presidential election. All we do know is whoever is declared the winner of the state of Florida will be the next president of the United States. We just don't know who that is or when we will have official word.

Back to you.

SHAW: John King, from you to Candy Crowley.

Candy, what is the up to the hour situation in Austin, Texas?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are watching and counting the Florida votes, making phone calls, the staff has been up all night, trying to get a handle on that, but basically, like the Gore campaign, the Bush campaign is in a state of suspended animation. There is no place to go from here, there are no more speeches, no more balloons, no more confetti. They're sitting around waiting for the people in Florida to figure out who won this election and evidently do this recount.

So plans for the governor to hold a news conference tomorrow have been put on hold. They are very unclear as to what they might do, not because they are not telling us, but because they don't know what to do. This all began to unfold, of course, late last night, right after Bill Daley gave his speech to the Tennessee crowd. His counterpart, Don Evans, campaign chairman for the Bush campaign, gave his alternate view of things.


DON EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Gov. Bush and Secretary Cheney asked me to thank you for all of your terrific support and hard work. We hope and believe we have elected the next president of the United States.

The latest count -- latest vote count in the state of Florida shows Gov. Bush winning that state by more than 1200 votes. They're still counting, and I'm confident, when it's all said and done, we will prevail.

Thank you again for all your hard work and all of your efforts, and we look forward to a great celebration. God bless.


CROWLEY: To the end or in this case the near end, a confident Bush campaign still believing that Florida will be theirs, when it's all over.

They point out that the overseas votes, that is the mail-ins which have 10 days to come in to Florida, generally trend heavily toward Republicans. The still believe they're going to get that, but until they have that official count, no one can know. Again they are very much influx as is the Gore campaign...

GREENFIELD: OK, thank you, Candy Crowley.

I just want to show you folks the terrors, the damnation that the newspapers have been going through. "Atlanta Constitution": "Gore, Bush Battle to the Wire.; Second edition, "Bush is Declared the Winner, Florida Turns the Tide"; Third edition, "Bush is Said to Win, but Florida Vote is Questioned."

19th-century technology in a 21st century age can be as bedeviling as 21st century technology in a 21st century age.

WOODRUFF: On the other hand, if you were looking at the Internet, or watching television or listening to the radio, you were right up-to-the-minute.

GREENFIELD: Which meant...

WOODRUFF: Well, we do...

SCHNEIDER: ... operations as well.

WOODRUFF: We don't want to give them to hard a time. No, no.

SHAW: Well, that was one major question we sought to answer last night, still cannot answer at 5:40 a.m. Eastern time. Another question involved the composition of the United States Congress, the balance of power.

Let's again go to Wolf Blitzer for the latest.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, we've been spending all night, all morning looking at the balance of power. Let's take a look at the U.S. Senate, see where it stands right now. Right now, of course, everyone remembers there were 35 Republican holdovers coming into this race, 31 Democratic holdovers, 15 Republicans have now won this evening, 17 have now won; that gives the total number of Republicans in the U.S. Senate 50, Democrats in the U.S. Senate 48, two undecided.

Now, who are those two undecided seats? In Michigan, Spencer Abraham, the incumbent Republican, he's barely behind Debbie Stabenow, the Democratic congresswoman, a very, very close race. We cannot yet call this race, Debbie Stabenow slightly ahead of Spencer Abraham.

In Washington state, Sen. Slade Gorton and Debbie Cantwell, the Democratic challenger, this race we had earlier thought Debbie Cantwell would win -- that Maria Cantwell, but now we have decided that because of the recount in the state of Washington, this race is now too close to call.

Stuart Rothenberg, even if both of these Democrats win, it will be 50-50, and that won't be enough, though, for a Democratic majority.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: No, Wolf, the Republicans will still control the Senate, but it's really interesting that these two particular race should come down right to the end with us unable to pick a winner.

