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Bush Wins Election; Election Analysis

Aired November 3, 2004 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
It is over. President Bush wins reelection.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: You bet. I'm Carol Lin.

His Democratic challenger, John Kerry, called him just minutes ago to congratulate him and to concede. So let's check in with both sides now.

We want to go to the White House to get some reaction. Suzanne Malveaux is standing by there.

After weeks on the campaign trail, Suzanne, what is the reaction by the president?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we just got a briefing from Scott McClellan, an official briefing, a tick-tock of the president's evening and overnight, and to the victory. And, of course, that conceding telephone call by Kerry.

Just want to give you a couple of the highlights here. We are told that between 3:30 and 4:00 in the morning, Prime Minister Tony Blair called the president to ask him about the update of the election.

We are told that the decision, of course, for the president to wait on his speech, his acceptance speech, came just before 5:00. That is when the president, we are told, went to bed.

He slept for two hours, until about 7:00. He reported to the Oval Office at about 8:00.

That's when we're told that he had his usual briefings, his FBI and his intelligence briefings. He also made some congratulatory phone calls, we're told, to those Republicans who did so well in the congressional races.

Among them, John Thune, Dewitt (sic) -- DeMint, rather. There were several others, Richard Burr, Mel Martinez.

He said -- and I'm quoting here -- "Now is the time to get it done." That is referring to his agenda.

Following that, it was about 10:00, we're told, when Karl Rove returned to the Oval Office to join the president, his chief political strategist. He went to bed at about 5:00 or so. He met with his senior staff, and then it was at 11:02, that is when the president's assistant told him that there was a call from Kerry. The president took the call, we are told, behind his desk at the Oval Office. It lasted for about three or four minutes.

A couple of things the president said during that call -- I am quoting here. He said, "I think you were an admirable, worthy opponent. You waged one tough campaign."

He also went on to say, "I hope you are proud of the effort you put in. You should be."

Then he turned to his aides after that phone call, said that Kerry was very gracious during that call. He hugged his senior staff in the Oval Office. And then from there, we are told, that he went down to the -- to the residence after meeting with the vice president, down to the residence, where he met with the first lady.

Now, we are told at about 3:00 is when he is going to address the American people. That is going to be at the Ronald Reagan Building, just a couple of highlights about that speech.

We're told that he is going to talk about how he is humbled by the outpouring support for his candidacy. That it was a record turnout. We are also told as well that he is going to use this as an opportunity to try to bring the nation together. That is something that he is going to make a priority, that's what his administration is saying.

And then, finally, of course, we asked whether or not he felt because it was such a bitter contest with Kerry, whether or not he would be able to work with him again in the Senate, as well as other Republicans, the Democrats, the kind of mood that this country is in now. He said of course he would be able to.

He said he understood why Kerry wanted to wait to delay in giving that concession speech. He said he simply understood the position that he was in and that he understood what Kerry was going through at the time.

He said that he wants to be able to work with Kerry. And he was asked if there was a point at any point where he thought he would lose. He said, no, he didn't think so, but they were very much aware of the same exit polls that many were talking about prior, that they were waiting for those results, very eager to get those results. But that ultimately, in the end, the president felt good, he felt confident that this was all going to work out -- Carol.

LIN: Well, it was a nail-biter for most of us throughout the night, Suzanne. Has the president or his staff indicated what, if any, staff changes there are going to be in this second administration?

MALVEAUX: Much too soon. There's been an awful lot of speculation about that, as you can imagine, Carol. Anywhere from about six months to a year ago. There's been a lot of talk about that. But right now they say today is not the day or the time to even speculate about that.

They are very pleased that he's just going to be moving forward with a second term. They are very eager. They say the president wants to move forward with his agenda. And, of course, he also wants to make it a priority, as well as Senator Kerry, bringing this country together. They feel that that's something that is important.

And they are very proud, by the way, the fact they got the popular vote, the majority of the popular vote, that 51 to 48 percent. They believe that that is part of the reason why they can bring Democrats and Republicans and those across the aisle together after this election is over.

LIN: All right. Suzanne at the White House. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: And now to the other side of this story. Our national correspondent, Kelly Wallace, is in Boston, where Senator Kerry is preparing to speak to supporters.

Hello, Kelly.


He will go before supporters an hour from now, 1:00 at Faneuil Hall here in Boston. Obviously a very difficult day for the senator, for his family, and his campaign team. Asked his mood, a top adviser says he is obviously disappointed, but he feels very confident about the campaign that he ran.

