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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Polls Close Across U.S.

Aired November 6, 2002 - 01:00   ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: It is 10 p.m. in the West, 1 a.m. in the East, and the polls have closed in the state of Alaska. That means all the states across the country, polls have closed, but first, before we talk to you about anything else, we want to give you this real vote alert, and for that, Candy Crowley in New York -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, CNN is ready to call a race in Minnesota, but not the one that is giving both parties heartache at this point. It is the governor's race, and CNN projects that Tim Pawlenty, the Republican in a three-man race will be the next governor of Minnesota, defeating Roger Moe, the Democrat, and Tim Penny, the independent. He will take over for governor Jesse Ventura -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Candy, and gentlemen, that is something that turned around at the same time Paul Wellstone died in that plane crash, because that was a much closer race among the three of them, and the independent candidate, Tim Penny, just the bottom dropped out from under his candidacy.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yeah. Absolutely. That was going to be -- that was the state where it was most likely that an independent, Tim Penny, former democratic congressman, was going to succeed an independent, Jesse Ventura. With the Wellstone death, and why that affected the governors race so profoundly, I am not entirely clear about, but it became a two person race, and once again, the democrats have been shut out of the Minnesota state house as they have since, I think, it's 1986 was the last time they won it. Again, a democratic state that doesn't seem to elect democrats. Native Minnesotan.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: A most -- it's not my fault.

GREENFIELD: Explain it.

BROWN: I haven't been there in over -- a really long time. I have no explanation for that. It is one of those things. I am not sure Minnesota in fact, I think, does elect republican congressmen certainly, from outside the cities, from outside the twin cities, and out side of Duluth.

WOODRUFF: Now we have a couple of more projections that we can make.

In the state of Tennessee, the winner is Democrat Phil Bredesen, defeating Van Hilleary, the Republican, and if George W. Bush went in there once, he went in there 15 times. I am sure that is an exaggeration, but he campaigned time and again, not just the president, but other members of the administration. In Alaska where the polls have just closed, we are ready to project Ted Stevens will return to the senate for his sixth term, defeating the Democrat Frank Vondersaar.

And also in Alaska, here is one. This is Frank Murkowski, who is the current senator, the sitting senator in the state of Alaska, but he is running for governor, and at this point, we haven't projected anything, but with 28 percent of the vote counted, boy they counted that quickly, Frank Murkowski is ahead 58 percent to Fran Ulmer, one of the 10 women running for governor this year, and we are not going to project anything or say anything else, but you can see where it is with about a quarter of the vote in.

BROWN: It doesn't happen often, that people give up those senate seats for anything, but he clearly wanted to go home. The main story line there -- the main story line of the night is which party will control the Congress and here is where we are in that regards.

Starting with the Senate, the Democrats have won 10 of the seats that were in play tonight. 10 of the 34 seats that were in play. Republicans have won 19 of the seats in play, so as we sit here now at a little bit past 1 in the morning eastern time, the Republicans have 48 seats, the Democrats 46 seats. We are waiting on Colorado where we have made no call, on Minnesota where we have made no call, on South Dakota where we have made no call, and on Missouri where we have made no call. We are waiting on those four in -- excuse me, and the deal is sealed, but the fact is, the Democrats now pretty much have to sweep the table or they will give up the majority in the U.S. Senate.

GREENFIELD: Well, they need three seats -- they -- actually that's right, because they need they need with Jeffords, who votes with them, they need to add it up. They have 50 seats, Jeffords is the 51st, but if they have 46 seats there -- if they lose any of these seats that you've mentioned, I believe the Republicans then have the majority pending Mary Landrieu. That's the one that's out.

BROWN: Right, that's the one that's sort of hanging out there. That's Louisiana Senate race that will go to a runoff, but right now, it's very close in South Dakota, and it is very close in Minnesota. It is certainly too close to project. It is not quite as close in Missouri, but in those other two states, it is very close. In Colorado we just -- I just haven't seen the numbers go by, and we will.

