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Election 2000: Presidential Race Too Close to Call; Senate Control Still Unresolved

Aired November 8, 2000 - 7:00 a.m. ET



WILLIAM DALEY, GORE NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: Until the results -- the recount is concluded and the results of Florida become official, our campaign continues.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: William Daley, the national chairman of the Gore campaign. This race is too close to call in the U.S. presidential race, and this morning no winner declared in the race for the White House.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Instead, a new page in American political history that can only be described as bizarre.

It is now just after 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast, just after 4:00 a.m. on the West Coast, and this is Wednesday, November 8.

LIN: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is EARLY EDITION.

HARRIS: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers both in the United States and our international viewers joining us at this hour. I'm Leon Harris.

LIN: And I'm Carol Lin.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: And in the nation's capital, holding its breath, I'm Frank Sesno.

LIN: Good morning, Frank.

SESNO: Good morning to you both.

HARRIS: Lots of folks holding their breath this morning. And those who are getting up now, if you're just waking up, here's what we can tell you right now. We've just been through an election night like no other in American history.

LIN: That's right. Now, here's what we cannot tell you: the name of the next president of the United States. And we don't even know at this very moment when we can tell you who won because the ballots are still being counted and it is going down to the wire, literally a difference of hundreds of votes right now between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

HARRIS: All right, so let's go right to the latest vote totals and show you just how incredibly close this race is. Looking here now, with 98 percent of the general election being counted, all the votes across the country, you can see here Al Gore taking in 49 percent of what's been called the popular vote and Gov. Bush bringing in 48 percent -- very close margin there.

LIN: Now, of course the president is elected in the Electoral College system with 270 votes needed there for victory. Right now, Al Gore has 260 votes that includes, now, the state of Wisconsin with 11 electoral votes. Two states, though, are still too close to call: the state of Florida, with 25 critical electoral votes, and the state of Oregon.

HARRIS: That's right. And Florida with its 25 electoral votes is the state that will put the presidential winner over the top. But with some absentee votes and some results in a few counties still outstanding, the race in the Sunshine State is still too close to call.

Look here at our latest numbers from Florida. We see here our totals here show with 100 percent of precincts reporting George W. Bush, the governor from Texas, coming in with 49 percent, and Vice President Al Gore also with 49 percent, their vote totals being separated only by some 1,500 or 1,800 votes. It is very, very close.

Now, we have seen these numbers. Now let's here from the campaigns.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is covering the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas this morning. Let's go to her now live -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, this campaign is in a state of suspended animation. There has been no acceptance speech, there has been no concession speech. A press conference scheduled for later today has now been canceled. Gov. Bush has retired. You might have expected to know who won this election when you woke up this morning. He probably knows better than to expect that after the excruciating night that he has been through.

Early in the evening, Florida was called for Al Gore, then it was put back into the Bush column. He was called the winner of the state and also the winner of the race. A call was made by Al Gore to Gov. Bush conceding the race, and then Al Gore called back a bit later and said, well, wait a minute, I think we're not quite ready to do this. And so Bush, who had been all set to accept, had to back off. The state went into the undecided column. A recount in Florida now appears to be the scenario and the outcome of this state and of this entire election still very much in doubt, as you have said.

Early in the evening when Florida was put into the Gore column, reporters and photographers were allowed up into the governor's mansion. At that point, Mark McKinnon, the media adviser for the Gore campaign, described the mood as dark. He said the lights went out. Bush himself indicated that he had some questions about the Florida tally. He told reporters who were president, wait just a minute.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm upbeat. I don't believe that some of these states that they've called, like Florida -- I just don't believe they've got enough evidence to be able to call the state. We're actually counting the votes. And, as I told you, in some of these counties where we had vote total projections, we're doing better than we thought and -- but I feel fine.


MESERVE: Well, it turns out the governor had foreshadowed things correctly. The state of Florida was put back in the Bush column and then put in the undecided column. It was at that point when things appeared very much in turmoil that Don Evans, the chairman of the Bush campaign and also a longtime friend of Gov. Bush, came over here to the state capitol where thousands had waited through the night in the cold and in the rain to hear from the governor. Here's what Don Evans had to say to them.


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


The latest count -- the latest vote count in the state of Florida shows Gov. Bush winning that state by more than 1,200 votes. They're still counting, they're still counting, and I'm confident, when it's all said and done, we will prevail.