We know that he made a phone call to President Bush a little bit after 11:00 a.m. We are told that call was just under five minutes, described as courteous.

Senator Kerry congratulating President Bush. We're told Mr. Bush called him an honorable and worthy opponent.

But then, according to Kerry advisers, the senator really pressed President Bush, saying that this nation is divided and that he needs to do something to bring the country together. That they need to work together to do that.

We're told they agreed that they would work on that together. And that is likely to be a message coming from Senator Kerry in his speech later.

How we got to this point, advisers saying that they woke up and obviously wanted to look at the numbers. They felt that they owed it to Senator Kerry's supporters, to all the people who voted for him on Election Day to just look at the numbers in Ohio.

And ultimately, they just felt they were coming about 100,000 votes short of victory in the Buckeye State. They felt that they just couldn't get the votes they need without what they call an exhaustive battle that would really further divide this country.

So Senator Kerry now at his home here in Boston. He's working, we understand, on the remarks he will deliver.

He is with his family, wife, Teresa, his children. We understand he spent time talking today to Senator Ted Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts, who has been a very strong supporter of Senator Kerry's candidacy.

And Tony, we really can't underestimate the range of emotions being felt by Senator Kerry's campaign team, because they were feeling very confident going into Election Day. They felt that the senator's message resonating in battleground states, including Ohio.

They felt that the numbers were on their side. That they had identified the voters need to win in the key battleground states. And they felt that they had the turnout to deliver that vote.

And then they were feeling more and more confident as they were looking at that exit polling, the news organizations, including ours, looking at as well where they felt that Senator Kerry would be pulling out a victory. Obviously the numbers changing going into election night, and the senator deciding to concede this election to President Bush after a nearly two-year quest for the presidency -- Tony.

HARRIS: Wow. Kelly, Let me ask you a quick question. You have crisscrossed the country with this candidate. Give me a sense of the transition to a concession speech today? What kind of a tone do you think are you expecting him to strike?

WALLACE: Well, I think getting a sense from the message and the conversation that Senator Kerry and President Bush had, according to Kerry advisers, we are looking to hear a message of bringing the country together. Very clear during a costly and contentious campaign of how divided this country can be both on the left and on the right.

So a sense is that one of his messages will be what both sides can do to reach across the aisle, to reach out to each other to bring this country together. Obviously, you will hear him paying enormous gratitude to his supporters, to his campaign aides, to all the people he met along the trail.

This will have to be, I'm sure, the most difficult speech really of his political life. Obviously very difficult indeed.

He wants to strike the right note. Congratulating President Bush, pledging to work with him together, and again, trying to get that message out that the nation after this bitterly-fought contest wants to work together and move forward from here -- Tony.

HARRIS: Striking the right tone. Kelly Wallace, thank you. Appreciate it.

Well, John Kerry's concession ends a bitter and hard-fought campaign.

LIN: That's right. It's a good time to get some perspective, because we have a lot of questions.

And we're going to bring in Michael Weisskopf, senior correspondent for "TIME" Magazine. And from Los Angeles, CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein, also with the "Los Angeles Times."

Good to have broth of you.

Ron, let me begin with you. Long lines forming at the polls. Record numbers of people registering to vote. The Democrats were sure that this was going to go in their favor. What happened at the polls?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, actually, Carol, it was very similar to what happened in 2002. President Bush demonstrated in that midterm election he was able to translate his enormous approval rating among Republicans into Republicans and conservative Independents getting off the couch and voting.

And if you look at what happened in this electorate, they significantly increased their margins in Republican-leaning areas, they moved some swing areas -- not all of them -- some of them slightly in their direction. But overall, according to the exit poll, at least, Republicans equal Democrats as a share of the electorate, which is very, very unusual in a presidential race. And President Bush had less defection among Republicans than John Kerry had among Democrats, and that essentially got him over the top.

HARRIS: Michael, let me ask you, how do you believe John Kerry has handled this whole concession of Ohio and the concession of the election?

MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, "TIME": Well, our system is blessed with good losers. And I would expect to see the same in Kerry.

And he'll, of course, strike a conciliatory note and ask for healing of the division. Of course, it's much easier for a loser to call for that than the winner. And even harder for the winner to actually put it into practice.

LIN: Michael, also, the winner putting it into practice. Four years ago, President Bush said that he wanted to change the tone in Washington. He then became perhaps the most polarizing president since Richard Nixon.

Second terms -- first terms may be about change and taking chances. Second terms are about legacy. How do you see his second term evolving, and how will he, if he does, go about bringing the country together?