Now in the House, it is a simpler story to tell. We may not know yet the final numbers, but we can certainly tell you that the Republicans will retain control of the house. Here is where we are right now. 217 to 196. There are 21 seats still in play. Hardly an incumbent has lost tonight. It was possible that there is one or two have gone by that we have missed, but honestly we have not seen an incumbent member of the house loose. I am sorry -- one -- and now I just -- one popped into my mind. Connie Morella lost.

GREENFIELD: Connie Morella lost. And there are a couple of close ones outstanding, but if that -- if you can put that balance of power graphic back up, I can show you something about how unusual the house races have grown in recent years. perhaps we can't do that. The point I'm making is that in -- we are used to swings of 26 seats in 1982, going from Republicans to Democrats. A 52 seats going from Democrats to Republicans in this year. They are fighting over perhaps really, a dozen or 15 seats. Here it is now. This is what I mean. In 1982, 26 seats went from the Republicans to the Democrats. In 1994, 52 seats went from Republicans to Democrats, but this year, they are fighting over the merest smidgen. It is one -- it's said that politics in America is played between the 40-yard lines. This year it is being played in the house between the 48-yard line.

WOODRUFF: And it's not going to change things that much in the house. You know if the Democrats -- if the Republicans pick up a few more seats, they will be able to do maybe a couple of more things but the big issue for them is the senate, and that's why we've been talking about the senate all night long, because no matter what the house does, homeland security, taxes, you name it. If they can't get the bill through the senate, then it doesn't become law.

BROWN: And perhaps lost in the arrows going one way, and the arrows going the another way, is in the time we were talking about that, they crossed the line; 218 is the number you need to have a majority. They have reached -- the Republicans have reached 219, so we can now say with a scosh more certainty than we said it before, we were pretty certain when we said it before, that Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives. The senate is in play still, but it has been a very good Republican night. That is the lead tonight, if you were writing the lead of this election, it has been a very good night for the Republican party and an especially good night for the Republican president of the United States.

WOODRUFF: And the story remains -- the United States senate and one of those four seats that Aaron just mentioned, South Dakota. Our John Karl is there in Sioux Falls, and John, they must be starting to get a little sweaty in the palms?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they really are. You know, Tom Daschle has everything riding on this, because Democrats are looking at what's happened nationally, and they are seeing, in the words of on Democratic one senior strategist very close to Tom Daschle, that Tom Daschle tomorrow will be the minority leader. That at lest one top Democratic strategist very close to Daschle says this is basically over, that Daschle has lost the majority in the United States Senate.

If that is true, then he certainly needs to win where he put his most effort in, and that is right here in his own back yard, in the state of South Dakota. Now other Democrats close to Daschle are not ready to say that he has lost the majority, but they admit that what he has got to do is that he has to pull off a trifecta. He has got to win the last three really close races here. Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri. That is a tall order. They still think he can do it.

The strategists working the Democratically senatorial campaign committee, but they know it has been a bad night, and that would mean a sudden reversal for Democrats to really come out on top. Here in South Dakota, it is really, really close. There is a 1 percent of the vote separating, about 3,000 votes separating the Republican John Thune and the Democrat Tim Johnson, but Judy, it is even closer than that, because South Dakota is a state that is divided between east and west. The east is in the central time zone, the west is in the mountain time zone, and in the mountain time zone, those polls are open later. They count them later. That is Republican territory. Solidly Republican territory.

So as they start counting west, you get more Republican votes. This race will get even closer. And also, Judy, one other factor here is those absentee ballots. In this state, what they decided to do this year, to be especially careful about voter fraud and accuracy, they decided not to count the absentee ballots until after all the regular ballots were already counted.

So they can go vote by vote and make sure that everybody that voted absentee ballot had not already voted at the polls. It is a long, it is a tedious process. I think we are going to be here a long time before we know the final results in South Dakota.