I have been talking to Republican and Democratic operatives in these two states in these two races for some time, and it is interesting that in both cases, the Republicans told me that they were well ahead, and they felt comfortable that their candidates would win. The Democrats told me the exact same thing about their candidates. As it turns out, neither of them are right.

BLITZER: And for some of our viewers who may just be getting up this morning, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the winner in New York state over Rick Lazio.

ROTHENBERG: Certainly a high-profile race, and many of us would have thought that that would have been the number two headline to this presidential race, but what's happened to the presidential contest has so overshadowed everything and everything else that we almost forgot about Mrs. Clinton. Obviously it makes her a national player, and New York a terrific platform for anybody, but particularly if, in this case, Al Gore falls short, Mrs. Clinton of course could get a lot of attention.

BLITZER: Two incumbent Republicans did go down to defeat, Rod Grams in Minnesota, Bill Roth in Delaware.

ROTHENBERG: And they were both regarded as the most vulnerable Republicans this cycle. We'll have to see whether other Republicans join them, but this was not a stellar year for the Republican Senate class. It was combination of freshmen and some veterans who went down, vulnerable Republicans and good Democratic challengers.

BLITZER: One Democratic incumbent went down to defeat, Sen. Chuck Robb in Virginia.

ROTHENBERG: Well, George Allen proved to be an extremely attractive challenger. He was conservative in a conservative state, but he's also a very likable, gregarious, outgoing, happy guy with an attractive family, he showed them in the ads.

Chuck Robb, rather stiff, attempted to make the election about issues and about Allen's record, he didn't succeed. And I think all along Allen had the advantage.

BLITZER: As a result, Trent Lott, who easily was re-elected tonight in Mississippi, he will remain the Senate majority leader. Let's take a look at the House of Representatives, the balance of power as we know it right now: 215 Republicans as of this minute, 207 Democrats, 11 still outstanding, two independents as we all know. But of those 11 undecided, the Republicans only have to win three in order to have their 218 majority.

ROTHENBERG: Right. And they look as though they will win a handful of those, Clay Shaw is ahead in Florida, though very narrowly...


ROTHENBERG: ... the Democrats are going to pick up a number of these seats, they're going to make a net gain in the House; it may be one seat, two seats, three, or even four, but the Republicans are going to hang on.

BLITZER: In the House of Representatives, the speaker of the House of Representatives will continue to be Dennis Hastert. We still have one gubernatorial race that is still up in the air. There were 11 races, but in Missouri, Bob Holden, the Democrat, Jim Talent the Republican, take a look at these numbers, a very, very close race in Missouri, with 97 percent of the vote in Missouri. We just don't know yet who will be the next governor of Missouri.

ROTHENBERG: One interesting tidbit that again, Chris Quarino (ph), our cracked producer, researcher, has dug up. Since 1976, the party that has won the presidential race in Missouri has also won the governorship.

Now, George W. Bush carried Missouri, but at the moment the Democrat, Holden, is leading in the race for governor. So we might have a little bit of history made there.

BLITZER: Stuart Rothenberg, you are one of the most respected political analysts in Washington, you have been studying politics almost your entire professional career. Have ever seen anything like this in your political experience?

ROTHENBERG: Well, Wolf, I think we've been standing here 12, 13, 14 hours, whatever it is, I may look as if I was born in 1876 and that memorable presidential contest, but I wasn't. But it's hard for me to believe that any political analyst, political observer in America has seen a political contest like this since 1876.

BLITZER: And the presidential contest still up in the air even as we speak.

ROTHENBERG: Well, we've seen races, the presidential contest, Senate races go back and forth, calls made having to be pulled. This is amazing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing for me too, and basically for all us who have the privilege to cover the story.

Back to guys on the national desk.

WOODRUFF: Yes, right you are, Stu, it is not settled yet.

We are going to go to a break, and when we come back we have a few things to say, but not many. Will be back.

GREENFIELD: As little as possible, actually.



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