CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired November 5, 2002 - 12:08 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush meanwhile made personal visits to many of those battleground states in the last week, and after wrapping up his whirlwind tour, the president headed home to Crawford, Texas. There, he cast his own ballot for this midterm election.
Joining us with more on the president's election efforts, our senior White House correspondent John King.
What are the stakes for the president in this election -- John?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the stakes are enormous. Short-term here, the legislative agenda in Washington; long-term, the president's own re-election campaign.
You noted, Mr. Bush and his wife, the first lady Laura Bush, cast their ballots this morning in Crawford, Texas. The president says that's an obligation all Americans should take seriously on this midterm Election Day.
Here at the White House, they believe the president will defy history. They think Republicans will keep the House, and the Republicans have a chance, as you were just discussing with Ron Brownstein and others, to get the Senate. The president will be back in Washington tonight to watch the results.
What are the stakes? There will be a lame duck session of Congress in just a week or so. The president thinks the tone the voters set in the elections today could impact whether he finally gets a compromise on terrorism insurance, whether he can strike a short- term compromise creating that new Department of Homeland Security in the lame duck session of Congress.
Then the new Congress would come in, in January. The president's entire legislative agenda hangs in the balance there. He has been frustrated with the Democratic Senate. He says it is not moving fast enough and favorably enough on his judicial nominees.
He knows a Democratic Senate is unlikely to make permanent the 10-year tax cut passed last year. Making those tax cuts permanent will be a centerpiece of the president's State of the Union address and a new economic package in January.
So, Mr. Bush is not on the ballot today, but he has a great stake in the outcome, and not only, Wolf, in the balance of power in Congress. As Ron was just saying, Republicans are about to lose, if the polls are right, some of the big state governorships -- Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin. Those states are critical in presidential elections. That could be one White House worry come tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: And remind our viewers, John, why is who's in the governor seat is critical in a presidential election?
KING: Well, we decide presidential elections based on the Electoral College. You need to win state by state, mass-up those electoral votes. The easiest way to raise money in those states, to build a competitive staff in those states, is to call the governor and say, I need you to tap your fund-raising list. I need your best staffers, the people who just went out there and won an election in a tough, competitive state.
If the Democrats control the governorships, they have the fund- raising network up and running, they have the best, most hungry, lean staffers on the payroll.
It is not overwhelming. Democrats have won when Republicans have had the dominating factor in the governors' race and vice-versa, but it certainly helps when you're trying to raise money and put a statewide campaign structure in place to be able to pick up the phone and call a friend in the governor's office.
BLITZER: And briefly, John, some of those races will be seen as a referendum directly on the president, like South Dakota, the governor's race in Florida. How significant is all of this from the White House perspective?
KING: Well, certainly the governor -- the president, excuse me, personally recruited Norm Coleman in Minnesota, John Thune in South Dakota. Both Congressman Thune and Norm Coleman wanted to run for governor, and would have been favored in the governors' races. They are now in those hotly-contested Senate races. The president has a stake in those, and of course, his brother, Jeb, on the ballot in Florida.
Yes, the president will be judged in some regards by those races, but even if he loses what the White House says is $140 million this year, 40 states, 30 of them more than twice, that whatever happens tonight for the Republican Party, it would have been worse had the president not put all of that effort into it.
BLITZER: All right, John King over at the White House -- thanks very much.
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