WEISSKOPF: Well, this is a president who feels so sure of his position, there's a certain moral absolutism. And believes that pursuing his interest in this case will, in the end, unite the nation. And that's very different, of course, than accommodating the interests and agenda of the other side.

Now, he'll have some decisions right off the bat if Chief Justice Rehnquist's illness, for instance, is more serious than we were first led to believe. He may have a critical Supreme Court appointment coming up. That will be the first test.

HARRIS: Ron, let me ask you -- and let's go back to Ohio for just a second. Do you expect now with this concession that the provisional ballots will be counted? It seems like it would still be a very good gesture, particularly for those new voters who were getting into the process for the first time.

BROWNSTEIN: Sure, I do think they will count them. There's really no reason not to count them. Everybody should have their ballot counted, and also we should know exactly what happened in Ohio, which really turns out to have been a heart break hill for, you know, John Kerry.

They had to win Ohio or Florida to be able to get to 270. I mean, the reality was -- and I think this is something Democrat are going to have to think about after this election -- apart from Florida, they did not contest a single southern state, and that left them with relatively few avenues to reach 270. Ultimately, they had to peel away one of those two big battlegrounds, they fell well short in Florida and just short in Ohio.

LIN: All right. So, do you see then, Ron, that the president going into a second term has a clear mandate for his agenda? I mean, the country has sent a message. They reelected President Bush, both the House and Senate are likely to have Republican majorities. How does that shape up for you?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, we do have this striking situation where we still have a narrowly divided country. We're only going to have as many as three and possibly fewer states change hands from 2000.

President Bush probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 286 electoral college votes at best. And yet you have this unified Republican control.

Carol, they are rationalizing, in effect, their control of the red states. They are moving more in their direction and Congress as well.

That gives them a free hand, largely, to do what they want. Although you saw the 60-vote hurdle on filibusters in the Senate.

The question is how does he balance that ability against the continued need to expand in some of those areas that resisted him last time? He still lost almost all of the blue states, as you know, all of the big blue states, and lost, according to our exit poll, among Independents. So if he wants to reach out, to some extent that may be intentioned with the desires of that Republican base that has now given him such a strong hand.

LIN: But as much -- Ron, as much as the country has been divided, I mean, many people actually say that people went to the polls not only to vote for president, but to vote for or against stem cell research, to vote for or against the idea that the Supreme Court would be changing and so might Roe v. Wade. So, social issues, moral issues dominated when it came to that person walking into the ballot box and punching for the vote.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. And, in fact, look, we are dividing.

Over the last generation -- and this election moves us even further into that direction -- we are dividing more along lines of values than interest, more along class -- less along class, more along cultural attitudes. And you do see that.

And right now, especially when you look at the Senate, where you have those 30 red states from last time, now potentially two more, there's an enormous advantage, Carol. The Democrats are running in a lot of culturally conservative parts of the country and they're having trouble holding those seats.

They lost five southern Senate seats after failing to pick up any of four open Republican Senate seats in 2002. That kind of dominance, both in the presidential and the congressional marketplace, in effect, of the Republicans in the South make it very tough for the Democrats to make it up elsewhere.

LIN: Right. With John Edwards not actually having made much of a difference in that factor.

HARRIS: So Michael, if you are a Democrat, part of the leadership in the Democratic party today, and you wake up and you clearly seem to be on the wrong side of this divide in the country, what are you thinking? What do you do?

WEISSKOPF: Well, you can wait it out. There are some clear shifts going on in this country.

There are new groups of haves and have-nots developing along the lines of education, communities which are effected differently by trade. Also, of course, national security issues.

Obviously the coasts are more vulnerable to terrorists attacks than the middle of the country, as we now know it. And you might just wait it out. After all, it's easy to overlook here that John Kerry came pretty darn close to upsetting a sitting president, that doesn't happen very often.

HARRIS: OK. We're going to wrap it for just a moment. And guys, we're going to ask you to stick around because there's more to talk about, particularly the congressional races and the balance of power in Congress.

LIN: You bet.

Also, we want to talk about what happened in that pivotal state of Ohio with 20 electoral votes at stake. CNN's Joe Johns is standing by there.

Joe, President Bush led there by more than 136,000 votes. At first the Kerry campaign said it would count every vote to the end. And clearly the campaign did not see the math there. JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the final result from Tuesday's vote, 51-49 for President Bush. The Buckeye State promised again and again, of course, that it would not become another Florida. It has apparently kept its promise. But it was not without a lot of aggravation, a lot of heavy lifting here.