WOODRUFF: Well, tedious for the voters of South Dakota in a way, John, because, what is it, population 750,000. We were told that everybody who lives in South Dakota saw at least 1000 political ads on television during this campaign.

But John, I want to go back to what you said a minute ago, about one of the people around Tom Daschle saying they don't expect things to turn out well tonight. What are they saying at this point, and we realize this is not official, but what are they most worried about between Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, the other three Democratic states still outstanding?

KARL: Well, they are very glum about the possibility of winning all three. Clearly the one that they are most in danger of loosing is in Missouri, but they certainly don't want to pin their hopes to winning all three of those states. And then they had also had a glimmer of hope of winning in Colorado, they now don't think that is a possibility. So they are not happy to think basically nothing went right for them tonight, but Judy, they are very eager to point out that there were 10 close senate races this year. Ten close senate races, nine of those races were in states that George Bush won in 2000. These were in Republican friendly states, and the president of course basically put the White House on hold as far as the Democrats are concerned, over the last three weeks, to campaign hard in those states. And it looks like it is really paid off.

WOODRUFF: So far it certainly does. All right, John. Thank you and CNN will be talking to you in the hours to come -- Aaron.

BROWN: I was trying to imagine what it is like to see 1,000 political ads. That almost is cruel and unusual punishment. I mean, that ought to be unconstitutional.

GREENFIELD: Because in South Dakota you can buy 30 seconds of time in a big South Dakota city for $700.

BROWN: About $800.

GREENFIELD: It will cost you $30,000 for the same spot in New York, and the money poured in and those poor people -- they are begging for used car ads now.

BROWN: They can't wait for everyone to leave, including us I am sure. Missouri is another one of those races in play, as John indicated, Carol Lin has been patiently waiting in St. Louis tonight. They have -- have they started counting the votes in St. Louis yet?

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are still counting, Aaron, and this race is still way to close to call. The last time CNN was showing you the numbers, we had Talent up by about 6 percent, all of a sudden we looked and checked with the secretary of state's office. That lead has now narrowed to 1.3 percent. This race is still way too close to call. And Aaron, what is critical to know right now, is that the votes are just beginning to come in. Kansas City just included with 100 percent of the vote tallied there.

Carnahan getting one out of three votes in Kansas City. A very heavily Democratic area. The votes are still coming in from St. Louis City. We heard about five (ph) turnout in North St. Louis, a heavily Democratic district with long lines in African-American neighborhoods. Heavy support for Carnahan there. This race could still turn very easily. Now about 45 minutes ago, we saw Jean Carnahan come out to greet some of her supporters. She knows that people here are feeling a little bit nervous. They have seen the election results coming in to the secretary of state's office. She has rallied the troops and she said they are cautiously optimistic, Aaron.

So we are watching these numbers change literally by the second as we are refreshing the outcomes from the secretary of state's office.

BROWN: And have they basically gone home for the night? You don't expect to see the candidate again?

LIN: Oh, we expect to see the candidate again. She is sticking it out here at the Missouri Democratic headquarters at the Chase Hotel (ph). She is going to stay here. She told some of her campaign workers, listen, it is going to be a long night. If you want to go, go. But if you want to hang out with me, stick it out, lets get the final results in, but more than 90 percent of the votes have been tallied. We are just waiting for those late incoming Democratic votes. Democratic votes tend to come in later. Democrats vote later in the day, so it is still a cliffhanger here, and we are going to be here for it as well.

BROWN: Well, we shall find out. Carol, thank you very much. Missouri, in many ways, is the country. It has two big urban areas, in Kansas City and St. Louis. They tend to be Democratic. It has rural areas, it has suburban areas. It is very much a microcosm of the country.

GREENFIELD: As people like to say of reelection, except for one small exception, it is voting with the winner in every presidential election of the 20th century. It is the St. Louis blues, and it is Branson, Missouri with country music. It is an American microcosm, and frankly, the pre election predictions are looking very good in terms of how close these races are.