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


MESERVE: And the line from the Bush campaign has not changed. They believe they will prevail. They are looking particularly at the absentee ballots, which they think will turn their way, particularly the overseas absentee ballots. There were about 2,300 of these cast back in '96 and they tended to go Republican. They think the same will hold true this year and may give Bush the edge in Florida and, of course, if he wins Florida, he wins the whole shooting match.

Back to you, Leon.

MESERVE: Well, Jeanne, is confidence high there on that particular point? because going into last night, I remember them talking about perhaps up to as many as 100,000 of the absentee ballots that had been requested in Florida had been going to potential Republican voters?

HARRIS: I would say, Leon, that the view here is very -- I would call it optimistic. I'd say the line that you just heard from Mr. Evans is the line they are taking this morning: We believe we will prevail. They believe those absentee ballots are going to be the key.

Let me tell you, Leon, a couple of things I saw last night amongst the supporters here. I was leaving the hotel where the Bush party was going on and I asked a few people at that point when Florida had been put in the Gore column how they felt. They said they felt professional. One individual said, we're feeling Churchillian. And I asked him what that meant, and he said that means we're never going to give up.

Then later in the night, I got back to the Four Seasons Hotel just as Florida had been put back into the Bush column. Things were going wild that Bush, who had been there, jumped into a car and was being driven over here. People were pouring out of the hotel into limousines and into busses to come over here to hear what they thought was going to be a victory speech by George W. Bush. Then I came back over here this morning. All is dark, all is empty, all is cold, everybody just waiting, waiting, waiting to see what's going to happen. And as you've heard, we may not know this morning. We may not know for days.

HARRIS: We may not know for days. All right, well, we'll let you get inside and get warm for the time being.

Jeanne Meserve reporting live this morning from Austin, thanks much. We'll get back to you later on -- Carol.

LIN: All right, so it was bad enough for the reporters trying to cover this, so imagine being Al Gore. You finally decide that it's over, you call the race, you call Gov. Bush, you congratulate him only to find out that the tide is once again turning in the state of Florida.

Well, we understand that the vice president has finally gone to sleep after being up for nearly two days. But our Jonathan Karl is still standing on its feet, live in Nashville -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, unbelievable here in Nashville. The mood has gone up and down and up and down like some kind of an Internet stock. The mood was at its high point late last night when Florida was actually called for -- or projected by all of the networks to be in the Gore column. They thought that meant that they were going to win this things. Then later, of course, Florida going back into the Bush column. Incredible night.

Here's how it happened: Vice President Gore was back at his hotel, which is about 10 minutes from this spot here at the War Memorial Plaza where he was to give his speech. He was at his hotel. He got word that Florida was going to go Bush by a margin of 50,000 votes. He thought that was it. He got in his motorcade. He had a concession speech in his hand and he started taking the 10-minute drive here to the War Memorial to make that concession speech. An incredible turn of events. Everybody here expected to see the vice president step up on the stage behind me to make that concession speech. Everything was in place. His motorcade arrived here, they had a woman who was ready to do sign language, to provide the sign language interpretation of the speech. Everybody expected Vice President Gore at that point to take the stage and to concede the election. But something else happened. Instead, his campaign chairman, Bill Daley, took the stage. This is what he had to say.


DALEY: 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.


KARL: Now, an amazing turn of events. I make it's worth reading that the campaign has put out an official tick-tock of exactly what happened and when it happened. I'd like to read that to you. This is what it says, beginning with that motorcade ride here to the War Memorial to make the concession speech.

This tick-tock here officially from the campaign says, quote: "When the motorcade was approximately two blocks from War Memorial Plaza, field director Michael Hooley paged traveling chief of staff Michael Feldman to inform him that only 6,000 votes now separated him and Gov. Bush at that time, according to the Florida secretary of state, with a significant number of votes still outstanding.

"Mr. Feldman then called campaign manager Bill Daley to apprise him of the situation. By the time they reached this spot, the War Memorial, the count was down to fewer than 1,000 votes. They met, top aides for the vice president met, at a holding room right off the plaza here to discuss the situation."

And the statement goes on, quote: "Chairman Daley called Bush Campaign Chairman Don Evans around 2:15 a.m. Central time to inform him of the discussions. Between 2:30 and 2:45 a.m., the vice president called Gov. Bush again."

That conversation, this statement says, lasted a few minutes. Its contents are private. At that point, the motorcade turned around and went back to the Loews.

