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Presidential Election Hinges on Florida's Electoral Votes

Aired November 8, 2000 - 1:24 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, here's where we stand in one of the most dramatic presidential elections in U.S. history. Democrat Al Gore has 49 percent of the popular vote to George W. Bush's 48 percent, but as we all have been reminded many times now, that's not what counts. It's the electoral vote that counts. Whoever wins Florida's electoral votes will win the election, and Florida is still too close to call.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In Missouri, a dead man has been elected to the United States Senate. Democrat Mel Carnahan, killed in a plane crash last month, edged out the incumbent Republican John Ashcroft. Missouri's governor plans to appoint Carnahan's widow -- her name is Jean -- to fill the post.

Jean Carnahan addressed supporters by phone early this morning, telling them, "You have stayed the course. You have kept the faith. You have carried out our hopes and dreams." Her words. Carnahan won 51 percent of the vote, Ashcroft won 49 percent. We're expecting John Ashcroft to step out and speak with reporters sometime this afternoon. We will carry that live.

ALLEN: Missouri will not be the only state sending a politician's wife to the Senate. Hillary Clinton defeated Rick Lazio in New York, becoming the only first lady in U.S. history to win election to public office.

CNN's Frank Buckley joins us from New York with more about this one -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good day. We are at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York awaiting a news conference with Senator- elect Hillary Clinton, her first such news conference since being elected to the U.S. Senate. Last night, Mrs. Clinton was here at the Grand Hyatt to greet supporters and thank voters. She was on track to win the election in pre-election polling as long as her supporters turned out. But no one expected the margin of victory, a double-digit win after nearly a year and a half of campaigning.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATOR-ELECT: Sixty-two counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents, and six black-pant suits later, because of you, here we are.


BUCKLEY: Mrs. Clinton's opponent, Republican congressman Rick Lazio was cheered by supporters at another Manhattan hotel. Lazio congratulated Mrs. Clinton in a phone call before they both appeared at their respective hotels. It isn't clear what his plans are for the day or with regard to his future.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, will appear here at the Regency Room at the Grand Hyatt for a news conference scheduled to begin at 1:30, Eastern -- just a couple of minutes away. And then after that, it's possible that she'll take part in fly-around of the state at some point either today or in the days ahead. She'll want to get up to upstate New York, say her aides, to thank the many people up there who really helped her to get elected.

Back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Frank Buckley covering that one. Thanks, Frank.

WATERS: Despite some Democratic gains, Republicans will maintain control of Congress, but just barely. And as you know, Joe Andrew, the DNC chairman, told us a short while ago there's still some races that are too close to call. There are four recounts underway.

But CNN's Frank Sesno has been keeping track of all this, somehow. He joins us now from Washington with a look at the balance of power in the new Congress -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And Lou, in a word, the balance of power is tenuous. Let's start in the Senate. We just heard from Joe Andrew, as you said. You just talked about Hillary Rodham Clinton. But in the Senate right now, with one outstanding, it's 50-49.

Let's just look at a couple of them. In the state of Washington, this is the one we still cannot call and have not called. Maria Cantwell is challenging Slade Gordon. Slade Gordon, the conservative Republican, is, as you see there, ever so slightly ahead, about 4,000 votes. Maria Cantwell and her camp says there are lots of unopened, uncounted absentee ballots and they're rather confident. So there's no call in that race.

Let's go to Michigan. This is a pick-up for the Democrats. Spencer Abraham, he was a senator who came in the class of 1994 with the Gingrich revolution is defeated by Debbie Stabenow. This is a big pick-up for the Democrats, brings another woman to the U.S. Senate.

And in Virginia, George Allen, former governor, beats Chuck Robb, former governor, and becomes new conservative Republican senator from Virginia. Virginia, the Old Dominion, becoming virtually all Republican now in its top ranks. Senator Robb had had a real tough time outside of the Northern Virginia suburbs in the more conservative parts of the state.

Over to the U.S. House of Representatives. Again, the Republicans stay in control, but by a very narrow margin. Right now we have 218 seats for the Republicans; 211 for the Democrats; two independents; four seats undecided. So who knows how it'll work out.

A couple of key ones we want to tell you about. We watched very closely in California where Adam Schiff beats House impeachment manager, Representative Jim Rogan. This was the most expensive House race in the country. Rogan spent well over $5 million all by himself. It was a very close one. Rogan even tried to tack back to the center because his district has become increasingly Democratic. He loses, pick-up for the Democrats.

In Arkansas, another one we watched, Jay Dickey, Republican goes down to defeat there to State Senator Mike Ross. Jay Dickey had come in in 1992 as a Republican there, as we mentioned. This is Bill Clinton's home district. So this one a bitter for the Republicans, sweet for the Democrats. As we say, tighter margins in both the House and the Senate.

Joined by Bruce Morton right now. Bruce, we have seen -- you have seen a lot of elections. What did Americans vote for?

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, although you can make it sound as if there are going to be huge changes, what they voted for is not much change. If Governor Bush is indeed the president, this will be the first time, I think since the Eisenhower administration that the Republicans had House, Senate and White House but nothing big will happen because the margins are so tiny that moderates, people who cross party lines will have the balance of power. Margin in the House, four people switch.

It'll change. Well, you can get four people to switch because of the weather on any given day in the House. You know, it's just like that. So the radicals aren't going to control anything. It's going to be measured, modest progress, maybe, if the two parties can get together.

SESNO: Raises question about whether the really big ideas, whether they be reforming Social Security or cutting your taxes -- I know you're anxious to have a tax cut, Bruce -- $1.3 trillion in taxes, as Governor Bush said or some of the proposals that Vice President Gore wants would make it through.


MORTON: No, I'd be surprised if anything that big made it through. I think people want something done about Medicare, but it doesn't have to be some huge reshaping, a little goodness on prescription drugs. People want something done eventually about Social Security, but they're not pounding on the gates yet. Little steps, little bills.

SESNO: Natalie, Lou, I was talking with a Republican senator here in this town just yesterday and he said, without knowing just how close this was going to be, if there's going to be honeymoon, it's going to be short-lived. It'll be between the State of the Union and the August recess. Whoever is in gets about six months to do the heavy lifting.

WATERS: Historians are also already writing about...

ALLEN: Writing their books. Thank you, Frank.

WATERS: ... all of this. We'll check back with Frank.

ALLEN: And in just a moment, we've heard from a lot of people involved in this process. What do the voters think about the goings- on in this race? We'll find out.

WATERS: We'll get to the voters when we come back.



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