BROWN: And just one other quick thing on that. It is a reminder that despite what has been the trend of the night, which has been clearly Republican night, that in many ways, as you look at the country, you look at who controls state legislatures, governors, governorships, the senate, the house, all of it. The country itself is very narrowly divided in their politics between Republicans and Democrats. It is a very small split out there.

WOODRUFF: But what that state has been through in the last two years, in terms of the politics. What tumult. I mean having the former governor, Mel Carnahan die in a plane crash three and a half weeks before the election in the year 2000. His name stayed on the ballot. He was technically elected, but of course his widow took his place. She went through the grieving process in public while she came to the United States senate to serve in what was supposed to have been her husband's seat, and now she has been holding on, but you know, she has faced some very tough opposition. The White House handpicked Jim Talent. He was tailor made. I mean I have heard Candy Crowley say time and again Jim Talent has run almost a letter-perfect campaign. He hasn't made any mistakes.

GREENFIELD: He is one of the few challengers with vast -- for reasons you just described. We tend to think of incumbents as -- certainly be more politically experienced. Jim Talent has spent eight years in the state legislature, eight years in congress, almost got elected governor. He is the challenger with the political experience, and yet, as Carol told us, this one is coming down to the wire.

BROWN: Very close -- within 1 -- little bit more than 1 percent in Missouri. So we will wait out that one too. Missouri, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota. Still on the table tonight. I missed on I guess. Oh, I actually didn't. Louisiana where they will run it off.

WOODRUFF: And while we wait for the senate races, we are also waiting for some governor's results. Lets go all the way out west, as far west as you can go. To Rusty Dornin in California, where the incumbent's name is Gray Davis, but -- and it looks like he may win, but Rusty, it's been a -- not such a pretty campaign.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. it's also a little close for comfort right now, Judy. With 31 percent of the precincts in, it looks like Republican Bill Simon, the newcomer, at 46 percent against Gray Davis' 45 percent. We have been watching these numbers inch back and forth for about the past hour and a half. Now Davis had been leading Simon in the polls 7 to 10 points, and they figured right out of the shoot, that was going to be the lead. Now Davis of course, did raise $68 million more than any other governor for the last four years for their campaign, for which he was criticized for being obsessed with this campaign funding. Of course, Bill Simons, he is a new comer, he has never held office. He made a few blunders to begin with. One of them was that he never would show reporters his tax returns at the very beginning of the elections. Several other mistakes, but it has been a very expensive, very negative campaign. It turned off a lot of Californians. A lot of folks have said they weren't going to vote. In fact one of the field polls said that as of this morning, 25 percent of California voters still had not decided who they were going to vote for. Now the Davis folks here are telling us, look we still think that this trend is going to shift, but the absentee ballots tend to be more towards -- towards Simon, more from the Republicans. But still as the number keep climbing, there -- they keep seeing a dead heat, there is a bit of an air of uncertainty in this ballroom -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Rusty, you caught me by surprise. I had no idea it was that close when I threw to you. I thought you were going to talk about the kind of campaign, and when I saw those numbers, I did a double take. There must be some pretty stunned and -- Democrats out there with not much to say. Now granted we are just at 28 percent reporting. It is early. But --

DORNIN: It is 31 percent, as you say, but it still is -- they spot coming out of the shoot, they would still have that lead. So they are a little uncomfortable at this point.

WOODRUFF: No surprise. Alright, Rusty Dornin. Thanks very much.

GREENFIELD: They're for news night and for inside politics, the stance news night. Thank you.

GREENFIELD: Your show, 10 p.m. Eastern. And "INSIDE POLITICS." It is your show. The standard joke, or line was, -- what really what Californians want to vote for governor is none of the above. Bill Simon was said by many Republicans who have run one of the most incompetent campaigns in the history of modern politics against a man who was kind of born to be a politician, and he is hanging in there very late into the game.

WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider?