There were, of course, a huge number of new voters registered all across the state, north, south, east and west. Huge turnout at the polls, long lines once again across the state.

And now the leftovers, 130,000 provisional ballots, we are told, possibly as many as 150,000. Of course all of those have to be analyzed. About 10 days from now they have to be tabulated. And the state still has to deal with that, of course.

Even though John Kerry has conceded, there are, of course, other people on the ballot, and those votes have to be tabulated as well. When you look at those provisional ballots, of course, it was just not enough for John Kerry to be able to claim that he still had a chance of winning once all of them are counted.

One other leftover, of course, a slew of legal battles lasting right up to Election Day. Of course, the law professors and the judges here will have to figure out what all of that means. But at the end of the day, the headline here is that the Buckeye State can make the case that the system did work.

Carol, back to you.

LIN: Joe, this was a state that the Democrats were counting on to play to their strength on the economy. 200,000 jobs lost there during the Bush administration. What is it in the final tally, what was it from your sense of talking with the campaigns and talking with people out on the campaign trail, what made the difference for President Bush in the end?

JOHNS: Well, certainly it was the Republican turnout effort. It was quite exceptional here in Ohio.

They knew from four years ago they had some work to do. And frankly, they did it.

There's also the issue of a gay marriage initiative on the ballot here in Ohio, as in other states. Clearly, the indication was that a lot of people concerned about traditional values came out to vote on that initiative. And there are strong suggestions, of course, that those people, many of them, were Bush supporters -- Carol.

LIN: Joe Johns, thank you very much.

HARRIS: OK. Let's get back to our conversation with Michael Weisskopf and Ron Brownstein.

And Ron, let me ask you, in the light of this victory, does the president feel emboldened to move even more aggressively in Iraq, take on the issues in Falluja and prepare that country for elections? BROWNSTEIN: I think he feels emboldened to move both at home and abroad. I mean, this has not been a president who has never lacked for confidence.

You know, in 2000, obviously even a narrower result, second narrowest electoral college victory ever. And he pursued a very aggressive agenda. I don't think there's any reason to think it wouldn't be at least as aggressive on tax reform, potentially Social Security reform, and certainly in Iraq.

LIN: You think the same, Michael?

WEISSKOPF: It's hard to improve on what Ron said. Yes, I think that -- and particularly on Iraq, which was a real cutting-edge issue in this campaign, he'll consider it a victory and a clear imprimatur to move forward.

LIN: Real quick, moving forward, staff change for the Bush administration, what do you think, Michael?

WEISSKOPF: He is very slow in moving people around, as we know. And it will be a lot -- he'll leave a great deal up to the people involved.

I would say that on the defense side he'll leave most everyone in place, as long as they'll want to stay. I would expect Secretary Powell to move over very quickly.

Possibly Attorney General Ashcroft, who has been there for four years, had some health problems, might move out, particularly because he was a symbol for the far right. And he already has achieved for the president what the president might want electorally, and he might no longer be needed politically.

LIN: Michael Weisskopf, Ron Brownstein, always good to have both of you. Thank you on this historic day.

HARRIS: Absolutely. And we'll take a quick break and come back with more.


LIN: And welcome back to our special election coverage. In case you don't know by now, President Bush has been reelected to the White House, winning by 3 percentage points, with 51 percent of the vote. Some 274 electoral votes put over the top by the state of Ohio, and a concession less than an hour ago by John Kerry.

We want to go to Dana Bash in Washington. She's at the Ronald Reagan Building, where President Bush is expected to make his first remarks after officially being reelected at 3:00 Eastern -- Dana.


Well, I can tell you that this is quite a different scene and will be quite a different scene in about two-and-a-half hours than it was maybe three or four hours ago, when this hall had initially been full and people had been waiting here for 14, 15 hours. They had expected President Bush to come.

The White House, Bush officials were saying that he was going to come up until maybe about 5:00 this morning. Then, of course, the folks here saw Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, instead. And so now people are starting -- people, of course, then dispersed.

People are starting to come back. You're hearing them do an audio check behind me. They are getting ready for the president to come.

I asked a Republican official how they're going to get people back here quickly. And he said, well, you know, people are essentially just sleeping on the floor. All we're going to do is pour cold water on them and they're going to rise. But clearly the mood here is very, very happy.

Talking to Bush officials over at Bush-Cheney headquarters there, and obviously, as you can imagine, a very good mood. And I was over there yesterday, and just the range of emotions -- Kelly Wallace was talking about, of course, the range of emotions on the Kerry side.