Now, the contents of that conversation are private. I have, however, spoken to one of the vice president's top aides who was in the room at the time the vice president made that second phone call to Gov. Bush taking back his concession.

I'm told that it went like this: The vice president said, Gov. Bush, we understand that the situation in Florida has changed, it is not what we were led to believe. It's simply too close to call. I think it would be inappropriate for either one of us to take any action at this point. We need to wait for the final vote count. If you win Florida, the vice president told Gov. Bush, if it turns out you indeed won, I will call again and congratulate you and concede the election. But he was unprepared to do that at that time. So that motorcade did a U-turn, went right back to the Loews Hotel. That's where the vice president is right now.

At about 3:45 local time, Central time, the vice president finally did go to sleep. He had been up campaigning nonstop since 5:30 in the morning on Monday. That was his first event way back in Waterloo, Iowa, and he finally got his first bit of sleep at about 3:45 local time -- Carol.

LIN: Amazing. All right, thanks so much, Jonathan Karl. Only here on CNN do you get the behind-the-scenes like that.

HARRIS: We also found out how you can make a limo do a U-ie. We just found that out this morning.

LIN: A wide berth there.

HARRIS: What a night. We have never seen a presidential election like this one. And the numbers tell the story.

LIN: We're going to go back to the nation's capital now. And joining us, our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno.

Frank, what do you make of all this?

SESNO: Well, I don't want to bury you with numbers so I won't do that. But the numbers do tell the story, and here's what -- let me just throw a couple at you. The Senate right now is 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, with two very tight races we still haven't called. It could be 50-50 presuming that Joe Lieberman goes to the Senate and serves as a Senator. If he wins and goes and serves as vice president, then the Republican governor of Connecticut will appoint a successor and then it will be not 50-50 anymore, obviously. We don't know.

Over in the House, it's so close that most of the really tightly contested races -- there were targeted races that the Democrats had singled out, they said we got to take these or keep these; tight ones that the Republicans had singled out, said we got to take these or hang onto these -- many of those are still too close to call as well. Right now, what I can tell you is one incumbent Democrat has lost in the House, one incumbent Republican has lost in the House. It's a wash.

And here are the numbers. Going into the election, there were 223 Republican representatives, 210 Democrats, two Independents. Right now as of this hour, there are 216 Republicans who we're announcing as winners, 207 Democrats. It's that close, and it's likely to get closer.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you something real quickly, because by my count, as I'm trying to figure out how all this plays out, if it does work out to be a 50-50 Senate with Joe Lieberman going back to the Senate representing Connecticut, the Republicans still take control, don't they? because that would mean that Dick Cheney would be vice president and he is basically the president of the Senate, correct?

SESNO: Well, I guess. I mean, you know -- I think, you know, I've -- we've never lived through an experience like that where we see how the committees are going to be fought out and that kind of thing. What I can tell you is this: If, you know, the conversations that I've been having over the last several days are any indication, very little is going to get done in the remaining time.

You know, remember we've got a lame-duck Congress and a lame-duck president. They're coming back to work. They haven't finished all the budget work. Some of that is big stuff. Some of it affects taxes and tax cuts that you voters and, Leon and Carol, you and I pay. That's probably going to get set to the side, or it's going to move very incrementally. And whoever the new president is is going to have to reach out and try to do business with this very narrowly split Congress, and it's going to be a remarkable thing.

LIN: So which is a more effective combination: a Republican president with a Republican legislature?

HARRIS: Well, yes, clearly that would be the most effective at this stage, because then at least you don't have split government along party lines. I will tell you one thing. I spoke to a very senior Republican yesterday and he said flat out, if it's Al Gore who wins under any circumstances, if Al Gore comes in, the distrust between Republicans and the White House is going to be unchanged. It will basically be Clinton III. We're going to start right where we left off. So any sense of an era of good feeling for Al Gore, no matter what happens with this narrow count, is something that we have to take very, very carefully indeed.

I can't tell you -- I cannot underestimate the sort of era of bad feeling that exists in this capital right now between the White House and congressional Republicans.

LIN: But, Frank, Al Gore served 16 years on Capitol Hill. What are his relationships like?

SESNO: Al Gore's relationships with the Republicans are extraordinarily strained. I mean, I'm told flat out that Dan Burton will continue his investigations, that others will continue to raise the question of Al Gore's trustworthiness right off the bat. Now, that may change at the end of this excruciating experience. I think any prudent politician -- wouldn't be prudent, right? Where's George Bush when you need him? But any prudent politician is going to back off for a little while because the people have spoken.