SCHNEIDER: I can't think of any Californian that I know, any political expert, any analyst, who would dare say that Gray Davis is going to loose this election. But look at those returns. The fact is most Californians believe that Gray Davis does not deserve to be reelected. They hold him, at least partially responsible for the state's electricity crisis last year. The state's fiscal crisis has been a mess, and probably the biggest problem is he doesn't have a personal relationship with the voters. He is not well liked.

And he has been accused of a sort of pay for play kind of administration, where people have to pony up large sums of money to get access to the governor. He is not a popular figure. And in fact, in all the pre election polls showing him leading, he was leading with 41 -- 42 percent of the vote, which means a pretty strong majority of voters really didn't want to vote to reelect him. As Rusty reported, a quarter of the voters even today said that they are not going to vote for governor. The can't choose between them. This, if Bill Simon were to pull this off, first of all it would be an astonishment. A lot of people would say, he doesn't deserve to win, having one of the most inept campaigns in history. And it would be a real feather in the Republican's cap. It would indicate a real sweep. I mean even -- if George Bush and the Republicans can pull in Bill Simon, that's a miracle.

WOODRUFF: Talk about icing on the cake. I mean, if the Republicans think they've had a good night so far, if some how, and granted it's early, not even a third of the vote reporting in California, but if somehow that were to happen, I mean we are talking icing.

SCHNEIDER: That would be

WOODRUFF: Lots of icing.

SCHNEIDER: That would be a sign of a Republican sweep beyond anyone's imagining before the election, and every political observer in California would be astonished.

WOODRUFF: And I don't know. I don't know how much credit the White House itself would take for that, because we all know that they didn't support Bill Simon initially.

SCHNEIDER: Mind you, I am not predicting anything, but California is a pretty Democratic state. It is reliably Democratic. And for Simon to win this ...

BROWN: Someone in hour -- a couple of hours ago hear said -- you know sometimes you these things just come down to the two candidates and who you like. And it is not the big grand issue, and it is not the president. It is not any thing else. And this is -- for my money at least -- this is one of those races. The type that has almost nothing to do with what is going on in the rest of the country. It has to do with these two candidates, and particularly an incumbent whose politics you may be comfortable with, but whose person you are not.

SCHNEIDER: And it is important to note that a lot of Democrats don't like Gray Davis, and it's interesting. He spent about $12 million in the Republican party primary. And he's not a Republican. That's more than any Republican spent in any Republican primary in the country, to defeat Dick Riordan, the Republican former mayor of Los Angeles, and every poll indicates that Riordan would have defeated him today if he had been the Republican nominee. He got rid of his worst threat only to see Simon nominated, and Simon is now threatening him.

GREENFIELD: I think one thing we can say is that it has been no secret at Gray Davis has had visions of proceeding beyond the governorship of California to national office. If he wins this, -- you know if he pulls this out, it will be the kind of victory that does not exactly inspire thoughts among Democrats that this is the white knight they need.

BROWN: I can't see the money givers writing out the big checks. But we will see how it goes. Soon as the votes in. We are waiting, and we continue to wait for Minnesota for a dozen reasons. It is among the most fascinating races out there. Anderson Cooper has been in the twin cities. He is in St. Paul tonight. What do you hear?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got a word from the secretary of state's office. Fifty percent of the precincts have reported their ballots, but only 33 percent of the ballots have so far come in. So obviously a lot of the precincts who have so far reported not from the larger precincts, because only 33 percent of the votes are in, so it is, at this point, just too close to call. I hate to use Carol Lin's cliche, but it is true, hear as well. we are showing right now, about -- again this a -- you are showing with 29 percent.

We now have about 33 percent of the votes, but 52 percent for Coleman, 45 percent for Mondale, 3 percent for Moore, the independent candidate. Now I should point out that again, a lot of the larger precincts have not yet counted their votes. Have not yet reported those votes. So a lot of people around here are still optimistic. I am here in Mondale headquarters, still waiting to hear from some of the larger cities. Also interesting fact here, about even as late as 10 PM here, central time, the ballots here closed at 8 p.m. central time. As late as 10, people were still voting. The lines were that long. And we are hearing that from across the state.