On the Bush side, it was equally as sort of rollercoaster-ish, because initially during the day they were looking at the same exit polls that we all were, thinking that perhaps Senator Kerry was going to do quite well. Then they began to sort of crunch their own numbers and figure out -- and see the actual returns from some states, and realized that it was going to go much more their way than they initially thought.

So here we are expecting the president to come and speak. We are expecting a speech where he is going to talk about the kind of win that he had.

The president's aides had been working on this speech as he had finished up his campaigning. He had speechwriters on his last few days campaigning on Air Force One with him. They had been working on this.

But certainly they needed to put some finishing touches on based on what happened over the last 24 hours and based on the kind of results that he had. And we can expect the president to talk about the fact if he won't use the word "mandate," that is certainly going to be the suggestion in his speech. We are told that he is going to say that he has clarity of leadership and that is evidenced by the kind of vote he got, by the kind of support, particularly with the popular vote that he got on this Election Day.

LIN: Winning both the popular vote and the electoral vote this time around. Thanks very much, Dana -- Tony.

HARRIS: And we'll talk to Bill Schneider. After a long night last night, Bill Schneider is with us, our political analyst.

And Bill, good to see you. First of all, give us a sense after you've had an opportunity to look at all the numbers of what was the biggest factor leading to this victory by George Bush.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: In a word, values. He used the values issues to rally the Republican base, the conservative base of the party. And they came out in large numbers, matching the heavy turnout among Democratic activists.

When we looked at the exit poll, we found to our surprise that there were four big issues, but number one among them was moral values, followed by terrorism, Iraq and the economy. Moral values is important to an awful lot of voters, religious voters. Stem cell research, same-sex marriage, partial birth abortion, those values got a lot of people out to vote for President Bush.

HARRIS: And didn't we have a sense -- remind me of this going in -- that the economy, particularly in some of those battleground states, would be important and maybe determinative.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Well, you answered the question. It was important, but not determinative.

It was important, and it got a lot of votes for Kerry. It was a remarkable thing, because in this election most voters said the economy is not in good shape. Just 46 percent said the economy was good.

Now, compare that with 2000, when 85 percent said the economy is in good shape. People were sour on the economy. But there were other issues.

There was the war on terror, which was important to a lot of voters. There were values issues that were important.

Iraq was an interesting issue because Iraq didn't help the president. I would say that he got elected in spite of public dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq. He certainly didn't get elected because of the war in Iraq.

HARRIS: And Bill, there's some questions today about exit polling and what we saw in the exit polling. How do you wrap that up? How do you square all that we are hearing and we're talking about today with regard to exit polling?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the exit polls that were coming out during the day did show Kerry slightly ahead. Slightly ahead. A few points ahead, about three points. And, of course, Bush ended up winning by three points.

That is not a huge discrepancy. What happened is, you know, just do not put your faith in exit polls ever to predict the election outcome, particularly when it's a matter of two or three points.

What happened is a phenomenon called the Internet. The bloggers, the campaigns, the Web sites got hold of the exit poll data early in the day and started spreading the word that it was going to be a tremendous Kerry victory. And they were very incautious in using the exit poll.

And the result was the exit poll took on a life of its own, and suddenly everyone -- all the Democrats and all the campaigns were excited, and even the Bush campaign appeared to be demoralized. They were stretching the credulity of exit polls beyond anything they could ever withstand.

HARRIS: And Bill, we were led to believe we would see this huge surge of young voters, young people defined as, what, 18 to 29, rushing to the polls in big numbers. Did that materialize?

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes, a lot of young voters did rush to the polls and they did vote for John Kerry. In fact, they were the only age group that did vote for Kerry. They were 17 percent of the voters. Do you know what they were in 2000?

HARRIS: What's that?

SCHNEIDER: Seventeen percent of the voters. Exactly the same. What happened was young people did vote in unusually high numbers, but so did everybody else, including conservatives and gun owners and the religious right. So young people matched the high turnout of everybody.

HARRIS: Bill Schneider, our political analyst, out of New York City. Good to see you, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Pleasure.

HARRIS: Thank you.

LIN: Well, we've got much more to come. Our very own Wolf Blitzer furiously working his BlackBerry at the moment at the campaign headquarters there next to Bill Schneider.

HARRIS: There he is.

LIN: There he is, Wolf Blitzer, getting ready to join us. He spent most of the night up, I would say. Got a couple hours of sleep, but he's going to join us with some insight on last night's excitement.



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