But that's the problem here.

HARRIS: Exactly.

SESNO: The problem is that the people have spoken, but they've spoken in, frankly, if you count the votes, in a very ambivalent way.

LIN: Yes.

HARRIS: Exactly. And that's the thing that's got to get hashed out. We'll talk about that some more later on. Thanks, Frank.

LIN: Thanks, Frank.

HARRIS: We'll get back to you in just a bit.

But right now, Florida is feeling the heat of the political spotlight right now.

LIN: To say the least. Election officials there say this is perhaps Florida's closest election ever.

So let's go now to CNN's John Zarrella. He is in Fort Lauderdale.

John, it looks like it's going to be a recount in that state?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Boy, Carol, I'll tell you, folks all around the country knew that Florida was a pivotal state. It may well have decided the election, and no one could have predicted just how close it was going to be.

Here's a perfect example of -- look, the first edition of today's "Miami Herald," "Bush Wins It." A couple hours later, the "Herald" came out with a second edition; it's a second final edition: "Not Over Yet, Bush Lead in Florida Dissipates."

The Fort Lauderdale "Sun-Sentinel" played it close to the vest: "Cliffhangers: Up in the Air, Bush-Gore, Shaw-Bloom."

So the "Miami Herald" -- that's just how close it was -- at one point calling the election this morning at about 2:00 a.m. for Gov. Bush, then having to say and retract and say, well, it's not quite over yet.

And here in Florida at Lester's Diner where people have gathered, the talk of the town here is sometimes baseball, sometimes politics. This morning it's politics and people are a little reluctant to talk about it because of the nature of how close the election was.

But, Tony, we did get you to comment a little bit for us. What do you think needs to be done now considering how this is playing out nationally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that all absentee ballots should be counted throughout the United States.

ZARRELLA: And I know you were also telling me that you're kind of on the fence, too. You had a bet going in this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did. I won it and now I don't know if I'm going to win or not.

ZARRELLA: You had Bush.


ZARRELLA: Then it was Gore, then it's back to Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though I'm a Democrat.

ZARRELLA: Wait, I overheard you saying just a minute ago that in the past you might not have voted because you didn't think it mattered. But this time, it really did matter. You voted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for the first time in my life and I think the vote really counted. I just don't know which way it's counted yet.

ZARRELLA: What do you think needs to be done? Now, here in Florida, obviously, they're going to recount. Did you ever have any idea that it was going to be this close, that your vote might matter more than you ever even imagined?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't think it would be this close. And I'm excited over the fact that my vote is really in the top 1,000 votes that's going to decide the country.

ZARRELLA: Wade, thanks so much.

Again, here in Florida, that's just how critical it was, the get- out-the-vote effort, huge turnout. Here in Broward County, actually, the vice president had about 100,000 vote lead. So that's really kept him in the ball game against Gov. Bush.

In a couple of other exit poll results that came out, 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Vice President Gore. And surprisingly, perhaps, 52 percent of seniors voted for George Bush.

Now, Attorney General Bob Butterworth is saying that because it's less than half of 1 percent in Florida, they're going to have to recount the votes.


BOB BUTTERWORTH, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Now it's down to literally a handful of votes, so we must make sure, for the future of this country and the world, that we make sure that all votes are accurately counted. We owe that to the country, we owe that to the world, and we owe it to everyone to do it as quickly as possible.


ZARRELLA: Now, "as quickly as possible," we're not sure what that means. There's some people saying that that could be by late this afternoon when they would recount all of the votes in the state of Florida. One thing for sure, the governor of the state, of course, Jeb Bush, is really, really trying to deliver this state for his brother. And as tight as this is, perhaps a bit surprising that it is as close as it is in the state of Florida when the governor of Texas' brother is the governor of Florida.

This is John Zarrella, reporting live from Fort Lauderdale -- Leon, Carol. HARRIS: All right, good deal. Thanks, John.

LIN: Thanks, John.

All right, coming up today on CNN, we are going to be talking with several of the major players in campaign 2000, including Bill Daley, who is Vice President Gore's national campaign chair.

HARRIS: Also just -- John Zarrella just mentioning there, the fact that the attorney general is going to have to have a recount there in Florida. The state's attorney general is going to be in charge of overseeing that. And it turns out there maybe, maybe a conflict of interest with him doing so. We'll have that for you, too, just don't go way. Lots more to come.



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