The secretary of state's office said voter turnout was enormously high across the board. There is some -- well they are up 4,000 some 76 or 79 precincts across the board. It was a very high turnout even by Minnesota standards. Now the candidate, Walter Mondale came down about -- probably about an hour ago, to address the crowd, to encourage them, keep them optimistic. Here are some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER MONDALE (D), MINNESOTA SENATE CANDIDATE: I ask you to be patient. Keep your optimism up. We got a good chance of winning this thing. Thank you very much. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Walter Mondale is here in the Radisson upstairs, just waiting for more results to come in. And it is just a remarkable night when you consider that 30 years ago, was the last time Walter Mondale ran a senate campaign. He didn't run for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or public office, and some 18 years since he ran for president in 1984. It is just an extraordinary turn of events here in Minnesota and this crowd is waiting to see what will happen -- Aaron.

BROWN: Anderson, quickly. We heard yesterday, that Hannifin (ph) county which is the largest county in the state. It is the county that encompasses Minneapolis and Minneapolis' suburbs. We not even start counting the vote -- their vote until midnight central time. Is that in fact what's happened, because that changes the coloration of this a good deal.

COOPER: Well, you are absolutely right. I mean, my understanding is that they have begun counting, because -- well, it is 12:26 here. But those -- but they are not yet reporting their ballots. And yes, that does change it very much, which is why even though -- like 50 percent of the precincts have reported, only 33 percent of ballots have actually been counted. So it's a -- yeah, as I said, some of the larger cities and the larger counties not yet reporting their totals -- Aaron.

BROWN: Anderson, thank you. I am (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Thank you very much. I am not sure it's the same Radisson Hotel. There are a couple. I remember being in one in 1964 with Walter Mondale's political mentor, Hubert Humphrey. And a very -- and a big night.

WOODRUFF: I just keep sitting here thinking about all the history that may be being made tonight. I had written down yesterday, that if Bush did end up winning -- the Republicans, I should say -- end up winning seats in the house, Tom Davis, the Chair of the Republican national campaign -- national Republican campaign committee said this would make him the first Republican president ever to have this happen. Now somebody needs to go back and check the history, but you know, my assumption is they wouldn't be saying things like that. So we are looking at all kinds of things.

BROWN: It is just it is a daring strange set of historical circumstances that we find ourselves in, given the events of the last year and a half.

GREENFIELD: And I do think we will take a step back and say a shaping event turns out to have been September 11 ...

BROWN: A year ago.

GREENFIELD: A few days before that, they reran the 2000 election, and Bush and Gore were tied. September 11 put the president in a completely different place. And not only he has been, but that any president has been in possible ever. And I think -- you don't have to be a -- there is nothing cynical about it, it's who he became and -- in the absent of a powerful Democratic counterargument, I remember making this one. I think you are dead right. People in the absence of some other power full pull, are going to stand with the president, particularly at a time when it looks like he may be taking the country into war.

BROWN: And I just -- one small thing. We got one more projection to make before we go to break. It not only changed the perception of the president, clearly it did that. It changed the nation's priorities. The issues that concern people narrowed a lot. National security, homeland defense became the issues. The economy is out there. People care about it, but 3,000 people died on September 11 in an attack on the country. And it changed everything. On quick projection we can make now and it comes from out west. Kempthorne in the state of Idaho, the beehive state -- Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Utah is the beehive state.

BROWN: Utah. All right. What's Idaho then? GREENFIELD: Idaho is a state that normally votes Republican and this is another example of the senator who left to go home. An elected governor who just got reelected.

BROWN: There you go.

GREENFIELD: That's to cover up the fact that I don't know the nickname of Idaho.

BROWN: We will take a short break, and our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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